Wednesday, 18 March 2009

An Equinox Land Walk

Disclaimer: I did this for my own records. No artistic merit, it may be very boring.

These pictures were all taken on a walk on the first day of spring last year. This year it is all still covered with 2 feet of snow/slush. YUCK! Last year the snow was about halfway gone and it was easy to walk everywhere. The top is somewhere below the trailer, on the way to the spot below. It is amazing how many micro-climates one small 10 acre patch can have!

The next picture shows the first area of the land to become snow-free. It faces more or less South and lies between the road and the old-growth mini-grove that we call the Magic Spot. You can see snow still covering the flatter space near the road.

TThe heart of the magic spot. These trees were there when we bought the place, which was otherwise a neglected hay field. Look up, way up, to see the tree tops. I couldn't do them justice.

Pipsissewa, one of the many healing herbs on the land, on the sheltered slope of the special spot. After 3 or 4 months of not seeing the bare ground the sight of any plant is exciting.

Just behind the trailer, our dwelling for the last 21 years. Looking up the slope towards the old log house and the fenced vegetable garden.

The trailer seen from the top edge of the magic spot.

Deer tracks on the shady side of the Magic Spot, still in deep snow.

Coming up the slope towards the old house and the garden. The garden is in a tiny dip, so it takes a bit longer to get snow-free in spring. But on the plus side, it retains water better in dry summers. We only have a shallow well, and we can't just turn the taps on willy nilly.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Remembering Beth

Many of you have been drinking green beer and making friends with leprechauns today. Enjoy!

To me March 17 is, or rather was, above all the birthday of my friend Beth, gardener and political activist extraordinaire. 
She is so present in my gardens. The plants that remind me of her most are the old fashioned primrose and the red Russian kale. Like Beth herself they are hardy, generous beings. Every year I give some of those away, always with the reminder to plant and enjoy them in Beth's name.
In her day Beth had been not just nice looking but a raving beauty. I stole the picture below from the Facebook page of her daughter Karma, who is doing a brilliant job of succeeding her mother as the family matriarch.
Beth died a few days after her birthday in 2007, aged 68. She is dreadfully missed, but she packed more living into her 68 years than most others do in 98.
Seriously: if you live to be 100, and 40 of those years have been spent in a cubicle waiting for the weekend, can you call that living to be 100?

Most of our times together were spent in her gardens, or marching for various good causes. We saw each other most in the nineties, when a home support assignment took me to her neighborhood about 10 Km from my place once a week.
I was working with a mentally handicapped man. We were supposed to find something to do that might qualify as a job, so he could get some extra pension. In summer we spent Friday afternoons tidying up walk ways and camp sites at Summit Lake Park, just past Beth's place. It was wonderful!
After work we'd stop for a visit and a cuppa. Beth and I would walk her blooming property and exchange garden talk, while Joe contentedly puffed on Beth's cigarettes. I sincerely believe those times were among the happiest in Joe's life.
There were even a few Septembers when the park was closed, but the winter job hadn't started yet. We got work at Beth's farm, mainly digging out the goat manure and pruning the raspberries. Note the sturdy support system, vastly superior to my ramshackle contraptions. Beth was a self sufficient handy mountain woman.
Once I retired from Home Support in 2000 our paths didn't cross as much. Beth was living close to the edge and would never casually hop into a car to waste time socializing. I lived without a car for 7 years. We did make it t0 the garlic fest together, as witnessed by this newspaper clipping.
 We also marched together in protest before the start of the Iraq war. 

And our paths always crossed on Saturday at the farmers market, which Beth had started. Her children had a memorial bench placed under the tree where her booth used to be.

When she died I wrote this for the local papers. Many people commented on how well it captured Beth.
Celebrating Beth James
The mother of the Nakusp farmers market has left us. Beth James just died.

Apart from her grieving family and friends Beth leaves behind the legacy of the market, some rather spoiled goats, and an incredibly fertile piece of Earth.
Summit Lake is not exactly prime agricultural land, but thanks to Beth’s passionate care, backbreaking labor and plenty of goat manure her small stony acreage bloomed and produced like the finest Fraser Valley farmland.

Passionate is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Beth. Passion and compassion. Beth cared about all creatures great and small.
In body she never strayed far from the farm. Being the sole caretaker of milking animals will do that to you. But she had traveled extensively in her youth, and her intellectual scope was huge. In her mind Beth went everywhere under the Sun and beyond it and had strong well-informed opinions on anything she encountered.

