Wednesday 31 May 2023

Kona in the Garden--Not Helpful

    I have mentioned before that Kona loves chewing on sticks.  She will often pass up her bowl of dog food in the house, go outside, and then start chewing on a stick.  I don’t understand it, but of course, I am not Kona.

    Yesterday I was out in the garden weeding.  Kona walked by a row of beans, noticed the stick sticking up at the end of the row with the green bean envelope on it.  She pulled it out of the ground with her mouth, then nonchalantly, carried it over to the grass and began chewing on the stick.   Obviously, there are not too many row markers left in the garden, thanks to Kona.

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Tuesday 30 May 2023

Goutweed: Invasive Plant

    Above is one of my early paintings of Hostas that I had planted that grew in the small garden by our deck.  Those variegated leaves around the edges of the painting are Goutweed.  At first, I just had the hostas in the garden, then the Goutweed somehow spread into it from another garden on the other side of the house.  I didn’t mind, because the variegated Goutweed leaves were attractive.

    The other day, I was surprised read an article that said that goutweed was a terribly invasive plant.  “One of the worst garden plants.”   While I didn’t know it was “Invasive”, I did know that it spread like crazy and choked out other plants.  In fact, those Hostas have been totally wiped out by the Goutweed.  Below is a photo showing the same “garden” as the painting, but how it looked like last week.  As you can see, the Hostas are gone, starved out by the variegated Goutweed which mutated to a plain-leaved Goutweed, and the garden just became just a thick clump of green leaves.

    I hate invasive plants, so I am working to get rid of the Goutweed.  First I pulled out the plants, (of course the roots are still in the ground), then I covered the area with sheets of metal roofing that will block out the sunlight and hopefully eventually kill the roots.  I will leave the roofing on the area all year.  See the photo at the very bottom of the page.

    Goutweed was introduced to the US in 1860.  It was soon recognized as being invasive.  For some reason, plant stores were not prevented from selling it, and still sell it today, even though it is a terrible thing to plant in a garden.  I sure didn’t know it was so invasive when we first bought some.  It should be banned.

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Monday 29 May 2023

The Dunster General Store

    I have often mentioned Dunster in my blogs and yesterday we drove the 24 miles (39 kms) to go to the Dunster Store, which pretty much is Dunster.   There is not much else in the hamlet, except for the old train station, which is now the museum.   For a tiny facility, there is a lot to be had in the Dunster General Store:  Groceries, fresh produce, pots and pans, beautiful handmade African baskets, a post office, and a lot of the miscellaneous items, one might need.

    The store also features wonderful friendly service by Chantel, standing at her post behind the counter.  When we went to the store yesterday, we were surprised to see more of our McBride friends there, than we usually do when we are shopping in McBride.

    The Dunster Store is a unique establishment, with the friendly neighborly feel of a general store from the past.

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Sunday 28 May 2023

Bear: Checking Things Out

    Yesterday evening this bear came leisurely walking through our front yard.  We first saw it over close to where the bird feeder used to hang, then it meandered over to our house to check out the flowers growing just below our windows.  

    I went searching for my camcorder and by the time I found it, the bear was in the pasture, looking through the fence that surrounds and protects our garden.  

    I was able to get this photo of the bear, standing on its rear legs, inspecting our garden.  

    I was on our balcony taking the photo, and when the bear noticed me, it slowly ambled on down toward the pond, and then disappeared into the bush.

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Saturday 27 May 2023

I Can't Pass Up a Lupine Photo

    Lupines are one of my favorite plants, and for a photographer, they have a lot going for them.  Their star-shaped foliage hold raindrops, like they were jewels, and their elongated blooms are colorful and are prized by the bees.  Even when they are tiny and just beginning to grow, Lupines are photogenic.  

    Here is a photo of an immature Lupine flower as it is just beginning to show a blush of color at its base.  As the flower matures it will eventually grow to be a colorful stalk, a foot (30cm) tall.

    Here is a painting I did of a Lupine flower:

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Friday 26 May 2023

Fire Fighting, The Behind the Scene Work

    The photo shows the last bit of smoke from the Teare Creek Fire, which we had several weeks ago.  


    I worked 23 years for the BC Forest Service and during all those summers there were often forest fires that we had to deal with.  Usually, when there is a news story about forest fires, you are shown video of fire fighters, out in the bush physically fighting the fire, but you never see all the behind the scene workers who are spending hours and hours supplying the equipment to all of those fire fighters.

