Category Archives: Immigrating to Canada

100 Year Event – Coldest Spring on Record 2008

It is a cool cloudy spring day which is par for the course for this “100 Year Event” coldest spring on record in the Okanagan.  But given that we are having a huge septic system installed which is digging trenches over irrigation lines so we can’t water the many fruit trees which are just finished blooming and did not get caught in the killing frosts of two weeks ago, it is a relief. I can spare the sun for a few more days until the septic is in and we have dug up and checked more than 75 sprinkler heads around our six/seven acres.

It has been a trying and wonderful eight nine months. I suppose when spring finally arrives my gestation period will come to an end and I will have to enter into my new life as a farmer for better or worse and I love it (at the moment) which is accompanied by unexpected tulips and forsythia appearing in beds which I thought barren.

So by now you know that we are pretty sure that the farm will be named “Ravens View Farm” you will get it once you sit on the porch with a glass of wine and watch the ravens soar from pine to pine cawing and clicking to each other with the Okanagan Lake spread out below you with views all the way to Naramata. The Cottage has the best of what the septic guys call a “million dollar view”. I made a joke that we are going to call the garage when it is renovated the “Rook’s Nook” Sound like a guest house already. Don’t know how much will be done by the time you all get here as every construction worker is busy for MONTHS! We do have a lovely guest room and there is tons of places to stroll, to sit and read, and hang out.

We were able to research and secure “eco-lawn”seed, prepare the septic field and spread and water the seed along with wild flowers. Then we were able to get a lawn mower and mow the peach orchard.  Obtain more than enough of the miscellaneous parts that are required to piece together our irrigation system after the septic system installation and finally we prepared and planted an 80 x 3 foot bed along the top of the peach orchard for our first vegetable garden.  Needless to say we made good use of all the time this long Victoria Weekend and we are utterly exhausted.  Thank goodness for this cloudy showering weather today.

Alison

Happy New Year 2008!

The theme of this “Musings from Peachland” is “the more things changes, the more they stay the same.” 

I am captured by the reality that with all the things that has engaged me over the past year and with all the dramatic changes in Mark’s and my life things are much the same. How can that be? It simply boils down to,as we all know, you are who you are. You can change countries, time zones,homes, jobs, avocations, clothing styles, and hair (no I didn’t dye my graying head) and you still wake up to yourself in the morning with your same old hopes, dreams, beliefs, worries and, most of all, habits. So the more you change, the more you stay the same.

In this new country with new friends and colleagues, I am still perceived as energetic and enthusiastic, even though I am in my fifties.I am thought to be upbeat and positive. I am still huggable (Artistic Director, David LaHay doesn’t miss an opportunity to show his appreciation for hard work and engaged dialogues about the future. One of the affirmations that accepting the position as Development Manager for Ballet Kelowna was, after a week orientation and about 25 meetings, when I put out my hand to shake

David’s he just wrapped me in bear hug.) This new job is definitely a good “fit”. David is passionate about creating a preeminent Canadian Ballet Company and I am passionate about art, especially dance, and this young company is nothing short of amazing. An easy sell for someone who thrives on communicating the best of what I believe in.

But this brings me back to the more things change. I live on a farm and I work out of a home office. I am close to easy beautiful walks and a refrigerator. But when I start to work, I forget to stop for lunch unless I have a lunch meeting and I had best eat something before I start in for the day. Little habits I had developed in the workplace have established themselves at home (and I think, no I know, I drive Mark a little crazy.) Like, I tidy the office, now house, before I sit down to work. Everything needs to be in its place so I can focus on work with no distractions. The Boulder County Arts Alliance office was always tidy and ready for drop-in visits by artists. Well,no one is dropping in on us now, as it takes an effort and more than map quest to find us. This might be one of the few things that have changed. So far I like it. I think that I am ready to have a little bit of uninterrupted time. I feel less frazzled and more grounded when I am not jumping up and meeting and greeting folks. It may explain why the Ballet Kelowna board seems impressed with how much I have accomplished in four short months.

Another thing that has definitely changed is the weather. Although the Okanagan Valley only gets 9 inches a year, the lake is filled by melting snows in the mountains above us, it is cloudy from November to, or maybe, through March. (They say the sun shines the rest of the year and we get HOT summers.) For Mark as a Coloradoan and me as a transplant with 16 years chronic sunshine under my belt, it is quite depressing.  Mark is thinking of taking up sunbeam chasing, following the one shaft of light that comes through the “lake effect”cloud every other day.  This is more grey sky than we bargained for so we now have a “blue lamp” and are taking vitamin D and we run outside anytime the sun shines to prune a tree just to soak it in. Another great reason to work out of the home when we live on a farm. 

