Eat or be Eaten

A few days ago when the snow came down hard and heavy, I felt sorry for the birds, as I always do when the weather makes their lives hard to bear. But I had forgotten that not only do some birds — the weak, the injured, and the unlucky — have a hard enough time finding food, but they have to beware of becoming food for other birds.

The forested patches near our house are home to many bald eagles. Because the ocean is nearby, it is ideal for them, especially now as herring time draws near.  But until the herring fishery begins, the eagles take advantage of the suffering of other bird species. They are especially fond of snatching seabirds from the water or the beaches.

Out in my backyard, under one of the firs that the eagles love to use as their dining room, I found, discarded, a wing that had been stripped of all meat. My guess is that it was from a loon, as these seem to be one of the eagle’s favourites. I have found several loon carcasses under the dining tree in the past. For the photo, I have put a pop can beside the wing to show the relative size.

In the animal world it still goes that you must “Eat or be eaten.”

The Helpers

After the (hopefully) last snowfall, the Captain uses the wood splitter to split the firewood into sizes that would more easily fit into the woodstove. The “helpers,” Emma and Ruby, do their best to be useful.

Ruby packs pieces of firewood to various places in the yard, while Emma checks the place over for mice and rats.

Something has been here under this old pile of lumber. Emma gets right into her work of flushing out the “something.”

The dirt flies everywhere, but a lot of it sticks to Emma’s once shiny coat.

Whatever had been there, must have moved. Emma tries the other side to block off its escape route.

Finally, the Captain calls, “Okay, that’s enough. Look at you. So dirty!”

They find a chunk of wood and help with the firewood job again.

While the Captain rests in a nearby lawn chair, he takes off his gloves.

Two sets of dog ears perk up (as much as floppy spaniel ears can perk up).

“The gloves are off” has a different meaning for these guys. They are alert and eager to retrieve any gloves that may soon be flying around the yard.

“Here I come! Look at me!” says Emma.

“Do it again, Dad!”

Hard Times

The ferry route from Quadra Island to Vancouver Island can get quite sloppy during tide change. No problem for the ferry, but I sure wouldn’t have wanted to be out there in a small boat.

Heading home from the quilting retreat, I was surprised to see more and more snow, the farther south I got.

When I arrived in Comox, the field near the estuary was covered in snow … and geese. I counted about 230 geese in this field. I pulled over and quickly snapped a few pictures without even getting out of the truck. Sorry they are blurry. When taking pictures, “Hurry makes blurry.”

I noticed as I drove away, that there were a few trumpeter swans  with the Canada geese, but the photo doesn’t show them, as they were at the far end of the flock. But there were several other geese among the Canadas, too.

Do you see the white blobs in the front of the photo?

Five snow geese were foraging for food along with the Canada geese. They didn’t seem to mind each other. All were concentrating on digging under the snow for grass roots. Their usual dinner plate, the grain field, was mostly covered with snow, and they needed to find something to keep up their strength in this cold weather.

This photo is especially blurry but it shows how desperately the geese are foraging, searching under the snow to get at the grass and roots for any nourishment they can find. Only the goose in the front of the photo is not feeding at the moment, but she probably had to stop to warm up her bill after having it in the icy ground for so long. Hard times for the animals.


Snowy Quilting Retreat

As I left home to drive to the quilting retreat last week, it happened to be a rare sunny day and the Comox Glacier on Vancouver Island was looking fine after many  fresh coatings of snow during the past weeks. At sea level we were all complaining about the constant rain this winter, but up high, it was building up the snow on the glacier.

My friend and I arrived at the lodge on Quadra Island and unloaded our sewing machines and all the many boxes of fabric and sewing supplies we would need for the next four days.

We unloaded our bedding and personal items in our assigned rooms and then got busy setting up the machines to sew. After that it was a marathon of sewing.

Here is the project my friend was working on. She designed it herself and has done a beautiful job of it. I’m only sorry that my photo doesn’t do it justice.

I worked on small projects like bags,

and a table runner (the one hanging at an odd angle on the end).

Another quilter who sat nearby, had some gorgeous fabric that she was using to build a quilt. Here is the first phase of it.

It drizzled a bit the first two days but then it cleared enough for us to take a short walk. The next day it was like Christmas. Snow!

Even from inside the lodge, you could tell it was snowing heavily outside.

The next day it was all gone again and we were ready to drive home. What a surprise we had when we arrived home to find more snow.

And to think that ten days ago I was having thoughts about gardening. I think this year I might be planting snowballs.


Cooking “Chez Vous’

My friends had a wonderful idea the other day.

“Let’s go to a cooking class!”

“Great! What’s on the menu?”

