Stories in the Snow

As a local resident, guide for our company Earth Rhythms, and photographer, I am thrilled with the ability to share the stories I see in the snow during the winter months using the digital medium. The combination of digital image-making cameras and HD video combined with such powerful and simple to use tools like Mac OS iMovie (new version as of OS Mavericks is FANTASTIC and even easier and more intuitive to use) make it possible to share digital stories easily.

Riding Mountain National Park’s winter months offer superb opportunities to experience a national park when there are less visitors, no bugs, and using snowshoes gives you access to locations you would not easily get to in the other three seasons of the year. In addition, the snow surface itself provides an abundance of stories in the snow surface. The lack of leaves makes it much easier to “see into the bush” and see longer distances and catch sight of mammals and birds that you might not normally see.

Here is a fresh edition of Stories in the Snow – with a combination of photos and video. I hope that you enjoy!!

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The “Rules” of Rural Manitoba

Recently, I came across a terrific post by a Dauphin resident Tash Ryz. She was responding to an email she had received which provided information about a different set of “Rules” of rural Manitoba. I am not sure which version she received, but I did Google up Rules of Rural Manitoba, and found one edition. I can see why she did not agree, and wrote her own version for Dauphin, Manitoba based on her upbringing and personal experiences. These are so well-written, positive, and embrace the spirit of not only Dauphin, but much of rural Manitoba, that I wanted to re-post them here. This is about how to “experience” Manitoba, here in the Riding Mountains. I’d love to see us develop experiences that live and practice these 12 “rules” for both travellers and local folks alike. Well done Tash!

The “Rules” of Rural Manitoba

May 27, 2012 at 11:35am

I was recently forwarded an email about the “Rules” of Rural Manitoba.  I didn’t agree, so I wrote my own version of how I see Dauphin, Manitoba based on my upbringing and personal experiences.   Please add your own comments and awesomeness!

1. We wear what is most comfortable in the prairies. T-shirts and jeans for work? Absolutely.  Pajamas at the mall? Sure.  Rubberboots at the grocery store?  Why not? From ski-pants to hot pants, we wear what we want, when we want.  We encourage you to do the same!

2. We drive many different vehicles in the prairies. It is perfectly acceptable to drive a car, grain truck, tractor, snowmobile, dirt bike, golf cart or even a riding lawn mower to get around.  If you are walking somewhere, you will be offered a ride. If you are stuck, someone will stop to help you push.

3.  Our license plates say “Friendly Manitoba” for a reason. Expect strangers to wave and say hello, because we live by the slogan “a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met!”

4.  No plans for dinner?  No problem, we always make more food that we need, so please stop by for a visit.  We always have an extra place for a new friend!

5.  We like to eat meat and fish that we have hunted and processed ourselves-without added chemicals or preservatives.  The pickerel is delicate and lovely; the garlic deer sausage is spicy and ridiculously good.

6. Don’t eat meat? No problem.  Our backyard vegetable gardens are massive and the hot summer sun helps us to grow the best tomatoes and strawberries you can imagine! Furthermore, most of us have apples trees, raspberry bushes and other berries growing right in our backyard.  Please help yourself!

7. Expect to be put to work- either helping in the kitchen, shovelling snow, picking stones in the field, helping move a truck or lifting something heavy.  We all take care of each other and try to lessen the load when we can.  As a side effect, your body will feel good, your mind will be clear and the food will taste even better!

8. Please turn off your cell phone. Enjoy the open sky, smell the fresh air, listen to the stillness.  We enjoy face-to-face conversations and like to take things slow.  Please pay attention and listen to the person you are with.

9. You will get dirty- either dirt biking through the mud, running through a field or riding in the back of a pick-up truck.  But you will have so much fun that you won’t even care!

10. Our thunderstorms are fierce and energizing.  Enjoy the show, but watch out if your hair stands on end!

11. Our lakes are abundant and we take full advantage of them-  in the summer we swim, boat and fish.  In the winter, we drive our vehicles right on the ice, set up shack villages and then fish, drink, visit and go sledding with our friends.

12.  We love to laugh, to sing and do silly creative things.  We don’t take ourselves too seriously, so please join in and have some fun!

 traditional Ukrainian braided bread

Welcome message symbol – Ukrainian braided bread

In rural Manitoba, our hearts are a big as our open fields and our minds as expansive as the never-ending sky.  We welcome you to our land!

Happy birthday photo safari!

