wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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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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Lincoln Guards his Lunch

It’s snowing furiously and the wind has made a mess of the yard, littering it with fir branches.

It’s cold enough to freeze the hummingbird feeders. I alternate between two of them, thawing one in a jug of warm water while the other is available to the birds.

The squirrels, Lincoln and Della, have been getting walnuts (partially shelled) and sunflower seeds. But now the jays have discovered the goodies in the woodshed and are giving the squirrels competition.

The video below is about a minute long. I took it from inside the house through the window. The snow is blurring the scene as much as my dirty dining room window is, but I didn’t want to miss the show. It’s not Oscar quality, but it might be mildly entertaining to watch as Lincoln defends his lunch.


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Aching Bones

The cold snap has hit us. The suddenness of the bitter cold was a shock to us west coasters. We’re tough when it comes to wild winds and torrents of  rain, even crashing trees and power outages, but drop the mercury a tiny bit and most of us coasties are wimps. We don’t like the cold.

That wind is supposed to be southeast. Every day, every day, all through the winter, it’s southeast. What a shock when it switched to northwest. I swear I could smell polar bear fur in the wind.

Ruby, our 13-year-old springer spaniel has done some retrieving while duck hunting in the last couple of weeks, using joints and muscles she hasn’t used in a long time. Now, old age is catching up to her. She’s been having trouble with the stairs, not wanting to put weight on her left shoulder.

Just now she is soaking up the warmth of the tiles in front of the woodstove in our family room.

She does have a nice soft dog bed, but the tiles have been warmed by the fire and it’s just what her shoulder needs, while she dreams of duck hunts of the past.

 


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Giving Up – Part 5

There comes a point when, no matter how badly you want something, you know that it’s wiser to give it up. Going ahead with our trip to eastern Montana, after negotiating three snowy weather systems in two short weeks, would have been pushing our luck.

So with high winds and snow still coming down on the way forward, and snow settling on the road behind us, we reluctantly turned homeward.

The tires had sat frozen and immobile for two bitter cold nights, so we eased ahead a few feet and held our breath. So far, so good. We could have cried, turning back, but it was a relief not to drive into more snow blowing sideways.

I could have cropped this photo so the antenna wouldn’t show, but the icy snow on the forward side of the antenna says something about the chilly air.

Here is one of the many views of the Clark Fork (one of my favourite rivers). It is visible flowing beside or under the highway off and on for many miles.

On our drive eastward, little snow covered these lower elevations. Now it made for scenic winter postcard material. In some areas, the water was warmer than the air, resulting in fog along the river.

You can tell where the river goes.

Snow had covered these hills that were bare when we had driven through a few days earlier.

Some snow was still on the roads. As the day warmed up, big transport trucks lost clumps of ice that had collected on them. In the stretch of road below, the eastbound lane is closed and the westbound lane is taking two-way traffic. You don’t want to catch an edge or a clump of ice. The one in the photo below is one of hundreds of clumps we had to avoid.

I wondered what these cattle were “grazing” on. Not much grass poking out from the snow. Winter is hard on many animals.

As we neared the upcoming MacDonald Pass, my knuckles gave the snow some competition for whiteness. I knew I had a good driver beside me, but with so much construction and lanes restricted by cones and ice (and I don’t mean ice cream cones), I was nervous all the way to the top of the pass.

 

And relieved to be going down to a lower elevation right afterwards. Only two passes left to negotiate before we got home.

 

 


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Treats for All

These Oregon juncos are probably wishing they were in Oregon, but they have been wintering on Vancouver Island, as usual. I felt very sorry for them when that last snowfall covered most of their natural food sources. Sitting beside a well filled bird feeder, they can’t be starving, but they must be feeling a bit chilly. Their feathers are fluffed out for more insulating power, and I suspect they are not expending any more energy than necessary.

Feeling the same shivery chill, the Captain said, “This is the perfect weather for smoking some salmon.”

It was a lot of work, but after hours of preparation, and timing the brining and smoking process, he brought in a wonderful treat for us. Smoked spring salmon, or as the Americans call it, king salmon. It is properly called a chinook salmon, or if you want to get technical, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha.

Here is what it looked like once upon a time. This is an old photo from MANY years ago. You can only guess how seasick I felt, but catching this big spring salmon made me happy. If I don’t look overjoyed, well, that’s as good as it got for me as long as the boat was moving.


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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.”


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A Cold Blanket

How often have we heard the expression, “A blanket of snow”? But how warm is this blanket? NOT VERY!

A chilly blanket settles down

On every surface in the town.

The hills and valley shiver too,

Of drivers there are just a few.

Daring shoppers venture out

Their cars and trucks slide all about.

We’ll just get used to all this snow

And then the rain will make it go.

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The sun is doing its best to warm up the ice blanket but I think it won’t be successful today. More snow is coming before the usual rain is back.

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