Monday 31 October 2016

Halloween--The Thrill is Gone

    It might just be old age, but Halloween sure seems to have lost its fizzle over the years.  Of course it was more fun when I was a kid, but now it is so commercialized.  In my day, households might carve a jack-o’-lantern, put a candle in it, and put it on the porch, now many houses come home from the store and overwhelm their front yards with inflatable characters swaying in the wind.  
    At one time kids and their parents made their own costumes, now no creativity is needed, just money to buy the complete outfits.  Does anyone still dunk for apples?
    Some of the changes are for the good.  At least around here, there seems to be less “Tricks” from Trick or Treaters.  I remember windows being soaped and eggs being thrown, and both of those activities were a pain for property owners.  One year when I was a teacher, living in a house beside the school building, I was worried about my car windows being soaped.  I was happy when it was pouring rain on Halloween.  My happiness was short-lived when I discovered the next day that tricksters had dumped flour on my wet car which turned into a hard paste.

    Halloween will pretty much be a normal night for us.  We no longer get any trick or treaters coming to the house, they all head into town where more candy is available in a more concentrated area.   We didn’t even bother to buy any treats, knowing no one would come.   If your are planning some Halloween activities, enjoy them.

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Sunday 30 October 2016

Joan's Garden Box Still Going Strong

    Even though numerous frosts have finished off my garden, Joan’s box at the McBride Community Garden is still looking good.  She planted things that don’t mind a bit of frost: cress, lettuce, chives and ornamental kale.  As you can see, it all combines to give a really nice splash of color when all the other boxes are dead and decaying.  I am still eating the lettuce in my sandwiches.

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Saturday 29 October 2016

Back on the Trail

    Many years ago, I developed a trail that looped onto our neighbor’s property, with their permission of course.  Joan, the dog, and I walked the trail through the woods and down by the Fraser River daily, and often twice daily, but then we ran into a problem.
    The owner’s son and family moved into the house on that property, and they got two pit bull dogs.  Those dogs barked and threatened aggressively every time they heard us on the trail.  Our dog no longer would walk on the trail, and didn’t even want to go out to our yard because she could smell the neighbor’s dogs.
    Then a week ago we saw that the neighbor’s property had the gate closed and padlocked on the driveway.  The neighbors and their dogs were gone.  I still don’t know exactly what is going on, but we started walking the trail again.  It is so nice to be able to again have a trail right outside our door rather than having to drive somewhere to walk our dog.
    This morning when we were starting out on our walk down the trail, I looked back at our house and the Sun had just begun highlighting the yellow branches of our willow trees against the blue-gray foggy mountain slope, so I took this photo.

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Friday 28 October 2016

Anne of Green Gables

    The novel, Anne of Green Gables is an institution in Canada, but since I grew up in the US I never read it.  The Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC) produced a very popular TV drama based on Anne, years ago and that was my first introduction to Anne Shirley, the young firecracker who is the novel’s main character.  The book was one of the suggestions of the McBride Library’s Book Club and so that is the book I read.  Here is my review:

     Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery 
            Although I was familiar with the spirited, overly earnest, and redheaded Anne Shirley character from CBC's classic TV show based on the book, I had never read the novel, and was happy that the Book Club had given me an excuse to do so.  It was a long overdue treat. 
     Anne's (be sure you spell that with an 'e') personality and unfortunate situation (being an orphan who suddenly finds herself in the paradise of Prince Edward Island because of a mistake made by the orphanage, and unsure if she will be allowed to remain) immediately captures the reader's heart.  Montgomery's descriptions of the natural beauty of the island, life in the small community of Avonlea, and living in those simpler times, all combine to cement the book into the much loved classic of Canadian literature. 
      The situations in the novel are unspectacular, but Anne's over-dramatic response to them make for fun reading.  Character personalities are well formed and evolve over time.  The book was a pleasure. 

