Lonesome: Memoirs of a Wilderness Dog is Ten years old! Since I last posted, the publisher of Lonesome (a different one is doing Book #11) phoned me and said that to celebrate they are going to produce a special anniversary edition. Lonesome has always been my best seller. Apparently the new edition may be hard cover and may have one or two more photos in it. It will also be out in the fall so I will be travelling with 2 new books.
Since I last wrote, it has been cold. -30C at night was common, and day temperatures were never above -12C. The sun shone most of the time, and that was great, but there was a cold wind with it so chill temperatures were several degrees colder.
The morning star rose in a clear sky with the last of the waning moon.
During our first really cold spell (10 days of -36C overnight), I was unable to start my van. It had worked fine before. I sometimes feel guilty at having 2 vehicles but in an emergency it saves my neighbours a lot of time. I couldn’t even get the hood of the van open. I waited until it warmed a little then jumped the van with the truck.
It ran fine and started again after I switched it off. But half an hour later, the battery was dead again. It is an old one. Nothing for it but to take it to town and replace it. Trouble is, with that van, it is a pain to get the battery out. You have to remove the fuse box and to do that you have to take out some of the fuses. I sure hope I can remember how everything goes together again.
Two days ago, I went to Williams Lake for the first time since early December. I dropped the dogs off with a friends, but I was a bit worried about the cat. If it was -30C the house – and her water – would freeze. But the forecast promised warmer weather and in fact it was only -18C when I set off. What luxury to leave when it is already getting light in the morning (about 6.00:AM, but the clocks change this weekend so it will be 7 before it is light tomorrow.) It was snowing.
I soon drove out of the falling snow, but the traffic threw up a fog of snow dust. It was impossible to see if anything was coming the other way. It took me about half an hour to pass this logging truck.
Because it has been cold but with very little snow, the logging trucks have been hauling like mad. It is not unusual to meet 20 or 30 trucks on each trip. Williams Lake is surrounded by millions of logs.
It was cold all day in town and I spent the night an hour south of Williams Lake with a friend at 108 Mile. In the morning it was -14C (it is always a bit warmer there than at my place) and it was cold for most of the time I was shopping. But suddenly the temperature rose. By the time I was half way home, it was PLUS 9 C !! It was like being on a different planet.
Further east, there has been a fair amount of snow. It is only out west that it is so thin on the ground. The two major heli-skiing outfits have had to cancel clients as the crevasses and rocks are showing in the glaciers.
This morning it was 0C and windless – I did my tai chi on the deck! But soon it started to dribble a bit with rain.
It is supposed to be really warm these next few days. Already the ground around my house is bare. The rivers and lakes, however, have tons of ice and it will take them a while to thaw.
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I had expected the manuscript of Book Number 11 to take about 3 weeks to finish. Instead I added a lot therefore had to restructure the original. Six read-throughs took about 7 weeks. I sent the text off electronically but some of the illustrations had to be drawn – that took more time – then I had to send them off by snail mail.
My mailing address is Nimpo Lake but I passed the Kleena Kleene Post Office en route to Tatla Lake. This building was an elderly woman’s house when I arrived in the area but she died a few years ago. The P O used to be in an old log cabin a couple of kilometres away that once did duty as a store but it was abandoned. Green mail boxes were put outside. Then, for a while, the KK P O was simply an SUV. The lady who ran it would go to the green mailboxes on mail days (three times a week) and sit there for 2 hours dealing with mail. The owner of the old log cabin got fed up with this use of his property so one day the mail carrier threw the mail boxes into his truck and dumped them off outside this building. Canada Post has since ratified the situation and fitted up all the electronic gear. Now a different lady, Melanie, drives down to attend to P O business. (The decor came with the building.) That is my parcel of illustrations on the scale.
I continued to Tatla, used the church’s washing machine and went to the library, then joined friends for a ski. Tatla Lake has a great network of cross country ski trails. My dogs loved visiting with the other mutts.
But we have had SUN SUN SUN! It sails right over Middle Mountain now; when it cleared that I immediately had 20 more minutes of sunshine.
I’ve been struggling away with my manuscript so have spent a lot of time inside. Finally, today I finished the fifth read-through: I’ve got most of it properly organized now and will go through it one more time to tidy up details before I send it off.
So when a friend arrived last Saturday it was good to be forced out of the house for a hike. We thought we’d try to reach the Kleena Kleene Falls. I went there last August and a lot of water was roaring down then. I anticipated interesting ice formations, but the water level was too low to be spectacular. Last summer, we drove half way but the road is very bad with very few places to turn round and I didn’t want to risk taking the truck. It was a 12-km round trip in enough snow to make walking a quite tiring, but too little to bother with snowshoes. The falls is near the bottom of Finger Peak.
