Virtual vs Actual: Chemainus 2020

Monday, Virtual Reality

In our virtual life this week we have packed up the Nelson Rod and Gun Club, and made a quick get-away to try to get to Chemainus by Monday evening. Going back is by hwy 3, the Crow’s Nest, all the way. Once again it’s up and over Blueberry/Paulson, through the Kettle Valley, over Anarchist Summit and down into Osoyoos. But then, instead of turning north into the Okanagan, we keep going west, past those really quite remarkable spotted lakes, vividly coloured by high concentrations of mineral deposits, especially magnesium.

If southern British Columbia is a smorgasbord of some of the world’s most spectacular scenery, the Similkameen Valley is on the dessert tray; it’s maybe even the chocolate truffle. Somehow the light here pours through some sort of “divine” filter. At the heart of it is the Similkameen River, flashing silver around broad gravel bars, lined with copses of huge cottonwoods, under which you want to tie up the horses, set up the wall tent, sit by a campfire and never leave. Enticing tracks cross the open grassland and wind themselves into gullies disappearing into the arid hills. Where do they go? And there are the orchards and vinyards. No matter how pressured we feel to make time to the coast, we always turn off the highway in Cawston, and drop by Orofino winery. They have taken the Similkameen valley, and distilled and bottle it.

Monday, Actual Reality

Actually, Monday started out here in Chemainus. Our big shipment from India has finally been released, and I am going to pick it up. It was due to leave India on the day that the country went into lock-down, and for six weeks we had no idea if it had been sent, or stored, or stolen. The news from the country was dire, and about our goods there was no news at all. Then out of the blue we received a link to the cargo ship it was on, in real time, sailing around the coast of Sri Lanka!

Even early on Monday morning the situation at BC ferries looks bad. ALL the Duke Point sailings are full. The 10:30 from Departure Bay is at 70%, and I make a dash for it. My luck is holding, and I make it on with five vehicles to spare. I pick up Katheryn in Vancouver, and as we are making our way to the warehouse on Annacis Is. we notice an unusual hot smell in the truck. No time to worry; but maybe I’m not paying attention as I should and I miss the East/West Connector turnoff, and have to back-track along No. 5 road. In a scene from a bad “don’t try this at home” video, a truck with an absurdly over-sized load is oncoming, and snaps the hydro and phone lines as we pass, which whiplash around the truck. No damage done, and we carry on, a little shaken, trying to get back onto the Westminster Highway. By this time the hot smell is undeniable. At a traffic light, smoke is coming out of the drivers side front wheel.

V.R.

On our Virtual Monday road trip, all goes smoothly, and we return to Chemainus on time and problem free. It’s good to be back. We have been in Chemainus for three years now, and have grown fond of our little town. If you have heard of it at all, it is probably because of the murals. In the early 1980’s, Chemainus was yet another BC mill town facing a catastrophic plant closure. Using seed money from a Community Revitalization grant, the town began re-imagining itself. The painters started painting, and now there are more than 60 large murals depicting the experiences of the Indigenous, Asian and settler communities around town. With an impressive theatre built in 1992, Chemainus is rightfully proud of its image as an artsy destination.

What we like just as much as the murals is the over-all character of the place. Sure, in a normal year there are bus loads of tourists in the summer, but in its bones Chemainus is still an inside coast Vancouver Island working town. A small ferry plies the triangle route from downtown to Thetis and Penelakut Islands, passing the log sort of the re-opened mill. Penelakut Island is entirely First Nations, and is called by them Puneluxutth, meaning “Two Logs Half-buried by Sand”. Thetis is the “quiet” Gulf Island (no, that’s not redundant: go there, you’ll see), and in the spirit of less complicated times, has the province’s last one-room school house.

Many of the houses in Chemainus were built before the 1950’s, all cute gables, carved verandas and proud gardens. This time of year their honeysuckle, passion fruit and rose arbours are erupting in full glory. We set up our last virtual venue, the hall in the United Church, and commute by foot through the wafting aroma of fragrant flowers.

A.R.

In the real world of freeways and burning brakes, there are decisions to be made. We have pulled off into a vacant lot to assess the situation. Conclusion: there are no good options. Getting a tow is a huge expense, and we would still have to rent a truck to pick up the shipment. Annacis Island isn’t far, but it is across the intimidating Alex Fraser Bridge, eight lanes of places not to break down. And then what? All the ferries to Duke Point are full, and the long way around via Swartz Bay means multiple sailing waits and the Malahat drive at night.

When the rotor has cooled off enough that spit doesn’t vapourize upon hitting it, we take off with trepidation back to the highway. All goes well, and we make it to the warehouse and load in a metric tonne of Indian textiles. By this point it is clear that continuing would be folly, and we take the truck to Sammy’s Truck and Trailer, a shop conveniently nearby.

The Beginning. The End.

Today, Sunday June 28 2020, here in Chemainus, our virtual and actual threads have merged into one. It is the last day of our Virtual Season. The truck and the shipment are safely back, and are being packed and sorted for the actual season. In the next post I will detail some of the highlights of the goods we will be bringing to the sales. To wrap things up, I have had a blast bringing you along on our virtual travels. I thank you all so much for indulging me, and may we see you in full un-pixilated reality when we come to your community!

Find out when that will be:

Drop us an email here:

Or leave a comment below!

Bye for now, see you soon,

Virtual Sale #5: Nelson

CANCELLED

There is a perception in BC – and around the world – that Nelson is a blissed-out hippy utopia where dread-locked wizards vibe on the giant crystal under the town. And, sure enough, they are there, sitting in the bus shelter at Ward and Baker wrapped in dangling amulets and a chillum cloud of self-satisfaction.

