The Treasure that is Mimi

Yesterday, it came ‘home’ to me again.

Mimi is not only a marvellous partner, she also has a real gift in guiding children.

We were looking after our son, Sander, and daughter in law,Frederieke,’s children, Isabella, Vienna and Elena.

They are 4, 2 years old and little Elena is 9 months.

Mimi brings all kinds of fun things with her and soon it is a real party for the children.

AS soon as Mimi, Oma, comes in the children are intriged.

They are happy and know what to expect.

About two weeks ago Isabella was decorating our Christmas tree and she was ‘doing’ a scrabble game at the same time. she had 14 letters and told Mimi:’Oma, soon I’ll be a teenager when I am 14′.

Oma said “what will you do then?’, Isabella answered “I’ll be a tooth fairy.I’ll go to people’s homes and get their teeth…..Here Isabella paused and gave it some reflection, it dawned to her that collecting people’s teeth is a “yakkee” job …

Weii Oma,she said, I’ll be a regular fairy and i just fly around.

It’s a real honour to be grand parents. Elena is all smiles when she sees us.

Than there are more grand children like Keegan who is fabulous in soccer and guitar playing (classical guitar)

His french is tops. His sister Sanne plays the violin and is a good sport in keeping her little brothers Tearyn and Ayvin motivated.

And then there is baby Juniper who already likes hockey games.

st. Alphonse

The wide open landscape of the prairies inspires the soul. My uncle was a priest in St. Alphonse, Manitoba, for more than 40 years. The one time he came to  The Netherlands, where I lived at the time, I saw a man with a wide open vision. He told me of the ‘howling’ wolves around St. Alphonse. He brought with him the camaraderie and close companionship that people have in small prairie towns. He displayed that real Canadian outlook.  To me that was ‘the spark’ towards emigration to Canada. As a boy I listened to the vivid  experiences my parents spoke of  what it meant to have no food during the winter of 1944 in The Netherlands. My mother went, just to get a loaf of bread, on her bicycle without tires from Utrecht to Zwolle and when she had the loaf, it was confiscated by the Nazi’s. I strongly felt the desire to be there where the food comes from. One can not eat office space! In Utrecht I was surrounded by offices that dealt with activities  overseas…… Gerrit happened to live close by the Canadian Embassy ( see under ‘Life as it happens’ ).I received a letter from the embassy stating I was admitted into Canada. I had received a visa for life!I told Mimi that my emigration to Canada was now a fact! She was fine with it. (see earlier in the story ). Through the horticultural school there was a connection with a young farmers and horticultural students program to assist you with work overseas. One selects the area where you want to work and they match you with an employer. This arrangement would be valid for one year.I applied there and soon there was a connection with V. nursery in Pitt Meadows BC. For a ‘whopping’ $1.25 per hr I started applying pesticides on their extensive stock. I was working in the field with immigrants from India who spoke Punjabi. The management spoke Dutch/English. Often we were working together to pull sawdust trucks out of the mud. Sawdust was used as a base and on top of the level raked sawdust we placed all the potted plants. I met Neil and we got along just fine! His parents were looking for boarder who was willing to pay $150.- per month. for full room & board. I ended up living with his family and was able to earn extra through helping with haying in the evening.
Pitt Meadows means: fields full of peat, Hunfeld means: Hun=peat &; feld=field…I had come ‘full circle’. My grand father had emigrated to The Netherlands from his dad’s farm in Heede, Germany, in 1892. Their farm was part of an area of peat bogs called the ”Bourtanger veen'(peat bog of Bourtange). Soon I noticed a large white Chevrolet with a blue roof top ‘circling’ the nursery. This went on for a couple of weeks. I thought let’s go and see who that is. The driver noticed that I started walking towards him, so he stopped the car, got out and introduced himself to me. His name was case and he offered me 6 x the wage i earned now. My job would be landscaping, he left his card with me.
I quit v nursery and they started to contact the Dutch Consul in Vancouver. According to them, I had broken a contract, I thought, what contract? I got a letter from the Dutch Consul, she wrote that I had made a spectacle of the Dutch young farmer’s program and truly they would not be interested to help other young farmers. They revoked the 1 year visa I apparently had with them. I promptly wrote the Consul back about the fact that I had received from the Canadians a visa for life and I was given an opportunity to improve my condition, wouldn’t you?
The Irish saying proved to be true: ‘Never work for your own country man! My first job with Case was to repair his ceiling in his office… (see earlier in the story..) In 1997 Mimi and I decided to take Elza & Twila to visit Uncle Sander in St. Alphonse. Since the trip would involve a drive there and back (about 5500 km), I had Bill rebuilt the engine of our Plymouth Voyager to ensure a good trip. We were off. We were camping along the way. When we came close to St.Alphonse, we saw an older man standing by the road side. The man was in deep thoughts…I felt that we were having to slow down our life to adjust to the much slower pace of his life. The man pointed to some cloud formation saying:”It was the same formation of clouds when my wife died”. I respected his pace and ‘slowed down’ in my thinking. He pointed to the left and we were on the way again! It was a welcoming sight to see my uncle again. We were treated like royals, especially by his adopted family Renee & Elsie. Their farm is on a river’s edge, a very picturesque sight, but recently subject to flooding. Their son, Marc, had been a great companion for my uncle. He often honed his skill by playing chess and placing large medieval ships in a bottle.On the prairies I learned the meaning of Simon & Carfunkel’s song: Listen to the sounds of silence”.Sitting behind my uncle’s church overlooking the fields surely was a marvelous sight. Two years later, Elsie phoned, and told me that my uncle had passed. I flew to Winnipeg and was picked up from the airport by Renee’s cousin. My uncle’s body was on display in an open coffin.
The out pouring of love was overwhelming.
At his funeral the church was packed, where did all these people come from, considering miles & miles of grain fields..
On my uncles night stand was a book: This noble land by James Mitchener open on page 42….

