Thursday 31 March 2016

Canadian Sunset

    Here is yesterday’s sunset reflected in my pond.  Its always difficult to get the exposure right because my camera always wants to adjust for the brightest bits of light of the sky which really darkens everything else in the photo.

You can see my paintings at

Tuesday 29 March 2016

As Soon As The Soil Can Be Worked"

    Some garden plants love cool weather.  The gardening books say you can plant lettuce and peas “as soon as the soil can be worked.”   I have never started my garden in March before, but the soil can now be worked, so yesterday I put the peas and some lettuce in.
    It is a bit scary planting so early, but it has always worked out for me before, although the earliest I have previously planted was April 6th (last year), and that was unusually early.  In 2013, I planted the peas on April 23rd.
    The peas are now in the ground so all I can do now is wait with my fingers crossed.

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Monday 28 March 2016

Elk, Down by the River

    Last Thursday Joan and I were driving back from McBride, and as we were crossing the Fraser River bridge Joan said, “There’s a big herd of elk by the river.”   As soon as we had gotten off of the bridge I pulled over, then walked back to the bridge with my camera and took this photo.  I had never seen any elk (wapiti) down on the sand flats and here was a whole herd of them.  I don’t know if they had swum across the river or not, but they were all lined up like they might have.
    Later in the afternoon, I had to drive back to town and I noticed that they were all still there, although all lined up along the river bank, eating vegetation.  Seeing wildlife is alway a treat.

You can see my photo-realistic paintings:

Sunday 27 March 2016

Brown & Gray

    The snow is gone and the ice has melted, but now we are in that long period of brown and gray as we wait for the green to appear.  Here is a photo I took the other evening as we walked around the pond.  The dark grey clouds in the sky gave a nice contrast to the tan cattails that were still being highlighted by the sun.  I am always so surprised at how fleeting such scenes are.  A minute later the cattails were also in the shade and the whole effect had vanished.

You can see my paintings at:

Saturday 26 March 2016

Pick Up Sticks

    Here is what our yard looked like after we got our birch felled and our willows topped.  Its going to be a while before we get all the wood sawed up and stacked ready for our wood stove next winter, and all of the sticks picked up and hauled away.  You don’t really realize just how much mass is up in a tree until its laying in your yard.

Take a look at my paintings:

Friday 25 March 2016

The Illegal & Canada Reads

    I listen to CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp) Radio daily.  It has been a constant companion for years.  Generally it is thoughtful, witty, and intelligent, but drastic cuts during our last federal government has forced it into some less than stellar programing.  One of those things that has deteriorated is something called “Canada Reads” that has come an annual feature in March.  
    Canada Reads started out as a discussion of Canadian books.  It has since become a reality show with trendy B or C grade celebrities from various walks of life and regions defending books and voting books “off the island.”  The books that are talked about are not necessarily the best Canadian books and the “winner” is certainly not the best of the best.  I try to avoid Canada Reads, but it is difficult, given the amount of time I listen to the radio and the fact that CBC now repeats most of it programs 3 times a day and their love of hyping their programs.
    Unfortunately, another factor in all this is that last month’s McBride Library Book Club literary subject was supposed to be a Canada Reads book.  For the second year in a row, the book I chose turned out to be the Canada Reads winner, and for the second year in the row, I was not impressed.  This year’s winner was “The Illegal” by Lawrence Hill.  Below is my review of the book.

The Illegal by Lawrence Hill
           To me, one of the most important things in a novel is believably.  It can be a far fetched story but must be written in such a way that I don't start thinking "this doesn't seem right."   I had doubts about this novel before I even began reading, for on the opening page there was a map showing the location of the story; two islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean. 
     The really huge island was the country called "Freedom State",  south of it was the smaller island, "Zantoroland."   I just couldn't buy the location or names. It seemed too contrived.   Freedom State was set up as one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It has a predominantly white racist population, whose number one concern was sending illegal black refugees back to Zantoroland, having forced the removal of black former slaves back there earlier.   Those blacks live under the rule of a brutal tin pot dictator. 
     The story centers on a black male named Keita, who lives with his journalist father and sister in Zantoroland. Keita trains to be one of Zantoroland's world famous marathoners. His sister leaves for America, having won a scholarship and his father is then killed by by the island's dictator.  Keita is able to get to Freedom State to run a marathon, then abandons his agent and goes underground to prevent returning to Zantoroland.
      As the novel progresses, unusual characters are added to the mix:  a black lesbian reporter with a shaved head, in a wheelchair , a bright light-skinned black high schooler who wins $10,000 worth of video equipment in an essay contest and lives in the black ghetto in Freedom State where he has a job cleaning a brothel, a cute black female police officer who runs marathons, the white Minister of Immigration in the Conservative government of Freedom State, who also runs marathons, and an eighty year old white woman who is trying to prevent her sleazy son from putting her into an institution and stealing all her money. 
    When Keita's sister ends up in a prison in Zantoroland, he is threatened with her death by the dictator unless he pays $15,000, he is also threatened by the athletic agent who he has abandoned, owing $10,000 worth of debt. 
      The novel is basically about Keita trying to win marathons so he can make these payments while living underground as an illegal in Freedom State.
       I found its numerous references to Canada, intrusive and unnecessary.  Even though the story takes place on Freedom State, the island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Keita takes his girl to a Tim Hortons (a Canadian restaurant chain) for coffee, and at another point, a man watching the marathon was wearing a Tilley hat (a Canadian produced hat). Both of these things just seemed slotted in to the story for Canadian content, like the "product placements" found in films.

