Monday, 30 May 2011

Fort Langley

Saturday, we took a trip out to Fort Langley. It is a National Historic Site and where the Hudson's Bay Company built a supply fort in the early 1800s near the mouth of the Fraser River. It also plays a major role in BC's history, as in 1858 the province of British Columbia was proclaimed here by the first governor, James Douglas. The fort has been restored quite a bit since the last time we visited here in 2009.

 Fort Langley was not a fighting fort, but was a supply and distribution fort. Because it was not a fighting fort, it did not have the big cannons and defences like moats. It was where the natives would come and trade furs for goods, and also where furs from other forts in the interior would arrive and be packaged for shipment to England. It was a very long trip back to England because they had to sail around the bottom of South America. This was well before they built the Panama Canal.
 This was the blacksmith shop. They do all the work with metals to build things for the fort and for trade. "Smith" comes from the word "smite" which means "to hit." They demonstrated how to make a hook, which would be used for hanging tools on. They also traded hooks with the natives, who used it to hang salmon to dry. There was a forge with a big bellows pump for pushing air in to feed the fire. In many blacksmith shops, boys as young as six or seven would often have a job keeping the fires going and making nails.
 Here we are baking bannock over a fire. Bannock came from Scotland, and is a doughy mix of flour, water, baking powder, salt, maybe butter and sugar, and anything else they can put in like berries. It takes a while to heat over the fire without getting it all burnt. Meanwhile, the smoke gets in our eyes and we have to shut them while baking the bannock.
 The bannock was quite good! Here's a recipe we found on the internet:
 In 1859, British Columbia went gold crazy, when people discovered gold in the interior in places like Barkerville. This made the fort even more important, because all the miners bought supplies here before going up the Fraser River into the interior. The blacksmith became VERY busy making pickaxes and shovels!
At the storehouse, we saw samples of all the different types of furs that would be traded. These included coyotes, beaver, fox, mink, martin, sea otter, fischer, wolverine, badger, raccoon, bear. To prepare the skins before trading, the skins had to be cleaned of all flesh and fat, because even a little bit can rot the skin and the entire bale of fur during shipment. In many forts, beavers and other skins were used as money instead of coins or paper money. The skins are pressed into a dense bale of nearly 100 pounds, and the voyageurs sometimes carried two of them at a time!

This was a ceremonial canoe that was donated to the people of British Columbia and housed at Fort Langley.

This bunny matches the camouflage of my sweater perfectly!

Here we are feeding the baby goats, called "kids," at the fort. They also had pigs, sheep, bunnies, and chickens.

Family mugshot, Part 1: Mama goat and her two babies.

Family mugshot, Part 2: Mommy and us with her uncle Guy and her cousin Matthew. We went out to visit Guy for dinner after Fort Langley.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Burnaby Mountain

This week, we took a late afternoon walk around Burnaby Mountain Park.
About 300 m above sea level, and with a great view down the mountain towards Vancouver.

I always think of Lord of the Rings and the "Dark Clouds of Mordor" when I see clouds like this.
Looking down to Burrard Inlet with Indian Arm estuary stretching north. I spent a long weekend up on a fish farm at the end of Indian Arm collecting samples for my B.Sc. honours thesis. Just me, a power generator, a leaky rowboat, huge tides, random massive thunderstorms, and lots of expensive scientific gear - my supervisor must have been crazy, didn't like me very much, or both!
The totems were a gift from Burnaby's sister city in Japan. They were from an artist from the Ainu, the aboriginal peoples of Japan.
Bird sculpture
Lots of old forests on the mountain.
Interesting moss and mushroom growth on an old tree stump.
Definitely a very old and large tree stump!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Chinese Food!

Last weekend, we went out to a Chinese restaurant in Burnaby, "Yan's Gardens," for supper.

This Chinese character you will often find in Chinese restaurants and at celebrations. It is the character for happiness, or "double happiness" with the two symbols side by side. You will notice that the bottom parts of the symbol can look like the number "8," which is why 8 and 88 are considered very lucky numbers in Chinese culture. In contrast 4 is not considered a lucky number, because the Chinese word for "4" sounds very much like the Chinese word for "death."

