Archive for April, 2015

A Thursday Cutting Broom

A few years ago I volunteered to help cut down the invasive weed, Scottish Broom that is spreading over the Island.  This is a weed that is worse than dandelions.  It is an evergreen bush that produces millions of seeds after blooming in April.  The rest of the year it is an ugly evergreen plant that can grow to 10 feet.  You can burn it or chop it down but it grows back as if it was from outer space.

It has only one weakness.  If you cut the plant when it is in bloom in April with yellow flowers at the ground level, it dies.  Any other time of the year if you cut the plant at the ground it will come up with a dozen sprouts.  When it grows in open spaces it kills off the young trees that would otherwise come up after clear cutting such as along roads and in parks.

Up and down the Island there are volunteer groups called Broombusters trying to cut them back in the bloom months of April and May.

It is truly a hopeless task.  Best they can do is try to clear public parks and trails.  This is the time when they are blooming with yellow flowers and there are lots of people that say why are you cutting these lovely flowers when the rest of the year it is an ugly plant.

A few years ago I joined the forlorn club to try and bust Broom in Bloom.  Using loppers and hand pruning shears we try to clear swathes of these invasive weeds.  I say we only in the generous sense of my participation because I only do it once or twice a week.

Cutting broom is physically exhausting.  Squeezing the loppers to cut stems 1 inch in diameter and dragging the bush to a pile is a better workout then you could ever get at a club.  I feel guilty because I take days to recover from each day out and yet there are people that do this every day during the blooming season in April.

As we are away this weekend when the groups normally show up I felt guilty, so went this morning to clear Broom along Ryan Road.

Lots of muscle pain tonight, but a feeling of satisfaction.  I like to think it is like Mother Theresa trying to convert people in India to Christianity.  Never going to convert them all but you are rewarded for the effort and the success in the small area.   And some Tylenol helps.

Scotch broom

Our Trip to our Miata AGM

I was going to title this blog the Vancouver Island Miata Club annual General Meeting.  But I have learned that titles must be carefully selected so they will not be hit by scam artists.

Pat and I drove down to Nanaimo for the annual General Meeting of our Island Miata club.

For those that are not aware, the term Miata refers to the greatest two seater roadster of all time built by Mazda.  The brand Miata was used by Mazda in North America from 1990 until about 2005.  After that they re-branded all the North American roadsters as MX-5 which was the designation they had always used around the rest of the world.  We bought our little Red in 2008 as an MX-5 but still all the clubs in US and Canada refer to them as Miatas.

That is just a bit of a background.  We belong to the Island Miata club and have enjoyed some great events and parties with the members.  But it is an aging club.  Not a lot of new blood although there are hundreds of MX-5 owners on the island.  Unlike the rest of Canada, this is the perfect environment for a convertible roadster.

We were at the general meeting today.  The outgoing President had notified everyone last year that he wanted to pass his role along with all the other positions, secretary, treasurer etc.  Mostly met with the typical down casting of eyes by everyone present. So pretty much the same old gang.

Pat and I watched the meeting and we knew that they need new leadership.  So I volunteered to be the northern Island rep (think of it as the governor of the northern half of Vancouver Island at least as far as the Miata club is concerned)

This is my step to be the President.  A slam dunk if I can organize my constituents.  Watching the Secretary and Treasurer positions, Pat could surpass the current incumbents in a heart beat but first she has to leave her current secretary and treasurer responsibilities.

2016 could have us in charge of everything.  We could rule over the Vancouver Island Miata Club.

Our Home Music

We have a home Sonos system that plays music inventoried on the computer.  Think of it as a big IPod only tied into amplifiers that feed ceiling speakers throughout the home.

When we built the house we included speaker wiring and Cat 6 (basically the same as cable) to the various amplifiers in other rooms.

This was long planned before we moved in as we planned to build a huge inventory of music that we could share thru the house. I went on a pursuit of everything I could down load or save to build our files.   Eventually we ended up with about 11,000 music files.

We accepted all inputs from friends, relatives our children and our grandchildren (and some really weird stuff from Pat’s brother Art) .

I then spent many hours editing the music into categories.

These days I doubt if we listen to half of what we have in our inventory.  Occasionally we put on the Pop category in the afternoon but always go to dining music in the evening.

This afternoon, as it was cool, and the Blue Jays were being whiffed, we, well mostly I, decided to put on some of the music from the categories that we never listen to.

Goth, Punk, Grunge and Heavy Metal.  We apparently have a large inventory courtesy of James and certain grandchildren.

We have retained these songs in the event they visit us and want to share their music.

