These were taken at a small seasonal pond at the front of our acreage:
A taste of summer . . .
We are fortunate to live in an area that has various wild berries growing from early spring to late summer.
The first to arrive in spring are Salmon Berries that grow on prickly, six or seven foot raspberry-like canes. They are quite invasive and will move into any clear, sunny spot. We are always glad to see the flowers because they are a favourite of hummingbirds so once the Salmon Berry blooms, we know the hummingbirds will soon follow.
The fruit is sweet but watery and somewhat flavourless. Still, nice to snack on and being the first berry of the season, the bears love them. I’ll go out in the morning and there will be broken bushes around the yard and up the road from grazing bears. The berries are not good for cooking or jamming.
Thimble Berries are not far behind the Salmon Berries. These are not very good eating as they are dry and pulpy but again, a favourite of the bears. The young shoots can be peeled and the pith center makes a crisp snack.
Huckleberries grow on shrubs that reach about seven feet high. You will find them in sunny spots in the forest. We have moved quite a few plants onto our lawn (moss) area and they thrive in the full sun. Their fruit is pea sized, sweet and juicy. They are quite good in pies and jam but are usually mixed with other fruit to give them some flavour. Another favourite for the bears and birds.
Oregon Grape grow on low shrubs that have hard, shiny and serrated leaves. They are found throughout our forest, mainly in semi- shaded areas. They can become a ground cover in larger areas.
The grapes are peas sized and if they get enough moisture are quite plump and tasty. They make a nice jam but the fruit isn’t always plentiful.
Bramble Berries grow low to the ground on thin, prickly vines. Even though they are small, the ripe black berries provide quite a punch of flavour. In the heat of the summer and if enough of them are growing, you can smell the sweet berries in the air – one of those comfort smells. Fairly invasive but because they are so small they are fairly easy to deal with.
The ‘prize’ of all the wild berries has to be the Blackberry. They grow on long, thick and thorny vines that can take over any open, sunny spot. Extremely invasive if not kept in check.
We have clumps of Blackberry vines throughout our acreage and the ripened berries are the highlight of our fall season. The berries are abundant and we fill the freezer for jam and jelly making at a later date. Blackberry pies are incredible and Blackberry wine is delicious! We make a cordial with just boiling water and honey and it will keep all winter. Another late season snack for the bears and they will gorge on them in order to put on some fat for winter.
Roosevelt Elk were introduced into our area in 1989 to try to bolster the elk population in British Columbia. Twenty-two animals from Vancouver Island were transported to a site 17 miles (26 km) to the north of where we live. The herd did very well in their new environment and soon started to multiply.
As they did so, they slowly headed south and we saw our first elk in about 1992. It was an amazing sight. I was looking our our kitchen window towards our guest cabin when I saw something moving behind the cabin. It was so large my mind had a hard time computing what it was. The bulls can weigh up to 880 pounds (400 kg) and the females about 550 pounds (250 kg). They stand about 5 feet (1.5 metres) tall and their antlers can spread from 5 to 7 feet (1.5 to 2 metres) wide. What I saw turned out to be a herd of eight or nine of them.
When I went out to take a look they spooked and were gone in a flash. It was incredible to see such large animals disappear so quickly and so quietly. Eventually we saw them often as they liked to browse in the forest behind the cabin. They soon became accustomed to me going out and cutting firewood. The chainsaw doesn’t bother them and they will stand or remain lying down as I’m cutting. It is only if I start to approach them too closely that they will get nervous.
They are slowly transforming our forest. Where we once had thick underbrush , the elk had cleared that out and we can now see deep into the woods. Other than that we don’t see any apparent damage to the forest other than long, deep scratch marks on the alder trees where they rub their antlers. In fact, we saw those scratch marks first, before we knew elk were in that area and thought we had a very large cougar sharpening it’s claws in the trees.
While other people have had lots of problems with elk destroying their fruit trees and gardens, we have only had one elk come onto our grassy area and it didn’t touch our garden. I don’t know why that is but perhaps the day is coming. We have seen up to 15 in the herd so the day they decide to come for lunch might be quite devastating. Until then though, we will continue to enjoy them.
I saw my first butterfly of the season today so I thought I should celebrate with this wonderful moth.