We got to order our favourite Chinese specialty (except for maybe squid tentacles and MaMa's sticky rice). This is Peking Duck, which comes as several courses. The first is the skin of the whole roasted duck, which is thinly carved in front of you. You then make a wrap with the duck, green onions and veggies, and sauce in a rice wrap.

The next course is the duck meat mixed with onions and other veggies, which you put into a big iceberg lettuce leaf as a second type of wrap. Often, you can also ask to take the bones home to make soup with also.

Showing off what "double happiness" looks like with the duck wrap in hand!
Here's Jacob showing his chopstick skills. We're both better than Uncle Ken with chopsticks, but the ultimate test is if you can pick up glazed button mushrooms!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Victoria Day

Today was Victoria Day, which celebrates the birthday of Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837-1901. Victoria Day was first celebrated in 1953, as the first Monday before May 25th. It is also the official birthday celebration for Queen Elizabeth II, her great-great granddaughter. We visited there with Auntie Michelle and our cousins Chas and Ben. As you can see from the picture on the left, the Queen looks amazingly good for 192 years old!

This being BRITISH Columbia, there were a lot of festivities. We went to Burnaby Village Museum in Deer Lake, very close to MaMa/YeYe. They had free admission today also to celebrate their 40th anniversary. The museum is built up as a small village, with many buildings as they might be around the start of the 20th century. Some of the buildings included a school, which was actually a real school. In fact, it was Daddy's old elementary school! We didn't realize Daddy was that old, but that probably explains the white hairs! It was the original Seaforth School, which was built in 1922 as a one-room schoolhouse. It stood at Seaforth's site at Government Road and Piper Road, where Daddy went, and was moved to the museum in 1983.
Can you figure out the number?
See the bottom of the blog!
Other buildings in the village included an old-fashioned ice cream parlour, a post office, general store, a Royal Bank of Canada branch, a music shop, a bakery, a movie theatre, a chapel, the Burnaby Post newspaper, an old pioneer log cabin, an outhouse, blacksmith, mechanics shop, and a Chinese herbal shop. While there, the herbalist, Mr. Danny Lau, taught us how to add and subtract using an abacus. If you know how to use it, it can be much faster than a calculator, and they are still often used in Asia and Africa. Each column represents ones, tens, hundreds, thousands, etc. Each column is in two sections, with five beads in the bottom section and two beads in the top. So four beads in the bottom would indicate 4, while 1 bead on top would indicate 5. So together, four beads on the bottom and 1 on top indicates 9. Easy!

Thanks a lot Glenn!
While we stayed with Glenn in Fonthill, he kept moaning about his childhood and how his parents left him and his sister by the side of the road to greet the Royal Family whenever it visited Ontario. Therefore, Daddy decided that we should get a sense of Glenn's deprived childhood by having us stand on the side of the road as Queen Victoria drove by Burnaby Village. It wasn't even the REAL Queen Victoria, so I think we got it worse than Glenn!

Ben, Chas, and us with our new top hats in front of the Burnaby trolley, which ran until 1953.

The soldiers fired off the cannons throughout the day. The first time they fired it off, we were nearby in the trolley house and it was LOUD! Daddy felt the rush of air go right by him.

A very British cake in the pattern of the Union Jack. The red parts were made of strawberries and the blue from blueberries.

This picture is for Mr. Ellis our music teacher.

On the carousel at Burnaby Village Museum with Chas and Ben.

Few things are more Canadian than the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in their dress uniforms.

And nothing says "PARADE!" like a bagpiper!

Did you get the right answer to the abacus number? If you said 37,925, go find yourself a piece of cake to celebrate Victoria Day with us!

Monday, 23 May 2011

A Whale of a Homecoming

Today was a trip down memory lane for me. We took transit over to my first alma mater, the University of British Columbia, to visit the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. Transit here in Vancouver is an absolute gem. Coming home, it costed all of $2.50 one zone ride for an adult to travel the 30 km between UBC and home in Burnaby, and it took barely an hour for the entire trip including two transfers.

