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

 

Fire

Panic is defined as: sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior.

 

I don’t know much about anything. “I’m good with dogs”…but still I only boast the basics in a world full of “experts”. I believe this philosophy and my undeniable loyalty to it keeps my humble heart in check.

In times of panic anyone who feels the pain and fear of others can suffer incredibly. I’ve spent my adult life consuming the feelings of people around me foolheartedly believing that if I take on their pain, I can ease it. I’ve learned that sharing their pain does not ease it…but rather increases it until everyone in the vicinity can almost literally grab a handful of anxiety out of the air and keep it safe in their pocket until it is needed in a wild show of dramatics should they choose to increase their spotlight.

My philosophy in being good and proud of individual talents instead of boasting a general expertise in all things is closely followed by my dedication to only worry about things I can control. I achieve this with distraction. Achieve is the wrong word…it signifies success. I am far from successful in this pursuit. I am content to not be good at pushing away all worry and to only be good at the effort of it. We cannot control wildfire. What I can control…my feelings.

Wildly unthinking behaviour comes from uncontrolled thoughts. We have the power to control our thoughts. Our thoughts control our feelings. We can choose to worry, elicit fear or simply swim in the fiery chaos to be the hero, the director, the martyr or the victim. In our human goals to be any of these things…we are simply being selfish. I do not claim to be protected from selfishness…on the contrary…I work very hard to keep this double-edged sword at bay.

I feel safe here. Surrounded by devastating wildfires, palpable fear and unchecked anxiety…I feel safe simply because I selfishly choose to be. In choosing this edge of the sword I protect my heart and in doing so, I allow it to open to the people who need me to “do”. They don’t need me to feel their fear, they need me to protect their animals.

Bakers Acres has taken in (at last count) 23 cats, 10 dogs, 18 rabbits, 70+chickens, 1 turkey, and 8 sheep who are quickly lambing and becoming 10, 11, 12… from evacuees and I am humbled that they trust me with their sole incomes, their precious family members and their last remaining “possession”. I do this around my business. In order to logistically help them, I must continue to work. I cannot give the displaced families the kennel rooms that pay the bills. For this I feel like I’m going to burn in hell. When a train of vehicles arrive in my driveway loaded with animals and belongings with nowhere to go, I can (as of today) only offer paid kennel space. I write that with my teeth gritted and tension in my arms as my heart cracks. It simply is what it is. I cannot change that. I’ve requested money from RDBN to close the business and take in more animals but there is simply no funding for pets.

Same as other local business owners who are serving coffee with smiles on their faces to exhausted, filthy firefighters…knowing that their short-staffed cafes will need endless cleaning to accept the officials in suits behind these hard-working people. Their homes are burning as they smile and heat the water for another strong coffee order, their dedicated employees are at home wetting their roofs with well water and garden hoses in a desperate effort to save their homes…and we can only do what we can do, so we smile.

Here is the part where I ask for donations. The selfish part. The part where I plead for monetary donations so I selfishly do not have to watch anymore desperate people shrink away from another “no”. The panic behind their eyes haunt me. As they turn away from me and turn to each other their conversations become heartbreaking plans to give up their pets that they can not take care of in the back seats of their cars amidst the raging, unstoppable heat.

Donations of cash can be made to Tech North Solutions in Burns Lake. Thankyou to Tech North for their time in accepting, organising and arranging supplies/donations as well as their time in physically coming to care for the animals on the grounds. Etransfer donations can be made to bakersacres2012@gmail.com, please add “Fire” in the comments. Thank-you to Karen Baker (My Mom:)) for accepting and organising emails/correspondence and donations as well as physically coming to delegate, clean, handy-man and “go to” for anything the farm needs. She does this despite her home being on vigilant evacuation alert.

I look to others to be my heroes. I focus on being “good with dogs”, knowing what is in my control and channeling my thoughts so that I can continue to support those that need Bakers Acres, in any way I can.

