As the daylight hours continue to shorten and the summer’s heat begins to fade, my thoughts turn to the cozy comforts of fall. I can’t believe I just wrote that!

Summer didn’t arrive here on the Coast until I had already left for Calgary. All through June, I think we still had the heater on at night. I promised myself to treasure every sunny moment of this summer and never complain about heat again.

I’m not tired of the sun or the heat. There was a day at the cottage where the kitchen must have been a thousand degrees and the sweat just poured off your body for standing there. Even then, I just marvelled at how quickly a person might overheat if they were not drinking icy cold beverages.

So it must be something about the tilt of the sun that sends a signal for us Northerners. My son commented yesterday about longing for the deeply satisfying winter stews. That comment, as I am in the throes of the summer harvest. But I did find myself longing for the roasts that stew all day in the slow cooker, while at the grocery store yesterday.

For now, I have completed my cozy alpaca socks. That will have to hold me over until the weather really begins to turn. Which could be a lovely 6 more weeks. One can hope!

Thunder Rolls

Alberta is a province in Canada that receives a fair number of summer storms. Which seems a bit unfair. It is not like this area doesn’t have extreme winter weather as well. Driving winds, extreme temperature swings combined with massive precipitation, wait – I might be describing summer as easily as winter!

I grew up with this kind of thing. I knew the famous line, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes and it will change.” But my children do not experience this until they travel for summer vacation. Every year it almost seems new to them, a kind of novelty that they taste, enjoy and then pack away in their memory banks.

However, no amount of past experience can prepare you for the next great thunderstorm. My family was lucky not to be enjoying the cabin when an intense storm came through with hurricane winds and tornado like destructive power. Trees were uprooted in the resort, properties were damaged and for those that experienced it first hand, frightening reports about what mother natures can do in an instant.

In the calm that immediately follows these storms, damage is assessed. For the family cabin, it was nothing short of amazing. An overgrown poplar had sheered off and crumbled in 2 pieces, laying down the driveway in a neat path just like a fly line being cast out from a fishing rod. The crushing weight took down the mast for the electrical lines, but missed the sheds and bikes on one side and the camper trailers on the other. It could have been so much worse.

So Friday night, when the thunder rolled through the valley, my son hightailed it out of the trailer he was sleeping in and spent the rest of the night in the cabin. He wasn’t taking any chances. I didn’t hear a thing, tucked under the peak of the roof dreaming away the last few hours of slumber.

I am at the midway point for the number of years in my life I have lived away from my birth home here in Alberta. Even as I pass that milestone, there is a part of me that has never left and can always feel at home, even during the storms.

Pouring rain

On the Canadian West Coast, there is a rainforest. It stretches: West to the Pacific Ocean; North towards the boreal forest, arctic tundra and wetlands; South to the dry forests and steppes of California; East to the crest of the Coast Mountains; and up mountain slopes to alpine tundra and glaciers.

Parks Canada even lists a “recipe” for a rainforest:

  • Rain, and lots of it (or other precipitation, i.e. snow, drizzle, mist, fog….). The area must receive a minimum of 250cm of moisture (100 inches) per year.
  • Our moist maritime climate keeps the landscape wet most of the year, giving us an annual precipitation of about 300cm (120 inches).
  • Forest (Without trees we might have grasslands, but it wouldn’t be rainforest).

Normally, we get this rain all winter long. While our fellow Canadians are freezing with cold and snow, we are watching the rain feed our trees and fill up our reservoirs.

May and June are supposed to be the time of variable conditions. Precipitation is meant to be half of February. According to the statistics we are running a little high, but nothing like February.

So why does it feel like we are in the depths of winter? Sure the temperature is milder. And yes, there is more daylight, even if it is filtered through the dark rain clouds. There are also plants growing that normally do not in the winter.

My front yard, looking through the fig tree

However, it is a fact, if you ask someone how they feel when it is raining, their answer will be diminished, their mood will be darker.

