Summer

Where I live, there exists a short and precious span of time between snowfalls. It is when gardens grow strong, trails turn green, and daylight extends well into the night.

SUHH - murr

For July and August, this blog is on a summer publication schedule: still posting, but not-daily. Check back for sporadic summer check-ins and stay turned for my regular daily blogging schedule to return this September.

In the meantime, my summer photo gallery will be updated as often as I can remember to post new pictures.

Thanks for reading!

– bardo

Casting Call

Our recent camping trip north of the city opened the door for a few good opportunities to toss a line into the lake. I brought along my new fishing rod, rigged it up for the ready, and leaned it against an out of the way tree in case the mood or moment struck.

Our campsite was a sixty-second walk to the shoreline, and on a good choice of visit I often found empty a small wooden dock protruded five meters out into the murky lake water.

On a less-good choice of visit I found the dock occupied and myself instead needing to trudge through the spongy layer of grasses and mosses growing from the loamy sand to find a spot clear enough to edge up to the waterside to be able to cast out without tangling my line in the vegetation.

Conversation Starter

It also turns out that a fishing rod is something of a lakeside invitation to chat.

Strolling to the shore, invariably someone would comment on the potential for a catch. “How’s it looking?” someone would call out. “It might be a little hot for them out there right now.” Someone else would add, noting the 30C heat still lingering from the day.

And “Any luck?” not just someone but everyone would ask as I strolled back to camp empty-handed after an hour of tossing my lure into the water.

As it turns out the most inviting pose a guy can take (by far) when visiting the lake is to sit by oneself at the end of a narrow dock, dangling one’s feet over the end, holding a fishing rod with a line threading outward into the water. This must project some magnetic signal to other campers inviting them to wander up, sit down and chat.

I found myself playing host to all manner of random characters telling me their tales as I sat holding court with my fishing rod patiently dangling outwards.

Catchless?

At the end maybe the weather was too hot or I was too impatient or perhaps my small collection of lures was not in agreement with the fish swimming through the murky lake water that weekend.

I didn’t catch so much more than a few clumps of weedy grass.

I did however catch a moment of peace, and a few curious stories.

Picture Perfect

The nice thing about scaling back on my posting commitments for a couple months is that I’ve been able to comb through the site I’ve built this past year and tweak what’s here, refine how it’s displayed or add completely new things.

Most of this is “under the hood” so to speak, but regular readers may notice a few minor changes I’ve made to castironguy.ca over the last week or so.

One of the big things is photo galleries.

I hastily added a photo gallery plugin at the end of June as a means to do some light updates to the site in between my sporadic summer posting schedule. If you haven’t seen that I’ve been updating a Summer 2021 gallery of random photos a few times per week.

I’ve been fascinated by online photo sharing for a long time now. Fascinated? Well, intrigued and captured by the potential of sharing a medium that I love in a fluid and barrier-free way, I guess would be the better explanation.

For years, in fact, I maintained an online gallery that had thousands of photos grouped into hundreds of albums, ranging the gamut from kid-pics to be shared with the family, all the way through to a kind of semi-professional portfolio of my better, high quality images. The effort got dated, of course, content and software-wise. It was lightly hacked. I took it down, archived it and never tried to replace it.

I did replace it with social media, I guess. Over the last couple years I’ve been active on Instagram sharing photos to various curated accounts, one private for people I know IRL and a couple public themed accounts for everyone else. Yet, social media has lately become something of a tangled mess of paywalls and advertising and fake content and frustrations, so I’ve leaned away from that and other platforms in recent months and chosen to put more effort into private website content like this site.

So having added that gallery plugin I’ve been getting some photos into it, deciding how I want it to look and act, and posting some updated collections. It makes me excited to have a place to post more photos again. Stay tuned.

Fire/Smoke

The world is on fire.

As much as I love a good campfire, heating a hefty pan over some crackling logs, I love even more that I can always walk away when the smoke wafts into my face, stinging my eyes. I can stand up and step into fresh air, take a deep breath, and reset my lungs.

This past weekend all the air was a smoky haze, everywhere. There was no reset.

Image: https://firesmoke.ca/forecasts/current/

Dozens of forest fires are burning across the country.

One of my colleagues started his career as a forest fire fighter, spending years of summers helping to control burns and protect small communities surrounded by kindling. We had an amazing conversation on Friday as he talked about his knowledge of the history and strategy of forests in Canada and the different approaches taken by different regions of the country, all of which go a long way to explaining why and where those little orange dots appear on the map above.

While people joke on social media about escaping or blowing it back west, the data shows that the culprit is actually intense wildfires to the north east that are clogging our throats and lungs.

The short of it is that fire and smoke and wind and summer air currents mean that my house is not at risk of burning, but my lungs are now haunted daily by the thick, campfire-like smoke that permeates every corner of every breath of outdoor air.

Image: https://weather.gc.ca/airquality/pages/abaq-001_e.html

The effects are no joke.

People call in sick from work due to aching lungs and throbbing heads.

And we skipped our run yesterday, the prevailing opinion that we would be… might be… probably would be taking our health into negative concern by sucking down ten kilometers of smoky air from the “very high risk” and the literally off-the-charts poor air quality.

The world is on fire.

This is not new.

A few years ago we spent five days hiking in the backcountry mountains near Lake Louise. The day we hiked inbound was a clear, beautiful, sunny day, but over the week a thick cloud of forest fire smoke descended over the valley where we were camping shrouding the mountains in what seemed a romantic fog but was actually an acrid, lung-burning, inescapable haze that made the air smell and taste of char.

That same year I also ran a marathon, and due to the smoke the go-no-go call for that race was uncertain even as we stepped up to the start line.

It was not the first time the air was smoky through the summer, by far. But it was among the first of many consecutive summers clouded by a shroud of burning forest smoke. Every summer since, it seems, weeks are lost to hunkering from the attack.

Even today, the few people out and about on the streets are still wearing masks despite the lifting of the health-related bylaw, and I pass by them wondering if they are hoping to avoid a virus or to simply screen out the visible ash from the air.

The world is on fire.

Take a deep breath… if you still can.

Raspberries I Have Loved

It’s probably something to do with the unusual heat, but all my berries are coming ready about two weeks earlier than usual this year.

Our fridge is already full of saskatoon berries (some of which are destined for a fate of pie later this morning) and over the last couple days I’ve spent nearly an hour in the thorny brambles of my raspberry bushes plucking the tasty red berries from their hiding spots.

Weeks, literally weeks, after we moved into our house over sixteen years ago, I dug a small hole into the newly graded soil of our backyard and planted a root-ball of a raspberry cultivar.

All those years later, after ups and downs, good seasons and bad, incidents with wafting herbicides, a sad pruning mistake by my wife many years ago, and many attempts to train and constrain the patch, I have a plot of land that’s roughly, consistently, five square meters in size and densely packed with raspberry plants.

We pick and eat them fresh. We pluck pail-fulls that become pies or other pastry deserts. We drop them into cereal or on ice cream. We share them with th neighbours. We live for a short month on the bounty of garden raspberries that for a brief moment seems endless and plentiful.

Until it’s suddenly gone.

Gone, and we are stuck buying expensive little plastic clamshells of never-quite-the-same farm berries usually imported from California or Mexico, achingly dulled by their long trek to the Canadian prairies.

That trip from the backyard is so much shorter, so much fresher. And always a summer treat, even if it is a couple weeks ahead of schedule this year.