Moose hunting in Canada (BC) 2

Frank and I went close to km 47, traveled up a side hill and walked up the road with riffles ‘on the ready’. Frank tells me to walk like a moose. I needed to go pee but I worried that I could give away my scent, but when the wind was in my face and Frank was not watching ,I quickly answered my call of nature anyway. The wind had just turned in my favor! The art of hunting gives a person an interesting sense of focus. Your mind becomes a ‘pencil point’, sharply looking out for the one thing: The illustrious bull moose and not just that: He has to have three points on his rack and ideally posing for you to enable you to count the three points on his rack, than standing still to give you time to aim your riffle and than finally giving you the chance to fire away. And what a beauty: a freezer full of organically grown meat. I wished Mimi and children were here to enjoy this ‘timeless’ scenery. The water of the Sakunka River is crystal clear, reminding me of the Cowichan River on Vancouver Island. The Sakunka River is full of trout fish. When we came back to our camp site from the morning hunt, Diana shared that she saw a cow elk, a mule deer, a buck, a doe and…fresh moose tracks. The three of us sleep in the Ford ‘cap’ camper. Frank and I sleep over a rear wheel each and Laird sleeps across parallel to the drivers cap. The entrance is a climb over the tail gate while holding up the window ‘flap’ above the tail gate.At three am I needed to pee, to get out would surely wake up every one, so I decided to hold it up but towards four am things were getting quite ‘dicey’. Luckily Frank started to really snore, a sound of sawing fir logs, so under this cover noise I decided to make a dash outside but just as I pushed open the window flap Frank stopped ‘sawing logs’ and asked me where are you going? (later I learned that his concern was well grounded since we were in Grizzly territory). When I came back the ‘sawing’ of ‘logs’ continued! You see even at night the hunters are on the alert!
Frank is preserving the bear hide by putting more salt on it. The ‘fine tuning’ consists out of cutting little sections of fat away and anything that might spoil the hide, such as cartilage, extra salt gets added to those areas. The meat gets hung up on a line tied between two trees. Nature covers the meat with a ‘preserving coating’ once the hide is removed. All you have to do is cover the meat with a cheese cloth and a tarp over that, to keep the rain and dew out. At the moment there is a fairly strong wind blowing. Tonight’s hunt proved the art of complete hunting: one and a half hours of totally standing still,being quiet’, listening, smelling and watching for the bull moose to arrive…..I had learned to totally standing still for such a long time in the Catholic church, standing in a choir through three night masses! The only difference was that we had to sing than while right now it is absolute silence!
The wood-stove in the tent works wonderful, just like at home, we burn chicken bones and all other debris for total clean up to not at-track Grizzly bears.Diana and Jon baked me a birthday cake fresh from the wood-stove. I had the cooking challenge Mimi often faces : everybody, but Diana, told me not to to cook porridge tomorrow morning, as they wanted to go on an early hunt. The next morning early on I felt I should cook porridge any way….by 5 am I had a steaming pot of porridge and everyone ‘dived’ for it. I barely had enough just like what Mimi faces: She’ll cook for us 4 and the oldest children ‘show up unannounced…there is always enough though. At around 7 I saw a white tail deer looking straight at me. Harvesting meat is a tricky job,one does never know what the harvest is gonna look like. I surely gained more respect for the meat we eat. Harvesting meat is much more complicated than harvesting carrots! Jon is making a delicious prawn dish with York steak, cream corn and mashed potatoes with pepper corn sauce. For 3 days the steaks were marinated in a wine garlic spice mix sauce.. So much for roughing it in the wild! Diana marked an elk fleece that poachers had left as we discovered later. The bear carcass was gone completely. September 29: Great care is needed to preserve the bear meat, there are big black flies that stick their depositories through the cheese cloth and they deposit little white eggs on the meat which if not removed develop into maggots. So we remove the little white eggs and put on an extra layer of cheese cloth around the meat. I got up at 5.15 am, started the wood stove and cooked porridge for every one. Around 7 am Frank and I parked the explorer on a side road and hiked up the mountain, I waded through the creek while Frank balanced himself to cross the same creek on a fallen log. We continued hiking up towards a valley where we would ‘park’ ourselves until 7 pm. from this vantage point we could oversee several sections where moose like to hang out. Our silent patience was rewarded: at around 10 o’clock we saw a cow moose up to 25 feet away. It displayed it’s healthy shiny fir and looked at me with it’s big brown eyes and walked on ever so silently. This encouraged us to wait for the bull moose to appear…We also saw a large white tail deer buck and I spotted a black bear who seemingly went for a walk. In the evening Laird told us why it is so hard to find moose: In winter their is a thick layer of snow reaching to the belly of the moose, so it has to ‘plough’ through the snow, leaving a large track, at the end of that track one would find a tired moose, a perfect prey for the enormous amounts of wolves that plague the area this year! Wolves are much lighter than moose and simply walk on top of the snow following the track and in the end find the tired moose.
