Monday 31 July 2017

Hazy Peaks

    It wasn’t quite so smoky yesterday, but there was still a haze.  One thing that haze does is to give the observer more of a sense of distance; with close objects dark and far away objects progressively lighter and lighter.  Here is a photo of some of the peaks of the Cariboo Mountain that show this effect.

You can see my paintings at:

Sunday 30 July 2017

The Pollinator

    As a youngster I worked in my grandfather’s big commercial greenhouse where he grew tomatoes.  He had a hand-held battery-powered contraption that always intrigued us kids.  It had a 5 inch (12 cm) long stout wire protruding from its end, and when you pressed a button the wire would vibrate.  It was used to “buzz” the tomato flowers.  It made them vibrate thus pollinating them.
    In my own small greenhouse usually the tomatoes pollinate themselves, but I have noticed that there sometimes seems to be periods when the flowers don’t get pollinated.  I heard on a garden show that if you vibrate the tomato plants before 7:00 in the morning that would cause pollination.  In past years I would go out and bang on the overhead wires that support the plants with a hoe handle to make sure they pollinated.
    Last year while listening to CBC radio they were discussing growing tomatoes in greenhouses up in Innuit communities in the Canadian far-north.  The question was asked how the plants got pollinated because of the lack of insects.  The reply was that they used electric toothbrushes to do the job.  
    “Good idea,” I thought, so this year I have been using an old electric toothbrush to “buzz” my tomato flowers, just to make sure they all get pollinated.  
    Of course it takes a while for the flower petals to drop and the tomato fruit to slowly form, so I don’t know for sure how well it is working, but it seems like it ought to.

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Saturday 29 July 2017

Critters In The Barn

    Just because I know longer have any livestock in the barn, doesn’t mean there aren’t animals living out there.  In the past, I have seen owls, weasels, neighborhood cats, and of course mice in there.  The other day when I walked past the barn I saw a packrat scampering up the walls and slipping into the top story of the barn.  I have had them before, and wasn’t keen on having another one set up housekeeping there.
    Packrats are really cute and rather gentle animals, that would probably make nice pets if it weren’t for two problems:  they stink, and they make quite a mess.
    I don’t like to kill animals, and so I borrowed a live trap from a friend and put it upstairs in the barn and sprinkled some cat kibbles in and around it.
    The next day when I climbed the stairs I thought I had caught the packrat, but upon closer inspection saw that it was just a squirrel (photo below).  I took it outside and let it go and reset the trap.
    This morning when I checked I was gratified to discover that I had finally gotten the packrat.  I carried the trap (and enclosed packrat) into the car and drove it out to McBride Peak road.  I figured that would be a good home for the animal since they like habitat with rocks and boulders. 
    When I opened the trap the packrat scampered out and ran up a tree, which was something I didn’t expect, but it was again on its own and I hope that it will soon adapt to it’s new home.

You can view my paintings at:

Friday 28 July 2017

No Great Mischief

     We had our McBride Library Book Club meeting yesterday.  The group was to all read something by Canadian authors.  Here is a review of one book I read:

No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod (Nova Scotia)
              After I started reading this novel that began with an orthodontist, visiting his aging alcoholic older brother in a poor Toronto rooming house, then leaving to buy more booze for his brother, I started to have doubts about just how much enjoyment I was going to get from reading this book.  
      But by the time I had finished reading, I was thoroughly impressed with the skills of the author, who had given me not only an intriguing story of a life, but also a group of characters, images, and incidents that I will long remember.
       The storyline is made up of a series of glimpses of the dentist's life, occurring in roughly a chronological sequence, but also tells of his Scottish roots and the lives of his ancestors as they left their home to settle in Cape Breton generations ago.  Even in the modern setting of the orthodontist's life, the pull of his Scottish heritage is strong and throughout his life, this heritage never lost its grip. 
        Having lost his parents and a brother at the age of three, when they fell through sea ice while walking to his grandparents' lighthouse, he and his twin sister were raised by his grandparents.  After his parents' death, his brothers, who were older, lived an undisciplined life on their own in an old family house by the sea, fishing, then later hard-rock mining. 
      As a boy and young man, his life, shaped by the security of being cared for by his grandparents, was quite different from that of his wilder and hard-living older brothers, but he loved visiting and being with them, even to the extent of spending a summer doing underground mining with them, instead of taking an offered research lab job. 
       The novel is full of the quirky and unexpected incidences, that populate all lives.  That and the realistic way the characters are sculpted, makes this work of fiction seem like a life story related honestly by a friend. 
      This was a novel about family, roots, and remembrances.  It was a look back on a life, the lives of ancestors, and the ever-strong pull of a Scottish heritage. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel.  It was very well written and totally touching and believable. It made me feel like I knew the people that inhabit this novel. 