But it wasn’t always that way. A massive silver strike in the 1890’s generated so much wealth that not only did the city go on a building spree of grand Victorian stone structures, but it got Francis Rattenbury, the architect of the BC legislature and the Empress Hotel to design them. While the elite may have enjoyed gadding down Baker St. with their parasols and plumes, Nelson was a working class town, and the fabulous Capitol Theatre made its money off of vaudville, not Caruso. Nelson remained a blue-collar town for 100 years, transitioning from mining to forestry. All that changed in 1982, when the Kootenay Forest Products mill shut down.

Leading up to this, another seismic shift was happening culturally. Partly influenced by the idealism and pacifism of the numerous Doukhobor settlers in the region, Nelson became a magnet for draft dodgers from the Vietnam War (or as the Vietnamese call it “the American War”). Bringing an activist, alternative energy (and an affinity for the “home grown”), they were instrumental in transforming Nelson from just another depressed mill town into what it is today. At the time, for instance, the heritage buildings along Baker St were covered with aluminum siding, and the roof of the Capitol Theatre had fallen in.

I used to live near Nelson, and the good friends we have in the Kootenays are the reason that we added it to our “range”. At first we rented the North Shore Hall, which was big and cheap, but it became increasingly problematic, especially after vermiculite was discovered in the walls during renovations. Fortunately one of our customers, Teresa Hart, offered us an alternative. A veterinarian, Teresa had bought the old Anglican Cathedral hall for her practice. She actually bought the office space in the “basement”, and a beautiful, if somewhat time-worn, hall came with it. Located at Ward and Carbonate, amid big trees and old houses and three blocks from Baker St, the location was great. Even better we were a block from Oso Negro, our friend Jon Meyer’s monument to love, Nelson and coffee, and an essential touchstone in the city today.

Unfortunately (for us) during the winter Teresa found a long-term tenant for the hall, and we had to find a venue elsewhere. The only other suitable alternative, after much searching, was the Rod and Gun Club, at the base of the impressive Cottonwood Falls, where the Saturday Farmer’s Market is held. So here we are (virtually, in Covid time), and it is wonderful that you could join us in Nelson!

The good news is that there is only one Virtual Sale left this season; next week in our home town of Chemainus. And then we are going live! We are thrilled to be confirmed in all of our summer venues, and can’t wait to REALLY get our show on the road!

Check out my new home page here, to find our schedule and much more.

Thanks for coming along and see you next week,

Your Friends,

Katheryn and David

Virtual Sale #4: Warfield

CANCELLED

The good news is that we have started to confirm venues for this summer! So far we are booked for Galiano, Mayne, Duncan and Salt Spring (Farmers’ Institute). Fulford, Pender and Nelson are likely, but will have to be re-scheduled, and the rest are pending. You can check for the dates and the latest updates on the 2020 Schedule page.

But in the meantime, welcome to our Virtual sale in Warfield!

Warfield, nestled into the Selkirk Mountains

If you haven’t heard of Warfield, it’s not surprising; it’s a hamlet of about 1,700 near the bottom of the hill between Trail and Rossland. And quite the hill it is. There are two runaway lanes coming down it, including my favourite in all of BC: the unlucky driver whose brakes have failed has to take their semi ACROSS a lane of oncoming traffic to hit the steep pullout on the other side. That’s the first one. The second isn’t much better: either you plunge over the embankment, or you get funneled like sausage meat into a lane of bright orange barrels which will theoretically squeeze you to a stop. And if you survive all of that, there is the killer hairpin in Warfield itself, which before our sale a few years ago claimed another victim, a young driver who couldn’t control his load of paving stones and lost it on the corner.

Warfield is a unique place, and that’s why we like it. It’s most distinguishing feature is the “Mickey Mouse Houses” the neighbourhoods of cute steep-roofed houses all built in 1938. Cominco, the smelting giant who controls everything in Trail and the vicinity, built 150 all at once to house workers for its expanding plant. The second most distinguishing feature is the Warfield Liquor Store, nearby, conveniently, the community hall. Our friend Michel has worked with the owners to bring in a terrific selection of American craft beer (the border is a skip and a tad away), to make it, foot by foot, one of the best places to buy IPA in BC. The third most distinguishing feature may be (ahem) the annual Kebe and Fast Asian Decor Sale at the community hall. Several residents have told us so!

In fact because of its proximity to Trail (and to a lesser extent Rossland) there isn’t a lot of small business in Warfield, and a typical reaction when coming into 2000 sq.ft. of Afghani carpets, hand-blocked duvet covers, Balinese sarongs and all the rest of it is “what are you doing HERE?” And in truth we are here because of Rossland.

And Rossland is here because of Red Mountain. There was so much gold coming out of Red Mountain in the 1890’s that the stock exchange in Toronto had to restructure, in effect becoming the modern TSX. For awhile it had a population of 7,000, making it one of the largest towns in western Canada. Grand structures were built (along with some 42 saloons and 17 law firms), including the magnificent Miner’s Hall.

Rossland Miner’s Hall

It was in the Miner’s Hall that the powerful unions of the western states and BC agitated for and signed a bill that enshrined the 8 hour work day into the Canadian labour code. The Miner’s Hall is a heritage building with an important history, and being community hall afficionados, we were thrilled to book it for a sale. It may be the Miner’s is our favourite hall of all time, but for mundane reasons it wasn’t possible for us to keep it on our itinerary.

