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“Look! It’s low tide!” my husband exclaimed joyfully. Since he grew up right beside the ocean on Haida Gwaii, he has a deep love for the ocean—including the tides. (So do I, actually, even though I grew up in the Okanagan drylands!).

Anyway, we of course had to take a walk along Okanagan Lake beach in Penticton (April 15 2021) and take some snapshots of “low tide” on Okanagan Lake. It would have been perfect if there was a salty ocean breeze, and driftwood, and some seaweed and ocean creatures as well; nonetheless, it brought back wonderful oceanside memories. And at least there wasn’t any squee (sand fleas) biting our toes 🙂

It was really amazing to think back over the past few years when we’ve had a lot of flooding on the lakeshore due to the spring freshet. This year, the powers-that-be have been letting out as much excess water as possible through the dam at the south end of the lake so that the lake level will be low enough that hopefully there won’t be so much danger of flooding when the freshet arrives.

Here are a few snapshots of “low tide” … and a few others from previous years of flooding in the same area. Quite the contrast, don’t you think? (And don’t forget … you can see the pics full size if you click on them!)

It seems like forever since I’ve been on a true coastal walk on a remote wild, windy, salty beach. But … if I can’t fulfill that dream, with Covid-19 still hanging on, a fun walk along Skaha Lake beach in Penticton on a breezy late winter day, with my good friend Merle, is a great alternative.

Wild grasses on sand dunes (or at least on stretches of sandy beach),

floats washed up on the beach (even if one is a marker for the swimming area and the other is a tiny fishing float for lake trout),

driftwood (well, okay, trees falled for beach campfires),

a shipwreck (or at least an old wooden boat abandoned on the sand),

and waves on the shoreline.

All these remind me of ocean beaches. Now if only there was the amazing scent of the salty ocean winds, it would be perfect!

Still, lakeshores are beautiful, too. Instead of seeing misty islands off in the distance, there is a misty view—enjoyed by geese and swans—of lovely mountains in the distance.

Branches cut down by beavers have intriguing teeth marks.

Waves may be small, but they still provide amazing reflections and patterns.

Speaking of patterns, check out these old gnarly trees, windblown and hanging onto the sand for dear life, and sheltering tiny creatures in their bark.

And last but not least, an amazing bush with brilliant scarlet flowers (even when other plant life is in the grey depths of winter sleep) … with its branches covered with soft tiny hairs reflecting the sun.

Yes, I would love a walk along a wild coastal beach, but there’s special beauty here, too, in our lovely Okanagan Valley.

The View from Where?

I’ve just returned from a refreshing sun-shiny walk in the neighbourhood. The Penticton Photography club challenge for the coming meeting is “the view from here”, and I was wondering what pictures I could take.

Some were rather obvious–for example, this view across the valley:

Penticton hillsides

But then I recalled back in my UBC (University of British Columbia) days—maybe 1978 or so—I took a course in which we learned to take films with Super 8 cameras, and we also learned different methods of animation. I was living in an old house in Vancouver, built about 1910, and the dark, unfinished basement intrigued me. It reminded me of the stories of the “Borrowers” (by Mary Norton), tiny people who lived under the stairs in an old house in England, and survived by “borrowing” food and useful items which they repurposed into household goods. For example, empty thread stools made excellent seating. So I used platicine to create the characters and filmed them living in the floor rafters of the old house I lived in.

Ever since then, the idea of “the view from here” that small creatures must see has intrigued me. So while I was out and about today, I snapped a variety of photos that I imagined might be views that birds, insects, squirrels, and other small creatures might see. Here are a few of them:

A squirrel contemplating climbing this tree
A cat contemplating climbing to where a bird sits at the tip of this fallen tree
A bird looking for a safe nesting site
An “extreme sports” mountain climbing insect contemplating a pile of snow!
… and, halfway up, wondering if it will ever achieve the summit!

What unusual views have you noticed on your walkabouts?

Snowy Morning at the Beach

I could not resist taking some snapshots of this snowy morning at Okanagan Lake each. The water was so calm that the reflections were amazing and the water was astonishingly clear … and despite the snow and fog, the sun was valiantly peeking through and reflecting off the water. After a week or so of sub-zero (Celcius) temperatures and a couple days of snow, ice stretched out onto the lake, with small open stretches of water along the shoreline and around buoys where waves under the ice have kept them moving just enough to keep the water open. Today is BC’s mid-winter family day holiday, and small family groups were out enjoying the crisp winter air and scenery. But words can’t express how beautiful (and fun!) it is, so I’ll let these photos tell the story!

