Saturday 31 August 2013

The Dahlias Keep on Blooming

    While its a pain to have to dig up the dahlia bulbs every fall and store them under the house to keep them from freezing, and then replant them every spring, the flowers that result sure make the effort worth it.  Here are some the dahlia blooms we are presently enjoying.

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Friday 30 August 2013

The Golden Spruce

    I have a horrible memory when it comes to remembering people’s names.  Half a second after being introduced to someone, I am standing there trying to remember what their name is.  I find it very interesting therefore, that I remember the name of a person who came into the forestry office in 1987 to get some maps.
    I was the guy who was in charge of maps.  Whenever someone wanted maps of the area around McBride, it was usually me they came to see.  I can’t remember what maps this 39 year old man wanted, I don’t really remember anything about the encounter.
    He was doing some kind of work for the local mill, probably logging road layout or timber cruising.  I must have talked to him for a while about other things too, and there must have been something I found interesting about that forgotten conversation, because even though I never met him again, 10 years after this brief meeting I still remembered his name:  It was Grant Hadwin.
    At that time, growing on the shore beside a big river on Haida Gwaii (formally known as Queen Charlotte Island) which is off the wild BC Pacific coastline, there grew a big sitka spruce tree.  It was 300 years old and 50 meters tall.  That is not unusually huge for the area, but unlike other sitka spruce, this one had golden colored needles.  Even though it had this mutation, that should have been fatal, it seemed to thrive.  Because it stood out, against the sea of green trees, it became something of great spiritual importance to the Haida people, it became a mascot for the local town, and MacBlo, (a giant forest company), even made a bit of a reserve around it, as they clearcut most of the other forests around the area.
    Even though I was totally unaware of the “Golden Spruce” tree, I and most of the people in BC, were shocked on Jan, 22, 1997 to hear the news that someone had swam across the river in the middle of the night with a chainsaw and cut down the Golden Spruce.  I was even more disturbed later when I heard that the RCMP had charged someone named Grant Hadwin with the deed.
    I often wondered if it was the same Grant Hadwin I had met in the forestry office, but I was never   able to find out.  Last weekend on our bus trip back from the wedding in the Ancient Forest, I was talking to Naomi, our librarian, and she mentioned that the man who had been in charge of our local lumber mill had been interviewed by John Vailant, the author of the book, “The Golden Spruce.”  This of course, really spurred my curiosity and that night I downloaded the book from the library onto my iPad and began reading.
    Here is what I learned:  It was the same Grant Hadwin.  He had become very disillusioned with all of the logging that was eradicating BC of its old growth forests especially on the coast of BC.  He was sort of a superman when it came to his physical abilities, his capabilities to do layout work for forest companies, and his toughness when it came to living out in the wilderness.  He took a layout job for the McBride lumber mill, and the mill was very pleased with his work.  
    He then took 10 days off, went up to live on a mountain near McBride, and when he came down he was changed.  He had some kind of mystic experience, his former “sins” were forgiven, and he was “chosen” by the “creator of all life” to show humanity the error of their ways.
    When he returned to work, there was something spooky about his eyes, and when he told the mill manager that what they were doing was wrong; he was let go, and disappeared from the area, but it seems that maybe something had been planted in his head while on the local mountain, and set him off in a direction that would forever link his name with infamy and mystery.  He never made it to his court hearing, and no one is quite sure if he is dead or alive.
    “The Golden Spruce” is a very interesting read, and is full of facts about BC’s coast and Grant’s unusual life.  I found it’s references to McBride of special interest, of course, but it was full of facts  about BC’s history, biology, and its forest industry.
    I read through my 1987 diary to see if I had written down anything about Grant Hadwin, but  I found nothing.  I sure wish I could remember what we had talked about.  Like hime, I felt the same  about the forest industry, and assume that was the common ground we discussed, but I don’t honestly remember.  It sad that he did what he did, alienated environmentalist, logging companies, natives, and most of BC by his act of needlessly destroying a unique part of the natural world, in his attempt to show the hypocrisy of the forest industry saved one special tree while wiping whole mountainsides and valleys of others.

