Friday, February 27, 2009

The intimacy of sharing beatuy

Caitlin and I were up at Artisan Square, at the newly opened Artisan Eats, a lovely deli with very good prices and the great view over the Sound. We were enjoying some soup and pasta and rooibos tea and loving looking at the snow covered mountains, still wearing their cloaks of white from Wednesday's snow storm.

I was telling Caitlin about sharing a breathtaking ferry ride yesterday across Howe Sound in which a friend and I waxed about the beauty all around us, how it seemed hardly possible that we lived surrounded by such gorgeous land and sea.

There is something important about the intimate experience of sharing breathtaking beauty with friends, neighbours and even complete strangers.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Snow has returned

A spectacular cold front has made its way down the coast, with a low pressure centre travelling directly down the Strait of Georgia Strait.  At 5:20 I left Victoria in a Sikorsky S61N helicopter and just off Swartz Bay we flew beneath the roiling clouds of the front, forcing us to descend from 2500 feet to only a few hundred.  The seas were calm on one side of the squall line and boiling white on the other.  We flew into Vancouver low, staying below the cloud ceiling, and just above the treetops of Stanley Park and by the time we landed, the rain squalls had quickly turned to snow.  I arrived back on Bowen at 8:00pm and there was a centimeter or two of snow on the ground and the temperature had dropped 8 degrees in three hours.  

A brief blast of winter, just to remind us not to get cocky with the early spring plantings.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Rains have returned

As Caitlin said, we have re-entered British Columbia. It is raining today and thick low cloud hovers in the Sound. It's colder and damper out than it has been since the fall.

We puttered in the garden today, looking for more places to build beds on our cliff face and contemplating this year's crops. Pulled some leeks that overwintered and threw them in a soup pot tonight. Lovely!

Daffodils are peeping up, but they'll hold off for a few weeks now I bet.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Birds of the midwinter

Black Turnstones

Even though it is technically midwinter, the spring migrations have started. Yesterday down on Mannion Bay I came across this flock of black turnstones hanging out with the mew gulls stopping off here to feast on crabs and sand fleas. They overwinter here on the south coast. preparing to make their way slowly to their breeding grounds on the Alaskan coast. These ones are all done up in their breeding plumage, ready to return to the breeding grounds, but they have a few more months before things thaw up there.

Also on this little walk, a great blue heron and our resident ornery but beautiful swan. Oh and for good measure, our resident fawn, who hangs out with the feral chicken we look after. We had two chickens, but one succumbed to the red tailed hawk that was hanging around here a few weeks ago. All that is left of poor Huckleberry is a pile of feathers and some well picked over shoulder bones.

It's funny weather right now. Along the beaches and exposed roads down low the smells of summer are wafting around - dry fir needles and dust - while in the forest and the low lying meadow in Crippen Park, there is still several inches of snow. There has been snow on that meadow since December 16, and we have had so little rain - less than 30mm this month - that it shows no signs of washing away anytime soon. Usually snow like that, even in great quantities is gone in a few days, but the extended snow falls of Christmas combined with a thaw/freeze cycle and the generally dry and sunny and cold weather has prolonged winter for an extended spell.

Bowen Island advertising

Bowen advertising

When you live in one of the most artistic communities in Canada, you are bound to get creative advertising. This ad was posted outside The Snug - an artist willing to trade a watercolour for an outboard motor.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Spring is in the air

Bowen Queen

The dawn chorus this morning, while not exactly bursting with birdsong, had some minor changes in it. For one thing, on this clear calm morning, the birds were very active: Canada geese in the bay were constant, nuthatches going crazy and the juncos were making all kinds of noise. Ravens, crows, eagles, flickers, robins and mallards all joined in the fun. The towhees have started their trilling. All of this is preludes to things to come.

And another ritual has taken hold too, with the replacement of the Queen of Capilano for six weeks by the Bowen Queen. It used to be that the maintenance refits were an annual thing for the Cap, but it seems that they have become less scheduled over the past couple of years. At any rate, she's out for a spell, and the delightful little Bowen Queen is back in the fold. Commuter hell will follow, but I like her.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A crescent moon

Early this morning, about 4am, a waning crescent moon crested Eagleridge and shone with a brightness way out of proportion to it's size. The air was so clear, the nighttime outflow winds scouring the Sound of cloud and rustling the trees.

This morning, hummingbirds fought for territory, but the rest of the dawn chorus was quiet.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Midwinter brilliance

A beautiful day, bright and sunny and relatively warm. Finn and I spent the day together poking around hoe in the sun and then heading to BICS where he played indoor soccer for a bit. After that we headed outside and played together in a pick up game with some of our favourite island youth on the only uncovered spot on the field, a little strip at the north end - the rest of the field is still covered in deep packed snow.

