Chainsaw Timeline

From First Notice to Chainsaws in 5 Days

Notre Dame Poplars on Kaslo Street

Before …

Sat, June 6:  An email arrives from the school — “tree work” will start next week.
Surely not? It’s nesting season!!!
Sun, June 7: We write to the school to ask how they plan to do this “tree work” without disturbing nesting birds.
Mon, June 8: A reply from the school:

With regards to the status of the existing trees,  which are addressed within our Building Permits and requirements, our landscape architects have a registered biologist currently conducting a review of the existing trees to be removed to confirm if there are any birds currently nesting in the trees.  This is a provincial requirement based on the Wildlife Act and is standard throughout BC for construction happening on treed sites between the months of March and August.  There are a range of requirements that need to be met to consider a nest “active” and the biologist assesses the trees for these requirements.  If nesting is present the biologist will provide guidelines for how to treat the nest and what timelines are required to ensure the Act is met.  There are strict protocols that we have to follow and these are being adhered to.

June 9-10: A frantic series of calls are made to City Hall to see how this could happen. Attempts are made to find out who to contact at Environment Canada as this seems contrary to federal rules.
I write my blog post about how a nest count seems unfeasible and send it, and an accompanying letter, to Vancouver Mayor and Council.

June 10: We hear that the school-hired biologist’s report has been submitted, stating that, in all of those 23 trees there is just a single White Crowned sparrow nest, so while some trees will be spared (the nest tree and some buffer trees) until June 23, pending another nest inspection, the rest can be cut immediately.

We don’t even know what the biologist’s report contained for sure, as it’s not publicly available. Incredibly, we were informed that a Freedom of Information request has to be submitted and processed, something that takes weeks or months, before we can see it.

June 11: (only 3 working days after the email warning of “tree work” arrived) most of the trees are gone. Not enough time or information to mount a fight to save them just until nesting season was over — and I can’t help but think this was part of the strategy.
The biologist who wrote the report was not present on the work site.
There were a host of community safely issues with the work site that had to be reported to City Hall, which I won’t go into here as that’s a whole other story — but speed over safety seemed to be the order of the day.

June 12:  I receive an email from Mr. Sadhu Johnson, Vancouver’s City Manager, detailing how all the legal i’s and t’s were dotted and crossed, to make this cutting permit legally watertight from the City’s point of view.

Fallen Poplars, June 12

Fallen poplars. Look how sound the wood looks.

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This huge end tree was not noted as a nest site by the school’s biologist — but I heard white crowned sparrows in there every morning this spring.

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After.

 

For, reaction, what I learned from this process and where I’d like to go next see Conditional Bird Love.

 

For more background see the Notre Dame Neighbours web site.

The Pants Family, Spring 2020

After months operating undercover as an anonymously normal-looking crow, Mr. Pants will soon be coming into his own when, in the next few weeks, his glorious pants shall reappear. 

Photo by June Hunter

For details on the miraculous annual transformation see my earlier post The Metamorphosis of Mr. Pants.

Mr Pants on Fence

Mr P in full trouserly glory

Thankfully, he is no longer the bedraggled bird he was at peak moulting season last year. He got back to being a handsome, if unremarkable looking, crow by late fall.

Photo by June Hunter

Last spring I was away in the UK for the month of June, so I missed a lot of nesting season. For whatever reason, Mr. and Mrs. Pants produced no offspring in 2019, so I’ve been keeping a special eye on their progress this spring.

They had a rather trying fall and winter last year, with territorial trouble on their southern border from the Walker family. While Mr. and Mrs. P had no surviving babies last year, the Walkers did, and their need for more food and their numerical advantage led to bold and frequent incursions into Pantsland.

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Both of the Pants couple spent most of their time with eyes scouring the sky for invading forces and they were very jumpy and seemed … if it is possible to discern this in crows … stressed out.

