Saturday, April 04, 2009

Oh heavenly days - spring dropped in today!!

We went for a late afternoon drive and saw two ducks swimming at the east end of Ginty's Pond.

And the sap rising red in the pond side willows.

We topped a little rise and stopped to take a picture of the valley, stretched out towards Chapaka and the border with the U.S. of A.

Great changes have happened in the Lower end of the Similkameen over the last year. In place of the stretches of sagebrush and grass above the road the land has been planted to grapes, - acres and acres and miles and miles...... This picture is of the land which adjoins our old farm and orchard. It is a private Indian reserve (deeded by Queen Victoria to this particular family). When we first came to the farm old Mr. Terbasket was nearing 100 years of age. He and Charles would converse, in Chinook, Mr. Terbasket on his side of the fence where the soil sustained the original bunchgrass that grew in the Valley, - and Charles on the other side of the fence, a newcomer on a Veteran's project, planting fruit trees.

At the top of the cultivated land is our old barn, where we spent so much time lambing and shearing and generally caring for the sheep.

The white portion is land which has been planted to grapes, and I hope fervently that economic times will not last so long that the sipping of wine will be abandoned! We are going to have to drink a lot of wine to put these grapes to good use.

Above the grape plantings there are rocky outcroppings on the sides of the hills, and the occasional Hoodoo stands out bright in the sun.

We turned to come home, and in the distance the mountains that stand behind our home on the other side of the valley were blue ridged and now, today, only topped with snow.

We passed great fields of cows and calves, lazily eating supper. I'm sure the babies caper, but calves don't gambol like lambs do, and I remember what a delight it was to watch them run and jump for sheer joy while the Mamas dined.

Alas, no sheep on our drive today, but glory be, it was a Spring Day!!!! And when I came home I inspected that little clump of daffodils and I can see they are going to keep their promise of golden blooms, - maybe tomorrow.....

Friday, April 03, 2009

Dipping into Memories

The wind blew and the clouds swirled, and it was definitely not a day for the garden. Most things are just staying sheltered, but there is a little clump of daffodils that promise to be blooming in a few days......and I have a scarlet wastepaper tin sitting in the big tub, full of forsythia in full bloom, as well as a couple of pruned branches from the maple trees. They have lost their vivid colour as the catkins emerge, but make a nice contrast to the gold and green of the forsythia.

Charles calls this bathroom the greenhouse, - it is such a lovely bright place for plants, - I can't resist.

But this is not what I sat down to write about.

Because it was such a discouraging day outside my attention turned to a project Charles and I are working on together. Over the years he has been faithful about interviewing old veterans and pioneers, all of them on tape. Recently we bought a machine that magically turns tape into disk!!!

Currently we are transforming a series of tapes done on various Remembrance Days when the still active veterans stash a few bottle of rum in their vehicle and are off for the afternoon to visit shut in comrades. And what a glorious time they have.

Towards the end of the afternoon the bottles of rum are sadly depleted, but the spirits they contained have morphed into all the nostalgic men who cherish their bittersweet memories.

The last visitee on the 11th of November, 1995, was a loquacious old military driver who had been many places, seen many things and had a wonderful grasp of all these memories.

The two visitors were no slouches themselves when it came to the retelling of WW11 adventures, and the tape drew us both into the computer room as it was being transformed into a medium that could be burned.

This was not the same Remembrance Day when a slightly unsteady visiting veteran tripped and required a visit to one of the local doctors, who shook his head in disbelief and reproof. Such goings on amongst the most sober and respected men of the village.

Of the three men who laughed, told tall tales, enjoyed the fellowship of shared experiences, only Charles is left, and so the voices that have been stilled lived again and the memories of that day were fresh once more. When they are burned to CD's we will give them to sons and daughters, and the sound of their dear familiar voices will give the same bittersweet moments to their children and grandchildren, ad infinitum....

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Just a little report on the state of Spring here in the Similkameen....

Here are the Pansies I brought home on Monday. They haven't lost their perkiness as they sit in the garage, waiting patiently to put their little roots down into the warming soil.

Warming soil, you say????

Here is the Valley this morning.....

Where have all the mountains gone????

And what is this imitation of a Christmas Eve Snowfall?

The morning's snow brought afternoon showers. Entirely welcome. Perhaps a little moisture will coax the rhubarb to make a tentative appearance.

Late in the afternoon the clouds lifted....

and tonight a little searching found a patch of friendly blue sky, - almost springlike.

Are we just being teased again??

Pictures taken with new camera - wonderful gift - and so much fun as I learn....

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Kicking Horse Pass

A strange name for this spectacular pass that lies between Lake Louise, Alberta and Field, B.C.!

In 1858 the Palliser surveying expedition was given the task of finding a way across the Great Divide. In August of that year James Hector, a British medical doctor, geologist and natural historian, set out to search for mountain passes crossing this Continental Divide into the western river valley. He and his men camped at Wapta Falls. When a pack horse bolted James Hector gave chase, but as he rounded up the horse it kicked him, breaking his ribs.

James Hector was knocked unconscious. His guides thought he was dead, and had even gone so far as to select a site for his grave. It is said that he regained consciousness within a minute or two of being buried alive, and that he managed to wink an eye to show that he was still alive. This story is not officially recognized, but it adds to the adventure..... Hector recovered and he and his men followed the river east to its summit pass. "Both the river and the pass were named 'Kicking Horse' for Hector's ornery steed".

In 1885 Donald Smith drove the last spike that marked the fulfillment of a Confederation promise to build a railway in Canada, stretching from Sea to Sea. Nowhere had it been more difficult or treacherous than through the Rocky Mountains. West from Lake Louise the trains chugged up the mountain to Kicking Horse Pass, but once they had reach the top it was a deadly descent to the division point at Field - a hurtling drop of almost 300 meters in just over 6 kilometers at a grade of 4.5%. There were many accidents and several railroaders lost their lives. With 4 locomotives required to move even the shortest train up the mountain it was a costly endeavour.

In 1907 John. E. Schwitzer, a CPR design engineer, proposed the building of 2 spiral-shaped tunnels, with tracks that crossed over themselves in a figure 8. They were completed in 1909 and now, a hundred years later, are still used as part of the CPR Mainline.

Here is an excellent source of text and pictures.

And here is a video posted by Terry Rowsell on February 21st 2007.

We have not traveled this CPR route since our honeymoon, almost 64 years ago, and these days it is a pretty expensive trip by rail, but there is a fine viewpoint along the Trans Canada Highway which doesn't give you the thrill of the actual experience (especially if you are on your honeymoon) but does provide enough of a view to put one in awe of this engineering wonder. The trains which travel through Yoho National Park (Yoho is native for WOW) are no longer short, - nor do they require four locomotives, - at times the first locomotive is emerging from the second tunnel while the caboose is just disappearing into the first tunnel, on its way to making an almost complete circle within the mountain.

Come and see this splendid engineering feat and the spectacular mountains that surround it.....
Music Monday

Reinhardt Django

Something to listen to while I'm gone.....

Sweet Georgia Brown