Category Archives: Outdoor Activities

Ripple Rock

Every year when the captain (my captain, that is) takes his commercial troller from Vancouver Island to the Queen Charlotte Islands on the northern coast of British Columbia (and back again), he has to go through a tight passage called Seymour Narrows.

Located just north of the town of Campbell River, this stretch of water was described by Captain George Vancouver as “one of the vilest stretches of water in the world.”

Whenever I have accompanied “my” captain through the narrows, I’ve nearly given myself an ulcer beforehand, as Seymour Narrows has such a terrible reputation. Yet each time, going through the passage has been a piece of cake, with calm waters. That’s how it should be, if you wait for slack water, between tides.

The passage through Seymour Narrows is now much safer thanks to the removal of the tops of Ripple Rock,  a submerged twin-peak mountain that lay just nine feet beneath the surface of Seymour Narrows. According to Wikipedia, it was a serious hazard to shipping, sinking 119 vessels and taking 114 lives.

In the case of the William J. Stewart, when it struck Ripple Rock  in 1944, I’m not aware of any loss of life, and the ship was beached and later restored. It was due to be scrapped in 2017.

On April 5, 1958, after twenty-seven months of tunnelling and engineering work, Ripple Rock was blown up with 1,375 tons of Nitramex 2H explosive. It was quite the project.  A 500-foot vertical shaft was built on Maud Island, and then a horizontal shaft of 2,370 feet  was drilled out to Ripple Rock. From that point, two vertical shafts were drilled up into the  peaks, with shafts for the placement of the explosives. Very advanced technology for 1958.

I think those columns of smoke are blowback  from the explosion, coming out through the drilled shafts.

The explosion spewed debris almost 1000 feet into the air falling on land on either side of the narrows.  After the blast, the two peaks were 13.7 m (45 ft) and 15.2 m (50 ft) underwater.

Some very smart engineers had the foresight to detonate the charge at a time when the tide was running its fastest, so the rocks  blown off the tops would not fall straight back down onto the peaks, but rather, be swished along beyond them.

Even after the top of Ripple Rock was removed, it remains a challenging route. In March 1981, the Star Philippine, a freighter, ran aground in the narrows.

When the captain was coming home from a summer of trolling, he took pictures of his navigation instruments as he went through Seymour Narrows quite close by Ripple Rock. The red triangular icon represents his boat as he is heading south, just past Ripple Rock. Arrows show the direction of the tidal flow at that time. You can see the depths of the peaks as 15.2 m, and 13.7 m.

In the monitor of the depth sounder below, you can see the twin peaks of the rock. The number on the bottom left should be the depth in meters, directly below where the boat is at that moment. The reading is taken on the far right where the scale is marked. This tells me that the boat has just passed the second of the peaks of what is left of Ripple Rock.

Even knowing that the rock has been topped, I still have a healthy respect for this stretch of water. The colour photos (near the beginning of this post) of the swirling eddies are recent, well after the explosion of Ripple Rock, so you can see that going through Seymour Narrows when the tide is running full is still not a good idea.

My preference is to stay on land whenever possible.

 

 

 

Tenting

In this summer of wildfires, the only ones doing any tenting are the caterpillars.

In my front yard is a black walnut tree that the Captain and I planted when it was no more than a six-foot high stick. Twenty-six years later it is a tall tree, desperately reaching for the sky as the leylandi cypress beside it crowds it more every year.

But see who is camping in the walnut tree! With all the warnings about camping being banned in so many places, these tenters have invaded my yard AGAIN! They attacked the apple trees in the early spring. Then they came back to take up residence in  the walnut tree (the kind that has walnuts) in the backyard, and now they are taking up residence in the ornamental black walnut in the front yard. They’re getting smarter too. This time they are much higher and out of my reach.


Here is a closer look.

And an even closer look. You can see that many of the leaves have already been eaten. I looked up tent caterpillars and found out that these are most likely the larvae of the malacosoma moth. I don’t think I like moths anymore.

Guess I’ll have to call the fire department to come and get this tent out of the tree. They have high ladders and brave men, but oh, hold on — they’re all busy fighting wildfires just now. I’ll have to see if I can find a good Samaritan to help me out.

Do you have these unwanted guests tenting in your yard too?

A Honkin’ Good Time

Skies are still a bit hazy from the wildfire smoke, but somehow the geese have found their way to the estuary. Many of these birds will move on further south, but many will stay for the winter, putting up with wind and rain, and possibly a day or two of snow. The farmers’ fields will provide food for them with leftover cobs of corn and grain seeds that have missed being harvested. In case of severe frost or snow, the geese have the estuary to find food as the salt water doesn’t freeze.

The arrival of the geese always tells me that summer is ending and the northern latitudes are cooling off already, driving the birds south.

For now, life is still comfortable for them and they chat and preen and enjoy the warm days and nights. Some stretch their wings while others preen their back and neck feathers. A few are resting, some are dabbling at the water’s edge, and the farthest one has his neck stretched up tall and alert. It’s like kiddies’ day at the beach.

Just before leaving, I snapped one more quick picture. When I got home I noticed that one of the geese was flying past the camera just by the tree on the left. Or was it? I zoomed in for a closer look.  You can see it on the next photo.

Here, below, is the flying goose at the end of a skinny branch.  It’s all dressed in leaves. Sure had me fooled.

Mrs. Goose is on the loose,

Chattering, she’s quite obtuse.

“There’s a party at the beach,

And I hear it’s out of reach.

Nobody will bother us,

We can honk and spit and cuss,

Holler loudly as we wish

And the place is one big dish.

