Friday, July 31, 2009

Hard to resist

Busy day today getting through my overloaded desk, but I couldn't resist posting this:

The car was at the hospital so hopefully they don't have a broken leg or anything. Might be hard to fit back in that pink and white beauty. Love the carefully perched board.

And then I came across this little bit of graffiti in the "downtown" core, which hopefully will give Tofitians a boost if they are feeling a little weary of the tourist season...

Have a good day, wherever you are.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

In Season: [Ripe] Thimbleberries

Berries, berries. What a crop this year. I've been picking blueberries and cascades from my backyard for days and the fridge is overflowing with the raspberries I bought over the weekend. It's so warm I had to make raspberry jam on the deck using our Coleman stove yesterday morning. There are still salmonberries hanging on and, of course, lots of huckleberries but my favourites are now ripe —


As I wrote before, they are soft and sweet and there's really not much to do with them except eat them right off the bush. But my daughter came up with one more use —

shmooshed on toast. Instant jam.

[Don't forget the Eik St. tee giveaway. All you need to do is leave me a comment.]

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

On Water and Chocolate

Sorry for the silence. We were on a short road trip, which I'll blog about in a few days. We're experiencing a little heat wave out here on the coast. For Tofino, that means lovely warm days—and wonder of wonder—even warm evenings. We could actually sit out on the deck after 6 last night without fleece jackets. And no fog to speak of yet, which is also a bit unusual. Fogust is a'coming though. But, of course, as I've mentioned before, we tend to get a tad antsy when we don't get rain for awhile at the height of tourist season. We are on water restrictions but we do have water, so never fear. As long as everyone behaves, and tries to conserve, we'll be okay for awhile yet. There's lots in the news about this lately, like this and this. And Jackie is on it, too.

I've been holding out blogging out one of my favourite spots in town. Today, enroute home from the beach, seemed like the perfect time to stop at Chocolate Tofino for one of their homemade ice cream cones.

Do those girls looked blissed out or what?

Everything at Chocolate Tofino is handmade in their tiny little shop. The blackberry creams are my favourite most of the year, but today I went for chocolate ice cream, straight up in a waffle cone.

And the courtyard is a great place to get out of the sun, enjoy the flowers (and your cone, chocolate or both), and take a rest before you carry on your way.

Here's a profile on Leah and Gord— the wonders behind this gem.

[And almost everything is gluten-free. Just ask; the knowledgeable staff can let you know what is safe and what's not.]

Final words of wisdom, gleaned from the courtyard wall: Forget love. Fall in chocolate.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

In Season: Red Huckleberries

The berries on the coast have been incredible this year. (The cool start to the season followed by lots of heat has helped no doubt.) There are still salmonberries on the bushes here and there and the thimbleberries are just coming ripe. But right now it's the height of huckleberry season.

Huckleberry bushes seem to be dripping with these beauties — some as large as big blueberries, which is huge for this species. I usually just pick and eat them right off the bush — they're a nice, tart hit when you're hiking — but after meeting friends who'd just collected a 1 L container-full in 20 minutes or so (and who were off to make jam) I decided to do the same.

But deciding to do it and actually doing it are two different beasts. Thus far we've just been grazing on what I've picked.

It seems that Julie and I are on the same wavelength in this regard. She has a few ideas for you.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Eik Street Tree Tee

I'm back; camera in hand. I've been looking forward to this post, so wanted to get that camera back. There is a tree in Tofino. A tree in bondage.

Meet the Eik Street Tree. When I first moved to Tofino, almost 16 years ago now, there were two huge trees like this just down the street from my house; within the village's limits. Then one day, very quickly — and it seems as if it happened in the middle of the night — one of those trees came down. The gravel lot where the tree (and it's surrounding forest once stood) have been there ever since. That got a lot of people ticked off to put it lightly. So when it looked as if the second centuries-old cedar might come down some local people went to action. A couple climbed the tree and camped out there for weeks. There were gatherings, protests, pleas to the village and developer, and a new society was formed: the Tofino Natural Heritage Society. You can read about the history of the protest and the entire event here, but you can see the compromise that resulted.

Apropos to this huge conversation piece in a metal girdle, my brother sent me an article from Tech Life Magazine (scroll through to pages 38-39) about an Edmonton entrepreneur who commemorated the Eik Street Tree on a t-shirt. I immediately ordered myself a tee, which is wonderful -- great comfy, soft fabric, great fit, complete with the Eik Street Tree. Uber-ethically produced. What more could you want?

