Tuesday 30 September 2014

Tropical Southern Indiana

     Ever since I started living in Canada, and took a few trips to the jungles of Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica, whenever I return to Southern Indiana for a visit, I am struck by just how "tropical" it is.  They do experience a winter complete with snow and freezing weather, but the summers are very hot and humid, allowing all those jungly things that can make it through the winter, to thrive.  
     The photo you see is of an "Elephant Ear" plant my sister has growing in her garden.  (Excuse my ugly mug, but I wanted to show you how big it was in comparison to a person). My sister does have to dig up the tuber to store in the house over winter but once she puts it back in the ground, and the warmer temperatures arrive in the spring, it is ready to grow like nothing had happened.  Below are a couple of other shots of the plant.
     Besides this elephant ear, the other tropical characteristics I find here are all the grape, and other vines that wrap and hang from the trees, and all the loud night noises.  The warm night air is filled with the sounds of crickets and other small night creatures, all making as much noise as they can as they communicate with each other.  They manage to make an incredible din.


Monday 29 September 2014

Corn Country

     They grow a lot of corn in Indiana.  Since I grew up there, I always feel obligated to plant corn in my British Columbia garden every year.  What I grows in my garden is a lot different from what they grow in Indiana.  Because BC's growing season is so much shorter, the varieties of corn I grow ends up shorter too.  It is usually 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5m) in height.  I was amazed to see the corn in Indiana was 9 to 10 feet (2.7 to 3m) high.  The fields of corn around my mother's place look more like cane fields than what I remember the corn fields of my youth to look like.


Sunday 28 September 2014

The Elephant Tree

     One of the memorable local landmarks from my childhood was a huge greatly deformed tree that was referred to as the "Elephant Tree", because of its shape.  It had been growing in the neighborhood beside the cemetery, for probably more than a hundred years.
     The photo shows my mother standing on the tree in 1935.  She told me long before that, there used to be an elementary school located across the road and those school kids used to play around the tree.  By the time she was ready for school, that original school was gone and she went to Highland School further down the road.
     When I was a kid, the tree was larger, and my parents would sometime walk us over to the Elephant Tree and hoist us up on it to give us a thrill.  I have an old home movie from the 1970's that show the tree still alive, but alas, it has since blown down in a storm and is now returning its nutrients to the soil.

Saturday 27 September 2014

Hosta with Rhododendron

     Before I left home I was able to complete my painting "Hosta with Rhododendron".  It is my 46th painting.  It was done using acrylics on a 16 X 20 inch (40cm X 50cm) canvas.  It took me 84 hours to paint.  It is based in a photo I took in my cousin's garden on Vancouver Island.

Friday 26 September 2014

App Update Blues

       It is always stressful whenever an old friend heads off in a new direction,and the bond between you begins to strain.  That seems to be happening more and more with me and Apple.  I have been a big fan of Apple products since I got my first computer many years ago.  Lately it seems, Apple has been doing things that are beginning to irritate me.  Let's start this rant with something superficial,--the look.
     While Apple products continue to be well thought out and beautifully designed, the interface they use has become boring, ugly, and wimpy.  Apple's app icons used to show color, boldness, and depth, now they are lackluster and flat, with thin lines (notice Apple's orange iBook icon in the middle of the photo and compare it to the two beside it).  When iBook used to be opened, you were presented with a three dimensional wooden bookcase upon which the covers of your books were sitting, now when you open it you get a white background and the book covers are sitting along a thin gray line--boring in the extreme.
     Of course when you update your apps, you are given a brief description of what is new, something like "-bugs fixed" or "-new interface".  You really don't know what you are getting and you assume it will be something better, so you install.  Then, too late you find that what you have, is something inferior to what you had, but it is too late, you can't have what you lost, back.  In the brief description, they should have said, "-ugly, plain, new interface" or "-prevents app from working without WiFi," which is another complaint I have with Apple.
     I use my iPad mostly for reading books.  I used iBook a lot, downloading books onto it, so that I would always have a book there to read. (I have a fear of not having anything to read.)  I hadn't used iBooks for a while because I was using Overdrive, which accesses library books.  I was distressed when all of a sudden after an Overdrive update, I could no longer read a book, unless I had a WiFi connection.  This made me mad, because I often liked to read when I was away somewhere or if there was a power outage.
     The day before I was making this trip, Joan suggested that I take a regular book along to read on   tthe plane, or at my Mom's house which doesn't have WiFi.  Don't worry, I told her I still have some books on iBook.
      Well, to my surprise and displeasure, I found out that the books that used to be sitting in my iPad, had, with the last update, had been moved to iCloud, which meant I couldn't read them on my long plane flights, or waiting for them in an airport, without WiFi.  I was pretty mad at Apple and had I known, I would have never updated iBooks.
     Fortunately, I still had my Kindle app, which didn't require WiFi and was able to start re-reading an older book that I had already finished, such was my desperation.  I tried to Google a solution to my iBook problem, but without WiFi I couldn't do that either.  I plan to do that later today when I have access.
     I guess my rant boils down to:  I wish I really knew what I was going to get when I update an app, and I wish I could go back to older versions of the app if I was dissatisfied with an update.

