My stone harvest

While working over in what I formally refer to as the sustainability garden and less formally as the sandbox last week, I reminded myself that besides my failures, I’ve already reaped the benefits of this and last year’s first and still my most reliable harvest: stones.

I pay close attention to the freshly turned soil a day or two just after a heavy rain. This is when the stones that are ripest and most ready to be picked present themselves.

Having noticed only one or two stones that are ripe and ready, I pick only these and maybe a few others, in the same area within the ambit of my reach while I’m bent over. By picking only the stones that ask to be picked, plus a few of their comrades, I am relieved of the oppressive thinking that tells me I need to pick all of the stones.

I pick just some of the stones: usually the ones that have been cleaned by the rain or sprinkler which tends to make them the ones I spy first.

Sometimes I kid myself into thinking they are calling to me from out of their eternal silence, somehow signalling to me their readiness to be picked. It’s makes for a good, solitary game.

I try my best to cooperate with the stones’ requests to be picked as they call out to me in their silent language. It doesn’t take long to pick a bucketful. I dump and add them to the area around the water tap which used to be a mudhole, then go back for more, or not: it doesn’t matter.

In its own way, picking a few stones very early in the morning can be just as satisfying as digging potatoes, cutting broccoli, or finding another huge squash hiding deep within the broad foliage of the mother-plant.

Now, for the first time in my life I have a patch of garden ground that is remarkably free of stones to the extent that they do not actually compete with the main part of the soil structure.

The soil here wants to be a sandy loam and will get there eventually with some help from me and huge amounts of organic material.

The stones are stones in the garden all right, but not too many of them. They’re distributed randomly, like raisins or chocolate chips in a homemade oatmeal cookie.

Already I see that my annual harvest of stones is getting smaller each year. Maybe within the next few years this part of my gardening quest will be finished. Or, maybe I’ll simply continue to pick less stones more, for longer periods of time, until the stones and I declare: “All right. Enough!”

I realize I’m actually pretty adept at picking stones, so much more so than I was when I first picked stones alongside my father, mother, and sister on their garden plot on Highland Street in Waterville, Quebec in the 1960s.

I was absolutely useless as an 8 year-old stone-picker in 1965. I didn’t have the ‘stick-to-it-iveness, that my mother often mentioned, and which I took to be a desirable trait and Dad tended to use stone-picking as a punishment, which didn’t help much.

Still, I would accompany my parents to the garden in those warm Spring and Summer evenings, and while I lacked focus and perseverance, I now find I can pick stones continuously for hours at a time!

Have you ever picked stones? Do you pick stones now? Have you ever thought about taking up stone-picking as a form of recreation, or as part of a comprehensive fitness and exercise plan?

I’d love to read your comments, either here in the ‘reply’ section, or sent me an email at


Update on Fires N61679, N19276 and N61687

MIDWAY, March 19, 2021. — As reported by the BC Wildfires information service at 08:00 hrs. this morning, there are currently three wildfires burning within an approximate 100 kilometre radius of Grand Forks, British Columbia.

The largest of these, covering more than 927 hectares, is the N61687 fire, burning the the lee of the Christina Range in Gladstone Provincial Park. It is currently shown as “Out of control”.

A second fire, also attributed to lightning, is burning to the North West of N61687 near Burns Creek. This comparatively small fire is reported to be about 1.5 hectares in size.

The third fire, also caused by lightning is N61679. At approximately 4.5 hectares, it’s burning near Boundary Creek to the North and West of Greenwood, BC. According to the BCWildfire Service, this fire is also characterized as ‘being held’.

Information about forest fires burning in Northern Washington State will be reported in a future update.


What can I do?

In my last post I used the calendar as a prompt to write about the utility of New Years’ Resolutions and to ask whether or not the mid-point of the year might offer people a chance to assess how well they’ve been sticking with the resolutions they’d made six months ago.

With that in mind I also decided to revisit the archive of John Michael Greer’s 2006 Archdruid Report blog which ran over a decade between May, 2006 and May 2017. Here’s a direct link to it:

It was there Mr. Greer proposed ten resolutions for people interested in in adjusting to a the unfolding reality of life in the years after peak oil, in a context of declining industry, the rise of the so-called ‘service’ economy, and a brave new era of diminishing returns.

For those who have not read Mr. Greer’s original post nor my original blog post from two weeks’ ago — a list which will include just about everyone — I’ll reprint those ten fifteen year old resolutions here followed by my comments:

1. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents

When I inspected the lighting in the house we moved to in 2018, I was pleased to note that just about every light in every fixture is either a compact fluorescent or an (LED) light, the one exception being the 25 watt incandescent bulb inside our 28 year old refrigerator, and two 100 watt incandescent bulbs Ms. B. uses as her office. Is there more that I should be doing? I notice all kinds of ‘phantom’ loads drawing power from various household appliances that are ‘on’ all of the time. What might we do to limit or eliminate these?

