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Thursday, September 16, 2010

High Valley

Last night, I was able to speak with the up and coming band, High Valley. For you country lovers like me out there, you've probably heard On a Combine on the radio -- that's them!

They're originally from La Crete area, and I can throw a rock to where their parents live now. I can see the house out my window.

High Valley was nominated for a CCMA this past week, Rising Star, so I interviewed them about that and some other events. They're heading to my beloved Ontario next month, so keep an eye out for them.

Dylan, if you're reading this, they're going to Peterborough and I highly recommend going if you can!

I can't say too much without giving away my article about them, but Paul Brandt (you know, that country singer I am absolutely obsessed with?) has worked with them since 2007. He actually has helped produce their latest Album, and they've recorded songs with Paul. Just another reason why High Valley and I will become best friends.

Brad, the oldest of the three brothers in High Valley, was the one I spoke with. He lives in Nashville with his wife and son, and his other two brothers live in La Crete. Brad promised to drop in and meet me when they're all in town, so he could 'meet a diehard Paul Brandt fan from Toronto.'

With any luck, this will lead to Paul Brandt coming to La Crete to meet me as well, and giving a private concert in La Crete, with High Valley.

...I know, unlikely. But you have to dream big, right?


Last week, my mom asked for one professional favour: that I take at least ONE day a week to myself. A ME DAY. I work every day, whether I'm at an event, at the office, or working from home. She said if I didn't slow down, I would get burnt out, and well.. Mom's know best! So today is my ME DAY!

I woke up when Chris got up and he made me breakfast. After he left for work, I went back to bed until almost 10am. I'd say my ME DAY is already off to a good start!

After that I sat around in my PJs, my favourite passtime, and did some cleaning and facebook creeping. Okay, mostly facebook creeping.

I missed the finale of Big Brother last night, so I looked it up online and started watching that. It was a two hour finale, so I took a few breaks. I paused it to make lunch for noon, when Chris was coming home. We has soup, pasta, and a bun. We had some hangout time on the couch, trying to figure out why our lives have become so busy and trying to schedule in a few things we want to get done this week, before he left again.

I finished watching Big Brother in my PJs and called my parents for a good chat. We talked about Big Brother, home, about a vehicle Chris and I have our eyes on, and other things. As we were hanging up the phone, I was promising myself I was going to shower and get dressed now. It was 2:00, but Dad asked me if I wanted to play Warcraft (I know, I'm a total nerd. My parents and I play a lot together now that I've moved so far away). So we played that for a bit before Dad had to go for dinner.

Finally, I showered and got dressed! Wearing my lovely pink John Deere shirt Aunt Debbie and Uncle Matt got me :)

I finally got around to hemming my pants I bought when I was in Edmonton, and have yet to sew on the buttons on a coat I got at a yard sale a while ago.

It has been a great day. I feel totally revived. It's been so busy since Chris came to Alberta, so it was a nice day to myself. Next week, I don't have any events, so I'm sure it won't be so hectic. I'll get a chance to do a few features!

Thanks for the advice, Mom!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Food Grains Harvest

Last week was the Food Grains Harvest in La Crete.

I found out this was happening just after driving through the night from Edmonton, arriving in La Crete just after 10am. This was about the time when Lisa, my co-worker from the Pioneer, called me to tell me I had an event to be at in a few minutes.

I wanted to cry. I was so tired, and I hadn't slept in I don't know how long. But, up I got, showered and ready for the Food Grains Harvest, just outside of La Crete.

I got there, mingled a bit, had a BBQ lunch, and started taking photos. I met some ladies who were telling me a bit about the event, since I had never been to a food grains harvest before.

From what I've learned, every year there is a field donated from the Mackenzie County (near La Crete) and a field is harvested each year for the Food Grains Harvest. Everything is donated: the seeds, fertilizing, harvesting, trucking, etc. This year, over 5,200 bushels of canola was harvested, making just over $52,000. This cost is then matched 4 to 1.

I was introduced to a wonderful man by the name of Willie Friesen, who let me ride with him in his combine. I had never been in one before, and coming from a family of dairy farmers and cheese makers, I sure didn't know a lot about harvesting canola. Thanks to my friend Willie, I do now.

I rode with him for about an hour, which was how long it took the nine combines to harvest the field. Though I was so tired, I wanted to learn more about farming in Northern Alberta, oil, and logging.

Now, this machine is nothing like the tractors I'm used to. This was a giant, sexy, green, John Deere, luxurious machine! I mean, this thing had air conditioning! And there were so many computers in there, I'm sure that if I weren't in there with him, he would have been on facebook. You can even watch movies and listen to music in there. Why would you ever need to leave?

I think these Albertan farmer's have it made pretty good out here.

Ontarians to Alberta

Last week, I picked up Chris from Edmonton, which was quite the ordeal in itself. an 8 hour drive straight, with the ferry out, just to find out his flight no longer would come in at 9am the next day, but 11:15pm the next day. Obviously, I was not impressed.

We had a dreadful drive through the night, both so frustrated with each other we didn't even speak. When we pulled in the driveway we both looked at each other and just laughed. Luckily, we started liking each other again.

Now, of course, everything is wonderful. Couldn't be better! I am so happy to have him here with me.

Yesterday, he got a job in La Crete with Quality Motors as a Finance Control Assistant. I am so happy for this! I was worried he would have to go back to Ontario if he couldn't find a job. We're still not sure how much he makes, but we're both so excited for this.

I was both excited and nervous when he got the job. Excited, because it meant he would be staying in La Crete with me. Nervous, because it meant we were really staying here for a while. For a few years, perhaps. And that made me nervous and homesick.

