Monday 31 May 2021

The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant

     I am going to re-post a blog I did back in 2013 about the book, The Golden Spruce.  It is a strange true story about someone I once met.  The other day I was listening to CBC radio and they played a newly released song by Mark Perry about the incident and it brought the story back to me, so I thought I would put it out there again.

   I have a horrible memory when it comes to remembering people’s names.  Half a second after being introduced to someone, I am standing there trying to remember what their name is.  I find it very interesting therefore, that I remember the name of a person who came into the forestry office in 1987 to get some maps.

    I was the guy who was in charge of maps.  Whenever someone wanted maps of the area around McBride, it was usually me they came to see.  I can’t remember what maps this 39 year old man wanted, I don’t really remember the specifics about the encounter.

    He was doing some kind of work for the local mill, probably logging road layout or timber cruising.  I must have talked to him for a while and I am sure my dissatisfaction with current logging practices came out in our talk  There must have been something I found interesting about that forgotten conversation, because even though I never met him again, 10 years after this brief meeting I still remembered his name:  It was Grant Hadwin.

    At that time, growing on the shore beside a big river on Haida Gwaii (formally known as Queen Charlotte Island) which is off the wild BC Pacific coastline, there grew a big Sitka Spruce tree.  It was 300 years old and 50 meters tall.  That is not unusually huge for the area, but unlike other Sitka Spruce, this one had golden colored needles.  Even though it had this mutation, which should have been fatal, it seemed to thrive.  Because it stood out, against the sea of green trees, it became something of great spiritual importance to the Haida people, it became a mascot for the local town, and MacBlo, (a giant forest company), even put a bit of a reserve around it, as they clearcut most of the other forests around the area.

    Even though I was totally unaware of the “Golden Spruce” tree, I and most of the people in BC, were shocked on Jan, 22, 1997 to hear the news that someone had swam across the river in the middle of the night with a chainsaw and cut down the Golden Spruce.  I was even more disturbed later when I heard that the RCMP had charged someone named Grant Hadwin with the deed.

    I wondered if it was the same Grant Hadwin I had met in the forestry office, but I was never able to find out until I had a conversation with Naomi, our librarian, and she mentioned that the man who had been in charge of our local lumber mill had been interviewed by John Vailant, the author of the book, “The Golden Spruce.”  This of course, really spurred my curiosity and that night I downloaded the book from the library onto my iPad and began reading.

    Here is what I learned:  It was the same Grant Hadwin.  He had become very disillusioned with all of the logging that was eradicating BC of its old growth forests, especially on the coast of BC.  He was sort of a superman when it came to his physical abilities, his capabilities to do layout work for forest companies, and his toughness when it came to living out in the wilderness.  He was in McBride because he took a layout job for a local lumber mill, and the mill was very pleased with his work.  

    He then took 10 days off, went up to camp on a mountain near McBride, and when he came down he was changed.  He had some kind of mystic experience, his former environmental “sins” had been forgiven, and he was “chosen” by the “Creator of All Life” to show humanity the error of their ways.

    When he returned to work, there was something spooky about his eyes, and when he told the mill manager that what they were doing was wrong; he was let go, and disappeared from the area, but it seems that maybe something had been planted in his head while on the local mountain, which set him off in a direction that would forever link his name with infamy and mystery.  He cut down the Golden Spruce, he disappeared and never made it to his court hearing, and no one is quite sure if he is dead or alive, but his broken up kayak washed upon the shore in Alaska.

    “The Golden Spruce” is a very interesting read, and is full of facts about BC’s coast and Grant’s unusual life.  I found it’s references to McBride of special interest, of course, but it was full of facts  about BC’s history, biology, and its forest industry.

    I read through my 1987 diary to see if I had written down anything about Grant Hadwin, but  I found nothing.  I sure wish I could remember what we had talked about.  We shared the same opinion about the forest industry, and assume that was the common ground we discussed, but I don’t honestly remember. 

    His act of protest in cutting down the Golden Spruce was useless destruction.  It totally alienated everyone:  environmentalist, logging companies, natives, and most of BC.  In his attempt to show the hypocrisy of the forest industry (who saved one special tree, while wiping out whole mountainsides) Hadwin did something that totally backfired, making him the target of hate, instead of the forest industry. 

