Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cider Tour

Sunday was cider tour day. We decided the evening before that it would be fun to visit a couple of local cideries around the Victoria region - a Sunday 'outing' that would be a little different for us. It was a beautiful morning and we were ready to start our day bright and early. We prepared the morning coffee and a light snack which we packed and took with us to the beach where we spent an hour or so. The sun was shining and it was warm enough for Richard to have an early morning dip in the ocean. We sat by the water's edge with our coffee and finished our light breakfast - after which we packed up then drove to the Brentwood Bay ferry.

The boat ride over was short, only a twenty-five minute ride, but was enjoyable as we had just enough time to step out onto the deck to catch the fresh sea air.

We arrived in Mill Bay and I had to quickly run into the store to buy batteries for my camera. The stop at the store was a 'meant to be' as we came across a very peculiar sight in the parking lot - fortunately I had my camera in hand at the time.


Buckley needs a hair cut! Well, this really made our day. I took a few snaps of Buckley then we continued on our journey to Cobble Hill. The drive through Cobble Hill was very picturesque with views of farms and rolling green fields with tractors preparing their land for crops, winding roads through pastoral countryside and apple orchards. We had missed the Spring blossoms on the apple trees this time but they were still a pretty sight.

The Merridale Estate Cidery is located in this area, it is home to many apple trees and is where they produce their own organic apple cider and brandies. It is a charming place to visit and makes for a wonderful Sunday countryside drive; not only do they offer their apple cider for tasting but there is a restaurant and cute little gift shop on the premises. We enjoyed a walk around the property and viewed the fermentation room with big tanks and barrels and then afterwards we sampled a few of their ciders and one of brandy (small samples).

apple cider samples

colourful brandy bottles

Spring apple orchard

After viewing this very pretty estate, it was time to continue our Sunday drive and visit the Sea Cidery on the Saanich Peninsula, north of Victoria driving towards the Town of Sidney. The Victoria region is known for its local wines, craft beers and ciders, these are very much a part of 'west coast' culture on the island (and B.C.). Though we could not visit them all in one day - we will attempt to visit a couple of wineries and craft breweries in the near future - then write about them in this journal.

It was mid-afternoon when we arrived at the Sea Cidery. The weather had changed to cloudy and muggy. The sky was hazy and Mt. Baker was barely visible in the background. We sat outisde on the large open veranda, ready to sample some delicious apple. We tried a sample of their 'Rumrunner' cider, which had been aged in rum barrels, it was delicious.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Savary Shores

During the months of May and October our family enjoys a get-away for a week or two to Savary Island - just before or after vacationing summer crowds. The island is located in the northern part of the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia. May is a beautiful time of year to visit the island, it is quiet without bustling crowds and the island seems so fresh and green. Preparation to get away must be done a week or more before we leave Victoria, most preparation involves buying food supplies and other necessities - once we step foot onto the island, there is no corner grocery store nearby. In an emergency, one can always ride eight kilometers by bicycle to the other end of the island to shop at the local store or have a meal at neighbouring Rigger's restaurant - usually open during summer months. There is also a small bike repair kiosk next door. We usually try and leave Victoria around 6:00 A.M. before the traffic rush and have a quick breakfast in the city of Duncan. We drive to Comox and ferry over to Powell River where the drive to Lund takes us about 45 minutes. From Lund, we take a ten minute water taxi ride over to Savary.

Once settled in the cottage with our huge load of supplies, we head to the beach with a refreshment and begin to feel the relief after a long day's trip. The magic of the island starts to take hold of us.

The absence of traffic, power lines, shops and concrete buildings makes this island a real paradise. The preparation and journey beforehand was well worth the effort. Truly, this is a very special and unspoiled island like no other - a rarity and gem to be treasured and safeguarded. The refreshing, the verdant beauty of trees and lush invigorating.....rippled sand beaches where tides come in and go much fun to explore.

First priority of the morning is to amble our way to the beach, coffee in hand.

The ocean air wakes us up and we sit ourselves on a driftwood log to watch kingfishers and sandpipers playing and fishing on the shoreline, and listen to the ocean's gentle waves. The call of eagles resonates through the air, a common sound here. The vista of snow-capped mountains in the background seems surreal. Unspoiled with breathtaking views, this truly is a magical place. When the tide is out, one can walk the beach along one side of the island, skip over to the other side (the island is approximately .8 kilometer in width and eight kilometers in length) and carry on walking the sandy beaches on the other side. It is a fun hike and there is a lot to see with the wildlife, vegetation, rocks and driftwood on the beach. It is a treasure trove for beachcombers. We usually arrive back to our cottage with armloads of driftwood and other goodies.

