Tag Archives: Vancouver Island

More Juggling (But Not With Fish)

September is shaping up to be a crazy month!  (Lucky I’m crazy enough to deal with it.)  I’m still picking piles of fruit and veggies from the garden, and we’re busily socking it away to enjoy throughout the winter.  The considerable overflow goes to our friends and neighbours as well as the Food Bank.

We might have been just a teeny bit over-enthusiastic when we were planting the garden, but… look at all this glorious food!

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

A single picking of tomatoes. (I pick a couple of times a week.)

 

Ten gallons of chopped carrots all ready for the freezer.

 

50 pints of pickles, 22 pints of jam, 7 pints of salsa, 28 pints of beans (another 20 pounds frozen), 24 pints of tomatoes and lots to go, and still a bit of space left for the rest of the beets and tomatoes and pickled hot peppers. YUM!

 

But our autumn isn’t only about food.  The flowers are still gorgeous, too, and the bees and other wildlife are hard at work stocking their own pantries:

This little black bear has been feasting on the wild cherries only a few hundred feet from our house. Don’t be fooled by his casual pose — he’s actually about 30 feet up a tree. (He’s a little blurry because Hubby took this shot using a LONG zoom — we have a healthy respect even for small bears!)

 

This little guy has been hard at work snipping off pine cones and stashing them away.

 

I’m not sure whether it was my camera or the tiny white spider (near the centre of the flower) that chased this bee off the zinnia. Either way, he’s buzzing off.

 

The snapdragons are still putting on a show.

 

One of our newest rhododendrons, Medusa, is a bit confused as to whether it’s spring or fall, but she’s beautiful anyway!

 

We’ll have a couple more rounds of houseguests this month, so maintaining my writing schedule for Book 15 will be a juggling act.  (Fortunately not with fish.)  To salvage some time I’ll dial back my blogging schedule to every second week for the month of September, so my next post will be September 18.

How’s your September shaping up?  Are you harvesting any goodies from your garden?

Book 15 update:  I’m bombing along on Chapter 4!  Hellhound would normally be voted “Most Likely To Get Arrested While On Vacation”, but Aydan’s the one who’s ended up in handcuffs…

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A Fishy Tale

I seem to end up looking like a doofus in public more often than most people. I prefer to think it’s sheer coincidence, and nothing to do with me personally.  (Denial:  Not just a river in Egypt.)  Last month it was my disintegrating shoes.  This week I entertained the crowd by juggling a dead fish at the pumps of a PetroCanada gas station.

It could only happen to me:

We had driven down to Victoria, and on the way back we stopped for gas. As I was fuelling up, Hubby’s uncle drove in beside me. That was an unlikely coincidence, since neither of us lives close to that PetroCanada station.  Also coincidentally, he was returning from a fishing trip.

“Hey, I’ve got a fish for you,” said he. “Do you want it now?”

Ordinarily I would have declined, since I have no way of carrying a gutted and beheaded fish home in my car without causing grievous harm to upholstery and equanimity.  But (another coincidence) I had taken a load of vegetables down to inflict on share with our friends, so I had a large empty cooler with ice packs.  I also happened to have a plastic bag, so I could put the fish in the bag and tuck it tidily into the cooler. Easy-peasy, right?

Not even close.

Hubby’s uncle was on his way to the ferry and I didn’t want to delay him, so I hustled his catch-bag over to where Hubby had helpfully opened our cooler.  I grabbed my plastic bag with one hand.  I grabbed the salmon with the other.

You’d think that very little could go wrong in the few inches between fish and bag; but you’d be oh-so-sadly mistaken. Freshly dead salmon are slippery. I had grabbed it just above the tail, and (being fish-shaped and all) it tapered considerably at that point.

That fish shot out of my grip like it was jet-propelled.

I made a panicked grab for it, which accomplished nothing except to add a tumble to its trajectory. Fish-slime flew in all directions, splattering my shirt, face, and sunglasses.  The fish did a belly-flop into our cooler, where it spitefully rubbed its dead self all over the ice packs and the inside of the cooler.

