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The History of Coffee

By Lisa Lysen

(Many thanks to Pexels Free Images for the Photos)

Have you ever wondered how our wonderful relationship with coffee first began?

Rich, aromatic and flavourful, coffee has had quite a steamy history. Its origin is shrouded in folklore and legend.

One tale says it began in Ethiopia around 850 A.D. when a mystic happened upon some extremely lively birds enjoying the berries of an unfamiliar plant.

Although we call them “coffee beans”, what we’re grinding to make our morning treat isn’t a bean at all; it’s the seed of berries from the flowering plant, Coffea.

Curious as to what was making the birds so overly-energetic, the mystic decided to try some of these berries, too. Before long he was experiencing what was probably one of the world’s first-ever caffeine rushes!

Another folktale set also in Ethiopia and at approximately the same time tells of a goat herder named Kaldi becoming frustrated when his animals wouldn’t sleep. Despite his attempts to settle them, they had incredible amounts of energy and just wanted to play.

As he worked to calm them, he remembered they’d eaten berries from an unusual plant and decided he would try some, too. Before long Kaldi was as energized as his goats! Intrigued, he picked more berries and took them to a nearby monastery.

As legend goes, the monk he encountered there had been praying for something to keep him awake through the long, demanding hours his spiritual calling so often required.

Was this an answer to his prayer, the monk wondered? He was eager to find out. The berries were quite bitter so rather than eating them, he brewed them. Upon drinking this new tasty and satisfying beverage, he immediately began to feel much more awake and alert.

Coffee was heralded as enhancing awareness and before long was being served to the entire monastery.

Yet another early tale credits coffee’s origin with being almost 300 years earlier, in about 545 A.D, when it was discovered in Yemen, by the banished disciple of a Yemen Sheik.

Alone and starving, the exiled man, Omar came across a plant he didn’t recognize. Desperate for food, he started eating the berries to ward off his hunger.

When they were too bitter to continue eating, he brewed them. Like the monk, upon drinking his concoction he instantly felt a rush of energy. Not only that, he became much sharper and more clear-headed.

Word got back to the Sheik and Omar was instructed to bring his miracle beverage home. Quickly forgiven, he was eventually sainted for discovering a magic healing potion!

Whatever the beginnings, once discovered, coffee swiftly soared in popularity.

People started replacing their customary morning glass of wine or beer with a steaming cup of hot coffee.

They were reportedly amazed by the way it helped them wake up alert and more able to concentrate, unlike the alcohol they’d been used to!

Coffee houses began popping up and became hubs for conversation, chess tournaments, and music.

Because of the lively chats that developed over cups of coffee and the energetic, upbeat atmosphere that so often filled the room coffee houses were nicknamed “schools for the wise” and “penny universities”.

Hard to imagine a penny could buy a cup of coffee!

As time went on, the allure of coffee spread, but its reputation didn’t always keep step with its delightful flavor.

In the 1500s coffee was labeled “satanic” and banned by Mecca’s religious societies. Being caught drinking it in the 1600s was punishable by public beating in some countries. And it soon met with disapproval from the Catholic Church as well.

Still, by the 18th century, coffee had become one of the world’s top money-making crops, its popularity growing in spite of the negativity often surrounding it.

Fast-forward to The Boston Tea Party and coffee becomes the politically-correct beverage of choice! By the 19th century, Thomas Jefferson was calling it “The favorite drink of the civilized world.”

Today, although there’s controversy about the health benefits/evils of too much caffeine, coffee is definitely very entrenched in our society.

We “do coffee”, “go for coffee”, promise to “grab a coffee sometime”. It’s virtually synonymous with being social.

Here in Canada “coffee breaks” are required by law, although drinking coffee isn’t.

And we all know someone we wouldn’t want to talk to before that first cup!

Coffee has certainly had an intriguing history! And it will no doubt be interesting to see where the future takes it from here.

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Tamped and Off the Grid

Thank you “The Cottager” magazine for featuring an edited version of this called “House with a View – An Off-Grid Dream”. To have a look, please visit https://www.facebook.com/The-Cottager-137410736323877/

Rammed (tamped) earth construction

“I’m very tempted to come up here, watch the sunrise, open my book and just cuddle up till it sets again!” Maggie Andres laughs. 

And standing in this breathtaking room next to her makes that an easy temptation to understand!

An octagonal mini replica of the main floor with 8 gorgeous timbers detailing the arc of a domed ceiling, this cupola is spectacular.

And as if the room itself isn’t awesome enough, a circle of windows overlooks glistening water and a beautifully treed property.

Tucked away in Manitoba’s picturesque southwest corner, amid lakes and majestic oaks, a dream, 25 years in the making, has come true.

And it has come true off-grid, in the side of a hill!

Tamped or rammed earth houses aren’t a common Canadian sight, although they’re becoming more talked about as the desire for environmentally friendly living grows.

The building technique itself is ancient, actually dating back to Neolithic times and has been used throughout history in every continent on the globe with the exception of Antarctica. Existing as early as 5000 BC in China it made its way into Europe and from Europe was brought to North America.

Many southern plantations of the 1700s including Thomas Jefferson’s home “Monticello” are tamped earth construction. Here in Canada, St. Thomas Anglican Church in Shanty, Ontario, built in the 1800s is a charming example of tamped or rammed earth.

And The Great Wall of China certainly attests to durability! Along with durability, though there are many more advantages to tamped earth housing.

Earthen walls are a high thermal mass. The walls absorb heat during the day, hold that warmth and then release it throughout the night as temperatures drop. And since heat naturally transfers from hot to cold they’re able to provide warmth in winter and coolness in summer.

In addition to this important feature, tamped earth walls are fire-resistant, very sound-proof and surprisingly enough, virtually impervious to insects and rodents.

