Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Oh the glories of spring!

Crofton Lake Reflections
(c) 2014 Jean Ballard
The day had been a long one and I was tired and achy - I can't remember what I'd been up to (even though it was only yesterday) but the last thing I felt like doing was going for a hike.  Then Bonnie, Keaghan's mom, phoned.  And I couldn't say no.  So even though it was four o'clock, and my dogs are used to getting their dinner at 4:30 or 5:00, Eddie and I headed out the door to meet our friends for the hike up to Crofton Lake.

(Sorry it's out of focus, but Eddie was just soooo happy!)
The trail is magical in spring - pools of winter runoff  are full of bright yellow skunk cabbage, the moss on the tree stumps sprouts wee little toadstools, hidden ponds reflecting rays of sun amid the brush.

Late afternoon on a warm spring day has a very special feeling to it - with a few hours of daylight still but not overly bright or hot - just a warm, comforting, chicken-soup sort of  feeling as the trees shine golden, and the birds rustle and whisper as they make their final flights of the day, and the lake is so still and calm and beautiful one can sit and watch it for hours. Meditation time.

For us perhaps, but not for Keaghan who had the zoomies and splashed in and out of the lake and exuberantly greeted the angler and the cyclist and the woman with dogs that we met on the trail. Nor for Eddie who trotted back and forth along the shore, racing back to us each time we called his name.

Keaghan's exuberance and Eddie's happy smile just made it all the more worthwhile.  Aches were gone, fatigue dispelled, we sat by the lake for an hour or more.  Even youthful Keaghan eventually settled down to enjoy the scenery.

Or in the case of Eddie, to become  the scenery.

When we returned to our cars, the dogs were tired and we were relaxed and at peace.

By the time I got home, close to 7 PM, Mitzi and Shiloh were a little miffed, but dinner quickly pacified them and with Eddie all tired out from the hike, the peace of the afternoon's hike continued into the evening.

Gotta love these April days.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Allie's Drive Through Window.

When I had my kitchen renos done, one of the changes was to put a pass-through between the kitchen and dining area so my teeny tiny kitchen would have more natural light.  I didn't particularly like the job they did on the pass-through, as it looked too much like I should stand on the kitchen side and ask my customers "Would you like fries with that?"

Allie, however, thinks it is wonderful.  She is not allowed on the kitchen counters, but she can jump up on the buffet which is on the dining room side of the pass-through window, and order up her food.

HELLOOOO!  I'd like some service here!

It does have one advantage from my perspective, in that there are often times when the sun streaming in the front windows makes for some great shots of Allie as she orders her food:

Yeah, but ya cut off my ears!

Now get me my dinner!

Unless, of course, you want me to report you
for growing yer own grass.
Oh, wait, that's MY grass!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sunrise Multiplied

As I let the dogs out this morning, I glanced toward the ocean and had to grab the camera to get a few shots of the sunrise.

Then I turned around to check on the dogs and saw the sunrise again - reflected in my (dirty) garden shed window:

I think I'll clean that window today - there could be some amazing and unusual photo ops here - the window is right beside the birdhouse where mama and papa bird are awaiting the arrival of their wee ones.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunshine comes in many forms

As the dogs and I sit staring morosely through the windows at the rain, I can't help but reflect that the good mood I feel when the sun shines is also kindled by many non-solar events.

Now, I bet you’re thinking I’m about to tell you how my dogs make me laugh, or the cat warms my heart, or the flowers on my patio still bloom in rain.


I’m going to tell you about the sunshine that supporters of animal rescues and shelters provide. 

As many readers know, I volunteer at our local Cowichan and District SPCA.  We have the best staff, the best volunteer dog walkers and cat lovers, the best animals. 

We do!
The Very Best Dogs!

And we have the best annual garage sale in the whole of Canada.

I’m part of a core team of 6-8 people who begin in January to accept donations, sort them, research them, price them, box them, stash them in every available nook and cranny around the shelter, and place some high value or very large items online.  

Pack 'em tight
and stack 'em high!

Come garage sale time, we are joined by another 30 or so volunteers who transport them to the Cowichan Exhibition grounds, unpack them, display them, and sell them.  It is the cleanest, best organized, best attended garage sale event you will ever find.  Last year, all that was left in the previously-packed 16,000 square foot hall was a couple of passenger van loads and a utility trailer of stuff, which a local thrift store took away for us, and a profit of over $30,000 in the shelter’s coffers.  

We achieve this by being picky – only clean, good quality, unbroken items are sold – and by pricing low enough to attract buyers but high enough to maximize the benefit to the animals.  The total we raise annually speaks for itself.

But back to my original theme – sunshine.  Despite the fact that those of us on the core team become bone weary long before the actual sale, sometimes frustrated by dirty, broken, musty and even rat-and-mice-feces-covered items that the ‘donors’ should have taken to the dump (and which we have to pay to dump),  there are many moments when the generosity of our supporters brings sunshine to our lives. 

