Wednesday 30 September 2015

Golf Course: Back to Nature


     For 80 years or so there has been a well maintained golf course in the neighborhood I grew up in.  Known as Clearcrest Pines or Clearcrest Country Club, it featured rolling hills, beautiful greens, and paved pathways for the golf carts, all accented by tall pines.  Although I don't play golf, I often enjoyed wondering through the park-like landscape enjoying the vistas.
     I was shocked to hear that it had been sold and closed, probably soon to be developed for houses.  The maintenance on the course halted, but the grass kept on growing.  I was curious about the result so walked over there yesterday to take a look.  
     In the photo above you see what once was a green in the foreground.  Below is the clubhouse, and below that a former tee off place.  At the very bottom you can see a sand trap in the distance.
     Anyone for a round of golf?

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Tuesday 29 September 2015

Man: User of Tools


     For many years it was believed that it was the use of tools that set Man apart from other animals.  We now know that this is incorrect because it was discovered that other animals do sometimes use "tools."  Certainly, it seems that most of the males of our species do possess a "Power Tool" gene.  While I do not possess the normal male "Sports" gene ( it just doesn't interest me to know who is playing who, or who beat who), I do possess the "Power Tool" gene.
     Because I live in a small isolated place, over the years I have been forced to fix and build most things myself, and as a result I have accumulated a wide variety of tools to do the job.  In fact I have so many tools (and related materials) that my shop has become more of a warehouse where I store all of my stuff.  It now often happens that when I need a particular tool, I can't find it among all the other things in my shop and end up buying a new one so I can finish the job. 
     When I go to visit my mother, there is usually a list of things for me to repair.  I find it very frustrating that there are never the tools I require to do the job.  Above is a photo of the "tools"in my mom's "tool" drawer.  The hammer you can see is a small one, something you might give a kid to play with.
     One of the jobs on the list this year was to fix my mom's front door frame.  A few weeks ago during the night, my mother tried to call my sister about something.  She mistakenly pressed the "911" button on her special phone.  As a result the fire department sped to my mom's house.  They couldn't raise anyone inside, and all the doors were locked, so they broke through the front door, shattering the door frame.
     I saw right away that I was going to need more tools than Mom had in the drawer, so I headed down to a big box building supply store and bought a full size hammer, a cordless driver/drill, and a box of screws.  My sister did have some scrap wood and a handsaw that I was able to use.  I did manage to re-secure the door frame and locks.
     I am glad I decided to break down and buy the tools to fix the door.  I would be working on it all week if I used just the tools in Mom's drawer.  I will keep the new tools here, so the next time I come down, it will be easier for me to start working my way down the next "to do" list.

Monday 28 September 2015

Chimney Swifts


     I got an unexpected childhood memory back last evening as I was walking from my mom's house over to my sister's.  As I stepped out into to the yard, I my eye caught a lot of movement in the sky.  At first I thought the fast dark objects were bats, but soon realized they were birds, about 40 of them.  When I saw that they were flying around in a circle, some long unused brain cells kicked in and it suddenly struck me they were chimney swifts.
     Many an evening as a child, my siblings, parents, and grandparents would sit ourselves down on the steps of my grandparent's house at dusk and watch Chimney Swifts dart and glide around in a circle, then one by one, individuals made the decision that they had had enough and fluttered down into the tall brick chimney on the greenhouse work shed.  It was inside the chimney that they would spend the night clinging to the sooty walls.  In case you are wondering, they fly to the tropics during the winter when the chimneys are chugging out heat and smoke. 
    During the intervening 55 years I assumed that the Chimney Swifts were dying out as the brick chimneys disappeared, so I was truly surprised and pleased to see them circling and spending the night in my mom's chimney.  According to my bird app their population is healthy. 

