wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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A Cool Trip – Part 1

We left Vancouver Island on our way to eastern Montana. Having waited out the unexpected September 30th blizzard, we hoped to find that the worst was over after a few days of traveling.

In the southern interior of British Columbia is the Similkameen Valley, probably best known for being a wine growing region of the South Okanagan.

For us, it was a good place to stop for a quick coffee and sandwich while the dogs stretched their legs.

Then we continued on with our truck and trailer to the U.S. border into Washington and Coulee City.

The Coulee City Community Park provides RV parking and a lovely setting on the south end of Banks Lake, a reservoir created in 1942 after the completion of the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River.

Our stay at Coulee City was perfect, but the worst was yet to come. Stay tuned.


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This ‘Hood is for the Birds

Not meaning to make light of the very real shortage of affordable housing for people, I thought if  birds had any shortage of housing, here is one person’s way of dealing with it and helping them out. This tree with its “decoration” is located in a remote part of Vancouver Island. A handful of people live nearby and while some of them are very creative, all of them love nature. So this tribute to bird life is appreciated and admired by all. Some other objects have crept into a space among the birdhouses, but they don’t look out of place because they are part of the lifestyle there.

*Taken with the Captain’s little Fuji.

Do you see any objects that stand out for you?


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A Crabby Chapter from a Free Book

I know it’s a lot of reading, but I’ve put a chapter from my novel “The Wind Weeps” here, below the photo of these wonderful dungeness crabs the Captain brought home yesterday.

The chapter tells a bit about how the crabs can be caught and cooked, but it also shows the dark side of Robert’s abusive character and Andrea’s response to it.

The part about how to pick up the crabs comes directly from my own experience, but the rest is fiction.

You can find the novel “The Wind Weeps” on amazon and on smashwords.com. Just click on the book cover image at the side of the post or visit my web page at http://www.anneli-purchase.com

The e-book is still FREEEEEEEE. Sequels of this coastal novel (“Reckoning Tide” and “Marlie”) are also available.

 


Chapter 44

“I’m going to pull the crab rings. You coming?” Robert was friendly. You’d think yesterday hadn’t happened.

“No thanks. I don’t think I’d be much help. I’d only be in the way.” And I have no desire to go out in the skiff with you again. Ever!

“Well, at least put some water on to cook the crabs.”

I slammed a big pot of water on the woodstove to heat up. I grabbed the binoculars and watched him. Maybe he’d get caught in the coils and fall overboard. He stopped the boat by the farthest marker, reached for the float and started pulling the line in, coiling it in the bottom of the skiff as it came over the side. When the ring came up, he set it on the seat in front of him and gingerly grasped the two crabs that were now trying to clamber out of the netting. He tossed them into a bucket in the front of the skiff. He repeated the process with the closer ring, this time pulling up three crabs. After tossing them into the bucket as well, he pried loose a starfish that had settled on the fish-head bait and chucked it back into the water. With the second ring securely on board, Robert scooted the boat over to the dock again. I threw down the binoculars and tried to look busy as he came in the door.

“Put that pot of water on the propane stove now. Set it up on the porch or it’ll stink up the house. I’ll have those crabs ready to throw into it in a few minutes. Lots of salt in the water?”

“A good handful,” I said. “Is that enough?” He nodded and went back to the dock.

Once I had the water set up, I watched him tear the shells off the live crabs and crack their backs on the edge of the dock, breaking the bodies in two. Then he leaned over the float, swished out their guts in the water, and put the halved bodies in another pail.

“Get me another crab out of the bucket, will you?”

I reached in to pick one up, but it turned its beady black eyes on me and stood up on its back legs, front claws open, ready to do battle.

“Ah … er … how do I pick it up without losing a finger?”

“From behind. Like this.” Robert reached in and picked it up. “Fingers on top, thumb underneath. That way they can’t reach your fingers with their claws.” He tossed it back into the bucket and said, “Okay, go ahead.”

I started to reach in and again, the crab stood up tall on its back legs, holding its claws towards me. I turned my hand this way and that, trying to picture how to pick it up. Thumb on top, fingers underneath. Or was it fingers on top and thumb underneath? I made a move towards the crab and it went into action facing off with my hand whichever way I planned to grab it.

“Oh …” I wailed. “I can’t do it.”

Robert easily picked up the crab. I thought now he’d be angry again but he was trying to hide a smile. I took that as my cue to get away while I could.

“I’ll go check on that water.”

It was a brutal business, boiling a potful of live crabs even in halves, but later, when I tasted them, I forgot all about that, and how intimidating they had been when still alive. We laid the cooked crab on old newspapers on the porch to let them get a good chill. That didn’t take long in the December air.

“They’re really meaty this time of year,” Robert said, wiping at the crab juice that dripped down his chin.

“You mean they aren’t always?” I picked at the meat of a claw using the small end of one of the crab’s own legs.

“They stop eating when it’s time to molt and grow new shells in summer and early fall. While the new shell is still soft, the crab hasn’t grown enough to fit into it yet. They aren’t as meaty then as they are later.”

I let Robert tell me all about it. He liked showing off his knowledge. I had to feed that need for my own sake; keep him happy.

“I bet even millionaires don’t get to eat this much crab at once.”