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Thursday 27 October 2016

Enough Scotch Tape for the Next 15 Years

    Yesterday when we drove up to Prince George we stopped at Costco.  Knowing the title of this blog, I could probably end the writing here, but I will give you sad details.   The reason for going to Prince George was something else, we have been going up there a lot in recent weeks, so we didn’t really have much of anything on our shopping list, but like I said, we went to Costco.
    As usual when we walked into the building, we were handed a flyer with the bargains of the week.  I looked through it and saw that one of the things on sale was an eight-pack of Scotch tape.  I remembered that I hadn’t really seen much Scotch tape around at home, except for one dispenser, so I figured I should probably take advantage of the sale.
    I bought the eight-pack of Scotch tape and of course, other items caught our eye as we walked around the store.  Even though we didn’t really need much of anything when we walked into Costco, we walked out with a cartful of items and a receipt for $287.00.
    When we got back home we started to unload our purchases.  I took the eight-pack of Scotch tape up to my office to put it away.  I thought I would store it in a drawer in the cabinet.  When I opened that drawer I discovered that there were already 7 packages of Scotch tape from a previous eight-pack “Sale,” sitting there waiting to be used.  Obviously I didn’t really need to take advantage of the Scotch tape this year’s “Sale.”  
    Oh well, I guess I have a lot of Scotch tape on hand to use if the occasion arises.  I just hope that a year from now when I go into Costco and see the eight-pack on sale I will remember that I already have some.

My paintings are on view at:

Tuesday 25 October 2016

A Fairy Ring

    Yesterday I came upon this Fairy Ring or Fairy Circle.  It is not the most obvious one I have ever seen, but hopefully you can make out the circle in the photograph.  What we call mushrooms are just the fruiting bodies of fungi , the bulk of plant which grow underground.  Fairy Rings are formed when a mushroom pops up out of the ground, then the underground part (mycelium) spreads away in a circle from the original mushroom, and sends up a new mushrooms at its end.  Each year the circle of mushrooms gets larger.
    Fairy rings have been the subject of a lot of folk beliefs.  It was thought that they show where witches have danced during the night.  It seems that it is very unlucky to step inside a fairy ring.  Take warning,  it is extremely unlucky to do so on Halloween.  
    I found this particular fairy ring interesting because it was made up of clusters of mushrooms instead of individual ones.  Below is a photo of one of those clusters.

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Monday 24 October 2016

Village Life

    The Village of McBride is the “urban center” of our section of the Robson Valley.  Today I thought I would tell you about 3 things that happened there over the last three days.
    Friday-  Joan and I needed to pick up something at the grocery store.  When we got to the checkout, Pat was running the till.  Our items cost something like $10.11.  Joan just had a twenty, and asked me if I had any change.  I didn’t.  
    So Joan handed Pat the twenty.  Pat who had watched us, then stuck her hand into her own pocket and pulled out the dime we needed (in Canada we no longer have pennies so everything is rounded up or down.) , so with Pat’s contribution, Joan got a full $10 bill back and didn’t have to mess with getting a lot of change in return.  It was a really nice gesture from Pat to help us out.
    Saturday-  Joan has a garden box in McBride’s Community Garden.  Part of the deal is that if you have a box you have to volunteer time.  The Community Garden grew a lot of potatoes to sell to raise money.  I helped with the digging, and Joan went in on Saturday to help with the sales effort.  
    When she came home she told me, “I have some bad news, I bought 15 pounds of potatoes.”  The news was bad because we already have plenty of potatoes in storage that I grew in our garden, but sales for the Community Garden were slow, so Joan decided to help them out.
    Sunday-  Members of the community were putting on a spaghetti dinner to raise money for a family  that has fallen upon hard times because of cancer.   The cost of the dinner was by donation.  We don’t know the person, but a lot of people were volunteering a lot of time, organizing, cooking, and cleaning up and we were happy to get a meal of spaghetti, and help out the family at the same time.
    While all of the above incidents are not unique behavior to McBride, I am sure appreciative of the “helping out others” attitude that can be found here.  

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Sunday 23 October 2016

Lichen on a Stick

    Now that all the jungle of leaves have fallen from the underbrush, the various forms of lichen that grow in the Robson Valley become more obvious as I walk through the woods.  Above is a stick covered with Old Man’s Beard lichen and below are some sticks covered with the Lungwort lichen.  While these two grow all year round it is usually in the spring and fall when they catch my eye.  

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Saturday 22 October 2016

A Doubtful Future

    Usually it is a treat to see wildlife out in our yard, but yesterday Joan saw this deer eating willow leaves in the front yard and it made us feel distressful.  It was thin and you could see its ribs.  It didn’t look very healthy.  It is not uncommon to see this sort of condition coming out of winter, but it is not a positive sign for this deer as it heads into winter.
    Our long snowy winters are a real ordeal for wildlife, that is why bears hibernate.  If it is a hard winter I don’t think this deer will come out the other end of it.  Of course that is nature, and if this deer doesn’t make it, it’s body will provide food for coyotes, wolves, birds, and other creatures that also struggle to survive during the cold season and they will appreciate the meal.

