The Holly and the Maple

No, it’s not “The Holly and the Ivy,” but close enough. I noticed that the maple’s leaves got hung up on the holly tree below it, and the muse tickled the keyboard once again.

The maple sheds a coat that weaves

And floats towards the ground,

Hanging up on prickly leaves

Of holly all around.

 

The holly says, “I thank you, dear,

I’m shivering with cold.

When winter nights are chill and clear

Your leaves my warmth will hold.

 

And decorated, too, am I

Just like a Christmas tree.

My berries red will catch the eye

And all will look at me.

 

But you, dear maple, what of you?

Your scrawny arms are chill.

There’s nothing more that you can do.

So pray for you, I will.

 

Be steadfast through the winter gale,

Be tough as you can be,

Till new leaves will your arms regale

With pride and majesty.”

 

 

 

 

Will You Be My Chum?

We have five species of salmon on the Pacific coast. Some, like the chinook, sockeye, and coho are highly prized. The other two, pink and chum, are also delicious when they are in their prime. The pink has softer flesh and is good in a barbecue or steamed, smoked, or canned, while the chum is mostly used for canning and smoking. It is also being used for its roe.

After spending four years in the ocean, the chums will swim up a river to spawn. On their way from the ocean to the river,  chums go through  dramatic changes in the shape of their body. The head features change so the jaws are more curved and pronounced, the males growing teeth that serve them in their aggression and dominance over other males. This toothy look has earned them the nickname “dog salmon.”

The flesh also begins to break down, enabling patches of fungus to grow on the skin.

Here is one that has those patches all over its body. What was once a silvery salmon is now looking more like a barely living fish cadaver.

The chums make their way upstream, often in pairs. The female lays her eggs in a gravel bed and the male fertilizes them. Then, exhausted from their long journey, they waste away and die, littering the banks of the river and getting hung up on rocks and log jams.

Of course, in nature, not much goes to waste. Usually the eagles occupy these trees that overlook the river, but now they are the resting place for seagulls who have gorged themselves on the stinking flesh of the chum salmon.

There they are at the dinner table on the far left side of the stream.

On the opposite shore, to my disgust, I see fishermen throwing lures into the river in hopes of snagging the dying, putrid chums which are too exhausted to take the bait anymore.  A month ago, some of these chums might  still have made a tasty meal, but now? If you don’t want to eat carrion, why torture these dying fish?   Fishing, is a fine sport, but this???  This has nothing more to do with fishing. I don’t know what to make of it. Words fail me!

Below is a 13-second video of the salmon on the other side of the bridge from which these pictures were taken. The chums are most likely already spawned out but are still going through the motions until they exhaust themselves. You may notice that most of them are paired up. The noise in the video is, unfortunately, made by the cars going by on the bridge behind me.

 

Redheads

“Yikes!” This guy was caught red-handed – well, maybe more like red-headed – vandalizing the maple tree. Just look at the holes he’s put into the bark! I guess they make great toeholds for him.

Who would think there is something inside that bark that makes it so enticing for him?

“Hold on,” he says. “I think I can hear something wiggling around in there.”

“Mmyeahhhh … worth having a poke around.”

“There he is! I can feel him in there. Tasty little morsel … if I can only get him out of there. I’ll follow it up with a slurp of syrup from the sap.”

“Yum! That was good, but what a lot of work for a snack. Gotta take a breather for a sec.”

“What’s that you say?” He’s shocked that I’ve questioned him. “Holes in the bark? So what? There’s tons of them. What’s one more?”

“But don’t you see that if you keep going around in a circle you’ll soon ring the tree?”

“So…?

“Well, the sap has to go up and down the tree to keep it alive.”

“But I’m a sapsucker. Duh! It’s what I do!”

“I don’t know how much more of this I can take. I held so still for her when I saw she had her camera.  But enough is enough.”

“I’ll pose for this one last picture and then I’m off. I can always come back later, when her arm gets tired, or her eyes hurt from squinting against the sun, or – hee hee – when her battery dies. All that zooming really eats batteries. 

Now. Where was I? Oh yes, continuing on this line of holes my buddies and I were working on last week.”

Mom’s Mums

These chrysanthemums haven’t had the benefit of any fertilizers for all of their life. I guess I should have paid more attention. But every time I looked at them, I felt a bit sad and walked away. Why?

