A late summer evening on our Naramata, British Columbia deck turned into a two bottles of wine, three-hour bear show and some things that you had to see to believe.
A medium-sized black bear, a three-year-old (neighbourhood regular) claws his way up a 40-foot pine making a hell of a racket. He has my attention. A few minutes later it becomes obvious that a much bigger black bear was the cause of his scramble. So now there are two bears up in the tree.
The vineyard owner from our neighbouring property comes by to explain his theory that it’s a battle over territory…namely his beleaguered vineyard that is now stripped of grapes with half his irrigation system in pieces. The vineyard’s name…. Bad Bear Vineyard. Can’t make this stuff up.
During the three-hours, the bigger bear would close the gap between them and give the smaller guy what for.
A bear fight in a very tall tree must be accomplished carefully with claws firmly clinging to the tree and it is very noisy.
In between battles the bears would rest and make themselves as comfortable as possible among the branches.
The smaller guy further up the tree would occasionally break off branches and drop them on his rival. This is the part that starts to be, “I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it.”
The uppermost bear peed on the lower bear. It was full-on, like out of a fire hose. The big guy looked up to see what was going on and pretty much ignored it being a bear and not overly concerned with hygiene. Although, a few minutes later it did wake him up and spark a new battle, so anthropomorphasizing, maybe it did piss him off.
Just about out of wine, the fight ended when it began to get dark. The bigger bear clumsily scrabbled his way down the tree while I much more lithely ran for the house. A few minutes later the weaponized smaller bear made his way down and sauntered off.
A long standing tradition in Naramata, almost every Easter a helicopter is enlisted to drop eggs onto Manitou Park for kids by our regional district. The kids come dressed up in costume or in their Easter finest. To prevent any eggcidents, the eggs are hollow plastic ones that when gathered up are exchanged for chocolate. The weather is also part of this tradition. It’s been a blue sky day for every egg drop I’ve attended and this year was no exception.
“After we bought this beautiful piece of land we looked around us and saw grapes and more grapes,” says Kari Tarasoff of Square One Hops. “Brent woke up one morning and said, ‘Hey, we should do something different and grow hops.'” Two key prerequisites helped them clinch their decision to grow bines not vines — they both love craft beer and Brent is a seasoned agrologist with years of farming under his belt.
It’s a labour of love, Kari says and “wildly unprofitable compared to grapes. We are big into it on a small acreage.” The couple, hailing from Alberta, are embracing the lifestyle in their new community and their new passion. “There is so much to learn that its like drinking from a fire hose,” she says.
Brent learned from hop growers and their association in Yakima, Washington and quickly became a confident grower because of his professional agrologist background. The bines are happy here too, producing more hops than anticipated.
“Because we were doing something so different here there was a lot of speculation from passerbys on the KVR as to what we were going to grow,” says Kari. “We overheard people saying that we were planting GMO grapes that were super tall. I wonder how they thought we would pick them?”
Hops are the flowers (also called seed cones or strobes) of the hop plant. They are used primarily as a flavouring and stability agent in beer, to which they impart bitter, zesty, or citric flavours. The hop plant is a vigorous, (crazily so…Kari says the plants grow a foot a day in the peak growing season…”You can almost see and hear them growing…it’s crazy.”) climbing, herbaceous perennial trained to grow up strings in a field called a hopfield, hop garden, or hopyard when grown commercially. Many different varieties of hops are grown by farmers around the world, with different types being used for particular styles of beer.
Is hops growing for you? Kari says there are tons of want-to-be growers out there with romantic notions of the hip lifestyle of the hops grower. “It’s farming,” she says. “It’s really labour intensive farming. When Brent farmed in Saskatchewan he did it with big machinery. Here it’s very hands on.”
She countered her buzz killing statement a moment later however. “It’s pretty magical walking through the hopyard at the height of the growing season. It’s unbelievably peaceful and fascinating. There is not another plant that I know that grows so fast. You can almost hear them talking. The most fun part for me are the plants themselves. They all look different, both the cones and the leaves. They all smell differently, feel differently and react to rain differently.”
