I haven’t been fulfilling my Iceland tale project, but Iceland has been following me.  I turn on the radio for the first time in a week and they’re just about to interview an Icelandic archeologist  who has isolated a piece of genetic info that, incidentally, may have come from Newfoundland.  The tires I want are “Icelanders”.  Iceland Moss is first element of a herbal mixture I’m supposed to take.  All of a sudden, runes are popping up in my life everywhere (again).

Our photos from Iceland that are cycling on my desktop continue to take my breath away, and bring me right back, to the sun warmed sand on Hornstandir; the magic of the moon over Snæfellsjökull.  Although it was only a few months ago, it seems like a dream far removed from my daily life, yet it is vivid and present.  Every day I smile at something that happened there, and I can’t wait to write about it (however, even one day at a time, it is so big a project that it’s still daunting).

Can’t wait to go back.

Chimney day!

Stove day!  Yay!  I have fire in the barn!

The foot of snow that came this weekend has made no signs of thawing, and the temperature is forecasted to only go lower now, into the minus twenties every night this week, so it’s the nick of time to get wood heat into my barn.
The last two days have been spent cutting a hole in the roof and installing the chimney.  With some wonderfully welcome assistance, it all went quite smooth, and it looks perfectly slick and professional.

I can’t believe the relief to have that done.  I wasn’t even aware of how much it weighed on me.  Now I know for sure I’ll survive, no matter what winter throws at us.  I have lots of wood to burn and it’s safe to burn it.

Cozy cozy cozy -awesome.

Well ok then, winter.

Just like that, winter announces that it’s really here.  A nice photogenic change of colour scheme is one thing, a sudden smackdown is another.

I was doing errands in Nelson and it was snowing all day but it was plus one, so nothing accumulated, but when I was on the boat home, it started to stick with a vengeance.  When the ferry landed and the ramp was coming down, loaded with 3” of snow, I thought, uhoh.  Made it off the ramp ok, but started swimming on the unplowed road a few hundred meters further and had to go to 4wd just to get up the hill. The snow was coming so thick and fast it made that blizzard tunnel effect on the windshield you can hardly see through- the technical term for snow like that is puking.  It felt like a mission to the ski hill on a really good day.  I crept home in a line of other creeping cars, I suspect most of them also still on summers; gratefully, made it home without misadventure at 20kph, and now I’m parked until the snow thaws or I manifest snow tires.   Trees down everywhere, semi-trailer stuck across the road, and the power flickering but only out for a few minutes.  Unbelievable for November.  Just past mid-November, even.

There’s nothing like a good big snow to make you feel isolated and wintered in.  As long as it’s cozy at home and you need nothing from the outside world, then being stuck at home in the snow is like being snuggled under a big white blanket.

First snow!

I've been terrible at pictures lately.  Technology: frustrating.

The first snow stuck today- a beautiful white carpet that makes even the broken overturned wheelbarrow look picturesque.  It’s always a surprise, the first time you glance outside and the view through the window is white instead of browns and greens.  Its not cold enough for the ground to be frozen underneath the snow so footprints squish through, and the snow is just light enough to make little caps on the top of the shovel handles and car antenna.

I got the camper tucked in in the nick of time.  Am I ready for winter?  Well, outside, I’m happy enough.  There’s some wood to be bucked up and a pile of boards I should have brought in, but mostly I’ve cleaned up everything that I will be unhappy to see poking out of the slush in the springtime.  Inside, well, hmmm.  No woodstove yet although the excessively expensive chimney bits are all sitting there ready to go.  Two windows that should really be done, ditto on the materials sitting there waiting.  But it’s not too cold yet.  I miss my cat.  If she were still alive I’d HAVE to move faster, because she wouldn’t stand for these conditions.

Snow tires- now there I’m seriously behind.  After this weekend, I’m going to have to have them to drive, and I do not.  I’m hoping to get Green Diamond Tires (patented in Iceland!  I’m so excited about these tires!!!) but no one has heard of them here and I have to do more research to see if I can make them appear here for me.

I sense a crusade coming.  I foresee putting my truck on blocks and taking the tires away to get changed just when the tire shop guys are starting to brush off their hands and take deep breaths at the end of the winter tire rush.  Me and  all the other procrastinators.

Winter driving

It’s starting to get cold.  The snow line is creeping down the mountains, making me think of snowboarding.  Temps are hovering between minus and plus 3 at night, and that means my relationship to driving will soon change.

At minus 10 and below, it’s too cold for biodiesel without a fuel tank heater, and the vegetable oil starts to gel.  So, it has to be blended with normal diesel.  Half and half even, in deep winter and going over passes.  Alberta is out of the question.

