Categories
Canada Covid Projects Garden Life during Covid 19 Organic Food Vancouver Island

Raised Bed Veggie Garden for Newbies!

In our province of British Columbia, Canada we currently have over 70% of all people having received at least one dose of Covid vaccine and our freedom to interact is increasing steadily!

Pipers Lagoon during recent heat wave in Nanaimo

The 15 months of lockdowns and Covid 19 safety restrictions in British Columbia were indeed challenging, but necessary. Like many others, we utilized this period of lockdown to reflect and enhance our sustainability independence.

As fresh produce was increasingly difficult to obtain, and we were avoiding shopping line ups whenever possible, we decided to join so many others who were establishing vegetable gardens. Until now, our gardens were the flower and shrub variety. Priorities were changing…

Flowers and shrubs around our yard on Vancouver Island

Initially, we researched by watching youtube videos, contacting experienced gardeners, reading about most successful plants to produce in our growing zone area, and talking to experts at local garden stores. Then we observed the areas of our yard which produced the most direct sun for varying periods of time each day and season.

Location selected… Mark and Sophia measure the area

My husband measured the selected location while Sophia (our rescue cat) observed. We decided to use 3 raised beds for this initial garden creation. After establishing level bases, the support beams were placed. Next the 3 beds were framed and built.

My husband created these beautiful beds mainly utilizing using recycled materials from previous projects.

Mark designed the raised boxes and built them mainly utilizing recycled materials. I learned about companion plants and the most successful vegetables to use for newbies first attempts at growing vegetables.

Gogo Family Business in Nanaimo

Next stop, was Gogo’s sawmill to purchase some local rough edge cedar planks to beautify the exterior of the beds. The Gogo family has been involved in local logging for a few generations.

Local Gogo Sawmill

The office displays amazing photos of old growth timber from past eras. Sadly, the number of these majestic trees still standing has dwindled substantially.

Historical photos of old growth trees and logging practices –many moons ago!

Green Thumb, our local nursery, sells local organic mixed soil.

Getting the right combination of soil

We needed to consider drainage and mixes of soils. This project was more complicated than we anticipated!

Wahoo! Beautiful raised beds completed and ready for planting!

Once the raised beds were lined and completed on the outside, then we commenced the process of mixing all the soil types and compost together and carefully planting the seeds being cognizant of companion planting.

Companion planting in each bed was carefully considered. Waiting….

Everything seemed to make perfect sense. But, there was much learning yet to come. The water irrigation system was set up. The trellis for the peas was up. Patiently we awaited the signs of growth.

Sophia plays with fawns in our front yard

Meanwhile, Sophia played with the neighborhood fawns. My husband and I constantly appreciate the diversity of beautiful flowers popping up around the yard.

Then finally, our vegetable garden started to establish itself. Selecting fresh vegetables and herbs as you create your meals each day really is inspiring and so gratifyingly.

Loving the fresh produce each day

From this experience we learned to deeply appreciate local organic farmer market producers as we battled slugs, earwigs, cabbage worms, mildew, overcrowding, and wilting from excessive heat. There truly is a lot of thought and effort involved in producing fresh produce.

Our learning curve was steep last year, but this year we have returned with more optimism and ideas. The tomato plants are separated in their own caged pots on the sundeck.

Our veggie garden July 7th 2021

We have given up on iceberg lettuce (earwigs love it) and Gai Lan (cabbage worms love it). Planting occurred a month earlier than last year (early May) with extra radishes in place. We also added raspberries and strawberries this year in addition to all of our fruit trees.

Produce from last season! The cherries are nearly ripe right now and the radishes are delicious this year!

Each morning there is such satisfaction checking the garden’s progress. We wait with inspired anticipation to see what bounty we are offered this season.

Keep smiling! Upcoming blog posts reflect hiking, kayaking, and outdoor exploration on Vancouver Island.

Categories
Adventure Canada Exploring Outdoors Exploring Vancouver Island Hiking trails Nature Seaside trails

Seaside Trails. Jack Point/ Biggs Park in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island.

Vancouver Island located off the western coast of British Columbia, Canada is a delight to explore. Today’s blog post shares another gorgeous seaside trail around Nanaimo. In keeping with the emphasis on nature and outdoors, I have added some cheery flowering plants found during June around Nanaimo as an extra bonus in this post.

Jack Point Trail in June

The B.C. Ferries arrive multiple times every day from Vancouver area to dock at one of 3 major terminals on Vancouver Island. The major terminals are Swartz Bay (Victoria), or Departure Bay, or Duke Point (both in the Nanaimo area).

Today’s seaside hiking trail runs along one side of Duke Point. Biggs Point is the name of the 32 acre park which leads to Jack Point. Jack Point is a 5.1 km seaside trail. The elevation gain is only 65 m and the first section along the river is wheelchair accessible.

Scientists were busy studying ocean samples

The trail is quite easy and used for walking, light hiking, and trail running year round. Keep your eyes open for interesting art and sculptures.

Jack Point Trail

Beautiful views of Nanaimo River estuary, downtown Nanaimo, Protection Island, and Gabriola Island can be observed from the trail. Freighters, sailboats, and pleasure craft are common sights.

Nanaimo River estuary

During our previous two hikes at this location, there were over a dozen Great Blue Herons feeding in the initial estuary area in addition to a variety of birds: ducks, shorebirds, cormorants, songbirds, eagles. In spite of all the birdlife, there are still quite a few insects in sections, so arrive prepared.

As you approach Jack Point you will discover wooden stairs and boardwalks over the bluffs. The rock erosion is quite interesting and the bluffs provide wildlife viewing opportunities.

Jack Point… This is where the Humpback whales were active

Bald eagles, sea-lions, seals, and harbour porpoises like to frequent this area. Humpback whales were even sighted breeching in this area recently!

After reaching the Jack Point lookout area (look for the marker in the ocean), you return by retracing your route along the trail through the beautiful trees and along the edge of the ocean which eventually turns into the estuary trail. Watch for the Great Blue Herons feeding at the rock bluffs and in the estuary.

Beautiful Nanaimo seaside trail at Jack Point

Bonus….As promised, here is a collage of a few of the diverse and beautiful flowers you could see while exploring the Nanaimo area on Vancouver Island during June.

A selection of a few flowers found in June in Nanaimo.

