Strawberry Trees

When we moved to Vancouver Island from the American Midwest it was amazing to be living next to the sea with the cedar forests literally reaching to the shore.  These were also some of the oddest shores that I’d ever seen.  Being on the sheltered, eastern side of the island there is no surf pounding the shore, just gentle lapping ripples so there is sound that I generally associate with being at the beach.  Since there are no waves, there are also no surfers or even sponges (aka body boarders… sorry…).  In fact, there is no sand.  Instead we have pebble beaches, save for a few places to the north.  That said, with the occasional eagle soaring overhead, the sun sparkling off of the sapphire waters, and the forests extending right down to the water the views are stunning.

Little Man exploring the shore at Transfer Beach.

Pooh Bear… I mean Little Man… exploring the shore at Transfer Beach.

Nope, that's not a lake. That's the calm Pacific Ocean on the east side of Vancouver Island at Transfer Beach.

Nope, that’s not a lake. That’s the calm Pacific Ocean on the east side of Vancouver Island at Transfer Beach.

The forests are also unique to the island, at least in my experience.  In my defense before moving here I had been living in the corn belt for 5 years, where the land is so flat it seems as if you can actually see the horizon bend in the distance.  When we first moved here there was a certain type of tree that kept catching my eye.  Interspersed throughout the cedar, fir and alder, were smooth barked, rust colored trees that I’d never seen before.  They looked vaguely like the eucalyptus that I’m familiar with from California with their smooth barked trunks, but eucalyptus grow ramrod straight and these are curved and bent into Seussian shapes.  Eventually when exploring various parks with Little Man we came across one of those helpful informational signs informing us that these are arbutus tress.  Apparently one of the original Spanish explorers saw these gorgeous trees and was reminded of the strawberry trees from his homeland.  Or at least that’s what I remember from the sign at Neck Point.  Little Man insists the sign states that we should turn left on the trail and head for China.  One of us must be closer to correct than the other.

My intrepid navigators debate the B.C. Strawberry Tree sign at Neck Point.

My intrepid navigators debate the B.C. Strawberry Tree sign at Neck Point.

One of my favorite views of spring on the island is that of the blooming arbutus trees.  They are covered with large, creamy, star shaped flowers that look vaguely elvish.  It was a lovely spring morning so Little Man and I went tromping outside, me with my camera and he with his “kung fu sticks” (aka a long skinny branch and a green plastic tomato pole from my garden).  In the picture with Little Man blasting past an arbutus, he’s heading to the metal gate of the sheep enclosure to drum for the sheep.  The long suffering animals took off down to the lower meadow where Little Man’s musical offering wasn’t quite so loud.  He insisted that the sheep liked his music and was quite chagrined when I suggested we move on to give the sheep a bit of peace and quiet. Apparently I am not as well attuned to the musical tastes of sheep as he is.

An arbutus tree behind the barn.

An arbutus tree behind the barn.

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The sheep have fled the music.

Arbutus blossoms

Arbutus blossoms

With the warm spring sunshine, an amazing amount of blue sky, and the ground drying out from our deluge, it’s time to start thinking garden thoughts… or at least to start wresting my garden from the embrace of the mass of crab grass that sits like a jaunty toupee on my lovely plot.  But that is for a later post.

A crab grass toupee.

A crab grass toupee.

Morning light from under an arbutus tree.

Morning light from under an arbutus tree.

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