Posted tagged ‘Canada’

2nd Anniversary Spinning Adventure!

December 7, 2009

(Click to view larger) Our route from Dover, NH, USA to West Jeddore, NS, Canada (and back). For scenic reasons, we took the southern route on the way there, and the northern route on the way back.

Last week, for our second anniversary, Beth and I took a trip to Nova Scotia to take a textile spinning workshop. During the trip we stayed in two very nice Canadian B&B’s. We packed up after thanksgiving dinner and hit the road for St. Stephen, New Brunswick just over the US/Canada border to stay at the Blair House Heritage Inn.

Beth researches activities for Saturday in New Brunswick

The breakfast of pancakes and fruit was delicious. David, our host, made excellent tea. David hails originally from England, and worked as a hunting and fishing guide before taking over the bed and breakfast a few years ago. I really liked our room’s hand-shaped light fixtures:

From St. Stephen, we traveled to St. John, the capital of New Brunswick, which is on the coast. Apparently they really like their Saint names in the Canadian maritime provinces. The downtown area of St. John is populated by these stocky wooden sculptures of pedestrians:

can you spot Beth?

The wooden people even walk around in the mall!

After escaping the wooden Canadians we checked out the New Brunswick Museum for a few hours. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the museum, but my favorite parts were the exhibits on ship building (New Brunswick was a major ship building center during the age of sail), and the Hall of Great Whales, where there were complete skeletons of several kinds of whale, and a 90% scale model of a North Atlantic Right Whale (like those we saw live in August).

From St. John we continued on to Musquodoboit Harbor  on the southern coast of Nova Scotia, where we were taking the weekend-long spinning workshop. There was going to be one other student, but she canceled due to swine flu. So, Beth and I had the entire workshop to ourselves!

I should explain how we ended up going to Nova Scotia for a spinning workshop. Having practiced drop spindle spinning for a few weeks, we decided we’d like to learn to spin with a wheel. We found the Spinner’s Loft online, and thought a weekend spinning workshop vacation in Nova Scotia would be a fun way to celebrate our anniversary. So we called up Leslie, the proprietor of the Spinner’s Loft, and found as luck would have it that she was available for the weekend of American Thanksgiving.

There were many wheels in the spinner's loft.

Leslie has been spinning for about 30 years, and has spun an amazing variety of fibers: wool, silk, flax (linen), horse hair, musk ox, dog hair, cat hair, organic cotton from tampons, and lion’s mane to name a few! Don’t worry, the lion was not sheared. The lion’s mane hairs were gathered from tree branches where they’d become stuck when the lion rubbed against the tree.

We began on the first day by learning about washing, picking and carding of fleece. I passed some Cotswold fleece through the triple picker, which was definitely the device most closely resembling a medieval torture implement. A triple picker consists of a cradle shaped bed of nails, and a nail studded pendulum that swings just above the bed. You feed the locks of wool in one end while swinging the pendulum-of-death, and an airy cloud of wool magically comes out the other end.

Cotswold fleece and the triple picker (right). Cotswold are cool looking dredlock rasta sheep (see photo).

We took the cloud over to the drum carder and learned to use it. This is basically a pair of giant round hairbrushes with a crank to drive them around. The drum carder produces a moderately tenuous bat of fiber, which can either be torn into strips along the “grain” to make roving or it can be rolled perpendicular to the grain to make little logs called rolags.

Next we did some drop spindle spinning “in the grease.” This means spinning wool that still has a fair amount of  lanolin in it. In our case, there was also some vegetable matter and maybe an occasional trace of sheep poo in it, too. The spindling was much easier with Leslie’s spindles than our tiny-whorled homemade ones. (The whorl is the disc shaped part of the spindle). After the drop spindling warm-up, we moved on to learning to use the wheel. I think this post is long enough, so I’ll save the wheel stuff for another post.

Banff: Morraine Lake. Photo of the Week #4

October 29, 2009

IMG_0316focal length: 36mm, aperture: f/8, shutter: 1/125 sec.

