Archive for December, 2009

Here comes the sun, eventually

By Tom Read

Here's our food preservation "tree" with a local seashell on top instead of a star.

With the arrival of winter Solstice a few days ago, our days are theoretically getting a tiny bit longer, and that’s certainly something to celebrate as we head into a new year. Glancing out the window at this moment, however, it still looks rather grey out there — but we might be due for some sun later today.

Grey punctuated occasionally by brilliant sun breaking through the clouds might be considered normal for Texada Island during this season. I love our beautiful island home, including its rainy winter weather.

As for today, it’s the holidays!  Linda and I hope that you are enjoying the fruits and bounty of the Earth, as is also our good fortune. Best wishes for 2010 and beyond,

–Tom

On holiday

By David Parkinson

Somehow this seems fitting...

Somehow this seems fitting...

As you may have noticed, I did not post last Monday. Nor do I have a post ready to go today. Been busy running around and running aground. Next Monday I’ll be in transit from Montréal, so I don’t think I’ll be posting until January 4. For now, I am a prisoner of suburbia (see above).

Happy shortest day, and see you in 2010!

Nurturing local arts and culture

By Tom Read

Founded in 2004, TACT is THE place to go for information about arts, culture and tourism on Texada Island. (logo by Shelley Thomson)

About a dozen Texada Islanders got together for a few hours one recent evening under the banner of TACT (Texada Arts, Culture & Tourism Society) to make plans for nurturing on-island arts and culture in 2010. Linda and I, as long-time TACT members, attended the meeting and were delighted with the positive energy and ideas that emerged. Here’s a few:

1) How about starting a new one-day Texada Music Festival (working title only), for the pleasure of local people, bringing together island and regional musicians from many musical genres in an easily accessible location — perhaps even at the old quarry site previously used by Jazz on the Rocks? After some excited discussion that quickly started to become detailed planning, a committee to “make it so” came together right on the spot, propelled by mutual passion for music and community.

2) An astute new member of our group mentioned that the Thursday Handi-Dart bus comes over from Powell River empty, takes Texadans to Powell River and back, then at the end of the day returns to Powell River empty. Could we find a way to fill that bus with visitors from Powell River by giving them something interesting to participate in on Thursdays? Transportation is always an issue for arts and culture events on Texada, so this insight may prove quite helpful in planning future events.

3) It’s been several years since TACT sponsored a community discussion of potential arts and culture activities on Texada. One of TACT’s main purposes is to support islanders who want to put on an event or activity that can be construed, even quite loosely, as having to do with the arts or culture. So the group decided to hold a “Texada Arts & Culture Think Tank” next February 24 at the Texada Legion to invite people throughout the community with new ideas to come forward. As in any brainstorming session, no idea is too crazy; it’s the unusual ideas that sometimes garner the most enthusiasm. Yours truly volunteered to take a leadership role in organizing this get-together.

4) TACT’s website (www.texada.org) is getting updated and improved by Maggie Timms, who also happens to be TACT’s newly elected treasurer. The website provides a comprehensive overview of Texada Island for visitors, and after five years in existence the site has great top-level positioning for anyone who searches on the words “Texada Island.” It’s available for use (cross-link or web page) by any local business for a mere $25 annual membership in TACT. Individual memberships, by the way, are $10 for those interested in participating in TACT but who don’t run a business.

5) TACT renewed its commitment to support both the Texada Fly-In and the Texada Aero-Space Camp for 2010. These back-to-back summer activities keep getting better and better every year, and lots of exciting new ideas and volunteer opportunities are taking shape for the coming year. Consult the TACT website (above) for a link to details as they unfold.

6) New in 2010: TACT visitor information brochure racks will be added at Centennial (gas & diesel) Station, the Texada Island Inn and the Gillies Bay Store, thus complementing the existing visitor centre at Manyana in Blubber Bay. Kudos and thanks to O. C. (Doby) Dobrostanski for the nifty new visitor info logo, which will shortly appear at each of the above locations.

