Thursday 30 April 2020

Trading One Problem For Another

    Our property is largely heavy clay.  Over the years we have had to put several loads of gravel on our driveway because over time the gravel slowly sinks and disappears into the clay.  It has been a while since our last load of gravel, and last summer’s constant rain turned parts of the drive into goop.   As the snow melted this spring, the runoff water again permeated our driveway, causing the clayey goop to return.  I figured it was time that I get more gravel on the driveway.
    I knew that you shouldn’t put gravel on when the surface is still gooey, so I waited until the surface dried out and got hard.  Then yesterday I saw the gravel truck go up the road, so I got in the car and followed him the couple of miles to the cement “plant”.  The owner, who was driving the truck said he would deliver the gravel right away, which he did; two giant truckloads.   He spread it the whole length of the driveway.
    The “gravel” is really a mixture of sand and different sizes of rock (a mixture like what is used in making concrete) that had been taken from a sandbank along the river.  I spent a lot of time, until I was worn out, raking the gravel to try and even it out.  Then last night it rained, it rained heavily.  This morning I commented that it was good that I had gotten the gravel because otherwise all the sticky clay  on our driveway would have turned to mud.
    I was a bit premature in being optimistic, because the rain totally saturated the sand/gravel that now coated my driveway, and when I went outside the morning and walked on it,  my boots sank into a  slurry that was now my driveway.  It has the texture of very soupy cement before it dries.
    In a perfect world, I would have had time to drive over the mixture many times to try in make it more stable, but all this rain nixed that.  It will take some time for the mixture to settle and dry, and until it does I think my driveway is going to be a mess, not muddy, but still a mess.  By getting the gravel before a heavy rain, I just traded one problem for another.

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Wednesday 29 April 2020

The Problem With Sunsets

    Every time I notice that we have a colorful sunset going on, I rush outside with my camera to take a photo, and every time I try to take such a photo, I encounter the same problem:  The huge difference in contrast between the bright light of the sunset and the darkness of the landscape below it that is shaded by the mountains.  The automatic light adjustment on the camera just can’t handle the subtle gradients of the light between the two.  It either wants to adjust to the sky, which makes the landscape too dark, or adjust to the landscape, which makes the sky so light and washes out all of the color of the sunset.
    I know there are ways to deal with this problem, but being lazy, I usually just aim at the sky so I get the color, then holding the shutter button half down (which locks in that adjustment) I lower the camera to get everything I want in the photo, and fully press the shutter button.  This of course makes the landscape way too dark, but I always live in hope that I can play around with the photo on the computer to try to lighten and bring out the details of the landscape.  In the photo above I really couldn’t do as much to the landscape which is still too dark.
    If I had more patience, I could take a photo of the sky, then staying in the same place take a photo of the landscape, then merge the two photos in Photoshop, but like I said, I am pretty lazy, so I just make myself be satisfied with what I can do quickly.

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Tuesday 28 April 2020

Moss On Aspen Bark

Here are some more photos of moss, this time on Aspen bark.  They are little islands of green.

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Monday 27 April 2020

Peek-A-Boo Peaks

    Yesterday as we were walking Lexi, the mountain peaks of the Cariboos were playing hide and seek with the billowing clouds.  They were there sticking above the clouds, then they were gone.  It was an ever changing game.  I really liked the combination of solid rock and snow mixed with the etherial softness of the clouds.  Here are some shots:

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Sunday 26 April 2020

Moss Season

    I have always loved mosses and during this cool moist season before the other plants take over everything, the mosses have time to thrive.  Here are two photos of the moss that is growing on one of the planks on the path we have around the pond.

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Saturday 25 April 2020

Backlit Pussy Willows

    I really like the photo above, even though it was the result of an unintentional accident.  I was shooting into the sun and was getting glare on the camera lens, so I put my hand in front of the camera to block out the sun and took the shot.  I didn’t mean to get part of my hand into the photo, but I did and I like the result of having the unexpected color in the picture. 
    Below is another photo of backlit pussy willows silhouetted against a blue sky.

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Friday 24 April 2020

Raindrop On A Lupine Leaf

    Here is another image that I can never pass up.  It is a raindrop cradled in a Lupine leaf.  The Lupines are just starting to emerge after our long winter, and something about their leaf structure keeps the droplets intact.  They always look like a jewel in a setting to me.

