Fun on the Farm

I love unexpected afternoons that end up on a positive note.

Last week we happened upon a dog training farm in Duncan (located in the District of Cowichan Valley) on Vancouver Island complete with sheep, lambs, ducks and one wily border collie.

And, as I happened to have one Shetland sheepdog in the hatchback of my car, I thought it a good idea to see how she would respond to the little lambs that were silently grazing behind a fence. Especially since knowing that the breed (sheltie for short) are herding dogs that originated from Scotland’s remote and rugged Shetland Islands. Known to be easy trainers and world-class competitors in obedience, agility, and herding trials, I was dying to find out how she’d react.

We took Layla out of the car and held her as she watched and sniffed, all the while appearing calm and disinterested.

Anyway, before we drove off we stopped by the farm which goes by the name Ash Farms and has been in the family for generations as we learned from Linda, the owner, who came out and greeted us.  As luck would have it, she’s a dog trainer with a specialty in training them to herd sheep and ducks.

A light went off!  After chatting with Linda for several minutes I decided to take a trial training run from her to find out if Layla has what it takes.  Even though I don’t live on a farm and don’t plan to buy sheep anytime soon.

My imagination led me to believe that Layla would start chasing them around the pen in circles while nipping at their hind legs and I expected that it might get out of control.

So Linda, with the help of her very smart border collie Jock, was more than patient to find out if Layla has a natural instinct. Jock helped to show Layla a few tricks. They showed us that there’s a method – and it starts off slow with an eye to follow the sheep.

 

We learned a few things. 

For instance, we found out that instinct to herd is largely inherited, not learned.  Like ballet or piano, it’s better to start them off young.

Therefore, instinct is a response to stock that no amount of training can create. However, the greatest instincts are not useful without a willingness to work with the handler. Trainability is as important as good instinct, so the greater level of working accomplishments by the parents, the higher the likelihood the offspring will achieve these skills. Without attention to this in breeding, it is all chance. 

Ahhh…makes sense now.  Her parents never herded farm animals.

So we took a chance.  It was worthwhile nonetheless.  Layla needs to be more wolf like in her approach so that the sheep are afraid of her.  They were not.  They kept their eyes on her though.

 

Layla has potential but seemed distracted and would need more lessons without me hanging around.  For now she’ll go back to chasing squirrels and Canada Geese – something she prefers.

Besides…Layla has her own little lamb.

Photos: d. king

well that was weird

 

 

 

Chemainus: small town; big charm

It’s easy to see why this open-air art gallery draws visitors from all over the world. 

This is only a splattering of photos taken with my Samsung phone camera a few days ago.  See story below.

Like many others right now during this pandemic craze, I’m tending to stick closer to home.  Well maybe not always too too close; but close enough.  At the very least I’ve been discovering places in the province where I live that I have either never been to and wanted to visit, or haven’t visited in such a long time, that I can’t even remember when I was there last.

Such was the case a few days ago when I took the ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island with my boyfriend Paul and Layla, my sheltie.  The reason I decided to go in the first place was to look at the possibility of getting a companion dog for Layla.  I was very interested in getting another male sheltie who lives on the island. However, without going into detail it sadly was not meant to be, at least for now…so we decided to make a little holiday out of the situation.

We took the ferry boat one way going there and another way coming back with stopovers in some quaint little towns…Ladysmith, Chemainus, Duncan and finally ending up in Victoria to take the ferry back to Vancouver.  The weather for November was excellent and the scenery very picturesque.

And speaking of picturesque…I was aware of an abundance of story-telling murals in Chemainus as I had been there once before, but I had no idea that it is known as Canada’s Mural Capital. And I don’t remember seeing nearly as many as I did this time around.

I was blown away by how this proud seaside community shares its heritage and celebrates its history through art on the sides of stores, restaurants and private homes. The creation of one mural and sculpture after another which began in 1982, has turned this tiny town into Canada’s largest permanent outdoor art gallery.  And might I add… when was the last time you stood in front of a “Subway” sandwich shop or “Canada Post Office” in admiration?.

You can follow the yellow footsteps (like the yellow brick road) on the sidewalks to locate all the murals.  Although we did it by chance and decided to spend the night in a hotel there so we could enjoy the town the next day.

