Sunday 31 December 2023

2023: Looking Back

    On this last day of the year, it seems to be a tradition that we take a look back at the significant things that have happened.  Certainly, on the broad scale, it was the climate.   We had been hearing, and seeing how the extremes of climate have been hitting places around the world, with floods, heat, draught, rain, and wind.  For several years now our summers have been tainted with blankets of smoke from for away forest fires.  But, in 2023, it was our isolated valley that was finally hit with a conflagration that forced us to evacuate our home, not knowing if it would still be there when we returned.  Fortunately, it was spared.

    It was not only the fire that showed Mother Nature’s bite, the Robson Valley was hit with drought, a Category 5 Drought (the most severe), and we are still suffering from the lack of rain and snow, which makes us worry for next year.  In the 45 years that we have lived here, this is the first Christmas and New Years Eve we have experienced, with above freezing temperatures and no snow on the ground (photo below).  

    2023 was the year that I learned to fear Mother Nature.

    On the personal side, 2023 was the year I became an orphan, when my mother of 102 years, died.  That was followed months later when my favorite uncle who was 98 years old, passed away.  They were the last of that generation that were so generous with their time and efforts, to see that we had a good life.

    I confess that I fear to enter 2024.  The world is in severe decline in every aspect I can think of.  The climate will certainly get much worse, countries will certainly become more brutal toward each other, and people will continue to get crazier and crazier.  The world could be such a wonderful place without greed and the narcissistic craving for more and more power.  I sure hope that I am wrong.

View my paintings:

Saturday 30 December 2023

We Get Out Water From the Middle of a Waterfall

    When I am trying to explain our gravity-feed water system, I always say that we get our water from the middle of a waterfall.  I have many times shown photos of the upright culvert that sits in the falls and collects our water, and those shots show a bit of the falls above our culvert.

    Yesterday I hiked up to the falls to take a look at our culvert and while I was there I realized that I had never taken a photo from below, showing where our culvert is situated, so I made my way down the steep slope and took the photo above, looking up toward our intake.  Our culvert is difficult to see in the photo, so I labeled.  Also, you can’t really make out the falls above our culvert so I also labeled that.

    The photo “flattens out” the falls, so you don’t really get a sense of how steep the slope is, so I included the old photo below that is taken sideways to our culvert, to better give you an idea of the steepness of the falls.

    Our culvert sits in a very dangerous place, if one should slip and tumble down the falls, it would cause very serious injuries or death, so when we work on the culvert, I always harness up to a secured cable to prevent me from going down the falls.

View my paintings at:

Friday 29 December 2023

Too Much Wind-Throw

    Yesterday afternoon I thought I would take advantage of our unusually warm weather (+5°C, 41°F) and walk the trail down to the river.  It is a trail we used to walk twice or more times a day with the dog, but I haven’t been down it since last spring, since it had become difficult to maintain.   That lack of maintenance has taken its toll, and the walk yesterday was certainly not an enjoyable experience.

    We have gotten a lot of strong winds lately, and that wind has sure taken down a lot of trees that grew along the path, which are now blocking the trail.  The photo above, Kona is puzzled, not knowing which way to go.  It was not always easy for us to find an way around the blow-down, due to the thick brush. 

    The downed trees are not the only obstacle to using the trail.  It goes through a couple of fields, which  have been taken over by prickly thistles.  Even though the thistles are now laid down, I felt sorry for Kona, who had to walk on them. 

    In the past, I have lugged my chainsaw and lawn trimmer along with me to clear the trail, but I think those days are over.   The old trail has just gotten to the point where it would take too much work to make it passible again, and the old me is also to the point where it would just be too much work.

    It is a shame, because it was an enjoyable and interesting way to get some exercise, and it was close at hand.  I guess I will have to be satisfied with just walking around the pond. 

View my paintings at:

Thursday 28 December 2023

Kona, Get Back To Work.

    Since Kona takes such an interest in chasing squirrels, and they are always stealing peanut butter from the peanut butter log I fill every day for birds, I thought I might solve the squirrel problem by lowering the peanut butter log, so Kona could chase them away. 

    It seemed to work for a while, but yesterday when I looked out of the kitchen window, Kona was just sitting there, looking the other way, while the squirrel was contently perched on top of the log, munching away at the peanut butter she had just stolen.

