Guilds of Christmas Sale promises ‘bang-up show’

May 15, 2014

I remember when I was working as a reporter on the Gulf Islands Driftwood, one of my colleagues said that once Remembrance Day, on November 11, was over then everyone became preparations for Christmas on Salt Spring Island. 

Over the 16 years I lived on the island, I realized over and over again that this was SO true. One of the reasons that people ‘start’ Christmas on November 12 is because there are so many Christmas events that island people participate in. They feature many of the many,many artistically creative people who live on Salt Spring Island. These events need lots of planning time to put together whether they are choir concerts, theatrical plays or the many Christmas craft sales. There can be many disagreements among those who organize these numerous events. Maybe because the people are so talented is why the disagreements and the politics involved can sometimes be quite venomous. 

This story is about one of them. I invite you to read between the lines:

Gulf Islands Driftwood

November 24, 1999

Guilds of Christmas Sale promises ‘bang-up show’

by Tanya Lester

About 90 of Salt Spring’s most renowned craftspeople from a variety of guilds are as busy as Santa’s elves right now as they gear up for this year’s The Guilds of Christmas Sale (GCS).

“This is the time of year when people have the opportunity to see really quality work,” said Judith Mitchell, manager of the GCS which opens Friday at Mahon Hall.

“I think sometimes we fail to recognize how much talent exists on this island,” said Mitchell.

Donna Vanderwekken of the weavers guild said the overall quality of the GCS is usually higher than the summer’s ArtCraft sale as there is less of a focus on “touristy stuff”.

“I think it will really be a bang-up show,” said potters guild member Judy Weeden. She is contributing half a dozen of her “one-of-a-kind” pieces.

At this point in her career, Weeden explained, she is not interested in making items she is not inspired to create or does not have time to make.

Weeden said there will be many more potters with their pieces on display than there was last year because, after going through a “bit of a slump like many groups sometimes do,” this guild has “rejuvenated”.

Members are now meeting for breakfast at ArtSpring once every three weeks, said Weeden.

In addition to this, Weeden credits GCS manager Mitchell with doing an excellent job of encouraging craftspeople to participate by approaching them on a one-on-one basis.

“We’ve left the old guild sale behind,” said Weeden. “Judy (Mitchell) has done a good job of handing it back to the guilds.”

There is also a wider range of guilds participating and new items that have not been sold at GCS before.

There will be a variety of baskets, including ones woven into wood bases and those made of willow. Mitchell said proceeds from handwoven Christmas decorations made by basketry guild members will be donated to the Salt Spring Food Bank.

Vanderwekken stepped up her production in October in preparation for the GCS. She believes the number of weavers contributing this year is up slightly.

The GCS has been an annual event at Mahon Hall for 22 years, said Salt Spring Community Arts Council president Lawrie Neish. It began with three guilds: the weavers, potters and painters.

Over the years, an event called A Touch of Salt Spring helld on Vancouver Island has competed with the GCS. Neish explained that event features very few Salt Spring craftspeople and draws the buld of its participants from Vancouver Island.

Mitchell hopes to collaborate with Christmas sales at Fulford Hall and Beaver Point Hall to attract people from Victoria and other parts of Vancouver Island to Salt Spring on the December 3-5 weekend, when A Touch of Salt Spring is scheduled to run in Saanich…


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For Peace from a War Victim

May 12, 2014

I have written poetry. Not that much and not recently but I have written poetry that has been published. It started shortly after I gave birth to my son, Luke. I had no time to write prose but when I would snatch an afternoon (something I still do today), I would wake up with a line of poetry in my head (I could always see the words through my Third Eye vision) and quickly jot it down before taking Luke out for a walk in the stroller or for a push on the swings in the park down the block from where we lived on Simcoe St., north of Vimy Ridge Park, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was as if I had no more time to write than scribbling down these lines for poems so that is what The Universe gave me to satisfy my creative urges.

The prose poem I am sharing with you here is called a found poem. It is taking part of a piece of writing, quoting it and then having your own words to create a poem spring out of you.

This one was something I created for an idea spearheaded by Canadian poets including Dorothy Livesay and Betsy Warlan. Each week for an entire Members of Parliament in the House of Commons received a different poem from a different woman who wanted world peace. This was at a time when nuclear war was constantly threatening the people of the world. 

We made an extremely powerful statement. This is my contribution:

Women’s Peace Write/Rite Des Femmes Pour La Paix

the week of April 6 – 12, 1986

For Peace from a War Victim

by Tanya Lester

“When you carry your child nine months in your womb, bear it in labour with death all round you, only to find the monstrous weapons of imperial technology have assaulted you even there, you carry the war deep inside you.” *

When you hurry home with keys in your hand, and man comes up from behind and attacks you halfway across the bridge two city blocks length from your apartment, you carry the war deep inside you.

