No dust on these poets

We are seeing a wonderful emergence of local artists, musicians, poets, photographers, new cuisine, and other unique talents being expressed within the Riding Mountain biosphere area of southern Manitoba, Canada.

I am particularly proud to be someone who lives in the southern gateway community of Onanole, about 100km north of the Trans Canada highway, easily accessible to any cross-country traveler.  

Last night, in our Onanole Community Centre 175 people witnessed the delightful songwriting, brilliant musicianship, and warm sound mix of The Dust Poets as they formally released their new CD World at Large.  They will be playing at this year’s Winnipeg Folk Festival.  I highly recommend you take them in.  CD’s are available at Poor Michael’s Bookshop & Café, where you can get a great fair trade coffee, purchase high quality crafts, read a great book, or find a gift that you just needed to get for someone special.  

There’s no dust on these poets, who feature Karla Ferguson (accordion and keyboard), Sean McManus (drums, clarinet), Corey Tickner (mandolin), Gordon Mowat (upright bass), and songwriter anchor Murray Evans (co-owner of Poor Michael’s).   Joining them for this special CD launch was Lloyd Peterson on guitars.  Enjoy this video of their opening song at the May 30 concert at the Onanole Community Centre!  

We’ll be posting the whole evening concert on Vimeo soon.  So, stay tuned!  Be patient, as it will take a few seconds for this to upload.  We tried to make it at a big enough size so that you could see the performers really well.

View Dust Poets engaging local audience in Onanole from Celes Davar on Vimeo.


Province establishes first year-round e-waste depots

May 14, 2009

Manitobans can now recycle their old computer equipment, VCRs, stereos, microwaves and phones at new, year-round e-waste depots with extended hours of operation throughout the province, Science, Technology, Energy and Mines Minister Jim Rondeau and Conservation Minister Stan Struthers announced today.

For Erickson, Sandy Lake, Onanole and area, it is great to see that one of these depots will be close to us, at Evergreen Environmental Technologies on Hwy #466.   “Year-round depots have been established in Ninette at Southwest Community Options, 210 Queen St.; in Selkirk at Responsible Electronic Recycling, 511 Robinson Ave.; in Minnedosa Neepawa at Evergreen Environmental Technologies on PR 466; in Steinbach at Eastman Recycling, 60 Industrial Rd.; and at the City of Brandon MRF at 3000 Victoria Ave. E.”

“Electronic waste depots will accept the following materials from residential sources only:  TVs, VCRs, stereos, microwaves, phones, computer equipment, laptops, printers, scanners, fax machines and copiers.   All e-waste collected will be sent for proper end-of-life recycling and no materials will be sent to landfills”, the minister said. 

This is great news.  Let’s take advantage of this.  Read more for the full news release.

Katy Re-discovers Riding Mountain

I live an hour south of Riding Mountain National Park and during the 28 years of my existence I have seriously underutilized it. My name is Katy Singleton and I am an Environmental Science student at Brandon University.  In recent years I’ve travelled to several Canadian locales to experience breathtaking ecosystems and biodiversity, and in general, missed much of the ecological beauty lying virtually on my doorstep.  

Recently I was put in contact with a gentleman by the name of Celes Davar.  Celes along with his wife Sue, own and operate Earth Rhythms, a business providing ecological experiences to groups of people looking for personalized excursions involving nature, art, music, science, and a host of local business people and hobbyists.  How did I not know this business existed?  Celes informed me Earth Rhythms is intentionally low key, advertised mostly by word of mouth and the web, which helps maintain the philosophy of the enterprise, an intimate, personalized taste of what Riding Mountain has to offer.  

I was looking for a summer job and thought Celes may be looking to fill a summer position.  Over various emails and a telephone conversation I discovered several things.  Celes was extremely knowledgeable on environmental policy, initiatives, CO2 emissions and global warming, etc.  He asked me in-depth questions about my personal views and ideas that I had never been asked before and he shared more excitment and passion for the environment then I had seen in a long time.  I began to feel passionate too.

After four years in my program I had misplaced my love for the environment. I knew the importance of promoting a healthy sustainable earth, but my thoughts had become predictable and stale.  I was reading textbooks, writing papers and giving presentations but was no longer connected to what my studies were really about.  

