Thursday, June 22, 2017

Berry beautiful days

Tuesday was Solstice, so that means ever since that night it's been summer.
As if to help us celebrate, the raspberry canes offered up the first of the year's fruits that day -- two perfectly red raspberries -- ripe and delicious.

Yesterday, the first full day of summer, was also National Aboriginal Day. Again, the berries presented a way to celebrate. We'd gone out to Brae Island Regional Park, a park on the Fraser River that also bounds the lands of the Kwantlen First Nation.It seemed like a great place to celebrate the day and also enjoy the weather. While on our walk there, we found that the salmonberries were ripe, so had to pick a few of those for a snack.

I love the way the berries change colour as they ripen, just the way their namesake does, going from pale orange to a fiercely bright red.

They're a close relative of the cloudberry. In fact, some contend that's just another name for salmonberry. Aboriginal people used to whip the berries into a froth and serve it as a treat -- a kind of 'ice cream'. Name-wise, another close relative of this berry is what they call bake-apple in Newfoundland. Whatever the name, a wild berry fresh off the bush is a treat to be savoured.

As for tomorrow's berries, the morning is time for another round of picking ripe strawberries. And maybe when I get home from the fields, I'll do another round of pruning towards my end-of-summer harvest of the blackberries.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Disappearing tall trees

It's not just me who thinks this is the case. Even the Vancouver Sun has noticed. Their article about Surrey's disappearing canopy actually made the front page.

It's just about impossible to drive anywhere in the city without seeing clear-cutting in action.

Although there's a bylaw intended to protect trees, it doesn't seem to be doing much to protect many of the remaining forested tracts. Saddest of all, when these big trees fall, most of the time they aren't even culled as possible timber to be processed.

The city likes to say 'the future lives here'... If all this destruction if an indication of what the future is going to look like, I don't think it bodes very well.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

What a waste!

On Friday I did my rounds of produce and grocery shopping. The day had started out as cool, but the afternoon had turned surprisingly warm. Sadly, the display of potted lettuces outside the supermarket practically had their tongues (okay, it's a metaphor) hanging out, in want of a drink.

I mentioned how they looked to the person at Customer Service, and was told that the problem had already been reported to the person in the Plants Department. In other words, Customer Service had done what they could.

When I went past the Plants Department, no one was to be found, so I carried on with filling my list, hoping the watering was in process.

Then, when I was ready to check out (always a joy, as there are never enough cashiers), I spotted the woman working at the Plants counter. When I mentioned the lettuces, she said she'd gone out and watered part of the batch, but hadn't been able to do the job properly as she had so many orders that needed filling in her role as the supermarket's florist. And of course, they were all 'rush' jobs. She looked frazzled and practically exhausted, and I understood that she was doing her best.

It's a case of not enough people being hired to do the work that's required.

As I was ready to leave the store, I found the person who was apparently in charge of running the store's front end. When I mentioned the lettuces to him, his unhelpful reply was, "I didn't know we had lettuces out there," and he seemed content to leave it that.

At $13.99 a basket, the pots of lettuce (three rows of about ten each) represented over $400 of food that was going to waste. And if the attitude of the person 'in charge' was any indication, it was $400 that didn't even matter. But I can't help thinking, the money that store is 'saving' by not hiring enough workers to look after things properly is money that's going to waste and not being 'saved' at all.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

On achieving equality

There's a chilling line in a Kurt Vonnegut story about a future I don't believe any of us want to see come true. "The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal."

It's from a story called 'Harrison Bergeron' in Welcome to the Monkey House. While the idea of equality is a noble one, the way it's achieved in Vonnegut's vision is anything but noble. To achieve 'equality' among everyone, anyone with a beautiful face must wear a hideous mask; anyone with above-average intelligence must wear earphones that continuously blast cacophonous sounds to prevent them from thinking clearly. It's a society with a level playing field, but it's one where the bar has been lowered to the bottom rung.

On the weekend, I attended the On Words Conference of The Writers Union of Canada, a group to which I belong. The overriding theme of the weekend was the issue of equity.

Carmen Rodriguez offered a metaphor of explanation, one that made it clearer than any I'd heard before. She told us to picture three people standing behind a fence, outside a soccer match.. One of the persons is quite tall, one is of medium height and one is very short. The tall one can see a bit of the game, the mid-sized one can reach for the occasional glimpse, but the short one is out of luck. In other words, they're not being given equal opportunity to see the game.

Then someone comes over to the fence with three little stools for them to stand on. Now, the tall one has a good view; the medium person gets a better look than before, but the short one still can't see over the fence. Resolution for the problem? For the tall person, the short stool provides a solution, allowing them to see the game. For the middle-sized person, a stool that's a bit bigger will make all the difference. As for the short person, they will need a very tall stool to look over the fence comfortably to participate in watching the game. Equity. Aha! A chance for all to be equal.

At our family supper on Sunday night, I told Carmen's story and reactions around the table were mixed. One son thought each person should get the same advantage -- that they should all get a tall stool right at the start. Even though the tall person didn't need a tall vantage point, this way would be 'fair' to all with no one person needing more 'propping up' than the other. Interesting.

And then came the suggestion to simply take down the fence.

I'm still not sure how best to handle the question: How do we provide equality to everyone? About the best metaphor I can offer for now is the image of the curving fence above. Maybe each of us needs to find our own place along it.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The future looks green

It sounds official. The Green Party, with its three elected members of the BC Legislature, have decided to join forces with the New Democrats. This changes everything -- it's history in action.

Any number of items will at least be revisited -- the plan for the extension of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the Massey bridge extravaganza, and most of all, the Site C project.

And at last we should be in line for electoral reform. Plenty to celebrate!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

New found (land) taste treats

When we were in Newfoundland, we didn't only chase icebergs. We also did our best to track down some of their specialty foods -- treats we knew we wouldn't find here.

The one in the photo above is called Jiggs dinner. Not really so different from what I might call 'boiled dinner', it's the kind of meal that fills the house with steamy scents on a wintry afternoon. Comfort food at its most basic. The only variations from what I might cook at home would be the meat itself (corned beef seems a little different from the 'salt beef' they use there) and the peas pudding wasn't a thing I'd had before -- it was good though. Kind of like thick pea soup, very tasty.

One of the best restaurants we found was Chafe's Landing in Petty Harbour (I learned the place got its name from the early French settlers -- 'petite' harbour -- which later, with the arrival of the Irish, became Petty).

We shared a pulled-moose sandwich and a mini-basket of clam strips. I was charmed, not only by the little basket they were served in, but by the bank of supplies on our table --
more than one kind of vinegar, pepper and salt, and (they must know other messy eaters besides me) an entire roll of paper towels!

As for our 'best-value' meal, that would have to have been our fresh lobster feast. We found the local Sobey's supermarket, picked two lobsters from the tank, and got the deli to steam them for us. With paper plates, along with newspaper spread on the table, it was even easy to do the clean-up. And oh, so delicious, complete with melted garlic butter.
One Newfoundland detail we won't be able to repeat (unless maybe we go back there at the right time of year) was a very special evening cocktail -- whisky over iceberg ice we'd picked from a beach along the East Coast Trail.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

On a rock on the Rock

Newfoundland is as far east as we can go while still being in Canada -- quite a trek from our home on the west coast. The rock I'm standing on is along the East Coast Trail, where we took a mini-hike yesterday.

This trip here is to promote the new Amelia book, but it's also an opportunity to explore. Besides, the people are friendly, and the sights are magnificent. We've even managed to find a few icebergs!

But now, onward!