2. Retrofit your home for energy conservation

With the exception of the house we live in now, which, built in 1994 is also the newest house we’ve ever lived in, we’ve always done something to help us conserve energy, to hang onto as much of the heat released through the burning of fossil fuels, or the using hydro electricity. Since moving here in 2018, I haven’t even peeked into the attic to see how much insulation is up there so I guess this is something I’ll be doing fairly soon.

3. Cut back on your gasoline consumption

I’ve been trying to reduce my own gasoline consumption fairly consistently since at least 2005 when we purchased a large crew-cab pickup truck from a dealer in Surrey, British Columbia.

I rationalized the purchase by convincing myself I actually needed it to help me ferry around our teenaged kids and their equipment to a variety of organized sports events and practices, as well as to haul garden soil, compost to the vegetable gardens and other stuff. It was an easy rationalization to make in those days; it seemed affordable and we had enough cash circulating through our household to afford it.

The truck has a large displacement V-8 engine. Though very powerful, gasoline consumption is as high as you might expect it to be with a large vehicle, so I’ve always taken every opportunity to leave the truck parked while seeking out other, less costly forms of transportation. As a consequence, after fifteen years’ of conservative use, the truck’s total mileage is now considered low for its age, and I believe that I’ve finally made the last of the necessary repairs to it to fix the problems I inherited when I first bought it. From here on, I’ll certainly be looking for ways to reduce gasoline consumption as well as the usual wear and tear. New and newer trucks are expensive and I want this truck to perhaps be the last I’ll ever own.

4. Plant an organic vegetable garden

Mr. Greer’a 4th resolution has been the one that I’ve been most consistent with over the years. I’ve attempted to have some form of vegetable garden going every year since the early 1990’s — with varying degrees of success, and where we live now, I’ve been particularly fortunate in having a large plot of level, mainly stone-free ground to work with. It’s across the street from our house and I’ve planted a garden there each Spring since 2018. So far, my attempts have fallen far, far short of what I would have hoped to achieve, but I keep plodding along. Garden work is arduous. It demands much in terms of physical and mental work. It doesn’t take long for idealistic notions of home-grown bounty and bumper-crops to be dashed by an array of accidents and surprises, some caused by the vagaries of the weather, the natural limitations imposed by geography and climate, or mistakes made by the gardener himself of which there have been many.

So far, 2021 has been a very challenging year in terms of garden vegetable production. Our Zone 5B climate with its short growing season, (about 125 frost free days) limits what we are reasonably able to plant grow and harvest. Extremes of hot and cold, intense sun, and desiccating wind have all had their negative effects, but for every challenge presented it has so far been possible to effect a remedy — at least for now. At this writing, the potatoes and corn are growing well, with the Winter Squash not far behind. We may also be rewarded with some tomatoes this year, provided we keep them watered, and the climbing beans are reaching for the strings we’ve installed for them to climb on. There is still time to plant and sow certain Fall crops, and I have an ace up my sleeve for the Fall, something that should effect to bump out the shoulders of our growing season by a few weeks, something I’ll aim to document in a future blog post.

5. Compost your food waste

While reflecting on John Michael Greer’s fifth suggested resolution from 2006, I astonished myself when I realized I’ve been composting food waste more or less continuously ever since the early 1990’s. In the Spring of 2020, with the active help of my son, Mr. T., I built six discrete compost bins, each one big enough to hold more than a cubic meter of garden and food waste. By adding compost to the bins and turning them regularly, and by soliciting and accepting donations of additional garden and food waste from neighbours, I’ve amassed quite a volume of decomposing material and I’ve noticed my pile of finished compost continuing to grow, which means I have more work to do: turning it back into the garden.

I designed these bins to make them labour-intensive and a good source of light, continuous exercise for me. It’s challenging and probably unwise for me to keep going during the extreme heat of the summer, but I have been able to consolidate bins sufficiently well to keep the process moving along.

I wonder: What shape or form might food waste composting take in the unique circumstances we find ourselves, particularly if we are doing it without the support of supplementary energy to move it from one place to another?

I realize I’m exceedingly fortunate to be living in a small rural village where there is not only room for me to establish multiple composting bins: I have six. Not everyone is able or wants to do this. When it comes to composting, what are the unique challenges readers of this blog face? What adjustments, if any do you want to make to the circumstances of your lives, if composting is something you want to take on? I’m not suggestion that individuals erect a 3 bin composting system on the balconies of their high-rise apartment buildings, but what are alternatives to fossil fuel dependant curb-side food-waste pickup do you imagine? Again, don’t be shy about leaving your best thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.

