Monday 30 March 2020

Snow-Buried Fence Posts

    While there is some melting of snow occurring, there is still a lot to go.  Yesterday on our walk I noticed the fence line that paralleled the Jervis Road.  The fence is probably 4 feet (1.2m) high and as you can see some of the fence post are still completely buried in the snow drift.  In the foreground your can see a rapidly flowing stream of melt water from the snow that has already melted.

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Sunday 29 March 2020

Grim Times

    We are living in depressing times as the Corona Virus spreads around the world and takes it’s grim toll on both the sick, on those making heroic efforts to try to help them, and the rest of us huddling inside our homes hoping to limit the spread of the disease.  Although our personal quarantine is over, our life  really isn’t much different, because we continue our isolation, except for the rare excursions to pick up needed supplies.
    It doesn’t help much that the early spring hasn’t much to offer except rain, slush, ice, and mud.  There is an urge to be outside as the temperatures become milder, but besides our walk with the dog, there is little for us to do out there until the snow disappears.  So I read, watch TV, and play the guitar, and wonder when, or if, life will ever get back to the way they used to be.

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Saturday 28 March 2020

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

    As you might expect the McBride Library Book Club is no longer meeting due to the Corona Virus.  Instead we sent in our book reviews by email and will share them that way.  Our reading theme for March was Books by Irish writers.  Here is my review of Brooklyn by Colm Toibin:

              I enjoyed the movie based on this novel and was curious as to what the book was like.  The storyline is set in the early 1950’s and is centered around Eilis, a young lady living in Ireland with her mother and Rose, her vibrant older sister. Eilis who has had some education in accounting, took a job in a food store run by a grumpy and eccentric woman.  Her salary helps support her family. 
      Rose, the attractive older sister is also a popular working girl, and spends most of her free time playing golf, while Eilis is more of a homebody.  Unexpected an Irish priest from America visits the family and speaks of the good job Eilis could get if she would move to Brooklyn.  
      To Eilis the visit seems like a setup engineered by Rose and her mother, and soon find herself preparing for the move, although deep inside she doesn’t want to go.   The novel does a wonderful job of describing the horrendous five days that Eilis endures on her voyage to America, racked with sea sickness, and confined to her small third class cabin in the bowels of the ocean liner. 
       Once she arrives the priest collects her, finds her a room in an all women’s boarding house, and a job as a sales person in a woman’s clothing store. Slowly Eilis adapts to her new life, until a handful of letters from home throws her into a severe bout of homesickness.  Again the priest comes to her rescue by enrolling her in night school. 
              When Eilis meets Tony, a really nice Italian boy at a Catholic dance, a romance begins which immediately wipes away her homesickness.  Although she really likes the boy, he quickly falls head over heels in love with her and talks of marriage, something which Eilis isn’t ready for.  
                Shortly after Eilis gets her business degree, she is informed that her sister Rose had suddenly died, and she makes plans to travel back to Ireland to temporarily help her grieving mother, but before she can leave, she is pressured by Tony, who is afraid of losing her, into a secret marriage.
              Once back in Ireland she quickly readjusts to life there and starts falling in love with an old acquaintance.   She tells no one of her marriage, but the gossipy-old-lady grapevine reaches across the Atlantic and Eilis is faced with a hard decision before the news becomes publicly known.
       I really liked the way the storyline dwelled on the inner thoughts of Eilis during all of her trials and tribulations.  It was a very descriptive and well written novel. 

