Courage

Any fool can know. The point is to understand.

Albert Einstein

3 elderly female beagles were abandoned near Burns Lake. They were clearly used consistently for breeding and were suffering from many serious health complications. This story is not about them.

Lakes Animal Friendship has again gone above the call of duty to offer rewards, find foster homes, provide medical care, kennels, food, blankets, and bowls. On their facebook page they are looking for the owners. The comments spat horrible insults at the people responsible: “heartless”, “appalling”, “low life scum”, “offensive”, “incompetent boobs”, “cruel”, “jerk face”, “monsters”…. The uproar and outpouring of love for the abused resulted in (to date) 160 comments and 615 shares. For this small town, that’s impressive! It’s like Gaston in Beauty and the Beast as he goes to rescue Belle with the towns people behind him carrying spears and axes crying “Kill the beast!”. Lakes Animal Friendship’s main goal is education, run by an early childhood educator, but this story is not about them.

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The people who drove away from these hardworking pups leaving them in the middle of no-where, with no way to survive…who really knows how they are feeling. Are they on facebook and reading the insults? Are they taking it to heart? Are they relieved the 3 extra mouths are gone? Are they watching Netflix on their 70″ flat screen tv that was funded in puppy money? Do they have an outbuilding with tired mothers and growing babies? Will they continue to breed Beagles, or change breed to remain under the radar? The only thing I can tell you for sure…they will continue to breed. This story is not about them.

The outcries from the public call for punishment! RCMP! SPCA! Fines, jail time, public beatings. Like the hangman dressed all in black leading the guilty in rags up the stairs of the well used wooden gallows. The crowd throwing rotten fruit and stones to inflict pain on the condemned. The SPCA can institute fines and jail time after investigating, collecting proof, and proving their case. We see the SPCA doing just this in BC and Alberta to punish the Adams women. They investigate over and over. They collect proof over and over. They prove their case in court resulting in fines and jail time over, and over, and over again. The SPCA are doing everything they can with the money available to them. They raid puppy mills, confiscate animals, provide love and care for the abused…yet we still look to them as the governing body that is failing us. This story is not about them.

I love the Albert Einstein quote “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We buy from puppy mills, see the abused parents and cry for justice, over and over again! Are we crazy? Are we stupid? LAF works hard to educate people to “adopt, don’t buy”. Clearly they think we need education. I won’t deny this fact but in general, we aren’t stupid, we are entitled. We want what we want. If the consumer says “I want a $1 burger!”, the companies provide it. They provide it any way they can. It’s literally killing us but we don’t care, we want that $1 burger! We buy from puppy mills, it’s literally killing the mothers and fathers of the puppies produced but we don’t care, we want that $600 beagle.

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So if we know the steps in the process…#1.Puppy mills provide consumer demand #2.Animals are abused #3.SPCA saves animals and prosecutes operations…we can then lay blame where blame belongs. Blame is the start of the process that will change things. And we want them to change. 160 comments wants change! We blame the puppy mills, and expect the SPCA to enforce it. Since this is working so well, we clearly don’t need change (sarcasm is rearing it’s ugly head in frustration). Are we really this stupid? So let us again look at the steps in the process…#1.what would happen if the consumers demand was not that $600 beagle?

What do consumers want? They want a happy, healthy puppy to join their family. If you want the perfect puppy from perfect parents with rigorous testing, you are simply going to pay for it. But we don’t want to pay $3000 for it. We want the $1 burger that doesn’t kill us. Like an entitled teenager, we want what we want, our pretty cake decorated perfectly and unchanged for all time but we want to eat it too! So we buy the $600 beagle and absorb the lies the puppy mill tells us because we want what we want. If society finds out we knew we were buying from a puppy mill we cover our guilt by saying we had to rescue that perfect puppy from suffering the same fate of the unseen mother.

Yup, this story is about us. The consumer. As long as the consumer wants it, there will be avenues to get it. The consumer is all powerful because we have the money and the all mighty buck is really the only governing body we need. In being all powerful, we are not stupid, we don’t need to be educated, we need to be honest. Honest in how our actions of entitlement affect the unseen forces that lay behind it. Honest in how our monetary support of puppy mills promotes abuse and neglect and the courage to own that. The courage to make different choices. The courage to eat the cake while sacrificing it’s beauty. The courage to not be entitled. The courage to make the right choice for the mother that birthed the puppy and not the puppy itself. The courage to make mistakes and own them. The courage to be vulnerable.

HONEST Food

“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” Albert Einstein.

I put more research into what my dog’s eat than I do for myself. This is because I don’t trust dog food companies, I question the motives of the industry past what I consider capable for my awareness. When it comes to the foods I consume, I trust the grocery store to bring in safe and healthy food from proven and trustworthy companies that are highly regulated by associations that have been core designed to protect us. I trust this because a human life is valued at 6-9 million dollars in our “honest to goodness” court systems.

I don’t know who regulates our food. The World Health Organization? Health Canada? Canadian Food Inspection Agency? Public Health Agency of Canada? Canadian Food and Drug Association? Agriculture Canada? All of these people together? I wonder if all of these companies work like one big happy family…6 strong-willed sisters in one room, given a problem, would any of them actually survive? (I imagine a quiet luxury boardroom with all 6 sisters safely cocooned inside. The conversation slowly turning to savagery as the girls locks of blonde hair shake loose from their tightly woven buns to unfurl and transform into medusa’s serpents as they rise up and attack each other in a fury that spontaneously implodes the whole room from the inside out.)

I don’t know who regulates the complex processes of getting that food to me. What are the responsibilities on the farmers, the packaging plants, the shipping companies,  the drivers, the stores? Slaughter houses are now called processing plants, does this mean they do things differently? It is all so overwhelming that it is easier to simply trust that the food I buy is good for me. Trust to a point that I don’t even read labels, not for me or my children. I ignore the laws and labels as I know that those laws are in place because society believes in them. I ignore the news headlines that say processed meat is linked to cancer, sugar causes diabetes, organic is not organic… GMO, gluten contamination, salmonella, mercury, listeria, botulism…I trust the stores will remove dangerous foods and protect me. I trust our Buns Lake, small town store as the final health and safety check by people I know, people I trust, friends, family, and clients.

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Michael & Joey

My lifelong friend Raya is dedicated to becoming a motivational speaker. I once tried to motivate people to rescue their pets. I thought I could educate people simply by being passionate about doing what’s right. What I learned was, we are inspired only when we open our minds. Our minds are rarely open to receive new information and honestly another’s passion is simply not enough to inspire change. We need to be open-minded and have a need deep within us to want to change. Change requires time. Time…well that’s one thing none of us have thanks to technology.

Here are the facts as I know them: the food industry’s strategy is to confuse us! Mission accomplished! Why do they do this? I believe they do this like any good business marketing must…you simply cannot please everyone. As long as you can create doubt then you can sell that product, that product is your business, that business is your life. The other fact I know…our bodies are rejecting the food we eat…loudly and consistently.

In my dedication to change how I eat I started educating myself by…yup…watching Netflix!! A 2017 documentary called “What the Health” is scary stuff man! They quote statistics and research, ask questions they never get answers to and compare our foods with cigarettes! (Both my Gramma Lee and Grandpa John died from cancer. In my adult life I have literally been at the bedside of close friends when they take their last breath and the cancer wins. Don’t pick this wound open, it is a deep one!) This documentary uses scare tactics to make us switch to eating Vegan. By the end of the documentary I am more confused than when I started…like a pig stuck in a wire pen only as big as he is, not knowing how to turn around or walk or even stretch his legs when he is sleeping. He only knows how to stand, eat his processed corn and curl his legs under him until they cramp so badly he must stand again. Trust my instincts! My instincts tell me to run from the agencies that are covered in secrets like a Cancer Society that refuses to talk about the link between diet and cancer or the Chief Medical Doctor from the Diabetes Association that says prevention of the disease is unclear. Scary!!! I like their arguments about the validity of a purely plant-based diet. In saying that I feel this documentary is so far out in left field it can’t be seen. They say milk is basically coagulated cow pus, eating 1 egg is the same as smoking 5 cigarettes, all fish is contaminated with mercury, starch/ carbs/sugar are good. Ok…I’m out!

