Sunday 29 September 2013

Down By The River

     I am on my way home to Canada.  I don't have a lot of time to do a blog as I sit here at the Dallas Airport, but I did take this photo of Evansville, Indiana, my home town the other day, so I thought I would let you see what it looks like.  Evansville is situated at the very bottom of the state, on a curve of the Ohio River.  What you can see in the photo is the Evansville river front.  It has lots of places for people to sit to watch the fireworks display that takes place over the river on the 4th of July.
     The Ohio is very wide at Evansville.  People used to say it was a mile wide.  I can't really confirm that, but it looks quite the distance across.
     Being wily politicians, the state legislature of Indiana wanted to allow gambling, but didn't want to incur the wrath of the god-fearing voters, so what they did was to allow a casino "riverboat" that sat on the river, docked at Evansville, but "not on Indiana soil."  It sits just off the photo on the left hand side. 
    The Ohio River is the boundary of Indiana and Kentucky.  It always seemed unfair to me, but the Ohio River legally belongs to the state of Kentucky.  It seemed like it should be shared between the two states.

Saturday 28 September 2013

Tree On Tree

     Right beside my mother's driveway there is a big maple tree.  Like most of the maples that are growing there in a row, it is hollow.  Growing from the crotch of the maple, where the tree forks into two, there is a young cedar that has taken root.  The cedar is currently about 20 inches (50cm) tall.
     It seems that it has chosen a fairly limiting place to grow.  The seed from a cedar on the opposite side of the drive, probably landed in the fork, which had a layer of decayed leaves and moisture, a perfect place for germination, and started growing.  I thought I might be able to free its roots and transplant it into the ground, because I don't think it has much of a future where it is now, but when I felt around at its base, I discovered that its roots go down into some of the solid dead wood of the maple, so I wouldn't be able to get it out without mangling its roots and killing it.
     In BC there is what are called "nursery logs".   In the deep forest, tree seeds often fall onto the moss covered logs of fallen trees and take root and grow.  As they develop, the roots eventually grow around the log and into the soil, so as the log decays, it doesn't really effect the growth of the seedling except to provide nutrients.  These trees often look peculiar because when the log has decayed they are left with their roots forming an arch above the ground.
     On Mom's maple this really isn't going to work that way.  The fork where the cedar is growing is 65 inches (1.7 m) above the ground, which is a long way for the roots to go before they hit soil.  By that time, the maple will be well on its way to deterioration and when it falls it will take the cedar with it.  
     I sure wish I could figure out a way to get the small cedar out of its doomed situation and into the ground.

Friday 27 September 2013

The Banging of Shoes

     My mother lives right beside a golf course.  In many ways it is like living beside a park.  The grounds are well kept, there are a lot of activity to watch as we sit on her back porch.  Golfer's getting their golf bags out of their car, golfers zipping from hole to hole on their golf carts, golfers standing in the parking lot chewing the fat and drinking after playing their game, and then there are the shoes.
     I don't play golf myself, so I have no personal knowledge of this, but it seems that second to playing golf, their favorite activity is standing around banging their golf shoes together.  All afternoon there is a constant concussion of noise as hundreds of golf shoes get clapped together.  Playing on such finely manicure lawns, and spending most of their time driving around in golf carts, you wouldn't expect that their shoes would pick up so much debris that it would be necessary to slam them together.
     Some golfers can't even wait until after they play their round of golf, they drive into the parking lot, get out of their cars, open their trunks to retrieve their golf equipment, then grab their golf shoes and start banging them together.  Some budding entrepreneur could probably make a killing by setting up Golf Shoe Banging Centers were duffers could come, pay their money, then pound their shoes, and leave without having  to spend so much time swinging a club or driving around in a golf cart.
     When we visit my mom, a great deal of time sitting on the porch.  When visitors join us there and hear the banging of shoes coming from the golf course, they turn their heads, scanning the golf course trying to figure out what caused the noise.  When it is explained that it was just a golfer banging their shoes, they seem disappointed, expecting a more exciting explanation for the loud and echoing report, but no, it was just some golfer clapping his shoes together.

Thursday 26 September 2013

On & In the Web

    In my daily excursions around my mother's house, I have been noticing a lot of spiders busily making webs and gathering the fruits if their labors.  I don't possess a lot of knowledge about spiders so I can't tell you what kind they are, but here are some photos of what I have been seeing.

     The one you see above has made a pretty extensive web over the myrtle vines.  In the center of the web it has constructed this tunnel where it hides.  I assume when something lands on its web it quickly scrambles out to kill it.