In ancient times these qualities along with the availability of materials probably played the biggest roles in tamped earth’s popularity.

Add to these benefits, modern-day desirability of being low maintenance, eco-friendly, energy-efficient and cost-effective and it’s easy to understand the renewed interest in this building style.

Living off-grid is intriguing to ecologists and concerned citizens everywhere.

And living off-grid is a very important component of the environmentally responsible lifestyle Maggie Andres and David Neufeld strongly value.

“In as many ways as possible we try to live compatibly with the earth”, David explains.

“It’s a lifestyle concept that took shape during 8 years we spent volunteering in South Africa, living among the community and experiencing the very basic, simple lifestyles of the people there,” Maggie adds. “When you see how other cultures do things and begin to understand that there are just so many different ways to look at everything, it really opens your eyes to questions about what you value and what’s important in your own lifestyle.”

It was in South Africa they were first introduced to the technique of tamped or rammed earth.

Although most of their time was spent helping with education, healthcare, farming, and water purification, the mandate of the organization they were with was to live side by side with the community, helping in areas that mattered most to its citizens, rather than introducing Canadian ways.

“So we were really living with them and doing things their way. And when you see how other people live it makes you realize just how many choices we could be making that we never even think about.” Maggie explains.Photo credit to Pexels Free Images

Halfway through their 8 years in South Africa they came home for 2 years and fell in love with property near Lake Max in Manitoba’s Turtle Mountain.

It was Maggie’s dream then to someday build a tamped earth home here. They were in their twenties at the time, she laughs as she teases David that he took a little longer to get on board with the vision.

Walking the property with them now, taking in the beauty of the oaks and the gentle allure of the water, it’s easy to understand why they knew then that this pretty piece of land had to someday be theirs.

Even with the urban community of Boissevain a quick 15 minutes north and The International Peace Garden a stone’s throw south, it feels as though you’ve completely stepped outside civilization.

When Maggie and David moved back from South Africa and home to stay, their dream of a tamped earth house was exchanged for one of starting a family and put on hold until a time when it better suited their lifestyle.

Needing a temporary place to live they moved a little church onto the property and renovated it. Now, adult children, grandkids and many adventures later, Maggie laughs “It just wasn’t as temporary as we thought it was going to be!”

“What was the biggest challenge? Having nothing around to learn from! Building always goes better the second time, right? We could do all the reading we wanted but at the end of the day, we were really forging into the unknown and experimenting! It always felt like working with a bit of a song and a prayer!” Maggie explains.

One disadvantage of building a tamped earth home in Canada is that although there are companies around with the necessary expertise and equipment required, there aren’t very many of them. The knowledge and skill needed for this type of building are quite different from traditional construction methods. And the construction itself is time-consuming and very labor-intensive.

With proper design, a tamped earth house is ideal for living off-grid, though and living in harmony with nature is important to Maggie and David.

So, after extensive research they decided to go ahead with their dream house, doing as much of the actual building themselves as possible … Extra hands, opinions, and advice welcome!

“And we really did have help from all over,” Maggie says, “Our kids made time to come work with us whenever they could and so many people from everywhere contributed their time and ideas. In a lot of ways it really feels like an art project, you know, made up of what each person has brought to it. I think to me that makes it even more special.”

For example, while the main structure of the house itself is offset slightly on the property to maximize the benefit of sunlight, at a friend’s suggestion the cupola is aligned with cardinal directions, providing a perfect view of summer and winter solstices.

Very fittingly, they moved into their home on the winter solstice … December 21, 2018.

And so, taking a centuries-old technique, blending it with research, hard work and no shortage of creativity, imagination, and insight, Maggie and David have incorporated their own personal style and preferences and successfully made their vision a reality.

And the results are stunning.

Their home is 16 sided. The back wall of the main floor is solid earth. Approximately 12” thick it’s curved, arcing with the hillside, providing both heat and insulation. The home’s warmth is absorbed by the earthen wall and then released as the temperature drops. 

When first building the wall, temporary forms were put in place. Soil from the excavation site was carefully sieved through heavy mesh screen and mixed with approximately 5% concrete, adding strength and stability.

The final product was then packed by hand, using a pneumatic tamper between the forms until completely compacted. For this very important part of the procedure, David enlisted the help of an experienced tamper and invited anyone interested in learning the process to come join in and share the experience.

Because of the nature of the tamping procedure, an interesting wave design emerged in the earth wall as layer upon layer was firmed into place, creating a beautiful and very distinctive effect that’s now a permanent backdrop to the décor.

Next, a waterproof shield was secured. Styrofoam sheeting between the earthen wall and the shield prevents heat from being drawn off and lost into the surrounding hillside.

Directly opposite the rounded earth wall is a curved wall of windows, creating a circle effect. Overlooking the water, these windows not only showcase the beauty of the property but also welcome much-desired sunshine into the home’s interior.

South-facing, this wall aids with warming in two ways: first by letting in sunlight and secondly by being ‘envelope construction’ (2 parallel wooden walls, approximately 2 inches apart), minimizing heat loss and allowing for a variety of insulating methods at the same time. Maggie and David chose fiberglass pink.

The 12’ high walls stand on a concrete foundation that wraps around an earthen floor.

“It took David a long time to convince me to go with an earth floor,” Maggie admits. “My idea of what a mud floor would be like was just not anything I wanted any part of,” she says with a shudder. “But David was determined. He managed to find a family who had one and then he got us invited over to take a look at it.” She laughs, “When I actually saw an earth floor in a home and was able to talk to the homeowners about how much they love it I was sold. It’s really beautiful and even more importantly, really clean, too.”

In keeping with their desire to ‘shop local,’ rocks used for fill beneath the floor come from a nearby quarry.