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Thursday 23 April 2020

Pond: Almost Ice Free

    One of the markers of Spring that I always look forward to is the melting of ice on my pond.  As you can see in the photo, we are almost there.  It seems like this year winter dragged on forever, but I checked and was surprised that last year the pond only melted a week earlier.  In 2015 it had melted on March 27th, so I don’t always have to wait this long.
    It is such a joy to see the open water reflecting the sky, see the aquatic plants growing beneath the water, watch the tiny fish darting around, and have the ducks return to glide across the surface.  Building the pond has been on of the most rewarding things I have done in my life.

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Wednesday 22 April 2020

The Sad 50th Anniversary of Earth Day

    So here it is 50 years since April 22 was designated as “Earth Day”.  It was created to celebrate and appreciate this isolated rock that gives us life, twirling in the enormous void of space.  I participated in that first Earth Day.  At the time, I was full of hope that humankind would finally see how extremely important this home of ours is and would start doing things to help save it (and us).
   The environmental movement was very much in its infancy back in the very late 1960’s.  You didn’t hear much about nature sciences,  but I was extremely interested, and after returning home from Peace Corp training, I enrolled in two biology graduate courses:  “Evolution” and “Ecology”.  It was in 1970 when I was taking Ecology, that I began hearing about the proposed “Earth Day”.  
    My professor was motivated to organize a Earth Day celebration at the University of Evansville.  I helped with the event, and somehow convinced my mother to sew up an “Ecology” flag, that could be flown during the celebration.  I had seen an image of the flag somewhere and drew it up for her to use as a pattern.  As you can see, I still have the flag (Photo).  It is something you don’t see any more.  It never really caught on as a symbol.  There is an “Earth Flag” that is a bit more common now.
    Back then there was some reason to be hopeful.  Even most Republicans seemed to be on the same page.  President Nixon after all, set up the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), but Big Oil had another agenda and began secretly pouring money into a disinformation campaign attacking science.  It was wildly successful, and that encouraged other extraction industries to do the same.
    Now a huge segment of the US no longer believes in science, instead believing in Trump, Alex Jones, Fox News, and Russian Hackers.   “Everything is fine, we can go on living like this forever,” they exclaim, anything else is “fake news.”
    Any rational person that objectively looks around at what is happening to our planet, can plainly see reality.  Fifty years after its creation, Earth Day has become a sad reminder of our failings.
    Sorry, I try to stay away from politics on this blog, but ever so often I just have to vent.

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Tuesday 21 April 2020

Felling Trees

    I hate felling a tree.  I hate it on two counts; first philosophically because I love trees and want to preserve them, and secondly, it is such a dangerous operation, but because we burn firewood for heat, I sometimes have to do it.  Because this is a logging community and there is usually a huge amount of waste that results in industrial logging and in the past I would just go to a logged out area and saw up the trees that were laying around that were still useable for firewood.  I would still like to be able to do that but there aren’t that many cutblocks close at hand any more, and those that are have already been stripped by others looking for firewood.
    We do own the piece of property on the mountain slope across the road from our house, and I have noticed that some of birch (the best firewood) have dead tops.  This is a sign that the the trees are slowly dying and their wood will soon turn punky and become useless, so I decided to cut some of them down for firewood.
    I am not a very skilled faller with a chainsaw, but I managed to get 5 of the trees down where I wanted them, and only have one hang up on another tree.  I didn’t de-branch the trees, I will just let them lie for a month.  Even though they are sawed off they will probably try to leaf out.  This will draw some of the water out of the trunk and should help the drying out of the eventual firewood once I buck them up.
    Like I said, I hate sawing down trees, but I rationalize the operation because I do need the wood, and these trees were starting to die and rot anyway.  Below is a photo of a birch whose top is dying.

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Monday 20 April 2020

More Mountain Blue Birds

    Every time we have been out taking our walks on Jervis Road we have been seeing Mountain Blue Birds flitting around.  They tend to keep their distance from us, and every time I get close enough to take a photo and get my camera in focus, off they fly.  I did manage to get a couple of nice shots though.

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Sunday 19 April 2020

Jackets by the Side of the Road

    Maybe we are going to have a Spring after all.  Yesterday when we went on our afternoon walk, as soon as we got out of the car we got so warm and realized that we didn’t need to be wearing our jackets, so we took them off and piled them on the side of the road.  
    Of course as soon as we got away from the sheltering influence of the trees, we were chilled by a coolish wind that was blowing across the fields, but we toughed it out and completed our walk without our jackets.
    On our way back Lexi spotted the pile of jackets on the side of the road, and was alarmed by the unfamiliar and unsuspected object, so she made a wide berth around them.  
    Despite the coolish wind (we ought to be used to that by now) it was a glorious day to be out enjoying the beauty of our surroundings.

