I Love a Real Christmas Tree!

There’s a lot of debate about Christmas trees.  Some people like an artificial tree for many reasons.  They feel that it’s less messy because there are no pine tree needles from a real Christmas tree falling all over the floor when they put up a fake Christmas tree.  Some say it’s more environmentally sound because no real tree is cut down and they reuse the same Christmas tree year after year.  Others feel that an artificial tree is easier to assemble and take down every year.  I appreciate all those reasons that fit other people’s lives.  BUT I LOVE A REAL LIVE CHRISTMAS TREE!

Searching

Searching for the Perfect Tree

Tradition.  I’ve always had a real Christmas tree for as long as I can remember.  When I was growing up, we used to buy a Pine tree for Christmas – they are the ones with the short needles.  I went with my Dad to the Woolco plaza parking lot and we picked out the perfect tree to bring home.  Later, after I got married, I always bought a Scotch Pine with the longer needles which didn’t seem to fall off as much.   We usually went out to a Christmas Tree Farm to cut our own tree but occasionally we bought one from a lot.  When Marty worked at a garden center once, we picked a gorgeous Balsam Fir from their selection – we hadn’t intended to buy one already cut but we couldn’t resist the urge.   One year when I was 9 months pregnant, we went out to a tree farm and picked the closest tree because I couldn’t walk too far – my poor husband was worried I’d give birth right there in the field!  Hahaha – I waited until 6 days before Christmas.  Some years, we went to a nearby Christmas tree farm where they had horse-drawn wagon rides and hot chocolate, but the commercialism of the entire operation began to nauseate me.  The whole spirit of Christmas was becoming depressing from the beginning of cutting a tree!

Timber2

Timber!

So I scouted out another Tree farm that just sold Christmas trees (and homemade wreaths) – cut and cut-yourself – at a reasonable price.  THIS is what I was searching for – driving into the tree farm fields, walking around (sometimes for a LONG time) to find that perfect tree, and sawing it down ourselves.  Some years, there is no snow while other times, there’s lots of snow to trudge through.  One year it was unusually mild around 0C degrees and another time it was -20C!  You just have to dress for the weather to stay comfortable.  There is plenty of room for everyone and the farm is never crowded like some other ‘wagon rides and hot chocolate’ Christmas tree farms.

I feel that Christmas Tree farms are very ecologically responsible.  The farmers who grow these trees use hands-on, labour-intensive practices to grown and prune their trees –  I remember my oldest son Robin working for a Christmas Tree farmer one summer, when he was a teenager, to prune them by hand.  The farmer’s livelihood depends on the seasonal sales of Christmas trees.  I support Farmers and I try to practice local consumption – Christmas trees are no exception.  After Christmas is over, I take my tree outside for the birds to land on or find shelter in for the rest of the winter.  Then in the spring, I cut off the branches and spread them around my blueberry plants.  I’d say that’s environmentally sustainable.

All my grown children and their families who live around here will drive out to the tree farm this year:  Nellie, Melvin, Sarah, Kristi, Mike, J, Josh, Taylor, Darin, Amanda, Kalia, Livi, Janet, and Frank.  After a fun afternoon searching for our perfect trees, we’ll come back home for a nice warm supper beside the toasty, wood-burning cookstove.  Our tree will have to wait till after supper to be brought into the house.  I just love the pine smell from a freshly cut Christmas tree!  Then we’ll let it warm up overnight before we decorate it.  And again, it will be the best Christmas tree ever!

Tree

The Last Frontier

I arrived in snowy Whitehorse, Yukon in Canada’s far north after a remarkable flight over British Columbia mountains.  My son and D-I-L  were waiting excitedly for me at the airport – they drove nearly 2 hours from home to pick me up!  First stop was downtown Whitehorse with it’s amazing ‘old town’, gold-rush looking buildings which date back 100 years.  We strolled around in the windy, cold, snow-covered streets wandering down to the mighty Yukon River.  This place oozed history!  It was exciting to think about days gone by when gold prospectors filled this town and others like it hoping to strike it rich.  After a stop at the used book store, we headed out of town passing the S.S. Klondike, a dry-docked sternwheeler riverboat along the Yukon River and now a National Historic Site.  Then we turned on to the world famous Alaska Highway and headed towards their new home in Canada’s north!

What magnificent country!  Towering mountains on all sides!  Glacial lakes!  We even saw two mule deer and a family of three moose sauntering on the road on our journey!  We arrived in town just before dusk and made a quick tour of this historic ‘gold rush’ town along a glacial lake.  The whole area is surrounded by giant mountains and glaciers.  It’s like a picture out of a National Geographic magazine.  Then we arrived on the mountain at their new home overlooking all this splendor.

