Tuesday 31 December 2013

Remembering 2013

    The last day of the year is usually the day to reflect on all of those things, both positive and negative, that happened.  For me the negative memories outweighed the good ones in 2012, but 2013 was a good one for me.  There were a few negatives; we went weeks without a toilet, and it seemed that we would never find a new one that would fit or work.  We had to give up on having chickens when it became clear that if we continued, a weasel would end up killing them all, but those episodes, though frustrating, were minor in comparison with the real tragedies experienced by others.
    Being a real weather oriented person, I had to be impressed at how good the weather was for us in 2013.  We had lots of warmth and sun, and got rain at all the right times for us to have a really bountiful garden.  There were very few mosquitoes, and a beautiful and mild fall.
    2013 was the year I discovered that there were pine martens living close to us, and woke up one morning to find one in my bedroom.  It was the year a Subway restaurant truck wrecked close to McBride and we ended up with rolls of frozen dough for making buns (we still have a big bag in our freezer, since I keep forgetting to make buns).
    Our cat Lucifer discovered the delights of watching TV and following the cursor on my computer screen.  She also learned to curl up to snooze in the cardboard box beside the computer instead of standing in front of the monitor.  
    I started playing music again in 2013.  I initiated a weekly jam session at the library, and as a result gained a lot of new musical friends and learned a lot of new songs.  The mandolin became my main instrument forcing me to learn a lot of new chords and I got a new amplifier for my electric guitar for when I want to play rock and roll.  Joan and I had to re-awaken a lot of old brain cells by starting to square dance again.
    I stopped two life-long habits.  Water became my drink of choice, thus stopping the habit of drinking Coca Cola or other soft drinks.  I also mysteriously stopped chewing on my fingernails, something I had done all of my life.  I whacked off the pony tail I had for 20 years.  
    I think the the most positive thing that happened in 2013 was getting a dog again.  We spent 8 hours of nerve-wracking driving on icy highways to get Skye from an animal shelter down in Chilliwack.  It feels like our little family is complete again.
    If you have been following my blog, you already know most of these things, but I felt obligated to follow the lead of all the TV and radio news programs and review the year.  I hope 2013 had been a good one for you too, and that 2014 will a be a really good year for everyone.

See my paintings at:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Monday 30 December 2013

Back to Snow

    A couple of days ago I was complaining about the rain turning my driveway to ice.  Today I would like to take this opportunity to complain about snow.  This is the second day in a row I have had to shovel my driveway.  Yesterday I shoveled 5 inches (12.7 cm) of fresh snow snow from the driveway  and today it was about 4 inches (10 cm).    
    I hope you don’t get the wrong impression, complaining about the weather is one of my favorite pastimes, but deep down inside, I realize we have it pretty good.  While I am sure some of you might shudder at the thought of winter in Canada, the weather here in the Robson Valley is quite tolerable.
    When you look at the other weather stories on the news, some snow doesn’t seem like too much of a hardship.  After an ice storm in Eastern Canada just before Christmas, some people still are living without electricity after all this time, and they have had to deal with cold temperatures at the same time.  Several people have died of carbon monoxide while trying to keep warm in their house using barbecues inside to generate heat.

    Then there were floods in England, and a heat wave in Argentina, where 70 people were hurt while trying to cool off in a river and were attacked by a school of piranha.  My sister in Indiana told me the got 6 inches (15 cm) of rain the other day.  Yep, I am happy to be just having to face fresh snow. 

Take a look at my paintings:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Sunday 29 December 2013

And To All A 'Goodnight'

    Ever wonder what the well dressed McBridian was wearing to bed?  Joan thought the world deserved to know, so she took this photo of me in the night gown and hat I got for Christmas.  Whenever I put it on, I always feel like I should be walking around holding a candle in a candle holder.
    P.S. I don’t wear the “house boots” to bed.  

