Aquatic Insects – in Winter!

Last night when I was chopping a hole in the ice to get my water, I saw something that I’d never seen nor heard of before (or at least had not taken note of). When my ice chisel went through and the water came bubbling up, there was a positively massive beetle in it that was very much alive! Isaac proposed that it may have been attracted to the light from my headlamp, which seemed a reasonable assumption, and a little bit of internet sleuthing has confirmed his suspicion.

Here is what I have learned:

The beetle was of the species Lethocerus americanus of the family Belostomatidae. Its common names include ‘Giant Water Bug,’ ‘Electric Light Bug,’ and ‘Toe-biter.’

Lethocerus indicus

Another species in the Belostomatidae family (Image via Wikipedia)

They eat worms, tadpoles, small fish, other insects, salamanders, and small frogs which they kill with an injection of an enzyme that poisons them and begins digesting them at the same time, which is why bites can be pretty painful to us human-folk. (Imagine if we hadn’t told Seth it was in his water-bottle.)

Giant Water Bugs can fly, and do so predominantly at night, when they are believed to navigate by celestial bodies, or, in modern times, any other source of light, giving them the name ‘Electric Light Bug.’

I did take a picture of ours, but I have forgotten my camera at my shack, so I will post the picture at a later date (though I have included a public domain image for now).

Read more about the Giant Water Bug here, or visit the BugGuide reference here.

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The Land Ethic

I’ve recently read again Aldo Leopold’s essay on “The Land Ethic,” which remains the single greatest piece of non-fiction writing I’ve ever had the pleasure of absorbing. I won’t post the essay itself here, to keep on the right side of copyright laws, but here is the essay in the Aldo Leopold Archives (in page-image format – click the page-size icons on the left to adjust the size).

I won’t even begin to reflect on it, because where I start with one thing, I’m brought into the next, and it doesn’t finish until I’ve simply reiterated his essay in my complete agreement on the subject.

Read it, read it, read it.

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Pam’s Granola

This is my mom’s most excellent granola recipe. (Maybe this post will bring in some traffic from Wolseley.)



  • 6 cups oatmeal (preferably large-flake or old-fashioned; not quick-cooking)
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • 1 cup wheat bran
  • 1 1/2 cups whole almonds
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • ¾ cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/3 cup flax seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cinammon
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots

(Note: you can play with the specific ingredients and proportions above as long as you come out to more or less the same volume of dry ingredients.)


  • 1 ¼ cups honey or maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup canola oil


Put honey in a two-cup glass measuring cup and microwave it until runny (unless you are using maple syrup, in which case you don’t need to nuke it). Stir in the vanilla extract and canola oil. Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients (except fruit) and stir/toss until evenly moistened. Spread on parchment- or Silpat-lined full-sheet pan (or two half-sheet pans). Toast at 325º F for 40-50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the granola is as toasty brown as you want. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 1 cup dried cranberries and 1 cup chopped dried apricots. Let cool completely and then break up and store in airtight container. Makes about 1 gallon.

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Updates, updates, etc.

Hello disciples of the blogosphere.

I’ve neglected to update again, but fear not – I’m still faintly clinging to the last threads of life.

I’ve been reading as usual, with the addition of a few new books to my library, including ‘Last Steps: The Late Writings of Leo Tolstoy,’ ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,’ ‘Native Trees of Canada,’ ‘What are People For?’ and some reference books, primarily on the topic of botany and bushcraft, which have proved useful in helping me to improve my identification of some species previously unfamiliar or uncertain to me.

I’ve also taken up skiing – first classic, then a bit of downhill, and now I’m working away at conquering skate-skiing, which is significantly harder than I expected.

I’m also making plans to attend the ‘Northern Sustainability and Simple Living Symposium‘ at the North House Folk School in early May (there are still spots left in my car for those of you who would like to join me), as well as working on the planning of a Permaculture garden.

