Sunday, January 29, 2012

Adventure Number Five: Moe's Misery and the Trent River trail.


Fortunately for our en-devour, the weather changed overnight. When I went to bed Saturday evening, it was raining cats and dogs, including thunder and lightening. I was worried that we would have a potentially soggy adventure today. I guess that storm passed quickly in the night and today was mostly pleasant, warm and just the briefest of showers spitting down.

Two pals

We had the pleasure of Natalie's friend Hanna company for todays journey. Natalie and Hanna have been friends since they were born and Hanna has accompanied us on many other adventures over the years, including Raft Cove the summer of 2011. Unsure of what to do this week, I had talked to my chiropractor on Saturday and he had recommended this trail down in Royston that is snow-free and fun to explore. It is called Moe's Misery, and in turn connects with the Trent River trail, a multi-use path that roughly follows the ridge above the Trent River. I had been aware of the existence of this place, but had never checked it out. So I decided that this would be the spot and we would see a new place.

Mossy Maple

Moe's Misery travels in a previously logged block that was now re-generating with Big Leaf Maple,  Sitka Spruce, Grand Fir and Red Alder. Sword ferns abound and add a beautiful greenness to the path even on a dreary winters day. A couple of spots had decent views of the river, and it would be possible to access with a steep decent down to the banks. It was running fast from the rain the previous night. The whole trail had many flooded spots, good thing for rubber boots on the kids. I would like to ride on this path. It is not very well defined and I am in good standing to say that in the summer it would be very brushy with everything growing and leafed out.

A small rivulet, note the stacked cedar that filled in the creek bed. No culvert here. Never seen this before.

We arrived back on the main access road and a sign directed us to the Trent River trail. It is a wide single track that meanders in amongst some very large Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, Red Alder, Big Leaf Maple and Black Cottonwood, and Western Hemlock. Oregon Grape, Salal, Huckleberries and Holly round out the plant species that we readily recognized and, so thrilling to me, Natalie was able to recognize and tell me what they were. Proud dad! I was impressed with this mystery trail and I look forward to exploring it more in the future with my mountain bike.

Turkey Tails

We walked 4.25k, stopping often for food breaks, plant investigation, and pictures. The two young ladies entertained themselves by singing pop songs and dancing around. It is fun to have another child along to entertain and give me some peace, not having to constantly talk. So far our weekly adventure has been quite easy to maintain and with spring getting closer every week, our options will get more varied and more educational with the annual plants sprouting. Hope you are enjoying our trips. Find Adventure!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

First of the year

Today I was up and at 'em early. Well, not up that early, but I did get out of the house for a mountain bike ride at quarter after 8. I call this a "break of day" ride. The light was just starting to arrive as Marshall and I walked down the road from home over to where the trail starts. My breath was visible in the wee hours. I didn't really expect to find what I did, maybe it was just wishful thinking.

I bought my Marin East Peak used in April 2011. It was traded in at the local bike shop in Cumberland and it had many upgrades from stock. I was thrilled, and on a little bit of an impulse, I dropped the cash and brought it home.(read about it here)

After riding it last spring and summer, something just wasn't quite right. The rear brake was constantly giving me problems. I replaced the pad and rotor. When I would engage the brake it would squeel and squawk and not stop with any kind of certainty. It began shifting crappy as well as changing gears when I least expected it. That always seemed to happen while ascending a hill. I would lose all momentum and stop. Beyond that issue with climbing hills, there was something else just not right. I couldn't roll over roots, rocks and other debris smoothly and the bike wanted to stall. I was very frustrated by the whole thing, feeling like I bought a junk bike and I was ready to sell it.

Two weeks ago, aware that the days are flying by and getting closer to spring, I brought the ride into Trail Bikes, in Courtenay. It was the right choice. I have dealt with most other local shops for various bikey things, but never with Trail. I wanted a small shop that was not as busy and more personal to help me trouble shoot the problems. I explained the symptoms and the mechanic was able to go over it and fixed the problems that I was having. Again, new rear brake pads, bleed the brake line, new cassette, new chain, cleaned and lubed, plus added more air to the shock. I had a feeling that the reason the bike was stalling was because the shock was compressing and not having enough pressure to rebound, thus all the energy from the cranks was absorbed into it. Upon filling the shock it was discovered that it would lose air. It was decided to send it off for service and make it like new again.