I am still painting in the morning.  See my paintings at:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Friday 27 December 2013

I've Been Working on the Driveway

  My driveway is about 60 meters long.  During the summer my outdoor work activities are spread all around, I work in the garden, mow the lawn, and do odd jobs on the out buildings, but in the winter, just about 95% of my outside work is done on the driveway.  It is, after all, our link to the outside world, so it has to be kept clear.  
    Most of my winter work consists of shoveling snow off of the drive.  If we get a light snow, say 3 inches (7.6 cm), I could easily drive over it, but I like to clear the driveway anyway; you never know how much snow might be coming overnight, and it is a lot easier and quicker to shovel a light blanket of snow than a really thick one.  Also, if you continually drive over each new snowfall, it builds up into high ridges that become difficult to drive on, and it takes forever to melt when spring comes.
    I have had a lot of opportunities to shovel the driveway this year.  Even though I keep it clear, some snow always stays on the drive and when it is driven over it turns into “hard pack”, (compacted  snow) and roughly the same thing as ice.  A lot of roads and driveways in this country are a lot smoother to drive on in the winter with the hard pack than they are on the summer, with mud, ruts, and holes.
    After the past couple of days of above freezing temperatures +4C (39F) and rain, the hard pack on my drive turned to glare ice.  Because my driveway slopes up to the road, it would have been near impossible to get up the driveway, so some action was called for.
    This condition happens at some point every winter, and what I generally do is take ashes from our wood stove and spread that across the ice.  It “pocks” the slick surface of the ice and gives tires (and boots) some traction.  That is how I began this morning.
    I took the ash bucket and as I carefully walked up the incredibly slippery drive, I threw handfuls of ashes in front of me, giving me some footing.  Unfortunately the one bucket of ashes I had didn’t get me very far up the drive, so when the bucket was empty I had to come up with some other solution, and luckily I had one.
    Last summer I got a load of sandy gravel to fill some of the low spots on the driveway.  I hadn’t used it all and had a pile of it left by the barn.  The problem was that it had been sitting all winter, so it was covered with about 10 inches (25cm) of snow, and when I had cleared a small section of snow  away, I was not surprised to find that the surface of the pile was frozen as hard as concrete.
       After banging around at it with the shovel, I was able to break through the icy crust of the sandpile and found loose sand underneath.  Then it was just a matter of tunneling or mining the loose gravel from inside the middle of the pile.
    I was able to get 5 bucketfuls of sandy gravel out of the pile, which gave me enough to spread the entire length of the driveway.  Although I haven’t tried driving it yet, I am fairly confident we now again have access to the outside world.

See my paintings:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Thursday 26 December 2013

Robson Valley Wind Monitoring System

    During the Fall and Winter the Robson Valley often has to endure strong winds, as powerful weather systems from the Pacific move across the mountains of BC.  In order to monitor and gauge the strength of these winds, I have set up a wind monitoring system in my carport.  
    If you look carefully at the above photo you might recognize a rounded wooden frame to which a row of clothes hooks are attached.  You can see an orange hard hat and some purple rain pants hanging from some of the hooks.  I also use the hooks to hang tools, like rakes and brooms on the wall.  That is were the blue snow shovels were hanging Christmas Eve when the winds began.
    Yesterday, when I walked out to the carport, I noticed the floor was covered with snow and that the brooms and snow shovels were lying down instead of hanging on the wall.  This is exactly how my wind monitoring system works-- when I find the items that were hanging on the wall, lying down on the carport floor, I knew that overnight the wind had been blowing hard.

I paint every day.  Check out my realistic paintings at:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Debris Trail

    That’s Lucifer there on the right, looking over the debris trail left after the package opening frenzy this morning.  It appears that I was either a good boy, or Santa got bad information, because I got a lot of very nice presents--a lot of them centering around the theme of keeping warm in the winter time.
    I got some felt house boots, and a sleeping gown, complete with hat.  Our friend, Di , who always gives us more gifts than we deserve, must have been taking notes while reading my blog, gifts from her included books on how to grow chili’s, how to make hot sauce from chili’s, and a book about strategies for outwitting squirrels. 
    We talked to Di this morning and she told us that her sister in Scotland apparently got confused when sending gifts out and had mistakenly sent Di the gift meant for someone in Dubai, and I guess Di’s gift went there.
    I guess it won’t surprise anyone that we had ourselves a white Christmas up here in McBride, BC, with a good foot (30cm) of snow on the ground and lots of blowing snow in the air.

Even though it was Christmas, I painted, see my paintings:  www.davidmarchant.ca 

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Lucky Joan Wins Big!

    Yesterday morning, we got a phone call from the local BC Liquor store.  It seems that Joan won the grand Prize in their Christmas Draw--a big stuffed bear.  Joan is the proven winner in our family, shortly after we moved to McBride, about 30 years ago, she won a shopping spree at the grocery store and got to run around with a shopping cart picking up free items off of the shelf, then about 15 years ago she won a fancy new mountain bike at the other grocery store.  
    Unfortunately, even though she often buys lottery tickets, somehow those big cash prizes have not materialized for her.  We are not sure what we are going to do with the big bear.

