Monday 31 July 2023

A Look at the Forest Fire Damage

    Ever since our forest fire flamed across the mountain beside our house on May 5th, I have been curious about what that burnt area now looked like.  The fire burned across 1,500 acres (600 Ha.) of the McBride Peak and Teare Mountain slopes, leaving some areas above and below it, untouched.  There is a narrow bumpy road up the side of McBride Peak and Saturday we took advantage of the clear day to explore what the fire had left behind.  In the photo above you can see what it looks like at one point along the road up the mountain.

    The roots of the Aspen trees beneath the ground were undamaged by the fire and still alive, so quickly sent up new shoots so they could get back into business.  I was surprised to see how tall some of the new trees already were.   That is McBride in the valley below, peaking through the burnt trees.

    In some places the fire burned hotter than in other places.  Here the trees looked charred and all of the duff and mosses that once covered the ground burned away, leaving the rocks, once hidden, bone white.

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Sunday 30 July 2023

Thanks Big Brother, But I Know How To Get There

    Every Friday afternoon at 1:30 I go to the library for our Writer’s Group gathering.    I have lived here for 45 years and we live only about 5 miles from our tiny village, so I pretty much know my way around.  Last Friday, about an hour and a half before the Writer’s Group, my phone, trying to be helpful, pinged me and put up a map to show me how to get to the library.  It showed me the most direct route, which is a bit strange because there is only one way I could go to get there.

    Once I was at the Writer’s Group and opened my iPad that I use for my writing, a message appeared on my iPad that said something like:

      “At this time and place you generally use “Pages” (a writing software).  Do you want to open it now?” and provided the icon for Pages to make my life easier.

    It all made me wonder how I ever survived without all of this complicated technology, making my life easier.

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Saturday 29 July 2023

Behold the Mighty Hunter

    Kona is a very high-maintenance dog, demanding our constant attention.  However, we do sometimes get a reprieve because Kona thinks of herself as a mighty hunter.  Whenever she happens upon the scent of a mouse, it takes over all of her attention, and she will patiently sit there in the field without moving for thirty minutes or longer, staring down at the spot where she thinks the mouse might be.  Her intense concentration on the mouse, is a welcome time-out for us and relieves us of Kona’s nearly constant demands for attention. 

    I know mice are extremely important for the ecosystem, and they also make good baby-sitters.

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Friday 28 July 2023


    As I have been going through my old diaries, (I am presently on 1986), one of the things that stands out as I read, is just how much energy and drive I had in my younger days.  In my recent readings, it mentions making our sidewalk.  While it is just a sidewalk, it really took a lot of time and work to complete (and at the same time I was also working at Forestry and on a myriad of other projects on our house and property, as well as being involved in a lot of social activities.

    I had a cement mixer, and I had to buy some bags of concrete, but the rest of the things I needed for the sidewalk I had to go out and get myself.  Luckily, those things were available free for the taking, in various locations in the Robson Valley.  For gravel, I had to drive out to an old gravel pit and shovel the gravel into my pickup truck and haul back to the house and unload it.  I had to then drive out to a different place where there was a sandbank beside a logging road and shovel the sand into the back of the truck, drive back home, and unload it.

    There was an area out in the Beaver River Valley where there were big flat pieces of shale, and so I drove out there, lift and load the heavy slabs onto the truck. 

    Once I had all those things back home, I had to dig out the area where the sidewalk would go, staked in some plywood forms for the edges, and then started mixing load of concrete, which I poured into the forms.  Because I was making the cement myself, I couldn’t make the whole sidewalk in one go, I had to just do one section at a time.   In the photo you can see strips of grass going across the sidewalk, those show the different sections I did.

    I couldn’t haul all of the sand, gravel, and shale I needed to complete the whole sidewalk at one time in the pickup, so each of those ingredients required several more trips out to the various places to get them.  

    Slowly over the summer, I worked on the sidewalk and finally got it done.  Building the sideway was just a blip along all of the many other building projects that never seemed to end, that I did in those days. 

    I am sure glad I spent time to write my diaries, because it has been interesting to be reminded of all those things I did when I was younger.  Reading about all the work I did to make the sidewalk does make me appreciate it more each time I now walk on it.

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Thursday 27 July 2023

What Do You Think Of My Newly Landscaped Area, Lucifer?

     Our cat Lucifer, always checks out anything new in our house or outside, and I noticed her checking out the newly landscaped area I had been created under our spruce tree.  It seems that Lucifer thinks it is a newly developed litter box for her.   Oh well, that was not its purpose, but as long as she approves of it, I guess it is okay.

