Friday 28 February 2020

Brown Snow

    It seems like we might be moving in to the ugly period between winter and spring.  The above freezing temperatures are causing the snow to melt, and as it does all of the dirt that has been temporarily covered with new snow is starting to show itself. 
    Here are two photos I took yesterday along Hwy. 16.  

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Wednesday 26 February 2020

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
     Like the “Book Woman From Troublesome Creek,” this novel deals with FDR’s WPA’s program created to help people living in the isolated hills of Appalachia have access to reading materials, by having librarians on horseback deliver books and magazines. 
      Alice was a young woman in Britain, who hated the restricted life her family forced her to live, and when a handsome wealthy man and his religious father stayed with them then later returned and asked her to marry, she jumped at the chance. 
      Thinking they would live in the big city of Lexington, Ky, she was dismayed to find herself in a small Kentucky town where the father and son owned a coal mine.  She discovered that her life had become even more restrained, living in her religious father-in-law’s house, with a husband who avoided consummating their marriage.
      In an effort to gain some degree of freedom and escape the boredom of her home life, Alice volunteered to become one of the women horse librarians.  After a steep learning curve of traveling the rough dangerous trails in the wild hills of Kentucky, she grew to love the job and the camaraderie of her coworkers, led by a free living and independent Margery, the team leader.
       Stresses and tensions grew in her household, especially by her pompous father-in-law, who both hated Alice’s association with Margery  (the daughter of a drunken bootlegger), and the fact that Alice did not “know her place as a woman” and did not kowtow to the wishes of the father-in-law as head of the household. 
      The father-in-law covertly worked to denigrate both the library and Margery, its leader, despite the really positive things it had achieved in the community.  Alice began to feel more and more alienated from her husband.
       As you might expect things got much more bleak and hopeless until things finally came to a satisfying ending. 
      Besides the traveling library, this book dealt with racial discrimination, religious hypocrisy, misogyny, rural poverty, and other social matters.  It was well written and well paced, with memorable characters, and an interesting storyline.  I very much enjoyed reading it. 

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Tuesday 25 February 2020

Sky Light

    I love the drama that the sky was playing out yesterday was we walked Horseshoe Lake Road.  It seems both threatening and optimistic at the same time.

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Monday 24 February 2020

Still Winter

    Although I have been very hungry to see some kind of sign showing me that Spring is on the horizon, winter just won’t cooperate.  It hasn’t been really cold, but every day or two we get a couple of inches of snow.  At least the days are getting noticeably longer.

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Sunday 23 February 2020

Drifting Snow

    Every winter is different.  This winter it seems to me that we are getting more drifting snow than usual.  The winds are creating long fingers of snow that are stretching over the roadways.  The Highway Ministry tries to clear them out, but they often start getting out of hand before they are removed, and as I drive into them I often wonder how thick they are and if they are going to stop me.
    I am now getting pretty weary of snow and winter and would sure like to see some signs that winter’s grip is weakening.

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Saturday 22 February 2020

A Streak of Sunshine

    This morning when I walked out to fill the bird feeder the scene was all in the shadow of clouds except for a streak of sunshine that was stretching across the Cariboo Mountains, highlighting the lower  slopes.  We have been getting a lot of snowfalls lately, not big ones, but an inch or two at a time.  
    I have been trying to prevent the build up on my driveway as much as I can, but these little snowfalls are not enough to use the snowblower, and so I shovel.  Often they are not even enough to warrant shoveling so I leave it, then whenever we use the car, the snow gets compacted into ice.

    When things do begin to melt around here, that compacted ice will become really slippery making our sloped driveway difficult to use.

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Friday 21 February 2020

A Life Lesson

Continued from yesterday:

