Walking through the orchard today, got me thinking. I had to squish tent caterpillar before it defoliates the whole orchard, and I had been climbing and working all day, and I was tired.
When squishing them, a nest of tent caterpillar has an initial resistance, but then sort of ‘pops’ and feels slime-jelly like. It bleeds a deep, opaque green fluid. Your gloves ( because I absolutely DO wear gloves) are stained green after a few squishes. It’s sort of disgusting.
I ran into two large nests in the first two trees. I had to climb one of those trees- not too high, my feet were only five or so feet off the deck- but I had to climb one of those trees to get to the nest. It was out of reach from the ground.
That was how I spent my late-afternoon evening.
At the end of the day, with the was sun riding a little lower, and a little cooler, in the sky, things felt pretty good. Soft light, beautiful blossoms on the trees, a bit of a nice breeze, and yet…
I almost ruined all that.
You see, I can use a chemical spray against tent caterpillar. Dipel 2X is acceptably organic, and it’ll do a fair number on the squirmy little leaf-eating machines. Not only that, but I have Dipel. And I have a tractor. And I have a sprayer. I could have fired up the tractor and had that work done in half the time.
But, I didn’t. Instead, I walked the orchard, and tree-by-tree I cleared the pest. Cringe, squish, stomp, repeat…
I did this the old fashioned way, and in the absence of the tractor noise, and the smell of that spray that lingers afterwards, and by walking, taking notice not just of the nests, but the leaves, the trees, the blossoms, it was a better experience. I felt I understood the orchard more, and knew, better what needs to be done. I heard the bees buzzing, and saw a red tailed hawk that I might not have, and noticed some vine creeping up an older tree.
So, while I appreciate my tractor, and marvel, sometimes, at the shear utility of it, it’s really nice to take things a bit slower.
There’s nothing like the present when trying out a new thing. I’ve winter camped before- any climbing we’ve done in the Ghost Valley in Alberta required a sketchy truck drive, a long hike, and then a cold camp. Being two, or three guys, and naturally without the absolute NEED to share a tent (ie. a narrow bivvy on the side of some cliff), we opted to each set up our individual little nylon tent, and then freeze solidly for the 12 hours of darkness.
I’m older, wiser, and will be sharing the tent with my wife and little ones. As well, this makes a perfect warming shelter (which will be its primary use) when doing bush work, maple syrup…etc. I ordered this from https://www.canadianoutdoorequipment.com/ which is a funky little shop in Port Credit that specializes in more heavy-duty outdoor gear.
When I was younger, travelling lighter, and had pre-kid disposable income, and spending my non-work days doing kinda fun stuff in the mountains, I was really, really into the ultra-light gear. I wanted packs and jackets and tents that weighed about nothing, and with which I could get a good, full season of use, a second season of duct-tape-patched use, after which I would pitch the tattered, ultra-light rags and start. If I used that same gear in the tree, anything Pata-gucci or ArcTear-it, I believe it would last a good couple of months or so…
But, as my leisure time has become, well, work time ( three mouths to feed, and counting ..), and I began to realize a penny saved is sure better than a penny charged on credit, I slowly began migrating to the burlier, heavier, and more enduring winter gear.
Which lead me to purchasing the 20lb Tent and 10lb Wood Stove, which is about 6x the weight of my old MSR Fusion tent, BUT will probably out last it by a ten-factor.
And, it was in this canvas palace that I spent the closing nights of the New Year. It was hovering around -30, and I was a bit sick with a bout of the flu, but I really, REALLY wanted to test it out.
So, how did I fare? Set up took about 45 minutes, all told, and that’s for an amateur (I’d set it up in practice, once, and then spent some time on http://wintertrekking.com trying to figure out everything that went wrong the first time). I’m pretty good with knots, being an arborist and all, so that bit went easy, and my commitment factor was pretty low. This was in the folks-in-law’s orchard- their big, warm, heat-pump heated house was only a few hundred meters away.
I could bail so long as Grandma remembered to keep the door unlocked.
I hunkered down with an oil lamp, a wool blanket, a small stack of green Ash, and a well-thumbed book (Little House in the Big Wood). My wife left me to help tend the boys around 10:00 pm or so, and there I was, alone, in the Wild… sorta.
I did hear a Coyote, at some point, I think. Mighta been Grandma’s furnace kicking in…
But, this was a practice run. I was mildly uncomfortable all night, due to the fact that I was using green wood, which probably could have used another split. I had the draw and damper completely closed on the Kni-Co wood stove, which tempered the heat ALOT (before going to bed, I had the tent roasty enough, even in -30, to just wear a flannel shirt). I could have stayed roasty if I didn’t mind restocking the stove every hour, but I would probably have minded that. Oh, and I might not completely close the draw next time- I had a bit of a head ache in the morning, and keep forgetting my kid’s names.
At any rate, I got some patchy sleep, but was refreshed enough ( headache excepting…) the next morning to hang out a bit longer, read more about little Laura and Mary, and Ma and Pa Ingalls, and then go for a snow shoe run and then help with the New Years dinner preps ( I might have laid out the forks, don’t remember- that dang closed damper!).
Winter camping is hard to fake. One night does not a respectable trip make, and it takes a degree of practice, and routine, to make it work so that your wife and kids don’t end up hating you (it, life…) someday.
Practice makes perfect. We’ll try it again next weekend, when, once again, the weatherman is calling for -30.
