smoke & Mirrors

The sun rises in darkened smoky skies.

The smoke in the valley has been crushing. I think about my father in his later years how difficult this would have been for him.

Forest fires are raging all over BC. I expect skies won’t clear for awhile yet. Last year was clear. The largest fire in BC was burning close to us, about 60km to the south. It was almost like forest fires took the summer off due to Covid. This summer is a return to summers previous.

The valley is exceptionally busy with tourists, going hell bent this way and that, dragging boats, ATV’s and other expensive noisy toys in tow. Alberta keeps bitching about how hard done by they are, but you couldn’t tell it from the white and red plates polluting the valley air and waterways on this side of the provincial border.

It is hard to recognize the valley bottom in times like these.

Of course, valley business owners and small town politicians (the same folks in many instances) are rubbing their hands together while chanting into the grey skies, ‘more, more, more’, while their staff, paid minimum wage are crowded into run down staff houses.

I read the valley newspaper, The Columbia Valley Pioneer, this morning. It is the newspaper Lisa and I started 16 years ago. The look of the paper hasn’t changed much in that time, the picture I took of the wetlands still adorns the masthead. It is odd to see it week after week. Reading the paper I often think, do I live in the same town this newspaper claims to cover? True, the newspaper is now owned by a chain notorious for poor coverage of the communities it serves, however, it does occur to me, with some irony, it’s me that no longer fits in.

monochrome

Red Maple
Bunchberry
False Solomon’s Seal

July Hail storm

The peas torn from their fences.

A few more photos of the garden taken about an hour and a half after the hail storm. Fortunately, it sounds like the hail storm cut a narrow path through the valley. Communities to the south and north of Invermere were not hit as hard.

Talked to a few gardeners and it sounds like everybody pretty much is in the same boat with smashed plants. I was lucky because I don’t spend much money on plants nor rely on it for a living and sell produce like some.

Plenty of videos on Facebook of a river running down main street. My neighbours experienced some flooding. Our basement started to flood due to the outside stairwell filling with hail, fortunately I saw it early and was able to shovel out the stairwell before it melted.

I won’t replant anything, I’m interested to see what will make a recovery and what won’t. There will also be plants that may live but be too far behind to produce, I suspect the tomatoes will be in this category.

Tomato plant stripped of it’s leaves. A cannabis plant to the right that didn’t fair much better.

This is definitely an unusual event for this area. We do regularly get hail, but not that big and the storms don’t usually last that long. Luckily the damage seems minimal, although heartbreaking for people who love their gardens, and not wide spread. What can you do?

Beans that were doing so well before the storm. I doubt if they will make a comeback. They do have lots of time however.
Lettuce that has been delicious. I am hopeful a few more salads will be harvested before the end of summer.
Carrots.
Sunflower broken off. They may form new shoots with heads.
I don’t know what the big rhubarb is all about!
Broccoli and cabbage were just not meant to withstand hail stones, still I’m hopeful they will make a recovery.

smashed salad

A good hail storm rolled through on the heals of the 40° temperatures we have been having. It flattened the garden with marble sized stones. Cutting every broad leaf to shreds. It lasted about thirty minutes, flooding basements and parking lots.

Hopefully the moisture neutralized the lightening. You never know, moisture, hail and rain cuts a thin swath, while heat can be everywhere. This is jest not a livelihood. The tune would change then.

It’s up to the garden to grow back on it’s own. Hail storms spread nitrogen they say, so this is their start. Everything wants to live. The beans better straighten themselves out and grow some leaves. The zucchini with pellet holes have to regroup, toss a canopy up and salvage what’s left. As for the carrots, onions, turnips, beets and spuds, they’ll be ready for stew come fall, hell or high water.

It’s disappointing to see the work smashed. It’s also wonderful to see it grow back.

Nothing is more resilient than a plant with two more months of sunshine left.

get ready it’s summer

Wood Lily.

Lisa and I have been very busy as Covid restrictions are lifted and businesses plan for the mother of all summers.

The forecast is calling for 40°c temps. It has topped of at 36° today. It makes you get up extra early and try to get work done before noon.

This mornings waning moon.

I remember running printing presses in this kind of weather, dealing with problems the heat could cause with paper and ink. Those were the days, NOT!

The garden is spectacular, although the heat is making the broccoli bolt. We are giving it away and eating it as fast as we can. The peas have blossoms and pods waiting to fill out. The sage is a hedge of purple flowers.

Varied Thrush with a worm.

This year the garden was in early due to having to quarantine in early April. I dug and planted because I could. It won’t make much difference in August. A few good neighbouring gardeners have stopped to ask why my garden is ahead. I confessed the early date I planted. They commented it was risky, but I’ll bet they will be doing the same next year. Us old-timers can be competitive. To be honest, I’m not sure if I will continue with an early schedule. I got lucky this time, next time could be different.

