Mt. Nusatsum

Mt. Nusatsum

Friday, April 30, 2010

Douglas Fir

The Douglas Fir tree is one of the great trees of the Pacific Northwest and the coast of B.C.  Lucky for Bella Coola, even though we are very near the northern limit of its growth we have fairly extensive amounts of old and young new stands.  It's been an important tree for the provision of building materials and the economy of Bella Coola Valley and the Central Coast for many years.  It's a relatively easy tree to grow as well when you have the right conditions - a little bit of heat, and a little bit of moisture.

Right now we are in the flowering stage, these lovely pinkish flowers are what will eventually become the dry brown cones this fall producing seeds that the birds and squirrels love. Grizzly

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Red Elder Berry Flowers

We are in the midst of the flowering cycle for the red elderberry (Sambuca racemosa) which isn't too special in itself, they are reasonably showy clusters of creamy white flowers, but they don't last that long and then they go brown.  What is unusual is the smell.  If you've been wandering around and you are near a cluster of these plants and start asking other people what that smell is, then look no further than your nearest red elder berry bush.  Pojar and Mackinnon, in Plants of Coastal British Columbia, describe the smell as, "a strong unpleasant odour".  I don't find it unpleasant, it is strong and it is unique, but stand beside one and you decide.  I might not be the best judge though because I like the smell of skunk cabbageGrizzly

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Serious Business

From this photo of the newly emerging leaves of the beautiful plant Devil's Club (Oplopanax horridus) you can understand where the name comes from.  The plants are growing rapidly this time of year, over a month period they go from the bud stage to leaves that are in some cases 30 or more centimeters across.  In some rich sites with lots of moisture the Devil's Club form quite dense patches in the Bella Coola Valley and the tributary valleys.  They are a beautiful plant as long as you don't hang onto them.  Grizzly

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April Showers

Definitely and April shower day in the Bella Coola Valley.  We had a number of periods of pretty heavy rain today and this evening.  It makes for such a nice fresh environment and you can practically hear the grass and pastures growing now.  We actually needed a good rain like today, it will be good for all the growing plants and keeps the fire hazard lower.  Grizzly

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Warm April Evening

Most of the day had a high cloud, but it couldn't have been very dense because it warmed up nicely today, although there was a rather stiff east (outflow) wind, but it was a nice outflow due to the warmth.  It was a very pleasant April evening though, no wind and a temperature of 17 C till mid evening - a great evening for gardening and outdoor work, except for the odd mosquito. Grizzly

Sunday, April 25, 2010


There has been so much written about Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) that I don't think I could come up with an original thought about the tree that I haven't already read somewhere.  But what I marvel at every time I deal with one, is the extreme degree to which this tree can withstand rotting.  Of course it's decay resistance and ability to repel water is what makes western red cedar famous, but when you see the dramatic results of what that means it is really incredible.  Take the logs in this photo.   I was helping out of one our clubs today, doing some fencing work and one of the projects was to hand split fence posts from long abandoned cedar on the the property.  The logs these came from were in area logged over 40 years ago and were slabs of cedar not considered useful in that era.  They were heavily covered by moss,plants and soil in the forest.  We were able to salvage them and split nice long 8' posts which for the purpose of the fencing project given the size we used will be 30+ year fence posts.  Not bad use of a renewable resource.

This morning in the Bella Coola Valley was another fairly heavy frost, so not very good on all the cherry tree blossoms that are out right now.  Grizzly

Saturday, April 24, 2010

April Showers

A good April day for yard work and outside projects.  A few very minor rain showers in some areas, but lots of clear and sunny periods, and a pleasant temperature, but not very warm was the weather order of the day.  The lawns are into full growing mode now and the White Crowned Sparrows have showed up along with Golden Crowned Sparrows, both evil when it comes to trying to garden early, but they won't be around long.  I noticed the return of Violet Green Swallows in the valley yesterday as well.  Grizzly

Friday, April 23, 2010


Was this morning the last frost of the spring for the Bella Coola Valley?  I don't know the answer to that, but it's possible we might get frost a few more times.  It's been a relatively cool stretch for late April and the next few days seem to be more of the same.