Beth was both a proud patriotic Canadian and a true citizen of the world. She was acutely aware of the terrible injustices that occur on this planet and they made her furious. This ironic poster hung in the bathroom. The text reads: Is your washroom breeding Bolsheviks? Unreadable here, beneath, if memory serves: If not, you are not providing the right reading material. How about a subscription to Mother Jones?

According to Western standards Beth may have been poor, but those were not the standards she set for herself. She did not compare herself  to people with big houses and shiny cars, but to the wretched of the earth. So she lived mainly in gratitude, knowing that anyone living in Southern B.C. on her own piece of land is fortunate indeed.

The market will not be the same without Beth.
She never charged enough for her quality homemade products. Last summer I tried to talk her into raising the price for her goat cottage cheese. She was selling it for about half the usual price. Said Beth: “Oh, I always think, as long as everyone gets dinner”.

Ways to honor Beth’s memory:

Be good to your planet.

Count your blessings and give thanks daily.

Share your abundance.

Beth, we miss you. Thanks for sharing parts of this Earth round with us.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

A City Mostly Nature

We are going to visit our brilliant daughter (she has a science PhD) at the coast tomorrow. She likes her privacy and does not want to be blogged about, so she will be mentioned as DD and there are no bragging pictures. Alas, the weather will turn to RAIN just in time for our visit.

Since it won't be good weather for pictures here are some I took last August. Whenever we visit the Vancouver area I understand why so many people want to live there. It is just gorgeous.

No matter where you are, you can lift your eyes and see beauty. OK, you may have to walk a few blocks. But even from the depressed East Hastings neighborhood the beach is only a bus ride away.

DD is in a satellite community, not Vancouver city. She has a community garden plot and even the walk to it from her apartment is pleasant. Blackberry bushes are everywhere! This area borders on a linear park that contains a salmon bearing stream, so there is no spraying. Organic fruit free for the picking.

The creek. It feels like the forest primeval, yet a 5 minute walk takes you back to the suburban streets.

Chris and I often take skytrain downtown. I love sky train! They come every five minutes and are wheelchair accessible. Not that we need that, but it is a nice touch. We started going the long way around, so we don't have to change trains and can just enjoy the tour. This is taken from the skytrain. The Fraser River near Westminster is a working river, with a lot of industrial bustle.

In its final stretch the mighty Fraser takes its time getting to the Pacific, leisurely dividing itself into a number of channels. Vancouver is a city of bridges.

The beach at English Bay! I just love that place. It is all there: a working harbor with real freighters in the distance, a sandy beach with gorgeous mountains and water clean enough (most of the time) for swimming, and a lively downtown right around the corner. Total travel time from DD's place in Burnaby about an hour. Walk 10 minutes from home to skytrain, two blocks between skytrain and bus. Sometimes we walk the bus part. It takes us through the liveliest part of the West End, a perfect city fix.

Vancouver, what's not to love.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Canada Reads

A shot from our local book-club, a wonderful group of smart and funny women ranging from late 40s to 80. We don't all read the same book, we just bring whatever we happen to be reading at the time. This is a great way to learn about books one otherwise would not pick up.

We meet once a month from 10-12 in the local library, which FINALLY got its much needed expansion. It has become a spacious place with a huge children's section, videos and audiobooks, and quiet corners for reading magazines or going online. For such a small town the selection is outstanding.

The book bunch goes for lunch afterwards, which is the highlight of my social life. Yes, I lead a sheltered life. A little bit of going out goes a long way.

"Canada Reads" is an annual sort-of contest on CBC radio. Five sort-of celebrities each pick a book that they think everyone in the country should read. They each get a moment on radio to talk about their pick, and all get together in vigorous debate to whittle the final selection down.

I looked at the selection this year and did not feel that attracted to any of them. Slavery, who wants to go there? But Marg, the club member in the blue shirt, insisted that The Book of Negroes was an uplifting, rather than a depressing read, and she was right.

"Fruit", another Canada Reads pick, was indeed a quick fun read, so with 2 down, 3 more to go I decided to read the other 3. Just for the H of it, I will write reviews of each.

Remember: Libraries get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries!

Monday, 2 March 2009

The leeks are showing!

I know, only a true fanatic can get excited about this. But I didn't expect my leeks to show the first sign of above-ground life for another week, and by golly, here they are only a week after being planted. I seeded them sparingly, just one or two seeds in each little square. I will be experimenting with the Square Foot Gardening method this year. (

Today I started 3 kinds of tomatoes, green peppers and parsley. We had some fresh snow but most of the day is above freezing. The great melt has started! March is a popular time for people who can afford it to take a quick trip to Vegas or other sunny spot. I can so see why!