Thursday, December 31, 2009

Gowlland Tod Provincial Park

A couple days ago Jon and I decided to venture out to the Highlands and try out the Gowlland Tod trails in Brentwood Bay. To be honest, I didn't quite realize how high up we were going so when we got there and there was snow on the ground I knew I was very under-dressed. We chose to do the McKenzie Bight trail and it wasn't long before we realized that that particular trail was all downhill. Soon we were out of the snow and into the lush forest heading down alongside a stream.
The trail can be quite hard on the joints because it is a good 30 minutes of walking straight downhill but I think it was worth it. I really enjoyed observing the natural processes going on around me. There were many fallen trees from the wind storms earlier that month as well as a landslide that appeared to have happened maybe a year or more ago.

I loved the little waterfalls. If you just stood still it was so relaxing listening to the sound of the water running down to the sea. Definitely beats any relaxation CD out there. When you finally reach the bottom of the trail the view is stunning. Tod inlet is very serene and obviously a home to wildlife. While we were there we saw seals, ducks and many other birds. I could imagine that you might see otters there as well but we didn't see any that day.

It was nice to see the forests around the inlet were intact and as far as I could tell had no evidence of  logging. I found that to be refreshing, especially since we noticed there was logging along the road that leads into the park. For the most part we alone out there staring at the see. A couple other hikers passed by but didn't really stop. It was a nice place to relax.

The water was amazingly clear. Even in the dead of winter it makes you want to jump in. This will be a trail I will be visiting in the summer. The park website states that swimming and canoeing is allowed (however, I'm not sure how one would get a canoe down there, not to mention back up).

This was the last shot I took before we made our way back up the hill. Normally, I imagine the hike up would not be all that bad but it was muddy and in places icy so it was definitely a challenge to get back to the car. If you plan to hike this trail in any season other than summer wear really good hiking boots because it will take you a long time to get up the hill if you don't. Also, dress warmer than you think you need to because it is much colder up in the Highlands than even down on West Saanich Rd.
The Gowlland Tod Park has many trails and multiple entrances. I will definitely go back for more hiking but I'm thinking of starting on the Langford side next time and seeing where that takes me. If you are interested in visiting the park and you would like more information visit the park website at