Keep positive my friends…The world is carefully returning to the new “normal”. My next blog posts will be sharing more outdoor exploration around Vancouver Island.

Categories
Animals Canada Cats Pets Rescue kitten Sophia

Sophia (Rescue Kitten) turns 1. Flashbacks.

Presenting Sophia–our Rescue Kitten from Port McNeill area on northern Vancouver Island.

Photos posted of Sophia which won my heart.

After speaking with the family who had located Sophia, her mother, and her sisters and brothers; we drove the 350 km distance north west up island to adopt this little waif. The kittens had been rescued from the woods of rural Port McNeill, where sadly they had been dumped!

Reflecting back now, we really knew such a minimal amount about Sophia’s background and the initial weeks after her birth. Sophia won my heart immediately and I wanted to protect her! We named her after Sofia (Sophia) Loren. This tiny kitten was so attractive and had markings similar to eye liner near her eyes reminding me of this beautiful Italian actress who wore a trademark of ample eye liner.

Travel was challenging because Sophia was very anxious and meowed pitifully. Once we arrived at her new home she explored, burrowed under things and eventually fell asleep.

Sophia shortly after we adopted her. Aged approximately 2 months.

The first few months were a transition for Sophia and us! We saw several different vets as Sophia had quite severe PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from her short life experiences prior to us. We sure wished we had more information to assist her transition and help her feel less anxious.

Sophia’s first few months!

Sophia was prescribed daily anti anxiety medication as well as using a Feliway Diffuser to assist keeping her more calm. Sophia was extremely dependent on me and would get very fearful if I departed from her sight.

Sophia during the first few months

Luckily, I had recently retired so I could focus my attention on Sophia’s emotional development. She was slowly expanding her circle of adults she trusted, but was still angrily scratching and meowing to escape outdoors. More vet consultations determined that Sophia was NOT intended to be solely an indoor cat. She was spayed early at 4 months, with the goal that by 4 1/2 months she could be introduced to the outdoors.

Her first taste of freedom was sweet!

Sophia’s first introduction to the outdoor world

I was worried that Sophia might run away, but she did not! She raced around the yard in ecstasy leaping, smelling, racing up trees, and experiencing her new freedom!

From 4 1/2 months of age, Sophia officially became an indoor/outdoor cat. During rainy, windy weather she tends to stay indoors more. During late Spring, Summer, and early Autumn, Sophia spends more time outdoors. We reside in an area with lots of forest, and our immediate neighbors love Sophia!

Sophia likes to be around us and “help”. October

Sophia checks in with us multiple times a day and usually comes when she is called. Initially she was fearful of other cats and animals, but her curiosity generally wins out. Sophia loves to watch Mark work and is always very curious and helpful!

Sophia is super curious and loves to “help” Mark.

She is also learning to trust more people and her affectionate side is developing. Sophia clearly trusts and adores my son Alexander.

Sophia and Alexander have a special bond.

Sophia’s curiosity is endless and her antics keep us entertained ! After 6-7 months of age her anxiety started reducing and we were able to slowly withdraw all medical supports. She continues to be fearful of more than about 5-6 people at a time, loud noises, and unknown or unfamiliar things. We love her and she is definitely a much loved member of our household. Even her excessive scratching is ever so slowly decreasing!

Sophia and Mark watching the snow…

Sophia was truly fascinated by snow and had a fabulous time tunneling and high stepping through it on our deck and in the yard. But she was also quick to run back inside to get warm and dry!

Sophia’s first snow encounter!

This video highlights the second half of Sophia’s first year with us!

Sophia aged 6 months to 1 year!

Happy 1st Birthday Sophia! You have come a long, long way baby!

The next blog posts will focus on hiking and kayaking adventures around mid Vancouver Island. Stay safe and keep smiling my friends.

Categories
Adventure Canada Exploring Outdoors Exploring Vancouver Island Pacific Ocean Seashore Travel

Beach Exploration around Northern Vancouver Island

One of the many advantages of living on beautiful Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada, is its endless and diverse selection of beaches. Vancouver Island is the largest island on the West Coast of North America stretching about 460 km long and 50-120 km in width. The Pacific Ocean surrounds us creating endless sandy and rocky beaches. Some are famous and well known internationally–Rathrevor Beach and Long Beach (Pacific Rim National Park).

Evening at Rathtrevor Beach

However, there are a multitude of other stunning, less known beaches if you are ready to explore our Island. This blog post will present a few other beach options at Port Hardy and Campbell River at Northern Vancouver Island.

Commencing in my home town of Port Hardy located on the northern end of Vancouver Island.

If you plan to depart on B.C. Ferries heading north to Bella Bella (and area) or Prince Rupert you will be departing from the Port Hardy Bear Cove terminal. There is also a small airport. Port Hardy is the gateway to outdoor adventures: like kayaking, scuba diving, God’s Pocket Marine Provincial Park, fishing, whale watching, exploring First Nations culture, exploring the beaches, caving, or hiking to Cape Scott or the North Coast trail.

There is much to see and explore in Port Hardy and the small communities on the northern tip of Vancouver Island. This informative website is packed with ideas and nature information. https://www.visitporthardy.com/

If you prefer sandy beaches; kayaking around the nearby islands; and possibly seeing sea mammals (Seals, Sea lions, Pacific white sided Dolphins, Dall’s Porpoise, Humpback whales, or Orca whales then Storey’s Beach is an amazing place to experience.

Photo Credit to my friend, Dana Rufus, for these lovely photos of Storey’s Beach.

Storey’s Beach and the Tex Lyon trail hike are also favorite locations for north island locals.

Mid tide…During low tide the sand extends far out into the bay.

If you prefer Rocky shorelines abundant with fascinating sea life and beautiful views of mountains and down town activities, then the Port Hardy sea walk and beacon area is where you should explore.

Exploring Hardy rocky beach area… May

There is an abundance of sea life around Port Hardy … from Moon Snail collars (egg casings), rock weed and tidal pools, chitons, shells, and whelk snail eggs. These are only a few of the fascinating things you could discover.

Check the tide schedules… this was a low tide in May.

If you are lucky enough to discover a zero low tide, don’t miss the opportunity to explore! We discovered ghost shrimp, shells, barnacles, crabs, sea stars, sea anemones, whelks, limpets, and so much more.