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Wednesday 26 July 2023


    We have reached that period when we are beginning to get some payback from all of the hours I have spent nurturing the garden.  We have been eating lettuce and potatoes for a while, but over the last couple of weeks our diet has been full of berries, both strawberries and raspberries.  We eat them in our bowl of oats in the morning and as dessert for supper.  

    A lot of local’s had their raspberry crop severely reduced by the very warm spell followed by a cold snap this spring, but luckily, we were spared.  We have been picking raspberries daily and there are more than we can eat out there in the patch.  We try to eat as many as we can fresh, because they taste so much better, than when they are frozen.

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Tuesday 25 July 2023

Peeing Outside

    One of the things I have always liked about our place was its privacy.  We can’t see any other houses from our house.  A neighbor, whose house was likewise situated, once told me that he really liked the fact that he could just go outside to take a whiz, and that made me realize that I too appreciated that freedom, not that I make use of it all the time.

    However lately, thanks to Kona, I have been peeing outside more and more, .  Kona recently discovered that on those hot days, one of the coolest places where she could sleep was in our bathroom.  Now often, when I need to take a pee, I discover that our bathroom is already “Occupied”.   Fortunately, because of our rural setting, that doesn’t present a problem; whenever I don’t wish to disturb Kona, I just head outside.

    Decades ago, realizing that the large group of family members who were coming for a visit might cause scheduling difficulties in our small bathroom, I got busy and built an outhouse.  Now with two options:  the great outdoors, and the outhouse, we can “Let sleeping dogs lie”.

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Monday 24 July 2023

Project Surprises

     I vaguely remember a few of the projects that I have done, where things went quickly and easily without any unexpected problems, but they are rare.  Normally when I start doing a project, I right away run into something that really complicates what I need to do.  The latest example of this was when I was trying to mitigate the fire hazard in my yard by cutting off all of the lower branches of a spruce tree and sawing down the Russian Olive tree that died over the winter and stood beside the spruce.

    Taking off the lower branches of the spruce went alright, but it was the olive tree that caused me grief.  The old photo, with my good old dog Mac, has an arrow that points out the olive tree. I was just going to saw it off at ground level, but that’s where I ran into problems.  Instead of the trunk going right into the ground, the olive tree had a big burl-like ball at it’s base (photo below).  It was sort of sticking out above the ground so I had to dig out around it so I could saw it off.  

    I ended up working two days trying to extract the burl from the ground.  I dug, I sawed, I tried to jerk it loose with the truck, I dug some more, I sawed some more, I used a pry-bar, and some metal wedges to try and crack it, and finally, after much frustration and sweat,  I got the burl out of the ground.

    It was such a relief to finally get it out and begin the landscaping phase of the project.  I filled the hole  where it once stood, and spread compost over the area so grass would heal the wound.

    The photo below shows Kona inspecting the area where I had trimed off the lower branches of the spruce and dug out the Russian Olive tree. 

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Sunday 23 July 2023


     During the summer we can’t really see the sunset from our house because of the trees, but every Saturday, when we return from visiting friends, we get to see the sun dipping at the far end of the Valley, if the weather is right.  Last night’s sunset was a strange one, as was the evening.  I pulled over and stopped so I could take a photo, and when I opened the door, I was buffeted by strong gusts of wind.  It was hard to keep the camera steady because the wind kept forcing the car door that I was using to steady myself, against me.

    As we were stopped there, an acquaintance who lived in the area came by on her bicycle and we started talking.  She surprised us by telling of another acquaintance who also lived nearby, who had just suddenly died of a heart attack after chasing his escaped cows.   We also learned more about the condition of another acquaintance, who had just been released from the hospital in Prince George, with a serious, but undiagnosed affliction.

    It all made for a strange and memorable stop; with the unusual sunset, the very strong wind, and the bad news about people we know.

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Saturday 22 July 2023

The Summer Before The War by Helen Simonson

The Summer Before The War by Helen Simonson

Historical novels have always been my favorite books to read not only because they give the reader an interesting story, but at the same time they teach the reader so much about a place in a particular period of time, at least that is always what I am always hoping for.  With The Summer Before The War, I was generously rewarded with both.  

      It offered a very engrossing tale about the struggles of a young woman left alone after the death of her academic father died, forcing her to make her own living by taking a teaching position in a small coastal British town of Rye in East Sussex, during the summer before World War one broke out.

Beatrice’s life would have been difficult anyway, just by moving to a town where she  knew no one, but because she was a young, unmarried female, meant that one obstacle after another was thrown in her way because of the bigoted views toward women the time.  She was hired to teach Latin, a subject most thought to be beyond the mental abilities of a woman, but fortunately she had the support of the Agatha Kent, who was on the school board, and who was the wife of a high ranking British Government advisor.  