You can view my paintings at: 




Sunday 30 May 2021

Hinkelman Road Evening

    Yesterday we restarted our once weekly visit with friends on Hinkelman Road after a year-long hiatus due to the Virus.   We kept our visit outside and spaced out on lawn chairs, enjoying the glorious spring evening as we pondered the problems of the world.  At 8:30 the temperatures had cooled and so we headed home.  As we drove down Hinkelman, the low sun was highlighting some of the trees while others were cast in the shadows, I couldn’t help but pull over and take some photos.

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Saturday 29 May 2021

Spring Fog

    The sky cleared off overnight causing all of the moisture to form a veil of fog.  Fog can create some nice effects for photographers.  Here is my favorite photo of the morning.

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Friday 28 May 2021

What is Tuesday Looking Like?

     I look at the weather report every day, and the first thing I always check is what is forecasted for Tuesday.  Tuesday is the day I look forward to the most because it is our jam night.  Because of Covid, we have been playing our music outside, on the McBride Train Station front porch which is exposed to the weather and Spring is notorious for its rain and showers so the weather determines whether we will play or not.

    I know that looking at Tuesday’s forecast so long before it gets here, is a mug’s game, because the weather forecast will probably change as Tuesday gets closer, but I can’t help myself.

    What I really hate is when it is an hour before we start playing and it is still not clear whether we will get a rain shower or not.  I much prefer if it is pouring rain or brilliantly sunny, then it is a lot easier to make a decision whether to show up or not.

    Judging from today’s forecast it looks okay for Tuesday evening.

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Thursday 27 May 2021

Running Dog

     Kona has so much energy and loves to run, but unfortunately she is too easily led astray by her nose.  As a result whenever we take her outside around our house, we have to keep her on a leash so she won’t go blindly chasing the wildlife which is everywhere.  

    Usually we can let her run free on our walks down unused roads with rather restricted boundaries, without too many problems.  This gives her a bit of freedom that we can sort of control.

    We do love to see her run like the wind, so the other day while we visited with some friends who have a big property, we decided to take her off the leash while we sat on their porch.  I figured that she would go crazy running around for a while, then get tired and come to the porch and sit at our feet.  

    I was being delusional.  She never got tired, she just continually sprinted past us in one direction, then ran past us again going in the opposite direction.  Around the house, out to the field, over to the trees, back past the house, on and on she went, like a streak of lightening as we talked on the porch.  

    After about 45 minutes or so I got concerned.  She was still running as fast as she could, with her tongue hanging out of the side of her mouth.  She didn’t seem anywhere close to being worn out.  I called her, let her drink some water, then put her in the car; forcing her to calm down and relax.  I suspect she would have just kept running until she dropped.   Sometimes young dogs have no sense.

                You can view my paintings and see a weekly cartoon at:

Wednesday 26 May 2021

My iMac is Back

    I am so happy to get my old workhorse computer back again.  Its an older computer and its hard drive was bogging down to the extent that it was getting useable.  It failing was something I was really dreading because I used some old software on it that I needed for to doing my website, and that software could no longer be gotten, so losing my iMac meant losing my ability to keep my website updated.  Photoshop, which I used for my cartoons would have also been lost.

    I didn’t have much faith that my iMac could be fixed since Macs are notoriously hard to repair unless you live close to an Apple Store, which I don’t.  Luckily for me, our little village has a computer repair shop (McTech) run by a crackerjack computer technician, and Vincent thought he could replace the failing hard drive.  I wasn’t too hopeful, but really didn’t want to lose my iMac or the software and files on it.

    Vincent made a copy of everything on my computer then got a brand new (and much faster) hard drive.  Getting into the guts of an iMac is very difficult, but after some problems getting parts, Vincent finally got it repaired, and what a difference it has made.  It is like getting a brand new computer, it is now lightening fast, compared to the what it used to work.

    For the last forty days or so I haven’t been able to update my website and had to muddle around using unfamiliar software to create my cartoons on a laptop.  I was absolutely gobsmacked when I got the iMac back to see how fast it suddenly was and how enormous the screen feels after struggling with the laptop for so long.  The iMac screen is more than 4 times the size of the tiny laptop screen.