The island is dotted with recreational cottages, many rustic and charming with artistic flair, hidden amidst tall cedars and firs; while others have their place by waters' edge. The collage of quaint cottages with their colourful window and door trimmings, whimsical driftwood gates and fences are characteristic of Savary Island. We always feel inspired by the driftwood and colourful rocks on the beach. My husband was so inspired that he built two log cottages by hand (no electric tools) from beach logs. He hauled log after log from the beach up a steep sandy hillside, then wheel-barrelled each log to the building site. He was thereafter named the "human forklift and human excavator" by Savary Island locals.

The white cedar logs do shimmer in the sunlight and are a wonderful contrast to the blues and greens of the ocean and sky. Inspiration comes to us from nature - the colours and shapes of logs scattered and stacked on the shore, the unusual plant and tree life, colourful rocks of assorted shapes and sizes, starfish, shells, tangled green, blue and orange ropes on pieces of driftwood and the effect of natural lighting during different times of the day. The dappled sunlight through cedar trees early in the morning is a lovely sight and the sunsets during the evening are not to be missed. I understand how one can become enchanted with this paradise and become inspired to write or paint. My camera follows me on all our beach combing and hiking treks. Our days are busy with picnics on the beach, reading, swimming and languorous evenings by candlelight. We enjoy company of neighbours and family. At the end of our visit to Savary Island, we pack up our huge load of goodies and clean up, careful not to leave anything behind as we prepare for the trip back to Victoria. We feel animated and re-energised but sad to leave paradise. It is our hope that this very unique Canadian island, with its very special habitat and biodiversity, will always be protected and preserved.

sawing cedar driftwood on beach

first log cabin built by hand from beach logs

second cottage built by hand from beach logs

seagulls admiring view

eagle and crow

driftwood creatures

evening sunset

broom in bloom

picnic on a beach

Friday, May 15, 2009

My Spring Garden

My garden is wild and free. It is not manicured, without weeds and has no tight borders around flowers and shrubs. It is our haven (and small piece of heaven) from the outside world and offers us protection with its blanket of green; its tall firs, cedars and arbutus surround us with their dignity and secure us within their compounds. Patches of perennials, awakened from winter's slumber, become overgrown and crowded - but still a pretty sight in this garden that is wild and free. The grass is so alive and it too grows with haste - time to dust off the lawn mower from it's winter rest! It is such a joyous time of year for us all, so fresh and invigorating and a welcome change from cold and grey. Mother nature is at work and the winter silence has been broken by the hustle and bustle - not to forget rustle - of feathered creatures.

Tree blossoms come for a short while then float away, like downy snow. I capture these beautiful moments, in mind, and wish they would last. Spring is here and in its midst. I plant young seedlings and many seeds with hope that the soil with provide them nourishment and care. Lettuce, swiss chard, kale and snow-peas are sprouting - a spying rabbit, hidden in the tall grass, is waiting and watching.......tired of dandelions! Oh well, he cannot get into the garden with its guarding fence - grass and dandelions will have to do. The sun is going down now and is time to end this beautiful day. Rest well dear bunnies and birds, I certainly will! Look forward to the new day tomorrow, so much to look forward to in this garden so wild and free!


veggie patch

forest man

rhubarb patch

sweet rockets

hardy geranium, cranesbill

Himalayan musk rose

rambling rose


wild mix

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Salt Spring Weekend

Salt Spring Island......the perfect weekend get-away for some relaxation and a good time. Our family ventured over to the island Friday morning on the 9:00 a.m. ferry from Swartz Bay to Fulford Harbour, it had been a busy few weeks at home and we were all looking forward to a change of scenery - all of us were excited about our three day get-away to bucolic Salt Spring. Our first priority before boarding the ferry was to purchase a cup of coffee to sip away while waiting in the parking lot - it was a good starter with the caffeine buzz. The sail over was smooth and upon arrival to Fulford Harbour we decided to have breakfast at the Rock Salt Restaurant and Cafe - I have no qualms about recommending this cafe - it is a busy little hub and has very good food. Note: Don't ask for French fries - you are now of the isle of 'healthy' eating and organics. Of course, you can order those unhealthy fried potatoes at other restaurants on the island. After breakfast, I ventured up the side road with my niece to explore a couple of charming and colourful shops along the way - what an enjoyable time that was! Not only did we find a treasure trove of goodies in the store next door to the Morningside Organic Bakery- I found the perfect purse - with tassles! Oh goodie - I now feel like I can blend in with the fun atmosphere of the island - a start to the 'new me' - what will I find next? My niece found some very colourful bracelets of assorted bright reds, pinks, purples, orange and blues - a rainbow of fun colours and sparkles.