    Come on Kona, earn your keep.

View my paintings:


Wednesday 27 December 2023

Gravity-feed Water System, Part 3

    The photo above shows the route of our waterline through the 200 ft (60m.) fir forested area that we had to dig by hand, so we wouldn’t wreck the forest with a big backhoe.  It shows how the route looks today. 

    The waterline is not buried under the brown path, but to the right side of it.  I didn’t want our path to be over the line, because we couldn’t make the trench very deep and I wanted moss to regrow over the line to help insulate the line from the cold.,

    Once we got the 2” poly pipe laid in the trench, we also covered it with sheets of old styrofoam insulation that they had torn out of the McBride hospital as they renovated it.

    This area through the woods was the most tedious part of making the waterline.  We had to use picks and pry bars, and even garden trowels, to dig out the trench through and under all of the rocks and tree roots.  In the photo above you can see one big boulder that we had to dig under because it could not be moved.  

    Here are some more entries from my 1987 diary written during the time we were hand-trenching through this section of our waterline:

“Saturday- after lunch went up to dig on the waterline until 6:00.  I made good progress until I ran into another rock wedged under some roots.  I struggled with that until it was time to go home.

“Sunday- Spent the whole day, 9:00 until 4:00 digging.  I got to the big boulder and hopefully the digging should be easier from there to the switchback.”

A few days later, after work:   

“I dug again from 5:45 until 8:15.  I was not overly enthusiastic, but did manage to get some done.  I couldn’t really finish digging around the big boulder because I couldn’t lift some of the big rocks by myself.”

Monday, of the Labor Day long weekend:

         I got more help digging the waterline trench.

“Kjell, who now wants to be a part of our waterline, joined Glen and I digging from 9:00 to 12:00, when we broke for lunch.  We were able to rough out the trench all the way to the switchback.  I came back at 1:00, Kjell joined me at 3:00, and we continued with our digging until 5.

“I ordered the pipe for our waterline.  Gigi (the owner of Mrs. Nail’s house where James lives, gave me a $2,000 cheque for her share of the project.  I called everyone to help dig the last leg of the trench, but I was the only one to show up and actually do the digging.  

It should only take 4 more hours of hand digging to deepen that last bit of the trench to the switchback.  Once we get there, the big backhoe can dig the trench along the road and to our houses.”


    (Photo below) We dug and laid our pipe between the big boulder and the smaller moss-covered boulder to its right.

View my paintings:


Tuesday 26 December 2023

TV Companion

    Every evening when I sit myself on the couch to watch some television, Lucifer joins me.  She nestles down between my thigh and my arm and curls up tightly.  She tucks her forehead against my arm, enjoying the warmth, and snoozes.  She remains in that position, content, until for some reason, I make a move.  When I get back into my television watching position, Lucifer gets back into hers.

View my paintings:


Monday 25 December 2023

No Snow, But Christmas Still Worked

    This is the first Christmas we have had while living in the Interior of British Columbia, that we haven’t had any snow on the ground.  That is a bit jarring, considering we are sitting in the middle of the Canadian Rockies.  Even though it didn’t look very much like Christmasy outside, our Christmas inside the house still worked as usual.  We had put up our decades-old Christmas tree in the living room, getting all its lights to work was again a struggle, and we had friends over for snacks and visiting last night, on Christmas Eve.

    My wife and I always exchange gifts, but that seemed very problematic this year.  I just couldn’t think of anything to give her.  We both already have so much stuff, and although I spent time looking around the few stores we have in McBride, nothing clicked.  It was a depressing thought that I was going to come up empty-handed for her on Christmas morning, but things were sure headed in that direction.

    Fortunately, I did finally figured something out:   Months ago, I couldn’t find my tiny Swiss Army Knife, which I was constantly using.  It had a small blade, fingernail file, scissors, tweezers, and toothpick.  I was bummed out at misplacing it, so I bought a new one.

    Of course, as soon as I got the new knife home, I found the old one, so the new one remained in a drawer unused.  Since I find the knife so useful, I thought maybe my wife might also find one useful, so I gifted her the new one I bought, which she was really happy to receive.

    My wife, who was also having trouble trying to come up with a gift for me, found some men’s house slippers online.  My old ones were certainly falling apart, and I was usually walking around with the insoles wadded up under my feet.  The sizes offered were not conventional, but in her desperation, she ordered them.