Another documentary from 2008 called “Food, INC” again talks about the secrets of the industry. “Our food has changed more in the last 50 years than in the previous 10,000.” They use words like engineered food, the industrial food system, and the marriage of science and technology. By the end of this show I am jazzed! Yes! It costs more to eat what is good for us, a burger is less than a dollar and broccoli is $1.29. This is because big companies deliver what people want. We simply want something cheap. We don’t care how it’s made, we just want it at the price we want it. There is no integrity or accountability in the current food system simply because we don’t want to pay for it. We want to sink our money into $800 cell phones with fancy protectors that play music, search social media and give us directions with the touch of a screen. Again, the issue is us, the consumer. As long as we want cheap food, we will get it. We don’t care if the honey we are buying is actually corn syrup…it tastes like honey, and we have an extra $5 for a Playstation card!

The fact is that where there is money there is fraud. Our global food crisis is no exception.

Corn is cheap…actually cheaper than production costs…which is why we feed it to cattle in the feed lots. Cheap corn in our cattle produces a fat cow AND produces e coli. E coli is excreted in the manure that the cows wallow in 24-7…run off from that feed lot comes in contact with a neighboring spinach farmer tainting our produce AND the cattle coming into the slaughter houses (processing plants) are covered in manure as they are being butchered…manure in the meat=e coli in us. The fact is that if that cow was to eat grass for 5 days, they will shed that e coli, pastured animals create no run off and stay cleaner. Seems pretty simple to me. Big business says this is not sustainable. (I am reminded of the day I got my teenagers a job picking rocks off a field for a local goat farmer…my government employee ex-husband refused to help facilitate this job for them telling me it was not sustainable!) Instead we put antibiotics in the cheap corn to combat disease from the unsanitary conditions, torture and abuse the cattle, pollute our environment, and harm anyone eating the meat. All the while big companies rejoice that they provided consumers with what we asked for. The charismatic character Ian from Jurassic Park says: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Another 2017 Netflix documentary called “The Magic Pill” talks about the Paleo or Ketogenic diet, getting back to nature. Healthy fat, non-processed, low-carb diets. The problem seems so simple. You want a fat animal before slaughter, you feed it carbs. You want a body that can heal itself and fight off disease, you feed it a biologically appropriate diet. This might be it!

So…I took a trip to the store, trying to figure out what I could eat on the Keto diet. Yup, me at the store! I wanted plain yogurt with earthy granola like we had at the silent retreat. Every bag and box of granola was 3-5 times over my daily carb intake for small portions. If I ate the pre-packaged granola, what was I supposed to eat for the rest of the day? So I made my carefully thought out purchases and the next morning I diligently measured out a 3/4 cup of plain yogurt, 1 tbsp of walnuts and unsweetened coconut, and a small handful of overripe, out-of-season, tasteless blueberries. I talked myself into enjoying the tart milk product even though the blueberries and coconut did nothing to balance it out. I was so proud of myself when I finished and clunked in my proper proportions and correct information from the original packaging only to have the Keto app say I was over my carb intake by 41g for the entire day! Forget this! I quit!

Everything has corn in it…everything! Everything we buy is well-preserved, full of sugar, colorful, processed, artificially flavored, chemically ripened, packaged in plastic, cardboard, foils, and containers. It’s quick and easy and tasty, and we love it!

In my recent trip to Puerto Morelos the inconsistencies are amazingly clear. The new cedraui has isles and isles of candy, pop, yogurt, cereal…all sugar free! The mexican fellow on his pedal bike has hot tamales that are honest to goodness made from the earth. Year after year we buy from him. This year he was not there. Vanished like he never existed. Replaced by the ratty little burgundy car carrying mother, father and baby crammed in the front seat, a loud-speaker on the roof, and a hatchback full of sweets…at least its real sugar.

Never-the-less we ate like kings on our holiday! Fresh avocado, home-made goat cheese, pickled onions, shrimp, honey, mangoes, barbecue chicken, granola….and ice cream…ohhhh the coconut ice cream! My new favorite is cinnamon ice cream!

My motivation to eat better has me buying bread from a local lady (we admiringly call the “bread lady”), whole wheat, dill and cheese…I now purchase raw milk and we make our own butter…I buy only local honey and I’m committed to growing and canning my own food this year. I will continue to raise happy chickens for their honest eggs and buy happy, pastured cows that give us hamburger with their sacrifice, free range turkey’s, happy pigs with their tails intact that keep their farmers busy with their happy antics, and raw dog food from the same farmer who provides us with beef. He creates dog food with organ meats and tripe and uses aging cows that have lived a happy and fulfilled life on the farm. I honor their sacrifice by not wasting a single part.

I will pay more for these things. I will sacrifice time away from my computer. I will be proud of providing for my family and I feel strongly that I am teaching my kids to read their labels and be their own advocates. I will teach my children to garden. I also feel motivated that I am doing my part to NOT support the food industry that is killing me. I don’t want cheap food, I want honest food. Honest food that is bought without labels or pictures, without packaging, ingredients, color, preservatives…. Is this food really not sustainable?

The scariest part of this story is that the same food that is killing us is killing our environment. But that is for another blog….

HONEST Petfood

“Once you stop learning, you start dying”

Albert Einstein

Trust my instincts! Live in the moment! “Put up or shut up!” As always, I start with the dogs…simply because I can make my own poor life choices. The animals depend on me to steer them through the human gauntlet of  complicated language driven by rules and organisations who are functioning with deceit, selfishness and the soul sucking need for the all mighty buck!

The grocery store in Burns Lake has always been the social gathering place of friends, family and clients. I never expect to get a simple jug of milk while the kids wait in the truck with their iPhones. If a quick trip is required, I send Jason. I love that mischievous glint in a clients eye when they start asking about poop. “Why does my dog poop so much?”, “My dog has gas…?”, “…loosing her fur?”, itching, constant ear infections, allergies, behaviour issues, house soiling… the list is endless. My answer to them, while I fulfill my addiction to dairy, is always re-directed with a single question…”What are you feeding your dog?”

In a 2017 Netflix documentary called Pet Fooled, the complicated issues and confusing language regarding my redirection is clearly explained. There is a problem in the pet food industry. Clear and simple. A big problem. The evidence of this statement is overwhelming should we choose to look at it. There in lies the human challenge.

As consumers we shop at grocery and pet stores for the convenience and the promise of good nutrition from companies that are passionate about what they do. Right? The clear fact is that our dogs are suffering and dying. They are overweight, diabetic, arthritic, suffer from skin issues and allergies, autoimmune diseases, and cancer. As well-educated pet parents we are experts in allergies….but still cannot muddle through the food labels the industry almost literally throws at us. Marketing tactics include buzz words like pre-biotic, organic, healthy, quality, and natural. Beside an overly simple list of ingredients we see catch phrases like “No artificial” colors, flavors, or fillers…this from chicken jerky treats laced with fatal illegal antibiotics that took society 6 years to recall. Evidence exposed in these recalls (or the lack of them), clearly shows the fact that we are feeding our dogs from a dangerously un-regulated industry despite enduring company claims.

Our education needs to start at ground zero. What do our dogs need nutritionally? We know that dogs are carnivores and they need a species appropriate diet to help their body recover from injury and prevent disease. Dogs can eat raw meat because they have high levels of stomach acid that can neutralize pathogens efficiently, it’s how they were made. Simple and honest.