I intend for the Permaculture design project to contribute towards my school science credit, as it is a very involved process, starting with goals and ideas, to site descriptions, to species lists, topography, etc. and lends itself perfectly to that application.

Also in the works is a piece of writing that (at this point) is entitled ‘A Second Look at Vegetarianism.’ It arises out of my interactions with some vegetarians who use sweeping generalizations to criticize the consumption of meat, and often neglect to take into account other important factors, and view the matter with a simplistic single-mindedness.

I have also been intending to write opinion pieces on some other issues (ethanol, conventional schooling, the ‘green’ band-wagon), but I’ve found that it’s hard write anything original on such common topics, so I haven’t any of those on the go for the time being.

Emily and I are also working on a brand new, completely re-vamped Crooked Brothers website (her doing the design, me doing the code), using fully standards-compliant clean HTML5 code, which will be online within the next few weeks,

Lastly, advertising is now finally out for the snowshoe tours here at Falcon Lake, which I will be guiding, and speaking on the topics of boreal forest ecology, bushcraft/traditional skills, history, etc.

Feel free to comment or email if you have any questions or comments.

PS I will try to post more frequently from now on.

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Stream of Consciousness

I’ve just started doing some ‘stream of consciousness’ writing, where you sit down and write as fast as you can everything that pops into your head, and its’ a lot of fun! Apparently that’s how Bob Dylan wrote ‘Tarantula‘. I might post some sooner or later. We’ll see.

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A Brief Collection of Updates

I have been in and out of my shack since Christmas, as there have been a great deal of goings-on around Falcon Lake, as well as a fair bit of work. I haven’t written about them in order to stay true to the topic of this blog, but here I will use this post to go over them briefly.

I had a moment of panic one day after starting a fire in my wood-stove as what I thought to be creosote started dripping onto the stove-top from the chimney. I quickly got a bucket underneath, but I used only propane for a few days after that (until I ran out of propane and had to switch back to wood).

It turns out that the ‘creosote’ was actually accumulated moisture from inside the chimney that had been discoloured by smoke. I have the bucket permanently wired under the dripping spot to fix the problem, and I think that will solve it for now. If I were going to be living in this shack for longer, I would reinstall the chimney such that the bottom pieces would lap over the ones above.

I finally saw a wolf, but not at the shack. It was on the road near Toniata, and I saw it from inside the van, which is why I didn’t write anything about it at the time.

I saw a flock of what I thought to be Hoary Redpolls at the shack recently (though they were at a distance, and were more likely Common Redpolls, which was the first time I’d seen Redpolls of any sort there.

I spent a day on the lake with my family, which was nice.

I’ve been reading quite the assortment of books: some Wendell Berry essays, The Gulag Archipelago, Edible Forest Gardens vol. I & II, A Snow Walker’s Companion, as well as material online ranging from Tolstoy to web coding tutorials and everything in between.

I found more hare tracks closer to the tracks, but still about 2 km away – not worth snaring for me.

I’ve been listening to a lot of new music, and new old music, which has been very nice indeed.

That sums up a bit of what I’ve been up to for the last while, but I’ll post some better writing soon.

Also, I will try to post more photos in the future to try and make this blog more visually stimulating.

Lastly, if you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe via email or RSS on the right sidebar.

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Merry Christmas!

Here’s a Christmas animation by Joshua Held, featuring Santa and his reindeer singing ‘White Christmas,’ recorded by The Drifters featuring Bill Pinkney and Clyde McPhatter:


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Another Productive Day Off

December 22nd, 2010

With today being another day off, I slept in even later than yesterday, which was a glorious freedom indeed. After I woke up, I promptly stepped into my snowshoes and went over to Juniper cabin to light a fire and warm up the place prior to the arrival of Brooke and the Christmas Holiday guests. On the way there I caught sight of an otter belly-sliding across the ice, and on the way back I stopped to watch the Black-Backed Woodpecker in its quest to find some grubs under the bark of a pine.

