Monday 30 November 2015

Focus on Frost

     I must confess once the snow covers the countryside, I am challenged to come up with a photo everyday.  I can show snowscapes and wintery landscapes, and interesting lighting, but I often look around and really see nothing that I haven’t already shown on my blog.  Yesterday in my desperation I looked downward and turned to my yearly exploration of hoar frost.  
    Hoar frost is ice crystals that grow on the surface of the snow (and other objects) when the temperature turns cold.  We have just gone through a couple of nights of -18 to 20C (0 to -4F) which caused the hoar frost crystals to grow.  
    Because hoar frost crystals are flat and sort of flaky they can cause danger to people up on the mountain slopes when a thick layer of hoar forms which is then covered with a layer of snow.  The buried hoar frost layer is very weak and can generate avalanches when the snow layer which forms on top breaks loose and slides off and thunders down the slope.  Both skiers and snowmobilers have been killed because of a buried layer of hoar frost.
    However, down here on the valley bottom hoar frost is not a danger, just an fragile bit of beauty.

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Sunday 29 November 2015

Frustration; When New Things Don't Work

    I am sure I am not alone in getting upset when a brand new thing, right out of the box, fails to work properly.  That was what happened to me yesterday.  I had bought a brand new laser color printer online and it arrived in record time.  I was so happy to have received it in just 5 days instead of the usual 2 or more weeks.  I set it up and tried printing a blurb for an upcoming art show.  
    I went to “Print” on the menu and everything was centered and nice on the computer screen, so I clicked again to send the document to my new printer.  If you look at the photo above you can see what the printer spit out.  It was vertically skewed, with a big blank space on the top and a cut off paragraph on the bottom.  I thought the printer’s paper carriage must not be set right for the right size paper, so I checked, everything was set as it should be, so I looked in the manual, and couldn’t see that anything was amiss in the settings, so I tried printing the page again, and again there was an empty space on top and the bottom of the text was cut off.  
    Many times I pulled out the paper carriage, and checked the adjustments--all fine, I re-read the paper carriage part of the manual and the “Trouble Shooting” section; everything seemed set the way it should, but again and again, the bottom of the resulting printed page was cut off.
    Finally in frustration I called Technical Support and after some waiting with the phone to my ear, an actual person came on the line.  It was someone called Joan who lived in the Philippines.  I explained my problem, and over the hour that followed she had me make several adjustments to the printer software.  None of these solutions worked.  
    I was becoming more and more convinced that the problem was not the computer software, but rather some mechanical problem with picking up the paper properly.  Finally she gave up and had me send her a copy of my receipt from buying the printer.  It sounds like they are going to send me a new one, and I will have to send this one back.  While this will involve more hassle for me, I will to do it if it means getting a printer that works, but after all the problems I have had with the one I got last time, I am  feeling pretty unsure about my purchase.  
    If I have problems with the next one, for sure I will return it and get my money back, but that of course will mean more hassle.  Sometimes my life seems way too complicated.

You can see my paintings at:

Saturday 28 November 2015

Skye's Behavior Change

    In previous blogs I have bemoaned the behavior of our dog Skye.  Unlike most dogs I know, Skye wanted to be in the house on the bed instead of outside exploring and sniffing around.  When we took her on walks, she lagged behind Joan and I, seemingly uninterested in the activity, and acting like she was just there because we dragged her there.
    Skye was a rescued dog, who must have been abandoned and had to spend a month or so “living rough” out in the world.  This must have had a very traumatic experience for her.  Even though we have had her for two years, she still constantly has nightmares where she moans and barks.  We have always assumed that it is her past that keeps her afraid of the out of doors and craving the security of the house.  
    I am happy to report that over the past month we have seen a marked improvement in Skye’s behavior.  On our walks she runs and plays, and is often out in front of us.  She seems more energized and interested in things.  It may be that its just the cold weather that has made her more active, but hopefully it is because she is feeling more secure and safe.