Moon snail collars and moon snails, sea cucumbers, sea stars. Photos by Dana Rufus.

If you are ambitious and hit the lowest tides of the year… you can cross from the sand spit over to the beacon. We just missed the opportunity this year, as the tide was not quite low enough and we could not quite pass from the spit to the beacon. The ocean water was over our boot level.

The sea life species are incredible at the beacon. These photos were taken by my friend Dana Rufus who managed to hit the lowest tide and cross to the beacon for a limited time. Thanks Dana

Sea life at the beacon in Port Hardy. Photos by Dana Rufus.

Bat stars, bull kelp, sea squirts, crabs, sea anemones… even gumboot chitons can be discovered there! For decades I took my students across to the beacon on the zero tide each year. It truly is a remarkable experience!

One last look view of some of the scenic areas around my home town Port Hardy, as tomorrow we head southeast down Vancouver island.

Beach views around Port Hardy, BC in May

Taking highway 19 down island from Port Hardy to Campbell River takes about 2 1/2 hours (230 km). The trip can be quite challenging in rainy, foggy winter weather; but glorious and majestic otherwise.

Fuel up prior to departure as there are only fuel stations in Port McNeill, Woss, and Sayward during the trip. Watch for nature and wild animals–particularly in May–as bears are often more visible eating fresh grass.

Highway 19 between Port McNeill and Sayward

Campbell River is a lovely community with great fishing, and lots of beautiful walking trails. Instead of heading south on the inland highway, try the old highway which follows the ocean.

To get acquainted with some of the tourist options available in Campbell River, check out the informative website. https://www.campbellriver.travel/

We love stopping at Foggdukkers Coffee stop on the Campbell River Seawalk at Simms Creek. It is a favorite location for locals and a funky fun place to take a break and enjoy some great coffee!

Foggdukkers Coffee Stop at Campbell River

Another favorite location in Campbell River, is the Baikie Island Nature Preserve and Campbell River Estuary. It is a beautiful location to walk or kayak and peacefully while enjoying the sounds and antics of ducks and birdlife. Float planes land periodically and Tyee boat history is displayed. Seals and even the odd beaver can be viewed here too.

Campbell River Estuary in the evening —May

There are so many pristine beaches and wilderness options to explore on Vancouver Island. In this blog post I shared a few less travelled locations which truly are stunning.

My next blog posts will cover Sophia’s 1st year (our rescue kitten), and more gorgeous areas for nature walks/hikes/kayaking adventures around Vancouver Island.

Our province of British Columbia just moved into Stage 2 of B.C.’s Restart Plan after Covid. The future looks so optimistic!

Categories
Adventure Canada Cats Exploring Outdoors Exploring Vancouver Island Nature Pacific Ocean Vancouver Island

Beaches, Blossoms, Being with Family

Despite Covid health regulations and restrictions enforcing citizens to remain in their health regions of British Columbia, Canada; the beauty of Spring blossoms, sunshine, and diverse nature opportunities from hiking to beach walking around beautiful Vancouver Island brought daily smiles and optimism.

Vibrant May blossoms around our home

Our neighborhood is surrounded by an abundance of huge evergreen trees particularly Cedar and Douglas Fir interspersed with Arbutus and a smattering of other varieties including: Spruce, Pine, and Dogwood. The trees vary in height, but many stand 60–120 feet tall! Bird songs and calls are constant entertainment and wild deer and rabbits visit regularly.

We adore nature and embrace the beauty and sounds around us. But…As the trees increase in stature, our views decrease. So…When we hear chainsaws and see Tree Falling companies arriving to remove an unsafe tree, the people in the neighborhood come out to witness the event!

Removal of an unsafe tree in our neighbors yard.

Even the neighborhood deer family came to check out the event!

A doe arrived to check out the action!

Spring fever and sunny days gave me incentive to stain the fence in the backyard! As our new roof and gutters are slate/granite colored, I decided to stain the back corner fence to match. As always, Sophia assisted and was by my side to encourage me.

From natural to stained. The phases of staining the corner back fence!

When the sun is shining, our choice is to spend as much time as possible outdoors during lockdown. When the weather shifts to rainy, gusty days…this time is a gift for working indoors organizing, sorting photos and revisiting memorabilia. May I present 3 generations of Alex? My beloved dad, Alex, passed away in 2007. As a globetrotter, he reminisced of his trips and informed me that when in Scotland he was called “Sandy”. My only son, Alexander, also follows the name tradition.

The importance of family!

More rainy days brought more blogging and reminiscing. Many years ago….my son and I won a zodiac whale watching adventure out of Tofino. It was stormy and a bit rough travelling by zodiac. We got totally drenched! The highlights were Humpbacks and Grey whales sleeping and some sea lions playing in the surf.

Memories from the past…Zodiac Whale Watching in Tofino. Playing guitars in PG.

It was fun…but we are spoiled coming from northern Vancouver Island where Orca pods, Seals, Sea Lions, Pacific white sided Dolphins, Dall’s Porpoise, and Humpback whales roam on a regular basis.

Dedicated to my family….Here is a short video showing some flashbacks from the 1950’s onward.

Family flashbacks!

Birds are plentiful around our home, but the Juncos are particularly bold and don’t seem to mind the rainy days.

“Wet” coast birds in the rain. Especially Juncos.

In mid May 2020, during lockdown, my 87 year old mom (in excruciating pain) was transported by ambulance from her home to the hospital in isolated Port Hardy. Although I was not permitted to be with her due to Covid lockdown, it was discovered that she was passing several large kidney stones!

After several days, they transferred mom via ambulance from Port Hardy to the Campbell River Hospital 230 km south for further tests and to see a specialist. It was on the parking lot outside the hospital that we were finally permitted to see one another. This was a very emotional and stressful reality of Covid lockdown. In spite of mom’s suffering and fear, it is evident by her smile that having family support means the world.

Mom at the hospital in Campbell River

I was not permitted to see my mom for hours after I first arrived north in Campbell River from Nanaimo 155 km south. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day and I walked along the Campbell River shoreline trying to gather a more peaceful, calm perspective.

Campbell River shoreline

After the hospital allowed a quick outdoor visit with mom, I was sent away again and asked to remain in the Campbell River area. The Campbell River Estuary is a favorite location of ours to go for an easy walk, or kayak paddle around the estuary and into the ocean.

