Saturday, November 29, 2008

Calm, snowy morning

Some of you haven't seen our house in Falkland (for that matter, you didn't see our house at Valleyview nor the log house at New Fish Creek!). This is looking northwest one day in August. The scar on the mountain behind the house is the gypsum quarry. I don't know if you can see the Canada flag up there in this picture. It's 8m high and the letters on top are 2m high. That puts things into perspective, because the mountain doesn't look too imposing in this shot, and it's actually a fairly nice little mountain.

Of course, the scene now is covered in white. There are other changes. The area under the veranda is now enclosed with white lattice. But the yard in the foreground is still much the same; lots of work to do. Did I mention (only five million times) that there are rocks here?

Today was a perfect burning day. Perhaps only northern farmers understand that reference. When we were homesteading 25 years ago, today's conditions were the best for burning the large windrows of trees we cleared from the land after the saw timber was removed. The fires were huge. We wanted enough snow to suppress fly ash (but not enough to snuff the flames) and a slight breeze to fan the fire. It didn't take long for the fire to create it's own wind.

Other times, we were burning smaller piles of debris from sawing firewood - branches, bark. We threw in roots and stuff from cleaning up the yard and garden. In the summer, I waited for a drizzly day to burn weeds and garden debris not suitable for the compost pile.

I admit it. I just like building and poking fires. Heaven help the person who mistook the 'pokey fire stick' (yes, that's what we called it) for an ordinary stick of firewood.

I was having so much fun this morning, I was tempted to pull out the chainsaw and buck up the dead fir tree lying on the fire department's lot just beside us. On second thought, it was 8:30am on a Saturday morning in town. What are the chances I'd annoy a neighbour or two? Rrrrinnggg-ng-ng-ng-ng. Yep, I'd be popular.

What do you think was Bryan's silliest move - teaching me to ride a motorcycle or run a chainsaw?

Becca will tell you that my chainsaw skills, rudimentary as they are, came in very handy more than once when big trees blew down over our driveway, impeding our travels to and from work and school.

I'd like to spend the entire day outdoors but there isn't much for me to do. Not like the farm, where there were always chores and maintenance to do. Not enough snow to pull out the cross-country skis, and no one to go walking with. I know - no one likes a pity party.

So today I'll get at some sewing projects. The big cutting table is set up downstairs, in front of the window so I can enjoy watching the clouds drift across Tuk Mtn. while I work. I'm so looking forward to the day when I can enjoy the view while working at the loom.

Yes,weaving bloggers, I do have a loom. A 1930s vintage LeClerc Nilus 45" counterbalance. It came from St. Isadore (just east of Peace River in northern Alberta) and to my knowledge, I'm the third owner. St. Isadore is a French settlement, and several looms were sent out from the factory in Quebec during the depression for the women to use as a means to earn supplementary income.

Somehow an elderly Ukrainian woman, Mrs. Walyshyn from High Prairie, came to own it but never used it. Her house was too small, and so it sat in pieces in her basement for six years. I can't remember how I came to know know her- I think it was through cooking hundreds of peroghy together at the annual Ukrainian New Year's suppers - but we became good friends. I got the loom, bench, skein and bobbin winder, an enormous warping wheel, extra heddles, reeds, bobbins and shuttles - all for $500.

I used the loom for many years when we lived at New Fish Creek, making everything from table runners and yardage to floor rugs and horse blankets. I dismantled it in 2001 when we sold the farm, and it's been that way ever since. I thought about selling it but couldn't actually bring myself to do the deed. Now I look forward to room for it once again, and time to hone my rusty skills.

I still have the same spinning wheel I brought home from New Zealand in 1980 - a traditional Ashford, of course. I've owned several other wheels since then, but they've all gone to other homes (one particularly useless homemade jobbie that was foist upon me is now a store decoration). Among the boxes stored in the basement, waiting for the day that space is finished, are four lovely fleeces (two acquired just before this last move in May - what was I thinking?!), several packages of silk and camel, kid mohair, far too much angora rabbit fibre for one person to possess (a family friend once owned 500 bunnies) and a lovely cinnamon-coloured llama fleece from a now-deceased-and-not-lamented-llama we owned.

Yep, semi-retirement beckons.

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