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Saturday 18 April 2020

Peeking Into Other People's Houses

    If you have TV shows that you regularly watch, there are probably people on those shows that you sort of feel like you know.  One of the unexpected results of the Covid-19 pandemic is that a lot of those people are now doing their broadcasts from inside of their homes.  I have found it very interesting to be able to catch a glimpse of what the inside of their homes are like.
    I took this shot of the Shields and Brooks on Friday’s segment of the PBS Newshour.  Mark Shield has a lot of paintings or photographs on his wall, while David Brooks’ room features a tall shelf full of books.  Below is a shot from in home interviews from the Bill Mayer show.  Others seem to be living in pretty sterile looking environments with nothing of interest to see, but maybe its just the room they have chosen to broadcast from.   I feel like these glimpses of the interior of TV celebrity’s homes give an added depth into their real personality.

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Friday 17 April 2020

A Long Billed Curlew

    It was an extremely pleasurable walk we took down Jervis Road the other evening.  It was mild, peaceful, and beautiful, but the walk became even more pleasurable because there is very little traffic on nearby Hwy. 16 and as a result it was very quiet.   Far off in the distance we could hear a “cur-lee” sounding call from what we assumed were birds.  We didn’t know what they were.
    We then saw a bird fly across Jervis Road to the field closer to us, but still from our distance we couldn’t really discern what kind of bird it was.  When we got back to the car to drive home, the bird was still there in the field and I took this photo.  It wasn’t until I got home and downloaded the picture onto the computer and enlarged it that I could see it’s very long thin beak, and that finally made me realize it was a curlew, and after looking at some of my bird books I finally came to the conclusion that is was a Long Billed Curlew.
    I had heard that curlews were around in the Robson Valley, but I had never seen one.  They are the largest of the shore birds, but they seem to prefer fields to shorelines.  They eat insects and build their nests on the ground in the weeds.

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Thursday 16 April 2020

A Favorite Scene

    The days in the Robson Valley are beginning to really stretch out, so yesterday we took an early evening walk down Jervis Road.  It was peaceful and beautiful, and although I have taken hundreds of photos of the field and old homestead farm with the Cariboo Mountains creating a dramatic background, I just couldn’t help but take yet another shot of one of my favorite Valley scenes.  That is the snow covered peaks of the Raush Valley that you can see jutting up in the gulf between the closest mountains on the left and the right of the photo.
    Being a very color-oriented person, I was attracted by those deep blue mountains with the pristine white snow covered tops, contrasting with the near-golden fields, and accented with the red dabs of the abandoned farm buildings.  If you look very closely you might be able to make out two specks in the lower right side of the  field, those are two white-tailed deer that scampered off when we drove in to park the car.

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Wednesday 15 April 2020

The Horses Are Back

    With all of this disruption in our lives, it is good to every once and a while see some continuity with the way things used to be.  Yesterday on our walk down Horseshoe Lake Road we were happy to see that the herd of horses had been returned to the pasture.  There doesn’t seem to be any green grass there yet, but they were accompanied with a pile of hay.  Despite this, most seemed to prefer to nibble on last year’s brown grass.

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Tuesday 14 April 2020

Working My Way Through the Jam Book

    Today is Tuesday, usually the day I look forward to the most, because that is the day we have our jam at the library (at least we used to).  All the isolation and sheltering has put an end to that, but I still have a tremendous urge to do play, plus I can tell I am getting rusty playing and singing without that weekly jam.  In an attempt to hang on to what musical abilities I have, I have been working my way through the jam book.
    It is a whole lot easier doing the songs with other people playing and singing along, than it is just playing on my own, but we play with the cards we are dealt, and hope sometime in the future things will return to some variation of normalcy.  I guess until that happens I will be soloing in my room.
    Below is a copy of the index of the songs our jam play.

