The Cabin Fever Series I

My “living alone in a cabin in the wilderness” years weren’t really comparable to what people are experiencing now.

The outside world was proceeding more or less normally while I was living “off grid” in the Cariboo in the mid 1970’s and I could, I suppose, have chosen to leave at any time.

In some ways though, I felt I had to stay.

Most days I loved it and, on days when I didn’t so much . . . well, for much of the time I was there, I couldn’t drive and didn’t have a vehicle, so an impulsive exit wasn’t really an option.

I’ve been trying to think of which things I learned during those years that are handy now. I chose that experience instead of going back to school to do my Master’s degree. While there have been many times I’ve thought that was a crazy decision, now that I’m older I’m less sure. Every day I’m grateful for things I learned — about myself, mostly — in my Cabin Fever period.

As it’s a bit of a long story, I’m dividing it into a few parts and will end with a small summary of Cabin Life Tips.

june on bridge

Crossing the log bridge at low water.

The first cabin I lived in was an old dynamite shack, left behind from a gold mining operation. Located several miles down a road that ended in the rushing Quesnel River, it was pretty remote.

Only about half a dozen people lived further down Seven Mile Road than me, and getting to the cabin involved a twenty minute hike from that road, including the fording of the creek that fed into the main river, via the rather dodgy log bridge.

This was less, or more, exciting depending on the season and the water level.

7 mile road

Seven Mile Road

While at the dynamite shack I learned how to make bannock and discovered that no-see-ums can fly through mosquito netting. A fit of rustic craftiness almost lost me a finger when trying to cut a bracket fungus off an old log to make into a candle holder, as one did in those days.  I’m sure I must have learned some other things.

One of them should have been “keep a diary so you can remember this stuff forty years later.”

After a few months in the dynamite shack I inherited another, closer to the road, vacant cabin. I had stayed there before with my good friends, Richard and Denise, but they had two babies by then and were moving closer to the amenities of  “town” — aka Likely, where the one grocery store, bar and post office/gas station were located.

Likely Bar-late 70's

Beautiful downtown Likely, mid-70’s.

June&Tiko

It was during this period that Finlay the Magnificent arrived in my life.

A neighbour stopped by with two puppies that his dog had given birth to. Using a uniquely hard sell technique, he told me that, if he couldn’t find homes for them, he’d be hitting them on the head with a hammer. I hadn’t really been planning on getting a dog, but . . .

Of the two, one was much prettier. I picked the plainer one, confident that the  “looker”  would have a better chance of adoption.

This was the start of a beautiful 15 year relationship.

I was told that cabin dogs needed to be kept outside so they could keep watch for bears, so little puppy Finlay slept in the great outdoors. He would get revenge by crawling under the cabin and getting stuck under the porch, yowling, so I’d have to get up in the middle of the night and pry a board off the platform to pull him out.

He was so tiny that first winter, when we walked through the deep snow to visit the nearest neighbours a couple of miles away, his forward motion was accomplished via a combination of swimming and tunnelling.

babyfinlay

There are so many Finlay stories. He came tree planting with me for years and was a pretty legendary camp dog. His favourite sleeping spot was, not beside, but under the airtight stove in the cook shack. While I was out planting, he would stretch out in the blazingly hot sun beside the tree box supply. Sometimes when we got back we could hardly find him because he’d be completely and obliviously covered in dust.

There will actually have to be a whole separate post on Finlay for some of the other stories. The time he went missing for a week, the memorable day he brought me a bear, how he adapted, years later, to city life . . .

june in a box

My first winter in the log cabin was very enlightening. First I learned that a cabin made of logs needs to be “chinked” — i.e. insulation of some sort put between each log. This one had been built without such consideration, so when it was 20 below outside, it was about 18 below inside — with an arctic wind blowing across the floor. I would keep the airtight stove going all night and still the water bucket, located next to said airtight, would be frozen in the morning.

logcabin w

Log cabin in early winter.

Keeping that stove going all night meant lots of wood chopping, which meant a crash course in the care and maintenance of firewood.

