Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Their Home, Too!


Okay – I’m just gonna dive right in to all of the artwork that I have to share with you concerning the Peacebus art project entitled, “Their Home, Too!” For any readers who would like to see the previous artworks and read the first two stories…



So… this is where we left off. As you can see the project is about half done.

As more and more artworks appeared on the roof of the bus, more and more students asked if they could create some art for the project. Of course, I said, “Yes!”

To help some of the younger students, I began to create simple colouring sheets for them. It was their job to use their imagination to find ways to complete their colouring sheets using the proper colours needed.

This happy bunny rabbit is a fine example showing the skills of Anastasia, who is only in Grade 1! When I gave her this colouring sheet, I told her that most of the drawing needed to be coloured in with green pencil crayons. I explained that she could use a little bit of yellow and brown in just small areas. You can see that the rabbit was coloured in using four different shades of green and that the sky is a blend of green and blue. I was very impressed with the skills used to create this peace!

Mira’s little fish got a lot of smiling attention by the other students. I heard many comments stating that it was cool that peace symbols were drawn in the fish’s air bubbles.

When I first introduced the students to Haida Native art design, I wasn’t sure if they would think that this style of art was interesting. I was surprised when the students started asking me to tell them a bit more about the history of this kind of art.

In this design, Kailey used two separate Haida designs to create this peaceful expression.

Angela is an ‘Art Monster!’ There was no stopping her!!!! As soon as she finished one peace of artwork, she would ask to do another. The variety in her design concepts and her ability to blend colours together never ceased to amaze me!

This project was filled with a many different examples of evolution. It started as an idea for creating images of animals. Then the colouring sheet concept idea presented itself. Then the Haida Native art design concept emerged. Then I came up with the idea of using sentences -that expressed thoughts of animals – in the project.

I explained to the students that art is a form of communication. By drawing a picture of an animal we are sharing information about that animal with the world. By drawing a picture of a sentence that tells a short story about animals we are being more direct by expressing a well thought out statement.

I had mentioned in previous stories how I had asked some of my Facebook friends to help out with this project. Zeineb was one of the first to accept my challenge. The students on my bus thought that it was really cool that someone from, “all the way across, and on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean,” had created art for this project, too!

Ahhhh! Looking better and better, every day!

I couldn’t figure out what was more difficult – drawing pictures of animals or using sentences to create some fun art expressions.

So… I decided to limit the use of sentences to the magic number of three. I just wanted to use these as examples to fuel the students’ imaginations, so they would maybe think of using this style of art in some of their own future creations.

Over the next short while, two other artworks were emailed to me by Facebook friends. This one came from the US of A…

… and this one was sent to me by a friend who spent one afternoon with me and several others, planting Day Lilies in a ditch – here in London, Ontario – in the shape of a peace symbol!

If you’ve never heard of ‘Guerrilla Gardening’ then you will truly enjoy this story – http://bitsandpeaces08.blogspot.com/2010/04/guerrilla-gardening-attack-2.html

I’ve noticed how some animals attract the students’ attention more than others. I think there are four images of penguins in this artwork, two dolphin drawings and this drawing is the second image of butterflies.

Oh, how I love Haida Native art designs! I thought that this design was one of my simpler ones, but the students really ‘Ohhhh’ed and ‘Ahhhh’ed when they saw it on the roof of the bus.

Slava is another one of my ‘Art Monsters!’ I think that this is the fifth design that he completed for this project. He asked me if he could do another drawing. Of course, I said, “Yes!” He told me that he had a special topic that he wanted to do… something that hadn’t been done before. I became curious. He explained that he wanted to invent his own animals. I became delighted!!!!

Yet, another example of how art evolves through time!!! And ‘yes!’ that is a frying pan on one of the creature’s heads and a large tea mug balancing on the head of the other imaginary animal. Slava was very happy to use his imagination and sense of humour in his artwork!

My oh my!!! Almost done!

And speaking of imaginary animals… Thalia thought that creating an imaginary animal would be fun for her younger sister, so she had Kendra design this creature and Thalia helped her with the filling in of the colours. It thrills me to know that silly little art projects – like this one – help to bring people together: sister and sister, mom and dad and daughter and son.

With only a week or so left to complete this art project, I had to pick up the pace a bit. Many artworks were still being worked on by the students and I wanted them to relax and have fun with their art, so I decided to work of a few more designs by myself…

As you can see, I had a lot of fun dabbling around with my pencil crayons, too! Why should the kids be the only ones having fun?!!!!

Did I mention that penguins were a popular topic?