While there we heard about a little event at Crippen Park, where a small winter festival was wrapping up. We headed down to the Bowfest field and joined the fun at a beach fire where the was chocolate fondue and stories and songs. We stayed for a couple of hours, as the sky darkened and Venus shone brightly in the western sky. The moon was low behind Apodaca Ridge and the stars popped out one after another, constellations taking shape all around us, a shimmering glitterworld above us reflected in the still water of the Cove on a low low tide. Looks like the sun will continue for the rest of the week.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A springish walk

Finn and I went for a walk down to the Cove this afternnon, turning over rocks at Mother's Beach finding crabs and gunnels. There were oystercatchers in the Bay, along with the regular flocks of mew gulls and Canada Geese and mallards. On Killarney Creek beneath ther Miller Road bridge there was a weird hybrid or escaped domestic duck. Didn't have my camera.

In the forest the ferns are all flat and emerging from the heavy snow that has squashed them for the past six weeks. The forest looks very strange - usually an undulating floor of hummocked fern piles, it's now all smooth and flat, and ready to green up for spring. Everything still seems to be wating though

Thursday, February 12, 2009


I've been away for a week in sidereal time but it has seemed like an eternity for some reason. This morning I grabbed the water taxi from Granville Island and we sailed over a smooth sea, passing by a Steller's sea lion just off Point Atkinson. It is a calm grey day, but the cloud is thik and one notices the sun much higher in the sky as we dive towards the vernal equinox. The snow is still lying in piles around the island, but is melting fast, and the soils are coming back to life in garden and forest.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Recognizing youth that matter

The Chamber of Commerce held its annual awards dinner last night and made some excellent choices for honouring Islanders. Foremost among them was recognizing my dear friend, Calder Stewart as the 2008 youth of the year. Calder is simply an amazing young man among his many accomplishments is included a black belt in both shotokan karate and taekwondo (2nd Dan) as well as many years experience in kyu jitsu. He is a great teacher of taekwondo, and a role model for many young kids. Heck he`s a role model for me. He is an accomplished actor and a budding playwright, a comedian, extraordinary juggler, server at Cocoa West Chocolates, and secret trail keeper.

And he's my training partner, a great guy to play board games with and my 8 year old son's best friend. To me he's like a son, a brother, a nephew and a friend all rolled into one and I'm constantly amazed how many ways I relate to him. So here's a shout out to Calder, for everything he is.

The Chamber has a new Board for 2008-09 featuring several big boosters of the deep character of our community. Paul Rickett and Rod Marsh care deeply about the future and present of this place. Daniel Heald is holding space for what good food can do on the island with the Ruddy potato and the Ruddy Kitchen and Garden, which is becoming a hotbed of permaculture expertise thanks to Kim Howden and Cathy Buchanen's dedication to edible landscapes. Finally Peter King and Piers Hays fill out the Board. Peter should be a perennial Citizen of the Year for the above and beyond service he provides through Bowen Island Community Shuttle, our bus company. And piers runs my favourite coffee shop, The Snug, that feeds me and connects me to friends new and old. It has long been an important part of my day to drift down to The Snug, grab some espresso and fall into easy and interesting conversation with friends and neighbours.

Congrats all.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cmparing Gabriola to Manhattan

I have good friends who live on Manhattan and I often joke that they are fellow islanders, even though our islands are very differnt. Turns out though, that a group of Gabriola residents took seriously the task of comparing the their island with the New York City borough and what they discovered (.pdf) makes delightful reading.


On my way to the Cove yesterday I shot some photos of a spring-like February:

Monday, February 2, 2009

A cream coloured morning

Mild today, almost spring like and the snow is melting more rapidly. The sun this morning was a pale creamy disk rising above a white ocean, dappled by the remnants of last night's outflow. We have snow on the ground for six weeks now. Usually snow disappears in a matter of days.
The snow has stopped and now coats the island with three inches of white slush beneath a low grey veil of cloud. There has never been so much snow on the ground for so long, in my years on this island and I feel as if the garden has gone to sleep. Heavy snow, new and old has flattened the structure of our plants - the lavender has self pruned and the bamboo is spent most of te past month forming an arching gate over our entrance path. It will probably be a few more weeks until most of the snow pack is gone - especially around the house where the roof has shed avalanches. I'm getting impatient to work on our little plot of land, hoing last years plants into the soil and building new beds, so that we could grow some more food, and be in touch with the land.

All gardeners itch in the winter. Soon it will be time to scratch!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Snowing again

Returned home this afternoon to a steady snowfall here on the island. The snow is fairly wet, but as the day goes on and it gets a little colder, it has started snowing more vigouously. We're expecting 5-10 cms tonight, and then rain tomorrow. At our elevation the preciptation is mixing a little but is mostly snow. I expect that above 75 m it will be very snowy indeed tonight.

Looking at the weather map, there are some big storms out in the Pacific at the moment and some heavy frontal systems due to hit towards the end of next week. Also, another winter hurricane is sirling around the Kamchatka penisula, too far off for us, but impressive looking nonetheless.