We are at the time of the year where we should be seeing the end of frost, until very late September - it's what makes Bella Coola such a good growing climate. Last night wasn't a heavy frost though, just  a light touch with -1 C at the Bella Coola Airport this morning. Grizzly

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Morning in the Bella Coola Valley dawned with showers, pretty much what the weather man said would happen.  It was a cool rain though because the fresh snow line was half way down the mountains this morning.  By afternoon there was sun, but it was with a cold westerly wind most of the day.  Grizzly

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Spring Melt

The last week of warmer days and nights has brought the Bella Coola River out of it's sleepy winter state.  Gone is the crystal clear water of late March and early April and now it is an off green colour and up about 50 cm from it's lowest point.  It will take a week of hot May weather to really get it rock and rolling with the spring freshet.  Grizzly

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Warm and Cool

Yesterday when just about everywhere in BC had a nice balmy April day the Bella Coola Valley had a high of 22 C, while today we had a high of 10 or 11 C and a cool wind with spitting rain which is more typical April weather.  Warm enough one day to get some people planting potatoes, to cool enough the next day that we had to light a fire to take the chill off.

We won't be planting any of the early crops in our garden for 10 days or so because the annual wave of Golden Crowned Sparrows arrived on the weekend and from past experience it is impossible to have any young plants like radishes, lettuce or spinach coming up when they are around.  They simply pull every last plant and eat it.  They hang around for 10 days or so and then continue north, hopefully a long way north where gardens are non-existent!

Regarding the phenology of Golden Crown Sparrows, here is some data I've collected of the date when they arrive in our garden
  • April 19, 1998
  • April 19, 1999
  • April 20, 2001
  • April 11, 2002
  • April 18, 2004
  • April 26, 2006
  • April 18, 2008
  • April 17, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

Cottonwood Smell

Continuing along the theme of posts about black cottonwoods (Populus trichocarpa)...a favourite topic of mine, (search "cottonwood" in the search box in my blog to find the other posts) it's time to talk about what is probably the absolute best feature of the cottonwood stands in the Bella Coola Valley--the smell.

I've talked about the sticky resin that exudes from the buds and in the last post "Cottonwoods Bursting Green" you could see the sheen on the leaves which is the resin from the plant.  That resin which is now widespread on all the newly emerged leaves is very aromatic. I don't know what kind of smell to liken it to, but it's a pleasant pervasive smell and because it is so 'everywhere' right now on a daily basis you might miss it.  When you really pick it up is if you have been away for a day or two and you fly or drive back into the valley.  You will reach a point when you descend "The Hill" if you are driving or when you step out of the plane and it's the first thing you notice, it's very noticeable and very pleasant.  The mornings when the air is still and you step out of your house is the next best time to smell them.  I'm sure wherever there are cottonwood stands people notice and enjoy this smell, but because we live in 'trench' and the air moves along the valley in a fairly narrow corridor, it's almost like the smell is concentrated in the Bella Coola Valley.

The most intense period of small lasts several weeks as the volatile oils in the resin being produced by the leaves are evaporating.  Nothing like the smell of the cottonwoods in the spring.  Grizzly

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Stellaria media (Common Chickweed)

If you are a gardener, you will relate to this post.  It's about the miserable garden weed - chickweed

Anyone who has gardened in the same spot for more than a year or two will have picked up chickweed from somewhere, or else it occurs by some religious intervention out of nowhere.  It's a losing battle trying to weed it, because it's hard to get all the roots and by time you notice it growing it will likely already have seeded.