We are attending Kelowna Friends Meeting, which is under the Vernon meeting.  Mark and I make the tenth and eleventh attender in Kelowna. It is just like our first meeting,just as small, intimate and, yes friendly, as the Quaker Springs meeting in upstate NY. We have been welcomed with open arms and feel blessed as we share our contemplative experience of the morning over food at the end of the often”gathered” meeting. Two members of the Meeting are in their third year of homesteading just north of Enderby and have taken us under their wing,mentoring us in the ways of pruning, heritage seed/ vegetable cultivation and other farming activities we are now, or soon to be engaged in.

This is the big change in our lives and has become the calling that brought us to Canada, if you don’t count, what we politely refer to as the militarist fascist policies of the United States that saddened us so deeply and led us to make this move of conscientious objection. Pruning an orchard has become a new “practice” as it is slow methodical and is an art as well as a science. This is a wonderful way to become grounded and experience renewal. After the leaves pop and the blossoms show, we can measure our success against our inexperience.

Cleo is barking to get in after barking for what seems like, and could well be hours, at all the wildlife. She is diligent in protecting our orchard and her farm from any illegal trespassing by deer or coyotes. I hope it effective against the bears when they come out of hibernation and want to see what is cooking at 5010 Elliott Ave in Peachland.  We have a pair of bald eagles cavorting in the skies above the ravine that are clearly unaffected. I fear for the lives of my yet non-existent flock of chickens by these birds of prey and have decided to wait to get beehives started until we get our Great Pyrenees and I am sure we have deterred the bears. 

Well it is another cloudy day, but a good one to draft grants and write final reports in addition to Peachland chronicles for friends and family. 

Best wishes in 2008. May we experience more and lasting peace this year. 

Love, Alison

 

Our First Canadian Thanksgiving 2007

Our First Canadian Thanksgiving 2007

Dear all,

This missive is a small attempt to capture and to communicate aspects, pieces and/or insights into what it means to first move, second move to a new community far from family and friends, and third move to another country. I have known for several years that the decision to expatriate in order to divorce our taxes from the war machine that the US has become and to take up residence in a country that, although a member of the coalition of the willing, is not imperialistic and has retained a focus on its people that our democracy has lost was going to be challenging in many ways that could not be anticipated.

As an immigrant to this country, Canada, there is much to learn about its history, culture and values. It will take more time and much attentiveness to develop an understanding of this new land, sometimes referring to itself as a “Nation of Immigrants”and its people.

Chai is brewing on the stove for the first time. (For those who know that I make my own Chai each morning as a way to start my day, this is an important marker in my transition to a new home.) I sit here at our small café table in front of the sliding glass doors looking past the porch, past the orchard, past the giant Ponderosa pines that stand like sentries around the property, down the ravine and valley to the expanse of water which is the Okanagan Lake and then to the small rocky rolling hills beyond. It is a beautiful view. The massiveness of the water equals the drama of the Flatirons of Boulder Colorado that have been my constant companion for the last 14 years. I have moved from earth to water as the “ground’ in my life. Water is about transition; its flows and cuts gently and sometimes violently through the earth to create valleys and canyons. It is appropriate that, at this point in our lives which is all about change, our constant companion in this valley is this beautiful lake.

People have asked how I am doing and I ask myself that off and on as well. Interestingly enough I am just fine, at the moment. I think that this is because I am living very day-to-day and I am present with this experience. I believe that I am overwhelmed and this keeps me in the moment. The move was physically and emotionally hard. Both Mark and I have lost many pounds and are pulling our pants up. (For me that just makes everyone I am meeting think that I was a ballet dancer sometime in the past. This might also be because when you are in the presence of ballet dancers you automatically stand up straight, align your spine, pull your center of gravity up and out. I probably look a whole lot taller than I am as a result.)

Most days I spend being grateful for what I have in life even though this move has been hard forcing me to look at what it means to be courageous and cultivate fearlessness. I am thankful for all the friends that called to give us moral support, offered to help us and came for hours, some on several occasions, to help pack, and those who brought food and provided hugs when needed, who had flowers at the Ballet Kelowna office when I arrived and who shooed Mark out of the house at the end. I am grateful for Mark who busted his proverbial buns and stayed behind after I left for Canada to start my job and packed up the rest of the house which was overwhelming, despite the fact that we tried to get rid of 50% of what we owned before we left. (He was the one left to manage two moving sales and move my bees to Sandy’s house with yet more friends) I am grateful for my daughter Cait who drove up here with me and worked to clean the house and paint to make this home our own. I am grateful for the kindness, friendliness and neighborliness of everyone we have met in Canada. Entry could not have been easier as we find we must “rely on the kindness of strangers.”