As in the Wizard of Oz I’m going to take you from my black and white shots of a grey spring day to the magic of technicolour thanks to these beautiful photos taken by Kari.
Next for the Tarasoffs? A brewery of their own to make some magic with their Penticton-grown hops. Partnering up with barley growers Josh and Femke Lubach of Pridelands Grain, Brent and Kari are opening Siding 14 Brewing Companyin Ponoka (the town was originally named Siding 14) in late spring. Cheers to that.
There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.
― Linda Grayson
How sweet it is
When two intrepid Okanagan chefs signed up to head to France to design a bespoke chocolate for Okanagan College‘s Pastry and Culinary Arts programs there was a lot of envy and ribbing of the, “tough job, but somebody’s got to do it,” variety. But renowned Chef Bernard Casavant, Okanagan College’s culinary manager says it required a lot of focus despite jet lag, to keep “your head clear for your palette” and quite a few glasses of water.
Chef Danny Capdouca, head instructor for the College’s Pastry Arts program did some homework for the trip in Vancouver tasting 26 different types of chocolate to narrow the field before the 2016 trip to France. (Maybe there is a bit of methinks thou doth protest too much…)
Then the hard work of the Paris business trip (again Paris and business…oxymoron?) began. Cacao has seven identified organoleptic notes such as aromatic and fruity and further 20 secondary notes such as spicy and floral dependent on the origins and treatment of the cacao beans. Decisions had to be made on the percentage of cacao in the chocolate as well.
The goal was a dark chocolate that could be eaten in bar form as well as used in baking. Casavant says the chocolates they developed are “intense … but not aggressive.”
“It’s not abusive of your palate like some 89 per cent chocolate,” he said. “We are in wine country, we knew we wanted the dark chocolate to pair well with the wine and fruit of the Okanagan.
“Cacao liquor, the pure essence of chocolate is pretty all encompassing,” says Chef Bernard. “At times it was like the scene in Big with Tom Hanks when he tries caviar and uses a napkin to wipe down his tongue.”
After four intense days tasting, adjusting and refining at the Cacao Barry lab, a chocolate company founded in 1842, the pair narrowed their choices down to three possible dark and three milk chocolates. Computers are also used during the process. “One of our recipes was too close to that of another custom chocolate so we had to reject that one,” says Chef Bernard. “This is how the recipes are protected. In the end, no one else in the whole world will have our exact recipes.”
In the end, the Chefs chose to use cocoa from Tanzania, Mexico and Cuba and a cocoa percentage of just under 70.
Named after Valley lakes, Okanagan Noir is a 69.8 per cent smooth dark chocolate with intense cocoa flavor and a fruity finish. Kalamalka Karamel is a solid milk chocolate with a high cocoa content (45.1 per cent) with sweet notes of caramel and a smooth honey finish.
Choc one up for Okanagan College
“Okanagan College is the only college outside of Europe to have its own brand of chocolate and only the second in the world,” says Chef Bernard. “Just before we went to Paris, a Belgium post-secondary institute completed their custom chocolate recipes. These chocolate recipes are trademarked and it’s completely custom and absolutely exquisite chocolate for our students to use in their training.
“This is pretty cool to have our own chocolate,” he says. “This is just one more initiative to help elevate our Pastry Arts and Culinary Arts programs and will give students another reason to come and study with us.”
The skinny on why we love chocolate – SPOILER ALERT
It seems that some of chocolate’s ingredients work by affecting the brain’s neurotransmitter or chemical messenger network. Chocolate contains trytophan which causes the brain to make serotonin, high levels of which can produce feelings of elation. Phenylethylamine, also found in chocolate, works by stimulating the brain’s pleasure centres and is believed to induce feelings of giddiness and excitement. And finally anandamide is described as a psychoactive ingredient. Remarkably, this neurotransmitter behaves in the same way as THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. However, many scientists are sceptical that these ingredients can produce mind altering effects because they are present in chocolate in such very small quantities.