 

Real

 

“More than doubling its size in the last 24 hours, the Shovel Lake wildfire has grown to 5,000 hectares. The blaze is now listed as the largest out-of-control blaze in all of the province and is zero-percent contained.”

https://www.myprincegeorgenow.com/80914/shovel-lake-wildfire-now-the-largest-out-of-control-blaze-in-bc/

I come from a long line of dramatic people. Oh the stories I can tell (or re-tell) would be enough to curl your toes. Instead of getting into the juicy drama of it all (I’ll leave that to my Mom’s autobiography), I’ve chosen the mantra in my life to avoid drama…at all costs. Anyone who knows me well…is giggling to themselves and shutting off the computer before I’ve even gotten to my point.

Drama follows me. This last week (is it only Thursday?) I’ve dealt with teenage drama’s, the tragic death of our pet bunny, the cancellation of our yearly hay crop, a new appreciation for honest people as I learn the in’s and out’s of digital small claims court, the government costs of hiring an employee, the onslaught of questions regarding my evacuation plans as we prepare for an alert to reach us soon, a dead battery forcing me to remember my Dad’s lessons from 20 years ago and I’ve taken in a teacup chihuahua that has been surrendered as her Dad goes from his assisted living situation into the Prince George hospital. The drama of nurses fighting for him to keep his pet and officials of the home fighting to take her away makes me…redirect and focus on something I can control.

I strive for a simple life…a small home neatly fenced for horses and tons of room for the dogs to run. A self-sustaining homestead that provides everything we need…real carrots, real honey, real eggs. When did our lives become so unreal? So dramatic?

We create drama so we don’t have to pay our bills. Drama to get attention. Drama to get what we want. Drama to conquer. Drama to redirect, protect and extinguish. In all the drama we forget what’s real.

What’s real in my life comes into direct perspective as an out-of-control wildfire creeps over the hill towards us. I know that the hardworking firefighters will protect us…but to be prepared to leave it all…what do I take? Sounds overly dramatic…in reality it’s simple. The animals. I’m prepared with vehicles and kennels to evacuate all animals in my care safely and quickly. The rest simply doesn’t matter.

The definition of drama is simply this…”a situation or sequence of events in real life that is highly emotional, tragic or turbulent, characteristic of a play performed on stage by actors.” Drama lives in our head and on TV, it isn’t real.

What is real? “Real” is not store-bought, but made with love and time. When “real” is lost it does not contaminate the earth but instead brings new life. “Real” is not selfish, material, dramatic or pretty. “Real” is simple, detailed, honest and…elusive.

 

Free

I love deafening silence. The kind of silence that makes the whole world seem immensely vast and open. Silence that fills your lungs with crisp fresh air, untouched by any other creature, only for you. Like your standing barefoot on soft sand at the edge of an ocean with calm salt water stretched as far as you can see. You feel so small, so invisible, so free.

I see exciting changes in my crew lately! My baby Claire is cuddling up and snuggling, wanting her belly rubbed constantly. Her skin is darkening with the hormones flooding her system. Her coat is glowing with red highlights and is slightly coarser to the touch of my fingers. My sweet Georgia is cranky and snippy with the other dogs. She will sit on the back of the sofa and launch herself at anyone even thinking about jumping up to get comfortable. Charlie Brown is following Claire around, protecting her and standing guard over “his” possession. As the girls come into heat the boys start battling.

“Grandpa” Yoshi thinks he is the man and with no social skills he simply doesn’t know when to stop. He challenges Charlie consistently throughout the year. Charlie usually postures himself to disagree and then walks away shaking his head at the old man. When the girls are in heat, the dynamics change. Yoshi and Danika must be sequestered in the bedroom. Which suits “Gramma” Danika just fine. A quiet room away from the chaos and stupidity of battling “men”, arguing over an unseen and powerful, instinctual force.