    I don’t know if it is true for everyone, but for me, those tiny injustices that occurred to me in my youth have been seared into my memory, and I don’t think I will ever forget them.  One such incident happened to me the year after winning the city 100 yard dash.
    When the spring of 1960 rolled around, I was ready for the next track season.  At the district track meet, I again was entered and won both the broad jump and the 100 yard dash, so I was again eligible to participate in the city track and field meet. 
    That event was to be held on a Monday.  The weekend before, I was invited by my aunt and uncle to join them in a car trip up to Indianapolis to see the sights in the capital city.
    One of those Indianapolis sights that we visited on that weekend Sunday was the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.  The monument was basically a tall limestone tower adorned with some military statues.  You could go up inside and up to the top of the 380 ft. structure to the observation deck.  To get to the observation deck you had two choices:  you could ride up an elevator or climb up the 331 steps.  I figured that since I was an “athlete”, I should probably take the 331 steps, and decided that I would use the opportunity to exercise my legs.   I would not just walk up the steps, but I would run up them, at least as many of them as much as I could.  
    I assume there was an interesting view of the city from the top, there should have been because the monument is just 15 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty, but I have no memory of what it was, that I saw from up there.  I do have a vivid memory of what happened the next day when I woke up and got out of bed, because I could hardly walk, because my left knee hurt so much, and it was the day of the big city track meet.
    This was very upsetting to me, but what could I do.  It was also very upsetting to the track coach, who sent me to talk to the school principal.  I didn’t really know why I was supposed to see the principal or what to expect.  He started out by trying to humor me into running in the track meet, even though I kept telling him my knee really hurt and that I really couldn't run.  
    He then switched tactics and got all psychological with me.  He started telling me that my knee pain  was all “in my head”, and that I really was okay. He explained that I was just afraid to run because I had done so well the year before, and was just worried I wouldn't do as well this time. 
    It was all very frustrating for my 12 year old brain, because something had really happened to my knee because of my climb up the Soldiers and Sailors Monument the day before.   I really did want to race, but no matter how many times I told him that, he and the track coach, thought I was just faking an injury because I was afraid.
    I did not, of course, participate in the big track meet, because physically I could hardly walk without pain, but the following year when I entered high school, I joined the freshman track team and participated in all of those track events.
    The disbelief of my principal was a shock to my naive child brain, that had up to that time, always believed that if you just tell the truth, adults would understand and things would turn out okay.  Obviously, I had been mistaken, and I still vividly remember that encounter 60 years later, especially on cold damp days when I still sometimes get an ache in my left knee.

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Thursday 20 February 2020

Athletic Feets: Part 2

After school, holding my parents permission slip, my doctor's okay, and all my track gear in my arms, I joined the other potential track stars and headed down to the boy's dressing room.  Once dressed, and out on the field, we were given an explanation of all the events--50 yard dash, 75 yard dash, 100 yard dash, the 200 yard run, and the relays.  Then there were the field events: high jump, broad jump, pole vault, and something called the "hop, step, and jump".
After weeks of sprinting, hop, step, and jumping, and practicing handing off the bamboo "baton" in relay races during our after school track practices, the team that would represent our elementary school was chosen, and it was decided who would participate in which events.  Eleven year old, David Marchant was to broad jump, sprint in the 100 yard dash, and run the final leg of the relay.
I don't remember a whole lot about that first track meet which was the District Track meet for schools on the north side of town.  We did get miss of half a day of school,which was a big deal.  We boarded a yellow school bus, where we somberly sat pondering, what was going to happen at the track meet, while our teacher/coach tried to motivate us with a pep talk. 
    When we arrived at the school field where the meet was to take place, we were all given a half of a lemon to suck on for some reason.  I still don’t understand the sucking on the lemon business, but that seemed to be a vital part of participating in a track meet during elementary school, and since I didn’t know anything about track meets, I sucked on my lemon.  
    When it was time for the 100 yard dash heats, we nervously positioned ourselves on the starting line, and when the starting pistol went off we streaked to the faraway finish line, where the top few finishers were approached by officials, and congratulated, then registered for the finals of the 100 yard dash.
    In the broad jump event we all of the participants were given three chances of running down toward the sand pit, taking a leaping when they reached the white board in the ground, then with legs outstretched flying through the air, then landing in the sand.  
    I performed very well at the District Track Meet, winning in my age class, the broad jump, where I came in first place with a leap of 14' 2".  In the 100 yard dash, I also won, finishing in 12.9 seconds.  
The fact that I had placed first in the district meet made me eligible to participate in the Evansville "City" track meet that was held a couple of weeks later.  Again, I and two other boys who had also placed in the top 3 in track and field events at the district meet got to get out of another afternoon of school.
The City Track and Field Meet was held in an intimidating old brick football stadium, whose size and status, made us gulp as we entered the structure.  Again we were given lemons to suck on.  We stretched and jogged around the track secretly looking at the competition as we waited for our events to be called.  The district track meet had been an all "white" affair, because all of the schools in our district schools drew on rural and country families, all of which were white.  The City Track Meet was a much bigger deal, it included all of the feeder elementary schools to the four big high schools.  These schools that drew students from the inner city and black neighborhoods, where so many of the really talented athletes grew up, so the competitors we were going to face would be a lot more talented.
They were.  I wasn't even able to place in the broad jump, but in the 100 yard dash, no one was more surprised than I was when I in first.  I guess sucking on those lemons really worked for me.  Of course, I was very proud and surprised at what had happened.
    When we got back to our elementary school, and I told my dad, who was was waiting there to drive me home, he was also very proud of me. 
    On the next day when I got off of the bus at school, word of my achievement had gotten around and I was treated like a big star, and that was quite an ego boost.  Of course my five minutes of fame came with a down size; just like the “fast gun” in all of the cowboy movies, everybody wanted to try and beat me.  Even my sixth grade teacher wanted to race me. 
    Above is a photo showing what the athlete starring in this epic looked like.  Below is part of an old newspaper article recording the results of that first District Track Meet.  In looking over it just now, I discovered that I got to know a lot of the participants later, when we all became students in same high school.

