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.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Surprising Lack of Recycling

We recently returned from a two week road trip to California and back.  The main point was to take our kids down to Disneyland and San Diego for their first time.  Long story short we had a great time.

Prior to leaving I was starting to get a bit frustrated with recycling.  I will be the first to admit that it is a pain in the ass to rinse and sort items that go into kitchen bins, which start to overflow, so then you use your counter temporarily until you finally get it out to the garage where there is more bins and bags for sorting. The compost that does not get taken out as regularly as it should creates a lovely haven for fruit flies and fuzzy mould.  I found myself wishing for a magical, guilt free dumpster into which I could throw everything in my house that I did not want, whether it be metal, plastic, glass, electronic, or wooden in variety.

Once we left Victoria I got half of what I wished for.  Everything went into the garbage, but it was not magical or guilt free.  Over the course of our trip we stayed in Port Angeles, Roseburg, Modesto, Anaheim, San Diego, Monterey and Cottage Grove.  Out of seven hotels only one, in Monterey, had a recycling bin in the room.

The first day or two were no big deal as we did not have much in the way of garbage.  However, we soon started buying snacks at the grocery store resulting in plastic veggie trays and fruit containers, cardboard boxes from granola bars and crackers, plastic cutlery, water bottles, etc.  Add to that shoe boxes and shopping bags and, as you can imagine, it piled up quickly.  The other area that produced an obscene amount of waste was the complimentary breakfasts offered by some of the hotels.  At the first couple of breakfasts my kids would ask me, "Where does this go?", referring to the plastic cutlery, paper or styrofoam plates, plastic cups, toast crusts and napkins.  At our house every one of those items would be composted or recycled.  In every hotel that had a complimentary breakfast all of those things went into the garbage.  I assure you that the garbage bags filled up very quickly.

The only places that I noticed recycling of any kind, other than the hotel in Monterey, were the amusement parks and beaches.  Disneyland, California Adventure, Sea World, San Diego Zoo & Safari Park, and the beaches on Coronado Island and at Torrey Pines State Park at least had recycling for drink containers.  At the two hotels where we spent the bulk of our trip I started folding paper and cardboard and leaving little stacks next to the garbage can along with drink containers hoping that there was a recycling program that I was not aware of.

I will point out that most of the hotels we stayed in were not totally devoid of earth friendly initiatives.  Most had the standard sign near the bathroom about limiting the amounts of water and detergent used by re-using your towels and, if staying multiple nights, not washing the sheets every day.  Certainly an important measure for a State that is not known for its rainfall.  A couple of them used bio-degradable packaging for their mini-shampoos and soap.  But compared to a couple of the hotels I have stayed at in British Columbia it was disappointing.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Residents in the Swallow Box

Last year we built and installed three swallow boxes around our house.  By we I mean mostly my husband, but we were all involved to a certain degree.  I think we put them up a little late in the season and did not attract any inhabitants.  This year a pair of swallows built a nest in the box decorated by my son.

 My father-in-law told us several cautionary tales of his trial and error with getting his swallow boxes just right.  If the hole is too big then it is too easy for predators to perch and stick their heads in, or climb in and use it for themselves.  If the box is too shallow, and they can get their heads in, they can reach the eggs or young ones.  A year or two ago there were some people who had a table set up at one of the Swan Lake Native Plant Sales.  I got my template for building the boxes from them.

Here is a link to their website How to Attract Violet Green Swallows, which shows how to make the oval hole - a key feature to keep out the house sparrow.  I have been watching the odd sparrow sitting on the garage roof checking out our swallow box.  So far, so good and I think the babies will be ready to leave soon.  Check out the page link that says Violet Green Swallows for some extra tips.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Nature Walk in Mt. Doug

Since we got our dog about a year ago I have spent a lot of time walking through Mt. Doug park.  Occasionally I will walk up to the top, but quite often I walk around the bottom and, up until today, I thought I had done a fairly thorough job of exploring the trails.  I had a basic map in my head and, while I had not been down every trail, I deceived myself in thinking that there was not much more to see.  For whatever reason I let my dog lead the way down a trail I had not taken before.  I figured (incorrectly) that it would soon curve back towards the trail we take most often and my approximately 1 hour walk turned into 2 hours.  Luckily I had nowhere to be and I enjoyed the scenic detour.

The trail we walked down widened out, was finished with gravel and also had a couple of the nice board walk style bridges over swampy patches.  As I rounded one corner I noticed that the sword ferns in the area were splattered with copious amounts of bird droppings and a couple of stray feathers.  I am guessing that it is under either a favourite bird hang out, or perhaps a nest.  I looked up hoping to catch a glimpse of the underside of a nest, but could not see anything.  Luckily I did not get crapped on either.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My first entries to a photo contest...

I have had my camera, a Canon EOS Rebel T3, for over a year now and have been taking pictures galore.  I have hundreds of photos on my computer and have only managed to post a select few on my blog.  Many of the pictures I post are not even from my Canon.  I still take many pictures with my Blackberry as it fits in my pocket or bag so much easier and I always have it with me.  The Canon is a little more difficult to wield while I am trying to hold my dog.