See my paintings:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Monday 23 December 2013


    We’ve had our dog, Skye, now for a month and one of the surprising things we have noticed is that she hasn’t yet barked.  We really didn’t want a dog that barked all the time, Mac, our previous dog didn’t bark very much, but when he saw a squirrel or deer, he let them know he was irritated by their presence and that he was in charge of the yard by vocalizing.
    I figured that Skye would be the same.  Just wait until she saw a squirrel or a deer, then in her excitement, we would hear her voice, but no.  She has seen squirrels, and is very curious about them, running below them as they jump from tree to tree, but no barking.  I was sure that seeing a deer would set her off, but again, no.  
    In the photo above, Skye is sitting on a chair beside the window.  The brown lump you see on the other side of the glass is the back and rear end of a deer munching on dried grass at the edge of the house.  Skye watched the deer, didn’t bark, and was more curious about what I was doing with the camera.
    Curiously enough, most of the vocalization she does, she does when she is sleeping.  In the middle of the night, she makes little howling noises and other sorts of sounds with her voice. 
    I do sort of wish that she would just give the next squirrel she sees a bit of her opinion.

Visit my website to view my paintings:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Sunday 22 December 2013

Another Photogenic Morning

    This morning when Skye and I headed out for our morning walk on the trail, I glanced up at the dawning sky and knew that the morning would probably avail me of some interesting photographs.  When we got down to the field by the Fraser River, the sunrise was providing a peach colored sky in the east and in the west I saw a rainbow, certainly not something I expected in mid-winter.
    I took some shots of the Fraser, and the rainbow, then we continued on through the snow and got to the pasture right below my dam, there I noticed the bright orange tops of the spruce trees--illuminated by the rising sun.  
    If you see a colorful sunrise or sunset always remember to look behind you, because often you see some magnificent lighting there too.

See my paintings at: www.davidmarchant.ca

Saturday 21 December 2013

Long Awaited Day Arrives

    The Winter Solstice has arrived!  Officially it means that winter has just begun, but to me it means that from now on the days will be getting longer, and that we are over the hump and sliding into Spring.  This is mainly a psychological uplift, since most of the cold weather is probably still ahead of us, but somehow knowing that each day there will be a little more sunlight, somehow gives me optimism.  
    I have always related to those primitive ancestors who recognized the Winter Solstice and celebrated  its importance.  To me it is really New Year’s Day.
    I took the photo a couple of days ago, it was nice to see the fuzzy moon up there in the pinkish morning sky.

Feel free to look at my paintings:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Friday 20 December 2013

At Square Dancing

    Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera along last night at square dancing, so I had to drag out a photo I took way back in the middle of October, when square dancing first started.  I found last night’s session quite interesting and that is what I was going to talk about.
    Kjell, who was our neighbor for 30 years, once told me after spending time away from McBride that one of the things that he thought was neat was that when he was living elsewhere, all of the people he hung around with were the same age as he was.  When he was living in McBride, he was always with people whose ages spanned a wide range.  That is something I have found to be true also.  I guess because it is such a small community (750 people) that organizations do have a wide range of ages.
    One of the big surprises about square dancing was just how many young people have been coming.  Last night the age range was between 15 and 80 (actually the range could be greater, I am only guessing).  Fern and Lloyd, who used to run square dancing back in 1977 came by to see what was going on and actually got out on the floor for a few dances, and new young people keep showing up weekly.  Where we once had enough people for one square (8 dancers) we now have three squares and people sitting out.
    Last night in the middle of the session, McBride’s youth hockey team, came in Santa hats and caroled to us.  They were soon grabbed and forced to do a few simple square dances with the group.
    Square dancing will now take a break until after the holidays.  I have sure enjoyed getting out and promenading with my partner and allemanding with my corner .  It helps to make the winter pass quickly.