Today was the first chance I had to mount the newly repaired steed. Unfortunatly, the roads and trails were covered with snow and ice. This made for quite a challenge. If you have ridden in these conditions you will know what I mean. The ruts will toss your front wheel around and the snow will give under the power of the rear wheel. Very tricky indeed. I was laughing and shouting "Whoa" while trying to gain altitude up to the trail head. The grin was not leaving my face today. Marshall was running beside me having a ball, slipping as well. I finally did some "hike a bike" to climb the one big rise and got over to Lower Crafty. A icy trail welcomed me and the bike and I slipped and slided along. Too much fun. This was the first time in five months that I had been on a bike. I was rusty and that was magnified with the abhorrent conditions. As I approached Space Nugget, which meanders in the forest, I was thrilled to see that it was clear of the white stuff. I was able to feel the suspension and what a difference. Roots that would have stalled me last season were rolled over with ease. The new cassette has a lower bottom gear and was able to easily spin up hills that would have brought me to a stand still previously. I am unsure if the rear brake is really up to my standards of how it should perform, but will give it a few more rides to break in the new pads before I go in for more service.

I nearly hit a couple trees in my un-practiced state, narrowly avoiding what would have been an epic crash. Just so much joy that this bike finally worked almost perfectly for me today, I didn't care how sloppy I was. Soon enough the days will be long enough that riding in the evening after work will be possible. Great time to "Find Adventure" on my mountain bike.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Adventure Number Four : HOCKEY GAME

We are all Canucks

Natalie and I were surprised with Canucks tickets for Christmas from my sister. We were both so excited to receive these tokens of the season, as was my sister to gift them to us. Natalie had been asking me to take her to a game for a few years now. Tickets are not easy to come by and they are very expensive. Not to mention coming and going from Vancouver, hotels and meals. Two of my friends had made many trips to Vancouver for different games, and they had gotten into using the public transit from the Horseshoe Bay ferry into downtown Vancouver, and taking it back again the next morning to come back to the Island. I was a little nervous about doing this, I had not used transit very much, and never in an unfamiliar town, let alone a big city. I decided that it was worth the ease and money saved to go out of my comfort zone, finding adventure on city transit.

Angry Birds

The game was this past Saturday, January 21st against the San Jose Sharks. I had a hotel booked close to Rogers Arena, was learning the Translink schedule and Google mapped the route to see where to get on and off the bus. I was all ready and assumed the game was at 7, like they are 95 percent of the time. Listening to the radio Monday morning it was revealed that the game was actually at 1. Oh no, didn't even bother to look at the ticket to see what time it was on. Luck that I found out days before or we would have been just getting off the ferry when the game was to start. What a disaster, my name would have been mud. I cancelled the hotel room, and adjusted plans to make a day trip for the game.

Making a video of Newcastle Island

We were up at 5:30 am for a quick breakfast and left the house an hour later. I was unsure if parking would be available for the day. The second ferry terminal from Naniamo was closed because of a ferry crashed into it and all traffic has to go out of Departure Bay. There was plenty of parking when we arrived at the terminal, quickly bought a parking pass and walked to the ticket booth. Me, Natalie and Dusty. The waiting room was packed with Canuck fans. Every other person had a jersey on. There must have been a couple hundred headed to the game. It was very cool.

B.C. Place Stadium

We docked in Horseshoe Bay after an uneventful, packed ferry ride. I tried to get Natalie to follow me outside into the wind, she quickly turned around and got back inside, saying that is was much to cold for her. I laughed.  At the departure gate, 4 transit buses were waiting. I was in no hurry as we had more than two hours before the game started. Fortunately we were patient and got on the fifth bus that came to pick up the extra travelers. This bus wasn't full so we were able to have a seat for the duration of the ride. The bus only stopped once near Park Royal shopping center, then we crossed the Lionsgate bridge, motored through Stanley Park and up West Georgia. Natalie was asking me where the Fox building is. We listen to the Fox radio station every day, and I pointed it out to her. She was impressed.

Rogers Arena

We disembarked the bus about three blocks from Rogers Arena and went to Moxies for lunch, in the Sandman Hotel. A big hamburger and we were fueled up for the excitement. We proceeded to Rogers Arena with the crowd, found our gate and after a brief wait we were allowed into the building. Finding our seats, the usher gave Natalie a signed card, by Finn the Canucks mascot. Awesome for her. The pre-game skate was cool and we stood to sing "Oh Canada" with Mark Donnely. We had a moments silence for Sarah Burke, the Canadian skier who passed away a few days before from injuries sustained during a training accident in Utah.

