Click to enlarge photos
Ruth is making what may turn out to be the world's biggest granny square. These are normally crocheted in a small size, usually 3-4 inches across, and then sewn together to make a blanket, but Ruth decided to make a blanket from one huge granny square instead. As shown in the picture here it is only about one third done. It will be much larger when complete!
The temperature actually made it to 16°C today, so we decided we couldn't waste a day like that in November, so we packed up a picnic lunch and hit the pathways. We went almost to downtown and back, including a short side trip to Vincent Massey Park, where the photo was taken.
While out walking today in the autumn wind we found a nicely coloured maple leaf.
01 October was a very cool and windy day. Jane and Jock came over for lunch and then we all drove up to Gatineau Park to visit the Champlain Lookout and then hike to Carbide Wilson's Mill.
Finally I had a chance to show Ruth the new Greenbelt Pathway that was completed this spring, from end to end, at least as far as the NCC has completed it so far. The day was perfect, 24°C, light winds and best of all at this time of year, no bugs! Ruth took her Catrike Trail and I rode my 25 year old Norco Alpine mountain bike. The surface is stone dust and the mountain bike is a better choice on this surface, with its wide lug tires than my Catrike Speed with its high-pressure road tires.
The trip is about 30 km from home to the corner of Russell Road and Ramseyville Road via the pathway and then back again. We brought a picnic lunch and ate it at the end of the trail, before turning around and coming home again. We saw lots of wildlife on the trip, including wild turkeys, blue jays, white tailed deer and lots of squirrels, red, black and grey.
Ruth has a more detailed account of the trip on her blog.
In September 2011 we decided to return to Quebec City for a couple of days by Via Rail and also visit Matt and Katia on the way home in Montreal.
In Quebec City we spent a rainy day at the Musée de la civilisation, as well as exploring the Petit Champlain district, riding the Funicular and climbing the staircase from the St Lawrence to the heights of the Plains of Abraham.
We shot a video of the Funicular trip, short as it is.
In Montreal we had the honour being Matt and Katia's first house guests in their new apartment and meeting their cats, Anton and Teddy. We also caught the Fragments of the Universe show at the Dow Planetarium, the last show before it closes and the new facility is opened in eastern Montreal, near the Olympic stadium.
In 2011 we decided to do something a bit different and see if we could successfully go cycle camping as an experiment. The camp site was our nearest one, the Ottawa Municipal Campground in the western greenbelt. The route was almost all via bike pathways, which is a pleasant way to travel, for about a 75 km round trip.
We pared down our equipment to the bare minimum for one night, but still had too much gear for the trike racks, so we went to plan "B", using our bike trailer. This meant that we took Ruth's 2009 model Catrike Trail tricycle and Adam's 1986 Norco Alpine mountain bike, which can tow the trailer.
We had a pleasant ride on the pathways, stopped for lunch and ice cream at Britannia Park and arrived at the campground mid-afternoon, after having climbed to the top of big hill that the campground is on. The campground is well-laid out and the other campers there were quiet. The same cannot be said for the nearby highway 417, which is very loud and far too close to the campground. Despite that, with the help of ear-plugs we did sleep okay. The campground has very little in the way of amenities and it seems that it is just an overnight way point for people passing though, or for people who are in Ottawa for specific events, particularly at the next-door equestrian centre.
The next morning we packed up our tent and sleeping bags and set off for home via the pathway network, beating the forecast rain home by an hour or so!
Overall bike camping worked out pretty well and we enjoyed our trip, but there aren't really any other campgrounds within our one day biking range and this one wasn't worth returning to.
In mid-July Nick and Rachael came to Ottawa on the same weekend that Matt & Katia were also in town, so we had an impromptu family brunch reunion.
Our friend Jane made it back to Ottawa for Blues Fest and we had lunch!
On 2 July 2011 Ruth's brother Witold Merkis and his wife Vicky hosted a Merkis family reunion at their home in Kanata. Matt and Katia came down from Montreal for the event and also went downtown for Canada Day, too.
Our friends Doug and Lana came to stay for a week just before Canada Day, having driven out from Kelowna, BC. They saw a lot of Ottawa's museums and we all visited Parliament Hill to observe the Canada Day preparations, as well as Rideau Hall.
As was illustrated in April Ruth has been keen on solar ovens for a while. After doing lots of reading the next step was to build a proof-of-concept model out of cardboard, using Look oven bags for glass. We learned quite a bit from that model, even though it didn't produce a lot of heat, at least in the weak April sunlight available on the few days when it wasn't raining.
We decided that the next stage would be a fully operational oven, made from wood and using real glass this time. We spent quite a bit of time searching for some glass at yard sales and finally located two good pieces of glass and even some nice 3/8" plywood. Many thanks go to Teri Loretto for those items! The pane of glass we used is from a picture frame. The remaining parts consisted of some moulding and a pair of handles purchased at the local hardware store. Paint, screws, weather stripping and other supplies were scrounged from around our own workshop. The total cost was $37.44.
