I found the documentary we watched on The Museum of Jurassic Technology fascinating, and decided to do some more research into Guelph’s own “Museum of Subliminal Objects”. Heres what I found:
The museum was part of a pop up art instalment called the “Hatch” which took place in August, 2015, with the purpose of altering viewer’s perceptions of four formerly vacant spaces in Guelph.
The Museum of Subliminal Objects was created by disciplinary artist Steph Yates, who drew inspiration from Michael Gondry, a surrealist film director, best known for his work on “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. Yates dressed the store front with “familiar objects altered and transformed into the stuff of dreams”. A Global Tribute article on the exhibit states:
“There are tea cups that drink their own tea, a plastic-wrapped rubber chicken with doll hands, and a bowler hat with eyes in its crown. There are also a series of oversized wrist watches with tiny silver figures affixed to the second hand and going around in circles like prisoners of time.”
I found the concept here to be very similar to “The Museum of Jurassic Technology” in that viewers are not told they are entering an surrealistic art experience, which challenges their perceptions of reality and allows them to have an genuine experience of bemusement, confusion and wonder. The exhibit ran only for a weekend, but the sign remains up today confusing passerbys, including myself.
On our last Outdoor School trip, we visited the Bovey Greenhouse again, but we had a short guided tour from the greenhouse manager, Rodger. We took a look at the other greenhouses that were used for research and for growing plants that would be used for teaching. Then, we went back to the main area that housed extra plants that are just there for aesthetics and Rodger explained some of the plants to the class.
The highlight of the trip was getting to visit the University of Guelph’s very own insect collection, the oldest collection in Canada. We were shown many different species of insects that have been saved in the collection for generations and we all squeezed into this room that was basically a vault of dried insect corpses. Some of the displays showed insects that were terrifying and insanely large. I even heard someone say, “if I saw one of these in my house, I think I’d have to move,” which I would do as well. However, some of them were very beautiful like the butterfly collection and the bee collection. It was interesting to observe how the populations have changed over the years based on the collection as Morgan, our insect collection tour guide, showed us how the collection of rusty-patched bumble bees declined as years passed.
To end the trip, we got a chance to touch the hissing cockroaches that were promised in the course outline of our Outdoor School seminar. They were just the research students’ pets, so they were in a small box in the office and we were told that they fed off of leftover sandwiches from the professor. Most people got a chance to hold the cockroaches and they were actually kind of cute, even though they sparked some screams and squeals in the group.
On Tueday, November 29, our class will take a trip to the Organic Farmers’ Market, located by east residence on the University of Guelph campus. Brought to you by the Wellness Education Centre and the Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming, this market allows everyone the opportunity to buy fresh, local, and organic produce on campus, which is very convenient! The head of the organic farming market on campus is giving us a tour of the organic market to show people how they can volunteer, and take us for a walk nearby. We will tour the facility and learn about what the market has to offer. It is a great opportunity learn about what fruits are grown locally in season, and support produce grown by our very own Gryphons!
On Thursday October 6, Slow Food hosted a tour of the Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming (GCUOF). Slow Food is an international organization whose goal is to encourage and educate students about the importance of good, clean, and fair food. When we arrived at the centre we were still a bit early for our tour so we took advantage of our spare time and used it to do some shopping at the organic market located right in front of the farm. I purchased some delicious produce including a head of butter lettuce, some cherry tomatoes, and a little pumpkin (which I turned into pie over the weekend).
After we had all made our purchases, we met Martin who gave us a tour of the facilities. At one hectare, the centre was bigger than I had anticipated for an on campus farm. Martin told us that the GCUOF is used to give students a hands on, in the field learning experience. It is primarily used as a lab experience for students studying plants and agriculture and as a place for research projects to be performed. As it is a centre for learning and research, the farm contains a wide range of edible plants. It ranges from typical produce like lettuce, tomatoes, and garlic, to more unique foods like bitter melons, litchi tomatoes (like cherry tomatoes but encased in a spiky leaf like shell), herbs, and even edible flowers! I got to taste one of the edible flowers called a nasturtium flower and surprisingly it tasted slightly spicy!
