SUN, SUN, SUN (But it’s Minus Thirty-One.)

2-minus-31-thermometreWe first had temperatures of minus thirty-one nearly 10 days ago.  I wanted to go to Williams Lake.  I didn’t want to leave the house for long in those temperatures (it’s 4 hours’ drive each way at this time of year), and my worry was that I would get stranded for some reason and be unable to get home.  I could have drained the plumbing before I left, but that would be a drag.  Also, there were the dogs.  They spend most of their time in my warm living room; they can let themselves out but not get back in.  The outer room, where they have their kennels, is also well below freezing when it’s this cold.  They can tolerate a lot but if I got stranded overnight, they would be in trouble.

Finally, only the van has a block heater – I certainly could not start any of the vehicles without heating the engine.  I have little enough power as it is to use the solar power – I would have to start the generator.  But the generator won’t start at these temperatures either.  It is on a little wheeled cart, and I can bring it indoors: however, it has a small gas leak so I can’t get it too close to the stove…..

Town days at this time of year have to be Tuesday or Friday as that is when the farmer’s co-op is open.  (They are open Saturday but the garage and a couple of other places are closed….)

The forecast was for warmer weather at the end of the week.  It clouded over and salted a bit of snow, and Thursday night the temp rose to -25C.  In the afternoon (-20C) I brought the generator into the outer room and opened the door to the living room.  Made the living room pretty chilly, but after an hour I could start the generator, and another hour later, I could start the van.

It was overcast again and only -18C when I left for town at 4.30:am, so the van was easy to start.  I decided to take the dogs in case I got stranded, and keep my fingers crossed regarding the plumbing.  It was supposed to stay mild for a couple of days.  (I had of course all emergency gear: sleeping bag, axe, chain saw, matches, food, and thermoses of hot water etc.)

Town was dreary and it even snowed a little, but it was a tropical -14C when I left.  Half way home I drove into hazy sunshine.  Logging is in full swing again now the ground is frozen; the trucks throw up a fog of snow dust behind them.5-road-logging-truckAbout an hour and a half from home, I even got a sunset.6-sunset-redstoneThe next morning was also quite mild (-18C) and I went to the school’s annual Santa Breakfast.  I took the dogs again and let Harry run part of the way along the road.7-harry-ice-faceThere is always a great catered meal,8-santa-breakfastand then the kids perform.  They gave a great concert of rousing songs – but this year there were only 13 or them!  (Two more attend school but were away.)  All the bigger kids went to Williams Lake last fall.  A bus picks them up on Sunday afternoon and brings them home Friday night.  During the week they are billeted.  The school lost 6 kids that way this year.  The powers that be would love to close it, but some of the kids would have to be bused over 2 hours each way to the next school – much too far for the little ones.  Fortunately there are a number of youngsters that will join in the next couple of years.

9-school-choirOnce again, I am handicapped by my very poor quality old camera so the indoor shots especially are very grainy.  (I have ordered another on line – may not get to me until the new year.)

As seems to be the norm these days, were were also entertained by the marvellous Thompson family.  Mum, Dad, and the middle boy in this picture.10-thompson-family-1The other two boys here.11-thompson-2They always play so well together, but their mum says it is very hard to get them to practice!

So I sneaked in a couple of days of events, but the forecast was now daunting.  The icons won’t reproduce here so all I can give you is the written version.

Today Cloudy. Becoming a mix of sun and cloud this morning. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 15. Wind chill minus 41 this morning and minus 31 this afternoon. Frostbite in minutes.

Tonight Partly cloudy. Wind up to 15 km/h. Low minus 32. Extreme wind chill minus 42. Frostbite in minutes.
Tue, 13 Dec Mainly sunny. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 21. Extreme wind chill minus 42. Frostbite in minutes.
Night Clear. Low minus 32.
Wed, 14 Dec Sunny. High minus 21.
Night Clear. Low minus 29.
Thu, 15 Dec Sunny. High minus 21.
Night Clear. Low minus 34.
Fri, 16 Dec Sunny. High minus 21.
Night Clear. Low minus 33.
Sat, 17 Dec Sunny. High minus 17.
Night Clear. Low minus 26.
Sun, 18 Dec Sunny. High minus 10.

