nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Archive for May 2014

harvesting colour … lily of the valley

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Now that green is the dominant colour outside my door, I am anxious to try dyeing with every plant I see.   I was particularly anxious to see if I could coax colour from the Lily of the Valley crowding around my walkway.

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leaves of Lily of the Valley and Wild Lily of the Valley

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The green leaves in the photo above are from two different plants, the smaller single leaves of Wild Lily of the Valley (Maianthemum canadense) and the larger furled Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis).  The larger Lily of the Valley produces a dye with seasonal qualities – dark green in spring and yellow in fall.

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'pips' of Lily of the Valley

‘pips’ of Lily of the Valley

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The rolled emerging leaves of the Lily of the Valley are called ‘pips’.  The pips squeak as they are collected.  I think they want to be left alone!

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Lily of the Valley, ready to be cut up and set to boil

Lily of the Valley leaves in water

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I cut the leaves into one inch pieces and left them for an hour to simmer in water.  I added some iron to the mix, to serve as a colour modifier – a square-headed nail, a railroad spike and a rusty horseshoe.  The water was pale green at first, but as it began to cool, it became a dark, almost black, green …

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dark dye from Lily of the Valley

dark dye from Lily of the Valley

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Once the water cooled, I strained the liquid and added the wool.  After bringing it to a boil, I let it cool gradually – wool hates sudden changes in temperature …

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wool roving, treated with alum, in the dark Lily of the Valley dye

wool roving, treated with alum, in the dark Lily of the Valley dye

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The resulting colour was dark grey.  I also did a vat without the addition of iron and the result was a slightly paler grey.

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dark grey of wool roving dyed with Lily of the Valley

dark grey of wool roving dyed with Lily of the Valley

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This is my last dyeing experiment with Lily of the Valley.  All the parts of the plant are poisonous with compounds known as glycosides.  Ingested, these compounds have an effect on the heart and can cause fatal circulatory, gastrointestinal and respiratory problems.  If you are a fan of the TV show Breaking Bad, you will know that Walt used Lily of the Valley in a scheme to kill one of his enemies.

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Although I took precautions, doing the boiling outside and disposing of the liquid in the woods, far from our well or the stream, I was not comfortable working with such a poisonous plant.  While the water was boiling, the smell was thick and noxious and my mouth had a metallic taste all day.  I was jittery before I went to bed, convinced that breathing the vapours would be the end of me.  I am fine today, but I don’t recommend using Lily of the Valley as a dye.  The dark grey colour obtained is not worth the risk.  And the lovely scent of the Lily of the Valley flowers is the plant’s first, best use.

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'lily-of-the-valley'

2013 ‘lily-of-the-valley’ Jane Tims

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

May 30, 2014 at 12:12 pm

ghost girl

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In Fredericton, there is a relatively famous road, called Waterloo Row.  It is famous for its beautiful old homes and is featured in the Canadian version of the game Monopoly.  For me, the road represents a favorite part of my former morning commute.

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Especially in fog, Waterloo Row presents some lovely vignettes, including ghostly images of the St. John River, with the old bridge, now a footbridge, vanishing into the mist…

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older homes, some of whom are reputed to be haunted…

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and a bench along the river footpath, haunted by a young girl who sat there almost 34 years ago, considering her future…

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I see her sitting there whenever I drive by.  On a cool evening in May of 1980, she drove there on her bicycle and watched the river for an hour, thinking about what her life would be.  In two months, she would marry, and her life would change in many ways.  She thought about this and wondered.

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If I could talk to her, I could answer almost all her questions.  I could tell her about her marriage of (so far) 33 wonderful years.  I could tell her all about her future husband and amazing son.  I could tell her how relaxing it will be to be at home full-time after three decades of work.  And I could tell her – the river could never be as beautiful as the sight of our small pond with its stone bench and violet-studded lawn on this day at the end of May, 34 years later.

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Copyright  2013  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

May 28, 2014 at 8:12 am

remembering place: high school

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swing chair voyages.png

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In Grade 10, 11 and 12, I went to Sidney Stephen High in Bedford Nova Scotia .

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Sidney Stephen High

Sidney Stephen High (now a Middle School)

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I had good friends.  I loved all my teachers.  I took swimming and golf lessons.  I went to school dances and played piano at our various talent nights.  I was on our school’s Reach for the Top team and answered only one question during the television program … name Santa’s eight reindeer!  We lost to Halifax West, the school where my Dad was Vice-Principal.

