O Canada

I have (tirelessly) mentioned how busy we have been this summer with work and other unforeseen issues.   It has not all been business trips though.   In mid-June we attended a family reunion in KC.  This is my grandmother’s side of the family and it is always fun (and interesting).   The Sis and her family came down. (KC almost exactly marks the halfway point between us.)   We attended a Royals game while we were there and ate at Q39 (which I highly recommend).

In early July, we visited The Hubs’ brother and his two adorable “blondies” in the Boulder area.   We had lots of fun doing art projects, flying kites, and fishing.   The BiL took us to the most delicious and authentic Ethiopian restaurant.  (More about that later.)

That is all the traveling The Hubs and I have done together.

But, the subject of this post is a mother/daughter trip to Canada.

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Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada

After mom and dad divorced in the late 90s, The Sis, Mom and I would always plan a girls trip.  We started off with great enthusiasm and dedication to making this a tradition.   We went to Tahoe for our first trip, then a KC trip, and one to Galena, Illinois.   Then it kind of fizzled out.  We were due for a mega trip.  Mom was adamant that we travel to Canada to visit old family friends.

This will be a long post, so bear with me.  (Almost as long as it took trying to get there.  Do you know I had to fly from Tulsa to Houston to get to Calgary?  That makes perfect sense, right?)

In 1948, the patriarch of this Canadian family traveled south from Alberta to do custom harvesting (or custom cutting, as we called it) in the States.  He pulled his younger brother out of school to go.   The goal was to make it all the way to Texas and then basically harvest their way back to their farm in Alberta and be there when their crops were ready in the fall.

My great-grandfather found this young crew in a small, dusty Oklahoma town near where my grandfather farmed.  Although the wheat crop would not be ready to harvest for a couple of days, my great-grandfather told them there was other work on his son’s farm that they could be hired to do.   They followed him to the farm and helped reroof a barn before they started harvesting.

The families have remained friends since that time.   My grandparents made three trips to Canada and “The Canadians” (as we always referred to them) have visited our families in the States about three or four times, even coming down for important family events like weddings.

My immediate family visited their farm in Alberta in 1980.

1980

I would be the one in the back with the HUGE glasses, feathered hair and horrible complexion. We are standing in front of their home which was rocked with native stones.

We were due for a trip back after thirty-five years or so, don’t you think?

Although the father of the family that visited Oklahoma in 1948 to cut wheat has passed away, the mother and two sons still live on the farm.   These are a gracious, gregarious, and warm people.   We loved our time there.   We only spent three full days with them but we packed a lot in.  One day we drove to Dawson Creek, B.C.

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Mile 0 of the Alaskan Highway.

 

I had no idea the sacrifice, trials, and tribulations that it took to build this highway during WWII and I knew virtually no history of it.  There is a great exhibit at the Dawson Creek Chamber of Commerce that explains.  Well worth the visit.

We also traveled to the Peace River and Dunvegan, a National Historic Site and Provencal Park.

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Some of the original buildings at Dunvegan.

This was a beautiful place and quite crowded the Sunday we were there.

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The Peace River.

 

You can actually hike up this.  (We passed.)

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This is the longest vehicle suspension bridge in Canada that crosses the Peace River at Dunvegan.

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We did, however, take a short trek through the forest and found some young and unripe wild cranberries.

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Wild (very unripe) cranberries.

 

On our way home, we stopped in at the Spirit River Museum which has obtained many original buildings and a plethora of artifacts, curiosities and antiques.

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One room school. The British flag is flying because it is the flag that flew above the school when it was in existence.  Alberta did not become a province until 1905.

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A view of the dome of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church at Spirit River Museum.

There are many buildings at the museum and one is packed full of unusual antiques like these early day fire extinguishers.

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Mounted fire extinguishers. I had to take a picture of this because my grandparents had these in every room of the house. Family lore has it that when there was a fire in the closet under the stairs (the only place that didn’t have one of these gadgets), my grandmother grabbed a bulb off the wall and just threw it in and shut the door. It must have worked.

Evelyne and George who run the museum were eager tour guides (even though it was past 4:00, the closing time).   They are enthusiastic and passionate over-seers to the history of the area.

This family’s Ukrainian ancestors settled this country (just north of Grande Prairie, AB) in the early part of the twentieth century.   That sounds quite recent when we talk about settlements in the States, but they had many obstacles settling this beautiful country.   On our trip in 1980, Babka (the grandmother and one of the original settlers) was still alive.  She was a joy to visit and fed us some authentic prune pastries and chatted with us in a mix of Ukrainian and English (more Ukrainian than English).  She was a delight. Our host family was kind enough to show us the family cemetery where Babka and the other settlers are buried.

Ukrainian Cemetary, Alberta

Our host family then took us on a farm tour where we saw vast fields of…..

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Yellow peas:  Each row will vine up on each other and becomes almost hedge-like.

 

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Canola. Fields and fields of canola make the area look like a golden sea.

 

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Bromegrass. It takes this crop two years to mature before it is cut.

 

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Flax. (This field was not theirs. They said that only one farmer in the area even grows it.)

 

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Beardless wheat. I remember that when we visited in 1980 we were most taken with this crop because in Oklahoma almost all wheat varieties have beards.

As we made our way down back roads to their many parcels, we were obliged to stop and eat wild raspberries…

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You cannot believe how delicious these were. I don’t think any raspberry will taste as good ever again.

…and Saksatoon berries.

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Saksatoon Berries. These have a slight blueberry taste but may be sweeter.

These were served with cream and a little sugar one night for dessert.  Simple and delicious.

We also were treated to a sighting of a moose with a young calf and four mule deer.

momma moose

My deer picture was not worth printing, but this photo was…

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Bear prints on the Burnt River, Alberta.

The daughter of one of our hosts went back to this spot the next day and saw the owner of these paw prints, a young black bear.

 

This trip was a restful respite during the middle of a hectic summer.   I learned many new stories about my grandparents and one of my favorite uncles during this trip.   On their first trip to see their Canadian friends, they drove from the Oklahoma panhandle to the Prairie Province, over 3,000 miles.   It would have been in July or August after their own wheat was harvested.   When they finally arrived, they sheepishly called “The Canadians” over to look in the trunk of the car.   Because it was so far north on the map, they had packed the trunk full of winter boots and parkas.   They all had a good laugh.   (I had never heard this story.)

Here’s to family friends that last for generations.  A big thank you to “The Canadians” that shared their family, farm, friends, homes, and stories with us while we were there.

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In 1980, I climbed to the top of their elevator leg which was brand new at the time. I refrained from doing that this trip.

 

Although this area of Alberta gets about 17 hours of sunshine per day this time of year, some of the pictures are dreary looking.  Although we were there during a few rain showers, most of the haze is caused by smoke from the forest fires burning in Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

With these 17 hours of sunshine, our 92-year-young hostess possessed the most beautiful HUGE garden.

2015-07-12 17.31.27She plants flowers with her vegetables and we found the most beautiful poppies growing on the far side among the dill.

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Aside:  I had to fly home the same way, from Calgary south to Houston and then back north to Tulsa.   I believe that everyone but me on that flight to Houston had been at the Calgary Stampede.   You should have seen some of the dude cowboys on that plane.  

 

 

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Eat, Pray, Love
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My Life in France
Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen: How One Girl Risked Her Marriage, Her Job, and Her Sanity to Master the Art of Living
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A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table
Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table
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