Saturday, December 20, 2014

The parade has begun!

 And no, I don’t mean the Santa Claus parade. That took place at least a month ago, back when the messages to ‘Buy, buy, buy!’ went into full swing. Nor do I mean the “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” (one of the songs the choir I’m in performed earlier this month, though not at all the version in the link). This parade is the annual one that takes place here, the parade of the holiday goodies.

The banana breads are full of walnuts and will go as gifts to friends and neighbours. The butter tarts (below) are a Christmas tradition which I still make with the ‘secret recipe’ given to me years ago by Betty from the Soo.

The apricots are more of the special treats that only appear once a year. They’ve been soaking in brandy for quite a few weeks and they retain enough spirits that they probably don’t make for safe driving. Dipping them into chocolate makes them festive. I was glad to be able to make them earlier this week for the first day of Hanukkah

There are still a few more treats that need to be made, but it’s a good feeling that I’ve managed to make a good start. We’ll be able to do some sampling for Solstice. Convenient that it will occur just after 3 in the afternoon here. 

So yes, the holiday preparations are in full swing here. And yum, does the kitchen ever smell scrumptious! 

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Today is the last day in most of our lifetimes when we'll be able to write the date as a consecutive set of numbers. Next time this opportunity comes up is more than 88 years from now, on the second of January, 2103.

Even then, to make it work, zeroes will have to be incorporated: 01-02-03,

It's likely by then no one will even notice the zero, as digitization of everything will have long occurred.

I'm not sure whether I'm disappointed or relieved to discover I'm not the only one who's considered the importance of this date.

A numbers nut I'll admit to being, but I suspect there are worse things to be.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Better late than never?

If I'd been serious about having bulbs in bloom for Christmas Day, I would have got started on this project much sooner. Unfortunately, too many sad things have slowed me down the last little while, the saddest being the death of a very dear friend.

Still, where she was such a skilled gardener (and especially fond of items that were exotic), it seemed important to at least start a few pots of bulbs for forcing even if they might not bloom until the new year.

The ones in the photo are one of the most traditional (and easiest) bulbs for this, paper-white narcissi, and despite how they might resemble a pan of yummy roasted onions, they are definitely not an edible.

I also planted a couple of hyacinths, each in their own Christmas-themed cup. They're so very fragrant when they bloom, they can't help but bring sweet thoughts of springtime.

My wildest experiment (also in a cup) is the Acmopetala Fritallaria. It's supposed to be easy to grow (though that may only apply to outside in the garden or in the Middle East, where they're from). Whatever, it's a species that's got to be easier to grow than to pronounce.

And just to ensure a showy display, I've got an amaryllis with a pretty good start. Those showy trumpeting blossoms are guaranteed to brighten the darkest day or mood.

I'm looking forward to having all these flowers in bloom to help me to celebrate, whether it's Christmas or New Year's or for that matter, Australia Day. Something bright and sweet to remind me of Jane.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Change for the better

Last week when I was up on Burnaby Mountain, the mud was deep enough to nearly go over the tops of my boots. This week things look much different up there.

Nearly all of the protectors/protesters have gone home. Why? Because Kinder Morgan has left.

Thankfully, they’re not all that’s gone. So are the charges against nearly all of those brave souls who were arrested. It seems that KM didn’t set their boundaries correctly, or had some problems reading their GPS devices, so their injunction was completely compromised. If their engineers can't read a GSP, it doesn't exactly bode well for the thought of their running more pipeline, or boring through the mountain. 

But the difference this week isn't just because hardly any people are left in the camp up there. The weather has also played a huge role in the change.

That ankle-deep mud has now frozen into solid earth and been covered with a thin layer of snow. Even with footprints in the snow, the ground appears to be healing from all that human traffic.

The frozen mud makes me think of Kurt Vonnegut’s brilliant book, Cat’s Cradle, in which an experiment to rid battlefields of mud goes terribly wrong.

It’s the book that's raised my hackles over fears about the kind of grand-scale water-poisoning that might occur if the frackers have it wrong when they say their actions won’t see oil or gas leaking into the water table.

At first glance, water and oil and pipelines may not seem to be related. But, just as all of us are related, so are all of those concerns. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Civil Disobedience -- a Civic Responsibility?

Now that more than 100 people have been arrested on Burnaby Mountain, questions are being raised about how many of those arrests may have been illegitimate. The BC Civil Liberties Association has posed this question, basing it on possibly inaccurate boundaries of the area under injunction -- an area Kinder Morgan is challenging in court today. The company is hoping to expand the area that's blockaded and to extend the days they'll be allowed to do their exploratory surgery in the forest.