First I learned that if you locate your wood pile under the eaves of the cabin, where three foot long icicles will inevitably form, your wood supply will become deeply encased in ice. It actually took longer to use the axe to chip wood out of its crystal prison each day than it did to split it. That’s the second fun thing I learned — splitting rounds in freezing weather is kind of fun as it only takes a tap with the axe and the wood explodes in a satisfying manner.

Miraculously, by the end of the first winter I had neither frozen to death, nor bled to death in the snow from an axe injury. And I had taught myself Fair Isle knitting.

In kindergarten I had been the worst knitter in the class. I still remember the humiliation of being the only one still forced to struggle on with a tangle of red string when all the others had graduated to actual wool.

Perhaps it was over-weaning pride in my new accomplishment, but I somehow concluded that, because I had mastered knitting Fair Isle socks, I was now ready to build my own cabin.

I headed into Williams lake and bought what was to become my bible.

illustrated housebuilding

It was the description “definitive layman’s book” that sold me. That and “for those who need a lot of help.”

As you can see, I still have the book “Illustrated Housebuilding.” I don’t think I’ll be building any more houses myself but I keep it handy in case either of my kids should feel inspired.

My goal was to build my “dream” cabin  — i.e. insulated to an extreme level, and close to a water source. The log cabin was only a few minutes walk from the road, but was a long trek uphill from the stream where water had to be hauled from. I decided I’d rather be further from the road and closer to the water.

So all that remained to do was get supplies and build it.

Since there was just me, and I still didn’t drive, there were a few technical details remaining to be worked out.

illustrated housebuilding inside

Stay tuned for the next instalment, Cabin Construction!

cabinbuilding june

Read on at:

 

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The Edgar Diaries

Edgar, so confident that all will be well, now finds himself nodding off during the Prime Minister’s daily briefings.

He is however, adamant that everyone should listen to the Health Officer’s advice and keep on staying the bleep home. Do not cross this cat. You have been warned.

staycation

And, just in case you need a reminder about the vital importance of hand washing …

More on the importance of keeping to some sort of schedule during these discombobulating times.

4:57 Edgar arrives at my desk.
4:59 Geordie arrives as back up.
5pm is dinner time and some schedules must be adhered to, regardless of whether the humans have lost track of the days. Honestly, they say, what would the people do without us …? A good question.

Photo 2020-04-13, 4 59 24 PMPhoto 2020-04-13, 5 01 03 PM

Because his own luxury pet bed is starting to seem a bit cramped, or perhaps just because he feels like a change, Edgar has now laid claim to the dog’s bed as well as his own. Luckily Geordie is willing to roll with the punches.

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And … a rare win for the human, staring contest-wise.

You know the days are long when you’re competing in staring contests with Edgar.

Stay safe!

Moon Phases

As the Super Pink Moon rose over our little part of the world last night I realized that it seemed like such a long, long time since the last full moon — the Super Worm Moon of early March.

Back then (in another lifetime) clouds were gathering, but life was still fairly normal here in Vancouver.

Super Worm Moon, March 9 2020

Many other people were out in the early evening enjoying the air and the appearance of the Pink Moon. “How breath taking is the moon?” we exclaimed from our 2 metre exclusion zones, as it miraculously rose above the city tangle of roof tops, wires and poles.

If there is something to be taken from our current situation it might be that, even in our urban setting, people finally have the time to just stop and watch the Nature channel.

On the last few nights I noticed neighbours taking advantage of any viewpoint to better enjoy the gorgeous sunsets. The top of the local school’s “earthquake preparedness box” seems to be a favourite way to gain some altitude.

The Pink Moon, lovely as it is, isn’t actually pink. Because it’s the first full moon of Spring, it rises at a time when the rest of the world is turning pink with blooms and blossoms. It reflects the pinkness of the world below.

Our neighbourhood is in full pink glory. We’re on the fulcrum between the falling snow of the darker pink plum blossom and the blooming of the shell pink cherry ones.

Mr. Pants guards “his” corner

Ornamental Plum Blossom

 

Quince blooming on a neighbour’s weathered wall.

