Friday, May 30, 2014

Free Range

Is there food in here?
I have a trunk where I keep the dress-up clothes.  Bonnie added a caterpillar costume this year. Lots of treasures when a person digs to the bottom there.  Michael found the box that is loaded with jewellery. Ihe box would confuse anyone, for it appears to have Christmas cookies in it.

“I want the cookies, gwama!”

“No food, but I will open the box and let you play with the treasures.”, but a drag for the beads  interfere with the
Thomas the Train Track game ...
Usually he and I are out in the dirt. Bonnie said that the only way to describe him is by calling him a free-range chicken.

 He circles the porch, turns on his bouncy house, turns it off, checks out the compost bins, digs a while in the sand pile, helps me weed the stairs that go down to the lake, comes back up to turn on the mirror ball under the deck and then he is gone to check out what his mom is doing with the saw in the garage. Glen taught him how to crawl through the 26 inch aluminum pipe that didn’t get used in the work with the culverts. I showed him how to put a pebble in the flue that takes the water down the hill. The water gushes down at that point and the pebbles crackle against the side all of the way down. I have an extra set of gardening gloves in my pocket because I have to give up mine to him if there is only one pair. I only saw him bolt for home one day. A sudden gust of wind came around the house. When I looked for him, I saw him flattened against the garage door, his arms flattened out and his little body shaking.

I like having a gardening companion.


Thursday, May 29, 2014


... a Bronze Aged Tool ...
originally from Asia Minor and Greece
Re-landscaping the area around the stream that flooded out the culvert was a top priority for me today. The culver over-ran its capacity, the ditch in the road had to take the overflow, a huge crack in the road appeared – all of that was a big problem took charge of. Now re-landscaping that area is a small problem in comparison, but still, one that looked daunting to me. I only needed a rake, a shovel, a couple of wheel-barrows, a mattock (a tool for grubbing in hard soils and rocky terrain ) and volunteer labour.

My fear was that the hot sun would harden up this area and I would never get it graded so that the lawn-mower can get at the weeds that are bound to grow there. To help me, Dave Wood brought over his truck this morning at 9 am. He and I worked he had to leave for an afternoon appointment, Dave using the mattock and me raking the stones out to the road while he continued working the soil.

... blocks now hidden deep under the road ...
only brief glimpses of the lego-like tops
are visible as  you walk the road
With the pick-up truck Dave went after some backfill that the CPR had loosened about 100 metres down the road. The down-size of that pile of earth is that it was full of fist-sized and larger rocks. After one load, Dave settled on using three truck loads of fill from the good earth up by my house, easier to dig and no boulders.

I was beside myself this morning. I could not figure out how I was going to deal with that mess.

Between Glen’s instructions and Dave’s man-power I am ¼ of the way towards completion of the task.  As well, I have regained my mo-jo. Added bonuses to me are the charlie-horses in my legs tonight. I expect they will be stretched out with tomorrow’s raking.

The fact is – a joy to be alive and have the energy to work the earth like that.


He made it to the top of my list of help dropped in from the heavens during the 100 best days of my life.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A "holy" smile

Rhiannon recently lost her first two teeth within a couple of days of each other.  I have never seen someone lose these two particular teeth at once. 

Does she have a cute smile or what?

Face-painting and water play at a friend's house.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Position Hits

Day 10

Gene Mahalco takes a spring trip up from Utah, along the Pacific Coast and through B.C. He stopped to visit. A visit from an old friend? A highlight in any 100 days of my life.

Day 11

Michael following me around as I gardened. Gloves, pitch fork, garden fork, whatever I had on my hands or was using as a tool, he had to have one also, and be in the same place as I was. This was fun for me but causing a problem for the flowers or the bushes that I was working on. The tender new raspberry bushes were crushed beneath his feet. He picked the honeysuckle while it was still in the bud stage. Of course, this would be the favorite part of my day, I thought, watching him take off his boots and nestle his 2 ½ year old toes into the dark earth. I tossed weeds into the wheelbarrow. He shoveled into the wheelbarrow loads of the new earth, loads as heavy as he could lift. That is trouble with having a spade that is just his size. What does it matter? Both the green material and the black earth will be good for the compost which is where it was all headed
But that didn’t end up being the favorite part of my day. That moment happened when Dave Wood looked at the new-to-me 1992 Osmobile that came with a work order. Dave was trying to figure out what “really” needed to be done. The left turn signal doesn’t work. Dave gave the light a position hit – just a good whack. Now it works and the moment of the hit what would make the day one of my 100 favorites.



