Friday, 27 February 2015

Nature will continue to surprise us

Hi Folks. Curtis here. 
As the winter has become more advanced, I have become increasingly appreciative of this season. There seems to be no end to surprises and unexpected encounters. Even by late February, when we think we are sick of seeing nothing but snow and cold and wind and darkness, nature gives us a peek into something completely new and unique.

Two such events occurred for me today, Friday Feb. 27. As I was working on finishing up clearing the last of our most recent snowfall from Tuesday, I was standing in the office getting on all my warm clothes to go back out again after lunch. I looked out the front window and thought I saw a dog standing on the road. A quick double-take had my eyes confirming that it was indeed a lynx! Having several people comment to me that lynx tracks had been found at Shekinah this winter, I was not entirely surprised by the idea that a lynx would be calling our fair camp home, but I was very much caught off guard to see it casually strolling up the driveway past our window in the early afternoon. I ran outside in my double-socked feet to get a better look at it and it continued walking away from me up the driveway. Nick and Katie also got a decent look at it and there was a significant buzz of excitement for quite some time in our little office as we soaked in the experience we just had together.

The second surprise came a few hours later when driving the tractor back up towards the shop to park, I noted the large amount of ice building up on the creek. I quickly grabbed the camera and went back on foot. The first place I went was the green gate crossing. The sheet of ice covering the crossing there seemed to be almost at ground level on both ends. As I walked out onto it, I could hear the sputtering of water nearby downstream and the muffled gurgling of water beneath the ice underfoot, strange sounds in -15 degree temperatures. The ice seemed quite solid though and I walked around for a few minutes before putting my foot through the ice into water. Time to move on.

The second area I explored was around the suspension bridge crossing. No gurgling water here, only the complete silence of solid ice and the occasional muffled groan as I apply my weight over a section where the ice has formed over some underlying snow. My usual mark for the thickness of the ice is at the suspension bridge itself. Those who are familiar with it will recall that the cables suspended from each end droop in the middle to just below (for me) shoulder height. As you can see in the picture below, the ice is built up so high that, when standing on top of it, the aforementioned cable barely tickles my ankle. This is truly remarkable for me to witness. The temperatures have been cold the last weeks and yet liquid water continues to flow over our creek in the middle of winter, slowly building up that sheet of ice. 

I am anticipating a possible rise of the ice over the suspension bridge cables. I would say I would be surprised to see that but the lesson I learned again today is that, just when you think you know what nature will present you with, you will again be humbled by the diversity and complexity found in our wild spaces. I like to think of it as a glimpse of the glory and presence of God. And those moments are the ones that keep us coming back to Shekinah.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Winter Fun Day: The Whole Story

I tell you what, it was a whirlwind of a day and after such an event some reflection is always a good thing. What I would like to share with you as well is how it all went from our perspective from beginning to end. So, if you have a few minutes to kill go grab yourself a cup of coffee as I think this may turn into a longer post, because, well, a lot happened…

Preparing for the day really started way back in January as we began toying with the idea of building an ice-skating rink on the river. Now if you cast your mind back to January you will remember that the last two weeks of January were warm, pleasant and frightfully unlike the Januaries we are used to. Terrible ice-making weather. Between Curtis and myself we had collectively made zero ice rinks before this endeavour. We spoke about googling information on it but just chose to get stuck right in from the word go. Never actually did any research looking back, but I guess trial and error is far more valuable right? Well error we did! First most substantial lesson we learnt: it is better to make ice when it is cold! Seems straightforward but really we were eager and figured we would see how everything worked.

Once it did get cold we were able to really start getting something going. We had been working on the ice for a while before we got the storm that dropped 6” of snow onto our surface and so we got a snow blower and cleared the area that was going to be our rink. I really had no real idea as to what size the rink should/would be. You know, grew up in Africa, not too many outdoor rinks there, although I have played outdoor broomball in Africa, but that’s another story entirely. Anyway Curtis started blowing the snow and I began to realize how big that rink was going to be. To be perfectly honest I thought he was nuts but I didn’t say so at the time. It was an ambitious plan but hey, I’m up for just about anything so why not? Besides I figured if we could pull it off it would be quite an accomplishment.

So we flooded. We flooded and flooded and flooded. Before anyone gets too concerned about the amount of water we used it is useful to point out that we ran a hose from the chalet directly off the well line so effectively we were pumping water straight from the water table back onto the river. Anyway we had the water running almost continuously for the week before Winter Fun Day. We had some -28C nights there and we learnt a thing or two about how often the hose should be moved. We had created some very significant mounds and ridges and bumps. Well, we knew a lot needed to happen to get this right.

