The Forest is Like a Good China Dish Set – My Travels on the Train.

Trees, Rocks, and Water…and too much organic matter
(See the rest of the photos here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151921271653250&set=a.10151921271468250.1073741828.515118249&type=1&theater)

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Lots of the good stuff! I journeyed out via VIA Rail to cross the country (Canada) in comfort. I left from Toronto, Ontario, and quickly became immersed in the lovely forests, lakes, and outcrops that make up western Ontario. A quick painting for your mind—there’s a 50-foot high canopy of zebra striped trees (birch) that created a neat branching pattern against the white overcast sky. Intermingled between the zebras are giant, fat, prickly green creatures (pine, spruce, and larch). They look cute with lumps of heavy white snow on their limbs. The whole combination of the trees looks rather still, but when you look to the forest floor, or the openings where water holds place, you can see where the mobile forest dwellers are dancing stories into the snow. It’s just their prints, but you can see where a group of them line-danced over fences and under trees, or perhaps where the lone scavenger zigzagged between logs and into bush for cover. Occasionally you see some birds, rabbits, and foxes within the red stems of dogwood and yellow grasses—a treat, yah!


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I was speaking with an English lady who kept mentioning how redundant and boring it all was and how she couldn’t wait until we got to the mountains. I suggested it was much like a fine-bone china set—redundant visually, but each and every stone, every tree, every animal, plays a very crucial and appropriate role in the forest cupboard. She just kind of chuckled, but I think she may have seen a bit deeper into these woods.

We eventually left the beautifully-exploded rock outcrops and lakes for flatter and less forested land in Manitoba. There are a couple of hilly areas that resemble esker-esque structures, which are cigar-shaped landforms left by receding glaciers. A bunch of cute houses settled all over and lots of flat farmland. In Winnipeg I got out and wandered along the Red River, which is a big enough river to still be flowing in winter—and boy oh girl is it winter there. The hairs on my chinny chin froze with my huffing and smiling felt like cat claws pulling at my skin. Watching with wonderment as the water swirled and churgled (word?) I tried to imagine what might be beneath that caused it to form such cool patterns—I smiled despite the cat claws, although it must have looked like awkward grimacing to passersby.

 

West of Manitoba came… Saskatchewan! I love Saskatchewan. Reasons include: Beautiful but cowardice magpies, my awesome cowgirl cousin, I took my permaculture design course there and met amazing people, and I learned a lot about running a non-for-profit with diversified enterprises. Plus the land has awesome areas that are so flat you can watch a thunderstorm 2 hours away (play the classical tunes) and there are coolies (deep ravines) and mountains just a bit farther north. Beautiful province.

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While passing through Sask., I saw no Sasquatch, but did see lots of no-till agriculture and hedgerows. No-till is when farmers leave the stubble (like your Dad’s face after a couple days of not shaving) of crops on the field after harvesting. This protects the soil from rain and wind erosion. Erosion is like diarrhea—you don’t want to have it. Hedgerows are rows of hedges (bushes and trees) which reduce evaporation and soil erosion by pushing the wind up over the crops. It’s also good for keeping the cold winds off of animals and homes, and providing diverse, marketable products, such as fruits, nuts, timber, fuel. They also conserve biodiversity—yay animals, plants, fungi, and bacteria!

I slept through Alberta. It was nighttime. Saw the Rockies on the way back, though! Oh, I was up and out at Jasper. I tried running around to catch a glimpse of the mountains, but it was so dark I couldn’t see anything…plus I was looking down, haha. I did almost get frostbite on my inner thighs—soooo cold.

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Entering B.C. was really beautiful—winding rivers at the toes of big ol’ mountains covered like ancient turtle shells in moss and evergreen. Seeing the effects of the “rain shadow” was quite neat. I learned about it in grade 10 or 11. It’s when the water-heavy clouds come in from the ocean and as they go over the mountains they get squeezed, which makes them drop their wet cargo (like a sponge). The dry winds then cascade down the leeward (facing same direction that the wind is going) side sucking up moisture from the land, which leaves it looking much like a desert. The landscape turned from scrub vegetation and bare, red- brown soil to lush, vibrant green-covered ecosystems. I arrived after three and half days in Vancouver and took the ferry over to Victoria on Vancouver Island (I think I got that right). I was visiting my lovely friend, Ilana, who is studying herbalism and nutrition, which I think is awesome because it ties into my studies with Edible Forest Gardening—healthy soils, grow healthy plants, which grow healthy people.

I’ll end with our walk through a nearby park. It was beautiful, lots of vegetation of beautiful golds, reds, greens, and blackberries all over. There was a sign that mentioned that they were trying a new management plan to take care of the “Too Much Organic Matter”. Hah! If only farmers had that problem. You see, organic matter is the awesome material that breaks down over time and provides nutrients to the plants. It’s very important stuff. I happened to be there on a day when the marsh had frozen over, covering an area of about 3 football fields. Families were skating on it and people were playing hockey. Really nice to see.

Overall it was a wonderful trip, especially for those with an ecological eye, which everyone can develop 😉


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