Tuesday, October 04, 2022

October Daily 4: Light and Tea


October sunshine bathed the park with such a melting light that it had the dimmed impressive look of a landscape by an old master. Leaves, one, two at a time, sidled down through the windless air.”
— Elizabeth Enright

The late afternoon light caught my eye while I prepared today's dinner, so I grabbed my camera and snapped a few photos of the hydrangeas bordering the deck. The glow is beautiful for such a short time.  

A pot of petunias still blooms and the light illuminated it beautifully, too. 

Today was spent with not-quite-two-year-old Cora. We walked to the park where she leaned on the split-rail fence and watched the ducks in the pond and on the shore. When a dog passed behind us, all of the ducks rose up in a grand whirring and flapping of wings, startling the both of us. 

Then to the playground, where the two of us held hands and slid down the double slide together. Home then, for lunch and a nap for one of us while the other did a little housework before Cora's mother and older sister arrived to take her home. How I love these days. She is so much fun!

French Food French Home 

I've included a link to a lovely, peaceful video I watched today. In it Marie-Anne walks through her property in Normandy and forages for edibles. At the end she recommends one of my favourite teas, or should I say tisane - fresh mint with honey. I've been sipping it this evening. So soothing. 

Do you drink any herbal teas? 

Monday, October 03, 2022

October Daily 3: Klondike Gold!


It was here, along the banks of this small and inauspicious creek, that Skookum Jim Tagish and his brother-in-law George Carmack, found gold in 1896, and sparked the Klondike Goldrush of 1898. More than 100,000 prospectors headed north over two to three years to this remote corner of northwestern Canada. 

The gold-seekers made their way to Skagway, Alaska by boat, then walked up the 33-mile (53-km) Chilkoot Trail, packing their supplies up the arduous trail. One ton of supplies were required by each prospector, and the Canadian Northwest Mounted Police (now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) checked to make certain that each person had the supplies needed to survive for one year before they were allowed up the trail. The prospectors then boarded small boats that took them through lakes and tributaries until they reached the Yukon River where steam paddle-wheelers took them to Dawson City, the goldrush headquarters. They were a determined lot.

The paddle-wheelers required an enormous amount of wood to keep up the steam needed to power the boats. There were  treacherous rapids to traverse, and untold dangers. 

No paddle-wheelers ply the river now, although there are two at dock, one in Whitehorse, and one in Dawson City. But just around the river bend from Dawson City is the Steamboat Graveyard, where the old ships were abandoned after the railroad was built in the early 1900s. It was an interesting place to explore, with massive structures strewn in the forest near the riverbank.  

But let's return to Bonanza Creek. Although many prospectors hand-mined for placer gold (loose gold in gravel), the process was physically difficult. It didn't take long before huge mining corporations consolidated claims and brought in dredges. Here on Bonanza Creek sits Dredge #4, built in 1912, an eight-story machine that worked the gravel until 1959. 

This was mining on a grand scale with enormous gears and equipment. I can imagine the din inside the dredge was horrendously loud. Our guide told us that many men lost their hearing working the dredges. 

Gold mining continues in the area around Dawson City, and claims are still jealously guarded. Signs warn against "claim-jumping" or searching for gold on someone else's claim. The national park has a claim on Bonanza Creek where tourists can pan for gold. They loaned us two gold pans and off we went. Tim had a shovel in the truck and dug the gravel. 

Tim spent a summer in high school panning for gold and showed me how to do it. It's hard work squatting by the water and swirling that heavy pan in the cold creek. I can't imagine doing that day in and day out. 

Did we find any gold? No, not a flake, although some tourists do. 

From the top of Dredge #4 I looked down at the cables and saw purple martins making themselves at home. I wonder what their ancestors made of all the hullabaloo on Bonanza Creek more than 100 years ago. 

Sunday, October 02, 2022

October Daily 2


There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect in the 
feelings, as now in October.
Nathaniel Hawthorne

Once again the steady sun shone brilliantly all day long. We did a bit of garden cleanup this afternoon, and the lawns are freshly mown, an activity that fills the air with the sweet smell of cut grass. 

I noticed a new cafe au lait dahlia flower opening, and snapped a quick photo. This spectacular plant blooms late in the summer, and is a bit stingy with her blossoms, but all is forgiven when I cut one of the creamy beauties to bring into the house. 