The Tuesday started foggy, but there was just a hint of colour on the mountains.12-hint-of-pinkThen it cleared.13-fog-clearingAnd by sundown there was not a cloud in the sky. (About 3.45:pm).  When the sun pours into the cabin all day and I hardly need to keep the fire going.  But I must get it roaring about half an hour before the sun goes.14-sunsetThe sunrise, too, was diamond clear.  It has been so rarely like this for most of the year.15-clear-sunriseNow I can finally see the sunrise point along the S E horizon.  It won’t change much by the shortest day.  Time is a little after 8.00:am by the clock.16-sunrise-pointBut even daytime temperatures are chilly!  The poor little chickadees are wearing their puffy jackets.3-chick-puffy-coatThey have special antifreeze in their blood to stop their tiny legs from freezing.17-chick-sunAfternoons are the times for hiking these days.  The river has lots of ice on it, but the water is much higher than it normally is at this time of year, and much of the ice will go when it gets warm again.18-river

19-north-bluff-riverHarry’s coat is a gorgeous colour against the blue snow shadows. (He has received part of the advance for his book, by the way, and has already been contacted by his editor, although that work won’t start until the new year.)20-harryAnd there we are, on the north bluff, enjoying the SUN!!1-sun

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Snow at Ginty Creek.

The dull weather took on an ominous cast at sunrise one morning.  1-storm-warningLater that day, it started to snow at Ginty Creek.  Badger is staring intently at me through the window, asking to come in. He never, of course, brushes himself off first.
1-badger-pleadingBy the next morning, there were quite a few inches on the ground.2-snowTime to clear snow of the solar panels again…3-solar-panelsI couldn’t get an internet signal – I had to brush snow off the satellite dish and arm as well.4-snow-on-satellite-dishIf the seeds are covered in snow, the birds can’t find them.  I have to go and stir them up.  As they swoop in to get one, they often reveal more.  But if it snows too fast, the seeds are covered again and I have to keep going out and clearing them.  They do not know to scratch like chickens.5-bird-feederMy road, on the way back from the post office.  This lone bull is only a few kms from home and is heading in the right direction.7-bullThe next day it snowed again, and the next.  We were beginning to wonder if our winter was going to be a continuation of the summer’s endless precipitation, only colder.  But then we got a gleam of sun.6-gleam-sunAnd another.rare-sunThat evening there was even a bit of a sunset.10-sunset-after-rare-sunDidn’t last, though.  On the Saturday I drove with some trepidation to the Tatla Lake Christmas market.  It was snowing steadily: already there were 6″ on my driveway and the van starts to have difficulties at 8.”  I would be at the fair, selling books, for several hours.   If it continued to snow, the drive home might be a bit precarious.  The road sign says it all!11-snowing-to-tatla-fairThe fair is held in the school gym.12-tatla-schoolThere were all the usual crafts.13-sharon-sweatersCourtney (centre)’s mother is a caterer, and Courtney has been selling her own baked goods since she was a little girl. 14-courtneyIt was still snowing as I drove home.  Although there had been very little wind, 3 new trees were down on my 4 km driveway.15-home-first-treeI managed to squeeze past the first two, but had to stop for the third.  At least I had the chain saw with me.  I cut out just enough to get by.16-second-treeThe next morning, we had an unbelievable treat.17-sunriseThe snow had stopped and there was a clarity to the air we had not seen for a very long time. It looked as though the sun was going to shine.  There were 8 and half inches snow on the ground.  I was wondering about ploughing my road.  It is very hard to find anyone to do it these days.  I figured I should put chains on the pickup and see if I could at least drive along it and cut out the fallen trees.  The pickup would pack the snow down enough for the van.  But if we got any more…

However, I had just stepped out of the door when I heard a machine.  In came a tractor with a plough!18-christoffChristoff owns the Terra Nostra Guest Ranch, less than 2 km away as the raven flies, but because it is across the river, it is 9 km by road.  I have come to know Christoff over the summer while working on the Kleena Kleene internet tower (still not hooked up), and also I took Sanjey over there for his horse ride.  I had mentioned to Christoff the need for a plougher, but knew he was going back to Switzerland for the winter.  In fact he was due to leave in a couple of days.  However, without contacting me, he just arrived.  He was able to push the fallen trees away with the tractor.  In future, his caretakers will plough me out when I need it.  So that is one big winter problem solved.