Town History:

When Chemainus was established in 1858, forestry was the principal industry, and it is still central to its life.  The townspeople were concerned about the future of their one-industry town so looked to economic diversification as a way to thrive.  As it has a natural beauty setting to begin with, it made sense to expand as a tourist spot so The Chemainus Murals Program was born. 

The subject from the beginning has been the community’s heritage, reflecting the history of the First Nations people and their life here, and the unfolding story of settlement by the families and individuals who built the community. 

World renowned Vancouver Island artist Emily Carr’s legacy is depicted in a special Emily Carr Mural Series.  It’s really beautiful.

The name Chemainus is believed to have come from a legendary First Nations shaman and prophet who survived a massive wound in his chest to become a powerful chief.  Tsa-meeun-is (Broken Chest).

If you’re looking for The Mural of the Story…

Going by the official mural guide I can look through and tell you by number what each mural means, however I think it best you go there and discover for yourself… if only because it really is worthwhile.

Tracy Turco’s style: because we can all use a little glamour

Ummm… maybe high impact glamour is what I really meant to say.

Photo taken from Tracy’s new Website (see link at bottom of page).

Tracy is someone I met in Palm Springs last year and I’m happy that she’s become a friend.  Needless to say, Tracy stands out from any crowd and has a multitude of talents to her credit.  There’s almost nothing that she cannot accomplish.  She’s also a gracious hostess.  I find her inspiring.

And earlier this week she launched a new website that lists all of her creative ventures and adventures. To name a few.…if you’re looking for a cool place to stay in Palm Springs you might consider the ART Hotel, Tiki Hotel or Tiki House that she personally designed.

For now, I thought it would be perfect to share a tidbit of information taken from her actual website.  At the bottom of this page you can go directly to the website where you’ll find everything you need to know.

Taken from Tracy’s website:

The creative mind behind brands such as SalonTea, Tracy Stern Shoes, Tea & Co. and a whole lot more, Tracy Turco – formerly Tracy Strern – is an artist, designer, author, hotelier, entrepreneur and style icon residing in the midcentury mecca of Palm Springs. As an interior designer she has brought her touch to numerous stylish residences and businesses, as well as vacation homes and colorful boutique hotels such as the Tiki House, Art Hotel and Tiki Hotel in Palm Springs, not to mention her own home decor collection.

Tracy also attended numerous Paris fashion house shows as well, regularly seen front row dressed by luminaries such as Emanuel Ungaro and Guy Laroche to name but a few. She was voted ‘Best Dressed New Yorker’ five years in a row by the respected Avenue magazine, and has also featured on style-driven TV shows such as Bravo’s ‘Mad Fashion’.

Tracy’s shoe line came into being when she created a patented design for interchangeable uppers on a shoe giving multiple shoes with just one pair.

From there the Tracy Stern Shoes line took off internationally, selling to destinations such as Japan, Russia, Paris and Italy. It was equally popular with celebrities around the world including the likes of Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson and Lindsay Lohan. 

Didn’t I tell you she was inspiring?  For more go to:

http://tracyturco.com

My Previous Post: Tracy’s Tiki Tea Party:

https://girlwhowouldbeking.com/2020/02/11/life-style-tracy-turcos-terrific-tiki-tea-party/

Cheese Biscuits with Lavender Pepper

Canadian Thanksgiving is this coming Monday, October 12th.  With whomever you decide to celebrate with, be it friends or family in your small group – here is an easy and delicious little recipe to add to your dinner.  Or; just have them for breakfast or afternoon tea.

photo: d. king
This plate belonged to my grandmother.

I used Wensleydale cheese only because I was looking for a good way to use up this cheese which is one of my least favourites, and I love cheese.  This type of cheese is not easy to spread on crackers as it crumbles and it has a slightly sweet taste. However it’s awesome in this recipe. You can also use aged cheddar or a combo of cheddar/parmesan.  I bet Gruyère would be good too.  This recipe was supposed to be scones but I think they turn out more like biscuits.  The lavender pepper is a nice added touch and something I’ll continue to use.

Cheese Biscuits with Lavender Pepper

Ingredients

  • 1¾ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 5 Tablespoons cold butter, cubed
  • ¾ to 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup shredded *Wensleydale (the one without cranberries) or other cheese
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried, culinary lavender flowers (or use 1 teaspoon fresh lavender flowers)
  • 1 tsp. **Lavender Pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a shallow mixing bowl sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and lavender pepper.
  3. Add the cubed butter and cut into the flour using a pastry cutter or a fork until butter is about the size of small peas.
  4. Stir in the buttermilk, a quarter of a cup at a time, until it forms a wet dough. Stir in the cheese until completely combined.
  5. Scoop onto a baking sheet by large spoonfuls and bake 12 to 15 minutes until tops are golden brown.
photo: d. king. Adding red chili pepper spread is yummy.