You can see my photo-realistic paintings at:

Friday 27 March 2020

Back to Using Our Old Stove

    Back on my Jan. 29th blog I mentioned that our old range had started giving us error messages about it’s fan failing, and that we had bought a new stove to replace it.  Well, our new Fridgidaire Induction Gallery stove was a disaster. (That is it sitting in the foreground of the photo above.)  Our initial excitement at having a new expensive  stove was quickly dampened as we began to use it.
    We would set the temperature, say 400, the stove’s display would show the temperature rising in increments, then beep when it said 400.  We would put the pizza, or whatever it was that we were cooking in the oven, but we discovered that even though it was something we had made thousands of times, it wouldn’t get done.
    We then began to put a thermometer in the oven and discovered that the actual oven temperature was never what it said on the display.  The actual oven temperature could be out by anywhere between 10 and 40 degrees.  This would happen whatever we tried to bake. 
    We were extremely unhappy after paying such a huge price for something we thought would give us a precise temperature.
    We called our local hardware store where we had purchased the range, and they sent a guy with technology experience out to check it.  He had us record what was happening for two weeks, which we did. 
    Every time we used it, the oven temperature was wonky.  If you needed 400 and the oven said 400, but our thermometer in the oven said 360, we would turn off the oven, and set it at 450 to try and get an actual 400 temperature.  When the oven was turned off then turned on again, the display would instantly give us the actual 360 temperature that was in the oven.  We were full of frustration and anger.
    We finally gave up on our new range and moved it out of the kitchen.  Luckily we still had our old Samsung stove with the fan error, and we moved it back into the kitchen to use.  It would sometimes give the fan error message and turn off, but at least it gave us the correct temperature that we needed in the oven.
    Yesterday the hardware store came and picked up the Fridgidaire range and gave us our money back.  I don’t know why it didn’t work correctly.  Was it made on a Friday afternoon?  Was it damaged in transit? or was it just a lemon?  The model had gotten good reviews, but it sure didn’t work for us.  We were very happy to see it being driven away on the back of the hardware store pickup.

You can view my photo-realistic paintings at:

Thursday 26 March 2020

Building Clouds

    I always enjoy seeing dramatic cloud formations building over the mountains.  Here are two shots I took the other day.

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Wednesday 25 March 2020

Memories of Bob Elliott: Fish

    Bob loved to fish, and seemed interested when I told him about the pond I was having dug.  A couple of years later, I was surprised one weekend afternoon when he stopped by the house.  He had been out fishing and had a gift for me:  several “whitefish,”a couple of “Suckers”  and a couple of trout; all alive.  He had caught them and he brought them so that I could put them into my pond.  I didn't really know anything about these fish, all I had ever put in my pond where just some shiners: minnow sized fish.
    We put them into the pond, and years passed.  I had assumed they had all died because I never saw any sign of them.  Nothing ever jumped out of the water to catch an insect, and I never saw any eagle swoop down to grab a fish, or see any big fish dart away in the clear water of my pond, but despite their invisibility, some of them were still in there living.
    A decade or so later, I was surprised on two different occasions to see one of Bob's fish in the pond.  One was dead and floating near the shore, and the other was alive and under the water near our waterline outflow (See photo).  I am not sure if anymore are still in there or not, but I often think of Bob unexpectedly bringing them over for my pond.
    These are the memories of Bob Elliot that I carry around.  I'm sure there are many more that will resurface in the future.  I really enjoyed knowing and working with him throughout the years.