Sunday 27 September 2015

I've Got to Get Out of Here, Debbie is Coming


     I am going to be taking care of my 93 year old mother while my sister, who generally takes care of her, takes a well deserved vacation.  I arrived last night and my sister picked me up at the airport and drove me to my mom's house.  She was in bed, but I went into her room and said hi and told her I had arrived.  Then I rejoined my sister in the kitchen to learn about all my responsibilities.
     While we talked a "You-hoo" came from Mom's bedroom.  It is her way of letting us know she wants something.  I went in to see what she wanted.
     "Debbie is coming tomorrow morning at 8:00." She warned,  "You should go out somewhere and be somewhere else."
     This "Debbie", I assumed, was one of Mom's care workers, who come in on weekdays to help Mom.  This message I was just given was a bit disconcerting, I have often hung around the house while other care givers have been around and there had been no problem.  I don't know anything about this Debbie, but I am scared enough to make myself scarce when she arrives.
     My concern was re-enforced in the middle of last night.  I was snoozing away in the guest bedroom when I was awakened by the dreaded "You-hoo". I shook the heavy sleep induced fog from my head pushed myself from the bed and walked in the dark to my mom's room. 
     "Do you need something?" I asked. 
     "Tomorrow at 8:00 Debbie is coming" was her reply. 
     I tried to temper my response.  I told Mom that tomorrow was Sunday and that Debbie was coming on Monday, and that I would be sure not to be around when she came, and that it was the middle of the night and she should try to go back to sleep.
     "Oh," my mom said, and I walked back to my bedroom.  Unfortunately, I was now wide awake.  I checked my iPad to see what time it was (see screenshot above), I ended up reading a chapter in my book, before I finally was able to succumb back into slumber.
     Fortunately there were no more "You-hoo's" during the night.  I have been making plans about where I can go to escape being around when Debbie arrives tomorrow morning.

Friday 25 September 2015

Lily of the Valley

    Lily of the Valley are probably best known for their small white bell shaped flowers and their  fragrance, but this time of year those things are long gone, however the foliage by itself can still provide some charm.   A few days ago I noticed the low afternoon sun illuminating the leaves of the plant.  I thought the sharp contrast between the lit areas and the shaded areas created an interesting image.  Below they show off their autumn color change.
    The photos also demonstrate how the type of lighting can change a view from hard to soft.

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Thursday 24 September 2015

Apple Peeler Slicer Corer Machine

    I think the first time I saw one of these gadgets was during a trip I took to Mexico back in the 1980’s, when I saw a street vender peeling apples.  I was fascinated by the long peel curling off of the apple as the crank was turned.  I immediately appreciated the ingenuity it took to develop something that could accurately slice off the peeling of an irregular shaped apple, but as I watched I didn’t realize that it was also slicing the apple into a long winding slice and coring the apple at the same time.
    Last weekend when I helped make apple pies, I spent the whole time using one of these apple peeling machines for the first time.  I am still impressed with both the complexity and simplicity of the machine.  It worked really well except for the really deformed apples and the really large apples.
    When I first arrived at the pie making workday, I was led over to the machine and was sat down and told how to use it, and as I said, I used it for the whole day.  It wasn’t until later that I realized that this particular machine was positioned on the table to be turned by a left hander.  Not knowing this, I just spent my whole day turning the crank with my left hand rather than my right, which probably would  have made the job a bit easier since I am right handed. 
    When I realized that everyone else was cranking with their right, it was too late, since by that time I was used to using my left, so I just continued with it.    
    This is a really nifty bit of technology, and if I knew I had a lot of apples to process I would certainly buy one. 

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Wednesday 23 September 2015

The Owl Returns

    The other evening at 6:30, just when we were pulling out of the driveway to visit friends, Joan noticed the Great Grey Owl perched on the hydrant in our paddock.  I of course, rushed back into the house and grabbed my camera and took some photos.  I am continually surprised at how tolerant this owl is of people.  Many birds, sitting way off on the top of a tree, fly off if they see you step outside, but this owl lets you get within 10 meters of it without showing any kind of panic.

