Monday, September 07, 2015

Fiddlehead Farm part of the Sunshine Coast Trail


This summer, we arrived by boat for my first visit back to Fiddlehead in 14 years, and landed next to the old Fiddlehead dock. There on the shore was a hut called "Fiddlehead Landing". To our surprise, David & Eagle, the leaders in creating the Sunshine Coast Trail,  happened to be right there. They were trail-building -- improving the trail to Fiddlehead and Tin Hat Mountain. The Sunshine Coast Trail explores spectacular terrain for 180 km. from Saltery Bay to Sarah Point. The "Confederation Lake -  Fiddlehead Farm - Tin Hat Mountain" section is a vital link.




The reason that Eagle and Scott need to be commended for their work is because they put the trail through old-growth forest in order to save it from logging. And that is truly a great vision. It is my hope that the people who loved the farm and got an experience out of living there will come back and enjoy hiking on the Sunshine Coast Trail. Whether it be Fiddlehead Farm or not, it doesn't matter. Because there is some of the most incredible wilderness in the world there.

Bridge and stream on the road leading up to the farm

The Sunshine Coast Trail group has put out a book called "A Dream of Giants" that describes the whole trail. It has an extensive section about Fiddlehead Farm -- telling its history, showing relatively recent pictures, and extending an invitation to hikers. The caption of the above photo in the book reads "Nature is once again in the process of reclaiming the former Fiddlehead Farm". So much is gone back to the forest.

On my visit it was sad for me to realize that I couldn't even find my house site. But it was wonderful to think of hikers on the way through, able to spend the night camping in one of the woodsheds that is still remaining.

If you are interested in finding more about the "Dream of Giants" group that maintains and enjoys the Sunshine Coast Trail, here are some links:

To buy the book:
Books section of the "Sunshine Coast Trail" website

Our visit to the farm again -- after 14 years

I just returned from a visit in August to Fiddlehead after 14 years away. I travelled there in the company of Timo my son, his wife Julie, and their 16 year old son, Elliot.

Walking up the same road brought so many memories. I could remember every stone, every log, every tree. It really looked the same. But the difference was in the light that streamed across the road, because of the clear-cutting which had chewed out huge chunks of the forest, just beyond the fringe of trees we remembered.

Linda on the big bridge. The road is the same except for all the light from the clearcutting




We found the Meditation House, which is one of two remaining structures. People had written their names recently on stones, and left them in there. The other remaining structure is a wood-shed, now used by hikers as a camping shelter. The only other building that was saved was Liisa's house, that was traded to a contractor who moved it down to the dock, along with our power system.

 


the meditation hut has survived, though logs over the creek are rotting


Liisa's house was moved onto our original dock

Most of the surrounding area has reverted back to nature. There was a lot of evidence of bears, who had moved into the remains of the orchard. They were having a fine time with the apples.


The orchard struggling against planted pine trees

And the site where the Dining Room/Kitchen had been was a large quarry which the logging company had made, for use on their roads. A large logging road went through the middle of the farm, and through the garden.


The dining room site was used as a quarry



Without the buildings it was very difficult to orient oneself -- to the barn field, and to my house. We were thrashing through the trees trying to find where our house had been, and we found water pipes and power pipes and pieces of the roof, so we knew we were in the right spot.


The mill now lives on my window sill
 
Like an archaeologist, Julie leaned down and picked something up out of the debris. She had found our "Foley Mill". This was the tool we used for making apple-sauce: a strainer that had a crank that you turned to separate the pits and the skin from the apple. We fed the pulp to the pigs.  The mill was rusted, crumpled and partially melted by the fire. It was so significant to me because I had made gallons of apple sauce, using it, from those wonderful old trees. The orchard is disappearing, being deliberately overgrown by fir trees planted by the new owners. We took the mill out with us. Now it lives in the window that look outs on my garden (where the ceramic Gnome is still pissing), past my potting studio, and out to the hills of the Cowichan Valley. To me the  bent shape of the ruined mill looks like a smile.