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I walked the sidewalk above so many times.  Once I carried Myles Goodwyn’s guitar down that hill.  The guitar was borrowed for a weekend, something to do with a talent night.  Myles Goodwyn is producer, singer, guitarist and composer in one of Canada’s greatest rock groups, April Wine.

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Just outside the end door in the wing of the school visible in the image above, sitting on the grass, I helped my friends prepare for a test on William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.  Among my friends, I alone actually read the book, and I made the lowest test score of the four people I coached that day!!!

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English and History were my favorite subjects.  My English teachers were Mr. Burke and Mrs. Bussey.  I learned about Shakespeare, the Romantic poets and travel writing. I remember Mr. Burke’s class so clearly: ‘Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’ (Ozymandias, Shelley).  In Mrs. Bussey’s English class we went to live theatre and I fell in love with set design.  I remember the two-storey backdrop of the set for Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at Neptune Theatre.  The house I live in today, which my husband and I built with the help of my Dad, has a loft inspired by that set.

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Our History teacher, Mr. Harvey, was a great inspiration, taking us to all the historical nooks and crannies in the area. Our History Club researched the first length of the old stagecoach route between Lower Sackville and Truro (surveyed in 1817-1818 by Woolford; for an old map of this road, see http://www.novascotia.ca/nsarm/virtual/woolford/archives.asp?ID=11).  For the project we actually walked the old road, even then almost obscured by the growth of the forest.  We could still see the path of the road by looking for the younger trees in the landscape, and we could find the old culverts.  Later, we made a 3-D model of the road and its path between lakes and hills.  Today, the old road begins at the Fultz Museum in Sackville (once Fultz’s Twelve-mile House, an inn along the way) and follows various local roads, including part of the Old Cobequid Road.  I once lived (my first apartment) just across the lake from the old road (the long lake in the upper part of the map below).

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old road scakville to truro

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If we ever had one, I did not go to my class reunion for Sidney Stephen.  I gradually lost touch with my friends, although I know where they live (not a threat!) and a little about their lives since High School.    And I still talk to Mr. Burke, my English teacher, occasionally.  Some friends I will never see again and that makes me very sad.

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

still painting Cornwall gates!

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After completing ‘iron gate in Cornwall’ for Isaac’s Way Restaurant’s art auction, I decided to paint a gate just for myself.  I liked the small watercolour I did for my first Isaac’s Way auction, so I have painted a version of the scene in acrylics.

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First, the watercolour, 8″ X 10″, unframed …

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January 10, 2014  'rainbow gate in Falmouth'   Jane Tims

January 10, 2014 ‘rainbow gate in Falmouth’ Jane Tims

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And here is the new painting in acrylics, 20″ X 24″ unframed …

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May 22, 2014 ‘rainbow gate in Falmouth #2’ Jane Tims

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims 

Written by jane tims

May 23, 2014 at 6:57 am

remembering place: a gift on a spring day

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swing chair voyages.png

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When I was a teenager, my family lived in Lower Sackville in Nova Scotia.  I went to Junior High and Senior High there and began my university days.

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I have many great memories of living in our house … of spending time with friends and family.  I remember painting the kitchen cupboards with my Dad, painting a huge seascape on the living room wall, decorating the Christmas tree with the ‘help’ of our dog Snoopy, and doing homework and learning to sew while watching Audie Murphy movies.  One of my earliest ‘projects’ was raising wild violets from seed along the back fence.  I can remember spending hours on the phone with my friend Donna, pulling the long telephone cord down the basement stairs so I could sit and giggle in privacy.

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On that same phone, my sister and I practiced for days how we would be the tenth caller to win tickets to see Elvis Presley in Halifax.  When the moment came, we counted the time just as we had carefully calculated.  Then I dialed in, at the precise moment.  They answered!  And, in my excitement, I HUNG UP.  My sister was so put out at me.  And we will never know if we were the lucky tenth caller!  We never did see Elvis in person.

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As an exercise for a writing class I am taking, I wrote a little about attending my best friend’s wedding after graduation in 1972.  I walked to the church which was just at the bottom of our street.  As I wrote the story, I thought how I would like to see that street, to better remember the walk I took.  So, I went to Street View (Google Earth).  I began at the top of the hill and virtually ‘walked ‘ along the street where I had lived.  At the first of the walk, I saw our house in July of 2012, when the Street View image was taken.  I was amazed to see how the trees we planted had grown …  the house is hard to see !

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Lower Scackville house 1

the house where we used to live, the trees all grown

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A few more ‘steps’ and Street View switched to an image taken in May of 2009.  I turned back to ‘see’ the house.  And this is what I saw …

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Lower Scackville house 2

Forsythia in bloom in front of the house where I used to live

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My Mom loved the big Forsythia that grew in our front yard.  She always said it reminded her of my grandmother (her mother).  And there it was, in full bloom and grown huge over the 40 years since we lived there.  What a lovely gift on a spring day!