     This is a fairly large spider that was devouring something that was tangled in its web.  When it saw me approach it scrambled up to safety near a beam on the carport.  When I walked away it came back down to do more eating.  I approached more slowly the next time and got the shot.  With its legs extended this spider was probably an inch (30cm) long.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

The Sassafras Tree

     I am always sorry to witness the loss of a tree and in my lifetime there has been plenty to witness.  I didn't really have any relationship to most of those trees, they were just trees I was used to seeing, then suddenly they were gone.  The old sassafras tree that grew on the edge of the woods by the field was different.
     At one point in my adolescence, way back in the early 1960's, I saw a gymnast on TV performing
on the rings.  I decided that I wanted to do that, so I in a typical  adolescent fashion of rigging things up and thinking they would work, I found a very thin set of rings from a child's swing set, wrapped them with electrical tape to make them thicker, and then looked around for someplace to hang them.
     The only place I found that might work was a horizontal limb from the sassafras tree.  It was extremely difficult to tie the rings on two pieces of rope and get them to hang at exactly the same height.  
     Once I got them sort of at the same height, I was ready to try them out.  The branch of the tree held,  the ropes didn't break, but there was one problem:  Even with the rings wrapped with the tape, they really cut in and hurt my hands when I was hanging on them and trying to hold myself on the rings with my arms outstretched.  The pain in my hands quickly dampened and killed my dream of becoming a gymnast on the rings.
     Despite the career killing experience, I always felt some special kinship to the sassafras tree.  I knew that they are not really long living trees, but during the past 40 years, during my yearly visits to Indiana, it seemed to be still holding on.  This trip, I was saddened to see that it was dead.  In the photo you can see its naked branches sticking out above a cluster of grapevine leaves that are still green and healthy.
     For those of you who are not familiar with sassafras trees, it is an unusual tree because each tree displays three differently shaped leaves.  There is a wide blade-shaped leaf, a mitten-shaped leaf, and a mitten-with-two-thumbs-(one on each side)-shaped leaf.  The roots were used to make root beer (and they smell like the root beer tastes,) but then scientist discovered they were carcinogenic, and banned their use in the drink.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

The Rummage Sale

     Every year the church that Mom goes to has a rummage sale.  It was something that Mom always told me about.  She talked about those things she took down to the rummage sale to get rid of and about all those things she bought at the rummage sale and brought home.  I have been the recipient of many a shirt that Mom found at the rummage sale and bought for me.
     It seems I just missed the rummage sale by coming down to Evansville when I did.  It was a couple of weeks ago.  One year, when Joan and I drove down, we got to go to the rummage sale and ended up with a fancy old screen wooden screen door, that we had to tie to the top of the car to get it back to British Columbia.  I guess I really wouldn't have have had to go to the rummage sale to get the screen door since it was something that my sister donated to the sale.
    There was an interesting story that came out of this year's sale.   My mom must have told   Francine, who is one of my mom's care givers, about all of the bargains to be had at the rummage sale because Francine went to the sale and found a lady's billfold that she like, and bought it.  When she got home and was inspecting it, she discovered that it came complete with the previous owner's Social Security card and employee's identification card.
     Fortunately for the previous owner, Francine is an honest person and because of the ID cards in the wallet, she knew who the previous owner was.  The envelope you see in the photo contains all the previous owner's ID's.  It is sitting on my mom's kitchen table waiting until the time when it can be delivered back to the wallet's previous owner.

Monday 23 September 2013

Coca-Cola Cake

     Julie, who is one of my mother's neighbors, is really a kind and thoughtful person.  Not only is she always offering to help Mom out in a hundred different ways, but she is always making food for Mom and dropping it off.  
     When I arrived, I noticed that in my mom's kitchen there was a 9"x 13" (23cm x 33cm) chocolate cake.  Mom told me it was a "Coca-Cola" cake which Julie had brought over for her.  She then knocked me over with the details:  Julie made it using a can of Coke in the icing and another can in the "cake".  Additional ingredients in the icing include 4 cups of sugar and a lot of butter.  You can see from the photo that the icing is actually thicker than the cake.  The cake seems more like fudge.
     I have a pretty prominent "sweet tooth", but the Coca-Cola cake slowed me right down.  It was so rich and sweet,  I could only eat a small section of it at a time.  I have been now eating on the cake a week and there is still one piece of it left to eat.
     I saw Julie the other day and thanked her for being so generous in helping Mom out, and making the cake.  She said that periodically, in a mood of reminiscence, she craves things from her childhood and she remembered how much she loved her mom's Coca-Cola cake, so she made one.
     It is interesting to note that my mother lives in Evansville, Indiana.  A couple of years ago statistics came out that pointed to Evansville as being the "Fattest City in the United States" because of the large percent of it's citizens that were obese.  It's foods like Coca-Cola cake that helped them win the title.

Sunday 22 September 2013

Musical Kids

     I had heard a lot of stories about Molly and Paul's musical children.  I knew that Lucy, their oldest had somehow gotten introduced to Canadian Maritime fiddle music, even though rural Tennessee is a long way from Cape Breton.  She took up the violin and learned how to play the complex melody lines of the Celtic tunes.  
     Lucy's devotion to the music soon infected her sister, Daisy, who quickly secured a violin of her own.  Eliza, who is still a bit young to start on her own fiddle career, was determined to join in, so Paul cut a board into a violin shape and gave her a stick to use as a bow, and now whenever there is music being played, she is out in front sawing away on her "violin."
      It wasn't long before brother Ezra started delving into teaching himself the piano.  The kid is a natural; he sits down in front of the piano, and can construct amazingly complicated tunes and chords by just feeling his way along the keyboard, following the music that is being constructed inside his head.  His melodies had a Bruce Hornsby feel to them.