Finished with linseed oil, the floor looks like glossy concrete but feels softer and is much warmer. It can be polished or waxed making it easy to clean and maintain. Colour can be added but Maggie and David preferred its natural look.

And since it’s earthen like the walls, the floor is also a thermal mass, absorbing and releasing heat as temperature changes; warm in the winter, cool in the summer.

Radiant heat using water lines acts as a backup to warm the floor. Water for the lines, used in place of glycol or other toxic liquids is collected from rainwater and an in-house well, stored in a 40-gallon hot water tank, heated by 36 solar panels.

The banks of solar panels, specially situated for maximum solar gain at the water’s edge, gather direct sunlight all year, as well as reflected sunlight from the ice in winter, providing 8.1 KW of power.

A central Swedish masonry heater/stove provides additional heat. The stove’s unique design uses air passages along with bricks to absorb heat from the fire, enabling heating to continue long after the fire has burned down. 

The home is beautifully fabricated post and beam construction. Timbers making up the interior have been garnered almost entirely from trees on the property. Almost all materials in the house, actually are crafted either from what nature has made available on their property or whenever possible, purchased in Manitoba.

Because poplar is abundant, grows fast, and is surprisingly hard when dried most of the wood in the home is poplar. Some oak, however, has been used throughout for artistic appeal.

And artistic appeal is something this home certainly has!

The main floor ceiling alone is a masterpiece. 16 hand-cut timbers showcase individually cut measured and painstakingly placed tongue and groove poplar planks.

The interior is open-concept, rooms following the circular flow of the curved walls.

A second-floor loft provides a guest room, TV room and play area for grandkids without blocking very important air circulation.

There’s a cold room for backyard garden produce. And if sunshine flooding the house from the magnificent wall of windows isn’t enough there’s a bright and cheerful 3 season room as well.

And of course, a stunning cupola completes the picture!

No doubt there will be many amazing sunrises and sunsets seen from this beautifully unique and very environmentally respectful home.

(Photo Credit for this beautiful shot goes to the very talented Jonah Neufeld)

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A Few Fun Jellyfish Fish Facts!

Photo credit to Treehugger – Jellyfish Facts

Have you ever imagined that the bizarre beings of Science Fiction movies have the same qualities as creatures already inhabiting our world?

Well, it’s possible that some of the amazing creatures we have here on Earth may just steal your thoughts away from outer space and bring them right back here to home.

Especially if you consider the other-worldly lifestyles of Jellyfish!

Photo from Pexels

15 AMAZING “SCI-FI” FACTS ABOUT JELLYFISH:

  1. Some jellyfish are actually IMMORTAL. There’s a species of jellyfish that has learned to defy death. It matures, mates, and then reverts back to its juvenile stage over and over, “from here to eternity”! It can live forever if it stays away from predators and disease.
  2. And since jellyfish fossils can be traced back for almost 600 million years, before the earliest of dinosaurs, these immortals must have some very interesting stories to tell.
  3. Although, maybe not because jellyfish don’t have brains!
  4. Or eyes or hearts or bones!
  5. But they do have mouths, very small ones in the middle of their bodies
  6. Their mouths aren’t just used for eating, though. Jellyfish also excrete waste from them (gross)
  7. And they’re able to shoot torrents of water from their mouths, too, thus creating forceful Jet streams to propel themselves forward! Very Sci-Fi!
  8. And here’s a little more Sci-Fi … Jellyfish CLONE themselves! If a jellyfish is cut in pieces it regenerates and doubles, becoming 2 healthy jellyfish.
  9. Not only that, if they’re hurt or violently threatened in any way, a jellyfish will expel all of its eggs, ensuring that whatever its own fate may be, hundreds of new jellyfish babies are on their way to creation.
  10. Some species of jellyfish are capable of producing their own luminescence, thereby lighting themselves up. And they actually GLOW IN THE DARK!
  11. Others are a beautiful rainbow of colors ranging from vibrant pinks, yellows, and blues to incredible purples.
  12. And yet others are semi-translucent and sometimes completely transparent, making them virtually undetectable. INVISIBLE JELLYFISH
  13. Considered a delicacy in some places, jellyfish are an ingredient in a brand of salted caramel.
  14. And ice creams occasionally use jellyfish proteins, too. One type of incredibly expensive ice cream reportedly glows in the dark!
  15. Jellyfish like peanut butter! Some Aquarists apparently wondered if they could create real-life peanut butter + jelly (fish) combos … So they test-fed jellyfish a saltwater/peanut butter mixture. Apparently, jellyfish are onboard with the idea!
Photo from Pexels Free Images – Thank You!

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Timber!

By Lisa Lysen

A whimsical winding creek becoming a trickling waterfall against craggy rock, flanked by huge trees and snowcapped mountains screams for a timber-frame home to complete its flawless splendor.

So a majestic timber-frame home overlooking a valley, nestled in the heart of beautiful British Columbia, although stunning is not entirely surprising.

But now take that same majestic timber-frame home and place it in Manitoba’s southwest corner and it becomes a bit more unexpected.

Constructed from both new and reclaimed timbers, held together by hand-turned pegs, and furnished with handcrafted pieces, standing in this home feels like stepping into a breathtaking work of art.

And a work of art it is. Even more, it’s a true labor of love.

With friends and family coming together for the timber-raising, the comradery and contagious excitement in the air as this home was born was reminiscent of stories of early Canadian pioneers.

The presence of a telehandler, modern tools, and a gas barbeque served to keep all in this century, but the atmosphere and project itself made it easy for the imagination to drift backward for a little taste of history, just the same.

The home was designed and built almost entirely by the hands and hearts of a talented young Manitoban couple.

A carpenter by trade, Sheldon has the knowledge and experience needed for the job while Laura has a natural gift for design. Together they’ve built a unique and beautiful home.