When you don’t have supper on the table, and your husband gives you a black eye and shoves you down to the floor and forces your legs apart and rapes you in your own home, you carry the war deep inside you.

When your father says he’ll tuck you in, but straddles you instead and breaks your vagina open in your own bed, you carry the war deep inside you.

When you see a woman being forced through a meat grinder, her insides spilling out like ground beef and you know she’s you, you carry the war deep inside you.

When I say war is pain, being seared outside in scorched inside out and YOU have the power to end it if YOU call on the strength of the core of YOUR being, I’m screaming it from deep inside me.

* The quote used about is Sheila Rowbotham’s emotional response to her own account of how the Vietnamese women experienced “an abnormally high percentage of miscarriages, stillbirths and deformed children, born with large heads and small brains” from the toxic gases of the bombs dropped in 1961. Taken from her Women, Resistance and Revolution (London, 1972).


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New Pool Elevator for Willow Bunch

May 9, 2014

When I was house sitting in Kelowna, BC over the winter, I met someone who was from Willow Bunch, Saskatchewan. I have to admit I had not thought about that village for many years, probably not since I was editor of the Borderland Reporter in the early 1980s. It is an amazingly sweet for a town, though, isn’t it?

If you saw my earlier post about how grain elevators were starting to be a thing of the past during the early 1980s, you will know why the new pool elevator that went up in Willow Bunch during that time period was certainly worth an article:

Borderland Reporter

March 23, 1983

New Pool Elevator for Willow Bunch

by Tanya Lester

The new Saskatchewan Wheat Pool elevator at Willow Bunch has the capacity to handle 9,000 bushels of grain per hour and can accommodate nine truck loads of grain at one time, on its double-leg system.

This can be compared to the old Pool elevator which could only cope with 2,000 bushels of grain per hour or two grain loads. According to Roger Bourgeois, the elevator’s manager, the old building will be demolished in late April or early May while the new one will be computerized in June.

Mr. Bourgeois said the grand opening for the new elevator facilities is scheduled for June 10. He is impressed with the new elevator because it will be much more efficient than the old one.

In addition, Mr. Bourgeois indicated the dust eliminator or collector would help keep the facilities cleaner.

The new elevator is 116 feet tall and has a scale which is 70 feet long and 10 feet wide and can weigh up to 132,000 lbs. The scale is electronic so, according to Mr. Bourgeois, will be more accurate than the manual balance scale used in the past.

Mr. Bourgeois has already been handling grain at the new elevator and his only regret is that he will be retiring in the near future, so will not be working in the new elevator for very long.


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Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader

Parents visit Coronach School

May 7, 2014

It is very important for parents to be familiar with where their children go to school. I would like to think that I decided to write this article to support parents connecting with their children’s school but I am also sure that it was also due to the lack of stories to cover in a small community and the need to fill a newspaper. Yet this is the kind of story that should regularly be covered by the media.

Here it is:

Borderland Reporter

March 23, 1983

Parents visit Coronach School

by Tanya Lester

About 75 parents took advantage of the Coronach School visitation day, last Wednesday, run during the province’s Education Week. Throughout the day, parents observed teachers giving lessons in the classrooms and watched and participated in various class presentations.

For example, some parents participated in a grade 12 physics experiment in which work and power was tested. Members of the public were asked to climb up a ladder while their speed was timed. The students then used physics laws and formulas to calculate the work and power level reached by each participant.

Maureen Shelstad’s grade 6 students presented story recitals to the parents visiting their classroom. The exercise seemed to be a particularly good one for the students as public speaking and the nervousness that comes with it is an aspect of life many of them will have to deal with during the rest of their school years and into adulthood.

Following a “Drinking and Driving” film presentation by Constable A. Davidson, several future drivers of Coronach’s roadways received their driver education certificates handed out by the constable and Peter Saher, the school’s principal.

Parents were also invited to listen to a taped speech by Father Larre on the topic of why students rebel against society. 

For the Education Day celebrations, the school’s walls were filled with displays that ranged from St. Patrick’s Day art tributes to short essays to maps of Canada’s provinces to sea creatures.

One display was just the type to catch a news editor’s eye. It consisted of several editorials. The beginning sentences of the editorials made statements including: “I think there should be trails for kids with motorbikes”; “Some people litter. It think it’s disgusting to have garbage lying around”; and “I’m sick and tired of our school playground mud!”

