Back at O’Keefe Ranch

Bennett has never met a chicken he didn’t like, and this truth was evident at O’Keefe Ranch near Vernon, BC. There, on a sunny July day, he spent a good hour admiring the poofy silkies, watching the silver spangled hamburgs and contemplating the bearded and booted Belgian D’uccles. When he tired of these exotic cluckers he chased the other, lesser chickens around the coop.

Bennett holds a fresh egg picked up from under a roosting chicken (really!) at O'Keefe Ranch.

Bennett holds a fresh egg picked up from under a roosting chicken (really!) at O’Keefe Ranch, while Avery readies to grab a chick.

Three hours and many animal encounters later — including Avery holding a baby Jacob sheep and many fluffy chicks, and Bennett petting the friendliest farm cat ever — I had to wonder how this was our third trip to the northern Okanagan but only our first visit to O’Keefe Ranch.

Avery cradles a baby Jacob sheep in her lap at O'Keefe Ranch.

Avery cradles a baby Jacob sheep in her lap at O’Keefe Ranch.

Founded by western settler Cornelius O’Keefe, the ranch at the turn of last century was not only a working ranch, but a townsite complete with a church, post office and general store. The ranch has been preserved as an historic site and includes many of the original buildings, such as the O’Keefe mansion, which is open for tours. The General Store is also kitted out with old-time candy and we had a ball troughing on chicken bones, cherry sours and a giant lollipop.

Through these doors lie the best selection of sugary treats this side of the Monashees.

Through these doors lies the best selection of sugary treats this side of the Monashees.

The highlight, of course, were the animals. After our snack, a hayride and a lazy attempt to lasso some faux cows, we circled back to the chicken coop to say goodbye.

Avery hold a chick inside the coop at O'Keefe Ranch.

Avery holds a chick inside the coop at O’Keefe Ranch.

Don’t miss Family Fun Day on August 24, or the corn maze in October.

Summertime lemonade stand

Avery has been asking to do a lemonade stand for the past several summers. In previous years the timing was never right — the weather was cool and rainy, or the bike path in front of our house had been washed away by the flood — but this past weekend the ideal lemonade conditions came together: warm, sunny and lots of bicycle and pedestrian traffic due to a brand new paved path on our street.

Selling lemonade, iced tea and cookies at a stand along the Bow River in Inglewood.

Selling lemonade, iced tea and cookies at a stand along the Bow River in Inglewood.

Blake hit the grocery store for supplies (lemonade and iced tea mix, and soft oatmeal raisin cookies) and Avery got to work creating signs for her stand. Blake Googled, “What’s the going rate for lemonade at a lemonade stand?” and came up with pricing. The two of them figured out the up-front costs of the stand and put together a cash float so that Avery could give cyclists change should they hand her a $20 bill for a .75-cent cup of lemonade. Finally, Avery recruited a friend to help her, and they negotiated an hourly rate ($2) for her buddy. Final lemonade stand touches included hand sanitizer, napkins, a trash can, and mint leaves and ice cubes floating in the giant beverage dispenser.

Avery and her friend sell .75-cent cups of lemonade and .50-cent cookies, on their way to a tidy profit.

Avery and her friend sell .75-cent cups of lemonade and .50-cent cookies, on their way to a tidy profit.

Then, they waited for business while Blake and I watched through the living room window. And what business! The stand was busy from the beginning, with cyclists lining up and neighbours streaming out of their homes for a refreshing drink. The cookies (priced at 50 cents) were a top seller, with one neighbour boy buying three. Many customers commented on how good the lemonade was (thanks Country Time!), and some asked her what she was raising money for.

Avery: “Well, first I have to pay my dad back for the supplies and the float, and then I’m going to save the rest.”

Customer: “Saving money is a good idea.”

Cyclists line up for a cup of lemonade along the Bow River pathway in Inglewood on the weekend.

Cyclists line up for a cup of lemonade along the Bow River pathway in Inglewood.

Not only was the lemonade stand a fun way for Avery and her friend to spend a sunny summer afternoon, they got to practice math by calculating change. They also got to talk to strangers — something that rarely happens in today’s over-protective world — an important life-skill that’s also a confidence booster for kids.

And the best part, of course, was the profit. After she repaid Blake and paid her hired help $4 for two hours, Avery counted out $39 that she can hardly wait to deposit into her bank account — not bad for a nine-year-old’s afternoon job!