I’ve got some amazing families waiting for new babies. They want dates. They want to start planning. Unlike other breeders, my dates are approximate. I believe in watching my dogs and letting them tell me when it’s time. Same as humans, we can run the numbers and try to control nature but in the end we have just wasted time, money, hope and faith. (In getting pregnant with my first son we tried for 6 months before we finally got the exciting news. 6 months of calculating, timing, planning…6 months of disappointment. With my second son, we waited another 8 months. It wasn’t until I stopped calculating that Joey was conceived.) Claire is much smarter than I am in these things anyway. She knows when it is time and her determination is unstoppable.

I understand why professional breeders cannot do this type of “calculating”. Their dogs are kenneled, with scheduled time in the yard like inmates on a daily exercise allowance. Unlike “Prison Break” on Netflix where we see the inmates in their little groups around picnic tables, playing team sports or collecting rocks, I’m sure real inmates get very little exercise and are forgotten in small cells to brood, releasing energy anyway they can. For professional breeders, this is a business, they calculate, plan, test, re-calculate and still they hope…the same as me. They pay vets to test hormones, inseminate, x-ray…and they still guess…the same as me.

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I believe strongly in nature, following her lead, learning from her, trusting her instincts. Following another’s lead is so freeing. No worry, no planning, calculating or manipulating. Free to concentrate on my hope and excitement, for them and with them. Free to love them wholly and without restraint, even when my dedication to them is seen as silly or ridiculous. Free to learn from them. Free.

Father

Fathers Day. A day when I celebrate them, without them. My Grandpa, Mayor John Baker died when I was 7, my Dad, Michael Baker passed away 2 months before my first son arrived in 2003, and my Grampa Ken Smith left us 9 years ago. As my children head to their father’s house today, I turn my attention to Jason.

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Jason joined me and my boys in 2013. A time of change for me. A job that had me stuck in a windowless room crunching numbers, surrounded by men, noise and sawdust. Having given up my perfect house on the lake to keep peace for my children, I was driven to start my own business surrounded by the animals that defined me and leave the vicious mill environment. These changes were very hard on the children who acted out with disrespect, anger and contempt.

Jason’s appropriate role in the beginning was as an observer, then as my protector. He was very clear with the boys that he was not their friend. Over the years he has gracefully and seamlessly become their “father”. His strong role model for hard work and dedication is second to none. His high expectations cause friction and lessons that are as hard on the children and me as they are on him.

He sees Joey’s love of speed and encourages safe play with close supervision on dangerous machines. He supports Joey’s talent in the hockey net by sitting on hard, cold seats surrounded by this towns social gathering chitter. He sits as a chaperone at school dances swarming with teenage girls giggling and twirling.

Jason has sat as an observer as Michael has become overwhelmed with highschool. He works hard to teach Michael self-confidence and respect for his elders. He role models the proper way to treat women using old school methods of opening the door for me, complimenting me when I don’t deserve it and showing appreciation for my efforts vs. my outcome.

His dedication to Peytanne runs so deep that she literally glows. Her talent in gymnastics is who she is and he supports this above and beyond his requirements. His obsessive compulsions compliment hers perfectly and the nightly routine of facetime has them both imagining new ways to open the conversation. His insistence, against all, of a phone she can text on has taught her essential writing skills.

He is not their friend. He is their father. He supports when it is not convenient, teaches when it is not comfortable, role models when he is exhausted and allows the children to fall while picking them up before they hit the ground. He is honest, clear and patient. He doesn’t look for praise, doesn’t boast, doesn’t dramatise, doesn’t complain. He is our protector, our advisor and our strength. He has an amazing ability to live in the moment and cherish each day for the good things in it. For all these things, I thank Jason.

Frost

June 12. A day just like yesterday. The morning frost that coats the green grass retracts its icy claws away from the border of the early sunshine that slowly and consistently opens up across the front lawn. The newly purchased pepper plants and cosmos are freeze burnt under the cover of darkness as the coldness steals away their promise of a good life.