Quite an accomplishment and one they plan will someday day see them creating timber-framed dreams for a living.

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Losing Home … The Flood of 2011

(A sister story/re-write of “Of Biblical Proportion”)

By Lisa Lysen

Thanks, Barb Paterson! An amazing photo!

 

An edited version of this appears in “Cottage” magazine – Apr/2013 – “Disaster at the Cabin – The Lake Manitoba Floods” but here’s my original …

The first sandbags arrived on a warm, sunny day in May. We worked hard to make good use of them, although we were naively oblivious to the real threat that existed of losing our homes and cottages.

Retirement at the lake had long been our dream.

Sugar Point, one lone road winding gently along the shoreline of Lake Manitoba and snuggled up against Lundar Provincial Park, was for us, a wonderful dream come true.

Providing the beauty and solitude of lake life within arm’s reach of family and friends in the city, Sugar Point offered a perfect balance. Just a quick hour and a bit outside Winnipeg, we had found our own little piece of paradise.

Looking back, I suppose the day we should have first suspected our haven was in peril was May 1st, 2011. Despite an unusually warm April, we awoke that morning to well over a foot of fresh snow burying all hint of the welcome spring melt.

Although such weather is certainly not unheard of in Manitoba, especially in springtime, this one had fallen on the heels of a very wet autumn and unusually cruel winter.

The ground had frozen fast and early that year on top of a saturated water table, ditches everywhere full to overflowing. With the advent of spring 2011, much of southern Manitoba was already flooding, as were sections stretching deep into the heart of the Interlake and to the north.

By nature’s design, Sugar Point is on high ground and appeared to us to be relatively safe, although taking precautions and using the sandbags we’d been given seemed wise, just the same.

What we didn’t realize should also be taken into consideration was that Winnipeg was in grave danger of flooding.

Sitting approximately sixty feet lower than Lake Manitoba, situated at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, the city is nestled in a flood plain. Under normal conditions safeguards set in place to protect Manitoba’s capital work well.

But in the spring of 2011 conditions were anything but normal.

Further complicating the situation, it was discovered that water level gauges had been misinterpreted. An error in readings had created a false sense of security, leading officials to underestimate the threat to the city.

A massive flood suddenly loomed and appeared both unavoidable and unsettlingly imminent.

The natural flow that the flood was destined to take without intervention was Winnipeg. A decision had to be made quickly on how best to deal with the impending disaster.

And so the Province of Manitoba was faced with a difficult choice; allow the rising waters of the Assiniboine to continue at nature’s pace, risking the flooding of the province’s capital, or redirect those waters more heavily into Lake Manitoba, thereby creating a deliberate flood along miles and miles of shoreline.

In retrospect, it becomes obvious that the decision might not have been a decision at all. It perhaps would never have been made any other way. 

Allowing such devastation to occur in such a densely populated area, allowing the flooding of a city of 684,000 people certainly had to be avoided at all costs.

But when it’s your home and your dreams used to pay the price, it seems cruelly personal. 

Two hundred kilometers in length and forty-five kilometers wide, with a maximum depth of 7 kilometers, Lake Manitoba is vast and very shallow. We often joked about how you could walk and walk and walk out into the water and then finally get so tired you’d sit down to get wet.

Prairie storms often rage and the lake can get very angry. Many times we’d witnessed the water’s magnificent strength and force, but always from a safe, well-planned distance.

Until that fateful spring, by regulation, our homes had all been at least third of a football field away from the lake’s naturally shallow basin. We could wander down and sit on the beach to toast glorious sunsets or enjoy them from a hundred and twenty feet away on our decks.

Never did we suspect a decision would someday be made to change that demographic forever. Never did we imagine the water at our doorsteps or worse, pouring through into our living rooms.

But in the spring of 2011, a major decision was made by the provincial government and the flood that was threatening to crash hard upon the province’s capital was instead rerouted toward us.

Mother Nature quickly chose sides against us. Storm after furious storm erupted, creating waves of enormous heights, much too close now with new shorelines.

Homes and cottages south of us were the first to be ripped off their foundations and tossed into the lake, where they were crushed by waves and current.

We watched anxiously as water levels grew, watched as high winds and torrential downpours added to the drama of the escalating lake and then in horror we watched as, one by one, communities just like ours all along Lake Manitoba fell into the rising waters.

Remnants of what, a short time ago, had been houses and dreams floated by, gently sometimes and torturously amid massive waves other times. Trees, torn from banks, were catapulted into the rising waters and bobbed up and down all across the lake. Alongside them were timbers, fence boards, pieces of decks, shingles, even fridges and parts of other appliances.

We sandbagged furiously now as Lake Manitoba crept closer and closer inland, peacefully some days, with fierce determination others.

As the lake climbed the hill toward our home, our yard filled with water and along with that water, debris.

Huge carp swam amid the wreckage, across what used to be our lawn; herons fished beside our deck. Waves rolled closer and closer.

Day by day the threat grew worse as did tension and anxiety. The mounting pressure brought with it stress that took its toll on people’s health and lives.

As our fear grew and our stress became greater, thankfully, so did our support. Awareness in Winnipeg and neighboring towns increased. Convoys of semi-trailers containing thousands of sandbags arrived regularly, one after another, dumping their contents, creating ominous mountains of white burlap.

We worked with even greater diligence from morning till nightfall for weeks in scorching heat and pouring rain.

Grueling and tedious, the monotony of loading sandbags onto pallets, transporting them, unloading, passing and piling them, one by one, was daunting, but our spirits were high. A huge monstrosity of a dike was beginning to take shape and we felt much safer for it. 

We ignored the gouges, ruts, and caverns materializing in our lots, ignored the trees and landscaping being crushed and trampled as a trail to accommodate the dike was blazed through our once beautiful properties. We ignored our tired, aching bodies.