And there I stood in the middle of the PetroCanada station:  be-slimed and befuddled, with the empty plastic bag dangling impotently from my hand.

Then came a short ridiculous scene in which I juggled the frictionless fish a couple more times before finally cramming it into the bag.  (Don’t ask me why putting the fish in the bag still seemed important, since the cooler and ice packs were already thoroughly slimed.  By then I wasn’t thinking straight due to a severe case of the giggles.)

I scuttled into the station to wash my hands and clean my sunglasses, then hurried back to the car and drove away without looking around to see how many people had witnessed the debacle.  I didn’t hear anybody laughing; but I wasn’t listening too closely, either.

I did manage to get the salmon filleted and into our freezer without further mishap, and soon we’ll eat the evidence.

But I might not go back to that gas station for a while…

Book 15 update:  I’m back in action after last week’s hiatus, and looking forward to a good writing week!

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Down The Rabbit Hole

Last week I mentioned that in addition to my shoe breakdown, my deodorant had also failed. That got me thinking about sweat and its associated etiquette. (Sweatiquette?)

I lived most of my adult life in Calgary, where it’s so dry that your sweat glands have to work overtime just to keep you from shriveling into a desiccated mummy. Perspiration was never a problem there.

But it’s humid here on the West Coast, and now I get clammy clothes and a sticky sheen on my skin just from strolling down the sidewalk.  So here’s my dilemma:

When you a meet a friend you’d normally hug, is it more awkward to say, “Don’t hug me, I’m gross and sweaty”; or to go for the hug and subject them to full sweatitude with a bonus whiff of gamey armpits? (And why don’t I have friends anymore?)

When I consulted the internet (about sweatiquette, not my social problems), I was confronted by an ad demanding, “Are you a heavy sweater?”

I blinked away the mental image of a bulky cable-knit pullover.  Nope, last time checked I was still a regular-weight human.

And down the rabbit hole I went.

‘Sweater’. It’s kind of an icky word when you think about it. I mean, I guess it’s descriptive enough:  When you’re cold, you want something that might induce sweat; so you put on a ‘sweater’.  But, ew.

Our friends in the U.K. more politely call them ‘jumpers’; but even though there’s a lower ick-factor, the word makes no sense at all. What does jumping have to do with a garment you pull over your head?

Although I guess it makes as much sense as our North American ‘jumper’: A sleeveless, collarless dress worn over a T-shirt.  (As opposed to a ‘jumpsuit’, the one-piece coverall worn by skydivers who jump out of perfectly serviceable airplanes at high altitude. At least the terminology is logical even if the sanity is questionable.)

And that reminds me of a joke:  “Parachute for sale.  Used once.  Small stain.”

Which brings me full-circle to sweat and other bodily emissions:  If anybody ever forced me to skydive, I guarantee the stain would be a large one and the parachute wouldn’t be salable afterward.  The person who coerced me probably wouldn’t be in great shape, either.

And that’s the bottom of this week’s rabbit hole.  (Should I mention that a rabbit is also a ‘jumper’?)

Happy landings to all!

Book 15 update:  The first words are on the page, woohoo!  I’m thrilled to be writing again — I’ve missed Aydan and the gang. 🙂

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Bird-Brains, My Butt

I love living out in the country where the air is a tapestry of birdsong and our little feathered friends forage busily in our gardens.  We have everything from the drab but melodic Hermit Thrush to the brilliant Western Tanager; the giant and crazily prehistoric-looking Pileated Woodpecker to the tiny Anna’s Hummingbird.  But unlike my blogging buddy Elephant’s Child, I don’t have any beautiful bird photos to show you.

And that’s my beef, right there:  No photo ops.  In fact, half the time I can’t even get to the binoculars.

I’d comfort myself with the knowledge that they’re wild birds so they never stay in one place for long; but that’s not actually true.  They’re not flitting around, alert to the slightest threat.  No; they’re flaunting themselves within full view of my windows, sitting there only a few yards away and preening.  Even the hummingbirds perch for minutes at a time.