For now, the chocolate is only available in limited quantities at the Okanagan College cafeteria on Fridays. Ideas are in the works to partner with a winery to produce chocolate bars incorporating wine macerated local dried fruits. Chef Bernard says a student winner of an annual college competition may also have the chance to travel to France to help design a third custom chocolate.
When we were kids, open water swimming meant freedom – no lifeguards, no chlorine, no drudgery of laps following the black line on the bottom of the pool. Recapturing some of that freedom is part of why open water swimming events are the fastest growing watersport of the decade.
A lot of Okanagan open water afficiandos came to the sport from triathlon and yet more became interested after marathon swimming was introduced into the Olympics at Beijing. Lake Okanagan has a long history of open water events. The Across The Lake Swim began in 1949 and is the longest running and largest (1,200 swimmers) annual open water event in Canada. This swim was recently recognized as one of the top swims in the world by openwaterpedia.com. The 3.1 and 7 k Rattelsnake Island Swim is a destination swim attracting a loyal following and new swimmers every year. The Skaha Lake Swim started life in 1985 and despite a small hiatus, is back to celebrate it’s 20th anniversary this year.
International attention was brought to the lake last summer when Adam Ellenstein entered the Guinness World Record with the fastest, continuous lengthwise swim of British Columbia’s Okanagan Lake. The 39-year-old U.S. resident completed his 106.6 kilometre swim from Vernon to Penticton in 40 hours, 57 minutes and 11 seconds.
Ellenstein’s swim began in the early hours of July 25 and wrapped up late the next night (just about the time my Crazy Canucks English Channel Relay team completed our swim from England to France).
Okanagan Lake’s clean and relatively warm waters are shark and jelly fish free making open water swimming here all the more enjoyable. Winds can whip the lake into some challenging waves but events are held in the relatively calm waters first thing in the morning.
It’s back and I was the first swimmer to register
The newly resuscitated Skaha Lake swim started life in 1985 organized by local sport’s legend Steve King as a complement to the Ultra International Triathlon which the next year became an official Ironman.
“The Race took a hiatus because we hadn’t been able to find the right race director,” says King. “Now we have a solid team in place. There is definitely a rise in participation and interest in open water swimming,” says King. “You can look at the increase in numbers in Master’s programs, events like the Across the Lake swim and the new Canaqua Open Water Swim Series(this event will be part of that). We always had swimmers from the U.S. and a few other internationals and the South Okanagan is now world-renowned as a sports mecca.”
“Reviving the race has been on everyone’s mind for a number of years,” says one of the Skaha Ultra Swim organizers Steve Brown.
The event returns Aug. 13 for the 20th running of the race that was held from 1985 to 2004 with the exception of 1999. Brown is joined by Steve King, Shelie Best, as well as ultra distance athletes Chad Bentley, Matt Hill and Lucy Ryan of Vancouver. The group came together last September and talked about resurrecting the Ultra Swim.
The Skaha Lake Ultra Swim is being reinstated as an official event of Peach Festival. The swim is 11.8 kilometres starting from Skaha Beach to Kenyon Park in Okanagan Falls. The swim begins at 7 a.m. and ends at 1:30 p.m. or six hours, 30 minutes later. Entry is limited to 100 athletes and their support paddlers. The race is affiliated with Canaqua Sports Open Water Series. Now in its third season, the Canaqua Sports Open Water Series has grown to nine open water races for 2017. The goal of the series is to promote open water swimming across Canada, creating a Canadian brand to the sport. Currently there are two in B.C. (Invermere and Penticton), one each in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and five in Ontario.
