Parti d’Aerie

A parti or parti pris comes from the French prendre parti meaning “to make a decision”. 

Often referred to as “the big idea, it is the chief organizing thought or decision behind an architect’s design presented in the form of a basic diagram and / or a simple statement.  A parti can describe experiential and aesthetic sensibilities and can depict massing, spatial hierarchy, site relationship, core location, interior circulation, public/private zoning, solidity/transparency, entrance,  or many other concerns.

The parti expressed by architect Frits deVries for the Aerie guesthouse was that of a basic box with two smaller boxes inserted into the larger shape.  My original brief

Frank Lloyd Wright's Seth Peterson cottage
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Seth Peterson cottage

included examples from iconic small houses like FLW’s Seth Peterson’s cottage in a Wisconsin wood as well as Phillip Johnson’s Conneticut glass house- a tall order. Simple, open to nature, modern and beautiful.

Perched on the edge of a moss and lichen covered bluff, the resulting glazed aerie is more than I had hoped for. A graceful butterfly roofline and sweeping expanses of glass blur the boundaries between interior and exterior spaces. Surrounded by the open arbutus and fir canopy, this modern treehouse deftly channels both Wright’s and Johnson’s ideas and reflects a contemporary twist on traditional West Coast typologies, especially corrugated metal boat sheds and cedar clad cottages ( the boxes of the parti).

The intimate views of surrounding forest as well as the rugged BC coast reinforce the connections with nature .

Beach, Bog, Berm

The natural diversity of Sargeant Bay Provincial Park provides a variety of opportunities for visitors to enjoy the beauty of the Sunshine Coast.

This 155 hectare park protects a wide range of habitats from the marine environment at the head of Sargeant Bay, the barrier berm and it’s associated wetlands, to the pristine bog of Triangle Lake.

Winter storms from the Georgia Strait bring logs and driftwood ashore, making Sargeant Bay an exciting place to explore. The gentle slope of the sand and gravel beach make it ideal for swimming on a warm day. Canoeing. kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and fishing from small boats are other favorite activities on the bay.

A unique feature of Sargeant Bay is the barrier berm, which has created a natural walking trail and an excellent place to observe the park’s abundant wildlife. The berm, with it’s dry salty environment provides habitat for plants like chicory with it’s beautiful blue flowers and gumweed, named for the sticky gum-like substance surrounding it’s flowers.

Enclosed by the barrier berm is Colvin Lake, a wetland habitat for interesting species of waterfowl, salmon, cutthroat trout, river otter and beaver. A fish ladder aids the return of spawning fish to the creek above the lake.

Upland from the beach and berm is Triangle Lake, a true bog that receives it’s water from rain only. Spagum moss, bog cranberry, bog laurel, labrador tea and insect eating sundew are some of the plants that grow in this part of the park.

Access to Triangle Lake is via a 3 km trail from Redrooffs Rd. through varied types of forest. Coastal rainforest with lush moss covered maples, massive douglas fir, as well as patches of shore pine and arbutus trees scattered in the drier sites. Black tailed deer, black bears, red-tailed hawks and barred owls make their homes here.

Forest Bathing & Coast Mountain Biking

Forest bathing, or Shirin-yoku in Japanese, is defined as a short, leisurely visit to a forest and is regarded as being similar to natural aromatherapy.

A forest bathing trip involves visiting a forest for relaxation and recreation while breathing in volatile substances, called phytoncides (wood essential oils), which are antimicrobial volatile organic compounds derived from trees. Incorporating forest bathing trips into a good lifestyle was first proposed in 1982 by the Forest Agency of Japan It has now become a recognized relaxation and/or stress management activity in Japan.

I first heard the term from one of my Tuesday bike group ladies. I recognized our weekly rides not only gave us the usual exercise benefits but the other intangibles of forest bathing-the airborn compounds research has now validated as having real effects on health and well being, including a valuable immune system component that helps fight cancer.


The new science of forest medicine(2007) has several published findings. In one study the Profile of Mood States (POMS) test was used to show that forest bathing trips significantly increased the score of vigour in subjects, and decreased the scores for anxiety, depression and anger – leading to the recommendation that habitual forest bathing may help to decrease the risk of psychosocial stress-related diseases.

Other studies on immune function looked into whether forest bathing increases the activity of people’s natural killer (NK) cells, a component of the immune system that fights cancer. In two studies, small groups of men and women respectively were assessed before and after a two-night/three-day forest bathing trip. During the trips the subjects went on three forest walks and stayed in a hotel in the forest. Blood tests were taken before and after the trip, revealing a significant boost in NK activity in the subjects in both groups. The increase was observed as long as 30 days after the trip. Follow-up studies showed a significant increase in NK activity was also achieved after a day-trip to a forest, with the increase observed for seven days after the trip.

