Timber

 

A whimsical winding creek becoming a trickling waterfall against craggy rock, flanked by huge trees and snowcapped mountains screams for a timber-frame home to complete its flawless splendor.

So a majestic timber-frame home overlooking a valley, nestled in the heart of beautiful British Columbia, although stunning is not entirely surprising.

But now take that same majestic timber-frame home and place it in Manitoba’s southwest corner and it becomes a bit more unexpected.

Constructed from both new and reclaimed timbers, held together by hand-turned pegs, and furnished with handcrafted pieces, standing in this home feels like stepping into a breathtaking work of art.

And a work of art it is. Even more, it’s a true labor of love.

With friends and family coming together for the timber-raising, the comradery and contagious excitement in the air as this home was born was reminiscent of stories of early Canadian pioneers.

The presence of a telehandler, modern tools, and a gas barbeque served to keep all in this century, but the atmosphere and project itself made it easy for the imagination to drift backward for a little taste of history, just the same.

The home was designed and built almost entirely by the hands and hearts of a talented young Manitoban couple.

A carpenter by trade, Sheldon has the knowledge and experience needed for the job while Laura has a natural gift for design. Together they’ve built a unique and beautiful home.

Quite an accomplishment and one they plan will someday day see them creating timber-framed dreams for a living.

Losing Home … The Flood of 2011

(A sister story/re-write of “Of Biblical Proportion”)

By Lisa Lysen

An edited version of this appears in “Cottage” magazine – Apr/2013 – “Disaster at the Cabin – The Lake Manitoba Floods” but here’s my original …

The first sandbags arrived on a warm, sunny day in May. We worked hard to make good use of them, although we were naively oblivious to the real threat that existed of losing our homes and cottages.

Retirement at the lake had long been our dream.

Sugar Point, one lone road winding gently along the shoreline of Lake Manitoba and snuggled up against Lundar Provincial Park, was for us, a wonderful dream come true.

Providing the beauty and solitude of lake life within arm’s reach of family and friends in the city, Sugar Point offered a perfect balance. Just a quick hour and a bit outside Winnipeg, we had found our own little piece of paradise.

Looking back, I suppose the day we should have first suspected our haven was in peril was May 1st, 2011. Despite an unusually warm April, we awoke that morning to well over a foot of fresh snow burying all hint of the welcome spring melt.

Although such weather is certainly not unheard of in Manitoba, especially in springtime, this one had fallen on the heels of a very wet autumn and unusually cruel winter.

The ground had frozen fast and early that year on top of a saturated water table, ditches everywhere full to overflowing. With the advent of spring 2011, much of southern Manitoba was already flooding, as were sections stretching deep into the heart of the Interlake and to the north.

By nature’s design, Sugar Point is on high ground and appeared to us to be relatively safe, although taking precautions and using the sandbags we’d been given seemed wise, just the same.

What we didn’t realize should also be taken into consideration was that Winnipeg was in grave danger of flooding.

Sitting approximately sixty feet lower than Lake Manitoba, situated at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, the city is nestled in a flood plain. Under normal conditions safeguards set in place to protect Manitoba’s capital work well.

But in the spring of 2011 conditions were anything but normal.

Further complicating the situation, it was discovered that water level gauges had been misinterpreted. An error in readings had created a false sense of security, leading officials to underestimate the threat to the city.

A massive flood suddenly loomed and appeared both unavoidable and unsettlingly imminent.

The natural flow that the flood was destined to take without intervention was Winnipeg. A decision had to be made quickly on how best to deal with the impending disaster.

And so the Province of Manitoba was faced with a difficult choice; allow the rising waters of the Assiniboine to continue at nature’s pace, risking the flooding of the province’s capital, or redirect those waters more heavily into Lake Manitoba, thereby creating a deliberate flood along miles and miles of shoreline.

In retrospect, it becomes obvious that the decision might not have been a decision at all. It perhaps would never have been made any other way.

Allowing such devastation to occur in such a densely populated area, allowing the flooding of a city of 684,000 people certainly had to be avoided at all costs.

But when it’s your home and your dreams used to pay the price, it seems cruelly personal.

Two hundred kilometers in length and forty-five kilometers wide, with a maximum depth of 7 kilometers, Lake Manitoba is vast and very shallow. We often joked about how you could walk and walk and walk out into the water and then finally get so tired you’d sit down to get wet.

