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When our daughter and her family moved to a new home last year, the front lawn had to be dug up in order to install an improved drainage system. They decided to replace the grass with a vegetable garden, and Nonno (Grandpa) dug right in!

Today’s quotation:  “Lawns, it seems to me, are against nature, barren and often threadbare–the enemy of a good garden. For the same trouble as mowing, you could have a year’s vegetables: runner beans, cauliflowers and cabbages, mixed with pinks and peonies, Shirley poppies and delphiniums; wouldn’t that beautify the land and save us from the garden terrorism that prevails?”

–Derek Jarman

from: Derek Jarman’s Garden

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“Before” photo of the lawn…

We are a (mostly) vegetarian family, and prefer organically-grown vegetables and fruits. No pesticides, no herbicides, no GMO’s, no chemical fertilizers, just lots of home-made compost and sea soil, and lots of tender loving care from Nonno.

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Where’s the lawn? Remay cloth covering Swiss chard and kale to protect from aphids.

Being totally hand-watered with an old-fashioned watering can and a “wand” attachment on the hose allows the gardener to get up-close and personal with each plant. It also saves water. Although Vancouver is on the edge of a rain forest, we still have watering restrictions for the entire summer, due to a lack of rainfall from spring to fall.

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A forest of kale! Pea-supports in background. Squashes to right.

Kale, Swiss chard, pole beans, radishes, peas,lettuce, parsley, basil, arugula, tomatoes, cabbage, zucchini, winter squash, carrots, beets, cucumbers, hot peppers, green onions, leeks, garlic…so good!

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Most seeds were sown in pots, then transplanted into the garden. Feverfew plants helped to keep the aphids at bay, as did some nasturtiums and the remay cloth.

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Beautiful Swiss chard, sharing a bed with carrots and beets.

As an added bonus to working in the garden every day, the gardeners get to socialize with passers-by, creating a sense of neighbourliness and community. So many people who would usually just walk past a house will stop to chat, talking about everything from plant varieties to the weather.

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Easy Kale Recipe: (serve with rice or pasta)

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil in large heavy pan on medium heat

Add 1 medium onion, sliced, 3 cloves garlic, chopped, 1/4 cup water and saute gently, lid on, until onion is limp.

Wash and tear off leaves of large bunch kale. Chop or tear into smaller pieces and add to pan. Mix it in. With lid on, cook gently 5 minutes or longer.

Add 1 medium tomato, chopped, and cook a few more minutes, lid on.

Tamari sauce with the rice, or parmesan cheese with the pasta….(unless you’re vegan, of course!)

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Pole beans beside the raised vegetable boxes.

We enjoyed lovely, healthy veggies all summer long, and also saved a lot of money!

This is “sustainable” gardening….and now that Autumn has arrived, it’s time to plant the crops for over-wintering, but that’s another story!

The Naam

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Nāma=Sanskrit for Name

These photos were taken on two different days at the Naam restaurant on West 4th Avenue in Vancouver’s Kitsilano district. Opened in the late 1960’s, the Naam is Vancouver’s oldest vegetarian restaurant, and is my absolute favourite.

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Wholesome food, a comfortable rustic patio and outdoor deck, open 24 hours, 7 days a week!

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The Naam is renowned for its relaxed atmosphere, and hasn’t really changed much since we began to go there when it first opened in 1968.

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Those were the days when 4th Avenue was sometimes called “Rainbow Road”, and was a hippie haven. Times have changed, but somehow the Naam has stayed magical, retaining some of the old character of the 1960’s.

Everything changes, everything stays the same.

–Buddhist saying

Be prepared for large servings of delicious vegetarian food, and possible lineups at the door during lunch and dinner hours and all day on weekends. For me, it’s well worth the wait. The Naam burger plate, with salad and Naam fries, is my favourite.

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Meanwhile, my husband tucks into his Naam Dragon Bowl, brimming with rice and vegetables, sprouts and a special sauce.

I’ve noticed that the Naam’s present-day clientele is for the most part quite young. People in their 20’s and 30’s seem to love going there. But every age group is welcome!

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The original art work on the walls is always changing, and is usually for sale. Every evening of the week there is live music, and the Naam is licensed.

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http://www.thenaam.com

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Everything old is new again. (even the Naam!)

…an old saying…

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Before launching into my Railtown photos, I’d like to re-state my main reasons for creating this blog: to “share the beauty”, and to “accentuate the positive”.

A few years ago, I experienced an unsettling health issue, as everyone does, sooner or later! In order to cope with tests and treatments, some of which are ongoing, I decided to aim for a positive attitude and positive thoughts.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”

–William James

I found that the practice of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), combined with Mindfulness Meditation, leads to increased calmness and acceptance of even difficult situations. (see my previous blog post, “Happy Talk”, March 13, 2014.)