Pre-game skate. Burrow was yapping at the Sharks players

Natalie kept repeating to me "I can't believe we are here, I can't believe we are hear" I was feeling very emotional, being so happy that we were there together. It was a wonderful time. The game was on, the crowd was loud after the Canucks scored in the first minute of the first period. Natalie had to cover her ears when the big horn went off after the goal. The Sharks answered with two unanswered, before Ryan Kesler scored a beautiful goal coming in off the wing and beating Anti Niemi high glove with a precision shot. A thing of beauty. Cody Hodgson scored his second of the night with a fluke goal late in the third, after San Jose tied the game again. Hodgson flicked the puck at the net from behind the goal line and it somehow found its way into the net. The win was meant to be. The Canucks power play was really dodgy, and it gave up a short handed goal. We even got to see a good old hockey fight in the second. It was a great game, and to have a win made it even better.

More Pre-game skate

We walked out of the Arena quickly after the game ended. We walked up Cambie street to the bus stop. I enviously looked at the bicycle lanes that paralleled the street. These bike lanes are controversial, but I feel it shows a forward thinking local government. The bus left at 4 p.m. and we were able to get on the 5 o'clock ferry to get back to Vancouver Island. We beat the crowd to the cafeteria for dinner and then found a seat beside the gift shop. Natalie went in and spent the $20 that her Poppa had given her. She and I spent the rest of the trip reading. We unloaded the ferry and soon were in the car back home. We arrived back home at 8 p.m.

Dusty enjoying? the ferry food

This adventure was full of fun moments and new experiences. We now know how to afford a day trip to Vancouver, and use the transit bus instead of bringing a vehicle over. I will be planning more trips like this. Hopefully we will get to a B.C. Lions football game and to Science World. Natalie was an enjoyable partner to have on this voyage. She was patient and calm. That made me have a calmer, more patient time. I can't wait for our next adventure.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bookshelf Project

Natalie's room badly needs a bookshelf. Like most kids, she is over run with books of all kinds. We have large, hardcover Dr. Seuss and Robert Munch, and small chapter books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The options that are available to purchase didn't stir me. I wanted something made from natural Canadian wood, by a craftsman, not a piece a box store manufactured in China. I also am a terrible shopper unless it is online. I have a dislike of being in stores with crowds, so browsing retail outlets is something to be avoided. Instead, with no real plan, I purchases a bunch of knotty pine boards from Home Depot, some screws and inspiration to create something out of wood. Working with wood is something that makes me excited, wanting to learn more and practice with it. So here is the material list, pictures and instructions on how it all came together

I began, as explained above with no plan. There was a idea brewing, but it took messing around with some wood. It took three trips to the Depot to gather exactly what was needed. 

I ended up with :
4@4 foot 1x4 knotty pine
17@2 foot 1x4 knotty pine
12@1 foot 1x4 knotty pine

I purchased a variety of 8' and 4' lengths and cut them with my compound miter saw to length.

As well I used about 100 #8x1 1/4 wood screws and approximately 50 #6x1 1/2.
For tools the list included a tape measure, ruler, level, drill, combination square, 2 quick grip clamps, #6 and #8 countersink bits, green Robertson screwdriver, and a compound miter saw.

The base assembled with the first shelf already fastened. Long boards are 24", short one's are 12"

Base from above

The uprights pre-drilled with a counter-sink bit

The uprights screwed on the base. Each upright is 4' long

The bottom of the uprights.

Uprights with the shelf supports attached


A shelf board pre-drilled with a #6 counter-sink bit

Finished product

Begin with assembling the base, check for square, and add the shelve boards. I pre-drilled every hole with a countersink bit. It makes a nicer hole and less splintering at the hole site. It makes for a cleaner build. Add the uprights, checking for plumb. Clamp them and double check plumb with your level, then screw into base. Use #8x 1 1/4 screws for this. Mark out where you want the shelves on the uprights and pre-drill where the shelve supports will be. Pre-drill from the outside. I planned this stage out before the uprights were fastened. It is easier to mark out the holes while laying on the table. Clamp the supports to the uprights, check for level and secure with #8x 1 1/4 screws. Plan out holes in shelf boards and pre-drill with #6 counter sink bit. There is only about 3/8ths of an inch to center the holes on the shelf boards from the edge. The shelf boards are a little awkward to fasten, at least for me, so I used a screw driver to twist the #6x 1 1/2 screws into the support. Finish the top as you wish. I used two of the 12" pieces on the sides at the top to stop things from falling off. 

