Wednesday, May 11

A Saskatchewan web development studio with sound grasp of SEO realms

It has often been said that web site search engine optimization is the best way to increase traffic in terms of value for investment. This is something I have always believed in through my web marketing efforts with Great Excursions. I spent much time since I launched the first generation of the Great Excursions website in 1999 generating new visits by making the website more attractive to search engines with a great deal of success, thanks in part to ongoing conversations with my friend and partner in SEO Mike Ritchie of North Battleford.

Mike runs M.R. Website Development Studio. His firm has designed countless websites for Saskatchewan companies and organizations, as his client list will attest. He has also acted as a consultant for a number of clients, including Great Excursions. I remember been referred to Mike by Clint Krismer who used to run Tourism Saskatchewan's website early on in my tourism career. I had asked Clint who in his opinion understood best SEO in the province, and that's how I came to be in touch with Mike Ritchie.

I was impressed by the insight Mike gained in creating and operating, a free charts and quotations website used by brokers around the world, on which advertising is sold through a major partner in the US. SEO was critical to the website's success then, just as it is today.
A conversation with Mike Ritchie is not one where off-the-shelf solutions are pitched to you right away, but rather, an investigation into how to build a website that will be optimized organically through its design. More importantly perhaps: how to built a website that does the job it is supposed to do... plain and simple.

It is hard to summarize a 13-year relationship into a short article, but I thought it might be worth letting people know that if you are ever looking for someone to take a look at your web products to explore new ways to improve their performance, you could do worse than give Mike Ritchie or any member of his team a call. To this day, I can't think of anyone in Saskatchewan with a more qualified appreciation of what a web presence can mean for businesses and organizations. These friendly Saskatchewan experts make a difference. 
Silicon Valley may be in Northern California, but there is no doubt in my mind that SEO Valley is located in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. 
This is a well-deserved plug by a fellow disciple of greater web marketing knowledge gained through hard work!

Tuesday, May 10

The Red and the Assiniboine Rivers deliver an impressive performance in Winnipeg at The Fork

With memories of the 1997 flood etched forever in my mind, I was rather anxious to see for myself where water levels were at last month on a family weekend trip to Winnipeg.

Well.. so much has changed in Winnipeg since the Great Flood.

Much preventive work has ensured a repeat of 1997 would not occur again. The City opened the floodway that very same weekend, to put suspicions of yet another Winnipeg flood to rest.

Knowing that all that water - at least that which flows into the Assiniboine - originates in part from the Qu'Appelle Valley in Saskatchewan - did not ease the weighy witewaterish notions back home that inspired colourful references to Regina's Mighty Wascana.


It was somewhat reasuring in the end to see disaster averted in Winnipeg. 

We are all hoping here in Saskatchewan that Brandon and Manitoba will make it through current challenges relatively unscathe.

Virtual visit of Claybank Brick Plant National Historic Site

All photos courtesy of Donald Telfer

Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation (SHF) board members and staff recently visited the Claybank Brick Plant National Historic Site/Lieu historique national du Canada de la briqueterie de Claybank, to meet with representatives of the Claybank Brick Plant Historical Society and monitor progress on on-going conservation efforts.

The SHF oversees conservation efforts in partnership with the Goverment of Saskatchewan, Parks Canada and the friends of Claybank at this best preserved historic brick plant in North America. Bricks fired here have made their way around the world. They were used to build the famous Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, the Bessborough Hotel in Saskatoon, the rocket launching pad at Cape Canaveral. They lined the fireboxes of steam locomotives and sailing vessels. They were a prized Saskatchewan product valued for their esthetic quality but, more specifically perhaps, as fine refractory bricks.

Every last Sunday in June (June 26 this year) the friends and volunteers organize a special Heritage Day of activities for the public featuring Saskatoon pie and a yearly brick pressing demonstration that earns rave reviews. For more information on the Claybank Brick plant, visit

The kilns at Claybank are simply amazing. A domed sructure, supported only by the weight of gravity and lateral forces holding and binding these tens of thousands of bricks together as an oven. It took a week to load green bricks such as the ones seen on the cart into the kiln. It took a week for the kiln to cool down sufficiently for the workers to take them out. It took five weeks in all to produce a brick from raw clay to finished product ready to be shipped out.

SHF Board Member Toos Giesen-Stefiuk of Gravelbourg takes stock of a recent artist's project.

Like many other families around Claybank, Hilda Maier is one of those key people who have made a difference through their involvement in the Claybank Brick Plant Historical Society. When I ran Great Excursions and took visitors to Claybank, she always made sure their experience was the best it could be. Hilda invests just as much passion and authentic character in the experience and activities offered today. Claybank is worth it!

Hilda Maier demonstrates how the brick press works. It'll be fired up on Heritage Day (June 26, 2011)

Hard to resist isn't it?

The brick plant maquette provides a good introduction to its context on the north slope of the Missouri Coteau.

With a heritage site, comes an impressive collection of historic wheelbarrows.... probably some of the oldest one left in Saskatchewan. One could stack up to 300 pounds of bricks onto one like this.

I like this view of the Claybank Brick Plant yard. There is no other place like this in North America.

You will notice in the background that the kilns are braced with steel that could could be tightened and loosened in response to temperature changes and resulting compressions/expansions of structural bricks through the firing process.

A happy bunch!