British Columbia – The Horse Ranch

How is everyone?

Today, I woke up and thought about mandating processes for some reason…and then I thought “goddammit, don’t think about that!”…but it did remind me that I have been meaning to write to you to say hi, let you know how it’s going, and check in. Everything is going well with me, I am starting to take deep breaths because Brooke and I are leaving for Asia soon and I am getting nervous, in a good way – but still nervous.

You can share this email if anyone else is interested, I added the team plus a few others – here’s hoping that I got the emails right without Groupwise:)

So, five months as a hobo…First, my time off started on a sad note. When I got home from Franklin’s retirement party, there was a message from my Mom, letting me know that my Paddington (grandpa) was sick in the hospital. He died a few days later, and so my first weeks off were spent between Ottawa, Perth and Bancroft, doing family things, taking turns staying with my grandmother. I also just found out that my other grandpa is ill. I have been very fortunate to have all my grandparents until now, so this feels like a change in my life, somehow.

Anyway, on happier note, I also spent some of this time being a housewife (which was great – I hope to return the favour so Brooke can live as a kept man for a few months) and painting and listening to a million podcasts. I also made a homemade batch of wine from last year’s grapes and this summer’s rhubarb…if it turns out, I will have about 20 bottles of wine which I will need assistance consuming…

In June I decided it was time to go on a trip so I started looking around for a “workaway” or “wwoofing” placement. I wangled a place at a guest ranch in BC where my awesome friend Elisa (who is also on a year-long sabbatical, from CIC) had worked in the spring (www.sundanceguestranch.com). I said “give me five days,”packed, and hopped on a plane. I got to spend the summer in one of the coolest places in Canada. I didn’t know there was desert here, but the Thompson River area includes a section of dry, sagebrush covered steppes around Kamloops. It was an amazing place to learn to ride horses – real-deal cowboys and scenery similar to Montana or the Dakotas.

HorizonLandscape below ranch, Thompson R.

 I made some great friends. There were like 25 staff and because we all worked and lived together, there was always some good gossip, or a trip to town, or something going on. Several of the other work exchangers were young Brits, which meant the collective level of being shit-faced going on at any time was medium to very high.  There were so many different interesting people, I could write an anecdote or vignette for each one.  I had the most kick-ass room-mate, Emma, who had come out the week before to work as a wrangler. The wranglers are the stars of the show. They work with the horses, care for them, and take the guests out on rides. Anyway, Emma was a great dance buddy for the weekly Saturday night party hosted by “DJ Boom Boom” aka Boomer aka Greg, the ex-punk/ex-Australian husband of one of the owners. We had to listen to Barbie Girl by Aqua. Every. Single. Week. I don’t know if Boomer sincerely loves this song, or if it was kind of an ironic joke. By the end, it really started to grow on me, which might be the musical equivalent of Stockholm syndrome.

Volunteers

work exchangers!

I was definitely part of the older contingent, but this was great – I got all the fun, but could beg “old” on drama and drinking. I was lucky to make friends with one of the ranch owners and his partner, and had some great adventures, conversations, and met other cool folks through them. A German girl named Antje, became my stalwart adventure buddy for roadtrips, hikes, etc. I think of all the people I met, she will be one I keep as a friend despite time and distance.

Canyon

Adventure day, exploring canyon

Of course, I worked for my room and board and horse riding.  My regular job was serving, which was the best because kitchens are hilarious places to work.  The guests were generally happy, and the menu was set, so waitressing was a breeze (also, it gave great access to choice left-over desserts).  I ended up running the kids program for two weeks, too.  Because a lot of the guests are Swiss, German, and French, some of the kids had limited English. From this I learned that, in fact, Shaun the Sheep is the universal language