    She warned me as I was opening the package, that she feared they might be too small.  I put them on, and they really did seem too small, crunching up my toes.  I then tried walking in them, and they were very painful to the front of my toes.  We figured they would end up as a donation to the second hand store.  I hated to give up on them, and put my hand into one of them, to see if there was some way I could change them so they would fit.

    It was then that I discovered that there was a tight wad of paper stuck in each shoe, to keep them puffed up during shipping.  Once I removed the wad of paper, the house slippers fit perfectly, so despite the lack of snow, our Christmas worked out wonderfully.

View my paintings:


Sunday 24 December 2023

Our Waterline Looks Normal

    Our Valley had been suffering under a Category 5 Drought.  While we have gotten some rain, we mostly get wind.  Presently we have no snow on the ground, and the longterm forecast predicts a drier than normal winter for our part of BC.  Five families who live just up the road from us, whose water system source is a spring, have now lost their water, due to the drying up of their spring which is on the same mountain slope as our waterline.  Hearing that, I has given me some concerns about how Sunbeam Creek, our water source, is holding up.

    I hiked up to take a look yesterday, and was happy to observe that water was pouring over the top of our intake culvert, and that is the way it should be.  As long as our culvert is full and overflowing,  we should be okay.  

    I sure feel for those whose water has disappeared this early in winter.   Winter is hard enough, even with water.  One friend is considering moving out for the winter, instead of trying to struggle through, having to haul water, and showering elsewhere. 

    Our end of the Robson Valley is considered part of a Temperate Inland Rain Forest, so suffering under these drought conditions is unprecedented,

View my paintings at:


Saturday 23 December 2023

School Christmas Programs

    During the mid-1970’s I taught for three years in a very isolated one-room school at a lumber mill in the middle of British Columbia.  There were no roads into the place, so to get there you had to travel either by plane or a very slow train.  

    I found teaching in a one-room school a very labor-intensive and time consuming job.  I was the teacher, the principal, the maintenance man, and even the bus driver (I had to pick up the kids of the Indian family that lived down by Takla Lake every day).  Because I had students in many grades, preparing lessons that would keep the most grades working on their own, while I taught the other grade, took a lot of coordination.  

    I had to create all of the worksheets for the kids on a typewriter,  because this was before computers or photocopiers.  I did finally get a mimeograph machine, which did then enable me to run off copies, once I typed out a “stencil” of the worksheet to run through the machine.  Anyway, the point I am trying to make was that the teaching job kept me extremely busy, I was just able to keep my head above water.

    While drowning in all of this teaching work, I began being pressured to put on a Christmas Program for the parents.   I was not thrilled with the prospect of yet another chore, and I didn’t know what to do for a Christmas Program.  I am not at all a religious person, but all I could think up for a program was to act out the nativity.  I figured the kids could somehow dress up as the characters, and I would just read the story from a Bible.

    Once I had the idea, I explained it to the kids right before their lunch break one day.  I told them they should each think about which characters they might like to play.  I said we would need someone to be Mary, Joseph, three Wise Men, and some shepherds.  

    As the kids filtered out the door for lunch, one of my little first graders came up to me and said, “I want to be a German Shepherd.”

    The photo above was taken at the Christmas Program the following year.  Generously, that year some of the parents mercifully took over the responsibility for putting on the Christmas Program.

Take a look at my paintings:


Friday 22 December 2023

The First Sign of Spring (Just Kidding)

    One of the things we wait for when Spring is approaching is the melting of all of the ice on our driveway.  Even though I clear my driveway all through the winter, I never get all of the snow off of it, and each time we drive up or down the driveway, that snow is compacted and turns into ice.  When the warmer weather of Spring finally comes, it takes weeks for that ice to thaw out.

    We have had very little snow so far this year, but there was some, and because it wasn’t deep enough to clear, I didn’t shovel it off, and it formed ice on my driveway.  Polished by the wind and rain, it turned to glare ice, which was extremely slippery.  With our very mild weather (today when I woke up it was +7°C, 44°F) all of the ice on our driveway has gone (I took the photo yesterday).  

    Although our winter is sometimes miserable and problematic, I sure hope that Mother Nature soon quits messing around, and gets back to normal.