*Fun Facts: According to the official website of the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes, a.k.a. the company that produces Wensleydale Cheese, the first people to make this particular dairy delight were French Cistercian monks back in the 12th century. After arriving in Wensleydale and the nearby surrounds, they set about making their cheese, albeit with ewe’s milk rather than the cow’s milk typical today.  I say Ewwww!

Wallace (of Wallace and Gromit fame) is an advocate of a good hunk of Wensleydale, but did you know that the Aardman Animations shorts helped revive the company back in the 1990s? It’s true! The brand was floundering, but animator Nick Park’s (coincidental) decision to namedrop Wensleydale Cheese helped boost sales. You can now even get Wensleydale Cheese wrapped in Wallace and Gromit branded packaging.

Another fun fact: I never watched Wallace and Gromit – but I think this marketing ploy was genius.

**To make lavender pepper combine black peppercorns with lavender flowers (half and half) and grind together using a clean coffee grinder or herb grinder.

The lavender works surprisingly well with pepper, offering a flowery note that stands up to the peppery bite without the bitterness.  Also good to use on pork, chicken or beef.

Enjoy!

someone bought me this dish towel

Here is the original recipe:

Wensleydale Scones

VIFF: This week in closing…

Today marks the last day of the Vancouver International Film Festival with a short review on the last film I watched.

It’s also the day of the first vice-presidential debate of 2020 and the day I start baking again.

Right now I have a banana walnut loaf in the oven and I’ve finished baking the most delicious lavender pepper cheese scones.  I’ll share that recipe with you soon because I know you’ll love it, and when you find out how easy they are to make it’s sure to become a staple.  But right now…

From the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF): Contemporary World Cinema

Hammamet – Italian (French thrown in on occasion) with English subtitles.

The question is “what the hell was going on in Italy during a time many in government were perceived as being indistinguishable from the Mafia?” 

Italy revisited – last night I watched a movie about an Italian historical leader that I did not know anything about and at first was reluctant to watch.  Bettino Craxi was the leader of the Italian Socialist Party (1976-1993) and Prime Minister of Italy from 1983 till 1987.

I now understand why this semi-biographical drama was a box office hit at home in Italy. The drama directed by festival favourite Gianni Amelio’s (La Tenerezza, Open Doors, Stolen Children) traces Craxi’s final months with his family at his oasis villa in Hammamet, Tunisia, where he fled to avoid prison for crimes of bribery and corruption.

Hmmm….bribery and corruption.  While not as prominent a thing in Canadian, influence peddling via campaign contributions from corporate sources definitely remains a thing in US politics.

But let’s get back to the Mediterranean, shall we? The scenery is lovely as you can imagine (Tunisia, Italy), however, I give this one three *** out of five stars…if only because I unfortunately did not find it exciting or as interesting as I had hoped.  Others (especially those of Italian heritage) may appreciate it more. 

You still have a little more time to order tickets at:

https://viff.org/

On another note: I updated my “about” page after a few people pointed out that there was nothing about me on that page.  Now there is.

ART/Film Reviews

MY REMBRANDT and MARCEL DUCHAMP: the Art of the Possible – part of Vancouver International Film Festival’s (VIFF) Music/Art/Design series.

MY REMBRANDT

This documentary lets us in on how the materially privileged, despite possible pretenses to the contrary, lust over rare “objets d’art.”   Does their material desire to possess rare works of art amount to little more than the fleeting privilege of being able to flaunt their worldly status and/or smarts to others, or is it for national  glorification?  Perhaps both.

It successfully parts the privacy curtain and offers us a peek behind it into the lives of Europeans with old wealth, an American with new wealth and big state-sponsored art gallery curators in Holland and France and elsewhere.

The idea is simply that the documentary isn’t just an art film about Rembrandt paintings aimed at the art crowd. It’s a documentary that not only offers insight into the ruthlessness that can play out in the high stakes international art world when it comes to finding and buying masterpieces; it also offers insight into Europe’s first selfies, in that only the wealthy could afford to commission artists to render their portraits for posterity.