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Tuesday 18 February 2020

Athletic Feets

    I probably should apologize for that title, but one time my dad told me a story about a cousin, who in school was orally given the assignment of writing a theme paper about "Athletic Feats", I guess he misunderstood, because he wrote his whole paper on athletes' foot.  I always thought that was a funny story and somehow thought of it when I was writing this piece.
    When I was young I always had a complicated relationship with athletics.  On one hand I was blessed with a lot of natural ability, particularly in the basics like running and jumping.  On the other hand, it seemed that unlike most males, I failed to inherit the gene that made a person feel that sports were important.  I really could care less about sport teams or sport scores.
    The first indication that maybe I had some special ability in sports, came when I was in the fifth grade.  One day for Phys. Ed., (we always called it "gym" no matter if we were actually in the gym or outside), we were gathered around at one end of the playing field and told that we were going to have a race to the far end, around the backstop, then back to where we started. 
    "On your mark, get set, GO!", away we shot as a group, but as we approached the backstop, we were spread out.  I was way in front of the pack by the time we got back to the start.  I was happy that I had won, but I didn't spend very much time thinking about it
    In the spring of the following year, when I was in Mr. Mohr’s the sixth grade class, he read out an announcement that anyone who was interested in being on the school's track team should pick up a permission slip.  
    I was happy when someone ask what track was, because I didn't know.  Mr. Mohr explained to us it was about running races.  Then the class broke into a general discussion about track.
I hadn't been at all enthusiastic about the track announcement until one of my classmates held up his hand and said, "David should be on the team, because he won the race in gym and can run really fast.”  I hadn't thought about that race since it happened, and was surprised and proud that someone remembered it.
    I did pick up one of those permission slips and took it home, and my dad (who had inherited the sports gene) was happy to sign it.  On the slip, it said I had to go to get a physical exam from a doctor, and have a T-shirt, some shorts, a pair track shoes, and a jock strap.  I had to ask what that was, and my father told me that was something you wore instead of underpants, so that you wouldn't get ruptured.
    I didn't know what getting ruptured mean either, but I assumed that it had something to do with the nether regions, and so I just nodded my head like I understood, and let it pass.  This whole business of the jock strap and getting ruptured all sounded like I was about to enter into this mysterious and unknown world.
    Next Friday night on our weekly trip to town, Dad and I slipped away from my mom and my sister and he led me into the basement of the town's sporting goods store.  There he and the store clerk picked out a correct jock strap for me, and I was sized up for a pair of track shoes.
    The track shoes added to the mystery of this thing called track.  I had never seen any shoes like them.  The shoes were very light in weight, with a very flexible thin sole that was mostly on the front of the foot, with just a narrow strip running back to the heel.  When you put them on, you felt like just walking on your toes.
    Once back home, I rushed into my room, to try on my new track equipment.  When I took the jock strap from its cardboard container, I'm not sure what I expected, but I expected something more than the wide elastic belt, attached to two narrower straps and a pouch.  I figured out how to put it on, and once I had it in place, I was gratified that I would now be protected from getting a rupture.