With my sore back, my butt is firmly rooted on the sofa, surrounded by my favorite “people”, pillows and an electric heating pad. I pushed myself yesterday into grooming one small, well-behaved, little monkey and today I can’t walk without pain. I’ve begun my 4th week of recovery and the tug-of-war battle of my brain against my limbs gives me a physical headache. But here I sit at the computer. I’m still working habitually on converting my filing system over to digital, but what a slog.

Slog. What a great word! I imagine Atreyu waist deep in mud pulling on Artax, his bit and bridle extending his perfect white muzzle high in the air as he fights the desire to sink into the black swamp of sadness. Atreyu yelling at his equine companion to keep fighting and Bastian with his book yelling into the wind behind them. Tears stream down my face as Artax dies…the worst part…my kids refuse to watch The Neverending Story.

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The movies that helped shaped my life, like Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, The Princess Bride and The Neverending Story are wholly underappreciated! Jim Henson’s mastery of the puppet was second to none! Add in the amazing David Bowie…well…there are no words!  Oh how I wanted to be Sarah with her sweet courage…a trail of amazing creatures following her and testing her every move through fascinating twists and turns. But nope…here I sit…on my butt…watching the frost in my slippers!

Diane and Keith came today to do some tractor chores. My little pony Princess Abby keeps pushing the panels of her enclosure further and further into the field of lush, frost-bitten grasses of spring until she literally collapses the fences and hops over. These big metal panels are tightly held together with huge, super strength elastic bands attached to a metal hook. With the hook firmly rooted in the panel, the elastic band wraps around both posts and slides neatly over the opposite end of the hook. With one band on top and one on the bottom, they are a strong and nifty fencing solution on the farm. Abby a.k.a. fence crawler is a destructor extraordinaire. She pushes until she snaps the bands! We then resort to baling twine around each juncture. At that point she highlights human stupidity by pushing up on the bar that latches the door in the panel on the end. Our only saving grace is that she is completely out of shape, she can only run around the field 2 or 3 times nibbling as she taunts us before succumbing to the halter and being lead back to her grassless prison. Rationing sucks!

While we try to keep Abby off the grass, Diane and Keith lifted our new-to-us rabbit hutch into the garden so our single, elderly bunny can eat all the green things he can get his little munchers on! The two of them are an unstoppable force that makes farm work look effortless. Coming from a wanna-be-farmer, believe me, it’s not efortless! I love their “find-a-way” attitude and hard work mentality. Sitting on my stoop and watching them has my cooped up brain peeling off the tissue from the inside of my skull like a lunatic obsessed with the sound of ripping paper.

I refocus, remember to breathe, and retreat back into uncovering the essential details of life. Like the little pink flowers of my african violet that have finally started blooming again. The delicate dual yellow center of the perfect oblong stigma fanned by 4 petals of shimmer that creeps out from the center in an unassuming pink hue to a bold raspberry that outlines the fringes. I appreciate their detailed simplicity with my tea and a snack. The tightly packed teardrop seeds of my sesame snaps are held together in a crunchy sugar-coating. The seeds vary in color from white to carmel all jam-packed into a tight rectangle of perfection. I try to eat them slowly, breaking off ends piece by piece to pace myself as the seeds get stuck in my molars. I know I’ve lost that battle too when I forget to thrust the short edge of the candy in between my teeth and instead ram the longer edge in that stretches my non-existent lips into a terrifying smile that reminds me of the Joker. Thank gawd nobody is watching!

As we finish up the evening chores and I prepare my dinner of Vector cereal (we ran out of Mini Wheats), I wonder when the frost will end and I’ll be able to plant my herbs safely. All my strawberries have perished over winter but I intend to persevere, learn my lesson…again…and plant them in the ground this year, not in easy to weed pots. Or maybe I will just raid Gramma’s carefully planned, maintained, abundant crops. Decisions, decisions…