     The day before I arrived, Sillas the other brother had been given a used snare drum, so I suppose the family band, "The Celtic Knots," will soon also have a rhythm section.
     When I arrived at their home I had my mandolin with me.  After I told the girls it had the same strings and was tuned like a violin, they were all over it, taking turns trying out their violin "licks"on the mandolin.
       Shortly after returning from the cave trip, in the lull before supper, the house was filled with a cacophony of sounds as all the kids were messing around on the musical instruments.  I joined the chaos by playing Paul's guitar, that was crippled by having only 4 strings.
     After the evening meal, the young people took the "stage" and gave a  performance.  The younger girls even threw in some Celtic step dancing during one song.  It was a delight to see how well they all played both together and individually.  It warmed my heart to see the future generation have the same love making music that I have.  I hope they will take the next scary step and start singing as they play.

Saturday 21 September 2013


     As a kid, I liked to imagine myself an archeologist, discovering an unknown cave, exploring it and coming across ancient Indian artifacts.  Those were the things of my dreams.  Later in life when I became enthralled with the science of the natural world, I found caves an interesting part of geology.
     During university years, I did a few spelunking trips with a science club and also with my cousin, Dan who had fallen in with a group of spelunkers.  I remember one trip where the lower half of the cave entrance was a creek and we had to bend down and wade through the water to get inside.  I remember how creepy it was to be lying on my stomach in the cold mud, moving forward like a lizard as I crawled though a horizontal crack which was not much wider than I was thick, deep in the bowels of a cave.  At the time I thought it was exciting.
     The last time I had been spelunking was in one of the alpine caves in the Small River headwaters of the Robson Valley.  By that time, it had been probably been 30 years since I had been in a cave, and I really didn't find it very enjoyable.  Everything was dark, moist, and brown, there was no color to stimulate the senses.  I was happy when I finally crawled back out of the small hole, back into the world of color.
     I had heard several times that Molly had a cave on their property, and when I arrived at their place in Tennessee, her sons, Ezra and Silas, were eager to show it to me.  Lucy, the eldest daughter became the leader of the expedition.  I had assumed that I was just going to be shown the entrance to the cave, but after the two boys came out of the house with headlamps, I realized we were going into the cave. 
     The four of us walked across a pasture, scattering their timid sheep, then at the edge of the hill, we had to cross a creek, because I didn't have boots, I took off my shoes and socks to ford the creek.  When I got my shoes back on, we walked up a forested slope, crossed over the top, and there, on the other side of the hill was a small hole in the ground--the entrance to the cave.
     Lucy, in her skirt, was the first one in, I followed the boys, sitting on my rump and sliding down the incline, and straightening out my body as I entered the dark and restrictive entrance.  Immediately the air became cooler and moist.  At the bottom of the slope, we found ourselves in a small chamber, illuminated by the dancing beams from our head lamps.

     It seemed to me that this was the extent of the cave, but Lucy, bent down and disappeared through a small crevice beneath the huge chuck of rock that had broken loose from the ceiling, fallen, and had wedged itself against the walls do the cavern.  Ezra and Silas followed her and I brought up the rear.  As we continued on, the cave became a narrow tall vertical hallway with a high ceiling and several more huge boulders blocking the way forcing us to clamber over 8 ft (2.4m) obstacles, using depressions in the walls as grips and foot holds. 
     Eventually, 150 ft (45m) in from the entrance our progress was halted by wall that gave us no alternative but to stop.  The wall was blacked by moisture coming down from a high vertical shaft that I assumed was the source of the water that had hollowed out the cave over eons of time.   We sat there, then we all turned out our headlamps and experienced total darkness.  That's pretty dark!  
     In my struggles, climbing and descending, my camera, which was hanging at my side, must have gotten banged around a bit too much, because when I tried to take some photos, the camera would no longer focus.  I really depend on my camera, so that was distressing news.  (Fortunately, several hours after leaving the cave the camera experienced an immaculate correction, but unfortunately, some of the photos taken in the cave were very blurry.  

     Lucy pointed out some geodes which were on the wall, as we slowly scrambled up and down the boulders on our way back out of the cave.  As we finally got to the point where we could see some light filtering in from the entrance, and started crawling up the slope to the cave opening, Silas fulfilled the dream I had always had and found an artifact--the jawbone of some unknown animal.  Unfortunately, because the front teeth were missing, including possible canine teeth, we couldn't identify what kind of critter it belonged to, although you wouldn't expect to find a deer jaw inside a cave.