One of the things I learned on the tour is that organic farming involves a lot of trial and error (like so many things in life). Growing a good size crop organically can be difficult, and challenges such as the weather and pests can vary from day-to-day and year to year. Organic farmers have to find effective ways to deal with pests and fertilization, while still meeting organic standards. This means they are always coming up with new and innovative ways to improve the productivity of their farm. Martin told us that some of these innovations and ideas work well and inevitably, others do not. For example, Martin decided that he wanted to convert the back stretch of land into a lawn. He decided to just start cutting back the overgrowth and after a while only grass and clovers grew, forming a lovely green lawn. On the other hand, a student tried adding fertilizer to the water in the irrigation system. While it seemed like a great way to improve the farm’s efficiency, it turned out that animals such as raccoons were intrigued by the scent of fertilizer and they actually ended up eating through the irrigation lines!
Visiting the GCUOF was an eye-opening experience that made me appreciate my food more. Seeing how much Martin and the other people at the centre care for and love growing food was amazing. I hadn’t realized that someone could have such a passion for plants and the way they’re grown. In many ways these people reminded me of Laurie from Braiding Sweetgrass, and how she put so much care into her research, as well as how she found herself learning from the grass. The gardeners, students, and researchers are doing that right here on campus. They are taking the time to learn from and listen to nature, trying to understand how plants grow, what affects them most, and how they can help each other to thrive. As we have discussed throughout this class, these ideas of learning and listening are critical steps in the process of developing a positive relationship with nature.
Touring the farm and engaging in conversations with Martin and other Slow Food members has made me realize that organic farming, like many other activities we talked about in class, is a way in which we interact with nature. Also, if farming is a way in which we interact with nature then I believe that eating is as well. Eating food is a way of enjoying, discovering, and sharing creation. I think it is important to take the time to learn about where your food is coming from and the impact that its production has on the environment. If we don’t take the time, it is easy to view food as something that just comes from a store or a fast food restaurant. This prevents us from understanding how food can offer us a better connection with nature. Alexander Wilson discusses this idea in The Culture of Nature when he mentions that we often let new technologies and innovations, such as televisions and camera lenses, prevent us from truly connecting with and understanding nature.
So to wrap up, if you haven’t been to see the farm or the organic market yet, I highly recommend that you check it out! Also of note, the path to the market is marked with painted carrots starting near the J.T. Powell building, so you can’t get lost 😉 The market takes place on Thursday’s from 2:30 pm to 6:00 pm. If you interested in learning about, or volunteering at the Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming, check out their website here!
For information about Slow Food and our events, feel free to come ask me or find us on Facebook. Slow Food has an annual meeting and runs 1 or more public events every month with the goal of encouraging students to take the time to slow down and think about their food and where it came from. I attended October’s event, the tour of the GCUOF, and November’s event, a vegan cooking class, and had a great time at both! The next event coming up is a restaurant tour downtown on November 26! The cost is $5 for non-members and you can check out the details here if you are interested!
On Tuesday, November 22nd we took a trip to the greenhouse and insect collection on campus. We began with a tour of the greenhouses in the E.C. Bovey building. Our guide described some of the many interesting research projects going on in the greenhouse. It is amazing how many uses there are for common plants such as medications and even rubber. After this we went into the tropical greenhouse and learned about some of the many beautiful, tropical plants growing there. This greenhouse is like being on a tropical island with plants such as banana trees, orchids, coffee trees and Spanish moss. After the greenhouses we went into the Guelph insect collection. This collection is the oldest insect collection in Canada. Here we saw many interesting bug species on display in boxes. We also saw the collection of Rusty Patched Bumblebees. This collection is the one that tells the story of the practical extinction of these bumblebees from Canada. After seeing many dead bugs it was time to see some live ones. We sat down for a visit with some Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches and many brave students held these massive insects.
