Tuesday 31 July 2018

Catnip for Bees?


    In an earlier blog I wrote about how this was the first year I have grown Hollyhocks, and that I curious about what color the flowers would be.  As it turned out most of them are white or beige/pink, which aren’t the most exciting colors on the spectrum, but the bees sure seem to love them.  In fact, the first couple of times I noticed bee’s in the Hollyhock blooms, I wondered if they had died in the flowers.  They were inert and sort of looked like they were stuck in there.
    This seems to the the behavior they show whenever they get into the flower.  In most flowering plants, bees fly up, get the nectar and fly off quickly,  but not in these Hollyhocks.  I don’t know if the nectar has some kind of psychological effect on the bees or not, but their behavior sure seems different in the Hollyhocks than in other kinds of blooms.


You can take a look at my paintings:  davidmarchant.ca

Monday 30 July 2018

Ancient Forest: Wheelchair Accessible



    There are not many wilderness areas that are accessible to people in wheelchairs.  About the only one I know is BC’s Ancient Forest Provincial Park.  If I was confined to a wheelchair, I would surely miss  being able to get out into Nature.   I am very impressed at the many volunteers who carried lumber and other building materials out into the woods, then spent countless hours to design and construct this boardwalk, so that people in wheelchairs could also experience the primal glory of this ancient place.


Take a look at my paintings:  davidmarchant.ca

Sunday 29 July 2018

The Ancient Forest: Looking Up


    When you enter into the Ancient Forest, you spend most of your time looking at the massive trunks at the base of the Western Red Cedar, but there are also wonders to be had looking upward.  The giants are gnarled and often broken from the traumas they have experienced over their thousand year existence.  One thing that surprised me was the severe taper of the trees.  While their base is very wide, their trunks quickly taper into a point.
    In this ecosystem Cedar is the climax species.  At the very beginning of this forest, there were probably a lot of Spruce, and Balsam Fir growing along with the Cedar, but over hundreds of years, those founding trees eventually died, but before they did they all spread their seeds, however it was only the young Cedar that could tolerate the very low light of the forest canopy, and eventually they, (along with Hemlock, which is also very shade tolerant) were left and able to grow on the dark forest floor and took over.
    The lack of light is a very limiting factor in the growth of the forest.  When the canopy closes, the opportunity for young tree growth diminishes tremendously.  Small cedar trees may start, but will often just sit there for decades waiting for enough light to grow.  When a nearby tree finally dies and falls over an opening of light is created in the canopy, and the small tree can finally start to grow.
    In one of my first visits to this area before it was a provincial park, I was struck by the clumps of moss growing on the branches of some of the trees.  The only other time I had seen such a thing was in the jungles of Costa Rica.  I ended up doing a painting of the Cedar, which I called, “Pillar of the Earth” which can be seen by clicking “Cedar” at the top of my website.




You can see my painting at:  davidmarchant.ca

Saturday 28 July 2018

Ancient Forest: Devil's Club




    One of the most common plants (and nastiest) growing in the Ancient Forest is Devil’s Club (Oplopanax horridus).  The Oplopanax in the scientific name comes from the Greek word hoplon which means “weapon’” and you can probably figure out what the other part of it’s scientific name means.   The stalk, stems, and the underside of leaves, are covered with very thin prickly spines.  Brush up against it and they get you, and once in your skin, they often fester.  It’s not a friendly plant.
    It is attractive though.  Because it grows in dense dark places, it has large broad leaves that spread out flat so they can catch what little light filters down from beneath the big cedars.  Devil’s Club produces shiny bright red berries, which had not yet turned red when we visited the park.
    Despite all its negative traits, it was widely used by the native people in the BC Interior for medicine.  The plant was used for everything from stomach ulcers, tuberculosis, syphilis, arthritis, to cough syrup.  It was also thought to have extremely strong magical powers that could be passed on to individuals.  
    Devil’s Club is very prominent and is spread throughout the Ancient Forest.  Here are some more photos of the plant.





