Friday 30 August 2019

A Fascination With Cabbages

    I seem to have a fascination with cabbages.  My first painting was an image of a cabbage and since then cabbages have been featured in major or minor roles in my “Garden” and “Damn Deer” paintings.  My current painting has an image of a plant called “Skunk Cabbage” which isn’t a real cabbage, but it does have the name.
    Yesterday evening as I was out beside the garden, I noticed the cabbages and had to run in to the house to get my camera, once again fascinated by the structure and subtle coloring of cabbages.

You can see my cabbage paintings at:

Thursday 29 August 2019

Two Evening Treats

    Last night I went out to view this speckled sunset, and got a second treat as well.  For years now I haven’t seen any of the bats that used to dart around over my pond in the evening sky.  I had read many accounts of how bat colonies across North America have been getting wiped out by the White Nose Fungus.  Although I didn’t think that the White Nose Fungus had reached BC, I was pretty concerned because I wasn’t seeing any of the bats I used to see.
    However last night as I was watching the pinkish sunset, I saw a pair of bats erratically flying through the sky feeding on insects.  It was very gratifying to watch them once again.  I guess that on all the other evenings I had gone out to look for them, they were elsewhere feeding.

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Wednesday 28 August 2019

The Smell of a Bear

    While having a powerful sense of smell is usually considered a good thing, I wish our dog Lexi’s smell wasn’t so good, because it has the potential for getting her into a lot of trouble.  Whenever she catches a scent of some wild animal her brain immediately turns off and she is completely driven by instinct to quickly follow the smell.   As a result we are almost always forced to keep her on a leash, even in our yard.
    The other day as we were walking around the yard Lexi caught the scent of a bear that must have been grazing during the night on some of the white Osier Dogwood berries that grow along the fence line (photo above).  After letting out a low growl, her body tensed, and she began pulling on the leash, insisting that the bear scent be followed even though it was 12 hours old.  She just wouldn’t stop pulling even though I firmly told her “No”.  Once her instinct takes over, she turns off her ears and I might as well be trying to communicate with a rock.
    Lexi, despite her refined look of a lap dog, still has an awful lot of “wild” in her and we have to really keep her reigned in to keep her safe.

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Tuesday 27 August 2019

The Awakening and Selected Short Stories by Kate Chopin

Desiree’s Baby  by Kate Chopin
      This short story was one of my favorites from The Awakening and Selected Short Stories by Kate Chopin 
        This story, as others in the book takes place in the South, in Louisiana.  This one is set before the Civil War.  Three months after Desiree has a baby boy, her marriage and life are changed forever. 
       Desiree’s husband, with an important family name and plantation, had been buoyed by the birth of a son; he no longer treated the slaves cruelly, and had become a proud father, but all that abruptly changed on a day three months later when a distressed Desiree asked him to look at at the infant, and he discovered that his son’s skin had darkened.  
       When Desiree asked him what it meant, he replied it meant she had Negro blood in her ancestry.  His love for his wife and son vanished.  Feeling unloved, Desiree left the plantation with the infant to live with her mother. 
      After she left, her husband cleaned out the house, burning the crib, his wife’s belongings, and was about to burn a bundle of letters she had sent to him during their courtship.  Among her letters he  found an old one written by his mother to his father. In the letter his mother thanked his father for keeping the secret of his mother’s Black ancestry from their son. 

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Sunday 25 August 2019


    After my worse crop ever last year, I am happy to announce that this year I am getting a lot of tomatoes in my greenhouse.  The reason is that I got rid of the tree roots that were sucking my greenhouse dry.  This summer with all rain (a lot of which drops into the greenhouse, and the additional water from a drip hose, the tomatoes are putting out a lot of fruit.  Tomatoes have always been one of my favorite foods, whether eaten fresh or cooked into some kind of sauce.
    My grandfather and uncle had large commercial greenhouse fields where they grew tomatoes and I spent many a summer day as a kid, picking tomatoes.  I think of those days often when I go into my small greenhouse and see the tomatoes.
    While most people think of tomatoes as a vegetable, they are actually a fruit, and more specifically a berry.  Despite this fact, in 1893 the US Supreme Court declared the tomato a vegetable for tariff reasons.  
    The tomato was developed by the those agricultural geniuses, the Meso-American Indians.  The Spaniards introduced it to the rest of the world, and it is now part of different ethnic cuisine across the globe.  