But no matter whether they’ve just landed or they’ve been snoozing there for five minutes, the instant I head for the binoculars, the birds fly away.

One might argue that they’re getting spooked when they see my movement through the window.  I’d like to believe that… but I don’t. I can walk over and stand inches away from glass watching them, and they never ruffle a feather.

But just let me reach for the binoculars that live permanently in the corner of the living room, and the birds zip away, never to reappear until I’m at least ten paces away from the optics.

Reaching for the camera is even more futile.  That doesn’t even require any movement on my part — all I have to do is think about the camera and the birds take off.

So not only can they tell the difference between me casually crossing the room on my own errand, and me crossing the room to pick up the binoculars; but they can also read my mind.

Bird-brains, my butt.  Those little suckers are smart, and probably telepathic.  I just hope they don’t decide to organize and attack like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

But if there’s no blog post next week, you’ll know what happened.

*

P.S. Speaking of bird-brains:  Last night I had a great time presenting Write Your Book At Last at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre.  But… at the end of my talk, I forgot to ask if anyone was interested in more in-depth workshops.  I’ve posted topic outlines on my Workshops page, but I won’t set dates unless there’s some interest.  Please drop me an email if there’s a workshop you’d like to attend.  Thanks!

Exciting news:  The audiobook for Book 2, The Spy Is Cast is now in production!  Its tentative release date is in October, and the rest of the series is scheduled to follow it into audio format ASAP.

And… I’m starting Book 15 this week!  Hooray!  🙂

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Ass-Biting And Embarrassment

I’d like to point out that the title refers to only the metaphorical biting of asses, not the literal sinking of teeth into tushes.

I’d like to point that out; but the embarrassing truth is that bum-biting was a ‘thing’ when I went to university.  For some reason, both the biters and the bitees found the whole exercise hilarious.

It was actually harder than you might think. (It was also more difficult.)  Back in the old days, the average university-student butt cheeks were young and firm; and tight jeans were in style then.  It was tough to sink your teeth into the subject without said teeth slipping off and snapping together hard enough to rattle the remnants of brain bobbing around in a beer-infused cranium.

I had forgotten about the bum-biting fad until this week, when I commented on Jono’s blog and he reminded me that gloating invariably comes around to bite you in the ass.

How right he was.

Only a few short weeks ago, I posted photos of my flowers all happily pretending it was spring.  I tried not to gloat over our warm and beautiful weather, but a tiny gloat (would that be ‘gloatlet’?) just might have slipped through.

I should have bent over and assumed the position right then and there.

Yep, my gloatlet just jumped up and bit me in the ass.  It didn’t have to jump very high, since it was standing on the 18″ of snow we’ve gotten.  And there’s more in the forecast.

Vancouver Island has basically shut down – schools and a lot of businesses have been closed since Monday, and we’ve hunkered down to wait it out since snowplows are few and far between here.  The temperature is hovering around freezing and our power has stayed on (miracle of miracles) so the snow is really only an inconvenience; but it’s also a bit embarrassing after my overly-optimistic ‘It’s Spring!’ post.

But that’s okay.  It’s still not as embarrassing as admitting that I might (or might not; I’m just sayin’) have bitten one or more person(s) on the buttock(s) in the far-distant past.  That was long before cell phones with cameras, so there’s no actual evidence and I may or may not deny the whole thing.

But I can’t deny this:

That’s a full-size 4×4 slowly vanishing in the snow.

 

Flower garden? What flower garden?

The snow is beautiful and it probably won’t stay long (I hope), but that’s okay — go ahead and laugh.  I set myself up for it, after all.

Just remember the dangers of gloating, and don’t forget to cover your ass.  😉

Book 14 update:  It’s lean and mean and 11,000 words lighter after the latest round of edits!  I had to sacrifice a few good scenes, but they’re safely tucked into my files for future use.  And we have a title:  “Friends In Spy Places”.  Stay tuned for a cover reveal!

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Blow Me Down!

