Snow This Morning

Fandango’s word for today is NUMBER

Well, the number here first thing this morning was zero. As in 0̊C / 32̊F. My cell phone tells me it’s +1̊ now, and my eyes tell me the ground is turning whiter by the moment, as a fine snow sifts down.

Our cats are not amused. They’re pacing around the house, bored, wanting the door open every little while so they can see if conditions have improved. The petunias in my big planters by the step are being buried in white — official end of season. A bit sad, I think. The snow will likely be gone once the sun gets out of bed and does its job; however, we’re not apt to see it shine through this dense cloud cover.

Better today than yesterday. Yesterday we, together with Daughter and Son-in-Law, drove two hours west to visit Bob’s cousin and wife, Paul & Vivian Letkeman. We haven’t seen them for a l-o-n-g time. Oh, we’ve visited at family funerals a few times since, but I think the number is 7 or 8 years since we’ve been to their place.

For close to 40 years they’ve had a ranch on the South Saskatchewan River near Leader and raised cattle. In later years they opened a few cabins and turned it into the Leaning Tree Guest Ranch. Now they’ve reached their upper 70’s and have retired from that, still have cattle and horses. Still very fit people. We had a great visit and they drove us around to see their acreage and the Texas longhorn herd Paul is building up. They aren’t ready to sell and move to the city yet.

On our journey yesterday we saw a lot of waterfowl migrating. A number of acres white with snow geese and/or dark patches of Canada geese. Some places the sky seemed full of small and large flocks winging south, or joining their kin in some newly harvested field. As we passed one creek I noted a large flock of migrating yellow-headed blackbirds that had settled on the cattails.

Today and tomorrow I’m supposed to be cooking at the Villa, but the numbers there are really few. The one couple is heading for a wedding in Alberta, which leaves one resident to feed. (Ben, a former resident, has moved to a nursing home in Outlook.) I’ll have to see if I can find some company to join us three for supper this evening. Tomorrow the resident’s son & D-I-L are coming to take him out, so I’ve no one to cook dinner for.

The numbers will be few in church as well, because one of our families’ sons got married in Michigan and the reception will be at another congregation about a four-hour drive from here. This is where the young couple will make their home, so quite a few families from here want to go. Including our own children and grands.

I’ll end this post with a few numbers from Saskatchewan history:

— In Feb of 1947 southern SK was hit by a ten-day mega-blizzard. All the highways into Regina, our capital city, were blocked. Train officials said conditions were the worst in Canadian rail history; one train was buried in a snow drift one km long and 8 metres deep.
— The winter of 1955-56 brought a 129-day cold snap, with recorded temperatures in several SK communities staying below -10C during that time. Perhaps this is why we heard, back when I was in school (circa 1960), that scientists were predicting another ice age ahead.

We were very sad to hear that the area around Ottawa-Gatineau, on the Ontario-Quebec border, was hit by a tornado yesterday. Our sympathies to all the folks and families affected.

I’ve been working on this awhile; by now we have a thick blanket of snow covering all the imperfections of nature, but the wind has come up and is tossing the tree tops around. Maybe I should bundle up and go build a snowman?

Whatever your weather, here’s wishing you all an upbeat weekend.

The Scottish Lowlands

Fandango’s one-word challenge for today: GUEST
As my response I’ll tell you about a travel book I once read:

My Heart’s in the Lowlands – Ten days in Bonny Scotland
© 2007 by Liz Curtis Higgs, published by WaterBrook Press.

“Let’s go, shall we? Just the two of us?”

With this opening, Liz invites the reader to be her guest and travelling companion on a jaunt through the Scottish lowlands. This is the place Liz loves to visit, the setting for her novels.

Through her vivid descriptions, she allows us to experience the sights, the cuisine and the ambiance of Dumfries and Galloway. She tells of castle ruins, ancient churches, Bobby Burns’ favorite haunts,  local attractions, bed & breakfast accommodations, shops and customs.

Liz has written a number of historical romances set in the southwestern part of Scotland and has made a number of trips to the region in the course of researching her stories. This makes her a great tour guide; you’ll enjoy the role of  a good friend as she chauffeurs you around and explains the history behind the places you’re seeing.

I enjoyed this book very much when I read it the first time but when I discovered later that my Vance ancestors came from Galloway, the travelogue took on a whole new meaning for me. I’d love to visit the area from which my great-great grandfather, the widower Joseph Vance, set off to seek his fortune in the new world.

He left Scotland around 1835, traveling with his young son and his three brothers. En route to their future home in Ontario these four brothers passed through New York, where Joseph won the hand of Miss Sarah Allen, daughter of Samuel Allen, originally from Vermont. Joseph & Sarah settled in Oxford County and produced a family of six boys and one girl, Sarah Jane. My great-grandfather, Samuel was one of the youngest.

As I read Liz’s book, I realized what a contrast the tall maple forests of southern Ontario would have been from the windswept moors the Vances left. What brave souls they were!

Even if you have no family tree roots in this area, do take the tour with her if you can get your hands on a copy of her book. She’s such a pleasant travelling companion; I’m sure you’ll find it a pleasure to be her guest for a few hours of reading enjoyment.

