Of Mice and Man

It’s a windy, winterish day here with a light dusting of fresh snow.
Time for another seasonal haiku:

diligent deer mice
along the train track
harvest the harvest

Nature note:
Jack Miner, Ontario’s famous naturalist during the early 1900s, writes of a find he once made in a northern forest. He and some fellow hunters made camp near a large, dead pine tree. They felled this tree so it wouldn’t fall on the tent if a high wind came up, and they chopped the top branches into firewood.

Eighty feet up the tree they found a little hole less than an inch in diameter with an inner cavity occupied by a family of deer mice. Jack estimated that there was no human habitation for three or four miles and for sure no grain fields within fifty or a hundred miles, yet they found between one and two quarts of clean wheat stored in the mouse family’s pantry.

He explained that these far-sighted deer mice, no bigger than your thumb, would creep down the tree at night and make trip after trip to the railroad tracks thee hundred feet away. All through the fall they’d fill their little cheeks with kernels of grain that had sifted out of the boxcars en route to the terminal, then dash back home and up the tree to squirrel away their winter food supply. They performed this task in spite of the danger from lurking predators and swooping owls.

Jack admired these ambitious, courageous little creatures. In Wild Goose Jack, his autobiography published in 1969, he writes:
“In walking along the railroad tracks with a lantern during October, before the snow has fallen, one will usually see deer mice by the dozens…gathering food for winter.”

More For-Fun Haiku

mission accomplished
Henry the Hereford rests in the shade
bull dozer

Local farmers plan their herd’s “seasonal activities” well. In the pastures around us now we’re seeing the offspring from last summer’s mating season. Though around here the cattle are almost all Black Angus.

Also noticed on a recent walk:

poplar shoots
punch holes in our driveway
a hostile takeover

Writing its memoir?

flick of my finger
sends the spider flying
scribbling its last line

The Bank’s Broke

In the past few days I’ve been doing more study on how to write haiku, so my mind was in poetic form yesterday on our trip to the city. Here’s another “just for fun” verse, reflecting our want of a good rain:

streaks in the west
someone’s getting rain
no socialist cloud banks

+++++++++++++++++++++++

Farming practices have changed so much over the years that you seldom see dust blowing off bare fields, but I did see one small bare patch of ground yesterday where the ground was being swept away in the strong wind. In the mall parking lot bits of dirt whipped in my face when I walked west.

The crops and gardens are all greening up here. We’re glad for the light showers we’ve had so far this week, but would gladly take another few inches. The sloughs around us are pretty much dried up already.

ducks search for water
to wet their toes
a dry spring

 

Thrift Store Finds

Here are a few writers and titles books you might watch for if you’re in a used book store. I highly recommend all of them as good reading:

Three Came Home, by Agnes Newton Keith © 1946, 1947
Published by Little Brown and Company, Boston, MA, USA

When the Japanese army took over Borneo in May 1942, Agnes and Harry Keith and their 18- month-old son were taken prisoner along with others from the British colony there. The men were put in one prison camp; women and children kept in another. This insightful book reconstructs the scene immediately before the invasion, the two years and four months they were interred, and their trip home.

With clarity and charity Mrs. Keith details life in the two prison camps, their ways of coping with abuse and starvation rations. She describes guards, prison commanders and interpreters as well as her fellow prisoners. In her opening she says, “The Japanese in this book are as war made them, not as God did, and the same is true of the rest of us… If there is hate here, it is for hateful qualities, not nations. If there is love, it is because this alone kept me alive and sane.”

She has also written WHITE MAN RETURNS, BAREFOOT IN THE PALACE, and LAND BELOW THE WIND, which describes their life in Borneo (an English colony in the South Pacific) before the war.

Hot off the press…

HOT APPLE CIDER, © 2008
A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider
, © 2011
A Taste of Hot Apple Cider  © 2014
Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon  © 2015
Christmas With Hot Apple Cider © 2017

These “Stories to stir the heart and warm the soul” have been compiled by N. J. Lindquist and Wendy Elaine Nelles and published by That’s Life! Communications, Markham, Ontario, C anada. Each book is a collection of stories by Canadian writers, sharing experiences of divine guidance and comfort, short fiction, and poems.

