nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Archive for June 2014

remembering place – Grade One

with 6 comments

On a ‘mind map’ of my life, what places are clearly marked as important, with bright yellow stickpins of internal memory?

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home

home (map from Google Earth)

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Since I spent most of my younger days in school, it isn’t very surprising that many of those stickpins mark the schools I attended.  One of these is Vincent Massey Elementary School in Medicine Hat, Alberta.

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Vincent Massey Elementary School in 2006 - looks just the same as in the early 1960s

Vincent Massey Elementary School in 2012 – looks just the same as in the early 1960s (image from Street View)

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In the early 1960s there were three elementary schools within a reasonable distance of our house. The story of how I came to attend Vincent Massey was probably one of the first dramatic events in my life to that date.

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The school I was assigned to attend was determined by the School Board.   The summer just before I was to attend school for the first time, a delegate of the School Board came around the neighborhood to let the parents know which school their children would attend.  Mom and Dad were not at home when the representative came to call.  My Mom got the information second-hand, from the mother of my best friend, just across the street.

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from home to school in Grade One

from home to school in Grade One (map from Google Earth)

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Mom and Dad were quite alarmed to discover I was to go to Vincent Massey Elementary School, seven blocks away.  This may not seem far today – my son attended Grade One in a community 13 kilometers away.  But in those days, there was no school bus and my Mom had my eighteen-month-old brother to care for.  I would have to get to school on my own two feet.

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My brother and I in 1960 - I had been in Grade One for three months when the picture was taken - I look like I could easily make those seven blocks to school!

My brother and I in 1960 – I had been in Grade One for three months when the picture was taken – I look like I could easily make those seven blocks to school!

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I remember the discussions well – about the best route for me to take, about what we would do about dinner time, about the dangers of taking to strangers.  We did a couple of dry runs.  I can still remember my Mom showing me how to cross the busy four-lane Division Avenue.  Up to this point, I had not been allowed to go beyond our own block by myself.

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Division Avenue

Division Avenue in 2012 (image from Street View) – I remember standing on the curb looking at the traffic whizzing back and forth … no crosswalk!!!!

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The first day at school, the drama expanded.  Mom had told me to be very careful to listen for my first name – Alexandra.  I was usually called by my second name – Jane – so this was a major worry for me.  On that first morning, all the students were assembled in the gymn.  We sat on the floor and our names were called, one by one.  I listened for that long, strange first name as each name was called.  And, at the very end, I was all alone in the gymn … no one had called the name Alexandra.

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The teachers were very nice, of course.  I was told not to worry, and Mrs. MacDonald, a teacher of one of the Grade One classes, came to get me.

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As it turned out, the neighbor had given my Mom the wrong information.  Today, knowing urban planning as I do, I think ‘Division Avenue’ might have provided the first clue!!!!

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I had a great year.  I walked to school with friends.  We stuck to the planned route for a while, but ended up taking shortcuts through various yards.  By the end of the year, I was taking the city bus, dropping my quarter into the slot like a pro.  I stayed with Mrs. MacDonald for my first year of school and emerged from the grade convinced that rabbit was spelled ‘raddit’ (no fault of the teacher’s).

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Mrs. McDonald's Grade One class (I am first left in bottom row; Mrs. McDonald is at upper left)

Mrs. McDonald’s Grade One class (I am first left in bottom row; Mrs. McDonald is at upper left)

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The next year, properly directed by the School Board, I was sent to Crescent Heights Elementary School, two blocks away, and another stickpin on my ‘mind map’ …

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

June 27, 2014 at 7:27 am

colour transfers

with 6 comments

As I was preparing my eco-bundles for steaming ( https://nichepoetryandprose.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/an-attempt-at-ecoprinting/  ), I was thinking the words ‘heat’ and ‘steam’ – after 30 years of ironing my husband’s work shirts every morning, these words mean ‘steam iron’ to me.  So I wondered if it would be possible to transfer the colour of a flower to cloth using my iron.

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So far, I have tried two species:  Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) from under our apple trees, and Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) from the roadside …

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basket of Bugleweed

basket of Bugleweed

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I placed the flowers between two layers of cotton, sprayed the material with water and pressed down with the steam iron set on medium.  I pressed fairly hard and ironed the cloth/flower sandwich until it was dry.  Then I wetted it again and continued until I had transferred the colour …

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using the steam iron to transfer colour from Birdsfoot trefoil to cotton

using the steam iron to transfer colour from Birdsfoot trefoil to cotton

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It took five successive sets of wetting and pressing to obtain the colour.  The blues of Bugleweed turned out best …

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colour transfers from Bugleweed (the pale green in the background is made with leaves from my rosebush)

colour transfers from Bugleweed (the pale green in the background is made with leaves from my rosebush)

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But the yellow colour from petals and stems of the Birdsfoot trefoil also came out well …

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colour transfers from Birdsfoot trefoil

colour transfers from Birdsfoot trefoil

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Now I have two new colour patterns to add to my future ‘harvesting colour’ quilt !