    It is nice that this year we again have enough tomatoes to whiz up in the blender and can, so that we can enjoy their rich taste throughout the winter.

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Saturday 24 August 2019

Early Leaf Fall

    For some reason there are a lot of leaves falling from the Cottonwood trees around here.  Normally they wait until September, and turn yellow before they detach from their branches and fall.  The trees themselves are looking much more denuded than they should be at this time of year.  I am not sure what is causing the leaf fall, but it does seem untimely.
    We have experienced a lot more precipitation throughout the spring and summer, and I have noticed that the Cottonwood trees did get hit by the leaf miner caterpillar, and those might be an explanation, but who knows.

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Friday 23 August 2019

Evening Showers

    It’s hard for me to resist interesting lighting.  The other day when we had guests, I happened to notice what was happening outside with the Sun low on the horizon shining through rain.  I couldn’t help but quietly slip away from our friends, grab my camera, go outside and take a photo.

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Thursday 22 August 2019

Food Insecurity

    We had friends over for dinner yesterday.  After the meal we retreated to the living room and as we sat there talking and trying to solve the problems of the world, I suddenly began to wonder where our dog Lexi was.  I got up walked to the dining room and discovered her on top of the dining room table helping herself to the almond cookies still left on the platter.
    It still baffles me how that short little dog managed to get up there.  I assume she used the chairs as steps, but still, I would have thought even getting up on a chair would have been a problem for her.
    Skye our last dog, who was also a rescue dog, had lived “rough” for while before we got her.  She had to find her own food and survive on her wits, and as a result after we got her she was still very food oriented, but Lexi takes that food craving to a whole different level.  She is constantly seeking food, even after she has eaten her bowlful.  She never stops.  Whenever we go into the kitchen, she is suddenly there in hopes that some molecule of food will accidentally fall to the floor.  
    We are going to have to really keep a close eye on her.  We were really fortunate last night that the cookies she devoured didn’t have any chocolate in them.  That could have been fatal.

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Wednesday 21 August 2019

Herd of Horses

    It seems that our “go to” place for our afternoon walks is Horseshoe Lake Road.  It is really more like a lane, unpaved, straight, and leading to only one house, so there is rarely any traffic.  Because it is located in the middle of the valley, it gives nice view of the sky and both the Cariboo and Park Range of the Rocky Mountains.  Another attraction is that it is located beside a large pasture in which there is a herd of horses.
    We enjoy watch them frolic and run.  It is easy to imagine that they are a herd of wild horses doing their thing.

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Tuesday 20 August 2019

My Antonia by Willa Cather

 My Antonia by Willa Sibert Cather
            This beautifully written coming of age story takes place in the late 1800’s during the agricultural settlement period in Nebraska.  It puts the reader right there on the American Plains, experiencing the kind of life those early prairie farmers lived.  The novel is set up as the reminiscence of Jim Burden, an older man recalling the friendship he had throughout his life with Antonia, a neighbor girl who he was friends with during his youth. 
         Jim, lost his parents as a ten year old boy from Virginia, and was sent by train to live with and be raised by his grandparents who owned a farm in the isolated prairie lands of Nebraska.  He arrives at the same time as an immigrant Bohemian family who have bought a neighboring farm.  That family discovers they have been swindled by the owner, but have no more money, so are forced to live in the dugout “house” they now own. 
       Antonia is the 14 year old daughter of the unfortunate Bohemian family, whose members could speak no English.   Antonia, a quick learner,  becomes Jim’s companion, as he takes on the task of teaching her English.   Together they explore the plants, animals, and landscapes of their new prairie environment that has become their home. 
      Once while exploring a prairie dog town they awakened a rattlesnake that was five and a half feet long.  Antonia was terrified, but fortunately Jim was able to kill it with a spade before it struck.  The event increases the younger Jim’s status in the older girl’s eyes. They become fast friends.
       The hardships of those early farmers intensified during the winter, especially for Antonia’s family who were dirt poor and struggling to survive, despite the gifts of food and other items from Jim’s grandparents.  Antonia’s father falls into depression due to the hardships of the new life he finds himself in and at leaving the security and comfort of his home country at the insistence of his wife, and shoots himself. 
        Without the father, hardship increases for Antonia’s family and she is forced to work the fields like her older brother, while Jim begins to attend the small local school. 
      Jim’s grandparents sell their farm and move into the nearby town. There Jim is introduced to the amenities and opportunities of town and gets to go to a bigger school.  Shortly thereafter Antonia arrives in town, hired by a local family to cook, clean house, and look after the children.  Many other  young immigrant women, who had grown up living on poor farms, are also sent into service in town, so they could earn money to support their debt-ridden farm families.
        Jim, Antonia, and other farm girls, all socialize at home gatherings, music, and dances that were available in the town.  But as always happens, as time passes this group of friends scatters, going their own ways, each beginning their life journey in different parts of the country. 
       Jim becomes a scholar, then a lawyer in the East.  Antonia who is deceived by a scoundrel promising marriage, ends up pregnant and in disgrace, living back at her family’s farm, but eventually finds the life she needs and deserves, marrying a good man, and creating a loving family on a prosperous prairie farm. 
            I found this to be a warm, life affirming novel, which was a joy to read. It was one of those tales that really put you into lives of people living in a different time and place.