View my paintings:  davidmarchant.ca

Friday 27 July 2018

Return to Sender


    Our internet service has been horrible, despite the fact that I have been paying $80/month for “Enhanced” service.   The speed of my internet just kept getting worse and worse.  It was not uncommon for me to get download speeds (?) of 0.70mbps and upload speeds of 0.00.  I called the local technician for Monashee Communications (my provider) in Valemount to see what could be done.  He told me I had old equipment, but the main office wouldn’t sent him newer equipment.  He suggested that I start complaining to the Monashee headquarters.
    I started emailing them records of my internet speeds, to which there was no reply.  I called them and was told that the problem was the trees.  I asked them if the tree leaves got thicker at night since that was when my internet speed collapsed.  I was told they would have their headquarter technician call me the next day.  I tried to hang around the house, but the call never came.
    Our internet speeds at time made our internet unusable.  I called the Monashee headquarters again, and after I told them what speed (or lack of speed) I was getting, the woman on the other end just said, “Well, do you want to get off.”  
    I was taken back at this suggestion, they clearly wanted to get rid of me rather than solve the problem, so I said, “Well, I guess I do.”
    They were ready to dump me immediately, but since they had just deducted the coming month’s $80 a couple of days before, I told them I would stay the month, since I had no other provider.
    Then I was faced with the problem of what to do about internet, since there were so few choices available locally.  I could go with a satellite, or Telus, the phone company.  Friends of mine had been using a “Smart Hub” from Telus for rural users, but more recently, people that have tried had been refused because it was no longer permitted in McBride for some reason.
    I went to the Telus website, and checked the availability of the Smart Hub.  The map that showed my location indicated the service wasn’t available in my area, but gave a phone number I could call, just to confirm it.  I called the number and got a guy in India named Raul.  He asked me my location and I went to Google Earth and got my Lat. and Long. and gave it to him.  He went off to check the numbers then came back and said,  “Yes, it would work for me.”
    I was ecstatic.  He asked for all kind of information about me, my finances, and finally after about forty minutes of being on the phone, it was done.  They would send  me the smart hub which would arrive in 3 to 5 days.  It took a week, it arrived yesterday when I had ridden my bike to town for our book club.  I got it at the post office and had to borrow some shipping tape from the library to secure it on the back of my bike to get it home.
    Last night the power went off after a windstorm which blew in as I was biking home, filling my eyes with sand from the river, and winds that were so strong it stopped me as I was crossing the Fraser River bridge.  I ended up walking the bike across the bridge.  When our electricity came back on I started to hook up the Smart Hub, anxiously anticipating being able to use the internet like other people.
    I got it set up, and the hub indicated I had a strong signal, four bars out of five.  I went to my computer to connect it, and when I did, I got the message that the hub could not be used in my area--WHAT?
    I called Telus, and sat listening to their music for about an hour.  The woman that finally answered, told me she couldn’t help me with the hub but would transfer me to a hub technician, and assured me that there was no one in his queue so I wouldn’t have to wait.  She was wrong, I waited another 40 minutes before he got to me.
    I explained what had happened and he apologized saying I could not use it in my area, because the CRTC, Canada’s telecommunications watchdog had designated that Telus had a monopoly in our area and wouldn’t allow them to sell this service so that other carriers would have a chance.  He mentioned that the hub could be used in Dome Creek to the west of McBride, and Valemount to the east.  
    Mentioning Valemount really made my blood boil.  Valemount is where Monashee, my terrible provider was located.  Valemount had another provider right there in their village, McBride had none, and yet we were the ones being restricted.
    The conclusion to all this mess was that I have to send the solution to my internet problems back.  I guess today I will start researching internet by satellite.  I am so tired of all of this struggle, and not very optimistic.

You can view my paintings at:  davidmarchant.ca

Thursday 26 July 2018

The Ancient Forest: Big Trees




    The main attractions of the Ancient Forest for most people are the enormous Red Cedar that grow there.  The rainforests on BC’s Pacific Coast have long been known for their huge trees, but what makes the Ancient Forest unique is that it is located in the interior of the province, closer to Alberta than the Pacific Ocean.  It is a very rare, and recently discovered ecosystem.  
    One of the really frustrating things about taking photos in the Ancient Forest is being able to get a picture that can realistically relay the size of these giants.  About the only way to do it is to have someone stand beside the base of one of the behemoths so that the viewer can get a sense of the scale of the trees.  I had my friend Jim be the “stand in” for some of my shots.  The photo above shows one tree, the coloring and texture of the bark might give the impression that there are two there, but it’s just one.  
    Below are some other photos of big Ancient Forest trees.