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Tuesday 24 March 2020

Memories of Bob Elliott: Forest Service

    After recovering from my broken wrist, I was fortunate to leave Far West behind and get a government job making maps at the local BC Forest Service office.  After five or more years at the job, I was surprised to discover that Bob had begun working there too.  By this time, instead of drawing maps, the Ministry of Forests had me timber cruising.  That meant going out into the forests, bush-whacking compass lines through the bush, periodically stopping to measure the diameter and height of trees, and looking them over for indicators of potential rot.  For this job I needed a helper, and Bob was usually that helper.
    We spent hours together, tramping or snowshoeing through unexplored forested areas, often getting there by ATV's (All Terrain Vehicles), helicopters, or snowmobiles.  In those ancient times an ATV was not a “Quad,” but a motorized three wheeled “Trike”.  Bob was a “motor-head” and loved being on snowmobiles and trikes, I was not and depended a lot on Bob's knowledge of the vehicles to get to our timber cruising areas.  
    I especially remember one excursion on trikes out on the Goat River Forest Road.  Bob, who was very comfortable on the machines, gunned out in front, and timid me, lagged behind, but I had reason too, because for some reason the trike that I was on kept pulling to the right, forcing me to really hold it to keep it on the road.  The big reason for my concern was that their was a steep drop off on the right side of the rough logging road.  
    At one point, I lost control of the trike it veered sharply to the slope, luckily I was able to jump off, but the trike went over, coming to rest about 10 feet below against a big log that on the slope.  I don't remember how Bob and I managed to get the trike back up on the road, but it took most of the day and a lot of grunting and pushing.  Once we had recovered it, we didn't really have time to do any timber cruising, so we loaded the trikes back onto the trailer and drove back to the office.
    Another memorable day with Bob was when we were timber cruising an area way out McKale River.  It was a miserable cold rainy day.  We both had our rain gear on, but still all the measuring and recording of gathered information on the cruise card with our bare, wet hands, made for a really terrible experience.  Our misery was compounded because the cedar forest was thickly covered with Devil's Club.  Devil's Club is a horrible plant covered with tiny thorns, that stick into you, then fester.  These Devil's Club were as tall as we were and it was extremely uncomfortable to have to plow our way through the wet spiny plants to do our job.
    When we had finished our day's work, we were far from our truck, and I remember how cold, wet, and chilled we were fighting our way through the Devil's Club to get finally get to the refuge of our Forestry Truck.
    A third memory I have doing forestry work with Bob took in the winter.  We were checking for Spruce Bark Beetle out in the Goat Drainage.  We were flown to the area by helicopter, and there wasn't a good place to drop us off, but we were finally put down beside the in a narrow spot beside the river.  It was not a great day, overcast and slightly snowing.  The pilot told us he would pick us up in the same spot at 2:30 then took off.
    Bob and I spent the day snowshoeing through the slopes of the forest looking for small holes on the bark of spruce trees where the beetles had bored through the bark.  By the time we made it back to the helicopter pick-up area, the weather had really deteriorated.  It had darkened quite a bit with a rain-snow coming down, and a much lower cloud cover.  
    The helicopter didn't come to get us at 2:30 because of the deteriorating weather conditions and after about 45 minutes we were giving up hope that it would be able to make it at all.  We decided that  we might have to spend the night, so we began to build a fire. 
    As evening approached and the sky continued to darken, it was with great relief to then hear the far off thumping of the helicopter approaching through the cloud and then landing.  Bob and I took off our snowshoes, scrambled into the chopper, and were off, very relieved that we wouldn't have to spend a cold soggy night huddled around a sputtering fire.
    On another winter day Bob and I where flown by helicopter to check on a cruise on the high slope of a mountain in Castle Creek.  The helicopter couldn't find a level place to land, so finally just found an open spot on slight  slope and hovered and told us to get out there.  I was the first one out, I opened the door, stepped down to the helicopter's running board, then jumped down to the snow below.  The snow was very powdery and I sunk up to my hips.  As I floundered, Bob threw me my snowshoes and I struggled to get them on.  Then he had to go through the same procedure.
    We spent the whole day out snowshoeing and working our way downward through the cruise area checking on the cruise plots.  Luckily at the bottom of the area there was an area where the helicopter could easily land and pick us up.  I am sure Bob felt the same relief that I did to see and hear it coming over the mountain after a hard day of slogging through the deep snow.