       I found "The Illegal" too contrived for my tastes. I knew nothing about it when I began reading and I found just too many things not ringing true. It was a disappointment to me, and I found it embarrassing that it was one of the choices for Canada Reads, but then the whole "Canada Reads" thing, I also find embarrassing and contrived. Instead of being a discussion about good Canadian literature, it is just a reality show whose criteria for choice of novels must either be ethnic, or politically "trendy" rather than exceptional literature.

You can view my paintings at:

Thursday 24 March 2016

Old Birch Gone

    Our dear old birch that has been a prominent part of our yard since we bought our place 39 years ago is now laying on the ground.  It died a year ago and since its main fork was leaning somewhat toward the house, I thought I would get a professional to come and fall it.  Courtney Lipke of Cobrea Contracting came out and did the deed, carefully placing it so it fell where it did no damage. 
    I also had him trim the 4 remaining big willow branches that we had spared when I had the willows topped a year and a half ago.  Instead of using a boom, Courtney climbed up on the willow and cut it off, sparing our lilac tree which was growing below it.  It was fascinating to watch Courtney work with his chainsaw high off of the ground.  Photo below.

You can view my paintings at:

Wednesday 23 March 2016

The Season of Moss

    The Robson Valley has entered the season of moss.  The snow is gone on the valley bottom, and it is still too cold for the trees and other plants to do any growing, so about the only things that are thriving are the mosses.  They love this cool, moist, time of year and their brilliant green color prove it.
    I came across this downed tree covered with moss yesterday on a walk.  I love this green carpet that covers the forest floor and decomposing trees during this time of year.  It is about the only thing that is going on.

You can take a look at my paintings at:

Tuesday 22 March 2016

Don Martin & Mad Magazine

    A couple of weeks ago as we were approaching US Customs during our road trip, I was thinking about what questions I might be asked.  One possible question was “What is your occupation?”  and as I thought about the answer I was a bit surprised.  I guess my occupation is now “Cartoonist.”  That is what provides me with most of my non-pension income.   The answer surprised me because although I have always drawn cartoons, it was never my main source of money.
    That got me thinking about how much I owe to a misspent youth, wasting my time reading Mad Magazine.  As a very young kid I loved to read comic books, but once I saw my first Mad Magazine, I was hooked, and comics just seemed to childish after Mad Magazine.  For those who don’t know, Mad Magazine was a satirical magazine that skewered contemporary society; everything from popular movies and TV shows, political events,  to current affairs.  Its art work was amazing and its humor superb.
    My favorite features were the cartoons of Don Martin--goofy looking characters, with big feet and hands and buck teeth.  The situations were absurd and unexpected, but they fit my sense of humor at the time and I loved them.   I so admired his characters that I spent hours trying to draw them, and in the process learned to draw characters that I now use in my own cartoons.  Above you can see an example of a Don Martin Cartoon.
    My parents always scolded me for “wasting my money and time” on Mad Magazine.  It is strange how insignificant things in your youth can sometime flower into something important in your life.
    Thank you, Mad Magazine and Don Martin.

You can view my paintings at:

Monday 21 March 2016

Rocks and Windshields

    One of the things you learn pretty quick after driving on a winter highway in rural British Columbia is that it doesn’t take long to get “dings” and cracks on your windshield.  We realized that it was folly to buy a new car during the winter, but we ended up doing it, so we knew that it would only be a short time before our crystal clear windshield would be marred.
    I drew this cartoon in the middle of January, and 5 weeks later, fifteen minutes after we pulled out of our driveway for our road trip to Indiana, a truck streaked by, a rock flew up from its tires, which struck our windshield.  For the next couple of days as we drove south we watched the ding turn into a crack which slowly grew across the passenger side of our brand new windshield.  