Take a look at my realistic paintings:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Thursday 19 December 2013

Return of the Winter Wonderland

    Yipee, we got our internet back.  We lost it on Tuesday night during a really amazing snowstorm.  The snow was just beginning, as I was heading out on my 10 minute drive into McBride for our weekly jam session.  It was the worst snow-driving conditions I have ever experienced on Mountain View Rd.  Even with the low beams on, the flakes were so big I could hardly tell where the road was.  I figured I would be the only person to show up, but we had pretty much our regular contingent, which included Lelani and Bob, who drove through the awful storm from Dunster--truly dedicated musicians all.
    Wednesday morning, I drove into town and on the way back along the straight stretch before getting to the turn where the old bridge used to be, I watched a SUV come around the curve, slide one way, then swerve across the road to the other direction, it didn’t look like it was getting any slower, so I slowed down and watched as it turned tail first and slide into the ditch, finally stopping when it hit a tree with its rear end.   I pulled over and climbed down to see if anyone was hurt, fortunately no.  It was a young mother, visibly shook up, with five small kids.   After getting her and her brood into another vehicle which was headed into town, I proceeded on my journey home.
    Yesterday was a photographer’s dream with all the trees thickly covered with snow. I ended up taking forty photos, as I kept seeing the dream-like environment made by all the snow.  It sure makes me appreciate digital cameras, which allow numerous photos without having to worry about running out of film.

See my paintings:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Tuesday 17 December 2013


    I think the photo probably says it all, but I hate to see a big empty space where I am supposed to write so I am going to add some more words.  The cold temperatures and clear weather that we had last week are gone replaced by warmer, cloudier,  and wetter weather here in the Robson Valley.  Early this morning when I took this shot the temperature was +4 C (39 F).  The rain showers we have been getting have turned the packed snow in my driveway into ice.  The snow in the yard and pasture has slumped, but at least it is still there.  
    Yesterday, I took Skye for a walk at the airfield.  It is a fairly windy place which causes the snow to drift so it is not as deep, and it had pretty much disappeared from both sides of the runway.  The forecast  says it is supposed to turn colder today.  I hope so, I would much rather see it snow than rain.

I paint every day, see the results:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Monday 16 December 2013

Christmas Bird Count

    This time of year a lot of communities in North America join in and do a Christmas Bird Count.  Birders and nature oriented individuals keep track of the birds they see during the day, then report the results, so that scientists can see trends in the bird populations at the various locations over the years.  Yesterday, McBride had its bird count, and like in years past I volunteered to keep track of the birds that hang around our place and come to the bird feeder.
    I must confess that I am not as dedicated as those people who get up early, drive to some remote area, and spend the day with binoculars hanging around their necks, watching and listening for birds.  I always feel pretty intimidated by those hardcore birders.  I envy their abilities of observation and hearing, but my brain just seems to lack some of those key parts that they are able to use.
    I can look at a bird, and make mental notes of what I am seeing:  “it is grayish, it has sort of stripes, is kind of a middle size, it has a sharp, thin, beak.”
    I am sure I will remember those characteristics as the bird flies away and I reach for my bird book.  Then as I am confronted with the myriad of drawings of birds from the book, and no matter how long I look at the pictures, I end up realizing that I haven’t a clue of which bird it was that I saw.
    The same scenario plays out with bird calls.  Some people can hear an almost inaudible snippet of sound coming from the forest and say, “Oh, a brown creeper.”
    Unless it’s a raven, a woodpecker, or some other really common bird, I usually can’t distinguish between bird calls; they all sound so much alike to me.  Birding is really something I don’t seem to have much ability for.  
    Above, you see a cartoon I did many years ago.  It is a list particularly designed for the want-a-be birder, who has the same abilities of observation that I possess.  It has been created to give you some feeling of success, so that you don’t go away frustrated.
    As far as yesterday’s bird count, it was probably one of the poorest years I can recall.  I used to have a much wider variety of birds around our place.  Many of the species that I had seen for years seem to no longer be around.  I don’t really know why, not much has really changed in the neighborhood environment, and those are birds that don’t migrate, they spend the whole year around here.

I paint every day, in the realism style.  See my paintings:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Sunday 15 December 2013


    Wolves live around here, but it is fairly rare to actually sight one.  Two and a half weeks ago, we did see some wolf tracks in the snow on our trail.  Yesterday, we saw a wolf down on the Fraser River.  By the time I got my camera out and ready, it was already heading for the bush, but I did manage to get this shot.  As you can see they do look a lot like a German Shepherd, but it was fairly far away from any houses, and Joan did spot a pair of wolves down on the River a few days ago.
    It took me about 15 years after moving to McBride to see my first wolf.  One Sunday afternoon in February, I put on some snowshoes and decided to walk up to the bluffs that jut out on the slope across  the road from our house.  When I got up to the rocks, I was a surprised to see a black wolf lazing on a boulder watching me.  She sat up on her haunches stretched and yawned as she looked at me.  I remember her yellow eyes.
    I just stood there for a while watching then turned and walked away.  I did feel a bit spooked, but nothing happened, except I got myself a good story.  I have seen more wolves lately, mostly on our drives to Prince George.  