Friday 20 September 2013

Down in a Tennessee "Holler"

     My cousin, Molly and her family live in a hollow (a small valley, locally pronounce 'holler') close to the Kentucky border in Tennessee.  They own a beautifully situated farm complete with a strong flowing spring next to their home on the lower wooded slopes of a hill, with hayfields, pastures, and a crystal clear creek occupying the narrow flat bottom of the valley.
     For years I have been hearing interesting stories about Molly's farm, their four talented youngsters, and their lives, living in the rural Tennessee hill country.  I have been urged numerous times to go give them a visit, but after traveling all the way from British Columbia to Indiana, it was hard for me to mount an additional 3 hour drive to Tennessee to visit them.  
     On their farm, Molly has a herd of 60 Jacob sheep.  They are a very strange breed, with mottled wool coats and bizarre and numerous horns.  They have a sinister look to them.  Molly sells the wool and even buttons and other items made from the horns at a yearly crafts' festival.
     Guarding the sheep are two wild donkeys that were gotten from a wild donkey roundup in Death Valley.  They and her numerous dogs protect the flock from coyotes which are about the only predators in the area. 
     Tomorrow I will write about exploring a cave.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Elephant Ears

     As a child, growing up in southern Indiana, I didn't realize just how sub-tropical the area was.  It wasn't until living in Canada and vacationing in jungles in Costa Rica and Guatemala, then revisiting Indiana, that I started to recognize the tropical-like characteristics of my boyhood home. 
      In the forests many of the trees are covered with "grapevines", and the cacophony of night sounds made by the insects are as loud as what I heard in the jungles.  Fortunately, so far this trip I've haven't had to suffer under the heat and oppressive humidity that generally is characterizes the summer.
     All this being said, I was still surprised at seeing "Elephant Ear" plants (Colocasia) growing in my sister's yard.  Many of my paintings (hosta's and rhubarb) reveal how attracted I am to broad leaf plants, and so I was immediately attracted to these giant leaved tropicals and did a bit of online research on them.  They originated in Asia, and grow from tubers or corms, just under the surface of the soil.   On the Internet I learned that the term "taro" is referring to the tubers of the Elephant Ear plant.
     Taro is an important food in many parts of the tropics.  In Hawaii it is used to make "poi", their fermented drink.  You don't want to eat taro raw though, because it contains microscopic calcium needles that will cause irritation to your lips, mouth, and throat.  This can be eliminated, by cooking the tuber or soaking it in lime juice or another kind of acidy solution.
     Elephant Ears are considered an invasive plant in Florida and Texas, where they are pushing out native plants as they take over wetlands.  My sister doesn't have to worry about them taking over in her yard in Indiana, because they are sensitive to cold temperatures, in fact I read that they can be damaged by temperatures below +10C or 50F.  She has to dig up the corms and store them in the basement over the winter.
     There, now you know as much about the plant as I do.  They do have sort of a primordial look about them which is probably one of the things that attracts me to them.  Last year I took some really interesting close up photos of the leaves from underneath, with bright sunlight shining through them, to use on this blog today, but alas, it was raining, so you will have to be satisfied with the ones you see


Tuesday 17 September 2013

Airport Stories

I have just spent many hours sitting in airports.  I took the photo above while sitting in the Vancouver airport waiting for a flight to San Francisco.  The woman in the photo was evidently taking a painting or something similar as a "carry on".  The airline had a different idea and told her it was too big and it would have to go in with the luggage.  This of course was very upsetting to the woman because the world of luggage is a fairly rough and tumble one.
     She pleaded with the flight attendant, but to no avail.  When I took the photo, she had accepted the picture's fate, but still had a bit of hope, because she was trying to write "FRAGILE" on the brown paper wrapping with a ball point pen.  I hope the painting survived.

When I was waiting in the Prince George airport, I noticed a copy of the Prince George Free Press lying on a nearby empty seat.  I picked it up and started looking through it.  On the second page was a very dramatic photo of a Prince George house showing a wrecked pickup truck with its front aiming downward and its rear up in the air and leaning into a big hole it had made in the house.  
     The house looked vaguely familiar, and when I read the story I discovered the house was on the same street where our friends, Bob and Mary live, but I wasn't sure.  I got out my iPad and opened my contact's addresses and looked up Bob and Mary's address.  Sure enough, it was their house.
     The one time Joan and I visited their Prince George home, Mary pointed out their downed fence that had run along the outside curve of the busy street that was adjacent to their yard.  It had been wrecked by a speeding driver that had missed the curve.  That time the driver had just torn up the fence, not hit the house.
     A text message from Mary gave a really frightening fact about the accident.  Their son, Kyle, had been sleeping, but had gotten up and went into the bathroom when the truck hit the house.  The truck landed on his bed.  He was saved by a full bladder.

