Tag Archives: Vancouver island

New Spreader Boots

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The most common question I get asked by curious non-climbers is, “Why?” By which I think they mean, “”What would compel a sane person to want to spend as much time as possible dangling off the side of a cliff?”

I could answer something along the lines of how you are never fully alive until you look down between your feet to see… nothing. Or, how standing on top of a mountain makes you feel simultaneously invincible and insignificant. Or, how there is simply no better way to spend a day than by being outside… But I won’t. What I discovered recently is that there is a very practical and sensible reason to be happy in high places.

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Raring to go up the mast! 

A few weeks ago we were out on my daughter and son-in-law’s sailboat. We tacked just as a big gust caught us and handily fouled the foresail. In the aftermath (which involved a lot of flapping lines and waving arms and scrambling around to get the sail back where it was meant to be) we managed to send a spreader boot flying off the end of the spreader and into Finlayson Arm where it sank in hundreds of feet of icy cold water.

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Not a sharp photo – sorry about that. But you can see the state of the old spreader boot (the one that didn’t fly off into the water). It was disintegrating and held on only by a single ancient cable tie. That cable tie popped off when I touched it, so it was a good thing we replaced both while I was up there.

After procuring new pair, I was delighted to be sent up the mast to install the shiny new spreader boots. Securely fastened with rigger’s tape, they will help provide a smooth non-snagging surface for wayward halyards.

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The view from below. 

See? Slipping into a climbing harness and heading up, up, up is about the most fun a climber can have on a boat!

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The view from above…

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Smooth Sailing

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Days like this are great if you want to photograph masts reflecting in glassy water, but not so good for doing anything remotely like sailing…

Having just returned from a day on the water it seems like a good time to do a bit of an update on the sailing front. Despite the fact we don’t have a boat (yet), I have marked November 1st as the date we will head for Europe (Greece? Montenegro? Croatia? Italy) for a sailing trip. We still haven’t pinned down destination or duration of the trip, but one way or the other I am bound and determined to be aboard a boat of some sort, for a while, heading somewhere.

While the details of the trip are still somewhat fuzzy, what is absolutely clear is that there is no time to be lost between now and then when it comes to getting myself prepared to take the helm and cast off the lines. Given that one now needs to have an ICC (International Certificate of Competence) in order to sail in most European waters, I signed up for a five-day sailing course through Sea to Sky Sailing. My original dates were to be at the end of March on one of the company’s boats, but then Dani and Toryn decided they would hire a Sea to Sky instructor to come over here to the island to teach them on their boat, Easy Rider. Because they had an extra berth, they invited me to join them, which makes a lot of sense given that a) we’re practicing on a boat we will sail on in the future and b) we’ll be sailing together in the future so it makes sense we’ll all be learning the same way to do things.

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Katabatic winds? My study notes are serving two purposes. First, they are supposed to be helping me retain info needed for the ICC written test (my aging brain no longer holds onto details the way it used to). Second, in keeping with one of my 2017 resolutions, I’m trying to add more visual elements to my notes and journals. This has been an interesting process for someone who has never tried to draw anything. If I feel brave, I might post more sketchy efforts here at some point.

On the down side, the dates of the new training session are March 11-15, which has thrown me into a bit of a panic. Before then, I need to have completed the theory part of the course and get my VHF license plus get in a bit of sailing practice. My studies are well under way, but the clock is ticking now and I’m starting to have dreams eerily like those that tortured me throughout high school and university. In those dreams I show up for an exam and find I have studied for the wrong course or I try to get into the examination room and the doors are locked, or I’ve missed the exam date by a week or I open the exam booklet and discover I can’t read the language written on the page.

On the practical side, though I’ve sailed on and off for decades, my experiences have always been as crew. It’s quite a different thing altogether to be in charge of the boat. So, for the past several weekends, we (Dani, Toryn and I) have been trying to get out on the water before we are thrown into the deep end (not literally, I hope). Our first expedition was a bit hairy as the winds kicked up and we were all very rusty (fouled the jib quite handily and rattled ourselves quite thoroughly). Sailing brother, Sascha, popped over from Vancouver the next weekend and put us through our paces in very light airs in a fun expedition to Sidney Spit, a picturesque spot within spitting distance of Sidney.

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Up goes the mainsail…

That trip went pretty smoothly and included practicing picking up a mooring ball. At the end of it, we felt a bit more confident that we had not actually forgotten everything we had ever known about sailing. After enjoying a tasty barbecue in the cockpit, we also remembered how much fun it is to sail somewhere and then share a meal!

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Today we took Easy Rider out again, looking forward to sailing in light winds so we could do a bit more tacking practice. Sadly, the forecast 5 knots of wind wound up being 0-1 knots. Flat calm. It was easy enough to hoist the sails, but from that point on we bobbed around in the millpond with two gigantic limp hankies decorating the boat. What forward movement we actually managed to accomplish was more the result of the current pushing us than any impact from the non-existent wind. The fact there was not a single sailboat (other than us) out there should have been a hint that perhaps today was not a good day for sailing.