I’ve always thought ‘blow me down’ was only an expression, but it almost turned out to be literal.  The relaxing holiday I’d envisioned didn’t quite work out that way.  Instead, on December 20 we got pounded with a vicious windstorm with gusts up to 140 km/hr, followed by five days without power.

We were incredibly lucky to have very little property damage and no personal injury; but the forest around our house looks as though it’s been bombed.  Giant trees were completely uprooted leaving gaping craters in the ground, and many of the ones whose roots held ended up snapping.

These were hundred-foot-tall trees, yanked up by their roots. (The big crater in the foreground is a pond – the wind didn’t do that!)

 

The forest looks like shattered toothpicks.

This used to be solid forest but the wind cleared it just like a tunnel, and our house was right in its path. Some of the trees that went down were nearly three feet in diameter. We were SO lucky our house wasn’t damaged!

Two big trees somehow ended up on the ground under our front porch roof without damaging anything on their way down; and our utility trailer blew across the yard and wedged itself halfway under our deck, miraculously without causing any damage there, either.  Other people weren’t so lucky.

Usually a storm like that is relatively short-lived, but this went on for hours.  We were afraid our big front windows would shatter under the force of the wind, but somehow they held.  At one point I heard a crash from outside and cracked the door open to see what had happened, but the wind was so strong it took all my strength to push the door shut again (and I’m no 98-pound weakling).

The wind ripped through every tiny aperture, making drifts of the drywall dust that had been under the bottom plates of the walls during construction.

Some news sources are calling it the worst storm on record for Vancouver Island; others say the worst in ten years.  I’m hoping it was the all-time worst, because I don’t want to experience another one that bad!  I grew up on the prairies with a constant threat of tornadoes, and I’m a total chickenshit when it comes to wind.  Let’s just say I was NOT happy during this storm.

Fortunately we’d planned for power outages when we built the house, and we ran our generator enough to keep ourselves warm and our freezers cold.  BC Hydro did a heroic job of restoring power to the 700,000 customers who were blacked out, although some spent more than a week without power.  When I saw the snarled-up mess of wires down our road, I was truly impressed that they’d been able to get it working again as quickly as they did.

So I dunno; I’m beginning to think Vancouver Island doesn’t want us here.  First it tried to freeze us out with record-breaking snow and cold in our first winter, and now it’s tried to blow us away with record-breaking wind.  I’m just hoping it doesn’t attempt to shake us off with a giant earthquake next.

But at least we had a good test of our emergency preparations, and we’ll be doing some tweaking to make sure we’re ready (as much as we can be) for the next crisis.

Meanwhile, our island home is returning to its usual tranquility and we’re feeling thankful for our good fortune.  It’s a nice way to start a new year:  Healthy, happy, and grateful.

Happy New Year, everybody – wishing you all the best in 2019!

Book 14 update:  My writing schedule got disrupted by the storm and power outage, but I still managed to make it to Chapter 42.  The end is in sight!

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Solving The Wrong Problem

I’m a problem-solver by nature — as soon as I’m confronted by an issue, my brain immediately rounds up the metaphorical troops and puts all available energy into finding a solution.  Often this leads to creative solutions or hare-brained inventions, but occasionally I zoom  right past the main issue and solve the wrong problem entirely.

Take this weekend, for example:

We had been invited out to a birthday party, where (as usual) I ate far too much and then topped off my excesses with a couple of delicious beers.

Showing superhuman restraint (if I do say so myself) I managed to behave like a polite adult the whole entire time we were in public.  (Mark a big star on the calendar for Saturday November 24, 2018:  “Diane acted like an adult ALL DAY today!”)

Well, okay, not all day; but most of the day…

Happy and relaxed in the car with Hubby on the way home, I let out a resounding belch and said, “’Scuse me.”

Hubby reacted not at all, neither to the original gross breach of etiquette nor to my subsequent lip service to politeness.

After a couple of beats of silence I turned to him and said, “I guess after belching loudly enough to register on the Richter scale, excusing myself is probably solving the wrong problem, isn’t it?”