Seriously what kind of plant can practically still be flowering and the seed pod is almost ready to pop open and disperse another 15,000 seeds per plant?  The snow was barely off my garden a month ago and I noticed  some of the cling-ons from last year in flower and by now they have already seeded once.  The only redeeming feature (apart from all those gardening magazines that claim it's good to eat) is that if you can get your plants above it, it forms kind of a ground cover and keeps the soil moist and slows down all the other weeds that would be competing for bare earth.  I don't know of any other strategy than weeding and fallowing a garden to deal with it, or just accept it for what it is.  Grizzly

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cherry Blossoms

One of our cherry trees burst into full bloom late this week.  Cherries in Bella Coola are a big fruit crop -- most years.  In my experience what tends to limit the years that we get poor crops are when blossoming happens too early and there are a lack of pollinators or we might even get a frost.  It seems to me that this year is a bit early for this tree to be flowering, but then nothing has been normal this year so if we get a warm spell for the next few weeks and the bees get busy we'll have our usual cherry crop just shortly after the first week in July. The problem with cherries in the Bella Coola Valley is that when it's a good year -- it's a good year and you can't give them anyway because everyone has a cherry tree and all will have gorged ourselves on cherries.  Fortunately for us the crows, robins, stellar jays and cedar wax wings all help make sure that all that's left are pits.  Grizzly

Friday, April 16, 2010

Warm April Days

It was a nice week in the Bella Coola Valley, most days were sunny and up to 19 or 20 C with the mornings cool.  A little shower went through the valley last night, but it was pretty minor.  Fields are all starting to green up and most of the trees are in full leaf out mode.  Rufous hummingbirds returned to most of the feeders including our own this week.  The hummingbirds are behaving in their usual aggressive and protective manner.  Grizzly

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Altered Landscapes

One of the things that makes the Bella Coola Valley such a pleasant place is the pastoral nature of the valley bottom.  The mixture of small settlements, farms, hobby farms, and pastures in amongst the stands of old growth timber, tributary streams and the Bella Coola River all make for an extremely pleasant view scape and living environment against the back drop of the Coast Mountains. 

Valleys of nearly continuous coastal temperate rain forests in nearby Kimsquit River or river valleys in South Bentinck Arm and Owikeno Lake are impressive unto their own for their size, extent and value to our economy for forestry, tourism, First Nations and the invaluable role they play for fish and wildlife habitat.  It's hard to imagine the Bella Coola Valley would be such an interesting place if all you saw as you drove the length of Highway 20 from the end of North Bentinck Arm to "The Hill" was a continuous stand of valley bottom Douglas Fir, cedar, spruce and hemlock, interrupted only by the odd scoured river channel from one of the side streams.

Cultural modifications starting with First Nation settlement and continuing with residents of the valley today have made it into an even more pleasant place to live.  A lot of human labour over the years has gone into winning a small clearing over from the rain forest and once you've done that you have to establish a 'line' where you will tolerate the rain forest slowly creeping back but beyond that line you defend your domesticated space and  it's a modified culturally maintained environment.  It doesn't take long looking around the valley where you find evidence of settlements, either equipment or remains of buildings which are now back in amongst the forest.   At first it seems it's a slow process for the coastal forests to takeover, but suddenly you look back and realize what 50 years of growing time can do.  I like to look at the landscape and remember what it once would have looked like, marvel at the work we humans do and then feel confident that what we do is only a temporary mark in time and the persistence of plants will eventually win if we decide to let them. The Bella Coola Valley and the Central Coast are good examples of how a  balance can be found in many of the debates our resource communities can find themselves in occasionally.  I know the grizzly bears, black bears, deer and other wildlife thrive in the mixed environment we have created in the Bella Coola Valley. Grizzly

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Early Shrubs Flowering

The fairly common shrub black twinberry (Lonicera involucrata) are one of the early flowering bushes  in the Bella Coola Valley.  This week a lot of the bushes are just starting to flower.  They aren't really spectacular when they flower, rather inconspicuous, but they are enjoyed by the bumblebees and hummingbirds which are starting to arrive.  The cedar waxwings really enjoy the black berries on these bushes when they start to ripen in 6 weeks or so, but not much else seems too interested in them.  Grizzly

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Desperate to Get to Bella Coola

Most people take one of three ways to get to the Bella Coola Valley.  They either drive, fly or take a boat.   Some people fly because they can't face the prospect of the long drive across the unbelievably interesting and beautiful Chilcotin and the drive down "The Hill", some drive because the thought of getting in a small plane with the inside the size of a large culvert, daunting, not realizing they will miss one of the most spectacular flights in Canada along the spine of the Coast Mountains - at least on a good day, and then a few people take a boat or a ferry (in the summer the Discovery Coast ferry runs from Port Hardy to Bella Coola) because they find the sea romantic!