This is Thanksgiving in Canada and we have a lot to be thankful for. (We have even been invited to our friends Kathy and Dave’s for dinner tomorrow.)

So that is the nice touchy-feely stuff, but what is the reality? Well, we learned everything that was wrong with the house we had been living in for 16 years and what had to be fixed, painted, or replaced before it could be rented. (Thank goodness for Beth of Boulder who managed this for us; I don’t think one can ever repay that kind of help.)We are learning everything that is wrong with this house. But at least we finally have heat. And heat is necessary when fall comes unusually early at this latitude. I am glad to be warm. The hot flashes that I have just come to experience don’t last long enough when the nights dip to 5 degrees centigrade and it is only October. I learned how to network our computers, (thanks to yet more friends) and got us all set up with new Canadian email addresses for work.

I had better become expert in irrigation systems and mower repair before next spring because caring for an orchard is a BIG responsibility. Oh yes and I am learning a new math measurement (metric) and I have to learn the Kings, actually Queens, English. When I write grants, I am misspelling everything and spell check doesn’t catch it!However, it is sort of a relief to walk into offices and see the Queen smiling at me instead of George W. It’s quaint but quite real. I live in a bilingual country where every label is in French and English. This country mayspeak English and share a border with the US, but it has its own culture and I am an immigrant. What an experience. Thank goodness I thrive on learning. Thank goodness friends are only a phone call away.

We share this lovely land with quite a lot of wildlife that,of course, call it their own, as it is theirs as well. Mark is competing with the squirrels to harvest the walnuts first. The bears got all the fruit in August and only visited the first few weeks that we were here just to make sure they got it all. (Now they off down at the creek fishing for Kocannee Salmon as they swim up to spawn beneath Hardy Falls below our property.) The coyotes come through on an evening and drive Cleo nuts.There are cougars in the hills and we will have deer before too long and possibly some elk. It is going to be lot of work to restore this land and to do so organically and in partnership with the wildlife that lives here. But I figure it has been left for about three or four years waiting for us to get here that it will probably wait for us to get it all in balance during the next three to four years. We are going to do it by moving out in concentric circles from the house, pruning and caring for the trees closest and moving out through the property. It’s a plan anyway for what is a big job.

The computer’s battery needs charging and I need to go up and finish painting the trim in the guest room so we can put down the new carpet. Then we are off to see the company, Ballet Kelowna performing Lake Country just north of Kelowna. They are amazing! I am honored to work for such a committed and talented group of artists. More about that later.

Much love & don’t forget to come visit. The guest rooms are nearly ready.

Alison

 

Love Alison

A Letter to Friends Telling our Tale

A Letter to Friends

Dear All,

After the Bush Administration got re-elected in 2004, my husband Mark went to explore the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia as a possible place to relocate. He found this beautiful spot by googling British Columbia and cactus.  Mark and I returned in May 2005 and found, by serendipity, Alison’s dream, a small farm. She had walked into the little planning department in the town of Peachland, described what we were seeking, and a man who had walked in behind her said that he was putting that exact piece property on the market tomorrow.  We the ended up closing on the farm on Canada Day, July 1, 2005. We applied for permanent resident status, a three+ year process in September 2005.

The saga continued . . .

While I was there for the first time exploring the arts & cultural scene to be sure I would have the arts I need to be stimulated, I ended up being invited to apply for the Executive Director position at the Rotary Center for the Arts and my resume and credentials being placed in the hand of a headhunter for the Kelowna cultural community. The deal for hiring “foreign workers” is the same as stateside. You must first find a Canadian who can fill the position and only if you cannot find the right person for the job can you hire a foreign worker. I was contacted by Diane early this summer to see if I was interested in applying for Development Manager of Ballet Kelowna, the small young professional ballet company that tours throughout the interior of BC. I flew up for an interview met the artistic director and dancers and members of the Board. It was a great fit and they chose to apply for a “Fair Labour Market Opinion” from the BC Foreign Worker Office, which allows me to work and gives Mark an open work permit to move his business. There are many more mini stories about this adventure and how every time we turned around there was an invitation by the universe to walk through yet another door on our path to move to Canada and to nurture a small farm for the benefit of a greater community.

