Hi all, and thanks for checking in.   It’s been an action packed year thus far, and there is much to update you on. Before I can get to the fun stuff like CAVOK updates though, I have one last client project to finish up, which will hopefully be done by the end of the month.   So, there are updates forthcoming, please pop back for a look in early August!    Alternately, you can get updates by email when I do post, by sending me your email address in the Keep up to date section to the left side of the page.  See you soon!



I’ve been putting a fair bit of effort in to surrounding myself with French language media and conversation as I begin the learning process.  While I’m still quite hopelessly lost with conversational French, the sounds are becoming more familiar and some vocabulary is starting to stick…  Bateau, ciseau..   :)

Having popped down to the US to see some family over the Christmas break has somewhat short-circuited this habit though, so now that the festivities are complete, I’ve repaired to a cafe to soak my ears in my French only Spotify playlist.  In researching some new songs and artists to grow the list today, I came across this Wikipedia entry about Wade Hemsworth, the composer of an old Canadian Favourite, The Log Driver’s Waltz, and I was pleased to learn that there’s even a French version, translated by Philippe Tatartcheff that’s just as beautiful as the English one that you may well know, and will most certainly love!

And as youtube does so well, it was followed up shortly by this beauty from Félix Leclerc:

For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of hearing the other version of The Log Driver’s Waltz:

And as an added bonus, we’ll finish off with another Wade Hemsworth tune about yet another very Canadian tradition..  The Black Fly

I hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday season filled with good food, and your favourite people. You, my favourite people, scattered about this beautiful globe were here with me in spirit and in my thoughts.  Be well friends!   –J

Somehow I think this may be more entertaining for you if you can share in a little of my pain.   Or pleasure. I’m unsure which at the moment.

I bought a new book today, and I’d love to share the passage I’m memorizing at the moment.

(oh, and for giggles, I’ve added a good clickbait title to really encourage your views!)


Went for a wander about Quebéc today with a really lovely French couple that’ve been staying here at the same airbnb. Such a spectacular location, and good people (along with some tasty food) made for a wonderful day. I’m not much for words tonight, but this city is stunningly beautiful and deserves a proper exploration.


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The last few weeks have been well spent exploring Montréal and looking for a place to hang my hat this winter. I’ve done some research in to language schools, and will be looking at getting that set up for the new year.

In the meantime, I’ve headed up to Québec City to do a quick one week course to get my head in shape to start this part of the learning journey.

More on this later, but for now, a mostly pictoral post. A few images from the very beautiful drive between Montréal and Québec.

After an evening of really great conversation yesterday, I popped back in to my room and started to organize the some of the tools and equipment that my dear friend Ashley was kind enough to ship to me. I’ve been enjoying the small leather projects I’ve been doing, but I’m looking forward to building some bigger and more complex creations.

I’ve been having trouble locating my sewing needles in the tool bag though, so I made this needle pouch with a couple of pieces of scrap leather.   I’ve spaced and punched all of these holes by hand, and I’m really happy with how consistent the stitching turned out.  (ignore the extra holes on the left side, that was just leftover from something else and I wasn’t concerned about including it in something so utilitarian!) Rather than having to stitch more vertical lines to tighten up the pocket, I applied a light coat of rubber cement inside the pouch and then pushed the needles and awl tips in and creates a secure storage spot to keep them together.

I also built that D-Ring strap which will be used in a later project to secure the ring.  The similarly shaped piece of leather in the background was, err, practice. :)

hand stitched needle pouch made from scrap leather

hand stitched needle pouch made from scrap leather

Also, a little bonus for you.  I managed to misplace the camera for a few days, but here are a few shots of my drive in from Ottawa through the really lovely Quebec countryside.  The day was a bit grey, but the road along the St. Lawrence river was really enjoyable.  The scale of the infrastructure projects out here is only matched by the scale of the natural features they’re harnessing.  this river is huge, and the dam that plugs it demands a lock to allow boating traffic access to both sides.

A lock and hydroelectric dam on the St. Lawrence River

A lock and hydroelectric dam on the St. Lawrence River

A lock and hydroelectric dam on the St. Lawrence River

A lock and hydroelectric dam on the St. Lawrence River

The area is filled with beautiful old churches too

Church in Southern Quebec

Church in Southern Quebec

Out of curiosity, I stopped at a cemetery along the way. Not sure what I was expecting, I was surprised by the large number of English, Scottish, and even German names featured on the stones.

Mary Graham - Headstone at a cemetery in Southern Quebec

Mary Graham – Headstone at a cemetery in Southern Quebec

Ross, McPhee, and Nichols - Headstone at a cemetery in Southern Quebec

Ross, McPhee, and Nichols – Headstone at a cemetery in Southern Quebec

John McPhaden - Headstone at a cemetery in Southern Quebec

John McPhaden – Headstone at a cemetery in Southern Quebec

Samuel Webster - Headstone at a cemetery in Southern Quebec

Samuel Webster – Headstone at a cemetery in Southern Quebec


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I’ve just had a great facebook discussion with a bunch of old buddies from back in my college days, and these two videos surfaced.   Thankfully I haven’t been pictured doing anything incredibly stupid.   I can’t say the same for others..

