By Lesley Gentles

It has now been 4½ years since my husband, Gordon and I moved from the province of Manitoba, Canada, to the beautiful province of British Columbia – we previously farmed at Blairdrummond, near Stirling.

After living on the Prairies for 14 years we decided to ‘move out west’, where we bought a small farm near the town of Salmon Arm.

This is a bustling lakeshore town with a huge increase in population during the summer months. Being on the shore of Shuswap Lake, water sports, fishing and boating are very popular. House boating is another mode of holidaying, along with hiking, camping and canoeing. We are also in the winery region of BC with beautiful wineries, cideries and micro breweries nearby. Farmer’s markets are very popular, and most towns have them weekly. Always fun to visit them and buy local fresh produce.

All sounds very idyllic but as usual when you live in an area, time seems limited to enjoy the local sights. Gordon and I are kept busy with working on our small hay farm and our continuing renovations that are ongoing. This year we are concentrating on doing some of the garden and hopefully we can get to painting our cedar sided house.

Our weather has only started to warm up now as it has been a cold dry spring so far. Our past winter was good up until the end of January with not too much snow and ‘only”’ down to -10C. Things changed at the beginning of February when it got snowy and cold, with temperatures getting down to -20C. It certainly took a while for the snow to go and warm up.

We are now looking for rain, but the warmth is bringing on the hay. Last summer was our first year of going to round bales which was a good decision and worked well for Gordon. The hay was in demand and sold quickly. When we arrived here our hay land was polluted with a pest called a pocket gopher.

The dictionary definition is ‘a burrowing rodent’ but they remind me of a mole! Gordon has spent the last four years dealing with this ongoing problem which is gradually improving. Our small farm is within a Government body call the Agricultural Land Reserve, or ALR as it is known.

This means there are tight restrictions on what owners can do with their land and property, other than farm the land. The reason behind this thinking is the preservation of farmland within BC. As we see it the only benefit from being in the ALR is we are taxed at a lower rate than residential land. We would not be allowed to start up any type of home based business that was not farm related. Lots of restrictions and regulations to follow and adhere to!

Like most small towns, we have met a few ‘characters’, one of who happens to be our neighbour. While over visiting a few days ago, he, who is 78, swears this is a true story.

When his father was at the hay, a bowl of brown sugar was always left out on the kitchen table. Every morning he would sink his hand into the bowl. Should the sugar feel dry, it was going to be a good day. Should it feel heavy and damp, rain was in the air and it would not be a good hay day. Not sure how reliable the sugar forecast was, or his story for that matter!

So far, we have not had any pets or animals on the farm. This is due, in part to lack of decent fencing, sheds and being too busy focusing on renovations. While living in Manitoba we heard various stories of pet dogs getting ‘skunked’ by the notoriously smelly skunk which was very common in Manitoba.

We have found that they are not so common here although friends of ours recently went through the nasty experience of their dog getting sprayed by a skunk. Now for those readers that have had the misfortune to ‘smell’ skunk spray they will sympathize. Those that haven’t, be thankful…

The poor dog was banned from the house for days and no amount of baths would solve the problem. There is a remedy that people swear by and that is to wash the afflicted pet with tomato juice. Another story I’m not sure of.

Just recently my daughter and I had our first experience of dealing with a black widow spider at her new home near Kelowna. Spiders are not my favourite insect to deal with and this spider was big, and it took a joint effort to deal with this issue.

In Canada many laws and regulations vary between different Provinces. We only became aware of this as we moved across country. Car and truck insurance is far more complicated in the Province of BC than it is in Manitoba. Comparing it to the UK, it is twice as expensive here for car insurance and way more complicated. So many regulations.

If you happen to like fishing there are numerous lakes around. However, again, fishing permits are heavily regulated, and this can vary from lake to lake. Game wardens patrol the lakes checking on permits and the number of fish you have caught. Again, according to your permit, the size and amount of fish you can take vary from lake to lake. All very complicated.

Our small farm is a haven for all types of wildlife, which include bears, deer, coyotes the occasional elk and cougar. Only yesterday while hanging out the washing I spotted three bears across at the other side of our pond. I got the binoculars and sat on the grass watching their antics. Things would have been different if they had been on my side of the pond.

This is early in the spring to have them so close to the house, and something which I am not overly happy about. It was exciting as there were two black bears and one cinnamon coloured bear. I sat watching for a full twenty minutes before they ambled off into the woods. Our woodland walks will now be slightly more curtailed and stressful.

We always carry bear spray and a pen sized gadget called a bear banger. If the bear banger’s catch is released the noise is very sharp and loud, very like fireworks. Last summer my son-in-law and I decided to fire one just to see what happened. The noise was deafening, and I was reassured that it would likely scare the bears away. We have never actually had to use the spray or the banger of which I’m very thankful.

Our farm, work and our expanding family of now five grandchildren make for a busy life for Gordon and me. We have lots of visitors coming from back home, and Manitoba this year. which is something we both look forward to and enjoy.

It makes us take time to enjoy, explore and search out new places and new experiences. This year I am planning to do a hot air balloon ride with friends and hope to do some white-water rafting. Gordon not so much. He says he will keep his feet firmly on the ground and just watch. A busy year on the farm and lots to do and look forward to.

'Til the next time,