Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Waning August

I went into Michael's today for a couple of things for school and was appalled to see not only fall decor items (I'm still in summer mode), but Christmas items, too! Waaaay too early.

The hydrangeas are fading, but continue to produce a few new mopheads of intense colour. They have been most reliable during this summer of intense heat and no rain.

We visited Hatley Castle Gardens over the weekend. I love the Italian Garden with the clipped boxwood hedges, the cool pergola, and the wide flower beds. 

Purple heliotrope smells like vanilla and babies to me. I think it looks wonderful here with the light grey artemisia. 

We're experiencing another intense heat wave these days and gardens everywhere are suffering. Lawns are crispy and brown unless heavily watered. 

I picked a bouquet of this and that from our garden - vibrant colours that stand up to the sun's heat. Dahlias, rudbeckias, blue salvia and oregano in flower. 

Our Akane (also known as Tokyo Rose) apples are ready for harvest. Unfortunately, the worms got to many of them. There are still plenty for applesauce, and for an apple pastry that disappeared in a real hurry. I hope to make another one once the temperatures cool down a little. 

Teachers are back to school this week, prepping classrooms, holding department meetings and gearing up for the students next week. It seems that we just ended school, and here we are again. I'm kind of excited to get started! 

Are you looking forward to September and cooler weather? 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Paying Attention

Mary Oliver begins her poem "The Summer Day" with 
"Who made the world? 
Who made the swan, and the black bear? 
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean..." 

Notice how her focus changes from broad to narrow? On our boating trip to Princess Louisa (see previous post), I was, at first, a little put out about the smoke that hampered our views of this magnificent place. I could have groused and grouched about it. 

I gave myself a mental shake and decided to focus, as Oliver did, on the specifics. All of these photos were taken within view of the top photo, a wider view of Chatterbox Falls.

How delicate are the white blossoms, less than 1/2 inch long, that bloomed in the grass. I don't know their name, and they don't care about that. 

The curving symmetry of an unfurling fan. I stared at it for some time, and now, when I study the photo, I remember crouching down on the soft moss at the edge of a clearing, listening to the silence.

Green fans and white stars in the woods. Oliver goes on, in her poem to say, 
"I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed..."

I think that paying attention is a form of prayer, in which I acknowledge the Creator's attention to detail and His care in forming these hidden delights. 

The colours were mostly shades of green and brown, but the occasional colourful flower popped like a staccato note in music. 

Tangles of moss dripped from trees in this damp, lush setting.

Isn't this fungus amazing? 
Oliver concludes her poem with these words,
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do 

with your one wild and precious life?"

Her question is one I ask myself from time to time. Am I paying attention? - not only to nature, but to people and to myself. Life is short, but it's an amazing gift. Too short to waste.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Princess Louisa Inlet

"It has been said by people who have travelled the world and viewed all its beauty spots that two places stand out as the greatest mountain scenery in the world. One is Princess Louisa and the other is Milford Sound in New Zealand." Ray Phillips, The Royal Fjord

The distance from the boat launch at French Creek to Chatterbox Falls at the head of Princess Louisa Inlet is 70 nautical miles. Our boat chugs at about 7 knots. You can figure out how long it took us to get there. We broke the trip into two days, and it didn't seem overly long.

Unfortunately, smoke from the BC wildfires drifted westward and obscured the view. At times it felt like we were drifting on an unknown sea, not certain that there was anything beyond the next point of land.  

The inlet is narrow and tall vertical peaks rise sharply from the water, so high that we had to tip our heads far back to see the peaks (or their outline, as the case was). 

Chatterbox Falls lies at the head of the inlet, a torrent of freshwater, fed by multiple waterfalls above, rushing over rocks and logs to the saltwater. We anchored our boat, at the bottom of the falls for the best view in the house (our boat is the little one on the left) for a blissful few days.

We rowed our little dinghy along the shore and captured these photos with the falls in the background. It was hot and the spray refreshing.

Yours truly. This is my boating hair - curly, frizzy, wild. I tie it back in a pony tail to try to control it. I am so thankful for my flat iron!

The mist from the falls rises in great clouds wafted here and there by the breeze. Beautiful moss covers rocks and logs; tiny star-shaped flowers bloom in the hidden places. The water falls and falls in unending streams, creating a lush environment. 

