Sunday 31 January 2021

Oh, I'll Remember That

     Several months ago, I got a phone call from Texas.  It was someone named Mike.  He knew me, saying that he and his wife lived in a bus during my year of teaching in Avola, BC.  I had absolutely no recollection of who he was at all.  He explained that he had deserted from the US Army and had escaped to Canada.  He told me that I had told him that President Carter had pardoned those deserters, and as a result he and his wife were able to return to the States and live a regular life.

    This was obviously pretty important news to him and it changed their lives.  I remembered none of it.

    My year of teaching in a two room school in Avola was one of the most miserable years of my life, and I resigned after that year to seek greener pastures.  I was unemployed and had no foreseeable prospects, but we had a lot of money saved, so we decided to look around for a place where we wanted to live, and hope that employment would follow.  

    We spent a lot our search looking around the Robson Valley.  One day we saw the old log house above, situated beside the Fraser River, with nice views of both the Rocky Mountains and the Cariboo Mountains.  It was not lived in, and I wondered to the real estate agent if that property was a possibility.

    He said it was owned by an 80 year old couple and he would find out.  It turned out that they didn’t want to sell, which kind of dashed my dreams.

    This story, like the first, had totally disappeared from my memory.  The log house and property is now Koeneman Regional Park, and we drive by it every day, and often walk our dog there.  It seems like I would have remembered that at one time I was hot to buy it, but I didn’t.  I only recovered this fact because I was going through a 1979 diary that tells about it.

    Memory is fascinating.  I always mistakenly assume that my memory is really good, and that I will remember things, but I don’t.  Long term memory is supposed to be more firmly established than short term memory, but obviously, even that is full of holes.

    I am glad that I took the time to write 30 years of journals about the things that happened during those long ago days.  A lot of those memories are still buried there in my brain, but just covered up with other things.  Reading through them now does bring some of those long buried memories back to the surface.

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Saturday 30 January 2021

Frosted Wild Rose

    We’ve had a week of colder, more normal, temperatures, along with clear skies.  Yesterday the morning temperature was -21C (-6F) and when I was out walking Kona I noticed the low-horizon sun backlighting the stem of a Wild Rose plant.  It made the frost on the stem sparkle.  I didn’t notice the rose hip until I brought up the photo on my computer.

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Thursday 28 January 2021

Herding the Goats

    As my herd of Angora goats increased, I eventually got to the point where having them enclosed in the paddock during the day didn’t really provide them with enough grass to eat.  I had a pasture on the other side of the house with a lot of grass, but the fences were so poor that I didn’t trust putting the goats there during the day while I was at work, so instead I began herding the goats there for an hour or so after I got home.  The goats loved going down to the pasture, but always tried to nip some of our flowers when I drove them through the yard.

    The goats instinctively stayed together, and I had a whip that I would snap to get them going in the direction I wanted.  I sometimes flicked the whip on a trouble-making goat’s back, I’m sure it didn’t cause them any pain through their thick coats, but it did get their attention.

    After a day at work, I found herding the goats in the pasture was a very calming and relaxing activity for me.  I remember one sunny summer day, I got tired of standing around, so as the goats were busy grazing, I just lay down on the grass with my hat over my face to shade the sun.  I must have fallen asleep, until a curious goat nudged me on the side of the face.  I was happy it was a goat and not a bear.

    Herding of goats and sheep is one of the most ancient of occupations.  I often thought about those ancient goatherds and shepherds as I was out watching over my flock.

    The photo shows my father herding the goats back to the barnyard during one of his family visits with us.

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Wednesday 27 January 2021

Fraser River on a Crisp day


    We get a good share cloudy, overcast, days during the winter, and so it is always refreshing to have a nice clear one come along.  That was the case on the day when I took this photo.  There was no wind so the surface of the Fraser was mirror-like.  As you can see that teepee is still standing despite all of the strong winds we have had.