Campbell River Estuary…Crazy cloud formations!

The weather was changing as storm cloud formations and lighting portrayed stunning art in the sky.

Seals playing despite the storm.

The seals entertained between float plane landings while I waited for an update from the hospital. The sunset at the Estuary was sublime.

Geese, Seals, and Kayaks exploring the Campbell River Estuary during the storm!

At 7:30 p.m. I received a call that mom (dressed in her pajamas and robe) was being discharged from the hospital. The ambulance was gone and there were no buses north to Port Hardy until the following day! That meant that my 87 year old physically challenged mom was released on her own, without support, 230 km from her home during Covid lockdown!

Thankfully, I was able to pick mom up and drive her back to her home in Port Hardy. Keep in mind, this was a 230 km road trip, during the dark of night, through lengthy sections of isolation without any (or extremely limited) cell coverage, little possibility of any gas stations open en route, no medical support if the kidney stones flared again, my mom is 87 years old–and it is Covid lockdown! Mom was quite stressed and I was not impressed that this could truly be a plausible option!???

Mom and I back home in Port Hardy.

It was a stressful 230 km trip during the dark of night and we were incredibly grateful to arrive safely in Port Hardy. Mom is now a huge advocate of drinking lots of water and taking apple cider pills! We are both Kidney Stones’ survivors and do not wish this pain on anybody!!

The next blog post will explore the nature and beautiful beaches around Port Hardy, heading south down Vancouver Island through Campbell River, and around Parksville and Nanaimo.

Sophia turns 1 year old!

In addition on May 28th our beautiful rescue kitten, Sophia, will turn 1 year old! Keep Optimistic and Safe. The world is opening up again soon…

Categories
Beavers Canada Canadian Animals Cats Elk Kayaking Nature Vancouver Island

Beavers, Bears, Beautiful British Columbia!

This blog post is a collage of life events and activities, and Canadian Flora and Fauna, during April (Springtime). From kayaking and wildlife (Beavers, Bears, Elk) to Spring flowers and blossoms on our beautiful Vancouver Island. To round it out, there are a few antics from our 11 month old kitten Sophia and a few Covid Sanity Strategies.

2 week quarantine time for my husband after returning home from working in Ontario.

April 2020 commenced with my husband quarantined in our cabana and the backyard for the first 2 weeks. He had flown home to Nanaimo, B.C. from Toronto, Ontario. It was a peculiar life experience to be physically separated and distanced during the quarantine juration and wear masks and gloves while I delivered and removed food, etc. But….We were successful and healthy, and now have new stories to share about Covid Adaptations.

Meanwhile, Sophia (our 11 month old rescue kitten) and I snuggled and awaited the end of Mark’s two week quarantine.

Sophia our rescue kitten aged 11 months…has learned to snuggle.

Sophia still suffers from anxiety and likes to tunnel or hide under mats, pillows, or blankets to feel more secure when she is frightened. However, she now realizes she gets attention from this behavior and often makes the hiding into a game. I call this one her “turtle” game.

Sophia’s turtle hiding game.

Sometimes, she is just plan curious! She likes to explore anything new from all angles!

Sophia exploring a new collapsible step.

Finally, Mark’s quarantine period concluded, and it was time to venture out together and ‘safely’ explore our “Covid lockdown health region” on Vancouver Island.

Mark and Sandy outside together–April 2020

My son, Alexander, is an Engineer working in Victoria. Due to Covid rules and restrictions, the construction completion of his new apartment was delayed. We assisted (from 2m) by renting a UHaul and bringing his belongings down to Victoria when he finally obtained the keys–April 15th–which also happened to be his birthday!

Alexander’s new digs in Victoria

Spring is a stunning time of the year embracing new growth and reemergence of wildlife after winter hibernation. It is also pollen season. Locate your nearest local honey producer and consume lots of local honey to increase your pollen resistance! It works!

The Crocuses, Daffodils, Tulips, Primroses, Snowdrops, and Heather are some of the early flowers to come into bloom here. The Dogwood, Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Cherry and Apple trees, and a multitude of species are popping blossoms sharing an abundance of delectable hues and scents.

April flowers and blossoms galore!

Spring is also a wonderful time to observe and possibly encounter some of the beautiful wildlife on Vancouver Island. The Columbia Black-tailed deer are the deer species located on our island. The life cycle of a Blacktail is 9-10 years in the wild, but only 3-6 years for bucks as they are the target of hunters each fall.

Due to increased Forestry clear-cuts and growing urban areas, these deer are now common in many residential areas. We observe a family visiting our yard to graze nearly every day, so deer resistance plant species, like Forest Flame bushes, Rhododendrons, Heather, and Daffodils are good plants for your gardens.

Out of approximately 3,200 Roosevelt Elk in the Province of British Columbia, roughly 3,000 Roosevelt Elk reside on Vancouver Island. They are quite massive animals and often seen in herds. Approximately 20 elk tags are given out each hunting season. Beyond that, our beautiful creatures are respected and revered. The toll free number if you witness any illegal activity effecting our wildlife is 1-877-952-7277.

Roosevelt Elk herds are majestic creatures.

Black bears are also spotted around the island, especially when they are eating spring shoots or scavenging on rocky beaches to fatten up after their light hibernation period. Estimates indicate there are about 7,000 black bears on Vancouver Island. In the spring sows over aged 5 years are usually seen with 1-4 cubs. Three or four cubs are quite rare, twins are the most common.

Black bears looking for food in Spring time

Watch for bear scat when you are out hiking and be Bear Aware. I have attached a link titled Safety Guide to Bears. https://vancouverisland.com/about/facts-and-information/safety-guide-to-bears/

Although Grizzly Bears were unheard of on Vancouver Island a few decades ago, there have been a few sightings in recent years. It is suspected that some Grizzlies were successful swimming across from the mainland by island hopping en route. There are many talented professional wildlife photographers on Vancouver Island and tours to view our beautiful wildlife are available. Remember, if you see any illegal hunting please phone the toll free line to protect our wildlife from poachers!

The third Canadian animal I am sharing this post is our national symbol of Canada–the Beaver! The Beaver is the symbol on our 5 cent coin and was once nearly eradicated during the Fur Trade era. They are making a come back and although these photos were taken by a friend in northern B.C. (notice the snow), we have Beavers thriving here too usually hiding out in small lakes or marshy ponds. Watch for the chewed tree trunks, piles of small fallen trees, lodges and dams.