bread making

bread oven

After we made our purchases we then headed off to our next destination - the Salt Spring Island Bread Company - listed on the studio tour map - the drive was very pretty and we enjoyed the sites along the way, a narrow one-way driveway led us up to a parking area where we were greeted by friendly pooch. We ambled up the pathway to a smallish building where the bread and pizza breads were baked in a wood burning oven. What a fun experience and the bread and pizzas were delicious! I recommend this for anyone who wants to visit the island. I will attach the link to the various places to visit on the 'studio tour' which also comes with a map and directions.

Now that we were loaded up with pizzas and bread it was time to head to Ganges - approximately twenty minutes drive from Fulford. We loaded up with food and supplies, a fishing license for our niece and then made our way to Mary's Lake where a log chalet, our home for the next three days, had previously been booked for our arrival. I had searched via the internet for places to stay and was fortunate to have found this very charming two-bedroom chalet which accommodated us very comfortably. The owner of the resort was friendly and easy-going and made us feel very welcome. The chalet was clean with radiant floor heating, a wood burning stove and full kitchen, the loft bedroom with a king-size bed and two twin beds in the second bedroom; also, the couch opened up to a double-size bed (for our daughter) - enough room for us all. After unpacking our goodies and making ourselves at home, we strolled our way down to the water's edge with our refreshments where we took in the view and atmosphere of St. Mary lake and enjoyed conversation with one another. There were not many people around - a couple of boys were playing ping-pong, a boat or two would silently glide past (with electric motors) and a canoe with a young fisherman was poised with graceful calm. The sunlight shimmered on the lake and fishing lines reflected like spiderwebs. A few hours must have passed by, it was time to think about dinner and the evening ahead. What a shame that this day was coming to an was so beautiful! Oh well, we had tomorrow and the Saturday market in Ganges.

fishing on St. Mary's lake

After a restful sleep, we awoke early to the wonderful aroma of coffee brewing in the chalet - our dear sister snuck into the kitchen and prepared 'Barb's coffee' (from Barb's Buns Bakery and Cafe in Ganges). My husband and his sister strolled down to the water's edge for their second cup of coffee - a quiet still morning with not a soul in sight - a delightful start to the day. After breakfast my sister-in-law, my daughter and I headed for the Ganges market - it was a beautiful sunny and warm day. The ambiance was vibrant and cheerful with the various artisans, children running about with colourful balloons, musicians and food stalls - very pleasant and entertaining! We perused the area and slowly made our way through the various jewellery and art stalls, I bought my favourite lavender soap and was tempted to buy a pair of silver earrings (I resisted my temptation). We continued on through Ganges, visited Sabine's Fine Used Bookstore and a couple of galleries. It was time to visit Barb's Buns cafe for some nourishment - another highlight place to visit in Ganges. It was time to head back to our chalet and to the water's edge - it was another delightful evening.

Ganges market

local artisan

Sunday morning we arose again to the sweet aroma of coffee brewing - how delicious. After breakfast, we headed to Sunset Farm Studio (also on the studio tour map). This was one of the many highlights of our trip to the island - our niece enjoyed feeding grass to the two very friendly (and hungry!) goats and miniature horses - I need those goats to cut my lawn at home!!

feeding goats

The studio on site was a treasure trove of goodies - antiques, wool, sheepskin rugs, and many other odds and ends to buy - not to mention their meat supply of lamb nicely packaged and frozen. This is definitely a place that visitors will enjoy on Salt Spring - especially children! After a visit to the studio shop we jumped in the car and headed back to Ganges to buy a few more food supplies. The day came to an end too soon and for our last evening we had a wonderful dinner in our chalet and reminisced about our trip to the island. After another restful and comfortable sleep, Barb's coffee in the morning with conversation around the woodstove, it was time to pack up, clean up and head back to Vancouver Island. We did not get a chance to visit all the places we would have liked to on the studio tour map - but we will certainly return for another weekend visit. All in all, it was a wonderful relaxing time on the island and we want to thank everyone for being so hospitable and friendly. We left the island feeling rested and re-energised. I felt like a new person, different from when I first arrived -I swapped my old granny handbag for a new tassle hand-bag (to my daughter's delight), wrist bangles, tye-dyed scarf and........I did buy some new funky earrings! It's all about having fun, especially with the important people in our life - and we did!

farm studio

That's it for now........more stories to come. Thank you. Michelle
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