Saturday, 25 March 2023

The Root Cellar

    Back in 1977 when we bought our place, we were looking to live closer to the land. The property we bought was a five acre hobby farm, with a big garden, a greenhouse, and a root cellar, for keeping the vegetables we grew edible throughout the winter.  While I was happy to have a root cellar, it was an ugly thing, that jutted out of the ground like a loaf of bread on a table.  Adding to its ugliness was the fact that it was difficult to keep neat, it’s steep outside slopes were covered with weeds and couldn’t be mowed.

    The root cellar’s function was not all that great either.  Water would seep in and often cover the dirt floor.  In the winter, snow would drift all around it, making the door difficult to open, so I put off getting the  food we stored in there as long as possible, because it was such a pain to get them.

    Anyway, after the winter of 1984 we had an early spring.  The snow was gone by the beginning of March and so my outside jobs had started.  Looking at the root cellar, I decided that one thing I wanted to do was get rid of all of the unsightly weeds that grew on it.  The weeds were all dry, and I made up my mind to burn them off.  

    I lit some of the weeds along the bottom, and they took off, burning really well, too well in fact.  The burning weeds caught the cedar log walls of the root cellar on fire, and suddenly the whole structure was burning to fiercely for me to put out.  After the conflagration was over, there was just a big smoking hole where the root cellar used to be.

    Loosing the root cellar wasn’t that big of a loss to me, like I said, there were a lot of things I didn’t like about it, but still, it was a bit of a loss.

    Before April began, I decided to write an April Fools story for our weekly paper.  I took a photo of a friend, standing by what was left of the root cellar, and wrote a fake news, April Fools caption for the photo which did appear in the Robson Valley Courier.  See it below:

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Friday, 24 March 2023

A Waterline Miracle (Sort Of)

    One of my biggest worries throughout the winter is that our waterline might freeze.  There have been a few winters in the past, when our line did freeze, and left us scrambling for other water sources for months.  

    In fact, during the winter of 1994, the waterline froze and didn’t start running again until April 24th.  That is one of the favorite bits of trivia that people remember on the calendar I make annually.

    We get our water from a waterfall.  Our line is 4,100 feet long.  There are four families on the line.  Our house is the third on line.  The water is gathered at Sunbeam Creek Falls, runs down the pipe, to the four houses, then empties out, both at my pond and at our neighbors’s creek.

    One winter, suddenly, we had no water.  Frantic phone calls took place, and Glen, who is has the first house on the waterline, and I, went up to the falls to see what could be done.  After several attempts to get it going, we resigned ourselves to our fate.  

    Glen was able to switch over to his old well, Kjell who lived at the end of the line was able to do the same.  We had an old well also, but our pump no longer worked, so we had to carry water, and take showers at the old Forestry office

    After a week without water, looking for a miracle, I turned on our tap, and discovered in fact, that a miracle had taken place, because water began to dribble out of the faucet.  This was unbelievable.  There wasn’t much pressure, but there was water.  Suddenly, our lives were made a whole lot more pleasant.  I couldn’t explain why there was water, it didn’t make any sense, but it was there and I was happy.  

    We continued on using the water for weeks.  It wasn’t until later that I found out the reason for the flowing water.  It was because of Kjell’s old water system.  He had forgotten to put on a check valve on the waterline to his house, so when he turned on his pump to get water from his well to his house, the poor little pump was not only pumping water to the house, but was also working away pumping water into our waterline.  Eventually, it filled the 2 inch line all the 750 feet back to our house, and we had water coming out of our tap.

    I was always very appreciative of Kjell for this convenience, but alas, the next time he did work on his water system, he closed off this oversight.

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Thursday, 23 March 2023

Roots by Alex Haley

This novel begins in 1750 in a small African village, located in what is now Gambia.  A boy child is born to Omoro Kinte and his wife, Binta.  It is a Muslim community, with strong African and Muslim traditions.   The women live separately from the men, with strict rules about how women and men act and work.  

Kunte, the young child grows up being trained for the roles he must fulfill as a man.  He gets an education from the Muslim priest of the village so he can read Arabic.  He strongly adheres to the Muslim beliefs and the cultural practices of the Village.  He finally reaches the stage of life where he has his own house and is expected to take a wife, but then, at age 17, he is kidnapped by slavers, and his life takes a severe turn.

He is stripped and branded, then shackled into the hold of a slave ship, shoulder to shoulder with other kidnapped Africans.  It is hell; lying in the stench of bodily wastes and vomit, unable to change positions in the tightly packed hold of the ship for over a month as the ship crosses the Atlantic to America.  He can’t communicate with the other slaves, who speak different tribal languages.  

     Finally, having survived the voyage, the ship lands in Maryland, where he is sold at a slave auction.  During all of this time, everything from Kunte’s previous life disappears, he is totally confused and has no understanding of what is happening to him.

Once Kunte was purchased and carted off to a farm, his one goal was to escape and make his way back to his village.  This of course was impossible.  His three attempts at escape failed, due to the bloodhounds and trackers that found him.  After being caught a fourth time, the trackers cut off half of his foot, to put an end to his escape attempts.   

Mercifully, Kunte then ends up in a farm run by a more humane master.  Kunte, who still had trouble communicating, felt contempt toward his fellow slaves.  He hated them for being so passive and accepting of their abuse.  He tried to adhere to his Muslim beliefs, keeping to himself, but slowly, he accepted that he could never return to his family, and succumbed to his new reality, integrating himself with the other slaves on the farm.

        Kunta became the driver for his master and married Bell, a slave who was the master’s cook.   Bell had learned to read at a previous plantation, something that was prohibited in slaves.  Reading enabled her to keep her fellow slaves informed about what she had secretly read in the master’s newspapers and what she overheard during their dinners.  This eavesdropping on their master’s private conversations and newspapers about the historical events that were happening, was an effective way for the author to show the passage of time in the lives of his characters.  I would assume that otherwise, the constant mundane work of the slaves would give no indication of historical time.

Kunte and Bell had a daughter, Kizzi.  Kunte told Kizzi about his life in Africa, teaching her words from his language.  This information about his origin was remembered and further passed down to each generation of the family.  As Kizzi grew up, she learned how to read, while being the “student”, playing “school” with the master’s young niece.  

As a teen, she fell in love with a field slave who was set on escaping.  He talked her in to writing out a “road pass”, but he was caught in his escape attempt and confessed that Kizzi had written the pass.  As a result, Kizzi was sold, never to see her family again.  This was a shock to me, having been so throughly immersed in Kunte’s struggles, but the complete disappearance of family members was a common occurrence to slaves.

Kizzi’s new owner, immediately raped her, giving her a son, George, who plays a prominent part in the book.  Their master had been a “cracker,” a poor, white trash farmer, who had risen in status after winning a very good fighting rooster in gambling bet at a cock fight.  Cock-fighting then enabled him to greatly improve his economic situation allowing him to buy land, a nice house, and slaves.  

Young George was assigned to work with the aging, black man who trained the fighting roosters.  George immediately took to the job, gaining expertise, and also became besotted with cock-fighting.  He slowly established a good working relationship with his master, who was also his father.   He was given a small percentage of the winnings.  The goal of the whole family was to raise enough money to buy their freedom, but they were never able to achieve their freedom until after the Civil War, but even then, their opportunities were restricted by racism.

The storyline of Roots continues on through four more generations of the family, each being taught about Kunte, his African story, and his African words.  In one of the last chapters, a boy child was born to the family and his name was Alex Haley, the author of Roots, who, after much research, wrote the book about his family’s saga.  

Using Kunte’s African words, Haley was eventually able to pinpoint which tribe Kunte, his ancestor, belonged too, and after traveling to Africa, he found Kunte’s small village where, with translators, he listened to an old generation-keeper, whose task was to remember the generations of local families, give the ancient line of the Kinte family.  In the old man’s oral history, he confirmed Kunte’s existence, which inspired Haley to write Roots.

Roots was a Pulitzer Prize winner, which was made into a popular mini-series.  I was aware of the book and mini-series, but didn’t know the story until now.  It is a compelling story, based on the struggles of a real family.  It is certainly a story that needed to be told.


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Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Scary Wood

     Yesterday, I carried four pieces of wood from the dead tree I bucked up, out of the bush and onto the pasture.  They were, of course, still sitting there in the snow this morning when I went out to walk Kona around the pond this morning.  Kona spotted from a distance, the wood sitting there in the snow, and totally freaked out.  She erupted into a loud barking fit and refused to walk any further into the pasture.  

    Because I wanted to continue the walk, but couldn’t convince Kona to move, I walked over to the the wood and sat down on one of the rounds.  Finally, when Kona saw me peacefully sitting on the scary wood, she slowly and cautiously made her way over to where I was sitting, and sniffed at the wood.  Seeing the wood was harmless, we were then able to continue our walk around the pond.

    We have had about a week of really beautiful clear sunny weather, with temperatures getting above freezing during the day.  Below is a shot of the endless blue sky as we began our morning walk around the pond.

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Tuesday, 21 March 2023

Getting Ready For Next Year

    Winter is such a dominant season in Canada that I spent yesterday, the first day of spring, preparing firewood for next winter.  It is always one of my major tasks in the spring, so that the wood can dry out over the summer, and ready to burn in the winter.

    I am always on the lookout for trees that I can use for firewood.  I spotted this dead Spruce snag in the grove of trees beside my pond.  Although dead, it hadn’t really started to rot yet and it was leaning in a good direction for falling.  It fell beside a pool which was frozen, so I thought I’d better fall it now, so I could buck up the pieces before the ice on which it fell, turned into water.

    This firewood is going to be a lot of work, because of its location.  I will have to carry the heavy chunks of wood through about 40 yards (36 meters) of bush to the path beside the pond to stack it.  Then I will need to use the wheelbarrow to wheel it to my pasture, where, once the snow all melts, I can put it in the truck to haul up to my shop.

    Once I get it there, I can split it using the electric splitter.  Once split, I can wheel the pieces of firewood down closer to the house, where it will be stacked.  Whew, I’m worn out just thinking about all of that work.

    Luckily, I still have quite a bit of birch firewood left over from last year, so I will only have to get find about two more trees to complete what I need for next winter.

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Monday, 20 March 2023

It's Spring !

    Some of the fields in the Robson Valley are bare, but we still have at least a foot of snow covering our yard.  Nevertheless, today is the Spring Equinox, so officially we are now into spring.  I have even seen two Robins and a Junco, which does help to make the seasonal change feel real.  Now if we can only get rid of this snow on the ground, it would complete the feeling that spring has finally arrived.

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Sunday, 19 March 2023

Zion National Park

     In March of 2005, we took a trip down to the US Southwest.  One of the places we stopped was Zion National Park.  I have always enjoyed dramatic geological areas, and certainly Zion is one of the most spectacular.  I find its massive dark-stained red sandstone formations a thing of beauty.  To me, they represent Earth in a beautiful, timelessness.  

    When we toured there eighteen years ago, the valley was already bumper to bumper with tourists, so I expect it is much worse now.  To bad, Nature needs solitude to really give the observer the peace and wonder that it can provide.

    Springtime Zion was full of spectacular waterfalls, as the snow on top melts and the water plummets to the valley below.  Here are two shots of one of the waterfalls that we saw.

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