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”

TAKE THAT !

The Organic Mechanic
The Organic Mechanic… on the old highway in the Cowichan Valley

What if everything you’ve done so far in your life has all lead up to this moment when you realize it was all wrong? At this epiphany, does everything suddenly become meaningful and worthwhile? Does that make all previous events right if they lead to this?

Something for everyone
Something for everyone

Yes, if it effects a new plan, a deliberate change in direction and velocity. At sea, when on a collision course, there are two ways of avoiding disaster. One is to change your course, usually by steering for a place behind the point of imminent impact. The other means of avoidance is to change your speed.

Cheeky bugger! Black...with cream
Cheeky bugger!
Black…with cream

Usually, slowing down is the prudent and courteous way to prevent that theoretical collision. If every moment of your life has, with all the changed directions, the starts and stops, the collisions and near-misses, placed you here at this moment, on the heading and speed as it is with the intentions and attitudes you have acquired, then perhaps there is a cosmic plan for our brief existence. Dunno? Me either!

Duncan town hall (and gallows?)
Duncan town hall clock tower (and gallows?)

Some days I feel like the fabled hoop snake. When threatened, It swallows it’s tail to become a hoop which rolls away downhill to escape. The trouble with that is the acceleration is constant until the inevitable abrupt stop. A friend, lost for more than thirty years suddenly appeared on the dock last week. All work came to a stop after the tearfully happy reunion with this person and their travelling companion. The next twenty-four hours were very intense and rich with a lot energy being exchanged. I felt drained at the end of it. It was a wonderful time of affirmation and closure about certain things but I felt the need to take the weekend off and recharge rather than carry on with the completion of my Cheoy Lee project.

OY VEY! Two travelling German students play and sing Yiddish tunes at the Duncan Farmer's Market....INCREDIBLE!
OY VEY! Two travelling German students play and sing Yiddish tunes at the Duncan Farmer’s Market….INCREDIBLE!

I have a home in Ladysmith, in the Northern part of the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. I live on my boat, but it is rather nice to get away on occasion; especially with all the gringo yachters roaming the docks. I love the valley. It is splendid to explore and discover new things that have been here under my nose throughout the quarter- century I have lived in the region. I also confess to a great envious inner stirring with the blogs from my friends Tony and Connie presently touring in the South of France. So this blog is a photo essay on the Cowichan Valley, “Guys, don’t forget your homeland. Take this!”

Under the groaning grape arbour in a bistro in Duncan
Under the groaning grape arbour in a Duncan bistro
Top that Frenchie!
How about this Frenchie!
Raisins to be on the vine
Raisins to be vine-dried
Dog day afternoon in the market
Dog day afternoon in the market
Yeehaw!
Yeehaw!
Jill in the market
Jill in the market
Dog Pub in mid-street
Dog Pub at the center-line
A lesson in the carver's booth
A lesson in the carver’s booth
Summer fresh orgasmic vegetables
Summer fresh orgasmic organic vegetables
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the valley, life goes on much as it always has
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the valley, life goes on much as it always has
Grapes forever. What all our lawns should look like.
Grapes forever. What all our lawns should look like!
Afternoon break at the winery tasting room
Afternoon break at the winery tasting room
Junk mail
Junk mail
Merlot Corners
Merlot Corners
And this little piggy
And this little piggy…
Into the woods over the bridge.
Into the woods over the bridge.
Many berries
Many berries
Fabric of Life
Fabric of Life
Tree fungus... The visible fart
Tree fungus…
aka visible fart
Limber up
Limber up!
The High Road
The High Road
Regeneration doing fine all on its own
Regeneration doing fine all on its own
Source of Life
Source of Life
Wheels
Wheels
Trailer for sale or rent chickens for sale for fifty cents
Trailer for sale or rent
chickens for sale for fifty cents
Joining forces
Joining forces, Cowichan River

 

“The environment is everything that isn’t me.”

….. Albert Einstein