early 2019

rce_1741Willow keeps an ear out.

Went out to the bar tonight. It’s been awhile. My good friend turned sixty. Hunter was kind enough to come along. The food and beer was good. Everything is expensive. It has to be. $7 for a draft $20 for an appetizer.

***

It’s a new year. Not sure what to say about it. Last year was tough. We got by and in this day and age that’s a good thing. Maybe the most we can ask for. If lucky, this year will be much the same.

rce_1733The truck not yet stuck.

***

According to the news the world is topsy-turvy. Worse than ever, they say. But I don’t think it’s changed that much. Some things have got better, some worse.

One thing that has stayed the same is our leaders are a bunch of self absorbed arseholes. But when haven’t they been?

***

rce_1748Why I’m careful where I break trail.

We have had three days of above freezing temperatures. The lake has an inch of water on the ice. The snow has receded to the benches. The deer are walking around like it’s springtime. It’s disconcerting, I expect winter to be winter. I wake up and look outside to see if snow is falling. When it isn’t, I go back to bed but not to sleep.

rce_1747

***

Our occupation with the undoings of Trump and Trudeau is puzzling. They make good news.  However they are far from us. They are certainly scoundrels. But they take away from the more dangerous scoundrels closer to home. Think about that School Superintendent that works to cut wages in the district and gives himself a raise. How about all those developers that, selflessly run for town council changing bylaws for their own benefit. 

In 2019 fuck Trump and Trudeau and all their hype. It’s only a distraction. If you want to slay dragons, do it closer to home.

***

rce_1706A small Downey chips away.

The night is clear. Orion is up ruling the dark. The temperature is dropping. I should be in the bush, knee deep in snow, Willow clearing the perimeter, with only an outward breath between me and the sky.

Christmas Cake

_LME9532A Christmas treat!

There is nothing like a good Christmas Cake, full of nutrition and a TINY bit of booze. It has everything in it to sustain a person doing hard labour or recreating in the mountains, skiing and hiking. It has the power to keep the cold away and get you back on your feet to finish the trek to the top of the ridge or through the deep snow on the way back home. It has even been used to aid in dragging deer through the bush. Thus is the power of the Christmas Cake.

Some people call it fruit cake, but I prefer Christmas Cake because my mother would make them in November and we couldn’t try them until Christmas, plus they always seem like a gift.

My Mother took pride in her wonderful Christmas Cakes. They were always baked in round pans with choice ingredients and wrapped in cheesecloth and a tea towel. The cloth was pulled back and the cakes were regularily soaked with booze. Brandy was used mostly, but I can remember whiskey, sherry and Grand Marnier were also used. I remember my mother saying it was important to get them properly soaked.

About five years ago, it could be ten the way they are flying by, my sister Deb started making Christmas Cakes from my mother’s old recipe that was written down with some of her other recipes and notes. They were every bit as good as my Mother’s, even better because I didn’t have my father rationing it out to me like it was the last water on a life raft stranded in the middle of the Pacific.

_LME9523 A gift in a dented tin!

This year my other sister Wynanne decided to make the Christmas Cakes. Now Wynanne is an absolutely awesome cook! Her meals are legendary among the family. Her children Christian and Meagan and husband Tim have been treated to many wonderful meals. Whenever I make something I haven’t made before I always phone her and ask advice.

But could she make a Christmas Cake that could stand up to my Mother’s and Deb’s?

It’s a lot of pressure. It should come easy to someone with as fine a culinary skills as Wynanne’s, but with Christmas Cake who knows! Never mind such legendary cakes!

First she had to deal with the recipe itself. Stained and worn, and I am sure, not very detailed. Luckily, Wynanne had the presence of mind to phone Deb and say that she though SEVEN cups of butter was too much.

Deb righted what could have been a disaster and told Wynanne it was seven ounces, not seven cups. They had a good laugh over the stained recipe and what could have been some pretty greasy Christmas Cakes. It seems fitting my sister’s laughing over my mother’s recipe, as my mother could always laugh up a storm. I imagined her laughing along with them.

As promised I received my cake just after Christmas. On opening the heavy tin the smell of boozy cake enveloped my senses. It was everything I remembered as good and fine. I unwrapped it carefully., first the tea towel and then the cheese cloth. It was the perfect colour, dark, nothing like some of the store bought ones.

_LME9524Unwrapping the bounty!

Then the moment of truth, the first bite. It was excellent. Every bit as good as I can remember. Thick cake holding the nuts and candied fruit together, all inebriated in a good soaking of booze.

I sprinkled on another layer of booze before rewrapping and putting it away. Christmas Cake must be continuously hydrated if it is going to last the year (this one won’t). 

_LME9533It ain’t gonna last!

Now I have to start rationing myself. The pieces start off big and get smaller as the cake gets smaller. By the end I’m like my father on the life raft. It, at least, has to last to the end of March and the end of the cold weather.

Wynanne lived up to her Mum and sister Deb. Not that there was ever a doubt.

