Yesterday was really insane for wildlife viewing – as I crossed over from the BC interior and onto the island – not only did I see the elk herd first thing in the morning, but on my Vancouver-Nanaimo ferry voyage I caught sight of a Humpback whale (pointed out by the ferry captain as we were nearing Departure Bay) and managed to get a shot of it breaching. It’s not the best photo because we were at a distance and it’s hard to get a whale in action (you have to predict where they are going to come up next) – but still – it’s a Humpback whale!
Photo taken at the tiny and historic Smith Cemetary in Huntington, New York.
Since we’ve recently moved to a small(ish) island, friends keep asking us why we are keeping our cabin in the interior. After all, we bought that land because we wanted a getaway from the city and now we are pretty much permanently away (except for work trips in). And I have to admit that the fact we own two rural properties does strike me as somewhat ridiculous…. if not for the fact that I grew up in a small community on an island, and my family had a cabin across from a lake at the end of a dirt road Interior….. and so it’s also entirely familiar to me. In the case of my parents, their reasons for having the two places was that the lake place was attached to family history and the land had been gifted by my Grandfather. In my case, it’s that BC’s dry country with its plateaus and valleys, mountains and lakes – speaks to the childhood in me, the summer spent barefoot and unguarded, running in and out of the many homes of our extended family. And while our place now is not the same as our place then – it brings me back down the same highways and into similar weather systems…. and I have to admit that the design and positioning of our cabin bears some striking similarities to the one my father built when I was five years old.
I love it something fierce, this landscape – and our cabin is a continual source of learning and challenge for me. Although we have made it a bit harder to visit by moving two ferries away – I noted on this last trip that whenever I come over the rise to the vista of the Jura Ranch along the way to our place – I am never sorry that we bought out there. And I still want to spend time there as much as ever.
If summertime is about beautiful backdrops, mini-adventures, and unexpected projects – summer is definitely going full force in my life at the moment. After getting ourselves mostly moved in and arranged at the new house, I took the last week and a bit off work to do a four day meditation retreat just outside of Squamish, and then spent a week at our Link Lake cabin. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, but we’re back at home for a bit, just in time to host our housewarming this weekend!
One thing that I got a chance to reflect on at the cabin was how much work can feel like play when you’re hammering away on something that you have an interest in doing. Case in point: sanding drywall (yuck, boring) versus building a new outdoor kitchen cabinet out of scrap lumber and a donated sink (so much fun! and look at the above photo for proof that we did it!)
As the weather was a bit meh up in Princeton area this last week, it was perfect (as in – not too hot) for small building projects. While Brian started out with a bit of taping and mudding of the drywall, by the end of the week, these cabinets were our real pride and joy – especially since neither of us have much experience building anything except last year’s woodshed.
But necessity *is* the mother of invention – and I was tired of doing dishes stooped over a small table inside – so we devised a three frame solution that worked to create cabinets and counterspace, in addition to holding up a 60 pound cast iron sink. It was a little tricky in spots (that sink is one *tight* fit) – but overall, we had quite a bit of fun figuring it out and doing it.
There’s some finishing work that will happen when we are back in August (staining, cabinet pulls, etc) but we’ve already been using this very functional piece of woodwork and are definitely figuring our next co-build.
I’m too unfocused to post much at the moment, except a shot of this beautiful orchid – a single flower that rose up on our property outside Princeton while we were working there two weekends ago.
Moving house happens in seven days.
My days lately have been full from start to finish. Get up early, meditate, get to work, do something after work (weaving class, group meditation, date with family, refugee sponsorship meeting), bedtime story, sleep. And again, and again, and again. It’s tiring me out, but I have the desire to do all the things and so right now, that’s what’s happening. All the things, that is.
For example, on the weekend we went to the cabin with our friend Jon for snowshoeing, hanging out, and cooking on the woodstove. The photo above is of the coziness that is our unfinished cabin – which gets mighty warm with the woodstove these days, even when we’re surrounded by two feet of snow. The snowshoeing was superb, by the way, about as good as it gets with fresh snow, solidly frozen lakes to snowshoe across, and almost no other people out at the lake.