Then they are the ones that jump to get here, like this guy from the 442 Rescue Squadron based in Comox, BC that jumped out of a plane to get to Bella Coola today.  About twice a year on nice days like today these guys show up in the Bella Coola Valley with their big Buffalo aircraft and circle around a few times, drop some wind indicators and then eventually some people jump out, land, pick up their gear, then the Buffalo lands picks everybody up and away they go.

If you were into jumping out of planes, who wouldn't want to jump out of plane flying along near the tops of snowy mountains, into a lush green oasis on a fine blue sky day like today.  These men and ladies of the Rescue Squadron need to practice on some nice days, because I know they do the same thing for real to rescue people in the dark and in conditions far from beautiful like they were today in the Bella Coola Valley.  But maybe they are just too scared to drive "The Hill" and to them this way probably seems pretty safe.  Grizzly

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring Day

Today felt more like a Bella Coola Valley spring day.  Cool morning, clear skies and then a warm afternoon.  Views in all directions are rewarding with the blinding white glare of the fresh snow on the mountains, contrasting with the vibrant greens of all the new growth.  The cottonwood stands are really showing their lime green colours now and against the back drops of the spring mountains are very impressive.  It's a good time to do the first roto tilling of the garden I think.  Grizzly

Sunday, April 11, 2010

First Lawn Mowing

We had a pretty stiff outflow wind (east wind) in the morning which finally died out about noon, but the sky was clear again. The Bella Coola Airport Environment Canada weather station showed 17 C as the high.  It turned into a good day for getting outside projects done.  I did manage to get the lawn mower de-winterized and did the first lawn mowing.  I know I will be wishing for snow by early October.  Grizzly

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dramatic Change in Weather

After yesterday's mess, the weather made a dramatic turnaround in the Central Coast.  Clear skies last night brought the frost out early and by morning it was -2 C in some some areas of the Bella Coola Valley, but with clear skies all day it didn't take the April sun long to heat up to + 13 C.  I spent some time in the mountains of Tweedsmuir Park to enjoy that 30 cm or more of fresh April powder snow - very nice conditions and views, this shot of the mountains towering over the Bella Coola Valley just one of the spectacular views. Grizzly

Friday, April 9, 2010

Winter Coola

Interesting when you receive more snow in one night in April than all of January, February and March.  That's what greeted the Bella Coola Valley this morning.  Sometime through the night it started to snow and by mid morning there was up to 10 cm of snow in some areas.  It stayed quite cold and snow showery till after lunch.  Fortunately by the end of the day most of it was gone and the weather started to clear nicely. 
The robins had all gathered on the one green spot under a large cedar tree looking quite disgusted with the whole situation. I'm still sure I have to mow the lawn though this weekend, I'll just have to dodge any snow patches that might remain.   Always some interesting weather moments when you live between the coast and the interior.  Grizzly

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Winter in April

Seems like we are making up for the beautiful January and February we experienced in the Bella Coola Valley.  So far April has been cool, rainy and this morning snow again.  Upper parts of the valley got 2 cm of snow in the morning, and it was a pretty cool, snow showery day for the most part.