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Tuesday 22 September 2015

Autumn Colors in the Robson Valley

    The fall colors are at their peak in the Robson Valley.  Up here we don’t get many oranges and reds, the birches, aspens, and cottonwoods mostly just give us yellows, but that looks pretty sweet against the blue mountains.

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Monday 21 September 2015

Another Molendyk Gem on Main

    Brenda and Dutch Molendyk have had several businesses on Main Street McBride.  Every time they have started one they have refurbished an old worn out building and so over the years little McBride has started looking better and better.  The photo above shows the beautifully renovated building Brenda has just opened for her antique and giftware business.  In the photo below you can see the sparkling and rustic new interior
    I certainly appreciate the time and investment Brenda and Dutch have made in our community.  They have left all of us a visible legacy that swells my civic pride every time I drive into town.  Thanks you, for making our town more beautiful.

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Sunday 20 September 2015

729 Apple Pies

    Yesterday I joined 70 other residents of the Robson Valley in a fund raising effort for the McBride Library by making apple pies.  This is the second year of pie making and like last year, it was an amazing example of organization.  People were washing apples, peeling and slicing apples, mixing spices and apples, measuring dough, rolling dough, putting the apples in the dough, placing on the top, and sealing the pie.  Others were washing dishes, fixing a lunch for the participants, and distributing the finished pies.
    It always warms my heart to see so many, and such a wide spectrum of our little community, donating time and working together to help make our valley a better place.  To be a part of such a community was one of the things I was hoping for when I first moved here a few decades ago.

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Friday 18 September 2015

App Cartoon

    Here is a cartoon I recently did for a local paper.  It got a lot of positive feedback, so thought I would share it.

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Thursday 17 September 2015

Giving Depth

    Without the definition created by bright sunlight the face of the mountains look flat, making it hard to see the depth and distinction of the individual peaks.  The other day when the light was very dull, it was the clouds that gave depth to the Cariboo Mountains that line up along one side of the Robson Valley.  This is not the best photo I have ever taken, but I think it shows what I am talking about.

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Wednesday 16 September 2015

Mushroom Close-Up

    It seems I spend my life looking for unexpected bits of color.  The other day at the McBride Airfield as we were walking Skye, I noticed a small speck of orange in the gravelly shoulder immediately beside the tarmac.  Having noted it in my brain, I walked passed it, but about 7 steps later I decided to go back an take a photo.  
    Joan and Skye, who kept on walking, looked back to find me laying on my belly with my camera in front of my face.  Above you see the picture I took.  While the orangish mushroom was the main attraction, when I got home and downloaded the photo onto the computer, I was struck by all the fine hairs sticking up from the leaves of what I think was hawkweed plant.  You may not be able to see them on your screen, but I struck me just how many things in nature go un-noticed.  I hadn’t noticed the hairs when I took the photo, not until I had enlarged it on the computer.

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Tuesday 15 September 2015

Aspen Turning

    The Robson Valley is moving into its Autumn mode.  I liked the sweep of color represented on the foliage of young aspen trees that I saw the other day during a walk down Jeck Road.  Here’s a photo. 