More tomorrow

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Monday 17 February 2020

Ruffed Grouse Again

    We saw the Ruffed Grouse again the other day, it was very, very, slowly walking along our garden fence.   It stood very still in between steps, so that it would blend into its surrounding and no one would notice it.  That strategy works better in the the bush, than it does against the snow.  
    It sure is a beautiful bird with its colorful camo.

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Sunday 16 February 2020

Snow Depth

    Every winter I go out and measure how much snow is on the ground.  This is very unscientific since I don’t always do it on the same day, and although I try to measure it in about the same place, when you have nothing but a flat expanse of snow it’s hard to tell where exactly you measured it the previous year.      
    If you look at the left side of the ruler in the photo you will see that we have 26 inches (66cm) on the ground.  This is just in this one place, in other places that get more wind or get more sunlight there is probably less, and in places where snow drifts build up, there is probably more.  A friend who always measures the depth of snow on her deck before she shovels it off, calculated the total snow that fell so far this year is 5 ft (1.5 meters)
    Twenty-six inches is about normal for my pasture, where I measure, compared to other years.

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Saturday 15 February 2020

Pristine Winter

    Today is gray, overcast, and uninspiring, but that was not the case a couple of days ago when I shot this photo.  A snowstorm had just finished, and the sun was fighting its way through the clouds.  Everything looked fresh and clean.

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Friday 14 February 2020

Snowball Leggings

    Whenever we get a snowfall when the temperature is at the freezing level or a bit warmer, the sticky snow adheres to the hair on Lexi’s legs and feet and create snowballs that get bigger and bigger, the longer she walks.  They are difficult to take off so when we get back home, it usually means taking her into the shower where we spray warm water on the snowballs to quickly melt them off.

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Thursday 13 February 2020

Totem Poles

Continued from yesterday:

    In Yuquot and I was thrilled to see some old weathered totem poles that stood where one of their old villages was located.  The old totems which had been carved from Western Red Cedar, were gray and cracked from years of standing unsheltered through decades and decades of coastal rain, but  in places you could still see the faded colors from their original paint.  Some of the totem poles had plants growing out of the crooks and crannies where a seed of some plant had happened to land, and had germinated.
The carvings on the poles were still recognizable, even in their weathered state.  There were eagles, whales, owls, bears and humans, all carved in the unique West Coast native style.  Even today whenever I see a totem pole, I think back on those ancient faded and weathered poles at Friendly Cove and those days of exploring BC’s Pacific Coast.  While so much of BC’s early history happened in this Pacific area, BC’s terrain is so difficult to travel through that few people have had the opportunity to see any of it.
    British Columbia is largely known worldwide for three things:  Its mountains, its Pacific Coast, and its rich First Nations culture.  I am so glad that way back in 1976 when I came upon that notice about the Alpine to Ocean course in the teacher’s publication, that I took the effort to apply.   The course gave me first hand knowledge of all three of those BC things.  I did notice that tourists can still sign up for “Alpine to Ocean” excursions at the Strathcona Park Lodge.  It won’t be the same experience that I had, but I bet it will still be well worthwhile.

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Wednesday 12 February 2020

Friendly Cove/Yuquot

Continued from yesterday:
    After our days of learning all about the ecology and history of the Pacific West Coast and the coastal First Nations, we again climbed into the Zodiacs and crossed the choppy waters of Nootka Sound, hanging on as we bounced our way over to Friendly Cove.  There we explored around the lighthouse that had disturbed so much of our sleep.  
    Today Yuquot/Friendly Cove is a bit of a backwater, when we visited there it only seemed to be a couple of houses, but it is a place very rich in early BC history.  It was the site where the first European set his foot onto what is now British Columbia.  That was Captain Cook, who in 1778 landed his ship, the HMS Resolution at Friendly Cove.    
      Besides giving Friendly Cove its name (because of the warm welcome he received from the First Nations people who lived there), Captain Cook also named a large island that lies nearby in Nootka Sound, “Bligh Island”, after the sailing master on his ship, William Bligh.  Bligh later became infamous for being the captain on the HMS Bounty when the famous mutiny occurred.
    In 1789, the Spanish explored the area and Captain Quadra set up a trading post at Friendly Cove/Yuquot.   I assume it must have been the Spanish named Escalante Point, since that is a Spanish sounding name.  A few years later, the English decided to push their claim on the BC coast by sending Captain Vancouver to Friendly Cove to confront the Spanish, but thanks to Chief Maquinna the dispute between the Spanish and English was resolved.  
    While we were there we walked down an ancient trail used for centuries by the First Nation’s people.  As we walked it, I couldn’t help but think about the generations of other people who had also trod along that path.