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Thursday 27 July 2017

Back to Smoky Skies

    The Robson Valley had a couple of clear days which allowed us to catch our breath, but the BC forest fires continue to burn, and our skies have once again filled with their smoke.  Compared with the stress suffered by thousands who have had to evacuate their homes without knowing whether their homes would still be there when they are allowed to return, breathing smoke is a minor irritant, but still day after day of thick smoke gets wearisome.
    Here are some photos.  The one with the orange coming through the trees shows the color of the evening sun. 

You can view my paintings:

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Annual Garden Photo

    Every year I do a crop rotation in my garden, so that I don’t plant the same thing in the same place.  Of course, after a long winter, I always forget where I planted things the previous year.  My solution to this problem is to take a photo of the garden every year, so that I can look back at where everything was planted the previous year.
    Here is the photo I took of the garden this year.

You can view my paintings at:

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Garlic, Straighten Up

    I’ve heard a couple of ways you can tell if garlic is ready to harvest.  They usually revolve around looking at the leaves and when certain ones start drying out and turning brown, you can dig the garlic plant up.  For some reason that was never a very satisfactory clue for me, but then at a gardening workshop I heard that when the garlic stem straightens up they are ready.
    When garlic grows and starts to mature, the top of the plant curls.  It has a thing on the end called a “scape”.  Most people cut off the scape, which can be used as garlic flavoring in food, but the times we did this the bag of garlic scapes ended up in the back of our refrigerator, and were forgotten about, until we ended up having to throw them away.   When the scape is cut off of the garlic plant, the stem doesn’t uncurl.
    I liked the idea of letting the scape remain and letting the stem straighten up to indicate when the garlic is ready to dig, so that’s what we have done the last couple of years.  We don’t waste the scapes though, once we dig and hang the garlic plant to dry, we cut off the scapes, which at this point look like tiny garlic bulbs, and have started to form a harder, garlic-like shell, Joan puts the scapes in a blender and grinds them up, shell and all.
    This we keep in the fridge and when we need garlic for cooking, we just spoon out some from the jar of ground-up scapes.  Its a better method than trying to keep the “fresh” scapes in a bag, because when they are in a jar, we end up using them all up.   
    As you can see from the photo, this year’s garlic still has some straightening to do before it is ready to harvest.  Keeping the scape and letting the stem straighten seems like a more definite method of knowing when it’s ready, than looking at the drying out leaves.

You can see my paintings at:

Monday 24 July 2017


    Our garden gave us a bumper crop of strawberries this year.  This of course created a big burden on us.  It meant we were forced to eat so many, because they taste so much better fresh than frozen.  As a result Joan had made a few strawberry pies.
    Last week some friends invited us over for dinner, and Joan made a strawberry pie for the occasion, and then we discovered both friends were allergic to strawberries, so unfortunately we had to eat the whole pie ourselves--life is hard.

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Sunday 23 July 2017

Bean Bower

    I always like to have some kind of vertical structure in the garden, and usually that has been a bower scarlet runner beans growing up poles in a teepee-like formation.  One problem with this design is that it creates a big empty circle in the center of the bottom that I never know what to do with.  This year, since I always have a lot of red poppy volunteers come up in the garden, I just let them grow in the center of the bower, and the effect is what you see in the photo. 

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Saturday 22 July 2017

Drive Carefully

    For a couple of weeks now Joan has been telling me that I should drive carefully when going down the road because there was a mother deer and fawn hanging out there.  I have seen them a few times now and its always worrying because a lot of the traffic that goes by here, drive fairly fast.  
    About five years ago there was a fawn hit in front of our house and it was not a pleasant task to put it down.  The times I have come upon these two, the baby has enough sense to head off into the bush, but the mother continues stay by the road.

You can see my paintings at:

Friday 21 July 2017

Through the Smoke

    I have been complaining about all the smoke that has been filling our valley for a couple of weeks.  To give you some sense of how thick it is I took a photo with the smoke, and using Photoshop, I laid it over a photo without the smoke, then I erased sections of the smoke so you could see what it was obscuring.  I ended up with the strange photo you see above, but hopefully it will give you an idea of what we’ve been living with in the Robson Valley.

You can see my paintings at:

Thursday 20 July 2017

Smoky Mountains

    Far away forest fires continue to ravage BC, and our valley continues to fill up with smoke.  Often I can’t even see the mountains that line the Robson Valley, because the smoke is so thick.  I wonder what breathing in all this smoke is doing to our lungs.

