Forecast: Dry and Smoky

this sad country
bird bath emptied in the night
by a thirsty doe

The prairies are definitely in a dry cycle this year. Most of our “Possibility of thunder showers” forecasts have evaporated and all the sloughs are dry. Since there’s no water lying anywhere near, I’ve been taking pity on the birds in our yard and putting out several basins of water in the back yard for them. It’s been a joy to watch them from my kitchen window, coming and splashing about, as well as dining on hapless insects floating on the surface.

Last week another creature found my water bowls. Early one morning I saw a doe drinking out of the largest basin so I be sure to top it off at dusk every evening. Several mornings now I’ve found it right empty and a number of telltale hoof marks on the ground. Last night I filled it to the brim around 9 pm and there was only a dribble in the bottom this morning.

Our yard light provides another source of nourishment for the birds, too, judging by how many birds are harvesting bugs on the ground below every morning. This morning I saw robins, sparrows, a kingbird and a brown thrasher feasting there.

There are many fires burning in northern forests; I heard of over a hundred burning out of control in BC alone, plus fires in Alberta and northern Sask.. All this week our atmosphere has been hazy with smoke, sometimes it gets rather hard to breathe. Still, I dare not complain when others closer to the fires are in thick smoke every day and many communities have been evacuated because of encroaching infernos. It must seem a daunting, maybe even hopeless, task to fight fires on every hand, but I’m so thankful for those brave souls out there doing that work.

We’re taking a holiday this week, going to a part of our country where rain is plentiful. In fact, there’s rain in the forecast almost every day this week — I just wish we could bring some back with us! Meanwhile, I hope the creatures around our yard can find another source while we’re away.

Three Tinkles of the Bell

Yesterday I heard three little warning tinkles that provoked some serious thoughts.

What If…

Yesterday morning Marla, the FlyLady, posted a list of practical things everyone should do to be prepared for an emergency. I went over this list of simple, obvious things like being sure you have at least half a tank of gas in your car, some cash handy, a few essentials in a flight bag.

— If there’s a big exit, such as happens in the US when a hurricane’s about to hit, cars may be bumper-to-bumper on the freeway for awhile, so be prepared. If the power’s out, gas pumps won’t work, so don’t let your tank run so low. In fact, many things won’t work if the power’s out: debit machines, ATMs, etc.

— Plan ahead and have your precious stuff near the door or where you can grab it in your rush to evacuate. Keep all precious documents in a safely deposit box, copies at home, duplicate keys and flash-drives a friend or relative’s home. Etc.

Another tinkle chimed in the news yesterday. After several days of record-breaking heat, topping at 49.6C – which is just over 121 F – a fire started and rapidly destroyed 90% of Lytton, a town in the interior of British Columbia. Horrible! Our sympathies to the folks without homes, and in that terrible heat wave. Thankfully the people of Lytton had enough time to get out. How would it be to have JUST ENOUGH time to jump in the car and go?

The next tinkle came when a friend, in the course of our visit, talked about the possibility of fire. On such a windy day as it was yesterday, which made our outdoors like a blast furnace, fire is a terrifying prospect. In fact, we heard that our son-in-law and grandson, members of the local volunteer Fire Dept, were out fighting a fire about 30 km from here. It’s not hard to imagine fires raging in the northern forests, but we’re not as immune as we’d like to think, either.

I’m not anticipating disaster but these tinkles remind me there are some things I could and should do to be prepared. If the need arose for sudden flight, we’d likely grab our two cats, our cell phones and my purse if we could, and dash for the car. Everything else would stay behind, come what may. So which of our belongings are really precious and what can we do to ensure their safety? For those of us who are pack-rats, these are questions worth pondering.

At Twelve per Hour

Yesterday my husband and I started doing a jigsaw puzzle, one given to us sometime in the past six months by I forget who. This is a Cobble Hill puzzle, one brand we always enjoy doing, where every puzzle piece is a different shape. Looking at their site, I see they have some really beautiful puzzles listed. 🙂

With each piece being a unique shape, the putting-together should be easy-peasy, right? Nope. Not this one, because it’s such a collage of vines and leaves, fruits and butterflies. In fact it’s call Fruits & Flutterbies.