“And for sure not as fresh as these.” Robert reached across and wiped my cheek. “You had a bit of crab flake there.” He smiled.

“My wrists are dripping with crab juice.” I dried my hands on some paper towel and picked up a piece of garlic bread.

“This is great bread,” Robert said with his mouth full. “Really good. I didn’t know you could bake bread.”

I almost said, “Janine taught me,” but swallowed the words quickly. Janine had baked goods for the restaurant at Hope Bay. I didn’t want to turn our thoughts back to that time. “Yup. I can,” I said lightly. “You like it?”

“Fantastic. Goes perfect with this gourmet crab feast.”

After the last crab leg was picked clean we pushed away from the table, groaning.

“That was good,” he said, “but I’m so stuffed, I never want to eat crab again.”

“Yeah, me neither.” I laughed. “Till next time.”

 


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The Maple Leaf is not “Forever”

I went to the wharf to make sure the boat had weathered the weather. It is tougher than I am, withstanding the first system of wind and rain that marks the end of this summer.

On the way home I took a small detour to dash out onto the beach for a photo. After many wipes of the lens I got a couple of wettish pics to show what kind of day it is.

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Thoroughly dampened, I drove home, but couldn’t resist taking a picture of this very old house on the way. Too bad the upper windows and the skylight are a modern style. They don’t quite go with the rockwork, but it’s still a unique house. Not just the huge chimneys, but even the walls are made of rock.

As I pulled into my own driveway a few minutes later, I saw a pretty, bittersweet sight — a maple leaf landed on my car, marking the end of summer and proving once again that, contrary to the old Canadian motto, the maple leaf is not forever.

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But it will come again in the spring.


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Queen Anne’s Lace

 

One of the prettiest weeds in our area (IMHO) is Queen Anne’s lace, or wild carrot, as it is commonly known. It is considered an invasive species, a threat to recovering grasslands after the soil has been broken for agriculture. It is tenacious in clay soils.

The flowers are named for the lace that was prominent in fine clothing in the days of Queen Anne of Britain, or perhaps of her grandmother (Anne of Denmark). In the center of the flower cluster is a red spot that is meant to represent a drop of blood from a pricked finger of the lace maker.

Even if it is invasive, I think it is beautiful among the other flowering weeds growing wild beside the local beach.

If you handle the leaves of the plant, you risk irritation of the skin  when it is subsequently exposed to sunlight. If you have sensitive skin, best to leave this plant alone.

Nature’s garden is not geometric, but that is one of the things I love about it.

By the way, the bitter wild carrot root, in spite of smelling like carrot, is not meant to be eaten. In a young plant it may still taste all right (although not worth the trouble) but it soon gets woody and unpleasant to eat. Also, eating it is not advised since it can easily be mistaken for poison hemlock and other toxic plants.

 

The flower looks like Queen Anne’s lace,

Its roots smell like a carrot,

It also looks like poison plants,

Be careful to compare it.

Don’t rush to touch its pretty leaves,

Your skin may get a blister,

With phyto-photo-dermatitis,

Sun will put an itch there.

So be content to look at it,

Admire it from afar,

And tell it from a distance,

“What a dainty flower you are!”

 

 

 

 


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Lying Around

On the beach, I found some things that have been lying around for a long, long time.

This tree, for example, has been clinging to life for decades, possibly waiting to change into a lizard and join its friend farther up the beach. Something happened to the tree, perhaps as it fell over with its roots still in the ground. Maybe at that time it was much smaller and the huge boulder injured it, or prevented it from growing straight.

This may have been when the gnarly knot that we call a burl was formed. These twisted lumps have an interesting grain, and markings that make them special. Artists love to take burls to their woodworking shops to make clocks and coffee tables out of the slices they can cut from the burl.

Just look at the size of this burl. I’m sure the rock had something to do with its formation over many years.

Under this tree, the sandy soil contains countless clamshells. The shells are not in all parts of the higher beach, making me wonder why they are all together in one place.

One guess is that it might have been a midden – a place where early peoples camped and ate clams, leaving the shells  in their “dining room.”

I found a similar midden in Baja California, where the native people from decades gone by brought their shellfish from the beach to a small cave where they ate the seafood and left the shells behind.

Here is another example of the parts of the beach with and without shells, higher up on the bank.

There could be other possible explanations, but for now, I like to think it was a midden – the lunch table where no one cleared away the dishes.


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Rocky Times

This part of the beach is very much to Emma’s liking. Sand is easier to run on than rocks.

Farther along, some giant hurled a handful of rocks onto the beach, to the north …

and to the south.

A closer look at some of them make me suspect that over thousands (maybe millions?) of years, some clumps of sand hardened into rocks like the one below. It’s a temporary resting place for the baby rock on its back, or maybe it’s on his face….

Do you see the face in this rock? A big slash for a mouth above the chin; a smooshed up nose; two puffy eyes; a scar that goes from his left eye to the right corner of his mouth; and a wart on his left cheek.

Yes, the maple leaf tells us we are in Canada. I’ll let you speculate what it means that the leaf is upside down just now. ( I didn’t touch it! That’s just the way it is.)

I must learn to be more like the old barnacles on the rock by the end of the maple leaf stem, and hang in there. Time marches on and things change. The tide comes in and the tide goes out. Maybe the next tide will flip the leaf over.