My friend Kristin also started working in Grimshaw, Alberta, this week. I haven't been down to see her yet, but we're trying to work out some time to visit one another in the next couple of weeks. I am so happy I have some Ontarians here with me now!

This place is finally starting to feel like home.

Pioneer Days

Last week was Pioneer Days at the La Crete Heritage Centre. It was SO much fun! I didn't think I would have so much fun.

I got there in the morning and took some photos before finding a place to sit with my pancake breakfast. A woman let me sit with them, since I didn't have anyplace to sit. It turns out her name is Sarah, daughter of Henry Harvey Peters, the man who pioneered the farm Pioneer Days and the Heritage Centre is based on. What better person to meet? I got a fastastic interview and tour.

She took me to the flour mill, which originally I was going to skip but am I ever glad I didn't. Her brother, Cornie, was in there giving tours so I got some photos and they answered a bunch of questions.

The two of them sat down with me and told me what it was like when they were kids growing up on the farm. It turned into quite the eye opener for me and quite the emotional interview for Sarah. She says her father wouldn't be happy to see what has happened to her land, and it really doesn't feel like home to her any more, with everyone moved around and changed around. Who knew having your home turned into a tourist attraction was so hard on you?

After that, I drove home to drag Chris out of bed. We went for the rest of the fair, enjoyed some delicious mennonite foods, and got some old fashioned photos taken together. It was such a wonderful afternoon!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Mud Bogger

This is an entry I had published in the September 1st issue of the Northern Pioneer, for my column. It focuses on my experiences at the bud bog in La Crete. Enjoy!

Well, it’s official. Mud Bogging season is well underway and I for one, has been converted.
It certainly didn’t take much for me to fall in love with mud bogging at the La Crete Mud Bog, Saturday, August 28th. What’s not to love? Mud, check. Trucks, check. ATVs, check. Sounds like a perfect afternoon, to me.
Though I’ve had my fair share of splashing through puddles and swamps in trucks and ATVs in sticks of Ontario, I had never experienced a Northern Alberta mud bog. However, what kind of reporter would I be if I simply told you what it was like to watch a mud bog? I wanted divulge myself into the thrill of mud bogging. And with the help of mud bogger Jake Wiebe, I was able to. Here I won’t tell you what it’s like to attend a mud bog, I will help you to experience what it’s like to be a competitor.
“Alright, hop in,” Jake Wiebe tells me, as he hops in the driver’s side of “Bolt,” the name of the truck, with ease. We’re third to drive through the freshly mixed up mud bog, thanks to the backhoe operator who made numerous piles of muck throughout the bog.
This task was easier said than done. The bottom of the truck nearly came to the shoulders of my five foot frame. I attempt to lift my not-so flexible leg up to my shoulders to reach the bottom of the truck. He looks at me, probably asking himself if it’s too late to go back on his promise to take me through the bog. I look around at other mud boggers in the pit laughing at me, and I can’t help but laugh along with them.
Jake Wiebe jumps out and proceeds to help me in. He makes a step with his hands together and the first thing I think is, “oh no, his hands are going to get dirty when I stand on it.” Then I realize how ironically silly this worry is.
I step into his hands, and prepare to pull myself up. Well, that wasn’t necessary. As soon as my foot was in Jake Wiebe’s hands, I was flying up into my seat. His being able to lift me into my seat by my foot definitely put me to shame.
So we’re in, buckled and have the helmets on. I think I checked my seatbelt and helmet eight times, before asking Wiebe, “is this okay?” He laughed and said yes, as we drove up to the start line. We were next.
I had a million questions going through my head and I realized I was kind of nervous. I wanted to ask Wiebe what I should do if we flipped, (though he promised me already he wouldn’t). I eyed the window opener in case we flipped and I needed to escape fast.
I think Wiebe sensed my anxiety. He looked over at me, and even though his mouth was covered, I could tell by his eyes that he was smiling. Not necessarily in a ‘this is going to be fun’ smile, but in a ‘I’ve got 5 bucks that you’re going to pee your pants’ smile.
He warned me to hold on, and the next thing I knew the engine was growling and even with my seatbelt on, my butt was no longer on the seat.
The front of the truck went down and I could feel the umpgh when the wheels hit the water and muck, squealing in protest. My heart beat fast and I let out a loud, high pitched, teenage-girl-giggle, which never quit we had reached the other side.
Without missing a beat or losing control of the Bolt, Wiebe looked over at me, giggling and bouncing in my seat like a child, and laughed along with me, though in a much more mature fashion.
On the next hard heart beat, the front of the truck was now pulled upward. I could no longer see out any of the windows. I could feel splashing on my feet and looked down to see a small puddle of mud forming on the floor. I’m not sure how the muck was coming in, nor did I care. For once, my short height was paying me a favour; my short legs were not long enough to comfortably reach the ground and were safe from most of the splashing.
My legs dangled and whipped around like fallen leaves on a windy day, this way and that. My mouth likely gained two inches in size, from smiling so wide the whole time.
I couldn’t hear a thing except for the truck’s loud engine, water and muck splashing, and myself giggling. For those 13.10 seconds, I even forgot that we were in front of an audience.
I’m not sure how Jake Wiebe got us to the other side safely. I couldn’t see a thing. Though feeling somewhat vulnerable and not knowing what to expect, the excitement and thrill was enough to make me crave more.
We got to the other side and jumped out so the next driver could use the truck. Jake Wiebe hopped out before I did (of course), laughing, and the organizers on the other side of the bog looked over at the two of us in confusion.
“I took the reporter through,” he laughed to them. “She never stopped giggling the entire time.”
The total experience of getting in Bolt, going through the bog, washing off the truck, and getting out, was less than a minute. But a minute was enough to make love it!

(September 1st issue of the Northern Pioneer, Column: Insider Reflections, Ashley Foley)