Skip to content

The sun has almost set on our summer

This cool sunset at 7:09 p.m. was the warmest thing about Wednesday evening.

There’s that moment in early spring when, as Charles Dickens wrote in Great Expectations, “it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade”. But that’s in March. Here in Vancouver on September 20th, we are on the cusp of autumn, when the sunsets are warm and the evenings are cool.

Fall has been in the air now for well over a week. Daytime temperatures, though still quite mild, are certainly falling, along with some of the leaves and (most distressingly of all) the hours of daylight.

Now, when the sun peremptorily goes down, the overnight double digit lows of summer can barely hang on by more than a degree. And the rain! The rain is starting back up, unsteady and intermittent, like a powerful but rusty engine that needs time to get its stroke and stride back.

No one needs to tell us that autumn officially begins on September 23rd—little more than 48 hours away. We have all felt it, like the chill of a shadow falling across our path, on these last days of summer. Click the image to enlarge it.

Up in the sky, it’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s…a squirrel!

A squirrel moving at broadband speed over a megabit fibre optic cable.

Electricity, television and Internet—the very lifeblood of a great city; all of this runs through the overhead power lines and fibre optic cables that crisscross Vancouver’s back alleys.

And running on these power lines and cables? That would be Vancouver’s ubiquitous brown and grey squirrels.

At this time of year our favourite fluffy-tailed rodents seem to make especially heavy use of the aerial network of wires in their frantic autumnal quest to gather and squirrel away (cough) winter provender.

Watching them on Monday (September 18), it occurred to me that although they have no idea what the electrical lines they run on are for (beyond the accidental way that they connect trees), squirrels still manage to use them in a telegraphically appropriate way.

I mean, of course, how they’re always dash-dash-dashing, as if carried along by the lightning flowing just an insulation’s thickness under their paws! Click the image to enlarge it.

This is the month when we hit the fig time

A nearly-ripe turkey fig, moments before it went missing.

Fairview’s fig crop appears to be about a week behind schedule. Today (September 13) I found what may have been the only two (nearly) ripe figs in the entire neighbourhood.

I found the aforementioned fruit growing on a fig tree in the southwest alley off the intersection of Heather Street and 17th Avenue. This tree, by the way, is the only source of brown turkey figs that I know of in the neighbourhood. As of today—aside from the pair that I plucked—all its hundreds of figs are still immature and green—a good week or more away from being ripe—just like all the other figs on all the other fig trees that I know of in Fairview. Read more…

One person’s trash is another person’s…treasure hunt

To make a long story short, It turned out  that the little box-like thing that I found in a dumpster on Friday (September 8) was a Japanese/Chinese-branded personal air filter called a Viruoff Nano—so-named perhaps because it was about the size and shape of Apple’s once-popular 6h generation iPod Nano. Though, with its back clip, it more closely resembled the older 2nd generation iPod Shuffle (“the most wearable iPod ever”)

Either way I wasn’t surprised when I showed the device to another homeless binner and he automatically assumed that it was some kind of MP3 player (though he was puzzled by the absence of a headphone jack), or that anther binner guessed that it was a small Bluetooth speaker.

People see what they want and expect to see

Personal air purifiers like the Viruoff Nano are not a popular thing in North America and scavengers wouldn’t expect to see or recognize such a thing in a Vancouver dumpster but they are always on the hopeful lookout for little personal electronics like iPods and the like.

The old adage that “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure” sums up the wishful thinking of everyone, in all places and at all times, who gleans through garbage for things of value—whether a dumpster diver in North America, a skip diver in the United Kingdom, a ragpicker in India or the equivalent scavenger in ancient Sumer.

As a 21st century scavenger who is not adverse to looking in dumpsters, I will not dispute that there is indeed treasure to be found but I will add that these days one person’s trash can also be a complete mystery.

I chalk this up to two things in particular: the tendency of a significant number of people to wait until their unused articles of consumer technology are dusty old antiques before finally throwing them out—just in case, I guess—and Vancouver’s modern, multicultural nature, which helps insure that anything in the world can and does end up in the city’s garbage.

Hardly a week goes by that I do not have to resort to Web searches in order to unravel the purpose, function and\or non-English language packaging of some object fished out of a dumpster, either by myself or some other scavenger. The Viroff Nano is just the latest such example. Read more…

The squirrel and I were both surprised

“What the…where did you come from?”

Given your squirrel’s finely-tuned senses, overly cautious nature and hair-trigger reflexes, I didn’t think that a person could sneak up on one. Yet on Thursday morning (August 31) I was able to get well within touching distance of a squirrel before it even noticed me and what’s more amazing—I managed to do this even before I had my morning coffee! Read more…

B.C. wildfires and a wild fire painting from the alleys

Active wildfires.—B.C. Wildfire Service/Google Earth

As of August 28th, there were 121 active wildfires listed in British Columbia—principally in the Cariboo region of B.C.’s Central Interior.

The B.C. Wildfire Service now pegs the total area of the province burned by wildfire in 2017 at an incredible 1,022,325 hectares!

This means that the area burned is now 4,325 hectares larger than the 1,018,000 hectares that comprises the entire Haida Gwaii archipelago on the North Coast of British Columbia! Read more…