Posts Tagged ‘B.C.’

“Christy Clark just wants your love”

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Caitlin Dodds does Christy Clark

It might be hard to fully appreciate the brilliance of this performance unless you’re familiar with the vocal mannerisms of British Columbia’s Premier Christy Clark. But this mimicry is easily as good as Tiny Fey doing Sarah Palin. I’m almost sorry that Clark  and her unliberal “Liberals” will be skunked out of office in the May election because I could watch years of Caitlin Dodds doing Christy. In the Bublé bath. With rosé.

Many more videos by the Deep Rogue Ram collective here.

Deep Rogue Ram spoof of Christy Clark

Surveillance camera map, Vancouver

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Big Brother is watching

Very nice map of surveillance cameras in downtown Vancouver, by the Vancouver Public Space Network.

Disturbing content aside, it’s a very attractive map.



In praise of hemp – as textile, as paper, as food source

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Seeing the above graphic on Facebook recently (source wasn’t credited) reignited my longstanding frustration over our global failure to switch (back) to hemp as a major source for textiles, paper and food. (This article is about the hemp plant, not the marijuana plant. See more comments on this at bottom.)

I use hemp fabric in my textile work, but I find it far too difficult to source. Hemp is in some ways similar to linen, though I find that it’s less wrinkly, it’s very strong, it improves with washing, and it has a more modern look. I use it as the backing for geometric quilts that I produce as well as for other purposes. But if I want to order it, I usually have to buy fabric that’s imported from China. And the selection of colours and suppliers is small.

I find hemp’s rarity extremely disturbing considering that hemp production could solve many of the environmental problems we now face. Hemp is an extremely productive plant with a small carbon and environmental footprint. Its seeds are remarkably nutritious, it produces some of the best and strongest fibre around for both textiles and paper, it is extremely insect and disease resistant (unlike cotton), and requires far less irrigation and energy to grow. And yet it has been the victim of idiotic legislation and (apparently) lobbies from competing industries.

As someone commented on Facebook about the above graphic, “With record drought and water bans throughout North America this summer, growing hemp requires a tiny fraction of the water that cotton does. So it’s a great crop in coping with the consequences of climate change.” Not to mention helping with the causes of that climate change.

On a related note, people in the developed world need to stop buying throwaway clothes made from poor fabrics with no longevity. On average, we each buy and discard 60 kg each of textiles each year, and almost all of them are made in an extremely toxic and energy-unsustainable manner. 60 kilograms! I have never understood why the textile industry gets such a free ride on this in the arena of public opinion. Elizabeth Cline’s book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion deals with this topic. If you’re interested there is an very good Metafilter thread on this topic, full of resources.

There is a working farm near Grand Forks, BC where they have been slowly hybridizing hemp for their own local climate, and promoting hemp fabric and clothing. I have written about Joybilee Farm before. The owners also host North America’s only English-speaking hemp festival (which means there must be one in Quebec too). The two photos of hemp here are courtesy of Joybilee Farm. The photo below shows the old hand method of “rippling” hemp plants.

NOTE: for those who don’t know, the hemp used to produce textiles, paper and nutritional seeds does not contain THC or at least any amount that’s chemically significant or can produce mind-altering effects. However, it has long been suspected that the relationship between the hemp plant and the marijuana plant acted as a deterrent to the domestic hemp industry. It is worth reading this discussion by David P. West, a US plant expert and author of Fiber Wars: the Extinction of Kentucky Hemp. The discussion was commissioned by the North American Industrial Hemp Council.

Hemp growing is now technically legal in Canada, but they don’t make it easy. The Government of Canada has put out a FAQ on hemp production. If you look closely, it’s not nearly legal enough:
“Hemp production was prohibited in Canada in 1938 under the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act as part of a combined international battle against the abuse of THC and other controlled substances. Although the prohibition was relaxed briefly during World War II when traditional sources of fibres were unavailable, the prohibition was renewed after the war. Since 1961, Health Canada has allowed limited production in Canada for scientific research purposes.”

If the close relationship between hemp and marijuna is preventing serious agriculture of the former, it’s yet another reason to legalize marijuana. This post isn’t a thinly disguised personal mission to legalize pot for personal reasons (I’m allergic to it and would always rather have a cocktail). But I believe strongly in its legalization—and so do the former mayors and police chiefs of Vancouver. The fact that marijuana is B.C.’s 2nd largest industry but cannot be taxed is producing problems of epic proportions for our province. You can’t have an illegal industry of that size without experiencing high levels of organized crime, related political corruption, the distorted policy of building money-laundering casinos everywhere as a form of covert taxation, fantastically expensive police and court costs, and an empty treasury.