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Tuesday 26 January 2021

Glistening Snow

    Yesterday as we were taking our walk, I noticed how the bright sunlight was glistening on sections of the snow.  This glistening is caused when the temperatures get above freezing, melting the surface of the snow, which later freezes when the temperatures dip again.  The dull parts you see in the photo are the areas where snow has drifted over the glistening snow.

    The sunlight was very bright but the photo appears dark because my camera automatically had to adjust and darken the image because of the very bright light.

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Monday 25 January 2021

Our Intrepid Mouse Hunter

    Just a walk down a country road turns into an exciting adventure for Kona.  She suddenly stops cold, stands silently, listening intensely at the snow, then once she has figured out the coordinates of her prey, she pounces head first into the white powder.  She sniffs and snuffles, under the snow, burying her head in one direction and then the other.  If the scents are promising, she begins furiously digging, then head-dives down into the snow again.  

    It’s wonderful fun for us too, just watching her intensity in the activity.  Fortunately, she never catches anything.

    Below of a photo of what her face looks like after the hunt.

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Sunday 24 January 2021

Mohair Yarn

    Before I start telling you about my mohair yarn, I had better explain something that often causes confusion:   Angora goats are the source of mohair, but Angora yarn does not come from Angora goats, it comes from rabbits.  

    After I had shorn my Angora goats, I had bags and bags of dirty mohair.  I would ship it off to a place in Alberta where they would spin it into yarn.   The yarn was returned to me on big spools.  I would then measure out skeins of mohair yarn, wash it, then dry it  (photo above)

    Once it was clean and dry I would dye it in a big canning pot on the kitchen stove.  Mohair took color beautifully and the result was really brilliantly colored yarn which I sold locally, usually at Christmas fairs.  I had some customers, who weren’t really knitters, buy it because the colors were so beautiful.

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Friday 22 January 2021

Goats With Sweaters

    Because Angora goats were supposed to be shorn twice a year, we ran into problems because of the shortened seasons in the North where we live.  The Spring was often unpredictable and cold, and in the Fall there was the same problem with Winter on the horizon.

    We did come up with a solution.  We went to some local second hand stores and bought some sweaters that we could put on the goats after they had been shorn.  This gave the goats some warmth until their mohair began to grow back.  

    Here are some photos.  The unshorn goats seem a bit confused seeing their companions prancing around in their new finery.

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Thursday 21 January 2021

Shearing at the Goats

    I mentioned before that one of the reasons I chose to raise Angora goats was that, unlike most livestock that have to be killed for you to profit from them, Angoras, like sheep are raised for their coats--Mohair.  Because it was for the mohair that they were bred through the centuries, the animals have evolved to the point where their coats grow extremely quickly.  Because heir coats grow so fast, the animals are usually shorn twice a year.

    Shearing an animal was something I had to teach myself, since I had no experience with doing it and there was no one around to show me how.  I bought some hand shears which are pointed scissor-like contraptions with the two blades joined at the end rather than in the middle like scissors.  

    Shearing was, for me, a laborious task.  I would lift a goat onto my WorkMate portable workbench, then start carefully snipping away at the goat’s coat.  The goat was generally patient for a while, but after about 40 minutes, or until I accidentally nicked it with the shears, it began to squirm around. 

    The longer it took for me to do the shearing, the more antsy the goat became, sometimes to the point of jumping off of the WorkMate in an effort to escape.  (Photo below shows a close up of hand shearing while my wife holds the goat by the horns.  You can see the hand shears on the left side)

    It often took me two hours to shear a goat, quite a bit slower than professional shearers who can do the job in a few minutes.  I later bought myself an electric shears, which made the job a bit quicker, but it also was more apt to cut the goat, so I had to be really careful.

    I eventually made a wooden “holder” that attached to the WorkMate, that allowed me to strap the goat’s neck, holding the goat in place while I did the shearing.


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Tuesday 19 January 2021

The Herd Grows

    I enjoyed raising Angora goats.  Wotan and Brunhilde had kids yearly, and I bought a few other goats and my herd grew and grew.  It eventually reached 23 which was way to many.  I didn’t have room enough in the barn for them or for all of the hay I had to store for the winter. It was a real chore to shear so many.   It was also getting to be too much work, so I eventually sold some, so the herd was more easy to manage.