    Like I wrote on the first line, I am so happy.

     I am again showing this blog and my paintings on my website:

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Across the Sky

    I took the photo of this unusual cloud the other day.  It stretched clear across the sky and was the only cloud to be seen.  It’s linear shape and position across the sky made me think of a contrail, but in the isolated Robson Valley those appear more like a white thread, high in the sky.   This cloud was very broad and lower in elevation.  I couldn’t get the entire cloud in the photo.  It was a strange one.

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Monday 24 May 2021

Victoria Day

     Today in Canada is a holiday deemed “Victoria Day.”  It is meant to commemorate Queen Victoria’s birthday, which actually happened on June 20th, 1837.  I have no explanation for why it is now celebrated in May, but everyone is always happy to have a holiday, whether it is warranted or not.

    The Victoria Day long weekend is the traditional time for Canadians to plant their gardens.  My garden is generally ready for planting a couple of weeks earlier and that is when I usually stick the seeds in the ground, but this year Spring was late in arriving, and while I had planted peas, lettuce, and potatoes already, I did plant the beans yesterday.  It was a good thing I did, because today it is pouring rain, so they will get a good start on life.

    On the left hand side of the photo you can the teepee where my Scarlet Runner Beans will climb.  Beyond that are two rows of peas that are already 4 inches out of the ground.  The bunches of green in the center of the garden are delphiniums and the green row that you can see on the lower right are my strawberry plants.  

    The garden is enclosed in a high fence to keep the deer and bears out of it.  The fence, of course, didn’t protect the two plum trees within, that are now dead due to too much rain and a hard winter.  Two of my young apple trees, also within the fence, are still alive, but most of their tops are dead.  We are about due for a good growing season this year, so let’s hope we get one.

                                        You can view my paintings at:

Sunday 23 May 2021

A Haze of Dandelions

    The Robson Valley is truly dandelion country.  They grow extremely well here.  The photo above shows a hint of what is to come.  I liked the accent of color they added to the landscape.

    Yesterday we drove out to Dunster for their special community market devoted to selling bedding plants.  We weren’t the only ones happy to get outside in a community gathering, it was crowded, and everyone was masked up and were wearing hats, so it was difficult to identify the people we hadn’t seen for a year.  We picked up some marigolds to plant between our cabbages to keep the bugs away, and I also bought some pepper plants since the number I have in my greenhouse can be counted in single digits.

    I kicked myself all the way home after realizing I had forgotten to take any photos of the masked people walking around with their plant purchases at the market.  Oh well, at least I could give you the photo of dandelions.

                                            You can see my paintings at:

Saturday 22 May 2021

Calypso Orchids

    The other day, walking back through the woods after working on our waterline, we came upon a couple of clusters of Calypso orchids (Calypso bulbous) growing in the shady moss.  I have seen Calypsos in other places in the Robson Valley, but this is the first time I have seen them in our neighborhood.  I have always felt privileged to come upon them.

    In looking them up in my plant book I was surprised to learn they they were named after Calypso; goddess daughter of Atlas.  She was a beautiful nymph, hidden in the woods.  I always assumed that the name came from the dance, even though that never made much sense.

                                                    You can view my paintings at:


Friday 21 May 2021

Tree Surgery And Removal

    While I love the trees in our yard, periodically I have to brutal with them to keep them from endangering our house.  Yesterday I had a tree trimming crew come to take down a Cottonwood that was leaning toward my shop, and to trim back some large willow limbs that were stretching over the roof of our house.

    Big trucks always have trouble maneuvering around in my driveway and these were big trucks with a boom.  The day started off badly with the large truck getting stuck in my rain-saturated driveway but we were finally able to get it free.  The boom that lifts the tree guy with the saw is amazingly tall and it was fun to watch him work suspended in his bucket high in the air.    There was the wining of chainsaws and the loud growl and grumble of the wood chipper outside throughout the day.

    It always is a bit shocking to see more sky and light after the trees have been dealt with, but we will get used to that and the trees that were trimmed will again fill out and look normal.   Although Cottonwood is not the best firewood, it will burn after it dries out, so today I will begin splitting all of the piles that were bucked up yesterday.