Kaela really blew me away with her third drawing for this project! Her first two artworks were just great, but this one really delights the eyes! When this drawing made it to the roof of the Peacebus, the students were so thrilled that they made up a song about, “The great big Panda… who likes to eat a lot of bamboo…” Art influencing music = inspiration!!!!

This is another ‘third’ artwork for this student. Michaela’s drew her first two artworks all by herself, but she asked me to help her out with this one cuz she really wanted to draw a picture of a polar bear.

When my Facebook friend from South Africa said that she wanted to create a peace of art for this project, I was extremely happy! Sasha told me how she had come home from work, emptied her pockets on the kitchen table, sat down with a peace of paper and began to wonder what she would draw. Her eyes wandered to the coins that had just been in her pocket and where now on the table and she told me that this was her moment of inspiration!

The coins of South Africa all have images of animals on them. So, instead of drawing one animal, Sasha put the coins underneath the sheet of paper and used her pencil crayons to create these ‘rubbed’ images of her coins. It’s a little hard to see, but upon close inspection I was able to make out three different images: an antelope, a yak and another animal resembling an antelope – I’m really not that familiar with all the varieties of animals living in South Africa, so I’m not positive on their names.

Hmmmm! Well! Look at that! All the artworks have been completed and if I could have a little drum roll…

… so I can present to you, “Their Home, Too!”

Yup! 3 ½ months of work has finally come to an end and I couldn’t be happier! It was interesting to watch all the evolutions that emerged during this process. It was even more interesting to witness how this one project united students on my bus, families and friends from around the world! Truly a global art endeavour brought to fruition through the dedication of many! I’m impressed!!

So… some of you may think that this should be the last story, since the artwork has been completed, but it’s not.

For my next story, I’ll be sharing photos from the ‘Unveiling’ and I’ll tell how one London news reporter got wind of this story and was inspired to share this art with the entire city!

Until soon,

Mr. Jim

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dufferin County – Jobs and Destruction

Dufferin County is where I grew up. It is located almost a one hour drive north of Toronto. Many small rural communities dot the landscapes and many are known for their local artisans and microbreweries. Ummmmmmm… beer!

The Niagara Escarpment runs through this region. The Niagara Escarpment was formed over 10, 000 years ago during the time when the last Ice Age’s glaciers were retreating. Because of this the landscape is home to many hills, valleys and rivers. In fact, this region is where the springs (or headwaters) are found for most of the rivers that supply water to all the cities of the south – Brampton, Toronto, Etobicoke, Mississauga and others.

The sediments left behind – from the glaciers – have made this area perfect for many varieties of farming. The most common produce being the potato, with a history that dates back hundreds of years. Over ¼ of all the potatoes produced in Ontario come from this region! That’s a whole lot!!

Naturalist throng to this area to enjoy the many varieties of landscapes and wildlife that captivate our senses. The views and vistas are expansive and filled with the brightest colours during the Autumn season. My old stomping grounds have inspired several of my own art creations.

Of course, it is nice to see this ‘big sky’ country, but so many treasures can also be found deep within the wooded areas, too!

There is no other region like this anywhere else in Ontario and I always look forward to my visits there, to see family and friends!!!!!

Even the cold harsh winters fill the mind with warm thoughts of inspiration as we make our way through the hills of frost to the many ski resorts in the area.

But, lately, things have begun to change. If you listen really closely you will notice that the whispering winds have grown silent, the singing leaves have become a stifled murmur and in the distance you can hear the sounds of chainsaws and engines! If you listen past these industrial rumblings you may also hear…

… the marching of feet!

For five days these feet marched! From Queen’s Park in downtown Toronto, hundreds of farmers, environmentalists, artists, teachers and other community members marched in protest of North America’s second largest open-pit mine development plans!!

The Highland Companies, which is backed by a Boston based hedge fund Baupost Group, proposes to dig a ‘Mega-Quarry’! Their goal is to create a mine 1/3 the size of Toronto!!

These sneaky and deceptive Industrialists have been planning this for quite a while. The Highland Cos. first showed itself in Melancthon Township – in Dufferin County – in 2006, under the guise of Headwater Farms. Hmmmm… ‘Headwaters’… where have I heard that before? Oh yeah! In the second paragraph of this story, when I mentioned that many rivers spring out of the ground in this region feeding millions of people!

So… Highland Cos. tells local farmers that they want to produce potatoes and many struggling farmers are dazzled by the extra bonuses that are found in the sales contracts and think that this is a good thing – keeping the land producing food and they make a happy dollar. In a very short period of time Highland became the largest producer, packer and distributor of potatoes in Ontario. Impressive!

