The other afternoon, I came upon yet another breed of geese that were migrating North for the summer. They were hanging about the shoreline foraging in the sea grass. There was a large rock in front of them, so I was able to sneak up and get a fairly good photo before they all flew away. They were smaller than a Canadian Goose and had a completely different look to them. They also weren’t nearly as noisy.The white feathers at the base of their beak gives them a unique appearance and makes their beaks look bigger, as if they make up half their head. And their legs and feet are a vivid orange. Overall, quite a pretty bird.
Since I’d never seen this type before, I had to spend a few minutes googling to find out what they were called. These geese are the Greater White-Fronted Goose, not to be confused with the Lesser White-Fronted Goose. They are commony known as Specklebelly, which is self-evident if you look at the first picture above.
Every few paintings, I try and paint either a portrait or a figurative painting. These paintings generally scare the crap out of me, but I know I’ll never get any better if I avoid painting things that challenge me (faces, hands, crowds, etc.), so there it is!
Strangely, I find self-portraits slightly less unnerving. I think it’s because I’m not afraid of upsetting the subject of the painting. I’m getting pretty comfortable with my wrinkles, scars and rapidly greying hair. Also, I find it easier with a self-portrait to simplify shapes and determine relative values. That voice in your head that gets in the way of drawing and painting, telling you what it thinks you should draw rather than what you see, seems to go silent when I am working on a self-portrait.
This self-portrait is from a reference photo taken on the bluff in the winter (hence the big puffy jacket). I chose this pose to paint because it was nice to try a portrait without the eyes staring right back at you – something that can be slightly unsettling. Also, the photo was taken from a slightly lower angle, giving this self-portrait a vaguely heroic effect. I also painted this over a colour test panel I did for the previous painting “I hold my breath”. At first I was going to paint this as a square painting (I only gessoed the top portion). Then after I got working on the painting, I thought why not just paint in more jacket. As a result, I think that painting isn’t quite as balanced as I’d like it to be – the eyes are a touch too high in the painting. However, as a fairly quick study, it accomplished it’s mission. At least people recognize me in the painting (although several people have said I look like Ernest Hemingway, which I choose to take as a compliment).
Finally, this is my last painting done while staying in our friend’s cabin. Next week we are moving onto the Bluff for a summer of glamping (the Love Shack now has a bedroom, living room and kitchen, so we won’t be roughing it). I’m not sure how much painting I will get done this summer as it is going to be a busy time with landscaping and house construction.
Three days ago, I was introduced to the Spring migration of the Canadian Goose. I’m familiar with the Fall migration. It was common, growing up in Alberta, to watch them flying South at a high altitude every Fall; forming that nearly perfect V. What I didn’t realize is that the Salish Sea is right on the Spring migration flight path. It is stunning how many birds have flown by each day. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing, every time a flock flies past, we drop our tools and go watch the spectacle.
The progression seems endless. Large flocks flew by every 15 – 30 minutes – all day long and into the evening. The numbers were astounding. At first you can hear the honking as it travels across the water of the Salish Sea, and then you see the flock. The noise just gets louder and louder. I can’t imagine what the geese are trying to communicate to each other. Maybe, they are just trying to get other birds to steer clear of their flight path.
The flocks seemed to be heading North at three different altitudes. The first altitude was very high, like what I was used to in the old Fall migration. These flocks mostly held a pattern, some flocks forming a decent V formation, but others looked like they were in an extremely long conga line. The second altitude was about 50 – 100 feet above the water. These flocks were less formal. The lines constantly shifting and changing. The last group simply skimmed a few feet above the water. These flocks seemed to be even more haphazard than the other two types, the lines constantly shifting and changing. No one apparently in charge. And the noise for this last group seemed significantly louder, although maybe it was because they were so close to the water that sound simply travelled further.
I’ve included a short movie clip below to give you a sense of the noise these birds make.
It was a perfect day to test out Mitch’s new drone. There was no discernible wind and our resident Eagles didn’t pay any attention to the drone. Sometimes Eagles mistake drones for either threats or prey and will attack them. Drones always come out the losers in those battles, so we keep an eye out for any bird activity. Anyway, with all things looking favourable, Mitch sent the drone way up high to get some good Bird’s Eye Shots of the Bluff.
Using the architect’s drawings, we measured out the house where we want it to be built (taking advantage of the views). We defined the corners of the building with orange Home Depot buckets and some orange traffic cones. Then later Mitch took drawings and scaled them to these orange markers on the Bird’s Eye View. The last picture in this blog gives you an idea of how the house will sit on the bluff overlooking the Salish Sea. You can also see where we intend to have the land cleared and put in a circular drive-way.
Just to the West of the bluff is a little neighbourhood called Random Road. It’s where our friend’s Bruce and Sue live, but we’ve also gotten to know a lot of the neighbours along this road. It’s a friendly and fun bunch.
We’re coming to the end of the burn pile season (usually mid-April) and today the venting index was good, so Mitch and I decided it was a perfect day to get rid of some of the scrub alder that was piling up at the foot of the bluff. The wind was coming in strong from the West so we built the fire beside some big rocks creating a perfect little wind tunnel.