As we listened this evening, Pat and I would occasionally  look at each other and think,  who would listen to this?  Granted there were a few good tunes from Nirvana, Green Day and even one obscure group Clan of Xymox that kept me from trashing all the categories.

I mean it is not like I am paying rent for the computer files, so I will keep them but I will require the donors to one day show up and willow out the bad stuff.  Good luck on that thought.

Sawyer the Owl

In our valley we have a semi volunteer organization called Mountainare Avian Rescue Society otherwise known as MARS.  They take in injured birds and some animals, bring them back to health and then release them back into the wild.  Noted for the number of Eagles that they have saved.  Mostly a volunteer organization with a tiny staff working out of a facility north of Courtenay.  Maj Birch, the founder and head of MARS, came to make a presentation to our Probus club. MARS depends on donations and corporate sponsors.   Along with her she brought a Saw Whet owl named Sawyer.

These are tiny owls that even fully grown are only about 5 inches high.  Sawyer had been caught by a cat (Cats are evil bird killers) and when MARS got him they had to amputate his right wing so could not be released.  He along with other birds that are too injured to be released, are kept at the facility.

During the half hour presentation Sawyer remained perched on Maj’s hand eyeballing the crowd.  Cutest thing you ever saw.  Needless to say there were lots of donations given by our club and individuals.


Coq with Vin Dinner

My readers will appreciate that I love to blog on my special meals.  Over the years I have prepared some exceptional dining experiences for the wife and shared a few for my fans.

A couple of days ago I had to visit my Doctor’s office for a minor prescription renewal and blood tests.  As it was supposed to be a quick trip I did not bring a book.  I had to spend a half hour in the waiting room reading the selection of magazines that they have.

Looking around the room there are lots of guys but the magazines are Chatelaine, Flair, Best Dressed women , etc.  Not a Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics or Golf Digest in the room.

Obviously, even though it is a Clinic with 5 male doctors and 1 female, the selection of the magazines is delegated to the 2 young ladies at the front desk.


As I said, I normally bring along a book to read but thinking my visit would be brief I was forced to read magazines.

I picked up a Chatelaine and leafed through looking for a new recipe that I might prepare for Pat.  They had a Coq au Vin Blanc recipe that sounded great.

Normally Coq au Vin is made with red wine and basically a stew for old chicken pieces. I have made it in the past. This one used white wine and was in the category of quick meals.  That should have been a clue.

So tonight I prepared Coq au Vin Blanc for dinner.  I followed the recipe from Chatelaine exactly (cut in half).  Not one of my best meals.

Pat told me that she thought it was…. very nice.  The kiss of death for a review.  So those blog readers that think I am a gourmet chef, not everything works out.

My TV Zombie Experience

After the first year of The Walking Dead, I was convinced by family (well some family) and friends (well one friend) that I was missing great drama.

Started watching half way through season 2 and became a huge fan so recorded every episode.   From day one, there was no way Pat wanted to watch this program with me, so I could not experience the culture of watching it live, watching the talking dead and then emailing to everyone to share my comments and opinions.  The closest I could have come to a teenage girls facebook routine.

Strangely Pat loved the movie Zombieland with Woody Harrelson , Dawn of the Dead by Sarah Polley and even Shaun of the Dead, so it is not a morbid phobia of dead people walking.

So Walking Dead became the program I would watch Monday morning when Pat was at church after I came home from the club.  Loved the writing that developed the individual characters and the adventure that would challenge me about how I would react in that situation.  My favorite characters became Daryl and Glenn, a couple of stand up guys but I learned early that good people die.

Vedran has a crossbow in his basement and I keep wondering if he could use it to survive and protect my daughter.  They do live in the south which is the heart of Zombie land.  I told him to just make it to Vancouver Island and they would be OK.

Season 5 became a bit of a chore to watch.  Finally when Noah, who I had started to like, had his face ripped apart in a particularly graphic scene that I realized Pat was right.  This is just nightmare territory so I cancelled the rest of the series.

While I expect that this will cause some grief from at least 2 of my children, I think it is the correct decision.  Granted I still have Better Call Saul episodes to watch Monday morning (again another program that Pat refuses to watch) so I will survive.

A Sockeye Salmon Dinner

When Pat and I first visited Vancouver Island, you could find lots of fresh salmon sold at the side of the road or in local markets.

This was unusual for me because I thought Salmon came in little round tins the way I remembered from growing up in Regina.

After we moved here in 2008 we could still find cheap Salmon occasionally,  but the market eventually went to the high bidder.

We have learned that fresh caught Salmon is seasonal depending on the period when they return from the ocean to mate in the streams of their birth. Pinks, Chubs, Chinooks and the ultimate Sockeyes all migrate at different times.   Massive fishing boats sweep the sea to drag them in as they approach the rivers of the west coast.  So you take what is available when it occurs.