And that’s just the meeting highlights. Not too bad for a rainy night in mid-December, eh?

Pigs: lessons learned

By Tom Read

Pinky, the young weaner, in July weighed about 25 lbs (above).

By his last supper in late November, Pinky now weighed about 215 lbs.

What did we learn from our first pig-raising experience here at Slow Farm on Texada Island this year? We learned:

1)  That it’s ok to name your pigs, even if you plan to eat them, because human affection helps raise happier and healthier pigs. In my opinion, we take better care of animals if we see them as worthy of our respect and affection, and giving them a name, however whimsical, helps set the stage for a mutually beneficial relationship. I enjoyed training our pigs to patiently wait for their food to be placed in the feeder before digging in, and they enjoyed their many mini-massages, especially the behind-the-ears rub.

2)  Pigs are, indeed, natural rototillers and great fertilizers. This year’s pig pasture now needs only a little touch-up to remove some large tree roots that the pigs couldn’t eat, plus some raking or harrowing to smooth out the bumps, and it will be ready for planting in the spring. We’ll not need to put pigs on this ground again for quite awhile.

3)  You can feed a pig nearly anything, but they especially enjoy greens, apples, milk and potatoes. Ours also got a daily ration of “hog grower” grain pellets, plus some fried veggies and thick soups later in their lives when we were given “slops” from a local restaurant.

4)  Fencing matters with pigs. One day Spot, the adventurous female, built a mound of dirt up against the electric fence and then vaulted herself over it to freedom. She quickly found some adjacent plantings of potatoes, beans and pumpkins, and made quite a mess before our friend Jim happened along and eventually put her back in the pasture.

5)  In fact, several friends and neighbours helped us all along the way. We bought our two “weaners” from Richard and Linda on Vancouver Island, but Richard kindly brought them over to Powell River for us, a big savings in time and money from our perspective. Our friend Jim fed the pigs for us when our work schedule sometimes interfered with feeding time. We’re also grateful for the many gifts of apples, garden gleanings and restaurant leftovers that were given to us as pig food. When slaughtering time finally arrived, we were able to borrow a clean steel drum for dipping, a “tiger torch” for water heating, and a freezer for carcass storage. And I’m also grateful to Colin, a Tom’s Texada Journal reader who lives in Cariboo country, for sharing his wisdom and literature about pigs.

6)  As for the killing and dressing, we were fortunate to obtain the expert services of a friend who came early one Saturday morning. Each pig died instantly by the .22 method, one while eating an apple. The dressing also happened cleanly and quickly, and that night we enjoyed dining on fresh pig liver prepared with an Asian sauce and veggies. Linda also made some pork liver pate, a true delicacy.

7)  The weather wasn’t cold enough to hang the sides, so we packed them carefully in a large chest freezer using clean wood spacers between the quarters. By keeping the freezer on a timer, its temperature held at exactly 2 degrees Centigrade until we could transport everything to the Texada Market in Van Anda. James, who has built a well-deserved reputation on Texada as an excellent butcher, had all four sides cut, wrapped and labeled within a few days.

8)  About half of the out-of-pocket cost toward raising the pigs was for commercial grain-based pig food purchased in Powell River, but undoubtedly grown and processed well outside our coastal region. In future years we hope to replace most if not all of this imported feed with a comfrey/seaweed/grain/root crop concoction of our own making.

The bottom line: We found raising pigs a very positive experience, and plan to do it again next year. Yes, pigs are a whole different challenge compared to raising chickens, but it’s all about animal husbandry. If you like animals, it feels good to take on such challenges. To borrow a phrase from Colin, it really does make a person feel wealthy to have a freezer full of home-raised pork.