Drink of the Week: Sunny Side

The best drink to touch your lips after hiking 20 kilometres along Heiko’s Trail through Fernie’s spectacular backcountry is a nice cold beer from the Fernie Brewing Company. If you happen to be recuperating on the Bear Lodge patio at Island Lake Lodge and they’re out of What the Huck, however, order a Sunny Side cocktail instead (or do so after you finish your beer).

A gin lemonade is just the thing to ease pain and aid hydration after an epic backcountry hike.

A gin lemonade from Island Lake Lodge is just the thing to ease pain and aid hydration after an epic backcountry hike.

I’m all for sipping boozy lemonade on hot summer patios. But when gin is tipped in and the tart, refreshing libation is your reward for eight hours of hiking, the experience is sublime. Cheers!

Sunny Side

  • 1 oz Spirit Bear gin
  • Top with homemade lavender-infused lemonade*

Fill a rocks glass with ice and add gin, then top with lemonade. Stir and garnish with a lemon wedge and a nasturtium.

– Recipe courtesy Island Lake Lodge

*Lavender-infused lemonade (yield: 1-1/2 litres)

  • 1 cup honey
  • 5 cups water, divided
  • 1 tbsp dried lavender flowers
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice

Combine honey with 1 cup water and heat in a saucepan until honey is completely dissolved. Add lavender blossoms, cover, remove from heat and let stand for up to two hours. Strain the infusion and discard the lavender. Pour the mixture into a pitcher, add the lemon juice and remaining 4 cups of water, chill, and serve.

– Modified from a recipe by Kitchn

Heiko’s Trail in Fernie

Blake and I embarked on an epic day hike in Fernie last weekend: Heiko’s Trail. We’d been wanting to do this storied trek for several years, but the timing was never right — it’s a full-day commitment and the thought of just the two of us walking 20 kilometres through bear country gave me pause.

Skirting the imposing mass of Mount Bisaro by way of wildflower-studded alpine meadows. Photo by Mike McPhee.

Skirting the imposing mass of Mount Bisaro by way of wildflower-studded alpine meadows. Photo by Mike McPhee.

So when Toque and Canoe asked if my husband and I would be interested in hiking the trail with an ACMG-certified hiking guide, staying overnight at Island Lake Lodge (the trail’s terminus) post-hike, and then writing about it, how could I say no?

Look for my story on the T&C website later this summer. In the meantime, enjoy some Heiko’s Trail highlights, courtesy of Fernie resident and Island Lake Lodge marketing guru Mike McPhee, who joined our hike as photographer extraordinaire.

Blake walks across a wooden bridge spanning the 'Laughing Waters' waterfalls, barely one kilometre from the trailhead. Photo by Mike McPhee.

Blake walks across a wooden bridge spanning the ‘Laughing Waters’ waterfall, barely one kilometre from the Heiko’s Trail trailhead. Photo by Mike McPhee.

Posing inside Bisaro Cave, a vast cavern carved from crumbling limestone. Photo by Mike McPhee.

Posing inside Bisaro Cave, a vast cavern carved from crumbling limestone long Heiko’s Trail near Fernie, BC. Photo by Mike McPhee.

Crossing Bisaro Canon on one of two steel bridges helicoptered into the backcountry for this purpose. Photo by Mike McPhee.

Crossing Bisaro Canon along Heiko’s Trail on one of two steel bridges helicoptered into the Fernie backcountry for this purpose. Photo by Mike McPhee.

There isn't a bad view on Heiko's Trail. It was amazing to hike behind mountains visible from downtown Fernie. Mount Bisaro's 'Soda Wall' -- so named for the carbonates found in limestone -- looms behind us. Photo by Mike McPhee.

There isn’t a bad view on Heiko’s Trail. Mount Bisaro’s ‘Soda Wall’ — so named for the carbonates found in limestone — looms behind us. Photo by Mike McPhee.

After eight hours, 20 kilometres and 4,500 feet of total elevation gain, it was time for a cold drink on the Bear Lodge patio at Island Lake Lodge. Check out my cocktail of choice in my next post.

 

Elderflower Collins

One of the most popular cocktails I’ve written about is the French Gimlet, a martini-style sipper that includes St-Germaine, a liqueur from France. Since St-Germaine is still uber-popular — and I personally love it — I have taken it upon myself to seek out other recipes that include it.

I happened upon the Elderflower Collins at the Oak Room lounge inside the Fairmont Palliser hotel while I was researching an upcoming Calgary Herald column on the resurgence of the gin and tonic (look for it in early August). This long cocktail is tart and refreshing and rather like a Tom Collins but with the sweet and floral elderflower liqueur for a delicious twist. Take advantage of these warm summer evenings by sipping one on your deck or patio. Delightful!