Winter Beach Patterns

After a surprising early blast of winter back in October, we’ve actually had a mild winter … up until the past week or so, that is! A Polar Vortex has blanketed Canada; in fact, yesterday we actually had sub-zero temperatures (Celcius) in all our provincial and territorial capitals, something that has apparently only happened about 3 times in the past 100 years! Even our mild capital of British Columbia, Victoria, which was already enjoying spring blossoms and spring flowers, was hit by freezing temperatures and residents are trekking through snow this morning.

Here in Penticton, the negative temperatures hit on Monday, February 8, and we haven’t seen the positive numbers on the thermometer since then. This morning, Saturday, February 12, snow is gently falling, though the past days have been mostly dry, just a flake here and there teasing us with the possibility of the white stuff (I love snow; some others maybe not so much, eh?). It’s still pretty early, but as soon as the day lightens up a bit, you can bet I’ll be out doing my Penticton Pedestrian walkabout and enjoying the winter wonderland.

Meanwhile, yesterday a friend, Merle, and I (masked and properly distanced, seeing as we are still in Covid days… can you believe it is nearly a year now since we’ve been under restrictions?) went for a walk along Okanagan Lake beach (temperature -10 with wind chill -17). It was an excellent chance to dig out my thick wool-lined parka from the Northwest Territories (I lived there back in the early eighties) to keep warm and snug as we enjoyed our sunny beach-side adventure. It’s usually only cold enough to wear the coat once or twice each winter here, though in my Inuvik days, a parka was an essential for months on end. Actually, the parka I have now was gifted to me from another friend, Yasmin. The parka I had in Inuvik was stretched all out of shape in the middle of the front section during two of my pregnancies 🙂

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting on this blog for quite some time. First, with the arrival of Covid, I had very little time in those first months to spend time taking photos and blogging, as I had to suddenly switch my busy tutoring business (well, look at that: busy business! Makes sense, right?) to online, a new adventure for me. Then, at the beginning of the summer, I bought a lovely new laptop, which has been wonderful … except that I neglected to make sure I chose one that had a slot for the memory card from my camera. So if I did take pictures, I had to email them to the laptop, then download them and edit. I found it too complicated, other than for the odd picture. And no, I do not have a smart phone. I don’t like people to be able to call me anywhere, anytime; my landline phone has a message machine, so there! My children think I’m determined to continue to live in the age of the hippies … or even the age of the dinosaurs, according to the grandkids. (I also neglected to make sure the new laptop would have a CD/DVD slot. Another pain in the neck, until another friend offered me a plug-in-able player for the laptop).

Anyway, my son Peter gave me a tablet for Christmas 2019, and I could take pictures with it–IF I took it out of its lovely leather cover, since the camera hole in the cover was in the wrong spot. That also was a pain in the neck! Also, I found typing on the tablet was a pain in the fingers with the tiny built-in keyboard. Finally, I got smart and ordered a little foldable keyboard which is what I am using now! Eureka! Such a brilliant idea! (You’re probably thinking by now, quite correctly, that I’m not the brightest star in the sky [well, I was going to say the sharpest knife in the drawer, but then I remembered I should avoid cliches… oh dear, is the “star in the sky” thing a cliche too? Yikes!] when it comes to tech stuff.) (I also use too many parentheses, but that comes from writing this in journaling-style with minimal editing. I love journaling, as my nearly 200 journals attest. But I digress…) (Digression is another bad habit I have!)

Finally, I was watching a Zoom presentation the other day, and being a bit bored, I got a bright idea, and cut a new hole in the leather case for the tablet. Voila! I can now easily take pictures with it! And blog with it, too, thanks to my cute little portable keyboard. Yay!

Anyway, the purpose of this blog post was to share with you the wonderful chilly walkabout yesterday at Okanagan Lake beach, so I better get to it, right? The waves have been piling up ice on the shore of the lake over the past few days, and creating amazing sculptures and patterns, and I just couldn’t resist taking a lot of snapshots. Luckily for you, I have now gone through them and picked out just my favourites … and here they are!

Isn’t nature’s artwork amazing? I have to admit I did get carried away and already posted some of the above snapshots on Facebook and Instagram right away, yesterday. (Did I mention that due to finally figuring out all this tech, I also joined Instagram?) If you saw the pictures on either or both of those sites, I do apologize (a bit) for posting them again. I just can’t help it, though! I am having so much fun with the tablet now 🙂

Well, the sky is lighting up now, and the snow is falling beautifully, so I shall say au revoir for now (I’m practicing my French these days … probably subconsciously dreaming of being able to travel again some day, hopefully soon). A bientot! (I shall have to figure out if I can produce a French language keyboard with this tablet and mini-keyboard…)

Most garden centres and farmers’ markets have been closed for a while this spring, though the garden centres are opening now and farmers are making their seedlings and early veggies available via delivery or pickup orders.