      Agatha sought to open more opportunities up for women, despite the view of most of the others in the town.  Agatha was clever in social and political situations and often ran interference for Beatrice., Although Beatrice felt personally intimidated by the prejudicial decisions of others, she bravely refused to kowtow to the injustices that were often thrown in her way, by the men who ran everything at the time.

Agatha and her husband John, were middle-aged and childless, but were like surrogate parents for their nephews, Hugh and Daniel, who lived at their estate every summer.  Serious-minded Hugh was studying to become a doctor, while his cousin Daniel, was extraverted and a poet.   They both became close friends with Beatrice in her new life in pastoral Rye.  The rather idyllic life in early summer slowly turns into fear and dread, as the young men in Beatrice’s life are sent off to the hellish trench warfare in France, where some would lose their lives.  

While I was aware of many of the historic themes of the time, including the beginning of the end for the British class system and the white feather campaign to encourage enlistment in the military, there were other things I learned from the novel, such as the influx of refugees from Belgium that poured into the English towns to be cared for, and some of the little known discriminatory practices against women.  Two of the fathers in the book, did things that severely impacted the lives of their daughters.

The prose in the novel was witty at times as well as powerfully horrific when it was needed in the plot.  It painted a wide spectrum of both the landscapes of the countrysides and emotions of the characters.   It hit all of the emotions for me:  there were touching moments, terrifying events, maddening injustices, good resolutions, warm scenes of village life, and the hell of trench warfare.  I several times had tears in my eyes, from both sad events and the touchingly good ones.  I was very sorry when this book ended, because I had enjoyed reading it so much.

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Friday 21 July 2023

Tobacco Plant

    I have never been a fan of tobacco.  As a child, going to church, once a month we kids were given the opportunity to escape the boring sermon, by going to an anti-alcohol and tobacco program sponsored by the LTL (Loyal Temperance League) a branch of the WCTU (Women’s Christian Temperance Union).  Not only did we get out of the long church service, but we were treated with cookies and Kool-Aid.  The elderly women who ran the LTL told us kids about the dangers of alcohol and tobacco, and in my case, the lessons were very effective because I don’t drink or smoke.  

    One time at LTL when we were given the opportunity to make anti-smoking posters, I made one using this rhyme I had heard and remembered: 

    “Tobacco is a nasty weed,

    The Devil sows the seed,

    It soils you pockets, scents your clothes,

    and makes a chimney of your nose.”

    Anyway, last spring at the Dunster Mother’s Day Sale, I came upon a table where Glenda was selling tobacco bedding plants.  That surprised me because I didn’t really know tobacco plants could even grow up here in Central Interior, BC.  I wasn’t interested in them until Glenda told me they produced a nice flower, so I bought a plant and planted it in my garden.

    I have been surprised at how quickly it grew and how tall it got.  It is over 6 ft (1.8 m) tall and the has a cluster of flowers on the top.  With its large broad leaves, the tall tobacco plant does make a nice vertical feature in the garden.  At present only one flower of the cluster has opened (photo below).

    I haven’t changed my opinion about tobacco and so when the flowers are done blooming, I will put the tobacco plant in the compost pile.  I guess I need to shred the plant first to make sure it quickly composts.  Even if I knew someone who smoked, I wouldn’t give them the  leaves, knowing how unhealthy tobacco is.

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Thursday 20 July 2023

My Calendar Scoop

    Every year I make and sell a Cartoon and Trivia calendar.  The trivia spans a large range of information that I found interesting.  People often ask me where I get all of the trivia, and I tell them that every time I read or hear something interesting with its date, I write it down then enter it in a database I have on my computer.

    Back in 1993 I was at my desk at Forestry listening to CBC Radio as I worked on a map.  They were doing an interview with one of the astronomers who had discovered that a comet had broken up near Jupiter and in a year its fragments would be crashing into the planet.  He said it would happen on July 20th of 1994.  I eagerly recorded the date so I could use it on my 1994 calendar, which I did.

    In July 1994, just as the astronomer had predicted Comet Shoemaker-Levy did crash into Jupiter.  While probably no one who had the calendar thought much about the foresight I had in recording the event, I was very proud it was stated on my calendar.  It felt like a real scoop.  I think I had produced the only 1994 homemade calendar in the world that had the event recorded.