Morraine Lake is a glacially fed lake in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. Elevation: 6,183 feet. The amazing color of the lake is due to refraction of light by “rock flour.” As the glacier grinds the mountains, finely powdered rock is washed into the lake and suspended in the water.

Birthday Bald Eagles

October 14, 2009

click gallery images to view larger versions

The day before I turned 29 we saw a pair of bald eagles (top photos), landing in a tree. Those pictures are a little pixely because the eagles were sitting across a bay, about a third of a mile from where we were watching whales. The next day we saw two eagles in flight (above), and one sitting in a tree at the other end of Campobello Island:


What a great way to begin a new year, seeing these huge, majestic birds.

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Gonzo, the leaping minke whale

September 7, 2009

Gonzo's Head Emerges from the Bay

We had such amazingly good luck on this vacation. To begin the week, Hurricane Bill exited the Gulf of Maine just as we arrived at Campobello Island. Then to close out our vacation, the remains of Tropical Storm Danny arrived just after we left the island. So we missed both storms, and in between the weather behaved perfectly. The last night of  vacation, when we would have suffered tent-bound through a night-long downpour, we were sleeping in a warm dry bed at the Pleasant Bay B&B and Llama Keep in Addison,ME.

On top of the excellent fortune regarding weather, we enjoyed several incredible whale watching experiences. I have been totally spoiled where whale watching is concerned. I described the first outing in my previous post. However, I learned that not all whale watches are so fortunate…

Head Harbor Light House

Head Harbor Light House

Whales swim within eyeshot of the shore at several locations on the island’s coasts. One afternoon we decided to look for some of these shore loving whales at Head Harbor Lighthouse on the northern tip of the island. Within a few minutes we saw two minke whales! (Actually it could have been the same one twice. Those minkes are fast).  A vacationing family with two young sons came out onto the point to look for some whales just in time to miss the minkes. They were staying in Bar Harbor and had driven up for the day to see the island.  (The drive up from Bar Harbor takes about two hours).  The couple recounted their whale watching experience, which happened a few days earlier when seas were still rough from the passing hurricane. Apparently half of their boat was vomiting over the side from sea sickness, but it was sufficiently windy that the non-vomiting half of the boat had to duck and hide behind the benches to avoid airborne vomit! On top of all that, they didn’t see a single whale.

Our luck, however, continued when on the evening of my 29th birthday we set sail on a sunset cruise and whale watch out of Eastport, Maine. This little town boasts the title of “The Easternmost City in the United States with a Population of Greater than 1000.” Our vessel: the Sylvina W. Beale, an 84′ wooden schooner with red sails.

Donnie on the bow of the Sylvina W. Beale

Donnie on the bow of the Sylvina W. Beale

The sea air blew frigidly that evening, but no one vomited, and while we were out we witnessed this:

Apparently minke whales do not normally breach. I only recorded him doing this about five times in this video, but I actually lost count of how many times in a row this whale breached–must’ve been 25 or 30. We actually got close enough to smell his fishy breath. Many have formulated theories about why whales breach, but no one is really sure. Donnie, a crewmember on the Sylvina Beale believes that they do it when they have gas. Maybe we were smelling whale burp.
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Right Whale Sighting

September 3, 2009


Beth and I just got back from a week long vacation on Campobello Island, a Canadian island in the Bay of Fundy, which is off the coast of Maine. While we were there we saw three of the 400-450 North Atlantic Right Whales–almost 1% of the total population. Here’s a clip of the first one we saw:

You can identify this as a right whale by the distinctive “V” shape of the spouting (at 0:55 in the clip above). It’s kind of funny that the two nostrils don’t fire at exactly the same time. I think I’d have to be a pretty advanced yogi to breathe with asynchronous nostrils. I learned on this outing that baleen whales have two nostrils like us (and most of our other mammal buddies) while toothed whales have just one blowhole. Nostril is kind of a gross sounding word until you consider the alternative of having something called a “blowhole” in the middle of your face.

Right whales are so named not because they have conservative political viewpoints, but because whalers considered them the “right” whales to hunt. This was because they floated after being harpooned and they often swim close to the shore.
About twenty minutes later after seeing the whale above, we saw this right whale mother and calf:

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