What I’ll miss about Salt Spring

I’ll miss cats with names like Golden Stream and Blue Sky. Farm and garden stands with flowers, fresh eggs, veggies, honey, jam and more. Back home in Renton, the scent of lavender sachets purchased from the Ruckle Park farm stand wafts gentle memories.

Near the farm stand at Ruckle Park
Near the farm stand at Ruckle Park

I’ll miss sunlight among the great cedars and Douglas firs and the birdsong floating through forest branches.

A peaceful stroll in the forest can purge a lot of worry!
A peaceful stroll in the forest can purge a lot of worry!

I’ll miss Gallery 8 in Ganges, featuring sculpture and paintings by amazingly talented artists including Simon Morris, creator of fine art bronze sculptures with marine themes, and painter Carol Evans who so ably captures the misty light and atmosphere of west coast living. Steffich Fine Art, almost next door, with fascinating cast stone and wood sculpture by Thomas McPhee and stunning kiln-formed glass by Anthony Jamieson Designs. Outside, the gallery has installed wind sculptures that island breezes often set in motion.

Not far from the galleries, the scenic harbor awaits.
Not far from the galleries, the scenic harbor awaits.

I’ll miss the deer… everywhere…

Deer in the front yard, getting a swig from the fountain.
Deer in the front yard, getting a swig from the fountain.

In the backyard, peeking across the deck.
In the backyard, peeking across the deck.

Ambling along the driveway
Ambling along the driveway

Crashing through the forest
Crashing through the forest

Most of all, I’ll miss hanging out with my family. On the deck, with cups of tea and good books in hand. On the waterfront enjoying the view. Smiling and laughing through a meal. Good and peaceful times, tucked away in my heart. Until next time!

A waterfront stroll
A waterfront stroll

Looking across the Sidney Harbour, with an old salty dog in the foreground
Looking across the Sidney Harbour, with an old salty dog in the foreground

Dusk falls on St. Mary Lake, as seen from the family deck.
Dusk falls on St. Mary Lake, as seen from the family deck.

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Wine and food tasting on Salt Spring

Note: Most links go to Facebook pages – they are usually more current than the websites.

Vineyards are not new on the island, but food carts are a more recent addition. We visited the T&A Café, a colorful cart in Ganges named for the two owners, local gals with a sense of humor and a unique burger interpretation. A generous beef and pork patty is topped with homemade beet relish and tucked into a tasty pretzel bun. We had no problem polishing it off, along with fries made the way I like them – skin on and not greasy. Locals also recommend the taco cart, next to the Sea Breeze Motel off Fulford-Ganges Road, but we did not have a chance to sample their wares. Next time!

One-of-a-kind food cart in Ganges
One-of-a-kind food cart in Ganges

Before I get to wine tasting, a few more words on food. I’ve already raved about Auntie Pesto’s in Ganges, which will not disappoint. The Tree House Cafe, also in Ganges, is a good lunch spot, though I did not visit on this trip. It’s hard to get better fish and chips than those at the Seaside Restaurant in Vesuvius. We had a family dinner there and also really enjoyed the desserts along with stunning views. In Ganges, Harlans Chocolates has yummy chocolate and very good gelato, and for a great waffle cone, stop by Glad’s Ice Cream and Sweet Shop, across from Mouat’s Hardware. (Glad’s is a seasonal business.) Old Salty’s, a gift shop, sells Crow chocolate bars, which fans of chocolate will not want to miss, along with a good selection of Roger’s Chocolates from Victoria, a venerable establishment famous for its chocolate creams.
You can't miss Glad's Ice Cream - look for the bike!
You can’t miss Glad’s Ice Cream – look for the bike!

We visited two wineries and loved both. Salt Spring Vineyards and Winery is on the way to Fulford Harbour and has been pressing great wine for about 15 years, though I can remember the vines going in a few years earlier. As with so many vineyards, the grounds were lovely. I hope to add a photo to this post later from hubby’s tablet (I forgot my camera on this visit). We enjoyed the ability to sample at least eight wines without a tasting fee! We left with several bottles, including Evolution, a charming white with layers of flavor, plus an irresistible dessert wine made from heritage apple trees on the property and another made of pure blackberries, along with a bottle of merlot for my dad. The prices were good and the service friendly and informative.

Mistaken Identity Vineyards is just outside of Ganges and sustainably cultivates organic vines. It has been operating for about six years and has a tasting fee of $4 for four samples. One fee is waived for each bottle purchased and believe me, you will want to buy this wine! We were unexpectedly captivated by the pinot rosé, and by the blackberry wine that was tempered with grapes for a less-sweet but richly fruity finish. We found the prices very reasonable and the service helpful, and walked out with more bottles. This winery also sells wine vinegars and other goodies, plus colorful scarves made in Guatemala.

