June 09, 2014

Colours of an early summer... and ducklings

It's the beginning of June, yet at times the air and the sky feel and smell like summer.

The ducklings, so precious just weeks ago, still precious, are growing each day. Mom gets some time to flutter.

It is an incredibly beautiful time of the year.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

June 06, 2014

Walking around Salt Spring offers everything ~ including the kitchen sink

Salt Spring Island is the largest island in the Southern Gulf Island chain. It is also the most populated. Different parts of the island offer a slightly different perspective on the wonderful island life. There are forests and shore lines, the amazing St Mary Lake, farms and fields, wineries and a collection of people as varied as the island itself.

At times it seems that everyone on the island is selling eggs by the roadside, and as the season progresses there will be fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, jams, jellies and more, all paid by an honour system.

And sometimes, perhaps after a nice coffee at the Fernwood Road Cafe, something appears along what would be considered a residential street...

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

June 05, 2014

Ruckle Park on Salt Spring Island

We've walked and hiked around Ruckle Park many times, and we did on this visit to Salt Spring too. It is a beautiful park with 7 km of shoreline, rocky headlands and tiny coves and bays.

It is a mixture of forest, field and shore habitats that makes for one of the more productive wildlife viewing areas on Salt Spring Island. In the past we've seen whales in the sea and otter closer to the shore, as well as eagles and the odd wild turkey.

Irish immigrant to Canada, Henry Ruckle homesteaded here in 1872, marrying Ella Anna Christensen five years later. Their descendants have farmed this property for more than a century.

The park was created when the Ruckle family donated the land to the people of BC in 1972. The park is 572 ha in size. There are campsites for tenting people and a variety of trails, some easily accessible, others slightly more challenging, and incredible views throughout.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

June 03, 2014

Hiking through Mt Taum Ecological Reserve

One day while on Salt Spring, the writer and her consort hiked through part of Mt Taum Ecological Reserve. Established in 1971, which almost seems far too forward thinking to imagine for a government of this province (the most progressive government this province has ever seen didn't come to power until later in 1972) the reserve is rugged and unique.

Located at the southeastern corner of Salt Spring Island the reserve is about 4 km from Fulford Harbour and accessible in part by road and trails. The road deteriorates as one travels further into the reserve. Trails seem to start well enough and then disintegrate. Good things both.

The reserve covers an area of 362 hectares and an elevation ranging from zero to 420 metres. Jeem y Sherry did not hike the entire area.

We did discover the freshest tasting water on the island and some wonderful little waterfalls.

The site contains meadows, Garry Oak ecosystems (in BC, only 5% remain in near natural conditions) and maturing Douglas Firs forests.

The reserve is rich in life and full of subtle fragrances and the wonderful sounds of silence.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

June 02, 2014

Ruckle Farm ~ Salt Spring Island's oldest farm

Ruckle Farm, nestled neatly into Ruckle Provincial Park at the south end of Salt Spring Island, is the oldest working farm in the province still owned by its original family.

Henry Ruckle came to Canada from Ireland in the 1870s and found land on Salt Spring Island particularly attractive. The price at the time was the princely sum of about $2.50/hectare. In 1872 he began farming 80 hectares. By 1948 the Ruckle family owned almost 500 hectares of land on Salt Spring. Before the advent of Europeans, the land was used by indigenous people for settlement and shell fish gathering.

Today the working farm is back to its original 80 hectares, surrounded by over 500 hectares of park land. Visitors can see bits and pieces of the farm while hiking through the park.

Every year the farm raises about 150 lambs from 90 ewes. Lambing begins in December and carries on into the spring. On our week on Salt Spring at the end of May, Sherry and I barbecued lamb three times, all of it coming from Ruckle Farm. It was probably the best lamb I can remember eating.

Highland cattle roam the property freely and with some shyness as only befits Highlanders.

On our trip to the park and farm, wild turkeys were roaming about and there were some amazing displays. These are strange creatures indeed, and one can find them throughout the farm, and sometimes in the park area too. On this day the main attraction was a never ending display to attract females. Or so it seemed. Something is going on here and it isn't anticipation for Thanksgiving.

In 1972, one hundred years after its founding, the entire farm was sold by the Ruckle family to BC Parks with provision for the active farm and several residences to be maintained by the family through a life tenancy agreement.

The farm is organic in its operations and a member of World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. WWOOF enables people from around the world to work and live on active organic farms like this one.

The Ruckle family have always taken their stewardship of the land seriously and the farm and the surrounding park is testament to the conservation spirit of the family. Henry's son Gordon once said, "You can't own land, you can only preserve it for future generations." That they have.

Photos by Jeem.  Copyright 2014 by Jim Murray.