 

A fence being reclaimed by the land

 





You can burn the buildings, but you can't take away the experience


When I went back and saw the alders thriving, and the forest coming back, it felt like it was over. And that was okay. When Peter built the first buildings out of plywood and pressboard, it had nothing to do with forever, it was an experiment in education.

If we thought we worked hard, we were very aware of the Italian settlers that had come before us in the 1920's. They carved out a farm from wilderness. They had turned the cedar trees into buildings, by the sweat of their bodies. They didn't have any machinery. When we tore down that cedar house, we tore it down reverently, piece by piece. And it was respecting the life that those farmers had built in a very isolated part of the world.

Another thing I wanted to say about the development of the hostel and the building. It was totally organic. It wasn't conceived of making a business out of hostellers or people from Vancouver. The beginning of the hostel was that we couldn't do it all. It grew because we needed help. We all needed to give up a part of ourselves, so that the whole functioned.   
 


Students building the log house around 1980


Life skills of learning to work together
When Peter first conceived of the farm, it was not to build a paradise where we would stay the rest of our lives. It had to do with people, and their experiences. It was for a transient place for people to learn who they were, in a very special environment. We found space and silence.
 
 
 
He never saw it in terms of the permanence of the buildings, but in terms of the people who came there, and their relationship to nature. Buildings come and go in any country and in any place. But the change that comes in the making of it -- the doing of it -- is permanent. That was clear to me when I went up to the place where the buildings are now gone.



Catriona, one of the volunteer staff in 2000, showing off the salad she made


Monday, June 23, 2014

Potter and Urban Farmer


People who stayed at Fiddlehead may remember the "Pissing Gnome" -- made thirty years ago in 1984 -- who lived up to his name, night and day, into the little pond by the front gate of her home.


That was her first and only gnome until the last ten years. While Linda was running the Farm, she had no time for making pottery. Now that has become an important part of her life. The Pissing Gnome now lives in Linda's backyard, and he begins this small two-minute video that I made four years ago. It not only shows the beloved ceramic sculpture, but also stars Linda, still doing some of the things she does best. A dozen years after the end of the rainforest Fiddlehead Farm, she continues to  take a creative and zesty approach to bringing sustainable food into the world while teaching other people how to do it themselves.



Mr Gnome has been joined by some relatives since Fiddlehead. Here are pictures of two of them, both true "Garden Gnomes", as they are cradling plants.

One is a lazy visitor in her front hall, perhaps reminiscent of a "before the Fiddlehead experience" newly-arrived guest.

The bird is finding another use for the young man's  cell phone

A couple of months ago Linda completed her own version of Mrs. Gnome. She was inspired by the 1977 book "Gnomes", written by Wil Huygen and illustrated by Rien Poortvliet.




Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hello again from Linda

It is so good to read all the comments on the blog. And I'm feeling like I would like to directly get in touch with some of the old Fiddlehead Farmers. I still have a profound love of wilderness, and this picture -- taken this weekend at a walk-in campground on Saltspring Island -- is an example of how I am still getting out there as much as possible.

I go every year to visit Liisa in New Zealand, and have recently come back from a trip to Italy. I have a small studio in my back yard, and continue to make clay sculptures. 

I live in a small village on Vancouver Island, and would love to have any one of the people who I met at Fiddlehead visit if you are in the area.

Here is my new email address -- fiddleheadlinda@yahoo.ca

Monday, October 10, 2011

I am back!

I am looking forward to more activity on the blog. I am glad to be back in touch.

2009 Fiddlehead in Powell River "Vanishing History" blog


The Fiddlehead blog is in the process of being reactivated, and I did a bit of googling to see other references. Found a relatively recent posting on an interesting blog by local historians in Powell River, authored by Rob Tremblay, called "Vanishing History". Here is one of the photos from the site.


Here is the link to the page about Fiddlehead in the "Vanishing History" blog.

The author of Vanishing History commented "I recall sitting at our family cabin on Powell Lake and watching what we referred to as the Hippy Boat go by, it was a large boat, 30 ft or more, and always loaded with 10 or more people, it went slow and it was loud, this boat took people to the FiddleHead Farm back in the 1970′s, we always thought it was a Nudist Colony but you know how rumors are in Powell River."