I will begin work for Ballet Kelowna September 3 after driving up with our daughter Caitlin to BC beginning September 1. We are sifting sorting cleaning packing and hosting two garage sales and learning a lot about Craig’s list. The farmhouse is half the size of our current home so we have cut back by 50% of all of our possessions. Or at least we have tried. Caitlin has convinced us to hold onto our lovely home  in Boulder for a time, so if you know anyone who wants to rent a great house in a fantastic location with great schools blocks away on a lake with great blue herons and Canada geese gracing Viele Lake, please get them in touch with us.

We are still working on our communications plan. With communications technology being what it is today. Our plan is to transfer our current phone to a cell phone on the Verizon North American Plan so you should be able to reach us at this same number.  In the meantime we will also be setting up a land line.

As I say now, “ Be careful what you ask for” because if you are intentional about giving back to the earth or your community in a meaningful way, then the universe makes it happen.  I have been blessed and expect that this is another amazing blessing. This has been a journey that is taking a great deal of courage despite the fact that there are no obstacles, still every little bit of support is much appreciated.

Alison

July 1, 2007

Impressions of future life in the Okanagan Valley

I am exhausted. First, from the fact that I always have to get all of my work done in the office before I leave for a week.  The other because we have done something precipitous, buying land in Canada before we have the permission to live and work in that country.

But here I sit on the edge of the front lawn, looking past the jumbled flower bed of various planted and volunteer perennials, over the rows of peaches descending across the lawn to the mature Plum tree to be rewarded by a spectacular a view of Lake Okanagan. Over the Deep Creek ravine filled with tall standing pines some tipped with red, which protects the bark beetle that is invading both our countries over the past five years of drought.  The weather has been picture perfect, even a little too cool with its gentle breeze and cloud specked sky. This is just about the ideal, made-to-order, place for me.

 Why?

 It is at the very end of a dirt road atop Princeton Hill that is straddled by cherry orchards, which are simply breathtaking in spring with blossoms and gorgeous with the ripe red fruit in June and July. Although we can hear the faint drone of the farm equipment across the hillsides and an occasional seaplane leaving the water, it feels very remote. Because ravines on each side surround us, this little piece of farmland is a peninsula surrounded by forest and has become “my own private Idaho”.

 I was just about to shut down this computer when I couldn’t resist the temptation to add a few last words on my last morning. Yesterday was an amazing day of meeting cherry growing neighbors giving me warnings about trusting folks and a volunteer at the arts center in Summerland so encouraging but warning me about the pot growing operations (the biggest income source for the province). And then I go to a party and have a wonderful time learning about the key areas of Canadian history from a delightful professor.  And a BC citizen who immigrated from to Canada 30 years ago after working with draft resisters in Puerto Rico.

Travel in the Okanagan.  Making sense of the private Idaho’s in different lands. Wondering if this is the right thing. I guess I couldn’t have asked from more encouragement that I have gotten yesterday despite tales of hangings in adjacent properties and interesting shakes of head about the people of Peachland.  When everyone says that this is the destination of all people in Canada because it this country’s.  Shangri La and Palm Springs all rolled into one.

It is interesting when one travels alone you have the ability to engage folks in conversation that you don’t otherwise. Everyone should pretend they are moving every ten years just to clear out all their stuff, I also think that couples should head out individually and pretend they are new to a community and learn what people have to say. I guess people are all pretty encouraging about the community in which they live because they have chosen to make their lives there.  You wouldn’t disparage a place that you have determined to make your home.  That would make you a fool.  So I look forward o sending Mark up here next and tell him to go meet folks and make friends on his own and begin the network of friendship making.

I am experiencing an odd mix of emotions when I sit on top of the beautiful hill looking at they gorgeous lake and at the same time viewing the promise of what will be the work intensive fruit trees orchard. I also wonder about the huge amount of development going on all around the area without any design consideration with chock-a-block little houses.

 Ah, the little birds are chatting in the beach trees. I have seen more than my fair share of Gold finches and I just wish I could identify all these sweet little birds. Redtail, Osprey, Raven’s and Bald Eagles, I can identify on my own, but it’s these sweet little warblers and others that I don’t recognize. Someday.

Well it is time to get ready to go because I want to walk down and listen closely to the sound of the water rushing over the waterfalls through Deep Creek.

Alison