The Year of Magical Walking

Reader Contribution by Cam Mather

By Cam Mather

I have written a few too many ranting blogs lately, ranting about
the impending collapse of the dollar and my unexplained angst about
being a solar early adopter (I haven’t posted that one yet), so figured
it was time for something lighter.

It’s not hard to write a positive blog when I have major buzz on,
the buzz that comes after a great weekend of firewood cutting and
hauling. I’ve been missing these usual activities this winter so far
because of the lack of snow and cold weather. Like many North
Americans, we have been experiencing bizarre winter weather, or
actually a lack of it. It’s been warm and rainy when it should be cold
and snowy. If I wanted “wet coast” weather I’d move out there, and then
at least I’d have some mountains to admire.

Now I’m not complaining. We did have a white Christmas when most of
our province didn’t. And we even had enough ice to skate, although it
was just on December 25th. By the 26th it was warm again and the ice turned to mush.

Last Thursday we got wet snow and freezing rain, and then on Friday
we got a dumping of snow as the temperature dropped. The trees got
covered in an amazing blanket of ice and wet snow and then froze into
this brilliant “Hallmark Greeting Card-like fantasyland. Overnight on
Friday the temperature dropped to 20° below Celsius (-4°F) and then on
Saturday night it was almost 30°C below (-22°F). To a lot of people 25
below sounds terrible, but I love it. It usually happens when a
high-pressure system sits over us, which means that during the day we
have brilliant, cloud-free skies. And it’s actually the time when we
get the most juice out of our solar panels since they love the cold.
Even though the sun is still very low, at some points I was getting
close to our array’s total rated capacity of 2,300 Watts. I simply love
this weather!

On Saturday I spent an hour sweeping and scraping the solar panels
because they were covered in a thick layer of snow and ice. Once the
sun hit them, their dark background helped them to warm up and the ice
melted pretty quickly. On Saturday the sun charged the batteries to
full, and then on Sunday I dumped any excess electricity into our third
hot water tank. Along with our solar domestic hot water heater, which
was also making use of the brilliant sunlight, we’re back in the free
hot water business.

After the panels were cleaned off, I headed out to the woods to cut
firewood. I’ve been cutting in a pond created by beavers where the
trees are dead or dying because they are now standing in water (thanks
to the beavers.) There were a couple of massive maples that the beavers
had taken down along one bank and I’m sure that there’s about three
weeks’ worth of heat in those trees. I cut them into 2 or 3 firewood
log lengths so that I can do the final bucking to stove-length back at
the house with the electric chainsaw (next time we have a sunny
stretch). It was close to -20°C for much of the time I was cutting, but
I was still sweating, and the sun just felt fantastic on my face. I
have never done hard drugs but I have to imagine that this high must be
close to one accomplished with pharmaceuticals. And it’s addictive,
but it has no downside. I end up with firewood and the license to eat
as many goodies from the local bakery as I want.

On Sunday morning I started hauling the lengths out of the pond and
since we finally have enough snow for a good path. I’m able to haul
them all the way to the road where I can get them in the spring. The
road that I am talking about is on our property and is quite good. It
was used during the 1930s and 40s as a detour around a floating bridge
that it skirts. There is a huge boggy area on the property and the old
road actually had a bridge made up of huge logs held together with wire
that horses and buggies and then cars had to drive over. Apparently
neither horses nor drivers liked this, so eventually the township asked
for permission to make a road around it on this property. Now it’s
abandoned but perfect for me to use for firewood. It’s funny but our
partners in Aztext Press, Bill and Lorraine Kemp live on “Floating
Bridge Road” in another township and we thought about calling our
company “Floating Bridge Publishing,” but that name was already taken.

On Sunday afternoon Michelle and I walked the road together. Morgan
the Wonder Dog came too. Our 150 acres is narrow and follows the road
so it’s probably close to 1 km (.6 mile) down to this pond. Some people
find it weird when I admit that I don’t have a better idea of our
land, but we got rough sketches when we bought the place and have had
to try and figure out what’s ours from old fence lines and other
landmarks. The reality is that there just isn’t anyone around to ask or
bother. Sterling Barker has bought the former hunt camp on the
California Road, but it’s 2 kms from here. The undeveloped Puzzle Lake
Provincial Park is to our north and there’s 15 kms of ponds and woods
to the south before you hit the road in Enterprise. Standing alone in
our woods is a pretty great feeling. There’s just no one around.

So we went for a walk and, despite the frigid temperature, it really
was quite magical. We walk this road in all 4 seasons. I love it in
the spring, and the summer, and the fall, but I think I love it most in
the winter. Without the leaves on the trees, it’s much easier to see
further and to get a better feeling for the lay of the land. It’s also
easier to see the mix of hardwoods and pines that make up the woods.
Animals love to use my trails and it boggles my mind that there are so
many deer and coyote that pass through our property. After a snowfall I
can’t believe how many other tracks I see in the snow. Rabbits,
beavers near the pond, porcupines, squirrels, and lots of smaller
unidentified tracks. There are always a few larger tracks that I always
intend to look up in a book to identify, and rarely get around to it.
Probably wolverines, or small sasquatches.

Last week we were in town on Wednesday, but Thursday was a bad day
to drive because of freezing rain, and then on Friday it snowed and the
road was a mess, and so by Sunday night we’d gone 4 days without
seeing another human being. Our century-old farmhouse has been toasty
warn even though it’s been 20 below, thanks to the wood that I cut last
winter. Michelle made soup for dinner with tomatoes that we grew last
summer and froze. The soup had our carrots, potatoes, onion and garlic
in it too. After hauling wood uphill for a couple of hours on Sunday
morning I fell asleep pretty easily that night and dreamt about our
year of magical walking in our very special woods.

* Michelle’s Note: For anyone who, like me, wasn’t sure about
this title, Cam is giving a nod to the book “The Year of Magical
Thinking” by Joan Didion.

Photos by Cam & Michelle Mather. For more information about Cam or his books please visit www.cammather.com or www.aztext.com