More Bob tomorrow

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Monday 23 March 2020

Memories of Bob Elliott: Far West Cedar

    A couple of days ago I was saddened to hear of the death of Bob Elliott, a guy I always liked and someone with whom I had spent many a day working with.  I first met Bob in 1978, after moving to McBride. 
    At the time I didn't have a job, and when my unemployment insurance ran out, in desperation I took a job at Far West, a local mill that split cedar for rail fences.  It was rumored to be a very unsafe place to work, but I was desperate and applied, and they hired me right off.  I vowed to myself safe and be very conscientious about safety.   Bob's father owned the mill and Bob and his brother were the supervisors.  Bob was the most “human” of the mill's management.  
    While I worked at Far West, co-workers lost fingers and hands, I tried to stay whole by only doing jobs that seemed safe, but in 1980 the mill lived up to its reputation and I had my accident;  falling from a bundled load of fence posts onto the concrete floor, breaking my wrist.
    Looking back on the experience now, I realize that it was probably Bob that caused the accident, since the mill was out of the regular metal binding straps which I used to secure the bundles of fence posts.  Bob brought me some thinner metal straps, telling me they were just as strong, and that I should tighten the bundle up, just like I always did.  That is what I was doing, cinching up the strapping, when the strapping broke,  sending me tumbling to the floor.
    Anyway Bob came to my rescue and  drove me to the hospital.  By the time I got to the hospital I was starting to go into shock.  I climbed out of the pickup and told Bob I thought I was going to faint.  He came over and put his arms around me to support me, but then I did pass out, falling to the ground,.  He later told me he wasn't prepared for how heavy my dead weight was, but he helped pick me up from the snow-covered hospital parking lot, and maneuver me into the wheel chair that the hospital staff had brought.
    Despite this rather negative story featuring Bob, he was a friendly, gregarious, “good ol' boy” type person who I always liked.  
    I will have some other stories of Bob tomorrow.

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Sunday 22 March 2020

Robins: The Second Sign of Spring

    Yesterday I blogged about seeing and hearing some Canada Geese, which were the first sign I had of Spring.  The photo was a complete failure.   Today I am showing you the second sign of Spring that I have seen:  A robin.  
    I thought when I took this photo it would also be a disaster because I was trying to prevent Lexi from pulling on the leash while I was holding the camera, and I was using the zoom lens which requires a steady hand, and my hand was shaking all over the place, but amazingly the photo turned out spectacularly well.  There was a group of about 20 Robins perching in the aspen trees along Jervis Road last evening as we walked the dog.  
    I am not sure what they are eating, because most of the ground is still snow covered, and what isn’t is frozen.

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Saturday 21 March 2020

A Flock of Geese (and Snow Blindness)

    Yesterday afternoon as I was taking Lexi for a walk down Horseshoe Lake Road, I was excited to hear the honking of a flock of geese. “ Wow”, I thought, “finally a sign of Spring.”  
    As I tried to manage Lexi on her leash, I grabbed for my camera to record the flock as they flew toward me.  I fumbled to get my camera out, put it to my eye, but when I looked through the viewfinder, I realized there was a problem.  All I could see was darkness.
    My eyes had adapted to the very bright glare of the sunshine on all of the snow that surrounded me, and when my eye looked through the view finder, compared to my surroundings, it just wasn’t bright enough for me to see anything.  
    By this time the flock of geese had flown over me and were heading off, but I thought, “What the hell,” and I just aimed my camera where I thought the geese might be and snapped a photo.

    As you can see from the photo above, my aim was off and I didn’t get any geese in the shot, but still I was happy to have heard and seen the early returning geese.

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Friday 20 March 2020

Snow Drifts

    I mentioned in an earlier blog that this winter it seemed that we got a lot more snow drifts than usual.  That belief was amplified the other day when I drove down a section of Jervis Road that I normally don’t take.  The road was restricted and very narrow because of the drifts and the snowdrifts themselves were higher than the roof of our car.  Obviously this section of the road beside an open field experienced a lot of steady and powerful gusts of wind.
    I have also mentioned in some previous blogs that the desire for snow that I had earlier in the winter has been more than sated, and now I want it to go away, the sooner, the better.