Mrs. Pants scours sky

Mrs. Pants on guard

Photo by June Hunter

Mr. Pants on Shed Roof

Mr. Pants keeping a wary eye on things from above

Tail fanned Mr Pants Crow

Mr Pants employing full tail regalia to defend his territory.

Now that nesting season is well underway, all the crows are keeping a lower profile and things have at last quietened on the contested border.

Mr. Pants and Wisteria

Mr. Pants takes a relaxed moment to pose with wisteria.

As I mentioned in the last post, Small News, many crows are choosing small street trees as nesting sites of late. While they’re closer to the ground and the risk of predation by racoons, cats, squirrels etc. they’re less likely to be raided by large birds like ravens, hawks and eagles — which seems to be an increasing risk as these birds gain a firmer foothold in the city.

The Pants have long favoured the small tree option and this year is no exception.

I spotted Mrs Pants last week sitting in their nest in quite small street tree  — a crabapple of some sort, I think, and the same type of tree they chose two years ago. Fortunately they seem to have selected a healthier specimen this time, as the spring 2018 tree shed a lot of leaves in spring, leaving poor Mrs. P baking in the sun or thoroughly soaked, depending on the day, and not particularly well hidden. Even then, they did successfully fledge two little ones that year, although, sadly neither made it past the first few months. One just disappeared early on and the other succumbed to avian pox.

Being an urban nature enthusiast involves, as I learn anew every year, witnessing a lot of tragedy and well as joy.

Crow on Nest June 8 2020

Mrs. Pants on the nest this morning

Still, like the crows, we consider each day a new start, and each nesting season a potential bonanza of good news, so fingers crossed for the Pantses and all the other birds putting their all into the nesting business this spring.

Mrs. Pants above nest

Mrs Pants on guard above the nest.

 

Next up: the Walker Crow Family.

 

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When Edgar Met Geordie

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For two years after Molly died we were a one-cat, no-dog, household. It was a situation that could not last. It is, after all, a truth universally acknowledged that life is incomplete without a dog.

I thought, since we’d be quite old by the time this new dog was in its senior years, we should get a small lap dog. Having cared for several large dogs in their geriatric years, it seemed that a dog that could be moved without a winch might be a good idea. This pronouncement was met with some mockery from my family, since the last time we’d been looking for a dog I’d started out seeking a Cairn terrier … and yet we somehow ended up with two labradors.

The main requirement for this new dog was, of course, that it be Edgar-approved.

Via a series of fortuitous circumstances Geordie ended up on our doorstep.

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Not a lap dog, in size or temperament, and yet still somehow perfect for us.

I’ve outlined the whole story of how he got from a shelter in California to our house in Gone to the Dogs, but this post is more about Geordie and Edgar’s relationship.

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It took half an hour to persuade the very nervous Geordie to enter the house on his first visit, so he was quite happy to leave Edgar well alone for the first little while.

But, timid or not, he was still a puppy and eventually he had to go check out the regal ginger being on the chair. After a few respectful sniffs, he got a bit carried away and Edgar had to resort to a fierce hiss and rapid fire series of (clawless) paw swats.

Luckily Geordie is a very quick learner and, although he needed a few reminders in the early days, he has now fully absorbed the lesson that Cat is King.

You may have noticed in recent posts that Edgar sometimes like to sleep in Geordie’s bed, although he has a perfectly fine cat-sized one of his own. This was a pattern set early on, when he would claim Geordie’s special sleeping mat.

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He would also eat the food right out of Geordie’s bowl.

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Geordie learned at the feet of the master, even adopting Edgar’s signature “crossed paws” poses very early on. Either that or they are just naturally demure soul mates with excellent posture.

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Treat time — cats go first.

They’ve been together now for just over four years and have settled into a mellow groove, Edgar gradually passing on his wisdom to the young acolyte.

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Group effort to remind the humans it’s dinner time.

While Edgar has a number of other fine canine acquaintances, it’s really hard to imagine a more perfect full-time pod-mate for him than Geordie.