On my first full day, we drove further down their road to The Grotto.  Warmer, demineralized drinking water flowed out of a cave at the side of the road and rushed further down towards the lake.  Water cress was growing abundantly in the fast flowing creek so we harvested a handful to add to our stirfry.  A couple of local guys stopped by on their way home from their logging camp to get a few jugs of spring water and chat for a bit – they were interested in the new ‘Outsiders’ who had just moved to town.

Atlin Mountain overlooking Atlin Lake

View from their living room.

Day two found us taking a country drive back along the Spruce Creek to Surprise Lake.  In the early part of the last century, 10,000 gold prospectors lived in a town they created called Discovery, in tents, and panned for gold.  Remnants of old log homes and wooden gold ‘mining’ equipment still remain, like a monument to the past.  As we drove along, we suddenly spotted a wild lynx sitting along the far bank of the river!  At first I thought it was a wolf.  We skillfully skidded to a stop on the snow-covered road while my son literally jumped out of the car with his camera and ran to begin taking pictures and video.  The lynx stayed for about 10 minutes which shocked us because they are normally shy animals.  It was amazing to see such a wild, majestic animal!

2lynxWM

Lynx

We arrived at Surprise Lake Recreation Site and followed wolf tracks to a clearing which had picnic tables and an old cast iron Franklin stove, stocked with wood logs ready to burn.  All this overlooking the big lake, surrounded by snow-capped mountains.  My son told me that anyone can camp free at these B.C. Recreation Sites all over the province.  Who wouldn’t want to with all that privacy and breathtaking scenery!  On our way back to town, we stopped at a log cabin from the gold rush days which was being restored by the province.  It brought back memories of that bygone era when men and women came by ship up the west coast of North America and trekked over mountains by foot or dog sled, to arrive in these parts in hopes of finding their fortune in gold.

My daughter-in-law’s been cooking up a storm – she’s an awesome cook and I enjoy flavours from around the world when I’m with them.  We even had delicious breaded moose steak with salad – I’d never tasted moose before and enjoyed this wild game.

The next day, the clouds finally cleared out and I was able to see the tops of the surrounding mountains!  From their living room, I had to remember to breathe as I couldn’t believe that I was actually seeing this incredible site of a glacial lake and snow covered mountains.  Their lake is fed by hundreds of mountain rivers, creeks, and the Llewellyn Glacier and is the source of the mighty Yukon River, which has huge historical significance in this country’s past.

LLewellyn Glacier by http://mmellway.wix.com/photography and  https://www.facebook.com/martymellwayphotography/

LLewellyn Glacier

After cleaning the wood stove chimney, we ventured out to the beach on the lake.  We followed fresh wolf footprints along the shore in the bitterly cold wind taking pictures along the way until we were chilled to the bone.  Then we drove up the road to a viewpoint of the Llewellyn Glacier.  WOW!  The Juneau Icefield in the distance was enormous and the mountains went on as far as we could see, even to Alaska I think – wow this country is beautiful!  Then we ventured into town for a look-about and stopped at the infamous beached riverboat Tarahne which carried gold prospectors, supplies, and visitors across the lake back in the day.

The riverboat Tarahne

The riverboat Tarahne

I’ve seen more wildlife this week than in the past few decades:  Orca whales off Vancouver Island; Bald Eagles on Van. Isl. as well as soaring over my son’s house; Mule Deer including the one who sauntered right outside the front of the house, eating fireweed; a female Moose and her two calves crossing the road on our drive here from Whitehorse; a wild Lynx sitting along Pine Creek just outside of town at the old gold mining area of Discovery; a tiny Pygmy Owl that landed on a tree beside the front porch at dusk; a coyote sitting beside a frozen lake; and a pack of wolves crossing the road on our way back to the airport.

We went on a walking tour of town and explored the century old buildings, most of which are still in use.  This town is classic Frontier at its best!  I half expected to see a moose walking down the street (although there were moose tracks in the snow).  Remnants of the old gold rush days are still scattered among the town’s buildings and even the buildings themselves are historical monuments to this bygone era.

4General StoreWM

Century old log building

I wasn’t disappointed when the clouds cleared to reveal the spectacular Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, on two nights I was there!  WOW they were spectacular!   We watched swaths of green (and once purple) swaying and waving, expanding then contracting, continuously moving as if a gently breeze of breathtaking colour in the night sky.  Our eyes were focused on the horizon and up in the night sky for hours while we stood at the windows snug inside the house, in the dark, watching in awe and taking photos.   I felt inspired.  There are SO many scenes I want to paint now.

Northern Lights by http://mmellway.wix.com/photography and  https://www.facebook.com/martymellwayphotography/

Northern Lights

I’ve had an amazing time in this part of the country.  It truly is the last frontier of Canada.