One of the mundane reasons is… the heritage 1893 Waneta bridge south of Trail. It’s one-lane and unsuitable for most heavy trucks, so commercial traffic from Trail across the US border goes up through Rossland’s main street, and right past the Miner’s Hall, which is street front with no pull off. It’s no fun loading and unloading as 18 wheelers bear down!

So here we are at the community hall in Warfield. Everyday is a beautiful, if sometimes white-knuckle, commute from Rossland, with the southern Selkirk range the backdrop to the huge Teck-cominco smelter chimney. We love this diverse and unusual part of the province, as quirky as it is. Trail, for example, has a strong Italian heritage from the recruitment of miners and mill workers. This has resulted in BC’s best independent grocery store, Ferrero’s, with only two branches (Trail and Rossland) and a pasta aisle as sacred as St Peter’s.

Downtown Trail, with Teck smelter

I’m glad you could come along with us to Warfield! Another common refrain we get from Warfielders, after “what are you doing HERE?” is “You should go to Nelson. They like this stuff there.” We keep coming back to Warfield because, in fact, they do like this stuff here as well, but the advise is good and taken to heart: next week we are in one of our favourite places in the world, Nelson! I hope you can join us then for another Virtual Sale, and you can always, don’t forget, find the perfect rug to pop your room here:

Or drop us an email here:

Or leave a comment below. Until then, stay safe, be kind, have fun,

Virtual Road Trip

There is still an element of adventure in the trip across southern British Columbia to the West Kootenays. For one thing, there are TWO sales to pack for, which means the truck is stuffed full and working hard, and there is no chance to restock if anything is forgotten or sells out. For the other thing, the #3, the Crowsnest Highway (and any alternative routes through the Okanagan) cross a series of mountain ranges which make for spectacular scenery, but slow and sometimes difficult driving in a big truck.

With the load battened down and fingers crossed, we leave Vancouver Island in morning sunshine. Our luck doesn’t last. It’s absolutely pouring going through the city, and the wipers are on high, both hands are on the wheel, and traffic seems suicidal on the No.1 as lanes merge and exit going towards the Port Mann.

It isn’t until Langley that things ease up a bit. Then, of course, the clouds break and by Abbotsford Mt. Baker is presiding grandly over green fields and a blue sky. We’ve decided to take the Coquihalla on the way out, and come back along the #3. Many years ago we discovered a great camping spot outside of Merritt going up the Okanagan Connector, and that is always a good first day’s destination.

Turning off the divided highway onto the gravel road is to enter another country. After the cloud-forest lushness of the Coast Mountains, even the endless tracts of lodge pole pine which thrive in the interior have given way to rolling grassland. It is only 2 km on narrow corduroy to a small lake, but it is a million miles down the road to rejuvenation.

There is no real campground; just a pull-out beside the lake, a picnic table that was made with planks thick enough to build a bridge, an out house where a swallow has a clutch of eggs and hovers nervously by the window as you do your business, and a massive ponderosa pine that rules the entire realm like an emperor. Sometimes cattle drop by to bellow and wade into the water, but mostly it is just us, ululating loons, and the sleek flash of ospreys fishing for trout.

In the morning we go up and over the Connector, and down into the sprawl of west Kelowna. No reason to linger there. The day warms up quickly, and by the time we turn off in Penticton the jackets and sweaters are gone and we are in T-shirts and sun glasses. Our destination is the Naramata bench, holy ground for wine lovers in BC. The dozens of wineries here have consistently put out some of the best product in western Canada. Along with the acres of manicured grape trellises, properties lines with Lombardy poplars, a shimmering view of Lake Okanagan and, of course, unlimited wine tasting, Katheryn has called Naramata “Disneyland for adults”.

The problem is that we are on a tight schedule; we are due in Rossland for dinner. This means less random stops than we would like, a brutal policy of tasting only what we are interested in buying, and short pours into one glass, which we share. We plan our strategy while we drive. First: Van Westen.

This was a random stop years ago which has become one of our favourites. Robert Van Westen is an artist who works in grapes. He was born in the house adjacent to his property (now owned, coincidentally, by Joie, another award-winner and friend from Katheryn’s restaurant days), and lives and breathes terroir. He will often do an insanely small batch, and drive it down himself to Vancouver to market. We come here for his signature “V”, a Bordeaux blend with a finish as long as A Day in the Life.

The Naramata vintners are a close and supportive lot, and Robert turned us on to his near-neighbour Deep Roots. We also consider a stop at La Frenz essential. Apart from the wine, the view from their patio is what was on the old $100 bill. Coincidentally one year I had one in my wallet; the owner offered me $101 for it. A one ton truck isn’t the best vehicle for touring the small lanes of the bench, but we plunge down the steep driveway to Howling Bluff anyway. By now our time and budget are running out, but we stop at Hillside for some of their more affordable whites. Red Rooster used to be one of our fav’s, and we still have a soft spot for them buying “Frank”, a bronze nude that was controversial and vandalised in Kelowna for being “obscene”. We can finish topping up the wine cellar with any number of great options – Lang, Therapy, Elephant Island, Black Widow, Morraine… Sigh.

But there is still a lot of ground to cover today, and the problem with a wine tasting campaign BEFORE NOON is that motivation is reduced. Nevertheless we soldier on down the Okanagan, blinders on to the OK Falls, Penticton and Osoyoos wineries.

There are still two big hills for the truck to climb. Anarchist Summit on the #3 east of Osoyoos used to be a killer. With several grades of more than 10%, and with a desert-strong afternoon sun beating down on it, the old truck would always over-heat. It’s not nearly as bad now, but it’s still slow going around the 20kph hairpins. Then comes the descent into the Kettle Valley, another of the beautiful areas along the route, even if Rock Creek was half destroyed by fire a few years ago. Then it’s up and down into Grand Forks (devastated by floods) until the next big hill: Blueberry Paulson.

