Category Archives: Outdoor Activities

What Good is a Crow?

Sometimes in the winter, the extra high tides peak just when extreme winds blow the waves towards the beach and up over the edge of the road. Sand  churned up in the shallow water of the beach is deposited on the pavement as the waves retreat. At its most furious, the storm makes the road impassable due to waves carrying logs and sand, crashing on the pavement.

Something had to be done.  Why not use the logs that keep washing up on the shore to build a breakwater?

The only drawback was that access  was limited for people wanting to  spend time on the beach. Only a few pass-throughs allow access, but this is a small price to pay for keeping the beach material off the road. On the left foreground of the photo below, you can see the root system of a tree used in making the breakwater.

It makes a great perch for this crow to survey the beach and assess the possibility of nabbing a bite to eat.

Closer to the bluffs where the spit begins, people are enjoying the sunshine in spite of the cold brisk breeze.

Apparently they have brought some picnic food, and our crow is on the alert. See him in the foreground (below), keeping an eye on the people?

Those pebbles can twist a crow’s ankle. He hops up onto a better stand while he talks to us.

My name is Corby, I’m a crow,

A useful bird, I’ll have you know.

I clean up beaches, parks, and schools,

‘Cause people are such messy fools.

“A scavenger,” they say and sneer,

But really I’m an engineer.

A sanitation engineer,

Patrolling beaches without fear.

I’m much despised for baby theft

Of eggs and fledglings, moms bereft,

But on the beach and in the park,

With my intentions not so dark,

I use my observation perch

And beady eyes to scan and search

For chip bags, Ding Dongs, peanut shells.

I simply follow kiddies’ yells

For fast food wrappers, greasy hits

Of french fries, ketchup, burger bits.

I hop-skip over, spear a fry,

And poke some Cheezies with a sigh.

I fly up high, and watch, and call,

My cawing soon assembles all.

The local corbies cruising by,

Spy the garbage as they fly.

They’ve come to lend a helping hand

To clean the litter off the land.

They caw, “We are the cleanup crew,

Don’t look at us with eyes askew.

Don’t throw those rocks to chase us off,

You need us still,  you silly toff.

As long as you mess up the land,

Be thankful for the crows at hand.”

 

Camo

What is it with camo-gear? Isn’t it for disguise?

Every once in a while I see children (and sometimes adults) wearing camouflage clothing around town and I have to wonder what they’re hiding from?

Animals have natural camouflage, traits that have evolved  over thousands of years . I can understand that. Man copied the idea and used it during WWl. Okay, if we must have war, camo is smart.

To be properly camouflaged you have to try to blend in with the colours around you. Sand coloured khaki for the desert, dark blue or gray on rocky terrain. But by far the most popular style of camo-clothing is the kind with splotches of olive green, brown, and beige.

In the Viet Nam war, camo-gear was everywhere and has been popular ever since. But has the marketing gone a bit too far? In many cases I have to wonder, what is the purpose of wearing or using camo-gear?

For civilians, there seems to be little reason to wear camouflage.

Two sensible exceptions come to mind:

1)      hikers, who may want to hide so they can see more animals while out on a nature walk, and

2)      hunters, trying to hide from animals they are stalking.

But, for both hikers and hunters, the use of camo-gear can backfire.

Relatives of a lost hiker may report to Search and Rescue that their loved one was last seen wearing camo-clothing. Please search for a large cluster of leaves that isn’t one.

Hunters in camo have the same problem, but they have one advantage. With their excellent disguise, they may be mistaken for a game animal, so for safety, they often sport blaze orange sleeves on their camo-shirt or a bright orange brim on their camo-cap. Now they can be spotted easily if they get lost and at the same time, avoid being shot.

 

But wait! Am I missing something here? What was the point of wearing the camo-clothing in the first place?

Now we come to the rest of the camo-gear. We have all kinds of accessories in camouflage colours: backpack, flashlight, knife, shotgun case, shotgun stock, even the barrel in some cases.

Imagine the scenario: The hunter sets down his gear to take a break, to retie the laces of his camo-boots, or camo-runners, or to have a drink from that camo-flask of water he can’t find just now. He set it down here somewhere….

He checks his camo-watch, decides it’s getting late. He sets his shotgun down on the ground for safety while he climbs carefully over the barbed wire fence. He’ll just hunt this one last field and call it a day. Once on the other side, he adjusts his camo-pack and reaches for his gun. But where is it? Quick! There’s a bunch of pheasants getting up out of the tall grass. Where’s the damn gun? Too late, he finds it perfectly hidden, right in front of his eyes.

Tired out, he comes home at last after tromping incognito through miles of fields. He strips down to his underwear and crawls into bed for a quick late-afternoon nap. What’s this? Camo-underwear? Is he hoping his wife won’t find him in the bed and kick him out to have a shower first?

Impromptu Soup

Even with the snow and frost we’ve had, the kale in my garden seems to have come through it all unscathed. Several times I’ve used the leaves to make soup and I find that I really like it a lot.

I brought this bunch in from the garden just today, and happened to pass by some parsley and rosemary on my way.

We happened to have some elk short ribs in the freezer,  and I’ve found that these make a wonderful addition to the soup, both as stock and bits of meat.  You could use beef or any other meat too, but you may have to cut off some of the fat. Chicken drumsticks make a great soup too. Once they have simmered for a while, the meat falls off the bones and can be cut into pieces small enough to fit onto a soup spoon.

