Friday, December 2, 2016

The Lower Fraser Valley

We really enjoyed our week in Abbotsford, and exploring some nearby places in the Lower Fraser Valley.  I've got lots of adventures to share from only 6 days, hope you enjoy them.  I'd like to start out by sharing a few general pictures of that valley, so different from the Beaver Valley here.

This is the view from near the top of McKee Peak, one of the foothills of the Coast Range, near where our daughter and her family live.  I went for a hike here with my son-in-law and grandson.  You can see the Cascades in the distance (mostly in the U.S.), and the extremely flat valley still mostly in farms, with the Trans-Canada Highway behind the trees. in the foreground.

B.C. created an Agricultural Land Reserve protecting all the good farmland in the province in 1973, at the time the most progressive land use planning legislation in North America.  Remarkably, only an hour east of Vancouver, the farmland is still farmland!

And did you spot Mount Baker in the distance in the photos above?  This was almost the clearest view we got of it, one of the iconic tall mountains in the northwest U.S.  November is the rainiest month out here, and it has been the rainiest fall in memory this year, so we hardly saw the sun at all during the week we were there - but the rain didn't slow us down much!

What strikes me about the valley is how the flat farmland ends abruptly at the mountains.  To the southeast of Abbotsford is the Cascade Range, and to the north is the Coast Range.  This is Sumas Moutain, an outlier of the Coast Range; our daughter and family live up on the slopes just out of sight on the right.

I was amazed at the number of berry farms - especially blueberries.  They're bare at this time of year, and the twigs bright pink.  We're definitely going to have to get there during berry season!

In order to protect the farmland, lots of the urban development marches up the lower slopes of the mountains like this.  It gives very interesting houses - our daughter's front door is in the basement, the back door is on the main floor, and the garage is nearly at the height of the second floor!  Hills everywhere, but it works, and they can buy lots of local food at the farm outlets.

The part of Sumas Mountain known as McKee Peak hides the view of Mount Baker, but from their living room window you can just glimpse the Cascade Range over the rooftops of the houses across the street.

Most of what I have to share with you is from our hikes.  We were out every day someplace, usually to places they haven't had a chance to explore yet (they've only been there 3 months).

They said it was rainforest, but I didn't understand until I saw it.  Ferns and moss everywhere!  Thick layers of green moss covered all the deciduous branches of all the trees.  It was SUCH a different place for me to explore and learn about!

We saw a surprising number of Bald Eagles.  Notice the pair sitting close together here, on the banks of the Harrison River.

There were Swans on the fields; these are Swans coming in to rest for the night.  Sorry, I don't know anything about B.C. birds yet, so I'm not sure which species they are.

The temperatures were cold enough that there was fresh snow on the mountain tops, but it was just cool and wet where we spent our time.  The snow line is really clear though; elevation makes such a difference.  Notice the unusual tall narrow tree on the right - a disguised communications tower.

A final view of Mount Baker to the south, on our last day there - my best picture of it.  Our daughter and her husband have accomplished a lot in 5 months, from their trip out in July when they ended up buying a house, to selling their own house a week later (!), through the packing to the actual move, and our son-in-law starting a new job while our grandson started at a new school.  It was a dream, but it worked!!  Lots more to come.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Thoroughly Miserable Dec. 1st!

We're safely back from B.C., but with 800 pictures to sort and edit, and several adventures to organize a story about, I thought I'd give you one update on the 'seasons in the valley' here before we start reporting from our week in the west.

It really was a miserable day, with a cold drizzle on and off all day.  When it's just above freezing, rain isn't much fun; I'd rather have it just below freezing and snow!  As you can see, the meadow is brown except for my mowed trails, and all the leaves are gone, even the Tamarack needles - except for one stubborn maple sapling.

Along the fencerow you wouldn't even know it was a Hosta garden; there's no sign of them now at all, and no colours in the garden except for '50 shades of brown'.

But the old stone fencerow shows up really well, and the lichens on the big boulders seem to be at their best.  That flat rock in the first picture is a relief sculpture of a fern on a limestone slab.