What a wonderful gift. I’ll enjoy it in the bush and while working. Sometimes you get lucky.

Turkey Soup

RCE_1698Willow surveys the sticks on shore, carefully picking one to fetch. 

It is a long standing tradition of rotating hosting Christmas dinner among our family. This year it was Lisa’s brother Brent’s family’s turn. There was plenty of great food and wine and lots of good conversation and laughs.

RCE_1679Grey December beside the Columbia.

Brent generously gives me the turkey carcass as he knows I like to make broth from the bones. He always leaves some meat on the bones so I can add it to the soup the next day. Even at this late hour the soup is boiling. I will wait as long as I can before straining the broth. It will be put outside to cool.

Tomorrow I will sauté onions, carrots and onions, add the broth, the left over turkey and a handful of barley. That’s it, supper taken care of.  The kids always loved that soup. Sometimes they would argue over whether I should add barley or pasta noodles. Barley usually won out.

RCE_1689An American Dipper holds down the ice beside the river.

My Mom and Dad used to make the same soup, from turkeys, but also wild chickens we shot. They called it mulligan. It was thick and gamey. They said it was soup that stuck to your ribs. I used to wonder what that saying meant. I thought, maybe the barley acted as glue and stuck to your insides. Later, when I understood a person could go hungry, I realized it could keep hunger away longer than many other foods, some much more expensive.

We are lucky to have so much.

RCE_1660My old path to the fish holes.

current

_LME9486.jpg

It has been a strange winter so far. The mountains are getting snow, yet very little in the valley bottom. The last week has seen temperatures above freezing during the day. Today was sunny and plus 5°. There is ice on Lake Windermere, but open spots here and there. The ice freezes different than when I was a boy. The open spots are in in other locations. It changed when they filled in some of the wetlands for development. It increased the pull of the river exiting the lake.

Columbia and Windermere Lakes are often described, by experts, to be a widening of the river. When I was young I used to try to see where the current was under the surface of the lake. I imagined a time when the lakes were not as wide. If the banks of the lake looked freshly cut within the last thousand years. I’d squint and remove the railway tracks and the few homes along the shore. I would look for schools of fish, under the ice, how they moved, if they were being fed by the years dead insects and animals finally loose on the current. During summer, I would swim the width of the lake feeling where I would get cold from water moving quicker under the hot sun. I would confirm it swimming back.

It is a lot tougher now trying to figure out the current. My father and I used to venture onto the ice, early in winter, when it was safe. We would put up a tree in the places the last of the ice froze, to warn people of thin ice. It was the same spots year after year. My father said there was a spring under the ice in those spots. The tree always looked like an undecorated Christmas tree. The warning was observed, everybody knew.

Now, the lake freezes later. The weak spots are more plentiful. The current doesn’t meander like it used to. I ask myself, why should it be different? The snow is coming. I know that.

mid dec

RCE_1628.jpg

I’m beyond it now. The sky, changes, but not because of me.

I used to run away. Build campfires below the tracks beside the lake. Swish garbage. Throw the empties.

Watch coyotes get lost, eagles circle, nervous geese keeping freezing water open. Figuring the best place was below the bridge. Between the lake and river. Where there was plenty of wood to build a fire.

The whole of December and the rest of winter is ahead, beckoning, laughing.

It feels good, smart actually, to have the longjohns on early.

 

 

Early December

_LME9439-Pano-smThe sky above Lake Windermere. Pleiades directly above Taurus. The lights of Windermere and Fairmont. A satellite streaks at the top of the frame.

The snow still hasn’t started to fly in earnest. It’s coming, it always does. Meanwhile, I’m still getting used to the cold. My toque goes on in the morning and doesn’t come off until bed. Lisa even wore hers through the weekend. She looks cute in a toque.

_LME9441.segComet 46P/Wirtanen can be seen in the leading photo. This is it enlarged. It looks like a green smudge. Throughout December it will rise in the eastern sky towards Pleiades. 

Our house can be chilly. We believe in putting on a sweater before turning up the heat. The woodpile is holding up. It has some good wood in it. Fir, tamarack, pine and even juniper. It’s good to mix it up. If you are cold and need it warm quick, pine is the way to go. If you want it slow and hot, fir. If you are going to bed and want some embers in the morning, then tamarack. If you are staying up, maybe you’ve had some wine or smoke, juniper will set the mood with it’s wonderful smell and light.

Every know and again I’ll get a few blocks of spruce. It’s light put hard to split due to it’s twisted grain. If it freezes hard in November the trees crack like gunshots. When splitting, it is not uncommon to come across a worm, pale white, as big as a finger, hiding in the wood. It always crosses my mind maybe someday I’ll be happy to come across this protein.

Speaking of protein. I made mincemeat on the weekend. Currents, raisins, apple, brown sugar, sherry, suet, orange and lemon peel and every spice in the cabinet. I think those old-timers knew how to cook.

Lisa makes wonderful pastry and has promised me tarts.

Winter is looking better all the time.