Monthly Archives: July 2016

Exploring The Ungebung

YUM! Beginning of the 2016 Blackberry Season

YUM! Beginning of the 2016 Blackberry Season

Despite the dark and dour tones in my last blog I managed to say some positive things about Orion magazine. This time I have three more kudos to offer despite my declared intention not to promote any commercial endeavour. It is sad that being treated right is remarkable, but all too often we have come to expect something less than represented. When I find something local, on my own island worth a little rave, I can’t resist.

July 1st, A little rain, a perfect touch to a crop of blackberries that keeps on coming, all through the month.

July 1st, A little rain, a perfect touch to a crop of blackberries that keeps on coming, all through the month.

There is a small local company you can find with a simply search online. Seaward Kayaks is located in Chemainus here on Vancouver Island. They hand-build beautiful cruising kayaks in fibreglass and kevlar which are internationally-renowned. As a side-line they are also agent for a few other brand-X kayaks. They make little money on these and I can see how it must be, at times, a nuisance to their main business. Nevertheless, yours truly bought one of the cheaper products and had troubles. (The darned thing would not track straight and insisted on a hard turn to starboard) I returned it, and at their suggestion, tried a few different boats until I found one that works great and suits my needs. To be treated with patience, empathy and respect in exchange for a minimal return to them, especially when they were at the peak of their busy season, was absolutely wonderful. Thank you Jacquie and Steve and crew. These folks build great kayaks and they treat you right. If you’re in the market for a proper locally-built Westcoast cruising kayak and want the best, check out Seaward, you won’t go wrong.

Rock Ahead1 Go left, go left!

Rock Ahead! Go left, go left!

Another very pleasant recent experience was also enjoyed right here on Southern Vancouver Island. There is a maze of lovely backroads in the Cowichan Valley and there are moments when you can even imagine you are in Tuscany. There are dozens of vineyards with tasting rooms to visit. Climbing a hill away from the beautiful Cowichan River there was a glimpse of a massive bull elk in the roadside forest and a minute later the road opened to the crossroads and the general store of Glenora. It is also where you’ll find the Zanatta Vineyard. Fortunately, as it turned out, their bistro had just closed and so the tour continued. A stop at the Blue Grouse vineyard for a tasting was delightful and eventually the Sunday meander ended at the Merridale Cidery near Cobble Hill.

The ubiquitous old orchard truck. Fifty years old and still working.

The ubiquitous old orchard truck.
Fifty years old and still working.

A bumper crop upcoming

A bumper crop upcoming

Taste the cider1

Taste the cider!

A view from the Merridale Restaurant

A view from the Merridale Restaurant

La cuchina Best Apple Crisp ever!

La cuchina
Best Apple Crisp ever!

All that apple juice, and a little honey too!

All that apple juice, and a little honey too!

Merridale Fairyland, there are bits of tiny furniture through the forest, doors and windows in trees, even an abandoned Fairy mine. Really!

Merridale Fairyland, there are bits of tiny furniture through the forest, doors and windows in trees, even an abandoned Fairy mine. Really!

"Bloody Hell!!" said Mrs. Robin. "He said something about running water in the old house but this is ridiculous!"

“Bloody Hell!!” said Mrs. Robin. “He said something about running water in the old house but this is ridiculous!”

I don't know what it is, but it sure would make a beautiful wood stove.

I don’t know what it is, but it sure would make a beautiful wood stove.

The last visit here was ten years ago so it was amazing to find a wonderful sprawling facility with a tasting room, gift shop, excellent restaurant, a unique wedding chapel, self-guided tours around the orchard which included copious evidence of a resident population of fairies. There is also a bakery, brandy distillery, trout pond, and some yurts for folks wanting to stay overnight. There was something to please, even fascinate (without batteries), children of all ages and one has to admire the energy and imagination which have turned a simple orchard and cider farm into a unique experience. By the way, all their various ciders are excellent (I really liked the scrumpy) and the restaurant fare was mighty fine.

There is not a lot of signage, clearly reputation and word of mouth are relied on for marketing.

Once again, going online and searching for merridalecider.com will bring you to a great website complete with maps.

A view of the Blue Grouse vineyard Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island.

A view of the Blue Grouse vineyard
Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island.

My final happy experience to report is a product called a Sunbell Solar Lamp. It is a product from Norway made by a company called Bright Products and is available in Canada through Amazon. It is a solar-charged lamp/ flashlight and cell phone charger with amazing longevity, (up to 100 hours on a single charge) and practical versatility. It actually works as represented and is quite affordable.

