Covid Winter Solstice

I am sure looking forward to getting beyond this covid winter solstice as it has been the gloomiest December I can remember. At first, the winter looked promising. Two falls of snow each 30 cm deep, but the first got rained to oblivion and the second, also under heavy rain, got pounded to ice. Glimpses of sun have been rare.

During the last part of the year I am always amazed how swiftly the sunset point moves. There are two days of the year when the sun sets behind Finger Peak then peeks out the other side; it is a stroke of luck to have a clear evening at that time.

I started feeding the birds as soon as the snow flew. They always come early.

Here is a poor little chickadee contemplating his breakfast table after our second big snowfall.

We had help with ploughing, but I went over to my neighbour’s yard to tidy up the edges. (A lovely, cold, sunny day – couldn’t find my hat and gloves so I am wearing longjohn’s round my head and oven mitts topped by socks with a hole in the heel for gloves. I have since found all these items!). My excuse for looking like the Pilsbury dough boy is that I am wearing 3 sweaters and 3 pair pants under the outer gear.

Photo by Jade Dumas

The following day – still sunny – I went to the Kleena Kleene post office for mail. 200 meters away, the truck died. What luck to be a mere 5 minute’s walk from a phone! Another stroke of luck was that the nearest tow truck available, based in Williams Lake, was on another call only an hour and a half away. So I did not have long to wait – sometimes I have waited two days. BCAA allow four free long tows a year. This was my first for 2020.

And to cap it all, we now have a real mechanic at Nimpo Lake. One who can do all the computer stuff. This is the first time we’ve had one thus skilled ever since I’ve been in the country. Turned out that the problem was a clogged fuel pump – I had picked up dirty fuel from somewhere.

More snow was forecast with a heavy rain warning on the coast. But Environment Canada got it wrong. From Anahim Lake west it dumped heavy wet snow all the way down to Bella Coola. And we got a deluge of rain.

Anahim Lake was on the TV news, apparently, but they got only 30 – 40 cms. My friends in the upper part of the Bella Coola Valley got a meter.

They had just come back from a shopping trip and their vehicle was so muddy that my friend parked it under the eaves, expecting to get it washed off. Big mistake!

They were without power and phone for five days – in the end they shovelled a trail into the neighbour’s yard and dragged her generator home on a toboggan so they could give their freezers a boost.

The Precipice, too, had the massive dump. They use snowmobiles in the winter to get to a ploughed road, but after this fall they had to cut out 400 trees before they could reach it.

And all we got was rain.

Our 4 km of road is a mess of icy ruts.

We got bits of sun now and then,

And one rare, sunny afternoon I visited my neighbours to watch them ice skating. The excessive wet has made an ice jam and cause their field to flood. I have lived at Ginty Creek for 14 years now and never seen anything like this.

Once my Bella Coola friends were dug out, we met near the top of the Bella Coola Hill at the ski trails. Lots of snow there! (But no sun.)

My knees mean skiing is not comfortable for me so I snowshoed; fortunately the track-setter had been cruising around on his snowmobile so travel wasn’t difficult.

The heavy snow was beautiful, but part of the area had been burned several years ago, and the burned forest was more photogenic.

And I found a peacock!

The light on that short, gloomy day was fading as we drove home (2 hour drive) and we encountered the first moose I’ve seen for a while. A blurry photo, but the light was too poor to get a better one.

At the bird feeder I have the usual visitors. The big boss is Mr Hairy Woodpecker.

He beats up the smaller, much gentler Mr Downy – even the chickadees are not afraid of him.

He even beats up Mrs Hairy.

Both chickadee species are present: the mountain chickadee

And the black cap chickadee

There are three grey jays

And, the bane of my life, a pair of nutcrackers.

Several years ago I was held under siege by one who kamikaze-ed into my window for 2 months. I hung the windows first with mosquito screen, then with blankets. It was only his reduction in hormones that finally caused him to back off. Now I had another. Obviously a different bird as his mode of operation was not the same. He hung onto the uprights and whacked the glass. Not only noisy, but I was worried that massive beak would break the glass.

Better prepared this time, I hung up a mist net. He bounced off the net once but obviously didn’t like it. The net interfered very little with my view – until we got 24 hours freezing fog.

It felt like being inside a chicken house so, thinking the bird had backed off, I removed part of the net. Needless to say, he soon zeroed in onto the uncovered glass so I put the net back up again. He still whacks the window sometimes, but much more rarely. He perches on the branches beside the feeders and eyes the window for his imagined rival. I keep a basket of rolled socks by the computer and fling them at him if he looks too aggressive.

And now we are on the shortest day. During every gleam of sun I get outside.

And tomorrow the sun will start its long journey north.

If you wish to check out my 2020 newsletter, here is the link.

One Woman's Life In The Wilderness