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Edgar: A Short History

I am asked so many things about Edgar. How old is he? What kind of cat is he? Has he always been this cute? How does he get on so well with the dog?

This blog post (apart from a shameless excuse to post adorable older pictures of him) is an effort to answer those questions.

Who am I, really …?

We think Edgar is about 11 now. He was given to my daughter, Lily, when he was a few months old by a friend of hers who was moving and couldn’t keep the kitten. I didn’t meet him until he was about a year old and Lily moved back home, bringing Edgar with her, in 2010.

The friend who gave Edgar to Lily owned his mum, who was a pure Scottish Fold ginger and white cat.  Scottish Folds are known for their tiny folded ears, large eyes and propensity for quirky poses. All are descended from Susie, a Scottish barn cat born in the 1960’s.

The background of Edgar’s father remains a mystery as his mother got out of the house one day, and …

A typical Edgar pose.

As a half Fold, Edgar has inherited most of the typical characteristics. His head is somewhat smaller and less fuzzy than a pure Scottish Fold, making his eyes look even more enormous, and his general demeanour, even more owl-like.

I didn’t see him as a kitten, so I can’t say how cute he may have been then.

But … fear not, Lily found some photos, given to her by her friend,  that she has kindly forwarded to me.

So, yes, pretty cute, I’d say …

Edgar and his brother with their mum.

Edgar has been with us for ten years now. Lily moved out again, but kindly left Edgar with us, as he has more room to range about the house here, and someone is always home. These are the logical reasons. There was also the small matter of me refusing to let him go.

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He is, after all, an invaluable office assistant.

… and the best possible role model for a relaxed approach to life.

When Edgar moved in with us, I was a bit worried about how he and the dogs would get along. Back then we had two of them — brother and sister yellow labs, Taz and Molly.

Luckily all three of them shared an interest in repose, so things worked out very well. Edgar is a very easy going cat and takes most new things in his stride.

He’s always been an indoor cat and seems very happy to be that way, enjoying his social life via the pals of various species he finds himself housed with.

Taz and Edgar were good buddies (sharing similar ultra-chill temperaments) and often chose to hang out together.

Taz and Edgar, pursuing a shared interest.

Unfortunately Taz died at 12, just a year or so after Edgar arrived, leaving Molly (with her slightly more uptight personality) and Edgar to maintain a cool but civil relationship for the next couple of years. As she got older, deafer and slower, the two of them became closer.

Molly and Edgar

Once Molly died (at a venerable 15) there followed a long period in which Edgar was the only quadruped in the household. He seemed just fine with that too.

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Edgar with Christmas Lights

Edgar on his ladder

Edgar loves Christmas — not because of the decorations — but because of the ladder that comes out to assist with the hanging of them.

yes please

Standing up to receive a treat.

His days as an only-pet ended in 2016 when Geordie arrived in our lives.

More on When Geordie Met Edgar in the next post …

 

The Charm of Goldfinches

While social gatherings of the human sort are still not an option, we’ve been lucky to host a succession of very charming avian guests in the garden lately.

This week seems to be goldfinch week out there, with beautiful singing and frequent flashes of saffron in the foliage … and at the fountain.

The recklessness of some of the flying manoeuvres I’ve witnessed today lead me to believe that a new generation of goldfinches have come to play. You know when you have to duck to avoid finch/human contact that you have some L-plated flyers in the ‘hood.

Juvenile American Goldfinch

Junior goldfinch taking a breather.

A few years ago we only had house finches coming to the garden. About five years ago the goldfinches finally arrived, but the house finches disappeared. I thought they might be fundamentally incompatible, but last year and this year, both kinds of finches seem to be happy in the garden, along with a gang of feisty siskins.

Male House Finch feeds a nesting Female.

Fierce little siskin bossing Norman the Nuthatch about at the feeder.

This week’s warmer weather inspired me to set up the mister at the bird bath. First customer was a rather excited female Anna’s hummingbird.