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Friday 21 October 2016

We're Out of Here

    As the Robson Valley inches closer to winter, many of the birds are looking to spend the next half a year in warmer climes.  The other day while walking the dog at the McBride airfield, we heard the faint honking of geese.  Eventually we were able pinpoint the fowls flying at a very high altitude in an ever changing long line.  
    This photo was taken when the flock got closer, and my camera zoomed to the maximum.

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Thursday 20 October 2016

Savoy Cabbage

    A couple of weeks ago I pulled up most of my cabbages, but I left a few small Savoy Cabbages in the ground just in case we got some more mild weather.  Yesterday I went out to see how they were doing and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a photo.
    I am not sure what it is that makes cabbages so attractive to me, I guess it is the textures, curls, and subtle colors, but I always end up photographing them.  My first painting which I did in 2005 was based on a photo of one of my red cabbages.

You can see my first painting, "Cabbage"  at:

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Dry Beans

    Last spring when I was looking through the seed catalogues I happened upon a section called “Dry Beans.”   They are beans that are not harvested and eaten green, but let to dry out on the plant, then harvested.  Since 2016 was declared by the UN the “Year of Pulses” (dry beans) and the fact that I love beans, I ordered 3 varieties to plant in my garden.  
    I have never grown dry beans before so wasn’t sure how well they would work out in our rather short growing season in the interior of BC, but I planted them and waited.
    “Black Turtle,” one of the varieties I planted, failed to germinate.  The second type, which I no longer remember the name of, grew and started to mature, but the beans were small and, probably due to the fact that they didn’t mature enough to dry on the plant, they are terribly hard to get out of the pod.  
    Their pod is like leather and really tough.  I have to fight to free every single bean.  I don’t plan to save any of those beans to grow again.  They are the darker narrow beans in the photo.
    The third variety I grew was called “Taylor.”  They are the larger, round, white and red beans you can see.  They are a lot easier to get out of the pod and they grew really well so I harvested  a lot of them.  I will probably save some of those to plant again.
    Of course, I really haven’t eaten any of the beans yet, so I am only assuming that they will pass the taste test.  I do like the colorful way all of my dry beans look.

I paint, check out my works at:

Monday 17 October 2016

2017 Calendar

    I had to scramble around to get things done before my short trip to Indiana, and now that I am back I am once again scrambling to catch up on jobs I needed to do during my absence.  One of those jobs was completing my trivia calendar for 2017 so that I have them to sell during the Christmas Fairs in November.
    I have been making calendars since the early 1990’s, and while I have gotten quicker at the task, it still takes me a while to make the decisions about what cartoons to use.  I spent the morning getting it done digitally yesterday and then it sent off to the printer.  Once printed I have to bind the 180 copies.
    Above is the cover of the 2017 edition.

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Saturday 15 October 2016

It's Getting Closer, It's Here

    Yesterday when we drove into McBride, I could help but notice how low the snow was on the mountains.  It was obvious that it was only a matter of time before we got it on the valley bottom.  This morning when I woke up, I glanced out of the window and discovered that it was here.

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Friday 14 October 2016

Broken Planes

    In my recent trip to Indiana I was surprised to discover just how many broken airplanes are out there.  On my trip down and back I had a total of six flights.  Three of the six, that’s half of my flights, were delayed because of mechanical problems on the planes and we were forced to wait for a new plane to be delivered from somewhere else.  Two of the three occurred on planes that were supposed to be the first flight of the day, and that of course, totally wiped out all of my connections.
    The first flight of my trip down started in Prince George.  We boarded, sat there, and then were told that the pilot would not fly the plane because of some mechanical problem and we all had to de-board and wait for a couple of hours while a replacement plane flew up from Vancouver.  While we waited I missed all my connecting flights and they all had to be rebooked.
    On the start of my return trip back to BC starting from Evansville, Indiana, we were told that the plane we were supposed to use had mechanical problems and that we would have to wait two hours until a replacement plane was flown up from Houston.  Again, that caused me to miss all my connecting flights, all of which had to be rebooked on later flights.
    While it was very inconvenient and a hassle, I really am not going to complain.  I certainly don’t want to fly on any broken planes.  I was just surprised at how many broken planes there are out there.
    I try to look on the bright side, and there were some bright sides.   One night the airline put me up and fed me in a fancy hotel and restaurant when I had to unexpectedly overnight in Vancouver, and in all of my really long flights between Vancouver and Chicago, I was rebooked into seats that were “Economy Plus”  instead of just “Economy,”  that meant that I got a few more valuable inches of legroom without having to pay the extra cost.