The RM did what they could to help. Earth dikes were erected across nearby fields and water was continuously, methodically pumped away.

Busloads of volunteers began arriving to help us pile sandbags. Lunches and bottled water appeared everywhere. Support was also with us in the form of information, compassion, and words of encouragement.

So much kindness came our way.

But on June 13, 2011, despite our best efforts, another huge storm struck. Our dike breached and Lake Manitoba poured in.

It became very clear the lake had really only been playing with us all along, letting us build our little sandbag castles around our cottages, our houses, our lives.

Once it decided to finally end all our games, we didn’t stand a chance against the incredible force and power. The destruction that happened before us within mere seconds was ferocious.

The sandbags we’d piled relentlessly for weeks on end to protect our homes and our futures were flipped off as if by some unseen hand and thrown with a speed and force unimaginable unless witnessed.

Despite our weeks of back-breaking hard, hard labor, the lake had finally taken total control; alive with a power hidden from view on calm summer days. We were helpless as the efforts of our labor collapsed around us.

But still, amid tears and panic, we desperately tried to change the obvious course fate had chosen to take. Stubbornly we couldn’t allow ourselves to admit defeat although to a more rational eye it would have been clear the battle was lost. 

In the grey of the morning and the pouring rain, amidst raging winds and monstrous waves, we frantically tried to restore our sandbag barricade as it was being torn apart.

Our denial was almost as powerful as the dominance the lake was displaying.

And then came the call to evacuate! 

We had been living under the threat of a twenty-four-hour evacuation notice for about a month maybe longer, but when the time finally hit we had less than twenty minutes to toss our valuables into the backs of our vehicles and flee.

And flee we did, fighting a fierce current flowing across what half an hour before had been a gently winding gravel road. Carp swam around us as we tried to avoid being swept into ditches we could no longer see.

There’s no way to actually describe the confusion, the anxiety, the fear that strikes as a prairie field suddenly, quickly, ferociously becomes a lake before your eyes. But that’s exactly what was happening to our familiar pretty countryside, our picturesque backyards, our only route out.

And it was happening within a mere 20 minutes of being told to evacuate.

Somehow hopeful, not yet completely comprehending the immensity of the situation and still thinking it would be temporary, some of us went to stay with family or friends, others to hotels.

We registered with The Red Cross, then as time went by with government agencies. Weeks passed and it became clear the situation wasn’t temporary.

It’s been more than a year now since we were forced to leave, a devastating time for too many Manitobans. Our futures hang in limbo, each of us with hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in properties that suddenly have no value.

And yet, Sugar Point has been luckier than most communities, in part thanks to having had very proactive support from our municipality. Most of our homes are still standing. We have access now for short periods of time although we aren’t allowed to live in them yet. The lake is still too dangerously close.

But in so many less fortunate communities, homes and cottages have been crushed, farmland destroyed.

The multitude of small towns whose economies are attached to rural and cottage communities are suffering enormous financial losses.

There’s also been an immeasurable loss of history that’s come with the devastation. Lake Manitoba is officially recorded as having first been discovered in the 1700s by LaVerendrye.

Quaint landmarks and intermittent monuments all along the shoreline and throughout the Interlake have long told a story of early Canada, giving glimpses into Manitoba’s diverse heritages and cultures. So many of these are now gone forever, swept away by a flood that nature didn’t intend.

The landscape kept natural and picturesque by Ducks Unlimited and government regulation has also been drastically altered.

These areas have provided important habitat for migrating birds; swans, pelicans, and cormorants. Blue herons, cranes, golden eagles, bald eagles, many species of hawks and a multitude of songbirds have long called the marshes and terrain of Lake Manitoba home. So much of what was theirs has been devoured.

And so, not only were homes, farms, cottages, businesses, and livelihoods destroyed but also beautiful heritage and countryside was lost and forever changed as floodwaters raged. 

In countless ways, lifestyles, futures, dreams, and memories have been stolen by the deliberately created flooding of Lake Manitoba. 

If there is a silver lining in this dark cloud it is that at least our government is stepping up and accepting some of the necessary responsibility for their action.

Although the flood cannot be undone, attempts are being made to correct at least a portion of the damage it has caused.

As permanent residents, we are being provided with housing until we can go home and also with promises of help with eventually rebuilding.

Cottagers have not been as fortunate, although there is some talk of funding for all structures to be raised as a safeguard if a choice such as this is made again someday.

Unfortunately the same cannot be done for the pastures and farmland that provide so much of the prairie’s lifeblood and also of Manitoba’s lifestyles and livelihoods. 

The creation of a channel at the north end of the lake to assist in draining should another decision to flood the area be made is being studied.

That study, however, has been ongoing since Duff Roblin’s recommendation in the 1960s. It was proposed then that a channel was needed as an important second stage of Winnipeg’s floodway.

With so many initially opposed to the cost of the floodway at that time, however, the channel idea was shelved, or at least delegated to “being studied”.

It’s difficult to imagine the cost of creating the channel could possibly be higher than the cost of creating this flood has been.

Environmental issues are an enormously important piece of the study as well, but extreme environmental issues have also been created as a result of 2011.

Though the bureaucracy can be frustrating, the kindness and compassion around us remain encouraging.

Recent hot, dry weather has created conditions that for now allow the lake to slowly and naturally recede, which is immensely helpful and for which we are enormously grateful.

We wait to see what the future holds.

Only time will tell.

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Anatomy of the Flood

By Lisa Lysen

Published in “Cottage” magazine – April/2013

Sugar Point, with its modest population of fewer than 100 homes and cottages, is only one of many developments on the shores of Lake Manitoba.