(BTW, that's not me modelling.) Kate has a series of t-shirts that highlight trees special to her. The first t-shirt was of a poplar that grew along a river valley in Edmonton. The tree sat on prime real estate and Kate wondered what might happen to it. The idea for her company took root and after months of planning and sourcing environmentally friendly materials and processes, Kate launched Earth's Revolution with a t-shirt – the Beautiful Lady T — commemorating her beloved Edmonton poplar.

Each of Kate's tees come with the GPS coordinates printed on the back, which adds a techy twist, plus the directions should you choose to visit them. Currently, Kate has tees for trees in Montreal, Healy Pass (Banff National Park), Edmonton, as well as the Eik Street tree. Coming soon is a tree from Hawaii and one from the Mojave Desert, both subjects of recent visits.

Kate and I got in touch and she graciously donated a couple of t-shirts as give-aways through this site. The first tee (+ some other loot, including a book by yours truly) and some art cards from Clayoquot Eclectic) is heading out to [insert drumroll] ... Heather Weeks.

There will be another give away in a few weeks, but there's one rule — you must comment on this site and/or make a donation to the Natural Heritage Society to be entered in to the draw. (And sorry, anonymous comments don't count as I can't get in touch with you.)

Thanks, Kate! Please visit her site or follow her on Facebook.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Yes, I'm still here and...

I haven't forgotten the promise of a give-away. I've misplaced my camera though and I need it for the posts. Hang tight. I shall return.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Island Restorative

There is an island not far from here that is a little secret. I adore it so much I almost don't want to tell you it's name but...getting there takes some effort and staying there depends on your definition of comfort. If restaurant meals, Egyptian cotton sheets, central heating, and modern decor are your ideals, then this isn't your place. Still with me? You might like The Vargas Inn then. This little inn — which is really a large house – was built in the 1970s and the decor is sort of stuck there. It's a bit dark, there's lots of wood and wallpaper (which I think the fashionistas would find appealingly retro), the bed covers are a bit nubbly, but I don't care one whit. That's not why I go there. I go there because it is quiet, it is in a beautiful setting, it is a hike away from one of the most stunning beaches around, there is endlessly fascinating stuff on the property (natural and not so), and the people who operate it are fun to spend time with. And it's just a quick boat ride away from town. We had a little skip out last week and spent two nights. It's close enough to zip those of us who had to work back to Tofino for the day, but far enough away to forget everything that needs to be done back at home...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Virtuous Soaps and Stuff

There's a hard-working sea wench in our midst and she's cranking out all sorts of cleaners, for you and your home. Sea Wench Naturals uses wild and organically grown plants (from one of the most stunning gardens in Clayoquot Sound) to create soap, shampoo, body oils, pain salves, body lotion, face cream, and more. And she's also branched out to make a dish soap and a insect repellant ("Bugger Off!") that smells pretty yummy and does a good job, too. The labels are a bit hippie-retro with an ethereal sort of water colour with a wash that makes it look like stain glass. They are certainly authentic Clayoquot Sound and would make a great gift it you are looking for something small, yet representative of Tofino. Sea Wench Naturals are found in many shops in town, including The Shed at the Tofino Botanical Gardens and People's Drug Mart!

2012 Update: Sea Wench Naturals now has a website. Yeah! You can find them here.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Long Beach Reflections

Last night we celebrated at the Darwin's Cafe as Adrian Dorst released his latest book, Reflections at Sandhill Creek: Meditations on the Wild West Coast. Adrian is a photographer, carver, and incredible ornithologist. The west coast grabbed him by the throat over 30 years ago and never let go. He lived for several years at Combers, which is where Sandhill Creek meets the Pacific. As he explained last night, he lived in his camper and purposely didn't have radio or read newspapers or magazines. Many nights he just sit in the quiet and listen to the rain on his roof (after days of exploring the area). But he did read and as he read, he wrote down quotes that resonated to him. He showed us the leather-bound journal last night (it's also shown in the book). This book is a pairing of his photographs and these quotes. The people Adrian quotes are varied — from Helen Keller to Lao-Tsu to Kierkegaard — but one of my favourites is by local builder and writer, Jan Janzen: "That anything exists at all is...such a mystery, such a miracle; I sometimes marvel that anyone can keep a straight face!"

