In the late seventies, a girlfriend and I did an epic road trip. We travelled from Vancouver down through Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and back to Vancouver via Edmonton. It took us just over a month, and we drove my Austin Marina (epic in its own right) via as many back roads as possible. If there was a second alternate to the alternate route, we drove it. Sleeping in the car, or our wee pup tent, we only spent one night in a hotel.
One morning after a particularly wild night in a parking lot, with a sand storm raging around us (we had to grab the tent and get in the car in record time) we awoke to a couple of inches of fine sand all over everything, including us. I can’t remember exactly where this happened, but I do remember that once we’d cleaned up, we just wanted to get back on the road, and basically out of town! Heading south through rolling hills, we saw cowboys in the distance moving cattle in huge herds. Not just once, but several times. We were in true cattle country. The maps showed a small town ahead, so we figured we could stop there for a late breakfast, and get our bearings.
After driving many miles on a dirt road, we found the “town”. It was basically a café, with a post office. We were learning that this map showed even the tiniest spots, as long as there was mail there. Alongside the café was a paddock that had about 20 horses waiting patiently. There were no other cars. We walked into the café, and besides the two waitresses, we were the only females. The rest were working cowboys, dusty, with weathered boots and smiles. The waitresses looked like they may have been sisters, cousins, or just from a close gene pool. Their beehives reached into the rafters, and they were wearing western shirts, jeans & boots (don’t know how that hair survived the ride to work). We were wearing cutoffs, runners and t-shirts. Every eye in the place swung round to view the aliens.
Hung on the wall was a sign that read “All You Can Eat Breakfast $1.44”. We were in, it easily fit our $10 a day budget. Not so quick, honeys, once you’re done a bowl of oats, we’ll get you going on the rest. After our porridge, came eggs, bacon, sausages, toast, hash browns, and juice, we were completely ready to hit the road once again. This would become one of my favourite travel memories, having an amazing breakfast while sitting with so many working cowboys, apparently taking a break between moving cattle, hanging out at the local café.
Early Springtime in the Early Days
February 17th, 2014 ~ it is a lovely day today. I think of these warm & sunny winter days, as “days lent”. Lent to us from different time of year.
Early in the 80’s our Februarys were filled with the sounds of baby goats – maa-ing at all times of the day. At our peak we had 12 milking does, and our average was 2.8 kids per doe, so we were busy. All were fed from 5 gallon buckets with 10 nipples all round, so they would share the milk, regardless of how much their own mother was producing. They stayed with their moms all day, nursing whenever, but at night we would separate them, so we could do a full milking each morning. This milk would be portioned out for the kids, our pigs, and ourselves. The evening’s milk would be added to the pigs’ portion, basically just to empty the does before they settled down comfortably for the night.
The babies would arrive anytime of day or night, usually we were in attendance – if all the stars were aligned. Our male Bernese Mountain Dog, Conrad, would spend large parts of his day up and around the goat barn, apparently listening intently to all of their conversations. At times, he’d run down to the house and let us know, that “something’s going on” up at the barn. Up we’d go, and more often than not, one of the does would be in the early stages of labour.
Baby goats are one of the most adorable creatures. They cuddle, nuzzle and are just so sweet. Much like puppies, they’ll follow you anywhere!
We would let the kids romp over wooden structures, all while in the careful protection (and tolerance) of our dear Bernese, Conrad & Kyrby. Dogs often show us in life what they are meant to do, if only we take the time to watch, listen, and give them the opportunity.
Our Life with Dogs…
In the 1960’s I was given a Girl’s Annual that had a story about a tri-coloured dog named Bruno. Dogs were always my biggest “want” growing up (well there were horses as well, but they were more out of reach). Anytime that I found a book about dog breeds, I was always on the lookout for a “Bruno” type dog. In the early 70’s I was flipping through books as I was stocking shelves. I came across a grainy photo of a dog in Switzerland, pulling a cart. It was Bruno! This was the start of my quest for a Bernese Mountain Dog (much easier now that I knew what I was looking for!)
I tracked down a breeder and my sister and I went for a visit. When would I be in a position to own one of these beautiful beasts? At the time we were living in an apartment, and most of my disposable income was going to keeping my horses, and training fees.
In 1981 when my future husband and I were thinking about being together long-term I needed to now how he felt about Bernese. He was instantly smitten, so I no longer needed to worry about it being a deal-breaker.
Kyrby came into our lives within the first year of our marriage. She introduced us to this beautiful breed that bonds completely with their family. Here we are 30 years later, and still devoted to Bernese. Right now we have our Lainie, 2 ½ years of absolute bouncy, Bernese joy.