I went for a run today. It was an easy one- a MAFF run, where I keep my heart rate low for the duration, and I trudge along, un-glamourously for a while. What was it -20? Was that it? It felt really cold for the first 10 minutes, less cold for the next fifty, and I had to strip off my neck guard, my mitts, and open my running jacket, under which I had just a running shirt for the last bit.
I love winter Trail Running. I just think it was probably something God had in mind, you know, when he decided about winters.
“Well, food will be scarce, and it’ll be darn-ed cold as heck, but the trail running will be epic.” — God
It’s one of those amazing things about winter. It gets dark early (or stays dark late), so when (if) you strap on your headlamp, and you head out the door, there is a feeling of… I don’t know. Awesomeness. You’re cold, and it is dark, and you’re wondering why you didn’t just hang out with the internet and a coffee, and yet, it is, often… well, firstly, it’s often absolutely quiet- just crunch-crunch of snow. The air has that cold clean smell, and the fog of your breath occasionally flashes through the headlamp.
I like that bit.
Then, you trot until you run, and when the trail narrows, you are running in shadows and it is exhilarating. Even running MAFF runs, slow and steady, feels fast. The shadows move and dance, and occasionally amongst the shadows you see the eyes of a coyote- like two gleaming, golden coins hovering in the dark.
So, while it’s bitter cold, and dark early and late, and tying knots can be numbing, and climbing with the screaming barfies is not entirely fun, and while machinery breaks, and brakes freeze, and you spend your mornings cold and then sweaty, and then chilled, in a tree, and the winds can be brisk, and your gear can be insufficient… I wouldn’t trade Winter for anything.
Christmas, of course, is just the most wonderful day when spent with Family, and is only made better by the Cold and the Snow. Frozen wood splits so easy by axe, and anytime you can light up a fireplace, or a wood stove, is magic. Hacking away on snow shoes or skiis, up and around and about the cliffs and forests of Eramosa Creek, or Hockley, little guys beside (oldest) or in tow (youngest) is just Life…
And, of course, the winter trail running. Let’s not forget that.
Well. it’s about that time that things slow down, and we can get a bit more focus into training for the winter, and set a few goals for 2018. It’s tough to be a goal person- with a couple of little ones, and more on the way, life happens and it isn’t the easiest thing in the world to balance husband-father-business-physical training…
My business goals are the easiest. Work hard, try to improve accounting/scheduling/services. Improve documentation, allocate a fixed % to training, keep it safe, keep it fun. I know that SPECIFIC goals, measurable goals are the best- I will have a new, improved ESTIMATE SHEET for next year. I will update SAFETY SOPS for next year. I will try to update this blog more regularly…. hopefully.
Oh, and I’d like to de-digitize. Or, at least, de-cloud. I’ve been using a Day Runner this month for scheduling/motivation/training and it has been AWESOME. Sorry iPhone- you’re a classy piece of aluminum, but I just am not that into you.
But, now for the cool stuff. The fun goals.
Like climbing. I want to do as many sessions at the Grotto as possible, and try to get out winter rock climbing (Mount Nemo, maybe head North) with a few, hopefully, ice days. The problem with outdoor climbing is that, with children, I have to have Life Insurance, and I wouldn’t want to take a fatal whipper and leave them destitute. If I take a fatal whipper out of the tree, I’m covered. If I fall off the Sorcerer… maybe not.
I can’t really accept the same risks as PK (pre-Kids). I’ve had to limit my non-tree climbing, which has sort of reduced my stoke for climbing beyond arboriculture. Its tough- I really loved climbing, and most especially ice climbing- man, I miss those days. Cold. Grey. Blowing snow. Spindthrift. Multiple sketchy raps on icy ropes at night by a dying headlamp.
Ahh, the screaming barfies… falling ice…
But, being a Dad, sometimes, you just have to give things up. So, for climbing goals, I’d like to make the Grotto a habit. I’d like to get myself climbing somewhere in the 11’s (sport), just to keep my fitness, and maybe plug gear on some easier stuff. No Alpine Trips. Nothing left to chance.
I also enjoyed racing. I did a few bike races, a few running races, and it was a hoot. That’s something about Ontario- there are literally dozens of cool races throughout the year. I LOVE Mountain Biking (I’m not that fast), and I LOVE Trail Running ( I’m pretty fast).
My kids love races, too. It’s a great Family Thing. Check out the enthusiasm, yo!
Okay, well, maybe I’m sort of putting words in his mouth. But, it builds character. In full disclosure, I didn’t exactly participate in the Guelph ‘Cross Race this year… but I did bring a log.
So, me and Scotty have set up respective pain caves in our respective garages, and we’re punishing ourselves with the Trainer Road training programs, which are kind of like ‘hangover in an hour’ intervals. ( after an hour, you want to lay down beside your bike, and puke). I am also throwing in, randomly, some MAFF Trail Running sessions, as much Guelph Grotto/Mount Nemo days as I can manage, and I’d like to do as many Winter Snowshoe Backcountry Slogs the kids will tolerate before they put themselves up for adoption.
In no particular order (and incompletely) I think my (our- Scotty tags along for all the races- awesome work buddy!!!!) race goals are…
Paris Ancaster Bike Race
Spring Epic 8
5 Peaks Rattle Snake Point Half-Marathon
As many of the Substance Projects Marathon MTB Races as possible…
As many Tuesday Night Albion Races as I can make…
Summer Epic 8
Albion Enduro 80km
Chase the Coyote 25km Trail Race
Yeah, so let’s see how this all goes. Who knows- I probably won’t accomplish any of these goals. I’ll probably just kick back, eat pizza. Do that enough, I’ll probably just end up working for the man, though, really, how bad would that be.