It just goes to show that young people can articulate valid opinions, too. Mr. Saher would agree. He felt the day was in many ways a success because the students had been very involved in presenting their parents with the various aspects involved in the makings of a school.


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Northern seal a first at centre

May 6, 2014

I love watching PBS and I love watching Hope for Wildlife on PBS. Hope for Wildlife is a center in Nova Scotia where wounded wild animals are rehabilitated and returned to nature. The philosophy and ethics behind any of these kinds of centers is based on the fact that the more that we, as humans, infringe on the natural habitat of other animals, the more we either directly or indirectly are responsible for injuries that they would not have suffered in the past. For that reason, it is our responsibility to help heal and return to nature.

The following is a story about a similar center on Salt Spring Island, BC, where I lived for 16 years. When we first moved to Salt Spring Island, my son, Luke, who was then 12 year old, and I volunteered for a short time in a shop that sold products in financial support of the Island Wildlife Natural Care Centre. 

By the way, you might notice that my recent posts have been quite short. In Cherryville, where I am currently housesitting, as it always was for me on Salt Spring Island, WiFi for the Internet is not available. What we do in these rural communities is plug a cord into our computers in order to get the Internet working. This does not work quite like WiFi, though. I do not watch Netflicks here because there are too many pauses in the movie due to the slower speed of this type of Internet connection. Also, spending a lot of time inputting a long article into my blog post is impossible as it takes way, way,way too long to save it.

So here is another short post:

The Gulf Islands Driftwood

February 23, 2000

Northern seal a first at centre

by Tanya Lester

It could be from anywhere as far west as Japan and as far south as California, but Jeff Lederman of the Island Wildlife Natural Care Centre (IWNCC) thinks their first northern fur seal guest came from the Alusian Islands in Alaska.

The northern fur seal which is actually a miniature sea lion, arrived a IWNCC on February 8 after being rescued from Kelsey Bay in Sayward on Vancouver Island. It was being harassed by people at a fish farm who often kill sea lions and other animals preying on fish, even though it is illegal to do so, said Lederman.

The woman who saved it said the sea lion was in the same part of the water for three days.

Lederman said that at 15 poinds the seal is at 50 per cent of its body weight. Like all sea lions, it walks around on its flippers and is “adorable,” according to Lederman, with a big head and big flippers attached to an emaciated body covered in soft, grey fur.

Since its arrival, IWNCC volunteers have been struggling to keep it alive with five tube feedings of fish formula each day, Lederman said.

It is living in the indoor intensive care ward and being given antibiotics as well as homeopathic remedies for dehydration, pneumonia, bowel problems and flukes, a body parasite in the tapeworm family, according to Lederman.

Her said the northern fur seal will appear close to death one day but will be improved enough to climb the walls on the next day. Lederman said the sea lion likes to bite when he is feeling better.

Northern sea lions can live in the water for months, said Lederman. They swim and sleep in the water with 75 per cent of them going to the Alusian Islands to breed each June.

The IWNCC has had an 80 per cent survival rate with harbour seals, which are much more common residents. Other animals recently rehabilitated include three ducks still left over from the last canola oil spill, two bald eagles, a great blue heron and a gull.


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MP runs gas station

May 4, 2014

On small newspapers, a journalist can advance quickly. In the 1980s, anyway, young journalists often ‘cut their teeth’ on rural newspapers and quickly went from being a reporter to editing and then on to the urban newspapers where their speed of promotion usually slowed down. 

When I began work at The Gravelbourg Gazettethe newspaper’s publisher owned another newspaper further south in Saskatchewan in  the beautiful rolling hills,near the United States border, known as the badlands. In a matter of months, that newspaper’s editor got a job in Saskatoon so I was ‘kicked upstairs’ to The Borderland Reporter editorship. Of course, I continued to write virtually all the articles besides doing some extra duties as editor but now I did it for a different newspaper although my boss remained the same.

This is how I came to write stories, including the following story, for The Borderland Reporter. It is a story that could have been entitled “Trust a Conservative to Protest Change”. Read on:

The Borderland Reporter

February 16, 1983

MP runs gas station

by Tanya Lester

Len Gustafson, Member of Parliament (MP) for Assiniboia, is one of 32 Conservative MPs involved in running an Ottawa station which serves gas in gallons rather than litres.

Operating the gas station on the imperial measurement system is a Conservative protest against the Liberal government’s method of enforcing metric conversion. “What we are opposed to is the fact that the government is forcing people to change to metric, Mr. Gustafson said.