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Monday 13 April 2020

Winter Mice Works

    There are a lot of mice that call the Robson Valley, “Home”.  Like most people I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about them unless we get one in our house, but they are always out there doing their thing, even in the winter.  Then they spend their time living and working away under the snow.  
    When the snow melts, if you look around, you can see what they were up to.  The photo above shows that some of them were making meals out of Aspen bark.  When they weren’t eating, they spent time making a web of tunnels under the snow.  The photo below shows one of the warrens they constructed.
    Mice are an extremely important part of the food chain for a lot of animals, especially during the winter.  I was fortunate late one afternoon to watch a Great Gray Owl swoop down to the snow, then carefully listen, then pounce, digging its claws into the snow to capture and eat a mouse that was working under the snow.  Mice are always a vital food for coyotes.

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Sunday 12 April 2020

Distant Socialiing

    Is everyone hunkered down out there?  We have been for a month now.  I think I have mentioned before that despite all the new restrictions our lives haven’t really changed that much, except for the few regular socializing that we used to do.  
    I have noticed though that I have been doing more socializing on the telephone, email, and FaceTime.  I have been communicating with friends, some of whom I haven’t had any contact with for decades.  I have been emailing with a fellow “radical” I went to university with, and I talked on the phone to the lead guitarist and one time roommate that I had when I was in a rock and roll band and doing my alternative service as a conscientious objector.
    It is enjoyable to re-awakening those long dormant brain cells, as I have been catching up with the lives of old friends.  Breaking all of this isolation is sure made easier and quicker with all the technology that is now available to us.
    It is not just far away friends I have been communicating with.  I have FaceTimed with friends who live in Alberta, who spend their summers in McBride, and even friends that live here year round that we would normally just call on the phone.  It is nice to be able to see their faces as we catch up again after being isolated by social distancing.  

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Saturday 11 April 2020

First Mountain Blue Bird

    Yesterday we were out walking Lexi on Jervis Road and we saw our first Mountain Blue Bird of the season.  We watched it fly from an Aspen then hoover over a spot in the field, and while I fumbled to get my camera out, it had already moved off into the distance.
    I have always had trouble photographing Blue Birds, but last year I did finally did get a descent photo, and I will show you that below.  Since we saw yesterday's bird in the same spot, last year's photo may well be the same bird.  They are amazingly beautiful and we look forward to catching a sight of  them each spring.

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Friday 10 April 2020

Teepee By The River

    There is something classically appealing with seeing a teepee in a wilderness-like setting.  This teepee is not really in a wilderness, but it appears that way unless you look closely.  We are treated to this scene every time we drive back from town.  The teepee has been up all winter long, although it looked pretty windblown after a couple of wind storms.
    I also liked the fact that in this photo I was able to capture some of the Canada Geese that are still hanging around the narrow open part of the Fraser River.  Hopefully the warmer daytime temperatures forecast for this week will open more water and fields to them, so they can fuel up and continue their migration northward.

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Thursday 9 April 2020

Daffodils Sprout Through the Snow

    I was surprised yesterday to see these Daffodil sprouting through the snow.  What surprised me was the fact that it hasn’t really been that warm yet, particularly under the snow.  I always assume that it is the temperature that triggers plants to sprout.
    Then I remembered what was said at a talk I attended at the museum last year about some alpine plants.  The speaker told us that some plants sprout on certain days because of day length no matter what the temperature is or how much snow is on laying on top of them.  They can still sense the daylight even under the snow.  
    I’m thinking that must be the case with these Daffodils.  The bulbs have been laying dormant under 2 feet (60cm) of snow most of the winter, and that snow has not totally melted away to show bare ground.  They must have sensed that it was time, and sprouted even though some snow was still covering them.
    It always gives me such hope after the long winter to actually see plants begin to show themselves in anticipation of a new growing season.

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Wednesday 8 April 2020

Tree Wells

    See the hole formed around this fence post.  That is called a “tree well” (although technically this one should be called a “post well”).  Tree wells can be very dangerous and even fatal to skiers, snowshoers, and hikers, if they accidentally fall into a deep one under a tree.  Up in the mountains in really deep snow, tree wells can be up to 20 ft (6m) deep.
    Every year in North America people die when they fall into deep tree wells and can’t climb out.  Often in such accidents the victim falls in head first and can be knocked unconscious by the tree trunk or striking the bottom.  Other times the banks of the tree wells are just too steep and slippery for the victim to climb out of.  Another hazard is that in their attempts to climb out, victims sometimes loosen the snow on the sides causing the surrounding snow to collapse on them, which can result in their suffocation.
    In an experiment 90% of the volunteers could not climb out of a tree well.  
    The tree well in the photo is only a foot deep (30cm) so it presents no problem, and I think it is beautiful with it’s graceful curves, but in deep snow they can be extremely dangerous to those that aren’t aware of the potential danger they can create.

