Sunday, August 21, 2011

Finding Farley - A Film

movie poster from nfb

I recently checked out the documentary Finding Farley from my local library. This film came out in 2009 and follows the journey of a couple, their young son, and their dog as they travel by canoe, train, floatplane and sailboat (and a small section in a $400 van) from their home in Canmore, Alberta to visit author Farley Mowat at his home in Nova Scotia. Since reading Owls In The Family as a kid (which firmly cemented owl as my favorite bird, and maybe favorite animal), I have enjoyed Mowat's works and was hence interested in seeing this film.

Remember Wol and Weeps?

This film won some major awards, such as the grand prize at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. I'm just going to back up a moment here and say that I have avoided the Banff film fest for a few years, as it seemed like many of the films were becoming terribly cliched, or were all about base jumping. Anyway, this film is not cliched (or about base jumping) - it is fantastic! The route the family takes to get to Farley's house covers over 5000km and winds through the Canadian landscape prominent to Farley Mowat's iconic stories. They read each book as they pass through the landscape in which it was set, and are even visited by a great horned owl during their 'Owls In The Family' leg (so cool!).

Mom Leanne, son Zev, and a furry 'friend' on one of the canoe legs. Photo from Open Book Toronto
The documentary is honest and shows both the ups and downs of their epic journey (portaging through the muskeg, the bugs, the controversy of some of Farley's writings, more bugs!), and features great footage of amazing Canadian wilderness and wildlife. What I liked about Finding Farley was that it was not a film about canoeing, or non-motorized travel, or wildlife, or adventure specifically, but rather that it illustrated the connection between story, place, and experience.
You can watch it for free at the National Film Board of Canada's website - or it is available at the Prince George Public Library on DVD.

Friday, August 19, 2011

She sells sea shells

I have both memories and fantasies of summer beach combing. Unfortunately, summer here has been a bit of a drag, weather wise, AND we are miles away from the seaside. So to quell some of my landlocked summer doldrums, I thought I would share some of my seashell collection, from trips and travels past.

Moon snails from Salt Spring Island sea kayaking trip

Cones and augers

Assorted snails and periwinkles


Scallops - most from a childhood trip to Australia

Various coral bits and beach glass

Crab claws, BC West Coast

Conchs and murex, a couple are from tropical destinations, others from BC

Perfectly polished beach pebbles from Nova Scotia.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bike Panniers - DIY style

I have been in the market for some new bike panniers and was looking around online to see what I could find. There are some great cycling bags out there. My favorite so far is the the Market Bag by Linus:

It is made of waxed canvas and unrolls into a double pannier set.

Brooks bags (and saddles) are really great too. Clearly out of my price range though.
I also like this set, by Racktime.

I looked at a couple local bike shops, but the selection was limited. So, as I tried to decide/justify spending a bunch of cash on a really stylee bag, the idea of making some popped into my mind. Of course, the internet has lots and lots of tutorials, ideas and instructions on how to make a variety of panniers, messenger bags, baskets, and more.
I decided on loosely following these instructions, and got down to business.

My man found a pair of rubberized surplus bags at Princess Auto for $2 a piece; a good shape for panniers, but no functional system for attaching them to a bike. I bought 4 small hangers and enough screws and acorn caps to attach the hangars to the bag (I used #8, 1/2 inch stainless steel), acorn caps are key if you don't want the screw tips scratching you every time you reach into your bag. You could use heavy duty mirror hangers, but my rack has large tubing so I went with the larger hangers. The original tutorial suggest using plywood as an anchor, but I decided to use an old LP I grabbed at the thrift store instead (Happy South America!). It is lighter, so I'll have to wait and see how it holds up.

Supplies: Hardware $24, Bags $4, LP $1 = $29 for 2 panniers

I scored the record and broke it in half, then measured where to put to hooks and drilled the holes. I also sanded the edges of the record, Before drilling, DOUBLE CHECK where the pannier will sit on your rack to ensure your leg won't hit it while pedaling. I used the drill to puncture the material of the bag as well. If you are using a synthetic material, like, nylon, you will need to melt the edges to prevent fraying. Since my bags are rubberized, it wasn't necessary.