Composting is something that comes very naturally to me. When I was a child my father made sure everyone in the family knew what was garbage and what was compost. Even when I lived in an apartment that had no where to compost, I save my kitchen scraps and took them to my parents house to be composted.
This Christmas I was visiting family and discovered some of them don't compost. I felt so guilty standing there throwing lovely organic material into the trash. For those of us who live in the Capital Regional District, all it takes is a trip to the Hartland Landfill and you will realize you need to do more to decrease your waste.
The CRD has finally introduced a composting program for those of us who don't have a place for compost in our own yards. The green bins look much like a garbage can. Simply throw your organic waste into the large container and it is picked up monthly. To find out more about the program visit
Personally, I have plenty of use for compost and I'm not about to pay for it when I can make my own. Jon built our compost bin. It is made of re-claimed wood and wire. It has two compartments for items at different levels of decompostion. We are planning on making a second bin. It will be a simple box that will be used for lawn clippings and yard waste.
I think some people think that composts are just leaves and such but there is so much more that can be composted.
Kitchen scraps should be un-cooked. Vegetable ends, apple cores, banana peels, peach pits, potato skins; it all goes in. Other things that are great for the compost are egg shells and feel free to shred those paper lunch bags and toss them in there too. No meat products should go into the compost, that includes cheese and yogurt. These things will only attracted vermin and sometimes larger animals too.
Yard waste is obvious. Grass clippings, plant prunings, fallen leaves, dead plants, etc. Be careful not to add plants that may be diseased or that have had an insect infestation. Also, do your best to avoid throwing in invasive weeds.
Manure is the classic compost item. Chicken manure is excellent for your garden and your compost pile. You can also use cow or horse. Do not use dog, cat, pig or human waste in your compost. Manure is nutrient rich and will often kill any weeds that are growing in your compost pile. Be sure to throughly compost so the manure does not damage any of your plants.
Other items that can be composted are straw or hay (these will help with air circulation within the pile), sawdust, soil (if you are ever left with some potting soil toss it into the compost), and seaweed. Seaweed is very nutrient rich and here on the west coast, it's free. I usually like to head down to the beach after a storm with a big bucket and add it to the compost. Try to rinse the seaweed first though, too much salt isn't good for the garden.
There are two main kind of compost piles. Hot composting is done in carefully built layers that heat up. Cool composting is stirred a couple times a year while continually tossing new material in. We do cool composting so I don't know a lot about hot composting. Cool composting should be done with two bins. One should hold the new material for that year and the other should have last years composted material. The pile should be watered and stirred regularly. Also consider the layers. Stirring in made easier (not to mention it speeds up the break down) when you layer dense kitchen scraps and grass clippings with woody tree clippings and heavy straw. Cool composting can take a long time so to speed up the process add as much as you can one time, shred material when possible and add manure.
An absolute must for composts are the little workers who get the job done. Worms and other insects are necessary for the break down that is going on in your compost. It is often hard to find the kinds of worms needed in a compost pile so luckily, they can be bought at garden stores or compost centres. When stirring your compost pile check on your worms. Sometimes if the birds get to it or it's been really hot out you can suffer some causalities in the compost bin so if you notice a lack of worms it is probably time to get some more.
Bins themselves are varied. I can't tell you exactly what bin works best because you need to consider what you want and need from it. Most bins can be constructed yourself at home and with only a days work. One thing I can tell you is that if you are adding kitchen scraps you must have a secure lid. Do your best to make the bin bird and rat proof. Things to consider when planning a compost bin is: What kind of composting am I going to do? How much space do I have? How much do I want to spend? What kind of materials are going to be going into the bin the majority of the time? What kind of animals live in the area? If you really don't have to time to plan and build your own, bins in just about any size can be purchased at garden stores, online or at compost centres.
If you don't currently compost, give it a try for a couple of weeks. I think you will be amazed add how little garbage you will be taking to the curb. The environment and your garden will thank you. To learn more about composting and/or to look at bins available for purchase visit The Greater Victoria Compost Education Centre. They will also be able to help you plan for a bin that you can build to meet your specific needs.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day Hike

This boxing day was a glorious sunny day. With the stress of Christmas behind us we decided to unwind with a hike up Mount Doug. It was so peaceful and so beautiful by the end of it I felt so relaxed. Sometimes I just need to surround myself with the beautiful and peace of nature to reconnect with my own peace.

Everything so lush and green. The air was cool and fresh. I just stopped and took deep breaths of that good clean air.
There were so many ferns. I love ferns. When I'm stand amid ferns I feel as though I went back in time to when humans and nature were in balance. When I was a child I would hide amongst the ferns and pretend I was watching for dinosaurs.

Even though the sun was out it is was still a cool December day. There was even some frost on the ground and when the sun hit it, it sparkled. Nothing can compare to the beauty of nature. Nothing.

We found this quiet place surrounded by young Arbutus trees. It was stunning. Niether of us had seen this place before so it felt really special. It is definitely going to be a place I go to when I need to unwind.We stopped and stretched and just looked out over the lovely forest below.

The view was beyond lovely. You could see Mt. Baker so clearly. The sun just lit up its snow topped peaks. Just above the mountain was the moon. In the middle of the day, there was the beautiful moon. It makes you feel strangely wonderful being able to stand in the warm sunlight and be able to look up at the moon at the same time.