                                            You can see my paintings at:


Thursday 20 May 2021

Swamp Candles

     We usually see some wildlife (bear, moose, etc) along the side of the road every time we drive to Prince George, but Tuesday when we went, we saw no critters, but we did see some interesting swampy areas full of Skunk Cabbage.  In the Spring when Skunk Cabbage first comes up, mostly what you see are the bright yellow flowers, nick-named “Swamp Candles.”  With a little imagination they do appear to resemble candles in the bogs where they grow with their bright yellow color and vertical shape.

    I am always surprised every Spring when I see their unexpected color amongst the dark areas of the bogs.  It is always a treat to see them.

                    You can see a painting I did of a mature Skunk Cabbage at:


Wednesday 19 May 2021

Spa Day For Kona

    When we saw that Tuesday was going to be a grim day of rain, we thought our time would be better spent driving up to Prince George to get a few of the things we needed to do up there done.  We didn’t want to bore Kona with a long boring trip in the car so we booked her into the Robson Valley Pet Hostel for a haircut and grooming.  We had really liked the way Kona has been looking with her long hair, but we knew that it was getting too long for the warmer weather ahead (hopefully ahead), so we didn’t want her to get a radical haircut.

    We had Ann just shorten Kona’s hair, and we were very happy with how Kona looked when we picked her up after our trip.  Once back home, we took this photo of Kona before walking her out in the rain and mud, so we could remember how nice she looked before she messed it all up.

                                               You can view my paintings at:


Monday 17 May 2021

Horse Incident

     The other day while walking Kona down Horseshoe Lake Road, we perked up when suddenly the herd of horses that are pasturing there became animated and frisky.  Soon the herd was running back and forth.  They were a beautiful, graceful sight that we felt privileged to witness, however after a bit, most of the horses settled back down, but one black mare kept pursuing a younger brown horse, quite aggressively.  It chased it back and forth, then into the bushes and along the fence.

   We heard one crash, but both horses came out the other side of the bushes, the black, hot on the heels of the young horse.  She chased it again back into the bushes again and when they re-emerged the young horse ran into the wire fence, got tangled up, freed itself, then jumped over it, safe from the pursuit at last.  It limped a bit so it must have hurt its leg.  You may not be able to tell from the photo, but the small brown horse is standing outside the fence and the black horse inside with her head down.

    We knew who owned the horses, so we drove over to their farm (a month ago they lost 6 horses when their barn burned) to tell them about their horse getting out and probably injured. The owner immediately got into their truck to check out the situation.  I don’t know any more about what happened after that.  We sure hope  the young brown horse wasn’t injured too badly.

    You can view my paintings at:

Sunday 16 May 2021

Spring Waterline Maintenance

     Our water comes from a waterfall on Sunbeam Creek.  He have a large culvert in the middle of the falls to catch the water and funnel some of it into our waterline.  (The arrow is pointing out the culvert.). Every spring when all of the snow on the mountain top begins to melt in earnest, torrents of water come shooting down the falls carrying rocks and gravel with it.  That gravel can fill up our culvert and stop the water from flowing into our waterline.

    To prevent this we have a heavy iron grid-like screen (initially used by Highways for screening gravel) that we put over the top of our culvert to prevent the rocks from collecting inside.  We take this heavy duty screen off every winter so it doesn’t cause our intake to freeze up with ice, and then every spring we have to put it back on. 

    As you might imagine by the steep slope of the falls, maneuvering the screen onto the top of the culvert is a rather dangerous job,  I wore a safety helmet and was strapped onto the culvert so I wouldn’t be swept away if I slipped.  Together with Glen, our neighbor and fellow waterline user, we manhandled the screen into place, so that takes care of one of the yearly worries I have this time of year.  Hopefully the spring runoff will be mild and we don’t encounter any unexpected problems with the waterline.

                                            You can view my paintings:

Dewy Horsetails

    This morning I happened to see these sparkling Horsetails, backlit and shining like diamonds in the sun.   When I first came to BC and saw Horsetails growing on the side of the road, I thought they were small trees.  Horsetails are ancient plants, as a kid I found 250 million year old fossils of Calamites (ancestors of Horsetails) in the walls of a neighborhood railroad trench.