Monday 16 September 2013

Two Weeks, Two Toilets

     I've always found it interesting how those tasks you hate to do the most, always end up giving you problem after problem, thus prolonging your misery.  One of the tasks I hate to deal with is plumbing.  I shouldn't  have been surprised then at all the agony I have had to go through when we had to replace our toilet.
     These days when you get a new toilet, you have to chose between all the new fangled low water models.  Because our toilet faces the arc of the opening door of the shower stall, we are limited by the length of how far the toilet sticks out from the wall.  We found one that would fit and whose design we liked, and so we bought it and I installed it.
     I was very impressed with the strength of the flushing action, and was very happy with our purchase until we discovered that it periodically ran while filling the tank.  It wouldn't turn the water off, unless we opened the lid and manually touched the sliding capsule that was refusing to slide.  Not only did it sometimes not turn off, every once in a while, the tank would quietly and mysteriously drain, and surprise you when you went to flush and no water came out.  
     I optimistically hoped that the toilet would do an immaculate correction, but it didn't happen, and I got tired of standing by the toilet, after flushing in the middle of the night, waiting to make sure the water would turn off when the tank was full.  I finally admitted to myself that our new toilet wasn't going to change behavior, so I disassembled it and we made a special trip 135 miles up to Prince George, returned it to the store and exchanged it for a new one.
     I wasn't sure if I wanted the same model, "The Wellington", since the first one caused us trouble, but, in the end, since we liked the size, and look of it, we relented and got the same model--and after all what were the chances of having trouble a second time.
     Well, I found out the chances were really good.  We got the new one home and I installed it and it worked perfectly for the remainder of that day.  It worked perfectly the first part of the next day too, until Joan said, "It's working good!"
     The first time we required a bit of "heavy lifting" from it, if faltered, and it never recovered.  The mighty rush of water no longer happened; the water just sort of filled the bowl then slowly drained.  I began to wonder if maybe the toilet wasn't fully aligned with the drain pipe on the floor, maybe that had caused a clog-up there.
     The only way to tell was to pull the toilet up again.  When I got that task completed, I discovered that there was no problem there.  The problem seemed to be in the toilet itself, somewhere in the drain line beneath the toilet bowl.
       I was not in a good mood.  It was all so frustrating.  Over the next week I continued to flush in hopes that it would clear itself, but it never did.  We spent that week using our outhouse, whose technology has never failed us.  
     The trouble with our first Kohler was in the tank, while the second one seemed to have problems below the bowl, despite the "no clog" feature spouted on the box.  Yesterday I pulled the toilet out and this morning on my way to catch my flight to Indiana, I returned it to the store, the second returned toilet in two weeks.  
    I am almost afraid to buy another toilet, but I guess I will have to, but I guarantee you that it will be another brand.

Sunday 15 September 2013

Corn Bonanza

    I’m sure readers from warmer climes chuckle when they see the photo of what I am calling a “Corn Bonanza”, but the Robson Valley is not corn country, and for us, the quantity of corn you see above is quite a remarkable haul for a garden in McBride.  I can remember only one other summer when we got so much corn.
    Every year when I plant the garden, Joan just sadly shakes her head and thinks me a fool, for planting corn.  Usually it turns out that she is right.  I feel some obligation, because of my Indiana roots to plant it, even though usually the corn I plant is plagued by cool weather or an early frost, and often the growing season ends without any ears for all my labors.  A few years ago, my corn plants were ankle high on the 4th of July, but this year they lived up to the saying, “knee high by the 4th of July”, and I got a bumper crop.
    I am about to take off on a trip to visit relatives in Indiana, and so I picked and processed all of my corn yesterday.  I remember my sister and I helping my mother blanch and freeze the corn when I was young.  On those hot summer Indiana days, we sometimes did the boiling of water outside, on a camp stove on the carport, so that all the heat wouldn’t further warm up the already warm house in those pre-air conditioner days.
    I remember the mess of the slightly sticky corn kernels that ended up scattered around the table top instead of the dish, as we cut them off of the cobs and tried to pack them into the plastic bags.  I achieved the same results in our kitchen yesterday, but now that the kitchen counter is again clean, and the corn is bagged and in the freezer, the mess I made getting to that point is easily forgotten.  
    Its too bad we can’t put in orders for the kind of summer we want.  I would certainly keep ordering the kind we had this year.

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Saturday 14 September 2013

New Squirrel Facility

    It seems that everything I do for the birds, ends up being for the squirrels.  I bought this bird feeder and put it up and look who has taken possession of it.

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Friday 13 September 2013

Two Cabbages

    Here is a photo I took of two cabbages from my garden.  Its pretty amazing how different they are.

