Great Beer Lives Here (in the Grey Bruce County)

Before I met my partner, I had no palette for beer, nor any desire to sit down to a brew at the end of the day. Thankfully, he has helped me see the error of my ways. After many tasting nights, beer related discussions and brewing experimentations, he (and our beer-loving friends) have helped me to appreciate beer.. GOOD beer. The LCBO (for you non-Ontarians) is the Liquor Control Board of Ontario - ie. the only place to get all your alcoholic beverages. During his trips to Ontario, my partner always made a habit of stopping at every LCBO he would come across - just to see what they had. You never knew when you could strike gold and find some limited edition, extra flavourful beverages. Then you could brag about how good they tasted to your friends (or, if you were feeling generous, let them have a tiny taste).

I have picked up the LCBO-hopping habit as of late, and on my most recent trip to Owen Sound, I struck gold - a LOT of gold. Not only was the store MASSIVE, but it had full stock of all my favourites and even more delightful looking brews. I could barely control myself - never before had I seen so much good beer in one place. Usually there are a couple special ones at any given LCBO, but Owen Sound hit the jackpot. The small towns just sometimes have it all.

Needless to stay, I stocked up for a while (or not?) and picked up the stellars that were new, or I hadn't seen in a REALLY long time.

Here are the highlights from my plunder. (For all you beer aficionados out there).

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Left to Right: Chimay Grande Reserve, Hop Head Black IPA (Tree Brewing Co.), Rose d'Hibiscus (Dieu du Ciel), Blanche de Chambly (Unibroue), Stereovision (Flying Monkeys - wheat beer), The Matador (Flying Monkeys - Limited Edition 8th Anniversary Ale).

More highlights: Muskoka Legendary Spring Oddity and Red Racer IPA.

Walk in the Rain

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After work yesterday I got into my little red car and drove back down to the GTA for a couple days. For the first 45 minutes it was bucketing rain but afterwards the drive was pleasant, and all of the plants appeared to have exploded with colour from the past few days of drizzle. A highlight of the road trip was the little town of "Scone" just a half hour south of Wiarton. Having missed the turn off to the main highway, I took several smaller roads to get back on track and stumbled my way through this little area. Not only did I see some Menonites on a horse and buggy (always humbling to see), but the farmland and lush orchards at the side of the road were breathtaking. There is something very inspiring about wide open fields of green. The large expanses of space make me feel much smaller and much more insignificant, something I always find liberating.

Today I took my parent's dog on a hike through Dundas Valley Conservation Area with my friend Tom. We started out at Sherman Falls and hiked through to The Hermitage (the ruins of a 19th century mansion) before looping back through an old orchard. I haven't been on a nice long hike in a while, but I'll have to scope out some good places in the Bruce Peninsula so I can get back into shape. I would love to hike the entire Bruce Trail one day, but at the rate I'm going, I wouldn't have the stamina. Bentley quite enjoyed the hike as well, he even saw his first deer.

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I'm headed back up to Wiarton tomorrow with more of my clay and equipment, so I can start producing some of my own work during my days off. I will be firing a wood-fired soda kiln with Marcelina Salazar (another Sheridan alumnus) at the end of June, and need to start making some work for it.

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Until next time, enjoy your weekend!

The Home of a Famous Rodent.

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Well, I'll tell ya, I understand why Willie likes it up here so much. For those of you not from Canada (and potentially Ontario - I'm not too sure just how "famous" he really is) Wiarton Willie is a groundhog living in (you guessed it!) Wiarton, Ontario. This groundhog is our local representative who annually prognosticates the end of winter - or not so much. Ah, Groundhog day.

Last weekend I moved up into Willie's stomping grounds to begin my apprenticeship at Gleasonbrook Pottery (GBP) with Sheridan alumnus Timothy Smith. Tim graduated the ceramics program at Sheridan before starting his own studio in the Bruce Peninsula. For over a dozen years Timothy has been hiring two students from Sheridan to work with him over the summer. This year I was lucky enough to be chosen to join him in Wiarton and spend the summer making a LOT of pots.

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I've  been in town just over a week and I'm already getting a great vibe from the locals. The downtown "core" (ie. one road) is quaint and humble. It boasts a couple cafes, a Salvation Army, Home Hardware (what would a small town be without a HH?), a dollar store and a cigar shop. Other notable stores: video rental, bank, LCBO and one gas station. Everyone is very friendly.

A quick bike ride from my new digs (a lovely little house with a luscious backyard) is the waterfront of Colpoy's Bay, a small inlet of Georgian Bay. I can see the water from my window and boy, is that view lovely. I eagerly look forward to the summer when I can walk down to the public dock and jump out into the bay for a refreshing dip.

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Since I've been in school I have rarely been physically active. I haven't had the time or energy to come home from the studio and go for a run, or join a sports team. However, in a small town like Wiarton I am now able to use my bike as my primary form of transportation. So over the weekend I changed my inner tube and this morning biked the route to work. What a lovely way to start your day! GBP is a 5 mile drive up the highway, just outside of Wiarton. The highway follows the shoreline and today I finally got to soak in the view the way it was intended to be: slowly, with the breeze in my face and the sun beating down on me.

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Working with Timothy has been great so far. We drink lots of tea, listen to good music and chat about all sorts of things while we work away. On top of throwing I have been doing a lot of sanding, glazing and organizing of the shop downstairs. I have been learning a lot, and there will be lots more to learn over the course of the summer.

Last week I spent a good chunk of my work days making dessert bowls (seen in the middle photograph above). This week I've been making mugs and hell, I hate those mugs. They are so deceivingly simple in form that I've been finding them IMPOSSIBLE to replicate. The profile of the form is slightly flared with an ever-so-subtle belly to give the piece volume. The top lip and bottom have identical punctuations that start and stop the line of the wall. No matter how hard I try, I am struggling. I start to get the shape down and the lip and base look like crap. When I finally get the base looking right, the form has gone awry. These mugs will be the end of me.

On a side note, I made some of my own work over the weekend. A dozen dessert stands and 10 chunky little plates to hang on the wall. It's much easier to make my own work (and a lot less pressure), but the work for Timothy is exercising me in different ways than I'm used to. I'm being forced to throw the same form a hundred times, even if I'm bored and keep plugging away until I get it. In my own practice, I would have given up much sooner. Discipline and determination are being fostered in way that I have never encouraged them before. And, I'm getting better at tap-centering*. Wahoo!

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* tap centering = literally tapping a piece while on the wheel and it automatically centering itself. It is a magic that I had previously associated with only the most professional of ceramic wizards. Maybe I will be a professional ceramic wizard one day...