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Monday 14 September 2015

Bucket by the Bed

    Seeing a bucket by the bed is never a good sign, but that has been my reality over the last five days.  It all started Thursday afternoon, just before Joan and I were to go out to share a turkey dinner with friends.   As I was getting ready, my stomach suddenly began sending me signals that things were not as they should be.  Since I had been looking forward to this get together and meal for a week, I ignored the warnings and we drove over to our friend’s house.
    We had just gotten out of the car and were standing in the lawn conversing with our friends in the beautiful fall afternoon, when suddenly my stomach got back to me with an urgent message.  I calmly told our friends that I was feeling sick, excused myself, and quickly headed down a hill to a small grove of conifers growing at edge of their property beside a field.  I anticipated an immediate expulsion of material orally, but as soon as I got behind the trees, I realized that my body had chosen an alternative route.
    Luckily, I got my pants down in the nick of time.  I was feeling very vulnerable as I squatted, steadying myself with a fence post, both cold and sweating profusely at the same time.  After a few brutal bouts, I was feeling extremely weak.  I waited for the volcano to quiet and for me to restore some strength, then I called out Joan to explain and she brought me some paper towels.   
    By this time, our friends had been joined by a third couple who had been invited to the meal.  I pulled up my pants, tidied up the mess I had made, then trying to assume some semblance of dignity, I climbed back up the hill, explaining from the distance that I had to go home.  I got into the car and left.  Joan would enjoy the meal and be driven home afterwards.
    I was feeling faint, but figured I would be able to drive home.  I started down the long driveway, when my body sent me another urgent message.  This time it had decided to do the expulsion via the mouth.  I quickly stopped, opened the door, crawled out of the car, and let go--certainly not the evening I had anticipated and it wasn’t over yet.
    Alone at home, I crawled into bed full of fear, and waited to see what was next.  I didn’t have to wait too long, because I soon began sweating copiously, and was chilled and felt faint. When the next alert arrived, I rushed down the steps to the bathroom, kneeled before the toilet, and let nature take its course.  Time after time, it did.  I was so weak and faint I had to lie down on the bathroom floor during the intervals in between, so that I wouldn’t collapse.
    Throughout most of my life, my body lets me pretend that I am in control.  It tells me what it would like, and I try to respond in a way that will keep it happy by supplying those things.  However, every once in a while, whenever accidents or sickness occur, my body, without any room for compromise,   informs me who is really in charge. Because I am a pretty laid back and tolerant person, I am always surprised at just how violent and forcefully my body can be, when it urgently needs to do something.  When those times occur it doesn’t really matter what I have to say about the matter.
    When this whole business first happened, I assumed that I had food poisoning and that it would all be over once that contaminate had been eliminated.  However after a day or two, when I thought I was getting over it and tried to eat as normal, my body again got back to me in the same violent ways.  Now I figure I have the stomach flu, and that can last up to 10 days.
    I have decided not to get too pushy toward my body, and plan to give it plenty of space.  I am being really hardcore about what I am putting into my stomach, just water, Gatoraide (for electrolyte replacement), white toast, and applesauce.  I am feeling pretty normal today, but I was also feeling pretty normal a couple of days ago, when the second go-around occurred.  Hopefully this too shall  pass, and my body will soon get back to making me think that I am in charge.

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Saturday 12 September 2015

Renshaw Snowmobile Cabin

    During our hike to the Renshaw, the seven of us seemed to spread out and head in different directions in the huge alpine.  We planned to all meet up at the snowmobile cabin for our trip down to the the truck.  As I mentioned in a previous blog the Renshaw in a very popular snowmobiling area and the cabin was built to provide shelter and warming.  It is a good place to gather and its red roof adds a nice color accent to photos.
    Our hike to the Renshaw alpine meant a lot of walking (17 km or 11 miles) for my old legs .   There were certainly occasions during the steep climbs, and the hour long walk back to the truck once we were off the slope, when I asked myself, “Why am I doing this?”, but now that the pain is over, I am so glad I got to experience the golden alpine areas surrounded by the snow covered peaks.
    Can you spot the cabin in the photos below?

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Friday 11 September 2015

The Renshaw: Alpine Lakes

    The presence of bodies of water always adds special qualities to a landscape.  One attraction of the Renshaw alpine near McBride, BC are the many lakes that dot the alpine.  Although our hiking route didn’t take us to the edge of any of these lakes, they were a prominent feature from the high vistas where we stood and over looked the valleys.

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Thursday 10 September 2015

The Renshaw Alpine

    I hate slogging up steep slopes, but that is the price you have to pay to get into the alpine.  The area around Mt. Renshaw offers plenty of alpine to hike in and some magnificent vistas to ponder.  Here are some photos I took up in the Renshaw alpine.  The peak you see on the top photo is Mt. Renshaw.