You can view my paintings at:

Wednesday 19 July 2017

A Misplaced Crane

    A couple of days ago, Joan came home after walking the dog in Koeneman Park and told me she saw a Sandhill Crane in the park.  That seemed like a strange place to see a crane, but I figured maybe it was just passing through.
    Yesterday, I took Skye to Koeneman Park for a walk and I saw something brown moving across the lawn in the distance and when I got closer I could see it was a Sandhill Crane--it was still there.  Normally I think of sandhills hanging around in open wetland areas, not mowed lawns.  I don’t know why it is there, but I guess for some reason it suits him.

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Tuesday 18 July 2017

Marsh Plume Thistle--Getting Closer

    The Marsh Plume Thistle (Cirsium palustre) is moving closer and closer to our property.  It is a nasty, very invasive plant, originally from Europe, that has taken hold and is spreading through the Robson Valley.  I first saw it maybe 25 years ago while I was working for the BC Forest Service.  It spread through cutblocks, beside highways and roads, and was happy to establish itself in wet areas, dry areas, sunny areas, and shaded areas.  
    Yesterday I saw the first one on the side of our road, about a quarter of a mile from our house.  It was easy to spot, this one was 6 ft (2 m.) tall, with a spiny stem, hardly any leaves, and with clusters of purple flowers.  When I got home from seeing it I walked back to the pest and cut it off, but it already had some of its fluffy seeds formed, so it probably won’t be the last one I see along our road.
    The plant has a two year growing cycle.  First year is forms a “rosette” a ground hugging leafy plant, and the following year sends up a tall stalk with the purple flowers.  The reason it has spread so rapidly is that it has no natural enemies locally, except for me, whenever I am out somewhere, and see a rosette or second year plant I stomp it up with my foot.
    When I was with forestry and they became aware of it’s spread, they did try to introduce an insect that fed upon them, as a biological deterrent to the plant, but it failed to stop its invasion.  I think it probably initially came into the valley by way of the railroad.

You can see my paintings at:

Monday 17 July 2017

Powdered Peak

    After our welcome rain Saturday night, we were surprised to see that it had actually snowed up on the mountains that surround us.  Here is a photo of Mt. Lucille taken yesterday afternoon.  I wondered if any backpackers overnighting in the alpine were surprised to discover how their environment had changed overnight.

You can take a look at my paintings:

Sunday 16 July 2017

How To Make It Rain--The Sprayer Method

    We have been wishing for rain lately.  Our forest fire hazard has been “High” and smoke still fills the valley from the terrible fires burning a couple of hundred miles south of us.   There, twenty thousand people have been evacuated from their homes.  Luckily, things are a lot better for us, but it was still worrying.  Joan is constantly checking the internet to see where the latest fires are.
    The weather forecast yesterday and overnight called for a 60% chance of showers, and we had our fingers crossed, but rain was a “no show,”  yesterday all we got was wind a few sprinkles.  It was time to take things into our own hands, so I turned on the water sprayer in the garden overnight.
    I figured that if I watered the garden it would probably rain, and sure enough as the sprayer revolved and hissed through the night, the rains came.  It was a goodly amount too, enough to make us stop worrying for a while.
    I have found the water sprayer method a fairly reliable way to cause rain.  Washing your car is also an effective method.

You can view my paintings:

Saturday 15 July 2017

My Prince George Show

    I felt like a celebrity over the last two days.  It was the opening of my show in Prince George’s Two Rivers Gallery.  I had to give a talk about my paintings on Thursday evening, then on Friday morning I did a live radio interview on CFIS, which is Prince George’s community radio station.
    While a bit uncomfortable in both public situations, I got through the ordeals fairly well.  Of course I didn’t know exactly what to expect with the opening in the gallery, and was a bit disappointed that the crowd wasn’t bigger.  I had expected more people in the big city.  (I had bigger crowds for my shows in McBride, but there everyone knows me).  But the people who came were enthusiastic and complimentary, so that was good.
    The paintings were hung in the Rustad Galleria, which is sort of a long hallway.  Below is a photo I took later, after the crowd had thinned out.
    I found the radio interview much easier than the talk I had to give at the gallery.  In a interview all you have to do is respond to the questions you are asked rather than come up with the whole talk yourself.
    I am happy to be back home in smoky and mosquito-ridden McBride, being more comfortable in my own familiar, surroundings.

