Friday, 25 September 2020

Stormy Mountains

    Lately storms originating out in the Pacific have been moving into the Robson Valley.  They have created some dramatic looking clouds over the Cariboo Mountains.  Here are a few shots I took yesterday when we braved the weather and went for a walk.

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Thursday, 24 September 2020

The Cariboo Potato - Outlaw Spud

    Yesterday we needed some potatoes for supper, so I went out to the garden to dig some.  I usually plant a variety of potatoes, one variety in each row.  I always think I will remember which variety I planted in each row, but I never do.  Already this year I had dug some fingerling potatoes, and some reds, so yesterday I thought I would dig in another row to see what I had planted there.  I discovered it was the Cariboo potato, which we have nicknamed “Pintos,” because of their pink and yellowish piebald skin.

    “Cariboo” is a corruption of caribou, and the term refers to the high plateau in the center of BC.  Although the Robson Valley is not in the Cariboo, when I look out of our living room window we see the Cariboo Mountains which mark the eastern boundary of the Cariboo.  As you have probably guessed, this potato was named after BC’s Cariboo region, but it did not originate there.

    The spud was developed in the early 1960’s at a federal research center in New Brunswick.  It was then distributed to experimental potato farmers around Canada to see how it grew in different regions.  When it was planted in the Cariboo Region, it did really well and was given the Cariboo name.  However, just because it grew well, tasted great, was an excellent keepers, and was disease free, wasn’t enough for the Ministry of Agriculture, they banned the growing of the Cariboo potato in 1976.   What horrible thing caused this potato to be banned you ask.

    It seems that the potato plant, which grew quite high above ground, clung to its underground tuber more than the federal officials liked.  The long potato plant clogged up the mechanical diggers when harvested, so the potato was banned.

     It didn’t matter that it was still a great potato for hand harvesting in the home garden and I have never had a problem with it clinging to the rest of the plant, but nevertheless,  it was decertified, and not allowed to be sold.  The Cariboo potato started to disappear rapidly.

    However, Jerry LeBourdais, a rebel farmer in Williams Lake, BC got wind of the banning and it got his dander up.  The banning made him want to grow the outlaw spud.  He unsuccessfully asked around trying to find some to plant, then in 1984 at a horticultural show in Prince George, John Ryser, one of those people Jerry LeBourdais had asked, came upon some and grabbed “four or five” and gave them to Jerry, who started growing them.

    Excuse the pun, but growing the Cariboo potato became and “underground” movement and slowly people shared the variety with other gardeners and the Cariboo spread.  Years ago, I was given a few of the Cariboo’s from Pete, our local gardening expert and heritage plant propagator.  I planted them, and they did well.  I always saved some for planting the next year and they have become one of my favorite potatoes.

    Like I have said, I always plant a handful of potato varieties.  Some year the reds do well, some year they are a disaster, same with the other varieties.  The Cariboo’s seem to do well consistently, although one year I almost lost them.  I don’t remember if it was because they didn’t grow well, or if we ate too many and didn’t save some for planting, but the next year I discovered that I had none to plant and  I was really upset.  I asked Pete, and he didn’t have any either.

    Fortunately, a few Cariboo volunteers came up in my garden.  I made sure I didn’t eat any, but saved them to plant the following year.  Slowly over the following years, their numbers increased, and now I have enough for two rows.

    I was happy yesterday when I broke into the row to discover that they had produced some nice sized tubers, despite all of the rain which waterlogged my garden.

    I hope the variety continues its spread, especially in the BC Interior.

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Wednesday, 23 September 2020

The Bog

    We live on what geologist would called the “Toe of the Slope”.   Mountains are mostly made up of a steep slope, that ends at the valley bottom, and there at the base of the mountain is the Toe, an area that is gently sloping.   One of the characteristics of he Toe of the Slope is an abundance of water close to  the surface.  It becomes quite obvious in our outhouse every Spring.

    On our neighbor’s property there is a boggy depression that also fills up with water each spring.  I sometimes see a pair of ducks there swimming around in the shallow water.  The water generally disappears and the area become large patch of moss during the summer.  