And the day got better!19-perkins-peakThe following day, too, gave us some sun.  At first there was fog and there was a time of will-it, won’t-it.  I decided to break out the snowshoes and plod up onto the north bluffs.  The river is still pretty high for this time of year.20-riverUp on the dunes, I was still lidded in cloud.  I could see blue sky to the northwest.21-clear-to-northand more in the north east.22-clear-to-neAnd then suddenly, we got full, unadulterated SUN!!!22a-sun-bestIncredible!23b-snow-dead-tree-2Perkins Peak.24-ppFinger Peak.24a-fp-2Every branch looks fantastic.28-snow-on-branchThe sky is so blue!29-forestToo hot for Badger, though.  He rests in the shade23c-badger-in-shadeThat night, I could see where the sun touched the rim of the earth for the first time in months.  The last time it cleared Nogwon far to the right off the picture.  That would have been the Equinox.  Here, 3 weeks from the shortest day, it is to the left of Finger Peak.26-sunsetThe next morning we had a sunrise!30-sunrise-fpIt was quite cool and there was frost on the woodshed window.31-frostAnd as the sun cleared the trees, it sparkled on the branches.32-backlit-trees-2We’ve had more sun this past week than during the last month.  My solar panels are loving it.  Dull and dribbling snow today – can’t expect too much – but it is supposed to clear tomorrow – and the temperature is due to drop.

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Harry’s Manuscript Update

harry-bestRemember this guy?  He had almost finished his manuscript in June but got distracted by all the hikes, the volunteers, the bathroom and washing machine, and getting ready for winter.    But Chris had suggested it was high time he buckled down and contributed to the cost of his kibble.  Finally he had no more excuses and he buckled down and completed his Wilderness Dog Saga.  The first publisher he sent it to liked it – Harry is waiting to receive the contract so he can hash out the details and update the manuscript.  The book will likely be out in the fall of 2017, when he and Badger will go on tour with it.  He will keep you posted!

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It Is A Snu Day

1-falklandsIn 1978 and part of 1979 I was a teacher at the Darwin School on the Falkland Islands.  Half the kids were from the nearby settlement of Goose Green; the rest were flown in by Beaver float planes from outlying islands.  There were 7 teachers, one of whom was the principal. I was just filling in while the principal’s wife had a baby.  I had no qualifications as a teacher – the government did not want that as they would have had to pay me more.  I was not a good teacher in the classroom but we would hike over the tundra and explore shipwrecks, sksate on the peat bogs, and collect penguin eggs in spring, a welcome change from endless mutton.

One of my students was a boy I will call James.   Like all the boarders, he was 8 years old when he came to the school.  Like many of the outlying students, he had probably never been off his island before, and had had little contact with anyone outside his family.  A deliberately unqualified travelling teacher had visited once a month.

I have no idea of the type of learning disability he had, but the poor little soul lived in a world of his own.  On Monday morning, it was the students’ practice to write about their weekend.  Without fail, no matter what the weather, James’ total essay, written very neatly in pencil was: It Is A Snu Day.

And we have had four, glorious Snu Days in the last two weeks!  None of them were completely Snu – usually they started with fog.  2-pinkish-fogWe had two spectacular sunrises. 3-sunrise

morning-sun-pondHow fantastic it was to see the sun.  How beautiful the world suddenly looks.golden-meadow

kappanPerkins Peakperkins-peakNogwon almost visible.pond-gleamsun-on-riverOne day I drove to Tatla Lake.  This is downtown Kleena Kleene.  Is the fog going to lift?  On so many days it looked promising, but never cleared.fog-kkJust past the ranch, I drove out of the fog.  Finger Peak was incredible.fp-1-kk

fp-2-kkAt Tatla Lake, trumpeter swans had joined the geese and ducks on the water.  It is just starting to freeze.  The birds will then move on.swansThen we got a little Sno with the Snu.z-juniper

z-sun-and-snowA bit of a wind came up and blew great streamers off the mountains.z-blowing-snowThe ponds had frozen a little, but fresh water flowed on top of the ice.z-pond-pools

z-ce-abstractBadger enjoying the view – and the warmth – from the south bluffs.z-badger-and-river-1

z-badger-and-river-2Back at the river property.z-corralAnd finally I got to see where the sun went down.  The last time this was visible, the sun just cleared Nogwon (off the picture to the right) – that would have been at the Equinox, nearly two months ago.  On the shortest day it will sink at the edge of the picture to the left of Finger Peak.sunset

