D. Schumilas/D. Happner
The 2007 Fox Report
This year is summed up somewhere between ďSentimental JourneyĒ and ďMagical Mystery TourĒ. Yes, we spent the summer in the Kootenay Mountains, the highlight of the year. We left Saskatchewan mid-July, just as the hordes of mosquitoes came on, and travelled around Alberta visiting old friends and family, weaving our way through the Rocky Mountain foothills to Frank Slide, the Crowsnest Pass and then on past Creston to Nelson, BC.
First, hereís a bit of history for you. Frank was a mining town in the Rockies of southern Alberta. Around 4am, April 29, 1903, it made history as the greatest landslide in North America. A 70-million ton wedge of overhanging limestone (yes, you read that number right) broke away from Turtle Mountain, shattered into large boulders and crashed 300 feet down the mountain across the valley and 500 feet up the another mountain on the other side of the valley. In 100 ear-shattering seconds, much of the town was obliterated and miners were trapped inside the mountain behind 100 feet of rock. A mile of the Canadian Pacific Railroad was completely destroyed and a river became a lake. Itís still quite a sight to behold and truly amazing that anyone survived. Weíve been there several times and still keep going back.
For the entire month of August, our friend Holly loaned us her beautiful house just outside of Nelson at the end of the road, at the foot of Copper Mountain. Every day we hiked up the mountain for an hour and back down for ĺ of an hour (some days longer) and as our fitness improved, we saw more and more of Old Copper (and young Copper, the neighbourís dog who sort of adopted us). We helped our luthier friend Doug move his shop and he did some of his magic on our instruments.
On the September long weekend, we were featured performers at the Boreal Arts Jam, a multi-disciplinary festival put on by an arts council in SKís northwest. Itís a really cool festival because it is devoted to preserving the boreal forest and all the presenters (music, film, sculpture, painting, literature) draw their inspiration from this forest. Don did a guitar workshop, I did one in songwriting and together we played a concert. Part of the performance was digitally recorded in front of a ďgreen screenĒ. This allows them to insert digital boreal photos behind us for a DVD. We both gave extensive interviews and signed releases to let them use any of it in their festival promotion for next year.
My job at the College continues but I grow weary of the drive, having no time for music and being away from Don. I leave Tues morning, drive 2 hrs, teach 4 days, board 3 nights and drive home Fri after classes. Iím busy all the time Iím there and, if I have time in the evenings, I canít play much guitar where I stay. We could buy or rent a house closer to the College, but then, we could do that near any college or university. So, the idea occurred to us that we could go have an adventure and spend a school year somewhere that never sees -30 or is somewhere close people we seldom see or has mountains. The Kitchener-Waterloo-Guelph area of SW Ontario is one choice because all my family is there. We are also looking at Grande Prairie (NW Alberta) where Donís has family. Our dream-come-true would be the Kootenays. Unfortunately, there is a lot of competition to work there and real estate is not in our grasp. Itís rapidly becoming the next Okanogan where people with money go to retire so college enrolment is way down. They have mountains, few mosquitoes and a long, beautiful growing season. Temperature hovers around 0 all winter. They do get lots of snow though. Iím told getting to work in the morning is never a problem because you slide all the way down the mountain. I did say adventure butÖ... Everything is up in the air because no teaching jobs (including my own) will get posted until April, after schools get a handle on enrolment. The College has been really good to me and I love the people and the job - just not the driving. I'm also thinking of dropping to part-time again to record another CD and travel less.
We still love it here much of the time. Itís so quiet in the winter and if you donít have to go anywhere, there is very little stress. Our regular visitors are all non-human and we have become quite attached to them. A new weasel adopted us this year. Don fed it and it followed him around like a puppy all afternoon. Weasels are so curious. We were outside replacing a window and this little fellow was right under our feet, sniffing the can of screws and investigating every tool we put down. He came right to the patio doors, stretched up on them and then took off running and jumping all around the yard. He disappeared into a lumber pile and came out with a mouse 30 seconds later. He decided to go snitch some meat scraps from the whiskey jacks at the bird feeder. He got up the post but as he tried to crawl around into the feeder he lost his balance and did a perfect 180 degrees in the air and landed on his feet like a cartoon cat. He watched the birds for a while and decided to try to jump from the nearby tree where they access the feeder from the branches. He got up the tree and out on a branch, bobbing like a high-wire act, but it was just too unstable.