Prairie storms often rage and the lake can get very angry. Many times we’d witnessed the water’s magnificent strength and force, but always from a safe, well-planned distance.

Until that fateful spring, by regulation, our homes had all been at least third of a football field away from the lake’s naturally shallow basin. We could wander down and sit on the beach to toast glorious sunsets or enjoy them from a hundred and twenty feet away on our decks.

Never did we suspect a decision would someday be made to change that demographic forever. Never did we imagine the water at our doorsteps or worse, pouring through into our living rooms.

But in the spring of 2011, a major decision was made by the provincial government and the flood that was threatening to crash hard upon the province’s capital was instead rerouted toward us.

Mother Nature quickly chose sides against us. Storm after furious storm erupted, creating waves of enormous heights, much too close now with new shorelines.

Homes and cottages south of us were the first to be ripped off their foundations and tossed into the lake, where they were crushed by waves and current.

We watched anxiously as water levels grew, watched as high winds and torrential downpours added to the drama of the escalating lake and then in horror we watched as, one by one, communities just like ours all along Lake Manitoba fell into the rising waters.

Remnants of what, a short time ago, had been houses and dreams floated by, gently sometimes and torturously amid massive waves other times. Trees, torn from banks, were catapulted into the rising waters and bobbed up and down all across the lake. Alongside them were timbers, fence boards, pieces of decks, shingles, even fridges and parts of other appliances.

We sandbagged furiously now as Lake Manitoba crept closer and closer inland, peacefully some days, with fierce determination others.

As the lake climbed the hill toward our home, our yard filled with water and along with that water, debris.

Huge carp swam amid the wreckage, across what used to be our lawn; herons fished beside our deck. Waves rolled closer and closer.

Day by day the threat grew worse as did tension and anxiety. The mounting pressure brought with it stress that took its toll on people’s health and lives.

As our fear grew and our stress became greater, thankfully, so did our support. Awareness in Winnipeg and neighboring towns increased. Convoys of semi-trailers containing thousands of sandbags arrived regularly, one after another, dumping their contents, creating ominous mountains of white burlap.

We worked with even greater diligence from morning till nightfall for weeks in scorching heat and pouring rain.

Grueling and tedious, the monotony of loading sandbags onto pallets, transporting them, unloading, passing and piling them, one by one, was daunting, but our spirits were high. A huge monstrosity of a dike was beginning to take shape and we felt much safer for it.

We ignored the gouges, ruts, and caverns materializing in our lots, ignored the trees and landscaping being crushed and trampled as a trail to accommodate the dike was blazed through our once beautiful properties. We ignored our tired, aching bodies.

The RM did what they could to help. Earth dikes were erected across nearby fields and water was continuously, methodically pumped away.

Busloads of volunteers began arriving to help us pile sandbags. Lunches and bottled water appeared everywhere. Support was also with us in the form of information, compassion, and words of encouragement.

So much kindness came our way.

But on June 13, 2011, despite our best efforts, another huge storm struck. Our dike breached and Lake Manitoba poured in.

It became very clear the lake had really only been playing with us all along, letting us build our little sandbag castles around our cottages, our houses, our lives.

Once it decided to finally end all our games, we didn’t stand a chance against the incredible force and power. The destruction that happened before us within mere seconds was ferocious.

The sandbags we’d piled relentlessly for weeks on end to protect our homes and our futures were flipped off as if by some unseen hand and thrown with a speed and force unimaginable unless witnessed.

Despite our weeks of back-breaking hard, hard labor, the lake had finally taken total control; alive with a power hidden from view on calm summer days. We were helpless as the efforts of our labor collapsed around us.

But still, amid tears and panic, we desperately tried to change the obvious course fate had chosen to take. Stubbornly we couldn’t allow ourselves to admit defeat although to a more rational eye it would have been clear the battle was lost.

In the grey of the morning and the pouring rain, amidst raging winds and monstrous waves, we frantically tried to restore our sandbag barricade as it was being torn apart.

Our denial was almost as powerful as the dominance the lake was displaying.

And then came the call to evacuate!

We had been living under the threat of a twenty-four-hour evacuation notice for about a month maybe longer, but when the time finally hit we had less than twenty minutes to toss our valuables into the backs of our vehicles and flee.

And flee we did, fighting a fierce current flowing across what half an hour before had been a gently winding gravel road. Carp swam around us as we tried to avoid being swept into ditches we could no longer see.