On the recommendation of one of our daughters, I made a salad with sliced garden tomatoes, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, some crumbled blue cheese, and a scattering of green onion. So simple and so delicious. There is absolutely nothing to match the flavour of a sun-ripened tomato, is there? 

With our lingering warm days, the garden is still producing tomatoes, and I've planted lettuce and kale for later. A few carrots are still in the ground, and green onions. 

I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.
L. M. Montgomery

Although the days are warm, and we open up the windows to let cool breezes flow through during the afternoon, by the time the sun goes down around 7 pm, we close up the house once again, other than the bedroom window which stays open all night. I feel like we have the best of everything just now between the warm golden days and the cool nights that are so beneficial to good sleep. 

Sunday blessings to you all.

Saturday, October 01, 2022

October Daily 1


Hello October! Here you are again. The calendar tells me that autumn is here, but the continuing sunshine feels much like summer. Slowly cooling days drift into earlier nights. The dry weather has us wishing for some steady rain. For now, we walk along dusty paths dappled with sunlight where dry leaves border the trail, and occasionally, a leaf lets go of its tree and sways back and forth to the ground. 

On a recent walk to Tod's Inlet, I spoke with a young man who had just come out of the water. "So cold!" he said, wrapping himself in a warm towel. The ocean here never really warms up and I thought him a very brave soul. 

Queen Anne's lace has flowered and is now gone to seed, but is still elegant and sculptural. As I stood looking out over the water, a young couple paddled by in canoes and greeted me with, "This sunshine and warmth is unbelievable." 

October is my favourite month of the year. It bridges summer and winter more beautifully than November does. This is the month of Thanksgiving and at the end, my birthday, of the last lovely blooms in the garden, and the beginning of quiet and cozy evenings. Fragrant and hearty soups simmer on the stove, and apples and pears are made into all sorts of delicious treats. And how lovely gold and red trees are, until the wild wind strips them of their leaves. 

Last year I did a daily post each day in October, and it was so much fun that I'll be attempting to do so again. 

Which is your favourite month, and what do do you enjoy about October? 

Monday, September 26, 2022

Busy Autumn Days


The past two weekends have been full of family events - a birthday party for the three lovely people seated on the couch (son-in-law, son, and daughter). Two little people wanted in on the photo, too. I made an apple cheesecake with caramel sauce, and a Swedish berry cake. 

We had such a good time together. Everyone contributed to the meal of Ecuadorian food - pinchos (grilled beef on skewers, humitas (corn pudding baked in corn husks), curtido (onion/tomato salad), chifles (plantain chips), patacones (thicker slices of plantain, smashed and fried), salchichas (street food of hot dogs and french fries). It was all delicious, if a bit heavy. 

This past weekend, my parents came for a visit. It's always lovely to host them. In preparation, I made some Dad's Cookies - not so named because my dad likes them (which he does), but a cookie that my parents only purchased on vacation. It's made with oatmeal and coconut. I also made Lemon Bars, one of my mom's favourites. 

I baked bread, using a recipe from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Bread cookbook - Struan - filled with good grains like brown rice, oats, oat barley, and polenta. All the individual bits disappear into a really delicious bread that makes great toast. The first crust disappeared as soon as the loaf was cool enough to slice. 

The dahlias continue to fill the garden with colour. These days mornings feel like autumn, but afternoons are definitely still summer. Everything is very dry and we would welcome some steady rain. 

Over the weekend we invited each of our children and their families over for a meal - one on Friday night, one for Saturday breakfast, and one for Sunday dinner - so they could visit with their grandparents (and great grandparents) more easily than in a crowd with everyone together. 

On Sunday afternoon we took a walk along the waterfront in Sidney. Beautiful blue skies, hot sun, and herons in the water. How we are enjoying these days. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

A Small Hamlet in a Big Landscape, and an Adventure


En route to the Arctic Ocean, we stopped in Fort McPherson to purchase a few groceries. While there we met an Inuvialuit man who asked us about our trip, opening the conversation for us to ask us about his life. 

He is from the hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk which perches on the edge of the Arctic Ocean. His wife is Gwich'in and because her mother needed some care, they lived in Fort McPherson. He was purchasing groceries for a trip he planned to make, down the river, past Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk. His purpose was to hunt a beluga whale, about 16 feet long, he said, for food for the winter. People there still live very traditionally, hunting and fishing, gathering berries, and storing food for the long months of winter. 