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Tuesday 11 February 2020

1976: Alpine to Ocean, Part 2

Continued from yesterday’s blog:
    After a couple of days exploring the alpine environment we had to hustle ourselves back down for a night’s rest and sauna at the Strathcona Lodge in order to be ready for the following day’s excursion to Escalante Point.  
We shared rides to the mill town of Gold River.  There we boarded the famous coastal BC boat, the Uchuk (nicknamed the “Upchuck” by locals).  The boat chugged us through a long narrow strait lined on both sides with forested slopes until we got to Yoquot a hamlet located near to where Nootka Sound  opened up to meet the Pacific Ocean. 
After disembarking the Uchuck, our group divided up and boarded some Zodiacs (motorized boats with inflatable pontoons for sides).  It was a cold wet ride, bouncing each time we hit a wave, across Nootka Sound to our destination of Escalante Point.  There we walked to a long crescent-shaped wilderness beach, littered with old barkless logs that had broken loose from logging booms and after being battered by the surf they had finally come to rest on the beach.
The beach was walled in on the land side by a pristine forest of Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir, that towered through an undergrowth of  impenetrable salal, a leathery leaved shrub that can grow up to 15 ft high.  Salal can grow so thick that many a shipwrecked sailor, having made it to the safely of  land, ended up starving to death because he couldn’t penetrate through the salal growing along the shoreline.
On the west side of the beach was the open Pacific.  On the beach we made use of the tangle of big logs by creating sleeping shelters, a kitchen, and even a sauna, by draping poly-plastic film over the spaces between logs.  (Those were days before concern for all of the plastic killing the oceans.) 
    Once our camp was set up, we spent a couple of days exploring and learning about beach ecology.  On one of my beach explorations I was thrilled to discover the skeleton of a porpoise half buried in the sand.
    After our camp responsibilities and educational activities had ended, in the heat of the afternoon (yes, we had sunshine one day on that normally gray shoreline) some of us went swimming in the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean
    At night when the fogs moved in over the beach and ocean and we had settled in our shelters to sleep, we couldn’t escape the loud and relenting foghorn from the lighthouse at Yuquot across Nootka Sound.

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Monday 10 February 2020

1976: Alpine to Ocean

    In 1976 we had been living in BC for three years.  We had driven through the Canadian Rockies, and had camped there, and we had ferried to Vancouver Island and been to Victoria, and had visited some of the sights along the coast, but I really didn’t know British Columbia very well because just about all of our time here we had been living in an isolated logging camp in the middle of the province.
    During my last year of teaching in the one room school in the camp, I came across something that peaked my interest in one of the teacher publications.  That summer there was to be an Outdoor Education course for teachers called “Alpine to Ocean.”  The two week workshop was to feature backpacking trips, camping, and talks in both Alpine areas and along the BC coast.  It was sponsored by the Ministry of Education and its fee was partially subsidized by the Ministry.  
    Wow, I thought, that sounds like something I would really enjoy taking, so I signed up.
    The workshop was centered at the Strathcona Park Lodge on Vancouver Island.  To get there I had to take several buses, and finally hitchhike.  My travel time took me close to 20 straight hours, and I was pretty tired when I arrived at the lodge.  It was a friendly group of 15 people involved in the course, and our first trek was up into the alpine on the slopes of Mt. Albert Edward.  It was a grueling slog up the steep slope which caused one of our number to faint, then be taken back to the lodge.
    Although I had always been interested in backpacking and had all the equipment, I had never actually done any, that is, carrying all my food and shelter on my back and being dependent upon what I brought.  I wasn’t the only participant without that experience, so climbing up the slope meant a lot of rest stops to let our legs and backs recover.
    The alpine is a harsh environment with its short growing season, cold weather, and strong winds.  It is an intriguing place to explore and has its own beauty with its spectacular scenery and flowers.  Unfortunately when we arrived most of the flowers had already bloomed and disappeared, and mostly what we experienced were rock, snow, stunted plants, and heathers.
    Our “official” time was spent listening to talks about the alpine environment, setting up our camps, and fixing our meals, but after that we were free to visit, explore the alpine, and even take a cold swim in a pool of water mostly surrounded by snow.  
    This first real introduction to alpine, really wetted my appetite for more alpine experiences, and later when we moved to McBride, exploring the mountain tops that surrounds us, is something I always enjoyed doing.

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Sunday 9 February 2020

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

    This month’s theme for the McBride Library’s Book Club is “Best of 2019”  that is;  books that have been put on some list of good reads.  I chose The Dreamers, not realize how topical it’s story would become as  I read it.  It really brought a bit of reality to all of those news stories about the Nova Corona Virus that are filling the news as it begins to spread across the world.
           The storyline in this novel is a familiar one.  We are introduced to a few of the the individuals who live a small isolated town (in this case a university town in California), then something unexpected happens that is very threatening to them.  Panic and terror starts to spread, as the threat increases and civilization starts to break down. 
      In The Dreamers the threat that causes the panic is a previously unknown disease that causes its victims to fall into an unwakable deep sleep, complete with rapid eye movement which indicates the victims are dreaming. The disease can cause death. 
      The unknown disease is very contagious, soon causing the local hospital to overflow with the sleeping patients.  The disease soon begins to spread to the hospital staff.  As the panic increases, some townspeople try to escape the area to flee the disease, thus spreading it to previously uncontaminated areas, and like what is currently happening in China, the whole town is put into “cordon sanitaire”, the enforced sealing off of an infected area. 
    The book is simply written and very engaging.  Like I said, it helped me humanize what I have been seeing in all of the news stories about the corona virus.  It was an exciting novel to help fill the void on those snowy winter lulls when not much is happening.  

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Saturday 8 February 2020

Mid-Slope Clouds

    After a few days of blowing snow and cloudy weather, it was a real treat to take our walk in relatively peaceful conditions yesterday.   There was a bit of a cold breeze blowing into our faces, when we got at the far end of the road and turned around, but it was tolerable compared to what we had been experiencing.  
    It was interesting to see the long narrow band of cloud that had settled halfway up the mountain slope.
    If you are wondering where our dog is, she was busy burying her snout into the powdery snow, sniffing exotic wildlife smells.  While she was doing that, I was juggling her on the leash while at the same time trying to aim my camera to take these photos.

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Friday 7 February 2020

In Just A Minute

    I know that people from away who read this blog and hear me talk about the cold, snow, and long winters, probably ask themselves, “Why in the world does he live up there?”  and honestly sometimes I ask myself the same question, but there are rewards.  
    Fifteen minutes ago, I got up from painting and happened to look out the balcony window and saw the shadows of clouds stretched across the sunlit mountains.  I thought I’d take a photo of it, so walked down stairs to get my camera.  As I reached for my camera, I glanced  out the kitchen window and saw a deer just beyond the porch.     
    I went back upstairs with my camera and took the mountain photo, then went back down to take a photo of the deer, but it had moved and had been joined by another deer, so I took that photo.  Then I noticed a Downy woodpecker eating fat I had hung on a tree, so I took a photo of it. 
    I took all three of the photos you see within a minute.  Of course there are plenty of times when there is nothing photo-worthy to observe, but quite often the sights come in clumps.  These kinds of experiences are why I really love this place.

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Wednesday 5 February 2020

Hardcore Dog Walkers

    I can’t believe the weather we go out in to walk our dog.  Yesterday afternoon the snow was blowing furiously, accented with twirling tornadoes of the snow, but yet there we were out there walking the dog despite the stinging snow in our eyes.   Lexi loved it of course and seemed unfazed by all the cold chaos blowing around us.   She was busy sniffing around and exploring, while we were trying to keep her concentrating on getting some exercise.
    The best things about being out in terrible weather are that you feel so noble and tough by putting yourself through it and it feels so good when it is over and you can get back into the shelter of the car. 

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