So…in this over simplified knowledge we can now examine our pet food labels and terminology. “By-products” are the left overs after all the edible parts are removed. Yup! I said AFTER the edible parts are removed! These by-products are recycled, deceased animals that have been collected from slaughter houses, farms, or road kill. By-products can then be rendered with heat and chemicals until, if there was anything of value in it, it’s now removed. Do we need to actually stand in front of a pile of rotting carcasses to know we don’t want to feed it to our dogs? If you are still with me, I’ll throw a few more ideas at you…BHA is a toxic preservative. Cancer is caused by chemical preservatives. Ethoxyquin is a preservative that will prolong the shelf life of dry kibble to “stay fresh” for 25 years. Why do we need this kibble to stay fresh for 3 times the lifetime of our pet?  We continue to stand at the vet clinic with our mouths open asking the doctor “How did my dog get Cancer?”.

Our education cannot stop there…we know that dogs are nutritionally resilient, we know this because we are able to abuse their diet and not always see the immediate effects. So now it is time to read the ingredients. Everyone ready? You’ve heard it before! Corn. Corn is a carbohydrate, we all know this, we know that biologically this is unnecessary for our dog’s nutritional requirement. Yet we still buy dog food with a first ingredient of corn. Whaaaat? “Corn gluten meal” is an allergen and again unnecessary. Color….really? Those pretty red bacon strips look so yummy! To our dogs bacon looks grey. Dogs see their world in hues of blue, yellow and grey. That pretty dog kibble with red, green, and orange coloring shaped into little bones and little hearts is not for dogs. It’s for us. To our dogs it looks grey, brown and maybe a bit yellow….yuck! Color additives Yellow 5 & 6, Red 40, and Blue 2 are responsible for hyperactivity, aggression, thyroid/brain/kidney tumors, cancer, allergies, skin issues….

In order to protect our dogs we must know and understand these labels while  dedicating a bit of our attention to become industry detectives. Trying to find the time is why we simply put our trust in the companies producing the food or alternatively the FDA who is, after all, the regulatory authority in charge of making sure the label on the package honestly meets the rules. The rules are formed by the AAFCO who is a non-government organisation…wait for it…funded by the pet food industry. So lets quickly talk about the rules behind the terminology….the word “Flavor” simply means the food can contain as little as 0% meat. “Natural” can include rendered ingredients. “Organic” must have as little as 3% organic meat. And so on, and so on…

Simply stated…The pet food industry as a whole is not trustworthy. The FDA cares about the rules created by an organisation working for an industry who is literally killing our pets. The pet/grocery stores are not responsible for removing toxic food from their shelves without a recall. It all comes down to money. Again. Did you know that in our society a human life is valued at 6-9 million dollars. Dogs are considered a possession and therefore in our court system they are only valued at the money put into them.

Small pet food companies are passionate about education! They are eager to speak with us and answer our questions. As consumers we need to support the small company’s that are transparent to a point where they lose us in their answers. I don’t need (or want) to understand everything about the industry to feed my dog well…I simply need to trust my instincts. The secrets, carefully regulated responses, and refusals to participate in documentaries or interviews scares me. Why is the pet food industry bending over backwards to hide the research about raw food? There is simply no funding available to back up their criticism regarding this natural way of feeding our family…so maybe we should just trust them…not in my world!!

I want to feed my dogs food. Meat…not decomposing bodies processed with chemicals…but happy cows, happy chickens, happy salmon. Happy, free animals who have lived a full life the way nature meant them to live, and are raised and used humanely with dignity and respect. Cows who eat grass, chickens who can walk, fish that swim in the ocean, carrots grown in untreated dirt, apples ripened on trees, kelp harvested by sustainable methods and dried by hand and sun. Have we come so far removed from mother nature that we have nothing natural or humane to conveniently offer our dogs? Are we not a superior species with intelligence that far exceeds all our forefathers? We watch chickens cruelly mistreated while the by-products of whats left of their rotten diseased corpses are chemically treated and we still support the end product of dry kibble that kills our pets because it’s convenient? If that’s the definition of superior, I’m out!

The scariest part of this story is that the same ingredients in the dog food that is killing our dogs, is legal in human food. But that is for another blog….

Healing details

My long awaited silent hippie retreat began the evening of January 25th, Robbie Burns day! This day is stitched into my heart as Bev Hughs worked tirelessly to stage a Burns dinner each year that included performances by her highland dancers and a traditional haggis feast with all the fixings. One year Bev’s brother play the bagpipes for us as we danced in our plaid kilts. My favorite dance was The Highland Sword because I didn’t have to smile, I could look down at my feet and concentrate on stepping over and through the dull blades as I jumped and turned around the crossed metal pieces. I could never compete with my school friend Angela. She held herself straight and confident and had a natural smile that lit up the stage and accentuated her instinctual talent for dance.

As the retreat groupies settled ourselves into the spacious cabin at Banner Mountain Lodge in Smithers, we made our introductions. An intriguing gentleman in his white dress shirt and slacks named Ian was instantly the story teller of the group telling me that my small town of Burns Lake was named after Robbie Burns. I nodded and smiled. (According to Barney Mulvany Burns Lake was originally named “Burnt Lake” by the Borland expedition in the 1800’s due to a huge forest fire that covered the area. Kerry Guenter believes that our town was named after Michael Byrnes, a surveyor for the Collins Overland Telegraph as shown on an 1866 map. Kerry does mention Robert Borland renaming the area “Burnt Lake” in 1869. The name that we now use as “Burns Lake” has been labelled on maps since 1876. Who knew?) David in his khaki’s had flown in from Edmonton that morning and told us of meeting the Burns Lake Clovis family who took him immediately under their wing and helped him find his way. He was interested that I was connected to the Clovis family by sharing a birthday with her younger sister Maria. With our tummies rumbling we all headed to the main hall for dinner where Migon and I sat with a couple of ladies who had flown in from Vancouver. In our prattle I realized that Shannon was the cousin of my best friend Susie. Burns Lake was indeed famous, but not for Robbie Burns, Burns Lake is famous for it’s compassion, long time kindred spirits, and a deep understanding of family.

As we all fell into silence I expected to feel a magical connection of unity with like-minded people. As I struggled to let down my guard, open my mind and allow this connection in, I was deafened by the amplification of life. The scuffing sound of each footstep as well-worn burnt yellow leather slippers decorated with black fur and intricate beading touched the laminate floor, the hum of the furnace, spoons clinking and chiming against white china mugs, knives hitting wooden cutting boards with a loud clunk, clunk, clunk, paper bags being unfolded, and plastic wrap crinkled loudly as it was removed from the microgreens.

I was able to quiet the sounds around me during our early morning meditation. I was instead overwhelmed with the sound of my own life. The blood rushing to the tips of my fingers and back again with each heart beat, the cracking of my neck deep inside my ears, the ringing buzz of silence, the minuscule readjustment of my crossed legs on the tiny round pillow that cracked my toe in a room exploding sound that made me want to hide inside my skin.

As the light came up behind our meditation teacher who was stationed under the enormous windows that disappeared with the colors in the distance, I simply take in what I see, without thought. The grey sky turning blue as the sun rises and shows a tiny color of peach along the top of a low lying cloud that sat between and behind the dark grey mountains as the snow on their peaks brighten. A moving river of selective grey shadows change the evergreens to incandescence shades of color as the light moves in a pretentious display though the layers of tree species to reach us. Grey leafless aspen turn brown, deep forest green spruce shimmer silver highlights as the wind shifts a branch, the small avocado green pine under the window stand guard at the border of the unbroken crystal white snow that lies through the yellow sleeping husks of the cattails. I am not thinking about how I have failed the meditation by watching the sun come up. In my concentration there is no room for personal judgment.

