Wednesday, October 18, 2017


I've been reading lately about the Romans' use of couches. They didn't have much by way of beds, apparently -- mostly uncomfortable constructions in pitch-dark rooms -- so didn't linger abed, but, boy, they knew their couches! Cushioned and covered and set around a low table, these low-to-the floor furnishings were the setting for hours-long feasting. Romans reclined, oh heaven, to eat their sociable evening meals!

Anyone who knows me understands why I would find this fascinating -- and enviable. I like reclining, and I like couches; the high point of every day is morning coffee on the couch, preferably with a cat on my lap. When I study, I don't sit at a desk. I wrap myself in blankets on the couch, and take notes as best I can. Here are some couch photos from Saltspring, courtesy of John:

Carol contemplating on couch, with morning coffee. 

The view from the windows I'm facing. When the neighbour cut down three huge old trees, we got a water view.

Straight ahead from my perch, a view of the Cofton pulp mill across the way. At first, we wanted to avoid buying anywhere near the pulp mill, but it rarely smells, and I find it an interesting addition to the view. Our neighbour Kathy once made a beautiful painting of its steam clouds rising in the morning sun.

A little further over, toward the road, this is the view.

By nightfall, I have moved to the other end of the couch to do my reading. I'm still wrapped in blankets, though.

And the whole scene: the fire blazes, I have a book, I'm on my couch. Bliss!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Mason bee tree

One year we arrived on Saltspring to find our gardener-neighbour had installed little wooden blocks, like tiny birdhouses, around the perimeter of his property. They were mason bee boxes, he enthusiastically told us, meant to encourage mason bees to hang around his garden and pollinate his fruit trees.

This trip, soon after our arrival, John summoned me to the garden after he'd made a quick tour. "You have to see this!" he said. It turns out we now have our own mason-bee accommodation. Unbeknownst to us, one of the trees we planted nearly two decades ago died over the summer, and the mason bees moved in. All the way up and down its trunk are little holes, just like the ones our neighbour drilled in wood blocks to make homes for his pollinators.

It's too bad about the tree, but it never got around to producing the nuts it was supposed to during its lifetime anyway. We will leave it for the mason bees; thanks to their efforts, they have not just a mason bee house but a whole apartment block!

John spotted this tree trunk riddled with holes in our Saltspring garden a few days ago. It looked like somebody had been using it for BB gun practice. 

A closer look revealed that insects had drilled holes into this now-dead trunk.

The holes are just like the ones mason bees make to nest in, so we can only conclude they spotted the dead tree and moved in. Pollination of the nearby apple trees should be guaranteed! All photos by John.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Golden island

Fall on Saltspring is full of colour. This year, I'm noticing lots of gold, with a few splashings of red. Here are some of our bright fall scenes:

Mr. Darcy, perched on the balcony railing, looks out over a background of  golden fall foliage.

One of the things he's looking at is John, pulling up blackberry vines that grow everywhere in the back yard.

The ironwood tree is a splash of bright red in this otherwise-green section of the back yard. 

A branch of the ironwood tree close up.

The blackberries just keep coming. I doubt that these red ones will have time to ripen this fall.

Another view of the back yard, and John, working away in the distance.

This vine growing up a pole in our Vesuvius neighbourhood stood out like a red flag. 

One of the many trees I planted when we bought Saltspring nearly two decades ago. I think it  was supposed to produce nuts, but by now I'm settling for golden leaves in the fall. The wheelbarrow full of blackberry vines sits beside it.

Our neighbour's fence has more of those red vines, very dramatic when the sun hit it. At the base of the wall, an old boat.

Colourful leaves make a change of scene on one of my regular walking routes.

A closer look at that gorgeous stand of trees. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


Little bits and pieces make up a home, even a part-time one like our place on Saltspring. I was thinking about that yesterday when we arrived to find some thank-you gifts from recent visitors -- a lovely wooden set of salad servers and a little appetizer plate. Then there are the standard items that  need replacing even in an occasional home -- in this case, a done-for kitchen clock and a forgotten name tag for Mr. Darcy. We were lucky to easily find what we needed at the everything-in-a-store local Home Hardware known as Mouat's. Here are some of our latest acquisitions:

Nobody ever has enough serving utensils, so salad servers like these are a welcome addition. I love the decorated handles!

This little blue and white dish, another thank-you gift, will make an appetizer of Saltspring Island cheese look even better.

Okay, so it's a bit noisy, but what can you expect for $12.99? Our old clock stopped working, so we were happy to walk into Mouat's to see this one staring at us. The second-hand is crucial for John's coffee-grinding, and the red perimeter matches the chimney, so we are not complaining.

No, Mr. Darcy is not a new acquisition, but I forgot to bring along his Saltspring Island name and address tag. Mouat's sold us a new engraved tag and an organic-fabric collar to attach it to (hidden under all that fur). It all cost more than the clock, but there's nothing too good for Mr. D!