As a boutique tourism operator, what do you say when a mother emails you and says, “We’d like to book one of your programs for myself and my daughter…it’s sort of a birthday present for each other. Both of us like taking pictures, but neither of us really know what we are doing.” I was honoured and immediately said yes. When anyone makes a date with their child, and decides to take them into nature on a photo safari, that tells me a lot about the commitment that they have in their relationship.

Customizing a photo safari

Photographing in a field of prairie flowersWe put together a number of elements – a customized GPS adventure quest in which mom and daughter guided themselves to some of my favorite photographic spots; I shared a number of stories about wildlife, birds, and showed them some of my wildlife videos on my iPad; they practiced using some of the features of their Canon Powershot cameras that they had not known how to use previously; we snacked on local muffins, blue giant hyssop tea (a local prairie wild herb) that I had steeped the previous day. We photographed late blooming canola fields and got a great shot of the two of them hiding in the canola.

From outside the park, we traveled first of all to a real Geocache (check out Geocaching, if you would like to learn how to find treasures all over the world using your GPS receiver); then to the canola field; and then straight to some wild prairie meadows. Along the way, we were birding – that is, looking for birds on prairie potholes and in small creeks. I shared with them my observation from the previous day of having seen a turkey vulture dining on a snack in the middle of the road – a young yellow-shafted flicker.

There is no excuse for not being there...” John Shaw, a well-known American nature photographer had once said at a photography seminar I attended in Edmonton, Alberta. Indeed. There we were, in the middle of the fescue meadows in the heart of Riding Mountain National Park, each photographing something slightly different. We heard a sudden bouncing movement. A spotted fawn white-tailed deer came to a crashing stop a mere 10 metres from us. Nobody knew quite what to do. A few seconds later, it bounded away into the sunlight, and the nearby forest. We all looked at each other, stunned. Nobody got the picture. But, we all took away the memory.

We finished off this adventure by quickly downloading mom and her daughter’s photos to iPhoto, and together they choose the photos to put into their own hardcover book to commemorate their adventure. We pushed SEND to order the book. Together, they were commemorating their relationship with each other. What do you suppose that they will do with that book?

Portrait of mother and daughter in a field of canola

How do you plan and book your own customized photo safari or wildlife watch at Riding Mountain National Park?

  • Have a date in mind, that you would like to come and how long you would have available ( I would recommend about 6 hours including travel time, photography, walking, and having a bit of a picnic).
  • Be prepared in your own mind that this could be a rain or shine event. If it is a rainy day, we’ll still have fun. We’ll organize things a little differently. Some of the best photos are made on a rainy day. You’ll see different things as well.
  • Identify why you want to do this photo or wildlife safari. A couple of quick reasons will do.
  • What kind of camera do you own? We’ll download a copy of the manual to our iPad and take that with us, in case we run into any technical difficulties.
  • Leave us your phone number and email.
  • We’ll call you back and start planning some of the details, give you a sense of the cost, and confirm if this is a go. The final price we quote you is dependent on how much we do to prepare, and how many are in your group.
  • We create your outing including a small photo tips booklet, identify some new places that are ideal for photography, and provide hands-on instruction to use your camera to its maximum capability – macro, action, exposure compensation, telephoto, using tripods, photographing wildlife, landscapes, and many other details. If you are interested in video, we’ll help you to learn how to shoot video.
  • We confirm final details by email and telephone. We take payment in advance by credit card.

Who are some friends or family members that you might wish to take on a customized photo or wildlife safari to Riding Mountain National Park? We’d love to hear from you.

Please Contact us:

Celes Davar, President
Earth Rhythms, Inc.
1.888.301.0030 Office
celes.davar@earthrhythms.ca (Email)
Facebook: Earth Rhythms
Twitter: earthrhythms

Moving forward in the war against climate change

Every once in a while,

I see something that really inspires me and makes me want to share it with as many people as possible. With the failure of any kind of comprehensive climate change agreements in Copenhagen last December, many of us were looking for what the next steps could possibly be to address climate change, given the failure of governments.

I have come to the realization that any substantive responses to global climate change are going to come from ordinary citizens, local communities, and the leadership of visionary businesses. Political leaders are driven by political imperatives that are at odds with the time-table for climate change.

In this short, animated film, you will see some inspiring history and solutions for our next steps within which we will be participating in a new low carbon economy. View this and be inspired.

Three practical things emerge for me, from this film:

  1. It’s up to us – not governments, to lead in the war against climate change.
  2. Technology offers us new ways to collaborate and share solutions.
  3. We have the technology and the solutions – we can create the change. Let’s just do it!