He smiled and shrugged.

Thus encouraged, I finished,  “…so next time I won’t bother excusing myself.”

And Hubby just laughed.  (Have I mentioned lately how much I love him?)

And on another note:  Here are some photos that have made me happy lately.  They may not solve any problems, but maybe they’ll make you smile, too.  (Click the photos to see larger versions.)

It’s hard to believe, but one of our azaleas is still blooming! This is “Bloom-a-thon Lavender”, still putting out flowers at the end of November.

The heather is already in bloom, and the pansies haven’t stopped since I put them in last spring.

The last few leaves of the weigela perch like bright butterflies on the tips of the twigs.

We took a trip out to Ucluelet (on the west coast of Vancouver Island) a couple of weeks ago, on a gorgeous calm sunny day.

Even on a calm day, the ocean never rests. This is the Amphitrite lighthouse in Ucluelet. (The person in the middle isn’t actually close to the waves crashing on the rocks – it’s just that the waves are that big.)

It wouldn’t be the West Coast without some gorgeous greens!

Ahhhhh…

May all your problems be easily solved!

Book 14 update:  Despite a busy week, I made it almost to the end of Chapter 34.  All the threads are coming together now!

 

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Evil Seagull Lady

The other day I was down at the ocean (and I’m still thrilled that I can get there in fifteen minutes).  This is my favourite time of year to go to the beach – the days are crisp and the tourists are gone, so it’s only me and the waves and the seagulls.

And the Seagull Lady.

An elderly woman drove up and parked as I was walking down to the water’s edge, but I didn’t pay much attention – I was focused on getting to my favourite sandbar while the sun was turning the waves blue and silver.  I made a beeline for my special spot and stood there smiling, tuning out everything but the gentle hush of the waves and the cries of the seagulls.

Except… there seemed to be more seagull cries than usual.  And they weren’t the normal squawks that seagulls emit while they’re casually flying overhead deciding whether to shit on you.  These were more urgent squeals that were easy to translate:  “Feed me!  Feed me!  Feed me!”

I glanced over to see the Seagull Lady seated on a big driftwood log holding a bread bag and surrounded by gulls.  She tossed handful after handful of bread to the greedy crew, who gobbled it up and screamed for more.

I had several thoughts in quick succession:

  1. “Aw, that nice little old lady must love gulls.  That would make a great photo, with her sitting on that big log backlit by the sun and surrounded by birds.”
  2. “Jeez, I’m glad that’s not my house right next to the parking lot.  Now I know why there are always dozens of squawking gulls and a river of birdshit on their roof.  I bet the homeowners would love to smack that nice little old lady.”
  3. “I wonder if that nice little old lady knows that bread is unhealthy for gulls and she’s not really doing them any favours?”

That’s when my brain took a hard left (as it frequently does) and kickstarted my urge to create stories of mayhem and betrayal.

My next thought was this:

“What if that little old lady actually hates gulls?  What if she’s purposely feeding them bread in the full knowledge that it will make them malnourished and less able to fend for themselves?  OMG, what if that little old lady is actually a twisted psychopath who intentionally inflicts suffering on all living things?  That would make an awesome storyline!”

…And that’s what it’s like to live inside my head.

So the next time you see a woman at the beach gazing across the waves and smiling, don’t assume she’s all zen-and-happy-meditation.  She might be devising evil plots…

*

P.S. I’m travelling, so I’ll catch up with comments later in the day.  “Talk” to you then!  🙂

Book 14 update:  I hit the 50% mark this week, hooray!  This is where the plot gets complicated…

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Keep Calm And Carry On

You know how you get organized at the beginning of each week so you can sail through the upcoming days happy and relaxed because everything is under control?

I hope I’m not the only one laughing helplessly right now.

What’s even funnier is that sometimes I actually delude myself into thinking I truly do have everything under control.  That’s when Fate lets out a derisive laugh and upends my plans with unexpected detours, unavoidable delays, and unmet expectations.