When I got back to my own personal wilderness getaway, I was feeling ‘a mite peckish’ and set about making some banana oatmeal mush, full of goodness and carbohydrates.

Hunger sated, I got to work sawing and splitting yesterday’s pine log, which was carried out with satisfyingly efficiency, and the resulting firewood burns a lot better than the incompletely seasoned wood I’ve been using to this point.

The Christies invited me to an early supper chez eux, so once the firewood was done, I packed my bag and headed off to their place with Brooke. They had other friends over as well, and we had a feast from the local Chinese restaurant, which was a damn sight better than my bush-tucker. Over the course of the meal, their window-ledge bird-feeder was visited several times by their resident flying squirrels, which was pretty neat. After the other guests had gone home later in the evening, Brooke and I went for a wander around their property, and before I went to bed, I played their piano (having thought ahead and brought my music) using headphones to keep from waking everyone. What fun.

Today’s Wildlife of Note:

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Working with Wood in the Woods

December 21st, 2010

Today I didn’t have to work, so I slept in and treated myself to the remaining cranberry orange muffins that my grandmother so kindly baked for me (Thanks a dozen Grandma!), which is a great way to start off the day.

After brunch I got to work replenishing my firewood supply. I wandered around cutting chunks out of the bases of several dead trees to check how well they were seasoned, and settled on an average-sized Jack Pine that wasn’t too far away. After felling it with my axe, I sawed it into draggable lengths and brought it back to the sawhorse. All that remains to do is to saw it again into stove-length pieces and split those down to reasonable size.

Feeling like a break from sawing was in order, I took one of the lengths of birch that Seth cut when he was by, and split it into quarters to begin making uprights for a bucksaw. (A bucksaw is a collapsible saw whose frame describes an ‘H.’) After I’d split it, I hewed two of the quarters down quite a bit more with the axe, and tried out my crooked knife for the first time, using it to further smooth and shape the pieces. I will post pictures when the saw is finished.

If you’re curious about the crooked knife, I’ll describe it a bit, as I haven’t taken any pictures of mine yet (I’ll do that next time I think of it). It’s essentially a one handed draw-knife, with a crooked handle in order to fit your hand for a more comfortable pulling motion, and with only the top edge beveled. On most crooked knives, the tip of the blade also curves up so that it can be used as a scoop for carving out depressions. The name comes not from this bend in the blade, but rather from the unique shape of the handle.

I bought my particular crooked knife from craftsman Jarrod Stone-Dahl of Woodspirit, who led a seminar on the axe and the crooked knife at this year’s North House Winterer’s Gathering.

Crooked-Knife Seminar

Jarrod leads the crooked knife seminar at North House.

After supping on pasta with some delicious sauce made again by my generous grandmother, I read from ‘Edible Wild Fruits and Nuts of Canada‘ by Nancy J. Turner and Adam F. Szczawinski before retiring to bed.

As for today’s wildlife, I am going to cease mentioning animals that I see every day, and include a list only if I have taken note of something less ordinary. You will also notice that I have omitted some days’ entries. This is either because I was away for the day, or I was working.

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Celestial and Other Happenings

December 20th, 2010

Tonight was a night of great significance for folks with an interest in astronomy, being the only coincidence of the lunar eclipse, full moon, and winter solstice since 1638. In honour of the occasion, I was joined for tea in my shack by two of the Crooked Brothers as well as friends Emily and Craig. It was great to hear laughter coming from within my little abode as I returned from getting water at the lake, and the evening was cheery and enjoyable.

Earlier, I had also been treated to an excellent supper in the same company (made by chef Jesse), and a movie. Who says that you have to give up all of modern life’s luxuries when you head into the woods?

As for the events transpiring in the heavens, I slept peacefully through them – warm and cozy under a blanket of cloud.

Lunar Eclipse

The spectacular lunar eclipse (photo from the Associated Press)

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