It was pouring with rain this morning. While I lay in bed listening to the sound of it, I wondered when we would have another sunny morning? But, the fact still remains that today is Friday. Time to curl up with a book or knitting tonight and let the kids watch a movie or play video games. These are the rainy day activities that you don’t get to do when it is sunny all the time.

Something in the air

I like this time of year. Since I have lived on the Coast, that is.

February in the Prairies was the worst month of the year for me. The snow and cold was likely to last another 2 to 3 months. The days still felt short. When my room mate and I first moved here from Calgary, we had a big party in February just to tide us over until Winter truly had faded.

Maybe it is climate change, or maybe I am getting older, but February now seems to be the light at the end of the tunnel for old man winter. The snowdrops (Galanthus) are popping up in my garden. When I leave work in the afternoon, it is still light out. And we get these periods of sunny days that are just a flirting of what is to come.

In 7 days, we will be rolling into the Kootenay’s for our annual family ski trip. On the way back from those snowy days, as we descend from the Coastal Mountains and start to smell the warmer, moist air, it feels like winter is truly over.

Of course there will be many great skiing days left in the season. But on any given Saturday or Sunday as we head into late March and April, the garden and the boat start to take our attention away from the mountains.

Living on the Coast sure beats other Northern places, where it tends to feel like 8 months winter and 4 months cold.

Good start to the day

While on holidays this summer at my parents cabin, a good start to my day would be with a coffee and a book in the hot tub. When the sun got higher in the sky and it became too warm, I would get out and start my day.

I had such a morning on Saturday. It was 19 degrees C in the shade when I slipped in for a soak. A few chapters later and it became so warm from the sun, I had to get out.

But I was completely energized. I dug out some shorts and a tank top from the bin of summer clothes getting ready for storage, and headed out into the front garden. I attacked the weeds for the better part of the day. What I was able to complete looks great. (There is, unfortunately, more days of work to do than there will be good weather for).

The clouds moved in, late in the day. We had our first big wind and rain storm of the fall. But the morning felt like summer and it happened on a day when I was able to enjoy it!

One more from my garden

As the season starts to wind down in the garden, I have to show off just a little of my front yard harvest. Yes, I wrote that correctly. My front yard has no grass anymore. This is actually my seventh season with the fresh fruit and vegetable buffet.

It has been a very rewarding adventure so far. I love being able to pick something to eat that I know everything about. No chemicals, no GMO’s, well watered. The only thing I can’t control is the sun.

And even if I could, I don’t know that it would really matter. This summer we had the weirdest weather here on the South Coast and yet I have the best tomato crop ever. There really is no explanation for it. That is why I think there is something a bit magical about bringing in a great harvest.

Harvest in my knitted basket

It does take some getting used to, people stopping and staring into your front yard. If I happen to be out there weeding, (which should be far more often), it is sometimes like holding court. It is fun to chat and they never seem to be as critical as I feel about all the weeds.

This year my solution was to completely weed the area that I could see from my bedroom window. Hear no evil, see no evil, kind of thing.

I might have started a trend. There are now 3 of us on my street who have done away with grass.

Roof top patio

There is only one in White Rock. That is both a shame and a blessing. When you get a seat on it, you are happy, when you don’t….well that is not much of a blog post, is it?

The lone patio belongs to The Boat House. My history and this particular restaurant go back all the way to early 1991. My first solo trip to the Coast by airplane. Along with my soon to be room-mate, we were spending a week trying to decide where to finish our Fashion degree. West or East? Since West was closest and cheapest, we were really banking on that trip hitting pay dirt. During our week of R&R escape from -35 degrees C on the Prairies, we made our way out to The Boat House in White Rock for lunch.

What a couple of hillbillies. We were taking photo’s of baked camembert! But we loved it out here. The day in question was completely socked in and drizzly rain. We were hooked anyway.

Fast forward to a summer evening in late August 2011. A mere 20 years later. My husband and I have a free night to take a leisurely meal of oysters, ahi taco’s, prawns and a bucket of steamers. Back in 1991, I would not have even known what most of that was!

As the sun was setting, and we made our way back to our truck, it was a nice feeling to think that we have been a part of this community for the better part of 20 years.