Our silent breakfast is announced by the beautiful tone of a Chinese gong, once, twice, three times. Earthy dark granola with almonds and seeds topped with tart plain yogurt and a soft white banana that awaits us as we all stare quietly at our meals. Savoring each bite, once, twice, three times. We make our way on padded ankle high blue slippers with tiny white v-shaped accents that happily remind me of Sully from Monsters Inc. to the kitchen sink and silently wait our turn to wash our dishes and put them away. The water running and splashing over bubbles, the tinkle of silverware against plastic organizers and the thud of drawers being closed as we dance in and out of each other accomplishing a singular task as one intertwined creature.

Our free time has us all opening our blank paged journals on tables and laps. The loud cracking of the gold bindings on the fancy embossed books and the scratch of a red satin bookmark being removed from it’s page to let hang from the book core where it is glued. The tip, tap, scratch of the pen as it writes, following the sound of the wrist as it brushes over the paper…tip, tap, scratch, flip…tip, tap, scratch. The tepid inhale of breath through pursed lips as hot coffee hits the tongue and a gargle of air follows the flow down the throat. It’s like being underwater in a busy pool surrounded by the muffled sounds of movement. Physical manifestations of thought, without a voice.

It hits me like a brick wall is that silence isn’t silent. A silent group of people is not connected in any true way other than the simple mechanics of accomplishing the same task. In actuality silence is a very loud disconnect to the people around you. Every noise a drum call to your inability to be silent. Most shocking to me is the lack of emotion. Silence is wonderful in it’s lack of judgment, anger, and hurt, but it is also solemnly lacking in joy and friendship. I miss Mig’s eyes as we laugh at something silly…I miss laughing so hard our sides hurt and we snort as we try desperately to catch our breath. We are so good at brainstorming on a spiritual level that we can finish each others thoughts all the while we are solving world issues. Migon has always been real for me. There is a non-judgment from her on a level that goes beyond spirit, beyond words, but without those words we are separate individuals, not two people as one. Susie and I are like this too but we tend to talk over each other, talking and listening at the same time, never missing one word or diminishing one important thought…like our spirits are collaborating in another dimension.

My sore back was the catalyst that took me silently outside. The majestic beauty of the property was the best part of the weekend. One tiny finch in a group of little birds that broke loose a single seed from the tree, the seed falling silently to the crust of snow and bouncing along the surface, pushed by the wind, until settling in the crevice at the base of a tree. Two long oval shapes tied together by a small center circle in the snow from the foot prints of a white jack rabbit that had hopped over the bank and onto the road, the prints of the tri-colored border collie called Erin following after it kept me company with their silent story. The tiny train track prints of a brown shrew scuttling over the bank in search of food seemed to leap from the top of the bank and continue 2 inches down to dart and change direction fluidly. Upon careful inspection the little shrew had not leapt from the tallest point in his travel but instead tunneled under the snow leaving a perfect round hole completely obliterating the tiny body until he chose to surface again. All this was observed in silence without internal dialogue. A simple concentration that is felt with wonder and appreciation without distracting words. I am skilled at this.

I could sit on the steep bank of Tchesinkut Lake and shut out the world with only the sound of the water tapping the tiny stones against each other gently and rhythmically.  I could watch without patience or impatience at how the sun dried the warm surface of a pebble before the cold water could reach back and cover it again. A tiny perfectly clear wave along the edge of the seemingly still and very dark abyss under the sparkle of the sun’s reflection, that pulled and pushed constantly and silently.

I’m glad I went. I learned that for me, silence is neither healing nor happy, silence is not even silent, words create bonds, and laughter is uniformly non-judgmental. Meditation is healing but found in so many forms that it isn’t simply a matter of learning to sit still and clear your mind. The foundational key to self awareness lies in the details. The sights, sounds, and stories of nature and loosing your self in it is the only healing I need.

 

 

Unexpected

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.” Gandhi

My brother has an amazing memory. He can remember climbing the white bars of his 1970’s crib and courageously leaping to his soft landing on the small toddler bed pushed up beside him in our tiny room. My “big girl bed” was covered in a period yellow blanket, probably hand-made by one of my mothers many sisters. I must have slept through the constant attacks from above because I remember only a faded square picture in an old brown photo album, the kind that had one sheet of plastic over card-stock covered in some sort of “always sticky” glue.

I remember very little about my early childhood. A few flashes of Gramma & Grandpa Baker in their “huge” house on 8th ave, 2 doors down from Center street, Christmas day with all the fixings! The boys in their brown vests, the girls matching in delicate blue flower printed homemade dresses, Gramma’s good china laid out around the solid wood table with a pungent spruce tree in the corner all decorated with colorful home-made ornaments. We felt like royalty. That was the year I got Kermit the frog, his long green arms with individual fingers and small velcro squares on the hands. My Dad loved the muppets, Statler and Waldorf who sat in the balcony to heckle and grump at all the other muppets had Dad giggling until it was a full belly laugh and we were all laughing at him.

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I remember almost nothing of the tiny trailer we lived in at the old KOA trailer park. Only a few instant still moments when Mom would adorn her 2 piece bathing suit, drape our beach towels over her arm and we would carefully navigate the trail that led from our trailer to the edge of, what seemed to be, our own private beach on the shore of Burns Lake.

I remember the excitement of moving into the cedar A frame cabin on Tchesinkut Lake when I was 5 years old. Grandpa John took me down to the over grown lake edge and taught me how to skip rocks. After searching and finding the perfect flat stone, Grandpa finally convinced me to throw it in the water instead of keeping it safe in my treasure box. He taught me how to stand, leaned over ever so slightly back and to the right and twist my body forward as I threw the rock. His perfectly flat rock would bounce over the surface of the lake effortlessly, too many times to count. My goal in adulthood was 5 skips, 5 little splashes on the sky’s perfect reflection until it plunked and sunk. 2 skips were ok…but 5 was an achievement. Grandpa John would take my small hand and position the rock perfectly between my thumb and my next two fingers to hold the smooth bottom of the stone in just the right spot. He told me to let it roll off the tip of my middle digit and then again from my pointer to set it spinning. It was the spin that would make it fly! I was set! the perfect rock, the perfect body position, the perfect hold, the perfect lake, the perfect teacher on a perfect day. I concentrated on spinning the rock to make Grandpa proud of me, I drew back, swung my body to the right and threw the perfect stone into the tall purple fire-weeds on the bank behind us. Grandpa John was a serious man, he smiled his tight-lipped smile gently and showed me again, like he had all the time in the world.

I remember when Gramma & Grandpa Baker moved from 8th ave to their house on 1st and Carrol. The pink carpet matched Gramma’s pink recliner perfectly. The fire-place on the back wall was set in red brick beside the back door that opened to a perfectly manicured lawn with the biggest Saskatoon tree I had ever seen. Grandpa John had to share his office with Glenny whose small bed was in the far corner beneath the framed picture of horse-drawn carriages. Grandpa’s desk was opposite that along the wall that bordered the hallway. I would walk past the open door of his office and he would be sitting with his hands on the desk, fingers interlaced tightly and his thumbs twirling round and round each other in a meditative motion so he could think through the latest work conundrum. I remember this time vividly. Saturday morning cartoons interrupted only by Gramma’s special Mickey Mouse pancakes smothered in butter and syrup. Gramma picking me up from school and sitting at the round table in her kitchen teaching me long division the old school way, the way that made sense. The sleepovers with my best friend Susie, our perfect glass tea set in the kitchen with real juice and biscuit cookies! The Mary Kay parties for me and my friends in high-school and the evenings where she hosted the pre-dance girls group. I can hear the giggling and overwhelming chatter and remember Gramma hiding in her room with a good book.

Gramma’s house was the center of activity, fancy dinner parties for the elite in Burns Lake, in the posh part of town…it was without question “the place to be”. Life on the lake was simple. Mom had a large garden and greenhouse that we would eat from all summer long and preserve what we couldn’t eat in the fall. Our cool room was always full of potatoes and homemade jam’s and jelly’s. We spent hours on the lake catching fish and lighting up the little chef smoker to indulge ourselves for months on candied smoked trout. Fall was also the time Dad had to go hunting. It seemed like a chore to me at the time but looking back I’m sure this was Dad’s get away…alone in the woods. No one liked taking a moose to feed us through the winter. It was a necessity. There was simply not enough money. Despite this fact, I never felt truly deprived in any way. We always got new clothes before the start of the next school year. Our tree was always crammed with gifts. We always had a dog.