The Canadian Beaver…Famous for its amazing flat tail. These photos were from northern B.C.

Our rescue kitten was discovered in the woods too…but her habitat and survival is slightly different from the elk, bears, and beavers!

It’s a tough life for Sophia! lol

The final topic in this blog about April, is Covid Survival Strategies:

  1. Appreciating your neighborhood. Working in your yard. Observing nature and being grateful for what you have. We were so grateful that the Fire Department efficiently and effectively put out the chimney fire for our neighbors.
Fire Department was quick to solve this problem across the street.

2) Dr. Bonnie Henry establishing Covid Safety rules and protocols for the province of British Columbia to help us flatten the curve and keep safer.

Covid physical distancing, rules and protocols. April 2020

3) Learning New Skills and Adapting to Change. After much coercion from my husband, I started cutting his hair! We found that meditation and yoga each morning really helped bring a calmer, healthier perspective to each new day.

Adapting to change during Covid.

4) Using extra lockdown time to sort, organize and downsize or share. We saved money taking the last of our belongings out of our rented storage locker and seriously analyzed whether we really needed these belongings. We discovered some treasures we had forgotten about, some items ready for recycling or garbage, and I gave away boxes of free educational resources to new upcoming teachers.

Getting outdoors to kayak around Nanaimo area.

5) Our final Covid Strategy is get outdoors and experience nature while exercising! Often, this can be walking, hiking, riding your bike, or playing; but in this post I will feature going kayaking in the Pacific Ocean!

Here is a short video of some highlights from 2 consecutive days of kayaking around the gorgeous Pacific ocean surrounding Vancouver Island. We did not see whales or sea lions on these excursions, but seals and river otters are quite common companions.

Video of kayaking around Nanaimo

Thank you for joining my journey throughout the month of April. The next blog post will include more trips and adventures exploring hiking trails, beaches, and natural beauty around Vancouver Island during May. Also, Sophia turns 1 year old!

Keep Safe. The world continues to brighten each week.

Categories
Art Canada Caring for Humanity Cats Harbour City Newcomers Club Life during Covid 19 Nature Springtime Vancouver Island

Conquering Covid Carefully! Feeling Optimistic :-)

As Covid 19 vaccines become more accessible globally, and magic totals for ‘herd’ immunity become more of a reality than a dream; there is a new optimism about interacting with loved ones after a lengthy hug drought of over 15 months!

Hopeful for a Canada/Thailand reunion soon!

I selected a photo of Sophia (our rescue kitten) looking anxiously through the door and wondering what is happening, to introduce this blog post as it seems an accurate portrayal of Covid life during lockdowns.

What’s going on?

Sophia is extremely expressive and her antics generate laughs and discussions which truly brightened our days during lockdown periods.

The many moods of Sophia (aged 10 months)

In Canada, we are carefully observing the new freedoms we see exhibited via media in Australia, the United States and U.K. We are not there yet. In British Columbia, Dr. Bonnie Henry continues to be our amazing leader throughout this pandemic. My husband and I gratefully received our first Moderna ‘jab’ on April 28th, 2021 and are currently awaiting the notification that it is our time to receive the second dose.

Last week, with huge excitement and relief, we commenced stage 1 of a 4 stage Restart plan in B.C. with hopeful anticipation that we will experience a new “norm” and freedom by September, 2021.

Step 1 of the BC Restart Directive. May 25th 2021

The Covid 19 Pandemic has shaken the world and changed all sense of what we experience as “normal”. This blog post is driven by a grateful optimism towards the future, while remembering life and adaptations we faced in March 2020 when our lives suddenly changed…. Covid 19 arrived!

Mid March 2020. The first Covid 19 lockdown!

Prior to the March Lockdown….

My husband accepted a job as part of a team working in Hamilton, Ontario for a few months departing from Nanaimo in mid February 2020. I joined the Harbour City Newcomers Club in Nanaimo excited to meet new people and explore activities in this new location. My son, Alexander, had recently moved back home to Canada after working at Western Digital in Bangkok, Thailand for the past 6 years. He was hired just prior to Covid as a Manufacturing Engineer at StarFish Medical Consultants in Victoria, B.C.

In Early March 2020 Sophia enjoyed the many facets of being a kitten–from sleeping anywhere and everywhere, to discovering her world. She was particularly fond of munching fresh grass every morning before exploring outdoors.

Sophia’s life as a 10 month old kitten

As a member of the Harbour City Newcomers Club (HCNC), I was enjoying meeting new people, attending art workshops, and being creative using new paint techniques.

HCNC Paint workshops

In mid March 2020 we even participated in an Artisan tour checking out nearby galleries including a glass blowing studio. We car pooled together in vehicles and nobody wore masks! The following day, new lock down rules were implemented in B.C. It was the end of carpools, group meetings and indoor activities. This was the official beginning of masks and Zoom, Zoom, Zoom!

HCNC Art tour mid March 2020

Who would have anticipated that this hair appointment would be the last one I would have for nearly a year and this would possibly be the last time I would see my hairdresser without both of us wearing protective face masks?

Last hair appointment before covid! No masks!

In mid March 2020 the world as we knew it drastically changed! The unprecedented Covid 19 Pandemic arrived and people started to horde toilet paper, hand sanitizer, soap, masks, gloves, and canned food. Suddenly, there was a frenzy of uncertainty!

Covid Coping Strategies:

Thankfully, we live in a single detached home with a large yard near to lots of hiking trails and ocean access. Nature and Spring beauty bring peace and inner grounding during this unsettled and scary time.

Spring beauty around Nanaimo

Another of my favorite locations is Buttertubs Marsh. There is always a plethora of bird songs and diverse species to observe. If you are lucky, you might see turtles or Great Blue Herons.

Buttertubs marsh

My dad passed away in 2007. His favorite bird was the Great Blue Heron and it is always a thrill and comfort when they grace my day. This Heron at Buttertubs was very close to the trail.

Great Blue Heron

While I was active exploring nature and outdoor trails on Vancouver Island, my husband in Ontario visited Niagara Falls. Due to Covid lockdown… the highly popular tourist location was nearly devoid of visitors in late March 2020. What a strange and unusual experience!