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Thursday 29 August 2013

The Bear is Back

    Yesterday, while I was waiting for my blog to upload, I decided to go out and check on our new chickens.  While I was out there I hear the crack of branches, then noticed the foliage at the edge of our barnyard, along the road, shaking and swaying.  When I went to get a closer look, I saw that our local bear had returned, and was stuffing himself with the berries growing there.  I recognized it from the bib of white fur on his chest.
    Despite the damage that it sometimes does, it is a good bear.  It is very wary of people.  Once, the day after returning from a vacation, I was outside and this bear, used to our absence, came strolling nonchalantly down our driveway toward me.  He hadn’t noticed me at all, so I yelled and waved my arms, and he looked up surprised, and turned and hightailed it away.
     Yesterday, I just quietly took the photos, and left him undisturbed to bulk up for winter.  One of the things I really like about living in the Robson Valley is seeing all the wildlife.

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Wednesday 28 August 2013

Getting Chickens

    Those of you who have been worrying about the mental health of our lone chicken, can stop worrying.  Our hen now has some more company; five more hens have been added to our flock.
    I think it is interesting how things always seem to fall into place.  We told some friends about our lonely chicken, and how we were going to have to get a couple more chickens to keep her company.  They mentioned that a friend of theirs had just gotten some new chickens from Monica.  Hearing that we figured that Monica might be a good source for some young chickens.
     Monica’s phone number wasn’t in the book, but Joan was able to get it from another friend.  I gave Monica a call yesterday afternoon and she told us to come on out to her place, so that is what we did.  What a treat to see her farm.  When we pulled up to her yard, a menagerie of animals ran in all directions.  There were ducks, turkeys, sheep, and chickens of all manner of breeds, all free-ranging in the yard.  Because there was such a wide variety of breeds there was something of interest to see everywhere I looked.  The photo shows one small cluster of what I saw.
    Monica has been slightly overwhelmed with an exploding population of farm animals, and was happy to pass some on to a good home.  Because they were all out roaming around, it wasn’t possible to catch any during our visit, so she told us she would wait until that night, when they had settled down to roost, then she would pick some out and bring them to town and drop them off (I was at the music jam night at the library).
    That is what happened, except that I ended up with five young hens of various colors, because I couldn’t make up my mind which ones to take.  For payment, Monica ask me to make a donation to the library, which I did, and so last night, after the jam session, I brought the new chickens home to their new house.  
    It is always a bit shocking when you see the reality of grouping new animals together.  I always assume they will be happy to meet each other, but generally, there is a lot of posturing and aggression.  I didn’t let the new birds out of the cage until this morning, when everyone was still a bit dozy, so there wasn’t any fireworks then.  At present, the all seem tolerant of each other, with our hen at one end of the run and the newcomers huddled at the other end.  I hope they all eventually become friends.

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Tuesday 27 August 2013

My Latest Painting: "Burn Pile"

    I mentioned yesterday how disgusted I get when I see big piles of trees wastefully burned.  That is exactly what was happening in this painting.  At least it did give off some bright and interesting colors as it was turned into carbon.  Only someone who lives around logging knows the tremendous waste that results.
   It was the oranges, reds, and yellows, contrasted by grays and blues that attracted me to this image.  I also like the waves of heat that distorted what was going on.  
    I began painting this picture  in April, 2013.  It took me 86 hours to paint.  It is acrylic on canvas. The size is 18” x 24” (46 cm x 61 cm).
    I do show my daily progress on a painting in the “Current Work” section at the top of the page at my website.  For your interest, below is the photo I used as the basis of this painting.