Qing Li ,a senior assistant professor at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, attributes the increase in NK activity partly to breathing in air containing phytoncides, emitted from trees to protect them from rotting and insects.

Japanese forest species that had an effect on NK activity included cedar, beech, cypress and oak however any patch of decent forest (generally defined as land with a tree canopy cover of more than 10 per cent and area of more than .05 hectares) anywhere in the world would have a beneficial forest bathing effect. Forests on the Sunshine Coast would definitely qualify.

Li says while forest bathing it’s not important to do heavy physical exercise (in my case mountain biking) but rather one should  enjoy the forest through the senses: the murmuring of a stream, bird’s singing, green colour, fragrance of the forest, If you eat some foods from the forest and touch the trees (ie do an end over the handlebars) so much the better. In fact geophagy-dining on dirt or clay-soothes the stomach and may also eliminate bad bacteria, viruses, fungi and toxins from the gut. Animals as well as people in tribal and rural societies (particularly pregnant women and young children) have been doing it since the dawn of time

Dr Li’s prescription for forest bathing:


  • Make a plan based on your daily physical activity and do not get tired during the forest bathing.
  • If you take whole day forest bathing, it is better to stay in forest for about 4 hours and walk about 5 kilometres. If you take a half day forest bathing, it is better to stay in forest for about 2 hours and walk about 2.5 kilometres.
  • If you feel tired, you can take a rest anywhere and anytime you like.
  • If you feel thirsty, you can drink water/tea anywhere and anytime you like.
  • Please find a place in the forest you like. Then, you can sit for a while and read or enjoy the beautiful scenery.
  • If it is possible, it is better to take a hot spring bath (a spa) after the forest bathing.
  • You can select the forest bathing course based on your purpose.
  • If you want to boost your immunity (natural killer activity), a three-day/two-night forest bathing trip would be recommended.
  • If you just want to relax for reducing your stress, a day trip to a forest park near to your home would be recommended.
  • Forest bathing is just a preventive measure for diseases; therefore, if you come down with an illness, see a doctor –not a forest.


Most of Dr. Li’s tips can be easily incorporated into a stay at the Pointhouse .with Sargeant Bay provincial park almost next door and mature second growth forest enveloping the property. Add the benefits of salt air and you have a built-in therapeutic environmental milleu.


Black Oystercatchers

The screaming meemies-Black Oystercatchers-are back. Their irritating shrill trill sounds like they’re in a continuous flap about something. Before I was able to match the sound with the bird, I was always put on edge by their cries. The call escalates and falls much like their fluttery flight path low over the water.

Actually Oystercatcher is somewhat of a misnomer, they prefer thinner-shelled limpets or mussels whacked or chiselled off the rocks with their long red bills. Their crow-shaped black body and knobby kneed fleshy legs make their whole appearance a bit clownish. Not an elegant or delicate shorebird.

Crows and Ravens prey heavily on their exposed rocky nests making many hatching attempts necessary. Since their food source requires some technical knowhow, surviving young birds stay on for up to a year, to learn foraging skills from their parents. Masterful birds can live 30 years.

Black Oystercatchers frequent rocky shores with rich intertidal life and are often seen(and heard!) around Sargeant Bay’s numerous islets.



The most common waterfowl seen during winter in Sargeant Bay are the rafts of Goldeneyes congregating sometimes in the hundreds especially on a nice sunny day. Their everchanging swimming formations look like a masterfully choreographed water ballet.

Both Barrows and Common Goldeneyes hang out here though the Barrows predominate. Estimates indicate that the BC coast supports up to 90% of the world’s Barrows Goldeneyes. When groups take off, their flight creates a distinctive whistling sound hence the knickname “Whistlers”. They also associate with Scoters, bigger birds with large triangular bills.

The two species share many similarities including as you might suspect, small golden eyes. They also resemble Buffleheads in their colourings though are larger birds. The differences in Goldeneyes are seen in the markings. Male Barrows have a white crescent moon on their purplish iridescent heads as well as a white fingermark on their black flanks. Common males have a round white spot on their cheeks and all white under flanks. Both females have brownish heads with more gently sloping forheads belonging to the Common Goldeneyes. Female Barrows are distinguished best by their yellow beaks.

Courtship between the sexes is entertaining to watch. Lithsome yoga posturing and interesting sounds. Goldeneyes are tree hole nesters so each spring breeding females must house hunt, usually by inland lakes, for available aspen or cottonwood cavities. They will sometimes use nest boxes though with the bird sanctuary next door and upland forests, the likelihood of finding suitable temporary accommodation is high around Sargeant Bay.