The blue whale skeleton is 26 metres long!
The Beaty is pretty much brand new, only opening last October. The museum is right next to the Biological Sciences building, and I'm sure the venue was a great catalyst for collating and integrating the vast collections of biological specimens at UBC.

The centrepiece of the museum is a fully intact female blue whale skeleton suspended in the atrium. It died and washed up in Tignish, Prince Edward Island in 1987. The skeleton was then buried in the hopes that it would decay naturally, and was exhumed in 2008. One can only imagine what it must have stank like, what with 150 ton of whale blubber and oil decomposing into the surrounding soil. New fact that I did not know was that the whale bones are quite porous and full of oil to help with buoyancy. Therefore, there remained a whole mess of degreasing with the skeleton once exhumed.

The entire skeleton was then transported in a refrigerated container to Victoria, where it was further rebuilt and then finally placed here in UBC. The skeleton was available for viewing at special dates last July when the boys and I were here visiting, and MaMa took them to see it then. Today was International Biodiversity Day, so there were special events and exhibits, including a guest talk by my former prof Dr. Al Lewis. The boys did plant pressings, and there was a scavenger hunt answering questions from exhibits throughout the museum.

The prodigal son returns after 21 years! Here I am at the entranceway to the Biological Sciences building, where I did my B.Sc. Honours with Dr. Paul J. Harrison.

The family at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at the University of British Columbia.

This is Dr. Al Lewis, who gave a talk today at the Beaty on his research into copepods. Dr. Lewis is Professor Emeritus at the Department of Oceanography, where I graduated from in 1990. I fondly recall this brilliant course he taught in my 4th year on zoogeography, relating animal speciation with geological movements. It was a real treat to meet him again and to remember my oceanography roots!
The last thing a krill sees before it gets sucked into massive plates of baleen and becomes lunch!

The view from below the whale. Note the pathways for blood vessels through the skull, which is just a beautiful work of art in its own right.

That's a whole mess of ribs! The heart is about  the size of a car, and beats 5-10 times per minute. The legs are now just one small vestigial bone with its move to an aquatic life. The flippers are only four digits, with the middle digit lost through evolution.

I couldn't get enough of this whale skeleton.

It's not all about whales or mammals at the Beaty. They have a massive collection of most every animal and plant species, along with a nice set of fossils.
The largest pinecone in the world! It's literally the size and weight of a pineapple! Be sure to wear your hardhats when walking in the forests if these are overhead!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Ducks at the Circus!

While we're in Vancouver, we decided to run away with the circus and join the Vancouver Circus School. When we first heard about it, it was from seeing the Rick Mercer Report and his being at the School with his blind friend. In the show, the owner Travis Johnson was bouncing on the trampoline and climbing up the wall, which seemed really fun. Rick and his friend were also on the silks and trapeze. At the start of the show, Rick said, "My friend is blind and I have no skill - what can go wrong?" We figured that our gymnastics might give us some skill at least!

All wrapped up!
Thanks to Uncle Ken and Auntie Elizabeth, we signed up for trampoline and silks classes, each an hour long on Mondays and Wednesdays while we're here. In gymnastics, we do a lot of rope climbing. The silks are actually a lot harder than it looks because they are very stretchy and squishy, and they can get you all tied up in knots. Our hardest skill that we have done so far is called a revolution - we need to start by hanging upside down, pull ourselves up as if we're sitting on a trapeze, then roll and fall forward in a
circle. It feels like you're going to fall flat on your face!

The Circus School is in New Westminster at River Market, right next to the Fraser River. Outside the market stands the largest tin soldier in the world. How big is this soldier? As you can see from the picture, we're standing on its feet and we don't even reach his knee caps! Inside him is a time capsule from November 2000, which is planned to be opened in 25 years. Since that's the year I was born, maybe we'll return for its opening so that I can laugh at all the crazy hairstyles and clothes people wore back then!

Before Circus School, we walked from home along Burnaby Lake to the Piper Spit, which has a lot of ducks and geese. There were also frogs, slugs, fishes, and pretty flowers.