“That was her magic—
she could still see
even on those
– Atticus Poetry, Love Her Wild
The Guru finishes another day at work. She’s meeting a friend for drinks. While having dinner, the conversation turns to her new project (this one) and the mentioned friend queries about what this woman (me) is trying to achieve. Life is funny like that, it all appears to fall in place as this week I met Katie. And she is a good example of what The Fur Guru wants to accomplish with this project.
Owns her design/ manufacturing business (Silver Cedar Studio),
Became President of the Northwestern Fur Trappers Association
Is an Assistant Director on the Ontario Fur Managers Federation
Is a representative for Northwestern Ontario Sportsman’s Alliance
(Phew, talking about multi-tasking!)
And all these activities come as an outcome of Katie’s big passion and true love: Trapping.
Her activity (inherently connected to nature) takes us back to where women and men were equals. Women have proved throughout history that we are quite sturdy, adaptable and capable (by nature) to endure any physical and psychological demand. While Trapping, there’s no man and woman. There are only humans taking gifts from nature, they are all equals. She’s re-establishing the natural order through her activity. She’s taking back what social establishments and guidelines took away from us. Yes, we are nurturers (mothers, homemakers, etc.) but we are also strong enough to create life and continue our species, to fight, to trap, to rule a nation and, of course, to be at the top level of any organisation.
This project is about showing, proving and celebrating the faculties and skills contained in every single woman (we ALL have them) but, it happens to be that some of them have had the courage, the ability, the persistence, the opportunity or the luck (or everything together) to develop them and succeed.
While doing her research in the web this Guru could find a few images of the Canadian trapper: unheeded, joyful and near to the wild heart of life. She shows herself as someone alone (but not lonely), enjoying so thoroughly what she does. Not surprising, as she does one of the most quixotic activities that this trade involves. Katie is not alone. Together with her, many more of these modern Artemises are living the life of the hunt, of the quiet, starry nights, of the sounds and patterns that nature provides as hints to continue the track of an animal. While doing it, this lady breaks stereotypes of a social system and establishes a common ground with the opposite gender. While reading about her, we all most probably also feel the urge of appreciating our individual power (as women) and therefore, our relationships with each other (women and men).
My darling readers, followers and lovers of the outdoors, get ready to meet the irrepressible female spirit of Katie Ball.
When Katie is not trapping she is harvesting minnows with her father, hiking & fishing with her better half Richard and their two Australian cattle dogs, picking herbs, reading a good book, working with outdoors groups or sewing and drafting new fur ideas. The word boredom does not exist in her vocabulary. Her greatest love is Mother Nature and her family as she considers both one in the same.
For Katie trapping is a natural and nurtured activity: “It is in my blood and who I am to the core. However, without the opportunities presented to me by my father to join him in the outdoors. And the support from my mother to follows those passions I would not be at the point in which I am today.”
Nevertheless, and even though she was “born into trapping” this young woman has had to make quite a few sacrifices to achieve success in the hunting, designing and business arena: “I worked in the pet sales industry and veterinary industry for about 10 years. This was my career path or so I thought. When my business and need to be out helping on the trap line grew, I knew I would need to dedicate all my time and passion to this endeavour. Not having a steady income at the start slightly unnerving, but with the support of family and friends, I grew as an individual as did my business. I was always told that a trapper needs an alternative income to make ends meet. Silver Cedar Studio became that income that aloud me the freedom I needed to work my own hours between the city and the woods.”
Life in the wild started at an early stage for Katie Ball. “My inspiration came utterly from my Father. Many holidays spent with him on the trap line from an early age and listening to tales of the line from other trappers. I’ve always been surrounded by the outdoors community and feel that it takes a village to raise a child. Indeed, it was a culmination of many people and inspirations. But in the end, it was the priceless time spent with my Father in the wilderness; learning by example the intertwined web of every single creature, and being a part of it.”
So, being with such a knowledgeable trapper (her father) must have proved to Katie that men and women are as efficient as each other in the trapping ground… or are there any differences? “A quote my Father often uses is «work smarter, not harder». This being said, I don’t believe one gender is better than the other, however I do believe women can look at the same problem and find alternative ways of dealing with it. That’s one of my favourite strengths out in the woods. Being able to see things differently, and perhaps finding simplicity along with it. Regardless of gender, when it comes to working on the trap line, it comes down to individual strengths and weaknesses. There is no skill out in the bush that is labelled as gender specific. It is expected that each person pulls his or her weight to accomplish a greater goal while leveraging their individual talents, even if that talent is clearing trail and someone else is better at picking a spot to lay a trap then so be it. You can learn from each other and help make the best working team out there. This was how I was raised and what I believe.”