Food aplenty ‘cross the way

in the fields  where corncobs may

Still be lying on the ground,

Seeds are scattered all around.

People stop and look at us

But they’re harmless, make no fuss.

It’s just heaven being here

Even though the winter’s near.”

“Honkin’ right,” the gander said.

“Still some pleasant days ahead.”

“Watch your language, Gander Dear,

Bloggers won’t approve, I fear.”

Gander stretches out his wings,

Rolls his eyes and up he springs.

Goosey scurries, much impressed,

Goes to give her mouth a rest.

 

 

 

Mick’s Buttercup Squash

The Captain and I try to go to Montana every year if possible. We have found good friends among the farmers we’ve met there. Three years ago, Mick, one of these friends, gave us some buttercup squash that he had just harvested. Since we had our trailer with us, he suggested the easiest way to cook it would be to microwave it.

I did that, and it was very good. So good, in fact, that I saved the seeds of the squash to bring home. For the next three years I planted and saved Mick’s buttercup squashes. This year’s crop is descended from those original squashes he gave us in 2015.

Here is one of them, growing on the garden fence where it climbed up.

The funny thing is that although I carefully started some of the squash seeds in little pots for transplanting when the weather warmed up enough, Mick’s squash has a mind of its own. I must have put some compost in the garden last winter, and this spring, way before I thought it was okay to plant anything, these squashes volunteered to grow in my garden and they have by far outstripped the ones I so carefully tended in little pots for transplanting.

I have found a way of cooking these squashes that makes us very happy. I clean, quarter, and peel the squash and microwave it just long enough to make it barely tender (a few minutes). While that is happening, I sautee some chopped onion  in a pan with butter. When the squash is tender enough to cut easily but not so mushy that it is falling apart, I cut each quarter into slices (the way you would cut cantaloupe in thin wedges) and lay these in the pan to brown a few minutes on each side.

That’s it. Eat and enjoy.

PS When you’re cleaning the squash, be sure to save the seeds for next year’s crop.

A Bad Hair Day

I think these are the last of the poppies in my garden that have a different look.

The combination of colours and texture is beautiful, but it was the crepe paper look that made these poppies special for me. I wondered what the word “crepe” meant and found that its origin in 18th C. French was “crespe” which meant “curled, frizzed” from the Latin “crispus.”

In reality, the poppy petals are soft and delicate, but it’s the crepe look that I find fascinating.

D’you ever have a bad hair day

When petals lie down where they may?

You see, for me, it’s nothing new,

They do whatever they want to do.

Crispy,  frizzy, fluttering,

My hairdo takes a battering.

The passing breeze has tousled me

I’m not the queen I’d like to be.

Here comes a lady pulling plants.

I call to her, “Give me a chance!

I’m just not ready yet to die.” 

She halts and breathes a great big sigh.

“I love the messy look  we share. 

To part with you, I could not bear.”

 

 

 

Foxgloves

The tall white, pink, and purplish flowers standing like spikes around the edge of the garden are foxgloves (digitalis). I found the name fascinating, imagining a fox wearing the tiny blooms of this plant on his feet. Each of the many flowers on the stalks is shaped like a  sock or a glove, just perfect for a fox to put a paw into.

This plant has many common names. I first learned its name in German when my mother told me it was called “Fingerhut,” which means, literally, finger hat, and is the word for “thimble.”  The Latin name “digitalis” is also to do with fingers (digits).

Did you know that digoxin, extracted from foxglove, is used as a heart medicine? But don’t go eating foxglove thinking you’ll get a healthy heart from it. The opposite would most likely occur. All parts of the plant are toxic.

Although it is unlikely to be eaten by children or pets, I want to be careful. I try to keep my foxgloves growing mainly inside the garden fence.

In the photo above, you can see that the bells of the foxgloves gradually open starting from the bottom of the plant. The top buds are the last to open. The bottom ones will be the first to go to seed. I had to wait to see what shape the topmost flower would have. I wanted to compare it to this oddball below.

In the photo of the pale foxglove, the topmost flower opened like a wide bell facing upwards. All the other foxglove plants have drooping bell-shaped flowers right to the top.

I don’t know if it’s a different variety of foxglove or just an anomaly. Maybe it’s the teacup for the fox to sip from while he puts his gloves on. That would get his ticker racing.

The Dinner Table

My garden is a tangled mess this year because I’ve hurt my back and can’t bend down to pull out the weeds. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.) The flowers have been so generous about hiding the weeds until I’m feeling better. They’ve done such a good job that no self-respecting bird would think it was a place for humans only. One of my visitors recognized it immediately as “tamed gone wild” and made himself at home there.  He exuded confidence and a sense of ownership, only knocking once he was already  in the door.

What he knocked on was once a huge fir that stood too close to our house. We had to cut it down many years ago and only a low stump was left. After today, I’m glad, for the first time, that we didn’t try to auger out the stump and get rid of it. Apparently it made a good dinner table for Woody, the pileated woodpecker. The spellchecker insists on calling him a pillaged woodpecker, and it is partly true. He does have a pillaging nature.

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“Pillaging? … Me? A bird’s gotta eat!”

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“Now, hold on just a minute. I think some of my dinner fell off the table top.”

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“Do you think it would be polite to crawl under there to get it? I suppose if it fell on the floor, I should leave it … but it looks so good.”

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“Hmm … What to do … what to do???”

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“Oh, to heck with it. I think I can get it from up here. I’m gonna go for it.”

 

Stay tuned for the next installment, coming soon to a computer near you.

 

P.S.  I have just found out that the male pileated woodpecker has the red malar stripe (moustache), while the female does not have it. So this is definitely MR Woodpecker.