I'm letting them know on the "Vanishing History" blog about this one, so hopefully they will pay us a visit.

Is there anyone out there who has memories to add to the blog?


As a friend of the Scheibers, I enjoy this blog so much. If only, she says to herself, others with Fiddlehead memories would add them here. It is an ongoing saga, so worthy of capturing in this venue. Thank you to those who have contributed, and "come all" who have yet to do so.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

short note from Linda




It has been fun to create this blog and relive all the old times. Since the physical part of the farm is gone it will be great for all of us to visit here. There are some long memoirs here but I don't want you to feel you have to compose an entire history of your stay. Just a short note on the incident you remember the most would be great along with pictures. I am continuing an active and inspiring life on the south of Vancouver island. I am building a ceramic building in my small back yard and plan to continue with clay sculpture. Please come and we can share the clay.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Fiddlehead memories


This is Glenn Rudman's contribution to the blog. He spent one wonderful year with us at the farm in 1988.

I have too many fond memories of the farm to reproduce them all here but some experiences stick in my mind. Taken separately, they can seem small, even insignificant; but together they form a whole episode of my life which is greater than the sum of the parts. Perhaps that is how I want to sum up the farm - greater than the sum of its parts.

I first arrived at Fiddlehead Farm in the late-80s as a naive young Englishman of 18 years. I hadn’t seen much of the world and I had only been in Canada two weeks when I noticed an advertisement for the farm at Jericho Beach Youth Hostel, Vancouver. The poster promised a small oasis in the wilderness, working for my keep, log cabins, good people and good food. This was just what I needed.

Over a period of nine months in Canada, I spent nearly three of them at Fiddlehead. I soon settled into the routine of work. Everything from splitting wood to gardening, to helping in the kitchen and fetching the groceries from town - all fuelled by some of the most wholesome food I have ever eaten.

I spent my 19th birthday on the farm and I’m still touched by the generosity offered to me by Linda and her family. During my special day I played some volleyball with another farm guest and made hand-churned ice-cream. In the evening I sat down to a fantastic pizza dinner complete with party hats. The desert included the famous $100 chocolate cake and the ice-cream I had help to prepare earlier in the day. As if this wasn’t enough I was given gifts, including a T-shirt from the Powell Lake marina bar, a bottle of Bushmill’s whiskey and a pair of very silly plastic yellow glasses (sadly dropped in Powell Lake soon after!).

Good, home-baked food was a big part of the farm experience and Linda soon had me baking bread, croissants, overnight coffee cake, pizza and trying my hand at a range of new delights including cheese and cauliflower pie with a potato crust (divine!). I remember playing pool one evening in the main house. At some point in the proceedings someone suggested we make some ranger cookies. Then someone else added that we should make a double batch. I’m not sure how it happened but after the initial enthusiasm and group surge to the kitchen I was left baking the cookies - alone. I didn’t get to bed until about 1am! Thanks guys.



Ranger cookies aside, the gentle encouragement I received in the kitchen did boost my confidence. It probably serves as a metaphor for growing up and testing new ground as a person.

It wasn’t all enjoyable though. It was quite an education to be involved in chopping the heads off chickens and skinning them while they were still warm so that roast chicken could be on the menu. I wasn’t always willing to volunteer but I felt compelled to assist by the simple notion that if I was going to it eat then I had to have a hand in the slaughter. However, I distinctly remember refusing to take the axe to one proud and colourful rooster that was neglecting his duties with the ladies. I just couldn’t do it.

Roast chicken was on the menu the night of the Halloween fancy-dress party. However, Fiddlehead Farm is the only place crazy enough to stage a fancy-dress party where the number of guests would never total more than three. Still, the Hunchback of Notredame (me), Davy Crocket (Timo) and an unnamed witch (Julie) had a great dinner, a few beers and partied till late around the pool table.