Also known as Bonanza Pass, this is the highest summit between the coast and the Kootenays. By the time we get up to the top – over 1500m – the air is so fragrant it could be bottled and sold, and the sun is soaking the snowy peaks with soft light. Nancy Greene summit is actually higher than Bonanza Pass, but all the hard work has already been done as we turn off there to take a skyline of a highway to Rossland.

If you’ve never been to Rossland, you should go. It’s a heritage town with one of BC’s most challenging ski hills – Red Mountain – and a population of hard-core out-door fanatics who love being there. But that’s next weeks story, when we have our virtual sale in Warfield.

Until then stay safe, and thanks for reading!

Virtual Season #3: Cobble Hill, May 30-31.

CANCELLED

These pandemic shut-downs are starting to hit close to home. Literally. Cobble Hill is one of our “back yard sales” – where we can commute back and forth from Chemainus every day. This beautiful corner of the Cowichan Valley, just south of Duncan, has had a community hall since 1893, when the Temperance Hall was built to promote “godliness and abstinence”. Unsurprisingly, that fell into disrepair, and was completely abandonned when the current Agricultural Society Hall was finished in 1921.

We also have a long history with Cobble Hill, dating back to 2006, when we discovered that doing pop-ups in community halls was a crazy idea, but it just might work. The big 1921 structure is another in the long tradition of grand Vancouver Island Halls, but in the early days it was out of our range financially. Fortunately over the years several more buildings have been built on the Agricultural Society land, including the Youth (or Pixie) Hall, the Stu Armour Hall, and various barns and compounds, including the “donkey shed”.

It took some shoe-horning to fit into the Youth Hall, but the price was right. We had many great sales there, surrounded by the huge Douglas Firs, with a view out over the big hall and its grounds, to the Cobble Stone Pub (built, I like to think, on the ruins of the Temperance Hall). In 2014, the last time we did a full four day sale in Cobble Hill, we booked the big hall, and enjoyed soaking up its history. Last year we were back in the Youth Hall with a two day, rugs only sale, and, like Errington, the space proved challenging; this year we have rented, for the first time, the “other” Cobble Hill hall, the Stu Armour.

The full title of our new hall is the Stu Armour Memorial 4-H Barn. True to its name, when we went to size it up last November we were treated to the judging and crowning of the “best in class” poultry show at the Cowichan Valley Feather Fanciers marquee event. We were, alas, already on a flight bound for Bangkok a couple of weeks later when “Pigeon Fest 2019” presented by the Vancouver Island Fancy Pigeon Society lit up the venue.

Alas, many times over, the much-anticipated March plant sale, Seedy Saturday, was this year’s first covid casualty for Stu Armour. The biggest blow, however, is the cancelling of the annual Cobble Hill Fall Fair, an unbroken tradition for 103 years. We had the pleasure of having one of our events overlap with the Fall Fair, and that, perhaps, was when we really fell in love with Cobble Hill.

Thank you, once again, for coming to Kebe and Fast’s virtual Persian and Tribal Rug Sale at the Stu Armour Hall. Turn-out has been impressive – over half of our mailing list has clicked open to join us! And you have to say, the venue was great; there wasn’t even a trace of a silver-laced Wyandotte hackle feather in sight! Also many thanks to our friends and customers like Barbara, who last week “fell in love with a Hamidan” – if things work out, they will soon be moving in together! If you too need a colourful character to spice up your shelter-in-place, visit our rug gallery here:

Or drop us an email here, or a comment below.

Don’t forget: our virtual sale next week is the first full-sized event of the year, in the Kootenays at Warfield, between Trail and Rossland. It’s one you won’t want to miss, especially since we stop in Okanagan wine country on the way through. See you there!

Katheryn, David, and Raju the Camel

Virtual Season Sale 2: Willow Point, May 23 & 24

CANCELLED

Well, this is a throw back for us, a blast from the past. We haven’t had a sale at the Willow Point Hall, just south of Campbell River, since 2014. That feels like 100 years ago! But for many years the Lion’s Hall was a spring staple for us; we had seven consecutive events there, the first one in 2008. It’s another of Vancouver Island’s grand halls, built in 1940, and locally famous for its floor, which is a bomb-proof construction of plywood strips set on end.

The Willow Point Lion’s

And for me the connection with this area goes back even further: behind the hall, looking east over the Salish Sea you can see Marina Island, where I had a shellfish lease during the 90’s. That speaks to another advantage of booking the Lion’s Hall: it’s the only one of the many dozens of halls that we have used over the years that has its own waterfront. Even if the day wasn’t particularly good, we could always go and sit on the beach after work!

The sad fact was that when we started to give up our less lucrative venues, Willow Point had to go. Campbell River was going through a difficult time. Traditionally a resource town, the fishing industry had been mostly shut down since the 90’s, the forestry boom was past its prime, and the long-anticipated final blow came in 2010 when the huge Catalyst pulp mill shut down. By 2014 many of the small businesses that had stayed on as long as they could were going under, and a boarded-up bleakness hung in the air.

In the intervening years Campbell River, similar to towns like Nelson before it, has had a re-invention, and recently was one of the hottest property markets on the Island. The mood is, apparently, far more optimistic, and we are looking forward to going back.

Travelling up-Island in May/June is always such a pleasure. The road sides are a riot of flowers – lupin, paintbrush, daisies among them – the dogwoods and arbutus are in bloom, and even the invasive broom, blazing yellow, can briefly be forgiven. Given the specialness of the occasion we decide to go the slow way, up along the coast on the Old Island Hwy, past Qualicum Bay (Hi Hall!), Denman Is. (Hi Senior’s Center Hall), Union Bay (Hi Hall!), Royston (Hi Fallen Alders Hall!), and Courtney (Hi Driftwood Mall, Hi Legion Hall!).