You are my little SunBell. The light unclips from the shade and becomes a nifty hands-free flashlight.

You are my little SunBell.
The light unclips from the shade and becomes a nifty hands-free flashlight.

The electric flower. Sun Bell in solar charging mode.

The electric flower.
Sun Bell in solar charging mode.

While I’m promoting things let me recommend a really great book called ‘The Tiger’. It is an amazing account of modern Eastern Russian history and an essay on the ecology surrounding the last of the Siberian tigers. In many ways the book is a splendid overview of man ruthlessly exploiting his environment everywhere he goes. Somehow the book becomes a text about sociology, zoology, history and general intrigue. I learned some fabulous new vocabulary with delightfully lugubrious German words like umwelt and ungebung. They sound like terms for the bathroom but were in fact introduced by a Baltic German named Jakob von Uexküll in his book ‘Theoretical Biology’ . Now look it up if you dare, you’ll learn something! I did. To be entertained and educated all at once is a wonderful thing.

Vaillant’s research is amazing and his writing is as brilliant as in his other wonderful books, ‘The Golden Spruce’ and ‘The Jaguar’s Children’. End of commercials.

The devil's in the details

The devil’s in the details.

A gorgeous, practical and affordable plywood skiff for sailing and rowing

A gorgeous, practical and affordable plywood skiff for sailing and rowing

Albin 25 One of my favourite power boats. Swedish built, mid 70's, cleverly designed and very, very seaworthy without begging "Lookatme."

Albin 25
One of my favourite power boats. Swedish built, mid 70’s, cleverly designed and very, very seaworthy without begging “Look at me.”

Summer is whizzing past in a blur. I’m determined to stay south but economics, or the lack of them, may soon drive me north. I’m getting some health issues sorted out and then something has to happen. Money isn’t everything but poverty really sucks. I watch the gringo boats come and go while ‘Seafire’ languishes with a growing coat of barnacles on her bottom. This too shall pass but it is agonizing to endure.

However one of the delights of this season is the abundance of fruit and produce. The weather has been warm and intermittently rainy. Fruit, berries and gardens are yielding copiously weeks earlier than usual.

Often, these seasons of extra plenty are followed by harsh winters but only fools and newcomers predict the weather. We’ll see what comes. We can’t do anything about it so we may as well eat orgasmic while we may. That wasn’t a typo. To eat warm succulent organic fruit straight from the tree, with the juice running down your chin and happy bees buzzing round, is a profound pleasure, decadent, erotic. Pick a word. The experience sure beats hell out of gnawing on chemical-imbued lumpy, pocked flora from some factory farm way down South.

The wild blackberry crop this year is overwhelming. The berries are fat, juicy, sweet and tart all at once. There should be some great brandy and wine this fall.

A duty logging road above the shore of Lake Cowichan

A dusty logging road above the shore of
Lake Cowichan

Lake Cowichan, West End, sundown.

Lake Cowichan, West End, sundown.

Same view in the morning

Same view in the morning. Damned loggers, you do have admire their tenacity!

The clear deep water of Lake Cowichan

The clear deep water of Lake Cowichan

Red Crossbills there was a flock of seven, all determined there was something tasty in the campfire ashes

Red Crossbills
There was a flock of seven, all determined there was something tasty in the campfire ashes.

Jack, the old souse.

Jack, the old souse.

The dream of getting south soon is flickering but alive. The trailer has been used regularly and I’m glad to have not sold it. It is a perfect mobile abode and is revealing several advantages. It tows well and with dual axles has double the braking capability and displacement on soft ground. It is handy to back into tight spots and quite easy to set up camp. The trailer can be unhooked and left while the mother vehicle is free to go exploring. When packing up, it’s “Boots and saddles” in minutes. People who own bigger trailers come by to see it and admire with envy. And…it is paid for! I point out that I’d be happy to build one for them. And you too! Fairwinds and away.

Wot O'clock

Wot O’clock

But we are what we are, and might remember

Not to hate any person, for all are vicious…”

Robinson Jeffers “Original Sin”

THE IDES OF JULY

July 1st, 2016 

Roughing it. This entire trailer project originated around the need to have an indoor porta-potti. The experience of tip-toeing barefoot among scorpions in the dark in Mexico held little romance.

Roughing it. This entire trailer project originated around the need to have an indoor porta-potti. The experience of tip-toeing barefoot among scorpions in the dark in Mexico held little romance.