Stunning Niagara Falls Late March 2020 during Covid lockdown

By late March 2020 we were starting to adapt to this initial Covid 19 lockdown. Sophia taught me to chill, reflect and sleep a lot. Puzzles and books were becoming a popular option to aid the passing of time spent alone. Stores were crazy places to avoid whenever possible. Masks were not mandated yet, but long lines and empty shelves were troubling realities. Schools and most businesses were closed during the first lockdown. There were constant disturbing news updates about areas hardest hit by Covid 19. North America seemed to fair pretty well initially, but that was to change as the Global Pandemic progressed.

Adapting to Covid 19 lockdown in late March 2020

While we embraced early signs of Spring on Vancouver Island, other areas of B.C. and Canada were still in the midst of late Winter.

Late March on Vancouver Island. The Moose photo was taken up in Burns Lake, B.C.

Daily walks and hikes outdoors were a welcome release. There are so many wooded areas, trails, lakes, rivers, and marshes to explore around Vancouver Island.

Nature walks minutes from my house in Nanaimo–March 23rd 2020

More nearby early signs of Spring to help a person feel grounded and grateful.

March 24th exploration near our home in Nanaimo

When the schools and playgrounds closed and people were confined to their homes, the hearts and messages of hope became more plentiful around our community.

Hearts in the windows and on rocks, and messages of Hope and Optimism. March 25th

As March drew to an end, it was clear that my husband’s job in Hamilton, Ontario would be terminating soon due to lockdown occurring in Ontario. Mark’s flight home to B.C. was booked for the first week of April. We were anxiously awaiting his arrival home.

Sophia was waiting too….

Suddenly, domestic and international flights were all getting cancelled due to the Pandemic. Mark needed to get home IMMEDIATELY before all the provincial borders were closed between British Columbia and Ontario!

Mark travelled home from Hamilton, Ontario (near Toronto) to Vancouver Island, B.C.

So after hours on hold with reservation centers, my husband managed to obtain a seat on an earlier flight departing the following day. Airport safety and protocols were pretty sketchy and the flight was completely full on March 31st 2020. Safety protocols certainly intensified prior to vaccines, as pandemic specialists learned more about this new Covid 19 virus.

My husband’s experience travelling from Toronto to Nanaimo during Covid lockdown on March 31st 2020.

There was no physical spacing in the airports or on the planes, so Mark wore a face mask and we mutually agreed he would go into voluntary quarantine for 2 weeks after he returned home. After our 2 week self imposed quarantine, we were both healthy and ready to tackle lockdown and Covid 19 life as a team together.

Healthy and ready to tackle this Pandemic as a team together! April 2020.

The future is optimistic and exciting, but let’s not forget the confines and struggles of this Covid 19 journey as we move forward and Carefully Conquer Covid.

The next blog posts will include more Nature, Canadian Animals, Exploration around Vancouver Island, Covid Wellness Strategies, Antics by Sophia, and Gardening. Stay safe and Keep on Smiling.

Categories
Adventure Canada Exploring Canada Exploring Outdoors Maple Sugar Festival Moonsnails Mount Washington Seashore Skiing Vancouver Island

Mt. Washington, Moonsnails and Maple Sugar Festivals. Diverse Vancouver Island.

Vancouver Island, BC, Canada truly is diverse in landscape, nature, culture, and recreation. This blog post reflects February activities on Vancouver Island. Some of the events occurred prior to Covid facemask expectations and while indoor events were still permitted. From powder skiing up at Mount Washington to exploring fascinating sea life, we have it all.

The photo above highlights stunning Mount Washington and a live Moonsnail with its enormous ‘foot’ extended.

Here is a quick journey around some of our beautiful and diverse areas of Vancouver Island, Canada in February “winter”. Let’s commence in Campbell River as it is close to the middle of the Island. Heading north from Campbell River to Port Hardy takes close to 2 1/2 hours most trips.

The distance from Campbell River to Port Hardy is 230 km on highway 19 N. Bus service has stopped at present, so you will require a vehicle. There are few fuel stations between Campbell River and Port Hardy so be prepared and have a full tank. You can obtain gas at Sayward, Woss, and Port McNeill.

There are a growing number of electric car charging stations north of Campbell River, but check carefully before you head north as phone service is sporadic on this highway. The scenery is pristine with mountains, lakes, rivers, and rainforest surrounding you.

North Vancouver Island highway

If you are lucky you might sight deer, elk, black bears, and occasionally a cougar. https://vancouverislandnorth.ca/get-lost-with-wildlife/ Check out the beautiful wildlife photography on this local website.

https://myvancouverislandnorth.ca/our-communities/port-hardy/ There are many fabulous websites which contain valuable information about the communities on northern Vancouver Island.

It is always wonderful to visit with my mom and a few friends while up in Port Hardy.

When phenomenal low tides occur on the north island, it is well worth the effort to explore and experience the expanse of sea life available on the northern beaches. Both sandy and rocky types of beaches are well represented.

Unlike more populated areas, there is extensive space to roam in solitude while appreciating the wonder of nature. Two of my favorite types of sea life to discover during low tides are: moonsnails and sea urchins.

Moon snails and red/green sea urchins. Back home (Sophia and bird feeder)

Upon returning home to Nanaimo (just over 4 hours and 385 km southeast) from Port Hardy our kitten Sophia was so excited to see us. She continues to develop her trust with people and other animals since her arrival last summer as an anxious, wild, tiny 7-8 week old rescue kitten. Sophia has learned to interact with us and is so curious about everything.

Mark and Sophia watching the birds at the feeder, deer in the yard, and snow falling. So darn cute!!!

Sophia helping Mark do repairs in the bathroom. Whatever is happening, Sophia is right there checking out the action!

Sophia assisting Mark

What is a perfect way to spend a day or two when there is fresh powder snow and blue skies? Time to head up to another treasure on Vancouver Island–Mount Washington!

Mount Washington, Vancouver Island

We packed our downhill ski gear and headed off in the truck. The drive to Mount Washington takes just under 2 hours (134 km) from Nanaimo providing the road conditions are clear and good. There are shuttles and buses available if needed.

https://www.mountwashington.ca/ Mount Washington offers rentals, ski packages, downhill/alpine trails, multiple chair lifts accommodating all levels of skiers, and varieties of accommodation up on the mountain or down at the nearby community of Courtney. The website is very handy to assist you when planning your day or vacation. There are outdoor adventure activities offered during both winter and summer seasons.