Bees, Bears, Bio-Diesel, and Birds – New Golf Course Management

It’s been my pleasure to watch Greg Holden and the management team at Clear Lake Golf Course over the last 16 years shift the management regime from a traditional turf management approach to one that integrates all aspects of sustainability into its operations. Today, May 1, 201o, the Globe & Mail featured the Clear Lake Golf Course in Riding Mountain National Park in article about four top “green golf courses” in Canada.

Brain Kendall, author of the article writes..”…All across Canada, courses are dramatically cutting back on the use of water and pesticides, welcoming home birds and animals once regarded as pests, restocking ponds with indigenous fish and coming up with ingenious initiatives to transform the image of a sport long under attack by environmentalists… ” He tees up his article on Canadian environmentally friendly golf courses by featuring Tees With Bees (Bell Bay, Cape Breton); Make Way With Bear (Stewart Creek Golf & C0untry Club, in Alberta’s Bow Valley); Cravings At Clear Lake (Clear Lake Golf Course, Manitoba); and Birdies and Birdwatching (Victoria’s Cordova Bay Golf Course).

Greg won a Manitoba Eco-Network‘s top environmental award in 2009 for the work that they have been doing. And, the Clear Lake Golf Course was also a finalist in last year’s Tourism Industry Association of Canada’s national awards of excellence in the category of “sustainable tourism”.

Earth Rhythms (a Riding Mountain-based learning adventure company) offers a personalized behind-the-scenes electric golf cart experience for small groups by advance reservation.  Turning Green Into Gold – featuring Greg’s stories about thousands of gallons of water saved, innovative gardening tips, use of natural pest fighting agents, an understanding of bio-diesel used in golf course maintenance vehicles, and short excursions to his favorite clipping’s nutrient piles, being at the heart of his “gold compost” resource stream production centre, and seeing some of  innovations in sustainable best practices are featured. This short, 2-hour program will turn your head, inspire you, and hopefully enable you to follow this up with a new appreciation for the history, ecology, and outstanding golf that is offered at Riding Mountain’s Clear Lake Golf Course.

Way to go Greg and team! It seems appropriate to tip our hats to Greg as the new 2010 President of the Canadian Golf Course Superintendent’s Association. This modest leader and pioneer in best practices of sustainable golf course management has much to offer visitors, golfers and the golf industry. He’d be the first to be cautious in handing out advice – but, he is willing to share his own experiences. His are first-class stories of carbon footprint reduction, recycling, and turning waste into resource streams.

An excerpt from this unique “experiential tourism program” will be experienced by 15 international travel buyers from India, China, Japan, the UK and Korea during the first week of May, 2010 as part of Travel Manitoba’s hosting of Rendezvous Canada – an international marketplace for travel buyers of distinctive Canadian experiences.

Clear Lake Golf Course - a Canadian leader in sustainability

Lost in the Wilderness!!!

Snowshoeing Moon Lake

Help!!!  We arrived in “total desolation” not knowing what to expect.  It was a “barren wasteland”.  The waiver we signed said “not responsible for death caused by wild animals and parasites”.  Oh-oh! They said this was going to be fun.  They said we were going to learn to partner, to build relationships, and to experience the “T” (tourism) word in a funky value-added format. This was going to be new, fun, interactive, exciting and ultimately beneficial to the bottom line. Ok…sure..whatever…  We had our doubts initially…but now we’re believers!!

The next day was looking up…a bit, at least.  Breakfast was great…generally a good sign, so all was not lost.  Our group was obviously in the same frame of mind.  They didn’t know what to expect either.  However, after a little tongue-wagging we soon learned that their trepidations and expectations were quite similar to our own.

Earth Rhythms was phenomenal!!  The experiential outings were enlightening.  We were drawn to the local customs and traditions.  We were absorbed in the uniqueness of a distinct culture and way of life, feeling as if we belonged to it ourselves and that it had always been our own.  That’s the power of experience and it’s something that everyone can benefit from.  We never dreamed we would dance a traditional Ukrainian jig that looked so amazing in its natural state…until it was utterly destroyed by a couple of rookie bluenosers.  Fortunately for us, we weren’t alone.  The others in our group were as equally “talented” and forgiving.  We felt much better!

It all boils down to this…no matter who you are, or where you go, everyone is the same.  We’re all interdependent and herein lies our strength as human beings.  Together, we can tap into a vast supply of resources that, with a little ingenuity, can benefit one and all.  Together, we can experience, learn, adapt, grow, and profit from each other’s experiences, perceptions and opinions.