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colour transfers using Bugleweed and Birdsfoot trefoil

colour transfers using Bugleweed and Birdsfoot trefoil

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims 

Written by jane tims

June 25, 2014 at 7:29 am

harvesting colour … colour of the harvest

with 6 comments

On our weekend drive from Canterbury to McAdam, I saw another aspect of the ‘harvesting colour’ theme.  Anywhere you travel in New Brunswick, you usually come across wood harvesting activity and Highway 630 was no exception.  About half way along, a turn in the road brought us to a large forest harvest.

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forest harvesting operation

forest harvesting operation

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The wood from the cut was stacked into gigantic walls.

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wall of cut wood

wall of cut wood

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The clearcut laid the land quite bare.  It will be many years before this area returns to the hardwood habitat typical of the area, if at all.

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spruce and fir

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The wood from the cutting had been piled according to species.  The colours of the cut wood were quite distinctive.  The largest colour contrast was between the pale almost white, ash …

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ash

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ash

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and the very orange wood of the  spruce and fir …

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spruce and fir

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I have no particular point to make, except to honour the very individual characteristics of these trees.

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

 

Written by jane tims

June 23, 2014 at 8:57 am

an attempt at ecoprinting

with 6 comments

After our drive to Canterbury over the weekend, I was anxious to capture some of the roadside flower colour in my ‘harvesting colour’ experiments.  I decided to try a technique described by India Flint in her book Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles (Interweave Press, 2010).  ‘Ecoprinting’ involves bringing a plant into close contact with a fabric  in order to transfer the colour to the cloth.  I am very impressed with the effects shown in Eco Colour – prints of leaves, flowers and berries.

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For my experiment I tried a handful of the Forget-me-nots I collected on our weekend drive …

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Forget-me-nots in the woods

Forget-me-nots in the woods

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a bundle of the purple Lupins growing along the road in my community …

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Lupins along the road

Lupins along the road

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and a bunch of a ground cover plant growing in my yard, Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) …

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Bugleweed in the orchard

Bugleweed in the orchard

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basket of Bugleweed

basket of Bugleweed

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I only used small samples of cloth … my idea is to use these ‘patches’ to make a little quilt to show the results of my ‘colour harvest’.  I arranged a few of the flowers, both petals and leaves, inside the cloth  …

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Forget-me-nots on cotton

Forget-me-nots on cotton

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Lupin petals and leaves on cotton

Lupin petals and leaves on cotton

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Bugleweed on cotton

Bugleweed on cotton

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Then I folded the cloth in half, enclosing the flowers like a sandwich …

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flowers folded in cotton

flowers folded in cotton

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and rolled the cloth up tightly …

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rolling the bundle tightly

rolling the bundle tightly

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and tied it with cotton thread …

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flower and cotton bundles

flower and cotton bundles

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I put my bundles in a wire basket and steamed them for an hour …

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flower and cotton bundles steaming  (as usual I have thrown in a bit of woods and sky)

flower and cotton bundles steaming (as usual I have thrown in a bit of woods and sky)

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After cooling, I opened the bundles, discarded the leaves and flowers, and rinsed the cloth.  I was quite pleased with the results.  After ironing, I have a pale array of colour.  The Bugleweed left a definite lime green.  The Lupin a more indefinite green and pale violet.  The Forget-me-nots left a faint violet-grey.

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pale colour

pale colour

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I did not get the flower and leaf impressions I expected, but I will keep trying.  There are so many variables, steaming time and ‘unbundling’ time among them.  I do hope to see that lovely lime green again!!!

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

June 20, 2014 at 7:17 am

blue in the woodland

with 9 comments

About a decade ago, we took a drive from Canterbury to McAdam on a gravel road.  The memory I have carried with me for years is of a section of woodland absolutely blue with flowers.  I often wondered what the flowers were and if I’d be able to find the spot again.  This weekend we tried to find the place and the sea of blue in the woodland.

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Highway 630 from Canterbury to McAdam in New Brunswick (map from Google Maps)

Highway 630 from Canterbury to McAdam in New Brunswick (map from Google Maps)

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Canterbury, like many rural communities of New Brunswick, has faced a shrinking population over the years.  Settled by Loyalists, it was a center for logging and railroad traffic and, in the late 1800s, had a population of over 1000.  Today it has only about 340 residents.  Nevertheless, it is a charming village and has a newly renovated school, housing all 12 grades.

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Village of Canterbury at the turn to Highway 630

Village of Canterbury at the turn to Highway 630

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The route from Canterbury toward the south is a numbered road.  But Highway 630 is not paved and quite rutted in some sections.  In one place we had to ask some ATVers if we were on the right road!