6. Take up a handicraft

Unless writing a blog counts as a handicraft, I’m afraid that I’ve not acted on Mr. Greer’s 6th suggested resolution for post peak-oil, post-industrial activity. This is something I’ll have think about, but I am a bit apprehensive. I’m already almost 64 years’ old, too old I’m afraid to make a serious commitment to any new craft, too old to become proficient with it. I’ll think this one over to see if something presents itself to me. Your comments and suggestions are welcome too!

7. Adopt an “obsolete” technology

When I go into schools to work as a teacher on-call one obsolete technology I now realize I’m fairly good at is cursive handwriting. This wasn’t always the case. Starting in grade 1 with the uppercase letter “A” and the lower case “a” We laboriously practiced the fine-motor skills required to print neatly for most of that school year. In grade 2 we extended our skills by copy-printing long passages from the blackboard that our teacher, Mrs. Robinson, (not that Mrs. Robinson), lifted from the Old Testament. In grade 2, “Abraham” was the longest word I was obliged to print until grade 3 Only to be displaced the next year by “Nebuchadnezzar”. In grade we transitioned from printing to cursive writing practice. We also managed to escape from the Old Testament and started copying complete sentences in English. It took years’ of practice to learn how to write using a cursive script but I kept at it and eventually got quite good at it. As far as I can tell, these kinetic skills are not really taught anymore, and there isn’t really a lot of discussion about whether we should revert to learning and practicing these skills again. Will it ever be necessary, profitable, desirable or therapeutic for people to be able to write legibly and well using long-hand script? Again, leave your thoughts in a comment below.

8. Take charge of your own health care

Even in jurisdictions where publicly-funded healthcare is provided to citizens, it’s increasingly evident that there has probably been no better time for individuals to take a larger measure of personal responsibility for maintenance of their own good health. Especially now, in the middle of the second year of the SARS2 Corona Virus pandemic, hospitals are good places to avoid if at all possible. Even if a trip to the hospital is unavoidable due to accident or injury, being able to draw upon an established reserve of strength and good health can be extremely helpful in avoiding further setbacks and speeding a return to good health. What are some of the habits and behaviours that support improving health that you have made a conscious part of your life over the past while? Even if nothing springs to mind, is there anything that you’ve started to think about possibly starting or re-starting? Do share your insights in the comments section below.

9. Help build your local community

In the small village where we live a minor crisis arose a couple of weeks’ ago where a developer from the city arrived and quietly announced his plan to build a multi-storey apartment building on a footprint of land he owned. As is often the case in the chaotic urban context, his plans exceeded those permitted in the Bylaw by a couple of storeys. The project required the approval of the Village council if it was to proceed. In the city, this is a continual and routine process, and proposed developments are routinely approved through a process that very few citizens outside the municipal bureaucracy are rarely aware of. Here, even the soft approach of the developer to council was ultimately noticed by an individual property owner, a neighbour of the proposed new apartment building who raised objections to having over a dozen apartment-dwellers’ windows looking down into his formerly very private back yard.

The concerned neighbour, with the help of a very few others, took small-scale but immediate action to stop what they saw as an end-run around the limits of the existing development bylaw. The project was stopped, but it might just as easily have gone ahead if a sufficient number of citizens hadn’t taken action at the last minute.

This anecdote helps to bring Mr. Greer’s ninth suggested resolution into focus for me, and potentially, for everyone else who lives in a community, whatever the size. What does ‘helping to build local community’ look like?

I have a few ideas about what building local community might look like in the small-village context where we now live, but I’m very interested in how might answer the question, in whichever community you reside.

10. Explore your spirituality

For the Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung, writing in the late 1950’s in his essay, Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth, offers the following perspective on “the dictator State”, which is quoted verbatim below including the gender-restrictive language of those days. I offer it here not as any kind of prescription for those wanting to examine their own spirituality, but as an invitation to a certain self-reflection, however that might arise for you:

It is a fact that in a dictator State the individual is robbed of his freedom, and that we too are threatened by this political fence. Hence the question arises in all urgency: are we going to let ourselves be robbed of our individual freedom, and what can we do to stop it?

Anxiously we look round for collective measures, thereby reinforcing the very mass-mindedness w want to fight against. There is only one remedy for the levelling effect of all collective measures, and that is to emphasize and increase the value of the individual. A fundamental change of attitude (metanoia) is required, a real recognition of the whole man. This can only be the business of the individual and it must begin with the individual in order to be real.