In 2017 a year-round road opened between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk (shortened to Tuk by everyone). Previously, access was via air (costly) or by ice road for four months of the year. The landscape changes from boreal forest of spindly evergreens to vast expanses of tundra marked by innumerable lakes. Small cabins hug the lakeshore, providing shelter for hunting parties. Surprising to us were the seemingly abandoned snowmobiles alongside the road. We saw at least 50 of them. It seemed to us that when the snow melted, the snowmobiles were left in situ, and when the snow returns, owners will return and use them once again.

We saw a number of what I think are Sandhill Cranes on the tundra. They migrate here to breed, from the southern United States where they spend the winter. They are large birds, and quite striking with the red patch on their forehead. 

On several lakes Trumpeter Swans drifted with their young. We sometimes see them here on Vancouver Island in late winter when they are returning north to lay their eggs and raise their young. Such elegant birds. I wondered if they were Tundra Swans, but because they are so large, I decided they were Trumpeters. I'm open to any correction.

The hamlet of Tuk is a string of small homes on a peninsula jutting out into the Arctic Ocean. Industrial buildings dot the landscape, including the Distant Early Warning (DEW) line radar station, which monitored Soviet planes during the Cold War. The still-active station is now run remotely. 

I was disgusted by the evidence of oil exploration in this area. In previous decades (70s and 80s), several companies brought in huge amounts of equipment in order to explore for natural resources. They built camp buildings to house workers, and constructed maintenance yards. The oil business diminished and all of this equipment remains, despoiling the landscape. A half-submerged barge sits in the harbour, and heavy equipment is left to rust. My opinion is that the companies that brought this stuff here should be made to remove it. 

This was the coldest day of our trip, with a temperature of 8 degrees Celsius. The previous day had been rainy, but before that unusually high temperatures were the norm for this summer. We wondered about taking a dip in the ocean, but the chill Arctic wind howling from the north soon changed our minds. Around noon, however, the wind died down, the sun came out, and it warmed up enough for us to kayak at the Pingo Canadian Landmark. We wore several layers, including rain jackets and rain pants, along with our life jackets.

Our goal was this boardwalk across the tundra to a viewpoint overlooking a particularly large pingo. What is a pingo? It's an ice-cored hill that rises from the flat tundra. The Inuvialuit people use them for landmarks while traveling. We tied up at the dock and walked along the 400 metre boardwalk. Along the way we noticed a variety of plants, including wild rhubarb and cloudberries, in the tundra. 

Although one could paddle directly to the pingos, walking on them is not allowed during the spring, summer, and autumn, as they are quite fragile. 

Returning to the dock, we prepared to get into our kayaks. Tim was busy doing something with his, and although he usually holds my kayak for me to enter, I decided to be independent, and enter it on my own. (cue ominous music) Things were going well until there was a realization of impending doom as the distance grew between my feet in the kayak and my hands on the dock. Yes, dear reader, I went right under. It was a bit of a shock, alright! But when I came up, I was more concerned about my phone and camera in the now upside-down kayak. Fortunately, they were in double-sealed Ziploc bags and popped up to the surface without incident. (aside - I do have a waterproof case for kayaking, but I'd left that in Inuvik. - sigh)

I couldn't stop laughing as Tim pulled me onto the dock, righted my kayak, and took care of everything. He was quite shocked, he said, when he heard a noise and turned around just in time to see my head go under. He snapped a photo of my drowned rat Arctic look. It was chilly, and I still had to paddle 30 minutes back to shore. The exercise kept me warm, although I was shivering when I changed out of my wet things. (We brought a change of clothes in case the weather warmed up). We blasted the heat on in the Tahoe and that felt absolutely wonderful!

Soft cotton grasses grow on the tundra, and when we stopped to pick up a hitchhiker from Spain, I snapped this photo. It's fun to run one's hand along the grass, for it feels like cotton balls. 

One common question I am asked is about the temperature of the water. It was cold, but I had on a number of layers, and where I fell in was part of the delta. I personally think going into the ocean here on Vancouver Island is colder, but then, I'm usually not wearing so many clothes. 

All's well that ends well, and this adventure will be memorable in many aspects. 

Friday, September 16, 2022

A Reflective Week


The days here have been comfortably full of the regular affairs of life, but threaded throughout I've been watching bits and pieces of the ceremonies in the UK. I wish I understand more of the meaning and symbolism behind some of the magnificent pageantry. I took myself down to Government House one day to sign the Book of Condolence for the Queen. There are several physical books in our province, as well as an online book. 