Adrian will be having another launch — this one with a slideshow — on July 23, 8 pm at the Clayoquot Sound Community Theatre on Campbell St.

Here's a news piece with a bit of background on Adrian and the book. And here's the publisher's blurb.

[Note: The photo above is not Adrian's, nor it is of Sandhill Creek. I took it yesterday at Schooner Cove when I went for a late afternoon walk, finally slipping away from my desk after a crazy week of work. I tried to use a copy of the cover of Adrian's book, but his publisher's site wasn't cooperating! Check it out at local bookstores, including Mermaid's Tales.]

Update - Nov. 27/09. Finally got my scanner hooked up, so I've scanned you the lovely cover of this book.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How To Talk Like a Local

There are two words that, if mispronounced, will give you away as a visitor. (The camera, motor home, and surf board pointing the wrong way) gives it away too.) And we all like to fit in, right? The first is Tofino. It's not (at least locally) Toe- fino, with a long "o." Think tuh, as in "tough-ino."

And then there's Clayoquot. First, you should understand that this comes from Tla-o-qui-aht, the name of the native people that live here. Clayoquot is an anglicized pronunciation. The main thing NOT to do, is to say "Clay" with a long a (and in clay you shape pots with). We say "clah" as in clap. And forget the o; it is silent(ish). The closest word I can think of for the rest is the end of kumquat. So, put it all together and you get "clah-quat" sound.

(Having said all this, I like diversity. Diversity in most things is say it how you want to.)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Thanks for the name, Tofino; too bad you couldn't visit

People often wonder how our village go its name. It is a remnant from the days of the late 1700s, when the Spaniards were snooping around the coast. There is absolutely no connection between Captain Vincente Tofino and the town that bears his name — he was never here. I wrote about the origins of the name here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Seven Letters that Enraged Tofino

Okay, I realize I can't speak for everyone in this town, but there's a lot of p-o'd people over these seven letters that appeared a few days ago, spray painted on the rocks at Rosie Bay — P-R-I-V-A-T-E. Not only is it ugly and defacing the natural landscape, it's a fairy antisocial message to people who've been surfing at this bay for decades.

It's hard to tell whether this message is above or below the high tide line. If it's below, then they've defaced crown land and public property — you can't own below high tide in Canada, so it's fair game for everyone to walk on. If it's above, well I guess they can do what they want with their land, but it hasn't made them popular, whoever they are. (But I doubt they care too much. I'd just watch your windows, folks.) Honestly, I don't get it — it takes a significant amount of effort to get over to this surf break (climbing on the slimey rocks, in a wetsuit, with a surfboard; or by paddling over from Chesterman) — so I can't imagine there are hoards of people bothering those in the house perched above. And they're just surfing; at least they're not playing their bongos all night like people might do on other nearby beaches. The locals are not happy.

What do you think? Offensive or assertive?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Weather Diseases

Hello. My name is Adrienne and I'm a weather amnesiac. But that's probably a good thing. At least it helps survive the wet coast. A few days ago we loaded up our little boat and headed out into Clayoquot Sound. It was raining. Really raining and it seemed like late fall instead of the middle of summer. We kind of felt like this...

But we loaded up anyhow. We were off to one of our favourite places in the sound, just a quick ride away, to spend some time alone, together. After dropping our gear we headed out for a long hike in the rain. We were cold and hungry and wet when we got back, but that was okay. The hike had been lovely, we had a roof over our heads, and dinner was quick and warm. A fire, some cribbage, and off to bed.

But that rainy day? Honestly, I have to think about how long ago it was because, as I said above, I have weather amnesia. Give me one sunny day and I can forgive — and honestly forget — the days of rain that might have come before it. So don't ask me how the weather has been, because I won't be able to tell you with any specificity as long as there are days like this every once in a while.

Have a wonderful weekend.

[And doesn't anyone like free loot? Remember this? (Scroll down to the end of the post.) It's going to be a great loot bag; honestly. Come on. All you have to do is show me you're out there with a wee comment.]

