Darts Hill Garden

On Tuesday, June 21, 2011, we attended an open house event at Darts Hill Garden (http://www.dartshill.ca/). I had never heard of this site before, but it is truly a treasure. Set on 7.5 acres in South Surrey, the garden features a collection of rare plants, shrubs and trees.

The garden was cultivated over a period of sixty years by Edwin and Francisca Darts, and Francisca subsequently donated the site to the City of Surrey for public enjoyment. The gardens are cared for by the Darts Hill Society, which makes annual memberships available at a cost of only twenty dollars.

Among other benefits, members can enjoy monthly visits to the garden including guided tours and access to guest speakers. For non-members, the garden is generally open four times per year. Guided tours can also be booked at a cost of five dollars per person.

one of many flower beds

In addition to the abundant flora, there is significant fauna in and around the gardens. We saw evidence of deer and raccoons. Apparently, the ponds are inhabited by frogs, and the forest canopy supports a wide array of bird life.

The City of Surrey and Darts Hill Society continue to seek ways to preserve and enhance this incredible natural legacy, and there is talk of partnering with a local post-secondary institution to offer horticultural training. Watch for future open house events in the autumn. In the meantime, I recommend considering taking out a membership in the Darts Hill Society. For the nominal cost involved, it would definitely be an excellent investment!

a striking plant in the forest

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Sanduz Estate Wines

Sanduz Estate Wines

Sanduz Estate Wines

Friends of ours recently told us about Sanduz Estate Wines, which offers a range of fruit and grape wines in addition to syrups, jellies and honeys.  We headed over to their winery and tasting room in Richmond, BC this afternoon.

They have an interesting selection of fruit wines, from granny smith apple to rhubarb.  I tasted the granny smith, blueberry and blackberry.  They were all delicious, but the blueberry wine was particularly impressive.

Sanduz was founded in 2006 and has won numerous awards, which surprised me because I had never heard of it.  Their products aren’t in any other stores, so you will have to make your way out to there if you want to get your hands on a bottle or two.  You won’t be disappointed.

Please note, the writer did not receive any monetary or nonmonetary consideration for this post.

CBC Nooners

Nooner concert series at CBC Plaza

So, I have not been blogging much.  Probably because I have either been chained to my desk or on the road.  I actually got away from my desk at lunch today, and headed over to the CBC building on Hamilton for their “Nooner” concert series.

Every weekday this summer, they are putting on a free live concert during the lunch hour.  Today, Juno award winning Greg Sczebel and his band played a rousing set.  It was a little rock, a little jazz, and a whole lot of fun!  Sczebel will be touring with Paul Brandt in the very near future.

The best part is that I was able to combine two of my great loves – the CBC AND good coffee!  Adjacent to the CBC’s outdoor stage area is a very quaint JJ Bean cafe, complete with green roof and patio seating.  Talk about a great location!

CBC’s “Live Chemical Reaction” in Vancouver

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CBC Studios (Vancouver)

My wife and I had the pleasure of sitting in on a live taping of Go!  (CBC’s “live chemical reaction”) in Vancouver last Friday.  It was the western finals of the Canada Writes competition, and there were a few surprises in store.

The Go! cast warmed up the audience (and presumably themselves) with banter and a skit.  After that, the show started, and Brent Bambery soon introduced the guest judges.  The panelists included film maker Mina Shum, Spirit of the West frontman John Mann, and commedian Sugar Sammy.

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The Judges

The contestants were introduced, and they each performed a piece written earlier on the worst advice they had ever received (memorable among these were “dude, let’s take your Dad’s van”, and simply “jump!”).

In the second round, a vocalist delivered new lyrics that the aspiring authors penned for popular songs.   One hapless contestant had to rewrite the lyrics to a Spirit of the West classic!  After that, it was time for the first contestant to be ejected from the contest by way of the show’s metaphorical trapdoor.

The remaining contestants had to write a movie pitch in five minutes with assigned titles including “the Fourth Cauldron” (shades of 2010, anyone?), and then produced their shortest works of fiction ever (with a 60 second time limit, no less).