     After I wrote this blog, I was able to get to a WiFi to post it out.  While connected I opened iBook and clicked on one of the books I had.  It did download it again to my iPad, and I can now once again read it offline, without WiFi,  I guess, since it put them on iCloud for me, they then had to be downloaded back to the iPad before they could be read offline.  I apologize for bad mouthing Apple on this matter.

Thursday 25 September 2014

Airport Birds

     I am presently sitting in the Vancouver International Airport terminal building.  A few minutes ago I was kind of spaced out, the side effect of having to get up at 4:00 AM, so that I could catch my flight here from Prince George.  As I was staring into space, suddenly a bird flew across the room toward me.
     It was a bit of a surprise to see a bird inside flying around inside the terminal and I immediately started worrying about it slowly starving and dying.  Then it swooped down to pick up some crumbs of food under a row of seats.  I realized that I probably didn't to spend any more time worrying about its diet.  I then noticed a second bird perching in the small tree in the planter, so I guess the bird not only has food, but also companionship.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Cold Swim

    Yesterday afternoon, Joan and I were driving along the Fraser River on our way home from town, when I spotted a mother moose and her child swimming across the river.  They were getting close to our side of the bank.  I slowed the car, pulling over to the side as Joan warned me, “Don’t drive us in the ditch.”  Once parked, I got out, camera in hand, and rushed over to the river bank to get a photo.
    I instantly felt bad, because when the mother moose saw me, she turned and started swimming in the opposite direction toward the far shore from whence they had come.  I quickly took this photo and returned to the car and drove away.  I didn’t want to make the pair swim all the way back across the river, just because I was standing there.

My photo-realistic paintings can be seen at:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Story Along the Groeneveld Trail

    On Sunday, I joined a handful of other hikers to slog up the Groeneveld trail.  The photo above is a view of the Robson Valley taken from up on the mountain.
    One of the things I always enjoy when doing a hike with others, are the many stories and experiences that are shared as we climb and rest ourselves, slowly making our way up the side of the mountain.  Hiking the Groeneveld trail gave me a chance to hear a really interesting story that is associated with the trail.
    I am not sure when all this occurred, but my guess would be it was in the 1960’s.  It seems an official with BC’s Agriculture Department was flying over the Robson Valley, and noticed the vast area of lush alpine sitting up on top of the mountains.  He figured it would make excellent pasture for sheep, so he organized local farmers and convinced them to hike their sheep up to the alpine to graze for the summer.  
    A caterpillar tractor was hired to make a path of sorts up the slope as far as it could, and the farmers then herded their sheep up the grade.  (I pity those poor sheep, it was a really long steep incline, that had me questioning my sanity, as I was doing the hike.)  At any rate, they got the sheep up to alpine  and helped set up camp for a couple of sheep herders, who were hired to stay and look after the sheep through the summer.
    Then one night, back down in the valley bottom, a local farmer was awakened by loud yelling and pounding on his door.   He opened it to find the shepherds, who in a panic, told him, “There are grizzly bears running around all over,”   The shepherds hadn’t wasted any time leaving the sheep and skedaddling back down to safety.
    The next day the farmers made their way up the mountain to see what was going on.  There they found corpse after corpse of mutilated sheep and carnage scattered all around.  Thus ended the alpine sheep experiment.  One of my companions, who was telling me the story, said that later that summer a few surviving sheep managed to make their way back down to the valley bottom after their sad ordeal.