While at Government House I wandered through the gardens set on a hill high above the ocean. A sharp breeze had me wishing for a light jacket, and whispered of days to come. The fountain in the rose garden trickles a soft melody and flowers continue to bloom on the bushes.

Patches of autumn crocus (colchicum autumnale) dot the ground. They are also called "naked ladies" because their leaves emerge in spring, then die down, and in autumn, leafless flowers appear. 

I love a good-looking stack of wood. It speaks to me of cozy evenings spent reading by a fire. Our own wood burning fireplace has been converted to gas, and it's very convenient and clean, but lacks the atmosphere of a crackling wood fire.  

Autumn colours are beginning to show. In our area we don't get the vibrant glowing mass of colour that is more evident further inland. It's a gentler season of muted golds and orange, with a few flames thrown in here and there. 

I've been roasting and freezing tomatoes this week, and made a small batch of blackberry syrup for pancakes or ice cream. Our across-the-fence neighbour planted thornless blackberries several years ago, and encourages us to pick the ones that we can reach from our side. They are big berries, but sadly, they lack much taste, so boiling them down is a good way to concentrate the flavour. 

There will be a birthday party for 3 this weekend, and perhaps some garden clean up. So I'm off to fold laundry, bake a cake, and cut flowers for the house. 

What does your weekend hold?

Monday, September 12, 2022

My Autumn Garden


Mid-September and the garden glows with colour. Dahlias, zinnias, rudbeckia, and roses continue to produce bloom after bloom. Cafe au lait, the creamy dahlia in the centre of the image above, is a late bloomer, but well worth waiting for. Bees continue their work, although they are a bit slower to get going in these cooler mornings. 

We went for a walk around the bog yesterday afternoon and oh, how dry it is. No visible water, and the waterfowl have taken themselves elsewhere. Skies have been muted with smoke, giving an eerie light to the days, and most colourful sunsets. These days feel suspended between summer and autumn, as if waiting on the brink of a change. 

I have so enjoyed the fresh peaches this year. I made a fruit salad, slicing the peaches into the bowl so the juice dripped into it. Tame blackberries grow across our neighbour's fence, big and juicy. I pick a few late strawberries and raspberries every day or two. One trick I learned many years ago from a friend, is to add a bit of vanilla extract to a fruit salad. The fragrance is heavenly, and the fruit flavour is enhanced. 

Hydrangeas are turning different colours - some pale green, others pink, or pale blue. A few fresh blooms remind me of how they looked while we were gone. 

Another peach treat was a Peach Crumble Tart. A partially baked crust lined with peeled and sliced peaches, then topped with a simple crumble of butter, flour, and sugar, with a bit of almond extract, baked until golden. That disappeared in a hurry! 

This morning a little wind stirs the leaves and will hopefully blow away the remaining fire smoke. 

Is September golden for you this year? 

Friday, September 09, 2022

A Time to Mourn


Like many others around the world yesterday, I closely followed the news about Queen Elizabeth II, and was saddened to hear of her death. 

In elementary school, we opened each day's classes by singing God Save the Queen, followed by reciting The Lord's Prayer. She visited Canada 22 times, and I saw her on one of the visits. Prince (now King) Charles and her other children accompanied her as she walked through the park where we had lined up to see her. 

As Canada's Head of State, the Queen's death triggers a variety of protocols and procedures here, as well as in the UK. This link gives a summary. 

And so passes an era. She was an inspiration to many, and I admired her strength of character, her humour, and her faith. 

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Driving the Dempster


Fasten your seatbelts - here we go! Maybe get a cup of tea or a glass of water, because this is a long, long post. 

The Dempster Highway (aka Yukon Highway 5 and Northwest Territories Highway 8) had a start and stop construction history, beginning in 1959, but not opening until 1979. The road begins 40 kilometres from Dawson City, Yukon, and ends at Inuvik, Northwest Territories. Further construction, completed in 2017 carries on to Tuktoyatuk on the Arctic Ocean. I'll save that portion for another day. 

We departed Dawson City around 7:30 am on a sunny August morning. We left behind our travel trailer, not wanting to subject it to 747+ kilometers of gravel road complete with innumerable potholes.

Our first stop was Tombstone National Park, about 70 km along the road. Many people drive just this far and turn around, because the road here is the worst of the entire trip. We jounced and rattled along, with Tim crossing back and forth across the road trying to avoid the worst holes.

The mountain above is the view from the visitor's centre. In the clear northern light it looked amazing. I would never tire of that view. 