The trails near the falls are not long and we like to get out and hike. We saw this sign, talked to a family who had done the trail, and set out one morning to do the same. 550 metres = 1800 feet. It was strenuous, alright. We made it in 1 hour 45 minutes, scrambling up rocky faces, using tree roots as foot holds, and sweating a lot. I can't imagine the Trapper who once lived up here who would have hauled his supplies from the inlet up this trail.

The Trapper chose a beautiful spot for his cabin (now in ruins) beside another waterfall. How lovely it was to let the cooling spray fall on our faces. Taking these photos with my camera's timer feature proved hilarious. There are other takes where I'm scrambling over the rocks and don't quite make the photo.

Here's a little perspective. The white speck above the "w" in white is the Trapper's Cabin waterfall. Our boat is in the bottom of the photo. After our descent we changed into swimming suits and bathed in the stream coming off Chatterbox Falls. Brrrr!

In the inlet, the water was completely calm, disturbed only by the comings and goings of boats and the occasional float plane. There are tour operators who bring people here for an hour or so, by fast boats or planes to see this amazing place. I suggest you do an internet search to truly see the beauty of this place. My smokey photos are but sad representations.

It is such a peaceful place. The continual chatter of the falls dulls other sounds. Admiring the scenery takes time and is utterly absorbing. The quietness of nature seeps deep into my mind and soul.  

Another day, on a tip from friends, we rowed to a stream trickling down through the rocks, climbed a very short ways and found this small waterfall. Two rocky pools, one just below the falls and another a bit lower, are completely hidden from shore and also very "refreshing." This was another case of using the delayed timer on the camera and I had just fallen into the water at this moment. I look at these photos and think that we are very silly for our ages. But we do have a lot of fun together. 

A low-flying heron. You can barely make out the far shore. It was indeed eerie. 

And our view leaving the inlet, still smokey. The next day the smoke blew away and it was lovely to see blue skies and real clouds. One day we hope to return to Princess Louisa Inlet when there is no smoke. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Home and Garden

I awoke early this morning and quietly dressed and slipped outside to potter in the garden for a few minutes before breakfast. I pulled up the sweet peas that were so pretty and fragrant for so long, but are now a tangled mass of brown vines. Later in the day, I took my camera out and watched a pair of white butterflies flit among the lavender.

A friend gave us a pot of Balloon Flowers (platycodon) that put out bloom after bloom. I'm hoping to do some moving of plants in a week or two and am thinking about where I will place this one. 

Dahlia bloom in perfect symmetry. My dahlias didn't survive our cold and prolonged winter (I didn't lift the tubers), but there was a bag of free tubers in the staff room at school one day, so I took a few, not knowing what would result. These make me very happy. I'm glad they aren't orange!

And another luck-of-the-draw dahlia. They are tall, with spindly stems, but seem strong and aren't drooping at all.

Cosmos growing alongside bright white phlox. This year, the white seems whiter, or perhaps I'm just noticing it more. The blooms stand out so well against our green cedar hedge. 

Faded blue hydrangea blossoms are just as pretty now as when they were bright blue. Each bush is changing in different ways, but all the colours are becoming mellow as they absorb the waning summer sun.

A dozen or so figs found their way into the kitchen this morning. I'm trying to use up supplies just now, before going grocery shopping, so I tried to think what I could make with them. I remembered a fig flatbread that Mary of A Breath of Fresh Air had mentioned, so I looked up some recipes on line. There was some pizza dough in the freezer; I pulled it out and put it on the sunny front porch to thaw. 

I used this recipe as a base. There were enough figs and dough for two flatbreads; both have figs and caramelized onions. One has blue cheese and was drizzled with balsamic reduction and sprinkled with basil leaves.

The second flatbread was topped with cranberry goat cheese. They were both good, but I preferred the blue cheese and Tim preferred the cranberry goat cheese. 

Did you notice the cutting board in the above photo? It's shaped like a book and the title is "Romeo and Julienne." A fun gift.

It's hard to believe we're heading into the last half of August. This has been a different sort of summer, with several shorter trips that make it seem as though I'm always packing or unpacking. The garden has not received as much attention, nor have I accomplished nearly what I'd hoped in terms of house projects. Ah well, there's still a bit of time before school begins. I'll only be teaching afternoons this year, which will free me up considerably. 

"Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." Henry James 

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Weekend on Wallace Island

Our little hippie boat takes us to some wonderful places. Wallace Island, not too far away, is one. This was another of someone's dreams - the Conovers wanted to establish a resort on the island. They did, but events conspired to make it a short-lived dream, and the island is now a park. 

Our youngest and her husband came along. They pitched a tent on shore and came aboard for meals. We walked the length of the island, chatting all the while. A good way to spend time together. 

The rusted pick up truck makes a picturesque, if uncomfortable (no seats, just springs) photo booth. 

A heron in Princess Cove had good luck fishing while we watched. 

The contrast between the reddish thin skin of a peeling arbutus tree and the smooth, pale green trunk underneath fascinates me.

Starfish disappeared from our coasts several years ago. They are making a slow, but steady comeback. We look for them along the tide lines, curled together just under water or sprawled on barnacled rocks. This particular variety comes in both orange and purple; we see more of the purple ones.

Our three kids and their families have a bit of a running joke about "making it on to the blog." The adults think they've been completely upstaged by the children, and perhaps they have. I find it quite funny.

So thanks for coming out with us, Ashley and Owen, and here you are - on the blog!

Photos have been difficult with the smoke blanketing the skies these past few weeks. On Saturday the winds shifted and the skies began to clear. 

After the short trip pictured in this post, Tim and I spent one night at home, restocked the boat and set off for a week of adventuring. It was a lovely getaway time, and I'll write more later. 

Today was spent doing laundry, picking green beans, zucchini, and the first tomatoes. I deadheaded the rose bushes and pulled a few weeds. Tomorrow will be a little more of the same. I hope to get caught up with reading about my blogging friends' activities, too. It's been awhile. 

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Beginning of August

What is it about music that so draws us in and can take us back over the years? Any genre will instantly evoke memory: the 1970s song "California Dreaming" takes me back to high school, hymns such as "Great is Thy Faithfulness" take me back to being a child sitting on a hard pew, Spanish hymns remind me of Ecuador days, "Moonlight Sonata" has me subconsciously measuring the tempo as I once did when learning to play it on the piano, and so on. 

Last Saturday Tim and I drove up to Chemainus Theatre for "Rock Legends" featuring the music from 1955 to 1975. I was surprised that I knew, if not all the words, certainly the tunes to all but one of the songs. Oh, it was fun!

One of the songs was from the group Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Randy Bachman currently lives on Saltspring Island, not far from us. Tim leaned over during the song and said to me, "Randy Bachman uses the same hearing aid clinic I do." And we giggled like teenagers.

In the garden, green beans are producing. This is the third picking, now tucked away into the freezer. Tonight's dinner will be a Salade Ni├žoise with more green beans. The zucchini is beginning to bear, as well. 

Concord grapes are fattening nicely. This is just the second year for the vines and we're pleased about the number of grape clusters. 

Tomatoes are slow this year. These are not ours. Summer calls for sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar with a sprinkling of basil leaves. 

We're in the midst of a heat wave and meal preparation is kept to a minimum. Lots of fresh salads and grilled meat. 

New blooms continue to form on the hydrangeas, even as other blooms fade. 

Wildfires have been burning in the province for quite some time now. This week, the winds changed to an outflow from the interior and our skies are layered with smoke. The hazy sunset last night was almost invisible because of the smoke. Visibility is greatly reduced.

As the sun drifted down it became less and less visible. You can see the line of smoke at the bottom of the sun in the photo above. Within a few moments the smoke obliterated it.

We thankful for crews from other parts of Canada, and Mexico and Australia who are helping fight the fires. My cousin was able to return to her home, and it's intact. 

In family news, one little grandchild has chicken pox (in spite of a vaccination), and is recovering nicely. We're hoping her brother escapes the virus. We're getting ready for a boating trip this weekend with our youngest daughter and husband. And finally, it's August. That came quickly. I'm not ready for summer to end, but I was in the store today and saw autumn decor. Horrors! I love autumn, but let's enjoy summer for it's all too short. 

How do things look in your world at the beginning of August? 

A Bit of This and That

  Off in the distance Mount Baker, in the USA, gleams in the sunlight. My best guess is that it's about 100 km away as the crow flies. T...