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Monday 26 August 2013

The Ancient Forest

    One of the things that attracted me to the area around McBride was the cedar forests.  The dark forests created by huge cedar trees always made me feel like I had time traveled back to some primeval time.  Unfortunately, these forests were disappearing rapidly under the chainsaw, and there was a tense struggle between loggers and those wanting to save some of the remaining stands.
    Some of the cedar forests are now protected, and one: The Ancient Forest, has become a popular stop for the tourists who are traveling along Hwy. 16, between McBride and Prince George.  Thanks to the many hours spent by local volunteers and some dedicated academics, who spent time lobbying and building trails, the Ancient Forest is now out there allowing the public to experience an extremely rare ecosystem.
    The Pacific coastline forests that run from Northern California, through Oregon, Washington, BC. and Alaska are all classified as Coastal Rain Forests.  The moist air coming off of the Pacific is cooled as it is forced over the mountains along the coast.  When the air cools the moisture condenses and a lot of rain falls.  This results in forests full of giant sequoia, red cedar, spruce, and Douglas fir trees.  The forests of these huge trees are common along the coast.
    We have forests very similar to the coastal rain forests, here in the area between McBride and Prince George, but this isolated area lies 800 km away from the coast.  The Ancient Forest is classified as an “Temperate Inland Rain Forest” and it is unique in the world.  The trees are fed by a permanent underground flow of water which streams down the mountain slopes.  It is thought that there has never been a forest fire in this forest.  It is impossible to age these trees because they are hollow in the center but it is estimated that they are between 1,000-2,000 years old.
    As I walked through the Ancient Forest on Saturday, I could still see the blue stripes of paint on some of the trees, which marked the boundary of the area to be logged.  It is extremely fortunate that the logging was stopped.  Logging these huge cedars is so extremely wasteful, because most of them are decayed in the center and they shatter into many pieces when they are felled.  So the logging company gets a small amount of useable wood from the total volume of the forest (at an extremely cheap price because it is considered ‘salvage” logging) and all of the massive amounts of debris left on the ground is piled and burned.  It always horrified me to see all the waste wood go up in smoke.
    Anyway, the good news is that this small area was saved from the saw, and it is now an inspirational place where the public and go and be humbled by these incredibly giant living things.
    The photos show Joan beside a couple of the giants.

See my painting "Cedar" at:

Sunday 25 August 2013

A Wedding in the Ancient Forest

    Most of my activities yesterday revolved around the marriage of two friends.  I have never enjoyed a marriage ceremony and the accompanying festivities more.  Micah and Bob decided to have their marriage in the Ancient Forest, a stand of 1,000-2,000 year old cedars that is located an hour west of McBride on Hwy. 16.  Dwarfed by the towering giants that surrounded them, the couple took their vows while family and friends stood in awe of their surroundings and enjoyed the warm camaraderie of the group.
    The wedding was a whole day of well organized and coordinated activities.  Because the Ancient Forest is some distance from Dunster and McBride, a school bus was hired for transportation.  It had been a really long time since I had ridden on a school bus, and it was an enjoyable beginning to the day’s main event.  Having everyone in the bus, galvanized the group and made everything feel more like an adventure, than it would have been, if everyone would have traveled alone in a car to get there.   People socialized and chatted along the way as we bumped along the highway to the Ancient Forest.  
    Micah’s bridal bouquet (a beautiful hand picked display of local flowers with carrot tops for greenery) made the bus trip in a mason jar.  Some one decided that every time the bus traveled over one of the many bridges along the highway, the jar and flowers were passed to someone in the seat behind.  Thus lots of people had to take the responsibility to carrying the bouquet and guess who it was handed to at the last bridge we crossed.  Yep, it was me carrying it off of the bus, and everyone  asked me if I was the flower girl.
    Everyone then threw their day packs over their shoulders, and as they entered the forest, the cameras came out and photo after photo was taken of the monstrous cedars as we walked the trail to the “Giant Tree” where the ceremony was to be held.  As we quietly made our way, the hush of the forest was occasionally interrupted by a muffled “boom” in the distance.  As we approached the Giant Tree we discovered the source of the booming.  Bob, who is a drummer, had a big bass drum carried up to the site, and as the guests arrived they stopped ,signed, and wrote their best wishes on the skin of the giant drum.
    Bob endeared everyone, when Micah, his bride to be arrived, and he said, “I can’t wait until the end of the ceremony,” and he planted a big kiss on Micah.  The whole event was very easy going and informal, and I was very touched by the whole thing.
    Most everyone hiked the loop to the waterfalls, and when we arrived back to the parking lot, a bit peckish and hot, there was a tableful of sandwiches, wraps, chips, slices of watermelon, and cold cans of pop, to re-nourish us.
    Once everyone was done stuffing themselves, we got back on the bus for more socializing as we traveled back to McBride where we got off and went home for a few hours of resting until the 6:00 wedding dinner which took place at Dunster.  Again, everything was well organized, the food was delicious, and a big bonfire was set to warm us as the evening began to chill.  I was made aware of my lack of coordination, when everyone was dragged from their chairs around the fire and coerced into join the circle dancing.
    The finale to the day was an impressive firework display that lit up the dark sky.  The whole day was a pleasure and a very enchanting day.  I was so happy to be a part of Bob and Micah’s wedding, and I hope that their lives together will be as in enjoyable as the day they provided for us.