The fire practically took care of itself and we spent several hours piling on logs and brush. The heat that it generated was considerable and as the self-appointed fire whisperer, I spent plenty of time making sure that things were burning brightly. There is something so relaxing about tending a fire on the beach with a fresh wind coming off the Sea. A perfect time to consider what is important in life and let the inconsequential burn up and blow away like Alder ash.
Even though it was a cool westerly wind, the heat from the fire was blistering. By the end of the day, my face felt like a fir plank floor that had been sanded one too many times – nothing original was left except for the thinnest of veneers. On the positive side, I will have a smooth wrinkle-free face for the next week.
Built into our ramp down to the beach are three different view decks at three different levels. The first one, near the top of the bluff, is called the Seaview Deck. We’ll have four bar chairs on this deck so that you can have a cocktail and enjoy the view down the beach and across the Salish Sea to Thormanby Island. Continuing on down the ramp, you’ll pass by a small deck built a few feet from a big old Alder tree that was rather badly topped. This is the Lover’s Deck and will include a little bench that seats two people and is perfect for a quiet tête-à-tête. It’s also great if you need to take a break half way up the ramp. The third deck will be called the Shade Deck because it is situated right in the shade of three trees; a magnificent Fir tree, a tall thin cedar tree and big maple tree with lots of shade. It will be the ideal place to hang out on hot sunny days – that perfect combination of shade and cool Sea breeze. This last deck is closest to the beach and looks out over the picnic area at the bottom of the bluff. Once the ramp is done, I’ll do a more detailed post with pictures of the whole ramp and these three decks.
Today, however, it was a stormy day (a big old SouEaster coming up the strait). The whitecaps were marvellous and Mitch and I took a walk down the ramp to look at the waves crashing on the beach below. I probably shouldn’t be so mesmerized by storms on the ocean, but for the time being, I almost can’t get enough.
It may be stormy now, but it looks like we’re in for ten days of beautiful sunny weather with the temperature going up day by day. Spring is here.
OMG. I think this construction project is actually going to happen.
We had our first official meeting with the builder today. He had also invited the person that will be putting in the septic field and do the general site excavation, so that we could get his input on the work that needs to be done prior to construction. After months of working with the architect on the house design and details, we are now getting into the many, MANY practicalities that are involved in building a house on the Bluff.
It was almost a perfect Spring day, sunny with just a hint of a fresh breeze. We reviewed the area planned for the septic field, the driveway and roundabout and the propane tank. Over the last few days, Mitch and I had measured out the location of the house and placed orange buckets and sticks to show the various main floor rooms of the house and carport. Seeing these buckets spread out from West to East along the top of the Bluff, gave everyone a sense of the size and scope of this project. It practically fills the area that we cleared and takes full advantage of the amazing view out over the Salish Sea.
Many questions were asked and almost as many answers were given. The landscaping in preparation for the foundation will start in May and the actual building will start in July. The entire process will take us into 2022 before the house is complete, but having seen how much goes into this process, neither Mitch nor I were shocked by this news. I’m not sure what it was about this particular meeting that brought about such a change, we’ve been discussing this for most of 2020, but suddenly both Mitch and I were feeling like this dream was actually going to turn into reality. In other words, “Shits gittin’ real”.
“I hold my breath”. Winter Sunset on Marr Lake at 4:24 pm.
About a kilometre South of my parent’s ranch, just over a few rolling hills is our neighbour Patricia’s house. She has a stunning view of the Rockies, with only a few low foothills in front.
On the way to drop off a Christmas present from the family, I stopped to take a picture of the mountains illuminated by a perfect Sunset. This was only two days before Solstice so this is about as far South as the sun sets before starting its steady march Northwards.
It was an emotional time, as my father was very ill and passed away just over three weeks later. It felt like everyone in my family was holding their breath over that last Christmas. When I took the reference photo, there was no wind and the stillness and fading light mirrored my internal feelings perfectly. It was both sad and beautiful.
I wanted to get the feeling of how the Rockies spread out and so I chose a panel that was twice as wide as it was tall. I also explored a different style. Less detailed, more saturated colours, with a blurring and blending of the land. Almost as if you are seeing it through tears.
It was a busy construction day on the Bluff today. We got our new shipping container delivered this morning. It required quite a bit of jockeying to get it off the flat-bed and into the proper position, but it was worth the effort. It will make an ideal storage unit for tools, ATVs and e-bikes. The ramp down to the beach is also proceeding at a constant pace, so we helped the builder by hauling down a number of 2×8’s and 2×6’s so that they were closer to the section he was building.
Not wanting to lose momentum, all the while channeling my inner pioneer, I borrowed my neighbour’s sewing machine in order to hem up an out-door curtain for the Solarium on the Love Shack. Not surprisingly, there were a few missteps as I tried to figure out how to get the unfamiliar sewing machine to work, but once I’d essentially dismantled the machine and put it back together, it worked like a dream. In addition to hemming the curtain, I put in a little pocket at the bottom to hold a heavy chain in order to weigh down the curtain and stop it from blowing upwards with every stray breeze. I then proceeded to test out the curtain…open…close…part-way open…part-way close. Like a dream.