Tag Archives: winter

A new kind of calendar (life informed by the seasons)


Photo: rows of tiny onion seedlings sprout on our kitchen table in anticipation of late-spring weather when they can be transplanted outdoors in garden beds.

I was talking to my friend S the other day about the influence of seasons on our lives. S, whose every email leading up to winter solstice included a countdown to the beginnings of longer, lighter days, is a long-time gardener who has years of experience with seasonal changes. Being a relatively new gardener, this winter marks the first time I’ve really felt and noticed the impact of how my now-closer relationship with the earth has influence over my own mental calendar. 

The influence of seasonal changes on our day-to-day activities, emotions and mental states aren’t new to anyone, but the influence of seasonal-and-thus-the-garden’s-changing-needs is new to me and the fact that I’m feeling it now triggers feelings full of appreciation for the earth and the power of it’s pull (and thankfulness that it hasn’t completely foresaken humans who have so ignorantly and viciously tried to separate themselves from it).

It was a fairly simple and probably insignificant-sounding experience that inspired me to reflect on this (and I apologize in advance because I can already tell that my attempt to explain this in writing is falling far short of how I imagined myself being able to explain it in my head), but it began in late November/ early December. Our garden shrivelled up with the cold rains and shorter days and I gladly took that as my cue to hibernate indoors for a full month, spending very little time thinking about the garden and instead going to bed early, baking, cooking, reading and truly just being luxuriously lazy. My separation from the 9-5 schedule of office work almost a year and a half ago had quickly catipulted my mental calendar into a very loose, oh-it’s-that-day-of-the-week? kind of state, and so my month of hibernation from the garden gifted me with very little need for any kind of calendar at all. 

However, as Christmas activities wrapped themselves up in that last week of December, I felt a very noticeable and unintended shift. I became aware of the subtleness of slowly-lengthening days, I began to observe thick, olive-coloured shoots of tulip and daffodil bulbs forcing their way through cold, frost-licked soil, and I quite suddenly felt rested and aware of the garden and its needs. It was in this moment that I felt it – the influence of the subtle changes in the season and in the soil beneath my feet on my own life. And in that very subtle but obvious moment, I felt a sense of awe and humbleness at being privy to the influence of nature on my physical and emotional self. 

Although my experiences with the earth are largely human-created (I’m not, for example, spending my days foraging for wild foods in a forest. Instead, I’m changing soil environments to suit seeds that I want to plant and grow and ultimately conrol), I have, much more than ever before, separated myself from the age of industry and technology and begun to, inasmuch as I know how, return to what feels like a pre-industrial way of living (obviously still very far from what life was truly like back then, but it is a long shot from where I was a few years ago).

So, I guess I just wanted to express that somehow in a blog post. I wanted to recognize and celebrate the influence of the earth (and all those subtle workings within it and on it and around it) on my life. There is a sense of tenderness and magic when humans open themselves up to living in harmony with the earth and although that’s something I’ve always believed in, it seems that now I’m actually starting to truly experience it.

living in a trailer in sub-zero temperatures


So, when I decided to spend this year living experimentally in a trailer on a farm, I had no idea that this winter would turn out to be BC’s coldest in 25 years.  Oh fudgesicle, what have I done?

I am a self-proclaimed heat lover (and cold disliker).  One of the bonuses of moving from Ottawa to Vancouver was knowing that I wouldn’t have to bear any more freezing winters.  Right.

The temperatures have really dropped here in Maple Ridge over the last few days.  Yesterday’s forecast was for -9 C.  I’m not sure if it dropped lower than that overnight or not, but gosh darnit, did that temperature ever affect my trailer.  Brrrrrr!

My built-in propane heater konked out last night (good timing) and although I was able to start it up again, it went out a few more times, making me nervous about leaving it on all night.  Since my bed is a haven of hot goodness (I’m talking about my electric fleece blanket), I wasn’t worried about getting cold while sleeping.  The cats and I snuggled up and had a long, toasty, warm sleep.  However, waking up and getting out of a bed was another story altogether…

The five windows that haven’t received the insulating film treatment yet were completely iced over (on the inside!  see photo above) and the stream of water I’d left running out of my tap all night to avoid frozen pipes had turned itself into a lovely ribbon of ice.  EVERYTHING but my bed was frozen – the cat’s water dish, the dish cloth, even my toothpaste (almost).

I turned on the propane heater (which has been running fine since) and retrieved the electric radiator from the outhouse to plug it in in the trailer to help warm things up.  And then I ran inside to Chris and Julie’s place to use their shower (thank goodness I don’t live in the boonies alone!).

The plan was to go into the office today, but leaving everything until tonight to deal with it had me worried so my boss let me work from home so that I could spend the morning doing some damage control.

I drove to Canadian Tire and bought myself a good space heater for the trailer as well as some insulating tape for the exposed parts of the water hose that are hooked up to the trailer.  I’ve been working from my trailer desk ever since (so glad I have a day job that can be done from anywhere that has an internet connection!).

The trailer is warmer.  The propane heater is still going, I also have the space heater on and I baked yams for an hour in the oven which really helped warm things up.  I’ve been collecting water from the barn and boiling it on my stove to pour down the cold drain pipes.  I also took my hair dryer out to the tap/ hose connection outside to try to loosen things up that way.  After doing that for awhile, it became pretty clear that whether or not my hose is frozen (not sure), the farm water pipes that connect to my hose are also frozen so at this point, there’s nothing I can really do but wait for the warmer temperatures that are supposed to come in the next couple of days.

For now, the water still isn’t running so I will enjoy long, hot showers in the house (something the trailer’s tiny hot water tank doesn’t allow) for the next day or two.

Hmm…looks like I’m going to have an interesting winter…