As far as I'm concerned, all the arrests should be tossed. It seems to me that the protesters (whom I prefer to call protectors) are only performing their duty as citizens, defending an area that's a City of Burnaby park, one that's been deemed a conservation area at that.

The history of civil disobedience is lengthy, and instances of it span the globe. It has made the difference in many situations where injustice needed to be revealed (think, for one, the work of Gandhi).

Here's an article that will remind you of some important examples of civil disobedience in action. I especially love Richard Seymour's (author of the piece) concluding statement about civil disobedience: "It is the way in which progress is made."

Friday, November 21, 2014

Protectors of the Mountain: Standing up for all of us

Yesterday the arrests began on Burnaby Mountain. Kinder Morgan's injunction against the protest by the protectors was enforced by the RCMP, many of whom looked less than enthusiastic about the job they were required to do.

KM's lawsuit against some of the protectors certainly contains some absurdities. Consider this line from the Dark Mountain Manifesto, a document worth reading: "It is hard, today, to imagine that the word of a poet was once feared by a king." Yet, despite the fact that the 'king' is now a corporate 'king' rather than a person, that is exactly what has happened. A poet is amongst those being charged, and his poetry has been offered as evidence against him.

These photos were taken earlier in the week, when the weather was much kinder (that's 'kinder' as in 'gentler' not as in the name of Richard Kinder, the person who established the Kinder Morgan corporate entity), before the injunction was being fully enforced.

Today, even in the rain -- and bearing in mind the ongoing arrests -- people have gathered, this despite the road being blocked and the trek to the site being a steep uphill climb.

Fortunately, the City of Burnaby's mayor and Council are continuing with their own injunction in their ongoing attempts to protect the conservation area on Burnaby Mountain, where surveying and potential drilling are to occur. Machinery arrived on the mountain earlier today. I can only hope there is some way of blocking the kind of devastation that occurred earlier this month at the Blaauw Eco-Forest. When I head up there again next week, I will see for myself.

In the meantime, I can only pay attention to news reports and, I admit it, worty.

I fear that if Burnaby's court action does not result in protecting that city's bylaws (the ones that have been contravened by KM's cutting of trees), the laws of all cities and municipalities in Canada will experience the same fate -- that their bylaws (especially conservation ones) will be meaningless. Can you say (without choking) "pipelines in Stanley Park"?

Friday, November 14, 2014

A black day for green

This is the forest that was saved a couple of years back, in large part through efforts of the Han Shan Project. Since that time, the land was bought from Langley Township and put aside as a site to be protected in perpetuity, a place that would serve as a living laboratory for students from Trinity Western University.

As you step onto the path leading into the forest, you're greeted by a sign offering guidelines for using the preserve. Among these is the note that the path is designated for use by people, that vehicles aren't allowed -- even horses aren't permitted.

Last weekend, on the pretext of the Township needing to build a fence, at least one bulldozer was allowed to break these rules. It cut what's been called a  'swath' through the forest. But its track seems much broader than could have been necessary. It extends for at least a kilometre, and doesn't seem to make any sense in terms of being a fence-line -- I couldn't tell what it might have been protecting -- and from what.

I'm not sure who dropped the ball as far being in charge of stewardship, but someone sure did.Tomorrow is election day for municipalities in B.C. and somehow I suspect that voters in Langley Township have no idea the extent of the havoc that's been wreaked in lands that were supposedly protected. The current mayor, running for re-election, is using the taglines, "responsible leadership." But where, I ask, was the leadership required to look after this eco-forest?

I'm dejected, not only by the destruction I witnessed in the Fort Langley forest, but by today's decision from our provincial Supreme Court granting an injunction to Kinder-Morgan. The ruling means that the protesters -- who've been trying to protect parkland on Burnaby Mountain -- must break camp by Monday afternoon. So much for the right to protest, so much for protecting space that's been decreed as a conservation area.

It's hard to hold out much in the way of optimism, especially where, as if to top things off, the Keystone Pipeline Project passed today.

If you go out to the woods today, you're in for a big surprise. Those words are from a song that once seemed innocuous, The Teddy Bears' Picnic. Although I remember a surprisingly freaky version of that song, nothing could match the horror of the surprise I was in for today when I walked in the woods. If you care to see the short video I took while walking in the forest today, here it is.