“No question that there has been an upsurge in open water swimming interest,” says Brown. “Skaha is unique in that swimmers will swim the entire length of the lake. There are a lot of swims that go across lakes but we are the longest lake swim in Canada and that’s why there is huge interest in this one.”
Swimmers this year will be gunning for some records including the one set by
Luke Stockdale of Port Coquitlam who swam 5:50:42 in 1992 and did it all with the butterfly stroke. The most senior finisher ever was 70-year-old Lorne Smith of Okanagan Falls 5:10:38 in 2004. The most wins for men has been four by record holder Serge Score and five for women by record holder K.C.Emerson. Swim times have varied from the record 2:21:44 to 6:35:13.Participants must be at least 16 years of age and swim the distance. There is also a cut off at eight kilometres at Ponderosa Point which swimmers must reach in four hours, 25 minutes.
For safety reasons each athlete has a specific support watercraft with them throughout the swim. Organizers also provide high-speed rescue watercraft with medical and lifeguards in case of emergency.
“There is also a huge interest in open water swimming from older age groups as well,” says Brown. “For those athletes that have been beating themselves up on the roads for years swimming, even long distances, is a kinder, gentler from of exercise.”
The earliest known open water swim races were held in Japan and then Europe during Roman Times. The sport reached a heady popularity in the early 20th Century in North America where its heroes were front page news.
In Canada, crowds in the tens of thousands flocked to Toronto in the 1930s. They came to cheer on local favourites for purses that would equal hundreds of thousands of dollars today. Huge crowds, big paycheques and ticker tape parades awaited winners like Marilyn Bell and Winnie Roach Leuszler.
What’s old is new again and the Okanagan is the perfect place to get immersed in the world open water swimming and open water swim racing.
Farm to glass meet farm to fork. Legend Distilling in Naramata is now home to Knotweed Restaurantand its a perfect marriage. Both Knotweed and Legend Distilling share concepts and philosophies on community and supporting and buying local and sustainable.
“The Knotweed concept is farm to table,” says Chef /Owner Mike Sonier. “The concept is to tie farmers and chefs together and bring an ever-changing menu of quality food with the end result of a wonderful experience for guests.”
Chef Mike uses only sustainable wholesome ingredients that are locally sourced from the community as well as seeking out the highest quality organic ingredients from various humane farms around B.C.
“The pairing works beautifully with Legend Distilling’s overall philosophy of supporting our local community and locally produced products,” says Legend co-owner Dawn Lennie. “As a B.C. craft distillery, we use only B.C. grown raw materials in all of our products sourced from farms around B.C., many right here in Naramata like the Balaton Sour Cherries we use grown by Forest Green Man Lavender.” (And the raspberries from our farm…)
Every day is like a black box restaurant test says Chef Mike. “I like to get really creative with what the community has to offer and what’s in season. I’ve found my niche. I love to cook with local ingredients and the menu changes as often as nightly to weekly depending on what our suppliers have on hand.”
Chef Mike started getting serious about cooking at 13 but can date the first spark back even earlier. “In Grade 2 or 3 we did some cooking in a home economics class at school and I immediately went home and got busy. My mom came home to a kitchen with a food all over the counter.”
He attended Nova Scotia Culinary Arts school and worked in restaurants in the Maritimes, Toronto and Ottawa learning from chefs and compiling dishes, techniques and learning how to coax the most flavours out of a wide-range of ingredients along the way before starting Knotweed.
“We ask our guests to allow some time for the dishes to come out of the kitchen,” says Chef Mike. “Everything is made from scratch, per order, freshly prepared as this is the best way to ensure our standard of quality is met.”
Dining with some of the Okanagan’s food and wine literati, the wait was no issue as we happily tasted whichever meal came out first. Convivial lunch companions included Wine and Food Trails writer, book author and now winemaker, Jennifer Schell, Wine and Food Trails fellow writer Rosalyn Buchanan, Penelope and Dylan Roche, in the process of building a new winery on Upper Bench called Roche, Legend owners Dawn and Doug Lennie and Karolina Born-Tschuemperlin, co-owner of Forest Green Man Lavender. Forgivable bad manners in a gathering of food writers, we moved the dishes into good lighting and did some quick backdrop styling to snap some photos before we dove in.