There’s no way to actually describe the confusion, the anxiety, the fear that strikes as a prairie field suddenly, quickly, ferociously becomes a lake before your eyes. But that’s exactly what was happening to our familiar pretty countryside, our picturesque backyards, our only route out.

And it was happening within a mere 20 minutes of being told to evacuate.

Somehow hopeful, not yet completely comprehending the immensity of the situation and still thinking it would be temporary, some of us went to stay with family or friends, others to hotels.

We registered with The Red Cross, then as time went by with government agencies. Weeks passed and it became clear the situation wasn’t temporary.

It’s been more than a year now since we were forced to leave, a devastating time for too many Manitobans. Our futures hang in limbo, each of us with hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in properties that suddenly have no value.

And yet, Sugar Point has been luckier than most communities, in part thanks to having had very proactive support from our municipality. Most of our homes are still standing. We have access now for short periods of time although we aren’t allowed to live in them yet. The lake is still too dangerously close.

But in so many less fortunate communities, homes and cottages have been crushed, farmland destroyed.

The multitude of small towns whose economies are attached to rural and cottage communities are suffering enormous financial losses.

There’s also been an immeasurable loss of history that’s come with the devastation. Lake Manitoba is officially recorded as having first been discovered in the 1700s by LaVerendrye.

Quaint landmarks and intermittent monuments all along the shoreline and throughout the Interlake have long told a story of early Canada, giving glimpses into Manitoba’s diverse heritages and cultures. So many of these are now gone forever, swept away by a flood that nature didn’t intend.

The landscape kept natural and picturesque by Ducks Unlimited and government regulation has also been drastically altered.

These areas have provided an important habitat for migrating birds; swans, pelicans, and cormorants. Blue herons, cranes, golden eagles, bald eagles, many species of hawks and a multitude of songbirds have long called the marshes and terrain of Lake Manitoba home. So much of what was theirs has been devoured.

And so, not only were homes, farms, cottages, businesses, and livelihoods destroyed but also beautiful heritage and countryside was lost and forever changed as floodwaters raged.

In countless ways, lifestyles, futures, dreams, and memories have been stolen by the deliberately created flooding of Lake Manitoba.

If there is a silver lining in this dark cloud it is that at least our government is stepping up and accepting some of the necessary responsibility for their action.

Although the flood cannot be undone, attempts are being made to correct at least a portion of the damage it has caused.

As permanent residents, we are being provided with housing until we can go home and also with promises of help with eventually rebuilding.

Cottagers have not been as fortunate, although there is some talk of funding for all structures to be raised as a safeguard if a choice such as this is made again someday.

Unfortunately the same cannot be done for the pastures and farmland that provide so much of the prairie’s lifeblood and also of Manitoba’s lifestyles and livelihoods.

The creation of a channel at the north end of the lake to assist in draining should another decision to flood the area be made is being studied.

That study, however, has been ongoing since Duff Roblin’s recommendation in the 1960s. It was proposed then that a channel was needed as an important second stage of Winnipeg’s floodway.

With so many initially opposed to the cost of the floodway at that time, however, the channel idea was shelved, or at least delegated to “being studied”.

It’s difficult to imagine the cost of creating the channel could possibly be higher than the cost of creating this flood has been.

Environmental issues are an enormously important piece of the study as well, but extreme environmental issues have also been created as a result of 2011.

Though the bureaucracy can be frustrating, the kindness and compassion around us remain encouraging.

Recent hot, dry weather has created conditions that for now allow the lake to slowly and naturally recede, which is immensely helpful and for which we are enormously grateful.

We wait to see what the future holds.

Only time will tell.

Thanks Barb Paterson! An amazing photo!

Anatomy of the Flood

By Lisa Lysen

Published in “Cottage” magazine – April/2013

Sugar Point, with its modest population of fewer than 100 homes and cottages, is only one of many developments on the shores of Lake Manitoba.

Similar lakeshore communities, along with small towns, First Nations Reserves, resorts, businesses, century-old farms, and pasturelands are scattered around its shores and roadways.

To the south and approximately 60 feet lower, is Manitoba’s capital, Winnipeg.

A city of 684,000, Winnipeg lies at the junction of two rivers, the Red and the Assiniboine. Because the city was built on a flood plain, steps have been taken over the years to protect it.

The Red River Floodway effectively drains water away when the Red River rises. A diversion at Portage la Prairie redirects the flow of the Assiniboine into Lake Manitoba, which the Fairford Dam at the north end of the lake regulates.