I remember my first Barbie doll. She was the birthday celebration doll with blond hair and a rainbow chiffon dress over a satin slip. Mom made me Barbie clothes from old Paton’s patterns on her sewing machine. I had everything! Swim suits, slippers, bathrobes and nightgowns, jeans, shirts and jackets for my Barbie. Mom had a Barbie too. She kept it tightly locked away in a blue metal trunk with moth balls. She would take it out once in a while and show me….like taking candy from a baby….she would put it back in the trunk telling me how much money this doll would be worth someday. I’m sure that Barbie is still tucked away in that trunk.

There was no Saturday morning cartoons or Mickey Mouse pancakes on the lake, but there was always cleaning for the girls and chopping wood for the boys. Sunday was our day to indulge on pancakes and listen to Abba on the 8-track, after the work was done. You wouldn’t think there was an art to dusting, but there is. Kids nowadays have no idea how to dust. They have one fancy colorful mini duster with soft chunky hairs that they swipe around the edge of the cabinet and call er’ done! If I handed them a dry toothbrush and asked them to dust they would stare blank eyed at me with their mouths open in disgust at the used toothbrush in their hand. I worked hard for Mom cause I had my eye set on a Cabbage Patch doll, everyone else already seemed to have one. No dusting meant no allowance. Plain and simple. No second place ribbons, no exceptions, no make up chores.

Gramma took me to my swimming lessons on Burns Lake. I hated the cold murky water that harbored little vampire leeches and the slimy plastic on the bottom under the sparse layer of sand that the village used to keep the weeds down. On the other hand I loved the special book they gave you with empty spots for all your swimming patches that you added like stickers in a sticker book as you moved your way from Turtles to Dolphins. Extra special was the date and signature of the instructor in your book as you moved up, like winning the Olympics. Gramma promised to take me to the drug store to pick out my Cabbage Patch after our lessons. I stood in the second aisle from the mall wall and took in the sight of the dolls all neatly in their boxes. Not one was the same…blonde and brunette yarn heads with cute dresses, blue and green eyes, dark, light and medium skin and little boys in overalls. So many choices. If my mother had been there she would choose the blonde girl with the pink dress and ribbons in her pigtails. Gramma waited patiently for me to look at them all in detail. I finally choose a bald baby girl in a plain white muumuu with white lace along the edges, white bonnet and tiny white knit booties. Gramma looked at me and asked “Are you sure you want the bald one?”. I surveyed the group again. It was my money. I worked for it. It was my choice. I said “yes”, expecting my mother’s voice to come out of my grandmother saying the one I chose was ugly but Gramma just nodded and smiled supporting my choice. The doll’s name was Celeste. She had her own birth certificate and adoption papers. To this day Celeste is with me. I have her papers, her bonnet, booties and dress. That was independence for me, individuality inside a sense of belonging and acceptance.

Life was simple on the lake, it was also hard. I learned to cherish the things I had, and work hard to earn the things I wanted. I came across a post in the buy and sell the other day selling her Cabbage Patch collection in “un-played with” condition. Gack!!! What a crime! Of course I had to have one! When I stopped by, I was VERY happy to see that the ones that were left had indeed been played with and loved. They no longer had their birth certificates or adoption papers, there was old marker on the tops of their bald heads, holes in their thumbs and missing ribbons and bows. They brought back for me a feeling of cherishment and gratitude. A feeling about a doll that I missed passing onto to my boys as I thought I would. I missed teaching them to highland dance, figure skate, braid hair and love The Little Mermaid. They didn’t like the Nancy Drew or Little House on the Prairie books. They had no use for Barbie’s or Wendy Walker. They love to cook, make slime, play basketball, snowboard, ride motorbikes and light fires. I am grateful that I always have a boy around to get the boy things done that need to get done.

The words on this page are all that is left of the feeling I get from Celeste. It doesn’t diminish it, just changes it into something I didn’t expect. A feeling that’s all mine, that can’t be shared, taught or recreated. This realization also makes me feel like it’s time to do some hard-core de-cluttering. Some Cinderella magic in turning the physical memories into words and letting go of the things I have no room for. When the words are not enough…the pictures are.

So it is

As Jason heads to Vegas this week with plans to celebrate his 40th milestone with a tight-knit group of kindred friends from high-school…all facing the same harsh reality of middle age, he talks of the atrocities that Vegas harbors. He is appalled at legal prostitution being available in Nevada, and the idea that someone would approach him to offer this service. As far as I am concerned it’s the same as legalizing marijuana, prostitution can only be made safer with legalization. Illegal female workers are thought of as disposable, worthless and dirty. These sub-human ideals come straight from the men that pay them. Legal call girls are protected, provided for and treated with respect. Their protectors enforce these ideals if for no other reason than these girls pay their bills. So where in this equation is the atrocity?

I spent some time watching a new Netflix documentary called Murder Mountain. It details the legalizing of marijuana in Northern California’s “redwood curtain”. I love the serene feeling of the naked hippies building a community where they raise their children in complete freedom. Their children growing up with solid values of family and living simply, living free, living without judgment. The freedom to grow illegal weed.

Legalization has its challenges. The all mighty dollar corrupts human ideals like “the one ring to rule them all”. One tiny hobbit strong enough to show more resistance to evil than the world’s strongest warlock, human warriors easily being the weakest of all species to resist in fantasy and in reality. Government run by the best of our human leaders create hoops that line up neatly, then tangle and overlap like a shiny silver slinky climbing down yellow shag carpet stairs in silence until the tangled mess at the bottom gives up in exhaustion and begs to be thrown away. As legal cannabis operations fall at the bottom of the stairs, illegal operations are untouchable and highly dangerous. Government paperwork reaches up from the fires of hell like Gollum, to hold onto the all mighty dollar that is thickly cloaked in the promises of safety for the industry.

We need to figure out how to make this industry more safe for the people who are involved in it, and I think legalization will provide that in the end,

(https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6575161/From-marijuana-mecca-Murder-Mountain-troubled-history-Californias-redwood-curtain.html)

 

Safety will be provided in the end? Where is the end? 60% of US weed has been provided by Humboldt County for decades. Decades! The hard choices to keep people safe, shouldn’t be this hard. We sit in our warm homes owned by the bank and hydro, pretend it’s ours and loudly protest the choices made above us, pretending like we have a voice. One tiny voice being the weakest of all voices. One tiny voice that could’ve, should’ve, would’ve been combined with a world of voices that can actually make a difference. Instead of combining our voices we attack, bully, undermine and judge people so our own voices are heard above them and then we get lost as the very voice we needed to be “many” is silenced. And so it is.

We cannot fight illegal operations. We are the consumer. Illegal products and services exist because we support them. They exist because the hoops to be legal are fueled by the dollar, controlled by the corrupted humans that we chose. We need to come together and show our support of legalization to simply and realistically protect people. We come together by making the right choices as a consumer, not the easiest choices.

As consumers we will continue to support puppy mills until we all make the choice to support the breeders that don’t make it easy. The breeders that ask questions, support your choices instead of dictating theirs, and stand behind their commitments to protect the puppies they bring into the world. This ideal then gets fuzzy as we examine the blurred line between dictating and educating. The right choice will be hard. The right choice will come from your instinct, the one that feels right, without dramatized words. We will continue to make the easy choice until we actually listen to that instinct, and the motivation behind it. Any decision made in real love will always be the right one. Same as puppy mills consumers claim they are rescuing, we cannot make an easy choice while claiming it was done in love.

Until we fix ourselves at the core of who we are, we are disposable, worthless and dirty.