Hummingbirds don’t normally frequent the bird bath as they get all the liquid they need to drink from nectar, and the water in it is too deep for them to bathe in. For bathing they prefer either a mist or a shallow water receptacle, like the leaf I noticed a hummingbird bathing in last year.

Birds like the white crowned sparrow below, however, are very, very happy with a regular bird bath — as long as it’s kept nice and clean, with fresh water added daily.

Our hummingbirds also seem to enjoy the fountain, where they can dart under the falling water for a quick feather refresh.

The goldfinches are also big fountain fans for some reason.

Freshly bathed and ready to impress some lady goldfinches.

I hope that you’re also managing to spend some time with feathered friends.

Last week’s local newspaper, the Vancouver Sun, featured a story Backyard Birding Takes Flight about the delight that people stuck at home are finding in getting to know their avian neighbours, and the joy of discovery to be found within their own neighbourhoods. I do hope this is something we’ll take forward with us long after the COVID-19 situation has passed. You will notice that Norman the Nuthatch and one of my Steller’s Jay photos are featured in the article, and I am quoted in it.

You can read the article online HERE.

Treat yourself this weekend to just a few minutes of bird watching. You don’t have to go far at all and you can maintain your social distance. Tomorrow, May 9, offers the chance to do that and be part of a world wide community of bird enthusiasts contributing to science for the Global Big Day of bird observing and counting. You can spend all day doing it, or ten minutes. If you want to add your findings to the overall count, you’ll need an eBirds account. It’s totally free to sign up and participate.

I can honestly say that thing that calms me down the fastest in these days of specific and generalized anxiety is to just stop what I’m doing, step outside and look around to see what the birds are doing. Sometimes a minute does it, sometimes a whole hour is required. Often there seems to be nothing of interest going on, but there always is if you just take a few deep breaths and wait. Common birds doing their normal amazing things, and occasionally a rarer bird. Either way it’s time well spent.

Swainson’s Thrush in the garden last week — only the second one I’ve ever seen.

 

 

Edgar Update

Some days have us all feeling rather tense …

edgar wide eyes

… while other days are just so relaxing …

edgar relaxed

Edgar’s days are mostly of the chilled out variety and he is a very good influence on his fellow pod-mates.

Geordie, before Edgar’s life lessons …

… and after …

For his human housemates, Edgar promotes rigorous adherence to a daily stretching routine. He likes to keep a very close eye on his students, sometimes making social distancing on the yoga mat a bit challenging.

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The arrival of some warm May weather is very much appreciated by both Edgar and Geordie.

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blossom Geordie

Edgar has such a wise little face, you can read into his expression whatever advice you most need at the moment … “all will be well,” “be kind, be calm,” “give me tuna treats.”

On Sunday I chose to interpret his look as “make some cinnamon buns today” and, what do you know, it turned out to be the perfect recommendation!

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Cabin Fever Series IV

my cabin in winter

This is the hardest of the Cabin Fever series to write as I’m trying to think about what I took away from my cabin years. Difficult because there is so much.

After a lot of thought, I think I can place most of what I learned under two broad headings: space and connection.

Quesnel River

The Quesnel River at the end of Seven Mile Road.

Space

I think of this as both time and distance.

Walking for hours and knowing I would not see another person all day.

Talking and singing (very badly) to myself with only the trees to judge.

Walking in the dark and knowing the way by the slight curve of the road and the barely visible outline of black trees against navy blue sky.

These are all things I haven’t done for decades, but I still remember those ridiculously free feelings as if they were yesterday.

Photo by June Hunter

And time. So much time.

There were lots of things to do, of course — chopping wood, hauling water, keeping fires going in the winter, but so much time left for dreaming.

Of course, I had no electricity, so news of the outside world was limited to static-garbled scraps from the William’s Lake radio station, intermittently and randomly snatched from the sky by my old battery-operated radio.