Large political and social organizations must not be ends in themselves, but merely temporary expedients. Just as it was felt necessary in America to break up the great Trusts, so the destruction of huge organizations will eventually prove to be a necessity because, like a cancerous growth, they eat away man’s nature as soon as they become ends in themselves and attain autonomy. From that moment they grow beyond man and escape his control. He becomes their victim and is sacrificed to the madness of an idea that knows no master. All great organizations in which the individual no longer counts are exposed to this danger. There seems to be only one way of countering this threat to our lives, and that is the ‘revaluation’ of the individual. (Collected Works of C.G. Jung, vol. 10, pg. 379-380)

In future blog posts I hope to explore some of the themes identified above in more detail. In the meantime, thank you for reading all the way to the end. I encourage you to leave constructive feedback for me in the comments section, and to share your own perspective on the topics discussed.


A mid-year retrospective

Resolutions for a Brave New Year

I’m of two minds about New Year resolutions. Most of them have the same shelf life as a week – old Mimosa forgotten behind the curtains on a window sill on a long-forgotten New Year’s morning. There it stands, hidden, steadfast until someone clears it away; it serves as a mute sentinel to the party that ended days, weeks, even months before.

But it’s the resolutions themselves that I’m interested in. In particular, I’m interested in the spirit which prompts them to arise. Where did they come from? What purpose do they serve? What are they for?

I don’t have an answer to these deceptively simple questions. All I know is I can be rolling along quite contentedly when all of a sudden, the need for one or more resolutions emerges as from the depths like flat-topped stepping stones that present themselves to the eye of cautious travellers as the waters flowing around them gently recede. They offer one indication of a way forward; they hint at the possibility of getting to a place called ‘The Other Side’ while still keeping my feet as comfortably dry as they already are ‘Over Here’.

The mid-point of the year is one of the places offering a calendar-driven opportunity to reflect, first of all, on how well I might be doing with any personal resolutions I made made last January.

I already know the answer to that question: not as well as I’d hoped.

Here at the end of the sixth month of the year, I thought it might be worthwhile to review how We, the collective We, might be been doing with some of the collective resolutions that have been proposed to us from time to time over the past number of years and decades.

I think the answer to that question is almost self-evident: not too well!

By coincidence, I was looking into the fifteen year old archive of John Michael Greer’s The Archdruid Report, which the author closed back in 2017 in its eleventh year. It was toward the end of 2006 where Mr. Greer proposed ten New Year’s Resolutions, “for a world on the brink of the deindustrial age. . . “.

For those who’ve forgotten or who were not yet born, in 2006 the fledgling internet was animated by a lot of crowd-chatter about the fairly new popular awareness of “Peak Oil”, understood as the highest point of annual world oil production, An inevitable event which after it had been surpassed a variety of calamities and crises would ensue.

When Peak Oil based calamities and crises didn’t arrive suddenly enough to satisfy the internet cloud monkeys, I noticed a lot of manic excitement and speculative disasterizing combined with just plain crazy-talk. Noise would rush in to fill the gap.

In those days I appreciated Mr. Greer’s knowledgeable approach to the issue of Peak Oil as much as his calm, practical approach to the problems at hand. He recommended a sensible approach that most [North] Americans could take with minimal cost and inconvenience. This advice was typical:

For some people the following ideas will be impractical, and for almost everyone they will be at least a little inconvenient. All of them, however, will be an inescapable part of the reality most Americans will have to live with in the future – and quite possibly the very near future, at that. The sooner people concerned with peak oil and the rest of the predicament of industrial society make changes like these in their own lives, the better able they will be to surf the waves of industrial decline and help other people make the transition toward sustainability.

The archdruid went on to suggest his “10 Possible Resolutions for a Post-Peak New Year”. I’ve listed them below without Mr. Greer’s encouraging commentary, as follows:

1. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents;

2. Retrofit your home for energy conservation;

3. Cut back on your gasoline consumption;

4. Plant an organic vegetable garden;

5. Compost your food waste;

6. Take up a handicraft;

8. Take charge of your own health care;

9. Help build your local community;

10. Explore your spirituality.

Irrespective of whether or not you’ve seen resolutions like these before, I invite readers of this blog to comment on these or other collective resolutions they’ve made over the years, to propose new or different ones and suggest other approaches all together.

In weeks to come, with your feedback and support, I’ll be exploring the themes identified in the 10 resolutions above, as well as other topics that may arise along the way. I’ll do my best to respond to advice & suggestion received in the comments section of this blog. I invite any and all discussion, commentary and argument as long as it’s presented in a civil manner. If it’s not, after a caution from me, I’ll block you!

Happy Mid-Year!


No Loitering

KELOWNA, March, 2021. — We’d generated a list, so after breakfast we decided we’d leave Midway for Kelowna in the 3/4 ton. We took Highway 33 North from Rock Creek, via Westbridge, then slightly West through Beaverdell and Carmi to the Rock Creek/Kelowna summit. 