The over protected wolves have caused a Hugh imbalance at the cost of the recently still healthy amounts of moose in this area. During the day, the clouds kept on rolling in and when we were all in the tent tonight the rain started to come down. Frank checked the bear meet and rearranged the tarp above it just in time! My task was mostly to hold up the light, chop kindling and start up the wood stove. Jon is making biscuits for all of us in the ingenious stove bought at a Mennonite sale for $2.-. Today I found half a moose rack with 2 points laying besides the stump I was standing on, contemplating what a complete rack exactly would look like. Our tent looks like a picture of early Canadian living, (except for the 8 freezer boxes) with Frank as the clan elder stirring in the cook pot.
To be able to attract a bull moose we must behave like a moos, think like a moose and move like a moose. Seen in the light a fore mentioned it seemed perfectly normal to walk behind Frank , stooped down and at Frank’s suggestion putting my hand on his shoulder. In this way we walked through the bush carefully avoiding Frank’s heels. After a while I improved on ‘the works’ by laying a ‘stick connection ‘ on Frank’s shoulders so avoiding Frank’s heels all together! We now looked like a ‘long extended moose! Here follows a list of the most important hunting remarks: Is it fresh? Does it move?( some times one is looking at a black burned stump, thinking it’s a black bear) Does it have three sticks on it’s rack? Which km? My chamber is full, is yours? I’ll put my clip on.The safety is on, ready to go. Some of my personal terms: Silent presence; marking my territory and I can smell ‘m. Poop in all it’s shapes plays a major role here.
A tricky thing for hunters is caused by logging clean ups. During the winter months, just before the planting of the new forest, all stumps and left over branches are burned. It leaves the hunter with a puzzle:Is this a black stump or is it a black bear, sniffing the air? (see under: Does it move?). I often saw one through my binoculars and told Frank twice: “I see a black bear”, until I didn’t dare to mention a questionable bear sighting for fear it would be seen as another “cry wolf” type thing when I really see a bear!
Also the rack of a moose looks like a sun bleached upside down stump. It takes a discerning eye to figure out reel from unreal. The beauty of government planning unfolded in front of us today!
We stopped to talk to two BC park rangers we met here with their pickup truck and a large trailer loaded with two quads. I asked them: “where is the park?” On the hood of their truck they unfolded a map which showed there was no access to this park. Highway 97 runs along a steep rock cliff where no entrance to the park is possible. Some bureaucrat ‘plunked’ a park in the middle of nowhere! Remember how Frank snores while sleeping? Last night Laird found out what to do to solve the snoring bit: Simply move the feet around a bit and you will have a peaceful sleep! In tonight’s hunt we went to the foothills of km 20. As I was looking through my binoculars I heard something, so I looked behind me and there was a bull moose. He was just as startled to see me as I was startled to see him. He slowly walked across the hill side and disappeared in the fir clusters. My first thought was ‘Frank’. So I quietly walked up to him but we humans are noisy. The moose was quiet, almost as if an invisible hand had put him there.
Beavers had built a large dam here which resulted in the appearance of a large lake here..
Last night we had a tremendous thunder storm accompanied with strong winds. The truck was shaking and it felt like it was going to lift. The tent was open and looked like a balloon. The kitchen stove and tent became soaking wet and the stove pipes were undone…. After the storm the resulting silence was incredible! I was grateful to be up at 5 am to see a fay-nominal sight in the sky. Words cannot describe it ; There I saw the unfolding of a green ‘curtain’ ‘sweeping’ through the sky, making more light than a full moon. I had heard about this but had never seen it until now.They slowly started fading and I managed to get a fire going after I put the stove together just in time to cook a large pot of porridge. Finally everyone came ‘around’. They had missed the Northern lights!
The area is full of blue spruce and looks like it’s landscaped. I found wild Erigeron, blooming in purple splendor. These hills and mountains are filled with birds & beasts like: elk, moose, whitetail deer,black bear, grizzly bear,mule deer,porcupine, chickadees, bush robins, coyotes, lynx, squirrels, mink, wolverines, caribou, mice, grouse, pine martin, chipmunks, rabbits, ducks, wolves, ravens, eagles, magpie, Canada and stellar jay and many more..The rivers are filled with trout and other fish.
This morning’s hunt found us on guard for the bull moose in partly rain mixed with snow at km 49. At 11 am we cleaned up and ‘packed up’ camp with strong winds coming at us. We’re planning to sleep in the truck in Prince George. Like Gypsies we’re rolling into the outskirts of town… I’m writing this as we drive home along a gorgeous highway from Chetwynd along Mc Leods lake.