“Come on over to the Boitanio Mall, climate controlled for your comfort …”

“Billy Jack, could you please come pick up your egg delivery from the train station as soon as possible. They’re hatching and running around …”

quesnel river leaf

Limitless hours were left over for chasing random thoughts, reading books from cover to cover in one go, watching clouds, examining the light on a leaf. My Kodak Instamatic wasn’t up to capturing most of this, but that love of  waiting and watching, now part of my photography, was hatched (like Billy Jack’s chickens) back then.

Photo by June Hunter

When I first arrived in Likely, however, I was quite afraid of all that space. I worried (and I know this from the one lonely diary entry I wrote in that whole period) that I might be hollow inside, and that I’d become filled up by the space and there’d be nothing of me left.

At the same time, I felt a bit claustrophobic, surrounded by miles and miles of trees.

I couldn’t say when those fears left me. I know that, at some point, I started thinking of the trees as my friendly neighbours and I guess I just stopped worrying about whether I was hollow or not.

If I’d set out to “find myself” I guess I must have just stumbled over myself one day without really noticing at the time.

Photography by June Hunter

Yikes!  Not a Sasquatch — just me with frozen hair again.

 

Connection

While much of my Cabin Fever Series has been about me being alone out in the woods, the fact is that I couldn’t have done any of it without the support of a lot of other people. Even if I didn’t see people for days on end, I knew I was part of a community.

Back then the mail was delivered to Likely’s post office (a series of boxes at the gas station) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Mail Days everyone from a fifty mile radius came into town, ostensibly to check the mail, but mainly to see each other. The Likely Bar was the community centre.

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I can’t remember how we arranged this, with no phones, but on a Mail Day I knew I could rely on a ride into town (about 15 miles away) from one of my Seven Mile Road neighbours. And I knew that if, for some reason, I didn’t show up — someone would come to check on me.

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The Road to Likely

Should I feel the irresistible urge for human companionship, on a non-Mail Day,  I knew I could always walk the couple of miles to my nearest neighbours and be welcomed in for a game of Bear Trap and several cups of well-percolated coffee.

Some of those Likely people who let me live with them when I was cabin-less, who loaned me tools, brought me firewood, gave me lifts, and even taught me to use a rifle (bear-in-the-cabin situation, luckily resolved without my having to practice my limited firearms skills) are still good friends today, forty-plus years on. In better days ahead, we should have a Likely bar reunion!

The present-day downtown Likely.

And it wasn’t just the Likely community I felt supported by. Old friends and family wrote to me often, and some even visited me in my little cabin, including my friend from Wales who helped build the cabin and gave me my first driving lessons. My very first lesson ended up in a ditch, but hey …

And my parents, my lovely Mam and Dad … many of you wondered how they fared, worry-wise during those years. I like to think that (without the torment of minute by minute Tweets or Instagram posts) receiving only occasional vaguely worded letters from me, they had just the most general idea of what I was up to. I hope that might have helped with the “no news is good news” frame of mind so valuable to the parents of absent children.

I was always hoping for a letter with my mother’s handwriting when I picked up my mail. I’ve saved many of her letters, and I use fragments of them sometimes in my images, as a thread of ongoing connection.

springlike weather

Photo by June Hunter

My parents never once wrote that I should drop everything and come home immediately, for which I am forever grateful. Once those days were long and safely over, I did tell them some of the more hair raising stories and we had some good laughs.

Mam, Dad, June, flamingoes

Me and my parents when I was living in Vancouver, with Finlay and some flamingoes we picked up on a road trip to the Rockies.

Now it’s my turn, as the mother of young adults, to chant the No News is Good News mantra when they’re off doing inadvisable things. My son thoughtfully gave me a Guatamalan worry doll after his last trip to help with that. What’s that saying about karma …?

