Tag Archives: Spring

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.


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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An Eagle and the First Blossoms of Not-Yet-Spring

We were greeted by an eagle and the first blossoms of Not-Yet-Spring when Little Man and I went for a walk/bike ride the other day.  The sky was overcast and everything was deeply wet, but the paths were passable with only the occasional puddle of awesomeness to splash through.

Little Man tooled around on his balance bike, and has gotten quick enough that I now need to wear appropriate shoes so that I can jog along behind him.  He skidded through a couple of muddy areas, fish tailing and whooping, and kept on going while I slogged through in his wake.

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We heard the uproar of birds before we saw the eagle loop over the treetops above us.  Little Man called out that there was a “bald eagle,” and I think I saw enough of a white head and tail feathers to agree with him.  Later we would hear sea lions, but not be able to track them down as the wind shifted and carried their barking to different parts of the path.
20150211_100203 (2)Lastly we tracked down various fairy houses along the trails.  A posted sign described the different ecosystems of the park, and Little Man had a good time noticing the ocean ecosystem, the forest ecosystem, and the fairy ecosystem.  The number and placement of the fairy houses has changed since my first post about them (A Week On Our Own: Day 2), and its fun to keep exploring to see if we can find more and some have moved.  At the “Give a Little/Take a Little” fairy house, Little Man exchanged some leprechaun gold for a sparkly pink jelly bracelet that he promptly declared to be a “beautiful Power Ranger bracelet,” and had a wonderful time all day “transforming” it into a ring by coiling it up tightly.

I didn’t have our camera with us, so I made due with the camera on my phone.  While officially still Winter, it’s been a mild one for us here on the island.  This was the first tree that I’d seen actually blossoming, and in our yard there are mystery bulbs sprouting everywhere.  Our farmer-landlords’ garlic is looking good too, as are our Dinosaur Kale plants that have kept doggedly at it since the summer.  Though our winter has been mild, February isn’t over yet, and I try not to think about Spring too much in case something changes.  It was in February and then again in March of last year that we woke up to a huge snow dump after all (I Woke Up To the Snow and Embracing the Snow).


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As we walked along, skidded out, and laughed our way through our beautiful but overcast surroundings, I couldn’t help but wonder at the gorgeous surroundings that will likely make the basis for his first long term memories.  Life is good.


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A Sick Snow Day

This week dawned bright and sparkly on a few inches of unexpected (at least to us) snow.  These were the sights that greeted me when I stumbled out of the house on Monday morning with an old cardboard box to gather wood from our shed for the day’s fire.  I’d forgotten to tuck my pants legs into my sorely misused Uggs, and would have wet, cold ankles for a bit once I got back inside, but the beautiful pink light from the morning sun coming over the dusted pines made me forget about that.  The farmer’s dog hadn’t been let out yet, so our snow was still pristine, without dog footprints or other offerings.

Snow-frosted fencing curled up around the border of our back yard.  Just waiting for Spring so the garden beds and "real" fencing can be put in place.

Snow-frosted fencing curled up around the border of our back yard. Just waiting for Spring so the garden beds and “real” fencing can be put in place.

Unfortunately this was not just a snow day, but a sick day with our toddler totally knocked out with the flu.  It was almost with tears that we had to turn away the farmer’s daughter when she came to see if Little Man would like to go sledding.  He, of course, said “yes!” through a fit of fevered coughing, and almost succeeded in rolling off the couch towards the door.  We’ll have more chances for sledding later, once he’s fit as a fiddle again.

A view of our little summer "gazebo" bench, and the lone Canadian flag windsock.  A nice punch of color for our white and black landscape.

A view of our little summer “gazebo” bench, and the lone Canadian flag windsock. A nice punch of color for our white and black landscape.

In the meantime, when Little Man did have enough energy to roll off the couch he decided he wanted to “decorate the floor.”  He’s done smaller versions of this on the dining room and living room tables, but nothing quite to this extent before.  If anyone had the audacity to walk into the living room while he was working, they were greeted with a firmly outstretched toddler hand and a croaky “don’t step on my cars!” warning.  We’ll get back to practicing kind words later, but on this sick day we let the mini-artist have a bit more leeway as he looped and swirled his cars and other precious toys around the rug.

Little Man's rug "decoration."

Little Man’s rug “decoration.”

All in all, it was one of the best sick snow days I’ve had… especially since it wasn’t me being sick.  Now that we’re in February, we enter the anxious waiting period for Spring.  I know I can’t expect it to come too soon, but I keep waiting and plotting the things I want to plant in the garden this year.  Little Man has already requested that we plant carrots for his stuffed fox and Cheezies for his stuffed bear.  For some reason I think we’ll be more successful with one than the other.  I’m just trying to figure out something else we can plant that will get him excited to eat things from the garden, even if it won’t produce artificially cheese-flavored snack chips like he hopes.


A Flower Out of Time

The other day I headed outside to visit the garden for some end of the season vegetables, and as I entered our backyard I caught something out of the corner of my eye that stopped me in my tracks.   There were four large bunches of crocus blooming like mad behind our house… in October.  I am not much of an ornamental gardener, but I thought that I understood the basics of which flowers tend to bloom when.  After my years of living in snowy places, come March my color starved eyes are scouring snowy gardens looking for just these types of flowers.  Seeing the spring-time narcissus in our fall-time backyard stunned me for a moment and I stood there staring at the riot of lavender.

I would later learn that these flowers are in fact Autumn Crocus and they bloom in the fall.  Thank you Ruth and Corinne for helping me out with that.  Corinne’s mom had the same reaction that I did when she saw what she thought were spring flowers popping out of her fall garden.  I love being surprised by nature.  There will be many things that I forget about this first year in Canada, but I will never forget that feeling of wonder as I stared out these flowers that appeared out of synch with time.

Narcissus blooming in early October.

Crocus blooming in early October.