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Tuesday 7 April 2020

A Tiny Patch of Snow-Free Lawn

    I’m sure everyone is getting tired of me complaining about how slowly Spring is coming to the Robson Valley this year, but just look at my lawn(?).  The only grass that can be seen is the little strip along our driveway, beside our sidewalk, and under the willow tree.  The rest of the yard still has a foot (30cm) of snow covering it.  
    I remembered one April when I planted my peas during the first week of April.  As you can see in the photo below, this year I can’t even see the soil yet.  
    Once in a conversation with a friend who had taken a trip to Turkey, she mentioned that every day the weather there was exactly the same; hot and sunny.  In such a place, I would have nothing to complain about, let alone blog about.  Fortunately I live in a place where I can always start an animated  conversation by complaining about the weather.

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Monday 6 April 2020

Pussy Willows

    Even though the temperatures still seem to be in the Winter mode, the plants and birds of the Robson Valley are acting like it is Spring.  Here is a photo I took of some Pussy Willows against the backdrop of snowy fields and the Cariboo Mountains.   There is still a foot of hard snow covering all of our property with just a few small slivers of ground showing through in a few places.  This morning’s temperature was -10C (14F), but it looks like we might get a bit warmer in the next few days.

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Sunday 5 April 2020

What Day Is It?

    Of course being retired makes it difficult enough for me to keep track of what day it is, but there were always a few touchstones during the week to help me locate myself.  Now with this “stay at home” Covid-19 isolation, I never know what day it is because all of those touchstones have now been eliminated.
    Tuesdays were always important because that was our Jam night at the library.  The fourth Thursday of every month was our book club.  On the first Monday I had a McBride Broadband Committee meeting.  On Saturday night we would always go over to visit some friends.  All of those and many others are no longer there to help anchor me, so I am floundering from each undistinguished day to the next day, without really knowing where I am.
    If you are having the same problem, I have provided the month of April for you from the trivia calendar that I make every year.  Maybe that will help you keep track.  I hope it is big enough for you to read some of the trivia I have gathered, those important milestones of civilization might help you kill some time.

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Saturday 4 April 2020

Trays of Hope

    Although it was -18 C ( 0 F) outside this morning, under the grow lights upstairs hope is growing.  In the middle of March I planted my tomato and pepper seeds.   In the last few years I have had trouble germinating my tomato seeds and pepper seeds, so this year I planted a lot more than I really needed, and just about all of my tomatoes came up, so I now have a lot more tomato plants than I need.  I have  18 varieties of tomato plants to eventually put in my green house if Spring actually starts to generate some normal temperatures.      
    I was not so lucky with the peppers.  I got a lot of green peppers and jalapenos plants that sprouted, but the others didn’t so I’ll probably have to buy new seeds and try again if I want some yellow wax peppers.   
    Although I think I am generally a pessimistic person, I must have inherited some farmer genes from my grandparents that do give me a bit optimistic about growing things.

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Friday 3 April 2020

Ice Flow (into the Carport)

    Every year is different, and this one is VERY different, but I won’t speak of the obvious.  Instead I will mention an interesting minor problem that has arisen.  What you see in the photo is flowing ice.  It is not a frozen puddle, but very congealed freezing water or soft ice that is slowly moving, settling, and freezing in front and inside of my carport.
    Because it is slippery, I throw grit on it so we don’t fall, but everyday that grit gets covered with a new layer of congealed water.  I find it interesting that despite the freezing temperatures (it didn’t get above freezing at all yesterday and was -12C, 10F this morning) water underneath the snow keeps flowing down slope before it gets to my carport, stops and freezes.  
    I will sure be happy to see the end of winter, even though it is officially spring.

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Thursday 2 April 2020

Walking On Top of the Snow

    Most winters I am able to keep a path around our pond using snowshoes to press down a trail.  That didn’t really happen this year.  On several occasions I did snowshoe around the pond, but then we always got a new snowfall, and so we never did ever get to use the trail.  
    It was a real treat yesterday to walk around the pond without a trail.  The snow is still a foot (30cm) or more deep, but we had some warm days that started melting the snow, then got some really cold nights (-14C, 7F) which froze that melting snow really solidly, and yesterday the snow was so hard that I could walk on top of it instead of sinking in.  
    Below is a photo of Lexi walking across the snow covered plank at the far end of the pond.

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