Saturday, April 21, 2012

In a theatre for the first time in 6 years

I strapped on the Leatherman, Maglite, and wrench to head into a theatre for the first time in 6 years.  Which is odd, since my background, schooling, and passion was in technical theatre.  When we moved up to the boonies a decade ago, I knew my theatre career was on hiatus, but I spent the first few years happily volunteering at the local non-profit theatre both as a board member and as a technician.  I also worked as a production technician and running crew for the for-profit summer theatre company.

I was blackballed six years ago by the local theatre patriarch and matriarch and told that I would never work in the local theatre again.  They were a husband and wife serving as President and Treasurer of the non-profit theatre board.  Unfortunately, they were also setting the theatre's rental rates for the for-profit summer theatre business they owned and operated.  They argued and voted (while offering the carrot of making me the theatre manager if I went along and the stick of firing me as their summer season technician when I kept disagreeing) to make the rental rate for their very profitable summer theatre company $400 per week - which was how much it cost to rent the theatre for a day.  'Somehow' the theatre's annual rental income never covered expenses and significant fund-raising was required every year to cover the deficit.

Protested and fought the blatant conflict of interest on the board as best as I knew how until I decided it wasn't worth it any more so resigned from the board and gave up local theatre.  I missed it less than expected.  My volunteer time was redirected to coaching and refereeing soccer and serving on that board instead, which has been rewarding and enjoyable.  Even though husband and wife team sold their business and moved away 5 years ago, I didn't have much interest in theatre any more.  Add kids to soccer and life is busy enough. 

Earlier this week I got a call out of the blue from a theatre person:  would I help with a hang and focus?   I thought I'd give it a shot.  Packed a 'lite' version of my technician kit and went down this afternoon.  It was a very easy focus of half a dozen instruments and hang and focus for two more, took just 45 minutes.  Theatre is much the same.  A fancy new ETC express in place of the old all manual two scene preset.  Smells the same.  A nicer audio setup.  Largely the same old geriatric lights, dusty and cobwebby and in need of a clean.  Some still had the date tags I put on them when I cleaned and serviced them all (9 years ago!).  A great looking digital projector and screen for movies.  Everyone is looking older, and apparently my beard is 6 inches longer.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Backyard Biodiversity - Mammals

We have 1.2 acres of land, three quarters of which is treed.  Even though we are in town it is a very natural setting.  The York River runs past the back, a small creek in a ravine on one border, and a 20+ meter buffer of trees on the other.  Across the river is designated as a flood area, so there are hundreds of acres with nothing but trees, water, and bugs.  It amazes me the diversity that can be found on our property.  

Dogs - we used to have two, neighbourhood dogs sometimes get loose and come for a visit.

Cats - I'm not a cat person and I think people who let their cats run loose should should get some of this.  Yesterday there was a fluffy white one on the deck scoping out the birds coming to the feeder.  At first I thought it might be feral, but seemed friendly enough and the fur wasn't too matted, although it seemed skinny.

Raccoon - a recent population explosion, a neighbour used to trap them in his corn patch.  Pretty sure we have a den of them under a stump near the river.  Fresh sand scattered from the opening and some poo.  Lots of tracks in the shoreline mud.

Fox - Leaf has seen it, I've only seen the footprints in fresh snow, our property is only a small part of its range.

Red Squirrel - most common squirrel in our yard, seen daily.  We used to have one that was a ninja.  He'd scramble up the mesh screen of the sunroom, then leap backwards at an angle to barely grab the lip of the window bird feeder with his front legs, then haul himself in to it.  As amusing as it was to watch - he wasn't successful every time so he'd thump into the window - I moved the feeder a few inches higher so he couldn't make it.

Black Squirrel - AKA bushy tailed rat.  Infrequent visitor.

Flying Squirrel - nocturnal and I only know they are around because it was the one who chewed into our sunroom and got captured in the trap.  I got this photo late at night a few days after beginning to wonder why the seed in the hanging feeder was disappearing so much faster than the window feeders when the chickadees prefer the window one.

Flying Squirrel
Chipmonk - a bunch.  All called Alvin.  Over the summer, we generally get at least one to take peanuts out of a hand, much to the excitement of the boys.

House Mouse - There is a better mouse trap.

Vole - seen sometimes scampering out of the garage or in the rockery.

Mole - most noticeable in the spring when winter tunnels are very obvious and widespread.  A handful of mole hills.  Didn't used to be a problem, but much of the grass on the property across the street was bulldozed a few years ago and I think we got refugees.   200kg of agricultural lime helped before, I may have to try it again.  Very sandy soil plus acidity from pine needles equals terrible lawn loved by moles.

Rabbits - haven't seen any trace of them so far this year.  Seen occasionally at first light in the yard, once by me when the boys and I were 'hunting', but droppings and tracks in fresh snow common.  This summer (2014) we have a resident rabbit.  Hangs out in the driveway, nibbles from the raised bed garden, and ate about half of my sunflower seedlings.

Beaver - damn beavers!  This year is the first we've had problems, they gnawed down the only Slippery Elm on our property, plus one of the few young oak trees, plus most of the shrubs I planted to help with the erosion problem where the creek meets the river.  In the past they dammed under the bridge over the creek, and there are old weathered stumps on the north side of the property, a surprising distance from the water.  I wonder if the scent and noise of our dogs kept them away.  I've caged our fruit trees with wire mesh.

Muskrat - one lives in the creek, we see him swimming around once in a while.

Deer - an infrequent and I think accidental visitor.  The river and the highway make a funnel shape and we are at the bottom.  Seen a handful of times, footprints in snow or soil seen more often.  Once while kayaking about 1km upstream I rounded a bend to see a deer and fawn drinking at the edge of the river.  It was a Bambi moment.  Had a deer eating out of the raised bed garden this year (2014)

Bats - I don't know what species.  Only seen occasionally at dusk in the back yard.  We have a bat house, but pretty sure it isn't used.

Groundhog - Meandering through the front yard the other day.

Skunk - Never seen, but boy did I smell it the other night.

Weasel -  Spotted in the driveway then hopping in the lawn on a very rainy day.  No luck getting photo or video of it, but definitely much smaller than the other weasel I saw.

Mink -  Went down to the river with the camera hoping for a shot of the wood ducks.  Saw this instead. 

River Otter - A few minutes after the mink left, I got up to go back to the house, saw this instead.