As we neared the summit, we saw evidence of the work of crews who have been busy ripping trails into the woods probably for logging but we saw no sign of the cow moose we’d seen before on each of our two previous Winter expeditions. She’d probably been scared off.

  From there we descended quickly, passing the Big White Summit, where so many Covid-19 infections had been identified this past Winter. We continued down through Joe Rich then carrying on down through the Black Mountain area of Kelowna, Rutland and into the commercial junk scape of Kelowna.

Our first stop was the Bottle Depot on Kent Street. We parked the truck in front of one of the NO LOITERING signs on one side of the building and carried the had one very large polyethylene bag packed almost to full capacity.  

Our collection included beverage containers made of glass, polyethylene, aluminum and a vile, industrial sandwich sold as a “Tetra-Pak”, which is made of paperboard, (75%), polyethylene (20%), and aluminum (5%).

Inside, we sorted the containers which for our purposes fell into two main categories:  ‘Clean’  and ‘Absolutely’ filthy.

The ‘clean’ containers were filled with empties that we’d accumulated since December, 2020 and were mainly made of aluminum or glass.  They were pop and beer cans mainly, with a few wine and liquor bottles mixed in.

The ‘absolutely filthy’ containers were also made mainly of aluminum or glass, but also of many made of P.E.T. (polyethylene terephthalate), a synthetic resin. 

The worst of these might include empty beverage containers filled with piss and tossed out the window by truck drivers unwilling to stop, but most were simply pitched from vehicles once they’d been emptied and picked up months later after being covered with a Winter’s worth of road spray and spending the Winter buried in the dirty snow.

 These, over the course of 1 hour I’d picked from ditches and shoulders of the Crowsnest Highway No. 3 a long a distance of no more than 1 kilometre.

I’m very pleased the government of British Columbia has mandated an economy for beverage containers because it gets more of the used materials: glass, aluminum, and plastic to, back into the manufacturing process and out of the litter stream.

An extension of this is it  but also gives me an  excellent incentive to get some fresh-air, sunshine and light exercise at the same time.  

Picking up cans on the side of the highway is a lot like gardening , except the main crop is mainly aluminum, glass and plastic, not fruit and vegetables.

We cashed in our empties and received $20.25 cents. To prevent touching during the plague, the money was passed to us in a grey, polyethylene plastic basket from the dollar-store. It had been extruded in China to resemble a real basket, one hand-made out of woven reeds.

My companion on this trip made a lunge for the money, but I turned quickly to one side.  “Hey!”, I said, “I already bought your Breakfast!  This belongs to me!”  

That’s what I said, and I believed it,  but I didn’t realize until we went outside that it wasn’t actually true. The twenty dollar bill didn’t belong to me, any more than any of the ‘clean’ or ‘absolutely filthy’ beverage containers we’d cashed in ‘belonged’ to me.  

It was only being handled by us until we passed it on to someone else as part of a transaction, hopefully a ‘mutually beneficial exchange of values’. 

In the end, we spontaneously decided and agreed the $20 actually belonged to the very old man loitering near the truck with a sign taped to his walker. The sign read: “I need some money”, as candid, and honest a statement as I’d recently seen. 

I noticed the man had hooked the right rear wheel of his walker around a parking curbstone in the same way I often do when I’m turning left and forget that I’m driving the truck and not my much smaller car. I fail to account for my truck’s long box and forget to drive far enough out into the intersection to clear the invisible ‘pivot-point’, just past the truck’s mid-point. When I start turning right too early, as if I was driving my much shorter car, the left rear-wheel invariably gets caught and climbs the curb, much to the annoyance of my travelling companion.

The old guy looked very frail. I hoped he would realize his walker was hung up on the curbstone and adjust it a bit so that he wouldn’t fall when he tried to move forward.

“No 85 year old guy pushing a walker would make a sign that said ‘I need some money’ unless he was telling the truth’”, said my travelling companion.

I agreed. So we gave the deposit-money to him.


Thursday, March 18, 2021, (2, XE).

MIDWAY, BC — Why does gardening start so late in central British Columbia?

Maybe it’s because the majority of people around here are doing other things, but there are many other tasks related to gardening that can and perhaps should be done in this liminal space between the melting of the snow and the thawing of the ground.

Driving yesterday to Grand Forks, we noticed that the distractions of eating, drinking, and smoking continue to be promoted in Midway, Anaconda and Greenwood, but farming, and farming’s subset, vegetable gardening, generally, is not.

