After World War II Dutch people began immigrating to Canada in droves. Like so many European nations ravaged by war, Holland's economy could not support its population and young people sought new lives abroad. Many Dutch immigrants came from farming families and so moved here to this area of British Columbia where the weather is mild and the soil very rich.
Dutch people are still immigrating here. I have a winter job working for a Dutch couple who came in the 1990's and set up an ornamental plant business. Three mornings a week, after I get my kids off to school I head over to the barn, about two kilometers from my house, where I pack rare and unusual roots and tubers with names like Giganteus (a type of bamboo) and Miscanthus (a beautiful ornamental grass), in peatmoss. The crates of roots are overwintered in a climate controlled room until February when they are shipped to or picked up by nursuries which plant them in containers and let them sprout into pretty little plants in greenhouses. They are then sold to garden centers or landscape designers in spring, ready for transplanting. Some of the roots and tubers are so unusual looking I once made a comment that I half expected them to start screaming like Professor Sprout's potted mandrakes in Harry Potter.
Early last week we had a couple of mild days so I rode my bike over to the barn. Halfway through the morning I looked out the window to check the weather, and to my dismay, the wind had picked up and the rain was falling in a slant. I hoped it would die down in time for me to cycle home at noon. Unfortunately, by twelve p.m. the rain and wind was still very much an issue so after my boss, Jake returned from feeding his daughters' horses, and at the insistence of his wife and business partner, Carola, I asked if I could get a ride home with my bike in their truck. They are extremely kind people and Jake almost immediately said, "Yaw, shoor". I say almost immediately because just for a moment I detected something of disapproval in his eyes. Sure enough, when we got in the truck and pulled onto the highway he said, "Obviously, you didn't grow up in Holland. This is nice weather for cycling in Holland!" He then went on to tell me about the high school kids in Holland who regularly cycle 25-30 kms. to school and back, and how when he and Carola first moved to Canada they thought all the high schools were hospitals because of the parking lots full of cars. Apparently, there are no parking lots at the schools in Holland, not even for the teachers. Feeling rather small I listened, awed at the environmental superiority of the Dutch, and thought of my German friend Ralf, who calls Canada 'The Drive-Thru Country".
I have noticed that many of the older Dutch residents of our area ride their bikes around town. It is easy here on the flats of the valley, at least when it isn't too windy. Last Friday, the morning was clear and blue-skied with no wind, so I donned my gore-tex pants and jacket, scarf, gloves, skullcap and then bike helmet and rode over to the barn. When Jake came in he said, "So, I see you brought your bike today. That's good!" I laughed and joked that I wouldn't have dared showing up in a car on such a fine day. I was also able to tell him that I'd grown up in the mountains with parents who refused to own a car until they inherited my grandmother's Chevy Belair after she died, and that I'd daily made my way to school and back in every kind of weather, as do my children. At noon, I bravely rode home in the warm sunshine without even the gore-tex pants, and felt content with myself.
This morning it was -5 degrees Celcius with an icy wind funnelling down the valley. I had the van, so I left the bike at home and drove to work. There are limits, even when one's Canadian pride is at stake. Jake refrained from comment. Besides, it rarely freezes in Holland.