We carried on, stopping now and again to just absorb the immensity of the space. William Ogilvie, a land surveyor who explored and surveyed much of the Yukon and the NWT, including establishing the border between the Yukon and Alaska, in 1893 wrote, 

"...the scenery is sublime...vastness such as I have never before conceived, while in every direction as far as the eye could reach appeared to brood the spirit of profound solitude, silence and desolation."

We certainly felt that vastness, solitude and silence. It is unlike any landscape I've ever seen. I felt like I was on top of the world. The colours were amazing, with fireweed adding pink, and oddly, burned sections of forest looking dusky purple. The road wound on and on, up and down, and was visible far in the distance. 

Although the drive could be done in one long day, we chose to break it up and stayed the first night at Eagle Plains. What's in Eagle Plains? Very little. A gas station and mechanic shop, and a motel. It was constructed in the 1970s and remains a crucial support point for industrial trucks (and tourists) along the highway. The decor reminded me of visiting a great aunt's home where the welcome is warm, but nothing has been updated for quite some time. 

About 9 people live here year round. We spoke with the manager of the motel/restaurant, who is from Mexico and will be spending his first winter here this year. Another employee, from the Czech Republic, said she spent the previous winter, and it was hard because of the isolation and lack of light. Vitamins and melatonin helped her and this year she plans to get a lamp that replicates sunlight. 

We enjoyed a most delicious dinner in the restaurant both coming and going on the highway, as we stayed on the way back, too. I awoke in the night and peeked behind the blackout blinds to see a glowing red sky streaked with clouds around 1 am. Now I wish I had dressed and taken my camera outside. 

The next morning we got up early and ate breakfast in the Tahoe. I had made muffins before leaving Dawson City, and we had fruit with us. 

Not far from Eagle Plains is the rest stop marking the Arctic Circle at 66 degrees 33 minutes latitude. We were early and the sun fierce behind us, so the photos are not the greatest, but we had fun posing in various stances while I ran back and forth to the camera. 

We stopped to walk on the tundra and taiga several times, and to listen to the utter absence of man-made sound. Distances are deceptive - at one point I suggested we walk to the top of a hill on the road just for exercise. It took far longer than I'd thought. The tundra is soft with vegetation and we sank down almost to our knees in places. We watched a cow moose with her calf on a distant hill for some time. 

There are clear and calm lakes, where we saw Trumpeter Swans swimming in the distance, and geese and mallards floated in abundance. The feeling of utter freedom made me want to run in exhilaration with my arms open wide like Maria in The Sound of Music. The air is an elixir of energy.

Foxtail Barley ripples in the wind, adding motion and colour to the landscape. It's native to Yukon, but can be harmful to animals. 

The highway passes through the Ogilvie Mountains and then the Richardson Mountains. Descending from the latter we came to the Peel River, and then the McKenzie River, both crossed by small ferries. You can see that the ferry "terminal" is not quite the same as we are used to. 

The Dempster Highway closes during fall freeze-up and spring break-up. In the fall, the rivers must freeze solid before traffic can drive across the ice, and in the spring, the ferries can't run until the ice has departed, nor can vehicles drive across. This is about 6-8 weeks in both fall and spring. Supplies must be stored for these weeks as the only access is by air, and that is minimal. The woman who gave us the greenhouse tour in my previous post said she kept a very deep pantry, and was stocking up for freeze-up. 

Fort McPherson is a hamlet inhabited mostly by about 640 First Nations peoples. It is the site of a former Hudson Bay fur trading post, and the starting point of The Lost Patrol, where four RCMP officers died after getting lost in the winter. They were enroute from Fort McPherson to Dawson City via dog sled and missed a turn. Their bodies were found and brought to Fort McPherson for burial. 

On our way back we saw a huge mother grizzly with her also very large cub. Grizzly bear cubs stay with their mothers up to three years, and Tim estimated this one to be 2-3 years old. The mother disappeared over the ridge just before I took the photo. A noise startled this cub and it took off running across the grasses, its glossy fur rippling in the light. A magnificent sight. 

If you've read this far, you're to be commended! One last photo of the scenery, this one taken in Tombstone Park on the way back. Rain in the distance made for a moody photo as we stood, realizing that we would soon leave this place and possibly never return. It was truly the experience of a lifetime. 

October Daily 4: Light and Tea

  October sunshine bathed the park with such a melting light that it had the dimmed impressive look of a landscape by an old master. Leaves,...