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Friday 14 May 2021

I Fear For Our Big Cedar

    Back in 1977 after we bought our place, whenever we were driving down the road toward it, we would look for the top of a big dead cedar tree that grew in our barnyard, so we could tell when we were getting close to our driveway.  I hated that the big Western Red Cedar was dead, but I took some consolation in the fact that right beside it, a younger cedar was growing, and it continued to grow these forty plus years.

    Now it looks like that cedar, which was just starting to get big, is dying.  Two-thirds of its lower needles have turned reddish brown.  Cedar needles do periodically turn reddish brown and are then replaced by new green needles.  The process is called “flagging”, but what is happening to our cedar seems well beyond that.  It looks like it is dying. 

    Western Red Cedars do grow where there is a lot of moisture, but they can’t survive in standing water, and that is what has been happening with this one, because of all the rain we had last summer and fall.  Underground water seeped down the mountain slope beside our property and accumulated in the old bogs that are in our yard.  Bogs have been saturated, with water sitting on its surface, for a year and a half now.  One of those big old bogs is right beside the cedar and it is still full of water.

    The needles on the very top of the cedar haven’t yet turned red, so I guess there is still hope.  Around here, Western Red Cedars can grow for hundreds of years, that is what I had been hoping this one would do.  Cedars are my favorite tree and I would sure hate to lose this one.

                                                    You can view my paintings:

Thursday 13 May 2021

Fog Again

     We had another foggy morning today.  It was clear at our house, but when I took Kona down along the river at Koeneman Park, I found it shrouded in mist.  Above, is a photo of the foggy Koeneman homestead cabin silhouetted in the fog.

                                                You can view my paintings at:

Wednesday 12 May 2021

More Morning Fog Photos

        Here are a couple more fog shots from yesterday.  The sunlight through the fog created some magical effects as I was walking Kona down Horseshoe Lake Road.

                                             Take a look at my paintings:

Tuesday 11 May 2021

Early Morning Fog


    The sky cleared off overnight causing the temperatures to cool.  This morning it was -3C (-6F) and the cold air over the warmer pond caused fog to form and vent off of the water, giving it a sinister feel.

                                        You can view my paintings at:

Monday 10 May 2021

Colors of the Robson Valley Spring

     White-capped mountains, blue slopes, and new, light green leaves on the trees, I love to see to witness theses colors on the topography during the spring.  As the season progresses, the lime-green tree leaves will mature and darken, and not be as beautiful as they are right now.

                                            You can view my paintings at:

Sunday 9 May 2021

Spreading Her Wings

     I took a look at my pond yesterday after hearing a lot of racket emanating from it and saw that there were four Canada Geese out on the water.  I have had a pair of geese out there before, but this is the first time I have had four of them.  I was happy to get a photo of one of them spreading its wings, stretching them out and flapping them, like one would do after waking up.

                                        You can see my paintings at:

Saturday 8 May 2021

Greening Up

     The onslaught of green was sure noticeable this morning as I walked Kona at Koeneman Park.  The tan dead grass had been submerged from view as new green blades pushed their way into dominance.  While the Birches have not yet leafed out, the Aspen and Cottonwood have begun.  There is a sweet fragrance in the air from the Cottonwood, that always lifts my spirit whenever I walk outside.

                                            You can view my paintings at:

Friday 7 May 2021

Two Are Still Alive

     On my April 24th blog I told the sad story of how I had forgotten about my young potted tomato plants and left them outside overnight, resulting in about 30 of them being killed by frost.  Gemma’s Person responded to the blog saying if I hadn’t already ditched them they might come back.  I had zero confidence that they would, but I left the wilted plants in the greenhouse, and yesterday I was surprised to discover that two of the tomato plants were showing some new growth.  I was amazed.

    I find it pretty inspiring how some living things overcome situations that seem hopeless.  If they didn’t I guess that a lot of species would have disappeared millions of years ago.

    I did manage to finally plant all of my tomato plants in the bed of my greenhouse yesterday, so I will no longer have to cart them back and forth to spend the nights in our house.

                                                You can view my paintings at:

Thursday 6 May 2021

Deserted McBride

     There was a cold north wind blowing down the deserted streets of McBride on Tuesday night when we had our jam session on the porch of the train station.  Because of the coolish temperatures (13C 55F) only 4 musicians showed up to play (we did have 4 people in the “audience” also).  We played for two hours in the cold wind until my cold fingers started having trouble holding my guitar pick.

    The McBride train station is located at the end of Main Street and as we played our music on the porch we could look down Main.  The odd car drove down the street and a few walkers strolled by, but other than that, the village felt pretty deserted.  The vacant look is not because of Covid, it is the way things look in McBride pretty much every evening, since all of the stores are closed and nothing else is happening.   

    I stopped between songs to take this photo because I liked the way the low sun was lighting the the empty town.

                                            You can view my paintings at:

Tuesday 4 May 2021

The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham

The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham

In 1869 a Dr. Bernardo of London set up an organization to deal with the impoverished children of the city.  Many parents could no longer support their kids, and other children, abandoned by their parents lived by theft on the streets of the London.  Their hand-to-mouth living conditions were terrible, reminiscent of Oliver Twist and other Dicken’s novels.  

Bernardo’s idea seemed like a win-win.  He would get these children, give them safe clean places to live while they would be educated and trained in things that would leave them with the experiences they would need to survive as adults.  Once the kids were trained up in things like domestic skills for the girls and trades like metal and woodworking for the boys, they were shipped to the Commonwealth countries where they would work for families until they were 18, then they would be free to live as they wished with some money they had earned during the time they were indentured.

    The British Home Children organization existed from 1869 to 1948 and sent its wards to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa.  During that time 120,000 children were sent off by Dr. Bernardo to work in “the Colonies.”

While the idea sounded good on paper and while in England things were good in the Bernardo homes, once the children were sent to the colonies, most were exploited mercilessly.  Many of the people who signed up to receive the kids were only looking for cheap labor.  

The  London Home Children suddenly found themselves doing farm work, something they knew nothing about, and they were often forced to live year round in barns and sheds.  Many were abused; mentally, physically, and sexually.  They were shunned by the communities where they found themselves and looked upon as uneducated, dirty, thieves.  

The Bernardo scheme was a nightmare for many of their wards, because once in the foreign country, there was very little checking up to see the situations they were living in.

The Forgotten Home Child is a novel that follows a handful of these Home Children, who after being rounded up on the street where they lived with their wits, were put into Bernardo Homes, educated and trained, then shipped off to Canada.  There they were exploited by the cruel farmers, struggling through the Depression.

The novel follows the lives of Winnie, Jack and the others in their group of street kids, who in London, depended upon each other to survive, then finding themselves separated and alone, living almost as slaves in rural Canada.  They desperately sought to find and reconnect to each other in the huge unknown rural environments where they now lived.

I found myself sucked in to the storyline of the novel and eager to see how it was all going to turn out.  It was an interesting way to learn about one of the dark segments of Canada’s history.

                You can view my photo-realistic paintings at:

Monday 3 May 2021

Angry Clouds

    Kona and I took our afternoon walk at the McBride Airfield yesterday, beneath a really dramatic sky.  The photo above shows how the sky looked facing west and the photo below shows what I saw when we turned around and walked back to the car.  Luckily it didn’t start raining until we had arrived back home.  I love to see these powerful, menacing-looking skies with their billowing clouds with dark underbellies and interesting light.


                                              You can see my paintings at:

Sunday 2 May 2021

Horses and Spring Aspen

     When I saw this scene I was initially attracted to the light green of the Aspen trees against the deep blue of the mountains.  Then I noticed the grazing horses silhouetted in the foreground and they put a nice completion to the photo.

                                    You can view my paintings at:

Saturday 1 May 2021

You Did It There?

     Our cat Lucifer has the whole world out there to do her business, so I was a bit perturbed yesterday to see that she had chosen our garden to do it.  More specifically, she not only chose our garden, but she chose the exact spot where I had planted my row of lettuce seeds the other day.  Here she is next to the row marker stake covering her mess.  Sometimes it is hard not to believe that the Cosmos really doesn’t want me to grow a garden.

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