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Saturday 24 August 2013

Strange Chicken Behavior

    Sadly, we are now down to one chicken.  A week ago, we found a couple of piles of feathers in the yard, and then later, the corpse of her partner in the woods.  We have been feeling sorry for our lone chicken, and last night as we watched it, we noticed that it was exhibiting some rather bizarre behavior.
    We were sitting on our lanai with a friend and we all watched as our chicken waddled over to my pickup truck, then suddenly, flew up and landed on the truck’s hood (or bonnet).  This certainly didn’t seem like a very friendly environment for a chicken.  All its surfaces were hard and slippery.  At first I thought that maybe it had discovered the bodies of dead insects up there and flew up to eat the ones on the windshield and vent.   The chicken certainly spent time pecking around on the windshield and vent.
    She then spent some time trying to stand on the windshield wipers.  I wondered if she felt comforted by seeing her reflection in the windshield, thinking it was another chicken to keep her company.  Later in the evening, Joan noticed that the chicken was still there on the truck, like it was where she had decided to roost for the night.  
    Her behavior is a mystery, and will probably remain so forever.  It did make us start thinking about getting her another chicken for company though.

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Friday 23 August 2013

Snitching Food From Others

    I don’t know what is wrong with all the animals around here, they all eat the food that was meant for someone else.  The mice eat the corn I put out for the chicken.  The chicken eats the cat’s food.  The  squirrels and deer eat the sunflowers I put out for the birds.  The bear eats the cherries and apples that were meant for us.
    I took this photo yesterday when I caught this butterfly drinking up the sugar syrup I put out for the hummingbirds.  It seems that no one is satisfied eating their own food and they all want to eat something that was designated for someone else.

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Thursday 22 August 2013

Salsa Time

    It’s always one of the high points of summer for me--when my tomatoes and chili peppers start coming in.  We have been snacking on cherry tomatoes for a while now, but finally the bigger tomatoes are ripening.  Joan has done two canning sessions so we will have some of that rich tomato taste over the winter, but it’s the eating of the fresh tomatoes that I love.  Nothing makes a sandwich taste better than a slice of home grown tomato and fresh salsa can’t be beat.
    As I have mentioned before, I grow about 6 different varieties of tomatoes.  This year I tried some of the darker ones--”Black From Tula” and “Chocolate Cherokee” are the dark ones you can see in the photo.  They both have a full, not real acidy taste.    I have really enjoyed eating the cherry tomatoes this year.  I planted a variety called “Sweet Baby Girl” and they are exceptionally tasty.  You won’t see them in the photo, because they seem to quickly disappear every time I go into the greenhouse and rarely make it into the house

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Wednesday 21 August 2013

Water Line Work Day

    Living in the mountains certainly has its unique challenges.  Yesterday I joined the 3 other people on our water line to correct a problem we were having.  We have a “gravity feed” system which means that we get our water from a source higher than our house and its the weight of the water, not a pump, that pushes it out of our taps at home.
    We collect our water in a big culvert sitting right in the middle of a waterfalls on Sunbeam Creek.  It flows through a 4,100 ft (1.25 km) line to our house.  Unfortunately, a big boulder (labelled ‘ROCK” in photo) fell into our culvert.  Although it doesn’t look all that big in the picture, it was too heavy for us to lift out, so we had to divert the water in the waterfalls, move out culvert out, and then push and pry the boulder out of the way.  While we had the culvert out we did some repair on it.  That’s what is happening in the photo.
    I have been worried for weeks about this whole operation, fearful that once we got the culvert out and the rock moved that we wouldn’t be able to get the culvert back into its proper place.  Our culvert is on a small ledge just above a very steep slope where the water rips down into a tight canyon, so safety is a big issue.  Fortunately, it all worked out, and no one had any accidents, and we were able to get our culvert back in its original position and our water is flowing again.