Some of the crew got lit up and went parasailing in Mexico.  When they returned they bought a surplus military parachute and waited for a day that was colder than -40ºC (which also happens to be about -40ºF for you Amerikafolk).

Then there was a day of motorcycle ridiculousness out on the farm.  Again, (and thankfully), I was really new to motorcycles and aside from a brief helmet-free cameo, most of the stupidity was undertaken by others.

Thanks to @EdmontonPaul for posting these reminders of the sheer amount of luck we used up as youngfolk. And thanks to the rest of you for making those some pretty incredible days.

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It only seems fitting after commemorating the vicious  cost of war that I should leave Ottawa with a little nod to a symbol of peace. Over the (ahem) tail end of last week, I had the great fortune to take a course at the Ottawa City Woodshop with the Minimalist Woodworker, Vic Tessalin (Shameless plug, buy his new book here!).  The course focused on the essential basics of woodworking right from the theory side of woodworking (there’s a surprising amount of detail to be learned here) to the cutting my first-ever dove tail joints and the making of a small wooden box.

Vic’s knowledge, experience and passion for woodworking made the course engaging and extremely informative. On the third day, after learning some theory and seeing the skills demonstrated, the class proceeded to saw, chisel and (in my case) hack away at some small pre-cut pieces of pine.   Coached along by Vic and some additional help from Mike from the Woodshop we proceeded to construct our boxes.

I’m really pleased with the result, and to add another skill to my inventory.  I’ve been doing pretty rudimentary carpentry for years, but proper joinery is something that fascinates me.   The most beautiful part of this is that aside from a couple of electric saw cuts to get all of our materials ready (en mass), this whole project was done with hand tools.   As I read and watch more tutorials I’m steadily realizing that hand tools are an far sight faster when you’re building custom pieces.   The tendency to pull out a table saw, skill saw, or sander to build simple stuff is huge, and especially for beginners, they’re far less intimidating than something like a hand plane..  Which really is counter-intuitive..

Let me tell you though, making shavings with a hand plane is OH-so satisfying..   Sooooo much satisfy…

Made a dovetailed box at the Ottawa City Woodshop. This is the final product, and I'm super pleased with how it turned out.

Made a dovetailed box at the Ottawa City Woodshop. This is the final product, and I’m super pleased with how it turned out.

Seriously, if you’re in, near or travelling past Ottawa any time soon, go take a course.. These guys are awesome!

But wait, there’s more..

So, I’ve got to confess.   While I’ve been on a bit of a minimalism kick lately, I’ve been finding myself going a little stir-crazy without having tools to make, build and create..   I’m waiting on some of my stuff to arrive from Calgary, and that will help, but I couldn’t help myself any longer, so I tracked down Zelikovitz Leathers in Ottawa, and bought some basic supplies to do a bit of leather work. I tried to get stuff  that I didn’t already have, and now I’ll have a pretty well rounded kit when the rest gets here.  It’s also worth mentioning that the ladies at the shop were incredibly helpful and very friendly and I’ll definitely be back when I’m through town again. I did find leather prices quite a bit more expensive than my favourite shop in Calgary (Buckskin Leather) but their selection of equipment and tools was awesome..

I’ve wanted to build myself a wallet for a while, and never quite got around to doing it, so after the woodshop course was done last night, I stayed up a bit late and built one..  I’m super-pleased with the result of this one too.   My stitching is a bit askew at the corner, but overall it seems to hold my cards really well, and I’m super pleased with the Zelikovitz brand Midnight Blue leather dye.  It’s water based, and super-easy to clean up for a sloppy maker like this guy!

A day of Creativity, new wallet and my first-ever dovetailed box.

A day of Creativity, new wallet and my first-ever dovetailed box.

I even made a sheath for the stitching chisel that I picked up Zelikovitz; these are an in-house brand and super sharp!

(Sorry about the colour on this photo, I’m trying to get this post published and well, the colour correction department is on holiday..)

Made a sheath for my perforating chisel.

Made a sheath for my perforating chisel.


As my learning journey here in Ontario begins, I have left the wonderful home of my hosts Dave and Simone, and headed for Ottawa in time to attend the Remembrance Day ceremonies in our nation’s capital, Ottawa. This journey is as much about learning new skills as it is about understanding what it is to be Canadian, and I feel that spending time in this part of the country is essential to achieving a more complete understanding of the latter.

In my youth, and as a member of an Air Cadets squadron I participated in more than a few wreath laying ceremonies. Back then we unquestioningly donned woolen socks, long sweaters and trench coats to parade in frigid temperatures at a variety of cenotaphs and war memorials to honour our fallen soldiers. At the time, it seemed a tiny sacrifice in comparison to the one we were saluting.

Since those days, I’ve seen much more of the world, and acquired what I hope is a more complete understanding of how the world operates. It’s also my hope that I’ve developed a bit more wisdom, and the capability to think for myself.  I’ve long struggled with the oft repeated message “lest we forget” and with every year that passes my frustration grows.  My hope with attending the ceremony here was to connect with what it means to Canadians, or Canadians in the capital, or even just what it means. I went with an open mind.