As unusual as it may be I’m trying to spend some time like a “Normal” person. I know it, I’m slipping. It’s Canada Day weekend and I’ve gone camping. I’ve finally hooked up my little trailer and pulled it to a wonderful little campground on the far end of Lake Cowichan. I backed the trailer into the second-last spot available, (I was amazed that anything was left) and have spent a lovely weekend doing nothing. Of course, I managed to have an altercation with a fellow setting off fireworks on the beach.

Mi Hamaca The hammock was purchased from it's maker on a beach in Mexico, the spreader sticker was harvested in the Arizona desert.

Mi Hamaca
The hammock was purchased from it’s maker on a beach in Mexico, the spreader sticker was harvested in the Arizona desert.

Camp Runamuck Easy to set up, easy to pull, it's very unique

Camp Runamuck
Easy to set up, easy to pull, it’s very unique

Vegans need not apply. Food prepared over an open fire can't be beat.

Vegans need not apply.
Food prepared over an open fire can’t be beat.

Every dog in the campground, (There seemed to be be dozens,) began expressing their extreme dismay as the fusillade began and then continued. I suggested that most folks had come to this tranquil spot to escape all the hub-bub and bing-bang-boom of the downtown mobs. The young father who was launching the fireworks was holding his lovely infant son between his knees as he lit his rockets. Apparently he was unaware that fireworks regularly misfire. Replies to my objection were various intoxicated clichés by a few drunks but the din ended, the dogs relaxed and morning saw some folks thanking me for my effort. Of course, being typical Canadians, no-one else had bothered to stand up for themselves at the moment. Whatever eh!

And so the war began. Incredibly, I took this picture from our camp site. MY TREE !

And so the war began.
Incredibly, I took this picture from our camp site. MY TREE !

I cringe a bit at the word “Camping” because the term, for me, conjures up images attached to a vacation-style that is now far removed from what I once considered living rough. At one time it was a wood and canvas canoe, with minimal equipment and supplies, then away to live off the land for weeks at a time. If it rained, the canoe was turned upside down for shelter with a tarp stretched over everything. I’m not sure this tubby old fart could do that now but then perhaps it would be my salvation. Wot no beer? No chips? No instant pasta mix? Fish? Again!

Nitinat River Someone camping in their Delica Van on a gravel bar

Nitinat River
Someone camping in their Delica Van on a gravel bar

Is this enough? Jill packing up the day's fire wood. This ancient cedar had drifted from somewhere somewhere upriver.

Is this enough? Jill packing up the day’s fire wood. This ancient cedar had drifted from somewhere upriver.

 

That you Tarzan? The moss and ferns make entire ecosystems in each tree

That you Tarzan?
The moss and ferns make entire ecosystems in each tree

I’m sure that as I write there are folks up some backwater without a cell phone or even a solar-powered light. They may even be trying to start a fire by rubbing sticks together. But, it seems, many now think camping is a mortgaged RV that, at the push of a button, can transform itself into a luxury mobile condo with extra rooms that pop out as soon as the mother ship is levelled and the satellite TV dish is aligned. I yodel the same song about yachts and how the notion of self-sufficiency and the joy of simplicity have gone the way of the whalebone corset. Thank God the corset is gone but I wonder about how humans have removed themselves so far from their natural world that they have no need to satiate a basic primal sense of survival ability. Understand that I’m writing this on a laptop while sitting at a table beneath a vinyl awning attached to my home-made stealth trailer. I’ve just got up to adjust the stereo and fetch another beer from the fridge. Yeah man, roughing it! Well I did just throw some more wood on the fire. I’ve been thinking about selling the trailer to clean up some bills and get rid of “Stuff” but after folks have told me I’m not asking enough and that it is a very special little trailer I’m thinking this through very carefully. If it sells, I’ll still have bills and no trailer.

Moutain Ash berries

Moutain Ash berries

My enduring dream is to take old “Seafire” to Mexico and then come home and tow the trailer down as well. If the summer gets too hot for this gringo to live on the boat, the trailer can be towed up into the mountains to explore and absorb. There is so very much more to that wonderful country than just it’s coastline. The culture and history are deeply rich and if you try to learn the language and show a genuine interest the locals will happily share it all with you. Many may be barefoot but they are richer by far than most of us. They live a lifestyle that we only talk about. There is also the US Southwest to explore which, in itself, could be turned into a lifetime endeavour. So…selling this trailer means selling a piece of my dream.