This moth was attracted to the cabin porch light last summer and it stayed around most of the next day. It is quite large as you can see from the photos of it perched on my hand. They usually have a wingspan of 4 1/2 inches (110 mm) and the beautiful fake eyes are used to try and scare off predators.
Polyphemus was a one-eyed giant in Greek mythology
I took a few pictures of an intriguing gate that I saw in Nova Scotia in 2006 and always wanted to make one so this past Summer I gave it a go. It was a great project and it is a wonderful gate.
In 1977, not long after moving into the house, I decided I needed a workshop so built a small cabin about 100 feet behind the main house. Over the years it functioned quite well as a workshop and also became a playhouse for our three daughters and occasionally a storeroom for stuff.
By 1994 the house was more or less holding together and the garden was looking pretty spiffy. We got to thinking that we were surrounded by such beauty, wouldn’t it be fun to share it. It would also give me some purpose to push mowing the lawn for three hours each week. By then the cabin wasn’t being used for much so we thought, let’s start a bed and breakfast.
I added a small bathroom to the cabin and some quite major renovations and the workshop became the Hard-To-Come-By Bed & Breakfast.
We put my great grandfather’s sleigh bed in and that took up most of the floorspace but left just enough room for a couple of chairs and a table.
We opened in the summer of 1995 and for the first year I made brochures that we placed in the Chamber of Commerce. I then thought that, because we wanted guests but didn’t need guests, it would be interesting to make it a little more ‘hard to come by’ by only advertising on the Internet. I made a website and from then on all our guests came either by word-of-mouth or through searching on the Internet.
It didn’t take long before we were quite busy and we were getting queries from all over – Europe, the USA, Asia, etc. We had lots of young couples who seem to have captured our vision of lifestyle and many became long lasting friends. The response was a very pleasant surprise. It was suggested to us that we build additional cabins but we weren’t interested in expansion. We wanted our guests to be doted on and to have a quiet experience in our beautiful forest.
I cooked the breakfast and my wife laid out a beautiful breakfast setting on an antique butler’s table. We would carry breakfast out to the cabin and set it up either inside or outside, depending on the weather.
We ran the bed and breakfast until 2006. By that time the grandkids were on the scene and the cabin soon became a retreat for tired mothers while we took care of the kiddos. The B & B was a wonderful experience, we met some incredible people and all our experiences were good ones. I would recommend it to anyone to give it a try.
Baked Berries and Cream French Toast
10 slices 1⁄2” thick French bread
1 1/3 cups light cream
2 tbsp. jam (match jam and berries)
4 eggs slightly beaten
4 tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
For garnish and topping:
½ cup yogurt with 2 tbsp. jam
1 cup fresh berries or sliced fruit
10 or so chopped hazelnuts lightly roasted in fry pan
Preheat oven to 450°
Dip bread in but don’t soak.
Place on WELL greased cookie sheet.
Bake 8 – 10 minutes (middle rack) on one side.
Turn and bake other side 5 minutes (watch it doesn’t overcook!)
Yogurt mixed with 2 tbsp. jam Sprinkle with chopped roasted hazelnuts
Some more flowers from the garden.
In the 38 years that we have lived here we have always burned wood to heat the house. When we first bought the property I was a little concerned about how much wood I would use over the years and would our property eventually have a logging clear-cut look to it. I soon came to realize that I didn’t need to worry about it – nature has it’s way to thin out the forest. Every winter, wind storms bring down at least two trees and these are usually large enough to supply us with our year’s firewood.
The good thing about windfalls is that they are usually deep in the forest and not dropping on the house. Nothing like the sound of a large tree starting to fall when you are lying in bed at night and you don’t know which way it is going. For some reason 90% of our windstorms seem to be after dark.
The bad news about windfalls deep in the forest is that I have to go get them. In order to do so I have made paths throughout the forest leading to my firewood supply. For 37 years I would cut up the tree and then take the wheelbarrow, collect the firewood and wheel it back to the woodshed for splitting. These trails followed the path of least resistance, often wildlife trails that tended to meander through the trees. After the wood was collected I fixed up the trail for walking and often linked up to others.
Last year I finally bought a small tractor to help save my back and provide some extra oomph when needed. I chose a small tractor so I could still do my meandering paths with the least amount of disruption as possible. It has worked well and the newer paths are still only about four feet wide.
We now have several looping trails and can usually spend a half hour or more walking the trails. There is always lots to see and every day is a new experience for the senses.