    Last night on PBS I watched a program about Jupiter in which they talked about Comet Shoemaker-Levy and what an important event it was.  It reminded me of my “prowess” in putting the phenomenon on my calendar

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Wednesday 19 July 2023

The Garden

    Normally we get enough moisture for the garden from the showers that pass through, but this year  was forced to spray water on the garden because those rain showers just weren’t coming.  The hot temperatures along with the dry conditions and the smoky skies all had me worried, but amazingly, my garden has performed really well.  Here is photo.

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Tuesday 18 July 2023

Electric Toothbrushing Tomato Flowers

    I have several times mentioned the importance of natural pollinators in providing our food,  but strangely, if all of the pollinators disappeared, we would still have tomatoes.  Tomato plants don’t depend on insect pollinators to develop their fruit, because they are self-pollinating, instead they depend upon wind or the shaking of their flowers to pollinate.   

    When I was in my youth I had summer jobs working in my grandfather’s commercial greenhouse.  There wasn’t wind inside the large greenhouses, and so to make sure that the tomato flowers got pollinated, it was done by hand.  One of the easy jobs I sometimes did was to “buzz” the tomato flowers.  Holding a battery-run device with a wire prong that protruded from the handle, I would work my way through the rows of tomatoes, touching the prong to the tomato bloom, I then pressed a button which caused the prong to vibrate, thus shaking the flower.  

    In my greenhouse, I used to bang the overhead wires that held the twine that supported my tomato plants and that would shake the plants and their flowers.  Then I heard on CBC radio about a greenhouse in the Arctic where they used an electric toothbrush to buzz the tomato flowers.  I had an old electric tooth-brush, so I started doing the same thing.

    I just hold the end of the toothbrush to the edge of the bloom and press the button and it shakes the flower.  The flowers should be pollenated in the cool of the morning to be most effective.  I don’t know how many more tomatoes I get by pollinating them by hand compared to just letting the tomato plants alone, but I want to make sure I get as many tomatoes as I can, so buzzing each bloom seems like good insurance.

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Monday 17 July 2023

Rain, But the Smoke Continues

    I took these photos two days ago when the smoke from distant forest fires was particularly bad.  Yesterday we had some thunderstorms that seemed to clean the sky somewhat, but today the smoke is back obscuring our mountains again.  Of course if the forest fires were closer, things would be a lot worse, but day after day of this smoke is depressing and does wear a person down. 

    I have tried to avoid doing any kind of strenuous work outside, because that sucks more of the fine particles from the smoke, deeper into your lungs, so about all I have been doing is picking my peas, the strawberries, and the raspberries; things that need to be done, and don’t make me breathe hard.

    While I am very happy to see the rain showers that are coming in, poor Kona is terrified with the thunder that has come with them.  She trembles and shivers and cannot be calmed.  It has been especially bad if the storms come at night.  Suddenly, I am awakened by a freaked-out canine, who drapes herself across my neck and head, and won’t be moved.  

    I now hear rain drops falling on our metal roof, so I guess I will postpone this morning’s pea picking until later.

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Sunday 16 July 2023

Lucifer, Our Next Worry

     We have been worrying about Lucifer’s health for a couple of months now.  She started peeing a lot, causing me to empty her litter box twice as often as before.  She drank water like crazy and began spending almost all of her time sleeping.  The vet indicated the start of diabetes.  We decided not to go the route of giving her shots every day, because she is such a feisty cat and it would just cause her constant agitation, so we decided to pretty much let Nature take its course.  We did start feeding her more treat food like chicken, fish, and cheese.

    Lucifer’s health really didn’t decline, she still had energy and spunk and kept the same routine.  However, five days ago, she spent the whole day sleeping on the floor instead of her preferred spots.  She didn’t eat and didn’t move.  When I went to bed that night, I expected to wake up and find her dead, but the next morning, she was still breathing.  Her behavior was pretty much the same for the following couple of days.  She drank, slept, but didn’t eat.    She did begin to jump up on the old couch to sleep in her favorite spot though.

    Then she surprised us and began to come down stairs to use her litter box.  (She refused to use it when we moved it upstairs where she slept, so I moved it back downstairs to its normal location.)  Yesterday she wanted to go outside and she stayed there in the flower bed beside the house for hours. 

    Last night when Kona and I were in bed, I was surprised when Lucifer jumped up to cuddle beside me, like she used to do.  As is her habit, when I turned on the radio, which I do when I am ready to sleep, Lucifer jumped off the bed went to her sleeping spot.  

    This morning, for the first time in a while, part of her food had been eaten.  This seemed like a good sign, but she is now so thin and light, I don’t know if she is actually going to recover.  We are keeping our fingers crossed.