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Beauty in Gloom

rain-diamondsIn this persistent gloom, one still finds subtle beauty. The rain on this tree hung like diamonds.  Accasional gleams of light made interesting effects.cloud-light

early-light

needle-grass-in-rainA hint of sun in the fog, but that was all we had.yellow-fogThe pond had been frozen but then it thawed, and now it has started to freeze again.frosty-sedgePuddle ice is always fun.puddle-iceI have had a couple of new visitors to the bird feeders. The pine siskin stayed around for only a few days.  Sometimes they gather in flocks of 100 but are always sporadic.  He is slightly smaller than the chickadees but definitely the boss.  (Again, apologies for the poor quality of photos – I am still using an old, not very good camera, which performs even worse in dull light.)pine-siskinAnd the little downy woodpecker has been around.  (Downy because of his fluffy “moustache” – the hairy woodpecker is very similar but slightly larger, and his “moustache” is bristly.)downy-woodpeckerOne day, at the top of a power pole on the lower property, I encountered a magnificent pileated woodpecker.  Not so common here but very striking.pileated-woodpeckerNot long after I last wrote, we had an afternoon with incredibly wild wind gusts.  We often get windy summers, but wind goes with sunshine, and this year has been virtually windless.  Combined with the mild, wet season, this meant all kinds of rot quietly took place, and our windstorm bowled over the dead beetle-killed trees like ninepins.  I waited 2 days before I tried to drive my road, hoping that casual users would clear some of the first three kilometres, but I got landed with the lot.  Took me 2 hours to cut it out.  Most of the wood was too skinny and branchy to be of much use for firewood, but the tangled mess was sometimes difficult to clear.road-clearing-1road-clearingThen I backpacked my little chain saw over my trails.  Sometimes I could just reroute, but this tree was awkwardly placed with a willow-choked ditch on one side and a swamp on the other.  The tree was hung up and had to be dismembered with care.tree-on-trailAt last!  Not too pretty (and a long way to backpack the wood home) but the trail is now usable.cleared-trailNearby, I saw what I at first thought was an odd burl on a fallen tree.rabbitThey are common enough – the dogs chase them all the time.  But to see what sitting in full view like that is very unusual.  Looks like he’s got most of his winter coat.  I wonder, with global warming, if their moulting times will have to change.

On a couple of occasions, the rain stayed right over Kleena Kleene.  Once it was fine half an hour west.  The blue slice of sky stayed above the trees all day.rained-all-dayAnother time, I planned a trip to Williams Lake.  I woke at around 2.00:am and heard the rain pattering on the deck.  It was 4 degrees above freezing – at least I would not have to worry about an icy road.  It was pitch dark and raining steadily as I left.  About 40 minutes east, I drove out of the rain.  It didn’t just stop – for here, the road was completely dry.  I could see stars as I drove.  The sun rose about 2 and half hours along the way.r-sunrise-to-ws-lkTown was hot and windy.  The temperature reached 21C (70F).  What an incredible treat to drive home with the windows open.  But as I drew west again, I could see the storm ahead.  it seemed to have stayed put.s-storm-aheadJust about the same place where I drove out of the rain in the morning, I headed back into it.w-near-tatlaBehind me, it looked like summer.  This next picture, and the one above, were taken only a few hundred metres apart.rear-view-mirrorSoon the wipers were going flat out.x-streaming-windshieldNearly dark when I got home.  It had obviously been dumping rain all day.z-my-road-in-rain-stormIn the morning I could hear the river, which is audible from my place only during a flood.  Sure enough, it was at spring flood height.  river-floodWe had a disastrous flood here in 2010, when warm rain washed all the snow off the mountains, so we were all worried that the same thing might happen.  At least I had plenty of gas and food this time (the 2010 story is told in Ginty’s Ghost.)

Before I close this post, I want to talk about a comment I received referring to the last two pictures of the previous post – the dead bull on the road.  The correspondent called the pictures disgusting.  I am sorry if she was offended, but it never occurred to me that they were at all obnoxious when I posted them.

The reader must have been a city person.  No rural or wilderness dweller would think twice about seeing such things.  City folk lead a very isolated existence as all the nasties in their lives are taken care of.  They don’t have to dispose of their own sewage or garbage, find their own water or shelter, create their own power and so on.  City folk don’t even have to think about these things.  It is very scary, because these people, who know so little about the real world, are, by their sheer numbers, the ones making our political decisions.

Here’s a bumper sticker for you: Nature is not a Walt Disney movie.

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