At the Fallen Alders Hall, 2006

You know you aren’t far from Willow Point when the highway comes down past Oyster River and runs so close to the beach that it’s not uncommon during big south-east blows to get ocean spray coming over the road, and even, a memorable time or two, driftwood logs.

Besides being waterfront property, the Lion’s Hall is smack in the middle of downtown Willow Point. This is great for us, as we can go for a walk through the chainsaw sculpture gallery just north of the hall, and come back through the small mall opposite where there is both a BC liquor store AND the Sundance Java cafe AND a great little consignment store. In the other direction is a pub/restaurant with a outdoor patio – we watched the 2011 Stanley Cup Riots, uh play-offs there – a supermarket, a second hand store, and the always-worthwhile Willow Point Old and New, stuffed full of an eclectic collection of flotsam and jetsam, brick-a-brack, ephemera, curios and whatnot.

At least there used to be. We, of course, had to cancel the Willow Point sale this year. I hope that our favourite businesses there have survived, and that we, too, will be back sooner rather than later.

All the best to Willow Point and to all you lovely readers! Thank you for coming to our virtual Willow Point event, and hope to see you next week when we are back – virtually – at our old stomping ground, Cobble Hill. You can, of course, have a tour through our store and rug gallery anytime – just click the button, and you’re on your way! And while you are there, check out the special deals on our featured rugs.

Or drop a line and say hi!

Your purveyors of pop-up,

Our Virtual Season: Sale 1, Errington May 16 – 17

CANCELLED

In a normal year, this is “show time”. The shipments have arrived, the stock is sorted and stored; the boxes and rugs for the sale are in the truck; the display infrastructure has been checked, repaired, replaced; the ads for the newspapers, the mailout and facebook are designed and sent – and all of the million other details are either done or forgotten.

This year, of course, is not normal, but that is no reason not to come along for the ride! We propose, therefore, to take you through our pop-up schedule AS IF it were happening.

Tomorrow is set-up day, and we drive to Qualicam Beach to spend the night with family. In the morning one coffee isn’t enough, and we stop at Creekmore’s, at the Coombs turn off, for a top-up. Coombs is a funny place; who knew that putting goats on the roof was a stroke of marketing genius? Still, we have several favourite businesses in the area, including Bamboozle, BoMe Cheese, and Silver Meadows Farm, just around the corner when we turn onto the Errington Rd.

We started doing pop-ups at the Errington Hall in 2006, and we always love the drive up past Silver Meadow Farm to “downtown” Errington; it’s a really beautiful corner of Vancouver Is. There are actually two halls, side by side: the historic Errington War Memorial Hall, built in 1922; and the Small Hall, a 400sq/ft block. We always gazed covetously at the big hall, with its hardwood floors and amazing stage, as we tried to cram ourselves into our smallest venue. Until this year. Even though it is on the high end of our budget, we booked the big hall, confident that the heritage atmosphere would display our rugs to the best effect.

This was to be one of four “Rugs Only” sales in the spring of 2020. We had the same kind of event last year in the Small Hall, and discovered that shifting and re-arranging piles of rugs to show to customers is very heavy work! Being in the big hall also makes it much easier to set up a few tables of our most popular goods, and a clothing rack.

The first thing to do is get the key from the lovely house and garden of the hall manager, Denise. Driving through the back roads you discover the secret of Errington: there is no real “town” to speak of, but a substantial population is spread out in homes and acreages from Coombs to Parksville, and the people that live here love their community. And they love their community hall! A few years ago the entrance had to modified to be handicap accessible. The community carpenters took on the project, and constructed not just a ramp, but a statement of commitment. The solid fir beams and custom made bannisters, they joke, will out-live the hall by a 1000 years!

Given that, access for set-up isn’t easy, and I have to re-position the truck to find the best way to unload with the least possible effort. Because it isn’t a full set-up, less planning has to go into the floor lay-out, and it doesn’t take too long to figure out which rugs go where, how best to use the stage and hang stuff up, and where to put the other merchandise. Still, it is the first one of the year, and 5 hours later we are satisfied that everything has found its place. And we were right: the rugs, whether they are bold tribal Afghani or sophisticated Persian and Kashmiri, whether they are 12′ runners or cute little ones we can display on the wall – they look fantastic in this beautiful hall!

We are back early Saturday morning before opening, to put on the final touches, make sure our electronics are working and put out the signage. And then the doors are open! You, our old friends, come by to browse and chat. Except this year you will have to browse with your mouse, and chat with your key board. Yes, it sucks, but on the bright side you would have had about 40 rugs to look at in the Errington Hall. Now, by clicking here, you can admire more than 200! Talk about silver linings!

Thank you for joining us at our virtual sale, and we look forward to the time we will see you again!