No tale of the farm would be complete without a mention of the special animals. Whether there were plans to eat them or not, the farm beasts were an extension of the Scheiber family. Dan (top dog) and Ruben (the best rottweiler in the world) were a part of daily life. Whether it was Dan trying to bite the wheels off the moving tractor or using a dozing Ruben as a headrest on the warm grate above the furnace, the dogs were a constant source of friendship and entertainment. Alice and Sally, the cows, and Barbara and George, the geese, were always around somewhere, although Barbara and George didn’t last long. They were destined for the cooking pot, but they got the last laugh when they turned out to be as tough as old boots.



When I returned to the farm in the winter after a spell of travelling around Canada it felt good to be getting out of the boat and riding up the winding track to that special clearing in the woods. The arrival of snow marked the start of the tobogganing season and much effort was put into ensuring the toboggan run beneath the conifers had ample snow on it for maximum full-speed effect. It clearly wasn’t fun enough to whizz down the narrow run alone with little control, occasionally missing the small rock at the right-hand bend, thereby saving one’s coccyx from another painful battering. It was far more entertaining for everyone go together in one long unsteady caterpillar of recklessness. That way, there was always the added thrill that you would be run over by someone behind you, or better still, ride over the person in front who wiped out on the right-hander. As if this wasn’t enough, night-time tobogganing was part of Fiddlehead life. What form of illumination did we use? Flashlights gripped in our teeth of course! If we arrived safely at the bottom of the run then we would simply collect our toboggans under our arms, trudge back up the slope with glad-to-be-alive smiles on our faces, take a quick sip of Dr. McGuilliguddy’s Peach Schnapps and throw ourselves, once more, down the toboggan run of death!



Adventure hikes on nearby Goat Island, overnight canoe camping trips to Haslam Lake with a cat, fixing the hydro electricity supply, naked log rolling on Frog Pond, Irish coffees, lucrative pine mushroom collecting and splitting endless quantities of logs because you had to, are all part of the Fiddlehead life I remember.

Apart from the happy memories and the new friends, the farm opened my mind to new possibilities and gave me the confidence to tackle some of the challenges I faced when I returned to Britain. Perhaps that time at Fiddlehead affected me more than I dare admit as, since April 2006, I have been living in the Yukon with my wife, Jo, enjoying some of the Canadian ways of life that I first experienced back in 1988.

Long may Fiddlehead live on. If not physically, then in the hearts and memories of everyone who was touched by this very special place.

Glenn

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

In the Company of Strangers, by Lisa Mitchell




(Originally published in "The Age" newspaper, Melbourne, Australia, January 2004).


It was a magical place of gentle repute tucked so inconveniently within the folding mountains of British Columbia that only backpackers with slabs of time might find it. It would take a bus, two ferries, a motor boat and a muddy walk to reach Fiddlehead Farm in the lake-fed hinterland off Vancouver’s north-west coast.

Claudia steered the motorboat along deep green Lake Powell between a range of movie star mountains, a silvery V rippling in our wake. She was one of an itinerant bunch helping Linda, the owner, run the property in exchange for living expenses and a rewarding experience.
For the next five days, she said, there would be no electricity, three-minute showers every second day, communal meals at set times (no exceptions), and no special boat trips back to Powell River, the nearest township, for anyone at odds with their surrounds. A personality clash here might be fatal.

“It’s heaven,” Kirsten at work had said. I pictured a scene from a childhood story book, Enid Blyton’s The Children of Willow Farm, adding some fir-clad mountains. “There’s this cute little meditation hut over a pretty stream. You’ll love it.”

Five of us trudged 30 minutes behind Claudia up a rugged forest path lined with Douglas fir. Our backpacks would arrive by tractor later, she said. There were exactly eight children under nine screeching about the claret-coloured timber farmhouse as we arrived.

“Oh,” I ummed, wondering if the meditation hut had been commandeered for more important things like a cubby house. “They arrived today too,” Claudia offered. Bugger, I thought, and it wasn’t even shower night.

I would share my hut with two sixty-somethings and their unlikely friendship: Pat, a garrulous, opinionated and outgoing adventurer and Val, a kindly soul too frail for her age and devoted to guru Osho. Together we would spend the following nights gasping for air as we slowly gassed ourselves. Fiddlehead’s pulse-heavy vegetarian diet shocked most lazy bowels into protest, and Val refused to open windows lest the chill nights launch her bronchitis.

