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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“But we are what we are, and might remember
Not to hate any person, for all are vicious…”
Robinson Jeffers “Original Sin”