The shelves can be any height that one desires. I made mine so that the shelves are symmetrically spaced on the uprights. One detail that I didn't figure out until it was too late was the base was longer than planned. Using a 12" piece between two 24" pieces on the base makes it two material thicknesses bigger. Next time that wouldn't happen, and if the construction took place in a work shop instead of the kitchen table, I would have mitered the corners on the base too. 

I am not sure how it will work with her books. There should not be a problem with it being usable for what it is needed for. This was a fun project, didn't cost more that $100 and allowed me to use some creativity. Anyone can build things, just try and enjoy it! If you need more information, please leave a comment at the bottom.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Adventure Number Three: Allen Lake

"Seriously, I can eat them all"

I was just finishing up building a bookshelf for Natalie's room on Saturday afternoon, and the sun was shining. It was far too nice to spend the afternoon indoors. I was juggling the idea of doing some house organizing. The thought of being outdoors in the sun won that argument with head spinning speed.

Her first Lifesaver break

We layered up with Merino and at 2 o'clock we headed for the trail with Marshall in tow. It was pretty cold out. An inch of snow fell the night before and it was crunchy under foot. We slowly wondered out and up on the logging road enjoying the warmth of the sun and chatting with mountain bikers. Natalie was busy munching on pistachio nuts, walking about 10 meters behind me. No matter how slow I walked, she would slow down. I just couldn't keep her close. I think she likes it that way.


We made it to the lake with out too much issue. Natalie was still going strong. I often am nervous since she can suddenly have a burn-out and start crying. The sun was setting quickly and I knew we had to get home before it started getting dark. I was unprepared with no headlamp or flashlight.

Allen Lake

Allen lake is the main water reservoir for Cumberland and Royston. It is actually quite a pretty lake althought it would be nicer if it wasn't logged right to is shore almost all the way around it. One nice stand is still present on the east side of the lake where a fun mountain bike trail called Tea Pot is located. Today Allen lake was frozen almost completely. The opposite side from where we were was open since it is bathed in sunlight because of all the trees being removed. I had allowed Natalie permission to munch down all the rest of the Lifesavers in the roll once we got to the lake so she would keep moving. For her candy is such a big motivator. It keeps her legs moving. We had to make one precarious crossing of a small creek. Natalie was nervous about it. She accidentally stepped in the creek, soaking her winter boots. Now I was really worried about her having a meltdown. Cold wet feet and still many kilometers to get back home. The sun was behind the mountains now and it was gradually getting darker.

Perseverance Creek

We were getting along the road lost in thought and I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked to see the dark fur of a deer standing on the ridge above us. Instantly I hollered for Marshall. Too late, he saw the deer as well. He bounded away up the hill to give chase. I started yelling all my commands. "Here Marshall, Lets go, whats this..." as loud as I could. Natalie didn't realize what happened because she didn't see the deer. She said all she saw was my face getting redder from the yelling. Marshall poked his head back over the top of the hill to see where we were, and took off again. Still yelling, I picked up a stick to try to entice him back. After a couple of minutes he came rushing down to us, eyes on the stick. He was back. I leashed him briefly and he didn't give a second thought to that deer. I was scared that he was gone for good. In the four years I have been hiking in Cumberland, at least once a week, that was the first deer I had ever seen.

(Click this to see our route)

Before we got home it started snowing a little bit. We stopped to catch snowflakes in our mouths. Upon entering the front door I check iPhone. I clocked 7.6k with the Cyclometer app. That is the longest walk I had ever taken Natalie on. I was elated that she made it since I was pretty tuckered out by the end. It gave me hope that I will be able to bring her on longer and harder hikes in the months to come.

Monday, January 9, 2012

My letter to Double C (Christy Clark)

Based on my friend Russ's (read his blog) encouragement I wrote a letter to our Premier, Christy Clark. I doubt she will read it, as she most likely has someone who does that for her, and they probably receive thousands a day. But you never know.

Dear Premier Clark.