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Tuesday 8 September 2015

Getting to Alpine

    On Sunday morning I forced myself from my bed at 5:00 so I could get ready for a hike.  The Ozalenka Alpine Club had planned one to the Renshaw, which is probably better known as a snowmobiling area rather than a hiking destination.  It has a huge alpine area, and I had never been there.
    Seven of us went, and we all squeezed into Al’s truck and bumped and jarred in unison for 23 km (14 miles) up the McKale logging road until we could drive no farther.  Once we had our daypacks on, we had to walk 4.7 km (3 miles) more along the deactivated road, before we started the steeper climb up to alpine.  While the alpine was the destination, getting there also had some points of interests.
    First thing I noticed was all of the berries, both blueberries (top photo), and the more tasty, black huckleberries (photo below the blueberries).   Needless to say going through all these berry bushes slowed us down considerably as we made many stops to burst the succulent sweet spheres in our mouths.  
    It was in this berry-rich area that I came upon something that brought me back to reality.  There in a muddy section of the trail was a grizzly bear track, and it seemed fairly fresh (Photo below).  The photo is not great, but hopefully you can make it out.  The knife is 3.5 inches (9 cm) long to give you some scale.  A berry patch is exactly where you might expect to come upon a bear, busily stuffing himself to get through the long months of hibernation.  Luckily, this print was all we ever saw of the bear.  The group continued on, crossing a creek and then up a steep forested slope to the golden colored alpine.  (Photos tomorrow).
    Yesterday as my sore muscles were recovering from the hike, the radio reported that two hunters  were seriously injured (one critically) when they were attacked by a grizzly.  It was sobering news, one never really knows what might happen out there in the bush.

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Monday 7 September 2015

Kitchen Aid

    One of the things I always look forward to once our tomatoes and chilis start coming in, is Joan’s fresh salsa on nachos.  Once we have ravaged that tasty treat, we are left with the glass pie plate with bits of melted cheese stuck to it.  That was the situation we faced the other day. 
    Skye our dog is perpetually hungry and continually stares us down with her pitifully sad eyes as if she is slowly starving to death.  We try to be hard core about only feeding her at her eating time, but her quiet pleading weakened us the other day, and we gave in and gave her the plate to clean out.
    She was so happy.  She scooted the pie pan around on the floor trying to get every last morsel, until finally she got it wedged between the wall and her water bowl, once firmly secured in position, she really went to work cleaning it out.

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Saturday 5 September 2015

Whitebark Pine Trials

    In July, I was puzzled to see the Koeneman Park parking lot full of vehicles, including pickups from Environment Alberta and Parks Canada.  I couldn’t really figure out why all the government trucks and out of province vehicles were there.  Well, I found out.  It all had to do with Whitebark Pine, which in BC grows high up in sub-alpine areas on the mountains.  
    Because of the severe conditions in which it grows, it ends up short and stubby in shape.  In warmer areas it grows to be a tree of normal height.  Most pines have needles in pairs, but the Whitebark has clusters of 5 needles.
    The Whitebark Pine is an endangered species.  It’s existence is being compromised on several fronts.  The Mountain Pine beetle, a pest that has eradicated more than half of the Pine trees in BC, will also attack and kill Whitebark Pine.   There is also an introduced pathogen called Blister Rust that is decimating the tree.  Things really don’t look good for the Whitebark.
    The group that was parked at Koeneman Park was the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation of Canada.  They had held a workshop in Dunster and the following day had a field trip up McBride Peak.      
    Last Sunday when I went on the hike up McBride Peak I was surprised to see two areas in the alpine, marked out and planted with Whitebark seedlings.  This is a trial to hopefully find trees that show some  resistance to the blister rust.  
    The Whitebark provides food for grizzly bears, and the Clark’s Nutcracker, a bird which also helps the Whitebark by planting new ones.  It buries the seeds in the ground for later, then often forgets where it buried them and the seeds end up sprouting.