My paintings can be seen at:

Friday 27 November 2015

Ice on the Fraser River

    Ice floes are starting to form on the Fraser River as the temperature drops and winter tightens her grip.  I took this photo a couple of days ago, yesterday I was noticing some sections of the river had ice covering the entire surface.  We will soon be saying goodbye to the reflections on the open water and they will disappear under ice and snow until spring.

You can see my paintings at:

Thursday 26 November 2015

The Rockies Traverse-McBride to the US Border

    A film was screened last night about a couple of paraglider “crazies” who decided to paraglide from McBride Peak all the way to the US border.  I was mostly attracted to the film because they started their journey on McBride Peak, a mountain popular with paragliders that is less than 5 kms from our house, but once the film began to run I was immediately taken in by the story and their struggles.
    I know very little about hang gliding.  It seems like it might be a pleasant feeling to float noiselessly above the countryside, but the bits about running off a cliff and dangling from a strip of thin fabric have always dampened my desire to try it.  The film taught me a lot more about other dangers of the sport and after seeing it, I think I will just leave it to Will Gadd and Gavin McClurg and other nervy “pilots” that need the thrill.
    Will and Gavin’s idea was to jump off of McBride Peak, soar in a southeastern direction all day, then land on another high mountain, camping overnight, then taking off from that point, continuing across the mountains until finally 650 kms (400 miles) later, crossing into the US.  It was a feat that had never been done and watching these two attempt it, gave me a pretty good idea of why not.
    Paragliding is totally dependent upon weather conditions.  It needs sunlight warming the slopes of mountains to create the updrafts of wind that keep them aloft.  Things like smoke from distant forest fires, hamper the creation of updrafts, and Will and Gavin were forced to spend days at a time trapped on various mountaintops because they were prevented from flying by smoky skies, rain, or storms.  The trip ended up taking them 35 days.
    They experienced moments of terror when turbulent winds created on the lee side of a mountain tossed and twirled them around (something that can cause their paraglider to just collapse), and forced them to land in dangerous places including a narrow logging road.  While they carried their supplies with them on the paragliders, when forced to land in low and sheltered places where they could not take off from, they had to carry all their supplies on their backs as they bushwacked their way back up the mountains to find place suitable for launch.
    It was a very fascinating evening watching these two struggle to achieve their crazy dream.

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Wednesday 25 November 2015

Clear Skies, Cold Temperatures

    We got our first taste of cold temperatures overnight; we woke up to -20C (-4F).  In the winter, cold is the price we usually have to pay for crystal clear skies.  Although the daytime temperatures are only supposed to get up to -8C (17F), if there is no wind, the sun will feel warm on your face.  
    The clear skies (like the cloudy skies, and the rainy skies) do inspire me to take photos.  Here is one I took yesterday out on our walk.

Take a look at my photo-realistic paintings:

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Winter Drive: McBride to Prince George

    I hate making the drive from McBride to Prince George, especially in the winter.  Unfortunately, its something that periodically has to be done if you live in the Robson Valley.  I had to do it yesterday in order to get an eye examination.  I was lucky that Highway 16 was in pretty fair conditions for the winter, but still the drive is both scary and at the same time boring.
    There just really isn’t much to see; no houses, no villages, no great vistas, just a few nice creeks, and a lot of trees, 120 miles (190 km) of trees.  In the summer there is often wildlife along the way, but normally you don’t see much in the winter.  To get an idea of what the drive looks like multiply these photos about 200 times.

My paintings:

Sunday 22 November 2015

Christmas Fair Season Ends

    As I mentioned in an earlier blog, every year at this time I produce a calendar which I sell at the Christmas Fairs in Valemount and McBride.  Last week at Valemount I sold 63 calendars (enough to pay for the printing) and yesterday in McBride I sold 74.  By the time McBride’s fair ended I only had 4 calendars left, so it was a good day.  
    In our small villages, the Christmas Fairs not only give shoppers a opportunity to shop, but also sellers a chance to sell.   Another of their important functions is to provide a gathering for the community  to socialize as they stroll through the aisles full of homemade crafts and food.  I always enjoy visiting with people I sometimes only see once a year.
    It is nice however to have the fairs behind me and have that pressure off.  I am not done with the calendars though, I still have about 20 of my “Family Edition” calendars to bind and send off before  Christmas.