My husband prefers black diamond and powder skiing. I prefer groomed blue intermediate level runs. There are choices for all levels available here and the views from the mountain are quite breathtaking!

Mount Washington

A different trip up to Mt. Washington brought more beautiful conditions and an intriguing fog bank looming at lower levels. There is an interesting character we have seen a few times who calls to the Ravens while snowboarding or from the chair lifts. This man sits on the snow signaling the birds with various whistles. The ravens recognize him and gather around to visit with him.

Snowboarder calling Ravens. Fog bank at Mt Washington.

The fog bank seemed to be encroaching along the lower sections. It was beautiful… yet somewhat eerie in its intensity!

After a day’s exercise on the mountain… good healthy food called our name! I’ve recently discovered beet lattes. They are quite unexpectedly yummy!

Delicious healthy food at The Realm cafe in Parksville

Have you ever been to a Maple Sugar Festival? Perhaps you might have attended one if you visited Quebec, but it was a new experience for me in beautiful British Columbia. The French Immersion schools and French community organized this event just prior to Covid lockdown in B.C.

Maple Sugar Festival in Nanaimo

There were ice carving and sculpture displays, various Francophone bands, popular French food, a giant bear mascot, lots of maple sugar sweet treats to taste, and enthusiastic French conversation.

Here is a short video reflecting highlights from the Nanaimo Maple Sugar Festival.

Maple Sugar Festival

Vancouver Island truly is a diverse and exciting place to live or visit.

The next blog posts will depict keeping busy during covid lockdown–from art to nature walks/hikes, and spring wildlife around Vancouver Island. Keep safe. Things are improving and the future looks so promising.

Categories
Canada Canadian Animals Cats North Island Wildlife Recovery Center Pets Vancouver Island Wolf

Sophia Meets a Wolf. Vancouver Island Fun

Sophia is our adventurous Rescue Kitten. Her litter was discovered in the forest and veterinarians estimate she is about 8 months of age. This post reflects our adventures on Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada and our kitten’s reaction to seeing the magnificent wolf which our family was donating to an Educational and Recovery Wildlife Facility near us.

These photos reflect a legacy of learning from our local wildlife. No animals were hunted… all died through accidental or natural causes and were lovingly part of my father’s museum collection.

My dad, Alex Prestwich, passed away in 2007 after a lengthy battle with a major stroke, blindness, and cancer. He adored and deeply respected the wildlife on Vancouver Island and treasured each living animal.

Dad even had a raven that frequently hung out on top of a massive press inside his machine shop. Black bears, deer, and the odd cougar also came by to visit when he worked late at night.

Dad was passionate about learning and inspired so many children with his constant curiosity towards life. It was these traits that eventually spear headed decades’ long development of a wildlife taxidermy collection to inspire and educate others.

Loving memories of my dad Thomas Alexander Prestwich

No animals or birds were killed or hunted. All animals died through accidental or natural causes, then were assessed by the conservation officer, prior to their release to my dad. All taxidermy was completed on Vancouver Island and dad would only allow the animals to be portrayed in natural and respectful poses.

Cougars and Wolf

When dad passed away, we knew the Canadian wildlife collection needed to find the perfect home where people would continue to love and respect the animals and environmental education would continue to be emphasized.

After substantial searching, we knew we discovered the perfect new location when we arrived at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Center in Errington.

In addition to the educational areas filled with taxidermy and media presentations; the extensive grounds were a collage of native flora gardens, ponds, and areas where black bear cubs, eagles, and injured or abandoned wildlife could heal and survive.

This non-profit organization is mainly run by volunteers who all love and care about nature and our amazing wildlife. Robin and his wife are passionate leaders who have made such a positive difference in our world. Dad would have adored touring or volunteering at this amazing facility.

The organization is on social media.

On our initial trip to NIWRC we presented the entire collection (for Educational Purposes) except dad’s favorite animal, which was the Wolf.

It is painful to say good-bye to special items when you loose a loved one. But it was time to let go and share this magnificent and rare animal with the world.

Sophia knew something was up and crept hesitantly downstairs to investigate. Her tail fur totally puffed up when she spotted the wolf waiting to be transported to the NIWRC. Curiosity won and she hesitantly approached the wolf.

Sophia meets the Wolf

Ironically, the coloration of the two mammals was so similar. However, within minutes she raced back upstairs then watched from the safety of the door as the wolf was carefully transported into the truck.

Here is a short video of Sophia and the Wolf as we donate this magnificent animal to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Center.

The legacy and future of this magnificent Wolf. May it inspire curiosity, respect, and understanding.

Although much of our family lives in varying areas of Canada, we had 3 generations represented when we donated the Wolf to its new owners/educators. Thankfully this occurred just prior to covid restrictions, so masks were unnecessary for this event.

3 generations of our Prestwich family with Robin (owner) at the drop off location.

My 88 year old Mom, (Patti) was so thrilled to see the family collection on display as Robin (owner) gave us a grand tour of the grounds and educational facilities. My son, Alexander, represented the young adult generation. I represented the middle of the trio.

Thanks for the Beautiful sign at North island wildlife recovery center.

If you are touring through Vancouver Island and enjoy wildlife recovery and learning about Canadian wildlife, this is a amazing facility to explore. Bus loads of curious school children frequented here prior to covid lockdown and will return again soon I am sure!

When we returned home, Sophia made sure we knew it was her turn for attention once again.

Our Sophia letting us know it’s her turn for attention again!

Keep safe and optimistic 😉. The next posts will be adventures around Vancouver Island and skiing at Mt Washington!

Categories
Canada Caring for Humanity Cats Knitting Rescue kitten Vancouver Island

Blankets 4 Canada. How to help from your home.

I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunities, freedom, and standard of life we experience living in Canada.

However, people’s journeys in life vary and not all are as fortunate as I am. There are so many ways to be kind and support others. This global pandemic reaffirms the importance of being kind, calm, respectful and understanding towards humanity.

While respecting social distancing, you can join an organization like “Blankets for Canada” where volunteers purchase their own wool and knit or crochet squares to create blankets which are anonymously donated throughout your community.