The Legend drink menu compliments the lovely food or maybe it’s the other way around? A wide array of hot and cold cocktails and seasonal drink specials are on offer with all of them using their own handmade spirits, as well as an ever chanaging selection local Naramata wines, bubble, BC craft beers and cider.
Me and all my foodie pals had no hesitation in giving Knotweed a hearty bravo and another checkmark on the list of what makes Naramata so great.
Storm Sunrock PANO – Epic summer storms from the Sun Rock viewpoint on North Naramata Road. Photography is a love affair with life. Burk Uzzle
Caillum Smith has made photographs that engage us visually but more importantly they illicit strong emotional responses and herein lies his talent, his passion and his calling. A Naramatian through and through, Caillum has been published and awarded by National Geographic, North Face, Time Magazine, Google+, the CBC, Sigma Lenses, the International Mountain Summit, Outdoor Photography Canada Magazine and the Canadian National Commission among many others.
Here is why Caillum wins awards and captures us:
Okanagan Lake Autumn Sunset – Crepuscular rays erupt over Okanagan Lake. Photography is an art of observation. it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them. Elliott Erwitt
The how is a bit more difficult to analyze. He uses strong compositional techniques, unique perspectives and dramatic lighting but there is more to it than this.
“Finding a balance between the two (technical and artistic) is essential,” says Caillum. “Better gear won’t necessarily make your photos better but can assist in tapping into further creative potential. You can have a technically sound photograph with top notch editing but if it is lacking a strong composition and creative lighting, you are simply left with a high quality, sh*t photo. Good photos are not only visually engaging, but emotionally engaging as well. Having said that, creativity and instinct will always trump technology.”
Northern Lights Naramata Bench – Once in a while the northern lights will appear over Okanagan Lake and Naramata. This was captured from Munson Mountain during the summer. Photography helps people see. Berenice Abbott
It is always amazing to me when a young person discovers a passion at an early age that will become their life’s work. Imagine all the years ahead to relish that passion and hone their skills. Most of us cast about for years and never find a career and calling all wrapped into one.
“My interest in photography first began after my grandfather gave me his film camera when I was 17, or so. I used the camera as a visual diary to document the world around me; photographing wildlife, landscapes and anything else I encountered while outdoors in my Naramata backyard. Once I left high school, my parents bought me a DSLR as a return to university bribe when I dropped out but ended up skipping final exams to go mountaineering in the Andes. A few years and international awards later, I quit my job at a winery and started Preserved Light Photography.”
Naramata Bench Vineyard Okanagan Lake – Overlooking Manitou Beach from Kettle Valley Winery’s “Old Main Red” vineyard. When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence. Ansel Adams
“I’ll usually have a pre-visualizated concept of what I want to create but some clear signs of a killer photo are when your eyes pop out of their sockets as your jaw simultaneously plummets to the ground. I’ll often tell my workshop students, ‘The best way to create better photos is to stand in front of better subjects.'”
The life of a successful professional photography is not all sunsets and adventures in the wild though. Caillum says the most challenging part about being a professional photographer is finding that balance between business tasks and personal projects. “There are times where I’ll go several months without capturing a personal photo, having depleted all energy, and hours of the day, working for clients. However, I really enjoy the challenge of being given, or coming up with, an idea for a client and turning it into a creative reality. Nothing more rewarding than when your art makes even the smallest ripple with others.”