The other day I put in the first $10 of normal diesel since the summer, and that made me think about my driving habits again.  Driving biodiesel is not totally “clean”- driving at all has an impact, and the more miles you put on means petroleum products galore: oil changes and fluids and tires and maintenance – but it’s better, and for a little while I hardly thought twice about driving when I wanted to.  Putting nasty normal diesel in the tank means assessing the importance of every kilometer again and spending more energy hitchhiking and ridesharing.

Sigh.

It was fun while it lasted.  I swear, that must have been how it felt like 50 years ago, when gas was cheap and the road was fun to drive on, just to fly.  No one goes for Sunday drives anymore.  Gas matters.  It’s expensive and fraught with moral implications and we spend so much time driving because we have to that it’s ceased to be fun.

Icanmakeititis

This morning I went to put on a sweater and I didn’t have it.  I was in Winners a little while ago and had a sweater in my hand- well, two sweaters- both quite beautiful.  Soft, natural fibres.  The sixty dollar one was lovely but I didn’t like the buttons and I could’ve made it, and the fifty dollar one was almost perfect but I’d have to put a hood on it, and I just couldn’t countenance paying fifty dollars for a sweater I was going to adapt.  Besides, they’re probably both made in China, and there are three million just like it walking around in the world already.  So I bought neither, and thus I did not have a sweater this morning.

This always happens.  I suffer from Icanmakeititis, so I purchase almost nothing that I’m capable of making, which is most things.  Furniture, jewelry, knitwear, almost all clothes.  I can’t make footwear, socks (who can make socks for pennies anyways?), watches, and stretchy stuff, like leggings.

But do I make it?  No.  There are so many things I want to make in a whole world full of other things I want to do, so, I never get around to it.   This is why I don’t have a sweater today.

Bad Day

The leaves have fallen from all the trees but the oak now.  More sky, more sun, more wind, and fewer tourists parking on the road to take pictures of the horse with a blazing background of red sugar maples.

I’m grateful for all the mulch, but I haven’t had time to pick it all up yet.  I made a city trip this weekend past, which was necessary and good, but provoked a minor mental collapse today.  I have endurance, and I have a healthy stress response, but my stress response has no endurance.

The city for three days stretched my stress capacity to its limit, and I found myself in a terrible place of being unable to cope with, well, life in general.  I feel helpless and incapable; the panic rises in my chest and feels like a fluttering bird trapped in there, and I can’t draw a satisfying breath.  Worst of all, I feel like my antennae are numb and I lose the sense of being connected to my guidance system, so I flounder around unsure of what is the right thing to do, and that leaves me feeling quite unsafe.

Bad day.

I have serious compassion for people for whom this is a chronic condition.  For me, losing my connection to soul and nature and my own spirit is terrifying and temporary.  But I think some people sleepwalk half their lives without that, feeling only a suspicion that there is something they’re missing, just off to the left.

I saw lots of them in the city.

It’s amazing to me that the larger “we” can collectively build these sprawling, sick, unhappy, disconnected organisms (cities) that really don’t nourish most of the citizens in them, and in fact the majority of the world’s population now lives in urban settings.  Ie., disconnected from the places where the food that feeds them is grown.  This is very very sad to me.  I am again, grateful for the luxury and personal opportunity I live in and the grand abundance of space and nature that Canada holds.

Canada rules.

Road trip

Unreasonably happy tonight.  I’m the only car tucked in the trees of a rest area an hour from Kelowna, with strong cell service that ensures my phone alarm will wake me when I need it to tomorrow, my perfect truck is gently vibrating as it slowly sips from a full tank of biodiesel, and I’m clean and warm and wrapped in down in the back seat, zipped into my extravagantly subzero sleeping bag and jacket, writing on my computer and drinking San Pellegrino to the shadows of trees above me through the sunroof, all aimed at a vanishing point in the distant stars.  How could it get better than this?

On the drive I’ve had six hitchhikers but mostly been alone. I was blessed to see three grizzly bears, and I saved the life of the only deer I saw tonight.

I think I was the only one to see the bears.  I drive on the right side of my vehicle and caught them out of the corner of my eye crossing a cut block, gaped and slowed, then pulled over as soon as I could and  turned around, hoping to get a picture.  I saw then that they had waited as I had for opposing traffic to pass, and were crossing the highway.  Big mama and two cubs 2/3 as big as she.  All shimmering in the afternoon sun with that unmistakable ash blonde and silvery upper coat and dark brown undercarriages.  Motoring along, with long loping strides.  Wow.  I tried to focus on them as they slipped back over the bank but the shot is only one of those awful Loch Ness monster pictures that could just as well be a bad picture of three gophers in a brush pile.