Pink-tinged snow on Mount Seymour where, in a different universe, we’d be enjoying some late season snow shoeing and raven visiting …

Marvin in a pink world

Blossom nest  — the destination for this furniture delivery from a week or so ago.

As I try to adjust to the changes between the last full moon and this, I’m starting to get back to some work. I’ve got some new prints ready and I plan to re-open my online shops this weekend, just in case people want to browse in world of garden birds, crows and ravens.

The next full moon, in May, will be the Full Flower Moon.

Its arrival is a certainty in uncertain times.

May we all be safe and well to see it — and all the moons to come through summer, fall and winter — all the way to the lovely Pink Moon of 2021.

 

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Edgar Chronicles Continued

DAY ???

Well whatever day of staying the &%#$*?! home this is, we all know by now that stress binge eating can happen to the very best of us.

It may be a comfort to know that even Edgar is not immune . . .

STAYING IN SHAPE

In the moments between sleeping, binge eating and watching Netflix, it’s important to fit in a spot of physical fitness. Edgar has found that almost anywhere in the house can double as a gym. An indoor cat can still be fearsome Jungle Cat.

He especially likes to show off while I’m doing my ungainly human stretching exercises on the floor. “I think you could stretch that hamstring a lot further. Make it burn.” A cat makes a stern and uncompromising personal trainer . . .

Edgar also likes to supervise my morning yoga stretches. Occasionally the Sun Salutations come with a bonus Rainbow Cat.

WATCHING THE WORLD GO BY

Edgar recommends some therapeutic bird watching to pass the indoor hours. Geordie, personally, is not that excited by goldfinches.

Now a squirrel, THAT would be something to get excited about!

REACHING OUT

It’s a stressful time and we all need some love and kindness. Edgar knows how reach out (with a gentle paw) and let his people know when he needs a helping hand.

DEEP RELAXATION

Every night Edgar sleeps under our bed, snoring very, very softly.
He’s only recently started sleeping there, so the first time I heard this barely audible and yet inexplicable sound in the night, I had to get up with a flashlight to investigate — and there he was, blissfully asleep and delicately snorfling.
It’s too dark under there to get a decent photo, but this gives you an idea.
Now I’ve figured out what it is, I find the sound very peaceful in the deep dark night.
Wishing you all a small portion of Edgar’s tranquility.

Northern Flicker Gymnastics

The Squirrel Buster bird feeder is an ingenious contraption. When anything heavier than a small bird (say, a squirrel for example) lands on the perch to get at the food, their own weight causes little doors to close on all the seed ports. Northern Flickers are also, technically, too heavy to use this feeder but, even though they have a couple of other food options to chose from, they clearly take this a personal affront.

Luckily they have their secret weapon, the mindbogglingly long tongue they keep neatly wrapped around their brain and ready for instant deployment. All woodpeckers have very long tongues, usually with barbed ends for catching prey, but the Northern Flicker has the longest of all of them, and their tongue tip is flattened and comes with extra sticky saliva for collecting the ants that they find so delicious.

So, back to the Squirrel Buster conundrum.

This male Flicker (you can tell by the red “sideburns”) has figured out that by hanging from the perch he can j-u-s-t get his tongue into the the gap at the bottom of the closing door. I was a bit worried he’d get his tongue stuck and we’d have a difficult conversation with the Wildlife Rescue team, but it seems he’s done this before.

Not only did he get the food out quite handily, he managed to also pick up the bits that fell out of the feeder and landed on his belly. This is where the really impressive gymnastics come in.

I’m pretty sure I saw these two, taking a break from digging up ants, exchanging bird feeder foiling tips on my dog walk the other day.

And, just in case you think it’s only the males who have figured this out, here’s a female I saw doing it in back February, so perhaps she passed on the technique to her mate.

Speaking of ingenuity I’ve been scanning the internet for COVID-19 mask making patterns, as it seems that medical advice here in North America is now pivoting in favour of mask-wearing for all to help “flatten the curve”.