It is this core that is our individual voice. A singular soul of celebration for all human beings, non-judgmental, acceptance of other’s choices and their individual learning journeys. A core of safety and freedom and love. Instead of seeing how our core power can together change the world we expect our leaders to do it for us. The way we see our houses as “ours” is a veil that makes us see reality in fuzzy pixels, it starts with our homes and spreads like fleas to all areas of our lives. We must open our hearts and live real lives. Real lives.

Living a real life is not my original ideal. I am queen of drama and waiting for someone else to fix it for me. This ideal was tightly woven into my DNA decades ago. Jason has the amazing ability to live a real life, not without personal constant reminders but…so it is. Drama has no place in a real life. I have learned and continue to learn to sort through the drama and focus on what’s real thanks to following his lead.

I have to believe I am making a difference by fixing what I can from the core. I try to focus on non-judgment and accepting my easy decisions and their damaging consequences humbly. I’m headed to my very first “hippie” retreat in a few weeks. My bestie, vegetarian food, meditating, yoga and a 2 day vow of silence…eeekkk! The goal of the silence for me will be a reflection of my motivations, an acceptance of myself and others, a clear definition of my personal truth (whatever that means) and the spacious freedom of my thoughts with the fine tuned ability to turn them off to truly live in the moment. Secretly I hope this retreat turns me into a full-blown hippie so I can physically move into a remote area and live off the land undisturbed. The fuzzy pixels creep over my fleeting clarity and jolt me back to the “One ring…”. And so it is.

Far Away

The snow has finally arrived. The magical beauty of a perfect line of thick white snow that uniformly falls from the hydro lines, disintegrating away until only a mist of snow hits the ground. I watched this morning as the mist crept in the low of my small valley highlighting the tip of the hill behind it in a baby blue hue showing promise of the day’s sunshine. The smog inched it’s way behind the evergreen trees that stood guarding it as a solid dark grey silhouette, ladled in snow pushing down on the dormant branches until their breaking point. Even in their sleep the branches win as Mother Nature pushes the snow away with a warm winter breeze, like a mother pushing away a lock of hair from her child’s eyes as they dream. Soon the mist covers the hill and only the tall trees creating the front line remain visible, and the mist waits…waits for the sun to push its hard won mystical barrier far away from her warmth and comfort.

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I like to think of myself as a “bad news first” kinda girl. I am alluded by the ability to contain my wild feelings, even the struggle to focus my thoughts on the last thing I’ve been told is a challenge (I suspect this is why I am a proud simple-minded follower). In hearing bad news first I can simply forget the thoughts that create the feelings around the voice in front of me and focus on the good news about to consume my brain with lovely, addictive serotonin.

It is in this knowledge that I face December 25th. The overwhelming pressure of family. As a dedicated follower my sole mission (and detriment) in life has been to please people. If I had my way, I would be sitting completely alone covered in sunshine on a soft white sand beach listening to waves lick at my bare toes. The exact opposite of pressure. Jason’s family and friends live in Smithers. A simple 2 hour drive, that may as well be in China! Both of our parent families are alone, both stubborn and willful, both deeply rooted in tradition and extensively skilled in using guilt as their ultimate weapon. The children are old enough now to feel this guilt and follow my direction to strive to contain it if they can’t outright fix it. Their overly dramatic father fits seamlessly into our parent families, being closer to their generation than Jason and I are. Christmas for me is guilt ridden, restless pressure with devastation and disappointment surrounding 1 day of useless, expensive celebration.

I didn’t always feel this way. Like a typical child, Christmas was the only day my brother and I joined forces to outwit time. I remember waking him up in the darkness with a tiny nudge of my small finger, together creeping down the steep wooden stairs, avoiding the creaks in the middle of each step. On our way down we would grab our overfull stockings from the hooks on the edge of the stairs where they hung. If something fell out onto the floor we knew we would be busted. With our arms bursting and our excitement palatable, we dangerously maneuvered the second half of the staircase in complete silent darkness. We locked ourselves in the bathroom, turned on the light and dug in! In the midst of our second layer of goodies, past the japanese oranges that hit the floor without a thought, the door flung open and there stood Gramma Lee. Her short, thin white curls creating a halo of tangles above her squinting blue eyes as she tried to adjust to the light. We froze like deer in the headlights, hoping if we didn’t move she wouldn’t see us. A simple “it’s 3 o’clock in the morning…” was enough to get us back to our warm beds abandoning our loot. Dear gawd I miss that woman. She passed away Dec.26, 1999. Christmas has not been the same since.

The problem with the current daily “countdown to The Day” of dramatics is the fact that the good news is overwhelmingly nowhere to be seen. New Years for me is a time of quiet reflection, a life re-focus and a new awareness. By the time New Years gets here I’m still drowning in chores to clean up the physical and emotional messes made by everyone who didn’t get their expectations met. It’s intensely hard for me to focus on my new year beginning on the right foot while I’m still intrinsically caught up in the drama of a family Christmas. It’s like starting off your “healthy eating” day with an earl grey tea swimming in 18% cream and spoonfuls of sugar to wash down those homemade Christmas cookies.

I like to begin my New Years reflection in November. Putting the cart before the horse so I can concentrate my sights on the good news at the end of the Christmas schedule. By December 1st my resolutions are on paper! I enjoyed my last years resolution of speaking about my Dad to my kids. This has been wholly healing for me and I intend to continue this work and improve on the simple short stories to include pictures this year. Maybe by this time next year I can look at and process the cards we received at his funeral.

My other continuing resolution centers on this business. Setting limitations, focusing on whats important and not giving myself away (emotionally or physically) in the process. Specifically I will begin January with yet another new way to complete my invoices. The Google sheets was a nice stepping off point that proved to simply be too labor intensive. Trying to delegate this task was an absolute “no go!”. I am going to try Simply Accounting with the hope that the computer will be able pick up the work I need delegated, automatically creating spreadsheets and invoices.

The resolution that I’m most worried about (and most determined to make habit) is to hold on to me. To live life. I will ground myself in quiet, eat raw food I feel good about, learn a ton of new things, go new places, spend more time with my horses and generally let others own their own needs.  As I am swamped in feeling guilt, pressure and anxiety, I look forward to January 1st. A new year’s day, the day I selfishly book next year’s Christmas, to get away….simply get away….far, far away.

 

Solid

“A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water”                                      Eleanor Roosevelt

Yes, the Smith women are a force to be reckoned with. My Grandfather taught the girls to be strong both mentally and physically. My Grandmother taught them to be dramatic. Sometimes you never know which trait is raising it’s monstrous head…you simply duck before it hits you.

Loma Linda is the physical rock of the Smith family. Her strength doesn’t deceive with dramatics, it simply stands solid in fact, aging with silent grace, grateful for another season, nurturing it’s growing flock and warmly embracing the change that comes with it. Without question Loma Linda Ranch is the essence that all of us strive to emulate.

The un-holy anger of “The Beast” was no match for The Smith Ranch named Loma Linda. In typical female fashion we silence the might of “The Wolf Pack” who protected her and we celebrate the strength of the “woman” she is. The fire burned every living thing in it’s path around the small inlet to it’s mouth where it then followed the creek that runs behind the tiny log cabin. It changed course at that junction simply due to the massive guards put in place by her Southside neighbors and friends. You can see where the fire tried to jump the water as it burned trails through the trees and engulfed the fields before attempting to jump the enormous banks of dirt pushed there to protect the guard around old Loma Linda. The evidence of the fight that ended on the soil of my legacy is humbling, inspiring and devastating.