What was missing from my vision of Willow Farm was a more obvious selection of potential friends and travel buddies. In their place was this crowd mostly under 10 and over 40. At 31, I had yet to realise age as a state of mind, and the understanding that people are often drawn together under the guise of chance, by ties that bind.



By day we’d radiate in the few separate directions available to us. At night, we’d gather awkwardly around the campfire until Oscar the guitar-playing Chilean and his gifted soprano wife, Mariella, would bravely conduct our discordant choir in singsong – the children, David, Erik, Cliff, Kathy, Pat, Val, Claudia, Rachael and me.

Somewhere, between evening saunas and midnight rolls in the icy stream, three enormous “family” meals a day, and lazy afternoons on the farmhouse deck, time began to pass, but my restlessness did not. The tiny meditation hut, built over a babbling stream, was everything Kirsten had promised. I sat impatiently within it at least once a day, forcing tumbling thoughts to scurry.

If we spent one more afternoon with Val and Mariella gathering “the healing vibrations of nature” with crystal wands, Pat’s eyes might roll out the back of her head and my smile might harden. Pat and I walked several times to nearby lakes in hope of a serene canoe or swim, but the kiddies always arrived earlier and stayed late.

“I’m heading up Tin Hat. Coming?” said Pat. Perhaps a hike would help me surrender to this idyllic retreat, with its rolling grounds littered with animals and vegetable patches and chickens that laid eggs when they felt like it.

“It only takes four hours,” Claudia nudged, though I suspected her lean thighs were no match for my marshmallow ones. Still, if Pat was up for it just 12 months after her double-hip replacement, I could hardly decline.

It was disturbingly silent in this dark mountain forest of giant fir and red cedar. The gradient climbed far too quickly and we stumbled perpetually over knobbly roots hidden by refuse, no ankle or knee was safe. Where in hell where the trail markers? A ratty piece of plastic here and there hardly heralded the way.

In the shape of bearded trees and creepy hunched rocks, the fallen trunks and grasping branches, I spied `wild animals’ ready to pounce, none of which had ever existed in this part of the world, save the brown bear. “Pat? Paaaat? Paaaat!” At her pace we’d never peak, I grizzled impatiently. “Where the hell is she?” Now I’d gone and lost her, and me.

So fierce was the exertion and so irrational my fear that my bowling-ball heart ricocheted about my chest. I was in no shape to sensibly assess the six-foot high impasse of bracken and fern ahead but launched myself through it anyway - thwack, scratch, jab – emerging half an hour later a sweaty, pummelled mess.

Beyond the bracken, Tin Hat’s summit made of monster boulders and flat granite faces beckoned. On top, I could see Dave and Erik whistling and waving. With no path in sight, I scrambled up a steep, prickling fern face desperate to reach them and got horribly stuck. “Oh shit,” I mumbled tight lipped, feeling my chest and throat constrict in panic. Upwards was vertical and fern-free, downwards was a slippery, slide beyond my control.

About an hour later, Pat wrestled herself free of the bracken and threw a rather sharper voice my way so that I might track her. I slid and grappled on my back and bum in a trembling heap to the ground. Pat may have been 61 with plastic hips but she lead me to the summit with sensible assurance, her dignity well in tact and no grudges held - no humbler a hare was me.

On top of Tin Hat, surrounded by glinting jade lakes and majestic peaks spearheading a vibrant sky in every direction, was the tranquillity the meditation hut promised and the soothing reassurance Val’s crystal wand had captured. Here the four of us, so separate in age and attitude, celebrated our climb in wide-smiling, silent reverie.

Too tired to chew our dinners, we watched shooting stars by the campfire that night, the eclectic guests of Fiddlehead Farm all huddled together over tales of Tin Hat.
All these years later, I know the best holidays are the ones where you abandon your expectations entirely and arrive in the present to appreciate the intriguing company of strangers. Why ever would you journey to find more of the same?