Campfire Steaks

One of my favourite ways to spend a weekend afternoon is stoking a great fire and grilling up our dinner. Finding the sweet spot of hot coals, great weather, and a good cut of meat is a chill end to a quiet weekend.

Check out some footage of the final results:

I posted a lot of words last week and I though you might enjoy a simple Monday post with a little less reading.

Backyard: Start Line

In recognition of yet-another-local-lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic, I'm doing a week of feature blog posts about living in the backyard. From May 10th through 16th, my posts will be themed around life outdoors but as close to home as possible, a few steps out the back door.

Sunday Runday and my usual social weekend run date has turned into a solo expedition from my backyard.

But training calls, and has little respect for blips in the calendar like global pandemics and provincial lockdowns and excuses about being stuck in one’s own backyard.

Knowing a convincing distance run (by which I really mean a modest ten kilometers these days) was going to take some additional motivation, I gave myself a mission: I would visit the graffiti tunnel.

While I can hardly claim to had discovered a concrete underpass painted thick with years of graffiti, I’d like to think I may have seriously helped popularize this local off-the-beaten-path bit of culture.

The construction of a highway ring road around the city completed construction of this leg just over a decade ago, and in planning for future southward expansion of the park system, the designers incorporated a culvert-style concrete tunnel with a suspended walking path to accomodate the local creek and pass everything under the roadway above. The catch: the footpath was connected to nothing. It was little more than a bit of infrastructure for the future.

For years few people noted this as anything more than a strange sort of bridge on the highway passing over a bit of wilderness.

Then about five years ago I got adventurous. I went out on a long run (very much like I did today) and followed an old stretch of closed off road, went down through the trees, climbed down a grassy bank along the highway, and found myself in a graffiti-filled wonderland.

Obviously the countless people who had decorated the place had known about this secret for a while.

After sharing my photos on the socials and telling my run crew, I spent that summer leading multiple adventure runs into the off-trail wilds that led to the secret Edmonton graffiti tunnel.

The next year other run groups, led by runners who had been along on my previous adventure runs, were posting their own shots from their own treks with larger groups of people, and the summer after that my feed was routinely populated by people who had driven from across town or from different cities to run down to this photogenic secret spot.

By the summer of 2020 I started seeing the graffiti tunnel appear in semi-pro photo portfolios of local photogs I follow, blogs writing it into their local attractions guides, and even the radio stations promoting it as a hot thing to check out on a weekend.

It had become mainstream, even to the point that it’s not unsual to see cars (illegally) parked along the aforementioned highway as their occupants take the shortcut down the ditch path to check out the tunnel.

This morning, five klicks into my solo long run, I was the only one wandering through the graffiti tunnel, kinda like my first trip five years ago.

Very solo.

And if I couldn’t run with friends, at least I could visit an old favourite spot.

Addendum: as I was writing this, one of my running crew with whom I have been running cohort through the pandemic posted the update from her Sunday solo run. She had run from her backyard too, and made her way to the same tunnel. We’d missed each other by less than ten minutes.

Backyard: Saturday (or, a list of rejected backyard blog topics)

In recognition of yet-another-local-lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic, I'm doing a week of feature blog posts about living in the backyard. From May 10th through 16th, my posts will be themed around life outdoors but as close to home as possible, a few steps out the back door.

After nearly a week of deeper restrictions that have left me (and most law-abiding residents of the city) without many places to go, I’ve turned that into an opportunity to enjoy my own backyard. Think of it less like a lockdown, and more like permission to do nothing but enjoy my own grass, trees, garden, and relaxing spaces.

If you’ve been following along for the week, I’ve posted a short list of reflective blog posts that haven’t done much for my Google search ranking, but certainly have helped me get a few things pried loose from my own brain.

Given another couple weeks, maybe I’d have stooped to writing about even more trivial topics, like these rejected titles and not-so-interesting daily blog ideas:

Backyard: Naps

Wherein I chronicled the joy of falling asleep on my new, hand-built patio couch under the shade of the pergola sail fluttering in the wind. It’s tough to see how I would have turned that into more than about a hundred words without a serious thesaurus.

Backyard: Chores

Having spent my Saturday morning tilling the garden, planting the potatoes, and dealing with even more weeds (gah!) this rejected blog post risked turning into a long list of all the things I need to get done, y’know, instead of writing blog posts.

Backyard: Chronology

As it turns out this idea was really only of interest to me as I sorted through fifteen years of photos of my own backyard and marvelled at how much my trees had grown since I’d planted them. Breaking news: trees grow!

Backyard: Music

As at least one of my neighbours always seems to be playing music, the distant and indistinct muffled tones of random streaming playlists wafts through the air. My music knowledge is average though, so guessing what songs were playing could have been an amusing blog game.

Backyard: Garbage

Imagine my slow-motion, hand-typed embarassment in reading a blog post listing all the weird objects my eight-month-old puppy has found in my I-thought-I-had-a-clean-yard backyard. A scandalous post idea, and obviously rejected. Photos redacted.

Backyard: Terrible Ideas

A tongue-in-cheek list of some deliberately bad blog ideas, loosely acknowledging the author’s commentary on how difficult it is to make writing about his own backyard interesting and how easy it would have been to veer that metaphorical wheelbarrow into a fence post …oh, wait.

Backyard: Macro Photography

In recognition of yet-another-local-lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic, I'm doing a week of feature blog posts about living in the backyard. From May 10th through 16th, my posts will be themed around life outdoors but as close to home as possible, a few steps out the back door.

Being all-but-stuck in my own backyard for the better part of two weeks during a health crisis has provided me with ample time to enjoy my own small bit of nature.

It has also reminded me —what with the bumble bees, wasps, ants, ladybugs, butterflies, spiders, flies, and so on — that there is a lot of critter life to be found in a couple hundred square meters of suburban backyard.

Photographing backyard bugs was one of the big — ahem, small — reasons I bought myself a macro lens a decade back and really got into taking pictures of little fauna crawling around the variety of flora I’d nurtured.

As of this afternoon the blossoms are just appearing on the trees and the population of dandelions seems to be doubling daily. The sky might be a bit cloudy, but that doesn’t seem to have much sway on the action of the various insects crawling and flying around me little backyard workspace.

Capturing photos of those critters takes a particular set of skills.

Right Gear

Macro photography is more than a purpose-built lens. A macro lens is a great addition to any photographer’s kit bag, but that alone won’t get you awesome insect snaps. Setting up a shot that is in focus in in the narrow confines of a shallow depth of field on a subject that is measured in millimeters means the stability that comes from a tripod and the light enhanced by a source or reflector will do wonders for the final results.

Good Timing

Back in University I took a laundry list of coursework in both botany and entomology. All that study of plants and bugs certainly didn’t hurt my backyard photography skills, but I’d be hard pressed to say how it helped. Figuring out when the flower are open at their peak and picking the right moment on the right day to encounter the kinds of insects worth photographing is still as much luck as it is skill. It’s a good idea to keep your camera charged up as spring warms up and summer approaches, though.

Long Patience

Anyone who has ever said photographing puppies and babies is the hardest gig obviously has never tried to get a really nice photo of a butterfly. I’ve found that there are really just two approaches to taking macro photo of an insect in the wild: chase, click and hope for the best, or set up your gear, focus, and wait. I’ve lucked out with the first method, but I’ve taken some amazing pics with the latter. It does mean sitting in the grass with your finger on the shutter for the better part of an afternoon, but I’m sure the instagram likes were worth it.