Monday 31 December 2018

Bright Winter Afternoon

    The skies cleared yesterday afternoon, and I decided to get my snowshoes out of the workshop and snowshoe around the pond a couple of times to pack the snow down on our trail.  Once the snow is packed on the trail, we can walk around the pond with just our regular winter boots.  
    Yesterday, as I was completing the loop, I was facing the house, and was struck by the blue of the snow and sky, accented by the yellowish branches of our willow trees, so whipped out the camera and took this photo.

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Sunday 30 December 2018

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...Winter

    I guess I can quit my bellyaching about how un-wintery it has been up here in the Robson Valley.  Mother Nature finally got busy and gave us some snow-- 15 inches (38cm) of the white powdery stuff.  I started doing normal winter things like pushing the snow shovel around and starting up my snowblower, that has been sitting lonely on the carport.  I think I will probably get it out again this afternoon and clear off the 4 inches (10cm) that fell after I cleared the driveway yesterday.
    I knew a couple of people that had to do long drives on the highways yesterday, and I certainly felt sorry for them because I suspect the driving conditions were horrible with blowing snow, whiteouts, and a lot of white-knuckle driving.  For us homebodies, it just seemed like things finally got back to winter normal.

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Saturday 29 December 2018

Finally Snow

    There was snowfall warnings for our area yesterday and last night, however all the weather produced  was wind.  However, overnight the snow finally joined the wind and this morning the snow blanketed everything and continues blowing sideways this morning.  At present there are 5 inches (12cm) on the ground.  Once it stops, I can dust off my snowblower and clear the driveway.

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Friday 28 December 2018

From the Diary, Dec. 1977

    Back in 1977 Joan and I drove down to Indiana for Christmas.  It was a brutal drive; 4 days behind the wheel, 10 or 12 hours a day.  Weather was always a concern, but we were young and foolish.  On Dec. 30th after our visit, we climbed back into our car (an International Scout, today you would call it a SUV) and began our trip back to Canada.
    When we got to Sioux Falls we ran into heavy snow, which got worse and worse, causing drifts across the Interstate Highway.  
    “The wind was terrible and bitter cold.  We finally pulled over into a rest area and squeezed together in our sleeping bags in the little space we had in the back of the Scout.  It was really cold!  
    When we woke up the next morning it was still snowing, blowing and freezing.  Our car wouldn’t start.  Two Native Americans tried to give us a jump-start (with starter cables,) but it still wouldn’t start.  (I thanked them for trying to help, and I didn’t want to hold them up any longer) so told them to leave and we got back into our sleeping bags.  
    The two Native Americans returned 30 minutes later with some starter fluid, and our car started.  They wouldn’t take any money for their help.”
    I will never forget the kindness of those two guys, who took the time to help us stranded travelers in a blizzard.  It was a real example of the spirit all of us are supposed to renew on Christmas.

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Thursday 27 December 2018

Tracks in the Snow

    The other day when I did a little hike, I came across a little patch of icy old snow.  In the snow were some animal tracks.  There were deer tracks of course, but also some other tracks that at first I assumed were wolf tracks.  I am no expert at tracks, so when I got home I looked at the photo I took and got out a reference book that showed tracks.  Now I think that the other tracks were that of a cougar.  
    According to the diagrams in the book, wolf tracks are more narrow and the toes are close together, while cougar tracks are broader with the toes spread apart.  There have been some cougar sightings in the neighborhood.

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Wednesday 26 December 2018

More No-White Christmas

    I’m still a bit gobsmacked at the fact that, here in the middle of BC at the tail end of December, we don’t have any snow on the ground.  Joan and I did our afternoon Christmas walk out on Jervis Road yesterday and just shook our heads as we trod down the road surrounded by brown fields.  

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Tuesday 25 December 2018

What Passes for a White Christmas These Days

    Living where we do in the mountainous interior of British Columbia, I thought we were pretty much guaranteed to always have a white Christmas.  Well, this year proved that was not the case.  We do have a dusting of snow on the ground, which makes our paths, pond, and driveway look white, but grass and weeds are poking through the thin layer of snow in all other places.  
    It does make one wonder about the future, after weeks of smoke from forest fires during the summer, and now this brownish-white Christmas.