CBT’s “Re-frame that thought” is a simple but valuable concept which means to change negative thoughts to positive ones. It’s not easy, but is possible with practice.

Having a blog helps to keep me on track, and at the same time is a good way to share with others the beauty I see everywhere. My blog stats show “views” from people in many different parts of the world, probably because they want to learn about Vancouver. We live in such a lovely city, in spite of its problems and growing pains, and there are “HIDDEN TREASURES” everywhere. Here’s one that we discovered recently, in a most unlikely spot:

RAILTOWN: a district in the oldest part of Vancouver, formerly housing mainly light industry, factories, warehouses and access to shipping docks and railroad lines.

RailtownMap

Above is a map of the Railtown area in Vancouver, B.C.

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Formerly the American Can Company building, now housing offices.

The area now called “Railtown” is located next to the shoreline of Burrard Inlet and the railway tracks of the original CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway). Because Vancouver is the largest working port on the West Coast of Canada, its harbour, docks, and railyards have always been central to the evolution of the city.

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A view down an alley, looking North, towards the railway tracks, the docks on Burrard Inlet, and the North Shore mountains.

The port of Vancouver is ideally situated, lying in a protected inlet, miles from the open Pacific Ocean. Every ship that enters our inner harbour has to pass underneath Lions Gate Bridge, which connects Vancouver to the North Shore. Grains, lumber, sulphur, and hundreds of other products are transported worldwide, some arriving by rail, and most leaving the port via freighters. Vancouver is in the midst of an ongoing fight over whether an existing oil pipeline will be given the go-ahead to double its capacity. Oil from the Alberta tar sands is loaded into freighters in our harbour, then shipped around the world. Many people are concerned about possible oil spills in Vancouver’s fairly pristine waters,  and also about climate change, resulting partly from the extraction and use of fossil fuels. Time will tell what decision is made. I know where I stand!

Today, the area now called Railtown is changing into an interesting mix of housing, restaurants, offices, some light industry, artists’ lofts and the ongoing port and rail activities.

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We had great panini here for lunch, (note: Italian: “panini” is plural, “panino” is singular!) at the Railtown Cafe. It’s very popular with young office workers in the area.

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The old “Empire Stevedoring” building, which once housed the Longshoremens’ Hall, where longshoremen were dispatched to various work sites on the docks. Now home to the Railtown Cafe and other offices.

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Nifty elevator for people who work in or visit the building which used to be the American Can Company.

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“DON’T”….Vancouver graffiti at its best. 🙂

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Old red brick building…not so great if an earthquake hits! Let’s hope it never does.

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The Japanese Hall, built in 1928.

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One of Vancouver’s famous “food trucks”.

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An unusual, dark “grotto” of some sort, in a parking lot! Kind of lovely, in its own way.

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The old B.C. Sugar Refining Company, by the railway tracks.

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Imperial Rice Milling Company Building.

One of the reasons I like this area is that the old buildings are being saved, not demolished, at least so far. This is very unusual for Vancouver, which is undergoing massive change, with demolitions everywhere. Construction cranes dot our skyline, and tall new buildings are popping up at an alarming rate. To see some of these lovely old, art-deco buildings from the 20’s and 30’s being given new life in Railtown is gratifying!

Photos by PEB

 

 

 

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Bowen Island Ferry

Day Trip to Bowen Island, “The Happy Isle”…

Sometimes I need a short “getaway” from the city, so last summer I did just that, and travelled by bus and ferry to “The Happy Isle”, Bowen Island.

The perfect place to go for a day trip away from Vancouver, Bowen Island is three nautical miles from West Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay, and sits in Howe Sound at the entrance to the Strait of Georgia, now called the Salish Sea.

Before the arrival of European settlers, the people of the Squamish First Nation summered on Xwlil’xhwm, (now known as Bowen Island), harvesting its abundant seafood, and perhaps its native plants as well.

Back in the early 1890’s, “Mainlanders” began to sail over to “The Happy Isle” via the Union Steamship Company’s vessels. My parents both spent time there in the 1920’s and early 1930’s, most likely enjoying picnics and the scheduled dances in the Union Steamship Dance Hall.

For my short stay on beautiful Bowen, I simply walked around Snug Cove, where the ferry docks, over to the Lagoon, and up the hill a little way, stopping to take these photos along the way. A few steps from the ferry landing, I paid a brief visit to the Summer Market, and enjoyed chatting with the folks selling handmade jewellery, home-grown produce, pottery, and all sorts of other items. (Bowen is a friendly place!)

As I’m always ready for a good meal, my next stop was at Doc Morgan’s restaurant and pub, where I had my usual veggie burger and a cup of tea. Wonderful atmosphere and good food! The crowds were seated on the outdoor deck, but I opted to sit indoors, surrounded by vintage furniture and old memorabilia from days gone by.