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

Monday 22 September 2014

Robson Valley's Natural Arch

    I was very excited back in the late 1970’s to hear that the Robson Valley had a natural rock arch.  It could be seen way off in the distance from one spot along Hwy. 16, east of Holliday (Baker) Cr.  I have always thought that it was too bad that, because of the way it is situated, you couldn’t see the sky through it, but only a rock face, which often made it difficult to distinguish.
    Yesterday I joined some others in a hike up the Groeneveld Trail.  The trail goes up (“up” being the most descriptive word), the slope on the east side of Holliday/Baker Cr.  In a couple of places along the trail we were treated to a view of the natural arch.
    I think it was in the 1980’s when I finally got the opportunity to hike up the Natural Arch trail.  It was a really tough hike, and at the top, I was disappointed to discovered that it was extremely difficult to get close to the arch because of the severe slopes that surround it.  All I was was able to get were some photos as we hiked beside and above it, but I was never able to get very close to it.  Of course, it still is an interesting natural feature, even when seen from afar.
    Here are some of views of the arch taken from a couple of vantage points along the Groeneveld Trail.

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

Saturday 20 September 2014

Mushroom Drying by Squirrels

    A couple of weeks ago, we spotted this beautiful mushroom growing beside the trail.  I think it is an Amanita muscaria, var. formosa, which is considered poisonous.  I was thus pretty surprised a week later when I saw a chunk taken out of of the mushroom and discovered it lodged up against a tree branch drying (photo below).  I realized it was probably done by a squirrel.
    I had first run into examples of squirrels drying mushrooms in a pine forest when I was timber cruising back in my BC Forest Service days.  I kept finding mushrooms up in the branches of small trees, but this is the first one I have seen close to our house, and the fact that it is a poisonous variety, made me scratch my head.
    I know that poisonous is species dependent, for example chocolate is supposed to be poisonous to dogs, but is good for humans.  Maybe these Amanita are not poisonous to squirrels.

To see my paintings, go to: www.davidmarchant.ca

Friday 19 September 2014

Night Raiders

    Last night at 9:45, I was upstairs reading.  Skye, our dog was downstairs in bed with Joan.  I heard Skye growl.  This is something she rarely does, but she has lots of nightmares, and I figured that she was just vocalizing one of those.  Then, I heard something crash outside.  I began to wonder if there was a bear outside.  I came down to investigate.
    Joan’s bedroom was still dark and I was a bit surprised, she hadn’t heard Skye’s growl or the crash.  I went to the carport door, turned on the outside light, and looked out of the window.  I saw a small dark shape walking out of the carport, it was a bear cub.  It was heading for the porch, so I went to the kitchen and looked out of that window.  There was a mother bear on the front porch and the two cubs nosing around, exploring the area.
    Skye, joined me, and Joan woke up.  The bear trio, then turned around went back through the carport, and I thought maybe they were leaving, but then I heard commotion on our back deck, so Joan, a growling Skye, and myself all went to the dining room window and turned on the outside light to the back deck.  We were just in time to see the big bear turn over the barbecue, and watched as it crashed to the ground.
    The mother couldn’t open the hood of the barbecue, where we were storing a bowl of soup, so she went to the table to check out the zucchini that were sitting there (night vision photo above).   It would have been okay with me if she would have eaten the zucchini, but she wasn’t interested in them.  (In the photo above, one of the cubs is just to the left of the mama bear, and the other is just over her rump, buy the tree.
    Since the bears where just on the other side of the window, I decided that it would be best to try to scare them off.  So I started making a loud hooting sound.  It worked, well sort of, the mother bear turned and quickly walked off of the back deck, but the two cubs scampered up the tree, you see in the back ground of the above photo.
    I knew that the mother bear wouldn’t go very far with the cubs up the tree, so we just waited silently, and after about 5 minutes the two cubs came back down the tree.  I took some photos of their descent, and made a composite of two photos so you can see both of them at the same time (Below).
    Then the whole family reunited on the deck, and I again made the loud hooting sound, while Skye continued to growl and this time they all ran off of the deck and into the night.  The bottom photo shows what the deck looked like this morning.  Fortunately, the bowl (of soup) which was in the barbecue didn’t break and so despite all of last night’s excitement, not much damage was done.
    I really feel sorry for the bears, I think they are really scrambling to find food, the berry crop this year was poor, and they have a long winter to get through.

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

Thursday 18 September 2014

Boulder Mountain--Views from the Top

    It was hard work to hike up to the top of Boulder Mountains, but all that effort was suddenly forgotten once you were standing on the peak admiring the panorama of mountains around you.  Across the Robson Valley, to the north east, and in the distance, 60km (37 miles) away, the magnificent Mt. Sir Alexander could be seen jutting up above the clouds.  It is 10,350 ft (3,154 m)  in elevation, but the zoom lens on my camcorder brought it into view nicely.
    There was a nice view of a glacier to the west (photo below).   And no matter what direction you looked there was mountain range after mountain range (bottom photo).