Worry Doll

For those of us lucky to be just waiting things out at home during the time of COVID-19, not working on the front lines, and fortunate enough to have a safe and comfortable space to be sheltering in, these past few weeks have been a new and strange kind of space. Connections are being forged by our common effort to protect each other, as well as via the myriad ways of staying in touch online — boomers Zooming, my kids playing out dramatic Dungeons and Dragons campaigns online, WhatsApping, FaceTiming, pod casting, blogging …

For myself, it’s had me looking back on my Cabin years with great gratitude, as I was privileged to have so many life style choices available to me — and the fact that I’m posting online about a time when there were no lines to be on, seems strangely cyclical.

Lastly, a few more random things I took away from those years:

  • Hot running water is amazing. Showers in particular
  • Ditto, being able to listen to music whenever you want.
  • You can get by with very little.
  • If you’re going to be alone a lot, never, ever watch horror movies: advice I follow stringently to this day.
  • Life is better with a dog. A cat is nice too.
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Finlay and our old cat, Elvis, as a kitten.

Edgar and Geordie

Current companions, Edgar and Geordie.

 

See also:

Cabin Fever Series I

Cabin Fever Series II

Cabin Fever Series III

 

 

 

Cabin Fever Series III

By the summer after its construction I’d gradually moved into the cabin and furnished it with a combination of second hand finds and lop-sided shelving whipped together from leftover two by fours and small logs. I even acquired my own cast iron wood stove which required a team of friends to haul down to the cabin.

House & Home or Dwell magazine, it was not — but it was home sweet home to me for a couple of years.

cabin kitchen

I even purchased my own vehicle that summer — a 1962 Pontiac Strato Chief with a slightly sparkly aqua coloured paint job — a real steal at $120.

june and pontiac copy

The fact that it wouldn’t start, and the small matter of the trunk lid not being attached to the rest of the car, were minor problems compared to my inability to drive.

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The gas tank also had a tendency to come loose …

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By the next winter, however, the trunk lid was attached via barn hinges and rivets, Jack (Likely’s miracle mechanic) had got it running relatively reliably and … drumroll … I’d learned to drive it.

It went to Mexico and back, I converted it into a sort of camper, complete with curtains and I lived in it for a couple of tree planting seasons too. I even sold it to someone else after all that for $50, and she also learned to drive on it, so it really was one of my best investments.

Jack's Place

As chaotic as his place looked, Jack could lay his hand on any part or tool instantly — as if by psychic means — and he could fix just about anything.

The next summer, while I was tree planting, my brother and a friend stayed at my cabin and added a front porch, which gave Finlay a nice spot from which to survey his kingdom.

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At night the coyotes across the creek would try various calls to lure Finlay from his porch. The “hey, let’s play,” “female in heat,” and “wounded coyote” strategies were all employed at various times, but Finlay was a smart dog and he wisely ignored them all.

finlay on cabin deck

A year or so later I moved away from Likely, leaving the cabin as it was in anticipation of my eventual return. In the end though, I never did live there again. After a year in Nelson I ended up moving to Vancouver and eventually going back to school. I did. however, make trips back up to Likely from time to time and would visit the old cabin, which remained miraculously intact for years.

Below are some photos from the 80’s during a trip back there. Having been empty for years, it was a bit mouse nibbled and cobwebby, but it seemed as if time was frozen — a micro-museum of hippy life, complete with myriad jars of herbal teas, dried flower arrangements and fragments of artwork worked on by cabin lamplight.

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The living room with stairs up to the loft.

flower arrangment

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The luxurious loft.

teas in jars

june and finlay on cabin deck

Finlay, excited to be back on his porch.

By 1990 the cabin was gone, burned down just before my parents finally got up there for a visit. My dad was a great woodworker, so he’d been anxious to see my handiwork. I never was as good at woodwork as I was at knitting, so perhaps it’s just as well  the cabin lived more perfectly in his imagination. We did all trek into the site and stand by the ashes, so that was a pretty special moment — although short, because we were being eaten alive by mosquitoes.

visit to old cabin

Phillip’s mom, Ollie; Phillip (with our baby daughter Lily on his back; Finlay; my mum, Rita; my dad, Jim; Cait, daughter of Richard and Denise, from whom I inherited the log cabin many years earlier; Phillip’s dad, Joe.