You can see my painting "Pillar of the Earth" featuring one of these trees at:

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Art Day at the Ancient Forest



    Matthew, photographer and artist, was ready to have some fun after finishing a long 17 hour day of baling his hay before the rain came, and he sent me an email proposing that we have an “art” day at the Ancient Forest along with Jim, another very creative friend.  The Ancient Forest, which is about an hour west of McBride, is now a provincial park.
    It is an example of the rare Inland Rainforest ecosystem which features enormous Western Red Cedar, many of which are thought to be between one and two thousand years old.  It is always an inspiration to walk among those magnificent old trees, so I happily accepted the proposal.
    We made the trip on Monday, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I had been on an  “out with the guys” fun excursion which was not some kind of “work” day.    We certainly didn’t break any speed records hiking the trails in the park with all of the stops we had to make for picture taking. 
    Matthew, who is a real photo perfectionist, was particularly slow, and Jim and I ended up doubling back on the trail a few times when he failed to show up after we had made stops to wait for him.  He said he had to wait for the light to get right whenever he found a suitable subject for a photo.
    It is so primeval and timeless wandering amongst the giant cedar, ferns, and Devil’s Club.  I couldn’t help but notice the many new boardwalks that have been built to protect the roots of the enormous trees, since I was last in the Ancient Forest.  There is also a large new parking area.  It is gratifying to see how many tourist now stop to experience the forest that they used to just drive by.
    I ended up with 138 new photos, some of which I plan share on the blog, but don’t worry, I will restrain myself and not bore you with all of them.


You can view my paintings:  davidmarchant.ca

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Invisible Screen Door


    We have  been needing a screen door to our back deck door for years.  Early in the spring when we were at Costco, we saw this ‘pull out from the side’ screen door, that rolls out from the side of the door opening and attaches to the other side with a magnetic strip,  and like our usual impulse buys we loaded it onto the cart and bought it. 
    When I installed it we were shocked:  when it was closed, it was almost invisible from the inside.  Our cat and dog bumped into it when they first tried to go outside, and even Joan brushed against it once when she hadn’t noticed it was closed.
    To prove my point, the photo above is the open door with the screen and the one below is the open door without the screen.  Scary, isn’t it.
    The other evening, I walked passed our door to the deck and noticed that Joan had opened it.   I remarked, “That screen door is amazing, how invisible it is.”  She agreed.
    It was time for bed, and both the cat and dog were safe inside the house.  About 20 minutes later Joan said, “The cat is outside.” and this puzzled me because she had been inside and no one had let her out.
    Then we figured it all out.  When Joan had opened the door to the deck, she forgot to slide the screen door closed, so the cat just walked through the open door.  Since the screen door is so invisible, we both had just assumed that the screen was there.
    We got the cat back in, and shut the door to the deck and went to bed.  Fortunately, there aren’t many mosquitos outside now.  Had there been, having the door open without the screen would have been a disaster.


You can see my paintings at:  davidmarchant.ca

Monday 23 July 2018

Hiking and Rocks


    I have noticed that whenever we go on a hike, people always pick up and take interesting rocks home with them.  In the past, I have done the same, but lately I have tried to restrain myself, because I know when I get home and unload the rocks, they will just sit there in the house.  We really have enough rocks already, unused in the house, and we don’t need any additional ones.
    On our hike up to McBride Peak, a couple of my fellow hikers did pick up rocks.  One guy who had a complicated backpack (all tied together with cord), ended up carrying his rocks in one hand because he didn’t want to take off and undo his pack.  I just shook my head and kept hiking. 
    Toward the end of the hike I did come upon the amazing looking rock you see in the center of the photo.  That is just one rock although it looks like many.  Fortunately the rock was so big (about two feet (60cm) in length, so I wasn’t really tempted to take it home.  
    It was unusual though.  It was made up of layers of different types of rocks which over time wore down at different rates, making the layers appear to be separate rocks that someone had stacked up.
    My favorite rock/hiking story happened when I was a kid.  I was crazy about fossils, and our family went on a camping trip to Clifty Falls State Park in Indiana.  One day we hiked along a river valley with lots of rocks showing fossils of ancient sea life.  I found a fossilized sponge about the size of a basketball cut in half.  I was thrilled and determined to have it, so I carried it for the rest of our hike.
    When we got done with the hike we ended up on a roadside and sat on a railing while my father walked back to get the car and pick us up.  I was tired of carrying my prize sponge fossil so when I sat  down on the railing I put the treasure in the weeds at my feet.  
    We were so exhausted from the hike, we happily poured into the car when my dad arrived, and off we drove to our campsite.  I totally forgot about my sponge fossil, and wonder how long it sat there by the railing until someone else picked it up and took it home.