Moose hunting in Canada (BC)

On September 22nd. 2000 we loaded Frank’s explorer in the morning and drove to Cache Creek, where we met with Laird, frank’s brother. After lunch we drove to Quesnel than via Prince George to Chetwynd where we arrived at 12 midnight. I rode with Laird and we talked about what I called the “silent conviction” of Europeans when we put the the BC logging practice into perspective, especially when Laird, while visiting his daughter in Spain, observed the total clear cutting practice in the Pyrenees. We arrived in Quesnel where we had dinner at Denny’s, from there onward to Prince George, where Laird bought another radio phone to connect with Frank in the third vehicle which we decided to take when we left Cache Creek. We ended up parking for the night along highway 29 to Tumbler Ridge. We heard a lot of tanker trucks – for a so called ‘dying’ town- of and on during the night hours. Later we discovered that the entire highway was newly paved! When we had breakfast in Chetwynd we learned that water had to be hauled from Tumbler Ridge to Chetwynd in connection with the oil spill in the Pine river near there. We set up our camp at the Sakunka river at the corner of Mt. Palsson and Mt. Merrick. The three of us slept in the back of Laird’s truck. We fell some dead trees and chopped fire wood for the week following; we set up the ‘shower’ and an out house. We observed fresh moose tracks, coming from a bull and we prepared for the afternoon hunt. Frank & Laird’s wood stove which we set up in a large army tent is very ingenious and I could put my wood burning expertise to good use, even though the wood was a bit damp.
We enjoyed an evening meal fit for a king! While looking at the night sky I marveled at the amount of visible stars on the firmament. There is no light pollution here in stark contrast with Vancouver & The Netherlands where the sky is always ‘orange like.It’s a little harder for girls/women to be here in the wild but Diana is a real gem in the woods. Our hunting party consists of Frank, his son Jon and his wife Diana, Laird and me. Sunday morning I shot my first grouse, Frank shot two and Jon one. After we all team up, the cleaning of the grouse is somewhat of a chore and there is not much meat on them. I aimed for the head to help him out quickly but hit his foot instead..so it took two shots with a .22. Later Frank and I went up a side hill leading to an abandoned “wood-s kidder” road where I recognized the in-famous bear smell and sure enough it lead us to a black bear. In my binoculars he was very close by. He licked his nose to enable him to smell better and since the wind blew from us to him, he must have picked up our scent.Yet he still walked to wards us. Frank noticed a typical bear ‘marchioness’ in which he showed he was the king and we his subjects. We sat down by the dusty road side and after a while the bear decided to wander off.Frank has a bear tag on his hunting licence and could have ‘taken’ him, but on the logging road it would have been a risk even though the road was very quiet. This morning I cooked porridge with dry oats and water for every one and all were happy! Away we go to wherever the wild life leads us based on their fresh foot prints. This lunch I heated up soup and every one liked Mimi’s lemon moray n pie. Then we left for the next hunt. The whole day we could smell ‘bear’ around the sites we visited.As Frank and I set out to walk on a ‘deactivated’ side road the smell became very strong. We noticed foot prints of cubs and real big ones. The main thought was: Grizzly! so it was good we carried a loaded riffle for shear self defense. Frank did a few ‘voice activated’ moose calls, which in my opinion sounded better than the ‘plastic’ sounding whistle calls. We slowly and ever so quietly made our way back to the truck and went out to check out one more side road. at km 13 we met Jon and Diana as they were driving out they radio’d ‘bear’ on the road! Frank missed his first shot. The bear ran unharmed but came back and continued eating. The next shot the bear ‘dropped’. We marked the spot, went back to the camp to pick up the trailer and brought he bear back. It was getting dark. Our camp is easy to find, it ‘sits’ exactly at the spot where the Sakunka River flows into The Burnt River.
The evening brought us moose lasagna made by Laird’s wife Ruth. Delicious. Bush life gets better and better.
I’m curious how we’re gonna ‘tackle’ the bear. For the night he will lay under a tarp on the trailer.
I cannot help but think it might be a blood bath…..we’ll see tomorrow. The next morning Frank went with a sharp knife to separate the velvet black coat from the body of the bear. The blood shown was neglect-able and it transferred me 300 years back when the Inuit did virtually the same thing! Nothing is wasted, what we do not eat is left and one should see the ravens and wolves coming for this meal! Frank built a shower and it surprised me how little water one needs to clean up! Out of an eighteen point seven liter bucket with a shower head attached one can take 5 showers! People can learn from that in regards to the ever increasing need for fresh clean water. When I look at the ‘bear coat’ and the section where his head was, one can easily see how the Inuits made warm coats with very little sewing to be done. It requires skill full ‘coat separation’ even I could give some advice not to damage or smudge up the ‘coat’. Than Frank separated the the bear’s head from the ‘coat’ showing me it was a bear of ‘little brain’. It is not hard to believe in our creator when one takes a bear apart. The design is masterful, the way the skin folds around the eyes to make it water proof! All is meticulously designed to do the job and do it well for a bear. There is a sense of ‘timelessness’ that we in urban life so desperately need! Later we go for our evening hunt. Around 7.30 pm we had a response to Frank’s moose call. Than Diana spots a large Elk. The next day, September 26, we looked at the remains of the bear’s insides. The magpies had started to clean the rib cage methodically and had not touched the middle and back section. To be continued–