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We may not have buried the rail today, but it was mighty pleasant lounging around on the foredeck as we puttered back toward the marina.

Undeterred, we floated around for a couple of hours before dropping the sails and motoring back to the dock. While uneventful sailing trips are generally a good thing, today’s journey to nowhere gives mellow a whole new meaning.

Wildlife count: 2 seals swimming, 2 seals perched on rocks, 2 dolphins and a bunch of sea birds. Note to self: Take a bird identification book to the boat.

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Enjoy the blog? Consider becoming a patron to support the creation of these blog posts, photo essays, and short videos. In return, you’ll have my undying appreciation, but you’ll also get access to Patron-only content, advance peeks at works in progress, and more – all for as little as a buck a month! It’s easy – head on over to Patreon to have a look at how it all works.

Why Fly?

Spotted this seagull at Sombrio Beach today, determined to get to the other side in his own, special way… A seagull walks over a bridge...

E is for Excellent Expeditions

Funny how sometimes it takes having a visitor to get you out and about and exploring the neighbourhood! That’s exactly what has been happening since we started hosting our lovely volunteers – we’ve been tootling around southern Vancouver Island, showing them the sights and falling in love with our amazing home all over again.

The Kinsol Trestle on Vancouver Island is the largest remaining wooden trestle in the Commonwealth - the recently rebuilt and refurbished structure contains 60 percent of the timbers from the original completed in 1920.

The Kinsol Trestle on Vancouver Island is the largest remaining wooden trestle in the Commonwealth – the recently rebuilt and refurbished structure contains 60 percent of the timbers from the original completed in 1920.

I’ve lived here for many years and our family visited the island a number of times before that, but today was the first time I’d ever been to the trestle. D and T made sure to document our visitors’ experience of the day:

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Everyone was a little soggy, but the rain softened as the afternoon wore on and despite the weather we all enjoyed our outing.

Everyone was a little soggy, but the rain softened as the afternoon wore on and despite the weather we all enjoyed our outing.

A couple of weeks ago we all trekked out to East Sooke Park, another glorious destination not so far from here. IMG_8891[1]

It would have been hard to have picked a nicer day! The sun came out and between the hiking, the dogs romping, and the tasty picnic, we all came home happy and relaxed.

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Volunteers from our place and from Maypenny Farm enjoying a day at the beach at East Sooke Park.

Even when we are ostensibly ‘working’ we try to throw in a bit of fun… When I had to take a load of ducks to Salt Spring Island for processing (the nearest facility that will take ducks at the moment) we allowed a bit of extra time for sightseeing. No visit to SSI is complete without a trip up Mount Maxwell, a visit to Ruckle Park, something to eat in Ganges, and a round of frisbee golf.

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DCF Mount Maxwell Sunrise

 

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Lambs at Ruckle Park

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Frisbee golf is a lot harder than it looks. The course on Salt Spring Island is pretty cool – an easy stroll from downtown Ganges in a big park.

It was great visiting Salt Spring again and taking some time to poke around. If I ever leave the ‘big’ island, I could imagine myself living on Salt Spring once again.

For regular readers, there’s a connection to SSI in my books… I lived there in the early ’80’s and again a number of years later when my daughter was born at the Lady Minto Hospital. Those years on Salt Spring were great and when I was looking for a Gulf Island on which to model the fictitious Tarragon Island, I of course chose Salt Spring. Three books followed, two with Tarragon Island in the title, if you are curious and want to go searching. There is another planned and my recent trip reminded me why I set those books where I did. But, all that is the subject for another post… maybe T is for Tarragon Island?

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[p.s. Who knew? I just googled ‘Tarragon Island’ looking for a cover photo to add and discovered that the third book, Trouble on Tarragon Island has its very own wikipedia page.]

 

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Hens in the snow

Hens in the snow

The chickens are definitely under-impressed with all the snow over the past couple of days. As am I, to be honest. The worst part of this deluge has been the strange nature of the precipitation – a mix of rain, snow, ice pellet, and sleet. It’s just warm enough that there’s a good foot of slush in places and plenty of running (gushing) water everywhere. It’s just cold enough that the snow is sticking and making it horrible to walk/carry hay/function outside.

It is now pouring as I write this… if the temperatures creep up over night, much of this mess will have washed away by morning. If the temperatures go the other way… oh, my – I don’t even want to think about the mess my hill will be by the time morning rounds roll around… Yuck!

Poor M. C. from Germany thought he’d come to Vancouver Island because it’s relatively warm and snow free. Hah!! Instead he wound up having to build bridges out of logs and pallets so we could safely navigate the deep mud slushy in the hog pen. So much for my ‘start seeds’ and ‘prepare garden beds’ plan…

Large Black Hogs in the Snow

Inside their hog hut, Pearl and Olivia build fluffy nests out of hay and then burrow in and snuggle up together. They seem to be dealing with the nasty weather remarkably well, all things considered.

