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Saturday, 10 March 2018

The Duncan Saturday Market

Every Saturday, with the exception of two weeks during the holiday season, we have the market in Duncan. During the summer months as many as 150 vendors can be seen here selling their wares. Mostly organic produce, but also hand made crafts, wine and spirits, breads and baked goods, jams and chutneys, oils, vinegars, salsas and free range organic meats and eggs. There is even a masage therapist!

We see plenty of people enjoying the food here.

Brenda makes delicious marmalade and chutney.

Next week we'll try the tacos!

These two were dancing up a storm.

The market is a riot of colour and music and well worth a visit. Most vendors will take a credit card as payment, but cash is king here and so much easier. Some very colourful characters sell their crafts here, I'm trying to take their photographs but haven't been able to just yet.

Typically you'll find at least three musicians serenading the crowd. On the bandstand usually a small group performs, and along the fringes of the market some solo troubadours entertain. It's easy to wile away a couple of hours here and enjoy some of the great eats that are on offer from the food trucks. When the weather warms up a bit more we'll spend more time here and just take in the ambience...

Ampersand Distilling makes excellent Gin. We'll have to try their Vodka too.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Sandy Pool

In Cowichan River Provincial Park you'll find Sandy Pool. A great place for a nature walk and a picnic. There is a loop trail that takes about 20 minutes to walk. Next time we'll walk it twice, once clockwise and once counter-clockwise, this way we'll see the beauty twice from different angles. The trail needs some repairs in places but I'm sure that will happen in the spring. There is a wide trail that goes straight to the river and I assume that it can be used to launch a fishing dory. The small parking lot can accommodate a dozen cars, so if you plan to go here I'd do it on a weekday and leave the weekends to the crowds... The trail has some trip hazards, so if you want to look at something pretty it would be wise to stop walking or you may end up doing a face plant! Here are some pictures, enjoy...

A lush green rain forest

Some repair needed

You can work on your fly fishing skills here

Tranquil beauty

Shelagh would never make into this beast

Friday, 2 March 2018


A few weeks ago we scouted out two landscaping companies in the area and asked them to submit a quote for the work we had outlined for them. No grass, 2cm. crushed rock on the sides of the house, 2cm. round river rock for a backyard sitting and lounging area and perimeter beds with slow-growing evergreens and perennials. Some distance was to be left between plantings in the backyard for us to play with and to plant some annuals every spring. Also to install a privacy fence on the property line in the backyard. The company, "Living Stones", was first on the scene and a very nice Dutch Friesian fellow named Deen showed up to take measurements and to discuss our wants and needs. He has immigrated to Canada just six years ago and loves it here. Then the other company came over, "Apex Landscaping and Irrigation", and the owner named Randy walked through the mud with us while making sketches and also discussed our wants and needs.

The back yard before.

The front yard before.
A few days went by and the quotes came in via e-mail, and we decided to go with Apex Landscaping and Irrigation. Work was to commence in a few days. This being "the Island" I was wondering if "a few days" was the same as "mañana" in Mexico... But, much to my surprise a couple of workers showed up two days later and started putzing about the backyard...

After some measuring, they found the stake that indicates the property line and soon picks and shovels were produced along with fence posts, panels and concrete. The transformation had begun! Kristen and Sean worked hard and got the back fence installed on day one. Over the next few days, my assumption of who was in charge proved wrong. Kristen is the boss and Sean was there to help. She is a powerhouse and handles heavy earth moving machinery like a pro, it's so nice to see that gender equality is moving forward...

The back fence is up, a few days later the supports were removed.
With the rear fence in place, the time had come to concentrate on the right-hand side of the house. A few truckloads of crushed rock were placed on top of gardening cloth. A 10 cm. thick layer of this stuff will make walking to the backyard easy and it will keep the area free of weeds and messy mud. The left-hand side of the house will get the same treatment once the building is done of the house next door. With the tradespeople still working on that house, whatever landscaping gets done there will be destroyed, so we will wait a month or so.

Construction has started on the house next door.
Then trenches were doug with the big backhoe for the installation of the irrigation system. With global warming and all, we thought it would be a good idea to have underground water lines and drip hoses installed all around the planted areas. The drip hoses are perforated at 12" intervals and will water the beds at set times controlled by a computerized timer that can be programmed via wifi from a tablet or smart phone. The wifi connectivity is an option, and we might consider that at a later date, meanwhile all the controls are on the master panel outside. This system will also make it worry free for us in case we want to go on a holiday in the warm, dry months.

These green boxes house the irrigation solenoids etc.

Kristen, ever so carefully, moving earth in tight places.

The main water lines installed, and the right side path is complete.

With the main water lines installed it was time to build the flower beds. About eight cubic metres of very good quality, and very smelly, garden soil was brought in along with large rocks and smaller cobbles to make the final phase look good. Once the soil was in place, Mugo Pines, grasses and Azaleas were added, along with a nice Magnolia in the front where the garden has a western exposure. The backyard, on the east, has Rhododendrons, Hostas and Azaleas. We will add more plants and ornaments over time as we see fit. We have to let the garden grow a bit before we do more, to prevent over crowding. It will take a few seasons to come together.

Once all the planting was done, the irrigation guy returned and installed the drip hoses. Every plant got its own little water line from the drip hose, a great system. We can add more of these at a later date. With the drip hoses in place it was now time to cover the whole affair with bark mulch. A 10 cm. layer covers the planted areas to keep in moisture and to keep the weeds at bay. The final result looks awesome, and many of our neighbours stop here to have a look at the transformation. All in all, I feel we got great value for the money. We wait now to finish the left side of the house and for the installation of two black aluminum gates...

We need to find a nice big piece of driftwood...

In a few years it will look much more mature.

The back yard, the Hostas not yet visible.

Our covered deck, ready for morning coffee and tea.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Mount Tzouhalem

We were off this sunny morning to look at some of the work done by a landscaping company that has quoted on designing and installing our garden. The townhouse complex is located nearby Mount Tzouhalem in North Cowichan and Shelagh thought it would be a fine day for a hike up the hill. The gardening job looked great so we have hired Apex Landscaping to get the job done here at home. I hope they'll get started soon and don't have too much of a mañana outlook on life...

A hunter has taken out some frustration on this sign...

We parked the car at the base of the trailhead in a neighbourhood called "the Properties" in North Cowichan. Very posh homes here with stunning views. The hike is pretty much straight up to the top from where the view of Cowichan Bay is breathtaking. I am surprised that with Shelagh's dodgy knees and my dodgy hip we made it to the cliffs to take in the view. A little bit farther stands a large Christian cross. The original wooden cross was placed by local Catholic churches in the 1970s and it was replaced more than once due to weathering and vandalism. It was finally replaced with a metal one in the 1980s by the Knights of Columbus. We did not make it all the way to the cross, we will attempt that on our second climb up.

Just shy of the summit.

Along the walk, we met a young couple from San Francisco who were traveling up the coast. It's so nice to see twenty-somethings hike up the mountain with no effort. Aging sucks! About halfway up there is a spot to practice your rock stacking skills. Many cairns and some inukshuks have been built here. Great fun for young and old alike. The walk down was a bit harder on the joints and when we got back to the car both of us were a bit wobbly. Shelagh has gone for X-rays of her knees and we are waiting to hear if she'll qualify for knee replacement surgery. Our next hike will be on more level ground...