I have a question for people who know about this: were marijuana production to be legalized in Canada, could some of its byproducts also be used in the textile and paper industries, or are they ill-suited to that use? The marijuana crop in BC is huge yet only a portion of the plant is used in drug production. What about the rest? Anyone?

Hemp shirt, hemp pants by design label Kuyichi

Hemp fabric by Ecoki. This is a traditional rough milled look; hemp can also be very fine.

Pack horse trip in the Northern Rockies: Muskwa-Kechika

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Muskwa-Kechika, creek wall, Day 1

[Update: The Globe and Mail has finally run the story about our trip. Wilderness guide and Globe travel writer Bruce Kirkby came along on our leg of the trip.]

I have been out of internet range for weeks, riding through the remote Northern Rockies on a pack horse trip. The expedition was led by Wayne Sawchuk. Wayne grew up in Northern BC, once worked as a logger and hunting guide and is now a wilderness guide and environmentalist. He spearheaded the protection of this place, which is now known as the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area. It is one of the largest and most species-rich protected areas in North America, and it is also the ancestral Dene territory of my companion for the trip. Along with us were 5 others most of whom work in one way or another with BC’s wild areas (including one of the founders of BC’s Breeding Bird Atlas, in which birders can participate).

Many of the passes and valleys we travelled through have not been visited much, at least in recent times. But this area is part of a route known by anthropologists as the High Trail, one of the paths taken 10,000 years ago by those who traveled across the Bering Sea ice bridge from Asia to North America, back when the last ice age was receding. People traveled south along the high ridges because they are rich in game (as we observed ourselves) and because this saved them from making constant ascents and descents. Today this trail is mostly hard to access unless you go in on a trip such as Wayne’s.

It is staggering to think most empires in history were built on horseback. Have you ever packed a pack horse and then ridden all day? It is not easy. It makes an hour of boot camp seem leisurely. The Hollywood movies of empire and the wild west don’t show each morning’s 3-hour process of building a fire, making breakfast, packing and striking camp, evening out the panniers and and luggage, and saddling the pack and saddle horses. Every morning we’d wake at 6:00 am; one day we broke a record by riding out of camp at 9:45. Then you ride all day, and do it all again, but in reverse order except for the fire, which always happens first.

The Northern Rockies are beautiful, quite strange and ancient. They are older than the Southern Rockies, containing rock from near the beginning of the world, long before life forms, before shells, before fossils. They come to an end just south of the Yukon border.

For more information about each photo, click to reach Flickr page.

Tuchodi Lakes - map
Above, the red pin drop shows Tuchodi Lakes, end point of 13 day trip. Dotted line above is Yukon border, and you can also just make out the yellow line of the Alaska Highway. (Green pin drop is Liard River Hot Springs; photos near bottom.) Click photo for bigger version.

My horse, Spunky
Spunky, my horse for the trip. He was given his name after surviving a 2 month-long pack horse trip while badly wounded in the shoulder as a foal. His mother Hazel is the pack’s lead mare, needed for keeping the pack string together, so she had to make the trip. Spunky had to go with her as he was not yet weaned.  He does have a sort of messed up front left shoulder, as you can see in the photo, but he’s fine.  The funny thing is that I asked Wayne for a spunky horse last January and Spunky is what I got.

Most of Wayne’s horses were saved from meat auctions. They get the entire long winter off, so they lead good lives. Some of them are a bit young or feral, or as Wayne diplomatically puts it, “unsophisticated.”

Cariboo in the high alpine
Curious, almost fearless cariboo approach us in the high alpine. Brian on Comet, John on Hazel. This is part of the High Trail.

Arriving at the Tuchodi River
Tuchodi River, Wayne answering a question about geology. In the foreground, an authentic stetson—there’s a pleasing irony in a First Nations man wearing a hat that apparently used to be known as an “Indian killer.”

Donna on the trail
Behind me on the pack string. Kailo, poet Donna Kane on Bucky, followed by Chrissy, Lock It, Mel, and way behind, Levi. Fording overflow from the Tuchodi River which was running high.

Donna in the pack string
Donna riding with some of the 10 pack horses

Moss campion, striped rocks at Henry Creek
 Moss campion at Henry Creek with striped rocks characteristic of the Rockies, which were created when ancient sedimentation was pushed high up by the collision of the earth’s plates

View from tent, Henry Creek
View from tent at Henry Creek

Percy's mane with dreads from the winter
Dreadlocks in Percy’s mane. The horses graze wild all winter on beautiful land in Rolla BC, so at the beginning of the summer their manes are matted. I spent hours untangling their manes so as not to have to cut all the dreads out, collecting any dead hair that came out to make horsehair bracelets for the group. Interestingly the horses, though a bit wild, seem to enjoy having their manes worked on. Instead of protesting they seem to go into some sort of trance, and soon the other horses drift over to watch or line up. They seem to want the contact. I was going to be on Percy  but in the end he went to Bruce Kirkby, travel and adventure writer for the Globe and Mail and the tallest rider. I did ride him into the Sweetgrass 905 Music Festival the week before our trip, as part of Wayne’s pack-horse packing demonstration at the fest.