From the VIFF Catalogue:

One of the “old masters,” Rembrandt van Rijn is considered one of the greatest painters of all time, and in the elite world of art collectors, his work is – almost – priceless. Oeke Hoogendijk’s captivating and elegant doc is both an enchanting glimpse behind the curtain of this privileged universe, and also a deep dive into an art mystery that rocked Rembrandt fans across the globe.

From a Scottish duke’s personal affection for a coveted portrait, to an American couple who have tried to get their hands on as many of the artist’s paintings as possible, Hoogendijk reveals what “my” Rembrandt means to each – nostalgia, heritage, beauty, obsession and, for many, the satisfaction of exclusive ownership. My Rembrandt also details the heated legal battles that proprietorship can entail. The film follows the youngest Jan Six (whose forefather Rembrandt painted), an art dealer convinced that he has found two previously undiscovered Rembrandts – a bold claim that, like everything in the art world, doesn’t come without a price.

Marcel Duchamp: The Art of the Possible

What makes a work of art “art”? Good question. Should it not be in the eye of the beholder?

Marcel Duchamp, who was regarded as “the godfather of modern conceptual art”, challenges this question. You might say he pushed the limitations of the definition of art by focusing on the observer of the art.

Born in the late 1800s in a small town in Normandy, Duchamp would go on to almost single-handedly revolutionize the art world with his fascination with the “fourth dimension” and developments in science, technology and mathematics.  His unusual works were initially shunned and misunderstood by the mainstream, but later incorporated into pioneering movements like Cubism and abstract expressionism.

From the VIFF Catalogue:

The Art of the Possible is a mesmerising account of Duchamp’s life and work, showing how his radical rejection of 19th century ideals paved the way for innovation in dance, literature, music and the visual arts. An impressive array of experts and researchers bring Duchamp’s legacy to the fore, as archival footage reveals a charismatic – at times cheeky – visionary who was light years ahead of his time.

Marina Abramovic and Jeff Koons are among the artists and experts celebrating his life and work.

Presented by The Audain Foundation

Of these two documentaries, I much preferred “My Rembrandt”

Until October 7th you can order tickets to stream online with VIFF Connect:

https://viff.org/

 

The Hidden Life of Trees

Be like a Tree.  Stay grounded, keep growing and know when to let go – unknown

So it’s October already.  Happens quickly doesn’t it?  The time of year when the trees begin to shed their leaves and it’s such a beautiful sight to behold.  As Vincent Van Gogh once said “If you truly love nature you will find beauty everywhere.”  Speaking of which…

There’s much more to trees than meets the eye

Last night I watched an educational documentary (German with English subtitles) about The Secret Lives of Trees – what they feel and how them communicate.  Part of Vancouver International Film Festival’s (VIFF) Impact series for 2020.

In 2015, Peter Wohlleben, a German forester, published a popular book titled “The Hidden Life of Treesthat became a best‐seller. 

Life, Death and Regeneration…

In this intriguing documentary, Peter Wohlleben shares his deep love of woods and forests and explains his observations and presents the science behind the secret and previously unknown life of trees and their communication abilities.

We find out…

Much like human families, tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, and support them as they grow, sharing nutrients with those who are sick or struggling and creating an ecosystem that mitigates the impact of extremes of heat and cold for the whole group. As a result of such interactions, trees in a family or community are protected and can live to be very old. In contrast, solitary trees, like street kids, have a tough time of it and in most cases die much earlier than those in a group.

In closing…

As Wohlleben says, a happy forest is a healthy forest, and he believes that eco-friendly practices not only are economically sustainable but also benefit the health of our planet and the mental and physical health of all who live on Earth.

From the VIFF Catalogue:

A forest is a super-organism, like an ant colony. Trees are interconnected, they communicate with each other, and even share community health care. Best-selling author Peter Wohlleben is our environmental tour guide for this eye-opening introduction to a new philosophy of forestry. We meet the oldest known tree in the world, a 10,000 year old Swedish spruce; burned out pine farms; succulent deciduous woods; there’s even a cameo from David Suzuki. You will never look at a tree the same way again.

I give this one three stars *** (interesting knowledge but slow moving).

Check out more films/documentaries/talks:

https://viff.org/

 

Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President

There are presidents and then there are presidents

Then there’s Jimmy Carter. Right after Nixon and right before Reagan, sworn in as 39th president of the United States of America.  An unlikely candidate at first became one of the most liked in recent history. From Georgia, he was a tireless humanitarian and advocate for equality and “black lives matter” way before the phrase became known.