Thursday 21 December 2023

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Springtime

    With the arrival of the Winter Solstice, today is officially the beginning of winter, although in the Robson Valley, it feels more like the beginning of Spring.  What little snow we had on the ground has melted and we’ve have been getting rain showers instead of snow.   The overnight temperature was t +4°F (39°F).  The normal overnight temperature is -14°C (7°F), and while I don’t mind the mild temperature, I do mind the lack of snow on the ground.  This just doesn’t feel right.

    I am now wondering if, here in the midst of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, we will get a “white Christmas” this year.  The climate has sure turned upside down.

View my paintings at:


Wednesday 20 December 2023

The Making of our Gravity-feed Waterline

    The photo above shows the area of the rocky cliff face that we had to partially shear off, in order to trench our line.  The light colored dirt in the foreground has been removed from the trench which is adjacent and left of the dirt.  In the background you can see Sunbeam Creek, where we placed our upright culvert to capture our water.

In the middle of August in1987 we digging the trench for our waterline.  We cut a small right of way through the Highway’s owned small triangular lot beside Mountain View Road, after getting there permission.  Then Glen my neighbor and I made a start digging by pick and shovel, from the spot on Sunbeam Creek along our route.  It was rough going trying to make a trench along the cliff face through rocks and roots.  Glen seemed somewhat frustrated with our hand digging.

Most people would have gotten a big backhoe up there to make the trench, but I didn’t want a big machine bullying through the beautiful Fir Forest, and besides, a machine wouldn’t have been able to get to our culvert spot on Sunbeam anyway, because there wasn’t enough room for it to sit, and the slope was very steep at the rock face cliff.

Even the 200 foot length of our route from the creek to the switchback was across a steep side slope which would have required a big backhoe to carve out a road that it could sit on, so the right of way had to be done by hand.

In places it was literally digging with my hands, scooping out the soft loam and gravel between the rocks.  I often hiked up to the creek and dug the trench by myself.

Theoretically, a waterline in Central BC should be buried around 4 to 6 feet under the ground to prevent it from freezing, but that was impossible along the cliff face edge of Sunbeam Creek, and through the forest, where underneath the moss was a thin layer of loamy soil in-between rocks, roots, and the odd boulder.  After digging around some rocks, I was able to pry them out, but some rocks were too big, so it meant detouring around them. 

Because of the moss covering the ground, I was never sure what kind of obstacles lay in my way until I got to them.  In some areas I had to just lay down on the moss and dig the trench with a garden trowel.  I could only dig down to arm’s length.  I realized that was not very deep for some of the arctic temperatures we got in the winter, but I hoped that keeping water continually flowing through the line during winter, plus a top layer of insulating moss and snow, would keep our line from freezing.

From my diary:  

“I went digging on the waterline but only dug a length of about 5 feet.  I was digging under a tree with big roots and several big rocks that I had a hard time getting out.  I broke the handle of the pick I had borrowed from John Bird, trying to pry one of the rocks out.”


“After supper I went up to dig the waterline.  I only got 7 feet and didn’t really get that completed because of some rocks, wedged beneath a huge boulder.  I was up there alone from 5:45 to 8:45.”     

    Below shows part of the trench that we dug through the forested area.                                                      

See my paintings at:


Tuesday 19 December 2023

The Making of our Gravity-Feed Waterline

    People who live in rural areas aren’t able to take advantage of public water systems; they must make their own.  When we bought our place outside McBride, BC, the previous owner had dug many wells and then used two of them, joined together, and a pump to get water to the house.  This worked okay for us, but the pump periodically quit working, the well house sometimes froze when the heat lamp burned out in the winter, the water had a lot of calcium in it, and when there was a power outage, we had no water.

    I started toying with the idea of building myself a gravity-feed water system (getting water from higher source and letting the weight of the water make it flow to the house, no pump needed.)   The Sunbeam Creek Falls which ran year round, was about 4,000 ft (1,200 m.) away and was 200 ft (60 m) higher than our house, so I figured that it would be a good place to get our water.  

    I explored possible routes for the line from the Falls to our house, to make sure such a project was feasible.  During my timber cruising days working for the BC Forest Service, I gained experience doing surveying-type work.  One of the instruments I used was a clinometer (photo above).  By looking through it, you could find level, or the percent of slopes, so I used it while marking out the proposed route of our gravity-feed waterline, to make sure the waterline was continually going down hill.