Construction only took a couple of hours and involved a hand saw, screwdriver and drill. After assembly Ruth sanded it all and then we masked and painted the inside black. It is scaled specifically to take a small oven roasting pan. Completed, it weighs just 7 lbs.
We still have more experiments to do, but it can easily reach 175°F without much effort in aiming it accurately at the sun as it moves - a good start. The goal is to be able to get it up to a high enough temperature to boil water.
Today was the hottest day of the year so far, one of those humid days where you really ought to stay indoors through the middle of it. Adam decided to get up early to get out and get some exercise and at the same time check out whether the National Capital Commission had repaired the Greenbelt Pathway. The last time he tried it out back in May it was just completed, but the contractor had left it badly rutted and mostly impassible to all but determined mountain bikers. Now, here in June it has been graded, re-gravelled and rolled and it is actually in good shape for cycling on, as long as you keep moving to avoid the large numbers of mosquitoes.
There was one tree that was down, but it has been reported to the NCC for removal, see the photo!
The wettest April on record gave way to an equallly wet May, but now here in June the rain has stopped and things are drying out. This means that our few tulips bloomed and then ended, leaving a flower-free garden for a bit. The sunshine has now brought out the next flowers and these are purple chive flowers.
On 25 May 2011, during a break in the wettest spring ever, Ruth's half a garden plot dried out enough to plant. So we spent the morning digging up rows of dirt and Ruth planted a plethora of vegetables, including carrots, rhubarb and potatoes.
Since it was such a nice day we decided to have a little early celebration of Ruth's birthday. We hiked from our house to Little Italy and met our friend Louis for lunch at a diminutive Italian cafe called Il Piccolino on Preston Street (highly recommended incidentally). Then we went to the Canadian Tulip Festival just next door at Commissioner's Park on Dow's Lake, to admire the tulips and the ice cream! Ruth says she had a great birthday even if it wasn't her actual birthday.
Determined to do some serious gardening this year, even if our own back yard is an uncultivatable square of solid rock and clay, Ruth went in on a rented gardening plot with a friend of hers. The catch is that plot is 7 km away, requiring Catrike commuting to get there. So far plans and surveys have been done, but planting will have to wait until the frost risk has passed in a couple of weeks.
On our anniversary it was such a nice day that we decided to do a hike to the Mongolian Village restaurant at Gloucester Town Centre for lunch and then walk up to Rockcliffe Airport and the Canada Aviation and Space Museum for some ice cream. In all we did about 12 km.
On 16 April we took a train to Montreal to meet Matt and Katia for brunch and then go to the planetarium. The day was wet and quite cold, we even had blowing snow grains! As a result we spent more time in the underground city than on the streets, but we still managed a walk to the old port.
Ruth has been itching to build a solar oven for a year or two now, so we decided to start with a working model made of cardboard. It works! Ruth has written more about it on her blog.
For the follow up project see Ruths' Solar Oven Project II
On 20 February our good friend Jane was in Ottawa to finalize her move to Owen Sound. Family matters have caused her to move back to her home town and we know she will have lots of challenges there taking care of her parents, but we sure will miss her in Ottawa!
On the 18-20 February weekend Matt & Katia came down from Montreal for a visit and even baked some cookies. We got some of the fun and hijinx on video.
On Sunday 13 February we headed to Winterlude with our friend Louis to check out the ice struptures. Ruth even got in a good dance on video.
We have been waiting for the right time to try skiing the new Greenbelt Pathway that the National Capital Commission has been constructing. The wait was required for the right snow conditions as the early part of this winter was notable for its lack of snow. By New Year's Day we had none on the ground at all! Recent weeks have seen steady snowfall and the weather forecast indicates above-zero temperatures and even rain coming next week, so the time for the trip was now. Living car-free meant that we would have to pack our skis, boots and poles and hike 3.5 km to the trail's start point and then start skiing. Overall the trip was about 12 km, of which about 7 km was walking! The conditions, however, were worth the trek - blue skies, light winds, temperature about -10C when we started and -6C when we got back and the snow conditions were excellent. As a bonus, other skiers had already done much of the trail grooming for us.
We put together a short video about the expedition.
On 30 January we went to the Canadian War Museum with our good friend Louis. Since all three of us are history buffs it was a lot of fun to go though the museum and especially the vehicle collection. Adam was pleasantly surprised to find out that veterans like him get free admission and even free snacks! That was a bonus!
When winter started in late 2010 we managed to get out cross-country skiing three times before we hit the big thaw in early January. That event left us with literally no snow and we have had to wait for more snow to accumulate to get out skiing again. Today there was just enough snow and the recent cold snap abated at last, so we headed out to the Sawmill Creek Constructed Wetlands for the first time in 2011. Hopefully it won't be the last chance we get before winter ends!
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