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Tuesday 20 August 2013

Bi-Polar Air Field


   Joan and I often walk up and down McBride’s airfield for exercise.  Walking up the runway is always a totally different experience than walking back down.  One way you will get the wind in your face and during the summer that is really refreshing.  In the winter, not so.  When we turn around and have the wind at our back it is either a relief (in winter), or terribly hot (in summer).
    Yesterday during our walk we experienced another bi-polar aspect of the airfield--the weather.  When we walked up the tarmac, it seemed like we were walking into the valley of the shadow of death.  The sky was terribly dark and threatening.  When we finally got to the end and turned around the skies were blue and sunny.  It was a bizarre experience.  The photos show the view in both directions.
    By the time we drove home the dark clouds had taken over the whole sky causing a very noticeable drop in the temperature and a downpour of rain.  as we drove home

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Monday 19 August 2013

A No-WIn Situation

    A bear came around and thrashed our apple and cherry trees early this morning.  It happens every year, and it’s always upsetting.
    It looks like the bear started on the apple tree, tearing down the main stem, eating a few apples, then it decided they weren’t quite ripe enough yet, so it left the destruction and moved on to the cherry tree, whose fruit was sweet and ripe.  There it knocked down several of its branches as it ate the sweet morsels .
    This time of year the bears are eating aggressively trying to put on enough weight to get them through all those months of winter hibernation.  I wish I could communicate with them and tell them that I would happily give them a lot of apples, if they just wouldn’t wreck the tree.
    The problem we always face is this:  the apples are not yet ripe, and if picked, they deteriorate quickly, so we can’t really pick them ahead of time.  Instead we can only watch them grow and hope that they mature before the bear comes around.  They never do.
    When Joan saw the damage to the trees, she walked back to the greenhouse, to make sure the door was closed.  As she approached the greenhouse, she scared off the bear, who was now feasting at the compost pile.

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Sunday 18 August 2013

It's Raining Spruce Cones

    Bang... bonk... bing.   Maybe I should put a hard hat next to our back door.  We have a spruce tree growing very close to our house, and every year around this time, you can hear a heavy rain of spruce cones bouncing off our metal roof and wooden deck.  
    This yearly ritual is brought to us by the busy squirrels who are biting off the cones high in the tree, then letting them fall to the ground, where they collect them and carry them off to their homes, so they can snack on them throughout the winter.  Until they complete their task, our lives will be syncopated by the raining projectiles and and our roof, deck, and all the other flat surfaces around the spruce tree will be covered by the small green spruce cones.

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Saturday 17 August 2013

Begonia Surprise

    In the autumn when I dig out the potatoes, I also dig out the dahlia and begonia bulbs, so that I can store them under the house during the winter.  That’s what I did last fall.  When spring planting time came around I got the withered tubers out from under the house and planted the dahlias in the ground and Joan took the begonia bulbs and planted them in pots and left them in the greenhouse to sprout.
    After a few weeks, a few begonias started to sprout in their pots, but it seemed that we had lost a couple of begonias over the winter, because nothing happened in a couple of pots.  Finally, Joan decided to cut her losses and she emptied the “dead” bulbs and their soil into the raised greenhouse bed where I generally grow my peppers.
    A month ago, my pepper plants were growing like crazy and had even started to bend over with all their heavy growth.  As I was looking them over, a splash of deep red caught my eye through the tangle of pepper leaves.  My first reaction was confusion, while the chili’s on the pepper plants were forming, they were still all green, I couldn’t figure out how I could have a bright red one already.
    Then I took a closer look and discovered that the red color was not from a chili, but a flower--one of Joan’s “dead” begonia bulbs had decided on life after all, and had grown.  A couple of weeks later, I discovered a second begonia growing in my chili bed.
    I decided since it was such a struggle for them to grow in the first place, I wasn’t going to add any more stress in their lives by transplanting them.  Instead I will let them continue to spend the growing season in the greenhouse, so they can generate enough energy in their bulbs so they can make it through the next winter under the house.

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Friday 16 August 2013

Winter on the Horizon?

    During the last month, when I was out in the bush, my chainsaw roaring, hot, thirsty, and wiping the sweat from my face, I often asked myself, why in the middle of summer was I spending so much time gathering firewood?   There was still plenty of time left before I would need it.  I guess I am more of an ant than a grasshopper, because I always feel uneasy until I get my firewood stacked and ready for that cold season that will eventually arrive.   At the same time, it did feel like I was jumping the gun on winter, but maybe not.
    Yesterday, Joan and I drove up to Prince George for an appointment and shopping.  I was shocked to discover when we walked into Costco, that they were selling flannel lined shirts, snowblowers, and Christmas trees.  I was glad I got my firewood, because even though it is still the middle of August, at Costco, winter it seemed, was not be that far off.