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Saturday 21 November 2015

Which Side Are You On?

    There are of course many reasons why winter driving is dangerous; slippery conditions, bad visibility, darkness, etc., but the other day when we set out on Hwy. 16 (photo above), it was the lack of a visible centerline that scared me.  I couldn’t really tell exactly where I was on the highway.  Periodically I would drift over a bit too far to the side and hit the “rumble” marks and so I knew to pull back toward the center, but when a car or truck approached toward me, I was hoping that both they and myself could figure out which half of the highway belonged to who.
    This is only the beginning of several months of white-knuckle driving here in the interior of British Columbia.  I avoid driving as much as I can during winter, but sometimes you just have to get out there.

My photo-realistic paintings can still be seen at:

Friday 20 November 2015


    Its a good thing we go out and walk our dog, otherwise I would have no photos to put on the blog.  This scene was taken just east of McBride, BC from Jervis Road.

As always you can see my paintings at:

Thursday 19 November 2015

A White World

    Suddenly our world is white, as the photos show.  We received a snowfall of about 7 inches (18cm) overnight and woke up to whiteness covering everything.

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Wednesday 18 November 2015

Leggings of Snow

    In the past I have said disparaging things about our dog Skye.  I told you that she was lazy and wasn’t very outdoor oriented.  Yesterday, she proved me wrong.  We got about 10 inches (25 cm) of fresh snow on the ground and Joan and I decided to do the trail.  I wore snowshoes to mash the snow down, in an attempt to make it easier for Skye and Joan who followed.  Despite my snowshoeing there was still some plowing through the snow that had to be done, especially for Skye.  
    She had to work hard as all the snowballs attached to her legs prove, but still she romped and ran as best she could whenever I called her to catch up.  Once we got home, it was straight into the shower for Skye so I could melt all of the snow on her feet with warmish water.  She always stoically marches into the shower to get the task done.

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Tuesday 17 November 2015

Cabbage for Supper

    The ornamental cabbage that grew beside our front porch was about the only bit of color left in our yard now that the snows have begun (the above photo was taken a couple of weeks ago).  I was amazed that it lasted as long as it did, knowing that the deer found them tasty.  Yesterday when we walked outside we discovered that their was nothing left of the cabbage except for its stalk.  I guess the snow that now covers the ground has made the deer bolder in their search for food.

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Monday 16 November 2015

Light on the Mountains

    Because our house is tucked in at the foot of the mountains, we are in the shade until the sun climbs above the slopes.  As a result the Cariboo Mountains on the other side of the Robson Valley get the full sun before we do.  Here are a couple of shots I took this morning showing the effect.

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Sunday 15 November 2015

Deformed Carrot

    People who get all of their produce at the grocery store have probably never run across a deformed carrot, but in my gardening experience carrot deformity is fairly common.  I find their surprising shapes interesting (and sometimes downright lewd), but they are a pain to deal when you cook.  That, and the fact that people are leery of produce that deviate from the normal, are probably the reasons why you don’t see them in food stores.
    The other day when I grabbed some carrots from our stash, I came out with this one which I thought was worthy of a photo.  

You can view my photo-realistic paintings at:

Friday 13 November 2015

First Snowstorm

    We have been slowly ticking off the signs of winter for the season.  I previously blogged about the first dusting of snow and the excitement I felt.  Yesterday we experienced our first snowstorm.  It was looking pretty furious all afternoon with most of the landscape whited out by the storm.  It only left about 3-4 inches (7.5-10 cm) on the ground, but it certainly made everything look like winter.
    The snowstorm confirms that winter has arrived and so we are forced to accept the fact that from now on, weather becomes a major factor in our lives.  On Monday Joan and I made the 135 mile (217 km) drive up to Prince George.  For a week we carefully looked at the weather forecast before we finally decided on a day that looked like it would be safe to travel and then made our arrangements.   We didn’t want to be caught out on the highway during a snowstorm.  Luckily on Monday the highway was clear and dry.  It would have been hell had we been out on the highway yesterday.