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Monday 24 December 2018

Waterline Outflow

    I walk around the pond every day.  Every time I do, I look down at where our gravity-feed water line flows in, to make sure it is still flowing.  We keep the water constantly flowing through the pipes during the winter to prevent it from freezing up.
    We haven’t had any really cold weather so far this year, but even when we do, the little area where the waterline outflow is, remains ice-free because of the water circulation it causes and maybe its slightly warmer temperatures.
    On the photo above you can see the area of open water caused by the outflow on the lower left, and the ice that covers the rest of the pond.

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Sunday 23 December 2018

In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl

    Here’s another novel I really enjoyed reading:

In Falling Snow by Mary Rose MacColl
          This novel has chapters that alternate in time between World War I and modern times.  Iris Crane is the main character in the World War I chapters.  In them, she is in her early twenties, a trained nurse raised in rural Australia.  She had come to France on a mission for her father, to find and bring home, her brother Tom, who had lied his way into the military, even though he was only fifteen years old. 
      Iris ends up working and helping to set up a hospital being created up in an abandoned French monastery near the front lines, and eventually finds Tom, who is working in a relatively safe situation sorting and delivering mail.  Iris knows she can’t force her headstrong brother to return home, and is satisfied he is safe, so she dedicates herself to the great need of the hospital with an all female staff, becoming its administrator, dealing with the overwhelming needs of dying and wounded soldiers. 
      The modern time chapters in the novel deal with Grace, Iris’s granddaughter, who is an obstetrics doctor, busy dealing with patients in a modern Australian hospital, busy with her growing family which includes a young son who is beginning to display a yet undiagnosed developmental problem, and busy with Iris, her aging grandmother, who is becoming increasingly fragile, both physically and mentally, but wants to attend a reunion at her old hospital in France. 
      It is hinted to the reader, that some traumatic event happened toward the end of Iris’s tenure at the French hospital, but the storylines of both Iris and Grace are intriguing enough to keep keep the reader patient, until reaching the end when all is revealed.  These surprising revelations unexpectedly change the reader’s understanding of the characters.
     In Falling Snow was both a well-constructed and well-written novel with lots of insights into the lives of people who had to live in close proximity to the horrendous trench warfare and suffering of World War I.  It paints an accurate picture of the role of women in the medical profession both then and now.
     It was a very good read, and it is interesting to note that it was written in Banff when the author was given a grant to live there and write over a winter. 

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Saturday 22 December 2018

Rock Outcrops

    One of the most interesting features on the land across the road are the handful of rock outcropping that can be found there.  These ancient-looking structures are often partially covered with a thick lush covering of moss which makes them look even more enchanting and mystical.  Here are photos of two of the outcrops.
    I have always been charmed by rocky moss-covered outcrops.  As a child growing up in Indiana, surrounded by mildly rolling fields and oak and maple wooded areas, I was enchanted with the dark, rocky canyons of Turkey Run State Park, where my parents took us camping.  I remember immediately loving the dark and damp Turkey Run ecosystems, featuring the ferns, rocks, and mosses that were found more often in more northern climes.  It’s nice to have similar places to explore, just across the road.

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Friday 21 December 2018

Moss on Wood

    People that regularly read this blog know that I am always hungry for color.  That is especially true this time of year (It’s officially winter; today is the Winter Solstice).   When everything is gray, white, or brown, it is a treat to see something like the deep greens provided by moss.  Here are a couple of moss shots I took on my trek up the slope on the other side of the road.  
    The photo above shows the thick clump of mosses that were thriving on the remnant of an old burnt Cedar tree.  Cedar is very resistant to decay, and although the base of this tree has been dead for over 100 years, the wood is still firm, and provides a good home for this moss.
    Below is a photo showing both moss and lichen that was growing on a old piece of wood laying on the ground.