Interesting Opportunity for the Right Person – Farm Manager at O.U.R. Ecovillage

What an exhausting day! Though the bit where I slogged through the mud in the lower hog pen  trying to find out where the electric fence was shorting out was somewhat wearying (and worrying, I discovered said problem when I went down to do the afternoon feed rounds and found the boar, Pompadour, hanging out with Cora and the four boar younglings… wrong side of the fence!!), the exhaustion was a result of spending most of the day with the lovely folks from O.U.R. Ecovillage at our local Seedy Saturday event.

My apologies for the shocking lack of photos - it was SO BUSY!!! I hardly had time to breathe, never mind snap photos...

My apologies for the shocking lack of photos – it was SO BUSY!!! I hardly had time to breathe, never mind snap photos…

My daughter works up at the Ecovillage part time and we (our farm and the Ecovillage) do a bit of collaborating on projects, so we brought some of our eggs to sell at their table while helping the ecovillagers chat with members of the public about the very cool work that goes on at the village. Give me a pile of fence posts and a post-hole digger and a mile of fencing to tackle and I think I’d be less bagged at the end of the day. How can it possibly be so tiring to smile and chat? Inside, no less – no torrential downpour, no nosey boar nudging the backs of my knees, no howling wind…

O.U.R. Ecovillage is a pretty nifty place – 25 acres of sustainable farming and natural building projects… educational programs, permaculture projects – and a whole lot more. An intentional community, here’s how they try to do the quick summary on their website:

Vision: Sustainable well-being for the land, ourselves, and our worldwide village
Mission: To educate and inspire by establishing a thriving learning community and permaculture demonstration site that actively stewards sacred knowledge and a sense of place.

The Ecovillage is currently looking for a farm manager – a full time position best suited to someone interested in living on site, someone with a knowledge of (or interest in) permaculture, and ideally someone who knows both livestock and crop production. There’s a detailed job description here: please pass the info along to any farmer-types who might be interested.

Here’s a bit of trivia for you… When Dani and I were working on the early draft of  our new book on homes around the world, we stayed in the Sanctuary at the Ecovillage. Here’s a photo:

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The structure (built using various natural building methods including cob and straw bale) is about the best place possible to write a book about housing past, present, and future…

It was great seeing so many familiar faces today – and having a chance to meet so many new people interested in the work being done up at the village. We sold some eggs and bought some seeds – and several varieties of seed potatoes. I love harvesting whatever we are growing, but there is something extra special about digging up fresh spuds. For one thing, it’s always a bit like digging for buried treasure – you never quite know what’s lurking down there under the soil. And, for another thing, DELICIOUS!! I like potatoes pretty well any way they might be prepared, but there is just something about freshly dug potatoes consumed right after harvest that makes me drool… Like right now my keyboard is in mortal danger of getting clogged up because I am salivating just thinking about how good those meals are going to be in just a few short months! And, yes, some of those spuds will also be making their way into our CSA goody boxes… Which reminds me, I really have to get on with adding the CSA page to the website. Not tonight… refer to earlier comment about being bagged. But soon, soon – I promise!

Escape from the Farm…

Dad and I snuck off the farm for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon to go on a photo expedition – first to a nearby marina in Brentwood Bay and then to the Institute of Ocean Sciences at Pat Bay. We both took lots of photos and stopped a couple of times for coffee and to warm up (it was one of those grey, damp days that wound up being chillier than you’d expect, especially by the water).

Entrance to the Institute of Ocean Sciences

The Institute of Ocean Sciences is a beautifully designed building thoughtfully sited on a stunning piece of land on Pat Bay. A seismic research centre and home to many ocean-research types, the building and grounds are open to the public.

I was trying very hard to ignore my phone, but the messages kept coming thick and fast – five new sign-ups for our CSA Goody Boxes (yay!), a friend needing to borrow a couple of transport crates for chickens tomorrow, another friend wondering whether we have room in the goat barn to temporarily house a couple of goats for another friend, someone in the prairies calling to see if we can ship fertile Ridley Bronze turkey eggs, and two inquiries about hogs and pork.

Egg vending machines could be a handy way around the fact our farm is located on a dead end road with virtually no drive bay traffic…

At the second coffee stop managed to do some research on the feasibility of selling eggs through vending machines, coordinate a work session to finish up the last edits on the new book, and schedule a meeting with another farmer possibly looking to collaborate on a couple of projects for which I do not have space… Gads. My attempt to get away for a couple of hours was a bit ridiculous!

The coffee shop at the Institute of Ocean Sciences - includes a lovely view past arbutus trees over the water...

The coffee shop at the Institute of Ocean Sciences – includes a lovely view past arbutus trees over the water…

Suspended fish in the atrium...

Suspended fish in the atrium…

The marina we visited in Brentwood Bay offered up photo opportunities of a more rustic nature.

This old dinghy has seen better days.

This old dinghy has seen better days.

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Paddle neatly stowed on the deck of an old wooden sailboat

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Classic lines on this graceful sailing dinghy.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes out of Dad’s studio after he has a chance to go through the reference material he gathered today…