Pretty? Yes. Easy? No. Click Here if you want to see the picture we’re trying to put together.

My hubby worked at it for an hour before dinner and put in twelve pieces. Then he calculated: 1000 pieces at 12 per hour, with each of us putting in a couple of hours every day, should take us clear through til spring. Somewhat like retyping WAR & PEACE.

However, with the outside temp hovering around -30 C we may as well occupy ourselves with something appealing indoors. It’s a sunny day and with sunbeams making all the snowbanks glisten, a person could almost go snow-blind. I imagine this country when settlers first came, not a tree or anything to break the view for twenty miles. And then sunshine on snowy fields!

One early arrival, coming from Wales, commented that “Back home I always like to face the road ahead so I could see what was coming up. But when I’m travelling here on the flat prairie it doesn’t matter what direction I face because the view’s the same whichever way you look.”

Farm Diary

I’ve heard and read about the “dust bowl” years here on the prairie, about hoppers that could clean off a 160-acre field in a day, about horses and cows forced to eat the prickly Russian thistles because they were the only green thing growing anywhere, about the farmers who took jobs in the northern “parkland” part of the province to earn enough to get by for another year. So I made up this diary.

Prairie Farm Girl’s Diary — Summer 1934

A west wind blew the hoppers in
two days ago.
They cleaned the wheat crop
clear down to the ground
yesterday.
Dad went north to a lumber camp
after seeding
so we can afford our grub and heat
next winter
and feed for the horses and cow –
unless it rains.
A stream of clouds went over
last night
on their way to rain somewhere else,
maybe tomorrow.
Tom and I are minding the place
all summer
while Dad’s away and Mom’s in a dither
about all the dust.
She says we’re leaving this drought-deviled land
soon as Dad gets back.

.

Image: MonikaP — Pixabay

Glimpse Into The Future

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is the question: What next?
The Word of the Day Challenge: HOPE
Of course we all hope that what comes next will be good. 🙂 I hope better days and many joys come to you all in 2021.

WHAT NEXT?

There’s an ocean-depth of possibility in this one! What next for today? For this week? Next year? My next goal or project? Health issues? Future moves?

For today my goal is to tidy up the house and continue my shuffle through drawers and closets, ferreting out things I don’t need or want anymore. That will be my week’s goal as well, plus I have a couple of shifts at the Seniors’ Home.

Long term NEXT? My thoughts have been going to health issues lately, particularly since I read Texas Writer’s blog post: REFLECT about dealing with his mother’s dementia and his own Parkinson’s. He admits that he’s facing a gradual decline, but has a commendably upbeat attitude.

When I was twenty-seven I discovered a walnut-sized, rock-hard lump, and the diagnosis was quickly made: CANCER. My future plans evaporated. You know, when you hear the C word it usually goes with fatal. Women regularly die of breast cancer. And when I thought I was going to die, my what next looked pretty grim. But the doctors acted fast: I was in surgery within a week, followed by a heavy dose of chemo-therapy, so it wasn’t “Goodbye cruel world” after all.

I had the same experience about six years ago when the doctor told me I had leukemia. Bam! Right out of the water. Leukemia is a killer! I didn’t know there were different kinds, so was hoping I still had a few months to put things in order.

When my mom turned seventy, she died of a massive heart attack. My younger sister had a heart attack a dozen years ago – and thankfully survived. My sister Rose, five years younger, died of cancer a year ago. Far too young!

And reading Texas Writer’s post reminded me of my birth father’s last years. Dad was an incredibly healthy little fellow. Worked hard all his life; even into his seventies he could easily walk the seventeen miles between Moose Jaw and his sister’s home at Belle Plaine. But his arm started to shake – I remember how, in time, it twitched uncontrollably. Parkinson’s. I remember holding his hand just to keep it from shaking for a few minutes — and wondering if this genetic flaw would someday affect me, too.

What’s next? I think COVID has tossed this question into most of our lives. Not that we expected to die, but it’s brought home to each one of us how suddenly everything can head south. Not just our own life, but humanity as a whole can almost come to a screeching halt.

From personal experience I can say this reality check is at the same time a horrible and a wonderful experience. We’re stopped in our tracks and reminded how precious – and how fragile – life is. How quickly living can turn to dying.