Similar lakeshore communities, along with small towns, First Nations Reserves, resorts, businesses, century-old farms, and pasturelands are scattered around its shores and roadways.

To the south and approximately 60 feet lower, is Manitoba’s capital, Winnipeg.

A city of 684,000, Winnipeg lies at the junction of two rivers, the Red and the Assiniboine. Because the city was built on a flood plain, steps have been taken over the years to protect it.

The Red River Floodway effectively drains water away when the Red River rises. A diversion at Portage la Prairie redirects the flow of the Assiniboine into Lake Manitoba, which the Fairford Dam at the north end of the lake regulates.

It has long been suggested that in the event of extreme situations, a channel should also be created to assist the dam in draining excess water from the lake.

In spring 2011, weather conditions came together that saw the Assiniboine River flowing furiously through the Portage Diversion, which was already running at full capacity, into a swollen Lake Manitoba. Fairford Dam to the north was having difficulty removing water fast enough.

Cruelly, on May 1, a severe winter storm struck, depositing another 20 inches of snow onto a lake already struggling. Almost simultaneously it was discovered that faulty gauges in Saskatchewan had underestimated the amount of water about to inundate Manitoba by way of the Assiniboine River.

Without intervention, Winnipeg appeared in danger of flooding. A decision was quickly made and the Portage Diversion was altered to increase flow. Water rapidly began pouring into Lake Manitoba at a rate Fairford Dam could not handle.

And a deliberate flood struck Lake Manitoba.

One by one, homes and cottages were forced to evacuate. Communities and farmland were destroyed.

M.A.S.C. (Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation) and T.A.P. (Temporary Accommodations Program)—the government agencies upon which the task of dealing with flood victims has fallen—have an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 households registered as damaged or destroyed as a result of the 2011 flood.

Of those households, approximately three hundred are full-time residents, with the remainder being cottagers. Counted separately and in addition to these numbers, about seven hundred First Nations homes have been affected.

Taking into account the fact that the price tag attached to flood recovery has been astronomical and is still climbing, it’s hard to imagine that every Manitoban isn’t affected in one way or another.

Sugar Point on Lake Manitoba 

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Rusty Crayfish

By Lisa Lysen

 

An edited version of this, called “Bait Becomes Bully” was published in “The Cottager” magazine – Mar/Apr/2019. Here’s a link to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/The-Cottager-137410736323877/

Unedited, it goes like this:

“You get a line … I’ll get a pole! We’ll go down to the crawdad hole …”

Granted, Northwestern Ontario may not be your first thought as you hum this tune, but you can certainly find crayfish boils happening on the shores of Sioux Narrows just the same.

It’s important to know, though the shore is legally the only place this activity is permitted if what you’re serving is rusty crayfish. And if you’re serving recently caught crayfish, they’re likely to be the very predatory and quite tasty rusty crayfish.

According to Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Fisheries, “Under the Ontario Fishery Regulations, it is unlawful to transport any type of crayfish overland whether they are alive or dead and regardless of the intended use. This regulation ensures that there is no risk of new introductions to other waterways because they haven’t left the water’s edge”.

Nevertheless, native to the Ohio River, rusty crayfish are making their way north and creating many ecological problems along the way.

The spread is thought to be caused primarily by crayfish being used as bait, although turning unwanted pets loose and emptying aquariums into rivers and lakes may be partially to blame as well.

But whether they’re being moved intentionally from one body of water to another or transferred unknowingly, they are travelling and they’re destructive little creatures. 

Ontario’s MNRF advices “The rusty crayfish’s large size, aggressive eating habits and rapid spread have had serious impacts on native species.”

Moving from south central and south eastern Ontario, causing trouble in Manitoulin Island and Magnetawan River, they were first spotted in the Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario and in Lake of the Woods in 1960. In 2005 the Ontario portion of the Winnipeg River became home to rusty crayfish and in 2007 they appeared in Falcon Lake, Manitoba.

While trapping for consumption on the shore is legal in Ontario, as long as they are not transported, it should be noted it is illegal in Manitoba without a permit. A permit may be obtained by phone or email and will take 2-3 days to issue.

Looking and tasting like mini lobsters with black-tipped claws and a splash of rust on their upper shells rusty crayfish are among the most invasive of their species.

And since they’re bigger than their counterparts, growing to 5”, sometimes even 8” in length, with a much more aggressive outlook on life, they tend to dominate the scene quickly.

They prefer “fight” to “flight” and will stand their ground against predators. With huge powerful claws raised overhead in defensive stance it’s easy to imagine they are quite a daunting force in the aquatic world.

And while this may save rusty crayfish from being devoured it sadly makes their more passive relatives much more tempting prey. In many areas rusty crayfish have either completely replaced native species or left numbers severely depleted.

The diminishment of other crayfish populations isn’t the only consequence of a rusty crayfish invasion, though.

They have quite a taste for underwater plants, snails, leeches, clams, fish eggs and insects. With an appetite that sees them wolfing down more than double what their smaller cousins will eat their decimation of aquatic areas has been equated with that of clear-cutting forests.

And although they do move slower in winter months, they don’t hibernate.

The overall environmental effect is huge. When plants, insects and aquatic life needed to sustain the eco-system of a lake changes everything changes. And once an invasion begins, rusty crayfish numbers are virtually impossible to control.

Females have the ability to store sperm until conditions are perfect. They produce anywhere from 80 to 200 offspring at a time, sometimes up to 500. And so introducing a single female can populate an area quickly.

Even something as seemingly innocent as carrying aquatic plants from one place to another can start trouble.

As well, rusty crayfish flourish in fast flowing water as easily as in standing pools or shallow ponds and have surprisingly long lifespans, living 2-3 years on average.

