The End of the Road

It was the end…. the end of Mississauga Road. Muah ha ha. Not menacing in May? Well that is OK, this was a pretty fun and short field day in the thick of it. Although, wetlands are often portrayed as some pretty creepy places in film, during the day they are just beautiful. Site A was visited on May 26th just before noon. It was a lot greener than I had expected. Since it has been debated that cedar swamps contain the densest populations of vegetation, I wasn’t sure what to expect of a fen so close to one.

Turns out the fen itself is extremely poor. We see pitcher plants, Newfoundland’s Provincial flowers. We see some sedge, cattail, tamarack, mos, fern, ‘maybe’ a handful of other plants and that is it. On the ‘boat launch’ more cattails are seen. Soil samples cannot be taken from this site as it is an open floating fen. So unfortunately I cannot compare anything to what was seen in Rattray Marsh, but I image a darker loose organic peat for some reason.

The poor, poor fen and mixed cedar organic swamp weren’t exactly teeming with diversity. There was a lot of the same thing. Hydrology readings from my peers pretty much confirmed what we expected. Life was trying to find a way regardless. However it was still well worth the visit. I highly recommend the visit for anyone studying wetlands. Once we returned to the vehicles, I decided to put on a pair of gloves and pick up all the litter around the road. I had time to kill while waiting for everyone to return.

Off to site B. Plan B? PART TWO of our day. The End. Just kidding. I’m sorry, it has been a long 5 days with little to no sleep. Not too far from Site A, yet far, far, away from here, we have a forest conservation area with plenty of data points yet no information at all. They collect sounds, images, water measurements, plant information, salamander information, and have transects set up everywhere. There is even a Provincial Groundwater Monitoring Well that has solar power. This site is something we don’t like to mess up, so we stick to designated trails and boardwalks at all times to minimize harm and damage not only to the surroundings, but to the data points. We certainly son’t want to interfere with someone else’s work.

While standing around the groundwater well, I can see some of Ontario’s Provincial flower, the Trillium. Not far away I can already spy a wide variety of plant life. I already have an idea that this site promising to be vastly different from what was seen earlier. Once we reach the boardwalk, little eyes can be seen from the frogs peering at us silently from the waters edges. Camouflaging themselves in the bubbles and leafy organic matter that can be seen below the waters surface. This wetland site contains varieties of ferns, mosses, amphibians, trees, leafy organic matter/peat, grasses, and lifeforms. Hydrology readings from my peers confirm better conditions for life. Not surprising.

 

to be continued…

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Field Trip #1–Summer 2017

It wasn’t as easy as I thought to participate in field work during a recent class field trip to a local wetland. With both my wrists in splints to prevent them from moving, I was unable to use many of the tools. I chose to stick to dry land for the majority of this trip to prevent falling and damaging my wrists further. Luckily, I did bring my good camera and took plenty of photos along the way. (Slideshow available below)

 

Not being able to write neatly or quickly also prevented me from taking manual field notes and I relied heavily on a 12 year old voice recorder to try to catch all of the information I needed. Unfortunately, this meant I was at the mercy of old technology, wind/background noise, and crackly play-back speakers. Playing back the recordings was a breeze, deciphering the information I needed was a bit trickier. I should have used newer technology like my cell phone but I really hadn’t thought it mattered much. However, I did have a lot of fun and learned a lot on my first time out. Can’t wait for the next one.

Gluten Free Shortbread Cookies – A Lesson Learned the Yummy Way.

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Before Baking. Photo Credit: Jenny Ward

One of the challenges of being diagnosed with Celiac Disease as an adult, aside from having gastrointestinal problems literally my entire life (since being an infant), is having to figure out how to make foods I love again. This time around, I wanted to make shortbread cookies like my mom used to make at holidays. I secured the recipe she has been using since 2014 from her via social media. (Available at http://bakeeatrepeat.ca/whipped-shortbread-recipe/) and bought myself some President’s Choice Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour. It had great reviews and had pictures of chocolate chip cookies on the box so I figured it must be safe to use in other cookies as well. Most gluten free baking recipe’s that I’ve come across tell you to mix the different types of flours yourself but I decided to try to use a GF pre-mixed flour in a normal recipe. If other people have had success, why shouldn’t I? Right?