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Monday 19 August 2019

Princess Lexi Finds Another Soft Spot

    On August 11th I blogged about how our dog Lexi, was able to find all the really super-soft spots in the house for her snoozes.  The other day when we realized we didn’t know where she was, we looked around and discovered her sleeping in another comfy spot.  This time it was upstairs on top of a knitted  afghan which was draped over  one of the back cushions of the old couch we have up there.  This is a napping niche that even our cat Lucifer hadn’t found.

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Sunday 18 August 2019

Salsa Time

    One of the high points of summer is when both our tomatoes and chilis start to come in.  It’s then that we can make and eat fresh salsa.  Yesterday marked that long awaited event.  What a treat it was.

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Saturday 17 August 2019

Well, That's Enough Guitar Strings

    I only change my guitar strings about once or twice a year, but I always like to have a set on hand in case I break a string.  I had used up my last set for my acoustic guitar, and our jam has been asked to play in the park on September 1st, and so I though I’d better pick up a set of strings.
    I can’t buy guitar strings locally, and we ran out of time to get some when we were in Prince George, so I thought I would just order some online from Amazon since they deliver.  I found the strings I wanted and thought, “Well, since I’m here, I might as well get two sets of electric and two sets of acoustic.”
    So I added them to my cart and then pressed the button that placed the order.  It already had my credit card number on file, so I was immediately rushed to  the “Thank You” screen, so I assumed that was that.  Then later in the day, I got a message from Amazon saying that the credit card that they had for me was no longer valid and I would have to supply a new number.
    I went back online and did that, and understood from the directions that I should reorder, which I did, but as happened I ended up with double the number of guitar strings that I needed.  
     I guess I needn’t worry about having to buy more guitar strings for a while. 

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Friday 16 August 2019

A Tangle of Lupine Leaves

    Yesterday as we were walking around the pond, I happened to glance down at this tangle of Lupine leaves.  I took a few more steps past the plant then stopped and realized that I had just seen an interesting image, so I doubled back to take this photo.  I particularly like the pinwheel of leaves peaking through the others.  The small droplets of water are also nice.

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Thursday 15 August 2019

Garden Christmas Tree

    Yesterday I talked about my Scarlet Runner beans and how I always constructed a teepee-like structure for them to grow up on.  Yesterday while walking past the garden, it struck me how much my bean structure looked like a Christmas tree, both in shape and decoration with the orange bean blossoms. 
    I think that having something vertical, like my pole been teepee, really gives a garden a focal point.
    Also in the garden you can see a zucchini plant at the base of the Scarlet Runners and some of my free-growing red poppies that have sprung up amidst my low growing corn.  Please ignore all of the weeds, I am.