It has long been suggested that in the event of extreme situations, a channel should also be created to assist the dam in draining excess water from the lake.

In spring 2011, weather conditions came together that saw the Assiniboine River flowing furiously through the Portage Diversion, which was already running at full capacity, into a swollen Lake Manitoba. Fairford Dam to the north was having difficulty removing water fast enough.

Cruelly, on May 1, a severe winter storm struck, depositing another 20 inches of snow onto a lake already struggling. Almost simultaneously it was discovered that faulty gauges in Saskatchewan had underestimated the amount of water about to inundate Manitoba by way of the Assiniboine River.

Without intervention, Winnipeg appeared in danger of flooding. A decision was quickly made and the Portage Diversion was altered to increase flow. Water rapidly began pouring into Lake Manitoba at a rate Fairford Dam could not handle.

And a deliberate flood struck Lake Manitoba.

One by one, homes and cottages were forced to evacuate. Communities and farmland were destroyed.

M.A.S.C. (Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation) and T.A.P. (Temporary Accommodations Program)—the government agencies upon which the task of dealing with flood victims has fallen—have an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 households registered as damaged or destroyed as a result of the 2011 flood.

Of those households, approximately three hundred are full-time residents, with the remainder being cottagers. Counted separately and in addition to these numbers, about seven hundred First Nations homes have been affected.

Taking into account the fact that the price tag attached to flood recovery has been astronomical and is still climbing, it’s hard to imagine that every Manitoban isn’t affected in one way or another.

Sugar Point, Lake Manitoba

***

Rusty Crayfish

By Lisa Lysen

An edited version of this, called “Bait Becomes Bully” was published in “The Cottager” magazine – Mar/Apr/2019. Here’s a link to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/The-Cottager-137410736323877/

Unedited, it goes like this:

“You get a line … I’ll get a pole! We’ll go down to the crawdad hole …”

Granted, Northwestern Ontario may not be your first thought as you hum this tune, but you can certainly find crayfish boils happening on the shores of Sioux Narrows just the same.

It’s important to know, though the shore is legally the only place this activity is permitted if what you’re serving is rusty crayfish. And if you’re serving recently caught crayfish, they’re likely to be the very predatory and quite tasty rusty crayfish.

According to Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Fisheries, “Under the Ontario Fishery Regulations, it is unlawful to transport any type of crayfish overland whether they are alive or dead and regardless of the intended use. This regulation ensures that there is no risk of new introductions to other waterways because they haven’t left the water’s edge”.

Nevertheless, native to the Ohio River, rusty crayfish are making their way north and creating many ecological problems along the way.

The spread is thought to be caused primarily by crayfish being used as bait, although turning unwanted pets loose and emptying aquariums into rivers and lakes may be partially to blame as well.

But whether they’re being moved intentionally from one body of water to another or transferred unknowingly, they are travelling and they’re destructive little creatures.

Ontario’s MNRF advices “The rusty crayfish’s large size, aggressive eating habits and rapid spread have had serious impacts on native species.”

Moving from south central and south eastern Ontario, causing trouble in Manitoulin Island and Magnetawan River, they were first spotted in the Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario and in Lake of the Woods in 1960. In 2005 the Ontario portion of the Winnipeg River became home to rusty crayfish and in 2007 they appeared in Falcon Lake, Manitoba.

While trapping for consumption on the shore is legal in Ontario, as long as they are not transported, it should be noted it is illegal in Manitoba without a permit. A permit may be obtained by phone or email and will take 2-3 days to issue.

Looking and tasting like mini lobsters with black-tipped claws and a splash of rust on their upper shells rusty crayfish are among the most invasive of their species.

And since they’re bigger than their counterparts, growing to 5”, sometimes even 8” in length, with a much more aggressive outlook on life, they tend to dominate the scene quickly.

They prefer “fight” to “flight” and will stand their ground against predators. With huge powerful claws raised overhead in defensive stance it’s easy to imagine they are quite a daunting force in the aquatic world.

And while this may save rusty crayfish from being devoured it sadly makes their more passive relatives much more tempting prey. In many areas rusty crayfish have either completely replaced native species or left numbers severely depleted.

The diminishment of other crayfish populations isn’t the only consequence of a rusty crayfish invasion, though.