Michelle Garcia Winner has a great post on the roles we play in conversations that she posted on May 5th. Two she mentions are "information informer" and "social relater". Hopefully we all get to fill each role multiple times in the day.

We have a new family constellation at the lake for a few weeks (Miranda, Michael, Alice, Grandpa Kelvin, Grandma Arta, Bonnie and David). We have adopted a dinner conversation that Michael must use at his home in Calgary. It goes like this, "What was your favorite part of the day?" Michael's has included "noodles", "walking to the beach", and "popsicles". Today David's was "seeing a huge rainbow above Larch Hills on the drive home".

It is fun to plan ahead what information we will inform each other of at the dinner table.

Monday, May 26, 2014

500 kilometers of happiness

Day 8
I love the 500 kilometer drive that starts in Calgary and ends in Annis Bay.  That is always the best drive ever, each time supplemented with a view I think I have never seen before, or an animal in a place that surprises me, or the return of memories when we have stopped and strolled along a trail or parked the car and moved in closer to see a waterfall.

How long did you take to get here?  That is a standard question.  If someone says it took them 9 hours to do the 6 hour drive, then I know they have stopped along the way to enjoy the incredible beauty of the ride.

Day 9
In the evening when we needed o deliver Greg's stud finder back to him, there was a drizzle falling.  Bonnie, David, Michael and I grabbed an umbrella each and walked to his house.  Michael's umbrella covered most of his body.  How high can a two-year old his umbrella?  Only high enough that his clogs and two skinny bare legs could be seen as the umbrella  floated down the road  hovering only 18 inches above the gravel.  The last time he and I went walking in the rain, it was to collect worms. Today we were on a return-the-stud-finder mission.

I observed a new style of eating a slice of apple today I cut the apple in 8 slices.  Michael picked up one and ate it watermelon style, going from left to right, then right to left, one bite at a time as he travelled from side to side, until all that was left was the skin and enough apple on it that it held its shape.

I liked his flair for style.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Entering the City Centre

Day 5
Wyona and I took a trip into the city centre.  We found a parking spot in front of the building we were to enter.  A parking spot in downtown Calgary -- that makes Day #5 one of the Best 100 days of My Life.

Calgary Place
"One hour," she said,  "we have one hour to tour downtown Calgary.  Let's do Calgary Place and 5th Avenue Place.  Pretend we just got off the ship and are checking out the city.  On your mark, get set, go."

In an hour all we could do was find the food court, note that the tables were empty, and press our noses against some retail shops, all of which were interesting enough to enter, but none of which we had time to check out.

Day 6
I ended up in downtown Calgary again -- only passing through on my way to Ogden to pick up my car out by Bonnybrook Bridge.  I sat in the warm sun across from the Bay waiting for my bus and studying the architecture of that building.  When I was a little girl, I can remember running around the pillars on the perimeter of the outside corridor of that building, in and out and around and then stopping to put my arms around them to see if I could touch my fingers on the other side.

The May Day trees burst into blossom today, up and down the alley in the neighbours' yards.  The heat carried the heady smell everywhere.  I stopped and savoured the joy of it.  I wondered which of all of the years I have smelled that, have I thought -- wow!  this year, the best.  And so it gets listed in the Best Hundred Days ever.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Meteor Shower Tonight (channeling Arta)

I saw this article in the news today about a possible meteor shower tonight.

The Camelopardalids is a onetime shooting star show.  (warning: the article does say not to set your expectations too high).

I was so excited when I saw this.  Xavier is having a sleep-over tonight for his 12th birthday.  Eight twelve year old boys sleeping at my house!!!!  And a meteor shower at 2am!!!!

I will wake them up and drag them all outside I thought to myself.

That is what Arta would do.

I never knew this was maybe not "normal" until I was grown and a friend told me that one of her most vivid memories was of a time she was sleeping at our house and Arta woke us up in the night and made us go stand in the rains at the corner of Crowchild Trail and 24th Avenue to watch a lightening storm.  Oh, I thought to myself.  Doesn't everyone's mom do that?

Thank you Arta for defining "normal" for me.

The Old Cedar Box

the hinges are broken ... the butcher twine is for safety
Yesterday I finished a search through old papers, trying to find my grandmother’s will.

I do have her life story: three type-written pages.

A whole life in three pages.

That didn’t seem to be enough but perhaps even that is good.

In that hunt I looked through 3 other treasures, mostly of historical value.

... the lid pulls off -- the box has smoke damage
 Personal papers that Doral and Wyora kept in the top left hand draw of the 9 drawer vanity in their bedroom.