Creating a network of local blogs

By David Parkinson

LBM (little brown mushroom) on a frosty morning

How do I know what I think until I see what I say?
(E.M. Forster)

Amazingly, it’s coming up to one year since Tom Read and I launched this blog. My intention in getting Slow Coast going was to have a venue for some of my ramblings which didn’t easily fit into the work I have been doing to promote food security in the region, for which I have a separate blog. I spend a lot of time reading blogs and other online sources of information which are rooted in a particular place, and I wanted to see us folks on the ‘Outer Sunshine Coast’ starting to create a chorus of voices talking about the places which matter to us, the events which concern us, and what our lives are like in this time.

Blogging is such an odd medium: ranging from the extremely personal to the objective or journalistic, from the observation of small daily moments to coverage of the huge questions and challenges of our time. A blog can stretch to fit the interests of its creator and need not be all things to all readers, nor should it try. So this has been one long experiment, and so far it seems to be working well.

When I got started, I mainly wanted to be able to express myself, to talk about the things that were attracting my attention, and to do so without having to worry about anyone else’s editorial requirements or publishing schedule. The joy of this blog is that it is a free vehicle for doing all of this, without having to worry about advertisers or creating paper waste. Sometimes I’m amazed that more people aren’t blogging; but then, so many of us have had the pleasure of writing bashed out of us during our years in the school system, when writing meant “a horrible duty to be done at the last moment because someone is making us do it”.

It’s a luxury to have the time to write for any reason other than necessity and a particular luxury to be able to stretch out and write at length about the little things. And, sadly, it’s increasingly rare to find people who have had opportunities to practice writing and get beyond the challenges of spelling, grammar, and composition. Like many crafts, improvement comes only through discipline. At least, this is what I hope.

Having imposed a weekly deadline on myself, I’ve had thirty-five or so occasions to sift the week’s events to see what comes to the top, then try to write something relevant about whatever that is. Sometimes I’m very happy with the results; sometimes less so. But the regular cycle, the weekly recurrence, the tidal flow of the deadline, shapes the way I see the world to some small but meaningful extent. I often find myself viewing what goes on around me with an eye to writing it down for public disclosure. And knowing I’m planning to write about something going on makes me more attuned to certain aspects of it and focuses my attention on what is really going on. There is a good deal of truth in the remark by E.M. Forster in the epigram for this week’s post: “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” Nothing weaves together the threads of disconnected thought like the attempt to make sense out of it for ourselves and for others.

Of course, I cannot document much of what I experience, because a lot of it is of no general interest — or at any rate the effort required to make it relevant to anyone reading this blog is more than I could pull off in one week. We all carry around thoughts and feelings which are perhaps central to our being, whether they are fleeting or enduring facets of our personality; and yet to try to pin them down in the form of written language would be impossible, like carrying steam in a bucket. So we stay closer to the surface, talking about the things we feel are easier for us to write about and for others to understand. Each blog creates its own little world, looking at the world from a particular point of view, but if gather up enough blogs in one corner of the world you start to get a picture of what goes on. A constellation needs more than one star.

And even though this tiny pocket of the BC coastline has only twenty-odd-thousand people living in it, there is a surprising number of blogs, and more every time you turn around.

For anyone looking to get a flavour of the bloggy goings-on in the region, here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the local blogs I follow (leaving aside a couple that I contribute to or maintain):

  • Life at Periwinkle: Fran Cudworth and her husband Simon run the Periwinkle Granary and raise sheeps and rabbits for wool. Fran writes about the little and big things going on with the animals and her craft projects.
  • Meghan Hildebrand’s blog: Just about what you’d expect! Local artist Meghan Hildebrand writes occasionally about art projects and other happenings.
  • Transition Powell River: The blog of our very own Transition Town initiative, with fairly regular updates on the effort to prepare the region for peak oil and carbon reduction.
  • Pebble in the Pond: The Pebble in the Pond Environmental Society is working to reduce the amount of plastic waste being produced in the region.
  • Powell River Books Blog: Margy Lutz’s blog about Wayne Lutz’s books, life on Powell Lake, and much more.
  • Murray Dobbin’s blog: Progressive journalist Murray Dobbin now lives in Powell River, although his blog concerns mainly Canadian federal politics and stories from the global scene.
  • Thistle Garden: Margaret Thistle is a recent arrival to Powell River who has interests in gardening (including urban chickens), cooking, baking, and is now renovating the old Bakewell’s on Glacier Street and will be opening a café there soon.
  • Vanishing History: I don’t remember how I stumbled across this odd but delightful blog celebrating some of the more obscure corners of local history, particularly the remnants of old rail lines. Infrequent but fascinating.
  • Rabideye’s blog: Local troublemaker Giovanni Spezzacatena’s musings on things in general.
  • Cameron Twyford (local musician): Occasional ramblings and samples of music from this eccentric and intense musician.