There were a few pieces of open water .
These extraordinary birds live wherever there is fast, flowing water. They eat insect larvae, particularly blackfly larvae, which cling to rocks in fast-moving streams. They are about the size of robins – and distantly related – and have dense, warterproof feathers. To enable them to walk on the bottom of the rivers they have very long toes. They obviously have a great anti-freeze system for those skinny legs.
They are very territorial – I have found them at Lonesome Lake, Nuk Tessli, and Ginty Creek. If there is more than one bird in an area in winter, they stake their claim by singing. They have the most amazing song – a huge variety of gorgeous notes with, if you listen carefully, various clicks and grunts in between. A truly amazing bird.
Although this is a different subject, so many of you have asked about Ruby I am including a few pictures.
She “kneads” the blankets and gets her claws stuck, that is why they are a mess. Her favourite sleeping place is on top of a high beam. She kept falling off and landing on her water bowl so I added an extra shelf. She still falls off sometimes. She has many other places to sleep – I don’t know why she likes that best.
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The weather has been unbelievable. We’ve had a lot of gorgeous sunshine – a bit of frost in the morning, but sunny and windless in the afternoon, which made it hot enough to sit on the deck.
Snow still lies in a few shady places. It is more like April! But because the sun is lower down, it is thawing the snow in a different pattern than it does in the (real!) spring. It is fun to get right down into it.
When it got that cold in early December, I was visited by a junco. It disappeared as soon as it got warm. This morning, 4 juncos were pecking at the ground. And one lone robin has come to the house – the ones I saw earlier were all in the bush. This is surely not the kind of weather it is used to. It is eating juniper berries. I wonder if it will be able to move to a kinder climate, or succumb to the cold. This cold, sunny weather is supposed to last for at least a week.
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A day or two after the snowfall, my neighbour came to plough. It cost me $200. But already the temperature was well above freezing, and the wind was howling. A warm gale blew for 4 days and four nights – some of the gusts must have been storm force. All the snow melted.
Last Wednesday, I made a trip to Tatla – the first since Christmas Eve. Naturally, I had to cut several more trees out of the road. I went to the library and borrowed the washing machine at the church. They have bought a new one and it can take really big loads.
Finally, the temperature dropped at night, and of course we got fog. The winter full moons are beautiful on the snow, but both of them so far have been deadened by cloud. Bare ground makes the night dark as well.
The days are at last noticeably longer although with so much cloud about it was not obvious at first. Interestingly, the mornings seemed to stay the same, only the afternoons grew longer. Now the sun has cleared Finger Peak. On the shortest day it sets among the bare branches to its left.
Earlier, the river spread over the gravel bars. That water froze, and now the river is back in its bed. It is a rare year when it freezes well enough to be safe to cross as it flows very swiftly.
I am working hard on my manuscript but one beautiful afternoon I took time to hike up onto the north bluff.
Flocks of robins are everywhere. They are enjoying last summer’s abundant crop of kinnikinnick berries. These berries can survive all winter under the snow. They are not very tasty for humans to eat, but a great source for the birds.
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We had some lovely frosts.
Lots of you have asked about Ruby. She is settling in well. I’ve never seen a cat so uninterested in moving things, though. Her previous owner’s house was apparently full of mice. One of Ruby’s favourite spots was to crawl under the solstice tree. She would set everything swaying and never touched a thing.
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Whoopee! I just signed a contract for book #11. (This is the rough draft.)
It will cover not only the last years at Nuk Tessli but more of my previous life before I became a wilderness dweller. Many of you have been asking about that.
The publisher did not like my title (they rarely do!) so I am not going to give it here. The book is pretty much written, I just have to go through the editing and refining processes – and prepare the illustrations. I enjoy this process: I learn a lot and it doesn’t cost me anything!
The new book will be out in September 2014. I will be planning a book tour for October and early November. I usually touch the Cariboo (as far north as Prince George), the Okanagan, the lower mainland, and Vancouver Island. I shall probably go to Sechelt this year. If any of you have ideas of venues with a good turnout, let me know. Check with your libraries to see if they are interested.
I’ll keep you updated as events unfold.
Right now I am having problems with some of my email accounts. I am trying to get this sorted out and they should all be up and running in a day or two.
This is what our white Christmas looked like.
A few gleams of sun poked hazily through sometimes, but mostly the gloom continued.
The weather station kept predicting -16 C temperatures, and according to their records, they were getting it. But here it stayed above freezing, even at night, and the warm wind continued to blow. One morning there was a frost.