The day I was to meet Celes and Sue in person a friend and I came out to the park early. We brought along the Riding Mountain National Park Trail Guide, ‘Taking to the Trails.’  We started out at Bead Lakes but soon turned back as it’s quite muddy this early in the season.  We travelled to the Brulé Trail and did the full hike as it appeared drier.  ‘Both trails are so different,’ I thought.  Two trails about a ten minute car ride apart and they have such different personalities.  The first trail was heavily treed, mossy, muddy and green, so different from the second dryer, more grassy trail that still displayed the scars of fires long past.  ‘Look what I have been missing,’ I marveled as I walked through the stillness. The forest provided a special kind of quiet, that hushed all thoughts of anything other then where I was right at that moment, I felt my heart rate slow.  The stillness was pervasive yet the forest was teeming with life, birds singing, insects buzzing, but rather than noise it sounded like… music.  

Later my friend and I met with Celes and Sue, and over a wonderful meal spoke about the topics I had been learning in school but rarely discussed.  I left that night with an offer of employment and strange feeling of excitement and peace.  Something had awakened inside me that I hadn’t even realized had fallen asleep.  I day-dream about my next hike, and am excited to discover what I can help Celes and Earth Rhythms accomplish this summer. Whatever my experiences with Riding Mountain National Park over the next few months will be, I know I will remember that feeling in the woods, where I re-discovered the stillness and peace that elude so many of us day to day, and that helped me to remember why I’m here.

Making bread, biodiversity and spring bird songs

I am baking some fresh bread today.  A new recipe, using organic whole wheat flours from Prairie Seasons Bakery, a delightful café and bakery in Neepawa, Manitoba. In a recent search for the town to host Manitoba’s Homecoming in 2010, Neepawa received 14,000 votes, and has been awarded the grand prize of hosting Manitoba’s official 140th birthday on May 12, 2010.  Neepawa is on the road to Riding Mountain National Park. I highly recommend stopping at Prairie Seasons Bakery right on main street for a very nutritious sandwich featuring breads made with organic, local grains and local produce.  The coffee is great too.  Oh, so are the amazing baked goods.  Stock up on your way to Wasagaming Campground.

As I made my bread today, the mourning doves, clay coloured sparrows, chipping sparrows, robins, rose breasted grosbeaks and house wrens were all nattering or singing loudly.  We live not more than .5 km from the boundary of Riding Mountain National Park, a place of great biodiversity in the southern part of Manitoba, Canada.  

As I sat, drinking my coffee and waiting for the yeast to develop in the bowl, I was reading from David Suzuki’s new book The Big Picture – reflections on science, humanity, and a quickly changing planet.  I met David briefly last week in Nashville where he gave, to a standing ovation, one of the most inspiring morning talks as he introduced Al Gore to more than 500 of us from Canada and the US , who are officially trained as Climate Project presenters, participating in the Climate Change Summit.

In his chapter on “Getting to Know the Joneses” (about biodiversity, and knowing our neighbours in nature), Suzuki identified that 1,200 bird species worldwide are currently facing extinction (2004 study from Birdlife International), with some 200 on the critical list.  Why?  Largely because humans are affecting their habitats.  “Converting prairie grassland to farmland, for example, has resulted in a 60% decline in native prairie bird species”. 

Why does the protection and enhancement of bio-diversity matter?  Because on a large scale, the diversity of life on Earth underpins many of the ecosystem services that we need to survive (producing oxygen, cleansing our water systems, cleansing our air, storing carbon that prevents global warming).  Faced with a growing population of some 6.7 billion people, there has been an explosive rise in demand for energy, land, resources, and the planet’s bio-diversity is declining.  “A diversity of life has proven to be a key element of evolution and the resiliency of life on Earth over long periods of time, even through periods of great change.”

We are at an unprecedented time in the history of the Earth.  Humans are altering the earth at the same or greater levels of magnitude as geologic change – except that we are doing it in flash or a wink in geologic time, not over eons.  And, it’s impacts are being seen all over.  

I want to save the Earth.  I know that I cannot do that.  But, I want to.  And, my frustration as I kneaded out the dough that became my bread and listened to spring symphonies that reflect the presence of such biodiversity of life on Earth, was that we have a lack of leadership and action within our country right now, to address our climate change challenges.  

Our adventure company Earth Rhythms is dedicated to helping travelers experience this bio-diversity. We contribute to the Nature Conservancy which saves habitat; we live in an R-2000 home that we designed and constructed and was designed by us to have a low ecological footprint, and minimal impact on the land.  We are helping to create programming for our fall festival Sonics and Sojourns, which will celebrate bio-diversity, educate youth and adults about our emerging low carbon economy, and provide opportunities for anyone to experience nature in the fall.  I am doing a very small part to move my life towards saving the Earth.