The countryside is varied but mainly mountainous; it’s beautiful and serene, but the land is poor, resistant to rake and spade. Only certain favoured places are productive: ground where thousands of years fertile silt have been conveniently deposited; ground that receive lots of sunshine that does not escape from mountain-thrown shade until late morning early afternoon, nor is captured by it again by mid-afternoon; ground that receives the careful attention of people who, by intention or temperament, want to be grounded themselves.

Of commercial gardeners there are only a few; and, where backyard gardens were ubiquitous in the years when the Greenwood smelter was going full bore, and later when displaced Japanese Canadians were forced to be here and found through gardening a certain way through their own adversity, gardeners are so few now as to be like as gold nuggets found laying on the ground.

Where’s the last gold nugget you found laying on the ground? Exactly.

But there are a few greenhouses, more than I recall seeing around here thirty years ago. They are either wood frame structures covered with polyethylene, ill-conceived hoop-houses built during fair weather, now shredded or collapsed. A very few are smaller, of the expensive glass and extruded aluminum variety, but all of them share one thing in common: they’re empty or being used as storage sheds for disused or broken junk mainly from the second half of the 20th century.

Maybe some of those unmasked St. Patrick’s Day revellers we saw on the way back from Grand Forks, smoking on the sidewalk outside the Legion hall in Greenwood were also responsible for building a few of those greenhouses we saw.

Back in Midway at 6:30, the three flats of parsley and onion seeds I planted last week are sprouting. Parsley takes a while to germinate, and the onions need a long to grow, but at least they’ve been started, so until tomorrow I’m a bit less behind than I was.

Now I’ve got to get this gardening ball a-rolling and keep it rolling.

I do not have any kind of greenhouse, nor a mule neither, though I do have some ground to put one on, for which I’m grateful. I’m still feeling my way forward trying not to over-think, over-plan, or over-spend. But my sense of the way things are going in this second year of this new era of X-tinction is that it’s time to, ‘Git behind the mule and plough, boy. Git behind the mule and plough’.

It would be a lot easier if the ground wasn’t still frozen.


pauldavidsteer © 2021. All Rights Reserved.


The United States, Covid, and gardening in the SPC

Today’s Crowsnest update is not about one topic specifically; it’s about the enormous list of possible subjects there are and the impossibility of writing about them all.

Last week, with civil insurrection surging up the steps and into the corridors of the United States Capitol, I counted my good fortune in not being part of any of that.

Again this week, with the United States Congress taking the unprecedented step of impeaching the current president for a second time, an unrepentant President Trump (despite the words he reads off of teleprompters), continues to encourage his disaffected supporters to turn out en masse, armed, in front of state capitols, in just a few days.

Again, fortunate we are to be here, not there; lucky so far not to have been infected with the Sars 2 Corona Virus, felled by Covid 19, nor to know anyone who has been. Not yet: hopefully not ever.

As observed by Paul Samyn, editor of the Winnipeg Free Press in one of his daily Covid 19 updates a few days ago, all of that can change in an instant,  . . . it can be when you take your chances with this virus, when you let down your guard, when you fool yourself into thinking that meeting down at the pub for a few pints of Guinness is a good way to celebrate Christmas. [emphasis mine]

Mr. Samyn was talking about Ireland, which had the lowest coronavirus infection rate in the European Union in early December, but has the world’s highest rate now.  His point: It could just as easily happen, right in his city, Winnipeg, but just as easily your country, town, village or family, no matter where you reside: it could even happen to you!  

* * * *

Last week’s blogpost caught the attention of two people, both gardeners, one of whom became a subscriber.  Thank you for your responses!

* * * *

Fortunately, gardening is on my seemingly endless list of topics to write about in this space, so while I wait for the 2019-2020 garden report to be written, a continuing theme will be our #sustainability garden, where it was, is now, and where we hope to see it going in 2021.  Has there ever been a better time than now to ‘get growing’?

A question for the ‘armchair’ or ‘active’ gardeners reading this:  “What books/seed catalogues/other printed gardening resources are you making the most use of right now?  Feel free to reply in the comments section; there’s lots of room for as long or short a comment you’d like to make!

For a nominal US$5.00 fee, I downloaded and printed a copy of the 2021 garden planner distributed by the U.S. National Gardening Association website.

The Planner/organizer offers templates and pages for each of the 12 months and 52 weeks the gardening year.  I don’t think this was a mistake, but here near the end of “Week 2” I realize I’m already behind schedule. 

Among my many other gardening mistakes so far, since committing to the resurgence of the sustainability garden in 2018, was my failure yesterday to take advantage of the unseasonably warm, +7 degree (celsius) outdoor temperatures.  I should have headed over to the Super Paul Compound (SPC) to dig more Winter Carrots and Rutabaga, but I did not.  Last night the mercury dropped back to -7 degrees, making digging today more difficult, maybe impossible.