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

May 21, 2014 at 7:06 am

I’m from Canada …

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As I have been building my family tree, I am discovering how many ‘places’ my ancestors have called home.

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my grandmother and her brother and four of her sisters appear in this photo at a school in Nova Scotia in the early 1900s

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The people I would call grandfather or grandmother (with greats added) include people who came to Canada or to the United States from England, Scotland, France, and Germany.  Some of their parents came originally from the Netherlands.

 

  • John Winslow (b. 1597)  Droltwich, Worcestershore, England (1620)
  • Mary Chilton (b. 1607)  St. Peter, Sandwich, Kent, England  (Mayflower 1620)
  • Patrick McMullen  (b. 1704)  Scotland
  • Peter LeValley (b. 1675)  France
  • William Spavold  (b. 1810)  England (Trafalgar 1817)
  • Eliza Greenfield (b. 1790)  England (Trafalgar 1817)
  • Stephen Hopkins  (b. 1581) Upper Clatford, Hampshire, England (Mayflower 1620)
  • Elizabeth Fisher (b.  unknown)  England (Mayflower 1620)
  • Francis Cook (b. 1583)  Gides Hall, Essex, England (Mayflower 1620)
  • Hester Mahieu (b. 1585)  Canterbury, Kent, England (1623)
  • William Latham (b. 1608)  Chorley, Lancashire, England (Mayflower 1620)
  • Conrad Hawk (Sr.)  (b. 1744)  Germany
  • Conrad Kresge (b. 1730)  Amberg-Sulzbach, Bayern, Germany
  • Johan Ulrick Kohl  (b. 1702)  Pallatine, Germany
  • Solmey Cooll  (b. 1702)  Germany
  • Johann Nicholas Borger (b. 1720)  Nassig, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
  • John Clark (b. 1793) Straiton, Ayrshire, Scotland
  • Jane Cooper (b. 1799)  Greenock, Scotland
  • Margaret Miller (b. 1798)  Hoddam, Dumfriesshire, Scotland
  • William Aitcheson (b. 1794)  Annan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland (1832)
  •  — Wayborne (b. 1836) Rockbeare, Devon, England
  • John Johnson (b. 1780)  England

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To make me, how many different people from so many different places had to get together!!!  As my aunt used to say, just being here, we have already won the greatest lottery of all …

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One of my next genealogy / virtual cycling project will be to track down when they came to Canada or the United States.  Immigration records and passenger lists of ships will help me in this endeavor.

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Copyright  2014   Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

May 19, 2014 at 2:57 pm

harvesting colour – the orange of alder bark

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Last week we went out to our cabin lot to collect some material for my dyeing experiments.  We are constantly battling the alders which move in quickly after any clearing.  I think my husband was quite agreeable to cutting some alder sticks for me to use as dyestuff.  Our alder is Alnus rugosa (Du Roi) Spreng, the speckled alder.

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our harvest of alder stems

our harvest of alder stems

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Yesterday, I sat on our deck to peel the bark from the alder sticks.  I was acclimatized to the orange dye I expected from the alders by the leavings of last autumn – the piles of dry maple leaves still on the deck and the bright sienna of my terra cotta pots.

The alders peel easily, revealing a bright green inner bark.  The green quickly oxidizes to a bright orange, due to the presence of the chemical oregonin.  By the end of the debarking session, my jean were stained dark orange and my palms of my hands were covered in the colour of tangerines.

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my hand, bright orange after peeling the alders

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I was glad to have moved my dyeing adventures out to the back deck because the smell was quite acrid.   As I boiled the bark, the water became a dark orange.

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orange colour resulting from boiling the alder bark

orange colour resulting from boiling the alder bark

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I simmered my length of alum-treated wool roving in the liquid for about an hour.

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wool simmering in the orange alder water - looks like sky and clouds are in there too!

wool simmering in the orange alder water – looks like sky and clouds are in there too!

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Although it is not orange, the colour is a pleasing yellowish-brown, similar to but more yellow than the colour obtained from Old Man’s Beard lichen.

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wool dyed with ( left to right) alder bark, lichen and beets

wool dyed with ( left to right) alder bark, lichen and beets

 

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Now that the warm weather is here, I am looking forward to more hours on the deck, watching over my concoctions and seeing more colours emerge!!!

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims 

 

Written by jane tims

May 16, 2014 at 1:26 pm

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