Precipice Cattle Drive 2016

10 driving cowsI could have stayed at the Precipice for the 2016 cattle drive overnight on the Friday, but I love mornings and I elected to go down early on the Saturday.  The Precipice is south of Anahim Lake and a little over 2 hours’ drive.  I left just after sunrise, which is around 5.30 by the clock right now.1 early sunThere were two groups of pelicans on Nimpo Lake.2 pelicansWe’d had two days of cold rain – a few flakes of wet snow at one point – so this morning’s un was very welcome and the light was spectacular.  Drawing closer to the Precipice, the cloud lifted off the mountains revealing settled snow on the higher trees.3 road to precipiceThe above picture shows the logging road: soon I was plunging down the rough, narrow, steep Precipice road.  Fred, one of the residents has a hobby of building stone people.  Over the few years that he has been there, they have bred indiscriminately and multiplied to thousands!4 stone peopleI was in good time for the start of all the activity.  First was saddling up.  (The Precipice is lower and wetter than Kleena Kleene, hence the lusher growth.)5 saddling up

6 saddling up 2

7 saddling up 3The cows were already in a fenced pasture, and they were rounded up.  They were inconsiderate enough to stay in the trees and shade – very difficult to photograph!8 rounding up cowsLee, the rancher, likes to walk in front of the cows and call them up the trail.  He is the man in the dark blue/grey shirt and red suspenders in the middle.  Jade and Ryan, my new neighbours, elected to walk with him.  They have their kids, extra clothes, and lunches on their backs.9 Jade and RyanI stayed behind to photograph the riders.11 ridersI complained to Lee that he should go back to having red cows.  They make much better pictures!10a driving cows 2

12 driving cows 3A few hours later, everyone was home.  The youngest cowboy was introduced to the horses (which his aunties were riding.)13 start em young!Then everyone relaxed….14 neighbours…until it was time to barbecue the steaks.14a barbecueAfterwards, it was music time!  (Lee used to play in a rock band.)15 LeeThe seated musician is Clint.  He needs to read the score all the time; when the wind blew the pages over, the music stopped!16 Clint, Lee and DavidThe sun went down and the fire became our source of light.
18 round the fireNext morning was a pancake breakfast.19 pancake breakfast

20 Lee cookingAs I left the valley, I disturbed a large black bear.  It is the fourth bear I’ve seen this year, but the others ran off too quickly to photograph.21 bearA couple of days later, Fred came by on his way to the Coast.  I had a couple of great stones flanking my road at the edge of my property and Fred hauled rocks up the hill with him and built me a couple of stone people.22 FredThank you Fred!23 My stone person

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Spring Update

1 pondI still can’t get used to the new spring green.  The Chilcotin is never green for long – by August it has usually dried up and turned brown.

Crazy beetles are whizzing about on the pond.1a crazy beetlesMost of the cut-leaf fleabanes around here are rayless: in other words they do not sport the white “petals.”  One bank hosts rayed flowers; they have pinkish undersides and are very pretty.  (No, they are not the introduced garden daisies.)1b pink fleabanes bestIt keeps raining a bit on and off, and we are getting typical thundery lights on the mountains.3 thunderlight middle mt

2 thunderlight w2Some of the showers are bringing hail.4 hailOthers are bringing the snow well down the mountains.  Generally the weather has been somewhat cool.  The rain we are having today (again! – it’s the third decent rain!) is welcome, though, as there is already a “fire of note” within 100 km of us.

The garden is loving it, too, although it is too cool for it to make much progress at the moment.  Most people plant at the end of May but I have got most of my seeds in already.  In the foreground are various kales and collards. They were planted before the drip hoses were placed so here the hoses lie on top of the ground.  In all the rows behind, the hoses are buried.  It remains to be seen how well those will work.5 garden sproutingRight at the top of the above photo is a green strip of the kale that wintered.  It is currently producing more than I can eat.7 kaleThe cold frame in the greenhouse has been providing a daily salad for over a month, now, and the cold frame I planted outside is also doing really well.  Despite assiduous efforts at growing sprouts and microgreens, one can never get enough leafy veg in winter.  (It is a 3 and half hour-drive to the nearest supermarket – often longer in winter.) Having all this abundance, fresh-picked straight into my  mouth, is a gourmet feast!6 salad

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Internet Hill Update

1 full spring internet hillThings have been happening on Internet Hill: here is an update.  (You can just make out the big fir tree at the top – an anomaly in this country of pine and spruce.)

A few days ago, the concrete base was poured. ( The following three ph0tos, were taken by John Kerr.)2 form for baseA couple of days later, despite a rare rain, the frame for the tower went up.3 starting tower

4 tower topNow, when I walk on the dunes, I can see it. (Just to the right of the fir.)5 new towerNext stage will be to put up the solar panels and dishes to relay the signal.


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Down the Bella Coola Hill

6 hill deeperI haven’t been down the Bella Coola Hill since last September on an extremely wet bear-viewing trip.