My paintings can be viewed at:

Thursday 12 November 2015

Joan Progresses Down the Trail

    Joan reached another milestone yesterday on her recovery from the hip replacement that she had done in July.  Previous milestones included:  no longer using a walker, no longer using crutches, walking without a cane around the pond, and driving again.  Walking the trail was a real test because it is fairly treacherous with lots of uneven ground and roots to slip and trip on.  For security she did use her cane on yesterday’s walk, but it all went well.
    Our trail goes through the bush, crosses some fields down by the river, then loops around through another section of woods and finally runs across the top of the dam for the pond.  Because our dog Skye is such a chicken and will only go on our trail if I am walking in front of her and Joan is walking behind her, she hadn’t been on the trail for ages too, and really seemed to enjoy smelling all of the exotic animal smells again within the safety of her “pack.”

You can view my photo-realistic paintings at:

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Never Pass up a Sunset

    As someone who pays special attention to color and light, one of the things I am always happy to see is a colorful sunset.  We were having one yesterday when Joan, Skye, and I were walking around the pond.  Since I rarely go anywhere these days without my camera, I took some photos.  When you see a sunset, always remember not to spend all your time just looking at the sunset, look behind you and all around because the light and colors from the sunset often bathe the rest of the landscape in unique hues. 
    The photo below shows the sunset reflected in the pond ice.

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Tuesday 10 November 2015

Christmas Fair Production

    We are approaching the season of Christmas Fairs, when hoards of people produce products for the hoards of people looking for locally made items they can give away for Christmas.  I am among that first set of hoards.  Every year I make a calendar featuring my cartoons and lots of trivia about things that happened on various days of the year. 
    I started out making these calendars for my family in about 1992.  I put a photo of my relatives on their birthday dates.   It later struck me that since I was making the calendars anyway, I should make a generic model and sell it to the public, and for several decades now, I have been selling them at the Valemount and McBride Christmas Fairs and at the Whistle Stop Gallery in McBride.   I usually sell about 170 of them, which is pretty amazing considering just how small the two communities are.
    I am often told, “The only reason I came to the Christmas Fair was to pick up one of your calendars.”  That always makes me feel like the effort to make them was justified.
    This year I had 190 of them printed up (I always give some away to friends for Christmas).  Once printed, I bind them with my binding machine and punch a hole in the bottom for hanging.  The Valemount Christmas Fair is this Saturday, and I am just about finished binding them (photo above). 
    I have learned that making a calendar is really a good scam--Every year people have to buy a new one. 
    Below is a photo of what some of the trivia in the calendar looks like.

You can see my paintings at:

Sunday 8 November 2015

Nadia's Book is Out!

    A couple of years ago I was approached by Nadia Kovarik, who asked me if I would consider helping her with her book.  Nadia, who was originally from Czechoslovakia, had  written her book in Czech and had it published over there, and wanted to publish it in English.  I didn’t really know much about Nadia’s past life, but I was interested in writing and so volunteered to help her out.
    I would weekly go over to Nadia and George’s (her husband) place with my iPad and wireless keyboard and we began working on the book.  Nadia would hand write the chapters in English, using a Czech/English dictionary, and my job was to smooth out the English and type it out on my iPad.  This process took well over a year, but I found it interesting since I hadn’t read her book or knew anything about it contents, it was all new to me.
    Nadia and George grew up in Communist Czechoslovakia, and worked as mountain guides in resorts.  They grew restless about their restricted lifestyle behind the Iron Curtain, and decided and planned to make a daring escape to the West.  They left everything (both family and possessions) behind, taking advantage of a state sponsored “vacation” Yugoslavia, they snuck across the border, ending up in a refugee camp in Italy.  While all of this is pretty dramatic stuff, Nadia writes in a humorous and lighthearted style, so the book is not only interesting, but fun to read.
    Accepted as refugees by Canada, they begin life in a new country, where the lifestyle is so different from what they grew up with.  Having both loved life in the mountains and knowing Western Canada’s reputation for snowy peaks, they are somewhat bewildered to find themselves in flat Red Deer, Alberta.   Slowly moving from place to place seeking the wilderness they so love, they eventually settle in the Kootenays of BC where George fulfills his dream of building a log house by himself, providing them a new home on their own property.  
    As I mentioned before Nadia has a great sense of humor and the book is a delight to read.  I discovered that it was on yesterday.  I felt the little blurb it gave about the book didn’t really represent the book’s contents which is far more interesting and entertaining.  Below is a link.  