We’ve learned to look in our own backyards for the plethora of valuable resources that go un-utilized every day.  These do exist and they’re there for the taking, but sometimes they aren’t revealed until another point of view is expressed.  The full value of those hidden treasures then manifest in a flash of insight, and the hidden economic potential that lies just under our noses is finally revealed.

Our backyards, like the Manitoba “wilderness” may at times seem barren, cold and forbidding, but they can also be warm and inviting.  A cozy bonfire, starting with a tiny glowing ember of warmth – friendship, camaraderie, revelation, and knowledge – eventually grows into a fiery, consuming blaze.  That’s the power of “experiencing” over “observing”.  That’s the power of networking, building solid relationships and lasting partnerships. That’s the power of Best Practices Missions in Manitoba.

Thank you Earth Rhythms!

Blog post by Gem Johnson & Dave Hovey,

Participants on the Nova Scotia Best Practices Mission to Manitoba, February 2010

Babas, Bread and the Ukrainian Beat

We spend so much of our time looking inside the physical space of churches; we never take the time to look at what goes on beneath.  Through the church hall doors, we could hear the pulsating, joyous beat of an Eastern European rhythm that led us down into a world beyond our own and yet so familiar.

Ukrainian ‘Babas’ are grandmothers to the community. And included in their community is anyone they meet.  Coming into their presence we were met with warmth and love.

Most grandmothers are eager to share their stories and traditions, and the Babas are no different.  Making Easter Breads in Dauphin ManitobaAnxiously pulling us over to the table, we were immediately put to work in learning the fine art of crafting ceremonial bread.  Taken under their wings, we kneaded and rolled, braided and decorated the Pascha bread.   Not written on the ingredient list was the huge dose of laughter and joy that goes into every loaf.

Food is the backbone of Ukrainian life.  Sustaining and celebratory, you can taste the pride in every hand crafted cabbage roll and pillowy perogy.  You are called upon to eat heartily and eat some more – so as to physically ingest the love that is put into every bite.

Then, you dance!

Learning Ukrainian dancing in Dauphin, Manitoba

Life does leave its mark on the faces of the Babas.  There have been hardships.  There have been trials.  But, at the end of the day, there is always celebration, joy, community and a respect for tradition.  Pulled out of our seats, we were swept up into lively dancing and laughter.

Whatever your religious or cultural affiliation, you walk away with a sense that these Babas are the true church – loving, sharing, caring and forgiving.  They hug you with their warmth and regret your having to leave.  But when you leave, you do so with the knowledge that you have left friends behind.

When and if we go back, we know the bread will be ready for us to braid and that a large plate of love and kinship will be set before us, with the inevitable smile and exclamation of “eat” whispered in our ear.

Blog post by Pat Hudson & Phaedra Charlton-Huskins,

Participants on the Nova Scotia Best Practices Mission to Manitoba, February 2010

Tracks in the snow

When we follow our passions, we leave good tracks!!

We are a group of tourism professionals from Nova Scotia, on a mid-winter Best Practices Mission to Manitoba. While flying in to Winnipeg, we got our first glimpse of the Canadian prairies.

We were welcomed by Celes Davar, from Earth Rhythms, our leader and facilitator for the week. Our first surprise stop was at Constance Popps’ chocolate factory and shop. Constance Popp ChocolatierThere we got to experience Chocolatier Constance’s wonderful chocolate creations, as well as her stories and passions. It was interesting to hear her story on how she left her lucrative job to follow her passion leaving her own footprint.

Imagine wakening all your senses to the cold and sunny Manitoba morning with a fresh layer of snow. After meeting our guide and strapping on our snowshoes, we headed out into Riding Mountain National Park – the only tracks ahead of us were those of elk, rabbits (snowshoe hares) and martens. Our mission was to bring a natural restorative tea to Dale, who was studying the effects of Park Maintenance on local wildlife!  As we experienced making our trails along Moon Lake we could hear the crunch of the snow under our feet as we created new tracks in the fresh snow.

We crossed the bridge where the stream entered the lake, paused for a magical moment to close our eyes and listen to the silence.  Following the stream we soon found a Quinzhee (snow hut). As we were wondering what we were looking at, Dale’s head popped out! Riding Mountain National Park, quinzhee, quinzeeDale is studying the impact of his Park Maintenance job on the Park wildlife. As Dale enjoyed his tea, we crawled in and out of his Quinzhee, truly surprised by the room and the warmth inside! Feeling more comfortable on our snowshoes, we were able to allow ourselves to notice the warmth of the sun and the cute little bunny that ran along side of our tracks!