I still go up there every few years to visit friends and we always make a trip to try and find where I lived, although it’s completely wooded over again now. Gold mining has been conducted down there since my time, so even the creek seems to have changed course over the years.

When I remember that time my thoughts vary between thinking how utterly crazy I was, realizing how very lucky I was to have the opportunity, and trying to collate the things I learned from that time.

My next post will be an effort at expanding on that last thought.

 

If you missed them, here are previous posts:

and the final one:

 

 

logo with crow

 

Cabin Fever Series II

cabin in winter

At the end of the last post I had acquired my house building book, an idea, and a few logistical problems.

the site

Privacy and neighbours were not going to be a concern, at least.

The first job was to pick a site. I should mention at this point that I didn’t own any land. Not the land that the log cabin was on, nor the land I was planning to build on. The area was part of a mining claim that no-one had currently claimed. At that point in the mid-70’s no-one seemed to care overly much about small construction projects on Crown land. Not, of course, that anyone ever came out to check back then.

trail to cabin

The trail down to the creek. Photo taken years after the cabin was gone, around 2018.

The site I had picked out was a flat shelf of land close to the creek where I was going every day from the log cabin to get my water, about a fifteen minute walk in from the road via a narrow and fairly steep track.

The next issue was the small matter of building materials. I’d decided that log construction was definitely beyond my capabilities and that, in the circumstances, a frame and plywood construction would be more practical.

I did, however, need some logs for the foundations, so a friend with a chainsaw came by and felled three trees for me on the bank above my chosen building site.

And so began the summer of the come-along.

“What is a come-along?” you might well ask. I know I’d never heard of such a thing until someone loaned me one for this task. Anyway, it’s a hand-operated winch with a ratcheting mechanism that allows you to move much heavier objects than you could by hand.

Comealong

I should say at this point, that I could easily have asked someone to help me with this project, but I was stubborn and felt I could, and should, learn how to do this myself.

That whole summer was spent discovering different ways to use a come-along incorrectly — plus, several novel potential ways to injure yourself.

Once again, however, the forest gods must have been watching me, as I  miraculously survived the process, unscathed except for some blisters. Should you ever find yourself with a come-along and some logs to move, let me share some important do’s and don’ts.

First, don’t start dragging the log across the face of a slope parallel to the grade. If you do, it will roll down the slope in a much faster, and less controlled way than you had in mind. Especially DO NOT stand downhill from the log!

Also, if you drag the log at a right angle down one slope to a flat area, the nose of the log will dig itself deeply into the flat area. You will then spend several days of excavating to free it.

It took, as I recall, about six weeks — during which time I learned to drag the log at an oblique angle across the downhill slope, and to make rollers from bits of wood to stop the nose of the log digging in to the “steps” on the way down.

Oh, and patience. I learned a lot about that. Nevertheless, I’m sure the trees and wildlife for miles around heard more swearing that summer than ever before.

By the end of summer I had all three logs down to the flat area where I planned to build, but was a bit stymied as to how to get them all perfectly aligned. Luckily two tree planting friends happened to stop by just then, and the three of us got the logs more or less level and parallel.

lumber sizes

Now I needed the rest of the supplies — milled lumber and plywood. The fact that I didn’t drive complicated things, but by ordering from a small family-run mill on the other side of Likely, I was able to get it all delivered. Of course, with no road into the cabin site, the best they could do was leave it on the landing, about 20 minutes walk from the cabin site.

Cue more swearing as I spent several weeks carrying and dragging all the wood down the trail, piece by piece. I’d carry a sheet of plywood on my back and sometimes, if I started to run downhill, I’d feel quite close to achieving primitive flight.

finlay in creek in winter

Finlay surveying his new neighbourhood — the creek bed mostly frozen over in winter.