    During my Forest Service years, whenever there was a fire, I was not on the frontline, but usually ended up working in the warehouse, issuing equipment to the crews, who needed pumps, hoses, polaskis (an axe-like tool that was also like a hoe), “piss tanks” (metal water tanks, worn like a backpack, with a hand pump to spray water), chainsaws, fuel, lunches, silverware, camp stoves, disposable sleeping bags, tents, blankets, hard hats, you get the idea.

    Here is what one of my weekends was like during a fire in 1985:

During the first weekend in July, I found myself on “standby” again and was the designated fire backup person.  That meant that I was “on call” and had to be ready for a callout if there was a fire.  As luck would have it, there was one; the “Tar Fire” (fires were always named after their location) and this one was more than an hour west of town at Ptarmigan Creek. 

    I was notified that I  had to be at the Forest Service “Cache” (warehouse) at 5:15 AM on Saturday, to send fire fighting equipment out to the fire.  I did drag myself out of bed to be there, and the same sleep-disrupting schedule dogged me for the next four consecutive days.

On Sunday, not only did I have to get the same insanely early start to the day, but during the day I had to make two trips out to the fire, hauling equipment to the fire crew.  It was an exhaustingly long work day of thirteen hours, but because it was on a weekend, I earned double-time which I could take as either pay or time-off.

On the Monday, my last day of being on standby, I was again at the cache at 5:15 AM, but as it ended up, all I had to issue to the fire fighters was a handful of spark plugs.  It hardly seemed worth my having to get up at 4:30, but that was what they needed.

The following day which was again very hot (33°C, 91°F), I was tasked with hauling four barrels of Turbo-B Aviation Fuel for the helicopters, out to the fire.  After delivering and dropping off the fuel, the fire crew loaded the truck with the fire camp garbage, which I was to drop off at the dump on the way back to McBride.

At the dump, a Caterpillar tractor had just spread a foot of loose sand along the edge of the pit and when I backed the truck to the pit to throw in the garbage, I got stuck in the loose sand.  I tried to winch myself free, but the winch burned out, so in the end, I had to radio to the office to send someone out to help me get out.  

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Thursday 25 May 2023

Photos From Morning's Pond Walk

  I always take my camcorder when Kona and I do our morning walk around the pond.  Every day the lighting is different or I see some plant that has grown or has been illuminated differently.  Here are three photos that I took this morning on our walk.

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Tuesday 23 May 2023

Flamingoes: A Story and a Cartoon

    This is something that happened way back in 1985.  My aging and deteriorating brain cells had erased it from my memory, but fortunately, I had recorded it in my diary.  

One day when we were in the hardware store, my wife noticed that they were selling some of those pink flamingo lawn ornaments, so we bought a few to sneak into our neighbor’s lawn.  We then we drove out to the Dunster Hall for a goodbye party for a friend.  There was a live band, but it didn’t go over as well as my dance tape.  After the farewell party, we “limped back home in our ailing car.”   

Once we got home, we grabbed the flamingos and in the darkness, we creeped over through the grove of trees that separated our properties, to Kjell and Celine’s house.   Quietly, we stuck the flamingos in their flower garden. 

The next morning, our phone rang.  It was Kjell, who asked,  “Do you have a bird book that I could borrow?  When we woke up this morning there were some strange birds in our flower garden.”

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Monday 22 May 2023

The Green After A Rain

    It always seems so much greener after a rain, and I sure noticed it this morning as Kona and I walked around the pond.  I am never sure if the green is the result of the plants just being happy or whether the gray skies do something to the color, although we often get gray skies and the plants aren’t noticeably greener.

    I was really happy to get the cooler weather and the rain overnight, because it had been getting very dry.  A couple of days ago I planted some marigolds around my cabbage plants to keep the bugs away from them, and it was like planting something in the dust.  

    After our recent fire evacuation, I would be happy if the rest of our summer was cooler and showery.

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Sunday 21 May 2023

Smoky Sunset

    While all the forest fire smoke in the air is really unhealthy for us to breathe, it does contribute to some colorful sunsets.   This was the sunset that we saw last night as we drove home for a visit with friends.

    The Robson Valley has a NW/SE orientation, so during the winter the sun sets behind the Cariboo Mountains.  However in the summer the sun moves above the Valley and sets down at the far end of the valley bottom.

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Saturday 20 May 2023

What Bird Is That?

    Yesterday morning as I was walking Kona around the pond, I heard a bird chirping away.  It was a call I had heard before, but I didn’t have a clue what bird was making it.  I have always admired those birders who can hear a bird call and identify the bird, but I just don’t have that ability.  I can identify a few birds by their call, but not many.