    So now the windshield will have to be replaced after two months of owning the car.  For sure I will not get it done until spring has been fully established and the highways are no longer “sanded” (graveled).  It will be nice to have a clear windshield to look though during the summer months, at least until the snow falls again.

Take a look at my paintings:

Sunday 20 March 2016

Planting Year Old Garlic

    Normally the way I plant garlic is this:  I put the cloves in the ground in late September.  It stays in the ground over winter and is the first thing that pops up out of the ground in the spring.  It then grows until July when I dig it up and dry it.  Then in late September I take some of those dried garlic, plant it, and the whole process begins again.
    Last year I didn’t have a huge crop of garlic and so didn’t have enough to plant, but I still had a lot of dried garlic from the year before that still seemed firm and viable, so I planted half fresh garlic and half year old garlic.  I wasn’t sure if the old ones would grow or not, but I gambled.
    Last fall shortly after I planted it, the old garlic, happy to be given a chance to grow, shot out of the ground.  Usually after planting, you don’t see the garlic until spring.  When winter hit that old garlic that had sprouted, disappeared under the snow.  When the snow melted it was still there and green, ready to continue growing.  The new garlic also popped out of the ground ready to grow.
    The photo shows the old green garlic in the background and the new young sprouts in the foreground.  It won’t be until July when I dig it all that I really find out how the two compare.

You can view my paintings at:

Saturday 19 March 2016

Melting Underway

    The ice on my pond is starting to disappear.  This is part of the move toward spring that I always look forward to.  Open water is always so much nicer to see than ice.  Generally we have some ducks or geese around when this process happens, but so far this year I haven’t seen any.

Take a look at my paintings:

Friday 18 March 2016

Pine Beetle Moves into the Parks

    The warming climate has already had a devastating effect on the forests of BC.  The mild winters have allowed the Pine Bark Beetle, that used to be kept in check by cold snaps, to thrive, killing millions and millions of pine trees over hundreds of thousands of acres across BC.   As the pines die they turn red in color.  As you can see in this photo taken in Mt. Robson Park, the beetles are now moving east and their work is becoming visible, not only at Mt. Robson, but also in Jasper National Park.  
    Both Jasper and Banff parks are mostly covered with Lodgepole Pine trees, so the parks will be taking a massive hit.  There is really no way this infestation can be stopped.  Every mature pine will die.  The parks will never be the same.

My photo-realistic paintings:

Thursday 17 March 2016

Shrouded Mountains

    Coming home from our road trip as we left the Trans-Canada Highway near Lake Louise and ramped up to the Icefields Parkway headed north to Jasper, we suddenly encountered a whiteout snowstorm.  Fortunately a bit up the highway the snow stopped, the clouds lifted and the mountains showed themselves.  Some of the upper peaks were still shrouded with cloud and it made an interesting photo.

Look at  my paintings:

Wednesday 16 March 2016

A Bridge for Wildlife

    One of the down sides about driving across the continent is seeing so many corpses of wildlife lying on the side of the road.  Body after decaying body, lined the edges of Interstate highways.  The death count was appalling.
    The Trans-Canada Highway  (Highway 1), Canada’s most prominent roadway, winds its way through the heart of Banff National Park, so over the years it was responsible for a huge share of the destruction of Park animals, but for several decades now, Parks Canada has tried to minimize the carnage by fencing the sides of the highway and building bridges across it, providing a safe route for animals to pass from one side of the highway to the other without playing Russian roulette with cars and trucks.
    The first of these bridges was a bit of an experiment, since no one knew if wildlife would use them, but they must work, because there seem to be more and more of them every year.

You can see my photo-realistic paintings at:

Tuesday 15 March 2016

A Hard Four Days of Driving

    Driving the roughly 4000 kms ( 2400 miles) from Southern Indiana to McBride is always a bit of an ordeal, but this time we had an extra burden to bear--we were both suffering from a very bad cold.   We filled our long days in the car with coughing fits, exhaustion, chills, and not being very mentally sharp.  We collapsed into our motel beds at night after an unhealthy fast food meal, and then had to force ourselves out of the bed in the morning darkness to continue the trip the following day. 
    Fortunately, we did finally make it home yesterday and so now can relax a bit as we try to shake off this bug.  
    I passed up a lot of good photos along the way, I just didn’t have the energy to stop, but did manage to take a few shots.  Above you can see the sunrise we witnessed as we left Billings, Montana, on Sunday morning.  