Electric Car Sunshine Coast Road Trip

Electric vehicle owners visiting the Sunshine Coast can plug in for a fast charge at one of four locations, with at least 9 more coming in 2013.  Here is a list of the 4 locations and some things to do while you wait for your car to charge:

  1. Sechelt Library – 5797 Cowrie Street, Sechelt
    WHILE YOU WAIT – Next door to the Sechelt Visitor Centre and an easy stroll to all the shops in downtown Sechelt as well as the waterfront Snickett Park and seawalk.
  2. Sunshine Coast Regional District Office – 1975 Field Road, Sechelt
    WHILE YOU WAIT – A short walk from the Chapman Creek section of the Suncoaster Trail which starts at the Sechelt Airport. Explore the rainforest while your vehicle charges.
  3. Olson Electric – 5588 Inlet Ave, Sechelt
    WHILE YOU WAIT – A short walk to Capilano University or all the shops in downtown Sechelt.
  4. Cypress Power – 1115 Sunshine Coast Highway, Gibsons
    WHILE YOU WAIT – A short walk to a number of shops and restaurants, Sunnycrest Mall, and the Gibsons Community Recreation Centre.

Bed & breakfast keeping ag history alive

By Brenda Birley, Peace Country Sun

Some might consider a luxury granary to be one filled to the top with golden grain, but for Heather Newman of Dawson Creek and her many guests, a luxury granary is a honeymoon paradise or a relaxing get-away.

The Granaries on Bear Mountain offer the weary traveller or the romantic couple a lavish bed and breakfast accommodation minutes from Dawson Creek. Since it’s opening in the summer of 2003, the single summertime suite has had many guests from far and wide.

“Our first guests were the assistant consulate of the Swiss Embassy and his wife” said Newman.” They were a lovely couple just travelling through and they said they were honoured to be our first guests.”

Since then, guests have included European travellers stopping during a Rocky Mountain tour, American travellers of the Alaska highway and northern adventurers coming from the lower mainland.

Surprisingly, or maybe not, many of the Granaries’ guests are local. “People from Grande Prairie, Fort St. John, even Dawson Creek come to stay. Many are newlyweds, others are celebrating anniversaries and some just want to get away.” said Newman, adding some visitors are nostalgic for the country life, others are simply curious about theG ranaries and how they came to be a high end bed and breakfast.

“It was an idea that got away.” said Newman. “I started with the garden and  then I wanted a lake. A rustic building would add character and charm to the scene. A business plan would give purpose to the project, and the bed and breakfast was born.”

In 2000, the hole was dug for the small lake. A year later, the granaries(two square bins and one round bin) were transported and placed on skids beside the man-made lake”The granaries came from a field six kilometers away,” said Newman. While it would have been much easier to build new, the granaries appear a more natural choice paying tribute to the region’s agricultural history.

“We had to take the roof off the round bin to get it under the power lines, said Newman. A new roof was contructed in traditional fashion. While it’s basic structure remained the same, once restored in its new location, the sides of the round wooden bin were shingled and four French doors were added. Local artist Laine Dahlen added a romantic touch to the interior of the granary with his painted mural. It encircles the dome and glows in the sunlight, which pours through the skylight-once a simple opening for grain.

“As ot be expected in an old granary, nothing was square or measured exact,” said Newman in regards to the square bins. “That made remodelling a bit more difficult.”

Nonetheless, the buildings were strapped with plywood, doors were cut and beadboard and drywall was put up inside. The auger openings became windows and the original beams remain visible. Aside from the windows and flower boxes, the exteriors of the square bins appear as they might in a farmer’s field with faded red paint and antique tools hanging from the walls.

A deck was built around the bins as a means of connecting the three rooms of the bed and breakfas suite. The two square buildings became the bathroom and bedroom. A double jacuzzi bathtub, vintage fixtures and furniture, a fireplace and warm wooden floors of the bathroom and the queen sized bed with it’s lush down duvet in the master bedroom offer a relxing respite.

“OriginallyI had thought about opening up the round bin and turning it into a tea room.” said Newman Instead, it is the dining or lounging room of the suite, complete with microwave and hot plate enclosed in an antique bureau, a dining table and confortable lounging chairs.

There is no TV or internet at the Granaries, but they are not missed. Guests are welcome to walk through the many garden trails, gaze at the birds and butterflies and follow the tracks of the visiting wildlife-moose,deer,fox,rabbit,coyote, and beaver.

“There is a buffalo ranch across the road, it is quite an attraction for some of our guests who enjoy watching and listening to them roaring and rumbling,” added Newman.