I left at sunrise, on what promised to be a beautiful day.1 sunrisePast Anahim Lake, the road turns to gravel.  You are not really aware of climbing much, but the deciduous bushes by the road have reverted back into unopened buds.2 heading to hill.Very often at this time of year, the wetlands are still half frozen with slabs of snow lying in shady places, but pretty much all was melted this year.  Those are the volcanic Rainbows in the background.3 rainbowsSoon I reached Heckman Pass (5000′ – it hosts a weather webcam).  Those are the granite Coast Mountains behind.4 hill topAnd down and down I went, putting the van in bottom gear so I did not have to use the brakes and could enjoy the scenery,5 hill middleuntil I reached the bottom.7 Hill bottomMy friends’ place is not far from the bottom of the Bella Coola Hill (still 40 mins’ drive from Bella Coola itself.)  They property is overlooked by Mt Melican,8 Melican bestand Mt Stupendous, this named after an entry in Alexander McKenzie’s journal.  He was the first recorded person to cross the north American continent (beating Lewis and Clarke by a dozen years.)  He canoed as far as the Rockies, and was then guided overland by various first nations people until he came over the Rainbows (known by them as the much prettier: “Painted Mountains”) and saw in front of him “a stupendous mountain,” which can only have been this dramatic wall of rock and ice.8a stupendous

8b young fir and mt

8c Mt Ash(Above is the mountain ash.)

My friends’ place used to be part of a resort, and five small cabins still crouch under the massive coastal trees.9 cabinThe sharp contrast between sun and shade can make photography a little tricky but it can also add a wonderful ambience. The climate is much warmer and wetter down here, and I timed my trip to catch a number of the forest floor flowers for which this area is famous.

Western star flower.
10 star flowerFalse solomon seal11 falso sol sealStar-flowered solomon seal12 star flowered solomon sealHeart-leaved arnica (yellow) and bunchberry.21 arnica and bunchberryBut the main species I had come to see were the orchids.  For some unknown reason, the mountain lady’s slipper grows more prolifically here by a huge margin than anywhere else that I have heard of, even further down the valley.  There are literally thousands of them.13 orchids dapple sun

14 orchid mass

15 orchid close-upAn earlier orchid, the Calypso, is usually prime right now, but on this early, dry spring, it was almost finished.  It likes mossy forest floors.16 calypso habitatI found only two blooming specimens.17 calypsoA third species of orchid was doing very well this year.  It is saprophytic (no green leaves: lives off decaying matter) and likes the habitat beneath the great douglas firs.  It is called the spotted corral root.16a fir bark detail

18 coral roots young and fir best

19 corralroot close-up

20 corralroot close 2The deciduous trees were all fully leafed.  Now the conifers were starting to put out new shoots.

Douglas fir.22 fir shootsWestern hemlock.23 hemlock new shootsMy new neighbours, Jade and Ryan, and the kids, Wren and Herb, came down to the Bella Coola Valley with me, and the next day we took the trail to the petroglyphs.24 pets trailA couple of tiny creeks, one of them dry, are host to skunk cabbage.  The flowers had finished, but their distinctive skunk aroma was still quite powerful.25 skunk cabbageI have seen them so many times, but the Bella Coola petroglyphs are still absolutely fascinating.26 pets bits

28 pets, jade and kids

29 pets Wren

27 pets Ryan and Wren

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Spring Green

FP spring view bestVery often, we get spring green for a week, it happens so fast. But this year, because the weather had reverted to winter, this fabulous colour lasted longer.z spring morning 1

z spring morning 2

z spring morning 3

z spring morning 6The cottonwood catkins have formed their oily seeds.  Bears love these (they are about but I haven’t seen one yet.)18 cottonwoodOne year, near Prince George, friends and I passed an isolated, full-sized cottonwood with mature catkins but no leaves.  In it were 4 bears – a mum and 3 grown cubs.  They looked like big black fruit and wondered around the high, spindly branches with ease.

Pine siskins visited for a day.  These winter in the area, sometimes in great flocks, but they don’t often come to the feeder. pine siskin and sparrow 2I have been busy all week in the garden.  I eat salad every day out of the greenhouse, z greenhouseAnd am starting to get nibbles out of the outdoor cold frames.z garden 2Last year was the first time I attempted a serious garden, and, because I have a limited water supply, bought soaker hoses.  They were put in after the garden was planted and did not cover all the areas.  This year I have laid the hoses in the ground first for the most part – took several days to figure out all the right switches to make the irrigation system run smoothly.  Unknowingly, I had bought two types of hoses whose ends were not compatible so I had a lot of juggling to do. Also, some of the hoses did not work well and all had to be tested.  z garden 1The green bits in the back are kale that wintered.  It is only the third time I have planted it, and it did not winter before.  I was talking to a neighbour (over an hour away and quite a bit lower, wetter, and warmer) who said she had kale that overwintered also – but it was the first time it happened to her, too, and she has gardened there for over 30 years.

We were promised a hot day this morning,pink morningSo I went up onto the dunes again.z spring morning 4

z spring morning 7Jacob’s ladder still blooming everywhere; here it is with the other plants that do well in this shifting environment, the silvery-leaved wormwood, and that constant puzzle the horsetail (which normally prefer damp areas.)z 3 flowersThe river is rising a bitz riverA gaggle of Clarke’s nutcrackers has been hanging about the area all year.zz clarke's nutcrackerDandelions are in full swing,z mega dandelionsAnd the sun sets far enough in the northwest to light the trees along the river.z sunset light


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