    Angoras behaved more like sheep than your stereotypical goats.  They were shy and pretty passive.  In the photo above they are all looking suspiciously at me wondering what I was up to.

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Monday 18 January 2021

An Angora Kid

    Okay, now that the snow event is no longer big news, I am back to blogging about the time when I got  Angora goats.  I started out with two, a buck we named Wotan, and a doe Brunhilde.  I wanted, of course, for them to breed so I could develop a herd of Angoras.  It worked.

    The two mated and after a period of time, the pregnant Brunhilde was acting nervously and I figured she was about to give birth.  I had absolutely no experience in the process and was full of insecurities.  I put Brun in her stall in the barn with a heat lamp for warmth.  The birthing fortunately all happened without any problems and there soon was a tiny kid wobbling around on shaky legs as Brunhilde licked and licked the young goat’s coat.  As is often said about birth, it seemed a miracle.

    After a few days, the kid had figured out walking, and I let Brun and her kid out into the paddock for a taste of the world.  Angora kids are sure cute.

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Sunday 17 January 2021

A Patch of Sunlight

    I am always looking for interesting and unusual lighting.  That is what prompted me to take this photo the other day.

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Saturday 16 January 2021

Look What Arrived Yesterday

    Yep, that’s another guitar strap.   If you haven’t read my blog of Jan. 8th you probably don’t know what all of the fuss is about, but after I ordered two (and my wife another one) I received a fifth guitar strap yesterday.  I am not sure why.

    I am beginning to think if you look at something online, it automatically comes.  I will have to wait for my credit card bill to see if I have bought all of them or whether some of them are just “freebees”.  I had enough instruments for the first four, and even though I don’t really need this fifth, I guess I can put it on another guitar I have that I rarely use.

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Friday 15 January 2021

Hard Slogging on the Trail

    While our heavy snow has been beautiful, it has really made walking our loop trail more difficult.  The photo above shows the section of trail that runs atop our dam.  (That’s the trail in the middle of the photo.)  All of the young trees on both sides have been bent down by the heavy snow.  Several sections of the trail looked like this and I had to stop, shake the trees, (which often covered me with snow) before I could proceed through the tangle.

    I was pretty exhausted by the time I got back to the house.  Kona wasn’t really impacted by the stooped trees, she was able to walk right under the snow-ladened arches.

    I was glad I walked the trail though because I did get a couple of photos that I liked.  (Below)


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Thursday 14 January 2021

More Snow Photos

    The snowfall we had on Tuesday night left us in a beautiful world.  Yesterday I showed you some photos that I took in the overcast early morning.  Today I have some shots showing the scenery around our house with the sunshine highlighting some of the snow-covered trees.  The photo above shows the scene I have photographed a thousand times before (even yesterday) but it is always changing depending on the light.

    Below is a shot from our balcony.

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Wednesday 13 January 2021

We Finally Got Some Snow

    I was beginning to think this was going to be a pretty snowless winter.  It seemed strange to be sitting in the middle of January with bare fields and yards.  Last night however Mother Nature did finally get back to work and produced about 6 inches (15cm) of snow.  

    This was a wet heavy snow so all of the trees and bushes were bent over when I got up.  The weight was too much for some branches and they broke off and fell to  the ground.

    I usually spend some time painting in the morning, but had to forego that in order to crank up the snowblower and clear the driveway.  The temperature is still mild (overnight it was -2C, 28F, normally it should be -15C, 5F).

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Tuesday 12 January 2021

Angora Goats

    Way back in the late 1980’s, after we had well settled in to the “Hobby Farm” we had bought in the Robson Valley, I decided I wanted to raise some kind of animals.  We had a barn, fences, and pasture so it seemed logical to give farming a try.  I knew I always got too attached to animals, and I didn’t want to raise anything that I would have to kill, so after some research I decide that I wanted to raise Angora goats.