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Thursday 12 September 2013

Thoughts of WInter

    Today in the Robson Valley, the temperature is supposed to reach 32C ( 90F).  We had a warm summer and all of BC is supposed to have a warm autumn.  Despite these temperatures, my thoughts are continually thinking about the winter ahead.  I assume that is because, I have become a Canadian.  Most of the world thinks about ice and snow when they think about Canada.  That of course that does happen in the winter, but the summers can be blissfully comfortable.   Winter does make a major impression on one’s life and so thoughts of winter are present throughout the year.
    When I mow along our driveway, I think about making sure that tall grass at the edge is cut down before the snow hits, or else it will cause snow build up.  When I am working in the garden, I am always thinking about how we are going to process the things we grow, so that they can be enjoyed throughout the winter.  All summer long, I have been sawing up, splitting, and stacking firewood so that our house will be toasty during those cold dark days.  Its hard to free myself from the grip of winter.
    Over the last week, I have been working with Glen, our neighbor, on getting our water system all set for the winter.  I have mentioned before that we get our water directly from a waterfall.  Our buried waterline runs along a cliff face, and in the past year, part of that cliff has collapsed, taking with it some of the insulation we had installed to keep the frost from getting to our waterline.  Glen and I have been constructing a wall along the cliff using a wooden frame, styrofoam sheets, an old carpet, and hay to create an insulating barrier along the cliff.  That is what you can see in the photo above.
    We also had to spend time redirecting the water from the Sunbeam Creek falls into our culvert.  Weeks ago, we had to take our culvert out so we could remove a giant boulder that fell into the culvert and ever since we put the culvert back, too much water was sinking through the rocks around it and as a result our culvert was not filling completely.
    To solve this problem we had to plug up all the spaces between the rocks above the culvert with landscape cloth, so that the water would flow across, to again totally fill our culvert.  Thankfully, we were able to achieve that result, and so our waterline is now ready for winter.  The photo below is a shot of all that fresh crystal clear mountain water swirling around our full culvert.

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Wednesday 11 September 2013

Mountain Ash

    I hate to keep going on about what a great summer we have had, and how all of the plants have really been in high production, but in the past, I did so much complaining about the crappy weather, that I feel obligated to balance the books somewhat.  One of the plants that has shown an outstanding increase in productivity has been our Mountain Ash tree.
    I didn’t know anything about the mountain ash trees until we moved to McBride and my neighbors planted one in their yard.  It was a very attractive tree that had a great shape, clusters of white flowers, and in the fall those clusters became a group of orange/red berries, that the birds all seemed to really like.  I was so taken with the tree that I planted one in our yard, probably 20 years ago.
    Although it seemed healthy enough  and grew, I was always disappointed that it didn’t put out many berries.  Last year there were only about 5 clumps of berries on the tree.  It could be that the tree has just finally matured, or that the sunny warm summer spurred it on, or maybe a combination of the two, but this year, finally, it covered itself with berries.  
    The berries are extremely tart and people don’t eat them, but the birds sure do and they will strip the tree later in the fall.  The mountain ash is not related to the other “Ash” trees.  It was mistakenly given the name because it has divided leaves similar to the true ash family of trees.  Mountain ash do grow wild around here, but the one we have is a domesticated one that we got at a nursery.

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Tuesday 10 September 2013

Tree Fruit

    When we bought our hobby farm in McBride, way back in 1977, there were no fruit trees on the place except for a cherry tree.  We wanted to have apple trees and plum trees as well, so we bought young fruit trees and planted them.  When they didn’t make it, we bought some more to replace them.  This story repeated itself over and over and over again.
    The deer, the bears, and the angora goats I had, all contributed to our fruit tree failings.  Like fools, who never learn, we kept on planting and replacing trees.  I am happy to report that after the gloriously sunny and warm summer that we have just experience, we finally are getting some rewards for all of our past struggles.
    I was especially hoping that we would see some plums on our two plum trees.  When I planted them, I finally wised up a bit, and put them behind the high fence that protects our garden.  That has made a big difference they are protected and they get more sunlight.
    I only saw about 5 blossoms on our smallest plum tree in the spring, and didn’t hold out to much hope for them.  During the summer I looked several times at the tree and didn’t see any fruit.  A couple of weeks ago, I was surprised when I did see 5 small purple plums on it.  They are not yet ready to eat.
    The  older tree had a bad infestation of aphids in the spring, that was causing all the leaves to curl and drop.  I blasted branches a couple of times with water from a hose, and that seemed to get rid of the aphids.  There were about 5 plums on that tree also.  A couple of days ago, I looked for the plums, and didn’t see them, then noticed them on the ground.
    They were reddish and soft.  I picked one up put it into my mouth, and crushed it--Ambrosia.  The juicy honey-sweet liquid that exploded over my tastebuds was the best tasting plum sensation that I have ever had the pleasure to taste.  It was truly a delicious plum.  I found a few more on the ground and shared the pleasure with Joan.
    The time and effort it took us to end up with 10 plums does not make economic sense, when it is so much easier just to buy fruit at the grocery,  but now that I have seen that the trees can bear fruit, I have hope that next year there will be even more plums on the trees.  It seems that my “farmer” gene always makes me fantasize that next year things will be better.

Sunday 8 September 2013

Our Hanging Birdbath

    It was probably twenty years ago that Joan bought the ceramic birdbath that you can see hanging in our Russian Olive tree.  For nineteen of those years with us, it spent its time in storage up in my shop attic.  I just never got around to hanging it.  This summer after watching all the birds splashing around in Milne’s birdbath, we decided to give our neighborhood birds the chance to have some fun in the water.
    I poked around in the attic and finally found the birdbath.  It took a while for us to decide where to put it, until Joan suggested that maybe we could hang it from the Russian olive tree, so that’s what’s where I hung it.
    It did seem a bit strange to have that large dish full of water suspended in the air like that, but I figured that the birds would eventually find it and make use of the water.  I have yet to see one bird at the bath, and maybe I should put it elsewhere because it has been causing us a lot of trouble.