Saturday 7 November 2015


    Conks are fungi that grow on trees.  Like mushrooms, what you see are just the fruiting body of the fungus, most of the fungus grows unseen under the ground, or in the case of conks, inside the tree.  Fungi doesn’t have chlorophyl and so it can’t make sugars from sunlight to feed itself, it must live off of the nutrients that they find within the tree.  They deteriorate the tree and cause rot.  If you see a conk on a tree you know that inside the fungus is growing and rotting the tree.
    The bark of the tree is like our skin.  One of its main functions is to keep all the bad stuff out of the body.  Once the skin (or bark) is broken or cracked, organisms can get in and cause infections. 
    The photo shows part of a birch tree that had fallen and was lying across our trail.  When I cut it up to get it off the trail, the fungus had easy access to the inside of the tree, and it looks like it found a lot of what it needed to grow because it six conks to spread its spores around hoping to find other vulnerable trees.

My paintings can be seen at:

Friday 6 November 2015

Thin Ice

    Although it hasn’t seemed that cold to me, I guess the slow and steady, just below freezing, temperatures have lowered the water temperature of my pond enough to cause ice to form on the surface.  It is just a thin film of ice.  This morning it was windy and you could see the ice undulate up and down with the wind.
    It is always so much nicer to see open water on the pond because it is always changing with the weather.  Waves form, rain drops ripple, ducks swim around, and you get a lot of reflection.  Once the ice forms you might still get a reflection and be able to look at the bottom, but then things get really boring when the ice is covered with snow.  There isn’t anything to see but a flat white plain for months and months.

My paintings can be seen at:

Thursday 5 November 2015

Salmon Feast with my Oatmeal

    This morning, like most mornings when I am preparing my bowl of oatmeal, I was half asleep.  Joan who is always more organized, had kindly already gotten a bowl and spoon out for me and had them waiting on the counter.  I took my bowl into the pantry and poured in some oatmeal from the big jar.  I then took my bowl back to the counter to spoon myself some prunes.  
    When I reached for the spoon, I noticed that it was a tiny tea spoon (Joan must not have been fully awake either), so I took it over to replace it with a regular spoon.  As I put it back into the drawer, I glanced over to my bowl on the counter and saw that there was also a medium sized spoon sitting there, so I didn’t get a new spoon, because I could use the one I saw.
    I used the spoon to give myself 5 prunes, then sliced up a banana on top and added the yogurt and soy milk.  It was ready to eat (I don’t cook the oatmeal), so  I walked my bowl over to the living room and we sat down in front of the TV.
    When I took the first bite of my oatmeal, my mouth noticed a lot of crud on the bottom of the spoon.  My first thought was that our dishwasher must not have done a very good job of cleaning it.  Then I though about how the dishwasher had not been opened yet, and if the spoon was laying on the counter, it was probably the cat food spoon.  Ecch!
    We open a can of cat food every second day, giving the cat 1/4th of the can at each feeding.  The can of the cat food and the cat food dirty spoon sit on the counter until the can is empty, so that meant the bottom of the spoon I had used to eat my first bite of oatmeal was covered with 2 day old cat food.  Ecch, again.
    After that bite I immediately returned the spoon to the counter and got a new one.  Before returning to the living room and my breakfast, I checked the empty cat food can in the sink, it looks like I had Salmon Feast with my oatmeal.

