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Taking the road less traveled Spending a year in five continents to embrace my "inner turtle", to live simply, and to avoid being shark bait!

Country Weekends

CANADA | Sunday, 30 September 2012 | Views [398]

Pulling a racer on the cable car

Pulling a racer on the cable car

Work doesn't stop on the farm on the weekend.  Goats still need to be fed, milked and walked, and food still need to be harvested.  However, besides the necessary tasks, my host family do make the time to enjoy  "family time" during the weekends, and I've been included in all the fun activities.

The Hills Garlic Festival was held during my first weekend in town.  This annual event used to be held in Hills where my host farm is (Hills is an unincorporated town of New Denver), but now the festival has grown too large for Hills, so it moved to a park in New Denver, right next to Slocan Lake.  The festival isn't as large as perhaps the Gilroy Garlic Festival, but it does draw a crowd that is many times the size of the local population.  My host family were all involved as volunteers:  dad K helped sat up fencing and stalls, mom M led a nature walk (she's a biologist) and volunteered at a game stall, and daughter B had a shift at the disposal station (to tell people whether something belongs in the compost bin, recycling bin, or trash).  I simply spent the day roaming, enjoyed the view by the lake, and visited all the stalls, which besides garlic-related goodies, there were plenty of local foods such as homemade jam, honey, beer jerky, handmade soap and candles, real Canadian maple syrup, arts and crafts, and plenty of food stalls.  Even with a short downpour, the mood was festive; there was a stage with live music (Canadian country music!) and another stage with kid's entertainment.  I was glad I timed my arrival for this, was a great way to learn about the community and the area.

During the other weekends, I explored the area, either by mountain biking, by foot (accompanied by the family's dog Mika), or by hiking with the family.  I hardly mountain bike but this area is great for exploring this way; I made plans to follow the old rail trail (trains used to run through the region to carry away the ores from the mines, but the tracks have since been removed and left behind a trail now used by bikes and skiers) as far as my legs would carry me.  I didn't get very far before I took a spectacular fall over a wood bridge and into the creek, that was the end of exploring by bike!  But I got to enjoy the  surrounding in complete solitude: clear blue sky, mountains towering all over, loads of enormous trees covering the land and the mountains, with some  trees leaves beginning to turn orange and yellow.  Nowhere else I've been this year was this peaceful and serene.

The one time I went hiking with the family, we hiked the Dennis Creek trail in the Selkirk Mountains.  I've hiked plenty, especially this year, but nothing prepared me for this.  First, this family are serious outdoor enthusiasts, and hiking and cross-country skiing are frequent family activities (daughter B said she started cross-country skiing at 3).  I was prepared to hike the whole day, but was not prepared for the steep elevation and the off-trail hike.  We hiked uphill continuously for almost three hours (I was tempted to say "are we there yet?" and luckily B did the whining for me).  We stopped at a lovely meadow for lunch; afterwards, we traversed the mountains for a few more hours, going up and down and sideways through steep mountains where there was no trail.  Several times I thought one bad footing would send me tumbling down, and the constant reminder that there are grizzly bears around didn't help.  The sights were breathtaking though; it was so clear, we even saw part of the glacier located miles away.

My last Saturday in Hills was action packed.  That weekend was the annual Sufferfest (http://www.kaslosufferfest.com/event.html) in Kaslo, an event so twisted and taxing on the human body, it had to have the word "suffer" in it.  There are several events that participants can choose from (e.g. a 100km bike through the mountains, a 50km trail run), or be a true "sufferer" and create your own event (100km bike plus 25km trail run over 3 days).  K and M have volunteered in years past and invited me to join on Saturday.  Our post was for the 100km bike event at the cable car crossing on the Galena Trail, which Carpenter Creek runs through, thus the cable car is there to carry people, pets, and bikes across.  It was great fun operating the cable car and seeing all the bicyclist come through; the first bicyclist showed up at 9:30am, 2.5 hours after the race started.  Within the next hour, about half of the racers had come through (there were 53 total).  Everyone was so appreciative of us being there, some thought they would have to pull the cable car across themselves (which is doable, but will take time considering how tired they are).  Some joked we were too fast in getting them across (we averaged less than 1 minute from loading, crossing, and unloading of the bike and the person) and that they needed more rest.  Two hours later, the last racer crossed our site and we went to sign-out at the race headquarter, where we found out about an insane event that was happening:  a 3-day, 200km trail run that had 6 racers.  200km in 3 days!  The leader of the race, a gal named Madeline, arrived at HQ when we were there; she had just finished the first segment of the day (not sure the distance but it took 4 hours), and considering she probably ran about 60km yesterday, she was still bubbly, chipper, and within 10 minutes of walking and drinking water, she started the next leg.  We estimated that she would be running until that evening over the mountain to the town of Kaslo.  I could not believe the endurance of these people, just admirable!