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Highway 630

Highway 630

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As we drove, I watched the woods for those blue flowers.  Wildflowers were certainly a theme of our drive.  By the road we saw Pink Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule), Bluebead Lily (Clintonia borealis), Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) and Quaker Ladies (Houstonia caerulea).

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Lady's Slipper and Bunchberry along the road

Lady’s Slipper and Bunchberry along the road

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The map shows a community named Carroll’s Ridge just south of Canterbury.  When we reached the location marked on the map, there were no homes or buildings, only a few old roads and cleared areas.  But there in the woods was evidence people had once lived there.  I found my sea of blue!  Forget-me-nots, escaped from some forgotten garden to thrive in the near by woods.

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Forget-me-nots escaped from an old garden

Forget-me-nots escaped from an old garden

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In my memory, the ‘blue’ of the flowers was more intense a decade ago.  But we noticed many of the Forget-me-nots there now are a white variety.  Who knows if flower colour or memory really changed during those ten years.

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blue flowers in the woodland

blue flowers in the woodland

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Forget-me-nots in the woods

Forget-me-nots in the woods

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I picked a few of the Forget-me-nots, to try an ‘eco-print’ dyeing experiment in coming days.  But what I really took away was another image of a sea of blue flowers in the woods.

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

aromatic spring

with 4 comments

img198_crop

November 9, 2011 ‘Peltoma Lake’ Jane Tims

 

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meadow aromatic

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ozone lightning, late

waters cede, shoots

of cattail merge

end of day, end of June

fireflies, mosquito nights

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lake-land meadow seeps

wetland meets nostril

marsh musk percolates

half sour, half sweet

methane ooze, decay

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damp fiddleheads unfurl

bird beaks simmer

in duckweed soup

skin of salamander, frog

steeplebush, meadowsweet

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angels crave human years, allow

their pores release, scent imitates

reek of sweat, of work

tears mingle with perfume

aftershave and powder

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IMG137_crop

Oct. 9, 2011 ‘Reeds and reflection’ Jane Tims

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

June 13, 2014 at 7:32 am

comforting Comfrey brown

with 10 comments

As I try using various plants as a source of dye, I am realising how many shades of brown there are !!!

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Over the weekend, I did a dye vat of Comfrey.  Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is a flowering plant often found in older gardens.  It is a useful plant for gardeners … as a fertilizer, it contributes impressive amounts of nitrogen  and potassium.  As a compost component, it adds heat and moisture, and helps to speed up the composting process.  In the past, Comfrey was recommended as a tea and a medicinal.  However, the plant contains alkaloids.  Taken internally, these can cause severe damage to the liver and, in Canada, the sale of products containing Comfrey is prohibited.

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Comfrey grows in large clumps of linear leaves, up to a meter tall.  Its stately foliage provides a great backdrop for smaller plants.  Later in the season, it will produce curved clusters of bluish-purple flowers.

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Comfrey in my garden

Comfrey in my garden

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The underside of each Comfrey leaf is a maze of raised veins …

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leaves of Comfrey, showing the veins on the underside of each leaf

leaves of Comfrey, showing the veins on the underside of each leaf

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To make the dye, I added the leaves, coarsely chopped, to 6 liters of water.  I couldn’t resist throwing in my rusty square nail, to add a touch of iron to the mix …

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Comfrey leaves in water, cut up and ready for the boil

Comfrey leaves in water, cut up and ready for the boil

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After boiling for an hour, I had a pale apricot-coloured liquid …

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pale apricot colour of the Comfrey dye

pale apricot colour of the Comfrey dye

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I strained and discarded the leaves (in my compost of course) and allowed the liquid to cool.  Then I added some of my wool roving, pre-treated with alum, and simmered the wool for about an hour.

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The result was yet another shade of brown, so similar, yet so different from the browns I obtained from Alder, Old Man’s Beard lichen and Tansy …

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various dyes on wool roving (left to right): Alder bark, Old Man's Beard lichen, Comfrey, Tansy and a glimpse of Beet

various dyes on wool roving (left to right): Alder bark, Old Man’s Beard lichen, Comfrey, Tansy and a glimpse of Beet

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The Comfrey brown is a brown of the forest, without the orange or yellow undertones of the other browns I have made.  This is the brown of the wild rabbit I saw in our driveway last week.  It is the buff brown of the heads of Pine Siskins visiting our bird feeders in winter.  This brown reminds me of soft mitten wool and caterpillar cocoons.  From Comfrey comes a very comforting brown.

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Although I could use my wool roving ‘as is’ in my weaving, I have decided to spin the wool.  First, of course, I have to learn to spin.  A maple drop spindle should be waiting in my mailbox later in the week.  So many projects … good thing the days are getting longer !!!

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

June 11, 2014 at 7:06 am

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