    I contacted three neighbors to see if they might be interested in joining such a waterline and all of them were keen.  There would be a 50 inch (1.5 m.) galvanized culvert sitting upright in the falls that would capture the water.

    From there, we would have to dig a trench along a rocky cliff-face that bordered the falls , then turn west and dig through a pristine forested area for 400 feet (120 m.)   I didn’t want to damage the forest by using a giant backhoe, so this whole area would had to be dug by hand, using picks, pry bars, spades, garden trowels, and in places, even our bare hands, to dig out and around roots, rocks, and boulders.  

    Once out of the forest, the line would meet a switchback of an old trail, and we could use a big backhoe to follow the trail down the steep slope to our road, and then follow the road right of way, go under the road, and continue on to our houses.  The backhoe would dig a trench 5 feet (1.5 m) deep for our pipe.

    Below is the route of our waterline.

See my paintings at:


Monday 18 December 2023

Wow, The Via Rail Train is Actually on Schedule

    A remarkable thing happened over the last few days; Via Rail, Canada’s passenger rail line had trains that actually ran on time, actually ahead of their scheduled arrival and departure times.  This was a extraordinary, and I think it happened because there has lately been a decline in freight trains.  

    Every year just before Christmas, my wife gets on the train to Jasper, Alberta to visit friends.  Normally the train is late in arriving at McBride, and late when it arrives in Jasper, sometimes by as long as an hour.  It is ridiculous, and certainly no way to run a railroad, and the results are predictable:   Very few passengers use it.  Going to Jasper, my wife said there were only three passengers on the train.

    The reason for Via’s variance from its schedule is simple:  In the contract that Via Rail has with CN Rail, who own the tracks, freight trains have priority over passenger trains, so every time one of the many freight trains is coming, the Via Rail passenger train, has to get onto one of the side track and wait until the freight train goes by.  These waits can happen more than once during a trip, and sometimes these waits occur within minutes, outside of the passenger train’s destination.

    In the United States, the law gives passenger trains priority over freight trains, and that is certainly something Canada needs to also establish.  Taylor Bachrach, who grew up in McBride, is now an MP in Canada’s Parliament, and is fighting for such a change in Canada.  We sure hope that his attempt is successful.  It would be so easy to travel by train, instead of fighting the mountainous snowy highways.

Take a look at my paintings:


Sunday 17 December 2023

What Kind of Bird Is That?

    I haven’t done my usual stint painting this morning, because this is the day we do our Annual Christmas Bird Count in the Robson Valley.  I have been outside, standing there, keeping an eye on both my Sunflower seed bird feeder and my peanut butter bird feeder, waiting for some exotic and rare bird to come by.  Half of the time I have spent chasing this squirrel away from the peanut butter feeder, because no birds will come by while it is sitting there.

    So far I have five bird species down, all of the usual ones I see in the winter.  So far I have seen:  20 Chickadees, 1 Raven, 2 Downy Woodpeckers, 2 Hairy Woodpeckers, and one Red Breasted Nuthatch.  I will continue watching, off and on throughout the day, hoping for some unusual bird to show up.  

    Below is a photo I took this morning of one of the small Downy Woodpeckers.

View my paintings at:

Saturday 16 December 2023

Wide Load

    Yesterday on my way to our Writer’s Group at the library, I came across a truck parked at the turnout by McBride carrying an unbelievably wide load.  The load looked like it might be the bed of one of those gigantic trucks used for mining.  The load was so big and wide, I just had to stop and take a photo.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have my mainstay camcorder along so I had to use my iPhone to take the shot.  

    The iPhone camera couldn’t really adequately show how enormous the load was, so as you probably guessed, I took photos taken from different positions then used Photoshop to fuse two photos together, (rather hastily done) so it would give a better idea of what the load looked like.

    I measured the width of the truck’s load by stepping it out, and found it was 21 feet (6.4m) wide.  I then measured the width of Highway 16 between it’s white lines at the edge of the driving area, and found that it was also, 21 feet wide.  The truck’s load would have taken up the entire driving area of the highway.  I suspect that is why it had been stopped.