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Thursday 13 October 2016

Saving a Baby Cedar

     There is a mature cedar tree growing in my mom's yard, beside her driveway. It is not one of those giant ancient ones like we have in BC, but you don't see too many cedars in Southern Indiana, so It always caught my eye.  The other day when I was walking down Mom's drive I noticed there was a baby cedar growing right beside the concrete edging along the driveway. 
        That worried me because it didn't have much of a future growing there.  I learned later that my sister has been trying to avoid it when she mowed the lawn, but still, one of these days it would probably feel the blade.  I decided I would try to extend its life by 100 or so years, so I went in search of a shovel, found one, dug it up, and transplanted it in the wooded area between my mother's and sister's houses. 
      Of course there is no guarantee that the little tree will survive, but it made me feel good to try to save it and I am keeping my fingers crossed that it will survive. In past years I have transplanted a couple of other baby cedars that had come up in my mom's yard, and so far they are thriving. 

Tuesday 11 October 2016

Wild Turkeys

        It was probably in the late 1990's that I first heard that there was an effort being made to reintroduce wild turkeys into areas where they had once lived, but had disappeared. The wild turkeys had been reduced to isolated areas and their population in the US had dropped to a paltry 30,000.  I was really excited to hear about the re-population effort and hoped that someone would do something in the area of Southern Indiana, where I grew up.
      Evidently someone must have, because over the years since, I began to hear reports of sightings around my old neighborhood from my sister. Every time I traveled back there I hoped to see some wild turkeys, but never did.  This summer my sister reported that my uncle had seen a family of turkeys grazing in his back yard--eighteen of them, so my hopes were high that I might see them on my Fall trip to Indiana. 
      Yesterday my dreams were realized.  As I sat with my cousin and uncle on my uncle's front porch, I happened to catch a movement of a dark object in the field, then some more--it was a flock of turkeys feeding on seeds in the tall grass. I grabbed the camera, crouched beside the garage, and took lots of photos.
      It was a gradifying sight to see wild turkeys in the neighborhood, where as a boy, I could have never imagined such a thing.  Thank you to whoever made this possible. 

Monday 10 October 2016

Paint The Stool

     Whenever I go down to visit my mother, there is always a paper with a list of jobs that they would like for me to do, waiting for me. On this latest visit it was the same. One of the tasks on this most recent list was "Paint the stool on the porch."  As it happened, my brother Roy came to visit Mom a week before I came, and he started on the jobs. 
     He picked up the small wooden stool he saw sitting on the porch and got to work. He sanded down the old paint until it was smooth, then got a can of green spray paint and painted it. He did a good job of refinishing it and was glad to proudly point out his handiwork when I arrived. 
     When my sister, who made out the list returned, he mentioned that he had gotten the stool on the porch painted and when she went to out to admire his work, she made the discovery that he had painted the wrong stool.  Yes, there sitting in the corner, looking ignored, was the intended victim, an old metal stool covered with flaking paint. 
     Yesterday I got to work on the metal stool.  I wire brushed off the flaking paint, sanded down the stool and painted the stool using the remaining green paint in the spray can. After I had finished the job, I walked over to the list of jobs to scratch it out as being done, but didn't get the satisfaction, because my brother had already scratched off the job after he painted the stool. 

Saturday 8 October 2016

Minnie Goes to Her 77th Class Reunion

     Last year I attended my 50th high school class reunion. When I walked into that room full of old people wearing the name tags sporting the names of the teenagers I went to high school with, it made me feel pretty strange. Imagine how it must have felt to my mother (photo above) Saturday, as she entered the room with the "kids" she graduated high school with 77 years ago. 
     Only widows were left to fill the room. The only male left alive from her graduating class of 1939 lives in Kansas City and couldn't travel the reunion. My mom said that none of her close friends, those who had also attended the same elementary school, were left alive. 
     Old age is not for the weak. 

