Hermann Thoene at his net-zero+ energy-efficient home in North Cowichan. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Hermann Thoene at his net-zero+ energy-efficient home in North Cowichan. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Year in Review: A few of Cowichan’s more fun and heartwarming stories from 2022

From green building to a determined woodpecker

Editor’s note: Not every story we covered this year had a serious bent. Here are a sampling of some of our favourite pieces from the lighter or inspirational side of Cowichan news in 2022.


Hermann Thoene says his house in North Cowichan, which he designed himself, was probably one of the first homes to receive a rebate from the municipality for achieving Step 5 of the BC Energy Step Code.

The province’s Energy Step Code sets five performance levels or “steps” that exceed the base BC Building Code, with Step 5 being the most energy efficient, and it will be required of all new homes in the province by 2032.

Thoene’s hybrid timber-frame home, which he shares with his wife Sandra, is considered a net-zero+ structure, which means that the house generates more energy than what is required to live in it.


When Tafadzwa Matambe first came to the Cowichan Valley from Zimbabwe in 2012 and started sharing the stories, music and culture of his homeland in local schools, he said he was the first Black person many of the young students he talked to had ever seen in real life.

He said some even asked why he was black.

“I told them that I was born like this, and we don’t choose the colour we are,” he said with a grin.

“I think it’s important that peo- ple here learn about where I come from, and the people in Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa should learn more about the people here.”

Matambe is one of 30 Black creators from across B.C. and Alber- ta to receive $20,000 in production funding, personalized training and mentorship to tell their stories as part of the Telus Storyhive and The Black Screen Office’s celebration of Black History Month in February.


Staff at the Cowichan Community Centre are trying to figure out how to deal with a resilient woodpecker that has bored a hole in the World’s Largest Hockey Stick.

The woodpecker — identified as a northern flicker — first appeared earlier this month, drilling a hole in the blade of the stick, just above the tape.

Cowichan Community Centre facilities operation manager Brad Coleman said last Wednesday that he first heard reports of the woodpecker the previous week. Staff looked into the situation, and, lacking a lift that would get anyone high enough, they used a pole to stuff steel wool into the hole. That appeared to do the trick for a few days, but the bird was back a few days later.

They tried a few other things, too, to no avail. Next up was covering the hole with tin.


A Cowichan Lake family is preparing for the trip of a lifetime.

Tod and Carla Spooner and their three kids, aged 11, 13, and 15 — and their one-year-old terrier too — are getting ready to ride their bicycles across Canada.

What’s more, “everyone will be pedaling under their own power,” Carla noted.

It began two years ago at the beginning of the pandemic when the family cycled the Trans-Canada Trail through B.C. and loved it, even though the trail was really challenging.

“Since my husband Tod turned 60 this year, we thought we might as well try for an even bigger adventure while we are all healthy and the kids are young enough to come along,” Carla said. “I am up to my eyeballs in planning and list-making. April [was] food prep month, getting as much dehydrated food ready as possible for the start of the trip. It tastes good and keeps the costs down! Bike gear is ready, rain gear is acquired, now it’s nailing down the fine details, and lots of them!”

The plan is to embark on their epic journey from Mile Zero in Victoria on the morning of May 24.


When Tiffany Newman and her husband took up scuba diving during a time of loss within their family, they quickly realized the healing power of the ocean.

The positive feelings were so strong, they compelled Newman to create the Into The Ocean Society, a newly founded non-profit organization based in the Cowichan Valley whose mission is to provide life-changing opportunities to underprivileged and at-risk youth.

For many, Newman said, scuba diving has been inspirational, meditative, therapeutic, fun, and of course social. Divers know that scuba diving has a unique benefit on psychological factors, affecting our state of mind, emotional regulation and how we view ourselves and our abilities (e.g. confidence and self-esteem), she said.

It’s those lessons and changes that Newman hopes to impart to youth.


The saying “music soothes the savage beast” was put to the test at St. John’s Academy in Shawnigan Lake on May 27.

Over a period of several days, a black bear had been attracted to the smell of the school’s trash cans, which are kept outside in a wooden structure and not accessible to wildlife.

In response, the academy had restricted the movement of students to avoid the area where the trash cans are stored until the bear finally realized it wasn’t going to be able to get at the cans.

But the bear was back at it again on May 27, and music teacher Tristan Clausen had a clear view of the animal from his classroom window.

“I have a saxophone, a trumpet and a trombone behind my desk, so I grabbed the largest one that could make the most noise, which was the trombone, and started playing it as loud as I could as I walked toward the bear,” Clausen said.

“I was thinking at the time that I should have learned the A&W theme song beforehand. Apparently, the bear didn’t care for my playing because he ran into the woods and I haven’t seen it since.”


Ann Turner and three friends were surprised and a little concerned when what appeared to be two boars stepped out the woods while they were playing golf at the Cowichan Golf Club on June 18.

Turner said they thought they were definitely boars as they were coloured black and brown and apparently had small tusks protruding from their mouths.

“They seemed to be looking for something to eat in the grass on the golf course,” she said.

“They didn’t seem very scared of us and one came pretty close. They just wandered around for awhile and then walked away from us.”

Cowichan Golf Club spokesman Norm Jackson said this is not the first time the club, and the area, has had to deal with stray pigs over the years.

But he said they are not wild animals and are escaping from a farm close to the club, located south of Duncan.


Cowichan Bay Fire Rescue celebrates 75 years in service this year and the milestone was marked over the Canada Day long weekend with an alumni night on July 1 and a dinner the following night.


Duncan United Church is working towards reducing its carbon footprint, as well as financial efficiencies down the road.

Minister Keith Simmonds said the church, located on Jubilee Street, is installing solar panels on its large roof, at a cost of $55,000.

The solar panel installation comes just weeks after workers spent about a month reshingling the roof of the church, which cost $90,000 to complete.

“The solar panels have a 30-year life span, and are expected to pay for themselves in eight years,” he said.

“The panels should take care of about 70 per cent of our electrical load.


Lance DeBreé is proof that people who are addicted to drugs and living on the street can pick themselves up and change their lives.

DeBreé was known to many in the business community along the troubled highway corridor in Duncan for a number of years, and they recognized that he was really a good person who would likely clean up his life and thrive if given the op- portunity.

To celebrate and acknowledge DeBreé’s many positive changes in his life, Warren Kongas, a member of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment, who went to school with DeBreé said he nominated him for a prestigious RCMP Challenge Coin, and was given permission by the RCMP’s hierarchy to do so.


Four young Cowichan Valley performers and filmmakers have won Joey Awards for 2022.

Awards were handed out at a red carpet gala in Vancouver in November. The Joey Awards recognize young Canadian actors for their hard work and dedication to their craft.

Winners from Cowichan are Alora Killam, Lily Killam, Owen Hogg and Austin Friesen.

Year in Review


Hermann Thoene at his net-zero+ energy-efficient home in North Cowichan. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Hermann Thoene at his net-zero+ energy-efficient home in North Cowichan. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

The cycling Spooners take a break during their cross-B.C. trip in 2020. (Carla Spooner photo)

The cycling Spooners take a break during their cross-B.C. trip in 2020. (Carla Spooner photo)