Blog Post by Sam de Ruyter, Stephen Workman, and Trudi Curley

Participants from the Nova Scotia Best Practices Mission to Manitoba, February 2010

Outstanding 2010 principal of Canada – in Onanole

Laurie Bachewich_Onanole School Principal

Laurie Bachewich, Onanole Elementary School

Given that this is National Teacher/Staff Appreciation week, I thought that I would share some exciting news about one of Canada’s 32 outstanding school principals of Canada for 2010 who is right here in Onanole.  Are we proud!  It says a lot about small schools. As a resident in Onanole, and as someone whose entire corporate model is built around collaboration, I raise a hand in salute and tip my hat to someone who makes a practice of collaboration – Laurie Bachewich, Manitoba’s only school principal to receive this prestigious national award in 2010.  Laurie is the principal of a great teaching staff at Onanole Elementary School in Onanole, Manitoba.  Together, they rock! Innovative teaching methods, big vision, and a strong connection to community are the hallmarks of this team.

The Learning Partnership announced on January 19 that 32 outstanding Canadian principals will be honoured in Toronto in February. “Great principals build great schools.  They communicate a compelling vision, they engage their communities, they nurture their staff, and they create an environment that increases student success.”  I have been fortunate to work with Laurie over the last couple of years in my capacity as program director for Sonics and Sojourns, an annual festival of music and learning.

I would like to share four characteristics of this school administrator that stand out for me:

  1. An outstanding and un-wavering level of energy that is put out to facilitate the support of the school stakeholder quadruple foundation: students-teachers-parents-community.
  2. Laurie goes out of her way to develop and maintain strong relationships with community representatives, parents, the parent council, and others with whom she has carefully built a long-term commitment to education, educational programming, enrichment, and new opportunities for her students.
  3. Her passion for education, for doing the best that she can for her students.  And, she works within a team of educators who all share that passion, and who bring innovation, great teaching methods, and inspired learning into the school.
  4. An open and willing desire to include innovations in education in partnership with other community initiatives – the Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve, Sonics and Sojourns, and many other community initiatives.

The press release is available below for you to read.  We would like everyone in Manitoba to know of Laurie’s success.  Congratulations Laurie!!

Click here to read the press release:  Canada’s Outstanding Principals for 2010 Announced – Laurie Bachewich from Onanole, is the lone Manitoba recipient.  This press release also lists all of the other 31 recipients across Canada.  You may know some of them.

Congratulations and heartfelt thanks to those who nominated her, and supported the nomination. We appreciate your efforts to acknowledge those among us, whose dedication and passion to enrich the lives of our children and community sometimes go un-noticed. It’s also great to see the local papers like the Minnedosa Tribune covering her success.

Laurie’s achievements and recognition make me aware of some of the benefits of living in small towns. Good quality education with very low student : teacher ratios is one of them.  Living next to a national park is another. A great quality of life year-round is yet another. And, finally, having a community that supports its educators and local champions is another.

Please pass on this post to anyone who knows of Onanole, has lived in Onanole, or is a visitor to Riding Mountain National Park.  I’d like them to know about Laurie Bachewich.

I like what I read on the Manitoba Teacher’s Society web-site as a quote from Manitoba Association of Parent Councils (MAPC) president Judith Cameron…

Our teachers put a tremendous amount of effort into the learning experience for our children and they’ve become so much more than just educators,” she says. “They have become true partners with parents and other school community groups. They are part of a school-wide dynamic that sees children thrive when proper supports are put in place. Teachers and parents are working together to support classroom learning, and work closely as a team on initiatives that enhance the whole school community. It’s important that we let them know that their efforts are appreciated.”

Cameron encourages parents to take a moment ‘to say thanks to those people who help make their child’s school day a positive experience.‘ ”

Field Guide For Change Agents

Now, this is what I am talking about – actions that lead by example.  I just recently saw a Tweet by Rodd Lucier (@thecleversheep) that was remarkable.  He has just taken part in an educator’s conference in Pennsylvania this past weekend.  Together, participants created and posted a field guide online using Slideshare (which means that they created a PowerPoint presentation and simply posted it, licencing it as an Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike 3.0 document under The Creative Commons).

It is a great example of how the online world can help us to act rather than meet or plan; collaborate rather than work individually when “the collaborative” has results much greater and more powerful than the individual; and share what we know and produce freely in the world for others to use, adapt or build upon.  WOW!

In my view, there are some really important principles illustrated in this short slide show that we can implement in our day-to-day actions for when we are attempting to work with others.  Great job Rodd et al!  Thanks for sharing.