The birth of our five children

It was November 21 1977  around 8 o’clock in the evening. I had come home from the logging camp earlier that day and was  thankful to be home. I noticed on Mimi an intense, focused look in her eyes, so we decided to go to the Maple Ridge Hospital. Our doctor, a former car mechanic who once compared the blood in our bodies with the oil in an engine, was not there but a nurse was.

The following night was a rough night for both of us especially for Mimi.On regular intervals the nurse would come and the first time she came, she measured the birth canal entrance which worked out to be two and a half cm dilated. By around 8.30 am the next morning, our doctor came, accompanied by two students and he summoned Mimi to push. At one given moment he exclaimed: “You’re not gonna quit on me now, come on push”. poor Mimi, who had a whole night of labor behind her back, did not deserve this kind of rough treatment.  Never the less I saw the top of the little baby’s head ‘crowning’ and a few pushes later at 9.05 am November 22 1977 our oldest was born. The sun was shining in and it had snowed. The logging camp was closed down for the winter, so I could stay home and be with Mimi and baby. So I did not want to leave, but after the tagging of Mimi and baby with Mimi’s name on both tags, the nurse told me I had to go….. I could come back with visiting hours. Once home I phoned our parents and siblings and told them about the birth! I went to Kmart and bought all that a baby and it’s Mom would need. A t the grocery store I bought fruit and cheese with crackers and returned quickly to Mimi & baby. Mimi & I felt very rich. Also we felt it was a special privilege to be able to name our baby.We settled on the name of Femke Rudolphina Catharina after both Grand mothers. The name Femke means: A woman well spoken of with good speech in her mouth.I managed to stay the whole day in the hospital with Mimi & Femke. The next day we decided to go home and be at our ‘nest’, where we now 37 years later still live. On September 13 1979 at 7.30 am Mimi was already ‘doing’ laundry and had Femke dressed already. I lit the wood stove and soon the house was cozy and warm. Mimi once and a while experienced contractions, which we thought were ‘braxten hick'( test) contractions but we both felt I could do my work today. I went and felt like hurrying up, so I rumbled over 1st Avenue in Mission and was ‘flagged down’ by a RCMP officer. She told me that I was travelling 110 km per hour. I told her that my wife had contractions, that she was dilating and all the things associated with imminent birthing.She looked at me and showed empathy. She gave me a warning and I was free to go. So I went ahead doing my landscape maintenance jobs for B.C.B.C. I came home at around 4.30 pm. and found our neighbor, Pete, counting how far the contractions were apart.I was happy to be home now.We had a new doctor in Mission so we hopped in the Datsun 510 and drove out to the Mission Hospital while Femke was looked after by Eilene , Pete’s wife. We arrived at Mission Hospital at around 5.15 pm.They were renovating Mission Hospital, there was a loud noise of jack hammers and saws. Our doctor came in his hobby farm clothes. At 5.30 pm our second child, a son, was born. We observed a special birth this time as our little boy was cradled in my hands with the umbilical cord still attached to Mimi. I carefully lowered him in the warm water bath and he opened his eyes and looked at me! I was thankful for the nurse standing besides me because the little boy was slippery. I gave the nurse a gentle ‘kick’ at her ankle to make her aware that I needed her support, than I clipped the umbilical cord and the little man started ‘whimpering’.
We named him Sander Willem after my uncle in Manitoba and Mimi’s dad. Sander means helper and defender of man-kind.
On August the third 1981 at around 9.30 pm we decided to go to The Mission Hospital. This time Mimi’s sister, Christa was with us and accompanied us to the hospital.Our neighbor and friend, Joke de Vries looked after our 2 children. After intense labor our daughter was born at 3 am August 4 1981.
We carried her home the same day later on.
A few months earlier Mimi had a day time vision. She ‘saw’ several rows of raspberries with children harvesting berries, one row was empty and there was a sign in front of it with a date on it and the name Theresa.
As the date did not match the birth date, we decided to name the new baby Christa Maria Theresa, after Mimi’s sister Christa.
The name means: Christian harvester.
On September the second 1986 at around 11 pm, we decided to call our friend and neighbor Martine van Ingen to stay with our 3 children. Mimi and I went to the hospital and after strong labor at 3.30 pm September 3 1986 our daughter was born. She was born with her hands folded as if in prayer. Our doctor carefully unfolded the two hands. We named her Elza Rose. Elza is a Hebrew word meaning the joy of the Lord and Rose is after Mimi’s Mom.
In January 1990 we came home from a concert by Twila Paris and as we drove up on 266 street I knew the baby in Mimi’s womb would be called Twila.
On February the second at 8.15 pm we called Joke de Vries to look after our 4 children.We were off to the hospital and after some intense labor our 5th child was born. We named her Twila Fransisca Anne, after Twila P. and Mimi’s dad..
The name means ‘double strength’.
The average weight of our babies at birth was 7 pounds & 4 ounces.
Our quiver was filled with 5 ‘arrows’.

