Archive for December, 2014

Surviving Alberta Winter

Twenty seven years I spent in Alberta, north west of Calgary in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains as well as south west in the Kananaskis country [ ]. Despite the cold winters, Alberta for me is still the most beautiful of Canada’s provinces. The landscape east of Calgary coming from Saskatchewan is rather flat and undulating, towards the mighty Rockies wide open skies and those wonderful mountains are a sight to behold. It is easy to imagine that the temperature during already cold winters is always at least ten degrees colder outside the cities. North west of Cochrane (which is the next town west from Calgary) I had snow up to five feet at times. The same when we lived almost ten years in Bragg Creek, a small hamlet south west of Calgary [ ], the snow was so high that I had to pull my old Dodge truck with my car over the acreage across the snow using my lariat, in order to be able to go to work in Calgary. Every morning up at 6 AM, driving down town to Calgary. When a blizzard hit the city, it had been impossible to drive home after work. I tried once, took me 3 hours slowly for twenty km. No heating in my car either.
When working up north on contracts, I needed to drive every weekend between Millarville [ ] from my large acreage to downtown Edmonton. Friday after work down and Sunday night back. Many times during that winter I was the only driver coming out of Edmonton and driving south. We called this – highway No. 2 – the ‘killer highway’ because of the many accidents occurring during iced up winter roads. I counted at times at least fifty vehicles upside down and inside out in the ditches. Driving slowly, I made it. My ranch near Millarville was steep uphill, a quarter of a mile to the house, walking and leaving the car in front of my gate. Once my front door was frozen, I had to break in else to face freezing to death.
How did we survive ? As the saying goes: “There is no such thing as a cold winter, only bad clothing.” We wore arctic clothing and heavily padded overalls – like worn in the oil fields. Long underwear of course and heavy gloves and high padded boots. I had been in Fort McMurray as well working temporary for Suncor oil company in 1987. In winter. [ ]. Lucky for all of us contractors, it did not last long, as one of their buildings blew up and all contractors had to leave. Today, living by the Pacific Coast, and warmer climes, I could not take that cold anymore.


Christmas 1944

Remembering Christmas 1944 – beautiful memories for us children. It should always be remembered that it was the babies and small children that were responsible for having dropped bombs on London, or not ? I never forget. We had some sort of Christmas tree, and standing around the piano, my mother playing Christmas songs. I believe that this might have been the only night when the British and Canadian bomber planes did stop dropping onto us. The Valor and the Glory – they still revel in it today.

[from one of the millions of WW2 websites: “Flying under the cover of darkness and dropping thousands of tons of high explosive bombs and incendiaries upon the population below, the RAF sought to break the will of the German people to fight. The assaults destroyed nearly 60% of the city (Hamburg, closer by England), killed an estimated 50,000 civilians, and left nearly a million people homeless.”]. Which people are you talking about ? the babies and children and women and unarmed civilians ? My hometown was almost totally destroyed.

Construction Nightmares

For almost forty years, mostly in Alberta (Canada), I have done most of my own construction, renovations, home repairs and other mechanical/cable/stereo jobs myself. For mainly two reasons: (1) Whenever I had hired someone to do work for me, it was not done right. [As we always say: If you can’t do a job right, don’t do it at all!].  (2) In the long run, I saved myself a lot of money. Over and above I also learned a lot, about carpentry, framing, roofing, flooring, dry walling, painting, electrical and plumbing to a certain acceptable degree. If possible, never using a ‘handyman”.
Alberta jobs – because of residing outside the city – mostly involved ‘city and country’ type of construction, which is different from city type of projects. Including miles of fencing and clearing land. Septic tank, underground septic pipes, well and pumps, large (electrical) transformer work (all electrical done by a friend Electrician).
Nightmarish examples, found after moving into a new home that needed changes: Bathroom plumbing reversed (that is hot and cold taps). Building a new kitchen in a fairly new house: Bowed 2×4’s sticking out of the walls. Needed removal, drywall repaired before tiling. One example where I had hired a small crew (managed by the sellers of the barn package) to put up a horse barn. The blue prints were reversed, using inside wall measurements for the outside, inside no room for the horse stalls. Needed to change the entire barn design. Over and above, large 4 inch nails sticking out into the stall – not so healthy for a horse. Typically those types of people I had to throw off my property.
One might think that a large job in the country comes with large problems, not so. The worst, yet, had been a condo in an older building, in a city. Biggest nightmare ever. Big holes cut into drywall to attach light fixtures to the raw main wires. Plumbing totally shot, electrical likewise. Chewed up pencils used as shims in the closet doors. To just start renovating and improving, I needed many months of repairs. Doors cut too short when ordered, did not fit. Needed to rebuild closets instead to make doors fit. On and on.
It is common knowledge in many parts of North America that construction costs are extreme, because of certain practices whereby money is skimmed off by those who supply the workers, but in fact do nothing themselves. Overhead, it is called. We, as customers paying for unnecessary overhead. Workers ? Although unionized, but not paid enough by those who shovel your hard-earned money into their pockets. In the old days, everything was nailed, a nightmare in itself. [According to: “Give a man a hammer and he treats everything like a nail.”]. The worst, yet, are those armies of ‘handymen’ (retired old guys) who take unsuspecting senior citizens ‘out for lunch’ (ripoff). They waltz into your home, do some work, often do not have their own tools, and always want to get paid in CASH. It is a criminal offence to practice tax avoidance. Write that behind your ears, Mr. Contractor !

Over and above, the worst is those kind who come on to you, want to touch you (they call it hug you) with their filthy hands. As the last one did. Who should have a tattoo on each of his lower (butt) cheeks : a Swastika, and the Hammer & Sickle.

Beacon Hill Park Victoria BC

has one of the most beautiful Parks – Beacon Hill Park – just across from the Ocean – Juan de Fuca Strait, the southern end of Vancouver Island, looking across to Washington State, USA. We have many special birds and foul in the park – particularly colorful peacocks. Today was another sunny day, I walked through the Park taking some video’s of our birds and the Ocean.