    When people come down our driveway, they are confronted with a fork, with one side splitting to the right and our carport, and the other section that continues straight ahead to a parking area.  I try to always tell people that the easiest thing to do is to turn right toward our carport, then back around into the parking area, then they are already facing in the correct direction for when they leave.
    Inevitably, they always pull into the parking area and park, then when it is time to leave they back up, turn, go forward, turn, back up, see-sawing back and forth, until they get turned around so they can drive up the driveway.  They usually end up backing onto the lawn, and several have backed into the hanging birdbath in their attempt to get their vehicle turned around.    When I hung the birdbath, I assumed it was far enough away from the driveway not to interfere, but evidently I was wrong.

    One morning, a couple of weeks ago, I had just gotten out of bed, and I walked over to the windows in my upstairs bedroom and opened the curtain.  As I looked out through the willow trees, I saw a strange dark disc lying in the middle of the driveway.
    Something must have fallen off of a car, I thought.  I scampered downstairs and outside to the driveway to pick it up and was totally mystified to discover there was nothing there.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on, since I definitely saw something from the upstairs window.
    I took me about a week, to solve the mystery.  From the distance I was looking from at the upstairs window, I couldn’t see the small chains that were suspending the birdbath from the tree, and from that angle, it seemed as if the dark dish was an object laying in the driveway.

    I mow the grass with a gasoline push mower.  As I mow, I generally travel in a continually diminishing circle around the perimeter of the area I am mowing, but because there are a lot of trees, shrubs and other obstacles in the yard, I also have to do a lot of pushing the mower forward and backing up, pulling the mower backward.
    Yesterday afternoon was sunny, and so I decided to mow the section of the yard between the driveway fork and the barn.  At one point I was backing up, pulling the lawnmower, when suddenly it seemed as I was being electrocuted.  A pulse of shock streaked down my back and ended at my rump.  My central nervous system quickly forwarded the message to my brain that it wasn’t electricity, but cold water traveling down my body.
    Somehow I had perfectly positioned myself as I backed up, so that when I bumped into the birdbath, it lifted it enough on the one side, so that it unhooked the chain holding platter of water, and the whole cold contents of the birdbath poured down my back.  Joan who was up on the lanai, looked up, upon hearing my sudden shouts, and when she saw what had happened, just laughed at me.
    I finished mowing the yard with a wet T-shirt and wet pants.

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Saturday 7 September 2013

Virginia Creeper

    The Virginia Creeper vine that climbs over the archway to our garden has taken on its scarlet coloring for the fall.  That is the photo that you can see above. The color that the leaves take on as they change from green to red is what prompted me to do a painting of them last year.    You can see that below.

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Friday 6 September 2013

Slow Move into Autumn

    When September arrives in the Robson Valley, we can already feel the seasons slipping into autumn.  It is obvious that the days are shortening.  While it used to still be light at 9:00 PM when we wrapped up our Tuesday night jam session, last Tuesday when I lugged my guitar and mandolin out of the building, it was totally dark. 
    The sun doesn’t have the same intensity it did a month ago and in its path across the sky, it is not as high overhead and is instead is daily sagging lower to the south.  All of the shadows are lengthening.
    A few of the outer branches of the birch are starting to yellow, although most deciduous trees are still green.  Yesterday morning as we walked along the dam of our pond, there was mist rising from the water indicating that the air was colder than the water temperature.  
    The squirrel is still bouncing spruce cones off of our roof, as it gathers its winter food cache.  The branches that were full of berries along our trail are now bent down and stripped of their fruit, as the neighborhood bear does serious eating in preparation for its long hibernation.  We have started to hear the honking of geese as they congregate and move from one field to another.  
    All the signs are there and cause us to consider all the things that have to be done.  Joan has been canning tomatoes, and I have been freezing the beans.  Yesterday I was up at the waterfall redirecting the flow and getting our waterline set for winter.  I still have some firewood to split and stack, but I have enough now to get us through.  
    The forecast for BC is a warm fall, so hopefully we can continue to slowly ease toward those cold months of winter that lie ahead.