I just try to keep calm and carry on. (And sometimes I lie awake stewing for hours in the middle of the night because everybody knows that helps…)

Anyhow, it’s been one of those weeks.  Nothing bad has happened; but every time I’ve tried to get my shit together, it’s ended up hitting the fan.  So since putting together a coherent post is beyond my ability at the moment, here are the highlights of my week in pictures:

Remember how several months ago I was chuckling about the eccentricities of the locals when I saw a woman leading a goat across the Canadian Tire parking lot?  Well, that’s not the only oddball animal on the loose around here.  Last week I was driving through the middle of nowhere when I saw this:

Two peacocks, just hanging out in the middle of the woods. Go figure.

I’m used to seeing deer by the dozens around here, but peacocks were a new sight for me.  And speaking of deer, these cuties were taking their ease right in the middle of town:

Mom and babies weren’t worried even when I walked up about fifteen feet away.

The rest of Canada is already getting snow (yes, Calgary, I’m looking at you with heartfelt sympathy for yesterday’s sixteen inches – blech!), so we’re starting to feel the pressure to get some last-minute gardening done around here.  I’m making slow progress on our landscaping:

Only a few more tons of rock to move. To give you a sense of scale, the post at the far right is almost 5′ tall.

But around here autumn is just starting, and with gorgeous colours like these, I might reconsider my vendetta against the fall season.  Almost.  Kinda.  Maybe…

This golden gorgeousness is a katsura tree, which smells deliciously (and unbelievably) like caramel in the autumn. The beautiful bark behind it is a giant Douglas fir.

How was your week?

Book 14 update:  I managed to squeak into Chapter 20 this week despite the craziness.  Fingers crossed for a more productive upcoming week…

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Butt Of A Soak… Erm, ‘Joke’

Sometimes the mo(i)st unwelcome surprises in life sneak up from behind.

In arid Calgary where we used to live, rain is infrequent and everything dries fast afterward, so it’s difficult to inadvertently sit on something that will drench your drawers.  But here on Vancouver Island, it rains more, it rains longer, and everything stays wet even though it looks dry.

So when we moved out here, I adjusted my habits accordingly:  I always check outdoor surfaces before sitting down.  But (and it’s a wet butt) the West Coast has sneaky ways to soak my skivvies despite my precautions.

F’rinstance, there’s the rogue wave that caught me unawares while I was crouched in the shallows checking out the contents of a tide pool.  One minute I’m warm and dry and utterly absorbed in watching the little aquatic critters; and the next minute I get butt-slapped by icy ocean water.  (And immediately after that, I squelched rapidly back to my car hoping nobody would notice that I’d apparently peed my pants.)

But I learned that lesson fast; and after nearly two years out here, I was starting to feel pretty complacent about my ability to identify situations that might dampen my derrière.

That mossy log that feels dry to the touch?  Nope.  It’s dry on the surface, but moss holds water like a sponge.  It’s just waiting to humidify my haunches.

That chair placed welcomingly on the deck in the early-morning sunshine?  Nope again.  It’s covered by a thick but virtually invisible layer of dew.

So the other day I found a plastic Adirondack chair out in the sun on a fine afternoon.  It hadn’t rained for a day, but I swiped my hand across the seat just to be certain.  Dry.

I sank into the chair, stretching out my legs and admiring the sweeping mountain view over a vivid green golf course.  Birds sang and fluffy clouds drifted by in the blue sky.  Ahhhh.  Heaven.

I eased back to take advantage of the perfect reclining angle and discovered (butt-first, of course) that plastic Adirondack chairs retain a pool of rainwater in a deep groove right where the back meets the seat.  In this case, my seat.

So there I was, on my way to a birthday party in jeans with a big and highly-visible wet spot on the ass.  With, of course, no time to go home and change.

So the Wet Coast won again; but now I’ve figured out all its tricks – my butt won’t be its joke again!

(I hope…)

Book 14 update:  I made it to the middle of Chapter 19 this week against all odds (it was a very busy week).  Hoping for some quality writing time this week!

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