I went for a visit to Highland Cos. website and checked out their ‘Corporate Overview’. In it I read, “Today, we are the largest landowner, taxpayer, employer and private sector donor in the Township, providing about 20% of the property tax revenue and 24% of the jobs within Melancthon. In addition, we are actively pursuing an aggregate project within Melancthon Township.” I liked how they slipped in that last seemingly innocent sentence – NOT!!!

Highland Cos. spent a lot of money and 5 years to have 20 consulting companies draft their 3, 100 page proposal for re-zoning of the farmlands that they now own. The public was given 45 days to respond!

So what’s the big deal? Why all the fuss? Think about all the jobs that this quarry will create!

First – let’s look at the impact on the landscapes…

This is an open-pit mine! Effective, but not very pretty to look at.

Well, whatever eh! Think about all the jobs that this quarry will create!

Boy! This open-pit mine sure looks deep! This is where Highland Cos. proposal begins to get very scary…

The proposed mine will carve a moon-like crater into the Earth that will reach depths of over 200 feet below the water table. It will be deeper than Niagara Falls is high. It is the fact that this quarry will be below the water table that is important. This fact means that pollutants will have direct access to this water – and don’t forget that 1 million people depend on this water, daily.

Okay – this doesn’t look so good anymore… but what’s a little pollution when our big cities have so many water filtering centres?

To mine the limestone from this land, 20 tonnes of explosives, daily, will be used. Wow! Just think of all the jobs that will be created in this other industry, all of sudden. This is great for the economy. Well… out of these 20 tonnes, about ¼ tonne of explosive will not detonate and this is the waste that will pollute the rivers – that’s close to 100 tonnes of pollutants each year!

Excessive amounts of ‘heavy metals’ will also be released into these headwaters polluting rivers such as the Grand, Nottawasaga, Credit, Humber, Saugeen and Beaver. Ahh – I see that some of you recognize the names of at least one of these rivers – brings it all home eh! Unfortunately I don’t believe that heavy metals filters are found in the water filtration systems in Toronto.

I think that this water safety issue is my greatest concern. So many people will be affected!

To continue with more talk about water…

Okay – use your imagination and picture the province of Ontario in your mind. Now picture every single person in Ontario and imagine the water that they use every single day – drinking, washing, using the toilet and watering lawns. Now think about how much water is used by farmers, daily – for livestock, for cleaning, for irrigation. How much water is used by every single industry in Ontario, daily? Now, take that massively humungous number and know (not imagine) that this one quarry will need to use ¼ of Ontario’s present daily consumption of water, every day itself! Yup! That’s about 600 000 000 litres of water every day!

The sediments that are created during the mining process need 3 days to settle to reduce the amount of pollution that will be released into the rivers named above. To do this 600 million litres of water a day will be stored for 3 days – meaning that a total of 1.8 billion litres of water will be in use at this quarry at any given time!!!!

You’d think that this would be impossible, but Highland Cos. assures us (assures???) that they do have this technology. I just hope that nothing ever goes wrong. Have you ever seen anything man-made that has been flawless from its first inception? Yeah – me neither!!!!

Okay… now it’s time to talk about traffic…

This is a dump truck.

This is nine dump trucks.

This is eighty-one dump trucks!

Highland Cos. limestone quarry will see the addition of 400 dump trucks to local road systems every single hour! There is so much profit to me made in this quarry that Highland Cos. has already stipulated in its proposal that it will finance road improvements throughout the area if their actions result in road deterioration. Yup! They’ve already planned for that. Now – can you imagine this company trying to make good on these words when the time comes? I’m sure that this issue will be another battle that will take years to asses and decide on… but what about the people living in this area with broken roads while these new battles rage in our courts?!!!

If you were to buy a two-acre lot in Melancthon Township and wanted to build a house for your family, you would be required to have an environmental assessment.

Under Ontario law, an environmental assessment is not required for a quarry!

Wildlife! I haven’t even touched on the subject about endangered species significant to this area yet. Instead, I’ll let members of the The David Suzuki Foundation do that for me –


This is a link to a very insightful radio interview and you will hear from a local farmer who will be affected -


I found this video on youtube -

And this video is full of facts and consequences -

I urge each one of you reading this – and I know that many readers are from different countries around the world – to follow this link -
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/megaquarry/ - to sign the online petition to STOP the mega-quarry!

So, signing a petition is rather easy and takes but a few seconds. I wonder how many of you will feel strongly enough about this issue to sit at a table with pen and paper, envelope and stamp to write a letter of opposition to:

Ministry of Natural Resources
2284 Nursery Road
Midhurst, Ontario
L0L 1 X0


The Highland Companies
Box 377
Shelburne, ON
L0N 1S0

I want to thank you for your interest and thank you for your support!

I think that the future generations of potato farmers would want to thank you too, if they could, but they haven’t yet been born.