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Thursday 5 September 2013

Our Lone Chicken--Gone to a Better Place

    We have had chickens around our place for at least 10 years.  Lately it seemed that the Cosmos was letting us know that the time had come for us to turn that page.  This summer has been a bad one for our chickens.  The three we had at the beginning of the season, dropped to two under mysterious circumstances, then the number dropped again, leaving us with one lonely hen.
    We got two new chickens, but I found one of those dead in the hen house a couple of days later.  (I’m pretty sure now that it had been killed by a weasel).  The chickens began laying their eggs in Mac’s old dog house.  Then those eggs started disappearing due to an influx of martens. After catching and relocating three martens, I figured things would get back to normal for our hens.
     The two remaining chickens no longer went into the chicken house at night, preferring instead to roost in the spruce tree.  Then the other new chicken disappeared, and three days later I found its corpse in the woods.  (Another death via weasel).
    As I recently blogged, we got 5 more chickens from our friend, Monica.  Then the other night a weasel killed three of them.  I knew then that it was crazy to continue with chickens.  I didn’t want to try to kill the weasel, and so I called Monica and she said she would take all of my remaining 3 chickens.
    On Sunday night, I was able to corner one of them and get it into a box.  I was going to take it over to Monica’s Monday afternoon, and just as I was about to do that, my two escaped chickens wandered into the chicken run and I shut them in.  I managed to catch one of them, and put it into the box with the other one, but our original chicken flew from my hands, slammed into the gate, which opened, and it escaped into the yard.  I wasn’t sure when I would be able to catch it since it no longer trusted me.
    I drove the two captured chickens to Monica’s and they rejoined life in their original home.  They probably thought their week living at my place was just a bad dream.
    Yesterday when I came home from town, Joan told me that the neighbor’s pit bull along with two other dogs, came into our yard and chased our lone chicken, and she had wits enough to escape to the chicken house.  Joan shut her in.
    The chicken was safe from the dogs, but not from me.  After a bout of chasing and frantic fluttering, I managed to grab her and put her into the box and I immediately drove her out to Monica’s farm, where she can live out the rest of her life with the other free ranging chickens, turkeys, and other fowl.  She has gone to a better place.

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Wednesday 4 September 2013

"The Rat"

    In the spring my pond is a busy place with a lot of migrating ducks, some of which stick around to have their families.  Also in the fall when the ducks return, there is a lot to see.  I have always found it surprising, how little goes on in the pond during the summer.  
    There are no ducks, and except for some dragonflies, some schools of small fish, and maybe a few days when the kingfisher comes around to eat them, there isn’t much wildlife to see.  For years now I have had a muskrat that lives in the pond, but I really hadn’t seen it all summer and I wasn’t sure if it was still around.
    He is a very shy guy and dives under the water whenever it sees us, but the other day when Joan and I were walking along the dam, he just sat there, thinking he was well hidden, and watched us.  Joan doesn’t much like the muskrat because it sometimes muddies up the water as he digs up the roots of the cattails to eat.  She calls him, “The rat.”  Here is a photo of him watching us on the sly.

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Tuesday 3 September 2013

Chicken on Bicycle

    I have a fond memory about the time I had to replace the double glazed glass in our living room bay window.  It was not the fun or the excitement of doing the installation that made it memorable; it was the fact that everything worked.
    The glass was the right size, it went in easily, and the framing all fit and I was able to quickly put it  into place.  It was an amazing event.  Life would be so nice if there wasn’t so many unexpected bumps in the road.
    At present I find myself frustrated by two unrelated things:  Rescuing my remaining chickens and the new toilet we bought in July. 
    Since yesterday’s chicken massacre, I have been trying to catch the three survivors, so I can take them over to the safe haven at Monica’s.  I was able to conner and capture one of the chickens and kept it in a pet carrying case overnight, but the other two chickens are so skitterish that they won’t let me get close to them.  They don’t want to come close to the chicken house, which is the only place I can catch them.
    Last night, Joan spotted the two fugitives roosting on the handlebars of my bicycle.  By the time I got out there one had disappeared and the other had jumped down to the cross bar.  As I approached, she also scurried into the bushes.

    The frustration I am having with our new toilet is due to the fact that it is faulty and has been ever since I put it in.  It periodically either doesn’t turn itself off when the tank is filling with water and continues to run, or it decides to secretly drain the tank leaving it empty for the next flush.   Every time we flush we have to hang around until the tank fills to see if it turns off.  For a month now I have been hoping that it would correct itself.   I have taken the lid off hundreds of times and tinkered with the mechanisms in the tank, but to no avail.  
    I have finally had enough, so I guess it will mean taking the toilet out, driving it back 135 miles (217 km) back to Prince George and then getting a new one, driving it back to McBride, and installing it.
    Some urban people dream about the simple life in the countryside, I often dream about the same thing.

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Monday 2 September 2013

Massacre in the Hen House

    This morning when I went out to feed the chickens, I made a heartbreaking discovery.  Three of the five, beautiful new birds, I had gotten last week, were laying dead on the ground.  At first I couldn’t see that they had any wounds on them, but then as I rolled them over, I noticed that they had all been bitten in the neck just below the skull.  
    I am beginning to learn that this is probably the work of a weasel.  I heard that they bite and then suck the blood.  Nothing bigger than a weasel could have gotten through the small squares in the wire fencing.
    Now that I think about it, a weasel seems to explain the deaths of the other chickens that were killed this summer.  When I inspected their corpses I was looking for big open wounds and I didn’t look close enough under the feathers on the neck.  A weasel probably also explains why our original chicken started sleeping in the spruce tree instead of the chicken house.
    I believe this puts an end to our having chickens.  It doesn’t make sense to watch our 3 remaining chickens die to quench the thirst of a weasel, so I called Monica, from whom we got our chickens, and she said she would take our remaining three.  Their lives should last a lot longer over at her place.  
    It’s too bad; both Joan and I enjoyed seeing the chickens wandering around and scratching in the yard, and it was nice to have the eggs, before all the drama this summer stopped their production.

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