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Wednesday 14 August 2013

Spotting Animals in Wild Areas

    The Robson Valley is a wide valley that cradles the meandering Fraser River and is surrounded on one side by the Cariboo Mountains and on the other by the Park Range of the Canadian Rockies.  Each of these mountain ranges are divided  by numerous rivers and creeks that drain the runoff from glaciers and rainfall.  Old logging roads were built up most of these drainages which allow the curious to drive up them and explore the back country.
    Every time I start drive up one of these bumpy roads I have my eyes peeled, hoping to get a glimpse of a bear, a moose, or some other exotic form of wildlife.   During the summer there is one animal one is almost guaranteed to see along these back country roads--Cows.
    Cattlemen, like loggers, and miners have, during BC’s history, created a lot of legislation which gives themselves special access to public land.  One of those the things the cattlemen have gotten for themselves are grazing permits and licenses that allow them to turn their cows loose over large areas of “Crown” (government owned land) in BC.  As a result, many of the backroads are full of cows meandering back and forth, pooping everywhere; on the roads and in pristine creeks, and eating the vegetation that the wild animals probably wouldn’t mind having.  
    When one these unwatched cows dies out in the bush, immediately the cattlemen blame wild predators and want to eliminate them from the environment.  I have always found grazing permits and licenses abhorrent and something that should have been eliminated long ago, but unfortunately, it seems to be an unchangeable part of life in rural BC.

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Tuesday 13 August 2013

Inspiring People

    Over the last couple of nights, PBS has been re-running the Ken Burn’s documentary about the National Parks in the US.  It is fascinating how little things have changed.  There were a few individuals who saw the beauty and value of wild places, and who made personal sacrifices struggling against the powerful and rich forestry, mining, and agricultural lobbies to get National Parks established.   It is only because of what they did, that people today can still experience those beautiful and enchanted places.
     I thought the timing of the re-broadcasts was interesting, because just a couple of days before, I was in the company of two such environmental campaigners, putting up a sign post at the Goat River.  Those two had spent a good part of their lives struggling and sacrificing in an attempt to save a bit of BC’s natural environment from industrial exploitation, so that future generations might be able experience the same natural environments and wildlife that they loved.  The two are standing on opposite sides of the photo. 
    Doug Radies is standing on the left in the white T-shirt.  He is now a phys. Ed teacher at an elementary school in a low economic area of Vancouver.  In his younger days, he spent years campaigning and traveling from community to community in an attempt to save the Cariboo Mountains from logging.  One winter as part of his campaign, he skied the length of the Goat River.   All his sacrificing and work resulted in a 130,000 ha. (320,000 acre) area being added to the BC Park system.  This addition created a wildlife corridor which connected Wells Gray and Bowron Lakes Provincial Parks.
    The man in black standing on the right is Fin Donnelly.  He is now a MP in Canada’s Parliament; representing New Westminster-Cooquitlam.  In 1995, in an attempt to draw attention to BC’s beleaguered rivers, he swam the 1,440 km (870 mile) length of the Fraser River, starting in the very icy headwaters at Tete Jaune,  east of McBride, and ending up in Vancouver.  He did this twice, and also did marathon swims in lakes and the ocean, to promote critical thought and  community awareness of our water resources.
    I have a tremendous respect for both of these guys and their dedication to planet Earth.  It was an honor for me to spend a day with them putting the sign in the ground, working to get the roof, which was flawed, to fit on the posts.  It wasn’t all hard work though, late in the afternoon, we got to refresh ourselves and wash away the heat by taking a cold dip in the frigid Goat River.