On November 19th, the Animal Science Club took a trip to Camar Farms, a local miniature donkey farm. The owner of the farm, Professor Andy Robinson(who also teaches at UoG) gave us a tour of the facilities. First, we got to see some of the other residents of the farm: two horses who used to jump but were now happily retired as well as Sirius the cat. Then it was time to meet the stars of the show, the miniature donkeys!
Since it had been raining (snowing even), we didn’t go into the paddocks with the donkeys, instead they were brought up to the barn to meet us. They were very laid back, friendly and everyone had the chance to pet them, take pictures with them and enjoy our time with those friendly little guys!
We learned lots about the breeding program held at the farm, and the history of the property. Camar Farms breeds strictly miniature donkeys, and their breeding program amounts to about 4 foals every year. The farm will take the donkeys sold back, even if it’s years later, if the buyer can no longer take care of it. It is imperative that the babies stay with their mothers until they are old enough (about 5 months old) before they are weaned from the mother and her milk so they can develop properly. This is a very important process prior to selling the foals. Professor Robinson told us that the most effective way is to take the donkey away from its mother, to its new home right when it is due to be weaned. He described this as “cold turkey”. The mother and the baby must not be at close proximity to each other otherwise they will keep calling to each other. Having more space also seems to put less emotional stress on the donkeys.
The latter are considered as livestock but many people buy them as outdoor pets, “lawn ornaments” or as therapy animals. They also serve as herd animals to keep company to other livestock such as goats and horses. One of them has already been sold and is soon to be sent to Nova Scotia to keep the cows company!
Professor Robinson also taught us a great deal about donkeys. There are three types of donkeys namely the miniature, standard and mammoth donkey and they can live up to 30 years!
One fact that really surprised us was that donkeys could be better livestock guardians than some guard dogs to protect the livestock from predators like coyotes. Although miniature donkeys who are disadvantaged by their size will not hesitate to fight–first with a loud, intimidating “roar”. Not like a lion’s roar, but rather a really loud, surprising “HEE-HAW”. If the “roar” doesn’t deter the coyotes or predators, then the next move for the donkeys’ line of defense is to actually charge at them. They pack quite a punch and, as Professor Robinson put it, the donkeys could certainly keep up with the coyotes in terms of speed. They’re impressive animals and not afraid to protect their own.
Miniature donkeys are quite the fascinating bunch. With the two retired horses trotting around in the background, we would just marvel at how truly miniature the donkeys were in comparison to the horses! They’re tiny! It was an amazing experience as we don’t get to see and touch such beautiful beings in our everyday lives.
This opportunity to interact with these miniature donkeys and listening Professor Robinson explain, with passion, the habits of the donkeys, their diet (simple but balanced), how they are treated, and just the overall relationship he has with the donkeys strongly affirmed of the concepts and themes learned in the outdoor seminars. To co-exist with these wonderful creatures, we need to learn to give and take and learn to put the animal’s well-being before ours at times. Professor Robinson’s purpose was neither for personal gain nor money-driven–his goal was to keep the donkeys happy and healthy in an environment where they can thrive until they find new owners that he makes sure will treat them equally well.
The Animal Science Society gave us this opportunity to really branch out our knowledge and experiences with animals and their lives, as well as the lifestyles of those who co-live with them, such as the professor. Some of us have never really gotten a chance to see this, and being in an environment such as this really opened our eyes up to the opportunities and the extensiveness of the world. This humbled us a little bit as we might have thought that the city’s where everything revolves around–but, no, there are just so much more to this world than our limited views. The Animal Science Society has been widening up our horizons with trips such as these and meetings that reflected these perspectives. Although the miniature donkey sanctuary trip was the last event of the semester, previously the Society has visited an ostrich farm in October and had a volunteering opportunity at the Humane Society.
This video was taken at the farm. This is what the miniature donkeys sound like in their “social” call. Female miniature donkeys are called “jennet”s and would call out to the “jack”, the male donkeys. In this video a jennet was “hee-haw”ing while a jack responded in the background.