Mistaken Identity tasting room.
Mistaken Identity tasting room.

View from the deck of Mistaken Identity's tasting room. Take your time and enjoy!
View from the deck of Mistaken Identity’s tasting room. Take your time and enjoy!

We wanted to also visit the Garry Oaks Winery, but their tasting hours are limited to weekends. They did not answer their phone for a request to visit outside posted times. Their wines are available in local liquor stores and I remember them being very good. Last time I was on island, they were not yet open for the season so here’s hoping I can catch them on my next visit!

Postcards from Sidney, B.C.

The ferry from Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring to Swartz Bay outside of Victoria takes about 35 minutes. We arrive early at the Fulford ferry terminal and hop into the Rock Salt Café for a cup of superb java (Salt Spring Coffee Company on tap) and a snack of locally made pastries. The barista went to school with my nephew and cheerfully asks after the family, as many islanders are wont to do. Dad is outside sitting in the sun with an ice cream cone, in his element. We gather ourselves up and drive onto the open-deck ferry, and after the ride, head to the airport to pick up my husband. Then we are off to Sidney, a delightful little community built along the seaside facing south toward Mt. Baker. Like so many places in this part of the world, sunny days bring out the best of the scenery, and draw strollers to the waterfront walkways where cafes and restaurants abound.

Sidney waterfront with Mt. Baker in the distant background.
Sidney waterfront with Mt. Baker in the distant background.

It's fun to walk out onto the wharf, but the café is not recommended.
It’s fun to walk out onto the wharf, but the café is not recommended.

Click on any photo to enlarge and enjoy!

As we walk along the waterfront, we meet a local charmer.

Charles the bulldog gave us a warm Canadian welcome and left some affectionate hairs on my pants.
Charles the bulldog gave us a warm Canadian welcome and left some affectionate hairs on my pants.

With a half hour to kill before meeting my nephew and his wife for dinner, the stroll continues.
Flowers create a colorful contrast for the blue background.
Flowers create a colorful contrast for the blue background.

The marina is loaded with boats displaying names filled with whimsy, dreams and adventure.
One small part of the marina in Sidney.
One small part of the marina in Sidney.

We enjoy a delectable dinner at the Beacon Landing Pub, just two days before my nephew, Tyler, and his wonderful wife Jeanine head off for a month of camping through B.C. They are taking a GoPro camera so we are hoping to follow along with their posts. After dinner, the ferry ride home gives us more spectacular scenery to enjoy.
Million dollar views from the ferry to Salt Spring.
Million dollar views from the ferry to Salt Spring.

Clouds bring a chill in the air and dramatic skies.
Clouds bring a chill in the air and dramatic skies.

Almost home, we are looking forward to a warm cup of tea as we wave at another ferry.
Almost home, we are looking forward to a warm cup of tea as we wave at another ferry.

What makes Salt Spring special

A tree faller leaves a voice mail for my brother-in-law to confirm the day that he will fall two maples next to the deck but emphasizes that he does not want to be paid until he knows they are satisfied with the job. After the trees are down, we enjoy a parade of deer who find the leaves irresistably delicious.

A couple of local girls stop by for a bite of maple leaf. So Canadian of them.
A couple of local girls stop by for a bite of maple leaf. So Canadian of them.

One of the boys was not far behind.
One of the boys was not far behind.

Browsing through the racks of a clothing boutique in Ganges, the lone salesperson asks if we mind if she pops next door to fetch a cup of tea. We do not, continuing to peruse the racks. A few minutes later she returns, apparently unconcerned about our honesty. I buy a shirt, thinking how this would never happen anywhere in Seattle.
The Wednesday farmers market in Ganges offers local color.
The Wednesday farmers market in Ganges offers local color.

I discover that the campsite road through Ruckle Provincial Park offers a better path to the waterfront. There are deer all along the path, but they decline to offer a photo-friendly shot.
The views from Ruckle Provincial Park are not to be missed.
The views from Ruckle Provincial Park are not to be missed.

Time your walk to Ruckle's beaches just right to see the ferries sail by.
Time your walk to Ruckle’s beaches just right to see the ferries sail by.

There's nothing quite like the sun trickling through the giant trees of B.C. parks.
There’s nothing quite like the sun trickling through the giant trees of B.C. parks.

Finding a starfish takes me back 50 years to summers with my sister, exploring tidepools along the B.C. coast.
Finding a starfish takes me back 50 years to summers with my sister, exploring tidepools along the B.C. coast.

After a long day of adventures, Pebbles the cat, who was with us in spirit, has the right idea about how to spend the evening.
Guess who gets the primo spot in the living room.
Guess who gets the primo spot in the living room.