First of all, I would like to share with you the excitement I felt with you being chosen to become the Premier of B.C. I liked your energy and enthusiasm. I liked the idea of a woman in the Premiers seat. The promise of new ideas and a fresh set of eyes to view our Province. However.....

I am very disappointed that your government isn't completely opposed to the Northern Gateway Project. What does B.C. have to gain from this project, besides some limited construction jobs and a few jobs at the port where the ships will be loaded. What does B.C. have to gain from this project. The destruction of thousands of kilometers of rivers, wetlands, habitat of endangered species, and the whole loss of the coastal eco-system in the event of a super tanker running a ground and leaking. The risks out weigh the benefits 10 to 1.

I am a working father who is a Red Seal tradesman. Progress pays my bills. I don't believe a carbon based economy is progress. As a British Columbian who has had the privilege to grow up and live in the "Best Place on Earth" I feel that to grow our economy we need to move away from resource extraction and move to a less invasive based model. We have the minds and the willingness to grow our energy sector with green power that could be exported south, and become a world leader in such technologies. Why can't B.C. become the base for all other countries to come and see how to "do it right"? We should be the place that has the infrastructure to allow hydrogen cars to become a reality and not science fiction. We should mandate solar panels be installed on every new building to feed the grid. We should invest millions into creating safe and efficient cycling infrastructure to move people around, getting them out of cars and becoming healthier. We should be the first place in North America to completely legalize marijuana. We should turn the Great Bear rainforest into a Provincial Park, ban fracking, take back our fisheries management from Ottawa, and increase taxes on un-healthy processed foods to fund the increased healthcare burden caused by obesity. 

The old boys way of doing business is ruining the economy, the environment and our sovereignty. I suspect that your party would like to stay in power, and I would like to support you, but with the current state of affairs in our province, I am afraid my enthusiasm for your leadership and your government will quickly be extinguished. Let us be a Province that sees through clear eyes, not one that is clouded by the multi-national dollar signs.

Sincerely Blayne Prowse. Cumberland B.C.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Adventure Number Two: Birdwatching in the rain

At Millard Road

Today we ventured out to the estuary of the Courtenay River for our weekly adventure. I had been wanting to bring Natalie along with me on a birdwatching expedition, and this place is a fantastic spot to spy on waterfowl, song birds, sea gulls, eagles as well as seals, and peoples cute dogs.

Millard Creek bridge

We started off at the south end of the Courtenay Riverwalk, off Millard road. The Riverwalk (also called the Airpark) is a 3.5 kilometer paved path that follows along the banks of the Courtenay River and the estuary. There is a lagoon and an airpark for citizens with small propeller planes. The path starts downtown at 5th street on the north end and is paved all the way to 31st street at the south. From 31st street the trail turns to crushed gravel and boardwalk.This pathway meanders through the Millard Conservation Area managed by the Natures Trust B.C. Included along the route is a popular kayak launch and freshwater marina, a small coffee shop, a really great modern playground for kids, and numerous benches and viewing platforms. It is very popular with walkers, runners, cyclists and rollerbladers. I use this path often when cycling to get from one end of town to the other, while avoiding cars. Unfortunately for me, it seems as though it would be quicker to deal with the auto traffic. Pedestrians can be really heavy on this route.

Growing moss. It looked really cool

Natalie and I donned our new Marmot rain gear and our binoculars, tossed a bag of pistachio nuts in my pocket and wandered off. We began by having a peek at the hundreds of American Widgeon and Mallard ducks bobbing in the surf. I also spotted a couple of Northern Pintail drakes in amongst the others. I was hoping to spy a Teal, but they proved elusive. It was really windy at this spot so we decided to carry onto the wooded path. The mixed forest of Red Alder, Bigleaf Maple, Grand Fir and Cottonwood. We also saw numerous Snowberries, which are very poisonous. The pretty Millard creek is an important urban fish bearing creek, which has Coho, Chum and Cutthroat trout. It flows down through the upland farms and light urban development, merges with Piercy Creek and flow out into the estuary. A streamkeeper group has been working to enhance the creek and the fish populations.

