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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Feeding the Birds

This month has been pretty exciting watching the bird feeder. Over the winter it was 90% Black-capped chickadees (plus 5% Blue Jays and 5% Downy Woodpeckers) but the chickadees are rarely seen now, popping by briefly before sundown. The Northern cardinals like to put on a show, they have danced, fought, squawked at each other, and chase each other off at different parts of the day. Over the winter there was just a single breeding pair that stuck together, now there are at least 3 different adult males, a juvenile, and two females. All the cardinals seem vastly different from each other in personality, size, and brightness of their colours.

New in the past month have been the variety of sparrows, the Brown-headed cowbird mating pair, a baby Squirrel and Chipmunk, two different Red-winged blackbirds, a pair of Mourning doves, some Grey jays, a White-breasted nuthatch or two, a Yellow goldfinch, and of course the extremely common American robin.

(Also, a few birds I haven’t yet identified, but have been meaning to)

I haven’t been able to capture everything on camera yet, but was thinking of setting up a webcam or live-stream to try to see what else is visiting that I may miss. I think in order to do that I’d need to do some fund-raising since my current funding does not cover extra expenses such as bird-watching. If there is interest, I’d consider it. I could send off some signed and numbered prints to donors as a thank-you. Hmmm.

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/