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Monday 12 August 2013

Interesting Day at the Goat

    Every year at this time a group of energetic young people paddle past McBride in a 34 foot (10 m.) canoe in the first leg of their 1,400 km (870 mile) journey down the Fraser River.  They are part of a program called the “SSLP” or Sustainable Living Leadership Program, sponsored by the RIvershed Society of BC.  Along the way, they learn about local ecosystems and  environmental concerns, as they  meet with local residents, and make their nightly camps in rain forests, deserts, and grasslands along  their way down the Fraser to Vancouver.
    The group always camps at the Goat River Trail, and while there, they dedicate a day working on the trail.  F.H.A., (Fraser Headwater Alliance) an environmental group I belong to, always meets them at the trail and helps direct their labors.  The top photo shows Roy Howard giving the group a bit of history of the Goat River Trail, an old route used during the Barkerville gold rush.  This was the first year I was part of the project, and I had myself a good day putting up a kiosk-type sign at the trail camping area.
    It was reassuring to meet the university aged group, hear about the individual projects they are working on, and just enjoying their energy and optimism.  Their trip sounds like a lot of fun, they sometimes sing as they paddle their giant canoe, and jump into the Fraser when they need to cool off.
    I will always remember on incident that occurred near Dunster during the trip two years ago.  As they paddled, someone saw or heard something along the bank of the river.  When they investigated, they discovered the head of a dog, at the shore, sticking out of the mud.  The dog was still alive, but it was slowly sinking deeper and deeper at the edge of the river, and the water was already lapping around its mouth as it struggled to breathe.
    The dog was extremely fortunate, for if they had not happened down the river at that time, it would have drowned.  Luckily, they had a shovel, but it still took a lot of hard digging through the hardening mud.  The dog’s legs were tightly packed in the mud, but they eventually were able to free it and get it to a vet where it was later returned to its owners.  The dog had been missing for two days.
    You can can read about SLLP and see photos taken from the group’s earlier trips at: 

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Sunday 11 August 2013

50% Off

    While it is sad, (and scary) to see the biggest of McBride’s two grocery stores closing, at the same time it is very interesting to watch and experience the reaction of shoppers (us) to the “50% Off of Everything” sale that the IGA is running in an attempt to empty out its store shelves.  Joan and I have certainly noticed a difference in our shopping behavior when confronted with the price reductions.  One of the big changes was how our defenses toward junk food weakened.
    We usually avoid buying things like potato chips, corn chips, and other such snack food.   If I get tempted, normally the amount of fat on the label, and the price are enough to make me shy away, but once the price is cut in half, it is a lot easier to rationalize those kinds of purchases.   With our tomatoes and chili’s ripening in the greenhouse, and salsa season about to begin in earnest, we weakened and threw several bags of “Restaurant Style” corn chips into our cart.      
    The cheap prices also makes it easier to try things we have never even considered before.  Yesterday for example, I picked up a bottle of “Hot and Sweet” mustard.  I didn’t even know such a thing existed, but with the shelves mostly empty, the things that are left attract more attention, and since it was half price, I put it into our cart.
    It was interesting to see what items were left standing, lonely on the empty shelves.  All of the sweet and sugary breakfast cereals had pretty much vanished, and those that were left were the ones that are branded as being “Healthy”.  Joan, sometimes eats “All Brand Buds”, but it is fairly pricy, so she was happy to discover numerous boxes of it sitting there on the nearly empty shelf at 50% off, and we threw enough boxes of All Bran into our cart to see her through until mid-winter.
    Joan noticed that the entire stock of “Cool Whip” (a manufactured whipped cream like topping) was left in the refrigerated shelves untouched.  She pointed out that if the sale would have been down in the US, Cool Whip would have been one of the first products to disappear, due to its popularity down there.  It doesn’t seem to have the same appeal to Canadians as it does to Americans.  We also passed on the Cool Whip and didn’t put any of that into our cart.
    Another consideration for buying cheap food was future needs.  I really like beans and I bought many cans of various types of beans which we will store in my workshop until needed.  Every winter, I put out peanut butter for the woodpeckers to snack on and so I bought 5 small jars of peanut butter, that I will serve to the birds once it starts getting cold outside.
    The biggest mystery of all concerning “50% Off” sales is this:  Why, when prices are so cheap, do I end up spending so much money?

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Saturday 10 August 2013

A Boot Full of Bees

    Its strange how things happen.  On my last blog I wrote about hornet nests and I felt like I was through with the subject.  Yesterday, I was going out to the Goat River to put in some more time working on the Goat River Trail, so I needed to get my daypack from the shop.  When I went up to the attic, where it was stored, I heard some buzzing, and when I looked around to try to find the source, I noticed that there was a lot of activity going on in one of my old gum boots (also known as ‘rubber’ boots, or ‘Wellingtons”).
    It seems that the bees decided that the boot would make an excellent place for a home and went to work.  It is difficult to tell from the photo, but their nest comes about halfway up the leg of the boot.  Fortunately, these are old boots, and I have newer ones that I generally wear.
    I didn’t mention it in yesterday’s blog, but just about every year I have a swarm of bees building a nest somewhere in my shop attic.  Last year they used a cardboard computer box I was saving, as their residence. 