Meanwhile, without access to others’ efforts, I’ve been enjoying gardening the old-fashioned way: planting my own seeds (including ones I’ve saved from past seasons’ crops) and spending more time working on my composting and other soil enrichment. We’ve had some nice warm days, in the high teens and even low-twenties Celsius, but a lot of frosty nights. However, last night the temperature only dropped to 7 C., so I moved my seedlings out of the house and into the mini-greenhouse (which I can bring inside on frosty nights) to harden off.

When I dug the finished compost out of the bottom of the composter the other day, I had to laugh at all the bits of eggshells. Hubby has been sneaking them into the composter, on the theory that they’re good for the soil. Well, they do add calcium, and I’m told they help prevent blossom end rot on tomatoes, peppers, and squash, and discourage slugs and snails. So all good—except he’s been sticking them the composter without crushing them, and consequently my compost looks more like a shell midden than garden soil. Ah well, I remember how well the wild strawberries grew in the sandy beach soil on the shores of Haida Gwaii, soil which was richly mixed with aeons worth of seashells. So maybe this will be a good thing for my garden soil after all.

My mom would have loved to see my little garden, I’m sure. And both my grand-dads, too. I am grateful to have had family who taught me to garden—even if I wasn’t very fond of weeding and digging and canning and such when I was young! My mom passed away on April 23, 2008 (12 years and 2 days ago)–and on that day, in the early morning, the last snowflakes of that late spring floated down—bits of downy, angel-wing feathers, I like to think. And the beginning of an eternal gardening season for her, perhaps, as she joined family gardeners who had gone on before.

Spring has sprung!

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Spring April 3 2020

Another week has passed, and even though we’ve had night-time temperatures as low as -6C, daytime temperatures in the single digits C, April showers, and … yes, even some snow yesterday! … spring is still springing. A week ago I took some plants from indoors to the greenhouse, thinking night-time freezes were finished. Wishful thinking, I’m afraid. Despite that, the plants are doing well–and the temperature in the greenhouse today got up to 30C (check out that thermometer!) though it was only 7C outside. The smell in the greenhouse was lovely … warm, moist soil and fresh new plants. The garden plants are doing well, too–wild strawberries, chives, green onions, rhubarb, and more. Flowers and bushes … and early fruit blossoms … are in bloom around our complex, too!

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Then off for another solitary walk through the neighbourhood oxbows. As usual, I didn’t meet a soul during my trek … at least not humans … but lots of flying creatures (check out the ducks taking off from the pond and the robin looking for worms), beautiful skyscapes (including the man in the moon peering down), and, of course, plants springing forth to welcome the spring!  When I was just about home, a man came out of his house and demanded, in a cranky voice, what I was taking pictures of. “Spring!” I announced joyfully … and a smile broke out on his face. “Yes, it is!” he agreed.

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Is Spring springing? Well, take a look at these photos, and tell me what you think!

The last set of photos I posted were taken March 15–the beginning of Spring Break here in Penticton. Since then we had a lot of beautiful sunny days, clear blue skies, daytime temperatures around 7 or 8 C. and night time as low as -6 C. In the past few days the clouds have moved in … and temperatures have risen as high as 14 C in the daytime and usually – 1 or -2 C at night — except for last night when the temperature only dropped to +3 C! That must mean spring is springing, right? So how does that explain the weather predictions for tonight for heavy snow in all the highway passes (but rain here in the valley)? Oh right, it still is March for a few more days … and you know what they say about March weather: “Comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb” … Hmm… A bit more “lamb” would be nice, don’t you think?

The photos in this slide show have been taken over the past few days, and it does look kind of hopeful that spring is springing 🙂 Check them out 🙂

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It’s been a long while since I’ve walked around my neighbourhood and our Okanagan River Oxbows to snap some Penticton Pedestrian photos. But it’s the beginning of Spring Break, the sun is shining gloriously, it’s warmed up to 3 C (that’s 37 F for you folks south of the border), and despite Covid19 social distancing, it’s still okay to get out and enjoy nature. Lots of snow still up on the hilltops and a forecast of -7 C (19 F) tonight–but still, plenty of signs of spring popping up here and there 🙂