These are some of the local blogs I follow closely. Taken together, they offer a kaleidoscopic picture of the many odd and curious corners of the region, as seen from various angles: literary, artistic, musical, environmental, and historical. Imagine adding your voice to this crazy chorus!! (Please do.)

If anyone reading this knows of other blogs covering the Upper Sunshine Coast, please email me or leave a comment. I wonder if there are many others I haven’t discovered yet?

Sliammon consults with Texada

By Tom Read

Part of Pocahontas Bay, with our dog Rocky entering the water in the foreground, taken about three years ago.

It was a night of firsts, none spectacular, but each meaningful nonetheless.

Last Monday evening, at the Texada Community Hall in Gillies Bay, Sliammon First Nation officially came to Texada Island to inform our community about its land claim near Pocahontas Bay and to solicit our feedback on that claim. About 30 Texadans turned out to hear Roy Francis, Sliammon’s treaty negotiator for the last 13 years and a former Chief of his band, explain why his community had requested ownership of approximately 400 acres around Pocahontas (excluding the foreshore), with an option to purchase an additional 250 adjacent acres to the south. At least six provincial and federal treaty negotiators also spoke at the meeting, mostly about the history and process of “modern” treaty negotiations.

The first “first” is that Sliammon came to Texada to discuss its plans with our community. Our Official Community Plan requires Texadans to consult with Sliammon about land use proposals on Texada, including such seemingly routine items as water licenses. But we have no authority to compel Sliammon to reciprocate. So I was pleased that Sliammon took the initiative and reached out to Texada, albeit well after reaching agreement with the provincial and federal governments. In my opinion this is a step toward better future consultation between our communities.

Second, Roy Francis, a middle aged lifelong resident of Sliammon (located just north of the city of Powell River), said that he had come to Texada hundreds of times, but by way of his own boat, often landing at Pocahontas Bay. This is quite in keeping with the history of the Coast Salish peoples, who normally lived along the shore, rarely ventured inland and preferred travel by boat rather than by land. It also underlines the reasoning behind Sliammon’s land claim on Texada. According to Mr. Francis, his community needs a sheltered launch site for boats in the area to maintain its fishing rights, which extend to the southern tip of Texada Island. No logging or development is planned, nor does Sliammon expect to sell the land to a developer. Mr. Francis agreed, however, that such activities would be within Sliammon’s rights under the treaty, with appropriate consultation of other parties as required by law.

Third, as a “new” landowner on Texada Island, Sliammon has distinguished itself by inviting Texadans to continue using Pocahontas Bay and environs for casual recreation, “but not for camping more than a night or for long-term occupation,” said Mr. Francis. It is unusual for a private landowner to be so explicitly generous and non-bureaucratic about access by locals. There will be no gates or “Keep Out” signs.

Finally, Mr. Francis casually debunked a long-held myth about Texada Island: that the Sliammon people did not live here in antiquity because they had long ago beheld the rapid rise of Texada from the sea, and feared it would someday collapse back underwater. “That’s not true,” he said. “The middens on Texada are three to four feet deep, indicating a very long, continuous presence. They [his ancestors] liked the protected areas, including Pocahontas Bay.”

Sliammon First Nation is quite close to achieving a final treaty agreement with the provincial and federal governments, and the acreage around Pocahontas Bay will be part of it. Although we were included late in the process, the outcome looks positive to me.


Post facto

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