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

Wednesday 17 September 2014

First Snowman of the Year

  On Sunday, I followed other hikers, plodding up the 1,200 m (3940 ft) in elevation to the top of Boulder Mt.  I was the last hiker who huffed and puffed up the slope to get to the top, and when I arrived I saw that two of the female hikers from Prince George had grabbed a couple of handfuls of the white stuff from a patch near the peak and made this tiny snowman on the cairn.  The snowman had a pretty spectacular view of the Robson Valley, which is part of the Rocky Mountain Trench.

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

Tuesday 16 September 2014

My Annual "Bear Destroys Our Fruit Tree" Photo

    The sad sprawl of branches you see in the photo used to be our well formed apple tree.  I really don’t know why we bother.  Last year the bear did so much damage to our fruit trees that most of them were in recovery all year and didn’t produce any fruit, well, there was one apple on one, but I think the deer ate it.
    This tree was within our fenced in garden, and was untouched last year, unfortunately, there was one section in our defenses that was vulnerable to entry and the bear found it.  The apple tree had about 8 ripening apples on it.  The day before I picked one of them, put it in my pack, took it along on my Boulder Mountain hike, and ate it on top of the mountain.  I wished I would have picked all the other apples at the same time.
    Also within our enclosed garden we have a plum tree, it produced one plum this year.  We have been watching that plum all summer, and were looking forward to tasting it, but the bear found it too.  At least the bear didn’t tear up the plum tree, it just picked the plum.
    As much as I like having wildlife around, it sure can be a pain.

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

Monday 15 September 2014

Outdoor Toilet

    Yesterday, I joined a few others in a hike up the Boulder Mountain Trail.  As we just started our trek, we came upon this outdoor toilet.  Normally in North America, outdoor toilets are called “outhouses”, but since outhouses have sides and a roof, I am not sure that this qualifies. 
    The whole idea of an outhouse is to provide a bit of privacy.  That is what I don’t understand about this thing, since it doesn’t provide privacy, why spend all the time and effort building it?  It seems like it would be a whole lot easier just to go behind a bush.

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

Saturday 13 September 2014

Sun Burst

    When we got down to the field this morning on our walk, I turned around to see how far Joan and Skye were behind me, and saw the sun streaking through the trees.  The light fog we had made the  flairs from the sun quite a sight.

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

Friday 12 September 2014

The Dried Cranberries

    A couple of weeks ago, when Joan was cleaning out all of our stored food in the pantry, to make way for the hutch that we had bought, she came upon a big bag of dried cranberries, that we had bought a two or more years ago.  It had ended up at the bottom of one of our containers, and had thus disappeared from our lives.  She tried one, and discovered that they had not improved with age, so she thought they had to be dumped.
    At first, we thought that maybe the birds might like them, so I put a handful into the covered bird feeder to see.  There they sat.  The birds that came for the sunflower seeds, were not at all interested in dried cranberries.
    Since that source of cranberry elimination seemed not to work, I put my brain to work and thought about the bears.  This has been a bad years for berries, and so the bears are going to suffer this winter.  Since we didn’t really want to encourage bears to come up close to our house, I decided to put the cranberries in a pile at the far end of the pond (see photo), because the bears often walk along there as they wander around from property to property. 
    I was anxious to see how long it would take be the cranberries disappeared.  The next day when we walked around the pond, I discovered that the big pile of cranberries were still sitting there.  Skye, our dog showed a bit of interest in them, sniffing at the pile.  They were still there the next day when we walked around the pond, but this time Skye, started eating them, until we yelled at her to stop.
    Later that day I had another thought--probably, the grouse (a chicken-like bird), would like to eat them, because they really like the marble-sized crab apples that fall from the tree, so I grabbed a big handful of cranberries from the pile and took them up to the yard and this time spread them on the ground close to the previously mentioned bird feeder.
    The grouse never had a chance to eat them, because Skye had developed a taste for the cranberries and every time she went outside, she ended up over by the feeder eating cranberries.
    I was happy surprised yesterday, when we were again walking around the pond, to discover that the pile of cranberries I had left there had completely disappeared.  I think it must have been a meal for a bear, because the ground was all scratched up where the pile was sitting.  I hope that was the case, I would like to think I helped a bear bulk up for a long hibernation.

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

Thursday 11 September 2014

More Frost Photos

    The Robson Valley got hit by an even harder frost last night, so it gave me another opportunity to take some more frosty photos.