We were surprised to have a marten show up. They are bigger than weasels. In fact, they prey on weasels and squirrels. Weasels turn all white in the winter but martens stay dark brown. He was on a squirrel scent one day on the metal roof when I startled it. He lost his balance and started to slide down the roof hissing and spitting all the way down to the ground. It must have been most unpleasant because he never tried that again. To complete the circle, we then had a fisher show up. A fisher is a little bigger than a marten and lighter brown. Thatís all 3 species in the weasel family in this part of the world. Although traditional enemies and competitors, somehow these 3 all coexist in our yard. If the trend continues, we should see a wolverine before too long. Now that would be cool!
The snowshoe hare is still with us. Living under a lumber pile, weíd see it bend down these tall blades of grass and inhale them. It preferred the grass to the lettuce and spinach of my garden. One day a doe came along. The bugs were bad and I think she was looking to hide somewhere for relief. She was too big to get under the lumber pile but her efforts made me think she was now the grown up fawn who used to be sent by her mother under a similar woodpile to escape the mosquitoes. I think she remembered and came back to that spot to try to get some relief. Anyway, the rabbit peeked out and both the doe and the rabbit got such a shock from each other, they bolted in opposite directions. The next day, the doe came back but was much more careful about peeking under that pile. The rabbit was still there and they had a little startle again but neither ran away.
We have had 3 very wet years. You know itís getting ridiculous when an otter comes running through the yard scouting out the spring lakes on the fields for new territory. Standing water makes this paradise almost unliveable from June until Sept because of the mosquitoes. They let up in the heat of the day for a few hours but thatís when the black flies, horse flies, deer flies and sand flies come out. No worry about skin cancer. I never get to wear a T shirt.
My garden did just fine without me for 6 weeks this summer. In fact, the harvest of root crops, herbs and tomatoes was bumper. Another blow to the ego, but itís a good thing because now I feel I can run away and escape the summer bugs and still grow my winter food.
This year we got hot running water real cheap Ö $100. Itís called a Zodi. Itís a water heater that sits on a propane stove with a little 12 volt pump that circulates water from our storage tank. When itís hot enough (10-20 minutes), we switch to another pump and run our shower or faucet. This application was one of Donís many ingenious ideas.
The yearís summary would not be complete without a few words on Dr. Peter DíAdamoís ďEat Right For Your TypeĒ, a diet book based on blood-type. It really isnít like any other diet book. Donís sister recommended it to us a while ago but because we werenít overweight, we put it off to someday. Well, that day came and 3 books later, after slogging our way through the bio-chemistry, weíre converted. Don looks and feels 10 years younger (no exaggeration). Lost hair has regrown, grey hair turned back to his natural colour and minor aches and pains are gone. I lost 10 pounds without feeling deprived. We both feel big mental changes Ė more optimistic, less irritable and more humour. DíAdamo has a new book out in which he has revised his blood-type eating suggestions with outcomes from genetic research. Iíve ordered it and canít wait.
The saga to get Don a high-end recording/performing classical guitar continues. His old Larrivee is much better after Andy and Doug gave it a going over but it still needs some tweaking. We are anxiously waiting for the guitar Andy is building, commissioned as a replica of the Larrivee. As a result of the guitar woes and getting buried in the backlog of passport and visa applications, we were forced to cancel Donís big concerto gig in Florida for this January. Who would have thought it would be so hard to find a nice stick. The quest continues.
We decided to turn the garage into a games room, beginning with a $20 dart board. Sounds cheap right? Well, in -30 temperatures, cars parked outside must be plugged in and that requires a generator run for us ďoff-the-gridersĒ. We have a generator but it takes 2 of us to carry it. $2000 later, we have a lightweight Honda sinewave generator that even I can carry. And now Don doesnít have to break his back carrying our big generator by himself when Iím away. Since the cars stay outside now, we decided to finally get the rust fixed Ö $1000 in bodywork. Playing darts requires good tunes. We bought a new stereo amp so that we could again get out the turntable and vinyl and swoon to classical and jazz recordings in analog sound. Then we had to buy a $1500 sinewave inverter for our power system in order to get a buzz out of the speakers caused by the modified sinewave of the old inverter. And, I had to get new eyeglasses to see the numbers, another $500. Dartboards are sure expensive!
All the best in 2008.
Dawn and Don