The horses! The ranch has 102 horses – seriously, this is a lot of horses. Sometimes I would go and hang out with the herd and then get freaked out when I realized how many horses were around me. They are basically in show business, taking the guests out twice a day. The best horses got worked a lot, because most guests can’t be risked with a semi-trained animal. Generally, I would get assigned at different horse each week, but my usual was a roan mare named Sansa (she’s the horse on the right in the picture below, with Emma). I learned how to brush them, and saddle (western saddles are very heavy) and ride western. Sansa was learning how to “neck reign” steer in the western style and how to walk the trails in a line with other horses, so she was often hard to handle. But she was still a good and gentle horse and I was sad when I left her. I got the feeling with Sansa that she had a heavy heart, she was new to the herd and had been mainly a brood mare, whose many colts had been taken away. The horses have big personalities, too, like dogs only more ambivalent to humans.  They are incredibly “tuned-in” to your mood and body language – I swear, they could sense if you looked away from the trail, and would sometimes take the opportunity to bite the horse in front of them, or eat, or otherwise misbehave. I had some amazing, challenging rides (for me, being new)  with the other staff, including a couple of pretty wild gallops. I’m proud to say I never fell off my horse, I think perhaps fear has glue-like qualities…given the risk of rocks, rattlesnakes, tiny cacti, sagebrush, canyons, creeks any other natural hazards available to maim, impale, poke, bite, etc., the impetus not to fall is pretty high.

Horses

Roomie Emma with Sansa and friends

Bronwyn and horseMe and Pal taking a rest

After the ranch, Antje and I borrowed a truck and headed over the Cayoosh pass to Pemberton, near Whistler, where my dear friend Kerry has started a small organic farm (https://www.facebook.com/LaughingCrowOrganics). Kerry’s business partner, Budgie, snapped his achilles tendon the same day I arrived, so there was lots of work to do, I stayed with Kerry for a week and helped harvest veggies and sell them at market. Actually, I am a mediocre vegetable harvester, so I augmented my usefulness by painting a big sign and cooking.  Highlights included: driving a big truck over the Cayoosh; hiking to a mountain glacier with Antje; finally being able to get good sushi in Pemby (which seemed to be the thing people missed most while at the ranch); driving Budgie home from the hospital in with his bandaged leg out the truck window; Kerry’s excellent yoga classes; and, selling food at the markets.

Bronwyn and friend

Antje and I hiking Joffre, lake and glacier  

KerryKerry with crops, Pemberton

I loved being out West. The landscape is big. There’s always things to do outside.  People are generous.  I seriously can’t believe how many people were willing to lend me their cars.

…Then I came back home, with just enough time for Brooke and to pack our apartment up before September. And as of today, our tickets are booked for Nepal!!! (holy shit!) Stage two of the year off is set to begin October 13, so we are in the midst of getting vaccinated and making lists of all the various things we need to take. I am bringing so many health/safety related items that there will be room for like one change of clothes in my backpack, so I’m sure this will be my stinkiest trip to date. We are heading to Kathmandu and staying there for about a week to get our bearings and take some language classes, and then heading to a region called Ilam to work at an organic tea farm. After that, a trek, maybe a yoga retreat and another work project in a region called Annapurna. And after that, maybe some wandering in Northern India and/or jumping a plane to Vietnam for some beach time…!!! Holy Shit!!!

But before that…my brother, Bryor, is getting married on October 4! So, a few weeks of wedding planning, camping with Brooke, harvesting at the farm, and hanging in Hamilton.

 Okay, that’s all I got. If you’ve made it this far, you are heroic readers. I hope all is well with all of you, your families. I was thinking I will miss Christmas at LMRB because it’s always nice when everyone brings theirs kids in. I’d love to hear from you guys, individually, or en masse.

Lots of love,
Bronwyn

4 thoughts on “British Columbia – The Horse Ranch

  1. Hey Browyn and Brooke,

    Sounds like the start of some great adventures guys! I’m seriously jealous of your upcoming trip to Nepal!

    Sorry to hear about your Gramps sweetie.

    Keep writing when you have time. Love you both,

    Shannon

  2. i am in at the internet cafe today where it is dry and warm and they have organic coffee, (hydro is off at home 6 hours now)it is nov 1 and i have finaly read your whole write up. makes me feel connected since i was not there when you phoned. happy travelling my dear, love mom

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