In the days leading up to the weekend we watched the weather forecast closely. Actually we were watching all the forecasts closely and we were figuring out that nobody knew exactly what was going to happen. All we knew was that it was going to snow at some point and it could potentially snow a lot! Curtis cleared off the pond and created the curling sheets. I flooded. Labour intensive flooded. I spent many, many hours smoothing out those bumps while we got everything else ready. Eventually the flurries started to fall and we shut the water off.

We had flooded the rink and the pond and cleared snow and painted rings and picked up buns and sausage and the baking got done and then… then Saturday happened. It snowed.

At the end of January the fields were just about bare, the tubing hill was getting pretty sketchy and we didn’t feel like we could set a decent cross-country ski track. We got that first storm and we were set. But that Valentine’s Day storm just seemed to push things beyond what we really wanted to deal with.

Sunday saw a lot of snow everywhere. 5” sat on our river rink and as Curtis began pushing snow off the roads we realised that there was just too much and we would need to start blowing snow. Sunday saw a high of -4C and that complicated things as the snow got sticky and plugged the blower, repeatedly.

Curtis also underestimated the size of the drift at the top of the hill and so we shovelled. The sled got stuck several times while setting cross-country tracks and so we shovelled. We shovelled and pushed and blew snow away all day and into the dark. When we could no longer see and most of it was done we slept and when we awoke it was Winter Fun Day.

That morning Curtis continued pushing snow as the rest of us ran around getting everything ready. What would the day bring? Well firstly there was the forecasted -30C wind chill that we figured would probably keep some people away. After the pond was cleared (again) we were faced with the disappointment that the beautifully, immaculately painted rings on the curling sheets had been scraped off with the snow. I can say they were beautiful and immaculate because we have no proof of how they looked, other than Curtis’ and my own eyes, but they were really great!

As the day moved on and people started showing up we were still putting on the finishing touches that probably would have been done a lot earlier had we not had to move so much snow. We got there though, the camp fires were cooking and people were skiing and snow shoeing and people kept showing up! The tubing hill was buzzing even though it was frightfully cold out there. The pond turned out to be the preferred ice surface for skating and broomball as it was completely sheltered from the trees. The small hill at the pond even turned into a mini tubing hill for the smaller kids which was perfect. The sun came out, and, to be perfectly honest, in the shelter from the breeze it was quite a beautiful and pleasant day. I think most people that were there appreciated that.

It was a fantastic day and we at Shekinah were quite taken aback from the turnout. The feedback was so positive from everyone we spoke to and we couldn’t believe just how many of you and your families showed up to appreciate and utilise our facilities. We were completely humbled by it. We feel so blessed that we could give back to the communities and the people that support us and that it was so well received. So I would like to take one last opportunity as I wrap up this post to thank everyone who came out. It means so much to us that you enjoyed yourselves. Please come again next year and we hope and pray that God blesses you all as we move from winter into spring and then summer.

Thank you so much,


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Winter Fun Day - It's almost here.

Hey Everyone,

For those following along at home, it's only 5 more sleeps until Shekinah Winter Fun Day (if you are reading this the same day it was posted. If not, you will be required to do your own math to calculate how many sleeps remain). For you that probably means the anticipation is building. For us at Shekinah, that means a flurry of activity in preparation for the day.

We also have been dealing with another type of flurry - snow. That's right folks, Shekinah is white. Ample deposits last weekend coupled with forecasts for more promise that winter fun day will be a very snowy time. This is great news for those considering entering our snowshoe races or people hoping for a soft landing at the bottom of the Quill Hill tubing run or the presumably large contingent who are looking forward to a sleigh ride through a winter wonderland.

This is challenging news for those of us trying to make ice for skating. Between the warm weather we had earlier and the snowy weather we have now, nature is throwing us all the tricks in her playbook but I think, despite these challenges, there will be good skating ice on the river for Family Day. Oh, and did I mention the broomball and curling on the pond?

Yes folks, there is plenty to do for everyone: snow painting for the kids, ski trails waiting to be explored, and a delicious cup of hot chocolate to warm you up in the chalet between adventures. For those of you who once believed that wiener roasts were the only for summer, get excited about the chance to get a taste of summer in the middle of winter! That's right folks, one of your favourite summer camping meals, even in the middle of winter - with farmer sausage, too. Does life get any better?

16 February 2015 - see you then!

Despite Mother Nature's best efforts we are determined to skate on the river this year!
Don't forget your skates at home on Winter Fun Day!