What a Year!

 

2016 has been quite a year for me. It began with a shocking diagnosis of cancer and is ending with family game nights and Star Wars movies.

But l shouldn’t get ahead of myself. Let’s review 2016.

Winter was quite mild with very little snow compared to other years. Taylor was home for the winter, staying here and in the city. We celebrated birthdays in January & February which brightened up the cold days. In early February, I was diagnosed with cancer – basal cell carcinoma – and was told I’d need surgery in ‘two or three months’. I thought, oh great, I’ll get it over with before summer so I can get outdoors and garden. Ah, nope, it didn’t go as planned. I waited for nearly 9 long months before I had surgery at the end of October.

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Little snow at the end of February

In March, we sadly observed 8 years since Chris‘ passing – eight years. It seems like time has just flown by but at other times, time seems to stand still. I still miss him more than you can imagine.

Taylor and I made the two hour trek to the site of the Holleford Crater in March – we had talked about it for a few years and he wanted to drive there in his car before he left for work in Northern Canada in April. It was a great experience and I had a really nice time spending the day with my son.

When spring arrived, I was all gung-ho about getting outside and getting everything done all at once. I guess that’s what happens when you’re cooped up all winter long! I had some reservations about being in the sun since my diagnosis of skin cancer in February but I started slathering on SPF 60 sunscreen recommended by the dermatologist. I was glad to get out and tap my maple trees to gather maple sap for boiling down to maple syrup again this year. It was late March before all the ice melted off the river. There was no chance of flooding this year because the amount of snow was so minimal that there was very little run-off. In fact, the river was down about 3 feet and remained that way for months during the summer drought.

In my enthusiasm to work outside every day, I got my annual dose of poison ivy! But that didn’t stop me since I love the outdoors too much. My 20+ year old lawn tractor faithfully helped cut my large lawn again this year – a task that I thoroughly enjoy! My big project was to plant in the steep ditch that I’m unable to maintain any longer. I spent weeks transplanting and mulching and watering the new plants only to have a distracted city mower come down the road and completely shear off my entire month’s work. It was unexpected since they’ve only mowed the ditches three times in 35 years! And just when the plants started to grow again and near bloom, they slashed it down again! Unbelievable, twice in one year! I give up and I’ll just hope these plants come back next year…..

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Bumper crop of wild raspberries

During the wintertime, I researched the Little Free Libraries which were popping up all over North America. I thought to myself that I’d like to offer a Little Free Library too! So I worked on this project for weeks and placed my Library at the end of my dock for boaters and snowmobilers alike to use freely.

We were blessed with lots of new babies this year! First and foremost, my little granddaughter Elsie was born in British Columbia! Our whole family is ecstatic for Robin and Nici as they venture into parenthood (of a human being, in addition to their other ‘kids’ > goats, that is). I finally got to meet Elsie in September when I traveled to B.C. to visit – she’s absolutely perfect!

We also discovered baby kittens – 4 of them born to a feral cat who lived in our woodshed. This mother cat was just a kitten herself! Nellie and I knew that we needed to ‘rescue’ this wild litter and get them used to humans so we could get them spayed/neutered to end this insanity of feral cats in the neighbourhood. Mission accomplished …………. and we now have 4 new fixed, indoor kittens. The mother cat, Mochi, was also spayed and continues to live outside with her brother. Nellie constructed little ‘outdoor cat shelters’ for each of them to protect them from the cold winter.

While I was hanging my laundry outside, Nellie worried that I was going to fall through our rotting back deck. She sent Darin a text and said that they must do something before I fall through and break something! The hot summer weekends of deck building began. Melvin and Cassidy came to help when they could and grandgirls Kalia and Olivia chipped in too, to work with Darin, Nellie, and I in dismantling the old deck and rebuilding a new one. It’s beautiful and solid!

My cousin Maureen from down east came for a brief visit in August. We shopped till we dropped and enjoyed a tour of the Rideau Canal.

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Goose Spit, Comox, B.C.

At the end of August, I flew out west to British Columbia to visit my sisters Betty and Faye and my son Robin, Nici, and new granddaughter Elsie. I spent three glorious weeks with my sisters shopping at every thrift store for miles around and as many garage sales as we could find within a 50 mile radius! We visited Fisherman’s Wharf in Victoria (where we had an amazing fish & chips lunch), Cathedral Grove, and Goats On The Roof in Coombs. Then we took the ferry over to spend a few days with Robin, Nici, and Elsie and enjoyed a relaxing time on their farm while getting to know adorable little Elsie. It was hard to leave…….

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Grammom & baby Elsie

I arrived back home to a surprise bathroom renovation by Nellie: she sanded, then white-washed the darkened pine boards and painted the doors and cabinets with the sea blue paint we’d chosen and purchased a few years ago. It looks so bright and awesome! We went to IKEA and bought a new mirrored medicine cabinet and another storage cabinet. Then we upgraded the faucet and cabinet hardware.

In October, I traveled to Moncton, New Brunswick for the Annual General Meeting of La Leche League Canada. The week after, I finally had my cancer surgery that I had been waiting for since February 2nd. Nellie came with me for the day in the hospital while Kristi drove us from her house nearby and picked us up, being on standby. It was a very long day involving 3 surgeries and 45 stitches to repair the loonie-size hole in my face. Recovery took longer than I anticipated and healing will continue for a full year.

Marty arrived for a visit at the end of October after driving with Taylor, Darin, and Carly from the Yukon down to visit Robin, Nici, and Elsie on the sunshine coast of B.C. then driving clear across Canada! It was great having him home but we missed seeing Jeanette, who stayed at home in the far north.

Another big announcement this year is that I’m going to be a Grammom again! Kristi and Mike are expecting a baby in April 2017. There have been challenges with this pregnancy though, as Kristi has been put on bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy. Jasmine turned 3 in January and Joshua turned 2 in September so they are pretty active children. They still have their 9 yr. old former foster child visit nearly every weekend too.

5-grandkids

Grandchildren Josh, Kalia, Livi, & Jasmine

Melvin comes home to visit whenever he can – he works hard, full time now and lives in Ottawa. His girlfriend Cassidy is a lovely girl who fits right in to our family. My ‘baby’ just celebrated his 22nd birthday.

Nellie continues to work hard with her online business, The Black Lory, successfully selling crocheted toys and items to people around the world. She received dozens of orders this Christmas and got them all made and sent in record time.

Darin got a promotion at work in the fall and is working harder than ever. Teenager Kalia grew taller than both Darin and I.  Eleven year old Livi continues to excel at gymnastics and has the most beautiful smile ever! Amanda keeps the ‘ship’ running smoothly.

I continue to volunteer for La Leche League Canada supporting breastfeeding families here locally and across the country. There have been additional challenges in the organization this year which have taxed me physically, mentally, and emotionally. Nuff said about that.

So 2017 is just around the corner. It’s hard to believe we are on the backside of this decade already! The more things change, the more they remain the same.

I wonder what 2017 will bring …….

Best wishes to everyone for a Happy New Year!

Grammom

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Autumn Sunset – ‘prime time’

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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