Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Great White Egg Hunt

This is the beginning of a mass email letter that I sent to a group of friends this morning (I try to write every week):

Easter is only a few weeks away, and so it is time to make pysanky - Ukrainian Easter eggs.


In order to write a pysanka, one must have a white, clean, unwashed egg. White, so the colours will be bright, and unwashed because washing removes the membrane on the shell and grocery store eggs are also coated with oil or some such substance to extend their shelf life, and that substance repels the dye.

So how difficult is it to find a clean, unwashed white egg in the Thompson-North Okanagan region?


I kid you not. The preponderance of granola-eating misdirected health nuts in this area have all but made the generic white farm egg extinct. They believe that the only 'healthy' egg is a brown egg. 

Judging the nutritional value of an egg based on the colour of the shell has as much validity as judging the worth of a human being based on the colour of their skin. Colour has nothing to do with it. The egg's nutritional value depends on what the hen eats and her general health. And I know that I'm probably preaching to the choir, but it makes me a little bit nuts. I've spoken to upward of 20 people in the last six days. Several of them made the same observation, but defend themselves by saying that if they don't have brown eggs, people won't but them, and the farmers market and health food stores both agree with the 'sell what the people want' philosophy, which helps perpetrate the myth.


I had an egg date planned with some friends for April 12. The eggs have to be at least three days old (also, to take the dye because it takes that long for the egg to stop 'gassing-off') so I'm now in a time crunch. We may have to cancel. I hope not.

Oh, and apparently commercial production egg farms can't sell me the eggs that I want because regulations state they can only sell washed eggs - per worries of salmonella, etc. I guess.

And no, there aren't any Hutterite colonies nearby.

So that was my dilemma.

And then my luck changed.

Let me backtrack a bit. If you are unfamiliar with the term and the art, pysanky is the correct name for Ukrainian Easter eggs. There's a whole lot of info on the world wide web if you want detail, but I stole borrowed some images for my explanation because I'm too lazy tonight to dig out my existing eggs, take the photos, blah blah blah.

Pysanky (plural; pysanka singular) are written, not coloured. The design is created by writing on the egg with melted beeswax using a kistka. 

This is a tradition kistka, copper wrapped on a wood stick about the size of a pencil.
I also use modern one with plastic handles, but always return to these for the fine line work.

When everything to be white in the design is covered in wax, the egg is submerged into the first colour (usually yellow) until thorough saturated with dye, then removed from the bath, patted dry and the next part of the design - those which will be yellow - written with wax. This goes on for colour after colour, each one successively darker, until the last colour is applied (usually black).

The yellow egg has the white part of the design already written.
The wax is black from candle soot - the copper kistka is heated in a candle flame
and then pressed into a cake of beeswax to 'fill' much like a fountain pen.
The soot doesn't affect the colours of the dye and helps see the lines.

The egg at the back with red on it is part-way through the writing process.

The black and green egg on the right is completed, with all the layers of beeswax removed.

Then the egg is gently heated against a candle flame to gradually melt the beeswax (which has a very low melting point)  which is wiped off a small section at a time.

A selection of pysanka - not mine personally but representative of mine.
 I've made every one of these patterns, or variations of them.

Every line, every colour, every component of the pattern is laden with meaning. They are pre-Christian fertility and totems used to ward off evil, seconded by the Ukrainian Orthodox church and re-burdened with new meanings of rebirth and everlasting life. 

All that aside, they are things of beauty and I'm enraptured by them.

I get completely immersed in the process when I write eggs. Hours pass without notice.
I used to write eggs every spring with my children, with friends and neighbours and their children. Then The Husband and I moved here to southern BC, and my dye jars have been empty for several years. It was time to get back to my spring passion.

Today, after I finished my usual Saturday morning at work, I went on what I assumed was more futile searching for suitable eggs. I made several stops along the route north of Vernon, including a very enjoyable visit with a broiler chicken farmer (hard to tell the difference between a layer and a meat barn from the outside).

One tip led to another, and finally I was able to send an follow-up to this morning's letter:

Told you I'd send an update on the Great White Egg Hunt ... Ta Da!

I found a commercial layer operation in Salmon Arm that also does farm-gate sales.

"I need clean unwashed white eggs. Can you do that."

"Yup. Sure. Gimme a minute."

A master of brevity.

And true to his word, two dozen (not taking chances now) unwashed yet clean white eggs.

"How much?"