And talking about setting examples, the Guru wonders if Katie realises while trapping, running her own business and performing as a representative of the trapping community, that with all these achievements she’s inspiring other women:
“I don’t see myself as doing anything really extraordinary. I am just following a tradition that is older than Canada and gives me pride in my heritage. I am doing something that gives me purpose and inspiration to push farther, harder and improve upon myself daily. If someone else sees worth in my endeavours then that is just the cherry on top. You can do anything you wish to with your life. But first you must believe.”
Katie is not only about love for nature and family but also about transcendence and heritage involved in the fur trade and community (which she has lived, loved and experienced closely). So, the Guru wonders what are her thoughts about the latest attacks against something so close to Katie’s heart like the fur trade and any of the activities related to it? “The fur trade is more important now than ever. People are beginning to look at where their clothing is sourced from. And looking for more natural products that are environmentally and ethically friendly. There is nothing more natural, beautiful and ethically sourced than fur.
Thanks to the Agreement on international humane trapping standards and ongoing testing, we can take pride in knowing the animals we harvest are taken with the utmost care and compassion.
Sustainable trapping also allows us to harvest the surplus wildlife and leave the breeding stock. (For example) muskrats have 80 per cent mortality rates over the course of a year. Trappers harvest this surplus which will likely die from predation, parasites and disease. This is done during a set season, and with specific rules and regulations to maintain an ideal population and primed furs.
Over the past few years I have seen an ongoing increase in our trapping memberships as well as an even larger increase in women trappers. If you asked me, this is only the beginning of people getting back to their roots and becoming more self-sustainable.
By being an advocate for fur I am able to reach out and educate others on the importance of the fur trade and encourage them to become a part of their heritage and our future.”
As you well know, the Guru loves the urban landscape. Meeting Katie and listening to her story has been a real eye opener of how gratifying and balanced the trapping lifestyle is. And by “balanced” I’m referring to how it supports the conservation of species. And, as I got myself the best teacher to clarify my doubts and queries about wildlife, I wasn’t shy (well, I never am) to ask this question even if it is a bit off topic:
“Hunting, fishing and trapping are all highly regulated and licensed activities. With the funds raised from the licences the government is able to run conservation programs, maintain parks and continue much needed wildlife studies. In 2014-2015 over $60 million in licencing fees were put back into wildlife programs in Ontario alone.
Trappers are stewards of the land; we are out there year-round and are the eyes and ears of the forest. We work with forestry companies, the government, wilderness groups and outdoors enthusiasts to help pass along useful knowledge of our land. As we are assigned specific trap lines in Ontario, we can notice even the smallest of changes to the ecosystem and animal populations we care for and maintain. This is done by following strict trapping rules, targeting certain species, monitoring certain numbers, trapping at specific times of the year and knowing when to not trap in order to preserve the numbers for future years – therefore maintaining a sustainable breeding population and guaranteeing a higher gene pool in the long run for those animals.”
Katie is a fascinating lady. Not only because of what she does (and the number of things she does) but, also because of her approach to life and her sense of achievement. The Guru is certain that while walking down this path, the trapper has encouraged other women to trust their instincts and fearlessly pursued their dreams. Katie says: “I was raised to believe in myself, even if others say otherwise. There were never any stereotypes I was held to. If I needed to dress up for modelling in the morning, then don camouflage later that day to head out to the woods I did so. You never have to fit into a mould and therefore, I never did. This belief has helped create the woman I am today and by showing others that there are no boundaries. Life is fluid. I hope others will realise that nothing but themselves can hold them back. Go out there, be the truest self you can be, and show the world you can do anything.”
After meeting Katie, the Fur Guru felt reassured that ladies like this one will continue re-establishing the balance that was naturally set since the beginning by Mother Nature itself. As the trapper says: “nothing but themselves can hold them back”. Write that in a little notebook, carry it with you everywhere you go. We need a bit of that free-spirited bravery that Katie has and that a lot of us have forgotten because… of life, work and other people’s expectations. Katie is that kind of woman that we all have inside but, most of us have silenced because of assumed responsibilities that society and institutions have provided us with. So, my darling readers, a bit more of “what I really, really want” (very much Mel B style) and a bit less of “what I have to”. Give yourself the freedom of doing what feels right for you (and only you). Katie came here to teach us that if you really feel something is right for you, you just have to do it without fear. She is that kind of rare soul that has an infectious energy which makes you want to run next to her. She belongs to no one but herself. Katie Ball represents the braveness found in freedom, the mastering of one’s own fate and the gratitude to the really priceless possessions in life: nature, family and liberty.
P.S. My darlings! The Guru is finishing the first stage of this project with a woman that comes to remind us how powerful our voice and ideals can become if they are based on truth and knowledge. Don’t miss Mette Lykke Nielsen’s no nonsense approach to politics and life. Until then, keep safe.
The Fur Guru xx