See my paintings:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Saturday 14 December 2013

Birch Seeds

     There are a lot of birch trees growing in the neighborhood, but I have never spent much time thinking about how they got there, but over the past week it has become very obvious--the snow is speckled with birch seeds.  They are tiny, almost bird-shaped, paper-thin, particles, which are thrown thrown in the wind like confetti. 

    I am sure this happens every year, but it has never been as obvious as it has been this winter.  I guess the birch trees benefited from the wonderful weather we had this summer, as much as all of the other plants.  During the summer the seeds are held in a “catkin” a small cone-like structure that you can see on the photo.  They dry out during the fall, and then in November and December they are dispersed.  Many are eaten by chickadees and grouse.
    I am sure the fact that they have fallen on the snow, makes them more visible, but I am astounded at just how many there are.  There must be millions and millions.  The lower photo is typical of the spread.  It shows a small area around two deer tracks that were out in my open pasture, imagine how many seeds can be seen closer to, and inside the forest, and of course there are still a lot of catkins, fully loaded, hanging on the trees.

See my paintings at:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Friday 13 December 2013

Pernilla and Emma

    I am sure that friends and relatives who have come to visit us in McBride, have left thinking that we live pretty close to the “ends of the earth.”   I even feel that way myself sometimes, but despite our great distances from the “rest of the world”, I am always surprised that there are so many people from faraway that come here, and seemingly, enjoy the experience.  A case in point are the Valley’s two visitors from Sweden:  Pernilla and Emma.
    I first ran into them when when came to square dancing (actually it has been a big surprise to me just how many young people  have been coming), but to get back to Pernilla and Emma; looking for some adventure, they somehow signed up to work for a local rancher, I assume for room and board.  They arrived in the Robson Valley in the fall, which is a surprising time to come.  That is usually when everyone is trying to escape the coming winter season.
    These two Swedes seem to like the challenges that winter brings, living in a small wood-heated cabin and working outside with the horses.  They even postponed their trip back home so they could stay longer in the Valley, thus missing Christmas and New Years in Sweden.  They have been showing up at other local events, like the McBride Christmas Fair and Pernilla even picked up a guitar to join in during last Tuesdays jam session.
    It really makes me feel good knowing that there are young people like these two, who are adventurous enough to spend time in unfamiliar places to broaden their experiences and join in to a lifestyle different from what they are used to.
    They have been doing a short blog that shows lots of photos of their adventures, that I found interesting.  Here is a link: 

See my paintings at:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Thursday 12 December 2013


    I have always enjoyed reading and now that I am retired I am reading more than ever.  During 2013 there has been a change in my reading habits--the bulk of what I read now, is made up of e-books.  I have bought e-books on line, and have downloaded a slew of old, out of copyright books that are free, but most of the e-books I have been reading have been “borrowed” from the library.  
    I’m sure most libraries now have this service.  You have to have a library card, a reader of some kind (I use my iPad), and an app.   British Columbia libraries, and I suspect most other libraries in North America, use an app called “Overdrive”.  It allows you to download, read, and return books, as well as listen to audio books, if that is what you checked out.  In BC you get the e-book for 3 weeks, down in my old hometown of Evansville, Indiana you only get them for two.
    It usually doesn’t take me 3 weeks to read the books, I always “return” them as soon as I am done.  I think they just disappear if you forget to return them.  Because there is often a waiting list of readers who want to read a popular book, returning one as soon as you are done means they get to read them sooner.
    People always say they like to read real books.  They like to hold them in their hands and feel them.  I do to, but I am now used to reading on my iPad, and what I really like is the availability of the books.  As soon as I am done with a book, I return it and a minute later, I have a new one on my screen to start on.
    If, like me, you love to read and have an iPad or other reader, you really ought to visit your library and see what online programs you can use.
    While I am on the subject of iPads, I just have to say how much I love it.  I have more than a day and a half’s worth of my favorite music on it.  I use it to show people my paintings.  I am helping a friend translate her book and make it digital by typing on it.  I use it for reading the news, and listening to the radio before I go to sleep.  I get my McBride weather forecasts and look at weather maps, it lets me keep all of my addresses, and can shows me a satellite photo of their houses.  I have used it to take photos and do my blog.  I watch videos and it even helps me tune my mandolin.  
    Those are just some of the things I use it for, you can make it do whatever YOU want.
    The photo shows my iPad screen showing a portion of the books I have read over the year.