A short walk in the woods was easy today, the leaves all wet, and the trees creeking ominously in the wind.

Farm fields are all inactive now, resting until next growing season, whether they're a hayfield like this, or a ploughed field that will be put to crops in the spring.

Farmers have been busy this fall, but I think they're finally getting a few days to work on the inside chores.

I refilled the bird feeders, and the Chickadees returned almost immediately.  I also heard a White-breasted Nuthatch, and saw a Downy Woodpecker briefly at the suet.  And after standing still outside for 15 minutes, shooting 40 photos, I did get one or two that were well focused!

But most of them were more like this, or with the bird gone entirely!

Tomorrow, western adventures!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Meaford Red Chair Tour

I have noticed three giant red Adirondack chairs recently, in odd locations.  There was one on the beach beside the playground in Meaford, and I took a picture.  But because I'd now seen three of these, all the same, I knew there must be something going on!

I even managed a shadow selfie on the chair by the bay. 

Then by chance I walked behind the chair, and found a big poster that explains it all.  The Meaford Red Chair Tour is a tourism marketing effort, a rather interesting one I thought, designed to attract people to particular sites in the region. There are ten of them, both in the town and in the surrounding township.

So we headed out on the tour one beautiful late November day, thinking we'd have fun seeing the red chairs and getting to a couple of new places.  What we didn't know was that they send out a crew to gather up these chairs and put them away for the winter!

So we stopped at FIVE different places on the tour before we saw a single red chair.  We only found ONE, still out there on the beach at Leith, a short distance from the cemetery where Tom Thomson is buried.   When you look closely, these chairs are HUGE!  They're mostly made of 2x10s and 2x12s.  It takes a crew of four to put them away for the winter.  Next spring when they're all in place again you can go on the tour yourself - get the map at 'Meaford Chairs'.
The view of the bay from the Leith red chair.

And to celebrate the wonderful visit we've had out here in Abbotsford with our daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, a rare pic of Mrs. Furry Gnome and Mr. Furry Gnome.  We fly home tomorrow.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Meaford Harbour

I hadn't been up to see the bay for a few weeks, so one day I went up to Meaford to check it out and get some pictures.  The boating season is almost over (and most years would be), and things in the harbour are winding down for another year.

Only a few boats still in the water.  Most were up on land for their winter storage, or taken home.

But the little light at the end of the breakwater was still flashing.

And on that day Georgian Bay looked incredible, blue water and blue sky, though not much in the way of waves.

The one motor yacht still in the water really appealed to me, all wood and brass trim.

You just don't see many boats like this in the harbour any more

It seems to be a local boat, out of Owen Sound, the next harbour to the west.

I snuck a peak in through the window, and it was all beautiful wood finish inside too.  If I had the money and the interest, that would be my kind of boat!

Stopped to say hello to the Canadian Coast Guard Cutter Westfort while I was passing.

Meanwhile it's been raining a lot out here.  November is the rainiest month and this year is the rainiest November in decades!  So we're not seeing much fun.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Big Barns

I had to drive south to Kitchener last week for medical tests, so I was driving through some pretty nice farmland.  The farms looked big and prosperous, all of the original barns expanded by additions or entirely new barns.  Here's a selection of that agricultural landscape, very different from here in the valley.

These barns with silos are likely all dairy operations, with vastly expanded space for the cows.

Long low well-ventilated barns like this new one can be used because they don't need to store hay inside the barn with the new big round plastic-wrapped bales.

This barn is a brand new one near the valley, and doesn't even look like it's being used yet.  I like the style.
And a big canyon between some large rectangular straw bales, likely left from a wheat harvest.  They'll probably end up used for bedding in horse barns further south.

Linking to

The Barn Collective

Saturday, November 26, 2016


Driving around last week I was keeping my eye out for critters and barns and fences and such for photos.  We don't have many flocks of sheep, so when I spotted this one I stopped.  Then I noticed somethling extra!

Can you see it?

Yes, it was a Llama, guarding the sheep.

The sheep just grazed on,

But the Llama stayed with them.  I wonder how well Llama sheep guards work?

Raining and dull here, but I'm managing a few pictures for later.