Eventually all of the supplies were on-site and just needed assembling. Again, I could have made this a lot easier on myself by simply buying a couple of cases of beer and getting all of the local experienced cabin builders to come over and whip it together in a day or two. But Fair Isle Sock Knitter Extraordinaires do not take the easy path.

I had to admit though, that lumber construction was starting to look logistically quite different from knitting.

It was hard to see how one pair of inexperienced hands could physically accomplish the task. Fortunately a friend arrived from Wales as I was trying to figure out next steps.  He’d never done anything like this either, so we’d spend each evening poring over the “Illustrated Guide to Housebuilding” by kerosene lamp in the breezy log cabin and then head down the hill to try and put what we’d learned into action. Our vocabularies suddenly expanded — words like  “joist,” “sill,” “studs” and “gable end” were bandied about as if we actually knew what we were doing.

framing

Getting it framed, super-well insulated, and clad in plywood started after the tree planting season, and took the rest of the summer, fall and into early winter. Unfortunately I seem to have very few photos of all of this industry, which as a photographer drives me mad. I was still using my old Kodak Instamatic at that time, and I imagine I was saving all funds for building supplies rather than photo developing.

Below is one of the few pictures I can find. You can see that I’m using a Swede saw. All all of the lumber was cut using hand saws due to my abiding fear of chainsaws. No wonder it took us so long!

cabinbuilding june

frozen

Me, hair a bit frozen, towards the end of construction.

By the time we were ready to put roofing paper on the roof, it was very cold and starting to snow. Roofing paper is impossible to work with in the cold as it becomes brittle and breaks, so we worked out the following system.

One of us would be up in the log cabin at the top of the hill. That person would cut the roofing paper to length in the warm cabin and then roll it up, tuck it under one arm, and run at at full tilt down to the new cabin. There, the other person would be stationed on the cabin roof with a broom to sweep off some of the snowflakes that were falling, and, between us we’d attach the pre-cut piece of roofing paper before it got too cold and broke into pieces.

And then repeat. And repeat.

cabin with laddeer

Ladder set up on the roof for scrambling up with rolls of roof paper.

That part definitely wasn’t in the Illustrated Guide, but somehow it worked and the roof was on, just in time for winter to start in earnest.

my cabin in winter

outhouse

Five star outhouse. A bit chilly in the depths of winter, but great view.

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode: moving in and furnishing my cabin.

 

 

If you missed it:

logo with crow

 

does your soul need comforting?

A special Earth Day 2020 post, inspired by the lovely poem, Such Singing in the Wild Branches by the incomparable Mary Oliver.

Such Singing in The Wild Branches

by Mary Oliver — from Owls and Other Fantasies

It was spring
and finally I heard him
among the first leaves —
then I saw him clutching the limb

in an island of shade
with his red-brown feathers
all trim and neat for the new year.
First, I stood still

and thought of nothing.
Then I began to listen.
Then I was filled with gladness —
and that’s when it happened,

when I seemed to float,
to be, myself a wing or a tree —
and I begin to understand
what the bird was saying,

and the sands in the glass
stopped
for a pure white moment
while gravity sprinkled upward

like rain, rising,
and in fact
it became difficult to tell just what it was that I was singing —
it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed

not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers,
and also the trees around them,
as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds
in there perfectly blue sky — all of them

were singing
And, of course, yes so it seemed,
So was I.
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn’t last

for more than a few moments.
It’s one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,

is that, once you’ve been there,
you’re there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?

Are there trees near you,
And does your own soul need comforting?
Quick then — open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

Many of our souls have found comfort in nature over these last few difficult weeks.

If we are lucky, we may have experienced “a pure white moment” or two in the natural world.

I hope it is true that “once you have been there, you’re there forever” because, when the world starts to move on again, we need to remember the things we’ve learned over these quiet, worried, contemplative days.

We need to remember that we need Nature. And I really, really hope that we remember that Nature needs us too.

Now.

And later.

 

 

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