Postcards from Ganges

Ganges is the main harbor and town on Salt Spring Island. It is generally easy to find parking somewhere in the area, except for the months the Saturday Market is open, in which case I say to you, good luck! On those Saturdays, parking is as rare as hen’s teeth and the crowds amass in remarkable numbers. Given that the island is something of a mecca for artists, the market has a lot of great stuff, so the best strategy is to arrive early and cruise the booths as they are setting up.

On this Monday, we visit several galleries, including Gallery 8 where my brother-in-law’s bronze sculpture is featured along with several amazing painters, and Steffich Fine Art, which features stylized sculptures and carvings in the spirit of First Nations such as those by Thomas McPhee, one of my favorite artists.

I also wander into an endangered retail species: Black Sheep Books – a new and used bookstore. I am a bit of a dinosaur in that I truly love books – the kind one can touch and flip through and test drive in hand. A case of antique and collectible books calls to me as a magnet calls to its opposite. I stand there riveted before all those words, thinking about the level of dedication required to write a book in the 1800s and how readers should try and read old books, to celebrate authors’ voices still available 150 years later. Who held each of those leather-clad volumes with gold-stamped titles in antique letters? Who loved them and gave them as gifts? Who kept them on shelves for years and years, drawing some comfort from running their hand over the bindings, softened with age? I wonder about the experience of reading 50 or 100 years in the future when most books are likely to be electronic.

Black Sheep Books in Ganges - a great place to find books about the Gulf Islands, both historical and contemporary.
Black Sheep Books in Ganges – a great place to find books about the Gulf Islands, both historical and contemporary.

A shady spot tempts passersby to sit for a minute and flip through a book.
A shady spot tempts passersby to sit for a minute and flip through a book.

I wandered along the harbor front and shot a few photos of the day at hand, which I share now with you – postcards from Ganges.
Salt Spring Air is one way to arrive on the island - by float plane.
Salt Spring Air is one way to arrive on the island – by float plane.

The venerable Mouat Hardware and associated businesses anchor Ganges.
The venerable Mouat Hardware and associated businesses anchor Ganges.

Living the good life, overlooking Ganges Harbour.
Living the good life, overlooking Ganges Harbour.

The Canadian Coast Guard has a presence around the harbor.
The Canadian Coast Guard has a presence around the harbor.

A Coast Guard ship at dock.
A Coast Guard ship at dock.

An idyllic place on a sunny day.
An idyllic place on a sunny day.

Flowers are a big part of the Ganges experience.
Flowers are a big part of the Ganges experience.

Life on the deck

There was an epic battle on the deck today. I’m back on Saltspring and so are the hummingbirds. My sister has one feeder and a host of hummers, who are hugely territorial. One comes by for a drink and suddenly there are several zooming past our ears like mini F-16s, scolding each other and then landing in a tree and belting out their tiny chip-chip-chip noise. I manage to get several very bad photos and have posted the best of the worst of those.

A mini-F-16 refueling
A mini-F-16 refueling

Then we hear a few twigs snap and pretty soon there’s a doe with two fawns traversing the steep back slope of the property. Earlier in the day, a buck with glorious half-grown antlers upholstered in velvet sauntered through the front yard to belly up to the bird fountain for a few sips of the good stuff. Anyone who tells you deer are silent in the forest has not met the deer on Salt Spring Island. They crash around the underbrush making more noise than people.
Life as a deer is thirsty work!
Life as a deer is thirsty work!

Every time I come to the island, the peace and tranquility amazes me. After living in the city, the sounds here are full and rich. Because Saint Mary Lake is a reservoir, there are no boat engines or float planes cutting through the air. Just birds. There are so many different bird calls in the trees around the deck that even my dad – a bird fan for many years – cannot identify them all.
I never get tired of taking photos of Saint Mary Lake.
Lovely lady: St. Mary Lake.

We took a trip to “downtown” Ganges today. I use the word lightly given that there are no traffic lights, high-rises or people in suits. Found some more bicycle art in front of Glad’s Ice Cream, open from Easter through Labor Day, before heading inside for waffle cones. We had one of the best-ever BLT sandwiches at Auntie Pesto’s sitting on their deck overlooking part of the harbor. And, a rarity in B.C., they offered brewed ice tea – a huge plus for me!
The bikes are fun, the ice cream is great at Glad's.
The bikes are fun, the ice cream is great at Glad’s.

Back home we enjoyed a beverage on the deck, the center of so many great conversations, such as one last night where my sister and brother-in-law and some dear friends of theirs recounted the worst-ever vacation. It involved five occasionally-petulant teenagers, an old pickup truck with a dying battery, an even older RV with unresolved issues and a long, long trip to Long Beach on Vancouver Island. Where they all sat in a perpetual fog bank for days, unable to see the breathtaking coast and where the unending surf ended with the fog. We all laughed so hard at the memories that I had to mop the tears from my face.
Clematis and visitor.
Clematis and visitor.

Life on the deck is good.
Fuschia art.
Fuschia art.