While we were up there, I started a new blanket project – something simple that I could do without thinking about it too much and that would use up a schwack of yarn that I bought for an (failed) afghan project last year. Turned out that I don’t like Tunisian crochet very much, and I’m not good enough at it to get all my squares uniform, so that was going nowhere fast. Instead I’ve taken up the Rugged Ripple pattern in standard crochet and I’ve got three inches of blanket done already (I’ve got more done since taking this progress shot on Saturday):
In addition to that, I’ve been working on my weaving a bit this week also. While this photo is a bit blurry, you can see here three different weave patterns as I’m working on a sample (a somewhat chaotic sampler because I’m just trying things out):
And in non-project news, I’ve been learning to ride a bike again. I’ll write more about that soon – but I’ve got this super-long to-do list at work and no more time for posting – because my days are full from top to bottom right now, with very little time in between.
The cabin at Link Lake now has siding *and* soffits *and* insulation. And if I do say so myself, it looks fabulous (and in need of a paint job next summer). More importantly, it retains heat. No more open rafters with birds flying in – this is the real deal, now that it can be used all-season.
We went up on Friday morning, driving to Keremeos first to pick up a secondhand spinning wheel (more on that in a future post), and some beets and apples for canning ($16 for 20 pounds of beets, $8 for 10 pounds of apples). Since we were already stopped at Sanderson’s fruit market, we decided that this trip was the time to try out their adjunct Indian restaurant – Samosa Gardens – for a late lunch. Let me just say that *by far* this is the best restaurant in Keremeos – and for Indian food it is on par with anything I’ve eaten in Vancouver. For $13 each, Brian and I were so full that we couldn’t even finish the naan bread – and we love naan! Also, they are building a new facility out back of the store and restaurant in order to process their own cherry and apple juice which is now for sale at the fruit stand year round. I just can’t say enough good things about this fruit stand and the family who run it.
Anyhow – after a pretty great day driving around and eating Indian food on Friday, we spent the rest of the weekend at the cabin – luxuriating in the newly-sealed environment, cooking on the wood stove, and hiking up above our place. I did some mushroom hunting on Saturday and found what I think were Pine mushrooms and Sweet Tooths. Since I am no mushroom expert, I decided to forgo eating them until I learn more – but this was my first step in learning what grows around our place that is edible. I left a couple of interior BC plant books up there for future foraging endeavours.
I also took a lot of flora photographs, since the weather up there is definitely turning towards winter, and the bareness of things in the mountains makes for some stark beauty. The trail up the hillside above our cabin is most certainly not used by other people (we see no human traces besides ours) – giving both a delicious and desolate feeling at this time of year. We are never alone when we are out there though, for the tracks and evidence of animal life are everywhere. Black bears, moose, deer, and the occasional grizzly all roam close by.
We had a couple small financial hiccups related to the cabin last week, just a couple days before we went up – so as we headed out, my stress levels were high around the whole enterprise. But as usual, being at the cabin is the reminder of *why* we are engaged in this project – expensive and a little precarious for us – but something that we both deeply felt the need for in our lives. It’s a place to go and be quiet, to work on, to build for ourselves and our friends, and to give home to ourselves outside of the city. When I am there, I don’t want to leave, and I am forever plotting free weekends to make the drive up. Even now that it’s started to snow in the passes (Sunday morning, we were one of the first vehicles caught driving in the surprise snow storm!) – I’m determined to get good with winter driving so that I can take my snowshoes and head into the hills as often as my schedule allows. It’s not that I want to live out there, but the possibility of escape is a great comfort when work is getting me down.
Yes. That there is a picture of me on Friday afternoon, holding up 25 pounds of Chinook salmon on the dock at the Lions Gate Marina. That is 25 pounds of salmon that *I landed* on my friend Greg’s boat – and that is the first ever salmon for me.
Truth is, I’ve barely fished at all in my life (despite the fact I work in a fisheries field). I’ve only ever caught small trout (and one rockfish), and nothing larger than two pounds. So this was a bit of a revelation for me. Here are the things I learned on Friday:
- Landing a large fish is hard work! There was a point in the process where I thought that I couldn’t hold on or reel the fish in for one more second – but then what was I going to do? I kept going – and boy, were my arms still sore the next day.
- A large fish is really a two or three person process – there is just no way I could have fought the fish on the line and netted it at the same time. Greg was handling the net while our other compatriot Devona was steering the boat – I just don’t know what you would do out there alone.