You can view my paintings at:

Thursday 13 July 2017

Confluence of the Milk and Goat Rivers

    I took this photo the other day when I was helping with trail maintenance on the Goat River Trail.  This shows the spot where the Milk River (at the bottom of the photo) joins the Goat River which is flowing in from the left side.  The shot was taken from the Milk River bridge.  
    When you get away from the main valley of the Robson Valley there are a lot of pristine areas like this.   Because there has been no development upstream from both rivers, they are pure and natural, so you can drink from them.  Their waters run clear and cold.  I always find such areas spiritually uplifting.                    

You can view my paintings at:

Wednesday 12 July 2017

Just in Case

    Four days ago I blogged about all of the forest fires that were burning over the mountains in the dry belt of BC.  They continue to burn and several towns and communities have been forced to evacuate.  Even though those places are hundreds of miles away, the smoke from those fires has filtered into the Robson Valley, obscuring our mountains.
    The fire hazard in the Robson Valley is high, and so as a precaution, I decided I had better put the canopy back on the truck in case something happens locally and we are forced to vacate our house.  
    I keep the canopy on the truck all winter, then take it off in the spring when I am hauling firewood.  It generally stays off all summer.
    Dry sunny weather is usually a welcome condition is summer, but having worked for the Forest Service for a couple of decades, I now see the sinister side of long sunny dry spells.  I find myself hoping for some rain, without any lightning.  

Check out my paintings:

Tuesday 11 July 2017

Ready To Fledge

    I have a few birdhouse under the eaves of my house to give the swallows a place to nest.  Every time I walk out toward the garden I can hear the baby swallows chattering away as they encourage their parents to return quickly with some tasty insect.  Because they are in a birdhouse I can’t really get a good photo of them, but Joan pointed out this nest of young swallows under the eaves of the McBride Train Station and they look like they are about ready to fly out into the world.
    I have always heard that swallows eat mosquitoes, I hope that is so, because we presently have way too many of the things around our house.

My paintings can be seen at:

Monday 10 July 2017

The Northern Groundcone, A Bizarre Plant

    Even though I have been kicking around in the Robson Valley for 40 years, and have always been interested in plants, I saw one on Saturday while working on the Goat River Trail, that I had never seen before.   It was exciting to discover such a weird organism and I didn’t have a clue what it was. 
    I was afraid to take my new camera out on the workday, so instead I took the old one that had been dunked in the Fraser River.  It still works, but the lens is a little foggy so the photos aren’t as sharp as I would have liked.  Anyway I used it to take some photos of the strange plant, and also used my aging iPhone for some shots.  I have a hard time holding my iPhone steady when I take a photo.
    Above is the iPhone shot, below is one from my old camera.
    I couldn’t identify the plant with any of the plant books I have, so I sent an email to Barb Zimmer, the local plant expert.  She was excited to see the photo, she identified it as a Northern Groundcone (Bosniakia  rossica) and told me she had never seen one before.
    The groundcone (named because it looks somewhat like a pine cone) is a pretty rare plant.  Usually it grows further north, like in Alaska.  Like a fungus, it has no chlorophyl, so can’t generate its own food, and has to grow and feed on decaying wood in the ground.
    Seeing the groundcone was the highlight of my day working on the trail.

SIDE  NOTE: I mentioned my old camcorder which had been dunked in the Fraser River when I overturned the canoe I was in.  That happened when I was helping out with a film that was being made for Canada’s 150th Birthday.  The film was made up of people canoeing on Canadian rivers while singing “Oh, Canada”. 
    The very short short video is now out and you can see the snippet filmed in the Robson Valley, where our group sings the second line of the song (“Our home and native land”) at this link:                                         

You can see my paintings at:

Sunday 9 July 2017

Donkey Work

    Yesterday I was out at the Upper Goat River Trail to help carry lumber and supplies two kilometers down the twisty hilly path so that they could be used in the construction of a walkway through a bad part of the trail.  It was an exhausting day.  We were carrying and dragging rough-cut 2” x 4” pieces of cedar 12’ long, 8 foot 4” x 4”s, and a variety of metal pieces for the construct.  
    All day, back and forth, up and down the trail, with frequent stops to catch our breath and drink some water out of the Goat River.  I manned a wheelbarrow for a while pushing loads across the slide area you see in the photo.  It was frustrating work because of all the small boulders that prevented smooth passage, and big roots in the treed area that often stopped the wheelbarrow dead in its tracks.  
    After everyone’s first trip the path looked like a debris trail as people who were too optimistic about what they could carry on their first trip, dropped some of their load of lumber along the way when they realized how far they were going and how heavy their burdens were.
    By the time I got home yesterday, I was so stiff and tired I could hardly move.  They are planning to be out there working again today, but I decided not to join them because I need the day to recover.