Look at my paintings  davidmarchant.ca

Sunday 22 July 2018

Hanging Clouds Over the Raush


    The Raush River is one of the many drainages that spill into the Fraser River in the Robson Valley.  Yesterday when the rain stopped but the cool air remained, clouds formed and settled down over the Raush giving it this foreboding appearance.

Check out my paintings:  davidmarchant.ca

Saturday 21 July 2018

McBride Peak Alpine Flowers



    One of the things that make all the uphill hiking on McBride Peak worthwhile is seeing the alpine flowers.  I was a bit disappointed a week ago when I was up there to discover that most of the flowers were not yet in bloom, but there were a few early bloomers that caught my eye.  The photo above shows what I think is Landorf’s Lousewort (Pedicularis langdorfii).  This plant also grows in the arctic.
    Below is a photo of the Small Flowered Paintbrush (Castilleja parviflora) which is a relative of the Common Paintbrush that grows at both lower and higher elevations of the Robson Valley.  I hadn’t been able to come up with the name of the pink and yellow succulent at the bottom, but after I made this post our friend Norma was able to identify it.  It is a Sedum lanceolatum.  This is the first time I have seen this one.   It was growing right beside the narrow hiking path I was on.




Take a look at my paintings:  davidmarchant.ca


Friday 20 July 2018

A Hard Rain's Goin' to Fall


    We have been getting a lot of heavy rains interspersed with sunny periods.  Here’s one that fell yesterday afternoon

Look at my paintings:  davidmarchant.ca

Thursday 19 July 2018

Moss Campion



     Moss Campion (Silene acaulis) was one of the first alpine flowers I was introduced to, forty years ago.   I still enjoy spotting it whenever I am up above timberline.  It is a thickly growing little mound of tightly packed little leaves, interspersed with tiny pinkish purple flowers.  Moss Campion likes to grow in well drained alpine areas, gravely cliffs and ledges, and in rocky crevasses.  
    The “campion” part of its common name means “champion” and I guess long ago in Europe, sport champions were crowned with a wreath of their version of this plant whose flowers are red.  


View my paintings at:  davidmarchant.ca

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Ptarmigan



    Anytime I head out anywhere, I always keep my eye out for wildlife, so the other day when I was up on McBride Peak I was constantly scanning the area hoping to see some kind of animal.  The only mammals that I spotted was a ground squirrel, but I did see three of Ptarmigan (pronounced “tarmigan”).  They are chicken-like birds, and like chickens, spend most of their time on the ground looking for food.
    I am not a bird identification expert, and the ptarmigan I saw all looked quite different, but I am not sure if they were different species or not.  Part of the problem is that both Rock Ptarmigan and White-tailed Ptarmigan turn completely white in the winter for camouflage, and presently they are mottled, loosing their white feathers for their darker summer ones.  They do blend in very well with their rocky surroundings.
    At any rate, I saw three Ptarmigan and here are photos of them.




See my paintings at:  davidmarchant.ca

Tuesday 17 July 2018

McBride Peak Mountainscapes


    Once you get to the parking area on McBride Peak you will have to hike about 600 ft (180m) in elevation to get to the old forestry lookout building, then another 825 ft (250 m.) to get to the apex of McBride Peak.  Hiking along the ridge to get to the apex gives you plenty of scenic views of the mountains that surround you.  Above is a photo of the meadow to the east.
    After we got to the peak, we made the dicy climb down a scree slope (loose rock slabs) and then some “shoe skiing” through a snow patch, to finally get to the two small turquoise lakes where we sat down to eat our lunches in the idyllic surroundings.  