The colors were just so rich. The bark of the Arbutus tree is so beautiful and in the sun it glowed a lovely amber-red color. The moss was incredibly lush from all the rain we had before Christmas. Moss is one of the most stunning shades of green. I kept trying to get a picture that captured the radiant colors but failed. I just put away the camera and took it all in. The clean air, warm sun, light sea breeze, vibrant colors and timeless beauty. I hope everyone gets to spend a wonderful day like this was and reconnect with nature and yourself.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Spirit

For me nothing says Christmas spirit like bundling up and taking a walk through my neighborhood to look at the lights. Everything is so colorful and bright, I just love it. Now some people get into the decorating spirit more than others so I thought I would share with you some of my favorite Christmas houses in Victoria. You can click on the pictures to see them in more detail. Sorry they aren't better pictures but my camera doesn't like the dark.
This house was my favorite elementary school teachers home. He always had the best Christmas celebrations and this house is classic.
This isn't a great picture of this house but I really like this display. You can see it all lit up when you come around the corner.
This house plays music and is super bright. He has a extra generator to run everything. Even their backyard has lights!
The Santa in this picture goes in and out of the chimney, it's pretty cool. We had to wait a bit to get a picture with Santa out of the chimney.
This is the home of the inflatables. They had every inflatable you could get. I couldn't get all the inflatables in this picture!
This house is just down the street from ours and it is by-far one of my very favorites. It also plays music and it so detailed. Love it!
And this house, is my house. We did the best we could with our budget and I think it looks quite nice.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Craft: Cinnamon Ornaments

Last week my mother-in-law came down to visit and do some Christmas activities. We made some delicious shortbread and we decided to make these as our Christmas craft.

The dough is a simple mixture of cinnamon, applesauce and glue. We decorated them with different glitters, sprinkles, and beads. I'm glad we decided to use different textures because it really made the ornaments more interesting. In the end the ornaments look great on the tree, I think we picked some great colors and they smell really nice.
This a craft from a Martha Stewart magazine so if you are interested in making your own ornaments the recipe can be found on her website.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Needle Felting

Needle felting is my new obession! I can't believe I didn't discover this incredibly fun activity sooner. I ordered some beginner felting kits from Fancy Tiger and watched a quick video on YouTube and that was it.

I made the Christmas Cardinal first and it is so cute the picture doesn't do it justice. Then I made the little pumpkin. I took the pictures in my hand so you got a sense of the size. They both were easy and fun to make. I've order some more roving and I'm getting really excited about all the cool things I'm going to make with my new needle felting supplies!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Our Tree

So we have put up our tree. This was the first year we went out and cut down our own tree. I wanted it to last longer so we decided this was the way to get the "freshest" tree. I had a tough time getting a good picture, so here's the best one.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wreath Making

This was something new to me. I have never made my own "fresh" wreath. I decided I wanted to learn how to do it properly so I signed up for a class at a local nursery. I ended up enjoying the whole thing immensely so this will probably become a yearly thing for me.
We began by stuffing a metal frame with moss. The moss they use has been salvaged by a man that live up island. He goes and collects the moss ahead of logging vehicles up near Cowichan Valley. The moss doesn't look all that neat when it first goes in but it tidies up when you secure it in place with wire.
Then it was time to select our greenery. It was a tough choice because it was all so attractive but I decided to start with some cedar. We snipped the ends so they would go through the moss easier and did the entire outer edge. Then you had a choice of using some different greenery for the inside or making the whole base out of the same type.
I decided to add a little fir on the inside of my wreath and I was really lucky to find some branches that still had pinecones on them. Then I also added a few more little piece of greenery to give it a variety of textures. That was the basic wreath and all that was left to do was to embellish.

I chose to embellish mine with some winter berries and a few rosehips. I am thrilled with how it turned out. It is so natural looking and just screams Christmas! If you are in the Saanich area and you would like to try making your own wreath visit Russell Nursery for information on their classes. If you aren't interested in the classes, they do have a great selection of greenery and berries if you want to make your own at home.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas Craft: Gift Bags

Many years ago I gave up gift wrap. It just seemed so wasteful and almost a little pointless to spend all this time carefully wrapping something with beautiful paper that ends up in the trash (or recycling bin). So I started making cloth bags to use instead of gift wrap. The holidays are already so busy it's taken me a while to get a decent collection going but now I'm pretty much to the point where I have a bag in every size. It turns out that they are actually quite fun to make. I love picking out the fabric and what kind of closure to use. I've got velcro, buttons, a couple different kinds of ties and some that I use painted clothes pins to seal. It's definitely saved us time and money (I haven't had to buy wrapping paper, ribbon or even fabric for years!). Try some for yourself!