Sunday, June 19, 2011

We are jumping ship

You can now follow the Birds at
Same name, different handle, much more stuff...
Sorry for the confusion. We were experiencing many technical difficulties, so had to make a change.
Just follow this here link and everything will be okay...


love the birds

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ferry Mission Complete. The Birds Head South..Successfully

Somehow, with all of our saved up luck in our pockets, we managed to catch not one, but two ferries in one day! This is incredible, considering Goocher's chain jumping ship, The Birds' ability to become distracted by almost anything, ferries happen to be on a tight schedule and On Time, and back to the second point of  The Birds' ability and ease at which distraction takes hold and times slips by. The day was early and our first long ride, which did indeed appease our restless legs. Biking, biking, biking. Heading south through Anacortes and Whidbey, we came upon Deception Pass. This would mark the start of our car paranoia and also brought forth the inner NerdSafetyCape in us all. Perfect. The ride itself was exciting with the traffic, twisting roads, and lush forests. With the help of our roadside saviour, Victoria, we were nudged south by time and a fast approaching ferry departure to Port Townsend. Hours rolled past and the sky darkened, giving us all a very large hint that we needed to pump our legs a little faster. Almost to the ferrie with worried expressions on our faces, we passed a small huddle of fellow bike tourers just off our route. We waved and honked and they waved back. Little did we know, they would become part of The Birds Family in only a few hours. Alas!, we made it to the ferrie, namely because reason number two (above:ferries happen to be on a tight schedule and On Time) did not occur at this time. Exhausted and hungry, the birds devoured muffins that were definitely fermenting and veggie patties that tasted like Thanksgiving stuffing. Brilliant.

The Steeds right before crossing the Death Bridge aka Deception Pass.

The Birds wondering how we got here and why we want to bike across The Death Bridge.

Love, Elkmother and the Birds. more to come......!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bird Crossing

According to my passport I’ve crossed the U.S.-Canadian border some twenty times. I’ve gone by car, plane, bus, ferry and train. Never have I crossed by bicycle, never have I gone with five minutes to make my connecting transport and never have I gone with a dozen donuts bungeed to a bike rack.

We rode from Foxglove Farms approximately 1200 feet on the top of Saltspring Island down to catch a quick ferry to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island where we biked a half hour to the other ferry landing at Sidney. Considering we had an hour between ferries we figured we’d use the spare time to catch a quick coffee and maybe a muffin. We pulled into a coffee shop, one that was decidedly not Starbuck’s and took the five minutes it takes to lean our four fully loaded bikes up. I wrote some postcards with the last of my Canadian stamps, Lauren called her mom back in Vancouver and we all had a coffee and a pee. When we started watching the clock again we had twenty minutes to make the ferry to Friday Harbor on the San Juan Islands (notice how Habor has no “u”– we were to enter the States). We chugged the coffees, wrapped up any half-eaten pastries and tried hitting the road. Two blocks later we stopped at a bakery as Lauren got off her bike and pointed out the glazed donuts we wanted to the woman working behind the counter of Lauren’s old favorite bakery. Fifteen minutes to go.

We circle a round-about twice looking for a sign to the ferry terminal, ride a few more blocks then we approach the ferry landing. There are no cars in the line-up, just a woman in the ticket kiosk telling us we have to hurry. The ferry is nearly loaded and we still need to go through the border patrol check point. We pay, we go down the wrong road, then we roll up to the immigration building where a woman most likely named Shirley (it was a frazzled moment and we just can’t remember) tells us before anything we should have arrived earlier for an international transfer. Shirley has a graying hair, a young grandmother face and a gun.

            “Get you passports out and take off your dark sunglasses.” Shirley is talking quickly. Perhaps it’s the maternal in her that wants us to catch this ferry.

            In our defense, as weak as it stands, we thought we’d go through immigration when we got off the boat. Instead we have five minutes till the ferry leaves and one of the most protective borders in the western hemisphere to cross.

            “What will you be doing in the U.S.?” Shirley asks.

            “Riding our bikes to Mexico.”

            Shirley takes my U.S. passport, glances at it, scans it then passes it back.

            “How long will you be in the U.S.?”

            We all look at each other and nod our heads with two months. Gooch and Haley pass Shirley their Canadian passports and it’s the same glance and scan ritual. Lauren has to get off her bike and unpack her back pannier in order to find her passport all while trying not to squish the donuts fixed to her back rack.

            “Two months?” Shirley is not impressed. “That’s a long time to spend. You probably should’ve given yourselves more time to cross the border.”

            Lauren is still looking while we all apologize to Shirley.

            “Do you have proof of funds? Something like a bank statement to show you can support yourself while in the country?”

            We tilt our heads. We volunteer credit cards. I pull out my Bank of America VISA card with Hello Kitty stamped all over it and Shirley shakes her head. “Oh, we don’t need your financial stuff,” she smiles. “You could starve in the streets and we wouldn’t care.” I put my Hello Kitty card away. It’s nice to be back home.

            Lauren finds her passport and we appease Shirley with the promise of train tickets back to Canada come fall and that Lauren has to be at school in Vancouver early September and that we have families who love us and will get us home if need be.

            Given the circumstances Shirley must think we are stupid. Not only are we unorganized giving ourselves five minutes to cross an international border without all the proper documentation but we are planning to bike down all the way to Baja California. We are stupid, but more importantly we are harmless.

Shirley tells us to hurry. “Lane 2, girls.”

We ride across the empty lines marked in the road up to a ramp where we pass our tickets to a ferry attendant. The green Washington State ferry is waiting, still suctioned to the dock and we figure we’ve made it with donuts. But then Shirley comes running along the chain link fence the gun in her holster banging against her hip. She is yelling. “She forgot her sunglasses!” Lauren goes back for the glasses she left laying in the pavement out front of the immigration kiosk. We finally get on the boat.