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Wednesday 14 August 2019

Scarlet Runners

    I had to scramble around this morning to come up with some kind of photo for this blog.  There isn’t a whole lot happening around here, but I noticed that the blooms on the Scarlet Runner beans in the garden were looking pretty photogenic so I took this shot.
    Scarlet Runners are very hardy pole beans and one of the things I like about them besides the beans is that they make an attractive vertical structure in the garden.  So every very year I construct a teepee-like structure for them to grow up on.  The old poles that I have been using for the teepee are getting pretty decrepit and a few weeks ago it was leaning so much I feared the whole thing would topple over.  I pushed it back up straight and using some twine, I managed to tie it together, and fortunately, it is still upright.
    Normally the Scarlet Runner beans start getting away from me and I end up with enormously long hard beans, but like every year, this year I am vowing to keep a close watch on them and pick the beans before they get too long.

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Tuesday 13 August 2019

Companion Planting

    One of the tricks gardeners have used to prevent pest problems is companion planting.  Companion planting is the practice of planting two different plants close to each other, so that one of the plants will keep the insect pests away from the other plant.
    For as long as I can remember we  have planted marigolds in between our cabbage plants.  The fragrance of the marigolds is said to keep cabbage butterflies from laying their eggs on the cabbage.  Those eggs turn into caterpillars that eat the cabbage leaves.  I don’t know for sure if this works, but we’ve never any problems with the caterpillars. 
    We do still get the odd slug in the cabbages, but not the caterpillars, so we will continue to plant marigolds with our cabbages.

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Monday 12 August 2019

Horizontal Hollyhocks

    My 8 foot (2.4m) hollyhocks, whose tips reached the edge of the roof are now horizontal, thanks to the heavy rain that fell over night.  Despite their new position, I am still amazed at them.  I didn’t even think hollyhocks would grow up here in the Robson Valley.
    I was also surprised that they did so well growing in the rather poor dry soil along the side of our house, but they have thrived.
    When it stops raining, I will try to tie them back up vertically, so their stems don’t break.

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Sunday 11 August 2019

Princess Lexi

    Remember the story about how they found the real princess because she could tell there was a pea under a big stack of mattresses.  Well I don’t know if our dog Lexi could feel a pea, but she sure does like to sleep with a lot of soft padding under her.
    I took this photo of her yesterday.  We have two pillows propped up beside the arms of our couch.  Our cat Lucifer likes to squeeze up beside the two pillows to take a nap, but Lexi doesn’t want to snooze beside the two pillows, she wants to sleep right on top of them.
    Before we got Lexi, we made several nice soft spots for Lucifer to sleep in.  We have seen Lexi find them all and sleep in them all.  I don’t know what is going to happen this winter, if they both want to sleep on Lucifer’s pad beside the nice warm wood stove.

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Saturday 10 August 2019

Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice

                Evan Whitesky is a twenty-five year old First Nations man living on an isolated Ontario reserve with his wife and two kids.  The novel begins with him returning home after killing a moose to augment their winter supply of meat.  There he is told by his wife that both their satellite TV, internet, and cell phone reception have disappeared.  Use to unsteady reception, they are not too concerned, they still have power from the recent huge hydro dam project that had brought power to the reserve for a few years.
       They and the other tribe members, become much more concerned a week later, when their power and telephone land lines fail, just as winter begins to hit.  There is no communication with the outside world and they don’t understand what has caused of these failures.  Panic begins to spread through the reserve causing a run on the only grocery store, emptying its shelves. 
        Two young males from the reserve, who had been away attending a trade school in a town three hundred miles away, then arrived on snowmobiles they had stolen full, both are full of emotion.  They tell of hellish chaos and mob rule in the town where they had been, due to the lack of electricity and food supplies after some unknown disaster befell on Toronto.  They had made the desperate journey to return to their homes. 
        While conditions continue to slowly worsen on the reserve, a white man on a big snowmobile towing gear, who followed the snowmobile tracks of the two reserve boys, unexpectedly arrives. He is a tough guy survivalist, whose friendly exterior doesn’t quite mask his real personality.  He is recognized as trouble, but pledges his survival skills to the community, who allow him to stay.  
        As winter’s bite hardens, the community faces increasing problems, accentuated by the presence of the survivalist.
       Apocalyptic novels are always thought provoking and I found this one particularly so, because of the fact that the First Nation people on the reserve never did know what had happened in the outside world and they still maintained a lot of the skills needed to survive in the wild that surrounded them. 