Run through the jungle. The dank dripping Westcoast Rainforest on a sunny day

Run through the jungle.
The dank dripping Westcoast Rainforest on a sunny day

Already almost a week has passed since the last paragraph. I’m still job-hunting but with a lot less optimism. No-one seems to want a pre-geezer sort of guy, no matter how skilled, so I’m going to have to get creative. Meanwhile, small jobs trickle in, barely enough to get by, and when the client’s boat you’re working on will soon be bound for Mexico, it’s tough not to feel a little bitter. Other friends dropped by on their boat, it was wonderful to see them and learn some details of their grand adventures in the South Pacific but it was also hard to wear a brave, happy face. More friends, who currently have their boat stored in South Africa, are visiting on Vancouver Island will be dropping by. I look forward to seeing them, and I truly admire their intrepid lifestyle. However I sure am frustrated at being stuck here in the mud. I understand the twists and turns of life and how things work out the way they do or don’t but geez Louise, just once…! Clearly hard work is not enough and even working smart is not a guarantee of achieving a dream. The only thing to do is to keep plodding on, all the while believing that one’s raw fixation on a specific goal will see you through. It is all you have and life whizzes by whether you’re having fun or not. Then, in the end when plans finally come together and everyone is telling you how “Lucky” you are; the adversities will soon be forgotten.

Shaw Creek A feeder stream to Lake Cowichan. it's full of trout fingerlings

Shaw Creek
A feeder stream to Lake Cowichan. it’s full of trout fingerlings

A friend introduced me to a wonderful magazine called ORION. It is a privately funded publication so there are no commercial sponsors. THAT’S refreshing. The writing and graphics are wonderful and it’s a great breath to read some free thinking. I am always reluctant to make a plug for anything in my blog but I’ll stand behind this one. Check it out. https://orionmagazine.org/ Yep, like everything these days it’s online. And so summer wears on. Hope you’re having a good one.

A nurse stump. a seedling takes root on a decaying stump and life surges forward once again.

A nurse stump.
A seedling takes root on a decaying stump and life surges forward once again.

How chainsaw art began

How chainsaw art began

Another Monday morning dawns bright and clear and warm. The swallows and martins in the marina are twittering away happily as they zoom around enjoying a bug breakfast in the sky. I can hear their babies squeaking inside the nesting boxes along the dock. They waiting for some rehashed mosquitoes. Now think about this. Isn’t it wonderful how an entire species of wonderful birds is merely recycled insects? I’m leaving my radio turned off. I don’t want to hear any dark news and I prefer the music in the sky.

Heron On A Hot Tin Roof

Heron On A Hot Tin Roof

SHIPMATES Fergus and Molly keep an eye on the shipwright making sawdust in their boat

SHIPMATES
Fergus and Molly keep an eye on the shipwright making sawdust in their boat

Not for the faint of heart. Imagine parallel- parking on a hill.

Not for the faint of heart.
Imagine parallel- parking on a hill. This old barge is berthed in a local marina parking lot

 

The original Bat Mobile. A 1961 Chrysler Imperial. What sort of license does one need to skipper this puppy! Folks used to take their driver's exams in cars like this!

The original Bat Mobile. A 1961 Chrysler Imperial. What sort of license does one need to skipper this puppy!
Folks used to take their driver’s exams in cars like this!

Some of my readers are also close friends (Well actually all readers are friends n’est ce pas?) They have noted an apparently obvious dark tone in my recent writing. Yes I’m going through a bad patch and I thank you wholeheartedly for your support. Never underestimate the tremendous value of a small note of caring. It really makes a huge difference. Namaste to you all. Here’s to brighter days.

A Ring in the Bath. A sandstone boil on an islet in Ladysmith Harbour

A Ring in the Bath.
A sandstone boil on an islet in Ladysmith Harbour

On The Line a sign in the harbour

On The Line
A sign in the harbour. (FINALLY! a photo with some salt water in it)

 

Just for a laugh. A geezer discovers selfies. Captions: -Wot 'appens if I push this? - Nowt worse than a dog fart! - A face even a mother can't love -Ever been to sea Billy?

Just for a laugh. A geezer discovers selfies. Captions:
-Wot ‘appens if I push this?
– Nowt worse than a dog fart!
– A face even a mother can’t love.
-Ever been to sea Billy?

Yet another friend posted the following quote on Facebook. Brené Brown is a researcher, scholar, storyteller and also a speaker on Ted Talks. Her words are worth considering.

”I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:
I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – have to go.

Your armour is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armour could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever.

Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.”

~ Brené Brown