This lovely long drink is on the "FAME" (Fairmont Artistic Mixology Experience) menu at the Fairmont Palliser hotel.

This refreshing long drink is on the “FAME” (Fairmont Artistic Mixology Experience) menu at the Fairmont Palliser hotel.

Elderflower Collins

  • 1 oz Martin Miller’s gin
  • 1/2 oz St-Germaine Elderflower
  • 1/2 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz simple syrup
  • Top soda water
  • Mint sprig and lemon wheel garnish

Method: In a cocktail shaker, combine gin, St-Germaine, lemon juice and simple syrup and shake with ice. Strain into a tall glass filled with ice. Top with soda and garnish with a mint sprig and a lemon wheel.

– Recipe courtesy Fairmont Palliser hotel

 

Drink of the Week: Saskatoon Sour

Last summer while attending a conference in Saskatoon I happened upon a hip cocktail bar called The James inside a swishy boutique hotel of the same name. I asked the bartender to make me something fun and she created a lovely sour using a Saskatoon liqueur from the local Lucky Bastard Distillers. Fittingly, she called the drink a Saskatoon Sour. I was won over by its purple hue before I even tasted its smooth and frothy berry delicious tartness.

Behold the original Saskatoon Sour from The James.

Behold the original Saskatoon Sour from The James.

I meant to write about the drink last year but I forgot all about it until I happened upon the bottle of Saskatoon liqueur I brought back from Saskatoon. *Footnote for those who have no idea what a Saskatoon is: Not only is it a city in the province of Saskatchewan, a “Saskatoon” is a small blue fruit (technically a “pome” — not a berry) that is native to Canada and grows on trees and bushes seemingly everywhere.  The berries are similar in flavour to a blueberry only not as juicy or sweet.* Since I lost the recipe from The James I created my own Saskatoon Sour using the liqueur with Pisco and lime juice, and I’m quite pleased with the result. I didn’t have a Saskatoon or even a blueberry on hand for a garnish, however.

Behold the Saskatoon Sour!

My Saskatoon Sour, with a mint garnish.

As a bonus, Saskatoons are currently in season right now, so if you don’t have a bottle of Saskatoon liqueur on hand, you could improvise by making a Saskatoon simple syrup (or subbing in a blackberry liqueur such as Chambord).

Saskatoon Sour

  • 1 oz Pisco
  • 1/2 oz Saskatoon liqueur*
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • Saskatoon or blueberry garnish

Method: Combine all ingredients except garnish in a cocktail shaker and dry shake to emulsify egg. Add ice and shake again. Strain into a coupe or rocks glass and garnish with a blueberry or Saskatoon.

Hidden Lake: a new Fernie discovery

One of our favourite things to do near Fernie, B.C. is to spend a hot summer’s day at Surveyor’s Lake swimming, kayaking and looking for turtles and crayfish. We often hike around the lake from our HQ on Saunder’s Beach, and enjoy views into secluded Engineer’s Lake from the bridge that bisects the two mountain lakes. This visit, however, we learned of a new hike to a new lake: Hidden Lake.

Avery surveys the scene looking for Western Painted turtles at Hidden Lake in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park.

Avery surveys the scene looking for Western Painted turtles at Hidden Lake in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park.

The lake isn’t “hidden” so much as out of the way of the majority of day-tripping beach-goers. You can access it via the loop road at Surveyor’s Lake campground in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park, a 30-minute drive southwest of Fernie on Hwy. 3. Hidden Lake has the same Western Painted turtles as the other two lakes, without the crowds to scare them from their log perches into the cool water.

See the water glimmering beyond the turtle sign? That's Hidden Lake.

See the water glimmering beyond the turtle sign? That’s Hidden Lake.

There’s a narrow trail around the lake — lined with Saskatoon berry bushes, I might add — that lets you get close to the shore in many spots where the deadfall has washed up and the turtles are out atop it sunning themselves.

Five Western Painted turtles sun themselves atop a log at Hidden Lake near Fernie, B.C.

Five Western Painted turtles atop a log at Hidden Lake near Fernie, B.C.

Our group of 16 managed to get quite close to a “turn” of turtles (I had to look that up!). Honestly, they’re not very interesting to watch, but these reptiles are considered a vulnerable species and it’s neat to see them in their natural habitat. Plus, the kids love spotting them — and eating copious amounts of Saskatoons along the way!

Avery shows off her bucket-o-berries along the Hidden Lake Trail in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park.

Avery shows off her bucket-o-berries along the Hidden Lake Trail in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park.