Thanks to my son for allowing me to use some of his photos.

 

 

Land of the Midnight Sun

I left beautiful Vancouver Island behind and travelled to the far north to the city of Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon Territory.  Vancouver was a balmy 12C degrees and raining while my destination boasted -8C degrees and snow.  I had my winter boots on and my winter jacket was in my backpack.

I flew Air North over the west coast mountain ranges at 32,000 feet in the air and I clearly saw snow covered mountains and greeny-blue glacial lakes.  What a site to behold!  And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I saw the spectacular site of even taller mountains in the distance, thrust above all the other peaks in majestic form.  I discovered later that the tallest is probably Mount Logan, the highest mountain in Canada.

British Columbia mountain ranges from above

British Columbia mountain ranges from above

Our flight attendants on Air North, Yukon’s airline were a welcoming and jovial bunch and made the 2.5 hour trip a fun, do-it-again adventure.  The service was the best I’ve experienced and they kept bringing around beverages, lunch, and dessert, all included in the flight at no extra charge.  And as we began our decent from the brilliant sun through the thick cloud into Whitehorse, flight attendant David brought around candy!

Being early November, the days get ‘shorter’ and darkness blankets this country for more than half of the 24 hour day.  But that’s a good thing for someone like me anticipating seeing the Aurora Borealis – Northern Lights.  I’ve only witnessed this marvel of nature 3 times briefly in my life.  Verses of Robert Service and Jack London danced through my head…… and I thought fondly of my dear departed parents-in-law who lived in the Yukon 65 years ago.

The historic Yukon River @ Whitehorse

The historic Yukon River @ Whitehorse

I stayed with my son and daughter-in-law in their new home in northern British Columbia, lovingly known as an adopted part of the Yukon.  Next blog post I’ll share my experience as an ‘Outsider’ in this last frontier.

Visiting Vancouver Island

I spent last week on the west coast visiting my sister Betty, my son Robin/D-I-L Nici, and other family.  I love it when I have the opportunity to share time with my family in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.  Betty and I had a week full of adventures – and a pot of barley soup to eat – after I arrived late Sunday night!

We started off by visiting my cousin Jacklyn, her daughter Melody, and her mom Kathy.  It had been a long time since I’d seen Kathy so it was a real treat.   My niece Brodie, a talented singer, also dropped in for a quick hello too.

Robin and I Beachcombing @ Powell River, B.C.

Robin and I Beachcombing @ Powell River, B.C.

The next day Betty and I were off on the ferry to go across the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia.  Waiting for us was my son Robin and later my daughter-in-law Nici and their german sheppard puppy Gerda, who was actually the size of a miniature pony!   We had an awesome time!  Robin drove us up to the little town of Lund which is SO picturesque – it’s actually Mile One of a highway that will take you all the way down the west coast to South America’s Chile, 15,202 kms.  We had lunch on the patio at Nancy’s Bakery overlooking the small harbour and the ocean dotted with gulf islands.  Afterwards we went back to the farm to check on the goats and chickens.  I even learned to milk a goat!

I milked a goat!

I milked a goat!

Robin spoiled us with delicious homemade dinners and desserts using veggies from their own garden and milk from their goats.  I’m proud to say he’s an awesome cook!  In the evenings, we enjoyed watching videos on the computer of our Family Frolics – 20 years of videotaping of family life now stored on my external hard drive.  We also spent hours beachcombing, looking for beach glass and unique shells which I’ll make into Christmas tree decorations for our tree this year.  Finally, all too soon, it was time to catch the ferry back to the Island and leave Powell River behind.   A small pod of Orca whales graced us with their presence as if they were bidding us goodbye.

Rob's pumpkin pie made with fresh goat's milk, fresh eggs, and garden pumpkins

Rob’s pumpkin pie made with fresh goat’s milk, fresh eggs, and garden pumpkins

Next, we drove down to Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, picking up Betty’s granddaughter along the way to bring her down to her daddy Curt for halloween.  Betty and I stayed at our favourite hotel, The Mayfair, where the rooms are clean and affordable.   We spent a relaxing evening on our computers, each one of us propped up in our individual beds, watching more Family Frolics videos and laughing hysterically until the wee hours of the morning.  We leisurely drove back up Island, stopping along the way at a few new thrift stores and lunch in Ladysmith.  Once back at Betty’s ‘cave’ a few hours later, we got in our comfy clothes and ‘chillaxed’ for the evening since I was leaving very early the next morning.  A week sure flies by way too fast and now I was on my way back to Vancouver to catch another flight to the Yukon/Northern B.C., the land of the midnight sun.

Linda and Betty

Linda and Betty

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