    The truck had been headed west toward Prince George.  In front of it lay 220 kms (130 miles) of sharp curves twisting around the mountains, and steep climbs and descents at each river valley, and no doubt, there will probably be some snow and ice along the way too.  I couldn’t believe the truck was going to attempt it.  Maybe they will try it at night, blocking all of the oncoming traffic as they proceed.   It seemed crazy.

    Below is a shot of the truck’s load taken from the rear.


Take a look at my paintings:

Friday 15 December 2023


    I have always hated and been suspicious of pesticides and herbicides, thinking of all them as “biocides”  (killers of life).  While the big chemical companies continually tell everyone these poisons are save and encourage consumers to buy and use them, as time goes by, scientists find more and more toxic effects that they are having on people and the environment.

    I have never used them, but while working for the BC Forest Service, who often seemed overly eager spray large areas with Tordon to kill unwelcome brush and trees, I was sometimes confronted with the toxins.  Tordon, called “Agent White” during the the Vietnam War, was sprayed over vast areas of jungle to kill the trees.  In humans it can cause weakness, diarrhea, weight loss, liver damage, and damage to the nervous system.  I don’t know what it does to animals and insects.

    I was always shocked to see how amenable and insouciant the Forest Service was about using Tordon :

    Below are four entrees about Tordon that I found in a diary from the mid-1980’s:

I often have to shake my head at some of the Forest Service practices.   One day I was working in the cache (warehouse)  I came upon some large containers of Tordon.  I knew that the Forest Service was going to spray the herbicide Tordon over a large area to kill off all of the young deciduous trees.  They wanted to create a more suitable area that could be used for grazing cattle around Dave Henry Creek, a tributary of Kinbasket Lake.  

I noticed  that someone had hand-written over the labels of the containers the amount of Tordon that was to be used to mix with water, before spraying.  What they had written was double the amount printed on the labels of of the containers.

I can’t believe just how careless my co-workers are with the Tordon.  I discovered that the Forest Services planned to use a fire fighting pump on one of the Forestry’s pickups to spray the herbicide.  That would leave Tordon all over the pump and truck, and I doubt that anyone who later used the pump or truck would be aware that it had just been used to spray the herbicide.

In November we had a staff meeting at Forestry about a pesticide report.  It seems that the we sprayed 100 hectares (250 acres) of a cutblock with a pesticide (I assume Tordon) when only 10 hectares (25 acres) needed it.  The Regeneration Surveys done before the spraying showed that 90 hectares of the block was fully stocked with young trees. 

I hate all of the pesticide use that Forestry does.  I always suspect that there was pressure from “higher up” to spray and wondered if someone up there was getting a kickback from the chemical companies.

My neighbors get their water from Beardsley Brook a small stream that crosses under the road and flows down beside their house.  They were furious when they discovered that the Highways Department came through and sprayed the herbicide Tordon, on both sides of the road, including their creek.  There was some justice however, because Beardsley Brook is also where Geordie gets his water.  Geordie is the guy at forestry that is always gung-ho about spraying herbicides in logging blocks in our district.  When the Ministry of Environment did tests on the water, Kjell and Celine’s tested negative, but Geordie’s had traces of Tordon.

    I realize that there are some invasive plants that are so incredibly invasive (Japanese Knotweed) that the only way it can be stopped is by using a herbicide, but I still object to random spraying of areas with the chemicals.  

View my paintings:

Thursday 14 December 2023

How The Accident Happened

    My wife was in the kitchen cooking.  She reached up to the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet to get an ingredient and in doing so, accidentally bumped a glass container of sea salt.  The container fell to the counter, upon which was sitting, a Corningware dish of broccoli with a thick glass lid.  The falling container hit the glass Corningware lid, which broke, scattering chards of glass off of the counter and toward the floor.

    Unfortunately, my wife’s foot was there on the floor close to the counter and one of the pointed chards of glass went through her sock, and gouged her toe.  

    It looked like a deep cut, so I drove her to the hospital.  There it was determined that the wound needed to be stitched up.  One of our doctors, whose shift had just ended, generously stayed and put three stitches into the cut toe to seal the open wound.  

    My wife, who had arranged for a train trip to Jasper to visit a friend today, will still make the trip, and I guess, limp around the tourist town of Jasper with her painful toe.

Take a look at my paintings: