Saturday, September 24, 2011

Home Preserving

As I write this I am in the presence of my girlfriend and two of her friends who are busy preparing jars, tomatoes and bell peppers to create salsa that will be bottled and sealed to be enjoyed during the winter. It is the time of the year to be processing the many great treats available from the local farmers and from ones own patch of soil. With 80lbs of tomatoes and 40lbs of peppers they have well supported a couple of local farms.

A couple weeks ago I processed two cases of Okanagan peaches. It was my first foray into solo canning. It was a very enjoyable experience. Peeling and chopping, heating the jars and syrup. Filling the jars and gently placing in the water bath, waiting 20 minutes and the rewarding sound of the snap lids snapping to signal the jar being sealed. The pleasure in this brings one back to the "olden" days when a family had to process and preserve food grown in the summer. Fresh food was not available during the winter. If a household was to survive the cold, dreary months they had to have nourishment. I think back to the days of the First Nations, who would dry and smoke fish and berries and other wild edibles for winter. This was the main focus of there existence. While I am no expert in First Nation culture and history, from what I have gathered, things relating to food are interspersed in the legends and tales. The animals were represented in art and song.

Processing and preserving is a large part of bringing a Slow Food philosophy into ones home. It can takes hours to create some wonderful eating for the family. It allows the choice of buying less commercially processed food and the chemicals and additives that can be present in them. The ingredients have words that are pronounceable for an 8 year old. The food industry makes billions marketing products made from cheap corn based foods laced with sugars and chemicals and dyes.

Preserving food is just fun. What a way to spend a day with friends and family doing something productive and rewarding. A pantry full of clear bottles filled with your own produce is picturesque. There is nothing like the taste of summer on a cold January morning when you open a jar of preserved peaches. It is an art that is gaining new fans and popularity in the food world.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Vancouver Island Mountain Bike tour

Here is something that I have been hearing about for a little while. A network of trails that connect from Mile 0 at Dallas road in Victoria, all the way to Cape Scott on the very northern end of Vancouver Island. It includes trails in Strathcona Park and the North Coast Trail, a new very remote route on the top of the island. This trail could be a boon for backpacking outfitters, hostels, shuttle services and small communities along the way. I need to learn more about the organization that is working on making this a reality. I would be something worth giving a few donation dollars.

Link to the Vancouver Island Spine Trail site.

I have had an idea of doing a mountain bike tour on Vancouver Island, from Cape Scott to Victoria, doing the same kind of idea as the Spine Trail, the only thing would be that I would not be able to ride a bike on the provincial park trails, so I would have to find a route that follows existing forestry roads and trails. I am going to be researching this and maybe one day I will make this a reality. I would like to find a route, GPS record it, make a map, and have some internet guide for it. This could be a fun project. Any one want to help?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The last days.....

So the cabin on the ferry didn't work as well as we had hoped. Hecate Strait was violent. The boat was rolling and crashing. I just couldn't relax enough to fall asleep. It was pretty horrible way to spend a night. I guess I finally did drift off for a little while, because the phone rang at 4:15 and woke me up. The wake up call was so we could be ready to get off the boat for 5. Quickly dressing and going upstairs for free coffee and pasteries. I was feeling pretty rough from not sleeping. We went down to the bike and loaded our stuff on. We saw Christina and she said it was so scary up on the passenger deck. She thought we were all going to die. Wow. I was happy we had the cabin after all. Just really glad that we were back on land, if for only an hour.

Soon we were loading on the MV Northen Expedition. to bring us south. The bikes were fastened and we went upstairs to find somewhere to sit. The boat was a little bit messed up. The forward passenger deck was only accessible if you were to pay something like $30. So we had to sit on the side seats, which was okay. The windows were floor to ceiling and directly on the edge. An uninterrupted view. It worked out well because the channels that we cruised were quite narrow so we could see the shore really well.

I had to crash out as soon as we were situated. I was exhausted and still feeling horrible. I napped for a while and woke up feeling a little better. We went for breakfast in the fancy buffet restaurant. It was pretty good. I consumed a bunch of coffee and smoked pork products. I was feeling a lot better afterwards. The day was spent sitting, reading, and watching the world go by. I was feeling kind of grumpy. I just wanted to be quiet and not talk. Just lose myself in a book.