Katheryn Kebe and David Fast

Rugs in the Time Of Covid

DEAR READERS

AS PER PROVINCIAL AND FEDERAL GUIDELINES, PLEASE BE AWARE OF THE FOLLOWING STEPS WE ARE TAKING TO ENSURE YOUR SAFETY:

  • ONLY 10 PEOPLE WILL BE ALLOWED IN THIS BLOG AT ANY TIME
  • PLEASE MAINTAIN A DISTANCE OF AT LEAST 2 METRES FROM OTHER READERS
  • ONLY CLICK ON IMAGES YOU ARE PREPARED TO BUY
  • TRY NOT TO TALK MOISTLY
  • DON’T DRINK THE HAND SANITIZER
This is a 4’7″ x 7’3″ Kula, hand woven in the Caucasus region of Turkey. You can find it and many others here

What a country we came back to! Thailand in the middle of March was already taking many precautions against the coronavirus: flights from China had long since been suspended; everyone was wearing a face mask; temperature reading and manditory hand sanitizing was everywhere, and the effect was that there were fewer cases in the entire country than in British Columbia. At YVR there seemed, in contrast, to be no preparedness; there wasn’t even a pamphlet or any information regarding guide-lines for in-coming travellers. We had checked on the CBSA website, and at the time self-isolation was “recommended”, and only required if you exhibited any flu-like symptoms. The oddest thing to us was that in Thailand people were taking precautions but not panicking; in Vancouver they were doing the opposite, cleaning out supermarkets of toilet paper and tinned beans, for example, but looking at you as if you were a leper if you wore a face mask.

As March progressed it was dawning on the country how severe this was going to be, as businesses and schools closed, and we came to know what “social distancing” meant. While many were affected worse than us, we were grappling with the realization that all of our sales for the spring – wholesale and retail – had vanished, and even the summer season was in doubt. At the same time all of our shipments purchased over the winter were in motion. This was the good news: even though they had to be paid for, at least they were coming!

When our 216 rugs arrived at our loading dock in Chemainus we were ecstatic! As well as being thrilled by the beauty and character of each one as we spread them out, the whole process gave us a focus: making labels, categorizing, recording, sorting and storing was a lot of work, and had to be done before the Bali shipment arrived. And they gave us the potential to generate some income.

With no pop-up sales on the horizon, we are now doing the same as many of our small business friends: putting our store on-line. It is still a work in progress, so please be patient while we add content and fine-tune our site! Our Store is our commerce page, and all the rugs, as well as details of them can be seen here, although we haven’t enabled the check-out and payment functions yet. If you see anything you are interested in, please contact us.

We are happy to take payment by credit card, paypal, or etransfer. For the time being, we will provide free shipping in Canada on orders over $300, although the shipping charges of any returns must be paid by the buyer. Because of the volume of goods being processed by couriers and Canada Post, wait times may be lengthy. If you are near our part of the country, Chemainus on Vancouver Is., you can meet us – at a distance of 2 metres and with advance notice – at our warehouse. As mentioned, shipping charges on any refunds must be paid by the buyer, and we will issue a full credit for the value of the returned goods when they are received, but no monetary reimbursment or credit card refund.

We sincerely hope that we will be able to take our travelling store on our well-established route through the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island this summer – if not we will miss all of the wonderful people we have come to know after all these years! To all of you, whether we have met or not: thank you for reading, stay safe, and here are some beautiful rugs to brighten your day!

The Narrow Road to Magic Land

Well, another decade fired from the barrel. It has startled us, as loud noises and milestones do, into a moment of reflection. So as is the custom we will toast with both camps: here’s to the glass-half-empties, for all the loss, the people missed, the health diminished and the chances squandered; and here’s to the glass-half-fulls because, after all, it is a big, beautiful kaleidoscope of a place in which we live. But either way, the most jarring thing to reflect on is how ten years has gone by so fast!

Here at Kebe and Fast we have a theory that multiple realities co-exist and that time-lines are cut and spliced so that, for example, when we arrive back in Bali it is as if we never left Bali. It is the same whether it is Chemainus or Chiang Mai, Bangkok or Bangalore, each place is its own river, and we merely slip into the separate streams and merge with the current, in both senses of the word. (An image comes to mind: inner-tubing down the River of Song in Laos, through a landscape of karst mountains, enterprising locals proffering cold bottles of Beer Lao on the end of a long bamboo pole).

Already on this trip there have been the usual sequence of reality shifts. Now we are in Bangkok, in Udom Suk, our neighbourhood of choice, out of the airport and absorbed through the membrane of heat, noise and colour which is this mega-city. It’s 1 p.m. here, but 34 hours since our bodies have seen a bed. At the base of Udom Suk metro station is the rabbit hole of Udom Suk market. We escape from the interminable roar of Sukhumvit Rd traffic, amplified by the metro’s brutalist concrete cavity, into a paradise of form and food. There is fish, split in half and dried into flat mirror-images. Cobs of corn are steamed and stacked in stray rays of sun, just so. Everything from prawns to papaya are displayed as if in a gallery. For my money, the local markets are the true masterpieces of Thailand. But today, for now, not even the mounds of mangoes and piles of pineapples, or the endless varieties of home-made delicious dishes are able to entice us. Our mission is elsewhere.

khao soi

For weeks, our long-anticipated first meal has been pondered, and the unanimous decision was that it be khao soi from the lady in the food court of Paradise Mall. Khao soi is a creamy coconut milk based chicken curry soup topped with crispy noodles and fermented cabbage, and is a signature dish of northern Thailand. Somewhat surprisingly, in the Thai capital it isn’t that easy to find, but one of the best, most authentic, is at the Paradise Mall. We walk through the market, turn left onto Udom Suk Rd., and ask around for a “songtaew” going to Paradise. The songtaew – a pick-up with two benches in the back – quickly fills, and takes off for the 15 minute trip.