"Per dozen."

"Nope. Total."

I'm in egg heaven.

And the silly part is, I tried the only other layer barn in the region, which is about 8km north of the one I bought the eggs at, and on my route home, but no one was there last Monday when I began the search and they didn't return my phone call of that evening. Guess who left a message on our answering machine that I listened to upon arriving home from my trip to Salmon Arm?

On the plus side, I spoke to (count 'em) 26 people in the immediate area I'd otherwise never have spoken to, and met some really interesting people including a young couple with a broiler chicken farm just east of Armstrong. Had a great visit with them.

Photos of my own work to be posted next week after I spend next Saturday afternoon teaching co-worker Katherine (of Something Red fame) and her daughter Sasha how to write eggs.

Happy spring!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Thou Mayest

I know - two posts in one day.

This is something that's been rattling in my head for weeks now, after I pulled 'East of Eden' off my stacks downstairs and re-read it after a 40 year hiatus.

When asked why I collect books, this is my answer (or one of them): Occasionally I'm too young/raw/in the wrong place in the universe to get the message I'm supposed to get.

This one hit me right between the eyes, probably because of a manuscript I was editing for a client that took up most of February.

And the follow-up commentary I found online:

Steinbeck's East of Eden is a book about us all, descendants of Cain, who, according to the New Jerusalem Bible, "appears to be the builder of the first city and ancestor of stock-breeders, musicians, smiths and possibly prostitutes." Like all of us, Cain had free will to decide between good and evil. In this semi-autobiographical work, Steinbeck does not envision a virginal Eden as our birthright. As much as we inherit Cain's curse, we also inherit his ability to redeem himself.

The main theme for East of Eden turns on the correct translation of the Hebrew word timshel, translated differently in various versions of the Bible. The word appears in the Cain and Abel story in Genesis, when God discusses sin with Cain.

What is the true meaning of this passage?
(a) God promises Cain that he will conquer sin ("thou shalt rule over him")?
(b) God orders Cain to conquer sin ("Do thou rule over him")?
(c) God blesses Cain with free will, leaving the choice to him ("Thou mayest rule over him")?

By studying the passage in the Bible, Adam Trask's Chinese servant, Lee, helps characters Samuel and Adam understand the intended original meaning in this passage from East of Eden:
"...this was the gold from our mining: 'Thou mayest.' The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin (and you can call sin ignorance). The King James translation makes a promise in 'Thou shalt,' meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word timshel—'Thou mayest'—that gives a choice. For if 'Thou mayest'—it is also true that 'Thou mayest not.' That makes a man great and that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win."

Here is the choice each of the characters in East of Eden face—as does, ultimately, every human being. No matter how deep-rooted the sin, there is always a chance for redemption. In the authoritative Orthodox Jewish translation from The Chumash: The Stone Edition the passage in question reads: "Surely if you improve yourself, you will be forgiven. But if you do not improve yourself, sin rests at the door. Its desire is toward you, yet you can conquer it."

I hope I never stop being a student.

Talented Rookie

We have a new writer on staff, covering for Graeme's paternity leave.

This is Tyler's first 'real' gig so far as I know. There's also been a steep learning curve 'upstairs' as typography and layout are not skills taught in journalism school.

I think he'll catch on pretty quickly, though. After all, the editor in charge of training him is no layout whiz himself, but we seem to whack out his pages on time on Saturdays.

Our introduction to Tyler included the attached article published in the Thompson Rivers University magazine. It's an extraordinary story and very well written.

I wish Tyler very best wishes in his career as a journalist. He's got the chops. Gonna be an interesting summer with him here!

Click on the images to get a bigger, readable view.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Proud of our Paralympians

Everyone in the valley is SO proud of these people, our Paralympian medalists!

Click on the photo to read the caption.
You can read the complete story HERE.

There were several athletes from the area in both the Olympic and Paralympic games, and I must say that often I'm more astonished and impressed with the Paralympians.

I was watching a few downhill skiing races on the webcast during the games, watched people fly down the slopes at tremendous speeds with only one leg or one arm … I can't do it with two legs and two arms!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Motorcycle Ride Video, or The Roads I Want to Show You

So many times, when The Husband and I are riding our motorcycles along the beautiful roads in our part of the world, I wish you were riding along with us.

I want to point to something and say, "Did you see that?!"

I want you to sit with us at the pub, quaffing a dark ale and commenting on what we saw along the way and how the road felt.