On board as we watch the gap of water between the ferry and Canada widen we wave goodbye and then go eat a dozen donuts. 

Where to next?

Bye Canada, see you in 3.

Donuts. Right hand.

Salt Spring Island Part Two: Foxglove Farm

We hitchhiked halfway up the mountain to Foxglove Farm not because we were lazy. Our egos are intact enough that we don't need to conquer that 45 degree incline at 7pm before a workday on Foxglove Farm. We arrived before sunset and we found a fully loaded kitchen, hot outdoor showers and a newly plowed meadow for us to camp in. We slept deeply and got up early the next morning to start our volunteer shift on the asparagus field. The farm isn't incredibly large but the land that is used is insanely well kept. It's a testament to the farmhands that work there how clean and organized everything is. Seon, Patrick, Janet and Claire were our guides for the day and showed us how fast asparagus grows (we noticed the elevation they gained within the few hours we worked alongside them), how suspending raspberry plants at a 90 degree angle pulls the fruit to one side to make harvest less prickly and how you can utilize green house space by hanging melons with hairnets. Some ingenious stuff is going on up there. 

Us Birds spent the day clearing out tomato plants, raspberry bushes and spinach.Thanks to Janet  we ate one of the more delicious lunches we will ever eat (shred your yams and fry your bananas). The rainy morning cleared into a hot afternoon and though we were beat, we were happy to help out and get some dirt under our fingernails. The other farmhands kept working late into the afternoon as we had to take meadow naps and warm lake swims, but Clarie was kind enough to give us a tour of the entire farm. Not only does Foxglove have the garden and orchard and greenhouses that we worked but in order to diversify their crops they're growing their own wheat on a back field. As of now there are no animals on the farm though previously it was cattle land, which makes the soil nitrogen rich and perfect for farming. Michael and Jean Marie, the owners for the past five years, have done some amazing things with the land. Claire told us how farming is like any other form of expression- a painting on the land. 

In addition to the agricultural aspect of the farm, Foxglove offers a variety of workshops, retreats and camps. It's considered "a centre for arts, ecology and agriculture". Though we didn't see much of this side of the farm the days following our departure they were to host a workshop on mushrooms by Paul Stamets, and how they can save the world. We can't thank the Foxglovers enough for their kind generosity, their inspiring dedication and all the knowledge they shared with us. 

Our visit was documented mainly by video, which is time consuming to edit. We will post these soon!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Salt Spring Island Part One

So we survived Salt Spring Island. With our thighs a burnin' and our gears a squealin' we departed yesterday morning for San Juan Island after 5 days of lovely, but hilly, Salt Spring immersion. Right now it is 11:20pm and I am sitting on the patio of the lovely Lakedale Resort where we are camping. Im sitting on the patio, not because of the lovely scenery or comfortable patio sets, but because us campers aren't allowed in to the luxurious resort after hours....ahem...

Friday, after our reunion aboard the Queen of WhoKnowsWhat we booted it into Ganges to regroup. After weighing our options we decided biking up to Channel Ridge where Lauren's dad owned some property. We figured this would be a good idea. And that leaving at 7pm that evening would be an even better idea. So as the sun was setting, and with the birds first day back together, we biked up a mountain. Man what a test of endurance, perseverance, descriptive frustrated vocabulary. But we made it, to a gorgeous plot of land, with an incredible view,  nestled in between two mansions.

Saturday we flew back down the mountain, and back into town, and resettled at Garden Faire campground, just a walk away from the town of Ganges. We spent the day poking around town, caught the tail end of the Farmer's Market and watched the game, which we have become avid followers since we left the Vancouver....

Sunday we were privileged to spend the afternoon with artist, writer, educator, and founder of Creative by Nature,  Lisa Lipsett. She was kind enough to have us over, and share with us her art and practice and process. See pictures below. Lisa led us through an exercise of seeing and connecting with our surroundings. It was an inspiring afternoon.
After our visit we rode down the rode to Blackburn Lake, home of the island's nudie dock....**

And Monday we packed up and rode across the island to the Gulf Island Brewery, where Brewmaster Murray Hunter kindly gave us a tour of the Salt Spring Ale operation. After, hot, hungry and thirsty, he pointed us down the rode to Fulford, where we could sit in the sun and enjoy a Gulf Island Brew...

That evening, destined for Foxglove Farm, on Mt.Maxwell, and having flashbacks to the last time we climbed a mountain, we stewed up ways we could avoid the trek......with the kindness of some locals and our legs o steel....we made it up there....somehow....

Stay tuned for Salt Spring Island part deux. where we farm, cross the border and eat a lot of doughnuts...

Oh and the pictures are coming too...


Finally-the photos!

A meditative watercolour/drawing workshop orientated by Lisa Lipsett. Our fold out results. 
The entrance to Lisa Lipsett's lovely studio. Packed with canvas, self-published books and German non-toxic watercolour paint. A beauty!
Our little nook on Salt Spring Island. A few minutes walk from Ganges, a little neck in the woods.

Burrrito's with a side of campfire. Courtesy of Josie.

Our daily morning espresso to keep us on the move. Stumps to rest our things.  
A rest in meadow following our visit at Gulf Island Brewery. A roasty afternoon.Lauren's chases a racoon with the camera.

Inspired by Murray, we a test a little bit of heaven down by the harbour. Love this beer!

All together now...

Visit Foxglove Farm's newsletter for an update about our visit! What an inspiring family they have! They spoiled us with healthy food and inspiring energy.