With photos like this one Caillum is making waves:
Naramata Aerial Photo Old Main – Aerial panorama of the Naramata Bench orchards and vineyards near Old Main Road. Photography is the only language that can be understood anywhere in the world. Bruno Barbey
When I asked him about a typical day he says there is no such thing. “I only sleep four to six hours a night (if that) and have driven over 20,000 kms in the last three months alone. The thing that would surprise most people is that I’m not out adventuring and creating epic landscape photos as often as it may seem. There are many days that slip into 15+ hour digital succubus’; making blog posts, emailing clients, editing photos and what not. I’ll often grab my sleeping bag, venture into the mountains, set up a time-lapse video and have a nap beneath the stars whenever I feel my sanity slipping.”
As for the future…”That is what is so exciting about this lifestyle, I can never be truly certain what it holds. As for this winter, most of my time will be spent working with Apex Mountain& Discover Naramata’s digital marketing & media.
“I always chuckle when someone asks, ‘Aren’t you worried about wrecking your camera?’. Probably because it happens so often. If my camera isn’t dangling from a string while climbing a mountaintop, getting blasted by snow while skiing, soaking beneath a waterfall or enduring -40 temperatures filming time-lapse video of the northern lights, it isn’t doing its job!”
Aerial Photo South Okanagan – Early morning flight over North Naramata Road and the South Okanagan Valley. There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs. Ansel Adams
When I asked Caillum for five tips for us wannabes he says,
Gear doesn’t make great photos, creativity does.
There is no magic formula for camera settings.
Most online forums are a terrible place for constructive criticism.
Find your style and stick to it.
Buy a tripod
Summer Solstice Little Tunnel KVR – For two weeks surrounding Summer Solstice, the sun will set through the KVR’s Little Tunnel. In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality. Alfred Stieglitz.
I spent two hours with Caillum on a workshop last week and learned a ton which I will post about soon. The biggest thing I came away with was sharing the excitement of the possibilities that photography provides to connect to people in a meaningful way. We also talked about the Okanagan and the stunning canvas it presents for his professional and my amateur but enthusiastic eyes.
You know you’ve made it as a photographer when your husky Astra has her own Instagram account with hundreds of followers…Huskyadventuredog… Seriously, Caillum has that indefinable instinct for making photographs that move us. I need no words to make my case.
One of the largest and most successful farmer’s markets in British Columbia is in my hood and has become one of our greatest weekly pleasures. Today’s last outdoor market of the season is a time to reflect on the growth of the combined Downtown Penticton Association Community Marketand the Penticton Farmers Marketand the growing appeal of farmer’s markets across North America.
A trip to the market is much more than about the food that will fill my wicker market basket. It’s about community, identity, pleasure and as food writer Michael Pollan puts it so well, “about carving out a new social and economic space removed from the influence of big corporations on the one side and government on the other.”
There is a lot more going on at the Penticton markets than an exchange of money for food. Sitting with my Backyard’s Beans coffee, in a returnable china mug, I look around and see a pair of talented musicians signing an old Joan Baez tune. Someone else is collecting signatures on a petition. Kids are everywhere. Every second person has a dog on a leash. Friends are meeting up and blocking foot traffic as they exchange hugs. Someone is taking photos of the cabbages. I overhear a discussion on leek soup recipes between farmer and customer. I see strangers talking to each other in line.
I read a study that calculated that people have 10 times as many conversations at the farmers’ market than they do at the grocery store. Like going back in time, the market has taken on the function of a lively new town square reminiscent of old world markets from centuries past. How great is that?
The rise in popularity of my local market and markets across the province is not just anecdotal. The latest stats from 2012 show that total economic benefits of all farmers’ markets in British Columbia was greater than $170 million, a 147-per-cent increase from 2006. The study said that the five most important factors market shoppers consider are nutritional content, where it’s grown or produced locally, in season, whether it’s grown or produced in B.C. and animal welfare issues. I think a sixth factor should be added, the mre intangible benefit of farmer’s market shopping –the chance to see people, meet friends and have meaningful exchanges with the farmers that grow our food.
Willis showing off his apple juggling skills which involves a knife spearing as his grand finale. Don’t try this a home…