It seems there are Christmas Fairs going on at almost every corner in Charlottetown and in every town of any size here on the Island. Last weekend the Victorian Fair took up most of the weekend and a block of Queen Street, and just down the street the Murphy Centre was hosting another indoor fair.
Santa and Mrs Claus were at the street fair and there were free horse drawn wagon rides through town.
Red Adirondack chairs were set up around braziers where fires gave comforting smells and warmth to a coldish day. Many of the arts and crafts merchants from across the Island were there displaying their Christmas lines. And a few of the food venues offering cookies, cakes, sweets, savouries, and mulled cider for the holidays.
Amongst the jewellery, knitwear, handmade cards, woodwork, and stollen one tent in particular caught my eye: Cabin Fever Carving. Now as anyone who has read this blog with any regularity knows over the past few years I have developed an amateur’s appreciation of work from the North in bone, antler and natural materials. It was the use of those materials by carver Trudy Gilbertson that drew my attention to her stall. She creates unique jewellery, ornaments, and sculptures using those materials as her medium. Her time in Northern Canada, as best as I can figure from her Facebook profile as a warden with Parks Canada, shows in many of the pieces that she has created. They are echos of the Inuit carvings where the natural form of the material dictates the finished shape and use.
And wouldn’t you know it she just happened to have a few little baubles for the Christmas tree. Yes! Yes! YES! I know I said no more Christmas ornaments after last year’s fox but …. but…. hey get off my back I’m old enough to make my own decisions okay?
The camera (time for an iPhone X?????) didn’t quite capture all the facets of this piece carved from a shed antler with it’s very unusual shape. (A left click will enlarge the photos for a closer look.)
The ring effect is caused by the exterior hard bone and the interior porous bone – I’m not sure what created that small hole in the middle.
As I admired these newest additions to our never-decreasing collection I thought I’d do a bit of a search on antlers – what they are, how they grow, and why the heck they are there in the first place.
Antlers are true bone extensions of an animal’s skull found in members of the deer family. They are generally found only on males, with the exception of the caribou. In early spring two patches about as big a loonie appear on a buck’s head. Protected by a velvet-like thin skin that is a network of blood vessels and nerves they begin to produce bone cells at a rapid rate. A healthy buck’s antlers can grow by three quarters of an inch each day. If their bodies are not creating adequate calcium the deer will take the needed mineral from the non-supporting bones in its body.
In fall the velvet begins to shrink and gets incredibly itchy which is why deer can be seen rubbing their antlers against saplings and branches. Once the velvet has been shed their new head gear is revealed in all its glory and set to perform their primary functions: objects of sexual attraction and weapons in fights between males for control of harems. After mating season they’ve served their purpose, and besides they are heavy and a bit of a nuisance in manoeuvring through thickets and forest. So at some point during the winter, depending on location, they are shed – a process that can happen within a matter of hours. The cycle will begin again in the spring.
On this day in 1803: The Balmis Expedition starts in Spain with the aim of vaccinating millions against smallpox in Spanish America and Philippines.