wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Birds at Vernon Lake

We parked our trailer and unloaded the skiff to have it ready for use at the edge of Vernon Lake.

The campsite was visited by many birds. Here are only a few of them. Many stayed hidden though they sang their hearts out all day.

This is a hairy woodpecker. I thought at first it was a downy, which looks very similar, but the hairy woodpecker has a much heavier and longer beak than the downy.

One of the birds I heard a lot, was Swainson’s thrush. I love the song he sings, “You’re pretty, you’re pretty, oh really.” But he is very elusive and I couldn’t get a photo of him.

He’s a very plain version of an immature robin but without any hint of black or red. If you click on this link you’ll see a photo on the bird site: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Swainsons_Thrush/id

Next to visit, was a Steller’s jay, but I almost mistook him for something else. He is a bit pale and scruffy, and this has me wondering if it is an immature bird.

Below, we have the red-breasted sapsucker, probably the very one I took pictures of for a previous post. He was hanging around the campsite the whole time we were there.

And no wonder! He has already made quite an investment in this tree, sipping sap and nabbing insects.

But do you see what I see? Circling the tree just below the chipped bark is a nasty looking petrified snake. I think he’s guarding the dinner table for the sapsucker.

You won’t see me trying to get near him. He looks mean. Is that blood on his lips?


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Fish or Beans

Vernon Lake on northern Vancouver Island is a good-sized piece of water. Expect lots of gray days, with misty clouds, some moving around the lake, some hanging onto the hilltops nearby.

If you are in a small boat, watch for the many partially submerged logs, especially near the shores. The area around the lake was logged long ago, probably more than once, by the look of the different sizes of trees.

 

Some of the trees have been in the water for so long that the exposed stumps have decayed and supported new plant growth. Sorry for the blurry photo of that one. It was a quick afterthought photo on a drive-by in the skiff.

Some stumps had not had time to develop growth yet. Instead they took on the role of sea monsters guarding the passageway to the far end of the lake.

At that end where the river flows out, the lake narrows like a funnel. Along the sides of the ever narrowing passageway, stand snags of trees that were probably drowned years ago by the rise in the lake’s water level in the rainy season. It looked to me like Snag Alley.

 

The water was so clear you wondered if it was really there, except that it reflected the greenery from the shore.

 

The Captain did his best to catch a fish after scrambling to get all his ducks in a row.

Either our timing wasn’t right, or the Captain was hampered by having to set up the Admiral with her fishing rod, but by the time he was able to dabble, it was not a fishy time for him just then and there.

Or possibly the fish didn’t take him seriously because he wasn’t wearing all his top-of-the-line brand name fishing paraphernalia. (The Admiral didn’t care about that stuff as long as he had the bear spray along.)

Anyway, supper that day was not going to be fresh gourmet fish.

More like sausages and a can of beans.

It was time for one of my favourite sayings: Tomorrow is another day.

 


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The Chinwag

Sometimes it takes only a simple thing to feel like you’ve just had a shot of Vitamin B12.

Yesterday I sat on a bench looking at this scene. I took a picture and thought, “Somewhere over there is my house. If I didn’t know there was a river on the far side of this mud flat, I might try walking across Comox Bay.” When I got home and uploaded the photo, I zoomed in and could almost see my house. I could see the workshop in the backyard and the tree that is in the farthest corner of the yard. I drew an arrow in the photo to show where that tree is, right in a gap between the treed area.

Having a sandwich and a chinwag with a friend was a simple way to pass some time but it was great medicine after not seeing friends for a long time, and not having much of a social life except for calling to people at a distance. We sat on opposite ends of a bench and caught up on news of the past weeks. Then we both went home refreshed, having had a change of scene.

I realized then how much I had missed seeing my friends, and how much I still miss seeing some who can’t get out for a while like I did.

The effects of the pandemic are the same for all of us in some ways, but different for others.  What changes do you find most difficult at this time? How do you cope?


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Bark Mulch

I needed mulch to keep the weeds down between the shrubs in my yard.  A visit  to  the  local poleyard was in order.

The mulch is the chipped up bark of the mostly firs that are peeled to make nice smooth telephone poles.

All the peelings are sorted into mountains. Some are long strands of bark mulch, some are smaller chips of bark, and some are just ratty, junky pieces that aren’t good for much.

My garden needed the smaller chips so we parked the truck and utility trailer at the side of the road between the mulch mountains and waited for the loader to come and help us out.

Here he comes with his scoop in front.

One of those big scoops holds what they call a yard of mulch (we pay by the yard).

I’m always amazed at how little they drop on the way to the trailer.

Here comes our one yard of bark mulch.

When he drops it into the trailer and pats it down with the scoop, the truck shakes like in an earthquake.

It doesn’t seem like a lot until you start unloading it.