They have quite a taste for underwater plants, snails, leeches, clams, fish eggs and insects. With an appetite that sees them wolfing down more than double what their smaller cousins will eat their decimation of aquatic areas has been equated with that of clear-cutting forests.

And although they do move slower in winter months, they don’t hibernate.

The overall environmental effect is huge. When plants, insects and aquatic life needed to sustain the eco-system of a lake changes everything changes. And once an invasion begins, rusty crayfish numbers are virtually impossible to control.

Females have the ability to store sperm until conditions are perfect. They produce anywhere from 80 to 200 offspring at a time, sometimes up to 500. And so introducing a single female can populate an area quickly.

Even something as seemingly innocent as carrying aquatic plants from one place to another can start trouble.

As well, rusty crayfish flourish in fast flowing water as easily as in standing pools or shallow ponds and have surprisingly long lifespans, living 2-3 years on average.

To help curb the spread it’s recommended to:

  • Always drain anything containing lake water
  • Thoroughly clean and dry all water equipment
  • Never empty an aquarium into a lake or river

Since it’s difficult to find environmentally friendly methods of controlling these destructive crustaceans without affecting other aquatic life, prevention and awareness may be the best tools for fighting them.

Introducing bass and sunfish as natural predators, to a lake or region taken over by these undesirables may help to a degree. And trapping has also proven effective.

The Ontario MNRF says: “Crayfish, including Rusty Crayfish, can be caught under a recreational fishing license. If people wish to eat them, they can cook them on-site, on the shoreline where they’re caught. There is no limit on the number of crayfish you can possess if the intended use is consumption”.

So, a crawdad boil just might be a deliciously fun way to help heal the environment a little while enjoying time on the shore!

Prepping your “catch of the day” is very important, though. Crayfish must be purged before cooking.

For this, heavily salt the water your freshly live-trapped crayfish are kept in.  As the water discolors, rinse with fresh until it remains very clear. As with mussels, crayfish shouldn’t be used unless they’re alive. Once cooked, any with straight tails should be discarded.

And once that’s done … a pot, a packet of spices tossed in with corncob, onions, potatoes, sausage, a few lemons for extra zest and of course, crawdads … you’ll be creating tasty cottage memories in no time!

You might even find yourself humming a few Louisiana Bayou tunes.

Yum!******

A Costa Rican Sunset

I’ve written a story about Costa Rica and the wonderful experience we had visiting this beautiful country. It’s just been published on Travelista’s website. If you’d like to read it, here’s the link:

https://travelista.club/guides/discover-costa-rica-a-tropical-adventure/

******

Early Childhood Learning Centre

As a granny who just lives way too far away from her precious 18-month-old grandson, I’m so thankful to his innovative and very forward-thinking childcare facilitators for the wonderful work they’re doing.

Not only do they plan amazing sensory and developmental learning projects with the toddlers, but they also have a website where they post photos and stories daily.

I love it! My phone beeps and I have direct access to our sweet Farley’s day. The 1200+ km separating us suddenly dissolves and I have a glimpse of what’s happening in his little world!

Even better, the posts are complete with stories explaining what’s going on, why they’ve chosen the activity and the theory behind how it benefits the children.

Each activity is geared towards expanding knowledge and establishing confidence while teaching the kids to be social by encouraging side-by-side play.

They’re very creative activities, too! Once the details of the goals and the skills being worked on are explained, it’s very easy to see the early childcare facilitators are incredibly knowledgeable.  It’s also very obvious they’re equally as interested in and excited about how the toddlers are progressing.

We had the opportunity to visit for 2 weeks last month and at first, I was a little sorry our boy was going to be away from us during the day. It wasn’t long before I understood how awesome his days are, though and that he’d really be missing out if he wasn’t there with his friends!

As someone who ran a small family daycare from my home years ago, I’m so impressed by what’s going on in this early years’ childcare facility.

And the fact that Farley can’t wait to get to “school” every day only convinces me more of how beneficial it is.

Kudos to everyone there! Thank you for everything you do. It’s making a difference in precious little lives and it’s very appreciated by the people who love them so very much.

A “Story Park” Story looks like this:

Edit

 

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5 thoughts on “Timber”

  1. Hey! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any issues with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing months of hard work due to no back up. Do you have any methods to prevent hackers?

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    1. Thank you so much. I’m very happy to know you enjoy my stories and my website. Best wishes with your blogging … I’m also very new to this! If you ever have any tips for me please let me know. Have an awesome day 🙂

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