From the Dutch pavilion at the venice art biennale, 2014.
“de vries has documented his residency in venice and the lagoon in a travelogue. the collection of framed curiosities is a visual and material report of what he has perceived in the venetian habitat, comprising both small groupings shown in an orderly or chaotic fashion and photographs that chart the natural world in snapshots. his eye is caught not only by nature, but also by the traces of human interaction – how people change the environment and how it, in turn, appropriates culture.” From http://www.designboom.com/art/herman-de-vries-dutch-pavilion-venice-art-biennale-05-13-2015/gallery/image/dutch-pavilion-venice-biennale-herman-de-vries-designboom-62/
The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles holds many splendid,
unique, and puzzling treasures. It’s a carnival of delights and ideas, weaving
art and science, fiction and data, all together into something enchanting and
joyful. In this first of two segments on the museum, curator David Wilson (and artist)
describes the origins of the project. He says, “I wanted to know, I was
compelled to know, what would happen if a person put everything they had, all of their emotional, financial, spiritual resources behind a single project.” From https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DC1nSF9v3RA
Together in class we’ll watch Inhaling the Spore: A Journey Through the Museum of Jurassic Technology.
From a display in the museum, Mice on toast are presented as historic cure for bedwetting.
From a museum display of animal and “human horns.”
On November 15, 2016, our Outdoor School had the amazing opportunity to visit Wild Ontario, where animal ambassadors greeted us with many different species of birds of prey. We were able to look at many species of birds including: Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus), American Kestrel (Falco sparverius), Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus), Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio), Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), and Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus). Some of these birds were human imprints, meaning someone illegally took the bird from the wild, thinking they would make a great pet, but they later released them back into the wild even though the bird had become accustomed to being nourished and cared for by humans. Other birds were actually injured like the hawk that was hit by a car and is resting after rehabilitation. This of course is the reason why Wild Ontario exists- in order to give these birds a home and make sure they can live the rest of their lives happily and safely here in Guelph.
Along with seeing the live birds, we were able to touch and feel different parts of birds, such as severed feet, which came in many different sizes, as well as wings that were full of soft and multi-coloured feathers. The reading given last week was great for connecting us to these birds of prey at Wild Ontario. Although they seemed tame and relaxed, their piercing eyes still gave me a bit of uneasiness as these are still wild predators that naturally could kill large species of animals like deer, and as Diane said, they had the look of MURDER. And again, with this Outdoor School trip that took us to see live birds that were much bigger than the tiny chickadees in our last excursion, I’ve found a new appreciation for avian rehabilitation and general studies on species of prey, so again I am becoming very open to expanding my knowledge on a different group of animals.
Today, we hd the great experience of getting to see birds of prey, specifically the ones with raptor-like feet: falcons, hawks, owls, and eagles.
The first bird we saw was a kestrel falcon, which is the smallest kind of falcon in North America. Their raptor feet are great for crushing, grabbing, and killing.
The next bird we saw was a broad-wing hall. They travel on hot air thermals when they migrate, which is why they do not travel over the Great Lakes (because there are none). They also have eyesight that can see 8 times the distance and clarity than humans.
After this, we saw a deer falcon, which live in the furthest part of Northern Ontario. They breed in the arctic tundra. They are also one of the most powerful falcons in the world, and can dive at speeds over 200 km/h.
Then we saw an eastern screech owl, which is the third smallest species of owl in Ontario. The one we saw was fully grown and very cute!
The following owl we saw was the great-horned owl. Its ears are not the hair tufts on top of its head, they are actually on the sides of its head. The ears are actually asymmetrical and are very sensitive, being able to distinguish sounds not just left and right, but also up or down.
Last but not least, we saw a turkey vulture. While we saw it, it made grunting noises, which turns out to be the only kind of vocalization turkey vultures can make.
Overall, getting the chance to see the birds of prey at Wild Ontario was an amazing experience, and was a great learning opportunity for all of us.