When our eldest daughter was a toddler, I wanted to get her a dog that was more her size. I had always had a love for English Cocker Spaniels, probably from being face to face with Mrs. Harrison’s cockers of Parksville. We would visit the family cabin on the beach there every summer when we were small, and Mrs. Harrison seemed to always have puppies, at least that is what my very young memory remembers. My great-aunt & uncle had one of Mrs. Harrison’s at their farm in Mt. Lehman who would scamper along with me during my farm adventures.
We bred and showed both breeds, but mostly had them for their companionship. These two breeds were completely compatible, and a huge part of our girls’ lives while growing up.
Our home and farm has been shared with Bernese, English Cocker Spaniels, retired Greyhounds, and currently a miniature long-haired Dachshund, Rowan, and a Standard Manchester Terrier, Mariette, as well as Lainie.
Dogs in all their shapes and sizes have been and will always continue to be a huge part of our life on the farm, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
One Late Summer Day
Summers used to be spent rowing, swimming, fishing, eating blackberries and playing cards. We had a small dinghy “Kestrel” that was light enough for us to row at a young age, shallow enough to easily be dragged up on shore, and beamy enough to fish from.
The smell of salty old lifejackets, mixed with the sound of water lapping at the bow is permanently etched in my childhood memories. Finally being able to go out fishing “alone” was a mark of growing up. Learning how to gut, and sluice the fresh salt water through the salmon a measure of knowing how to look after ourselves.
One salty, hazy late summer day, two of us set out with our rods, a bit of homemade seafood sauce (ketchup & horseradish combined), a couple of pops and my Dad’s Safari grill. It was a collapsible pail shaped contraption that you put tightly rolled newspaper in, and capped off with a grill. The two of us headed out to the marker, about 1.5 km off shore. While fishing, we made up stories, sang songs, and probably giggled more than necessary. Apparently being boisterous in the boat does not scare away fish. Maybe it was our big loud singing, but within the first half hour, we’d already caught a fish big enough for the two of us for lunch, and another to take home.
Pulling the dinghy up on the white shell beach of Burial Island, we prepared the fish and the grill. We swam & sat in the hot sun while it cooked, enjoying the gentle stink of a mid-tide, and watching the summer boat traffic go past. Oystercatchers would do their weird darts and dashes, and the odd seagull would float past.
When the salmon was cooked through, turned carefully with two found sticks, we ate the whole of it, smearing it with our sauce. I can easily remember the intense flavour of the charred skin, and the juiciness of the flesh.
Arriving back to our beach, I felt like I was a castaway returning home. My skin a bit crusty with salt & sand, my long hair messed from a day of swimming and rowing. Feeling also very grown up, bringing home food for the family.
Summers on the Coast
Growing up, our family had a couple of boats that took us to beaches and coves tucked away in Howe Sound and the Gulf Islands. As kids, we’d be stuffed into the huge over-the-head lifejackets that bulged out front and back. I’d always come home with a rash under my chin, from rubbing when we’d hit waves.
Mom would pack our big picnic basket – the one with the little holders for cutlery – with egg sandwiches, meatloaf sandwiches, cookies and fruit. We would set out for the day, discovering places we thought no one had found before.
The early years were spent in the mighty Hurricane, a lovely old cabin cruiser, it kept us travelling for years until the time we launched it and it just kept going into and under the water. We had a few years off from boating as such, but still had our dinghy to get us to and fro from beaches. It would fit on top of our Morris Oxford Station-wagon, and would travel via ferry to new places.
Dad decided to become a boat-builder/accountant in the seventies. He built a sweet little 16’ sailboat, named Pipit. It had a drop keel, and could sleep two if needed. Each summer one of us would be chosen to sail across Georgia Strait to Thetis. Mom, the car, the animals, food for several weeks, and the rest of the kids would travel by the old CPR ferry via Nanaimo, and then by the Ethel Hunter or the Kulleet to Thetis Island.
One journey I was “chosen” for, there wasn’t a ripple on the ocean. It took just under 12 hours from Coal Harbour, Vancouver, to Overbury at Thetis, about 65 kilometers as the crow flies. I vividly remember quietly sitting, trailing my toes in the water, when a pod of Black Fish (Pilot Whales) came up around the boat. They stayed with us for about ½ an hour, the only excitement in a very long day. Apparently running our Seagull motor was only going to happen in an emergency. Thanks, Dad, for teaching me patience.