I want to see our Canadian federal politicians making a positive contribution to the Copenhagen Climate Treaty in December by setting an aggressive target for reducing CO2 in Canada.  The US has taken a mighty step forward by creating a new climate bill (Waxman-Markey bill) that has set an ambitious and achievable 83% reduction in CO2 over 1990 levels by 2050.  

Come on Canada – let’s start putting the heat on our Canadian politicians to get with it, to create a policy environment that restores our global  leadership that we have now lost; that reflects a realization that our long-term economic health is directly linked to our long-term ecological health.  Let’s get down to making new bread, featuring prairie grains that reflect a commitment to restoration of prairie diversity, where the presence of spring bird songs will continue to mean that we have saved the Earth, together.

We are not an island

I was just invited to speak to the Morden area tourism and marketing group on May 7th.  The person who invited me was none other than “Blue” (Donna Moffat), who is the general manager of the Timbers Clubhouse at Lake Minnewasta Golf and Country Club.  Blue, as many of you know, used to live and work here at the Elkhorn Resort and was very active within the local chamber of commerce.  She is passionate about promoting her local community and  building tourism capacity within a  local community (which she was very active in doing while she was here).

I had never been to Morden before (think Corn and Apple Festival).  But, in a short activity before my presentation that Blue facilitated, everyone present (perhaps some 50 tourism business owners and operators and many others who are active in the community) introduced themselves.  I was flabbergasted at the richness of the Morden area – zip lines, world class fossil site, outstanding golf, and passionate people.  They have vision, entrepreneurial spirit, are articulate and have a will to make things happen. A great blend of traditions, and yet open to new opportunities!  

I had been invited, by Blue and the Morden area marketing group to provide an inspirational presentation about experiential tourism.  That’s a tall order by all accounts.  I dug into my well of experiences and what we have slowly been creating here in the Riding Mountains – a partnership of experience providers for niche markets, and slowly beginning to help shape and define “the Canadian experience in Riding Mountain“.  And, I shared some of these examples.  One of the people in the audience that night was Emily Goerz.  Her family lives in Morden.  Two years ago, she had brought her extended family here to the Elkhorn Reosrt to celebrate her husband’s 70th birthday – we had crafted a customized GPS adventure quest for the entire family.  

Emily was in the audience at Morden, her gentle smile always tilting back at me.  It was at that point, that it struck me that  Blue, Emily, and the various artists, musicians, the mayor, and the many talented people in Morden are all part of this beautiful fabric of Manitoba.  Our province offers the world cultural traditions, food and regional cuisine that is exceptional, and we are all tied together by the many champions like Blue and her community (it’s where she was born) who selflessly keep drawing others together.  Rather, the concept of sustainable tourism in Manitoba that comes to mind is that maybe we are like a living tree with immense possibilities – rooted in traditions, growing constantly, sustainable over time, and cyclical in how we take in energy, sift through possibilities and then make new energy to grow again.

As we contemplate Manitoba’s Homecoming in 2010, I realize that we have an opportunity – to shift from being islands of tourism regions, or islands of tourism destinations, or individual “tourism business” islands, to something new.  We are not an island.  We are the heart of the North American continent, living, loving, and pulsing with culture, arts, traditions, music, nature, and cuisine that is celebrated and practiced by authentic Manitobans.  

If we learn to tell our stories well, we will meet the needs of todays’ travellers who are looking for “the antidote to Disney” – the experiences of our heartland.  They begin searching for these experience, in their own homes all over the world, in their own unique ways using their individual keystrokes to give life to “travel dreams”.  Let’s be there for them when they hit “return” or “enter” on their keyboard.

Inspiration and Motivation – perspectives

I invited a response to the following question on Twitter and Facebook and though that I would share the responses that I received.  I asked if anyone would like to share the difference between motivating others and inspiring others?  Are both possible?  And, is it possible to motivate others?

Here are some of the responses I received…

From Carolyn in Minnesota.“I think motivating is an intentional act from the doer where inspiring is done from the person observing.  I think that cheering someone on over their fears can be done.”

From Ryan Brook at The University of Calgary..”You could motivate me to clean your garage for lots of money, but you could never inspire me to do it with just money.”

From Irene Howell in Newfoundland…“Once people are inspired I think that will motivate them – if they have any life in them at all!!”

Part of the reason that I asked this question is to better understand my role as a facilitator, presentor, speaker and workshop leader within a community economic development context.  My perspective has been that I cannot motivate others, but I can and wish to inspire them.  Thanks everyone for your comments and feedback!  They are inspirational for me!