While I was waiting for the loader to come, I took a couple of short video clips to show how they take the raw logs and put them into the machine that scores the bark and flips the logs around and around. The power is awe-inspiring. Have you ever tried to juggle a log that size? Look at how the blades cut into the bark without cutting up the wood.

In the second video, you can see the bark mulch shooting out the long pipe to be piled up into those bark mulch mountains. Not much is wasted.

Next time you see bark mulch around a pretty shrub, think about how that log bounced around as it was stripped of its coat. It’s a good thing I can’t talk to the trees or hear what they’re saying, but if I had to guess, I’d bet they’re calling to each other, “Anybody got a coat they can lend me?”

“Naw, they took mine too!”

.

.


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Lupines

I hadn’t thought of these beautiful flowers as wolf plants, but the Collins Dictionary definition asserts that the word is 14th century in origin, from the Latin lupīnus, “wolfish,” as it was believed that the plant ravenously exhausted the soil (info from Wikipedia).

Seemingly contradictory is this edited quote, also from Wikipedia: Like other legumes, they are nitrogen fixing plants. This adaptation allows lupins to be tolerant of infertile soils and capable of pioneering change in barren and poor-quality soils.

My sister took these pics in her backyard. What a feast for the eyes.

I had no idea that the seeds of lupines are eaten in many parts of the world. However, when I read on, and learned about bitter tastes and that the seeds were often soaked and toasted or boiled and dried, I thought — too much work — I would probably enjoy them more just as a flower to be admired.

 


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Blackberries

Who doesn’t love blackberries? They’re sweet and tart and good for us. BUT, the plants are so thick they grow into a formidable barrier wherever they take root.

Blackberries grow wild in many places, especially on Vancouver Island. They are tough plants with fierce thorns for protection, and they have their prolific growth patterns perfected. The vines that come up from the roots each year will easily take root wherever the end (or middle or any other part) of the vine touches the ground.

It is listed as an invasive plant. No kidding!

The blackberries in front of our hedge had grown so much that they were pulling down our wire deer fence, squeezing through the cedars, and slurping up all the water we were giving the hedge.

I’d had enough.

You can see that locals had made us their dog walk. Why let your dog poop by your own property when you can bring it over to someone else’s and let them do their business there?

Unfortunately, many of the ones who picked up after their dogs then thought it was okay to fling the plastic poop bag into the blackberries. And while they were at it, why not fling any other garbage in there too? After all, out of sight, out of mind. I found a water bottle from a local coffee shop, beer cans, beer bottles, a ball point pen in two parts, candy wrappers,about six  poop bags, and even an umbrella.

And one conscientious person didn’t pick up their doggie’s “doo” but left it for nature to take care of. Actually I prefer that, but please, move it out of the way? Then again, when you get hundreds of people bringing their dogs to poop, how is it going to look and smell if no one takes care of that business?

I’m glad I don’t walk there, but it IS in front of my house.

It took me several weeks of cutting, hacking, pulling, cursing, and wincing to get the blackberry vines to let go and to pile them up in heaps.

 

The blackberries have been cut down,

But new ones come up from the ground,

The old vines have the hardest spikes,

They give a poke that no one likes.

 

The young vines wrap so easily,

Around my arm, around my knee,

They tangle right into my hair,

They scratch me, and they don’t care where.

 

I wonder if it’s worth the woe

To cut the vines so they won’t grow.

For every piece I cut away

I get another scratch and pay.

 

My arms and legs have red designs

They’re scratched with deep and angry lines

And even as the first pain fades

I run to get some more Band-aids.

 

 

 


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Narcissus

I did a post a while back about Daffy Dolls, the narcissus.

 https://wordsfromanneli.com/2020/02/01/daffy-dolls/

At that time (Feb. 1), only the stems were peeking up above the ground. No hint of flower buds yet.

Now, most of the buds have opened and are looking hopefully towards a beautiful spring. The daffodil is associated with hope and for this reason has become the emblem for the Canadian Cancer Society.

A second batch of daffodils is growing in a shadier location, and they, too, will bloom very soon.

The Daffodil’s Story

 

I’m named after Narcissus
Who lived so long ago,
He was pursued by misses,
But always told them “No.”

 

Narcissus was a beauty,
He loved himself so much,
No one was worthy of him,
His motto, “Look, don’t touch.”

 

One day beside the water,
He gazed into the pond,
And there he saw an image
Of which he was quite fond.

 

He looked upon perfection,
Desired it then and there,
But couldn’t make connection,
And that he could not bear.

 

Reciprocating actions
From water to the boy,
Elusive was the image,
As if with him to toy.

 

It mirrored all his kisses,
Repeated smile and wink,
But touching brought on ripples
Each time he groped the drink.