Note: I am now back blogging on my website:

Thursday 10 March 2016

The Old Spring House


      As a kid, I grew up in the perfect environment.  In our rural neighborhood there were farms, houses, and forest lands. I love to explore it. One of the places that was most interesting to me was an abandoned farm. It had sat vacant and deteriorating for decades.   One of the most intriguing buildings on the place was the dairy or spring house. It was located at the bottom of a slope and enclosed a spring that gurgled out of the ground, and a creek that ran through the building. I assume that the water kept the dairy products cool. 
       I hadn't been down to that farm for about 40 years. During that time the old farm had been subdivided and big beautiful houses had been built. I was curious as to what it looked like in the old farm site, so my brother and I drove down to take a look. (I figured homeowners would get suspicious if the two of us just walked down the road.). As we drove down the road I steered toward where I remembered the homestead was. The road came to a stop right in front of a house and we were embarrassed to see a woman right there picking daffodils. 
     We rolled down the window to explain why we were there and was curious about what we knew of the old Adler farm. Ann then invited us down to look at the old spring house that they had rebuilt. It is now all screened in and the spring and creek were still featured.   It was gratifying to see that that interesting part of the past was still around. 
     Below is a photo of the spring and creek. 

Wednesday 9 March 2016

Happy 95th, Minnie

     My mother celebrated a milestone yesterday when she turned 95. It seems that we have been eating birthday cakes the whole day long.  Last night the family gathered at Los Bravos, a local Mexican Restaurant for a final big meal.  The waiters surprised us all by putting a big sombrero on Mom and giving her a sundae.  It was a good way to top off the celebration to a lady who has dedicated her whole life to her family. 

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Too Bad, Nice Cup


    My sister works for a plastics company.  She showed me this new cup that they developed.  It feels really firm in the hand, it is designed to support very beautiful graphics on its side, and it is very well insulated so that it is great for both hot and cold drinks.  The really great thing about it is that it is totally recyclable, unlike the millions of coffee containers that get tossed into the trash every day. 
     The plastics company bought a plant in Kentucky that was closing to manufacture it and was able to rehire workers that had lost their jobs.  It was an all around good story.
     Now the bad news.  None of the giant food corporations wants to buy the cup, despite all thier talk about being "green" and now it looks like the new factory will close, and this great cup will disappear along with the jobs--too bad.

Fancy Fungus

     Yesterday I blogged about nature breaking down a tree stump, today I have a photo of a "conk" or fungus that grows on trees and helps the process of breaking them down. Some conks are parasitic and grows on living trees, the one shown in the photo, I found on a dead piece of tree lying on the forest floor in Indiana.  It is the prettiest one I have ever seen.  It looks a lot like a butterfly.  

Sunday 6 March 2016

Nature Is Solving the Problem

     Ten or more years ago there was a bad windstorm.  It toppled one of the big trees that lined the lane that runs beside my mother's place.  The tree itself grew on the golf course, but when it fell it took down some power lines and blocked the lane.  The power company came and sawed up the tree and fixed the power.  Everything was dealt with except the huge base of the tree that somehow was left on my mom's property and forgotten about.
     It always irritated me that it was just left there since it wasn't our tree and mom didn't have any equipment to deal with it.   Years passed, and after a while it just became to late to complain to anyone, although it bugged me every time I visited my mother and saw it there beside the lane. 
     The other day I was walking Skye down the lane and went over to inspect the tree and was gratified to discover it is rotting away.  When I kicked at it, sections would crumble into dirt, nature is solving the problem for me although it's probably going to take 20 years. 

Saturday 5 March 2016

UFO Clouds

     While driving through Wyoming, we glanced out of the window and thought that a squadron of UFO's were coming over the ridge. 

Friday 4 March 2016

Icefield Parkway

     On February 29th We started out on a road trip.  One of the perks of living where we do in British Columbia is that when we do go somewhere we often have to begin our trip by driving through Jasper and Banff National Parks.  They are Canada's most iconic and beautiful parks, and the highway that drives through and connects them is called the Icefields Parkway.
     Since we have been through them so many times before and wanted to make time driving, I wasn't planning to stop and take photos, but the scenery is always so overwhelming, I really couldn't help myself. 
      Above is a photo I took at the Athabaska Glacier.  Back In 1973, when I first saw it, it would have occupied the whole bottom half of this scene.  Now it is only on the far right of the photo. It has really melted back as the climate heats up