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Friday 9 August 2019

There They Are Again

    On two consecutive evenings while walking on the path around the pond, I glanced over to see these two deer laying in the same spot watching us.  I guess it must be a comfortable spot for them.

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Thursday 8 August 2019

West Twin Old Growth Area: Mushrooms

    One of the interesting features found in the West Twin Old Growth Area is the wide variety of fungi sprouting up through the mossy forest floor.  Here are a few photos of some of the mushrooms that I spotted during my last foray through the dark Cedar/Hemlock forest.

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Tuesday 6 August 2019

West Twin Old Growth Area: Moss

    One of my favorite spots in the Robson Valley is the West Twin Old Growth Area.  It is not signed on the highway, and so it is relatively unknown.  It was originally identified by the local Forest Service and was designated as one of their recreation sites which included a looped trail with signs pointing out various items in the dark mossy Cedar/Hemlock forest.  It has since become a part of the West Twin Provincial Park, which is undeveloped.  The old trail and signs are still there and I always enjoy doing a  walk through the quiet primal forest.
    A few of us did the walk yesterday and although it is impossible to really capture the magic of the place with a camera, I couldn’t help but try.  
    The ground is covered with a thick green carpet of moss, accented with various colored mushrooms.

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Monday 5 August 2019

BC Day

    Today is BC Day, a provincial holiday created to promote appreciation for the Province of British Columbia.  I certainly am not hesitant to say I love this place, especially all of its natural and cultural treasures.  Here are some photos of some of the things I love about BC.

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Sunday 4 August 2019

A Break in the Precipitation

    Fortunately, the weather forecast is hinting at a few days break from all of the rain and showers that we have been having.  I think my garden would appreciate a break.  The photo shows the standing water in the wet end of my garden.  It also shows how the pea plants at that end are turning yellow, which I believe to be caused by all of the water.  The other end of the pea row which is in a drier area is still green.  
    I was out this morning picking peas and I heard the squishy sound of mud every time I put my foot down.

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Saturday 3 August 2019

Herring Gull

    We live in the Canadian Rockies, 600 km (370 miles) east of the Pacific Ocean, so you wouldn’t expect us to see any sea gulls flying around the neighborhood, but every few years, after a big storm rolls in from the Pacific, we see some gulls.  I assume they somehow followed, or were swept in from the storm.   I was certainly bewildered years ago when I saw my first gull in the Robson Valley.  Once I even saw a cormorant sitting in a tree beside the Fraser River, as I drove down the road to town.  
    This one is what I believe to be a Herring Gull.  We did have a big rain storm the other, so I guess that is where it came from.  These misplaced sea gulls never seem to stick around, and I don’t know if they turn around and fly back to the ocean or what happens to them.

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Friday 2 August 2019

Pine Sap

    Pine Sap is such a terrible name for such a delicate a beautiful plant.   When I hear the words “Pine sap” I think of a crusty blob on the side of a pine tree, not this fragile pinky plant.
    Pine Sap (Hypopitys monotropa) is a saprophyte, meaning it gets all of its nourishment from dead or decaying organic matter.  My relatives pointed this one out as we were strolling through the West Twin Old Growth area.  It is always a treat to discover Pine Sap, and generally I see it growing deep in the mosses of dark Cedar forests.
    It was a surprise to me to discover it is a member of the Heath Family of plants which include the Wintergreens, and not with the fungi, which is what I supposed.

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Thursday 1 August 2019

Unrelenting Showers

    I guess if we were to be stuck with the same weather day after day, there would be worse things to have than showers; hot and dry would stress the garden, and create the potential for forest fires, but still it is rather depressing to get showers every day.  At least with these showers we manage to squeeze out at least some sunshine during each day.
    While most of the plants in the garden are thriving with all the moisture (especially my peas which have given me a bumper crop) at the same time other plants are struggling; I have some pole beans that haven’t even managed to develop any flowers yet.  The weeds in the garden are loving this weather, not only do they get all of the moisture they need, but the soil is so wet that no one comes to pull them out.
    The normal weather systems for the Robson Valley are:  showers through June and half of July, then more heat and sunny days through August.  These days I’m not sure that things are still happening the way they normally do.  

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