    Unlike most goats that are raised for milk and meat, Angora’s are more like sheep and are raised for their “wool” which is called Mohair.  It is warmer than wool and takes dye better.  The fiber is fine, white,  and wavy.  It is what was used for Santa Claus beards, Shirley Temple’s wig, expensive suits, and sweaters.  

    I did some checking and discovered that there was someone a couple of hours away that raised Angora goats.  I gave him a call and soon found myself driving back to McBride with a puzzled Angora buck and doe in the back of our Scout.

    Getting the goats was exciting change for us.  I enjoyed going out every morning to to the barn so I could let the two goats into the pasture.  We would spend a lot of time just standing by the fence watching them wander around the pasture munching grass.

    Below is a photo of our first goats:  Wotan, our buck and Brunhilde, our doe, sharing a bowl of oats.

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Monday 11 January 2021

Seepage Ice

    I suspect you are getting tired of hearing me talk about all the underground water that is seeping to the top and freezing, but the phenomenon is getting worse by our garden.  I hope you can see all of the ice that is slowly forming as the water seeps up.  The fenced area in the photo is our garden, and like during the summer, when our garden continually flooded, the same thing is happening through the winter, only now the water freezes in place.

    I guess I will have to dig a trench in the spring to channel the water into an underground drainage pipe that runs between the garden and the greenhouse.  

    While I don’t have many outside jobs I can do during the winter, the list of work that needs to be done after winter is over, continues to grow.

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Saturday 9 January 2021

Books, Cats, and Guitars

    One of the major changes in television news broadcasts since COVID has been that the talking heads are no longer in the studios, but in their homes.  I had blogged before about how interesting I found it to get a glimpse into the homes where they live.   While these “home visits” have now become normal, I am still enjoying seeing the backgrounds behind the talkers.

    In most of the news broadcasts I watch the backgrounds are books.  I always try to read the titles to see what they have been reading.  I noticed right away that one of Judy on PBS NewsHour has “Grant” on her bookshelf.  It is a book that I had read.

    Another thing that now makes the news broadcasts interesting is seeing cats in the back ground.  It seems that several of the broadcasters have cats snoozing or wondering around in their house.

    One of the big surprises has been how many guitars I have seen in the newscasts.  This especially seems to be the case with a lot of the doctors that are interviewed about COVID.  Seeing the guitars always makes me wonder what kind of music they play.  


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Friday 8 January 2021

I Guess I Don't Need Any More Guitar Straps

     Throughout last year, my wife would periodically ask me what I might want for Christmas.  I have so much stuff already, that I couldn’t really give her an answer.  About a week before Christmas I was playing my guitar and got frustrated with my guitar strap.

    It was a cheap thin nylon one that was continually getting twisted on my back to the point it was more like a rope, than a strap.  More importantly, it would sometimes slip out of the buttons on my guitar, making my guitar almost drop to the floor.  

    “”Aha,” I thought a better guitar strap is something I would really like to get for Christmas, so I checked on line, picked out one that I would like and showed my wife the guitar strap that would be a nice Christmas surprise for me.  There was one problem;  it was only a week before Christmas.

    On Christmas morning, I was a bit disappointed that there was no guitar strap under the tree.

    Weeks passed, and every time I played the guitar, I thought, “I really need a better guitar strap,” so I went online, found the one that I liked and decided I would order two of them:  One for my acoustic guitar and one for my electric guitar.  I put them into my online shopping cart and pressed the “BUY” button.

    A few minutes later my wife ask me what I was doing, so I told her I had just ordered two guitar straps.

    “Oh, no.” was her response, “I ordered you one for Christmas, but it is on Back Order.”  

    Well, it looked like I would have three guitar straps, but that was okay; I could use one for my acoustic, one for my electric, and one for my mandolin.

    Yesterday there was a box at the Post Office.  It seemed too big a box for the guitar strap that my wife had ordered, but when we got home and opened it there was a guitar strap in it, and another guitar strap, and another guitar strap, and a forth guitar strap.  

    I was guitar strap rich, but also confused.  