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Thursday 19 March 2020

Money Laundering

    The previous Provincial Government allowed BC to become one of the top money laundering places on earth.  Fortunately steps are now being taken to eliminate that distinction.  All that being said, we did a bit of money laundering ourselves the other day.  
    While we are quarantining, our friends have been good enough to do grocery shopping for us.  We needed to repay them, but just in case we were infected with something, we washed some money so that it wouldn’t be passing on any infection to them.  This was easy enough because the Canadian bills are made of plastic and are easily cleaned with soapy water.
    While I am on the subject of soapy water; I didn’t realize until recently just how effective soapy water is for killing viruses.  Viruses have a layer of fat on their surface and soapy water cuts through that layer and can kill the virus.  This is more effective than many of the “antiseptic” hand cleaners, that don’t have more than 70% alcohol in them, so you are much better off washing your hands than rubbing those products on them.

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Wednesday 18 March 2020

With A Little Help From My Friends

    Self-quarantining can present some supply problems, because you are always running out of things you need.  We are very fortunate that we have generous friends to help us out.  We didn’t even have to ask, they contacted us to see if they could help us.  The photo shows Norma carefully maneuvering our icy sidewalk carrying a box of groceries she picked up for us.
    Besides Norma, we have gotten other deliveries from David and Lyuba, and also from Abi.  It’s wonderful to have such good people as friends.

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Tuesday 17 March 2020

Covid-19: McBride Library is Closing

    Since it moved to its new location, the McBride Library has become the social hub of our community.  Last year the library registered 96 new members for a total of 729 active patrons,  That is an amazing 44% of  our population.  For me, the library’s monthly Book Club, and the Tuesday Night Jam are things I most look forward to attending.  The Jam is always the high point of my week. 
    Since returning last week from a trip to the US, we have been in a 14 day self-quarantine, so just in case we had picked up the Covid-19 virus, we wouldn’t be inadvertently spreading it around the Valley.  For the most part, it is life as usual for us, since we spend most of our life at home anyway, but it sure did bother me that I was going to miss this week’s jam session, having already missed last week’s.  
    Last night I received word that because of the corona virus, the McBride Library would be closed temporarily so they wouldn’t be involved in spreading the disease.  This certainly made it easier for me, knowing that no matter how much I was tempted to go, it really wasn’t going to happen, because the library would be closed anyway. 

You can see my photo-realistic paintings at:

Monday 16 March 2020

Isolation Walks

    Even though we are self-isolating ourselves, our dog Lexi still demands her daily afternoon walk.  That is not really a problem around here because Horseshoe Lake, where we generally walk is almost always devoid of other people.  Other people do go there with their dogs, but we rarely see them and the fact that other dogs have been there gives Lexi a lot of scents to explore.
    I liked the cattails sticking up in the snow in this photo, and the really blue color of the mountains.

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Sunday 15 March 2020

Six Days Until Spring

    I know I spend a lot of time ranting about the weather, but come on, its just six days until Spring arrives, and look at the temperature; -26C (-15F).  There is still probably 20 inches (50cm) of snow on the ground.
    It is time for me to germinate my tomatoes and chili seeds and yesterday I had to shovel away a foot of snow and chip away another 3 inches of ice so that I could open the greenhouse door so that I could get some potting soil.  
    I will try to end on a positive note by saying that even though I can see no sign of Spring, at least we have a very bright sunny day.  

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Frost Heave Door

    Look at my “all out of whack” door to my barn, now it is hanging on only one hinge.   There is a little concrete pad under the porch and the frost expanded the soil beneath it which pushed up on one side of the door with such force that it ripped two of the hinges out of the wooden frame that held the door.
    In previous winters the frost pushed up, preventing the door from easily being opened or closed, and so I took a chainsaw and sliced off the bottom of the door so that it would open, but this year the frost heave is greater and seem to be mostly on one side.
    I guess I have yet another job to do when (and if) Spring ever arrives.