Thursday 6 October 2016

Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous

     It has been a harrowing day for me. I knew that I had to get up at 4:00 AM to catch a plane, so as usual in these kind of situations, I woke up at 2:00 AM and couldn't get back to sleep, knowing I had to get up at 4:00.  I was awake of course when the time came and got dressed and drove from the motel to the airport. It was pouring rain, but I was happy that there was no fog. That is what generally occurs at the Prince George Airport on early fall mornings.
     I got my ticket, passed through security, and boarded the 6:00 plane, no problem, but we didn't take off. Instead we got a message from the captain that the plane had mechanical problems and he decided not to fly it. I was happy we had a responsible pilot, but was sad realizing that by delaying my first flight, all my two connecting flights would be lost. 
     By the time they got another plane in Prince George to take us, it was 10:15 and already my connecting flight from Vancouver was gone. The ticket agent told me things would get straightened out in Vancouver. When I got there, I was told I would have to spend the night in Vancouver at Air Canada's expense and  continue on my way on Friday--a hassle, but what could I do. 
     As Passenger Service started to rebook my flights a couple of new problems appeared, mostly the result of it being the Thanksgiving long weekend in Canada, and the hotels that were generally used were booked solid and the head office in Toronto didn't like to spend money on the expensive Vancouver hotels.  
      After a couple of hours waiting as the agent tried to solve the problem, looking at routes where there might be hotels available, they told the guy in front of me, who was also going through Chicago, to go out and find his own hotel and send in the receipt for hopefully a reimbursement, he left to do it. I stuck around and ask if there were any red-eye overnight flights, and the checking started all over again. 
     I have to hand it to the agent who was helping me, she was determined to solve my problem, and she did, even pressuring the head office to get me a hotel and they finally did. I am now reaping the rewards of all that airport misery, as I sit here in a fancy hotel room digesting a really exquisite meal, all on Air Canada's dime. It's the kind of lifestyle that I never choose for myself. 
     The photo shows my table and the view of the harbor that I had as I ate fancy sea food plate and dark chocolate mousse with pistachio sauce.  It was certainly a world different from my usual. 


Wednesday 5 October 2016

Cuddling Mushrooms

    Mushrooms usually don’t radiate a sense of endearment, but the other day when I was cleaning out my compost pile I saw these two.  The big one seemed to be protecting the small one and I found it sort of touching.  Oh, what a unexciting life I lead.

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Little McBride Gets A Traffic Light !

    What a metropolis our little village of McBride is getting to be--they are giving us a traffic light.  The truth be known, it is only a pedestrian light for crossing Highway 16, but still, it gives us something in common with other urban centers.  
    The whole thing seems a bit ridiculous considering the number of pedestrians that cross the highway, and the sparse amount of traffic, but hey, the BC Provincial Elections are coming up next spring, and our current government must be a bit nervous (they are also constructing a gigantic parking lot at the Ancient Forest, farther up the highway).  
    Now that we will have a traffic light, one can scarcely imagine what other marks of civilization are in store for us in the future.

My paintings are on display at:

Monday 3 October 2016

More Bear

    The neighborhood bear continues to walk around the house every night.  We wouldn’t know this except that our dog Skye, whose senses are better than ours, begins a low growl and loud bark whenever the bear is around.  When she started the other night, I remembered that I left a bucket of carrots from the garden out by the back door.   I turned on the back light, peeked through the blinds,  and saw the bear approaching the bucket, so opened the door, shouting, and the bear scrambled off back into the darkness.
    Yesterday while walking down by the Fraser River, we came upon some really nice bear tracks in the mud.  You can see one in the photo above.
    I have been feeling somewhat sorry for the bears because the berries all developed early this year and there is still a while before it is time for the bears to hibernate, and there isn’t much other food around for them.
      My sympathy led me to leave one of our giant zucchini out on the ground at the far side of the lake.  I thought the bear might appreciate it, but it sat there untouched for a few days.  I assumed it wasn’t on the top of the bear’s gastronomic wants, but yesterday I noticed that it was gone, except for a chunk left on the path.

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Saturday 1 October 2016

Power Outage

    In the middle of Thursday night the power went off.  This is not anything new to us, living where we do, but it seemed strange, since there had been no wind, and that it is usually wind blowing trees over the lines that cause of outages.  So after a dark night, we got up and still had no power.
    I got my battery radio and turned to CBC, and there was no station, so that meant that all of McBride, not just our road, was without power.   I called the BC Hydro (the power supplier) and the recording said that the outage was caused by a falling tree and that power should be back on at 9:00 AM.
    Our daily lives are so dependent on electricity, that we don’t know how to cope whenever we no longer have it.  No internet, no TV, no radio, and we walk into a dark room and automatically flip the light switch.  After we ate breakfast and found we had nothing to do, since we had no power, we decided just to drive to the airfield and walk the dog.
    Just outside of town we saw the BC Hydro crew working on restoring electricity.  (It was a tree that caused the trouble.)  After walking Skye we headed back home, and still we had no power.  At 10:00, I decided to drive to the waste management site and get a load of compost with the truck.  When we got there we were told that it was not possible because without electricity, the credit card reader doesn’t work, so we turned around and came back to our non-functioning home.
    I spent the rest of the morning working on the garden.  When it was time for lunch, Joan decided to make some pancakes using a griddle on our propane barbecue, since our electric stove didn’t have any juice.  She got everything ready, fired up the grill, and at that moment, the power came back on and our lives got back to normal.

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