Mr. Darcy presiding over the view from the balcony railing, with his little pink name tag showing.  

Sunday, October 8, 2017


Everybody's eyes are drawn to different things. John sees geometry; the lines of things. I notice odd shapes and textures; strange combinations of things. Until I scrolled quickly through my summer's pictures, I hadn't realized how often I was stopped in my tracks by an exploding mass of overgrown weeds, a tree growth like an underwater coral, a bloom like an apparition from outer space. Here are some of my oddities:

What is that? Passing an old tree in Point Grey this summer, I noticed this strange yellow blob partway up.

 It has to be a fungus, but its shape, colour and texture makes it look like it belongs underwater. A sea coral, perhaps?

This is sea holly, but to me it looks more like it belong in outer space.

A closer look at this otherworldly blue plant, growing simply in someone's front garden.
Then there's the strange man-made shapes. This triangle of wooden bits and pieces surrounding a bed of purple petunias was at a street intersection in Vancouver's upscale Shaughnessy neighbourhood.

The over-enthusiastic growth of leaves on this tree trunk made me think of  a hirsute human. 

This tree has been carefully shaped into an umbrella over the sidewalk, with a bush shaped into a ball below it. 

This is what it looks like when you're under the umbrella.

A glorious mass of  weedy fuzz about to fly off  and infect the whole neighbourhood. 

And yes, it was in the somewhat neglected garden of a school. 

The smooth shapes of these stone carvings were a beautiful contrast to a field of grasses at VanDusen Garden this summer.

More dried grasses -- this time due to neglect rather than planning. The little house in the background, which has always been a neighbourhood showpiece of beautiful planting,  is awaiting demolition.

These unusual shapes are a breakwater on the Point Grey waterfront. My brother Brian and his wife Wendy discovered them when they were visiting last year. 
I obviously have a thing for high, floppy grasses. This little bench by a sidewalk was surrounded by glorious vegetation.

I've forgotten the name of this bush, but the drooping blooms interested me.

Outside VanDusen Garden, an array of fall flowers contrasts beautifully with the swoop of the grey building.

This is a toad lily, also at VanDusen. My friend Georgeann thought it was a terrible name for such a beautiful plant. I like its star-like shape.

Close up, you can see the flower has spots not just on its outer petals, but on its central area too. It must be this abundance of spots that turns it into a toad lily.

Coneflowers, with their high rounded centres and drooping petals, are always interesting shapes to me. These orange ones outside VanDusen seem like a cheerful way to mark the fall season.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Is the bubble bursting?

I loved this old-style house on the corner of my block, and was devastated when it was sold more than a year ago. Price tag: $3.3 million. All photos by John Denniston.

It suffered the usual fate, and neighbours suffered through months of demolition and construction noise.

The final product, which has a cold feeling to me, may have come on the market at the wrong time. Price tag:  $7.1 million

I won’t pretend to be unbiased about the house at the end of my block. It was an English-style cottage with leaded glass windows, a white picket fence, a cozy garage and a pretty garden. When it was sold more than a year ago, it was torn down, as most such houses are in Vancouver these days.

 Now, after many months of excavating, hammering, sawing, concrete-pouring and paving, it is a high modern rectangle that shuns the street with unfriendly windows, a high fence instead of greenery and a big three-car garage that looms over the alley.

When I learned it was for sale for $7.1 million, I was stunned. The original property sold for $3.3 million, so if the builder gets anywhere near asking, what a windfall!

On Friday, The Vancouver Sun’s Douglas Todd, who watches the property chaos in Vancouver with an eagle eye, wrote that Mainland China’s current crackdown on the money that’s been pouring out of the country – much of it into foreign real estate -- is starting to affect Vancouver prices. Especially in areas like mine that have been particularly attractive to Mainland Chinese buyers.

So that $7.1 million price tag for the unfriendly new house on the corner may be a trifle optimistic. If it is, I can’t say I’ll be sorry.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Flowers for Linda

My friend Linda suggested I post some nice flower pictures so people checking my blog would at least see something pleasant when there's no new posting. So here is this summer's dahlia display along the West Vancouver seawall. Pink blossoms in foreground, ocean and Stanley Park in background. How nice is that?

The sweet peas in my back yard have done well this long hot summer, and they're still blooming. 

I've kept two vases of sweet peas going all summer, tossing the older blooms as soon as they start to fade and replacing them with fresh. Sweet peas are most fragrant when they're first picked, so this way, I've had that wonderful scent non-stop for months.

The hollyhocks are finished now and scattering their seeds everywhere. But I couldn't resist including one photo of these cheerful, all-forgiving flowers.

I've just filled my containers with this year's array of winter pansies. Usually I choose solid blue, but this year, diversity!

A friend gave me asters a couple of summers ago. I didn't plant them for a long time and thought they had died. But this fall I got a surprise when asters suddenly burst out in my front flower bed. I really like tough plants!