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Thursday 8 August 2013

Hornet's Nest

    I see these big papery “hornet’s nests” (I don’t actually know if its hornets, bees, or wasps that build them), every summer.  I usually don’t get close enough to investigate.  I have found them in my barn, on an upper window of my shop, and in my greenhouse. 
    This was the first time I spotted one on a birch tree, and it seemed like it was a good place to build it, since it blended in so well to the bark.  There was a constant flow of bees coming and going out of the hole in the nest.
    Most of the ones I have found in the past seem to come to a bad end.  They are usually located high and out of the way, and I don’t disturb them, but often late in the summer, there comes a day when I notice that they have been broken into and torn apart.
    One generally thinks of bears doing that, but in the ones I have seen I suspect it was a bird.  A bear couldn’t have accessed them.  The photo below shows what was left of one of these destroyed nests that was in the rafters of my greenhouse.

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Wednesday 7 August 2013

It Looks Like It's Going To Happen

    Normally I spend my mornings painting, but today I spent my usual painting time shopping at the grocery.  It usually falls upon Joan to do the grocery shopping, but she is away visiting and recreating in Jasper with our friend, Di.  Last night at the jam session, I was told that the IGA grocery store had begun selling with 30% off of everything--It looks like its going to happen.
    A few months ago, residents of McBride were shocked to hear the rumor that the IGA was going to close.  This made no sense.  McBride is a small village and as long as I can remember there has been two grocery stores.  There was the big one--IGA, and AG, a smaller one.  The big one, of course had the best and widest selection of food and did the most business.  It didn’t seem logical that they would be the one to close.
    Some time ago, McBride was down to only one grocery; when the smaller of the two closed.  Luckily, they reopened under new management, and we made sure to give them a lot of our business because, we wanted to make sure there were two viable groceries in town.  The AG seemed to be doing well.  Then we were shocked with the news that the big one was closing.
    IGA has always had most of the grocery business in town and seemed profitable.  We heard rumors that the store owner, who lives in Vancouver, wanted more money for the lease, and that IGA refused to give it to her.  If this is the reason it is closing, it seems that the owner doesn’t have much knowledge of the economics of small little McBride.  I doubt that any other grocery is going to move into town and use her store, and she’s not going to get much income from an empty building.
    There are about 700 people who live in and around McBride.  It’s going to be interesting if all of them are suddenly going to have to depend on AG, our small grocery, for their food needs.  I’m sure everything will eventually work itself out, but right now, its hard to see how it will happen.
    This morning at IGA, there were already empty gaps on the shelves, as the most common food stuffs have been carted away by shoppers eager for the 30% discount.  A lot of what I was looking for was already gone, but I did manage to buy a couple of bags full of groceries.

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Tuesday 6 August 2013


    While I know that a pretty fair portion of my psyche is taken up with negativity and fatalism, I also realize that I have inherited some “farmer” genes that always manage to show themselves when it comes to growing things.  I become really optimistic when I think about putting new plants and seeds into the ground and I am taken over with dreams about how beautiful and productive the plants will be.
    I was reminded of this the other day,  when I saw an acquaintance at the weekly McBride farmers’ market selling grape vines.  The Robson Valley is not really “grape” country, but he lives in town and does have an extensive grapevine growing along one side of his house.    His grapes, while not real big in size do have “grape” taste and they are hardy to our cold climate.
       Full of optimism, I laid my money down and bought 4 vines and which I planted along the fence surrounding our garden.  Now, every time I walk past them, I can’t help but visualize the day when I can cut off a bunch of grapes from the vine.
    I have fond memories of the grapes that grew at my grandparent’s old farm house in Indiana.  They had a bower that ran the whole length of the house in the back.  During the summer, it became a shady tunnel, where you could take relief from the heat under the foliage and pick from the bunches of grapes as you walked through it.  My grandmother made grape jelly that I looked forward to spreading over my buttered bread. 
     Some years ago, neighbors who live down the road, planted a whole field with 3 different varieties of grapes.  This was a long term project and they were thinking in terms of growing for wine production.  I haven’t talked to them about the grapes for several years so I don’t know how successful their experiment is doing.
    My plans are a lot less ambitious,  I would be happy just to be able to have a few grapes to pop into my mouth when I am out working in the garden. 

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