For some of you, it is possible and has been done. Isn't it grand?

In lieu of that, I can offer links to video footage of on-bike rides. Not mine, I hasten to add. I've been trolling youtube for good video that I would recommend, and recently found a few uploaded by a local rider. The link will take you to a list of his uploads.

The videos don't have commentary or music or anything like that. Some of the videos are quite long, but if you're a rider, that's not a bad thing. It looks like the rider is using a helmet cam, and he doesn't look around all that much, but keep watching.

I've talked about my love-hate relationship with Westside Road. This video shows part of that road, travelling north from Kelowna toward Vernon. The bridge shown at the beginning of the ride is the famous floating bridge over Okanagan Lake.

A different rider uploaded footage of a ride along the Salmon River Road. This is a road we travel on all the time, to go to Armstrong, Salmon Arm and points north. This video starts at the Highway 97 intersection and ends at Silver Creek.

Start of the Salmon River Road video

We don't have quads or other offroad vehicles. I'd like, but no. The video shows a ride in the South Shuswap, providing an excellent overview of the terrain in the Notch Hill area and views of Shuswap Lake.
Toward the end of the Notch Hill video, overlooking part of west end Shuswap Lake.

If you're new to the biz, click your mouse on the coloured words ("This video" and "Rider") in the text and they should take you to the videos. Leave me a comment if the links don't work. Thanks!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Funnies For Today, or What Made Me Laugh

I love this comic strip, Soup to Nuts. We run it in our paper, and sometimes I have the irresistible urge to share.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

She won!

Friend Donna from Work is now Friend Donna, Formerly from Work.

She won the lottery!!!


One of the lottery opportunities available in Canada is LottoMax, in which the pot, when maxed, is worth $50 million; then additional $1 million prizes become available in addition to the big one. Last Friday, there were 50 of these $1 million prizes up for grabs.

And our Donna was one of the winners.

Donna and Ron on their way to Kamloops to pick up their $1,000,000 cheque!
We are so happy for her and Ron. "Couldn't happen to better people," applies to them.

Ron was diagnosed with lymphoma last year, in a part of his body difficult to treat. Nonetheless, he underwent chemo and all the other horrible stuff required to beat the disease … and won!

So really, they've won a lottery twice.

Donna was our circulation clerk, and that is a thankless job. She's been stressed out for a long time now. Upon winning, she came in on Monday and announced that she quit.

Ron plans to continue his work with the city utilities department for now.

So, so happy for them.

Just so you know, the odds of winning are about 1 in 28 million.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Mutually compatible

It's that most wonderful time of the year.

No, not Christmas.

Tax time.

I actually don't prepare our tax return. For the last 30 years, we've had the same guardian angel up in northern Alberta who has checked over my bookkeeping and then filed the dreaded papers for us.

And for 20 of those 30 years, I've done said bookkeeping with a computer program.

No more. When the aged PC died and I replaced it with a Mac (yah!), I didn't replace the also aged accounting program. The Husband is semi-retired, and we sold the farm along with all the cattle, sheep and goats a long time ago. It just wasn't feasible to break into the penny bank for a new program (and they are dear!)

So … back to the 28 col. ledger book for me.

 And back to the old tools of the trade.

And yes, these also qualify as 'tools' on some occasions. (I really hope Yvonne the Accountant reads this entry, but honesty in all things.)

It's been a long winter, and very hard on the wine supply. Especially, for some odd reason, the whites.

I prefer white for summer patio and 'round the fire drinking, especially something with a nice, tart green apple bite to it.  Big reds are for winter, or normally are. Whatever - we've been on a white kick this go-round.

BC VQA opened a store in Kamloops last spring, and how we missed that I cannot say. Never mind, we know now and are very happy as it saves us running all up and down the valley to source our favorites and sniff out new ones.

Here's a long-time favorite that I've mentioned before.

Another favorite with a spanky new label, from Gray Monk.

More than once we've bought a wine simply because the label was irresistable. Guess that's the graphic designer coming out in me, or just the featherbrain. Whatever, it's as good a system as any, and Rigamarole Wines has taken the art of the whimsey and the label to a new level.

I applaud imagination and artistry.

Although I must confess, I've never seen a hedgehog quite as cute as this one. In fact, I once saw an albino hedgehog on a roadside in New Zealand that was distinctly homely.

But I digress.


Check out Rigamarole's website. They're fun.