Archive for the ‘Desiderata’ category

Blue Heron vs. koi . . . don’t bet on the fish

June 29, 2010

I love all wildlife and living in the centre of a small city I’m usually excited when I see something wild in my backyard.  But you see, I have a koi pond behind my house, so when I saw a great blue heron sitting on my neighbour’s roof the other day, I wasn’t happy.

The timing couldn’t have been worse.  We were just about to leave for a four day camping trip.  The dog was in the kennel and there was no one to watch over the pond.  People came out and gawked at the huge bird that was obviously eyeing my pond.  After a short while, the bird disappeared and I optimistically reasoned that it had flown to the nearby river where fishing might be less of a public spectacle.  Then, as I was packing the car with camping equipment, the bird returned and landed on the fence, a mere few metres from the pond’s edge.  I chased it out of my yard, but it flew around in my head during the whole camping trip.  I dreamed of  returning to an empty pond with fish carcasses strewn across the lawn.

When we actually did return home, the first thing I did was check the pond.  The fish were acting skittish, but everything seemed okay until I noticed one koi floating dead in the reeds.  After netting and examining it, entry and exit wounds made it clear that it had been speared.  I later netted the remaining fish and found them all accounted for, but two had small nick wounds in their sides which led me to believe that it too was the work of the heron.  Damn you heron!

The dead fish wasn’t my nicest or my largest or my oldest, but it was one of the prettier fish in my pond.  I picked it up as a very young fingerling years ago, very cheap, and I thought that it might develop into a Tancho (white koi with a red circle on its head).  After a year or so, it did indeed develop the marks of a Tancho and later its back turned a metallic grey, thus making it a fairly rare Tancho Kujaku koi which, to us koi geeks, is sort of special.

Well, here is the problem with amateur koi keepers: we buy our fish cheap and young, and when they grower older and more sizable, the fish gain in value to an amount that we ourselves would never think of spending on a fish.  To replace this particular koi would probably cost over $400.  And I won’t replace it . . . at least not with a replica.  I do intend to console myself by doing a little koi shopping over the next few weeks.  I’ll leave you with an image of a Tancho Kujaku — not the one I lost, but one pretty much like it.


Shovelling compost the ergonomic way

May 16, 2010

A few weeks ago I “won” 3.5 cubic yards of compost.  I put “won” in quotations marks because it was a silent auction and I and another fellow kept running up the bids until I ended up with the winning bid just a few dollars short of the actual cost.

However, it was all for a good cause; the silent auction was part of the annual fund-raising brunch for Jamaica Self Help, a fantastic organization based in Peterborough, Ontario.  I won’t go into  detail explaining what they do (I strongly advise that you go to their website), but they support education and community development programmes in Jamaica and engage Canadian youth on global issues.  If you know a high school student interested in international development, have them explore their website.  They run incredible awareness trips for youth, having young Canadians volunteer on projects in Kingston, Jamaica.

I stuck with the bidding for the compost because I actually needed some (although perhaps not 3.5 cubic yards worth) and because the City of Peterborough Waste Management division’s compost program is awesome.  We routinely leave out brown bags of garden waste throughout the spring, summer, and fall, and it’s great to see it put to such good use.  I don’t know how they turn it into compost (giant compost bins?) or where, but I do know that the compost is amazing for gardens.  Every year my wife and I seem to increase the size of our gardens (more weeding) and decrease the size of our lawn (less mowing).  She has recently discovered the art of planting vegetables among the flowers and it’s led to some interesting combinations.  I’ll post pictures later this year.

I never minded digging in the dirt and this year I am actually excited about it.  For my birthday I received the unusual but also garden-geeky-cool ergonomic shovel pictured at the left.  It was a generous gift from my in-laws who picked it up at one of my favourite stores, Lee Valley.  I’d go into more detail about this remarkable tool, but I believe that I am needed in the garden.

How many wheelbarrows of compost in 3.5 cubic yards?  A lot!

Yashimoto cube, I want you

May 10, 2010

Math + Toy = cool.

Okay, I want one.  My desk is messier than most, but I will clear a corner of it if I ever get a Yashimoto cube.  Then I will patiently wait for someone to enter my office, notice it, pick it up and ask, “What’s this?”

Casually, I will reach over and gently take the cube from their hand, settle back comfortably in my office chair and then begin to deftly manipulate it, revealling two cubes and then continuing the magic as in the video below.

Okay, maybe more geeky than cool.  I just might need to arrange a trip to NYC in order to visit the MOMA’s gift shop and pick up my very own Yashimoto cube.