The view from the bridge over the Bull River canyon, where water levels are extremely high and dangerous. (Corey Bullock file)

Farm life: Mother Nature always wins

Water, wind or fire, it’s up to Mother Nature.

I woke to the sound of rain on the roof and the cool breeze coming through my window. A yawn and a stretch; time to start my day.

I enjoyed my coffee as I normally do, on the porch while my dogs sniffed around. The rain had stopped but the ground was still wet, creating the perfect conditions for muddy dog paws and Birkenstocks. I wandered over to my garden, the air sweet with the smell of a fresh precipitation. I made my way from bed to bed, saying hello to all of my plants. They were standing tall and proud to greet the day after a long drink of water from Mother Nature.

I went about getting ready for my day, with the decision that I’d need to drive to the natural spring up the Bull River because I’m tired of boiling and buying water. We’re on a boil water notice in Fort Steele. E and I packed the car, left the dogs at home, and headed out to fill up our water jugs.

I never tire of the drive past the Aberdeldie Dam. The entire drive is filled with views and wildlife and generally dreamy scenery. We passed the resident group of big horn sheep, all donned with collars and munching on the grass at the side of the road. I kept an eye out for Mama bear and her cubs, but they were nowhere to be seen.

The Aberfeldie Dam has been around for nearly as long as my house has, with the first plans set in place in 1897. According to the virtual museum website, construction of the dam and powerhouse began in the fall of 1920. The first generator went online in April of 1922 and in 1953, a new dam was constructed that was 27m tall and 134m long. Then in 1959, operations at the plant were automated.

BC Hydro now owns the dam and completed a $95-million redevelopment, which generated electricity during the spring freshet in 2009. The original station was only a five megawatt facility, which is now at an approximate capacity of 24 megawatts.

Apparently the official name of the dam was changed to Aberfeldie Dam in 1923, when the president of the company, Mr. A.E. Appleyard decided that the name Bull River Dam did not have enough of a presence. He named the plant after a region in Scotland that he thought to be impressive.

Impressive is exactly the word I’d use to describe the dam, and the Bull River area in general. I’m always in awe of the power of water. It’s amazing that it is so heavy, yet when you’re floating in water you feel so light. Whether it’s rain or snowmelt, or just regular water flow, water has the capability of completely destroying roads, buildings and communities. It also has the power to heal and calm the mind.

We’ve seen some scary examples of the power of water within recent weeks. The entire Wild Horse river flooded and re-directed itself, causing campers to become stranded and garbage to float downstream into the Kootenay River. Homes were evacuated in Fairmont in the second largest debris flow they’ve seen to date. Storm warnings have been abound in the region over the past month.

As we drove over the bridge and past the dam, I couldn’t contain my exclamations. I’d never seen the water so high, both at the dam and through the canyon that follows. It made me think of that movie, ‘The Impossible’, about the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. The sheer power of those waves. It made me check myself while filling up our water jugs from the mountain spring, “this is a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things.”

A saying that has been on our farm since we moved in is that Mother Nature always wins. Whether it’s wind, water or fire, she always wins. We cannot help these natural events and despite the damage that’s done, it always puts things into perspective for me. That I am but a tiny spec on this here Earth, but that I also have a responsibility to take care of Mother Nature. As Reinhold Niebuhr once said, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

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Filling up water from the natural spring because we’re currently on a boil water notice in Fort Steele. (Corey Bullock file)

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