PS - A protest rally is schedule to take place in Orangeville on Sunday July 17 at 10:00am. Here is a link to find info about this event -


Maybe I'll see some of my old school mates there! We'll do lunch afterwards!!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Flowers and More Flowers

My garden has been offering to my eyes a never-ending pallet of delightful colours. I have been neglecting my duty by not sharing them with you. I’m changing that fact right now…

What’s this??? A totally boring photo with no bright colours! Well, I had to start somewhere. I built this tree-ring Day Lily flowerbed last year. Last Autumn, I covered it in a thick layer of leaves to help to protect it from the harsh winter. This Spring, I got an idea…

If I were to leave the leaves in place, would the Day Lilies be able to grow up and through them? The answer was, “Yes! No Problem!” The reason why I did this was to stop all the moisture in the soil from evaporating during the hot summer days. The leaves will also decompose, adding nutrients to the soil, and they will also prevent other weeds from invading this area.

Ummmmm… I forgot about the Spring winds! Once the top layer of leaves began to dry out, they also began to blow out - over the rest of my lawn! D’oh!!! I added just a thin layer of topsoil on top of the leaves to keep them in place. This is a great photo to show how most plants multiply. Last year, this small clump consisted of just three lilies and this year there are eight lily flowers. From the main clump you can see how ‘runner’ roots spread out – almost in an arc-like fashion – to fill in area for the next season.

For the next – like forever – it rained and rained!!!! Once the sun had a chance to do its job, all the flowers in my garden really started growing high and strong!

As per usual, I enjoy fiddling around with my flower images on the computer to enhance the colours and textures of the plants and flowers. This image will be my album cover for my garden photoalbum on Facebook, this year. These Day Lilies look like an explosion of life and colour!!! I love it!

Compare this photo to the very first one in this blog story and you’ll see how far this small patch of lilies has come, so far this year.

This is how this garden looked at its height, last season. WOW!!! What a difference. Last year, I saw only about ten flowers in this whole garden. This year, each individual flower will produce about ten flowers… and doing a bit of quick math will tell me that I should see over four hundred flowers over a 3-4 week period!!! Impressive!

Just a few feet away we can see my birdbath garden.

This garden space is not very large, but it is filled with a large variety of flowers.

Over the last few years I’ve been teaching myself how to build the perfect flower garden.

I’ve been studying the colours and heights and learning when certain flowers bloom.

I try to plan my gardens so that when one flower has bloomed and died, there is soon a different species of flower growing to take its place.

As my Daffodils are blooming, my Tulips are growing.

As the Daffodils begin to die off, the Tulips spread a new colour through my garden.

This is what my birdbath garden looks like today. The small purple flowers (I don’t know what they are called) have now turned to seed, the Daffodils have wilted away and the Tulip flowers have all fallen off.

Now is the season for the Iris. You can also see another few patches of green growing on either side of the Irises – these flowers will bloom in another month with bright purple flowers. The other thing that is hard to notice – right now – are the very small Pepper plants and Eggplants that will fill in this space once the Irises have finished flowering.

This small garden has taught me about seven different species of flowers. Flowers are in constant bloom from the earliest of Spring into the middle of Summer, with a small Autumn harvest of food, to boot!!!! You really can do quite a lot with a small amount of space.

These are just two of the seven gardens I have in my backyard. But, now, I want to take you on a small journey to see how my front garden prospered this year…

This garden is filled with mostly Summer flowers, but I do love the small splashes of Spring Daffodils and Tulips that usher in the growing season.

I built and planted this garden last Spring and because the roots of all my flowers were healing I saw very few blooms, last year. I was really excited to see so many Tulips blooming this Spring and I know that next year I will see even more!

Just a few weeks later, many other flowers have begun to fill in this space. In another few weeks, the lilies – bottom left – will bloom with burgundy and yellow flowers. In another few weeks, after that, my Cardinals – hidden by the lilies – will shoot rockets of red skyward to attract the Hummingbirds.

But, for now, let’s take a closer look at my Bleeding Heart!

And… a little closer!!!

I always like to get in really close with my camera, when I’m taking pictures of flowers!

At the other end of this garden, another plant has bloomed. I’m rather proud of how I planted these to grow in the shape of a curve to follow the edge of the garden.

I still have so much to learn about the flowers in my garden. This is another species that I’ve learned a lot about… everything except its name!

I look forward to letting Nature continuously surprise and delight me so that I can continue to share these marvels and adventures in gardening with you. I hope that these many colourful photos have inspired you to take a closer look at the beauty that surrounds us as we tread our own course of growth and change to realize that each of us is as simple as a flower – understanding that a flower is a complicated thing!