Walking on up the hill of Bowen Trunk Road, I stopped in to see the historical Orchard Cottages, built in the early 1900’s for vacationers. There are gnarled old apple trees in what used to be the orchard. Hopefully these still habitable old cottages will be saved, and Bowen Islanders will agree that it is wise to save some historical buildings, especially in their beautiful, original setting.

There are quaint little shops to venture into, hidden lanes to explore, and a wonderful, “countrified” atmosphere on Bowen Island. It’s a delight to visit “The Happy Isle”!

 

 

Walkway at Iona Beach Regional Park.

Walkway at Iona Beach Regional Park.

Who would have guessed that a primary sewage treatment plant would eventually become this beautiful park?!

Find more here.

Iona Beach Regional Park is in West Richmond, B.C., adjacent to Vancouver International Airport. This past spring, I took these photos of its dream-like landscape. The walkway pictured is 8 km round trip or 4 km each way, and seems to stretch into infinity. In the distance to the west are the misty mountains of Vancouver Island, across the Salish Sea from B.C.’s West Coast.

An animal refuge, a park, and a primary sewage treatment plant, Iona was once an island, but is now a peninsula joined to Sea Island by a causeway and Ferguson Road. Sea Island is the home of YVR, Vancouver’s International Airport, and sits in the North Arm of the Fraser River.

Even though it’s so close to the airport, Iona is peaceful and quiet. Gentle breezes, fresh air, sunshine, blue sky, puffy white clouds, native yellow irises, purple-blue lupins, blackberry bushes, and grasses. And so many birds! I saw red-winged blackbirds, gulls, crows, a hummingbird and barn swallows. Glorious, and definitely worth a day-trip!

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Today’s Quotation:

It matters not where or how far you travel–the farther commonly the worse–but how much alive you are.

—Henry David Thoreau

 

220px-Pacific_Tree_Frog_(Pseudacris_regilla)_3 400px-Pacifictreefrog2kjfmartin

We are fortunate to be able to hear the Spring-time chorus of frogs from our home every April and May. It’s magical! And it is becoming more rare, as many species of amphibians world-wide are now endangered. Due to habitat loss, covering over of wetlands, possibly also to climate change, and for other, unknown reasons, frogs are vanishing.

On May 2nd of this year, with an almost full moon shining above us, we followed the lovely sound of the frog songs to their source, near Pacific Spirit Park. These are PACIFIC CHORUS FROGS, Pseudacris regilla, also known as PACIFIC TREE FROGS. Apparently they are not considered at risk or threatened here in B.C. But with the rapid “development” going on in our area, many of the choruses have gone quiet.

Last year, I watched as a back-hoe destroyed a boggy, treed piece of land at UBC, readying it for a condo development. I had heard frogs there in the past.

What can we do to help them? Here are a few suggestions I received from Monica M. Pearson, R.P. Bio, of Balance Ecological:

1.  Documentation: In B.C., the Frog Watch program gives B.C. residents an opportunity to get their sightings into the Provincial databases. Let them know when and where you hear frogs.

http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/frogwatch/frogwatching

2.  Retain or restore frog habitat: frogs need ponds to breed in and plants to hide in.

3.  Our own yards can be maintained as habitat: maintain a diversity of plants at a diversity of scale. Fishless water features and ponds will help.

4.  Encourage politicians to support the creation of frog habitats in new developments.

5.  “Amphibian Crossings” can be built on roads known to be frog migration routes when new roads go in.

Other websites to check out:

http://www.urbantreefrog.com

http://www.amphibianark.org

http://www.protectbiodiversity.ca

I hope you will enjoy listening to the following songs of the Pacific Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris regilla), also known as Pacific Tree Frogs, which we recorded on the 2nd of May, 2015, here in Vancouver.

https://vimeo.com/129696871

Mossy stairs to nowhere, at Shaughnessy United Church on West 33rd Avenue.

Mossy stairs to nowhere, at Shaughnessy United Church on West 33rd Avenue.

Some people trek through the wilds of Patagonia, or the Himalayas, or Malaysia. I trek through my home-town of Vancouver. I call this “Urban Trekking”.

Instead of complaining about all of the changes and rapid “development” which are happening around us here, I’m looking for pockets of magical beauty in the city.

Here are a few recently discovered beautiful spaces, nestled inside the urban wilderness.

Gastown Alley

Gastown Alley

Shop in Gastown

Shop in Gastown

Display of succulent plants in Gastown shop

Display of succulent plants in Gastown shop

Trilliums in my back garden

Trilliums in my back garden

Today’s Quotation:

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.

—Marcel Proust

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