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thanks, Old Man's Beard

I am running in and out today — coming and going from a nearby island, which I'll blog about soon — but for now, listen to this band, Old Man's Beard. Go down and click on the song Tofino. Love that Hawaiian-surfy vibe! Makes us sound so very relaxing.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Putting the Wild in Wilderness

These days, at the height of summer, it's sometimes hard to keep ones' perspective on this place. The town bustles, there are line-ups at the Co-op and motor homes everywhere (often driven by motor home neophytes, which can make for some interesting parking and traffic "jam" issues). At this time of year I find it's even more important to get out to explore some of the more remote places, which, in reality, aren't all that remote at all. The FH and I did just that a few weeks ago and went for a hike to a local beach. We were having a long discussion about wilderness, particularly in light of the book project I'm working on, which, in part, explores the history of the Long Beach area. Even though we think of places like this as wilderness, it is a very "peopled" place — always has been of course for generations of native people have always called this home. And in the last hundred years there have been a lot of people here — it's been logged, prospected, homesteaded, and, of course, been a tourist hot spot for decades. (Not to mention a couple of very heady years in the late '60s when Wreck Bay was home to hundreds — some say even a couple of thousand at its height — of "hippie freaks" (not my terminology; that's what one of the more famous Wreck Bay residents calls them!) Anyhow, we were mulling over wilderness and wildness when we pushed through the bush and were presented with this:

See those wolves on the far shore? At first it looked like they were playing tug-of-war. They were, sort of, but it was more a "game" of pull-apart-the-prey.

That suitcase-sized black thing is a young black bear. There wasn't much we could do but sit down quietly and watch. They weren't concerned with us, we were a safe distance away, and if the mother bear was around, she had bigger concerns than us.

Amazing, amazing.

There's no time like the present to records one's thoughts.

So how would you define wilderness?

[On a separate, but very related note, if you're on a local beach or trail and you love your dog, keep it on a leash.]

Monday, July 6, 2009

It's Tea Time in Tofino

Congratulations to multi-talented women, Cheryl McLellan and Anne Klazek, on the opening of the Tofino Tea Bar. The grand opening was this past Friday and they did a booming business in their teeny, tiny store. When I visited (twice this weekend!) they had lovely iced teas, chilled and ready to pour, as well as dozens of hot teas ready to make fresh. (Today it's drippy; definitely a hot tea day.)

The shop has inside and outside seating. The long wooden "t-bar" and small deck tucked out of the wind, are wonderful spots to sip your tea and watch Tofino wander by. They also have treats from Sweet T's, some great pottery for sale as well as Cheryl's art cards. Perhaps you'll hear Anne's music every once in awhile, too. (I can't find a link for Smalltown Empire, Anne Klazek's band with Ron Weeks, but here they are in action, via You Tube.) See? I said they were multi-talented. [Update: Here's the link for Smalltown Empire.]

The shop is at Second and Campbell, tucked behind "Family Fashions" (and across the street from the Vicker's Eagle Aerie Gallery).

NEWS FLASH: I am going to be starting monthly give-aways, which I'm calling "Loot Bag Lundis." I have a great little loot bag beginning to grow with some cool Tofino-related stash and I'll give it away on the third lundi of July, which is 20 juillet 2009. The deal? You have to leave a comment on one of my posts (old or new) between now and the 20th. Everyone who leaves a comment will go in the draw. So please spread the word and tell two (or more) friends. More details on the contents of the loot bag soon.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Canada Day, Redux

As promised, a few photos from Canada Day. With a pre-teen and a teen in the house, Canada Day is pretty much my own. The kids are out and about with their friends. Our house is quite close to the Village Green where the festivities happen so I just putz in my garden and when I hear the announcement of an event I want to check out, I just toodle down the road. Much of the day is taken up by the annual skateboard competition. I popped in and out during the day to check it out, but by far these were the "radist" skaters (and also the ones at approximately the same level as me).

Cute, huh? Of course there were many other skaters, but these had the fewest tattoos. Seriously, the Tuff City Skatepark — which sits smack in the heart of town — is a hard fought for, tirelessly fundraised for, and much used amenity in our town. Skateparks are often relegated to the outskirts of town and I think it says something about Tofino to have it right downtown.

Music on the Village Green began about 4 pm...

which was accompanied by hula hooping on the lawn (jugs of water on the head, optional).

And, of course, what would Canada Day be without fireworks? We have quite a show for a small town. The fireworks are set off on a barge in the harbour — it seems as if the whole town comes out to watch. This photo was the best I could do.

'Til Next Week!