I love my truck, but it has no guns going up a grade, so I was collecting a few pairs of headlights behind me with no passing lane in sight, so I suddenly got fed up, half pulled over, dumped my speed, and flashed my lights to tell the car behind me to pass.  The high beams just caught the deer that was standing in the middle of the lane facing away from us.  The car behind me had slowed too, the way people do in that situation, waiting to figure out what you’re doing, and he saw it too in my lights, braked and waited for the confused little thing to get off the road.  Random, perfect timing.  Another moment before making that decision and I would have come on it at speed with no time to react while being followed closely, and any number of bad things could have happened.  I love these kinds of confirmations that I’m tapped into the connections of life and my path, and in that place I feel perfectly safe and good and have no fear.

Oh, and earlier:  I was tired and wanting to pull over for a nap but feeling too gritty to be able to enjoy it, so  I followed the sudden tug to pull into a campsite and ask if I could buy a shower.  I was greeted by five working dogs with eyes so intelligent they made me feel insecure, and a surprised and slightly sauced horsewoman/proprietor named Wednesday who invited me in for a kick of moonshine with the boys, pointed at the bathroom door, refused money, and all but hugged me with open-hearted welcome.  I’m so glad that such a thing is possible in the world.  Two of the dogs stood watch at the bathroom door (I heard one slump his body against it after I closed it) and flirted shamelessly for ear scratches when I emerged.  That hot strong shower perked me up like four hours sleep, and I went on driving.

I love my life.

Christmas embargo

Halloween’s been here, and now Christmas is about to hit us over the head.

I want a year off Xmas.  I want a Christmas moratorium this year.  I find it stressful and distracting- an obligation to get people stuff and go to gatherings I don’t really want to.      More turkeys are sacrificed needlessly and the psychic noise of credit card debt, guilt, inadequacy and stress escalates.

There are good things.  It’s nice to have a reason to get together with some people, and it’s nice to have a landmark for the year.  Otherwise, years could slide by fused together without distinction.  Eggnog is awesome, and those Cadbury’s oranges you have to smash apart are pretty exciting.  I love making things to give away.   I always enjoy Christmas when I spend it with my family, but this year I probably won’t.

It just seems like Christmas is too much.  And why is it such a big production every year?  It can be a big production, say, every three years, that would be cool.  And the other two years it can have one day of attention and you can kind of wave in Christmas in passing as you carry on getting stuff done and staying in bed watching movies.

I want to call a time out, or have some other anti-Xmas gesture that I can spring on anyone who wants to invite me over for turkey death that says unequivocally and non-verbally: “Temporary relief from Christmas now claimed!  Speak’st thou not of Yule!  This person is not participating in Christmas; find something else to talk about!”

Instead of something as neutral as pointing the fingers of one hand into the palm of the other, though, I would favour clutching one’s throat, making gagging sounds, rolling the eyes back in the head, and then falling forward to the knees and collapsing sideways, twitching.  That’s the universal anti-Xmas signal right there.  Let’s all adopt it!

Bunches of onions

I finally winterized the garden,  plucking the last plucky tufts of grass, planting garlic, and pulling all the limp and slimy frozen plants- the dead squash plants like dirt-smelling octopi and the wiggly tomato root networks like Medusa wigs.  I took down the remaining trellises and spread still more hay.  For the second time this year the garden looks like an unkempt haypile.

It was very satisfying to have such a warm day in November, to be patiently separating grass shoots from the bunching onions in the warm sun while Mucky lay dozing near me, standing up in alarm when I knocked the dirt off my trowel.  I have a soft spot for bunching onions, since they produce endlessly like bamboo and return year after year, lasting well past frost.   I planted these from seed, so they won’t get firmly established until next year.  Now they’re delicate and spindly and faintly pungent, and the grass is trying to hide among them like cuckoo chicks, pretending “no, I’m an onion!”  It takes time to sort them all out.

I’m happy with the soil.  It can’t decide if it’s sandy or clayey in places, but it’s rich with worms pulling the straw down, and more loose and black than I had hoped for first year soil.  I’m looking forward to building it more with compost and leaf waste, and expect it to be very impressive a year from now.

I’m opting for not turning the dirt at all, at least in most of the garden, letting the worms and roots do the work, avoiding compacting it anywhere, and planning to topdress it liberally.

Regarding my choice to use old hay, which is abundant and available, for mulch instead of more highly recommended straw which has no seeds in it: this year at least I can report excellent results.  The hay is not seeding itself wildly.  It does seem to introduce grasses, but they are sparse and challenged and start out so fragile and weakly rooted that it is nearly effortless to stay on top of it.  Even neglecting it all for months at a time when I travelled; I have never weeded less.  Completely unlike trying to conquer grass when it grows up from beneath, when you can pull and struggle, and suspect that the grass has a vast sub-surface network rivalling the complexity of the London Underground and it plans to completely defeat you (it will).

Therefore, my field tests indicate: old hay as mulch is a success.