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Bird and Breakfast

At this northern B.C. getaway, nature is the star attraction.

by Nancy Payne

Canada is full of destinations where visitors can catch a glimpse of wildlife and enjoy nature, and they’re not necessarily remote, hard-to-get-to areas.In the case of The Granaries on Bear Mountain, near Dawson Creek, B.C., you don’t even have to leave your room to experience the thrill of seeing wild animals wandering by.

“I love it here,” says two-time guest Jan Enns. “I’m on the road a fair bit, so typically I’d stay at a hotel or motel. Here, at breakfast, I can watch mountain chickadees right outside the window.”

The Granaries, which comprises one suite in restored and repurposed grain storage buildings as well as two rooms in an inn, was built with wildlife and nature in mind right from the start. “Trying to live green, recycling – it’s just part of my life,” says owner Heather Newman.


She and her husband Bob, worked for three years to create the unique property which opened in May 2003. It was designated at wildlife-friendly backyard by the Canadian Wildlife Federation n May 2005.

As if the reconstruction of the granaries wasn’t a big enough project on it’s own, Newman had another substantial undertaking in mind.”I think I wanted my own lake,” she says, “Dawson Creek is mostly prairie, with no great bodies of water. I wanted it for summer recreation and for the wildlife.”

Her vision left the excavators scratching their heads. As one told her, “We do square, we do circular, but we don’t do free-form.” Newman insisted her little lake be dug to three different depths to provide habitat for different creatures.”Everyone thought I was crazy, but we did it and it worked really well.”

Tadpoles and bulrushes soon commandeered portions of the lake.Deer and foxes came to drink; muskrats and ducks called it home now and then.She considered stocking it with fish, but decided against it, not wanting to tip the balance that was establishing itself.

As with other portions of the grounds, Newman had native trees and shrubs planted around the lake, which helped attract larger visitors.”We get a lot of moose. They’ve pruned the trees I planted, and not in a nice shape. But they have to eat too, so we coexist.”beebalm235
Many species of birds – mainly prairie species – light in the greenery, providing hours of fascination for guests. Newman provides binoculars and a bird guide to help with identification of species.

To encourage cavity nesting birds and other animals, dead trees are left to go back to nature in their own time. Birdhouses around the property also encourage feathered wildlife to take up residence.

The gardens, which drew astonished praise during the annual tour of gardens in the area, are mostly made up of native species and those that require little watering.

Rain barrels collect moisture to be used on the gardens. Lawns are not watered, and grass clippings left to decompose where they fall.

Kitchen waste and other items ware composted and anything that can be recycled is. “My footprint is slightly smaller because my waste is being recycled here,” says Enns.”Plus I can compost my apple cores and banana peels!”

Newman strives to buy as much local – organic if possible – food as she can, and uses lots of produce from her own garden in the summer. It’s all part of a philosophy of living with nature to provide room for everyone, from wedding parties to hungry moose.In an age when electronic gadgets invade every waking moment, her guests appreciate the emphasis on the natural world.”The only distractions are nature and each other. It’s a chance to slow down, sit outside and read a book.”

Satisfied guest jan Enns couldn’t agree more. “I really feel connected to nature and much more grounded when I stay here.”



Miniature Granaries

The Granaries on Bear Mountain is being recreated in miniature.
The Mirror

The Granaries on Bear Mountain, a unique local Bed and Breakfast, is being immortalized in quarter inch scale complete with tiny artwork , furniture, and fittings. Even mini pots of flowers.

An Alaskan resident, Megan Kirkingburg,  stayed at the Granaries on her journey north from the lower 48 and was so taken with them that she decided to recreate them in miniature.

The art of making doll houses is certainly not new. There are whole magazines dedicated to the craft. Building the shells is the easy part. Decorating the insides can be almost as costly as redecorating a whole house according to Megan and can take one to two years.

Heather Newman, owner of the celebrated bed and breakfast, suggested  a showing for the eventual finished  work of art at the Dawson Creek Art Gallery and contacted the curator Ellen Corea. She was thrilled with the idea and has tentatively booked the show for Aug 2008 to give other doll house hobbyists a enough  time to construct their inspirations to display.An Alaska highway theme would really tie the show together and could fit in perfectly with the launch of
Alaska Highway House and other aspects of the tourism plan for Dawson Creek commented Ryan MacIvor, local tourism director.

Granaries on Bear Mountain

Armed with lots of digital photos and measurements of all the buildings, Megan reports that she has the “Mini Granaries “well on their way. The walls are up with one set of french doors  installed and the remainder of the building parts  ordered . The rest of the pieces will be made by hand-a great winter activity.

Other miniature enthusiasts should contact Ellen Corea at the Dawson Creek Art Gallery to learn more about the project