You can see my paintings:  davidmarchant.ca

Monday 16 July 2018

Up McBride Peak


    One of the main reasons we moved to the Robson Valley was to be in the mountains.  Sadly, I rarely make myself get up in to the alpine, the place I really love to be.  Yesterday I had a chance to do it and I did it.  The Ozalenka Alpine Club had organized a hike up on McBride Peak and I was determined to go.
    I admit I was a bit scared at the prospect.  Last year I didn’t do any significant hiking.  I didn’t get up into to the alpine once, which made me feel really bad at that wasted year, all winter long.  Winter was spent without much physical exertion, and again this spring and summer about the only exercise I got was walking the dog and mowing the yard, which didn’t even make me break into a sweat.
    Hiking up slopes is a lot of work and I really began to wonder if my old body was still up to the challenge.  Fortunately, it was.  Oh, I came home with all of the usual aches and pains after the ordeal, but my old muscles survived the hike, and it wasn’t any different than my previous alpine hikes.  
    To get up to McBride Peak first requires a very bumpy ride up the steep, rocky, and curvy McBride Peak Forest Road.  After 11 kilometers (7 miles) of jerking and bumping around on the truck seat, you get to the parking area.  Day packs are put on and adjusted and then the slogging through the sub-alpine, up to the old forestry lookout begins.  The dwarfed trees slowly disappear with the climb in elevation, and the open alpine slowly takes over
    Once at the lookout, you can look down at the Robson Valley, and McBride townsite spreading out far below you.  It is a spectacular view of the Valley, highlighted by Horseshoe Lake and the meandering Fraser River.  I am always struck by how quiet it is up there.  Below is a photo looking east from the lookout.


View my paintings:  davidmarchant.ca

Saturday 14 July 2018

Sunset


    Because of the way our house is situated, we don’t get the full impact of a spectacular sunset, but never the less, we get to see a section of the sky, and that can still be impressive.  The pinkish hue of the mountains is the result of the light from the sunset illuminating a rain shower.

You can view my paintings at:  davidmarchant.ca

Friday 13 July 2018

Hollyhocks


    I recall Hollyhocks growing beside our back steps as a very small child.  I can’t remember that I had any affection for them at the time, but a long time ago, when I saw a seed packet for the flower, I had a great desire to grow them.  We bought the seeds, put them into our seed box, and then proceeded to forgot them for many years.
    Three years ago, when I was planting the garden, I came across the Hollyhock seed packet, and thought I’d better plant them, because like me, they weren’t getting any younger.  I planted them in the garden, not knowing if they were still viable, but surprisingly they came up and grew.
    I had read that took two years to grow Hollyhocks, first year they just get their footing, and the second year, they throw up a long stalk and produce flowers.  In the fall of that first year, I decided that I would rather have them growing in front of the house, where there is more of the sunlight that they need.  I dug them up and transplanted them, anxious to see what color of flowers they would have the following year.
    Last year they came up, seemed vigorous, and I waited for the tall stalk to form, but alas, it never developed.  I was dismayed, knowing that this was the second year of the plant.  I wondered if I should just admit failure, but I left the Hollyhocks in the ground, not really expecting to see them again.
    This year they once again came up, and even more vigorously.  I became optimistic, and as they grew, to my great relief, I saw buds forming.  Then stalks started to emerge.  The stalks are now 5 and 6 ft (1.5 and 1.8m) tall.  
    Below is what they look like today.  We still don’t know what color the blooms will be.  Joan says, “Anything is alright except black.”  I’ll keep you posted when we actually see the flowers.


Check out my paintings:  davidmarchant.ca

Wednesday 11 July 2018

Shades of Green


    The other day when I happened to glance up at the mountain slope on the other side of the road, I noticed all the different shades of green of the various trees that were growing there.  I love color, and feel blessed that nature provides so much of it everywhere that I look.
    This slope burned in 1913 or there abouts, so all of the trees you see have grown up since then.  The snag (dead tree) that you see is an old cedar that escaped the fire, but has since died.

My paintings can be seen at:  davidmarchant.ca

Tuesday 10 July 2018

Nice Clouds


           Yesterday we had a beautiful day with beautiful clouds.