    Our trail passes by one end of the bog area and I was surprised the other day when I was re-clearing the trail to see the bog completely filled with water, which is quite unusual for this time of year.  I assume that the huge amount of rain that fell over the Spring and Summer has slowly been flowing underground down the slope of the mountains and has surfaced in the bog. 

    The bog is not in an area that receives surface water from a creek, it is like a spring that only fills when there is an excess of water.

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Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Welcome to Fall

    When the term “beautiful day” is mentioned, my mind often congers up a sunny day in Autumn, dry after a hot summer, the trees decked out in brilliantly colored leaves, and the sun brightly shining with a gentle warmth.  Unfortunately our first day of Autumn doesn’t quite rise to that ideal.

    As if we didn’t get enough rain already this year, when we turned the page to Autumn, the plot looks  the same.  The leaves are starting to turn, but there is not much brilliance in their color.  A lot of the Cottonwood trees have already ditched their leaves, without bothering to put on much of a show.

    Although the forecast for the week paints a picture that is wet and gray, I will try to maintain optimism and hope for something closer to my ideal.

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Monday, 21 September 2020

Reminded of Mcintosh Our Dog

    Yesterday I brushed out the upper third of our old trail through the neighbor’s woods.  The Thimbleberries had obscured most of the trail, so at times it was really difficult to see where the trail went.  As I got to some of the places I hadn’t been for a long time, memories of our dog McIntosh began flooding back to me.  (The photo above shows Mac on the trail as it was in 2014, when we used it once or twice every day.)  

    Mac a sheepdog, loved to be out in the woods on our walks.  He would catch a scent of some wild critter, and off he would go, completely turning off his brain to everything except pursuing that smell.  This drove us crazy, because he wouldn’t hear us no matter how loud we yelled at him to stop.

    Although a bit of a wimp, he nevertheless treed bears and chase deer out of the yard, but he was an extremely gentle-natured dog, who one time carried a very young rabbit in his mouth to me, completely unharmed.  Another time when some chickens got out and I was chasing them, he caught one and brought it to me, again carrying it gently in his mouth.

    I loved and miss that goofy big dog, and sure wish we had another dog to share our lives with.

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Sunday, 20 September 2020

Smoke, Fog, or Smog?

    It was dark and gloomy when we got up, and even though it lightened a bit it remains gloomy.  The smoke that was supposed to have dissipated yesterday didn’t, and even though I couldn’t smell it when I went for my early morning walk down the trail, I suspect that it still makes up a good part of whatever is obscuring the mountains.  

    I have been a bit underwhelmed at my morning walks.  I expected that I might encounter some kind of wildlife or interesting plant, but so far I haven’t even seen a squirrel.   The most exciting thing I saw today was the smog.

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Saturday, 19 September 2020

Always the Wrong Screwdriver

    I am constantly having to drive in screw or unscrew one.  This happens all over.  Yesterday I was up on a ladder putting in a light fixture on the ceiling of my shop, but I could have been under the house in the depth of the crawlspace dealing with the plumbing, or out working on some minor problem with the truck, but wherever I am, if the task requires a screwdriver, I inevitably have taken the wrong one along with me, and have to go find the right one.

    In most of the world there are usually just two choices; a regular flat bladed one (on the left), or the Phillips (in the center).  I didn’t realize until I moved to Canada that there is also a third type, the Robertson (on the right).  So I have three to deal with, and of course all three come in various sizes, which further complicate my life.

    Robertson screws are very common in Canada.  They are the easiest to screw because normally the screw will stick on the tip of the Robertson screwdriver so you only need one hand to position the screw, and the Robertson screwdriver isn’t prone to slip or strip the screw head when being driven.

    If the Robertson screw is so good, you might wonder why it isn’t used more widely in the world.  It is because,  Robertson the Canadian inventor, refused to expand his invention out of Canada after being stung when he tried to manufacture in Britain.  

    Anyway, in my world there are these three types of screws (there are several other kinds, but I generally don’t have to deal with them) and I always have the wrong screwdriver along with me, and have to interrupt my work flow to go and get the correct screwdriver to continue the job.

    If you want to know more about the history of the screw, I found this interesting video:

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