See my paintings at:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Wednesday 11 December 2013

International Mountain Day

    I recently discovered that December 11 was designated by the United Nations to be International Mountain Day.  Mountains are certainly an attraction to me, it is the main reason I live where I do.  It gives me daily pleasure to watch the sun, moon, and weather change the views of the mountains that surround the Robson Valley.
    To celebrate the day, I decided to dig through my box of old slides to find a photo I took way back in  1978, which was the first winter after we had bought our property McBride.  It has always been one of my best photos of Mount Robson, (the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies), and my favorite mountain.
    I remember the circumstances of taking the photo well.  We were just returning from a Christmas trip to Indiana.  The day before we had driven from Billings, Montana, and after driving all day, we reached Jasper, Alberta, which was the last town before the 100 mile drive to our home in McBride.  It was around 10:00 P.M. on the night of New Year’s Day.
    It was very cold, crisp, and clear, and we could see a million stars twinkling in the frigid sky.  We were eager to get back to our house, but there was a problem, our gas tank was near empty, and to our dismay we discovered that all of the gas stations in Jasper were closed. 
    We were young and foolish, but luckily prepared, so we got our down sleeping bags out, made room in the back of our International Scout, then snuggled together to spend the night in the car.  The temperature was -20F (-29C), and when we woke up the next morning, there was frost on our sleeping bags from our breath.  Luckily our car started on the first try, but the accelerator pedal stuck, so I turned off the car, then couldn’t get it started again, and had to get someone to give me a jump with jumper cables to get it restarted.
    We filled up with gas and headed west for our drive to McBride.  When we passed Mount Robson, the sun was shining on its face, but the valley below it was bathed in blue, still shaded by the mountains around it.  That is when I took the photo.
    Taking the photo of Robson was not the only big event of the day.  When we got back home we discovered that everything had frozen (we only had wood heat at the time).  Our toilet tank had frozen and cracked, and we had no water.  After a visit to the Post Office to get our mail, I discovered that I had won top prize in the Harrowsmith Magazine’s photo contest and was being sent a Nikon camera.  All in all, it was quite a day.

My paintings can be viewed at:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Piling Up

    It sounds as if huge swaths of North America are experiencing dramatic winter weather.  My brother way down south in Dallas, was without power for most of a day due to an ice storm.  Perhaps the worst weather was in the Canadian prairies where extremely cold temperatures were mixed with snow and very strong winds.  Last week I was complaining about our cold temperatures and this week it has warmed up (-8C 17F) but the snow keeps falling.
    I usually paint in the morning, but over the last two days I have had to spend my mornings shoveling the driveway.  The forecast for the week looks like some snow every day.  Officially, it is not even winter yet, and I am already worrying about where I am going to put the snow along the driveway as the piles get higher and higher. 
    Our new dog Skye seems to be adapting well to all of the white stuff and loves to bury his nose into it.

You can see my paintings at:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Monday 9 December 2013

Block Heaters

    Shortly after moving to Canada back in 1973, I began to notice that most vehicles had an electric plug dangling out of the front.  I had never seen such a thing and was curious as to what they were for.  Vehicles up in the colder climes usually have what are called “block heaters”.  They look like a small version of an electric hot water tank element, if you know what they look like.  If not, then they are just a short thick metal loop that goes inside of the car’s engine.
    When they are plugged in they heat the engine’s antifreeze or in some cases the engine’s motor oil, thus warming up the engine.   In very cold conditions when the engine is very cold it turns over very slowly when you are trying to start it, with a block heater warming the engine, it starts up much easier.  Because block heaters are so common up here a lot of motels and businesses have electric outlets in their parking lots to serve their workers or customers.
    Some people waste a lot of electricity by plugging in their cars when it gets cold and heating the engine over night or for days, whether they are going anywhere or not.  We usually just plug it in 1-2 hours before we have to leave, and that is enough to warm the engine for an easy start.
     It is always fun to hear about cars driving down the street trailing extension cords behind them, because the driver forgot to unplug their car before they left.  We have forgotten a few times, but always heard the “thunk” of the extension cord when it shot out of the wall or the plug in front of the car.  
    If you see a car or truck from the north with an electrical plug hanging out of its grille, remember its probably just a block heater, not an electric car.