So, just in case you’re also thinking about making your own mask, I’ve looked at a few and made a couple of versions for when someone from our family needs to go out for groceries. The one I like best is this one from the University of Minnesota. It seems to have a good fit, and it has a pouch to put replaceable home-made filters in (suggestions for filter material you can find about the house are included in the instructions.)

If you don’t have a sewing machine, these instructions for a no-sew mask using only a bandana and a couple of hair ties looks promising.

Stay safe and healthy everyone, and remember to take a break from the news and the graphs from time to time with some daily #birdtherapy.

 

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Dreaming Days

Today’s post is rather short. I’m not sure where the days go — I feel as though I’m dreaming through great chunks of them.

I think I need to let my thoughts wander (even more than usual) for a bit while my brain makes a feeble effort to catch up with reality.

So, here I present some dreaming birds.

I’m sure they’re not really dreaming, but I know I dream about them.

When I close my eyes I see intricate bird details. The feathers around their eyes, the reflections in their eyes, myself sometimes reflected there. I wonder what they’re thinking.

Honestly, I really haven’t been in the cooking sherry. Yet.

I need to think of how I want to carry on with my art and work. I have had various thoughts around this, beginning with when I broke my foot in December. Universe sending signals etc . . .

I have my online shop closed at the moment to make more time for the blog (which somehow seems most important to me at the moment) and to give myself a little dreaming space.

I know that a lot of people have asked for prints, especially of the crow carrying the blossom branch, so I hope to spend a bit of time in the next week working on new images. I hope I’ll be ready to open the shop again in a week or so.

In the mean time, I may resort to re-posting some older blog posts to carve out the time to do that. It’s really amazing how little I seem to be able to accomplish in a day at the moment (although we did manage to sort out a lifetime’s collection of old tea bags the other day.)

Fear not, I’ll still post Edgar’s advice here every few days, and daily on his Facebook page.

Wishing you safety, health and a perhaps some bird dreams to pass the strange days.

 

 

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ups and Downs

We took Geordie for a short run in the woods this morning. Just being in the forest is wonderful, but watching Geordie let loose is really joyful.

He loves to run — doesn’t need anything to chase, or another dog; he just likes to run for the sake of running.

He’s the very epitome of joie de vivre.

But I have to tell you, as soon as we turned onto the wider path near the end of the trails his entire demeanour changed. He hung back, walking like a condemned dog. It wasn’t just that the run was almost over — he’s usually fine with that. The problem was that he realized that he was muddy . . . and muddy means B – A – T – H.

He really is a dog who’s too smart for his own good and he’s always half-waiting for the “bad thing” to happen. It’s partly his personality, partly his rescue dog past, but he’s an incurable pessimist at heart.

I must say that this is perhaps one of the reasons I love him so much.

I can so relate to that “living in the moment” to “worst case scenario” emotional seesaw. Especially now.

You should know that we spared him the bath this time. Just a brisk towel off (which he likes) when we got home!

 

A Message in the Sky

It isn’t a dove, and it isn’t carrying an olive branch.

Probably too early for that, as we bob about in our socially-distanced arks on a vast sea of uncertainty, fear and loneliness, with no land yet in sight.

But it did feel, when I saw this crow flying over, trailing its lovely garland, that I was seeing some sort of message.

Perhaps: “Life is going on for us, and it will for you as well one day.”

Or maybe: “Look out and up, and there is beauty.”

Possibly: “My neighbours are going to be SO jealous when they see what I just got for the nest.”

As you may know, I’ve been photographing crows for many years now. I especially like to watch them in the spring when they’re collecting material for the nest. I love the silhouettes they make against the sky with twigs of various shapes in their beaks.

I have also watched them struggle to get just the right branch out of a tree. It’s not an easy task, as they have to first break the twig off and then wrestle it out of the tangle of branches on the tree. They often lose their prize, or just give up and look for an easier one.

This is, by far, the most impressive and lovely thing I’ve ever seen a crow manage to acquire.

Crows are known to sometimes present miscellaneous material goods to people who befriend and feed them. The crows of my acquaintance never do that, but they do give me wonderful things.