One of the treasures was a cedar box.

The other was a tin box. Doral must have told me what was in them. I knew what the boxes when I was growing up -- that they contained papers that were valuable to my parents
... singed contents ...

... open the lid and find out about Alberta Field trials in 1928 ...
I spent the day looking through those two boxes and a third item, a tin filing box.

There are files about his dogs, files about the insulation company he ran, files between Doral and the Province of Alberta when he tried to get them to fix a stretch of highway that was dangerous and where one of his children was killed, etc.

I skimmed through everything, sometimes stopping, sometimes moving on.

So for Day #4 of the Hundred Best Days of My Life, I had a chance to look backward, into a past that is long gone, but still loved.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Best One Hundred Days of MY Life

Not to be outdone by Arta, I am taking up her challenge.

Today is day one for me.

Xavier's 12th Birthday.  I can't think of a better day to start the next best 100 days of my life.

Tonight we will have cupcakes.  Vanilla cake with icing and sprinkles.

Last night Xavier requested spice cake, which I made.  I ended up having to go to two neighbours homes to find cinnamon (I guess we have made too many cinnamon buns and I forgot to buy more -- unfathomable to me that a house could be "out of cinnamon."  But one of my neighbours was also out.  Crazy.)

Very, very sadly, in my rushing around the neighbourhood to find cinnamon (I was halfway through making the cake), I missed putting in the baking powder.  How sad do you think I was?  The cake was not edible.

I couldn't even make a new one because it was too late to go to the store or back to the neighbours for more cinnamon. 

And so, out came the vanilla so I could make a white cake.  I used my last 2 teaspoons of vanilla for that one.

Stay tuned to Larch Kitchens for two Birthday cake recipes.  They are both delicious as long as you don't forget the baking powder.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Best 100 Days of My Life

Grant Vogeli told me that he had just been through the best 100 days of his life: January, February and March. I wondered what that would mean for me. For him it was time off work, time to take care of his health, time to deepen old friendships – probably more, but that is what having the best 100 days of his life meant to him in a nutshell.

I wondered what it would look like if I went forward in the next 100 days, making them the best 100 days of my life. What would I have to do to make that happen.  I wrote down in my day book, on May 18th  and at the top of the page, -- #1 of the Best Hundred Days of My Life.

I could have waited for the new month to start, but I remembered this old story from college about a person who was going to write an essay. First they got their computer ready, then they put some snacks beside the computer. They sharpened their pencils, filled their fountain pen with ink and found an eraser. Getting into more comfortable clothes was the next step. Then they looked at the clock and decided it was too late to start, so they waited for tomorrow. I decided I could at least save myself from making that mistake.

So making May 18th be the start of day #1, even if it was an odd day of the month to start ... that seemed like something that would make this the beginning of the best 100 days of my life.  Just do it.

Day #2 was easier. I called Vernetta Reed to ask her about some of our common Pilling relatives and she made me laugh so hard on the telephone that I already knew I am well on my way to having a fantastic 100 days ahead of me. Oh, she told me that it was me, making her laugh, but that wasn’t the case, for I hadn’t laughed all day until I got talking to her.

I had worried a little bit about setting out a goal that is too ambitious. Bonnie Wyora told me of a friend who tried to do something similar for 30 days and the job about wore her out by the time she was coming to the end of her 30 days. I don’t want my best 100 days of my life to turn into a chore.

Today has been Day #3. Will the Best 100 Days of My Life be consecutive, I wondered? Will it turn out that I have the best 100 days, but it takes me 130 days to have them. Not that today would be the task breaker, but it would be nice to get three in a row, I thought.

... aiming to have some of my best days looking at this view ...
What made today an excellent day is that I discovered I can call Wyona countless number of times and she still picks up the phone every time.

I was doing a forensic search of old business files all day.

Whenever I saw something of interest, or I had a question about the past the answer to which I couldn’t remember, I picked up the phone and rang her. A few times I wondered if she would look at call display, think I was being obnoxious and just let me ring through ... but no, if she is there – she will pick up the telephone.

Bingo, 3 of the best days of my life – in a row.

Stay tuned.


Monday, May 19, 2014

Living at the Shuswap: The Storm Approaches

Picture 1
In the middle of last week, an evening storm rolled into the Shuswap.

Memories of happiness were triggered by the electricity in the air.

Bonnie Wyora snapped a photo from six decks before the rain sent her running home for shelter.

In this post, scroll through and guess which photo goes with the deck of which house.

Picture 2
The solution is at the end.