We returned home after volunteering that day to an event I've never participated before:  the slaughter of an animal I took care of.  Ella, one of the baby goats (4 months old) was sold to a buyer who wanted a goat for a BBQ, and she was scheduled to be slaughtered that day on the farm.  K and M wouldn't be doing the slaughter (K said he could never kill an animal he raised); there is a man in the area who handles all the slaughter (aka "the butcher"?)  I knew about the slaughter for weeks and by that day was prepared to see Ella go; she was a cutie though, and I know she would taste good considering how pampered she has been in her short life.  I felt sad for her sister Elsa though; Elsa is the smallest of the juvenile goats and is always picked on by the other pair of sisters, Echo and Emme, who are 1 month older.  Elsa and Ella always stuck together, and without Ella, Elsa may be picked on more (Elsa will live a lovely life though, the family has decided since birth that they will keep Elsa as a milking goat).  As "execution time" approaches, we took all the goats out as though we were going on our daily walk so they would not suspect something different was happening and be stressed.  As we passed the "execution site" (where K had dug a hole to bury the unwanted goat parts, literally "digging her grave"), Ella was leashed as B, Mika and I kept going with the other goats.  Ella struggled a bit (she has never been on a leash before) but was soothed once she was fed grain.  The rest of us kept walking; somehow it seemed Daisy knew something was wrong, because she paused, looked behind her, and would not keep walking (Daisy is usually the lead goat on walks); I found that interesting since Daisy isn't related to Ella and even butts Ella around sometimes, but it seemed as though Daisy's maternal instinct kicked in.  I coaxed Daisy to keep walking; after a few minutes, we heard a loud BANG, and Ella was gone.  The "butcher" borrowed a gun from the town's doctor who is also a hunter (the "gun guy"?) and it turned out to be a huge shotgun; that thing could have killed an elk from far, far away!  We took the goats to an area known as the "gravel pit" and stayed for over an hour.  We took another route on our way back so we wouldn't pass the "execution site", where the "butcher" was now slaughtering Ella.  We put the goats back into the barn, and B and I could not resist passing by the "execution site"; by then Ella was merely a carcass, hung up by her hind legs, her skin already peeled off (it was on the ground in one full piece, the "butcher" sure had good technique).  The bucket she was eating from was shattered and bloodied, and M was helping to toss the unwanted goat parts into the "grave".  Mika ran towards the "grave" (must have smelled good  to her!) and I held her back.  At least I knew Ella was dead with just one shot. I hope whoever these people are who will be eating her enjoy the meat, because Ella was a great goat to me!

That same evening (could it still be the same day??), K, M and I attended a theatre performance in Silverton (about 20 km from Hills) named Mine Tailings (yes, theatre exists here!)  Mine Tailings is a play about the mining era in Silverton and nearby towns during the late 1800s until the Great Depression, when mining came to a halt.  The play was first performed 30 years ago and was now being revived.  It was really, really interesting and witty!  I would describe it as a cross between a play and a skit: three performers only, all dressed in black, sometimes standing behind his/her own music stand and sometimes moving around; there were props behind them, which they used as they sang, told stories, and acted as different characters throughout the play.  All three were fantastic singers and actors (all well known locally) and the stories were interestingly weaved together, and told in such fascinating ways that even someone like me, who knew little about the area, was intrigued.  It was a most wonderful finale to my 3-week tenure in Hills.

Tags: ella, goat slaughter, hills, hills garlic festival, mine tailings, new denver, rail trail, silverton, sufferfest

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