Something else.  One garden-related task I will  commit to this do this week and one that is worthy of week 2 of the gardening year, especially when the ground is still covered with snow,  is to to a walk-around, both inside and outside the compound, to make note of the current situation, the lay of the land.  I could easily do it from my desk, but I know that the best motivation for the would-be gardeners comes from their feet. 

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Besides U.S. politics, the pandemic, and the garden, there’s always the easy default subjects of weather and traffic to write about, but since urban market morning TV seems to have a lock on those, I’ll probably weigh-in on those topics as a last resort.  

I’ve jotted down a fair list of possible subjects, all worthy of treatment here:  Health & Wellness; books; healthful cookery; cooperatives; obesity; acoustic music; consumerism; and Delza are all subjects I know some of the people who have read my stuff seem to be interested in.  And there are many other subjects I haven’t mentioned, enough to keep me busy for a long time.

So, leave a comment, share, subscribe, especially if you have constructive criticism, advice or other support to offer.

As for me, I’m still trying to figure things out as I go, so please forgive me if there are a few glitches along the way


Better here than there

I could’ve written something about the SARS-2 Corona Virus when the global pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020, but I didn’t until today, 302 days later, after Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for countries to, “. . . take urgent and aggressive action . . . the agency has rung the alarm bell loud and clear.”

At the time, my impression was the WHO had taken their time in declaring the pandemic. I had been following news of the Sars 2 Corona Virus since late January, but at the time I didn’t write anything down about it, apart from a letter I sent to some people I care about. I was busy doing other things, among them thinking about what I would be planting in my new sustainability garden. Looking back through the pages of my 2020 garden diary I’ve only found two references to Covid-19: one on March 13th, and the other on the 15th:

2020.March.13.,  “ > 110 000 cases of Covid-19 worldwide.” And this:

“Where is the data that confirms a 5 day incubation period?”

While 110 000 Covid-19 cases worldwide sounded huge then, the number has only taken off from there, There are now well over 87 and a half million cases worldwide and the total number cases is still increasing.

There was nothing else written in my diary to suggest I’d ever found the answer to my question about the 5 day incubation period, but judging from the quarantine restrictions imposed by most, perhaps all government jurisdictions in Canada and internationally, 14 days has apparently been settled on as the number of elapsed days necessary to ensure that anyone arriving in Canada from somewhere else is non-infective with Covid-19. 

Looking back hoping for further references to the pandemic in my garden diary proved futile; this was my 2020 garden diary after all, and I’m a legend in my own mind for wanting to keep the ‘main thing’, the main thing.  At least there’ll be lots of primary-source information to include in my year end garden report — if I ever manage to write it.

But there are so many other things I could write about besides gardening. Covid-19 obviously, politics, books, ideas, journalism, even the weather, my ideas about acoustic music: the problem for me is not so much what to write about but where to begin.

A few weeks ago, on my Facebook page, a platform I’d like to get away from, I invited people who respond to a post by indicating a single word or phrase they associated with when where or how they became associated with me. I was astonished that over 50 people responded and many others who’s opinions I also value, choosing not to.

I started thinking about the larger group, those who had replied to my silly question immediately along with those who had not probably comprised my audience. A few days later, I realized that should I ever jump into the deep-end of the social media pool and commit to generating steady content for a self-published blog, it would probably be this larger group of people that I’d probably be writing for.

After the middle of July, 2020 the number of entries in my garden diary dropped off to zero.  It wasn’t because I had stopped gardening, it was because I had stopped writing about it. I’d become so busy actually working the garden that I didn’t bother to write things down anymore. Looking back, this was disappointing to me because keeping things going and bringing them to completion is also something I value.

Being really new at this, I believe have no choice but to take small steps, but I don’t think I would be wasting my time if I encourage you to leave a comment, letting me know your thoughts, and suggesting what might make this blog one that you might keep returning to. In a genuine sense, I’m working for you; my only payment so far is your interest, as reflected in your comments and other feedback. whether or not this website is something I can think about later.

If the surprises of 2020 have been any indication, I think there’ll be lots up for discussion in the weeks to come; 2021 shows no indication of being any less astonishing than 2020, as the events in Washington, D.C. yesterday would confirm.

So don’t be shy about leaving a comment, giving me honest feedback, suggesting the topics you find most compelling, as well as those that do not.

One more thing. I haven’t determined a regular schedule for posts here, but I’m thinking that once per week might be enough for me to commit to; twice per week would mean the blog would become a job; more than twice per week would end up being an annoyance.

Feel free to subscribe, share, comment and to provide me with any feedback that you’d like.