Give yourself one hundred percent if you can identify your own deck.

Bonus points for all other decks.

Some perspicacious viewers may know the view from every deck.                                 

As well, this week I have been trying to put a price on happiness.

These views of a night storm rolling in, reminded me that the aesthetic value of nature is hard to measure.

For example:

Picture 3
1. What is the price  of seeing a little group of cousins, those who are just learning to walk, approach the water that laps up around their feet and then moves out, only to lap up against their ankles again.

2. What is the price of the view of the ferns beginning to grow, or of the first salmon berries with their promise of a tart remembrance of past tastings?

Picture 4
3. What is the price I would attach to the walk along Old Sicamous Highway into town?

Picture 5
4. What is the value of the stroll up the Skunk Cabbage Reach of the Campbell Creek to see skunk cabbage in flower?
Picture 6

5. Is there a value that can be placed on the sound of a stream pouring out of a culvert and rushing down a flue to the bottom of the hill.  The sound of a tap that never stops running, that sound you can hear just a few feet away from the bottom of the Missionary Reach of the Stream?

6. Who values the pleasant surprise of meeting loved ones walking along the road, or seeing them travel up into the woods with groups of children searching out snail trails or trying to find a family of slugs?

7. How about the sound of the early morning songs of birds, as heard from the sleeping bags of those in tents or on the beach.

8. Where else is there an opportunity to carve out new paths for the Little Canadian Stream as its waters finally touch the shores of the Shuswap.

These are moments that are hard to monetize.


Solution to the Puzzle of "Whose Deck is Whose".
Picture 1 - Glen and Janet

Picture 2 - Wyona and Greg

Picture 3 - Moiya and Dave

Picture 4 - The Quiet Cabin

Picture 5 - The Noisy Cabin

Picture 6 - Arta and Kelvin

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Walk to the Beach

A Photo Essay 
by Laynie Hicks 

fifth-generation boys in rubber boots
...taking a look at the new path of the stream...

"You mean we are allowed to scramble over those rocks to find fish in there?"

... and the train beeped its horn ...
...Gone Fishing...

Hey!  I want to get out and walk too.
I am allowed to walk into the water without taking my jeans off?

Baby Alice's second year to the beach

work space

a strategy for getting paperwork done
What does your work space look like? Is it indoors? Is it tidy? Have you personalized it?

David has a work space in his room now. A hand-me-down desk from Pouria.

He has his current reading material in the custom-made space for CDs. He has his stormtrooper alarm clock on the side of the desk near his bed. There are a few pencils on top. It looks very tidy.

He has declared that it is a "no homework zone". The work he will do there is call a friend, read a book, or do a little lego.

I like to think of myself as someone who loves organization. I have childhood memories of spending time organizing my space at home. However ...
as I look at a recent photo of my workspace at my pubic job, it does not engender visions of an organized person in the mind of my coworkers. When I get home and see the state of my bedroom, it matches my workspace at work for disarray.

If you have tips for change, do leave them in the comments section. I promise to give them a try.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Living at the Shuswap: The Spring Brings New Growth

A Photo Essay on Why I Love the Spring
by Bonnie Johnson

Apple trees blossom ...
... new growth appears on the old hill slide ...
(red convertible sits at the bottom of the hill)
 ... spring begins when Baby Blue-Eyes peek through the dried grasses ...
... pear tree in blossom ...
... rain begins to fall up The Narrows ...
... worms in a puddle on the road ...
look closely ... hard to spot 

(slightly left of centre and shaped like a question mark)
... for the cloud-lover, Rebecca ...
... new ferns ...
... hail in the strawberry patch ...
sorry Alberta, but that is the best B.C. can do for hail
... the sunset mirrors the colour of apple blossoms ...
 ... cherries bloom between the two cabins ...
... a typical meadow in the Spring  ...
... a glimpse of an evening paradise
... the sun sets on a perfect day ...

Road Repair: Where did that water come from?

Photo Essay #3 
by Bonnie Johnson
... whitewater in a formerly quiet creek ...

... water rushes into the Wedding Reach culvert ...
... the culvert can't keep up with the water flow ...
... water comes out of the last culvert slowly ...
... the resilence of the skunk cabbage ...
torn about by the force of the water
but emerges in full flower

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Road Repair: Coil and Culvert

A Photo Essay
by Bonnie Johnson, May 14, 2014 

... construction site ...
... looking down from the edge of the road toward the tracks ...
... new culvert ...
more coil, picture #1
... more coil, picture #2

... sign for pre-school ...
... this was the spot of the former deep fissure ...