I enjoy pretty much everything there is that has to do with the outdoors. Some of my most peaceful moments have been while walking through the forest, sitting on a beach, or boating (minus the loud engine). Accordingly I have a great respect for nature and enjoy learning about the plants and wildlife therein. My plan is to continue that learning process and hopefully enhance it by sharing what I learn. I intend for this blog to serve many purposes, but in the immediate future it will be a place for me, and hopefully others, to share ideas about reducing our individual impact on this planet, protecting wild spaces, and in general just to comment on the things we enjoy most in the great outdoors. I welcome all opinions as otherwise you cannot consider every aspect of a subject. However, I would ask that every opinion be expressed in a respectful way and considered with an open mind. Often there is no single right answer. Thanks.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Camping at Little Qualicum Falls and NIWRA

Last Saturday, with our Honda Ridgeline stuffed to the brim, we headed out for some camping.  After a brief trip to the mainland we came back to Vancouver Island and made our way to Little Qualicum Falls for four nights of camping.  Fortunately someone flicked the summer switch and we had no rain and mostly clear skies for all four nights.

Little Qualicum Falls is a provincial campground located between Parksville and Port Alberni.  We arrived late afternoon and got settled in amidst complaints from my daughter who wanted to find the first available swimming hole and jump in.  During our stay we went to Port Alberni for supplies, went to Coombs for some ice cream and a browse, spent about 4 or 5 hours at Cameron Lake (c-c-cold!), did a couple of walks around the provincial park, rode our bikes through the campsite, and went for a brief swim in the river as it was technically still closed to swimming due to the high water level.  I also was happy to hear the call of a barred owl during one night's sleep.  If you want to listen check out the territorial call on this page.  Apparently the owl had a lot to say as it woke me up and I listened to it for quite some time before I fell back asleep only to hear it again at a farther distance some time later.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pacific Mobile Depots - Another of My Favourites!

If you are familiar with Pacific Mobile Depots you will know that they accept a large variety of recyclable items that are not picked up curbside.  In a previous post I mentioned that our family sets aside soft plastic, foil, and styrofoam in large bags in our garage for recycling at their roving depots.  On the second and fourth Saturdays of each month there are several depot locations around Victoria to choose from.  Unfortunately we were slack in getting to the depots and by the end of June the full bags were taking up a ridiculous amount of real estate in the garage. 

When you throw away your foil, soft plastic, and styrofoam every day I do not think you can fully appreciate how much these items can accumulate over time.  Since we had ours stocked up for so long I figured I would share a visual with you.  The picture below shows my truck full of about 7 months worth of soft plastic, foil, and styrofoam.  My truck has a trunk so you will notice that not only is the bed of the truck full, but also the trunk is stuffed.

 Most of what you see above is soft plastic.  I think I only had one large bag of foil and a couple of bags of meat trays and other styrofoam.  The cardboard box is full of styrofoam peanuts.  My mom and I trucked it over to the depot at Reynolds Secondary and I paid $35.00 to leave it there.  Some people will argue that we should not have to pay to recycle.  I would not disagree.  However, I am not going to wait for a bunch of bureaucrats to sort it all out while I send truckloads of recyclable material to the landfill.  Perhaps they will figure it out - eventually.  In the meantime, if the facilities exist, recycle your waste and if you feel that strongly about not paying to recycle then send a letter to your government representative and express your opinion.

For a complete list of acceptable materials, how they need to be sorted, their rates, etc please check out the Pacific Mobile Depots website.  For those that are curious I will pass along some information about where the materials go after the depot in an upcoming post.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Viaduct Flats - Red Dragonfly

After I took part in the Viaduct Flats restoration walk back in February my intention was to take my kids for a walk there sometime in the near future.  Apparently the near future means approximately four months.  I think summer has finally arrived in Victoria and since we are no longer bogged down with school and extra curricular activities I finally got around to taking the kids to the Viaduct Flats today.  It took some coercing, as all they wanted to do was hang around the house, but I persuaded them that I would be a much happier mother if we could get out for a walk somewhere.

I was so happy to finally get them into the truck that I held off on the sunscreen until we got to the parking lot.  Once we are there we might as well walk, right?  In their usual fashion they were chomping at the bit to get started and happy to skip/run once we got going.  Our first stop was up onto the observation platform where there is a scope for looking out over the water.  Unlike the last time I was there you could not see the platform from the parking lot and the grass has grown so tall that in some places it is taller than me.  After everyone had a chance to take a look at the various waterfowl and had watched a bird in hot pursuit of a dragonfly we were off to the trail head.