Once all the holes are drilled, line everything up and screw the pieces together - this is what the inside of the bag looks like.

And the outside.

Attaches to the rack, like so.

And here they are, all finished. I took my new panniers for a ride around the block and they seemed to stay in place just fine.I may attach a piece of bungee to prevent them from flopping out sideways in wind/traffic, and will also add some sort of shoulder strap for carrying - I am thinking canvas or woven nylon, just need to find the right material. They are not quite as fancy as the Brooks or Linus gear mentioned previously, but I think they're pretty cool.
So there you go, you can apply this treatment to any kind of bag to convert it to a pannier. Here are the detailed instructions again.

Monday, August 8, 2011


There are times when I feel privileged to live in the North. On Friday night, we went to our local drive-in theatre. In addition to the vulgar (yet laughable) hijinks of Horrible Bosses, we were also treated to the Northern Lights. Bonus!

On Sunday, I went on a hike with some friends to Mount Murray, in the Pine Pass. It was a long-ish drive, but worth it. The hike consists of a relatively short grunt (~ 1 hour) to reach the alpine, after which there are several options to ramble to some small alpine lakes and peaks.

The were some great alpine flowers in bloom. Especially pretty were the paintbrush, in many shades of cream, peach, yellow, orange, and red.

The monkshood were also out. I love these blossoms; the shade of purple and the shape of the petals are incomparable to anything else. Plus they are deadly poisonous, which gives them a bit of an edge.

The highlight of the day was when we spotted this guy (click on the photo for a larger image):

I assumed it was a guy (both male and female caribou have antlers) because it was solitary. I unfortunately wasn't quite close enough to look under its proverbial skirt. We were able to spot him a second time. We kept our distance. Woodland caribou are a threatened species, so minimizing any stress to the animal is important when you encounter these creatures.

I apologize, this last photo is kind of crappy, but it was exciting to see, so I decided to included it.
So, where else can you take in an old-skool drive in movie, see the Aurora Borealis, and encounter a threatened woodland caribou all in a single weekend? Super-fantastic-awesome Northern BC, that's where!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Carnivorous Plants!

There really is something a bit spooky about plants that eat something other than sunlight. Plants that jump up the food chain seem sort of science-fictiony.

Fantastic costume and performance art routine by the Queen of Sass, Crystal Precious. Photo courtesy of Your Minds Eye photography.

There is probably no better known carnivorous plant than Audrey II (of Little Shop of Horrors fame), who needs human blood to survive.

Of course man-eating plants don't actually exist, but other carnivorous plants fond of smaller prey do. I'm sure everyone is familiar with the venus flytrap, which is only found naturally in small area of the Southeastern USA. But did you know there are several species of carnivorous plants (OK, insectivorous, to be more accurate) living in Northern BC?
The sundew (Drosera species) is a large genus of carnivorous plants, and has species distributed more or less worldwide (with the exception of Antarctica). Despite the wide distribution they are not exactly a common sight, and as a plant-nerd I have always been on the lookout for the some-what evasive sundew and a few weeks ago, finally found some!

This is Drosera rotundifolia, round-leaved sundew, with prey. I found it on the edge of Tasse Lake, which is East of Williams Lake, BC. These plants typically grow in nutrient poor, acidic, wet soils, and like full sunlight. They evolved their insectivorous tendencies to compensate for a lack of nutrients in the soils. According to SARA no sundews in BC are threatened or endangered, although there is a species in Nova Scotia that is endangered as a result of peat mining and cranberry farming.

Besides being a great inspiration for performance arts (as mentioned above), carnivorous plants have been muse to the visual arts as well:

A sundew inspired print from Naomi Mayhue.

This beautiful print by nouvellegamine.

And how about this ink by Coniah Timm?

Next time you are out tromping around in your favorite swamp, keep your eyes peeled; you may find some carnivorous plants too!