 

At last in his frustration,
Narcissus, wanting more,
Fell in to try to catch him
And died there near the shore.

 

A nymph named Echo called him,
But he did not respond,
She only found a flower
A-floating on the pond.


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No Fancy Man

A good man is hard to find. But Marlie isn’t looking for a man. Oh no! She just wants to start fresh with her teaching job on the Queen Charlotte Islands, and enjoy its famous beauty and serenity. And if there’s a man who will take an interest in her, well, so be it, but she’s not looking. Not really…. Or is she?
Be careful what you wish for, Marlie.

Anneli's Place

She pulled over to the side of the gas station after she gassed up, and made the call. At the pumps Brent was leaning his shoulder into the side of his truck, staring off into space as he held the nozzle in the gas tank. The profile of his face was perfect—manly, but fine. His blue checkered work shirt had a tear in the elbow. Jeans were dirty and smeared with dried blood—from the deer, she presumed. She sure hoped that was what the blood was from. How was she to know? She’d only just met him. His canvas vest had lots of pockets, more practical than fashionable. Seemed like islanders tended to be that way. Kodiak boots half unlaced told her he must have walked a lot today and maybe his feet were sore. Fancy, he was not.

Marlie, a young teacher newly arrived in the Queen Charlotte Islands…

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Hard Work

It is herring time on the coast of B.C.  The herring migrate to certain parts of the coast to lay eggs (spawn) close to shore.  It is the ideal time to catch them for their roe.

The seiners didn’t have far to go to set their nets this year. Less than a half hour’s run from town, they put their huge nets in the water  and encircled the schools of herring with a huge  purse seine net.

The small skiff helps anchor one end of the net while the seiner runs around in a circle, unrolling the huge net into the water. The white floats on the top of the net help us to see where the net is. Their job is to keep the top of the net afloat. The bottom of the net has heavy lead rings tied to it through which a line passes. It is like a drawstring that closes the net so fish can’t escape through the bottom.

In the photo below, the red  boat has already closed its net. Seagulls circle, hoping to lunch on unfortunate escapees. The boat next to the red seiner might be a packer, standing by to take the load onto his boat and then to market.

The herring could be scooped out of the net with a huge brailer, like a long-handled fish net, or in some cases, the herring are sucked out of the net and onto the packer or into the hold of the seiner with a kind of (very large) vacuum that slurps up the fish and seawater and pumps it all into the hold of the waiting boat. The seawater is pumped out of the boat leaving only the herring behind in a big strainer.

To unload them, the process is reversed and water is added to the hold to enable the vacuum to suck the herring out of the boat.

 

The boat on the right side of the photo has just paid out the net in a circle to try for a catch of herring. See the white floats?


The farther boat in the photo below has hauled a catch over to the boat. You can see the seagulls going crazy with the feeding opportunities it provides for them.

Fishing for herring is hard work. In late February and even in March the weather can be raw and brutal, especially on the water.

I took the photos of the seiners from the deck of my house, so they are quite far away. The very next day, I took the photo below, of the same view, but the boats are not visible through the snow clouds. I hope no one was fishing that day.

I like to eat pickled herring, but I’ve learned that the food herring are caught in the winter (maybe November) when they are fattest.  In the spring roe fishery, the herring are skinnier and are caught mainly for their roe, highly prized in the Japanese market (at least prized by the older generation). I’ve heard it suggested that the younger Japanese generation prefers McDonalds. Not much of a choice, to my mind.

In case you are wondering what happens to the rest of the herring after they are stripped of their roe … fish fertilizer.

 


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The Backyard Supervisors Again

We had some wood delivered the other day. A tree (not on our property) was deemed to be unsafe where it stood and so was taken out. This is an older picture of the wood splitter we would need to use again.

The Captain hauled the wood splitter closer to the wood shed and started work. The pieces of wood were too heavy to lift, so after rolling them over to the splitter, a little help was still needed to get the wood up onto the splitting beam. See the small plank leaning on the side of the wood splitter? That is for rolling the rounds of wood up into place.

Since this wood was going to be a good deal and excellent for heating the house next winter (as long as we did all the work), we had the rest of the tree delivered as well.

And who is supposed to lift THOSE? A power saw to make a cut when needed, and a splitting maul to crack the rounds into four pieces might make them more manageable. And now we have our work cut out for us. Even the job of splitting the wood will warm us up.

Thank goodness we still have the backyard supervisors to help us do it right. The picture of the supervisors was taken about five years ago when Emma (with her ear flipped back) was about one year old and Ruby was eight.

As it happens, today is Ruby’s 13th birthday. She’s a bit grayer around the muzzle and has a few lumps and bumps on her body, but except for being deaf, and sleeping more soundly, she is still managing to hang in there.

Happy birthday, Ruby!