Several hundred ducks

We managed to identify several more species on the walk, including a few spotted Towhee, a Northern Goshawk, a pair of Ravens and some little Bushtits. Natalie had a hard time picking up detail in the birds with her binoculars. She didn't get a chance to learn to much about them today, but we did use the iBird Canada app on my iPhone to verify the identity of some of the sightings. There were literally thousands of ducks in the estuary today. It was incredible. We did play the "name this tree" game while we walked and Natalie was able to remember what the Red Alder and Bigleaf Maple were. I hope she remembers these things that I teach her. I find this kind of knowledge very cool, and to be able to have this as she ages may help her in deciding future areas of study, either for profession or hobby. We finished the adventure by telling jokes on the walk back to the car, laughing and teasing each other. Some of the jokes I made up were terrible, but they made her laugh non the less.

I spy......

I was a fun little trip, we got to try out our new rain gear and I was able to introduce Natalie to a new kind of "hunting" Find adventure everyone!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Easy, tasty snack

Here is a delicious, savoury snack that I was introduced to the other day, by, you guessed it, my girlfriend. Where would this blog be without all her influence?

Here is goes.......

Warm a frying pan on medium.( I use cast iron)
Dump in a cup or so of whole almonds
Start roasting and let the outsides brown (remember to stir or they will burn)
When the almonds skin starts to split and they are popping add a tablespoon or two of soy sauce
The soy sauce will cook off really quickly, keep stirring until the steam stops
Let cool, and Ta-Da, yummy, healthy snack.

The taste reminds me of the roasted whole pumpkin seeds that you can buy in the store. So very tasty. Give it a try.

Monday, January 2, 2012

100 item challenge

This is something I became aware of while researching tiny homes. To see if one could actually live with 100 things or less. Now the challenge is not perfect. I am unsure if this challenge included kitchen dishes, utensils, towels, or pictures. I know it does include clothes, books, footwear and recreational equipment. If you lived on your own, I would think that kitchen essentials should count, but if you live with someone then this could be split in two. Or if you have roommates than I think it would be a moot point.

So could you live with 100 items or less? I took a list today of things. I made it to 100 and realized that I forgot several important things, and I didn't include my tools, which I have many. I did include basic kitchen things in my list. It is interesting, and I believe that anyone could live with less, maybe not 100, but maybe 200? Consumerism is ruining the world. Unfortunately, to rid oneself of things, generally it ends up in a landfill. By cutting down on purchases, and clutter, can make a house more relaxing and less work to organize. Less pieces means more peace. Plus less choice aids in decision making. One pair of pants that goes with everything. No hesitation on what to wear. I did a two week bike tour with only what I could fit in my panniers and I was quite happy with only having what I had. It was all I needed. Now I am rambling, and I am no better than anyone else when it comes to consumerism. It is a neat philosophy and one that I wish to try to implement.

Chemical Free Household

I was chatting with a friend the other night and he asked me about eliminating chemicals from his home. He spoke of dish soap and cleaners, and said he would like to eliminate the petro-chemicals and artificial scents in the products that they currently use in their place. It is something I have also longed to incorporate in my own house. I watched a film about two years ago called "Chemical Nation". The filmmaker helps a family of 4 explore ways to rid their home of potentially cancer causing, and environmentally harmful chemicals. They discover how these chemicals are produced, and how bad they are for our water ways and air. The family is shown how to make their own hygiene products from common household products. Toothpaste, hair gel, deodorant, multi purpose cleaners and laundry soap. In addition to being safer these products are much less expensive.

I began by informing Russ about using soaps with plant based surfactants(the actual cleaning part of the soap),  that are biodegradable and scent free. While I don't make my own creations, I do buy my soaps that are all of these things. I find that cleaners and soaps that are scented smell artificial and really offensive. When you are used to have a scent free environment, you realize how powerful these deodorants are. I much prefer to smell life than smell something created in a lab in New Jersey with dinosaur blood.

When it comes to a general cleaner I use vinegar pretty much exclusively. The acid the vinegar makes it useful for dissolving mineral deposits and it has antibacterial properties. It cost about a dollar a liter. I add it to my dish rinse water to help kill bacteria that may be present on the dishes. Vinegar has so many uses, it is something that should be in every kitchen, in large volumes. It has a natural smell, that reminds me of eating French fries and it is safe for people and for our waters. In my dish water I use one of several brands sold at Thrifty Foods, that use plant surfactants and are bio-degradable. I find they have the same grease fighting ability as the traditional brands, cost a little more and are easy on the nose and the hands.