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The fascinating way the fire burned…it wasn’t your typical raging madman consuming everything…it was sneaky…twisting death trails around wild blueberry bushes until it gained strength on the crisp, dry bark of it’s chosen prey. The spinning flames ate the skin of the tree and then bit deep into the tissue until the base was no longer able to support the seventy years of growth above ground, the majesty of the aspens collapsed taking the fire with them in search of it’s next meal. The flames discovered the open wound at the vulnerable base and it turned in excited circles to devour the aspens flesh as the rings of the tree suffocate and die. The thousand year old root system of the tree stays still and safe in it’s bed of soil, waiting for spring to pop up new shoots and show it’s resilience in defiance of The Beast. As the fire moved swiftly around the property it left a pattern of black scales over everything like a rat snake creeping fluidly through the newly fallen golden leaves from the unaffected tree tops. Like the way the black wing feathers of a crow shimmer and turn blue just for an instant in the sunlight, the scales of the black snake glint off the grey day light in triumph.

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No masculine lunatic exposes itself in The Beast’s movements, only a gentle dancing as it leads with the spoiled attitudes of royalty. Like a Disney movie princess in a seductive evening gown shimmering deep blue and moving with a luxury that only the very rich can afford, then there is a rotating twirl of pure white smoke that engulfs the sparkle to magically become the hard scales of a vicious and demanding murderer. The feminine way the fire burned proves that Nature is the mother of a daughter we call The Beast. Woman against woman never wins. Loma Linda won…but she needed the help of the “Wolves”. The “Wolf Pack” in all it’s masculine glory took on Goliath and then stepped away into the shadows to protect their own families to let Loma Linda shine like she single handedly won. Like a true knight in shining armor the wolves saved the princess and then steps back to watch her shine. Like all good battles, the aftermath is another story.

The after math battle to save the roads and fields from spring flooding is still an egg waiting to be fertilized. The paperwork and government loops will consume our minds over the winter as the “fetus” grows. The hard, exhausting, labor intensive work will begin as the next demon approaches the Ranch on the wings of a new season. But this time we will be ready.

Imagination

 

“Everything that is real was first imagined”            The Velveteen Rabbit

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The rabbit has deep symbolic meanings. They represent fertility and family abundance, Mother Earth and springtime rebirth, new life, new beginnings, creation and growth. A celebration of life. This circle can lead us to further ponder the longevity of generation upon generation and our own personal ancestry, should we have the time to let our minds wander past the adorable wiggly noses, tall splendid ears and tiny cotton ball tail curled around their fluffy bottoms. In true Mother Nature style the double edge sword of that luxurious soft fur and delicate whiskers hides beastly strong teeth and powerful hind feet that wield long, sharp nails ready to take action.

The middle of August Bakers Acres saw an intense influx of animals fleeing the Southside as fire consumed the community. Among them were 19 rabbits. 2 moms, 2 dads, 3 teenagers and a pile of babies. At first we crammed them all into our small rooster house to await the containment of the fire that we assumed would only take a few days. As the hours turned to days, and the days to weeks…the babies grew. We cleaned out our 2 personal permanent bunny houses and moved the group into my garden, separating males from females. Still the babies grew.

Our neighbor Rick and Judy Medley offered their volunteer services to help control our abundant bunnies. Judy designed the first rabbit hutch with 2 stories and Rick used materials taken from their old greenhouse. The thought that they put into this little house with large doors, heavy wire for bunnies tender baby feet, slight slopes for ramps and safe, dry sleeping areas with adorable horse shoe shaped doors is impressive and appreciated. As the bunnies quickly outgrew their overcrowded houses they would chase each other round and round in a flurry of fur and nails. Rick continued to build. Each house that arrived had new additions and changes to better suit my precious rabbit fosters. Rick personally delivered each one stopping to pet the foster dogs who so lovingly greeted him. Judy checked on his progress daily and stopped by the kennel to drop off munchies for the bunnies when she could. Rick and Judy have added a total of 4 rabbit hutches to our collection and because of it, the bunnies are thriving!

Still the babies continue to grow. The teenagers have become adults and have started nesting and  growling at each other, the boys have started pushing their weight around and biting the others fluffy bunny tail.

Sunday was yet another moving day for the group. The 3 female teenagers and the 2 original mothers got moved into the old chicken coop which is a larger house and outside pen. The babies have been moved in pairs into Rick’s special designed houses. As the winter approaches the baby bunnies will be spared their original purpose of becoming dinner as RainCoast Dog Rescue Society helps us spay and neuter as many of the 13 quickly growing babies as we can, so we can rehome them as pets. (250-692-6481 to get your name on the list to adopt these bunnies).  https://www.raincoastdogrescue.com/

I’m so proud of my family. They did not ask for this extra farm work, but they have stepped up and they shine like my own personal north stars! These lessons of giving, hard work, selflessness and gratitude are undeniably beyond my own capabilities and I am grateful for the opportunity to use this horrific situation to demonstrate their kind hearts and keen minds, not only to themselves…but to the world who is watching. Their confidence is contagious.

As the world also watches, some of our heroic Southsiders can head home to their own beds, but we quickly forget the devastation these people will face in the coming month before our long winter sets in. I’m reminded continually of their challenges as I go about my own. As my winter planning falls 2 months behind, I am anxious to get my “to do” list started. The heavy frost this morning only doubles that anxiety. Cleaning chimney’s, servicing fire places, heaters and thermometers,  insulating windows, keeping out unwelcome critters trying to stay warm, sealing and covering tin roofs, stocking pellets, organising emergency lighting and heating, winter shelters, feed storages, heat tape on pipes, protecting trees, door and window seals, claiming space to plow snow, winter hoses, preparing winter water troughs, repairing buildings, fences and barricades for winter protection, plans to divert the spring run off to keep the kennel dry next year…the list is endless. My list is for our little family of animals, and this business. It is unimaginable what the list for the evacuees are…they are back at  work, the children are back at school and their “to do” lists will also include building wood and hay storage, filling that storage with fire wood and food for their livestock, rebuilding fences that took years to build, leveling huge mounds of dirt so they have someplace to plow snow, recouping their homes from the rats that have taken over, rebuilding well houses and water pumps…with little over a month before snow comes, how can they possibly ever be ready for winter?  And still they are simply grateful for their own beds.

The Binta Lake (south of Burns Lake) fire in 2010, saw 40,000 hectares burn in the largest single fire in the province that year. I dealt with distraught people desperately seeking refuge for their cats during this evacuation at our tiny shelter behind the vet clinic where I worked. We had to turn them away as there was simply no room. I started this business in 2012 and the first thing I did was renovate a small structure on the property to house cats and I designed it to match the shelter I so loved. During the China Nose fire in 2014 I took in as many cats as I could from evacuees at no charge. Thankfully it only lasted a few days before people were allowed to go home. This is the second evacuation order due to wild fires where Bakers Acres has volunteered since opening 5 years ago. Evacuations due to fire are not new. How we handle those fires is not new. Evacuation registration is not new, even the forms have not changed in years. Action to save Tweedsmuir park from the pine beetle started in 1995. By 1997 it was out of control and the government simply waited for it to burn. The explanations of cost-efficiency, legislation, management, remote location, and rarity of challenges are not new. In fact they are getting really old. Things need to change. Instead of sitting at our desks and compiling phone numbers for emergency planning, get out to volunteers and see how things are not working, talk about solutions, then do it! Stop talking, stop writing, stop promising, stop excusing. Put on your muddy black rubber boots and do! Do something. Do anything. I was told early on, in this never-ending evacuation, by the RDBN that there was no funding for pets. Paulchen, our chunky monkey diabetic kitty, got picked up after a month’s stay and his “Mom” handed me a form that she got from the evacuation center in Smithers. A form that I can submit to the government for $50 to reimburse me for kenneling costs. Why was I unaware of this? Why are the people I’m helping unaware of this? Government un-preparedness? Government cost savings? Government ignorance?

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Joey and Paulchen

As I wait with bated breath for someone to come and ask how we can be better prepared for the next evacuation, I imagine that talk turning to action. Action to update registration, action to be fully transparent with concrete plans, action to renovate and prepare physical housing and help volunteers. Action to protect small business from the financial loss a disaster like this takes, action to support, action to be prepared. Simple action.