The shortbread cookies tasted delicious, the flavour was not that different from what I could recall in my memory banks. My son agreed, they were yummy.

Well here is the problem that I encountered and what I think may have caused it.

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After Baking. Photo Credit: Jenny Ward

The problem was that even when cooled the cookies were beyond fragile. Even picking them up caused the edges to begin crumbling. One bite and the rest of the cookie fell into pieces. The only remedy was to put the whole cookie in your mouth at once. (Who needs two-bite cookies anyways?)

The shortbread recipe calls for a specific amount of flour and of cornstarch… the all-purpose gluten free flour that I was using already contained cornstarch. I think this is what made the cookies soft and fluffier than normal. Even increasing the baking time didn’t correct for the frailty of the cookies. Next time I think I will have to either choose a flour mix that doesn’t contain corn starch, or I will have to mix my own gluten-free flour.

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Photo Credit: Jenny Ward
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Photo Credit: Jenny Ward
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Photo Credit: Jenny Ward
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Photo Credit: Jenny Ward

 

Recipe can be found at: http://bakeeatrepeat.ca/whipped-shortbread-recipe/

First blog post- Dinner Woes

 img_2148So I attempted to make pasta out of vegetables today. I had thought it went well until I tried to feed it to an 11 year old. Dinner started almost an hour ago and we are still sitting at the table. Apparently my mistake was not in using carrots and parsnip, but the addition of zucchini (as little of it as there is). I have tried explaining to him the importance of eating vegetables whether he likes them or not, but it falls on deaf ears.  I almost felt ready to give up, but then I remembered that backing down would mean I would have to cook something else. As it stands I know he isn’t going to ‘starve to death’ by skipping a meal, and I’m prepared to wait until he cracks and eats the food prepared for dinner. I really want to give him the lecture about children starving and whom would be grateful for a hot meal, but I’m not sure how many times I’m allowed to use that one.

Hmm, how to encourage a picky eater? I feel likeimg_2158 bribing him with dessert (for once) goes too far and rewards ‘disliking’ dinner. Can I give him the speech about not being rich and how we have to eat healthy food regardless of whether we like it or not? He apparently doesn’t care that I worked hard on making dinner from scratch. The alfredo sauce and Parmesan cheese even masks the flavour of the zucchini to a point it is just a texture. I think the problem is that he can see his food. Perhaps next time I will make a tomato sauce.

Oh, wait, he wants to put tomato sauce on it now. Could it be that he is actually going to eat his food? Now the fun begins, watching him try to use a can opener….. Whoops he made its quarter of the way before getting stuck. I don’t mind stepping in for this part. Ok, tomato sauce opened, mixed with his veggie pasta, and he is finally eating his food.

Note to self: If I want him to eat food he doesn’t like, hide it better…. maybe tomorrow I’ll purée cauliflower and sneak it into mashed potatoes with a bit of shredded cheese… hmmm.

Have Yourself a Mini Little (Non-Religious) Christmas!

I img_2111know, I know, the title uses both mini and little. I did this because in my head I hear ‘have yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ being sung and I just couldn’t help myself. I don’t have a lot of room in my townhouse apartment. This year I am using a fake little tree to decorate and feel Merry. I don’t actually celebrate ‘Christmas’ in the religious sense. Christmas trees have very little to do with the Christian belief anyhow. (This will probably offend some people.) However, I do enjoy decorating, buying presents, and getting together with my family. This year I don’t know what to expect. My parents are now separated and moved to opposite sides of Canada, one of my brothers is in the process of separation as well, my sister moved out of the city, and it may just be my son, my (other) brother, and myself. I know some people have no one to celebrate with and I should be grateful, and I am, I’m just adjusting to a changing situation.

This is the first Christmas since my parents split, so I’m not entirely sure what to do. I will invite everyone over to my little place and hope for the best. (The best being that I don’t have leftovers for weeks). The alternative is to do nothing and just focus on my son and I. I suppose that is what many families do during the holidays, keep it low-key. All I know is that when I look at my fake mini-tree, I wish it were bigger and real. (Going against the tree-hugger in me) I know that won’t fill the empty feeling from missing my family… but at least it would smell nice. Maybe I just need to decorate the rest of the house… Until next time!