One morning, however, was gorgeous. It was the first time I had seen the mountains clearly for weeks.
People have wished me an easy winter, and it certainly has some advantages – less wood-splitting, and less cost to plough the road. But the lack of snow, especially on a cloudy, moonless night, makes everything excessively dark. The ice and dreariness is boring. Someone pointed out that this area is in a rain shadow and normally fairly dry, and this is true, but this is excessive. Since last June, which was a rainy month, we have had a total of 8″ fluffy snow falling in 3 lots – I have no idea how much rain that makes, but very little I would guess – and two small periods of rain that I am sure total less than half an inch. This is scary. If we do not get snow, the runoff in the spring will be pitiful. Not only will there be water shortages, but also there will be a serious risk of fire. If the forecast can be believed, it is supposed to get a little cooler and sunnier, which at least will be something, but snow is what we need.
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I meant to get this post up on 21st, but….. So you can wish yourselves a Happy Solstice, Christmas, New Year, Hanuka, Diwali, or whatever way you normally welcome the earth’s turning point towards the new solar year. If you would like to read a written account of my year, go to the newsletter page on this blog.
One of the things that kept me busier than expected was, of course, the cat.
The first two nights she miaowed constantly. She occasionally jumped onto my bed and enjoyed a stroke, when she purred frantically, but never stayed long. Needless to say, I got very little sleep! But now she has calmed down and learned to use the litter box. She didn’t eat either for the first 2 days, but is gobbling everything in fine form now.
My dogs chase anything that moves and occasionally kill small animals so I was quite worried about Ruby’s safety. Before she came, I built a cage out of a small room off the living area, that will eventually become a bathroom (when I can afford a hot water system.) First I drilled holes in an upright 2 x 4.
From them I hung mesh screens that are part of a booth I sometimes use for craft fairs. The doors worked very well. The one on the left is higher to allow a cat-sized hole at the bottom so if Ruby and the dogs were inside, and my back was turned, she could easily escape.
When I came home with Ruby, I also brought a cat door, which I installed high in the wall between the living room and an outer room, which doubles as a shop and a place for the insulated dog kennels. The height was advisable for 2 reasons: one so the cat could move around out of reach of the dogs, and the second was that the air coming in would not be so cold as it would if I had put the cat flap on the floor. Then of course I had to build a shelves on the other side of the wall to allow the cat to get up and down there.
In the mean time, the old solar year came to an end.
The forecast was for snow and colder weather. We had a few centimetres of snow but never got the cold. 30 km west, however, they had 14″ snow (35 cm), and about the same distance east they had tons of snow. Friends the other side of Williams Lake have 1.5m already! Why this narrow area between Kleena Kleene and Tatla Lake is virtually snowless is a mystery.
For the first two days of the new solar year, it was simply mild and grey. The mountains were invisible. Sunrise on the 24th was dramatic – typically a red-sky-in-the-morning warning.
The sun shone for a short while after it cleared the southern ridge. I have a door that opens onto my deck. By sitting in the living room I can bask in the sunlight out of the wind that would make sitting on the deck uncomfortable. This is a glorious way to get my Vit D!
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The night after cutting my road out, the wind got maniacal again. The thin trees thrashed like cornstalks. The photo cannot show the drama of it.
I was invited to a solstice dinner at Stuie in the Bella Coola Valley but the forecast was for potential heavy snow on 19th so I asked if the dinner could be brought forward to the night of the 18th. Once again I drained plumbing etc – I would be away only one night but the temp was supposed to reach -24C. I set off early but soon arrived at another fallen tree.
That’s when I realized I had forgotten to check the gas in the chainsaw and of course I ran out. With difficulty I turned the van and drove home again – just as well as I needed to cut out 2 more trees. So it took 45 minutes just to get to the end of my driveway.
But after that, the road was excellent. Cool, well-sanded, great traction.
I continued to Hagensborg to get a bunch of veggies. The mountains were gorgeous. But the sun never reaches the valley bottom at this time of year. People can only look at the sun, and dream of spring.
We had a great dinner and I left early the following morning. Already the sky hung heavily with the promised snow. But apart from a few flakes nothing fell until after I returned home, and the roads again were excellent. It was minus 12C. It was cold inside my house, but the bowls of water I had drawn before I left (in case things froze) had no ice on them.
With me, from Stuie, I brought Ruby.
Her previous owner – only a month older than myself – has gone into hospital and will not return home. He lived alone and had 2 dogs and a cat. The dogs have found other homes and somehow I was volunteered to take the cat. Poor little thing is not too happy at the moment. More about her in a future post.
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