In February, the peach tree on the south side of my house alerts me to the approach of spring. New buds swell, then burst fearlessly into blossom.
I wait for nature’s signals before launching a kayak on the Alouette River. This year, incessant rain made me impatient. A rare sunny day arrived. It was the middle of winter, but I loaded the kayak and set out.
A paddler’s hands go numb in frigid water. I breathed on them to get the circulation going, then looked for life. Apart from a few merganzers, there wasn’t any.
But the dikes were buzzing with sun-seekers: joggers, cyclists, horseback riders, dog walkers, and Ted and Matti.
The couple sat in buggies that looked like harness rigs at race tracks, but small enough for hobbits. They had fat tires, and were pulled by miniature horses.
“Do those things have a name?” I shouted.
“Hyperbikes,” replied Ted. “A guy in Oregon makes them. Lots of fun.”
I take a camera on the Alouette – a suggestion from smirking DFO officers in Langley, the guys who refused several times to investigate dead fish here in 2009, and will probably never have to stir themselves again, thanks to the gutted Fisheries Act, the part for steam bank disruption.
Matti posed for a picture before continuing towards ‘Big Gulp,’ the Golden Ears group’s pump, with its cavernous mouth set in a side channel. BG was quiet, but nothing prevents this thirsty girl from roaring loudly into action this spring, while we still wait for an effective water use plan for our river.
There’s still no blossoms on my tree, but community groups in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows aren’t waiting to launch plans for 2013. On Feb. 25, the Haney Farmers Market’s AGM will honor 15 volunteers.
Opening day is May 11, Mother’s Day.
“We going to have a demonstration of medieval times from the Society for Creative Anachronisms,” says manager, Eileen Dwillies.
These folks, draped in chain mail, duke it out with swords like Richard the Third of England, whose bones were discovered under a parking lot.
Last year, there were 150 vendors including new faces.
“We’ve encouraged the young farmers with two to five acres,” says Dwillies.
Farm for Life, a working farm in its second year, involves several young farmers whose plans for 2013 have already begun.
“The farm-y items on the to-do list today,” they write, are “complete third cold frame, plant broad bean seeds in pots, clean out chicken coop, move poopy hay … ”
Dwillies thinks we’re overdue for a district food policy like Vancouver’s that promotes small vegetable growers.
“We have a lot of giant farms in the Fraser Valley, but you can’t live on cranberries and blueberries if there’s a crash.”
On Feb. 2, Meadow Ridge School invited 40 friends of the environment to help enhance Latimer Creek. It’s a stream on their property that hosts hundreds of chum spawners. The stream study will promote environmental stewardship by students.
Ross Davies of KEEPS has set up one classroom with an aquarium kit, and 55 eyed chum fry from Bell Irving Hatchery. They’ll be released in April.
“It’s a decent stream with good groundwater,” says Davies.
“The creek is part of a huge ecosystem,” says school staffer Daryl Lester. “By restoring and preserving this small section, we not only ensure our segment of the watershed is in good health, we allow our students to be part of the process. Hopefully they will carry this forward in their lives … and realize each individual can make a difference.”
That goal is endorsed by Paula Howarth, a faculty associate at SFU who shared information about the integrated stream study she helped establish at Harry Hooge elementary last year.
“Paula had lots of good ideas,” said Lyn Tyler, the staff member who organized the meeting. “The way she worked with teachers was wonderful.”
Nicole Driedger, who heads up the Adopt-a-Stream program for ARMS, will help with riparian restoration. ARMS will remove blackberries, an invasive species, and plant salmonberries. A path and footbridge to facilitate stream monitoring are in the work plan.
“It’s all very exciting,” says Tyler.
Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.