Check out my paintings:  davidmarchant.ca

Monday 9 July 2018

"Leaves," My Latest Painting


    When I selected this image to paint it was the colors that attracted me, but as I proceeded in painting it, against all of the madness that is happening in the United States, I began to think of the painting as a homage to Canada my adopted country, whose emblem, after all is the red Maple leaf. 
    I took the photo that this painting is based on under a domesticated Maple at the Slim Creek Rest Area, where we stop every time we drive to Prince George.
    I started this painting in January, and it took me 125 hours to complete.  It is my 58th painting.

You can view my other paintings at:  davidmarchant.ca

Sunday 8 July 2018

Too Prove My Point


    Yesterday while describing the rain and showers that fell during the outdoor grand opening of the McBride Library, I said that I didn’t know why anyone planned to have an outdoor event around here, because of the high chance of rain.  Well, yesterday my point was proven when we drove by Koeneman Park and noticed a neon green sign in the window of a truck.  It said, “Wedding Moved to .....”
    Obviously an outdoor wedding that had been slated for Koeneman Park had to be relocated due to the constant on and off rain showers that fell all day.  
    Outdoor celebrations are nice, but a big gamble, when it comes to weather in the Robson Valley.  The same problem arises every time there is some big astronomical event.  You can pretty much guarantee that we will have overcast skies.

You can view my paintings:  davidmarchant.ca

Saturday 7 July 2018

McBride Library/Museum Grand Opening


    The cold rain and miserable conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm of the big crowd that gathered yesterday for the Grand Opening of the McBride Library and Museum.  (I sometimes wonder why anyone ever plans to have any event outside around here).   People huddled under the tents to eat, after spending time lining up in the rain, for the grilled burgers, salads, and desserts provided for the celebration.
    Even in the cold and wet my heart was warmed to see so many people their for the opening.  Getting the library and museum into the new building had been a real struggle for those of us who fought for that dream.  Public meetings held, politicians removed from office, money raised, but finally it happened, and the empty building that stood empty on main street is now the beautiful facility for the library and museum for the community.
    Music by local musicians was to be performed throughout the celebration, but the bad weather wasn’t very cooperative.  Nevertheless, the stoic fiddlers huddled inside the tiny tent for shelter from the rain, and played their hearts out.  Our Tuesday Jam was scheduled to play later in the evening, and as I chilled in the rain, I wondered just how that was going to work for us with cold fingers in the small tent.  Luckily, the decision was made to move the music inside the library, were we perform every week.  So it felt like home, and all my worries had been unfounded.
    I was very happy with our performance, the crowds, and the whole event.  The new library is such a wonderful, inviting space and already I am seeing new people inside the library, checking things out or using the computers, taking advantage of the new facility.
    I feel proud that our tiny community has a beautiful new library, that is the first building people see when they drive into town.



Take a look at my paintings:  davidmarchant.ca

Friday 6 July 2018

Blackman Road


    We had to go to the vet in Valemount yesterday to get some shots for Skye.  Normally the route for us is to drive east on Hwy. 16, to Tete Juane, then turn south on Hwy. 5.   Even though there are a lot of straight stretches on Hwy. 5, there are also a lot of Alberta drivers, many of which are in a big hurry, which all too often result in fatal accidents, so since we had time, we decided to take Blackman Road south, instead of Hwy. 5.
    Blackman is a scenic and leisurely country road, which begins at Tete Jaune where it cross the old wooden Fraser River bridge.  As we drove down Blackman, I began to worry that we might be stopped by one of those incredibly long freight trains, which would cause us to be late to the vet.  There was a train, but luckily it was the Rocky Mountaineer, the high-class tourist train with view cars and fancy food.  It was a very short train in comparison to the freight, so the drive to Valemount was quite a pleasant experience.

You can view my paintings at:  davidmarchant.ca

Thursday 5 July 2018

Clouds Building Over Mountains


    It is a common phenomenon to have clouds generated over mountains.  The Sun causes the air to warm over the mountain slopes, this warmed air rises,  and when it hits the cooler air higher up it forms clouds.  These clouds which we saw yesterday were a bit more dramatic than usual, so I couldn’t help but snap a photo.

Look at my paintings:  davidmarchant.ca