“Oh, some Italian dishes, but a bit spicier than usual. And you get to eat what you cook.”

“Say no more! I love spice. I love cooking. I love eating. Let’s do it.”

We made our booking at Chez Vous in Black Creek (Vancouver Island), and last Saturday night, we three girls went out to join the fun in the kitchen.

Chef Alain Chabot and his wife Chantal were our hosts.

The ten guests who signed up for this class were divided into small groups to make various dishes:

Fresh pasta – tagliatelle and a sauce to make Spaghetti Putanesca

An eggplant and peppers appetizer – Melanzane

Lamb and Potatoes – Herb Roasted Rack of Lamb and Lemon Roasted Potatoes

Dessert – Tira misu

All photos in this post were taken by Deidre Macdonald, the pretty smiling lady in the photo below. She kindly sent them to me for this blog post. You see how happy she is. That’s how ecstatic we all felt by the time we left for home, after a fantastic evening of fun and cooking and learning.

Here, Chef Alain is checking the pasta he has just shown us how to make. We used attachments on his very old but still functional Kitchen Aid mixer to press the pasta dough and to slice it into long spaghetti strips. It was easy and fun.

Another group prepared the lamb, cutting the membrane on the inside of the ribs so the meat would not curl up in the pan, and then putting salt, pepper, and thyme on it. The chef called the group together for a lesson on the cooking of the meat. A combination of oil and butter sizzled in the pan over medium hot gas flames as he placed two racks in each of two pans.

As the butter started to look like it might burn he tipped the pan so the juices of the lamb combined with the butter and oil. This added enough liquid to prevent burning as the pan roasting continued.

Do you see how the rib bones are intertwined now that the racks have been turned over in the pan? This will help to cook the thickest part of the rack.

After a few more minutes of pan roasting, the lamb racks are sprinkled with chopped parsley and, in the same pan, are put into a 400 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Here is the happy result. Tender and tasty!

Dinner was served in four courses with wine pairings for those who elected to have this added pleasure.

The lemon herbed roasted potatoes and some of the other dishes we made are an art all to themselves. Perhaps another blog post needs to be dedicated to them.

If you are on the island and would like to see what’s happening at the chef’s business, check out his webpage here:


Seedy Saturday

I have been saving seeds for over 35 years. I always looked forward to seeing the descendants of my plants growing. The long line of repeated generations became like old friends. Recently I found out that there is a whole cult of seed saving going on out there.

What a great discovery! Besides planting my own saved seeds this year, I will plant seeds from other seed saving gardeners.

Just look at the crowd of gardeners looking for something special at Seedy Saturday in Qualicum on Vancouver Island.

Seed companies offer their time-proven seeds each at their tables set up in the big hall, but off in a smaller room are the seeds that other seed savers (local gardeners) have packaged up for sale. At 50 cents a package, it is a bargain.

On my wish list, were two plants that I wanted to find seeds for, but I really didn’t get my hopes up too high. I knew the chances were slim. I was looking for seeds of poblano peppers. These dark green medium hot peppers are  popular in Mexico but outrageously expensive to buy here.

I was also looking for seeds of a dark-skinned (black) tomato like the ones I had eaten for the first time last summer after a friend gave me some as a gift.


I was thrilled to see that the first two packages of seeds I came across were poblano peppers and black-skinned tomatoes. What are the chances?!

Then a local gardener gave a talk, and although I had been gardening for many years, I was happy to learn several new gardening tips.

I also learned of a new (to me) type of potato (Sieglinde) that I will try this year, along with my tried and true Norgolds, Kennebecs, and red Pontiacs.

Here is my happy stash of purchases all for a grand total of $10. I’m a cheap date!

Now where is that warm weather?

Guest Blogger: Anneli Purchase and Her Latest Book “Marlie”

My friend Marlie would love to show you some of the photos of the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii) where she taught at the elementary school. You might think teaching isn’t a very outdoorsy job but her new friends take her out and about to see the islands. She learns that in beauty lies danger.

Writer Site

My name is Marlie Mitchell. That’s me on the cover of Anneli’s book.

Anneli’s friend Jan Brown painted my portrait. She made my hair a bit wilder than it really is, but I do have trouble keeping it tamed. Jan certainly got my eyes right. One shows the hurt I’ve felt, and the other shows my determination to pick myself up and be strong.

You see, I had great plans to teach young children and build a happy life with a husband and maybe a couple of kids of my own. Hah! That dream went down the toilet almost before I got started. Everything in my life seemed to go wrong.

I was the perfect candidate for an escape to a remote teaching post in the Queen Charlotte Islands, now called Haida Gwaii, off the coast of northern British Columbia.

Many of my students lived in poor homes in Haida…

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