See my paintings at:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Wednesday 10 September 2014

First Frost

    It seems early, but we had our first frost overnight.  It was -3C (26F) this morning.  That pretty much finishes off growth in the garden, so I can start putting it to bed.  The frost did provide me with me frost accented subjects for photos.  Above, a frosty paintbrush, and below some rosefrom a wild rose bush. 

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

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Covered With Moss

   One of the things I like about the Cedar/hemlock forests that we have in the Robson Valley are the many species of moss, that tend to blanket everything.  Last week when I was working on the Lower Goat River Trail, I spotted the log that you see above.  This deadfall tree had been blocking the trail many years ago, and had been sawed off.  Now, many years later, it is covered with mosses and lichen.  I was intrigued by the moss growth that was curling around on the butt end of the log.
    Below are some other examples of trees being covered with mosses.

See my paintings:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Sunday 7 September 2014

Trail Maintenance

    I have been lucky this year to have hiked a lot of trails in the Robson Valley.  During the hikes, one tends not to spend a lot of time thinking about how the trail got there and who takes care of them, but around here somebody has to.  Just in the short trail near our house that Joan, Skye, and I hike every day, I am surprised at how often trees blow down across the trail and have to be cleared away.  Late every spring I have to go down the trail with a lawn trimmer to keep the bushes from encroaching on the trail.
    Last Thursday, I joined a small crew who cleared part of the Lower Goat River Trail.   In the photo above you can see the heavy duty mower that was used to clear small brush from areas that were accessible.  Someone always has to lug a chainsaw and gas along with them, up and down slopes and along kilometers of trails, to clear the trees that have blown over and blocked the trail.  Other volunteers swing machete-like tools to clear the brush.  All of this has to be done every few years or soon nature takes over and the trail becomes impassible.
    The photo at the very bottom shows part of the work crew standing beside a big Douglas Fir tree along the trail.

See my paintings:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Saturday 6 September 2014

A Truce

    The world is so full of horrible news lately that I was happy to see the little scene you see above.  Skye, our dog, is terrified of Lucifer, our cat.  When we are walking around the pond, if the cat gets out in front of the dog and sits down, poor Skye also sits down, afraid to walk around the the cat.  No matter how much we call and plead, Skye won’t move, not until we come and pick up the cat, or the cat, after showing her power, decides the point has been made, and moves.
    It’s good to see that they can co-exist, and sometimes do it voluntarily.  If only the world would do the same.

Check out my paintings:  www.davidmarchant.ca

Friday 5 September 2014

Fungus Photos

    With the recent rains, and cooling temperatures, I have been noticing lots of examples of mushrooms and fungus that have suddenly erupted into the world above.  Most of the fungus plant is down beneath the surface, and it is only the fruiting body that sticks its head up for the world to see.  The fact that they don’t need sunlight, allows them to live in dark nooks in the forest, that are usually inhabited by mosses and the few other plants that can tolerate very low light.  Here are a few of the fungi I have spotted over the last few days. 

See my paintings at: www.davidmarchant.ca

Thursday 4 September 2014

Late Bloomers

    Here we are in September, on the verge of autumn, and finally the geraniums that we have in our window boxes have decided to bloom.  Its not like we started them from seed, they were in my bedroom window all winter.  Like every other year, I cut them back when I put them in the window box and usually they give us lots of flowers all summer, but not this year.  They are fairly protected right beside the house, so hopefully they will have a month to continue to show their stuff.

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

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Lens Cap

   Way back in the early 1990’s, Joan and I went on a vacation to Costa Rica.  We wanted to experience the jungle and the many plants and animals that lived there.  We spent a couple of days hiking in the Monte Verde Cloud Forest.  
    On one of our hikes, we found ourselves on a jungle trail, that ran beside a river valley.  I stopped to take a photo.   As I stood beside the barrier erected to prevent people from falling down the slope, I fumbled around trying to change lens on my camera.  I got the new lens on, but when I took the lens cap off, it dropped from my hand, and over the edge of the slope.
    I saw where it landed, it was only about 10 foot (3 m) below me on a ledge.  It didn’t seem like it would be to dangerous to retrieve it, so I climbed over the barrier, and climbed down to get it.  When I got down there and reached for the lens cap I got a surprise-- just a couple of feet (60cm) away from it sat another lens cap that someone else had dropped from exactly the same outlook.

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

Tuesday 2 September 2014


    Yellow is the predominant fall color in our section of BC and even though we are still weeks away from the full impact of those yellowish hues, some of the plants couldn’t wait to try on the shade.  A few of the trees have started to show on the tips of some of the branches, and these sarsaparilla are not at all shy about advertising where they are heading.

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