[N.B.  While writing this blog entry, my TV was off, and when I was finished I went for a two hour hike up along the Big Chungus River Loop.  It wasn’t until later I heard about the bad craziness going down in and around the U.S. Capitol building which resulted in the death of a woman who was fatally shot in the neck while trying to climb into the Chamber of Congress through a broken window.  I’m glad I wasn’t there.]


It’s a really good time to hunker down

For the past eight months or so, people living outside of British Columbia’s largest city have been less directly affected by the SARS 2 Corona Virus pandemic and its signature disease, COVID-19.

For people living in smaller cities, towns, and villages pandemic news has focussed mainly on events happening somewhere else, over the hill and far away. 

In the minds of many British Columbians, the SARS-2 Corona Virus pandemic exists as an abstraction if it exists at all.

Even now, as rates of infection and subsequent deaths rise, there are still a majority of British Columbians who remain completely untouched by COVID-19. For them, including everyone in this household, the global pandemic has seemed unreal: not totally fake, but not completely genuine either.

I’m not surprised by this.  After all, early last Spring British Columbia’s citizens responded well to admonitions from government and public health agencies to “flatten the curve”. Citizens in rural BC, places without any confirmed cases of COVID-19, accepted and mainly supported such unprecedented measures as complete closures of schools, health care facilities, and many businesses.

As a consequence, what was initially seen as a relentless upward curve of deaths as the result of COVID-19 was flattened.  

Summer arrived, the crisis eased, and things started moving back to ‘normal’.

The curve was being flattened but COVID-19 wasn’t being rubbed out. Toward the middle of July, steadily, relentlessly, COVID-19 infections started to climb again. Infections are increasing daily.

Now, well into the Fall, we hear reports of increasing numbers of infections, followed inevitably by rising numbers of fatalities days and weeks later.  The main question now is whether or not today’s number of reported new cases is once again higher than yesterday’s number.

Despite these worrisome facts, a majority of people in British Columbia still have not been directly or indirectly harmed by COVID-19, only inconvenienced.

The death toll continues to rise, but unless we or a family member is working in one of the so-called ‘front-line’ jobs, the majority of Canadians still have no first-hand proof of the pandemic, only secondary evidence, relentless media reports delivered via the internet — the same medium as cat videos, click-bait and celebrity gossip— a medium that consumers find easy to dismiss.

How many people will have to die of or with COVID-19 before Canadians change their own behaviour in a way that flattens the curve indefinitely?

The Washington-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation suggests that number is trending upward. 

Their graphic models estimate and average daily COVID-19 death rate of 2 per day on November 16th will double to 4 per day by the middle of December, and double again to 8 per day by years’ end, a four-fold increase in daily COVID-19 deaths over the next 6 weeks.

For the BC families who lose a beloved great grandparent, parent, sibling, spouse or child over the course of the upcoming holiday period, that’ll be one hell of a Christmas present, one that no one would ever wish to give or to receive.

But remember: a projection is only a statistical guess: it’s a long boney finger pointing toward an unknown unknowable future; it’s by no means predictive.

There’s a lot that individual British Columbians can do to effect different and better outcomes.

These same projections suggest that by the middle of February, 2021, death rates will begin to moderate and possibly decline, but this too will only be achieved as the result of widespread willingness of citizens to abide by hygiene, mask-wearing and social distancing protocols.  It could just as easily go in the opposite direction if people are careless.  

What better time than now to do everything they can as individuals to 1) keep themselves healthy and avoid infection, and 2) do everything they can to limit the spread of the virus now and well into 2021.

It would be a good thing for everyone to hunker down and stay put — right through the end of the year and into 2021. Doing so just might save a life, maybe your own.


Snowed Under

   A few days ago it was early Fall and I was thinking about the many small and larger jobs to do within the deer-fenced perimeter of my garden across the street. 

Then, day before yesterday, I noticed early morning temperatures had dropped by about 5 degrees Celsius and snow was forecast.  06:30 on October 23rd, it started to snow.  And snow. And snow some more.

It snowed all day, breaking previous 1899 record for snowfall, leaving about a foot of perfect powder.  

Looking at the calendar it’s assuredly still Fall, but a glance outside suggests that it’s already Winter.

Now, everything needing to be done in the garden still needs to be done, except now all those jobs are buried underneath a foot or more of nice, fluffy snow.

Damn!  What is it that causes me to put off necessary work, to give in to the inertia, yield to the ‘lazy’ gene instead of getting important things like digging root and green leafy vegetables and bringing them indoors where they might do some good?

I’m going to explore the question posed by my garden; it has become increasingly obvious to me that I’ve not done what I should have done these past several weeks; it has been my own failure to pay proper attention to ‘the work’ needing to be done — not just in the garden — in other areas of life as well!

There’s no practical choice for me now except to pick up a few tools and start clearing away the snow. Denial is futile, and probably fatal.