The view of the mountains was decidedly winter looking this afternoon when it cleared for a while.  Grizzly

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rainy April Day

What a miserable day in the Central Coast!  It started raining through the night and by morning it was very near snow, in fact in some areas of the valley there was some snow on the ground for awhile.   Low cloud a low snow line - cold and rain were the order of this day.  With a high of 4 C nothing to brag about for weather here.  Grizzly

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cottonwood Bursting Green

This week marks the week where the cottonwood trees (Populus trichocarpa) which tend to form fairly uniform stands in some areas are really developing their leaves.  Some of the stands of cottonwood are quite extensive in the Bella Coola Valley bottom and this time of year when the leaves are in the early young tender stage like the ones in this photo, viewing the stands at distance shows a nice  lime green hue.  If you can get above the canopy of stand and overlook a cotton wood stand from a road, plane or one of the trails that leads you higher up it can be a really nice view, the tops of the stands tend to all be at the same height and are often formed and shaped by the steady gentle summer westerlies.  Right now the leaves are very thin and delicate with a shiny waxy coating of the same resin that was on the buds earlier 

It's been a few days of mixed weather in the valley, some showers, some cool raw winds, low clouds and fresh snow in the mountains.  Any day now we should see a turn towards something more typical of a warm spring day.  Grizzly

Monday, April 5, 2010

April in Tweedsmuir Park

One of the nice things about living in the Bella Coola Valley is the variety you have this time of year for outdoor activities.  There is no shortage of choice and the range is from gardening in your plot, to cutthroat trout fishing in the Bella Coola River or cross country skiing and snowmobiling in the Rainbow Mountains.  The cross country track is still in excellent groomed shape, thanks to Tweeds and his friends.  They have been skiing since Remembrance day - 5 months!  Snowmobiling was also pretty special this weekend in the mountains, with plenty of fresh powder snow and some sun to boot.  My garden cleanup suffered and I think next weekend I will have to mow the lawn already.  Grizzly

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter

We hope your Easter Sunday was as nice wherever you are as it was in the Bella Coola Valley.  We had a nice frost over night with - 2 C in the morning that gave way to blue sky and sun for the first half of the day.  In the afternoon some  high cloud moved in but it was still a pleasant day.  Happy Easter.  Grizzly

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Rough Start to an April Day

The weather scene looked pretty grim this morning in the Bella Coola Valley, with heavy rain showers and the snow level down to the 1500 foot level, it didn't seem to hold much promise for a great day.  It was going to be a yard, garden and building day, but those plans were altered a bit.  Fortunately after lunch it started to improve and dried up, even producing a couple sunny spots and some good views of all the fresh snow on the mountains.

In the garden the weeds are coming fine already, but I hadn't looked at the Rhubarb for a week or two and it's at the stage where we can actually eat some already.  Because we didn't have a severe winter and  when we had the cold weather, the ground was under a foot or more of snow in my area, I'd taken a chance on leaving some parsnips to over winter.  The gamble paid off because they did not freeze and we enjoyed some of those fresh from the garden today - over 12" long and beautiful white roots.  Grizzly

Friday, April 2, 2010

Low Clouds

While the rest of the coast was experiencing a spring storm, with lots of high winds and rain, the deep long fjord leading to the Bella Coola Valley with it's high protective mountains means that storm translated into just a grey day with lots of low clouds.  Nothing too exciting for weather when it's like this in the valley, but it should turn to some nice spring weather in the next week or ten days if typical patterns allow it.  The zone of the North Pacific which produces the Aleutian Low pressure systems can't hang on much longer as we move into April and the continent to the east of us starts to heat up.  Grizzly

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The "Winter"

Since it's spring now and the end of March, I guess we can talk about the winter that was.  It really was a different kind of winter for the Bella Coola Valley, pretty much starting in early November and ending by Christmas time.  I checked the low temperatures and the coldest day was December 14 at -15.7 C at the Bella Coola Airport Environment Canada weather station. We never had any real cold weather after that time.  Both January and February were very nice months as winter months go.

We only had two moderate sessions of outflow winds that were by no means 'epic'.   After December there was next to no snow, with the whole winter totaling less than 40 cm, which is often what we get in one snowfall on a bad winter.  The upper Bella Coola Valley above Noosgulch River got more snow than the lower valley.  March has been pretty hum drum  and blustery, compared to how nice February was. All in all it doesn't get much better for a Bella Coola Valley winter.  Grizzly