The Garden

For 28 years I was Head-gardener at the estate just east from where I still live. To create a garden is to search for a better world. The gardener is guided by a vision of paradise; it is based on the expectation of a glorious future.
Bearing this in mind; one always approaches each task with great optimism.
The following describes some of those tasks:
One windy November day I cut down the Maple tree located near where the top bench is now.
My assistant suggested a pea soup break. We walked up to the cottage, where Pearce’s house is now, we had our soup and walked back only to discover that at the very spot where I had been cutting the Maple wood was now laying the top of one of the fir trees…..The master pruner ( the wind ) had blown out the fir top while we were gone…..
Every morning during the first two years, I cooked porridge for Dan.
Dan was a 43 year old Morgan horse. The porridge consisted of a mixture barley and oats taken from a special blend; I shared breakfast with Dan. When I told Mr.w ( the estate’s owner) he told me simply:” The food is probably medicated”…….Before Dan came to the garden he used to run very fast; I never saw Dan run ; not until one snowy December morning; he skipped his breakfast, ran up the hill to the creek at the top and…..dropped dead at the creek…It took me quite some time to drag the remains through the snow with the small Bolens garden tractor, to the stable where the ‘knackerman’ could pick him up….
Many years later Mrs. H. (the new owner) came and brought 5 horses with her. One day she had to be away….I was pruning in the bottom half of the estate, when I decided to check up on the horses….They all had broken out and were happily, their tails swishing,standing in Mr. Smith’s drive way, his gate wide open….it took quite some persuasion; but I managed to get them back in the pasture!.
The need arose to construct steps through the south garden towards the swimming pool.
I needed Cedar slabs to fulfill the task. I was instructed by Mr. W.not to fall any Cedar or Fir trees…I found the perfect Cedar tree at the west side of the top pasture in the forest.
It was leaning over, a perfect candidate! So I cut the tree down but it decided to lean against a fir tree. I climbed up the leaning cedar tree and made an under cut at the branch it was leaning against.
I quickly made it down; I had just put my feet on the ground when the wind blew the tree down, the tree missed me by a horse hair width. I quickly cut the steps; dug around the stump, cut it under soil level; covered the remainder with soil; hauled the branches to the nearby fire and hauled the steps to the south bed ready for installation!
The next day Mrs.W complimented me about the ‘lovely’ material I used for the steps…..
Mr.W. stood on the east side corner of the deck around the house; I was standing on the pool deck below; when I noticed that the deck on which Mr.W. stood, ‘dropped’ at least two inches….The fir beam, supporting the deck had totally rotted away. With the help of Haney iron works I replaced the rotten fir beam with a steel beam, which is still in place today.
Winters meant also falling trees and getting rid of stumps. Many sections of the grounds could not be reached with a machine; so I ‘armed’ myself with a come along; ax; chainsaw and loppers to remove those stumps by hand….a slow but rewarding job. It seldom happened but one day Mrs.W. was walking in the garden when I needed to pee…I was just ‘filling up’ a mole hole, when Mrs.W. came around the corner…Oops controlling moles the Dutch way!
For sixteen years I also functioned as a noon hour supervisor at the nearby Whonnock elementary school. In order to properly do that I needed to groom and change clothes. This day I was wearing loose fitting boxer shorts and they came down with the pulling down of my dirty jeans.
I was just bending down to retrieve them when Mrs.W. walked in……
One day I was cleaning the inside of the pine tree, west of the house,when Mr.W. walked to his car (Marquis). In a dark voice I said:”Good morning Mr.W.”; He reacted by putting down his briefcase; looking around and only seeing the “talking” pine.
Where the ponds are now there used to be a swamp covered with blackberries. In order to construct the ponds I needed to control the constant mud flow coming from the north west corner. The only way I figured it could be done was to haul truck loads of giant boulders and place them with the high hoe in that corner. It worked but it added $ 4000.- to the approved price of $60000.- Mr.W. was in Hawaii so I went ahead….Only when the plants, that I planted in between the rocks,started to mature a bit did I get the nod of approval…..
The garden water pump house is at the lowest part of the grounds. When we used the water, it resulted in a lot of on & off turning of the pump. I had to replace a lot of pressure switches. Until I had an idea: Place a large tank at the top; so the pump stays on a long time filling the tank. I went ahead. The tank was hauled in at the end of the top pasture hanging from a chain which was attached to a high-hoe. than suddenly the chain broke….It is amazing how quick a tank like that picks up speed when rolling down a steep hill….It went towards the house…All I could do is just watch….The tank rolled on until it got stuck against a fruit tree stump, where the north grass is now.
To retain the path ways at the south end of the house I decided to install concrete curbs. In order to build the curb south of the house I needed the cement pumped in place. This involved the large ‘arm’ of the pump truck to be brought over the roof of the house….a real concern is that in case of a burst, the house could be covered with cement like icing on a cake.It went all right but not without giving me a sleepless night!!
“It will live out my time”, was one of Mr.W.’s favorite sayings. One day I was Showing Mr.W. a section of the driveway that had the potential of washing out….you can guess his response……six months after his passing the drive way washed out….it had lived out his time…..
Many amazing things occurred, to mention one; Mr.W. used the marquis like a pickup truck.It had a big trunk. He simply was very fond of that car.
One afternoon while cultivating the Iris slope I received a vision in which I ‘saw’ Mr.W. behind the steering wheel of the Marquis in danger. I prayed for his safety..that night Mr.W. came home in a small courtesy car…..Much later Mr.W.’s brother in law, Fred, told me what happened:
At the time of my prayer Mr.W. was inspired to press the accelerator going very fast saving himself from harm.a car had gone through red and hit the Marquis in the back, driving practically through it thereby totaling the Marquis.Had Mr.W. not sped up the car would have hit him………Mr.W. had the car restored…….