Creating my first “Blanket for Canada”

There are rules about the types of wool, colours, weight of yarn, size of squares, etc. You may select to just create squares and drop them off at a local pick up location, or create squares and sew them together prior to dropping off a completed blanket. A member from the not-for-profit registered organization checks the blankets, attaches a label, and drops off blankets at multiple locations including: Women’s Safe Shelters, Men’s Shelters, Salvation Army hostels, or city homeless street people.

https://blankets4canada.ca/ This is the Blankets for Canada link if you are interested.

Upon reading about this organization in a community newspaper, I joined the Nanaimo chapter as one of a team of members knitting or crocheting squares to improve the quality of life for struggling community members. Winters are cold and wet here. In addition to giving warmth, our goal is to offer love and hope.

So the knitting vigil began. Sophia (8 month rescue kitten) watched beside me sometimes playing with the wool or sitting on the blanket so I couldn’t knit!

Sophia watching the action!

While working on each square I contemplated the person who might receive this gift. I hoped they knew they were loved, important, and cared about. The squares accumulated and as I neared the goal of 48, I made the decision to also sew them together and complete the entire blanket myself!

So….Off I went to visit one of the head organizers for the Nanaimo branch of Blankets for Canada and received a lesson in organizing squares effectively and techniques to sew them together. My mentor was extremely helpful and encouraging.

Here is a short video of the Blankets for Canada process

The process to create a “Blanket for Canada”

It took an additional couple of weeks to organize the patterns and sew all 48 squares together…with Sophia’s assistance (of course).

When the blanket was completed I added a personal message. A couple of my friends had previously spent time at a Safe House while dealing with domestic violence. I requested the blanket be given to somebody at a Women’s Safe House and heard it was delivered to Haven House. I have no idea who received it, but I hope she feels loved and cared about.

The first 25 squares are knitted for blanket number 2. It will be ready for delivery when covid safety protocols open up again later this year.

If you have spare time during Covid lockdown, this is one idea of a project which could offer hope and love to another individual. Keep safe and optimistic my friends.

Northern Vancouver Island, Mt. Washington skiing, and Sophia assists with house renovations are the next blog posts coming soon.

Categories
Animals Canada Cats Rescue kitten Vancouver Island Winter Snow

Sophia’s Introduction to Snow! (Rescue Kitten)

Flashback to our first snow fall on Vancouver Island this season. This blog post is dedicated to our rescue kitten, Sophia, as she experiences snow for the first time.

Sophia’s first snow season!

Although initially dubious and slightly hesitant to immerse her paws and body in the cold white substance, she quickly embraced the experience tunneling through the snow and even playing with little snowballs. Here’s a short video of her very first reaction to snow!

Sophia’s very first reactions to snow.

During the next few days, the snow continued building slowly. Unlike the majority of areas in Canada, on Vancouver Island our durations of snow are short lived. When the powdery snow arrives, we embrace the beautiful winter wonderland knowing that usually within a few days it will melt and disappear.

January on Vancouver Island — We usually have snow for part of the month.

Sophia had mixed reactions during the snowfall time. She was very curious often watching the snow fall from the doorway, but she also increased her burrowing activity hiding in bags and strange locations.

Rescue kitten anxiety still flares at times

Sophia was fascinated by the falling snowflakes.

Sophia watching the snow

The snow decided to grace us with its presence for a few days as the centimeters increased steadily on our sundeck and around our neighborhood. We parked our vehicles at the top of our little hill as snowplows are rarely required here and cul de sacs are the last to be cleared when a snowfall does occur.

January snowfall in Nanaimo

The moon was full and the winter wonderland was quite magical so we decided to venture out for a walk around our neighborhood in Nanaimo, mid Vancouver Island.

Winter wonderland!

Snow continued falling throughout the night and the following morning Sophia ventured out to explore the sundeck. Her confidence towards this unknown substance had grown and she was now jumping, pouncing, tunneling, and playing with the snow. Her reactions and playful antics brought such wonder and happiness to us all.

So darn cute!

We thoroughly enjoyed our week or so of snow in January and Sophia became very adept at maneuvering through it without snowshoes or skis. Here is a short video of some highlights from her explorations in our yard on Vancouver Island, B.C.

Sophia becomes a snow loving kitten!

As quickly as it arrived, the weather warmed up and the snow melted making way for our next new adventures.

Future blog posts will include: Blankets for Canada, wolves at North Island Wildlife Recovery Center, Sophia helps with house renovations, and Harbour City Newcomers Club adventures. Keep safe and keep optimistic my friends.

Categories
Before Covid 19 Canada Family Vancouver Island Winter Festivities

Memories–The Last Christmas before Covid

As lockdowns continue, I reflect with joy and happy memories of family and freedom during our last Christmas/Festive Season prior to Covid 19. Presenting December 2019 on Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada.

Celebrating a beautiful meal with immediate family…

The restaurant in Nanaimo was called “The Modern Cafe”… the delicious entrees were far from “Cafe” fair.

Alexander recommends the house burger too!

Back at the house….My mom presented us with a stunning, colorful quilt which our rescue kitten Sophia instantly proceeded to check out!

Sophia checks out the new quilt

On December 24th we relaxed around the house and played with our kitten Sophia. Tomorrow family would be arriving!

Christmas Eve with immediate family

Sophia (7 months old) is always involved in all activities… and much loved 😽. Our kitten suffers from PTSD from her unknown history before her mother and litter were discovered in the forest. She can be extremely wary and anxious in many settings… but she is content and happy with the 4 of us.

Sophia receives tons of love 💕

We were not blessed with the joy of young children zealous to commence festivities on Christmas morning this year…but we had fun activities planned and more family arriving from other areas of B.C.

Christmas morning fun!

Two trips were anticipated to pick up family members who were crossing by B.C Ferries from the mainland of B.C. to Nanaimo. The first 2 visitors arriving are coming from Prince George — my brother Mark and lovely Begona. Mark’s sister, Ingrid, is also arriving later from Vancouver.

Nothing is quite as wonderful as having family together at Christmas 🥰

Here are a few highlights from our last Christmas and Boxing Day prior to Covid 19. May this happy video bring smiles and memories of times when masks were not necessary and there were no physical spacing limits to worry about.

From our home to yours we wish you peace, happiness, beautiful memories, and optimistic hope of future family Christmas times again soon….

Memories from Family Christmas before Covid