Riding Mountain offers a mirror to our daily actions


Shadows and ice melt - Clear Lake, Riding Mountain National Park

Shadows and ice melt Clear Lake, Riding Mountain National Park

 Yesterday, I went down to the east end of Clear Lake.  We are coordinating a wedding for a couple from Australia and their friends and family who are coming to Manitoba for their wedding.  In fact, they are getting married in Riding Mountain National Park.  I wanted to take a couple of photos of the Wishing Well site to send them, so that they could see just how beautiful this area is.


Why do people choose places like Riding Mountain National Park to have significant life celebrations?  Here are three reasons provided by our guests..

  1. “When we asked our friends where they would like to travel, to join us in getting married, Canada was the place everyone wanted to travel to..”  So, they made their travel commitments to come to Riding Mountain and get married here, even though they have never been here before.
  2. They love the outdoors.  They will be in the Yukon, in Riding Mountain, and in Nepal by the end of this year.  Riding Mountain is sacred ground, higher ground, and there is good energy here.  Getting married in a place that is strongly connected to earth, is centred at the heart of the North American continent, and is a national park are all important reasons to celebrate life and marriage.  And, the Wishing Well is a perfect location for a wedding.
  3. They have access to the Elkhorn Resort and to Earth Rhythms in one destination, two services that are essential to their wedding, reception, and celebration with family and friends.  Elkhorn for cuisine and beverage services and a team capable of delivering these services, accommodation, a spa, conference space and hosting of the dinner and dance.  Earth Rhythms for a host of personalized services (photography, video, onsite coordination of the function, local flowers for decorations, a focus on attention to details with respect to “bringing nature into the wedding ceremony”.)

As I sat down by the Wishing Well, I made a wish

“..that we find ways to celebrate our humanity and our care for this planet by doing what we need to do, individually and collectively, to address our climate change challenges in 2009 (the year of the Copenhagen Treaty on Climate Change) with strong actions to reduce carbon emissions and our carbon footprint in each of our communities, our businesses, and in our personal daily lives.  For our children, for future weddings, and for all time.”  


Evening light of spring from the Wishing Well

Evening light of spring from the Wishing Well

Coming to places like this, to celebrate significant life moments helps us to remember our responsibilities to take care of the planet.  I am really glad to have a national park in my backyard – both to be able to experience it any given day that I want to, but also because it is like a moral value to guide me in each day.  We hope to see more events like this in Riding Mountain National Park.

Nature’s changing artworks in Clear Lake

It finally feels like spring on the Riding Mountains.                     Clear Lake ice is melting.  


Spring ice Clear Lake, Riding Mountain National Park

Spring ice Clear Lake, Riding Mountain National Park

At the Spruces picnic site today, I heard that sound that I love in the spring, that is so rare because it is so short-lived – the tinkle of ice (full of holes and crumbly) as the edges of small ice pans rub against each other.  Tomorrow, I look forward to golfing.  The greens at Clear Lake Golf Course are already in great condition – they wintered well.

Music that moves and inspires me

I absolutely love it when good technology, creative genius, and great music all come together. Feel the joy in this international music video of Stand By Me! It’s 4 minutes of pure global music, that really says a lot about how we must take care of this planet. And, about taking care of each other which can result in making good music. Joy in abundance!

Wildlife in the Riding Mountain sanctuary


Canada Geese, Onanole, Manitoba

Canada Geese, Onanole, Manitoba

Having a national park in your backyard is a great thing.  First of all, it’s good quality water that flows out to neighboring areas.  The seasonal changes take on a character and rhythm that flows with the wild birds and mammals that migrate or move in and out of the park.  People who live here, love the fact that land is affordable and that they have access to a wide range of recreational pursuits that are climate friendly (walking, hiking, biking, birding, kayaking, canoeing, snowshoeing, skiing) all year long.


Today, as I was traveling up to Dauphin along the Riding Mountain parkway, I saw a peregrine falcon, photographed a young moose having several deep drinks at a roadside lick, observed various waterfowl (red-necked grebe, mallard, golden-eye), and had a great chance to see some Canada Geese waddling around in a marsh.

My two favorite seasons are spring – the beautiful returning birds, and fall – the deep resonant sounds of fall courtship of elk and moose.  Right now, we are all looking forward to a warm spring and a hot summer.  I, for one, am really happy to see wildlife in our sanctuary, Riding Mountain National Park.

Young moose watchful at a mineral lick

Young moose watchful at a mineral lick