The scenery was spectacular. Waterfall Alley was really sweet. On both sides of the boat one could see waterfalls cascading down the cliffs, rivers just appearing out of the forest, and small rivulets seeping from every where. A very wet area of the coast. The snow was also not very high up on the mountains here either. Unfortunately I saw no bears or sheep. I did see six different pods of Pacific White-side Dolphins. Orcas were spotted once on the other side of the boat, and I did see another kind of whale spout, but didn't see the critter behind it. The day was pretty nice. It was mixed sun and cloud, no rain. The water was calm except when we had to cross open water. The roll was pretty strong and made some feel a little sea sick. I was doing fine, but it was hard to walk.

Waterfall Alley

Waterfall at the cannery

An old cannery that is being restored

Panned out view of cannery and waterfall

Boat basin

We docked in Port Hardy at 10 p.m. It was basically dark. We met up with Christina at the terminal and made a plan to travel to a campsite together. We allowed the vehicle traffic to leave the area first. We had between us two head lamps and three rear blinkies. Luckily it was raining a little and we had our reflective rain jackets on. I wish I had a picture of our caravan heading down an unfamiliar road in the pitch black. It was fun, if not a little scary. Traffic was very light, luckily. We rode about 3k and found the Wildwoods campsite. The campsite was a little rough but it was cheap and close. Setting up the tent was tough to do with only one head lamp, but we did it and were soon in bed.

I awoke early and was up and ready to get moving, much to the dismay of my travelling partner. We broke camp, ate a bagel and a banana, and got moving. The ride to Port McNeil was nice, aside from the saddle sores.. Traffic was almost non-existent, no large hills to speak of and the pavement was in very good shape. We made it to Port McNeil about 10 minutes before my sister, who had driven up from Courtenay to pick us up. We loaded and drove down to the Gus Pub for lunch. I was disappointed that they had taken the Pig Wings off the menu. Sad, they were awesome. After lunch we popped into the coffee shop and found Christina there, who was having breakfast. We chatted and gave her a few pointers on the north island. We bid her farewell and in a couple hours we were home, and the greatest adventure of my life was complete.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Running(or not) through life

Relaxing on the beach. Wouldn't it be nice to have more time for this.....

I have been thinking lately about how busy I seem to be. Everyday is just going from the time I get out of bed, until the time I go back to sleep. I spoke with several people today about it, and they all felt the same. Time to just sit, and have some quite time is very limited. I am not sure if this is by choice or that is just the way it is. I think that for me it is more by choice. Staying busy, getting up in the morning on weekends, going to bed early, and doing as much for myself as I can all make me feel accomplished. I think for the ones I talked to who are near the same age as me, this is a time for learning and accomplishing new things in life. I know for me, I feel like there is something new that I am doing all the time to learn and create. It all comes in stages, and surely there will be time in the months to come to spend time writing and whittling.

Yellow Chantrelle

Speaking of a busy day, here is the agenda of what was accomplished today. I was up by 7, making waffles for breakfast and homemade peach syrup from the juice I canned last week. After breakfast I spent two hours laying tile. I had never done it before and had spent a few hours the night before preparing the backer board. Once the tile was all down and I cleaned up, Natalie and I headed out with Marshall to go mushroom picking. We walked for a hour and a half, found around a pound of chantrelles, and then let Marshall have a swim. Then we drove to Courtenay to get groceries. Back home again by 2:30 to make potato salad and chili for my lunch and dinner this week, shower and leave again by 4:15 to go visiting and out for dinner. I finally sat down to watch some TV, do my strength building exercises for my knee and decided to write this blog entry. Months ago when I was still drinking, I never had this much stamina to keep going all day. I used to have a nap on the weekend around 2 in the afternoon and I thought I accomplished a lot back then. Wow, I am way busier and more content doing it. Nine months of no drinking. I feel better everyday, and the thoughts of drinking again get less and less everyday.

I was shut down by my physiotherapist from doing any high impact exercise like running or cycling. I have piano wire tight IT bands (it runs on the outside of the femur from the knee to the hip) and has caused me no shortage of knee pain. The exercises seem to be helping and I am taking glucosamine and traumeel. I really want to get this thing fixed so I can get back to running and biking. I think when I do get the okay to take them up again, it will be low impact. Climbing the hill from work isn't going to be on the list of approved activities. I think that I may be done commuting by bike for this year. It is a shame. I am a little frustrated, but I am going to be diligent and keep up these exercises. Anyone else had problems like this?

I took todays mushrooms out to a special family in Merville. They are wonderful people who have become really good friends and make you feel incredibly welcome whenever one visits the "ranch". I purchased salmon from them. The patriarch of this family is a commercial fisherman and I was happy to support them. They hadn't eaten chantrelles in many years, so it was really nice to bring them a new thing to try. I usually like to introduce new people to the fruits of the forest, and give them to a different family every year. It is something that I love to do, and is so appreciated by all that I share with.

I am looking forward to dark nights, warm woodstove and whittling wooden spoons in the living room. I want to get a half dozen done for Christmas so I can give them for gifts. I want to spend more time working on some fiction writing and I want to get much salmon smoking done for the holidays. So my list doesn't get any shorter, like the days. Good thing for C.F.L.s I can work into the night. I need all the time I can get. I have another thing that I will be starting soon, and I will write more about that in the future.

Have a great week. Re-Happy.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Haida Gwaii Part 4

Canada Day. Our last day on the island was a little somber. I really wasn't looking forward to leaving this place, getting home, back to reality. I was missing Natalie who was on a trip of her own to Edmonton with her Grandma and cousins, and missing Marshall too, of course. He spent the whole time home with my dad getting spoiled with bones and dog treats.

So green

The adventure for the day was to once again drive back toward Tlell and hike to the shipwreck "Pesuta" a 264' log barge that hit the beach back in 1928. It is a 5 km round trip hike. The first section is through a beautiful forest, and it is located in Naikoon Provincial Park. A nice single track trail meanders in amongst large spruce, cedar and hemlock trees as well as a perfect carpet of moss on the ground. The green is intense. I took pictures in black and white as well as color and the difference is shocking. All four of us made the trip, as well as Holly. She was proudly leading the way. The forest gives way to river and we descended the bank to the  mouth of the Tlell river. Nice looking water, with a big open bank. I dreamed of casting to coho into this river. Perfect spot to cast a fly. As we departed the shelter of the trees, the wind picked up and it was wild out there. It was the first windy day we experienced on Haida Gwaii, and the wind didn't disappoint. The waves crashing in from Hecate strait were pounding the shore with such force. The sand was blowing across the beach, making really neat patterns with the rocks and different colored sands.

Patterns in the sand from the wind

Soon we were at the ship wreck. It was pretty impressive. The timbers that constructed the vessel were huge. The things they could build with the primitive equipment 90 years ago amazes me. Huge pieces of steel and wood still were intact, but all that was left was a section about 40 feet long. The power of Hecate Strait has broken her into a fragment of her former greatness. It was neat because the hull had filled up with sea foam. It was about a foot deep and kind of looked like snow. It was cool. We had to take off as the tide was quickly coming in, so we had to beat it. Walking into the wind proved much more difficult than coming with it. It was a tough walk. It was nice to have some un-distracted time to visit with out hosts as we powered into the howling south-easter. I did take time to stop and eat some sea asparagus. It is a tasty, salty beach treat that I had never tried before. I do believe that it grows locally in some of the sandy beaches. I will have to look around. Soon we were back at the river and a little shelter from the wind.

The Pesuta

Holly on the sea foam

Crazy nurse log

A playful river otter was in the water having a look at Holly. It would swim close, then dive down and swim away. Then come back in again. It was pretty cool. I had no idea how many introduced species are on the island. River otters are one. Deer, elk, beavers, rabbits, squirrels, and even cows. Naikoon Park also has feral cows that like to hang out in the area adjacent to the shipwreck. We didn't get to see them, but apparently they are around. The introduced species have taken a toll on the native plants and animals. All but impossible to change this balance now, and the damage is evident. The forests are void of any seedling trees, except for hemlock. The deer like to eat the cedar and spruce, as well as native crab apple. The crab apple is an important food species for the Haida, and it is in serious trouble because of the deer.

We got back to the car wind burned and damp. We drove back to the house to pack. Our ferry was leaving at 11 and we had to be there early. After packing we decided to go out for dinner. Charlotte City has a very small selection of restaurants, and being Canada Fay, it was even less. The main restaurant, with the best food, had a tour bus come in, so it was packed. We were turned away. The only other option was the Chinese food joint. It was just like a typical Chinese Canadian restaurant, with-out all the cheesy decor. The food was good and we were all stuffed.