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Thursday 20 December 2018

Animal Trails

    On my little hike upslope that I blogged about yesterday, I mentioned how I followed the animal trails through the bush.  The woods could be characterized as “Parkland” which is a term that was used when I worked at the BC Forest Service to indicate wooded areas with open and sparse undergrowth.  I didn’t really need the animal trails to get around, but over the years the animals figured out the easiest way through the woods, and it seemed crazy not to take advantage of their experience.
    At one point, one of the trails went right beside the burnt remains of an old cedar (Above).  The Cedar was pitted with numerous woodpecker holes.  A wildfire swept through the area in 1917, and you can still find charred evidence of the conflagration in the woods.  The Douglas Fir, Spruce, Balsam Fir, Cedar and Birch trees that you now see on the slope all started growing since that fire one hundred years ago.

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Wednesday 19 December 2018

The Upper Fourteen

    When we bought our house in McBride, it was situated on 5 acres (2 ha.) of land all below the road.  That seemed like enough land to give us a feel of the wild, and the privacy we wanted.  Across the road and sloping above was was 14 acres (5.6 ha) of raw hillside that belonged to a guy named Klaus, who lived in Germany.  There was no house on his land and Klaus rarely came to see his property, so things were fine.
    Eventually, Klaus decided to sell his land, and seeing it listed weekly in the real estate ads in the local paper, made us nervous.  What if someone bought it and did something we didn’t like, maybe log it, or make a gravel pit, or something.  This unease eventually made Joan and I buy the land, just so we could keep it natural.  Once we owned it, we just let it be.
    I would occasionally hike around through it, and a one point made a trail through it, using mostly the heavily used animal trails that already existed.  When we got a dog, I just quit going over to the land because I didn’t want any scent of mine crossing the road, we didn’t want to give our dog any reason to go up to the road.
    Yesterday, since we no longer have a dog, and there is still no snow on the ground, I decided to take a hike up through our fourteen acres, to see what I could see, and hopefully take some photos.  It was basically the same as I remembered it, although it seemed strange to be in the middle of December, and have everything still look like early November.
    I saw a lot of photo-worthy subjects and will be blogging about them in the next few days.  Today I thought I would just give you some general shots.  Above, what the land looks like from our house and below, what it looks like when you are walking through it.

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Tuesday 18 December 2018

Eastern Approach to McBride

    If you want to drive to McBride, you have to use Hwy. 16, since that is McBride’s only link to the outside world.  If you are coming from the east, this is the first view you get of the village.  The photo shows the Fraser River bridge and beyond it, a couple of businesses on the frontage road.  
    While I have made this approach thousands of times.  Yesterday I was struck by the snow-covered Cariboo Mts being highlighted by the sunshine, so I had to stop and take a photo.  I zoomed in to the mountains, cutting out the sky.  This made the mountains more dramatic.  If I would have included the sky in the photo, the image would not have been as interesting.  
    It is so important to compose you photos so that you emphasize what is important to you and eliminate all that other stuff that distracts.
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Monday 17 December 2018

Sunlit Birch

    Here are a couple of more shots I took the other day on my morning walk down the old trail.  The sideways sunlight was hitting some of the birch trees head on, highlighting them among the other trees.

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Sunday 16 December 2018

Christmas Bird Count

    Today is McBride’s Christmas Bird Count.  I have been participating in this annual event for as long as I knew there was such a thing.  Unlike many keeners, who head out to remote parts of the Robson Valley, I just stay close to home and concentrate mostly on the “regulars” that turn up daily to my bird feeders.
    Of course, since participants turn in their tallies of bird species at the end of the day, I always hope that some kind of beyond-the-common type bird will show up, but usually its just the Chickadees, Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Downy and Hairy Woodpecker that are on my tally.  Of course, also there are usually a handful of Ravens, that fly over the house.
    This morning when I was filling up the bird feeders, I did see this Northern Flicker.  While I do see them occasionally, this is the first time I saw one on Bird Count Day, so I am proud to record its appearance.  I am always hoping to see a Brown Creeper on Count Day but normally it waits until after the count is over, then it shows up.

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Saturday 15 December 2018

Low Elevation Sun

    By 9:00 this morning I was done painting my square, and was ready to write this blog, but I didn’t really have a subject or a photo to write about.   I decided to head out to our old trail, hoping for some kind of inspiration.  I noticed right away how low the Sun was on the horizon, as it shown through the snow-powdered trees.
    Here we are less than a week away from the Winter Solstice (Dec. 21) so at our latitude (53 Degrees north) during this time of year, the Sun doesn’t really climb very high in the sky, it just makes a low elevation arc across the sky.  The Sun’s low-sourced light does create some interesting lighting effects, and so I was able to find some subjects on my photo expedition.  
    Here are two shots that show the low position of our winter Sun between 9:00 and 9:30 this morning.