I watched as men, women and an assortment of teenagers in pointy hats, and fuzzy hats, and circular hats, and floppy hats all marched past me.  I listened to the conversation of college students, home makers, and retired military personnel that surrounded me in the crowd.  We all watched as dignitaries showed up for their duties, but it wasn’t until the parade of veterans arrived that I realized how empty these words we utter so repeatedly really are.

I grew up in a time when the number of WWI & II veterans was dwindling and Korean war vets were also in short supply; Cypress was but a textbook memory.  Every year of parade saw less veterans and smaller ceremonies. It was almost a mark of pride that we had none to replace them as they died of old age.  What shocked me with the Ottawa parade was the number of young veterans present. As I watched them march past, the realization that we have indeed ignored the message hit me full-force.  We here in Canada (aided by our international partners no doubt) have come up with increasingly effective and stupid ways of wasting human life, destroying families and muddying our name internationally.

In my criticism, I never want to undermine the efforts, and the legitimate sacrifices that our military personnel have all made in their various deployments, but I do question the reason for most deployments in recent history. I’ve always believed that military should primarily be a defence force, and as a Canadian I’ve sat back and watched our military be converted to an international aggressive police force as a result of political posturing.  I do have great hopes for our new government, and a new era of peaceful international behaviour. Time will tell whether this will change.

With that, I shall step down from my soap box, and share some images of the day’s activities.

First, the plethora of service branches represented today:

The people keeping us safe today.   The real heroes of the day were really the paramedics, who saved countless soldiers from the inevitable consequences of standing perfectly still for long periods of time.  Those who haven’t tried it, ought to before judging. Without practice, it’s an incredibly difficult task.

Also, the snipers.  Probably more there for the Prime Minister than for us as spectators.


Veteran service dogs were well represented in the crowd today too.

Veteran service dog

And a few shots of the tomb of the unknown soldier, surrounded by onlookers laying poppies.  The wreaths were laid at the base of an enormous stone and cast sculpture depicting our troops charging in to battle.

On the lighter side, I caught my first glimpse and took a tour of our Parliament building today:

The Parliament Building in Ottawa, Canada

The Parliament Building in Ottawa, Canada

And had my first ever beaver tail. Yes, they’re delicious, and no, I’m not going to share.

Well, okay, maybe if you ask nicely. :)

A cinnamon and sugar beaver tail. The classic, and a very Canadian experience.

A cinnamon and sugar beaver tail. The classic, and a very Canadian experience.

Overall, it was an interesting day spent surrounded by a people united.  I’ve not managed to get any closer to reconciling my feelings on the ceremony but I’ve added another experience in my quest to understand what this place is all about.

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I’ve been posting a lot to facebook lately.  It’s easy.  And it has a way of drawing me back in despite cavok.com being my preferred method of communication.  I have a post coming up about my time in Harlan, Kentucky, and the time I spent with my good friend J.D. Napier there. I had the incredible fortune to meet J.D. after getting myself completely lost on my first trip to Harlan.   More on that later, but for now a quick shot of us together with the Giant Blacksmith’s Anvil J.D. has constructed right there on site.

J.D. Napier and Jordan with the world's biggest anvil?

J.D. Napier and Jordan with the world’s biggest anvil?


For now though, I’d like to record a few thoughts from today’s trip toward Chicago while they’re still fresh in my mind.  Parts of this are pulled from a facebook post, and I’ve added a few things in too..

A chilly start in Harlan, KY

A chilly start in Harlan, KY

Had an incredible day out on the move today. Leaving Harlan this morning, fog coated the fall coloured forest on Pine mountain, and filled the Hollows beneath. The air was frigid and numbed my face as it flowed over ThirstyGirl’s windshield. Riding over the gently curving mountain roads, I experienced a moment of pure joy that I’ve not felt in decades. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I yelled whoops of pure elatement in to my helmet visor. I’d set a camera up on the motorcycle fender to capture that section of the ride, but it ended up not recording so you’ll have to take my word that it was one of the most incredibly beautiful scenes I’ve encountered in my lifetime.

Martins Fork, Harlan KY in the early morning

Martins Fork, Harlan KY in the early morning

Headed for Chicago, I had the incredible fortune to catch up with some incredible people. First a coffee and an ever so short visit with my good friend Jeff Ross in Barbourville.

Jordan and Jeff at The Ugly Mug

Jordan and Jeff at The Ugly Mug

And another stop for lunch with an awesome dude, Chase Satterwhite in Lexington. (Oops, we should have grabbed a photo too..) It was fantastic to catch up with both of you guys, and I appreciate your taking the time out for a visit today. That was icing on the cake.

Bedded down in Lafayette, Indiana and managed to get the last room in the hotel.. The Presidential Suite. Oh yeaaahh… The only thing this room is missing is a special someone to share it with. Given the epic nature of today’s trip, I’ll concede this isn’t a total necessity!

I feel as though I do lead a charmed life, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to truly appreciate it. I’m filled with gratitude for everything that I’ve experienced today and leading up to today.

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