I imagine a scene where the sun creeps quickly down the hillside turning the shadowed grey trees to bright reds, yellows and oranges in celebration of fall. The brown abundant pine cones at the end of healthy green spruce boughs waiting for a cheeky squirrel to pluck them away and hide them as he chatters and squeaks at anyone daring to stop his harvest. The hardy white frost on the green grass melts with the warmth of the sun and the little bay pony stands huddled beside the stout white sheep for comfort and warmth as they impatiently wait for the sun to reach their backsides. I close my eyes and imagine this for all those people who are instead watching the sun peek through black, dead trees and creeping over huge brown mounds of sod that now cover their winter’s firewood in what’s left of their demolished wood sheds. Farmers whose sheep and goats are gone, replaced by black fields, limbless trees fallen in dangerous criss cross patterns, grey ash and broken/burned fences in a scene from a war lost. I imagine, for them.

Loma Linda

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Southsiders have been wholly described as “A Warrior Community”, “Honourable”, “Defiant”, “Farmers”, “Strong”, “Heroes”, “Avengers”, “Legends”, “Spirits of Dedication”…

The Fire that threatens everything we know is being called “The Animal”, “The Beast”, “Mother Nature”, “Brutal”, “Devastating”…

We’ve been told to “Stay Safe” and “Pray” while we make our “Romantic Last Stand”. We feel frightened, impatient, abandoned…and blessed. Yes, blessed. Blessed by a windless day, by cooler weather that leaves dew on the ground in early morning. Blessed with our lives and the precious lives of our families. Blessed with protection from simple farmers turned warriors.

“Men follow courage”. William Wallace was a farmer who fought for his freedom and his country with the singular strength of many soldiers. Soldiers weakened by lack of conviction, powerless to summon their school room lessons in the face of “witless” passion. A farmers passion for his family, passion for his livelihood, passion for his freedom.

I was born and raised in Burns Lake. Growing up in this small town we learned quickly that “It’s all about who you know”. We all started primary school at Muriel Mould, moved to William Konkin Elementary and finished our schooling at Lakes District Secondary. That is, all of us, save the tiny multiclass elementary school-house at Francois Lake and the Grassy Plains school that taught all grades on the other side of the lake. Those children were the elite enigma. We wondered what they were taught…did they learn Math and English like we did? As we began highschool we met these elusive creatures at school dances once a month and as the mystery around them faded our yearning to follow them took over. These strong, dedicated and passionate people were born leaders.

A big part of my childhood consisted of travelling around the head of “The Lake” or across it, to visit my Grandfather. We loved riding the ferry and gorging ourselves on special weekend snacks as we travelled across rough dirt roads and trails across fields, past our Great Grandma Cartwright’s house on Isaac Lake and into the lush fields of Grampa’s Loma Linda Ranch.

Great Grandma Nellie and Grandpa Cartwright would see us coming and as the only visitors crazy enough to venture out this far, they would wait on their doorstep to flag us down for a visit. I would love to sit in her kitchen with her lace curtains overlooking her yard that sloped slightly down into the “pond”. She had an old wooden chicken house out back and she loved her chickens. She very often would have a sick or frost bit chicken running around her kitchen that had become a temporary reprieve from the busy chicken house. Often our visits were short-lived due to the time constraints of the day that was quickly getting away from us before we even reached the ranch.

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You could see Grampa’s tiny log cabin that sat in the middle of his large fields as we started the slow trek along the hidden trail that was his driveway. At the edge of the farthest fields you could see the rim of trees that hid the banks of Francois Lake. As we got closer to the house the view of the lake disappeared and was replaced by livestock. I watched for a glimpse of the old brown horse called Rocket…a nasty stud that would eat you instead of look at you…but I thought he was wonderous and beautiful (from a distance). Then I would scan the fields for the sweet little black heifer that Grampa Smith called BB. She was our “horse” when we were little.

These weekend days usually consisted of fishing, butchering, gathering wood, cleaning house, eating and exploring! Grampa had an old tire swing that hung in a huge tree beside Mom’s old car that Grampa had stripped for parts. We would climb the hills with Grampa’s dogs Sam and Bambi turning over rocks to expose mice as they scattered and became quick meals for the collie Bambi. Sam preferred porcupine. A quiet walk through the tall grass to the shore of the inlet that was “Grampa’s”, had us balancing ourselves precariously on the huge rock dock that must have taken Grampa many years to assemble and maintain. I loved the swampy part by the old outhouse best as it was teaming with tadpoles…so black it looked like a singular rolling slug with legs and a tail hidden just under the surface. I loved to grab a handful of squirming baby frogs in my hands to feel the tickle on my palms as they tried to swim away. After haying season the barn was full of round bales of sweet-smelling grass so high it made the world seem small. We would climb and wrestle on the bales until we got to the very top when Mom would yell at us to come down and spoil all the fun. That legacy has been handed down to my children as the tradition of our family centers around our Southside leader, Grampa Smith.

As the years flew past we started making our way around the head of the lake over logging roads that twisted and turned, widened and thinned. I loved being the only vehicle on the road as we plowed snow with the bumper of Dad’s truck or weaved our way around large holes full of rain water while we kept a keen eye on the road ahead for tracks of rabbits, deer, moose, bear, coyote and wolves. The fences that held cattle slowly became monstrous barriers for the buffalo that Grampa decided to raise. We went though gate after gate to get to the tiny cabin, though herds of enormous animals that were way too close to the truck for my comfort. Grampa loved to see us coming with loads of Oh Henry, Oreo cookies and Pepsi. His monthly summer trips to town saw his stash of goodies gone within days of his trip.

My Grampa was a stubborn, cantankerous, loud, opinionated, unforgiving…kind-hearted, loving, generous, hardworking, talented, dedicated and devoted man. Oh the stories he could tell! The long days on board the navy ship when he was 17, eating avocados…the Sasquatch that lived just off the driveway on the left hand side, before the second gate…the wolves that came boldly up to his front door only to glamorously adorn his wall…the mysterious unearthly butchering of his prized buffalo…what Art Bell had talked about on the radio the night before…the age old fight with his neighbors…the large Ogopogo beast that would swim into his shallow inlet stealing his fish. He would tell the same corny blonde joke over and over and over. I groan inwardly just thinking about it. He loved rebellious thinking and would argue simply for the sake of arguing. His old school thinking had him sit back comfortably in his leather chair with a smirk and enjoy the doting of his many daughters as they cleaned, fussed, cooked and dictated.

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My Grampa Smith’s ranch Loma Linda sits at the edge of the fire line that has been literally guarded by “The Wolf Pack”. A group of Southside farmers protecting their land and their livelihoods with passion. “The Wolf Pack” consists of Grampa’s neighbors, and my elusive Grassy Plains schoolmates. Despite a lifetime of conflict with my excentric Grandfather, Wolfram Hummel was at Loma Linda for hours and hours building guards, protecting the tiny log cabin that is falling apart to save my legacy. My school mate Clint Lambert that I idolized when I was young and avoided in maturity (hoping that he would forget the person I was in highschool if I simply didn’t look at him), took time away from his family, his property and at the expense of his personal rest to watch and put out spot fires in the “Smith fields”. This irreplaceable time pales in comparison to the debt incurred by these warriors as they start-up their superhero machines to dig, pile, pull and clear barricades in a passionate attempt to save their community that is burning.

Loma Linda as of yesterday was standing…but the fire has eaten everything around it… as close as 60 yards from the log building. As The Wolf Pack moves on to chase the flames that threaten their family homes, Loma Linda stands her own guard. Will she stand strong against The Beast? The Wolf Pack has done all they can to save my legacy, the rest is up to Mother Nature’s un-forgiving, stubborn wrath.

https://www.gofundme.com/save-southside

“It’s not the size of the dog! It’s the size of the fight the dogs in!”

Rene Crouse