And Stats Mean ZIP

According to the Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Stats, in 2018 there were 1,922 Canadians killed in traffic accidents. In a population of 37.06 million, this was a very small per-centage. However, statistics are small comfort if your loved one was one of them. You have been made brutally aware that all our plans for the future can end in a second. Likewise with people who’ve lost family members to COVID. The fact that, of the 560,000 diagnosed cases in Canada so far, 470,00 recovered isn’t worth much, if you’re one of the 15,264 who didn’t.

So… What waits down the road? For me, maybe a heart attack? Or cancer? Another round of leukemia? Parkinson’s? A car accident? My 100th birthday celebration? I have many hopes and expectations, but who can know? Here comes my kitten. I’ll cuddle with him and enjoy today. 🙂

What next for us ALL? Here are my own goals, including concepts the dreaded Virus has taught humanity so far:

Enjoy today. Look around. See whatever beauty there is.
Enjoy the fresh air. And let’s do whatever we can to keep it fresh for others.
Love life – but don’t over-plan.
Visit a nursing home. Check out that “the last door of life” for most folks.
Get rid of the things that clutter your world. (Well, I’m trying. 😉 )
Try harder to forgive, make friends, smile more, get out for that walk.
Love your people – but know that you can’t hold them when they have to go.
As much as you can, set your house in order. We’ll all be moving on someday.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Galatians 6:7

Monday’s Clean Scene

Good morning everyone! Here in Sask it’s a dazzling Monday morning — the perfect opportunity to stay home and enjoy family life or visit friends online. And we have some great writing prompts to work with:

Ragtag Daily Prompt: TOUGH
Your Daily Word Prompt: CAPABLE
Word of the Day Challenge: TRIUMPH
Fandango’s FOWC: HYSTERICAL

I can picture farmers all over this region looking outside and smiling. That which we have longed for all summer — more precipitation — has come to pass by the bucket-full. Above and beyond our fondest wish. I hear that a number of highways were shut down yesterday because of the blizzard, so it isn’t only our area that’s enjoying the bounty. Now the wild wind has ceased, the sun has come out and we can enjoy the brilliance of our scenery.

This is perfect COVID weather, you could say: a great opportunity to self-isolate. All across the province schools will be closed today, repurposed as polling stations for municipal elections. So children don’t have to straggle to school through the snowbanks; teachers and school bus drivers can put their feet up until the road have been properly cleared. Yesterday’s wind straight from the north piled a big bank of snow, maybe a metre deep, right in front of our garage door, so we’re not going anywhere very soon, either.

Getting about will be tough for some this morning, but prairie folk are a hardy lot and we now have equipment more than capable of blasting through snowbanks. Our son-in-law and his little crew are occupied at that very task this morning. The Dept of Highways crews will be on the job, too. School yards will be cleared so voters can get to polls.

Thinking of the homesteaders who settled this land, a storm like this might have shut them down for weeks. Yesterday, as I tried to shove our outside screen door open with a foot of hard-packed snow piled against it, I thought of one account I read. Early settlers soon discovered that your cabin door must open inward — because, depending on the direction of the wind, a storm may pack five or six feet of snow against it! Some folks with “a delicate mental state” became hysterical finding themselves embalmed in a white cocoon.

One of the Neatby family tells in his memoir about how, the morning after a snowstorm, they tried to open their cabin door and found the storm had closed it tight with several feet of hard-packed snow. They managed to shove it open just enough to scoop handfuls from that wall of snow, melting them on the stove. Thus they worked most of the day, inch by inch, until it was open far enough that they could get out. After a moment to celebrate their triumph, the boys floundered through the snowbanks to feed their livestock. Yes, those were tough times, but most homesteaders persevered. The options were few back then.

Before the settlers came, the natives found a sheltered valley where they could set up their teepees and relax until spring came again. They didn’t have the rush-rush mindset of the Europeans and were content to wrap up in buffalo robes, sit and visit around the fire, tell stories. I wonder if they ever had election results to discuss? Talking about the weather would get old fast.

No car, no phone, no internet. No housework to speak of. No novel, notebook, or jigsaw puzzle. I fear most of us would go bananas, crackers, completely bonkersbarmy, the Brits would say — after a couple of days of this kind of relaxation. 🙂