Friday, November 30, 2012

In the Christmas Spirit

Its official, I'm in the Christmas spirit.  While I did the dishes tonight I put on some Alabama Christmas music.  It started with a great post that I watched on Facebook this morning.  You may have seen it as it has made the rounds before.  It didn't quite bring me to tears but it did move me into the Christmas spirit and hence the Alabama and later Kenny and Dolly playing on my player tonight.

After finishing the dishes I took the kids to the basement to pull up some of the Christmas decorations.  Just so you don't think that I'm to much of a keener, my wife had asked me to get the hangers for the wreaths that arrived today.  I figured since I was down there I might as well bring up a few boxes.  It didn't take the kids long, especially my oldest, to start pulling things out of the boxes.  Before I knew it there were more empty boxes than full ones.  We were having a blast.  The kids had me laughing and smiling so big that my cheeks turned as red as ol' Saint Nick's.

I have a theory on the music that I'll write about later.  Let me just say it has family ties.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ranting Against Youth Nature Deficit Disorder

Our family uses Fundy National Park regularly for our vacations.  Its much cheaper than Disneyland.

BLOGGER'S NOTE: I had this blog published in the Kings County Record recently.  I hope you enjoy it.
I've heard it said many times that there is a "Youth Nature Deficit Disorder."  This disorder is tough to swallow for a guy like me and I try to ignore it as much as possible.  Recently that became difficult when some youth I was mentoring indicated that out of the group, less than 20% had spent time outdoors in a tent.  This blew me away and I couldn't believe it.  It gave me a new resolve to increase the writing I do about outdoor activities and such and try to mentor more youth in outdoor adventure.

As I try to understand the problem further I am starting to think that it is not the youth with the issue but rather the parents.  Sorry folks but I have to put the blame where I feel it lies.  Now to be honest you can't be fully to blame, after all our economic needs have changed and have required that we work harder so we can afford our lavish lifestyle and all the organized sports that we want to play.  Don't get me wrong organized sports have a role too, heck I'm a minor hockey coach, so I'm not against youth sports.  As our cost of living has gone up and families have moved from one income to two, it has meant families have less time to vacation together.  Oh and when they do marketers have us believing we would be better to go to Disneyland or somewhere extravagant like that.

This last point is where I really get frustrated.  I don't need to pay hundreds of dollars to wait in line so I can shake hands with an oversized mouse, I can go in the backyard and find a real one and not pay a dime.  I don't need to meet a certain weight or height requirement to enjoy a 3 minute, thrill ride.  I can jump in a canoe and take one that can last for hours and for a bonus I can see not just two ducks, but I can see a whole flock.

As parents we seem to think that unless we take our kids to Disney or Seaworld or some other notable location that we are a failure.  I have been waging this battle myself and I'm not sure I'm winning.  I will make an effort to get my kids out for at least one hour of exploration a week, even if it means I have to take them out after dark.  Already my son and I are planning to spend a night out in a quinzhee this winter and that is definitely something you can't do at Disneyland.

I encourage all of you, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, big brothers or sisters, take someone younger than you out to explore.  You won't just find adventure, you'll find your mind letting go of financial worries and work stress.  Even better you won't incur the un-needed increase in both just to have vacation.  The memories of Disney will fade as will those made in the local forest but won't fade are the bonds you create while spending time with family.  Do we really need to travel more than 5500km producing 263g of greenhouse gas for every kilometer on average.  If the environmental argument is good enough than take a look at the price of fuel today ($1.23 in Sussex) and consider that a car gets 12km/l, roughly.  That means that if you were to drive it would cost almost $590 just to get there…oh and by the way gas is cheap in Sussex right now.

So again get out side here locally.  Heck if you need ideas of where to go or what to do search out some of my old columns.

The video is rough but shows how even a puddle on a sculpture is like Seaworld to a small child.  There were no lines and everyone was having fun.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Words on Webinars

Yesterday was a slow day for me.  Especially when I look at the pace of the previous two.  That being said, I experienced something new yesterday.  I gave a presentation as part of a webinar series.  A webinar is a lecture or seminar that is transmitted to online registrants.  I'm no techie so someone else organized it and told me how and where to login to the seminar.

I am comfortable speaking in public and have likely given more than 100 talks.  I have spoken to many different audiences.  Young, old, male, female, interested, coerced, engaged, and asleep, I have presented to all of them.  This, however, was completely different.  I couldn't see my audience so I didn't know if they were asleep.  I felt like I was talking to my self and it was uncomfortable.  A joke was wasted as I couldn't tell if they got it.  I usually use a joke or humor as a way to gauge my audience a short time into most of my presentations and I knew I was in trouble this morning when I skipped the humor.

It was a great way to transfer knowledge, especially for someone working in non-profit like me.  There was no need to travel a couple of hundred kilometers to attend a workshop where I only want to attend half the agenda items.  It is a great way for an environmentally conscious individual to save on fuel and green house gas emissions too.

The networking opportunities missed by actually being in a room with people can't be replicated through a webinar.  If groups wish to network they'll still have to include budget money for such events.  Overall though I think webinars are he way of the future, especially considering the global manner in which we now do business.,

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hobbies and Jobs

It is no secret that I love my job, or maybe I should say jobs.  I work hard to make ends meet while trying to make a positive impact on the environment and community in which I live.  It is rewarding when I see my kids exhibit pride in what I do.  Recently I was asked if I could attend my son's grade 2 class to discuss my job (I say job, as it is far from a career at this point) as a writer.  Now, before you start laughing out loud. I don't consider myself a true writer.  I have always considered my writing more as an enjoyable hobby that I can enjoy.  I use my hobby to prepare for my full time job as a Project Manager for a non-profit organization. 