To make the soup, I sautee onions, garlic, and whatever else I am in the mood for. I’ve added chopped ginger root when I wanted something with a bit of zip. I can’t tell you what I use for herbs and spices because it’s different each time. If I want an interesting taste, I might put in some cardamom, cumin, and coriander seeds, or I might just do the herbs de provence kind of flavouring (Simon and Garfunkel soup – parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme). Or if I feel adventurous I’ll dabble with both.

The kale is washed and chopped quite finely before adding to the onion mixture. Let it cook a bit so it’s wilted and mixed well with the onions.

Usually I sprinkle a bit of flour into the sauteed kale, onions, and spices, and then stir to coat the onions and kale so there won’t be any lumps when I add the liquid.

I use the stock from simmering the ribs. Stir it around and check for flavouring. Add what you feel is missing. Notice I haven’t mentioned salt or pepper? Sometimes I’ve used a dash of steak spice and although it adds a wonderful flavour, it has plenty of salt. I’ve ruined a dinner once before I learned that. So I always wait until the end to add salt if needed. Same with pepper. Taste it first before you add salt or pepper!

Don’t forget to add the chopped up meat to the soup.

Finally, before serving I like to add a half cup or so of cream (half and half, or coffee cream – whatever you call it), or you can add a couple of tablespoons of sour cream to give it more zip.

I didn’t tell you how much of anything to put in the soup, because it’s one that you make up as you go along. Do whatever you feel like doing. It can’t fail to please on a wintery day.

 

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?

Large Flakes?

Looking out the window this afternoon, I saw huge snowflakes. Or were they leaves? But they were floating so easily, like snow. More and more flakes came down, and yet, not enough to say, “It’s snowing,” and besides, it was just a tad too warm. Something didn’t feel right. I went to investigate.

I picked up some of the “snowflakes” and saw that they were feathers. They kept falling from the sky. I thought of the German folk tale about Frau Holle who shakes the featherbeds (goosedown duvets, in our modern western world) in the sky and makes it snow.

I traced the path of the feathers to their origin and strained my eyes to study the top reaches of a fir tree. For a few minutes I saw nothing, but at last I made the culprit nervous.

A huge eagle took off from the tree with its dinner in its talons.

I knew from the feathers that the eagle’s meal was a duck. The harsh reality of  life and death in the animal food chain always leaves me with mixed feelings. Both are beautiful birds, but why does one have to eat the other? Couldn’t they just eat pancakes instead?

 

 

Sounds of Autumn

The sun warms my back, the wind cools my hair.

I photograph leaves that soon won’t be there.

Shushing and rustling cottonwood leaves,

Some cling to life in the stiffening breeze.

Others have flown, for the chilly night air

Has sent them a warning. “Oh trees, do beware.

The harsh days are coming; it’s time to prepare.

Your fluttering whispering dresses of gold

Must leave you alone now to suffer the cold.

But fear not, for soon you will warm up again.

New dresses will grow in the coming spring’s rain.”

 

DSCN2633

The video clip is of ten seconds in Montana. The wind is rumbling a bit in the microphone and the Captain is calling Ruby with his whistle, but the main thing I love about the clip is the sound of the wind in the leaves. It’s best if you make it full screen and you can almost feel as if you are there under the trees. Be sure to turn on the sound. That’s what it’s all about.

 

 

 

Get in Line

The commercial salmon troller (not to be mistaken for a trawler) is shown here in early June, all tiddled up, ready to leave for the summer fishing season in the Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwaii). But now that the season has ended, the boat is a bit tired and ready for some TLC. Like every summer, it has taken a beating, pounding into the waves in bad weather. Rigging, fishing lines, gear,  equipment, and even other boats have rubbed on its hull.

The question friends and acquaintances most often ask after it’s all over, is “How was your season?”

The main thing is to survive the elements, stay safe from the many hazards that can befall a fisherman. Beyond that, it’s a case of trying to be in the right place at the right time and hook some salmon that happen to be swimming by.

Commercial fishermen work hard to supply us with fish to eat. Turns out though, that we humans have to get in line. No, I don’t mean the line in the grocery store. I mean get in line behind the more aggressive predators. Here’s how it comes to be that way.

This year, the Captain tells me, it has been an exercise in frustration. Yes, there were good days, but there were extra obstacles besides the ongoing bad weather. The blue shark below is one example. Often they are quick to take advantage of the salmon’s inability to escape the hook. This one was unlucky and bit the lure himself.

Sometimes the Captain might hook a salmon and before he can get it into the boat, a shark has helped himself to a meal.  Here is what’s left of the fish after the shark has taken a bite. I’ve blurred out the deckhand’s face for the sake of his anonymity.

And then there are the pyrosomes, a new phenomenon in northern waters this year. They are not really a jellyfish although they could easily be mistaken for them. They are really small creatures (zooids)  held together in a colony by a gelatinous substance. If they break apart, they just multiply and grow again. Soon we could be overrun … er .. overswum?? with them.

The deckhand holds the hoochie (a lure meant to simulate a squid), which has the hook hidden inside its rubbery, synthetic tentacles. Some pyrosomes are snagged on the steel cable and slide down to where the monofilament line is attached, while others are snagged on the monofilament line itself and slide down to the flasher or the hoochie beyond it.   A hook that is covered with pyrosomes won’t attract a fish, so the lines have to be cleaned off constantly.And then we have the same old deadly predators, the sea lions, who often follow a boat, lazily waiting for a salmon to be caught so they can snatch it off the line for their own easy meal.

With a lot of stress and frustration, the fisherman does his best to catch enough fish to sell to the buyers who will supply the stores to feed humans. Looks like we have  to get in line behind these more aggressive feeders and take what they leave us.