And three interesting books about the Depression years in Canada

THE WINTER YEARS by James H Gray
Published 1966 by MacMillan of Canada,
reprinted in ‘66, ‘67, ‘68 and ‘72

James Gray, born in Whitemouth, Manitoba, was working as a clerk for the Grain Exchange in Winnipeg during the Twenties. They were good years; credit was easy and work easy to find. He married, bought a home, and in the late 20’s he left the Grain Exchange to go into business on his own. Several things he tried didn’t pan out, then he started up a mini- golf business in 1930. This shut down that fall and he found himself in debt and out of work.

In February 1931, almost out of food and fuel, two months behind in their rent, with a wife and daughter plus his parents to support and absolutely no hope of finding work, he finally swallowed his pride and took that long walk down to the Relief Office. No one dreamed that this depression would last eight years!

Mr. Gray shares his own personal struggles; he also gives the overall picture of what was happening on the prairies and in Canadian society in general during those years. As the back cover says, “The Winter Years is a story of hobos and housewives, radicals and aldermen, farmers and judges. It’s a moving tribute to the courage and resourcefulness of the human spirit.”

The Great Depression
©1990 by Pierre Burton, published by Anchor Canada

This is an overall analysis of the 1930’s in Canada, starting in 1929 and going through the decade year by year. As well as covering the overall political scene, the author gives very interesting personal experiences, details about weird weather, plagues of insects, families applying for relief, prejudice and deportations, etc.

Apples Don’t Just Grow
© 1956 by Maida Parlow French

Widowed at the beginning of the Great Depression, with three small boys to raise, Maida Parlow found her earnings as an artist didn’t pay the bills. She chose to leave Toronto and take her sons back to the abandoned farm her grandparents had owned. It was still in the family, the old apple orchard sadly neglected, the house totally run down.  Still, she was determined to bring it back into production and sell apples.

Before she left the city a friend advised her to keep a diary of this new adventure. Years later she published it as this book detailing the highlights in their day-by-day struggle to survive and all the mistakes she made trying to grow and sell her produce. A compelling memoir!

“You Have Won A Free Trip”

This is an old news item, but hope it gives you a smile this morning:

An Iowa farmer received a suspicious phone call one morning—from his own cell phone.

A few hours earlier he’d been sorting hogs to take to market that day. During the process he took a few minutes to call the house and check if there were any messages for him on his answering machine. After getting the message, he stuck his cell phone back in the top pocket of his bib overalls and went back into the pig pen to continue his task.

The phone must have fallen out of his pocket and into the pen as he climbed over one of the fences. Later, when he was back in the house his phone rang. He said, “Hello?” and voices at the other end said, “Grunt, grunt, squeal, squeal, snort!”

Evidently his hogs had found the cell phone and managed to hit REDIAL. They say pigs are really quite intelligent creatures. Maybe they were complaining about the conditions in their pen, squealing on on unruly pals, or ordering in more chow?

But the farmer interpreted the message as:
“You have won a free trip to the barn, followed by a lively treasure hunt.”

Winter Has Its Blessings

Another “character-building” winter day is dawning here in Saskatchewan. Thermometers in the city of Saskatoon are showing -29C / -20F at 7 am with a bracing wind chill equal to -37 C/ -34 F. (Actually the wind is only 8 kms per hour, but at this temp it doesn’t take much wind to give you an invigorating bite if you think of standing around outdoors.) Forecast high today is -21C / -6.

My heart goes out in sympathy to folks who normally live on the street and I’m so thankful there are organizations like the Salvation Army and various street missions that open their doors to the homeless and give them a warm meal. And I’m thankful for my own warm home. It’s a great day to build something at my sewing machine.

During the past few weeks I’ve been going through some scribblings, keying poems and what-not into my computer so I can toss out some of my space-absorbing paper collection. Here’s one silly poem I’ve saved for an especially chilly winter day.

Yes, there are some advantages to a deep freeze.

Ode to a Prairie Pest

What can the use of a grasshopper be?
Not even one purpose occurs to me!
Do you think that God in his great wise ways
has a reason for you on hot summer days?

Or are you guys here to help us know
the blessings of the soft fluffy snow
and cold that freezes those little chins
to keep you from eating the grain in our bins?

So I’ll give thanks for snow a-crunching
that deadens the sound of insects munching.
And now that I think it’s grasshopper free,
how very beautiful heaven must be!