You can view my paintings at:

Saturday 8 July 2017

BC On Fire

    BC has a dry, almost desert-like swath that runs through lower middle of the province, south of where we live in the Robson Valley.  It is been unusually dry there so far this year, and their fire hazard has risen to extreme.  A series of thunder storms with strong winds, just moved through and many wildfires resulted.  Several towns have been evacuated.
    Fortunately for the Robson Valley we have been getting rain showers periodically, even so our fire hazard is currently rated at “High” but so far I haven’t heard of any forest fires here, but that does not mean we haven’t been effected.  Smoke originating from those fires hundreds of miles south of us started moving into the our valley yesterday afternoon, obscuring our mountains, and turning the sky orange.  You can smell the burnt trees in the smoke when you walk outside.
    Here are a couple of shots I took of the sky.

My paintings are on display at:

Friday 7 July 2017

It's Deja Vu All Over Again

    This is a photo from 2012, but just as soon as I get done with this blog, I am going to put on my screened bee hat and go out and pick the peas.  Anyway, that’s the plan because the mosquitoes are as bad now as they were back then and the peas need picking.   Rather than take a new photo, it was easier just to re-use this old one.

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Thursday 6 July 2017

Backlit Foxglove

    Exactly a week ago I blogged about how backlighting can give you some really nice effects when photographing.  This morning when I was out in the garden I came upon this example as the light streamed down behind this foxglove, highlighting its edges and giving some beautiful illumination to its hollow flowers.   

You can view my paintings at:

Wednesday 5 July 2017

I Finally Got A Purple One

    For close to forty years we have had red poppies come up in our vegetable garden.  I love them and whenever I weed the garden I allow a lot of them to survive.  (You can see them in the painting shown in yesterday’s blog.)    Anyway, although I really love my red poppies, last year in one of McBride’s Community Garden boxes, someone grew some purple poppies and they were exquisitely beautiful. 
    So last Fall when those purple poppies matured, I took some of the seeds from the pods and spread them around in my garden, hoping that some of the purple ones would come up.  I spread them in the area where I planted my peas this year.
    This spring when the poppies started to sprout out of the ground I could hardly wait to see some purple ones.  Then last week when the flowers finally bloomed, they were all red.  I was sorely disappointed, but this morning when I went out to open the greenhouse, I noticed one purple poppy.  It seemed like a personal triumph.  Here are a couple of photos.

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Monday 3 July 2017

I'm Having A Show !

    I have been scrambling around lately, organizing some of my paintings for a show, that will be open to the public at the Two Rivers Gallery in Prince George starting Thursday, July 6.  The event came unexpectedly after I filled out a form applying for a show in 2018.  The application asked “When would you prefer to display your work?” 
    I replied, “The sooner, the better.”  and got a call the following day asking if I would be interested and prepared to do a show in a few weeks.
    Fortunately, I had a lot of paintings ready to go, so I jumped at the opportunity to show off my paintings.  Yesterday I crated them and will deliver them to the gallery tomorrow.  
    As you can see by the poster, the “meet the artist” opening will on Thursday July 13th, so if you can make it, you will be welcome.  If you will be in PG during July and have time to kill, drop in an see the 22 paintings I will have on display at the Two Rivers Gallery.

If you can't make the show, you can still see all of my paintings at:

Sunday 2 July 2017

Dunster Dummies

    Yesterday the Hamlet of Dunster put on its annual Ice Cream Social.  As usual there were dummies galore to advertise the event.  It is hard to escape American politics even deep into British Columbia’s Robson Valley, because there was a couple of Trumpian dummies on display.  Here are some of the Dunster Dummies.

My paintings can be seen at:

Saturday 1 July 2017

Happy 150 Canada

    Today Canada is celebrating its 150th Anniversary.  Of course there is a lot of hoopla involved in the event, which I could live without, but still I think there is a lot to celebrate.  Canada tries to be on the compassionate side of things and in a world like we have today, that is saying a lot.
    I certainly appreciate what this country has done for me, an immigrant who sought a better life in a humane country.  I look back and I am pleased at the opportunities and the life that Canada gave me. I am proud to be a part of this country.
    Canada is such a vast place and all of us Canadians have a different view of what Canada is.  People on the Atlantic Coast have one view of Canada, people in the cities have another, the prairie residents see another Canada in their minds, but for me I see the amazing Canadian Rockies and their rugged beauty.  (This year as part of the celebration, admission to all of Canada’s National Parks is free.) 
    Anyway, Happy 150, Canada.

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