To help curb the spread it’s recommended to:

  • Always drain anything containing lake water
  • Thoroughly clean and dry all water equipment
  • Never empty an aquarium into a lake or river

Since it’s difficult to find environmentally friendly methods of controlling these destructive crustaceans without affecting other aquatic life, prevention and awareness may be the best tools for fighting them.

Introducing bass and sunfish as natural predators, to a lake or region taken over by these undesirables may help to a degree. And trapping has also proven effective.

The Ontario MNRF says: “Crayfish, including Rusty Crayfish, can be caught under a recreational fishing license. If people wish to eat them, they can cook them on-site, on the shoreline where they’re caught. There is no limit on the number of crayfish you can possess if the intended use is consumption”.

So, a crawdad boil just might be a deliciously fun way to help heal the environment a little while enjoying time on the shore!  

Prepping your “catch of the day” is very important, though. Crayfish must be purged before cooking.

For this, heavily salt the water your freshly live-trapped crayfish are kept in.  As the water discolors, rinse with fresh until it remains very clear. As with mussels, crayfish shouldn’t be used unless they’re alive. Once cooked, any with straight tails should be discarded.

And once that’s done … a pot, a packet of spices tossed in with corncob, onions, potatoes, sausage, a few lemons for extra zest and of course, crawdads … you’ll be creating tasty cottage memories in no time!

You might even find yourself humming a few Louisiana Bayou tunes.

Yum! Thank You Dallis for the photos and the very delicious experience!

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I’ve written a story about Costa Rica and the wonderful experience we had visiting this beautiful country. It’s just been published on Travelista’s website. If you’d like to read it, here’s the link:

https://travelista.club/guides/discover-costa-rica-a-tropical-adventure/



A Costa Rican Sunset

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Early Childhood Learning Centre

As a granny who just lives way too far away from her precious 18-month-old grandson, I’m so thankful to his innovative and very forward-thinking childcare facilitators for the wonderful work they’re doing.

Not only do they plan amazing sensory and developmental learning projects with the toddlers, but they also have a website where they post photos and stories daily.

I love it! My phone beeps and I have direct access to our sweet Farley’s day. The 1200+ km separating us suddenly dissolves and I have a glimpse of what’s happening in his little world!

Even better, the posts are complete with stories explaining what’s going on, why they’ve chosen the activity and the theory behind how it benefits the children.

Each activity is geared towards expanding knowledge and establishing confidence while teaching the kids to be social by encouraging side-by-side play.

They’re very creative activities, too! Once the details of the goals and the skills being worked on are explained, it’s very easy to see the early childcare facilitators are incredibly knowledgeable.  It’s also very obvious they’re equally as interested in and excited about how the toddlers are progressing.

We had the opportunity to visit for 2 weeks last month and at first, I was a little sorry our boy was going to be away from us during the day. It wasn’t long before I understood how awesome his days are, though and that he’d really be missing out if he wasn’t there with his friends!

I’m honestly just so impressed by what’s going on in this early years’ childcare facility. And the fact that Farley can’t wait to get to “school” every day only convinces me more of how beneficial it is.

Kudos to everyone there! Thank you for everything you do. It’s making a difference in precious little lives and it’s very appreciated by the people who love them so very much.

A “Story Park” Story looks like this:

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Winnipeg Counter-Punches Parkinson’s Disease with Rock Steady Boxing

By Lisa Lysen 

Thank you to SportsLife Manitoba magazine for publishing this article.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is boxing-2.jpg

“And in this corner – Hope” is what the slogan says.

And hope there is, but that’s not all.

Hope is only a small piece of what you see when you look around this boxing club, brimming with energy and enthusiasm, eagerness and determination.

I’m standing in Winnipeg’s United Boxing Club. It’s a Saturday morning and this week’s Rock Steady Boxing program is just getting underway.

The gym is filled with drive and purpose, with men and women of all ages, alive with action and so much positivity.

It is not, however, filled with the type of athletes you might expect to find in a boxing club.

Like other boxers, these men and women have a very special devotion and resolve driving their workouts. They come from all over, from varied backgrounds, ages, and walks of life. But they all have one other thing in common.

They all have Parkinson’s disease and they are here to fight it.

“Rock Steady” is a non-contact boxing workout that successfully helps diminish signs of Parkinson’s.

First established in Indiana in 2006, the program has won many prestigious awards and is recognized as effective in increasing quality of life for those living with the disease.

In February 2016 Brandt Butt and Sheri Larsen-Celhar brought the program to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Offered in conjunction with Winnipeg’s U-Turn Parkinson’s it’s a nonprofit volunteer-run program. And it plays a very integral role for some very valuable members of the community.

 

Parkinson’s is a neurological disease that presents many challenges, physically, mentally and emotionally. Often characterized by tremors, it can cause depression, anxiety, personality changes, speech difficulties, motor skill issues along with numerous other complications.

The medications necessary for treatment are known to sometimes cause judgment impairment along with loss of inhibitions and impulse control. This can, in turn, create behavioral issues that never existed prior to the disease.

The onset of PD can be quite rapid or very slow. Its cause is unknown and currently, there is no cure.

The Rock Steady Boxing Program, however, is credited as being beneficial in delaying and diminishing symptoms of the disease.

Both Brandt Butt and Sheri Larsen-Celhar have studied in Indianapolis and are certified as Rock Steady coaches.

In addition to these credentials Brandt, a national boxing champ has a solid background in amateur boxing and Sheri is a nurse practitioner. Between the two they bring added skills to an already proven program.

But within a few moments of talking with them you know that whatever knowledge and talents they may bring to the program, it’s their kindness, their genuine interest, and concern and their enthusiasm that outweighs everything else they have to offer.

They obviously believe very strongly in the results they have seen, and that can’t help but be inspirational.