As a result, even here on the coast, you get used to farmed Salmon, traditionally Atlantic Salmon where they dye the feed red to give the pink colour to the flesh that true Salmon eaters desire.

It is Friday evening and I wanted to treat my bride to a good seafood meal.  I sought out and purchased a slab of fresh caught Sockeye Salmon (by the way the best of the best).  Fisherman can still find these in the ocean but they no longer sell at the side of the road  when they sell to upscale markets.

There is no question that fresh Sockeye Salmon heated on the BBQ with just a few slices of lemon is wonderful.  Way beyond the frozen and re thawed versions the rest of the country experiences.

Problem, of course, is the price is higher than filet mignon.  (greedy fishermen) Still a wonderful meal, and one that we can still experience here in Paradise.


Blue Jays in NY

It is early April and the Jays are opening their season in New York.

The first week of baseball is full of hope and enthusiasm.  Every team has a chance to go to the world series, so every opening home game, regardless of the weather, is sold out.

This year the Jays opened in New York.  Now as everyone knows, the Yankees are the Evil Empire of baseball.

Darth Vader would have been the first baseman, and we all recognize Boba Fett in A-Rod.  I could go on.

If you are a Jays fan, that is the way you vision the Yankees.  They are evil and outspend all the other teams to hire away any player that starts to get good.

So this season we have a glorious start.  Opening series and the Jays win 2 out of three (and only reason the evil Yankees won a game is because of the Sith)

I remember the 1984 opening week for the Jays in the old Exhibition Stadium.  First day everyone showed up but with the snow and freezing weather no one wanted to go.

At the time I was a Gulf Oil sales manager for Ontario and I would be given the tickets for our Executive seats behind home base and told to give to customers.  Instead I would take my sales guys because they were afternoon games so no hope at finding anyone that would go.  No one else would sit on crappy metal seats at 3 C  in those stands even with the offer of free beer except myself and a few chosen people.  Granted as the sleet came down and the team would fall behind, I did not always make it to the end of the game.  I attribute that to having a young family in Markham.

So I am watching the Jays kick butt in New York this week with the 48 F temperature and watching their avid fans flee and just say.. True fans live through the bad weather.  Nothing better then winning the opening series against the evil Yankees at Yankee stadium.


An issue with an Email contact

I have to be very careful in my blog subjects because I have received responses based on the title and not everyone is a fan of my erudite comments on life.

Like most people I have a number of email addresses. Well in my case, since I retired two.  One for the family and friends and one for the public.  Now I will await responses from my fans on which list they are on….

This was a lesson from years ago on how to avoid SPAM.  I mean why would I need a device for Penis enlargement and can you actually use that much Viagra.

The good thing is that the email hosts that I now use have done a wonderful job in filtering spam.  It is a rare event when I get an email where I question the source.

So you can imagine my reluctance to open an email from Vivianna Valiente asking me if I needed Maintenance.

I did not open the first note but after a couple of repeats, I thought what the heck.  What is the worse that could happen.  Pat is in the next room.

Turns out she is the booking administrator at the local Mazda dealership trying to schedule me for an oil change for my Miata.

I did contact her and suggested she change her email address to Courtenay Mazda but then realized that, while I have a phobia on email solicitation, there are a lot of senior Mazda drivers in the Valley that might want to book an appointment just to see her.

It is a sad comment on the issue of email spam that makes me have a negative opinion on what might be a wonderful lady Vivianna Valiente.

I am due for an oil change so will book it at the dealership and see.

As Pat tells me…Men are predictable.


Easter Monday Evening

We had a great Easter weekend.  Tons of sunshine.

Saturday night we were invited to our friends for their elaborate Easter dinner.  Held on the Saturday because their daughter and her … mate had to fly home on Sunday.

Harry and Marie did one of their over-the-top meals.  Turkey and all, and I repeat all, the trimmings.  Six people for dinner and food for twelve.  I mean who cooks a 25 lb turkey for 6 people?

So for Easter Sunday, Pat and I could do our own thing.  We bought a roast of Lamb.  A Lamb raised south of us on the Island.  I assume the lamb had a happy life because its shoulder tasted fabulous.

Problem with a lamb roast for 2 people is that leftover lamb does not make great sandwiches, so what do you do?  We found a wonderful solution.

Tonight we made a Shepherd’s pie with the shredded lamb meat, carrots, parsnips, peas and celery.  Of course topped with mashed potatoes from Harry’s potato farm in Saskatchewan.

Two great meals in a row.  If any of you want a good Shepherd’s pie recipe let me know.