Generous donors are like a beautiful sunrise

Some of the donations we receive are amazing – like the three framed prints by famous artists we’ve received so far this year that are each valued at over $600;  like the clean, barely used furniture a care home donated;  like the quality clothing, the nearly new tools,  or the brand new set of golf clubs someone won and didn’t need.

And like the van load of goodies that came in on Thursday.  A supporter who is moving out of the country donated container after container of quality goods, all spotlessly clean, all carefully packed, all organized – tools and garden items in new or like-new condition in their original boxes with instructions;  beautiful kitchenware that would be coveted by any cook who knows his/her saucepans;  clean, popular, near-new books; small appliances without a scrape or dent or spot of grease on them.  Her donation will bring hundreds, if not thousands,  of dollars to our sale, to our shelter, for our animals.  It was like Christmas morning, opening those containers, oohing and aahing over the contents.

Not everyone has a houseful of goods to donate, or quality like-new items they no longer need.  But sunshine comes in little rays too: the colourful lego set a child has decided to part with;  the ‘oops what was I thinking!’  shirt with tags still attached;  the ‘time to get rid of these’ unused boxes of craft supplies for that hobby you never really got into; or  the ‘what the heck will we need these for in our new condo?’ shiny gardening tools. 

And of course there are things donated with a few tears – the orthopedic dog bed that a beloved pet only used for a short while before passing away; the family heirloom that sat on a recently deceased parent’s shelf for years but none of the relatives really want; the bedroom suite of the youngest child who has long since been out on her own.  

Every time we receive a donation of clean, quality, well cared for items, we smile. 

And sunshine pours into our lives.  Even when the weather outside is rainy.

Thanks, supporters.  You are the best.

Cowichan and District SPCA Annual Garage Sale
May 31 – June 1 at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds
Clean, quality donations gratefully accepted at the shelter on Bell McKinnon Rd until May 15th.  Please phone ahead if you wish to donate furniture.  We respectfully retain the right to decline items we know we cannot sell, like television sets and most other electronics, skiis,  old kitchen plastic ware, and items in poor or dirty condition.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hiking again at last

It has been a few weeks since we went hiking with our buddy Keaghan - first snow, then wind, then ill health kept us from going out on our usual treks in the bush.  But Sunday afternoon was the perfect day to return to Richard's Mountain, starting from the trail at the end of Escarpment Way.  We hadn't gone far before we ran into another frequent user of the trail, a very nice dog named Rusty and his human, Sharon. They were on their way back down, but turned around to walk with us a short way in order to show us the trailhead for another route.

People ahead!

Hey, it's mah pal Rusty!
Eddie really likes Rusty - I just about fell over with surprise when the two started dancing around and play bowing at each other - Eddie very, very seldom ever plays with another dog.  He's just not that sorta guy. Perhaps he had a touch of spring fever.

The skunk cabbage is showing its brilliant yellow blooms now, popping up in the shallow pools and marsh of the forest.

Keaghan always has to go for a paddle wherever water is found: 

The forest landscape had completely changed since our last hike up the mountain - the winter snows and high winds had destroyed many  trees and flattened the bushes.  The trails and brush were covered with broken boughs,

and we got our exercise climbing over or crawling under a number of trees that now criss-cross the trails.

Keaghan:  Eddie, you'll have to get yer mom
to help you over this! 

The recent rain and spring sunshine has brought out the toadstools on the mossy rocks, turning the area into a little fairyland,

Nearing the top, the sunlight filtered through the trees,

And soon we were looking across the valley to Duncan and beyond:

Eddie got the zoomies in the clearing where we stop, and Keaghan checked to see if the view was any better from the top of a colourful rock:

And soon it was time to head home:

C'mon, let's go!

Eddie:  "Hey!  Warn me before you stop to gaze at something, silly!"

Eddie said the only disappointment of the day was the shortage of cookies:

You WILL remember the treat bag next time!  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Happy Spring!

I've been a little under the weather lately, and so has Mitzi, so we are both happy to see the sunshine and absorb some natural vitamin D.  Mitzi thinks it's still a bit chilly out, but in her cosy red sweater was happy to toddle about the yard with me.  Of course, the grass is always greener on the other side...

..especially when we're in the side yard and big brother Eddie is chomping on a raw meaty bone in the back yard.  Sorry Mitzi, but your tummy won't handle that right now.

You're mean, Mama Jean!

I tried to distract her by talking about the flowers that are popping up on the patio and front yard - the tulips and daffodils, grape hyacinth and primroses and the last of the crocuses:

But she was having none of that.

So I grabbed her halter and leash and took her to the beach to watch the little tugs and big tugs, the barges and birds and all that good stuff.

Little tug rounding up the logs

Big tug pulling in the barge

Barges loaded

Heron watching the action
at the log sort

Haze over water
Heron on post

Sun reflects on metal boat

A stroll along the sea walk, a stop by the museum to check out the flowers in the park, and it was time to go home.

And time for a nap.

Ah still think ah shoulda got a bone!