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Friday 13 March 2020

Self Quarantine

    Having just returned from an international visit, we have been self quarantining upon our return.  I feel fine, but the Corona Virus will infect others for a while before you come down with any symptoms.  British Columbia is advising people who have just returned from an international visit to self quarantine for 14 days, so I guess we are avoiding people for a while.  
    We did a lot of hand washing at airports, but it was impossible to stay away from crowds of people.  It is interesting to watch how quickly the Corona Virus has spread across the world, and I hope it will stay out of our little village.

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Thursday 12 March 2020

Back to Snow and Winter

    We just got back from a mini-vacation, spending a week among daffodils and Spring temperatures.   We were hoping to see some signs of Spring in the Robson Valley upon our return home.  It was not to be, in fact we were shocked to see more snow on the ground than when we had left. 
    The photo that was meant to show all the extra snow doesn’t really demonstrate what I was trying to show.  Although it doesn’t look like it in the photo, the “bank” of snow beyond the car is a 7 foot (2.1 meter) pile of snow created by clearing a narrow road at the Slim Creek Rest Area.  
    If all the extra snow wasn’t enough of a welcome, Mother Nature has arranged temperatures of -25C (-13F) for tomorrow night.
       Not much of a welcome.

Tuesday 3 March 2020

Dog Central

    We normally do our afternoon dog walk at Horseshoe Lake.  We walk down Horseshoe Lake Road where there is no traffic, and no other dogs.  Things were sure different yesterday.  There were two ladies also walking their old black dog down the road, which made Lexi excited, although as soon as she had her sniff she was ready to move on.
    However, the big difference yesterday was that there were two people out on the lake with a pack of dogs, all running and frolicking on the ice.  They seemed to be having a good time in the wide open expanse.
    While it was interesting to see all the dog activity, hopefully today being a weekday, things will be back to its quiet solitary normal.

Note:  I will be taking a week-long break from doing this blog, so there won’t be anything new to see until March 12 or 13.

You can see my paintings at:

Monday 2 March 2020

Winter Weary

    The trouble with winters in the interior of BC is that they just last too long.  At this point in the season I am getting pretty tired of all of the gray and white scenery.  I want to see some signs of spring.  We are getting some days that are above freezing which cause some melting, but then, like today, we wake up to a new snowfall.  Fortunately it is not a big one, but still, it’s more snow and we already have enough.
    The amount of daylight is increasing and that is a good sign, but we are still in the winter mode.

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Sunday 1 March 2020

Seedy Saturday, 2020

    Yesterday I drove out to Dunster to attend the area’s annual Seedy Saturday event.  Gardeners from around the Robson Valley gather to attend workshops about gardening and exchange ideas and stories about the subject.   I have always found the event both interesting and helpful and yesterdays kept the same high standard.
    There were talks on wild foraging, soup stocks, growing celery, and using raised beds, but I found the talk on biochar the most intriguing.  Biochar (charcoal) is a recently discovered benefit to food growing.  I first heard about it around 2007 when I read the book “1491” that described what North America was like before it was infected by Europeans.  It discussed recent archeological discoveries in the Amazon that totally changed the known history of the region.  
    The book showed that there were large settlements of people living in the jungle, something that was thought to be impossible because of the dependence on “slash and burn” agriculture that limited populations to small mobile groups.  The discovery of black biochar laden soils that could be farmed year after year changed not only history, but also modern agriculture.
    Just up the road from where I live there is a company that is producing biochar and yesterday’s talk on the subject was given by their engineer.  Biochar can be made from any organic matter and it is a very eco-friendly procedure that seals 50% of the carbon in the resulting charcoal and captures most of the rest that can be used for other products, so very little escapes into the atmosphere.
    Added to a garden, biochar prevents nutrients to be lost in the soil,  holds moisture in sandy soils, and air in clay soils.  Tests have shown it to really makes plants grow better.

   I wrote a blog about biochar in 2012: 

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