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Saturday 15 July 2023

The Saddest Looking Flower Display Ever

    We usually have a lot of attractive pots, planters, and hanging baskets full of flowers around our house every summer, but this year it just didn’t happen.  We generally buy some of the flowers at big box stores in Prince George, but we learned that most of those are started using seeds coated with the toxic Neonicotinoids that are ingested by the plants and in their flowers, eventually slowly killing the bees and other pollinators.  We didn’t want to do that so didn’t buy any flowers there.

    We thought instead we would buy flowers grown by trusted growers in the Robson Valley.  Unfortunately, the main grower is always very late at getting his plants out, and by the time we learned he was open, all of the good flowers were gone.  However, he had a final sale in McBride, and my wife was able to buy a couple of his leftover struggling dregs, which we then planted in the big pot that we put on the old birch stump in our yard.

    The plants look laughable, but hopefully, now that they have been freed from their tiny starter pots and planted into lots of soil, they will take advantage of their new environment and fill out a little bit and thrive.   It’s pretty embarrassing to display them the way they presently are.

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Friday 14 July 2023

Rest in Peace, Mom


    The woman who gave me life, then nurtured, and sacrificed for me, died peaceably yesterday in her sleep.  Her 102 year old body finally gave out on her.  No words can adequately express my love for her, and my appreciation for all the things she had done for me, and my brothers and my sisters.  Her legacy lives on in the really wonderful family that she and my father created, encouraged, and nurtured.  

    Minnie grew up on a farm where she inherited the characteristic of self- reliance.   She seemed to always accept the “cards she was dealt” in her life.  In 1999, when my father died, she insisted that she move out of our family home to live independently in the small old house next door. 

    She was still mowing the yard well into her 80’s.   Once she mowed too close to the steep slope down to the lane that ran beside her house, causing the riding mower to flip over and roll.  She was  thrown off in the tumble.  Mom lay there on the ground for a while, hoping that a neighbor would come down the lane and help her.  She waited and waited, but no one ever came, so finally Mom did it herself; she forced herself back onto her feet and just slowly walked herself back to the house.  That was the kind of woman she was.

    Although seemingly conventional, I was sometimes surprised to see a bit of a wild side to Mom.  We were once at a big smorgasbord-type restaurant, and when Mom was up getting herself a soft drink from one of the many drink dispensers, a woman stranger came up carrying a tray of food and ask Mom if she would pour her a drink also.  Mom asked her what kind she wanted, and the woman replied, “Just anything” and went off to put her tray on a nearby table.  

    Mom then proceeded to pour the stranger what was known in our family as a “Suicide”;  a mixture of four or five different flavors in the cup.  I would never have done anything like that in such a situation, but Mom did.   I don’t know what the woman thought when she took her first sip of her drink.

    Mom loved to read and was a skilled and creative quilter. I also love to read, and many of my favorite novels were books that she had recommended to me.  I always felt like it was her quilting that influenced my love of color in my paintings.  

    Below is a favorite photo which shows Mom as a girl, standing on the neighborhood Indian Trail Tree.

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Thursday 13 July 2023

Reflections of a Smoky Sun

    This morning as Kona and I walked around the pond, my eye was drawn to the orange reflection of the sun, as it climbed over the mountain.   Our sky continues to be blanketed with forest fire smoke.  

    It seems a bit ironic that at the same time I was taking this photo, logging truck after logging truck were barreling down the road carrying trees that a week ago were part of a healthy forest, a healthy forest that was removing carbon out of the air.   It is the excessive amount of carbon in the air that has warmed the planet so much that our climate is going nuts with extreme heat, extreme drought, extreme flooding, and extreme forest fires, but it doesn’t seem to matter; all those things that are causing the problem continue, and even increase.

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Wednesday 12 July 2023

Hellish Air

    One might expect that living in an isolated rural mountain valley might protect one from hazardous air pollution, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.  We woke up again this morning to yet another blanket of forest fire smoke from distant infernos.  We have been getting day after day of this smoke.

    Now to add to the toxic mix is a very thick blanket of dust, the result of BC’s Highway Ministry, deciding to go cheap by seal coating Highway 16 instead of putting down proper asphalt pavement.  Seal coating means they put down some thick oil on the highway, then cover it with a layer of gravel on top.  Eventually, all the traffic will pound the gravel into the oil, but that takes time, and until then, every vehicle that goes over it, throws up thick dust from the gravel and the odd rock.

    Adding to our quality of life will be the noise made by driving over the seal coated surface.  It sounds similar to driving on a gravel road, so turn up your radio.   It is not very fun to bike on seal coating either.  Below is a photo I took this morning as we approached the intersection of Highway 16 and McBride Main Street.

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