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Friday 14 December 2018

Ice Time

    It’s treacherous out there.  Warmer weather has turned what little snow we had on our driveway into glare ice.  We usually have to go through this sometime during every winter, but this is the second time it has happened to us this winter.  
    I always store a couple of 5 gallon buckets full of sand and small gravel for just such events.  I spread the the sand/gravel and also ashes from the wood stove on the sidewalks and driveway to create a bit of traction on the dangerously slippery ice.  I will go out and do it when I get done with this blog.  
    Below is a cartoon I drew several years ago, about the condition.

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Wednesday 12 December 2018

We Got Snow

    A couple of days ago I was complaining about the fact that we were well into December and there was no snow on the ground.  I am happy to report that we did finally get a snowfall, and everything looks as it should for this time of year.
    I am not sure how long it will last though, as the forecast now calls for rain on Friday, and above freezing temperatures after that.  I still have faith that we will have a white Christmas.

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Tuesday 11 December 2018

Art Nouveau Book Case

    Back in the early 1970’s, I spent two years as a conscientious objector working in a Goodwill Store in Indianapolis.  One of the really interesting things about working there was seeing the diverse types of items that had been donated.  Some were total junk and were sent to the dump, but ever so often something really beautiful came in.  Even though the job only paid me minimum wage, when I saw this oak bookcase (I don’t know what else to call it) with it’s inlaid parrots, I decided to buy it, even though it meant skimping on other necessities.
    It has long been one of my favorite pieces of furniture, and I wish I knew more about it.  If the Antique Roadshow ever got anywhere close, I would love to take it in to see if they could give me some information about it.

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Monday 10 December 2018

Where's the Snow?

    If you are living in the Interior of British Columbia, surrounded by mountains, and it’s the middle of December, you’d expect that there would be snow on the ground.  Well, not this year.  Instead of a palette of white and gray, this year everything is green and brown.   Whenever snow or flurries are forecasted, all we get instead is wind.
    I am hoping that by putting myself out there complaining, that maybe it will cause snow to fall and make me feel like a fool, but I would happily wear that embarrassment if it meant we would get some snow.

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Sunday 9 December 2018

Fraser River Ice Closing In

    Without any snow on the ground, it doesn’t look like we are moving toward Christmas, but the below-freezing temperatures are slowly causing ice to form on the Fraser River.  A few days ago there were just white patches of ice flowing down the river, but now large swaths of ice are forming along the river’s bank and in the middle.  The Fraser River completely freezes over here at McBride every winter .

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Saturday 8 December 2018

Town Deer

    Although it’s not an uncommon sight, it seems I never get used to seeing deer wandering around in town.  For some reason my mind wants to keep them in rural areas, it just doesn’t seem like they should be in town.  It’s obvious why they hang out there; there are all kinds of exotic bushes, and grasses to eat, and no predators, so why not take advantage of the situation.
    The deer in the photo was busy eating grass beside the porch of our notary on Main St.  When we walked up to go into the office, the deer decided it should probably meander away for a while. 

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Friday 7 December 2018

Hub of Activity

    While seeing this number of vehicles parked outside a building might not seem like a lot in most places, in the tiny village of McBride it indicates a gathering of a lot of people.  On this morning, there must have been more people in the library, than in any other store in McBride.  Our new library, which opened in the Spring has been a huge boon got our community. 
    Residents who had never been seen darkened the halls of the old library have suddenly discovered all the things that a library can offer, even if it is just a soft chair to lounge in while browsing through a magazine.  One library worker told me that they have two new requests for library cards every week.  In this tiny community that is amazing.
    Joan and I were always going to the library, but this new building is so much more comfortable that we are frequenting it even more.  I go for our music jam on Tuesday night, the ukulele jam on Friday afternoon, and the book club.  Joan goes to the weekly fibre arts group gathering and to pick up books.
    Every time we drive down Main St. I am gratified that the new library building happened.  It was a real struggle, since there was some vocal opposition in the community, and in a previous village government that had to be thrown out of office, but that conflict was sure worth the effort, and has shown itself to have been a really positive and popular development for our community.
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Thursday 6 December 2018