Mr. Gustafson said the Conservative MP’s are not advocating a “roll back to gallons” although he pointed out there is some move away from litres and back to gallons in the United States.

The MP believes the government should “let those change who want to and allow the country to operate under both measurement methods”. He cited a case where a gas stations owner in Tribune, Saskatchewan had to close his station, the only one in town, because he could not afford to pay the $2500 to convert the gas pumps. A government inspector had told him it was mandatory to make the change.

Mr. Gustafson felt the Liberal government has reversed its original decision to allow people to make the change to metric on a voluntary basis without bringing their intentions to Parliament where the issue could have been debated.

To operate on both measurement systems in the world market does not pose a problem for large international dealers as to make the conversion between what a number of bushels would work out to in tonnes, for example, can be simply done with a chart, Mr. Gustafson said. 

The MP pointed out although the government has compelled grain elevators in the West to change the metric system, when the grain reaches the Lakehead it is still referred to in bushels.

The MP’s gas station is located in Carleton, 20 miles from Ottawa, and Mr. Gustafson said they already received $10,000 in donations which would be used in the event that the Liberal government takes them to court for breaking the law. One Winnipeg man who is opposed to the effects the metric switch would have on his lumber business contributed a $1,000 cheque, Mr. Gustafson said.


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Ferland saves Pioneer

May 2, 2014 

It is moving into that time of year when one of the best things that anyone can do for themselves in Canada is to drive across the glorious golden Canadian prairies. Punctuated with small and sometimes tiny Prairie communities, these towns and villages are like a home without a fireplace if they do not have at least one grain elevator. 

The grain elevator stands, like a lighthouse on the ocean, as a sentinel, guiding the weary traveller to a much needed gas and toilet break. The first grain was built in Manitoba in 1879 and by 1933 there were 5758 dotting the prairie landscape. Used for storing grain before being shipped on freight trains to sell, grain elevators and the number of them along the railway in each community indicated the size and prosperity of a community. 

With the constant decrease of rail lines has come the near-demise of grain elevators. Although many have been demolished, heritage groups on the Canadian prairies have been working to maintain some of these landmarks. This has resulted in saving some of the elevators. In Inglis, Manitoba, due to federal government support, the five elevators there have been declared a national historic site.

In the 1980s, I wrote an article about the people of the tiny Ferland, Saskatchewan village working together to save the grain elevator there:

Gravelbourg Gazette

January 12, 1983

Ferland saves Pioneer

by Tanya Lester

The Pioneer Grain Elevator in Ferland is still in operation due to the lobbying work done by the Ferland Elevator Retention Group.

Aime Fournier, the group’s president, said now that the Pioneer Elevator is continuing to operate in the town, there will be further pressure to increase the elevator’s grain handling to its 500,000 or 750,000 bushel capacity.

Mr. Fournier said the elevator is presently losing a third of its business because of inadequate grain storage facilities. He said younger farmers, who cannot afford to wait for grain sales, have been hauling their grain to other towns when there is no room at the Ferland elevator. 

Pioneer officials claim plans to increase the number of grain bins will get underway in the spring, Mr. Fournier said.

Originally, the Ferland Elevator Retention Group formed when Pioneer was planning to close the elevator in the town. “If we would have lost the elevator, then we would have lost the town,” Mr. Fournier said.

If the elevator had closed, the businesses in town would have lost income from the farmers. The town would have also lost the elevator taxes. Mr. Fournier and others did not want to lose the town where they were born and raised.

With the signatures of 39 farmers indicating their wishes to keep the elevator open, the Ferland Elevator Retention Group began talking with Pioneer officials.

Mr. Fournier said they told the officials if the elevator was closed, Ferland area farmers would boycott Pioneer elevators in any other town to which they would be forced to haul.

Mr. Fournier talked with Otto Lang, Pioneer vice-chair and finally told the president of Pioneer that he had a month to make a decision concerning the fate of the elevator. The farmers had already approached Cargill and N.M. Patterson to build an elevator in the town.

Finally, in February 1981, Pioneer decided to build a new elevator leg and move two elevators together to improve the grain storage capacity. New scales also added to the improvements. 

The “new” Pioneer elevator opened a year ago in February while the official opening was held in June. After seeing the elevator in operation for a year, Mr. Fournier said although improvements are still needed, it is “300 per cent better than what we had before.”


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Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader by Tanya Lester is available on where you can read the first few pages and/or purchase it. You can also buy the book from the author when she is in your community.

This is blog of the many articles published by and about me over several decades as a freelance writer and a tealeafreader/tarot reader/psychic.