    Anyway, I continued my walk, and kept hearing the bird call.  I tried to see the bird, but I just couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from.  Then I remembered that I had an app on my iPhone that was supposed to record a bird call and identify it.  It was an app that I had had for a year, but never got around to using.  

    I dug my phone out of my pant’s pocket, opened the app, and pressed “Record” and the app recorded the bird call, then when I submitted it, it told me what bird was making it:  It was a Northern Waterthrush, a bird I had never even heard of before, but the description of the bird and its chosen environment convinced me that that must be the correct bird.

    I am always amazed at what we are now able to do with the help of the many apps that are available.  There are apps like iNaturalist that allow you to take a photo of a plant or animal and it will identify it.  The app I used to identify a bird by it’s call is BirdNET.  Below is a screenshot of it showing me the graphic of the bird call and a photo of the Northern Waterthrush, that when clicked, enlarges the photo and gives information about the bird.


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Friday 19 May 2023

Pet Hair Removal

    I would never accept advertising on my blog, but every once and a while I find a product that works exceptionally well, and feel like I should help people out by telling them.  

    Our dog Kona sheds like crazy, and likewise, there is Lucifer our cat who also drops her fine fur like crazy.  We have a dark carpet in our living room and we constantly see tufts of cat fur on it.   Because of the problem we bought a special vacuum cleaner that was rated highly because of its ability to pick up pet hair, but it struggles, even with the hair sitting on the surface of the carpet and there is a lot of hair down there that you can’t see, because it has worked its way down into the carpet fibers.

    I bought this Mougutou Pro Hair Remover from Amazon for $16.  I had my fingers crossed that it would work and I have been very impressed with it.  I has very small teeth, that when you rake it across the carpet will pick up all of the pet hair you can’t see.  

    The photo shows some of the hidden pet hair in a section of the carpet.  The area above was raked and the are below the hair was not.  Except for the visible particles, you can’t really see the difference, but there are a lot of pet hairs in the area below that are hidden beneath the surface of the carpet.

    It works on other things beside carpets.  The one disadvantage of thing is that you do have to get down on your knees to work the area of the carpet, which is time consuming, but it will clean up all that unseen fur.

    If you have problems with pet hair, this tool is certainly worth the $16 price.  Unlike other pet hair products, like rollers, you don’t have to continually buy replacement sticky pads.

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Thursday 18 May 2023

Wildlife Photos With A Camcorder

    I previously mentioned the amazing zoom on my camcorder and the zoom is really helpful in taking wildlife photos.  I took the shot above of two grizzly bears while sitting safely, some distance away, in my car.  I certainly wouldn’t want to be anywhere close to those two. 

    The fact that the camcorder is really meant for video makes it very useful for filming wild animals.  Wildlife tends to flee whenever I show up with a camera.   I have learned that if I can zoom in on them, then take a video, then later, using my computer, I can slowly go through the video, pick out a frame that shows the best shot of the animal, and make a still photo of it.  That is what I did with the grizzly bears.

    It is also what I did with the Saw-whet owl in the photo below.  I zoomed in on it, took a video of it moving around, then made a still photo of the best image.  

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Wednesday 17 May 2023

Sony Camcorder Closeups

    Over the last couple of days I have been lamenting the disappearance of the camcorder and describing just what a versatile piece of equipment it is.  As discussed previously, the Sony camcorder’s focal range is amazing.  Yesterday I showed some examples of the abilities of its zoom.  Today I have some examples of it’s closeups.

    Above is a photo I took of my computer keyboard I took with my camcorder.  The shot was difficult just because I was able to get so close to the keyboard (an inch or 3 cm) that at that distance, the camera blocked out the light shining on the keyboard.  You can see the all the embarrassing dirt and grime in sharp detail, on my keyboard, things that I don’t ordinarily notice when I use it. 

    Below is a closeup I took of a more natural subject:  a dandelion with some tiny Forget-me-nots.  The camcorder lets you just get right into the personal space of the flower.  

    The camcorder has been such a wonderful and useful instrument for my photography and I am sure disappointed that they are rapidly disappearing from the marketplace.   I hope my camcorder will last as long as I do.

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Tuesday 16 May 2023

Camcorder Zoom

     In yesterday’s blog I wrote about how I fell in love with the amazing range of the my camcorder.  It allows you to take a wide range of photos without having to change lens, like you would in a lot of 35mm still cameras.  Above are two photos that I took at the same time, standing in the same spot.  My Sony camcorder has a 20 X zoom and as you can see, it is really quite amazing what it allows you to do.

    As I mentioned in the blog yesterday, I really regret that camcorders are slowly disappearing from the market, because they are my favorite camera for stills.