As for sink and shower soap I use a product called Doctor Bronners Magic Soap. This soap is made with organic plant oils  It is available as a bar or in liquid form. I buy the unscented variety, the baby mild. The soap is also produced with a variety of essential oils including peppermint, eucalyptus and tea tree. This soap leaves no residue, and it doesn't dry the skin. I feel a little oily after a shower and this oil absorbs quickly leaving my skin feeling soft and smooth. I also use this product as shampoo, and find that it works just fine.

A trick I learned a while back was how to re-use the foaming soap pumps that are sold in stores. If you pour in about a third of the bottle with Magic Soap and the rest with water, it works great and costs a fraction of what the pre-mixed refills. I find the end of the pump gets gummed up after a little while. It is easily fixed by running under some hot water and the residue washes out.

One of my favorite products I now use are Soap Nuts. Soap nuts are a naturally growing berry of the Soap Nut tree, from the jungles of Nepal and India. It is a great product with a multitude of uses, from cleaning jewelery to making toothpaste. I have not used them for anything beyond laundry detergent. The laundry is clean, fresh, scent free and there are no artificial chemicals that can cause or inflame skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema. I believe the cleaning agents in soap nuts are easier on the fabrics of your clothes, which is great when you wear as much Merino wool as I do. Gentle detergent will allow the clothing to last longer.

I also purchase organic natural toothpaste that has no fluoride, or strong flavors. I purchase my hand creams and lip balm and other such toiletries from Marigold Pharmacy in Courtenay. They have in house made toothpaste, creams, balms and topical ointments. It is a neat place to find items that are good for you and the planet.

I would not have gained this much knowledge with out gleaning this information from my girlfriend who showed me the way to this greener living. I was wanting to make these changes but was unsure how to incorporate it. Even if I was a little skeptical of soap nuts at first, now I am a believer in all these products and ones like them.

I also came to another realization. Unless I am in a high stress situation or not well for some reason, I don't have much body odour. I no longer wear deodorant, ever. Don't be afraid to smell like a human, it is not that bad.......

Adventure Number One

With New Years Day being on a Sunday, it allowed us to get this challenge off to a strong start. The past week was so fun. Natalie and I got to spend many hours together doing different things. Things we would not usually do. I decided early in the week that I was going to turn off the TV. Done deal. We had about four days without staring at the black hole in the living room. It has been nice a quiet. When we wanted some background noise I would stream radio through my Ipod touch, plugged into the stereo. With out this distraction of television, Natalie was more willing to help out with chores, as well as doing fun things. We cleaned and cooked together. We played Yahtzee and Go Fish by candle light. We spent many hours outside. We went on another un-successful Geo-caching trip. I must learn more about this activity so we can actually find them.... and tips?

The initial adventure of the New Year was on the first morning of 2012. We stayed the night in Merville at a house on the ocean, so Natalie, my girlfriend and I went for a polar bear swim. I was all ready to do it, the other two not so much. I think Natalie liked the idea, but she must have forgotten that it was January, it was windy and rainy. She may have put her toes in the frigid water of the Salish Sea, that is it. I had to wade out beyond the three foot swell to dive in. After emerging from my breath seizing dip, I had a tough walk out. My legs were so numb that I could barely keep upright. I actually scrapped my ankle on a rock and did not know it until I went in the house and saw blood in the shower. Natalie was squealing and hollering about how cold it was. It was so funny. We were all laughing, it was fantastic.

Today I took Natalie and Marshall up Mount Washington for another snowshoe. The conditions were perfect for our type of shoes. There was no powder and it was compactable and had some ice on the top. I could mush along and only sink a few inches with out the tails on my MSR shoes. Natalie had no problem. This is so nice for kids. The float from a snow shoe is more than enough and she hardly sinks at all. Marshall had a blast bounding and chasing snowballs. He is so fun to watch. We did about an hour loop on trail and off. I taught Natalie how to jump off little hills and tried to show her how to ski down bigger hills. The sun was trying to poke out and bathe us in its rays. I learned to double check your kids kit. Upon parking at the mountain, we discovered that Natalie forgot one of her gloves. Luckily it was warm enough and I didn't need my gloves so I put them on her hands. It was the best time so far I had for snowshoeing. If she had more stamina I would have loved to spend more hours up there hiking about.

I had such a great holiday but back to work tomorrow. I spent loads of time outside, adventuring and also had more time to research simple living and tiny homes. Feeling refreshed and ready to move forward. Once again thoughts about how to change things in life, reducing stuff and re-assessing whats important. I will write more about this in the future. There are some exciting things going on inside my head.