Life as it happens 2

He lived in Vancouver with his teacher wife and he invited us to a party on our 4 days off.

Mimi & I went.We were the only ‘pale faced’ people there and things went quickly out of hand. One dude started to aggravate us and quickly started to become ‘physical. Bill, my new found blood brother, came from the kitchen and was true to his word; He beat the guy up and sent him ‘down the road’.  We shared some dried moose jerky, which tasted real good! We said our goodbyes. Needless to say, Bill visited us a lot and always with a bottle of whiskey until he moved with his wife up north. He told me: If we meet again, our deal stands; I will always come up for you!

A s kidder is a machine with a cable in the back that you can ‘let go’ or pull up to pull logs. The machine swivels in the middle and you can make a “V-shape” for maximum stability while pulling logs from a side hill. One night I was in the cook’s shack have myself a bite to eat, the cook showed me a booklet and opened it up on the page where it stated;”When you tip over a machine, stay in the machine, never jump out , because if you do jump out the machine will land on top of you and kill you”! The next day I had logs to skid along the main logging road. It had rained allot and the road edge was unstable. The log I was pulling was heavier than the ones I had pulled before and suddenly the road edge caved in and that caused my s kidder to tip. I tumbled down the hill twice while holding on with all my might until it landed against the only tall fir stump and it landed on it’s wheels with the engine still running!! It made a loud noise since the exhaust manifold sits on top of the roll-bar and was damaged. I crawled up the hill and i must have looked as white as a ghost. The guy at “the landing” had radio’d the medic, just in case.One day I was driving my crummy loaded with diesel fuel, dynamite and B-line and my trusted shovel (no Dutchman goes drives a crummy without a shovel) It rained badly and I started smelling something bad, a burning smell. or something. I decided to park the crummy. I opened up the hood and saw flames, I grabbed my shovel and quickly shoveled loose wet gravel from the road on the flames. Luckily the flames had not reached the gas line yet. It was coming from the exhaust manifold. When the flames were dozed with the wet gravel, I had a closer look: automatic transmission fluid was leaking on the exhaust manifold, causing the fire.  If I had reacted slower, there would have been a crater from the explosion. There was no radio in the crummy. Finally a logging truck came down, the driver saw my predicament and radioed to the camp office, a mechanic was on his way. When he finally arrived he took a roll of ducttape  and “fixed” the automatic transmission fluid line. Needless to say I had him drive the crummy back. The nine day shifts were hard on Mimi and me, there were only four days together and two of these were lost in traveling, and preparations for working in the bush. I decided to take Mimi on the plane to the logging camp, as she never had that experience. Having done that, we closed of a chapter in our life. When Mimi came from the Netherlands she had to board a plane as well. Before that, she’d never been on a plane before. She had to board one alone, going to a new country, where she only knew me, whom she had not seen for half a year. I wrote her letters every other day.Once I phoned her. In those days to phone The Netherlands one had to phone the overseas operator for The Netherlands in Montreal.The operator would queue your call and you’d hang up. This time it took 3 hrs for the operator to call back with the statement:’you have a connection, you can speak now’. Mimi was expecting our first child and she worked for the social service with ‘mentally challenged’ people, whom were called clients. Mimi drove a van with 6 clients on board to various activities.Once she was close to the USA border and all the clients got it in their heads that they wanted to drink coffee in The