This link between hobby and job came in handy as it gave me enough material to impress the eager minds of this engaging class.  The teacher, to her credit, had done a great job prepping the students with questions and they had no lack of stories to share.  I encouraged the kids to embrace their creative side which I didn't do as a young boy.  I related to them how writing is crucial to so many careers (jobs) that they might pursue.  From the hockey players who might need to draft and read contracts (Come on NHLPA and NHL Owners) or to the girl who was dressed as a designer who would need to write down ideas and proposals, I tried to connect to each developing mind.
Photo courtesy of Mrs. Davis :)

That morning my son had dressed up as a field ecologist and I had given him all he needed.  A camera, binoculars, a field book, polarized sunglasses, sample bottles, and an old conductivity meter I had. Oh and since its hunting season, I made sure he put on his hunter orange vest.  He loved it and looked awesome, but I might be a bit biased.  At the end of my brief presentation the teacher, Mrs. Davis, asked me to pose for a class photo.  I was so happy when she forwarded the photo to me.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Getting off the Trail in Sussex

What a fantastic day.  It is approaching mid November and the temperature today reached 16C according to the thermometer on my truck.  My wife and I took advantage of my rare day off and took the kids for a long walk along the nature trail from Sussex to Sussex Corner.  We met a friend and her two boys in Sussex and walked to Sullivan Park in Sussex Corner.  The warm temperatures meant that we could walk in t-shirts and enjoy the warm sun on our faces.

On every turn of the Trout Creek there were mallards swimming playfully and the kids loved watching them take flight.  Blue jays flitted low to the ground and their bright blue feathers stood out now with no leaves in the trees to keep them hidden.  The aging poplars, that are so abundant along the trail, provided a great lunch for a hairy woodpecker that my wife spotted while I was showing the kids the blue jays.  The whole day we were serenaded by chickadees but it took me a while to listen.

The trail was relatively dry and the older boys jumped at the opportunity to explore off the trail when I offered it up.  The flood plain was even dry and the well spaced ash, poplar, and birch allowed the boys to jump and climb what ever they could.  It was cool watching them explore.  The naturalist in me noticed how many poplar there were and how old they were.  I also noticed that there was very little undergrowth to replace the aging hardwoods.  There were lots of deer tracks around but I saw none but the number could explain the low understory cover.

It was a great day and it paid to get off the main trail.  We walked more than anticipated and it was a battle to put the kids to bed tonight.  When we have to battle like that it usually means they are really tired and it takes all of ten minutes for them to fall asleep.  That means that tonight I can do some writing.  I hope you enjoy what I wrote.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Birds are Resilient So Are We

I wrote this submission to the Kings County Record before the full reality of Hurricane Sandy was realized.  The NE coast of the US took a beating and now only a couple of weeks later they are picking up the pieces.  People are helping out from across North America.  The people impacted the most are showing a true resilience and I am impressed with how they keep pushing forward and how business sectors are quickly reopening.  Birds were heavily impacted by Sandy too I'm sure and their kind have been around a great deal longer than ours.  I enjoy observing birds and the challenge of trying to watch them from close up, unfortunately I'm not that good at it.  I hope you enjoy the read.

Hurricane Sandy is slowly fading out and trick or treaters are likely home and in bed.  I have had an up and down week but by far one of the highlights was a project that I carried out through my work with the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee.  We recently started going out to interest groups with the information and materials to build bird and duck boxes. 

Watching kids get excited about being able to use a drill or screw driver is cool.   Seeing the difference from one child to another is eye opening to how people's personalities and growth vary greatly.  Watching the pride they have when they complete the bird box and how they make a concerted effort to sign their name to their project is also rewarding as you know from the glow on their faces that they will likely remember the activity for sometime.

Bird houses are relatively an easy building project which makes it ideal for young kids but adults can enjoy such a project as well.  Most adults would take the time to place the box and watch the subtle excitement as birds move in and out.  No doubt an adult would place his box before the March breeding season to increase the likely hood it will get utilized.  They'll take the time to put it up on a nice pole to deter predators and place the pole along a tree line looking out over a pasture near their home.  Close to home is important, otherwise how would you watch it?

March is cold here in New Brunswick and many birds are known to use bird boxes.  Properly placed ventilation holes keep the birds from suffocating in the box.  They also reduce the risk of mould and bacteria buildup.  Make sure the entry hole isn't that big and contrary to you might think, a perch at the entry is not a good idea.  Why?  Predators could sit on the perch and reach in and have a snack while smiling back at you.  That would be unfortunate and hard to explain to the kids who were watching from two doors down. 

The unmistakable cry of the blue jay and the cheery chirp of the chickadee brighten any day, even a cold day in March.  When you look at a bird up close they almost look like a cartoon and how can't you smile when reading a cartoon strip.  Their tiny feet and knobby legs hold their light bodies onto a limb while the wind is blowing hard.  Their feathers keep them warm while a late April snowfall chills us enough to keep the heat on in the house another week or more.

Such resilient animals deserve our respect and our hospitality.  They keep insects in check, pollinate our food crops, give their life for food, and entertain us.  I think if we had to travel hundreds of miles we'd like to stay in a hotel instead of on the streets so a bird box is a great gesture to such an important part of our existence.

I want to acknowledge our veterans as well.  With Remembrance Day around the corner it is important that we all take the time to reach out to our Troops and thank them.