We have written about the Paradise food court before – it is basically a traditional Thai market cut and pasted into the lower level of a shopping mall. All the wonderful things about typical street stalls are there – in the comfort of air conditioning! Even in our just-landed, jet-lagged semi-functional state, muscle memory takes us straight to the khao soi stall. Except it’s not there! Grinding gears in the brain try to make sense of this clearly-impossible turn of events, and we leave, and return, and leave, and return, as if just giving reality a second chance to correct its mistake will make it so. Alas, no amount of fretting, pacing and arm-flapping will bring back the khao soi lady, and we settle for a (terrific) roti and massaman curry from the Muslim stall.

jaipur commute
Jaipur commute

The same sense of compartmentalized time-lines happens again, a few days later, when we arrive in India. In a taxi, at night, hurtling with horn blasting through Jaipur streets, the city takes us in as if we had never left. Our penthouse in Raja Park is waiting, the door is open; we have always been here. But even so, some things are quirky, hinting that – like the odd give away when you are dreaming and looking for clues that you are actually in a dream – this isn’t what it seems, time has elapsed. Like: why is there a baby pram in the living room?

For us, the Jaipur equivalent of a khao soi at Paradise is a caju kari at Capsicum, a restaurant just down the street. As well as having the world’s most insanely-rich cashew curry, Capsicum serves tandoori roti with just the right soft flex and charred crust, and a veg biryani packed with whole cardamon, clove and pepper corn, its mound of saffron rice nurturing the delicate gravy-covered pod of vegetables within. We set off into the cool of the night salivating, and on the dusty street exchange greetings with all the local denizens, back-lit by the pell mell headlights of scooters and cars : the wary dogs; the cows at the garbage pile; the balloon sellers on bikes. But – how can it be – the Capsicum is closed! Men are actually carrying door frames, benches and bits of the restaurant out the door! It is explained, with a head-waggle: “They did not pay their bills!”.

business in the city

Ah well. Like Bangkok there is so much great food around that we can’t be despondent for long. Unlike Bangkok, we have actual work to do here. The next day, armed with spread sheets and a quaint resolve to stick to our budget, we start on the rounds to put in the orders.

Much is a straight-forward selection from ready stock. This is especially true at our screen-printers, where a minimum custom order is well beyond our means. They know us so well by now that we are chauffeured, with few pleasantries, straight from the head office/production center to the warehouse. It is always a “fingers crossed” moment for us, hoping there will be a good selection of over-stock.

At the end of the day, we are pleased. The important things – table cloths, napkins and T-towels – were plentiful. Curtains and bathrobes, of which we still have a good supply (and have other sources for), were very picked-over. We also end up with an unexpected haul of 100 pot holders. Just because.

The custom orders are much more difficult and time consuming. At one point we have decided on a new line of indigo-patterned duvet covers. They are beautiful, and come in at a good price-point. But after handling the material, our hands are blue. On reflection we agree that, since either we or our customers will have to hand-wash the duvets multiple times to stabilize the dye, and even then there is the risk of some unfortunate staining incident, it is better to abandon that idea. Fortunately there is a stunning – but more expensive – alternative. We have had the kashis and ajirak block printed fabrics before, and are confident about their quality and wash-ability. So instead of the indigo, we will have a new line of duvet covers made from them.

We hand-pick all the material for out blouses and kurtis, which can be a frustrating procedure since we are often dealing with remnants. As much as we would like to believe it when we are told: “No problem. I will get enough of this for 50 pieces. Next week.”, it is just as likely that the entire shipment will be held up for a month because that pattern is finished and the order is five pieces short. So each scrap is measured, and an appropriate size, design and quantity sticker is attached to it.

In the case of our shrugs – which are basically shawls with arm-holes cut in – there is a different challenge. The shrugs are two-sided, made with salvaged Bengali saris from the last 30 years. The saris arrive at the warehouse in massive bales, neatly folded. The problem is that a sari is 6.5m long, and has at least three different elements to it: the border; the main pattern; and a 1.5m “pallu” at the end, the most ornate bit that is thrown over the shoulder. When the bale is opened the neat squares that we are looking at could be any of the above, and the usable part could be something completely different that we absolutely don’t want. Stonewashed pink with a swastika pattern, say. And then we need complimentary saris for the two sides. Random choice, as is the method if we don’t do it ourselves, throws up a bell curve of results: some wonderful; some hideous; and most acceptable if you have no other options. So we sort the now hydra-like saris into broad colour groups, choose a mate for each, tie them together, and hope for the best. The old Bengali saris are really a fantastic fabric resource, and one that isn’t easy to find. Our supplier had made two jacket designs from the retro saris for another buyer, which were very cool; the few pieces which are left we will also include in our shipment.

After all the decisions that had to be made with the custom orders, our last business call in Jaipur is relatively easy. This are a manufacturer of jute rugs and “dhurries” – block-printed canvas mats – and we made their connection last year. Alas, they have too many products that we like, and so, as usual, we walk away with the sugar high of having spent way too much money on beautiful things.

And suddenly we are back in Bali! Jaipur, the desert-encroached city in western India, part Silk Road part choking disaster, becomes a memory floating along on a nearby but unattached plane. Here, in contrast, the reality knob has been turned violently to the high end of “green”. It’s the rainy season and we are a handful of degrees south of the equator; that means that the fecundity of nature is in full unfettered throttle.

In this area of the island around Ubud, the land is scored by precipitous ravines channeling the run-off from a 3,000m volcano, Gunung Agung. While much of the fertile land between the ravines has been given over to rice farming and development, the ravines themselves are wild and riotous. Occasionally a road is forced to cross one. Hell-bent on just getting it over with, the road throws itself over the edge, zigging, zagging and strewing potholes indiscriminately. It leaps the river with a minimum of width and engineering, and hurries as fast as possible up the other side.

As potentially hazardous as they are, these ravines are among our favourite places. Huge trees drip vines almost to the road, a mass of fern and fronds and epiphytes on every surface. Small rivulets spill from the cliff side. The light dims as you descend from cool, to dark and finally, at the bottom, to spectral, where crouching carved stone guardians anchor the bridge span, in recognition, perhaps, of just how fraught your limited incursion here is.

We typically choose a number of different places to stay around Ubud, and this year is no different. One place we have passed through but have never stopped in is Sideman (pronounce the “e” as “ah”). Sideman is beside a river in a wide valley on the lower southern slope of Gunung Agung, the highest volcano on Bali. While the east side of the river, which a few years ago was small shops and guest houses, is now mostly pricey resorts, on the west side things are decidedly more down-market. There are, for example, only two or three small warungs (“restaurant” would be a generous translation) in our neighbourhood, and we are a rare enough commodity that the lovely owners want a “selfie” the first time we eat there.

Gunung Agung

At the head of the Sideman valley is the dramatic cone of 3,031m Gunung Agung. Just two years ago the volcano became so active and unpredictable that at one point the international airport was closed, and 200,000 people were evacuated from the area. Although Sideman was outside of the 10 km maximum danger area, it was still classed as “zone 2”, since highly toxic gas emissions called “pyroclastic flow” were projected to sweep down the valley should an eruption occur. Fortunately the rumblings subsided, but a reminder was served about the power behind the cone. The fact remains that Indonesia is a volcanic archipelago, and the largest explosion in human history, Mt. Tambora, happened in 1815, just three islands away. That, in turn, was nothing compared to the most gigantic blast ever, Mt Toba on Sumatra, 70,000 years ago. That explosion, 1000 times more powerful than Tambora, caused mass extinctions around the planet, and may have reduced the global human population to fewer than 20,000 individuals, judging by genetic extrapolation.

Nevertheless, in the weeks spent within sight of Gunung Agung, we dwell less on our potential annihilation than on the awe-inspiring experience of being so close to the volcano. Sometimes the astonishment index goes off the charts, as when the evening light brushes the volcano’s rim, dying it and a few long strands of cloud with sunset colours. In the forground a farmer in conical straw hat is herding ducks through the maze of emerald rice fields. The terraces are striated up the hillsides, which are fringed with palm, tulip, and tall, ivory-barked cepak trees. A column of white egrets decides on a trajectory so inspired that even the Russian judge flashes a perfect 10. And then the evening gamalan music from the temple begins… We have a name for our home, which we approach after leaving the bustling road, crossing the first ravine where the whitewater rafters are, over the hill and into the second ravine: Magic Land.

Magic Land
hand knotting

Thank you for reading! The website is undergoing changes this year, so stay tuned. Our 2020 sales schedule has been finalized, and is updated on the homepage. If you visited us at one of our pop-ups last year, you are aware of the new line of hand-knotted wool rugs that we are carrying. Four of our sales this year will be only rugs (with a small number of tables of other goods!), and the rest will be the regular full set-ups, but with more space devoted to the rugs. At this point we have around 150 beautiful wool rugs from Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Nepal, and more are coming, so I will be endeavoring to post them on the website in the coming days.

We wish you the very best of decades, and look forward to seeing you during the course of this year!

Katheryn and David

The Real Kebe and Fast Blog: Season Opening 2019

Greetings to all blog subscribers, this is Katheryn and David coming to you from the first day of our first big sale of 2019, in Nelson, B.C. Apologies for those who have received rather cryptic blog posts from “Kebe and Fast”. We have just revamped the website, and it appears something (possibly in their default program) has been sending generic blog pages from our site. Our tech swat team is looking into it.

The season has started smoothly considering the scale of the logistics involved. With the Bali and the India shipments arrived and sorted, and all the Persian rugs we could carry (over 50), we were confident of putting on a good show in Nelson. Yesterday was a gruelling set-up day, and apart from a few glitches (“I thought you packed the duvet covers”), everything got done.

We have shifted this year to a greater emphasis on the rug portion of our business, given the success we have had with it on a smaller scale over the last two years. As well as the wool hand-knotted tribal/Persians, which you can see an assortment of on the Rug Sales link on our navigation bar, we have some other beautiful varieties we picked up in India and Bali.

Again, apologies for the mysterious blog posts. We look forward to seeing you all during our travels this summer!

  • June 13 – 16 NELSON , Hart Hall (old Anglican Hall) 501 Carbonate St @ Ward St
    Thurs – Sat 11 – 6, Sun 11 – 4
  • June 19 – 22 WARFIELD Community Hall, 900 Schofield Hwy
    Wed – Fri 11 – 6, Sat 11 – 4
  • June 26 – 29 DUNCAN Mercury Theatre (map)
    Wed–Fri 11–6, Sat 11–4
  • July 3 – 6 SALT SPRING IS. Farmers’ Inst. (map)
    Wed–Fri 11–6, Sat 11–4
  • July 11 – 14 GABRIOLA IS. South Community Hall
    Thurs-Sat 11–6, Sun 11–4
  • July 18 – 21 MAYNE IS. Agricultural Hall (map)
    Thurs–Sat 11–6, Sun 11–4
  • July 25 – 28 GALIANO IS. Galiano South Community Hall (map)
    Thurs–Sat 11–6, Sun 11–4
  • Aug 1 – 4 PENDER IS. Islands Community Hall (map)
    Thurs–Sat 11-6, Sun 11–4
  • Aug 8 – 11 FULFORD SSI Community Hall (map)
    Thurs–Sat 11–6, Sun 11–4
  • Aug 17 – 28 ROBERTS CREEK Sunshine Coast, Masonic Hall (map)
    Daily 11 – 6 EXCEPT both Mondays 11–4.

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