Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Gimli - a Little Bit of History

'In 1875 a group of Icelandic immigrants who had arrived in [Canada] moved to the west shore of Lake Manitoba where they had been granted a reserve of land by the Canadian Government...The immigrants formed their own administration based on a centuries-long tradition of democratic government...The Republic of New Iceland was created.'

The Rural Municipality of Gimli was established in 1887.
'The early immigrants came full of hope for a new life of opportunities and settled the land made available through homestead rights. The free offer of a 1/4 section (64 acres) to common people, most of whom had never owned land was a major attraction. But there were many difficulties - dense bush, flies, field stones and harsh winters which had to be endured.'
Quotes from various historic markers.

The Icelanders brought their pagan religion with them and found many parallels and an affinity with the First Nations peoples' beliefs.
This Unitarian church, built in 1904, is the oldest in Gimli. It represents the shift to a Christian based religion yet at the same time, the raven's nest is left in the spire as a remembrance of the importance of the raven in old Norse mythology.

Inside the church, while admiring the contemporary stained glass window, Janis Arnason kindly explained to us the history of the window.
It illustrates the life of John J. Arnason, 1925 - 1989, a man who led the church - his first job as a strawberry picker, his restoration of the school, his building of a dam, his restoration of the church.

The restored school is now Gimli's town hall.

Wherever we went people were willing and able to explain to us the history of the area. Icelanders know their roots and know how they are connected to others in their community. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Icelandic Horses in Manitoba

Our 1st stop out of Winnipeg was to see Icelandic horses.

About 17 years ago 2 Arnason brothers decided to fulfill their father's dream to bring Icelandic horses to Canada. The catch was once a horse leaves Iceland it is never allowed to return so as to maintain the pure bloodline.
The brothers filled a plane with 87 horses and settled them on a specially built farm where they have flourished in the Canadian prairie climate. 
To read in more detail about the Arnason's Icelandic horse story click here

The farm manager, Sharon, our guide, has just released these horses from a coral out to a clover pasture. She can't leave them out there for too long or for too often because the clover is like candy for them.
Icelandic horses are known to thrive in harsh conditions, forage well for their own food, and grow a very thick coat in winter while living outside. Sharon said they puff up like teddy bears as soon as the weather turns cold.  They are the horse breed with the longest life span, up to 56 years. They are a breed with many other positive characteristics. Read what Wiki says here.
The Arnasons are rewilding their farm. Over the years they have noticed a lot more wildlife and a greater variety is visiting and passing through or is now living with the horses.

They are known for their gentle nature with humans and other animals. Over their long history, they have been used to herd sheep, carry very heavy loads for their size and with a rider cover great distances over uneven rocky ground with surefootedness at great speed. 
A unique feature of Icelandic horse is they have 5 gaits. While watching the video notice how large the rider is in comparison with the size of the horse which shows how strong this breed is. Also, note, once the horse is in the tolt gaits how smooth the ride is for the rider - the shoulders stay level. Check this video view here .
This video shows a magnificent horse capable of doing the super tolt view here 

Sharon with one of her favourite mares. This horse is a great mother and like her breed is a smart problem solver.

Mandy had an affinity with the horses being a horse rider herself.
Movies with lots of Icelandic horses: 
'Of Horses and Men' view trailer here
'Herd in Iceland' view trailer here

Saturday, November 12, 2016

2016 Study Session: In Winnipeg

Next stop in downtown Winnipeg was Mandy's fabulous studio.
After a tour we settled down to eat lunches we had picked up at some unique eateries around the corner.

Donna and Wendy walk on the rooftop to get a bird's eye view of central Winnipeg.

One could do a historical study of just Winnipeg's walls.

Just needs a 'bird on the wire'

Wendy, Mandy, Donna descending.