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Monday 15 May 2023

Yikes, Camcorders are Disappearing


    I have been taking photos for more than 50 years.  Twenty-four years ago, I stopped using a 35mm camera and instead, started taking still photos with a camcorder.  Here is how that happened:

    I was thinking about buying a video camera and went into a drugstore that sold them.  The clerk allowed me to pick one up and play around with it.  I immediately liked its cylindrical shape.  I found it very easy to hold with its strap that went around my hand, but what really sold me was the camcorders range.

    It automatically focused on something a couple of inches (7 cm) away, and it also allowed me to zoom in on things, very far away.  I always had to change lens on my 35 mm camera to do that.  The camcorder did it all, without having to lug around a lot of heavy lenses.  Even though it was built to take video, it also allowed me to take really sharpe photos and after I bought it, that is mostly what I used it for.  Just about all of the photos you see on my blog have been taken with a Sony camcorder.

    I have gone through several camcorders in those 20 years.  The first one used a tape to record a video or photo.  When it’s tape mechanism started giving me trouble, I got a camcorder that put the video or still on a memory card instead of a tape and that worked a lot better.  I damaged another camcorder when it fell into the Fraser River when a canoe I was in tipped over.

    This winter I noticed that my camcorder was no longer able to give me a good photo in the bright light, like a scene with a lot of snow.  It couldn’t adjust and the photos always were faded and I was unable to tweak or correct the photos using my computer.  

    I decided to buy myself a new camcorder and when I got to the same big drugstore, I couldn’t find any camcorders.  When I asked the clerk, I was told they don’t sell them anymore.  “Yikes,” I thought, what am I going to do?” 

     None of the other stores I checked, had any camcorders either.  When I went online to Amazon, there were some camcorders, but they were the same model as my old one.  It seems that camcorders were no longer a thing.  I guess everyone just uses their phones for videos these days and while you can buy bigger and fancier video cameras, there seems to no longer be a market for camcorders.  

    I ended up buying the same camcorder as the one that was malfunctioning, at least I am familiar with it, and I hope it will last me.  

    Below is an example of the faded photos from my malfunctioning camcorder that could no longer adjust to bright lighting conditions.

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Sunday 14 May 2023

Bog Arum

    Bog Arum is a native aquatic plant that comes out of the water along the shoreline of my pond.  As the plant matures it will develop a white flower, but this time of year it is only its broad green leaf and stem.  Whenever I see them like this in its simplicity, they always remind me of a Japanese garden.  Here are two examples of the Bog Arums I have been seeing lately.

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Saturday 13 May 2023

Early Birds to the Dunster Mother's Day Sale

    This morning we drove out to the hamlet of Dunster for their annual Mother’s Day Sale. We already have enough stuff, so we were mainly going to get some bedding plants.   I knew that Mother’s Day was on Sunday, but somehow I got it in my head that the community yard sale at the old Dunster School House was going to be on the Saturday before Mother’s Day.  I was wrong.  After driving the 24 miles (40 kms) to Dunster, arriving, and seeing no other cars, we realized that the sale will be tomorrow.      

    The trip to Dunster really wasn’t a complete loss, it was a beautiful sunny day, everything was green, and it gave us a chance to view the black scar caused by the fire, from the east.  It really burned a huge area on that side. 

    We saw a mother black bear with two cubs grazing on the fresh grass on the highway right-of-way.  The two cubs had separated by the time I got my camera out, but I did get a photo of one of them.   They were fairly big, so I think they must have been yearling cubs. 

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Friday 12 May 2023

Aspen Fire Barrier

    Since moving to BC I have always been surprised at how people seem to value conifer trees over deciduous trees.  They are always quick to cut down the Aspen, Birch, and Cottonwoods, leaving the Spruce, Fir, and Balsam.   This practice was especially evident while I was working for the BC Forest Service, where they had programs called “weeding” and “thinning” which meant taking out the deciduous trees to allow the confers to more unimpeded.

    The Teare Cr. Fire which we recently experience, really displayed the value of having stands of deciduous trees in a forest.  In the photo above I have outlined in white, stands of Aspen and Birch that seem to have survived the fire and had become a barrier to the spreading fire. ( Unlike the Aspen which in the photo show light green color, the Birch trees had not yet leaved out so still look whitish.)  The area lined in pink shows a stand of confers which burned when the fire jumped over the Aspen and torched the conifers.

    Of course a fire can travel through an Aspen stand, but it has to burn on the ground instead of
“flagging” from tree top to tree top, as it can do in a pure stand of conifers.