    I assume that the back order had been filled, and joined with my order for two straps, but why did they send me four?  I don’t really have an answer to that, maybe someone got confused with the math and made a mistake.

    I put one on my acoustic guitar to try it out and was very impressed.  My guitar had never felt so secure.  I was very happy with my, and my wife’s, purchase.  I now have a skookum (a British Columbian First Nation’s word meaning “really good.”) guitar strap for my acoustic guitar, one for my electric guitar, one for my mandolin, and one for my 12-string guitar.  

    I won’t be needing any guitar straps for a while.

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Thursday 7 January 2021


     On the way back from walking the dog yesterday afternoon, we spotted a Bald Eagle down on the river.  I pulled the car over on the side of the road, grabbed my camera, and opened the car door just in time for it to take flight.

    I didn’t get the photo I wanted but at least you can see the bird.  I think that most eagles migrate south for the winter, but some stay in the Robson Valley all winter. 

    I once took the train up to Prince George in the winter and was surprised at how many eagles I saw along the way.  I assume they stay plump eating all of the carrion, created by the trains hitting the animals that use the tracks during the winter. 

    I’m not sure how much food can be found down by the river when a lot of the river is frozen, but I guess the bird knows what it is doing.

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Wednesday 6 January 2021

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

     This is the second book I have read by WIlla Cather, a rather unrecognized and under appreciated American author.  Having read and enjoyed Cather’s  My Antonia., I thought I would try O Pioneers!  and like her My Antonia, this novel was thought-provoking, well-crafted, and engaging.     

    The book which is about early agriculture in the prairies, starts out with all of the main characters as children.  Alexandra the protagonist, has two oafish older brothers, and Emil, a sensible younger brother.  Their Swedish immigrant family has struggled to scratch out crops on their farm located on the harsh unforgiving Nebraska tableland near a small town.  

       Their agricultural efforts haven’t produced many positive results and their father, who has struggled to make the farm work, lies dying.   While most of their neighbors have given up, abandoning their farms to retreat to an easier existence in the cities, Alexandra’s dying father still believes there is wealth in the land and recognizes Alexandra as being the smartest of his children, and makes her promise to keep the family’s land after his death. 

        Alexandra with her intellect and modern thinking, innovates and invests, buying up the parcels that her neighbors are abandoning.  She begins planting clover and then wheat which thrives, instead of planting corn which generally failed.  The farm and her brothers prosper under her guidance.   When her brothers married, she generously divided up her acquired land, so they can each run their own farms. 

         During Alexandra’s rather lonely life she has had one soulmate; Carl, an ex-neighbor, whose family had moved away during their youth.  Years later, Carl, whose city life has been rather unsuccessful, revisits forty year old Alexandra on his way to the goldfields, and her older brothers, fearing her marriage, try to strip her of the ownership of the family farm, which she had saved, turned profitable, and where she lives. 

         O Pioneers! is a beautifully written piece of literature that immerses the reader into the hardships, human frailties, and loneliness of those prairie pioneers.  Cather’s story paints a picture of those hard times, the people, and the situations in a way that stick with the reader.

    The cover of this e-book edition must have been chosen by someone who hadn’t read the book.  There are no covered wagons in the novel, it takes place on an already established farm.

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Tuesday 5 January 2021

The Freezing Line

    The other day on our afternoon walk I couldn’t help but notice the freezing line on the Cariboo Mountain slopes.  You could clearly see where it was below freezing because the snow was still on the trees, below that elevation the temperatures where above freezing causing the snow on the trees to melt.  The temperature that afternoon on the valley bottom was 4C (39F).

    The photo below shows the same freezing line on the Rocky Mountains that run on the opposite side of the Robson Valley.

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Monday 4 January 2021

Mouse Diving

    Whenever we take Kona on a walk down a country road, she spends a lot  of her time, not walking, but by mouse diving.  She will stand very still, listening to the weeds along the roadside, then suddenly she pounces head-first with her front legs tucked under her, into the weeds and snuffles around.  She never catches any mice, but that has not dampened her enthusiasm for the activity.

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