“I’ve never had more faith in America than I do today.  We have an America that in Bob Dylan’s phrase is busy being born, not busy dying” – President Jimmy Carter states in the opening scene of this inspiring documentary, part of  VIFF’s MAD series (Music/Art/Dance).  He knew all the words to all of Dylan’s songs.

You begin to realize in short order what the Allman Brothers, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, John Lennon, Garth Brooks, Jimmy Buffet, Charlie Mingus, Aretha Franklin and countless other musicians had in common besides their music.  They were all personal friends of music aficionado Jimmy Carter. 

I enjoyed this doc so much more than I expected to.  It’s such a feel-good story with incredible music and interviews from the best of the best.

Watching this was extremely refreshing especially before the eve of the first presidential debate in 2020. You come to realize what’s been missing ever since.  I think everyone should see it.

We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles” – Jimmy Carter.

From VIFF Catalogue:

When the USA hit rock bottom in the mid 70s after years of war and corruption, the nation turned to a Georgia peanut farmer. Jimmy Carter was a devout Christian and a man of impeccable integrity. He was also a music fan. June Carter Cash claimed to be a cousin; Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan would become firm friends, and the Allman Brothers kept his campaign afloat. This rocking reminder of a very different brand of politics suggests you can tell a lot about a candidate from his musical affiliations.

 

“We can choose to alleviate suffering. We can choose to work together for peace. We can make these changes — and we must.”- Jimmy Carter, Nobel Lecture. 

Check out: https://www.cartercenter.org/

I gave this five 1/2 out of five stars *****+

For more films/documentaries/talks visit

https://viff.org/

 

 

Citizen Penn

No matter your views of Sean Penn, this startling documentary about the destruction and lives lost from the shattering 2010 earthquake in Haiti is sure to change how you see him.

Not that he cares what you might think mind you. He didn’t travel to Haiti to bring attention to himself. No. Like other first-responders on site, he too played an admirable, tireless “hands-on” role in the wider humanitarian effort to save lives, and to bring much-needed medicines, money and peace to a disturbing situation. After spending millions of his own money, he tried to raise more funds by hosting galas with celebrity friends only to become disappointed when many did not come through as he had hoped. And on this score, he has no trouble calling people out and speaking his own mind, a feature of Penn’s character which has, in past, elicited controversy. 

Still, this documentary remains truly eye-opening if not heartbreaking, especially for a nation struggling to restore a more tolerable measure of normalcy in the aftermath.

Penn once compared Port-au-Prince to Detroit, saying, “It’s not more dangerous, it’s not less dangerous.”

To quote from the VIFF catalogue:

Penn, whose father Leo was blacklisted as a Communist, has made no secret of his disgust of American imperialism, and has regularly ventured to places like Iraq, Venezuela, Cuba, and New Orleans post Katrina. But as this film chronicles, over the last decade much of his energy has gone into supporting the people of Haiti after the devastating earthquake of 2010, which claimed a quarter of a million lives and displaced many more.

Penn arrived with a small team of volunteers and urgent morphine supplies donated by his friend Hugo Chávez. More surprising, perhaps, is that he opted to stay on the island for months, taking over leadership of the largest refugee camp when the US military left. Culled largely from footage shot on the ground at the time, but also drawing on interviews with Penn, Anderson Cooper and others, the film is a vivid account of first person activism, the expediencies of life and death in a disaster zone, and one man’s dedication to direct action.

In the wake of his efforts in Haiti, Penn went on to create an emergency response NGO known as CORE, which not only trains and empowers local volunteers in the US to help communities deal with natural disasters like hurricanes, but more recently, even the Covid-19 challenge, by getting N-95 masks into the hands of those who need them most, as well as helping with on-the-ground Covid-19 testing for the population at large. 

We were an airplane that built itself after take off, and that’s a perilous ride in so many ways; and how it ended up surviving was the force of will of hundreds of people.

— Sean Penn, Co-Founder & Chairperson of the Board

The bottom line take-away message from seeing this documentary was in witnessing how a single person can leverage their own celebrity power to effect enormous good in alleviating the suffering of others in our world, and how one can inspire others to do likewise. 

I gave it five out of five stars *****

check out more films/documentaries/talks:

https://viff.org/