The trail is quite wide and covered with crushed gravel for most of the way.  A little bit of minor up and down but otherwise an easy walk.  We turned off the main trail and headed down the Birder's Loop, which was quite narrow due to the spring growth.  I think it makes for more of an adventure though when you have the grasses and other plants reaching out and brushing you as you pass.  I do not let myself get bothered by the occasional cool, wet feeling of the spit bug foam on my legs.  The path meanders a bit and we skipped a couple of turn offs.  I was trying to head in approximately the same direction as my walk in February and was successful for the most part.  When we got to the open area, where the land slopes down towards the water, the path that I had previously taken was not as clear and so rather than trample the grass we stuck to a path that went the long way around.  I am glad we did.

We saw many dragonflies of varying size flying overhead and as we were just about to head back into the trees we had a rare treat.  I have never seen a red dragonfly before and must admit that it made my day to see this one.  Please excuse the quality of the pictures as I am not a professional photographer by any means, and I was using my blackberry as a camera.  I was sure that the dragonfly was going to take off any second and so I took about 5 pictures as I got closer and closer.  As you can see it let me (and my son) get very near before it flew away.  Naturally I was much more excited about this dragonfly sighting than my kids, but they patiently stood there with me while I attempted to get a good shot.

I poked around on google this evening to satisfy my curiosity about this red fellow and came across an E-Fauna Atlas page that has a much better picture and, of course the name, which is the Cardinal Meadowhawk.  From this page you can also link to the BC Species and Ecosystem Explorer which gives you conservation information.  Here I learned that the Cardinal Meadowhawk is on the yellow list.  This means that it is "apparently secure and not at risk of extinction".  Given all of the depressing information that you frequently read about endangered species I was pleased to hear of the Cardinal Meadowhawk's yellow status.  I also learned that the adults are not strong fliers and perch often, thus the great photo opportunity.

I hope to overcome my kids' protests and get out for little nature walks quite regularly.  The negotiations and occasional complaints of "are we almost back to the truck?", or "I'm hot" are totally worth it if I get a chance to come across some new plants and animals.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A couple of recent reads...

As I mentioned in my first post one of my main goals in writing this blog is to learn more about ecology, sustainability and any number of environmental topics.  To that end I have read a number of articles while writing posts, come across many interesting websites ("my favourites" is getting harder to navigate), and have been borrowing books related to nature and sustainability.  At this point I have more possible topics to write about than the time to write them.  I suppose that is a better position to be in than the alternative - that being gobs of time and no ideas. 

The following two books are a couple of my recent reads.  The picture of the book below each paragraph is a link to Amazon if you are interested in checking them out further.

Nature's Secret Messages by Elaine Wilkes was an interesting read.  There was much more to the book than I initially thought there would be.  The comparisons between how a food looks and what impact it has on the health of your body were fascinating.  I loved all of the quotes that were incorporated throughout the book such as "Don't ask yourself what the world needs.  Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman, or "Nature does nothing uselessly." - Aristotle.  She touches on many topics including relaxation, connection with nature, the importance of non processed foods for our health and that of the planet, and finishes off with an appendix full of ways that you can help the planet.  My only complaint would be the frequent use of puns throughout the book, but that certainly does not diminish the value of the information contained within.

The book I am reading right now is called A Year on the Wild Side by Briony Penn.  It is a collection of essays sorted into months of the year depending on the time of year the topic pertains to.  I am currently reading the essays related to October and so far I have enjoyed the book very much.  Her writing makes me smile because it is not stuffy or boring in the least.  I get the impression that the author is someone who is still in touch with her inner child, who sees and appreciates everything that nature has to offer, and, the best part, does not give a damn if anyone thinks that is weird.  My son and my dad spent some time together on the couch looking at all of the illustrations, which are drawn by the author.  It is a mini natural history lesson pertaining to the plants and animals found in the area around the Salish Sea.  It is a great read for anyone who either lives in, or is interested in, this part of Vancouver Island.  I have become even more aware of how each living thing, no matter small, is an important part of a balanced ecosystem.

My interests are still very broad and I do not foresee them becoming simplified anytime soon.  If anything I keep finding more topics that pique my interest.  I have a book called Farm Sanctuary by Gene Baur which I plan to read as soon as I am finished A Year on the Wild Side.  I was hesitant to take it off the book shelf because I enjoy eating meat.  Once you educate yourself about a topic you cannot exactly remain blissfully ignorant and continue with your same habits.  I hope that more people pick up books about sustainability and the health of our planet and come away with the same feeling.  What are we waiting for?

PS: Happy Canada Day!