States.The border guard at Sumas surprisingly waved them through. So they had coffee in the States, but now going back into Canada:Mimi just had her driver’s licence and the 6 clients had no I.D.’s plus Mimi had a big ‘belly’ full with our first child.needless to say it took them 3 hrs to get back into Canada.Once at Christmas, the staff, at the place where the clients lived,needed a well deserved break.We ended up looking after a group home full with clients in various stages of behaviors.By now we had two children, Femke and Sander.Mimi had made large jars of blackberry jam and had put an opened jar on the table.One of the clients took the jar and slurped up the entire contents! Femke was pointing to the client exclaiming ‘He ate it all”.One important part of the day is medication time. All the clients had to sit around the table and were not allowed to be excused from the table until they had swallowed their pills.I felt I was in the movie ‘one flew over the Coo-Coo’s nest’ with Jack Nicholson. The name of the place was ‘quiet acres’, but was hardly quiet at all! One night, in spite of our precautions, one client had wandered of and was picked up by The RCMP.This client happened to be poodle naked. We were thankful for the RCMP doing their rounds. While I was at the logging camp an uncle came to visit from the Netherlands.He arrived at Vancouver International Airport. Mimi would pick him up with our orange fargo pickup truck.He arrived wearing a long black robe. It was quite a sight: Mimi pregnant with Femke and this priest. They lost the way made a wrong turn some where but they arrived at the USA border!The border guard told them how to drive home! We had just bought our 5 acres with a house built in 1918!.With this uncle, Uncle Hans,we with a machete in the hand for chopping the blackberries walked around the 5 acres while my uncle asked God to bless our acreage and bless us with lots of children! the buying of 5 acres of land proved to be a ‘God sent’.One Sunday morning Mimi & I went for a drive to the other side of the hill where we lived in the Major’s home.We noticed a plywood sheet sign at the beginning of a driveway. The letters where freshly painted and said; ‘House with acreage for sale by owner’ with the owner’s address.We went to see them, Phyllis & Alec where their names. It was February 13 1977. Phyllis was counting silver dollars and she gave us each a silver dollar and told us to come back the next day as she did not want to make arrangements starting on the 13th. We came back the next day. They wanted 65000 dollars firm.we had $10000. saved and that was owed to us by my boss, see earlier in the first section of my story.Also, in order to qualify for a government second mortgage, the purchase price had to be $55000. or less. I suggested to pay them the $10000. so they could drop the price to $55000.and we would qualify for the government second mortgage, with those funds we could clear the land. Phyllis said:’ This all sounds double Dutch to me, you think it will work?” I assured her it would all work out and it did!. While clearing the land we needed a flat deck truck, so we could easily move all the firewood I cut & chopped.We found an add in the paper offering a large 2 ton GMC flat deck truck, affordable for us. One problem we could not insure it for the road, except for a day license to move it. I told them to write that all down and they did. With the Dooley in the rear I was able to move a lot of fire wood. A few weeks later a bailiff came to the door to claim the truck, a tow truck was on it’s way…..Here you’ll see how efficient Mimi & I work as a team:Mimi had just baked an apple pie and we found out we could retain a bailiff for up to a day to sort things out.We wanted our $8000. back before the truck was removed.Mimi kept feeding him apple pie while I went out to Surrey to get the money back. I found out at which bank the company, which sold the truck to us, had an account. After much ‘ado’ I got a bank assured cheque and could phone Mimi to let the bailiff go.