After some encouragement from my husband I spent some time today searching for photo contests.  I have officially entered my first one.  You can check them out at the following link: National Wildlife Federation - Andrea's pictures  There are several landscapes and bird pictures.  Definitely two of my favourites subjects, native plants being a third.  The deadline for entries is July 15 and I have room for several more.  Now if I can only remember out how to crop and zoom in on some of the pictures I have.  I am sure I learned it a couple of weeks ago in a late night computer session with GIMP but obviously it did not stick.

Here are several of my other favourites that I have not posted yet.

Peacock at Beacon Hill Park. Mother's Day 2013

Peacock at Beacon Hill Park. Mother's Day 2013.

Lake Cowichan, BC.  February 16, 2013

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Still Disgusted with Politics

Ugh!  Cheesy ads abound, attempting to stir up emotion for or against one party or another.  As usual these ads are lacking in any information that could be considered useful.  Heaven forbid a political party use these expensive time slots to tell us something that it will do.  About two years ago, just before the federal election, I wrote a blog post "Canadian Politics and Voting..." in which I went on (or off) about my opinion of politics in general.  I will attempt not to repeat myself, but I do feel exasperated every time another election rolls around.  I am happy to report that since my blog post I lived up to my promise and I voted in the last municipal election.  I even took the time to attend an all candidates meeting while my husband stayed home with our kids.  I dutifully took a notebook, recorded the candidates positions on a variety of issues, and brought them home for discussion.  Unfortunately my attempts to become engaged do not cancel out the cynical feeling I get every time an election campaign begins.

According to an article from 1999 on CBC News, entitled Record Low Voter Turnout in BC Election, voter turnout in the last provincial election was a sad 50%.  I am not sure why I stubbornly drag myself to the polls when I am just as disheartened by the political arena as a majority of the population.  I cannot shake the nagging feeling that every politician who asks for my vote is full of lies and deceit.  Or, if they actually have morals to begin with, they are quickly corrupted by special interest groups, provided with incomplete/inaccurate information by staff with their own agenda, or, controlled by their own party.  Is it really a democracy when you are not able to vote according to the interests of your constituents?  Candidates stand there and say that they will represent us in Victoria, or in Ottawa, and then self-preservation instincts take over as soon their ass hits the seat in the legislature.  But hey, most people do not pay attention anyway.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Battle of the Clothesline

I started this post many months ago and was inspired to finish when I looked out the window at my clothesline shivering in the winter wind, and dripping water from the accompanying rain.  I am dreaming of warmer weather and determined to renew my outdoor drying efforts when the time comes.  There's only one minor problem.

Does anyone else have a restricted list for their clothesline?  I do, or rather, my husband does.  Four years ago we had a clothesline at our previous home and I loved it. My husband? Not so much. When we moved into our current home (without a clothesline) it was one of the features, or lack thereof, that we joked about. I would miss it and my husband certainly would not. So we were clothesline-free despite my preference for skipping the dryer when possible.  In late spring I decided I wanted a clothesline again and I think my husband had a memory lapse.  We can probably credit our new puppy, Ryder, on both accounts.

Ryder was welcomed into our home at the end of May. An extremely cute, laundry producing machine. Towels for mopping up pee, towels for drying off muddy feet, towels for drying off wet fur, towels for wiping up muddy footprints, and so on. I was putting through several extra loads of laundry and drying all of these rag towels in the dryer when I could have easily dried them on a line if only I had one. So in July I went to a local hardware store and picked up one of the clothesline trees which my husband begrudgingly helped me set up. He did most of the hole digging, with a little help from me, and our dog, poured the concrete into the hole and set the plastic sleeve for holding the centre pole. He is a great sport overall and, perhaps, was a little sleep deprived (Thank you Ryder).  After the concrete had set I was good to go.

I ambitiously started hanging everything to dry.  I quickly got the following feedback: My underwear is crispy, the towels feel like sandpaper, my T-shirts are chafing my skin.  I have to admit that my complaints department is rather unsympathetic and reponses to client criticism included "Man up!", among other things.  However, repeated attempts to shame my husband into allowing the continued, unbridled line drying were unsuccessful.  I suppose I should consider myself lucky that he agreed to install it in the first place.  We found a middle ground, sort of, and I relented slightly.

Consequently restricted items were thrown into the dryer but then left there for a day, or two, or three while I waited for an amount of clothing that would warrant turning the dryer on.  I doubt this is what my husband had in mind.  Fortunately nothing grew mold and by the end of summer I had line dried enough clothing that I learned a couple of things.  First, line drying is more easily done when you do not have to work during the day.  Second, a certain amount of crispiness can be avoided if you pull the laundry off the line before it is completely sun-baked.  By implementing the latter I did manage to sneak a few restricted items onto the line and avoid detection. 

I am looking forward to the warm days of summer for many reasons.  Bringing the clothesline back to life is one of them.  I can already imagine the fresh smell of clean sheets, dried on the line.  So sorry dear husband...well, not really.