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Friday 4 September 2015

Honoring Dr. Cowburn

    Dr. Geoff Cowburn has long been an essential part of the McBride Community, saving lives and patching people up.  Back in the late 1970’s when we arrived in the Robson Valley, he was the only doctor.  He is in many ways what you would expect of a country doctor--kind, wise, dedicated, and knowledgeable.  When I was concerned about the color of my urine, his first question to me was, “Have you been eating beets?”--I had.  
    Yesterday, the community gathered, told stories about him, and named the conference room in the hospital after him.  He thanked the audience in his quiet dignified English-accented voice.  It made me feel good to see all the people there, eager to recognize all the work Dr. Cowburn has given to the Robson Valley.  Some in the audience had been delivered by him.
    I don’t know when Dr. Cowburn moved to tiny isolated McBride, but it was before Hwy. 16 was built.  Access then was by train.  On his first day, he and a nurse had to perform an emergency appendectomy, and deal with two tubal pregnancies.  Being the lone physician in such a huge undeveloped area must have been a huge burden.  Previous doctors had left because it was just “too much work”, but Dr. Cowburn stuck around and worked until a few years ago, when Jane, his wife died.
    Dr. Cowburn did have a life outside medicine.  We discovered some of his other interests when we boarded one of his horses at our place.  He would come periodically and spoil the horse with a warm mulch of oats and sorghum.  One year we ended up driving his horse to Spruce Meadows, Canada’s big equestrian center in Calgary.
    His other big interest was flying.  It was always a treat to see his bright yellow Tiger Moth biplane circling against the blue sky and mountains.  His plane also played a part in his doctoring.  There are stories of him flying to see isolated patients, landing in their fields, and delivering prescriptions to places as far away as Blue River, BC.  
    If there was an emergency at the hospital, when he was out flying around, the hospital staff would put a white sheet on the roof of the hospital to signal that he was needed at the hospital.  

    Below, is a photo of Dr. Cowburn, in his Tiger Moth.

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Thursday 3 September 2015


    One of the things I like about going on the Ozalenka Alpine hikes beside the scenery, is the people that show up.  It seems that there is always some unexpected or unknown person who comes for the hike.  On our hike up to Teare Mountain, the unknown person was Fabienne.  She is from Leipzig, Germany and is spending some time in the McBride area.
    As we bumped our way up the rough trail to McBride Peak in Al’s truck, Fabienne was telling about some of the experiences she had camping and hiking on trails in New Zealand.  Later as we trudged up the slopes and across the meadow, I learned that she is on her way up to the Yukon where she will be spending part of the winter working with a dog team outfit, doing odd jobs around the farm and caring for the dogs.  
    It always makes me happy to meet young people out exploring the world.  Some of them come through the Robson Valley and spend time in McBride to work on farms and ranches.  Many of them come out for the hikes.  It sounded like Fabienne took a break from washing dishes and was looking for some other jobs to help subsidize her bus ticket up to the Yukon.
    The photo below shows Fabienne and Vern poising on a ridge of Teare Mt.

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Wednesday 2 September 2015

McBride Peak Fire Lookout (From Above)

    The most prominent feature on McBride Peak is the old Forestry Fire Lookout.  It is the point where most people gather when hiking on the mountain, either as the final destination or as a rest stop before proceeding upward.  On the Aug. 18th blog I showed you some shots of how the lookout appears from the valley bottom, and so today I thought I would present some photos of the lookout from above.

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Tuesday 1 September 2015

Robson Valley: My Best Shots

    I have been up to McBride Peak many a time since the late 1970’s, and each time I was up there I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take photos of the valley down below, but it was the fast changing weather this past Sunday that gave me my favorite photos of the Robson Valley.  The constant changing of falling rain, illuminated fields, and low clouds really show off the lushness of valley in a very dramatic way.

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