You can see my realistic paintings at:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Sunday 8 December 2013

Open Water

    I am happy to announce that the cold temperatures we have been experiencing have begun to moderate.  The clear skies are gone, it is snowing and a balmy -15C (5F).  While that might sound cold, after the -29C (-22F), it does feel a whole lot more tolerable outside.  After a few days of refraining from much outside activities, this morning Skye and I did walk most of our trail.
    I haven’t taken the trouble to measure how much ice is on the pond, but I would suspect that it is at least 8 inches, (20 cm) thick.  Despite that, I am always gratified to see that this small patch of open water, you see in the photo, is in fact still open.  It is where the outflow of our waterline drains into the pond.  During the winter we keep the water flowing so our waterline doesn’t freeze.  I have always been amazed that a little flow of water will keep the line from freezing, even in really cold temperatures.
    Having lost our water during a few winters in the past, it is one of my main concerns during the winter.  Having a foot (30cm)  or so of snow on the ground also is a big help, since it insulates the ground.  At present we only have about 4 inches (10cm), which isn’t a whole lot, so I hope that we will be getting another dump of snow before the next cold snap.

Visit my website to see my paintings:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Saturday 7 December 2013

More Frosted Grass

    -29C (-20F) this morning.  During these cold spells I can’t help but think about the wild animals.  I saw a deer gleaning some food from my bird feeder yesterday.  They have, of course, developed over millions of years of cold winters, but as I huddle around the wood stove and put on layers and layers of clothing before going outside for 15 minutes, its hard to not wonder how they survive through these long dark months of biting cold.
    When we first moved to Canada we experienced sometimes, a solid week of temperatures at -40C (-40F).  Its been a long while since we’ve had it that cold, I guess I am getting soft in my old age because the temperatures we have been getting over the last few days are plenty cold enough for me now.  
    When we used to get the really cold temperatures, everything started causing trouble.  The car wouldn’t start, our water would freeze, and basically things were pretty miserable.  Because of those experiences, now every time it gets cold, I feel uneasy.  I can’t help but expect trouble.  Of course, life goes on, and after a while we get used to it, but I would prefer it to warm up a bit and snow.

I paint every morning, see what I've done at: www.davidmarchant.ca

Friday 6 December 2013

Frosted Grass

    There is a dome of cold temperatures sitting over the Robson Valley, and it looks as if the frigid temperatures will be around for a while.  This morning the thermometer read -28C (-18F).
    We have been keeping our outside activities to a minimum, which means that we go outside to feed the birds, get firewood, and give Skye a chance to do her business.  We did get brave last night and drove into square dancing to get a little exercise.
    Yesterday afternoon, I walked Skye around my frozen pond, and noticed  these frost covered weeds sticking up out of the crystal covered snow.  I dug under my coat and pulled out my camera and took this shot.  
    As I mentioned the other day, during the winter the sun does climb very high in the sky, and as you can see from the shadows on this photo, the angle of the sun is pretty low for being in the mid afternoon.

You can view my paintings at:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Thursday 5 December 2013

Cold Feet

    On our first day with Skye, as we were driving her back to McBride, we made a stop along a snowy highway to give her a chance to pee.  We noticed that it didn’t take long for her to start lifting her paws off of the snow, because they were getting cold.  We figured that this was probably her first experience with the white stuff, and that she would adapt over time.  She has adapted quickly, and loves to tear around in the powder when temperatures aren’t to brutal, but like Mac, our previous dog, when it is really cold outside (-10C, 14F) or colder, after a while she starts lifting legs off of the cold surface.
    Since it has been cold over the last few days, we knew that she was going to have problems, so we dug out Mac’s old dog boots to see how they would do for Skye.  We knew that they wouldn’t be a great fit for her, since they were too big for Mac and he had bigger feet than Skye. 
    Even though they were plenty big, it was still a struggle to get all four of them on Skye’s feet.  She, of course didn’t know what we were trying to do, and didn’t cooperate.  Once we got them on her and she tried to walk, she reacted just like Mac did;  she would raise her paws really high, like she was trying to step over them, resulting in more than a prance than a walk.
    We headed out on our walk, and it didn’t take long for one of the boots to come off of the back feet.  We didn’t try to put it back on her, since it was hard enough to do in the house, let alone try doing it out in the snow.  We proceeded.  
    A bit further down the trail, one of her front boots came off.  Joan picked it up, and on we went.  We only got about 1/4 of the way down the trail, when we were all cold enough to turn around and head back to the house.
    I imagine we will try the boots on her again, since when they stay on, they do keep her feet warmer, but eventually we will probably have to buy her some that fit.