The fact that this determined crow* managed to haul this ridiculously long and beautiful garland out of an ornamental plum tree; that they happened to be poised on a roof with it just as I walked by with the dog; that they chose to fly off with it right in front of me — you must admit that these are a series of rather special gifts.

So, in a spring season like none we can remember, these pictures are gifts from the crows to you, via me. With love.

 

 

 

 

*This crow is either Mabel, or one of her family.

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© junehunterimages, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

More Tips From Edgar

DAY 7

When the sun  is shining, Edgar recommends sticking your head outside and absorbing all the Vitamin D you can.
Need I mention that he recommends doing this while observing the proper spatial distancing protocols???

It’s important, while you’re housebound, to give your day some semblance of sanity preserving structure..
Edgar and Geordie are both masters at this game.
Pet dinner time is about 5:15, so at 4:45 precisely their desk-side vigil begins.
Just in case I forget.

DAY 8

Edgar recommends socially responsible snuggles.
If you happen to be self isolating solo, a nice toucan with a bit of catnip stuffing might do.
Love the one you’re with, etc … 

Edgar demonstrates how to spend some of your waking hours during social isolation. He calls this technique “being one with the universe.”
Reminder: you should be aiming for 18 hours a day of sleep as per his earlier recommendation.

 

DAY 9

Our son, stuck in a social distancing pod with his old parents, poor lad — enjoys a moment of Edgar emotional support.

Edgar demonstrates the kind of dedication to hand/paw washing he’d like to see from you all … without the face touching part, naturally.

That’s it for now. Much love from me and Edgar.

Take care and Edgar will be back in a few days.

If you’re on social media, he has his own FB page at https://www.facebook.com/Edgar.Scottish.Fold where these posts appear first.

Young Ada The Crow

Ada is only 7 months old, but already one of my most trusted Crow Therapists.

She lifted my mood earlier this year, when I was feeling a bit down about being in a cast, and about world news. Of course, none of us knew back in January that 2020 was only just getting warmed up!

Ada was our 2019 late summer surprise, hatched at the very tail end of the 2019 baby crow season — happy news in a year that saw many nest failures.

I first spotted her on the daily dog walk in mid-August last year, gape still very pink and eyes still blue  — hallmarks of a fledgling not long out of the nest.

I was worried that she had so little time to catch up with the other 2019 fledglings to be able to fly to the roost with all the other crows by fall.

Another challenge — she had a touch of avian pox on one foot. You can see the pink spot on the photo below.

Luckily, by December her foot had healed completely, as you see in the next photos, and she was keeping up with her cohort just fine.

She experienced some firsts in late 2019/early 2020.

Her first torrential downpour, which left her less than impressed.

She saw her first snow in January, and seemed to prefer that to rain, overall.

Or perhaps she had just acquired that philosophical attitude towards weather, essential for both crow and human mental health in a Canadian winter.

I’m calling Ada “her” — in this case, with no evidence of her gender. With many of my other local crows, observing them at nesting time has allowed me to see who sits on the nest at incubating time, but with Ada, it’s just a random guess. She could just as easily be a young Adam, but I have a 50% chance of being right.

In any case, she’s a feisty and curious young bird.

Ada theCrow being curious.

She’s still hanging about with her parents, but they’re no longer pampering her when it comes to getting food. When she was young, they would answer her calls for food.

Now it’s every crow for him/herself. If I drop some peanuts for Ada, she’s often shoved aside by Mom and Dad, so she’s learning to be faster and trickier — vitally important crow lessons.

She’s also kindly demonstrated for us the all-important cough into your sleeve/wing technique.

Here is my most recent photo of her, taken on a dog walk earlier this week.

You can see that, for a 7 month old, she’s already acquired lots of crow personality and intelligence. As she edges  closer to me you can see in those eyes the subtle risk/benefit calculations being made in real time.

I imagine she’ll be sticking around to help her parents with this spring’s nesting efforts, but after that she’ll probably find a mate and move to a new neighbourhood. I’ll miss her when she goes, but hey — she might end up in your neighbourhood and be your new crow therapist!

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.