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Thursday 11 May 2023

A Good Photo

    I constantly have my camcorder with me looking for photos, and I end up taking photos every day.  Most of the pictures I take are okay, but every once in a while I take one that I really like.  Yesterday I took this photo of waterlilies in my pond, and it is one of those photos that feels special.  I particularly like the water on the waterlily leaves and the reflections in the water. 

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Wednesday 10 May 2023

Now, Smoke

    While our fire danger has fortunately passed, for which we thank our lucky stars, many fires continue to rage across Northern BC and Alberta.  We didn’t suffer much from the fire we had on the mountain we live below, but now the smoke from all those other fires has moved into the Valley, obscuring the mountains and probably impairing our health, but I guess that is little to complain about compared to the devastation all those other people are having to endure.

    The heavy rain we got that put our our fire was sure ended our problems and our lives have gotten back to normal, but those people that continue to be impacted by forest fires are now facing more distress as a heat wave and wind is forecast to move in this weekend.

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Tuesday 9 May 2023

Evacuation: Lessons Learned

       Now that the threat from the Teare Creek Fire is over, as is our evacuation, it is time to remember some things I learned from the ordeal.  Luckily, when we first saw the plumes of smoke coming over the slope before receiving the evacuation order, we immediately anticipated what might happen and we started gathering our valued possessions together, so when the RCMP came to our door to tell us we had to evacuate, all we had to do was just load those important things up and leave.

    I had quickly drawn up a list of what should go with us and we took all of those things, but I need to make a more extensive list for next time.  My wife had wisely gathered everything Kona and Lucifer would need, and I was happy that she thought ahead about those things.  

    Of course anytime you are rushed in a situation like the fire, there are things that you forget to pack.

For me, one of those things was a tooth brush, but luckily my wife had an extra.  Another thing I totally forgot was cash.  I had some money in my wallet, but there was some more cash in the house, that I forgot about and had the house burned down, it would have been lost.

    Another problem with my evacuation concerned where I put things.  As you can see in the photo, I stacked my paintings  in the back of the truck.  Unfortunately, in doing that, some of the important things we quickly needed were trapped because I had put them in front of all those paintings.   Once we got away and I needed to re-charge my phone, I couldn’t get to the phone charger, because I couldn’t get to it because they were blocked by all of the paintings.

    Another thing I did wrong in my rush to get things together was this:  I would come upon something that we should take, and I just quickly stuffed it in one of the containers we were taking.  Unfortunately, once we were settled at our friend’s house, I couldn’t remember in which container, I had put them.

    So I did learn some lessons from the experience and hopefully, if there is a next time, I will remember these things and be a bit more organized.

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Monday 8 May 2023

Our Evacuation Stay

    I will start out by saying that our evacuation order has now been lifted and we are back home at our property that was not at all damaged by the Teare Cr. Forest Fire.  

    Today I thought I would tell you about our evacuation stay.  Upon hearing about our evacuation, our friends the Milnes, whose house is located safely away from the fire, immediately invited us to come and stay with them. 

    They have a beautiful home, as you can see in the photo, plus they have a separate studio that is all set up to accommodate guests, so we had our separate space to live in, while sharing meals and visiting with them.  Once we saw that our house was out of danger, our evacuation seem to turn into something akin to a vacation visit with friends.

    One of our biggest concerns with staying with them was wondering how Kona and Lucifer were going to react to staying away from the world they knew.  Lucifer our cat, was a particular worry, because she had never been on a leash, and had only been in her cat carrying case two times.  She surprised us by how well she adapted to the change.

    We didn’t have a collar or a leash for Lucifer, but I was able to rig one up using one of Kona’s leashes.  I put the hand loop of the leash over Lucy’s head, then using safety pins, tightened and secured it, so she couldn’t slip her head out of it.  I used the fastener on the other end of the leash to secure Lucifer to a railing, so she couldn’t venture very far.

    Within her accessible corner were her carrying case and a blanket for sleep, her litter box, and some food and water.  Although she really wanted to explore the studio, she accepted her limitations without to much complaint.  She did start loudly meowing a couple of times in the middle of the night, but after I got up and put more food in her dish, she quieted down again.

    Lucifer did start craving a lot of affection, so we had to pet her a lot to keep her satisfied.  She was a real trooper about being away from home, as was Kona, who fortunately didn’t demonstrate any of her incessant, loud, barking.  They were both good pets during our stay, but were happy once we were able to get back home to the world they knew.  Once home, Kona took off to explore our property, making sure there hadn’t been any critter visits during our absence. 

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