- There is a lot of blood. Yes, I know that animals bleed when they die – but there was just a lot more blood than I thought there would be – all over the boat, my pants, and my boots (yay waterproof gear!)
- Catching a fish means processing it right away. It’s great to catch a big fish – but it’s also taking an animal life! In my books, it is pretty much a sin to waste any part of a living creature – which means immediate processing. In this case we dressed the fish on the dock, and I put it in the fridge overnight. The next day, Brian filleted it (video below) and we froze two large portions for later eating (keeping a third out for dinner tonight), started brining one side for smoking yesterday, and turned the spoon meat into fish cakes. All that to say – getting one or two fish at a time is great, but more than that would be a lot of work to process alone.
- I am totally not afraid to be out in the water on a speeding boat – as long as I have something to hold onto. Also, Boston Whalers are really nice and stable – much more than I would have imagined.
- And finally, I’m hooked (no pun intended). I can see what makes fishing so addictive – and I’m ready for more! Maybe not this year, but I am definitely going to look into local charters next year that Brian and I can do together.
A little video of the filleting action:
One of the things that Brian and I did last weekend at the cabin was some trail building. Trail restoring, really – we are working with a long-disused ATV trail (and probably, logging road from the forties though it’s hard to tell that now) – and clearing it bit by bit up and around a moose pond on the crown land behind our place. It’s a short walk up, but pretty steep, and the way is littered with the deadfall of the pine-beetle forest that it winds through. On one hand, it feels like we are making a trail in a dying place – with all the pine infested and black from standing rot; on the other, there is all sorts of regeneration going on – spruce, fir, understory plants once choked by the poor pine replants that happened in the years after the original old growth was cut. (This was once a healthy fir forest, as evidenced by the few big old guys that remain). As we make our way up the hill, we test each rotting pine to see if we can simply push it over, away from the trail – to ensure we won’t be removing it from the trail next season. It’s incredibly satisfying to push a twenty-foot tree to the ground, if a little unsettling to confront the dying cycle of the forest at the same time.
Because the forest is so rickety, and because our cabin is located in an area prone to heavy winds – things are falling down all the time. In fact, it’s a hazard to be in the woods when they start to sway and from the porch on our cabin we can hear all manner of things fall – large and small – on most afternoons when the thermals pick up. Mornings are pretty calm though, not to mention cool, so it’s a safe bet for getting out with our saw, machete, and trail tape. We are doing a significant marking job up there because I want to snowshoe the area, and once a few inches fall it starts to get pretty impossible to tell what’s going on otherwise.
Trail-building is an endless exercise – with the satisfaction of bringing order to a place, laid alongside the frustration of having to clear the same ground over and over. Just when you get one section done, a tree falls over, or a branch shatters across the clearing – and there is more sawing and lifting to bring it back to rights so as to proceed. We have no illusions about the permanence of this trail, it had almost disappeared in spots before we found it – the connection to the road where the ATVs used to come up is severed by trees which have fallen across it. (We hope no one bothers to come up with a chainsaw – but it seems to have been forgotten sometime ago.) We also want to expand on an old animal/hunter (?) trail around the moose pond so that it becomes possible to snowshoe up and around the pond without getting lost.
As we worked together and talked about our task last week, it occurred to me how much trail-building and maintenance is like meditation practice – the foundation is often laid before us in the form of an old road or animal track – but it is up to us to walk it repeatedly in order to wear it into place. Even as we do that work – walking the pathway over and over – things fall into our way all the time. We get tripped up by a bad emotional reaction, a death in the family, the loss of a job, our own ego struggles – like the dead trees that fall – we must clear them, set them to the side, even allow them to be guides along the way – so that we can progress to the next point in our walk where we are confronted by some more debris that needs tending.
But like meditation, there is no endpoint. There are some views along the way, perhaps a rest by a shaded pond in the deep of the forest, but the trail is never finished – which is both a source of inspiration and the overwhelm of the infinite nature of such ventures. It’s mostly quiet though, and so the very nature of the work is restorative to the soul and the surround, even as the path can be a bit of a slog sometimes.
This was a new thing for us together and I love that we have found this practice up above our land – Brian and I – moving forward along an overgrown trail and learning about our own capacities as we go.