Sunlight on Painting

    I am attracted to sunlight highlighting something in a dark background, and many of my paintings have that as a subject.  My current painting is no different.  When I am done painting my square each day, I roll the easel over to a corner of the room that doesn’t have a lot of light and there it stays until the next morning when I begin painting again.  
    Yesterday afternoon when I walked up the stairs, I noticed that a beam of sunlight from a window was falling across part of the painting.  The bright light really brought out some of the subtle color changes in the individual squares.  I liked the effect so much I took the photo above.
    My paintings are always at there best when they have bright light illuminating them.  We have my “Sunflower” painting hanging in the bedroom on a dark blue wall.  When the track lighting is on highlighting the painting, it gives the sunflower an amazingly brilliant glow.  It’s a beautiful effect.

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Wednesday 5 December 2018

Pinkish Mountains

    We had to go up to Prince George yesterday for a dental appointment, luckily Highway 16 was free of snow, which can be a worry this time of year.  We left McBride in the dark and it was getting dark around 4:00 PM when we finally pulled back into our driveway.  
    On the way up we were treated by seeing 3 moose (one mother and adolescent, and further along, a lone moose) beside the highway.  On our trip home we watched the low elevation sunlight coloring the Canadian Rockies Park Range.  

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Monday 3 December 2018

Beaver Tree

    The other day when I was cutting through the grove of trees beside the Fraser River, I came upon the remains of a Cottonwood sapling that had been gnawed off by a beaver.  Beaver trees are relatively rare around here unless you are close to one of their houses, but this was just along the river, so I guess the beaver was just swimming past when it got hungry.  
    I also thought it was an unusual find because except for a handful of wood chips (you can just see them  on the ground close to the base of the stump) there was nothing left of the sapling.  My guess is that the beaver must have dragged rest of the tree down to the river to eat where it could be eaten more safely.  If that is what the beaver did, it must have been a bit of a struggle to get the tree through all of the thick grove of trees.  
    The only other solution to the disappeared tree was that the beaver ate the whole thing in place , which didn’t seem logical because there was nothing left; neither leaves or small branches.  It must have dragged it away to eat it in the river.

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Sunday 2 December 2018

Eliminating a Wildlife Hazard

    The other day when I walked our old trail that runs across our neighbor’s land, I cut through the bush to get to the river.  When I did this I discovered a wire strung between the trees.  About 20 years ago, when the property was being rented, the renter had a horse that had been boarded out.  For some reason he was no longer able to board his horse out and so he strung this wire around the perimeter of a field so he could keep his horse there.  
    The horse stayed there for a couple of months then was boarded out somewhere else.  The renter never did go back down to the field to take the wire down, so after all these years it remained, almost invisible and strung between trees.  A young deer or other wildlife could easily be killed or injured by running into the hard to see wire.
    When I saw that the wire was still there, I decided I would cut it down, so yesterday Joan and I took another walk down the trail, and I took some wire snips and spent some time cutting the wire away.  On the way home I discovered some barbed wire on my property that could also cause a similar hazard.
    We once had horses and I had strung it up, but after we got rid of the horses, I took down the barbed wire, except in a few places where it was up against a very thick grove of trees and bushes that were so thick I didn’t think leaving would create a problem, but in the 30 years since, many of those thickly growing trees have died and fallen over, leaving the wire exposed, so I cut that down too.

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Saturday 1 December 2018

Down to the Fraser

    Yesterday I got back on our old trail and walked down to the Fraser River.  I hadn’t been down there for a while and was surprised to see the huge sandbar on the far side.  As freezing temperatures engulf the alpine areas in the fall and winter, the amount of water that generally flows into the Fraser River diminishes and so the water level goes down, causing the sandbars to appear.  
    I always felt a bit cheated that the sandbar beaches that form are on the opposite side of the river.  On our side all we get is a steep bank.

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