You can view my paintings at:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Cold Days

    This morning the temperature outside was -24C (-11F).  During the winter that is the price we often have to pay for clear skies.  It means a lot of wood in the stove and looking like the Michelin Man after putting on all the coats, hats, and boots.  
    I took this photo at 8:30 this morning, that’s an half an hour after the official sunrise, so you can see that the sun is still pretty low on the horizon.  The arc of the sun’s path during the winter is pretty low.  The thing that keeps me going this time of year is the realization that the winter solstice is only 17 days away and even though that is the official start of winter, at least I will know that the days will be starting to get longer.

Take a look at my paintings:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Tuesday 3 December 2013


    Occasionally I end up with some article of clothing that just doesn’t work for me.  Long ago I blogged about a shirt whose sleeves were too short, and I ended up cutting off the cuffs of a ripped up old shirt and sewing them onto the ill-fitting shirt to make the sleeves the right length.  Sometimes a clothing problem can be corrected, but sometimes it can’t.
    The photo shows some relatively new socks that were causing me problems.  It shows exactly what these socks looked like when I removed my foot from my boots.
    Yesterday I was wearing this particular pair of socks when we headed out for our morning walk.  As I walked, the socks, began to slowly work their way down off of my lower leg, then my ankles, until half of my foot was naked in my felt pack boots and I was walking on a big clump of sock bunched up under my arches with every step I took.    
    I had to stop twice along the way, balancing on one foot, while I took off my boot and pulled my socks back on, only to have it do exactly the same thing further down the trail.  It was extremely irritating because instead of enjoying the walk and the scenery around me, my attention could not be diverted from being aware of my socks slowly working their way off of my foot.
    I am going to get rid of these socks and donate them to the local thrift store.  Perhaps on someone else’s feet they will behave better.

Visit my website to see my realistic paintings:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Monday 2 December 2013

Training Skye

    I guess it is becoming pretty evident by the number of blogs I am writing about our new dog, that she has pretty much taken over our lives.  She has become our main focus as we introduce her to our routines and she has adapted to them really well.
    There was one thing that we have been remiss in teaching her and that is staying by herself in the house.  Since we got her, one of us has pretty much always been around to keep her company.  We recognized that  it is an essential lesson for to her to stay alone in the house with Lucifer, our scary cat, because we can’t always take her everywhere we go.
    One day, Joan and I purposely left her in the house while we spent 20 minutes walking the trail.  We were happy to discover upon our return, that the house was still standing, and both of our pets were still inside, unharmed. 
    Despite this successful experiment, Joan still suffered from “Separation Anxiety” (a condition that usually effects the dog, not the owner), and a couple of times has opted for sitting at home with the dog, instead of going to square dancing.  We both knew we had to be more hardcore about leaving the dog alone and so we made a plan.
    We decided that Sunday night, we would treat ourselves and go out to eat at “Morels” McBride’s best restaurant.  Eating out is something we rarely do, so we were both looking forward to it.  Because we both really like to eat, we generally have our evening meal really early, at 4:00, but Morels doesn’t start its evening menu until 5:00, so it meant we had to endure an hour of hunger until we could drive to McBride and have our meal.
    Finally, at 4:50, the time finally arrived when we could head out for the restaurant.  Skye looked up at us with her big sad eyes, but we gritted our teeth, and told her, “Stay” in a firm voice.  We shut the door, got into the car, and headed out into the dark night of rain/snow to Morels.  After the 10 minute drive we arrived at our destination only to discover that Morels was closed on Sunday nights, so we shrugged our shoulders, turned around, and drive back home.
    Skye was happy to see us again after our 20 minute absence.  It wasn’t much of a test for her, but again nothing seemed to have happened while we were away.  I guess the next longer lesson will have to be put off until another day.

See my paintings:  www.davidmarchant.ca