(From the Co-op Gas Bar — THE place to post for Tofitians' milestones.)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Vegging Out

Canada Day wore me out so it's appropriate that I feel like talking about vegetables. When the Canadian government was trying to attract settlers to this area — and most of Canada for that matter — they lured them with land. In theory, it was farm land. They wanted all those settlers to clear the land, cultivate it, tame the forest and make the land "productive." A lot of the times they had to stretch the truth. Here a little white lie the Department of Lands wrote in 1914 for hopeful pre-empters:

The favourable climatic influences, combined with the comparatively level lie of the country ... and the general excellence of the soil, which, when the covering of decayed vegetation is removed, the sunlight let in, and the ground has been worked a little, is capable of producing the finest of garden and field products ...

In truth, much of the area is bog and clay, and the rain (remember, up to 4 metres A YEAR), leaches away any goodness that veggies might like. And then there's the sun (or lack thereof). Oh, we get some (the last few days have been stellar) but once it heats up enough, the long days of Fogust will arrive. (It is a very rare (very, very rare) evening that we can sit out after dinner without fleece jackets and blankets. All heat-loving plants much be coddled.) This is all to say that people can and do have vegetable gardens here, but it takes work to build up the soil and encourage your veggies to do their stuff. You have to be pretty committed. Although many settlers did try to farm, their efforts were soon abandoned in favour of fishing or logging. Everyone had a veggie garden of course and a few people did have market gardens, but farming was never a reality.

This isn't the case in Port Alberni and the other side of the island, which is rich in farmland. At this time of year we take full advantage of that gardening goodness and participate in a local CSA (Community Support Agriculture) program with the organic farm, Nanoose Edibles. Each week we get a box of veggies from the farm. This is what arrived on our doorstep tonight:

Nanoose Edibles not only provides produce to about 50 or so residents of the west coast, they also supply many of the restaurants. It's not quite a 100 Mile Diet, but it's closer than California. The farm has a stand, which is en route to Tofino if you're coming our way. Why don't you stop in?

I would like to point out that the farm is a retirement "venture" for the Ebells. Here they are. I hope I have half as much energy as they when I retire. Thanks for the veggies, Barbara and Lorne.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Nanaifo Bars

It's Canada Day. In honour, I made Nanaimo Bars using my mom's recipe, but adapted to be gluten-free so FH can have some and I don't have to eat the entire pan. There are all sorts of stories about who first created Nanaimo bars, when, and whether it was in fact a rip-off of another kind of "slice." (The "where" at least is decided. I think.) Whatever the legend; they're wonderful.

I am VERY particular about Nanaimo bars and rarely, if ever, will buy them. First, there's the name. I was born in Nanaimo and although the town is not my favourite, I have a soft-spot for the place, which could be described as the heart, or, if you are feeling less generous, "the other anatomical end" of the island.

But it's the recipe I'm fussy about. Too often the recipe is fiddled with — extra additions (cranberries!), almonds instead of walnuts (ack!), and vanilla pudding instead of custard (ack, ack, double ack). Around here, the key ingredients are graham wafers, walnuts, coconut, Bird's custard, and ... unsweetened chocolate. Yup, unsweetened chocolate on top. This often throws people (especially if they are the kind that picks apart their Nanaimo bars). Unsweetened chocolate cuts the super-sweetness of the bars and is what makes my mom's recipe best.

Now I'm not going to share my batch so the closest you will probably come to Nanaimo Bars if you are wandering the streets of Tofino, is to go track down a Tofino Bar at the Common Loaf Bakery. (As the label in the bakery insists, "They're better.") And they are good. "The Loaf" is hard to miss — look for the funky red and chartreuse building at the corner of Neill and First Street, one block up from the town's only stop light. (It doesn't actually get you to stop. It's a flasher for the four-way stop!)

To make my NBs gluten-free I substituted crushed gluten-free cornflakes for the crushed graham wafers. FH insists they are fabulous, but he's been so sweet-deprived since he was diagnosed a celiac he's perhaps not as discerning as some. I think I need to try something else – crushed vanilla cookies perhaps because I haven't ever found g-f graham crackers — to push it from good enough to fab, but they are certainly disappearing fast enough.

In honour of the Nanaimo roots (of the bar and moi) and it's Tofino-gluten-free adaptation, I'll call them Nanaifo Bars. Post a comment or send an email if you want the recipe. (Oh, and Happy Canada Day. I'll be out and about in town with my camera. Check back tomorrow to see how we celebrated.)