In the midst of all of this, John Mann performed two numbers, and Ian Hanomansing popped in to promo a new NHL themed game that he created.  By the end of the show, one more contestant had been ejected and the two Western finalists were proclaimed.

If you live in the Winnipeg or Toronto areas, additional Canada Writes shows are coming up, and tickets are free!

A Cross Border Find

I had to mail some parcels to Colorado, and it was WAY cheaper to send them through the US Postal Service, so my wife and I decided to take a day trip over the border.  We stopped at the post office in Blaine, but then carried on down the highway because my wife wanted to hit a particular outlet.

P8070040Thankfully, we never found the outlet she was thinking of.  We did, however, happen across Historic Fairhaven, which is also referred to as Fairhaven Village.  Now part of Bellingham, Fairhaven got its start sometime around the 1880s.  Much of its early architecture has been preserved, and any new development must conform to the community’s 19th century look and feel.

We took a quick walk around the neighbourhood to scope out restaurants, and finally settled on Skylark’s Hidden Café.  Set in an old brick building with a storefront, its interior was apparently inspired by the 19th century bordello (high end, mind you).  The woodwork was phenomenal, and they had a bar that I would die for!

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We shared a caesar salad (reasonably good), and both had the vegetarian baked squash lasagne (phenomenal!).  Afterwards, we popped by Fairhaven Fish & Chips, which is actually a double decker bus parked in a corner lot.  Although we couldn’t sample the fish and chips, we did treat ourselves to their soft serve ice cream (my wife had banana, and I had English toffee).  We also toured around the local businesses, which offer a wide range of gifts, books, candy, jewellery, and art.

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If your are heading down Bellingham way, I suggest giving the shopping malls a miss and hanging out in Fairhaven for an afternoon.

Newsflash – Happenings in Surrey

I received the latest update from Vibrant Surrey, which alerted me to a few interesting events that are coming up.  First, Vibrant Surrey is hosting the Surrey Forum: building the community economy on Thursday August 27.  They are surprisingly mum on what this is all about, but you can follow them on Twitter to find out when the registration goes live.

The second event, hosted by the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association, is hosting four evenings of Movies Under the Stars at Holland Park.  The offerings aren’t totally to my taste, but admission is free and it should still be a good time.  

If you aren’t familiar with Vibrant Surrey, I highly recommend visiting their website.  They are geared towards reducing poverty and building community in Surrey, and you can join their mailing list to find out about all kinds of events, announcements, etc…

Dispatch from the In-SHUCK-ch Traditional Territories

My random travels took me to the Skatin First Nation, which is sometimes called Skookumchuck.  Don’t confuse it with the Skookumchuck outside of Cranbrook, BC, though.  This community is located a little over 50 kilometres south of Mount Currie down the old Cariboo Wagon Road, on the east side of the Lillooet River.

View Skatin First Nation and Area

The Skatin First Nation is a member of the In-SHUCK-ch Nation, which is in turn related to the larger St’at’imc community.  The Skatin reserve is currently home to approximately 60 people or so.  According to one resident I spoke to, a number of citizens would like to return to the community but are unable to do so due to housing and employment pressures.

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View into the Skatin First Nation from the Cariboo Wagon Road

The community is known in part for its Church of the Holy Cross, a Carpenter Gothic structure built by local Aboriginal craftspeople.  The interior of the church features incredibly ornate statuary and embellishments, all made of local wood.  It was completed in 1905, and was designated a National Historic Site in 1981.  Conservation is an immense task, and the Ama Liisaos Heritage Trust Society works tirelessly to raise the necessary funds.

On the way back toward Mount Currie, we stopped at the Skookumchuck Hot Springs (or St. Agnes Well Hot Springs) for a brief soak.  The caretaker told me that the site was in private hands for much of the 1800s, but the federal government now holds it in trust for the In-SHUCK-ch Nation.  It is $5.00 to get in for a leisurely soak, which is well worth it given the work that goes into maintaining the place.

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Skookumchuck Hot Springs Source Pool

One innovation is worth remarking on.  The caretaker took solar garden lights, chopped off the stakes, and installed them through the roofs of the outhouses.  The little solar panels charge all day from the outside, and the lights shine all night on the inside.  The only downside is that the spiders think the lights are fantastic, too…