It’s no wonder that from a modest beginning with a handful of participants the program has grown to 42 members and expanded to 2 Winnipeg locations.

“We like to give everyone individual help. But we never turn anyone away either. We want to make it work for everyone who comes out.” says Brandt Butt.

Because balance is often an issue with Parkinson’s Disease, chairs are provided for anyone who feels uncomfortable standing.

“Sitting workouts are really very effective,too. Actually, when you’re fighting PD anything you can do to keep moving is going to help. And a boxing workout works all muscle groups, which is just ideal.” he explains.

There is also a stability belt available for anyone who needs extra support.

“We don’t expect everyone to work at the same pace or anyone to push too hard but we encourage everyone to do their best” says Sheri.

“Some days are going to be harder physically than others, but then, hey every athlete, anyone who works out experiences that” Brandt explains. “And of course it’s going to be worse with Parkinson’s.But I like to make sure everyone knows that really, the best thing is that they just came out to try, even if it was hard to get here. Sometimes with all the other problems that come with this disease just getting out and doing something can be the toughest part.” 

“That’s so true and it’s not always about the workout, either. Sometimes it’s just being with the group, and you know,socializing that makes all the difference”, agrees Sheri.

“My favorite moment is always when that first smile starts to happens”, Brandt adds smiling himself.

He takes a moment to explain how, with the “Parkinson’s mask” that accompanies this neurological disease, smiling is often difficult. “But you see that first smile start-up and it always does, too, and then you know the workout’s helping!”

“It’s the small things that are huge” says Sheri, eyes sparkling with enthusiasm.

“Like, for instance, we have a lady who always loved to bake but she had to give it up. Her hands just couldn’t do it anymore. She couldn’t make them work the way they used to and it made her very sad. She was scared at first that she wouldn’t be able to do the workouts but she kept coming and little by little, slowly you could see she was doing better and better. And then last week she brought us her homemade cinnamon buns.” Now Sheri’s eyes have a trace of tears “And that was huge!”

A happy ending story is inspirational anytime but when it’s about fighting back against a disease and winning it’s especially wonderful!

And what’s also especially wonderful about Winnipeg’s “Rock Steady Program”, its participants, Brandt, Sheri, and their team of volunteers is the positive, happy atmosphere.

And the feeling that yes, there is hope! 

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I Miss You, Mom!

By Lisa Lysen 

I don’t wish you back suffering the terrible illness that stole you slowly, day by painful day.

I don’t miss watching the fear creep into your eyes when you realized through the fog in your once brilliant mind that something was horribly wrong.

But I do miss the way your face lit up whenever you saw me.

I miss your sweet, sweet personality, even as you battled a devastating disease.

And I miss your adorable sense of humour.

I will always miss your singing. And I’ll probably always fight tears when I hear the songs you loved singing.

I miss having that person in my life who knew me so well and sometimes understood me better than I understand myself.

I miss showing you my new clothes or the way I’ve re-decorated a room. I miss telling you when something good happens, or a cute story I’ve heard, or just about my day.

More than any of those things, I miss telling you about how my kids are doing because no one in the world ever understood my pride in them, my fears or my unconditional love for them better than you did.

I miss you Mom.

You didn’t know us by name anymore but you always seemed to know you loved us and that was huge. I miss that. I miss my mother’s love.

I miss knowing Dad was okay because at least in part you were still with him.

I love him, too with my whole heart but nothing about me will ever give him the happiness he found with you.

I miss that spark in him. I miss seeing the love in his eyes as he watched you. I miss the teasing way he laughed when you were angry with him. He still does that sometimes when he tells stories about your life together.  

And I say “life” not “lives” because you two truly seemed to be living one life together.

I miss your gentleness, your kindness and the way your illness couldn’t touch what was always so alive in your beautiful heart. Somehow that always seemed a win to me!

So much “you” was disappearing before our eyes but the soul that made everyone love you couldn’t be erased. It never changed. And that felt like a “so there” to the evil we couldn’t stop from taking you away from us.

I don’t miss witnessing the brutality of the disease that robbed you of so many things, including the ability to read, one of your greatest passions! I don’t miss knowing the beautiful lady who spent her days so patiently teaching me to read, giving me books, encouraging my writing couldn’t make sense out of words on a page anymore.

I don’t miss realizing the wise woman who taught me such clever games to help memorize the most difficult passages had no access to memories of her own.

And I don’t miss being afraid there would come a day when you didn’t know how to swallow. I read somewhere that happens with dementia and the thought terrified me. I’m thankful you left us before that cruelty became a reality.

I don’t wish for you to still be here suffering. I really don’t!

On some level I think you knew you once could feed yourself, use a fork, a spoon, or hold a glass to your lips.

On some level, at least sometimes, you seemed cruelly aware of your horrible illness. You’d be smiling, singing and happy and then suddenly a look of pure panic, desperately horrible sadness would cloud your beautiful face.

And I couldn’t do anything to help you, to make it better or to ease your fear.

I couldn’t comfort you when you were aching for help.

And how unfair is that when there never was a time I can remember that you didn’t comfort me when I needed it.

No. I don’t miss that. Any of that! I don’t miss those last tragic years of slowly losing you.

But I miss you.

I miss you, Mom.

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I’ve had a few comments and questions about my website and so thought I would share a little information about how it came to be …

A few months ago I applied to Travelista Club to write an article for them and was accepted. One of their requirements is that their writers have websites, which frightened me at first! But as part of my training, they supplied me with incredibly good, very detailed information on how to set up a WordPress website. And now I’m having so much fun!

I’ve only sold one article to Travelista Club but I did receive the $40 payment they promised. It’s been a great experience and one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. Their contact information is listed below, but if you’d like to give it a try and travel writing isn’t your thing, there are other websites that offer the same provided below as well.

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