Over 36 years ago, these mums were in a hanging basket in my mother’s back porch. In 1982, when she died, I brought the hanging basket home to my house. I didn’t expect them to come back the next year and bloom, and when they did, the feeling was always bittersweet.

I took more care the next winter to cover them with a patio chair or some kind of loose plastic to keep the worst of the cold off them. It didn’t occur to me to add fertilizer even after I repotted them when they got too big for the hanging basket.

Now, after blooming for the 36th time since they came to live with me, I have finally come to my senses and have decided to give them some fertilizer next spring.

I am grateful for this plant’s tribute to my mother each year, and have been shamed into taking better care of it. Do you think it’s too late for me to get it together?

The Hope Slide

About 100 miles east of Vancouver, BC, lies the town of Hope. From here the highway winds through a beautiful stretch of hilly country for 82 miles to the town of Princeton.

Just about 10 miles east of Hope is a viewpoint where I took some photos of the second largest landslide in Canadian history. The Hope Slide came down the mountain on January 9, 1965, burying several vehicles and killing four people. The bodies of two were retrieved, but two others remain buried beneath tons of rock.

I quote Wikipedia here: The slide completely displaced the water and mud in Outram Lake below with incredible force, throwing it against the opposite side of the valley, wiping all vegetation and trees down to the bare rock, then splashed back up the original, now bare, slope before settling.

I see no indication of an Outram Lake on modern maps, but there is an Outram Mountain nearby.

About a mile and a half of the highway was covered in rock, so a gravel road was constructed as a detour until a new section of highway could be built. A portion of the old highway still lies under the slide.

One sweet thing about this whole sad story is that beside the viewpoint, masses of wild strawberries are growing in the moss that covers the gritty gravel beside the road.

 

The Thing About Oil

Whether we like it or not, we need oil products in our daily lives. The Calumet Specialty Products Partnership helps to provide them. Part of their production takes place in a refinery in the city of Great Falls, Montana.

As we descend from the low hills on our way from Havre to Helena, the city of Great Falls, Montana, sprawls in front of us. It is named for a series of five dams built nearby on the Missouri River, one of which helped provide the electricity needed to run the refinery.

The refinery is a landmark of the city, and its presence is hard to miss. But locals are glad for its existence as it provides many jobs and  much-needed products.

When we have passed through we have sometimes taken the city center route and other times the Northwest Bypass. Either way, the refinery is unavoidable and so is the smell.

What amazed me is that right across the street the Montana Club Restaurant and a little farther on, the Wal-Mart and several other businesses, are bustling with customers and doing very well.

Obviously the refinery was there first.

We all hear about pipelines and air pollution and the bad petro-chemicals these days, but oil is part of our survival. We need to eat, and farmers need machinery, and that machinery needs to be oiled and fueled. Vehicles people drive need gasoline and oil. Other by-products like paint, solvents, candle wax, cosmetics, and asphalt  are less necessary, but still convenient to have. Whether we like it or not, it is difficult to do without many of these products for our economy to function.

Finding ways of minimizing the impact of oil product manufacturing is an ongoing challenge, but the people of Great Falls are glad for the jobs and proud of the important products they provide.

 

Cranberries

Nearly home from Montana, we drove past this cranberry farm east of Vancouver, BC. Again, I only had seconds to snap a drive-by shot, but it made me look up cranberry harvesting when I got home.

I learned that cranberries can be harvested dry or wet. For the dry harvesting they go through the cranberry field with a machine much like a lawnmower except that it doesn’t cut the plants; it only scoops up the berries and bits of the plant. The berries are then sent through a machine that bounces them around and separates them from the other bits of debris through a grooved roller that rocks back and forth. Then comes the assembly line where workers pick out the bad berries from the conveyor belt.

On the tiny photo above, you can see that they have flooded the cranberry field. A taller machine, designed not to churn up the wet ground goes through and scoops up more berries to bring them to the surface.

Then the berries are “herded” together by floating dams just as if the berries were an oil spill.  Once the berries are enclosed, they are vacuumed up into a truck while the water is drained off  as the berries are loaded.

They still need to go through the assembly line for sorting, but machinery does all but this last step.

When you make a cranberry sauce for your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, you need to add about a cup of sugar for two cups of these very tart berries, but you can make your cranberry sauce more interesting by adding plums and apples if you have them handy.

Cranberries also make a wonderful addition to muffins. Throw in a cupful with the batter instead of using blueberries. Add some chopped nuts. The measuring doesn’t have to be an exact science. Experiment. They’re sure to be good.