Back to the house to load up. We were offered a ride to the ferry ,since it was raining, and gladly accepted. We bid farewell to Matt and Holly. Katie gave us a ride to the terminal. We assembled our gear on the bikes and said farewell to Katie. We checked in and were waiting to be allowed on the boat. In the line-up we met another cyclist named Christina. She had flown to Masset and toured around the island for a week, and now she was heading down to Port Hardy and riding back to Vancouver. We were getting a berth so we could sleep. The ferry would arrive in Prince Rupert at 5 a.m. and our wake up call would be at 4:30. We needed to have a good sleep. It was going to be a long couple of days.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


I had a strong look back at my youth today. I took Natalie down to a beach in front of the house where I lived part time until I was 5. It is down Dorothy road in Union Bay (the road is named after my Nana). My Grandpa and Nana also lived down there for years. I spent hours and hours on this beach as a youngster. There are so many memories. The rock, the pilings, the view. We swam and played in the water, on the rock piles that were cleared many moons ago to make for better swimming and boat landing. The water was warm and the air was still. The beach was void of people and was silent, except for Natalie hollering. She hasn't learned that I can hear really well, especially when she is right beside me. My Grandparents house sure looks different than in did fifteen years ago when my Grandpa sold it. The big old Alder that my Nana's ashes were buried under is gone, and I wonder what happened to them? I hope they were found and treated with respect. It kind of make me sad to think about that. I wonder if my family knows or not. Down at the beach I took Natalie for a walk in front of where our trailer once sat. At once I found the large boulder that was, as a 5 year old, my throne. It has a perfect little nook in it for sitting. I sat down on that rock, and it still felt good, maybe better. I remembered being on this beach with my sister. She was terrified of crabs and I remember the first time she was pinched on the finger by one and screamed bloody murder. I remember my Dad's cousins kids rowing our old tin boat out in front of the house and gaffing a salmon that was doing a weird flopping on the surface. We ate it for dinner with no ill effects. I can only imagine what was going on with that fish. I remember when a teenage girl almost drown on the neighbors beach. She suffered from cramps and I can still picture her trashing around in the water. I could see myself learning to ride my first bike on this property, and going to the beach with some older kids and throwing rocks skyward at dusk to entice bats to show themselves. And when my dad, who had too many stubbie bottles of Lucky had a mis-step and sprained his ankle on the stairs coming out of the trailer. Later, after we moved out my uncle moved into that mobile. I can still picture when they had to replace the septic tank, and the weird colors inside of it. I had no idea what it was at the time. I remember sleep overs there when my folks were away and Christmas dinner and fondue parties in that small place. I don't know how we all fit. Some years later once I was graduated high school my dads friend lived on the property. The single wide was long gone, sold off, and now he had a large fifth wheel parked on the pad. My dad and I paid a visit to him one day and we sat and polished off a bunch of cans of  luke-warm beer. I felt pretty cool sitting there with the "old" guys, day drinking in the sun. I remember getting pretty buzzed. A decade later it was down on this beach were I caught my first coho salmon on the fly. At the time it was a pretty huge event for someone as absorbed into fly fishing. The vision of that chrome bullet chasing and engulfing my Mickey Finn fly is etched in my mind for eternity. This small stretch of Baynes Sound has such a huge part of my youth revolving around it. It is easy to forget until you take your child there and begin to speak about what happened and your memories.

The second relapse I had to day was thanks to YouTube. We had just finished watching a Netflix movie and while I still had my computer plugged in to the HDMI it seemed like the right thing to do by bringing up some old music videos. Natalie has been listening to "The 90's on 9" with me for a few months on the Sirius in the Element, so she knows many songs from the era. I started out with "Baby got Back" and just ran through them all. MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, House of Pain, Run DMC all the greats from late 80's and early 90's. She was loving it, and she even thanked me as I tucked her in, for showing her these old video's. I think it is so cool that we can find damn near any old song we could want to listen to from our childhoods on the Interweb. To be able to show the next generation what life was like when I was young is priceless. I could only imagine what it was like when my father was young, looking at pictures of cars and watching historical movies, like "Dazed and Confused" and such films for a glimpse of his past. We have a richness of history at our finger tips. That is so crucial for our young people to never allow such crap like MC Hammer pants, and Vanilla Ice's terrible haircuts to EVER make a comeback. But in all honesty to be able to show her things like the old cartoons we watched, and toys we played with is so fun for us both.

It has been in my mind for quite sometime about how old we are all getting. Not old in a boring way, but in a birthday kind of way. My dad went up to the North Island today to visit my uncle. He is getting really close to turning 70. He is probably only a year away. My dad will be 67 this year. It is freaking me out a bit. No one seems to get physically older, because it is a gradual transition. Once one looks at the number of birthdays it becomes clear that it is happening. My Grandpa is getting close to 90, I am creeping on my mid 30's and is won't be long until my daughter is 10. I am not bemoaning the fact that we all get older and I, in fact, like being the age I am and don't wish for a second to be a teenager or young adult again. School, puberty, and all that goes with it is something that I never wish on anyone to go through again.

Well the years go one, and the words keep coming out of my fingers. I am canning peaches tomorrow morning. Reminds me of another song from back in the day......Peaches come from a can, they were put there by a man........


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Haida Gwaii Part Three

Today was Katie's turn to take us sightseeing. We were to head north towards Massett and see North Beach and Tow Hill. This was promised to be a spectacular day and that wasn't a lie.

We took off for a 115km drive up the island. A quick stop a Jags for a coffee was in order. The weather was acceptable for the day. There is always a chance of rain and wind on the island so we were prepared none the less. The highway passed through Naikoon Provincial Park just outside of Tlell. This is a large park that occupies the north east side of the island between the highway and the beach, all the way to Rose Point on the very north end of  of Graham Island. We saw countless deer and ravens along the way through the park. We passed Port Clements, a logging community on the shores of Massett Inlet, and home of the once majestic Golden Spruce, that was felled by a eco-terrorist. I would suggest if you are interested in learning about Haida Gwaii pick up a copy of "The Golden Spruce" by John Vaillant. 

Soon we were rolling into Massett, or rather past it. We had to hit a lunch spot before we could go to North Beach. Our restaurant today is the "Trout House" a hidden gem that anyone who visits the island should seek out and enjoy. The eatery is in a stack-wall house that was built by someone with things they could pull off the beach. It had huge funk factor and I couldn't stop taking pictures and looking at everything with wide eyes. The walls had pieces of glass embedded in them as well as glass balls and old bottles.  The table was made from a monster slab of wood of what I could assume was an old growth spruce. The food set this place apart. We had burgers, beef and veggie, as well as a variation of Poutine. It had potato wedges, miso gravy with chantrelles and goats cheese melted on top. It was a fantastic plate, and I must re-create this dish at home. The owner and chef came and sat with us and we chatted for a while before we bid farewell to carry on.

The gravel road to North Beach had some cool forest scenery. There were sand dunes that were covered in moss and had large spruce tree growing out of them. I had never observed a forest floor with this kind of rolling landscape. The spruce trees also had large balls of moss growing off of them. It was very cool. We pulled into North Beach and considered driving out onto the sand. Although we declined, it is allowed here. I was surprised, but I guess there is very little traffic to warrant a ban. There was two vehicle out on the sand, one was being driven along beach combing, the other was parked with the people enjoying a fire. We wondered down about a kilometer looking at pretty shells and interesting driftwood. We stopped for a rest in some beach grass. I was snapping pictures and playing with my camera, while the girls chatted and weaved the long, wide beach grass. Tow Hill loomed in the distance across the creek. The day wasn't getting any shorter so we headed back to the vehicle and drove a short way to the Tow Hill and Blow Hole trail head.

Tow Hill is approximatively 100 meters above the Blow Hole. The hill is basically a sheer drop on the water side, but there is a steep trail up the opposite side to the top. The Blow Hole is so cool. The ocean rollers come in from the open Pacific and ,if the tide is right the water hits the rocky shore and is pushed up through a hole in the rocks and shoots way up in the air. It would probably go 20 feet up. It also made a really cool sound. We stayed for a while hooting and hollering at the waves as they came in. The mist was thick in the air. It was surreal. 

We had to keep going so we headed up the trail to the top of Tow Hill. It was a bit of a hike and took about a half an hour to the top. It is mostly board walk and stairs all the way up. The view over Agate Beach was worth the effort. Pretty awesome. After a couple of pictures, it was time to go down and head back towards home. First we had to stop at a small bakery on route. It was located inside some ladies house out on the road between the beach and Massett. She had some nice treats there, and we made it just as she was closing. 

We took a short side trip into Port Clements to the Golden Spruce trail. This was a must see while on Haida Gwaii for me. It was a quick walk into an old growth spruce forest to the site of the tree. It was located across the Yakoun River and the skeleton of the tree was still laying there. It was pretty sad to see. I can't imagine how the Haida felt about this tragic event. 

We ordered pizza on the way home after some funny cell phone confusion and we ate dinner in front of the tv. It was a nice day, and I can't believe that we only had one more day in this paradise......