Last weeks trip. The mountains are shedding winter.

The lake is covered in Albertans in motor boats, every second home and Airbnb filled, the beach parking lot is wall to wall red and white plates. I must be mellowing, because I am almost happy for them whooping and wallowing in excess and entitlement. Like me they would rather be nowhere else, so who am I to judge. It also reminds me to either be working or out of the valley bottom and in the cool mountains come the weekend.

Fool Hen.

Lisa and I still have a stick of firewood to get for winter. We have spotted a couple sticks of dry fir off the beaten path. We may have to wait for it to cool down to gather it up proper.

Lisa debarking and splitting.

mid may

Morning light.

Was up the pass this morning. Lisa and I got higher with the week of warm weather and snow melt. The Calypso Orchids have stems, yet no blooms. Next weekend for sure. It’s still early.

Watchful eyes.

The garden is all up. Considering I usually don’t plant until next week, we are ahead of the game. Next week I’ll plant the beans and put in the tomato and zucchini plants. Lisa and I are looking forward to a good feed of greens.

Trees before mountains.

The rhubarb is up and ready to be eaten. The sun is shining still coming up slanted and going down so. It’s a good time of year.

Willow wearing her Thunder Vest in the truck, so excited to get out in the bush.

late april

A young transplant.

It feels good to be caught in full fledge spring. The warm air, the quick change to chill, shades of green in every direction and the promise of work, good work.

Willow watches over the composted manure.

Planting a small garden but bigger than we need. Assessing the trees, some dying quicker than me doesn’t seem fair. The lake flat as a pancake, reflecting the mountains, light just right, oblivious to abuse.

There is a lot to be done. That’s spring for you.

An unlucky bug captured in a web. I was surprised to see this spider out so early filling up on a Box Elder bug. Spiders have patterns on their backs to scare off birds. If I had a macro lens to see the pattern, I’m sure it would be every bit as interesting as the stars and Milky Way. Judging from the web, there could have been a struggle.

April

Spring dusting.

Most spring days are strange like the weather and I like that. Took off for the Kootenay on Saturday. Willow and I rounded up some firewood. It wasn’t hard. The Kootenay was clear as a bell and I could have brought back supper if I had half a mind and a rod.

Lisa asked if I worry about my head considering, concussions, sickness, drinking and all the rest. I said nope, I remember things just like I want to. I know this is selfish.

It did piss me off coming back with a load of wood not remembering the creek my father and I stopped for water. There was Fade-Away Creek, Witness Creek and Bone Dry Creek, but damned if I could remember the small trickle that crept, ice cold, filtered under a thick canopy of full grown spruce around mile 9.

A Ruffed Grouse

I stopped at the creek and the water was just as good. That’s what’s important after all. Perhaps the name will come to me.

The time between still early and damn late is shorter as you get older.

mid april

Got the binoculars out to scan for elk and grizzly bears. Even they are keeping their distance, these days.

Pure blue sky on a day off. It doesn’t get much better. Willow and I had grand plans to head to the backside of Swansea, follow the coolie and walk out to the front of Pinto. I knew there would be snow, but was surprised how much was still on the side looking east. And here I thought wood ticks would be the biggest concern.

We still found time to stop and walk admiring the mountains and sky. Back down in the valley bottom I rolled the windows down and heard the first Meadowlarks of the year.

I thought about going over it. There was only snowmobile tracks beyond.

fever

The lights of Invermere across Lake Windermere.

Cleaned up the wood pile. We have about as much firewood as we started with before winter, due to Lisa and I getting a few loads in December and January.

We’ve been burning it even in spring when the weather turns rainy and cold. We are rich with firewood. It feels good.

***

I drove a good sliver into my hand the other day. Of course my hands have been softened by the gallons of hand sanitizer I apply every time entering a building. At least it won’t become infected.

***

In my dream last night I was walking behind a women with hairy legs, strangely aroused, I wondered if she had hairy armpits too.

The winter stars, Betelgeuse in it’s diminished state, star clusters Hyades and the Beehive on either side of the page. The big dog, front and centre, twinkling in the muck.

It didn’t seem like a hard winter. The dry sunflowers still have a few seeds. I find them hidden in the woodpile where the bark was left on the fir. The Chickadees show up to take them out the trees and between shingles on the shed. They planned well and came out chirping on the other end. Sometimes they’re not so lucky. A reminder of sorts. No matter how much we plan we’ll all have that bad winter one of these days.

***

Winter’s on it’s way out. Orion’s still up there after dark, but it won’t last. The extra light, before the turning, will take care of it faster than should be allowed.