Take a look at my photo-realistic paintings:

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Ummm, Peanut Butter

    This morning as we were about to set out on our walk around the pond, there came a rapping on the upstairs wall of our house.  
    “Rap, Rap, Rap-Rap.” 
    I figured it was a woodpecker drumming away and when we got out side, sure enough, that was what we saw.
    Naturally, I don’t like the idea of a woodpecker poking holes in the siding of my house, so my first thought was to find some sort of object that I could throw up at it, so it would fly away.  When more rationality seeped into my brain, I realized that throwing something was probably not a great idea, since the woodpecker was right beside a window, and knowing my luck, I figured I might hit the window and break it, even though I wasn’t planning to throw that hard.
    Then I remembered that woodpeckers always come to the peanut butter log that hangs on the birch tree which stood right beside me.  I had yet to fill it for the morning, so I got the peanut butter and filled the holes of the log with peanut butter.  Quickly, the woodpecker forgot its rapping, and as soon as I left to put the peanut butter away, there the woodpecker was, on the log, pulling off a big gob of peanut butter for breakfast.

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Tuesday 3 November 2015

First Snow

    The first emotion I felt this morning when I looked out of the window was surprise, but that was quickly replaced with excitement at seeing snow falling and sticking on the ground.  I think it must still be the kid in me that makes snow (at least the first snow) exciting.  This first light snowfall really doesn’t change anything except visually, and it will probably have disappeared by this afternoon.
    As someone who really enjoys photography, snow does change the look of things, so I was happy to go out this morning with my camera hanging on my side to explore those visual changes.

You can see my photo-realistic paintings at:

Monday 2 November 2015

Falling Back

    Like most of North America, BC got off of Daylight Saving Time and turned its clocks back an hour on Sunday.  This caused a lot of confusion with our dog, who wondered why his food wasn’t ready at the normal time.  It mean’t that the birds were flying around the bird feeder in the morning wondering the same thing.  When we went on our walk at 4:30 PM, it was already getting starting to get dark and the low light in the Valley dulled the few colors that remain on the late autumn palette.
    The hardest thing for me to adapt to is the early onset of darkness in the evening and the long extra hour that I have to wait before going to bed, even though the body is telling me it is time.  

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Sunday 1 November 2015

Air Photos

    I began working at the BC Forest Service in 1980.  I was the “Draughting Department” in the McBride Forest District.  My job was making and updating all of the different kinds of maps that were used in the office.  There were maps showing the logging cutblocks, the roads, the recreation areas, the types of timber in each area, and maps showing the legal tenure areas for contracts.  As part of my job, I was in charge of the air photos.
    I had never come across air photos before and I found them fascinating.  They were black and white photos taken by an airplane as it flew a grid over the country side.  Our district was immense, covering thousands of square miles, most of which was wilderness.  We had filing cabinets full of air photos covering the whole area, showing the mountain peaks, the glaciers, the fields, and the hidden lakes.  The area  shown on each photo overlapped with the neighboring photo, so by using stereoscopic glasses and two consecutive photos, you could see the hills, ravines, mountains, and valleys in 3-D.  You could see individual trees poking up.
    Local people were constantly coming in our office to look at their properties and homes on the air photos.  This was officially discouraged, but as a “civil servant” I felt like these people paid for the photos with their tax money, so I always helped them out, and even photocopied (another “No, No”) the photos  for them.  I enjoyed the “power” I had to help out people by sharing the air photos.
    While I found these black and white photos fascinating, you can imagine my delight when technology advanced and we began to get color air photos.  I got to submit requests for flights to take new photos over areas of interest for these new, closer to the ground, color photos.  
    It didn’t take long before technology advanced again and we started to get black and white satellite photos that showed, not the small areas on the ground, but our entire forest district.  These photos were shocking because you could see the hundreds of logged out areas together, all in one view, where previously, you could only see a few at a time on a photo.  When you saw all the cutblocks at once, it became pretty obvious the impact humankind was having on our area of the Earth.  
    Soon we started to receive color satellite photos. 
    Of course, now the magic of those photos has disappeared as such photos have become commonplace.  Software like Google Earth (photo above) allows anyone with a computer and the internet, to view “air photos” of any place on Earth.  You can zoom in or zoom out on the image and even see what they look like in 3-D.
    I can’t help but be amazed at the things technology has created.

My paintings can be seen at: