Monday 31 October 2022

Birthday Statistics

    Back in the early days of my education in elementary school, the teacher was going through the class asking when everybody’s birthday was.  I was surprised that in my class of 30 kids, two kids had the same birthday.  That seemed like quite a coincidence, but my teacher explained that statistically, in a group of thirty people, two of them will have the same birthday.  I could not wrap my head around that (and still can’t), but it seems to be true.

    I remember when I was working at Forestry, and we had about 30 employees,  and another guy (whose name was also David) had the same birthday as I did, and that again re-enforced the statistic.

    Every year I make a family calendar and I put the photo of my family member on the date of their birthday.  Again, the birthday statistic is confirmed.  A few years back, with about 35 family members, I had two pairs with birthdays on the same day and I had to squeeze their photos onto one day.  Of course, one of those pairs were my twin  brothers, so I don’t know if their common birthday counts.

    Over the last two days, I have been working on my 2023 family calendar and, with people marrying and children being born, there has been some recent additions.  Now there are 46 family members on the calendar, and four pairs of them have the same birthday.  My mind is still boggled by how that happens, when there are a whole 365 days in a year when people could be born.

    While I am on the subject of birthdays, I would like to say happy birthday to Sharon and Mila, whose birthdays are coming up very soon.

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Sunday 30 October 2022

Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver

Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver

    Kingsolver is a very good writer and I have enjoyed all her novels that I have read.  I particularly enjoyed this one because it was located in the Southwest of the US, and parts of it took place in a couple of the locations I have visited.   Here is a review:

    Codi, the novel’s main character, after many years moved back to the small Southwestern town where she grew up, but after her student days at university, moving back and seeing it through adult eyes, felt to her like moving to a new place.

Codi and her sister Hallie grew up in Grace, Arizona, a small Hispanic community in a deep canyon in Arizona.  Codi is a damaged individual who grew up feeling that she never fit in with her pier group in their rural community.  Their father, Dr. Homer was the small town’s family physician, who had moved the family there when Codi was young.  Her mother died shortly after giving birth to Hallie.   The fact that the family was from Illinois, seemed to separate them from the others in the community, and Codi’s rather cold father, who raised the girls, seemed to want it that way.

It was not that the townsfolk didn’t welcome the girls, they did, but Codi and Hallie were tight, almost like twins and kept mostly to themselves.  Both girls stood out, they were thin, around 6 ft tall, and studious. They were looked upon by the other kids as being the smart girls in the class, and therefore, somewhat aloof.

After high school Codi, and then 2 years later Hallie, left Grace to attend university and didn’t return to Grace.  Codi majored in medicine and Hallie in agriculture.  The sisters lived together at university.  Hallie was passionate about helping the the poor, while Codi had more of a scientific bend.  Hallie was always sharing their house with Central American refugees.

      After her graduation, Hallie drove herself to Nicaragua to help peasants improve their farming and their human rights.  This was during the 1980’s, when President Reagan was funding the Contra militia to kill peasant farmers and people who were trying to improve the lives of the peasants.

A few months before she graduated, troubled Codi, had to deal with a difficult birth as part of her medical practicum.  The experience upset her so much she knew she could never practice medicine, and she dropped out of medical school, just a few months short of completing her degree.  She ended up working in a Seven Eleven.  

She received word that Dr. Homer, her father, was starting to show signs of dementia, and when she also heard that her old high school in Grace was seeking a science teacher, she applied, figuring if she did get the job, she could take care of her father.  She was surprised at getting  the position, and reluctantly took a bus back to Grace.

      Returning to her small town was a shock, and teaching in her old high school an even greater shock.  Their were a lot of ghosts she had to deal with, including Loyd, the once popular Apache young man, who had made her pregnant in high school.  As a 15 year old high school student,  Codi had to secretly deal with both the pregnancy and then a miscarriage which happened before her pregnancy became obvious, this left her  traumatized and forever changed. 

Like most novels about older characters moving back to their childhood homes, Animal Dreams is about discovering family secrets and finally being able to rid themselves of their emotional baggage and accept and like, who they are.   Seeing  Codi overcome her past and accept herself and the people around her in Grace, Arizona, was gratifying.

Besides liking the novel’s storyline, I was fascinated by being immersed in the environment and Hispanic society of the US Southwest. Kingsolver did an amazing job of settling the reader into the Hispanic community of small town Grace.  I enjoyed reading about and learning more about their customs, like celebrating the Day of the Dead, where families picnic in the cemetery to share a meal with their dead ancestors.

I felt a special joy when I discovered that the novel took me to spectacular places that I have actually visited and I had fond memories of.    I was happy to go with Codi and her partner, Loyd, now a train engineer, as they visited relatives at the Acoma Pueblo, which is perched unseen atop a mesa.  I was nice to get a  glimpse into the lives in a pueblo community, and re-awaken some of the memories I had of the place.

         Also, Loyd took Codi to visit his relatives in Canyon de Chelly, one of the most memorable places I have ever seen, with its spectacular massive orange sandstone cliffs towering above the small meandering river and the sparsely spaced Navaho hogans, situated in the arid valley bottom.

The novel was well written and rich in many ways, I found it both enjoyable and  rewarding to read. 

    My current painting is of an image from the Southwest.  View it at: 


Saturday 29 October 2022

Wild Dog Paying the Price

    A few days ago when Kona and I were at the far end of the pond, two deer that were grazing on my neighbor’s lawn, bolted away when they heard us.  Kona, who thinks she is a mighty hunter, also bolted away after them, announcing her charge with a barrage of loud barking.  Trying to call her back was useless, so shaking my head, I walked back to the house.  Ten minutes later, Kona finally returned home.

    A few hours after the incident we noticed a bit of blood on her chest, but it wasn’t very much, so we figured it was just a scratch.  As the day and the next passed, Kona kept licking the wound, so we we took a look and discovered it was a small gash about an inch long.  Fortunately it was not deep or bleeding, but  it was open to the point that we realized that it wouldn’t close by itself, so we realized that it would have to be stitched closed.

    There isn’t a vet in town, but there is one 25 miles away, unfortunately he was away for two days, so we ended driving 2 hours to take Kona to the vet in Jasper, Al.  

    Kona got stitched up and we are babying her.  She seems a bit down about the experience, but I am sure she doesn’t realized that it was caused by her being wild.  I suspect that as she was tearing through the bush after the deer, they jumped a barbed wire fence, and Kona tried to run through it.

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Thursday 27 October 2022

The Bear Returns

    Yesterday I blogged about catching a bear trying to get to our bird feeder.  Today I looked out to discover that the bird feeder that was suspended between two trees was gone.  The bear must have been determined to get the sunflower seeds and last night it succeeded.  It was able to climb one of the trees and knock the bird feeder and the pulley that held it to the ground.  

    The bird feeder was undamaged and I can rig it and the pulley that held it up again, but it looks like the birds will just have to wait until the bear goes off to hibernate, before I start to feed them again.

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Wednesday 26 October 2022

Night Visitor

    The photo above shows my bird feeder.  Two days ago I I saw a woodpecker looking around for my peanut butter bird feeder and so I put it, and the sunflower seed feeder, back up and filled them.  I take them both down over the summer because they attract bears; they also like sunflower seeds and peanut butter.  

    As I was putting the feeders up, it did feel like it was still a bit early, because the bears had not yet hibernated, but I figured the bears had already been through the yard several times, so probably figured that all the available food was gone.

    Last night after coming home from our jam, I was met at the door by my wife who had Kona on the leash, ready for her final walk of the night.  I took the leash, grabbed a flashlight and Kona and I walked out of the carport toward the yard.  Kona immediately erupted into loud barking.  I tried to shut her up, but she ignored me and strained against the leash to get to whatever was out there.

    I flashed the flashlight around, but didn’t see anything, but Kona kept loudly barking.  I lit up the bird feeder and saw it was hanging all askew, and then I realized that a bear had probably been at it.  Again I shown the flashlight around, but again didn’t see anything.  

    Then I saw some white fur halfway up the tree on the right, and above it was a bear’s face.  (Our neighborhood bear does have a white patch on its chest.) 

    I pulled on Kona’s leash and forced her into the house.  As I did, I heard the cracking of wood and assumed that the bear had broken the cross-beam holding the bird feeder up, but I wasn’t going to investigate with the bear over there.  

    This morning when I got up and checked,I was surprised to find the bird feeder still there, looking exactly like it had yesterday.  I guess the cracking of wood I heard was the bear stepping on the wooded fence that lay on the ground.  The bear must have immediately climbed down the tree and taken off as soon as I turned to take Kona into the house, because there were still sunflower seeds in the feeder this morning and the birds were there eating them, so no harm was done by our night visitor.  

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Tuesday 25 October 2022


    My greenhouse is unheated and as the outside temperatures get colder and colder, it is only a matter of time before the plants in the greenhouse freeze, so I have picked what was left of the tomatoes and peppers, and ripped out the plants.  As you can see I grow a variety of peppers.  You can’t really see much of the Bell Pepper in the upper left corner, but the yellow ones are Hungarian Wax, the fat green ones are Jalapeno, the thinner green ones are Serrano, and the long red ones are Guajillo peppers.

    We always have to be careful when it comes to cooking with them, because it is difficult to know just how spicy hot the individual peppers will be, and some of them are very hot.  I do like the chili pepper taste though.

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Monday 24 October 2022

"The Prince", Mushroom

    I vividly remember a day in botany class I had in university, when the subject was mushrooms.  The professor told about one kind of mushroom, that when eaten, nothing happens, then four days later, you die.  Yikes, I thought, lesson learned, be very careful about eating mushrooms.

    Since moving to BC, I have on occasion eaten a few, easily identifiable, wild mushrooms.  Mostly Shaggy Manes and Morels, but remembering the university lecture I am very careful.

    Last fall some giant mushrooms appeared near my barn.  After some research I determined that they were “The Prince”, a very desirable and sought after, edible mushroom that is easily identifiable.  I didn’t try eating any last year because they were already sort of old, but they came up again this year and yesterday I fried one up in butter and ate it.   It was very tasty.

    I realized I haven’t waited four days to be absolutely sure it won’t kill me, but I am confident I will live.  The Prince has a distinct look and doesn’t have anything really close that is similar.

    Below is a photo of what “The Prince” mushroom looks like:

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Sunday 23 October 2022


    I have used these colorful Aspen trees in a couple of my blog photos recently, but yesterday when I was walking around the pond, I glanced up and saw a rainbow arcing down toward them, so I took it as a cosmic sign that I needed to take yet another photo of them.

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Saturday 22 October 2022

First Snow

    We got our first snow in the valley bottom today.  It wasn’t much and I suspect it will disappear by this afternoon, but it is a timely reminder of things to come.  Our unusually long warm fall has finally come to an end. 

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Friday 21 October 2022

Last of the Garden

    I had cleaned out my garden, except for 4 cabbages, but it looks like it is going to dip a few degrees below freezing tonight, so yesterday I pulled out the cabbages.  Before I did, I took this photo of one of them.  

    We were thankful to have a fairly normal summer this year, after summers of extreme heat or extreme amounts of rain.  The garden responded well to the normal conditions, especially the potatoes and the red cabbage.

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Thursday 20 October 2022

Snow-capped Again

    After over night showers, our mountain tops are again covered with snow.  The brilliant white topping really makes a dramatic difference to the scenery.

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Wednesday 19 October 2022

The Bottom of the Window

    The other day I was lounging on the couch and the blinds in the living room where three-quarters the way down.  I happened to glance out of the lower part of the window and noticed the splotches of fall colors that were peeking through.  A couple of weeks ago I was thinking the fall colors where disappearing quickly, but there are still some around.

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Tuesday 18 October 2022

Forest Fire Smoke

    In the last few weeks, BC has been unusually hot and dry for this time of year.  There are a lot of forest fires blazing hundreds of miles south of us, and yesterday the Robson Valley was the recipient of some of their smoke.  

    It was a windy as we walked Kona along Jervis Road and it seemed strange because as we were being buffeted, all of the smoke seemed to just hover and sit on the mountain tops, which I suspect were not experiencing the strong winds. 

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Monday 17 October 2022

McBride Peak Fire Lookout From Below and Above

    Can you see that tiny white dot on the horizon?  That is the old McBride Peak Fire Lookout building.  I noticed it yesterday as I scanned the autumn colored leaves of McBride Peak.  The lookout was just barely visible.  

    The photo below shows the McBride Peak Lookout from above:

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Sunday 16 October 2022

In the Shadow of the Mountain

    Notice the contrast in the photo above?  That is caused by the sun just rising over the mountain.  The trees are getting full sunlight, while the pond and foreground are still in the shade of the mountain.   As we move closer to winter, the sun will be lower and lower on the horizon and it will take longer and longer for the sunshine to hit us.

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Saturday 15 October 2022

A Memorable Visit

    In 1978, the first summer of living in McBride, my mom, dad, and two brothers made the drive up from Indiana to visit us.  They drove up in my father’s pickup truck, camping along the way.  Once they arrived, we toured them around, showing them our new place and the local highlights.

When it became time for my family to make their return trip to Indiana, we had planned to drive along with them to Jasper National Park, but things didn’t really work out the way we had planned.

    I was going to lead the way with my vehicle and my dad was going to follow in his pickup.   I drove out of our driveway first, and proceeded slowly down the road, watching in my rear view mirror as my family’s camper came up the driveway and turned onto the road.  They had just began to follow me, when I, still watching them in the mirror, saw them head for the wide ditch on the side of the road and disappear.

In a panic, I stopped the Scout, got out and ran back to see what happened.  I saw the pickup, sitting upside down in the ditch.  Luckily everyone had had their seat belts on and were struggling to undo them as they dangled upside down.  My mom, wife, and father finally freed themselves and got out of the overturned truck and luckily, no one was hurt, except for my Dad’s pride.  

Here is what had happened:   When they had pulled out onto the road, my mom had gotten something out of the truck’s glove compartment, then couldn’t close it.  My father, who was driving, reached over to close the glove compartment with more force, taking his eyes off of the road, and not noticing that he was no longer steering a straight path down the road, and into the ditch they went.

I called the local wrecker, who came out and got the truck back on it’s feet again and onto the road.  The RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) also came out and gave my father a $50 fine for reckless driving.  On their way to our house, my parents had stopped over in Montana, to see my Grandmother’s homestead land and as a souvenir, had picked up a small boulder and put it in the camper.  When the truck rolled over,  the canopy was bent out of shape and the Montana boulder did what it could to inflict some more damage to the banged up canopy.  Fortunately, the truck was still road worthy.

The family had to spend an extras day visiting with us, we did what we could to bend the canopy back into a reasonable shape, patching it up it’s few newly-gotten punctures with duck tape.  My dad also had to go to the McBride RCMP office to pay his $50 reckless driving fine.  All that being done, they then left McBride, driving with more care, on their trip back to Indiana.

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Friday 14 October 2022

Fall Colors Going Fast

    This really hasn’t been the most colorful fall we have ever had, and what we got is quickly disappearing.  I did spot this one clump of Aspen across the road that is still worthy of a photo.  Last night we got some unexpected showers, and you can see some of the low cloud rising from the slope behind the Aspen. 

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Thursday 13 October 2022

Leaves on Water

    This photo is a bit “busy” with all of the reflections of the tree branches, but I liked the “wet” fell of the picture and find it a interesting.  The leaves are starting to leave their home in the trees and are settling in on the ground and pond.  

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Tuesday 11 October 2022

"There's a Bear Laying in the Yard"

    Last evening when my wife said that, it certainly got my attention.  We immediately put Kona upstairs, where she wouldn’t see the bear, and I grabbed my camera to take a look.  Indeed, there was a black bear laying in the yard, and it took a while for me to figure out why it was lying there.  It was just leisurely eating the marble-sized crab apples that had fallen from the tree.  

    I watched the bear for a long time and took a lot of photos.  It was getting dark outside and my camcorder had trouble with the low light, but my iPhone adjusted nicely to the low light (above).  With my computer I was able to tweak some of the camcorder shots enough so you can see what was going on.  In the photo below, the bear is scratching its back on the crab apple tree trunk.

    The other day my wife saw a mother bear with two cubs, so this one must be a different bear.  

    We were worried about Lucifer our cat, who was outside at the time.  She is usually in her nest on the front porch, not far from where the bear was.  Fortunately, she is a smart cat and must have slipped away when she saw the bear, and walked around the house, climbed up the post to the balcony, where we found her in her nest there.

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Monday 10 October 2022

Born Again Nasturtiums

    Early in the summer these nasturtiums were overflowing the window box and thriving, then we hit a hot sunny spell and they showed their displeasure by giving up and dying.  I was urged to pull them out, but I didn’t.  Instead, I kept watering them, and look what happened, they started growing again.  

    Unfortunately, this second growth probably has a time limit on it, because sooner or later our over-extended, unusually warm fall will be coming to an end, and then, so will they.

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Sunday 9 October 2022

Lots of Potatoes

    I never know how many potatoes I am going to get from my garden.  I have had seasons where I ended up with only a handful of red potatoes, on other years it was the brown potatoes that were a bust.  For that reason I always make sure I plant a lot of potatoes, just in case some don’t come through for me.  

    That’s what I did again this year, and BOOM, they all did really well.  Now I am wondering what I am going to do with all of them.  

    It is strange to end up with so many, when the potatoes that the community garden did so poorly.  I did plant mine a whole lot earlier than they did and maybe that made the difference.

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Saturday 8 October 2022

Autumn Reflection

    As the trees start to shed their leaves, our autumn colors are slowly becoming less brilliant, but against the deep blue of the sky reflected in the pond, they still look pretty good.  I took this photo this morning as I walked Kona around the pond.  

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Friday 7 October 2022

Digging Spuds

    Yesterday afternoon I drove out to Dunster to help dig the potatoes for the McBride Community Garden.  All the dry weather made it pretty easy digging, but the results were disappointing.  The potatoes were few and small.  The community garden has been fairly unlucky with their potato crops over the past few years.   Past crops were total failures after being flooded out by an over-flowing creek, so they moved the growing site out to Dunster.

    I’m not sure what the problem was this year, maybe it was too dry, although I had a bumper crop of potatoes in my garden this summer.

    The community garden will be selling the potatoes in a few weeks as a fundraiser. 

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Thursday 6 October 2022

And Carry A Big Stick

    Kona doesn’t “speak softly”, in fact her loud sudden barking drives us crazy, but she sure does have the “carry a big stick” part of the saying, down pat.   Yesterday when we walked around the pond, Kona emerged carrying this small log.  It seems so bizarre that it is something she feels compelled to do.  Surely it is uncomfortable for her to lug thick heavy chunks of wood around in her mouth. 

    Sometimes she picks up really long sticks, then gets all flustered when she get them through trees that line both sides of the path. 

    She carried this one across the pasture, then deposited it in the front yard.  It has become quite a hassle every time I mow the yard because I have to always move Kona’s diverse collection of sticks out of the way.  

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Wednesday 5 October 2022

Morning Treat

    Every day after I paint my square and write my blog, I go out to the greenhouse to see how everything is faring.  I have some very prolific cherry tomato plants out there, so half of the pleasure of checking things out in the greenhouse, is eating some of the ripening cherry tomatoes right off the vine.  With the long stretch of warm weather, while slowing down, the greenhouse is still producing tomatoes and chili peppers.

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Tuesday 4 October 2022

Snow Tires, Now?

    Every year at this time, people who live in mountainous regions of BC have to put snow tires on their vehicles and keep them on until April 1st.   It’s the law.   This year it seems strange to be putting the snow tires on, because the weather has been so warm and summery, but on they will go today.  

    Snow tires not only have deeper tread for moving through the snow, but they also are made with a softer rubber that sticks better to the road than regular tires when the temperature is colder than 7°C (44°F).  

    It is expensive to buy two sets of tires and a bit of a hassle to have to be switching tires twice a year, but if it will keep us safer it is worth it.  Winter driving is very dangerous and we knew people who have been killed doing it.

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Monday 3 October 2022

The Muskrat Returns

    Okay, I realize that this is a pretty horrible photo, but sometimes you just have to go with what you have.  The muskrat tends to be camera shy.

    The whole reason I built my pond was to create habitat for wildlife.  Muskrats tend to get a bad wrap, but I am happy to see one out there swimming around in the pond.  

    Muskrats are similar to beavers, although smaller.  They are really large aquatic relatives of voles.  Instead of having a flat tail like a beaver they have a rat-like tail that swishes back and forth as they swim.  They don’t build dams or chew down trees (I have always lived in fear that a beaver might come to my pond and start falling all of the trees that grow around it.)  Muskrats eat cattail tubers and the roots of other aquatic plants.  

    The muskrat overwintered in my pond and then disappeared all summer and has now re-appeared to spend another winter.  They don’t store food, or hibernate, instead they just continue to gather food (mostly cattail tubers) under the ice, as they need them.  In the spring when the ice melts, there are always a lot of plants without their roots, floating on the surface of the pond.

    Muskrats do build lodges, but not my muskrat, it  burrows out a place to live in the bank of the pond, underground.  

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