Lock It and Hank
Lock It and Hank the day before the trip. Not shy.

Mel basking in high alpine
My favourite of all the pack and riding horses – friendly Mel, basking in evening sun in a high alpine meadow

Muskwa-Kechika, John Keller fording river on Hazel
Fording one of many creeks, John of the BC Nature Trust on Hazel. Hazel is the lead mare, the decision maker for the pack. She usually brought up the rear. 

Muskwa-Kechika, in the high alpine
Brian training Comet on the trail

Muskwa-Kechika, lunchtime on the high alpine trail
Lunch in alpine meadow. Lunch is whatever you pack in the morning and can fit in your saddlebags. There’s no unpacking the pack horses during the day. And usually you’re completely starving.

Muskwa-Kechika, Spunky on the trail
Spunky on the trail in a mossy valley wood

Gataga and friends grazing at night
Every night the horses are let loose, with some of them hobbled and 4 of them belled so they don’t wander too far and can be found in the morning. They stay in packs so you don’t have to hobble them all. That’s Gataga with a bell on – the prettiest horse in the pack. He always looks as if he’s wearing silver eyeliner.

Percy in stand of aspen, Tuchodi Lakes
Percy at 9 pm on the last night in a beautiful stand of white-barked aspen. It was quiet except for the trembling of the leaves. It’s beyond mysterious in there, as if an elf from Lord of the Rings could suddenly walk by on the way to Rivendell. I wanted to say goodbye to the horses so I hiked to find them. When I started untangling Percy’s mane for the last time, the whole pack string crowded around and all you could hear was their breathing.

Ed, sleeping off 13 hard days
Ed did very well on a very strenuous trip, partly by taking advantage of every chance to sleep off all the running. He was so camouflaged on this beach we kept tripping over him.

Urs arriving at E. Tuchodi L. camp to pick us up
The famed Urs picked us up in his Twin Otter to take us from Tuchodi Lake back to Muncho Lake on the Alaska Highway. Urs came here with his wife decades ago from Switzerland and bought the Northern Rockies Lodge. He pilots most flights in this region and knows it intimately.

Landing on Muncho Lake in Urs's Twin Otter
Approaching Muncho Lake by Twin Otter. That’s the Alaska Highway down there.

Landing on Muncho Lake in Urs's Twin Otter
Muncho Lake

Landing on Muncho Lake in Urs's Twin Otter

Landing on Muncho Lake in Urs's Twin Otter

Full moon, last night of trip
Full Moon, last night in the Rockies

Liard Hot Springs - ferns close up
Ferns and horsetail at Liard River Hot Springs

Liard Hot Springs
Liard River Hot Springs

Fort Nelson News' business section just called "Oil and Gas"
Back in Fort Nelson, waiting for flight back to Vancouver. The Fort Nelson News doesn’t have a Business section. They just call that topic “Oil and Gas.” I don’t think most people in Southern B.C. have any clue that much of the NE of the province is effectively oil patch. It’s another world up there.

Custom pendant lamp at Gudrun Restaurant, Steveston

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Gudrun Restaurant, Steveston, BC

Beautiful lamp commissioned by my friend Patrick Tubajon, proprietor of gorgeous Gudrun Restaurant in Steveston, BC. Steveston is a historic and still operating fishing and cannery village in the mouth of the Fraser River, just half an hour S. of Vancouver. Historically it was a dominantly Japanese-Canadian community until most of the population was interned in WWII and their possessions confiscated in one of the most disgraceful acts in Canadian history. Some have returned, but not many. Yet Steveston still retains its fish port and its cannery buildings.

I love this restaurant because in addition to its exellent food and wine, its design references local history and avoids the generic. The bar is in the shope of a small wooden boat, with a traditional Japanese charred finish done by Patrick himself. The lamp either the look of sails, docked boats or clouds (or cheese? note the mouse), the table is handmade of local Douglas fir, and the restaurant otherwise respected the building’s features and history. Patrick told me the lamp was made by designer Jon Erik Johansen. Apologies for the iPhone photos—I was on my bicycle that day. The bar doesn’t appear blue—it’s a deep charred black. Some far better photos are on the Gudrun website.

& Thanks to Patrick for being so nice to my mum when we had lunch there on Mother’s Day.

Gudrun Restaurant, Steveston, BC

Gudrun Restaurant, Steveston, BC

Steveston, BC - boats and cannery

Steveston, BC


Saturday, March 24th, 2012


There is so much going on in this picture.

Square, downtown Victoria, B.C.