 

The Art Behind An Artifact

Fandango’s one word prompt today is ARTIFACT. I’ve always had a vague sense of what this word means, and have always associated it with archeology, but now that I’m to use it, I decided to look it up and be certain.

Artifact: same as artefact. Oka-a-a-y.

Artefact: something made by human beings. Nelson Gage says: “Anything made by or anything caused by human activity.” Hence my car, though a 2014, is an artifact. From the plastic and steel of the body to the vinyl interior and all the circuitry: 100% created by humans. (Albeit with naturally occurring raw materials.)

This word made me think of a song from my teen years: “In the Year 2525.” The idea being: the world was in such a mess in the 1960s, can man survive much longer? That song is an artifact now and we’ve survived an awful lot since. I read about US voters disgruntled with their current president; they can comfort themselves that the country will survive him, too. Our great-grandchildren will someday read about President Trump and other famous people of today in their history texts. Perhaps with pride; perhaps with pain, but a done deal.

They’ll hear about us and our lives in that same sense, and maybe a few of our artifacts will be displayed. Like when I pull out our faded hand-stitched quilt and say to my grandchildren, “This is the quilt your great-great grandma made.” My own grandmother made blankets, too, but very plain patches of whatever, quite dark and lacking any sense of art. My mother-in-law was skilled at handcrafts and I have a number to show the grands now.

I made an artifact the other day, and I have full confidence that it will survive in my family, “even unto the fourth generation.” My grandson came over and wanted to paint something, so I found a flimsy box, made of the lightest, cheapest wood, and let him go at it with my acrylic paints. I predict that box won’t survive even the first generation, but he had fun.

While he was painting that I found a small rock in my collection and started painting it orange. (I pick up smooth, bug-shaped stones as I happen to see ones I think are suitable for painting.) Later I drew black stripes for wings, dots for eyes, and likewise dotted the back. A mouth shaped like W. When I was done my grandson pronounced it “Neat” and took it home with him.

Someday when our civilization has turned to dust, some archeologist may dig up this area, find this funny-looking rock and say (in whatever language will be used here at that time), “Hey, people, look! A petrified bug! We’ve never discovered a fossil like this before.”

Then someone examine it, say hmmm… and send it for testing. It will be revealed that this is not a bug at all; it’s simply a rock covered with some kind of acrylic paint used extensively by the people of that ancient civilization.

In the year 2525 my bug may be unearthed and some news reporter — they never change, you know — may write up the article announcing: “Archeologists digging in the ancient ruins of a long-lost prairie village have unearthed the painted icon of some rare bug. They believe it was created by some ancient fossil.”

Curiosity

Curiosity quote

On April 1st, 1899, thirteen-year-old Christina Young recorded the following in her diary:

Sara Murphy and I came near catching it today. She is one of my chums, but she lives one and a half miles from here. We sit together in school.

The teacher was standing with his back to our seat and we were seeing how close we could come to his back with a pin without his knowing it. Sara had the pin almost through his coat, and I didn’t hardly know I was going to do it, but all of a sudden I gave her arm a shove.

The teacher jumped about a foot high, and turned around and brought his strap down BANG on the desk. We were pretty scared, but he just looked at us pretty sharp for a minute, and then turned around quick and didn’t do a thing to us. We behaved after that.

 

Character-Building Coffee

Back when I worked at Fabricland, I happened to be the first one into the lunch room one morning so I made the coffee. As my co-workers drifted in and sampled it, their eyes popped open and they made remarks about the potency of my brew. When one of the managers commented about how strong it was, I told her I was going to follow the Canadian government’s advice.

“My coffee isn’t strong, it’s character-building.”

At the beginning of the 1900s the Canadian government had this vast tract of prairie land newly-opened up and they wanted it settled. But there were some issues. The present homesteaders were telling the folks back in the Old Country just how severe the winters were and how dry the prairies tended to be in summer. Hard to grow anything. A challenge to survive the winters.

“We can’t have this kind of talk,” the Dept. of Immigration decided. “Farmers will never be enticed to the area if reports like this circulate.”

The ad men of the day rose to the challenge. All hints of a cold,  dry climate were banned from Govt of Canada information brochures, distributed liberally in Europe to lure settlers to Saskatchewan and Alberta. Promoters were encouraged to substitute words that held more appeal. The climate of the “Northwest Territories” became invigorating and character-building; the severe winter winds were now bracing and great for the promotion of general good health. You could be a manly man in western Canada!

Our temperature this morning, -29 C, would be great for character building except that we’re wimping out and staying in the house where it’s warm. We’re very thankful we don’t have to hitch up our team of horses, drive ten miles to the river and chip through eight inches of solid ice to draw water. We actually thought it was a bit of a hardship when the back door lock was frozen this morning so we couldn’t open the door. Practicing prairie ingenuity, my husband defrosted the lock with my hair dryer.

Anyway, if my coffee pops my guests’ eyes open nowadays, I give the matter a positive slant: this is a rich, fervent brew. Invigorating and character-building, like our climate. Still, my coffee can’t stand up beside the pot a fellow who worked with a friend used to make.

How to Make A REALLY Aggressive Pot of Coffee

My coworkers grumbled about MY strong coffee and I used only about ½ cup of grounds. A friend was telling us about the way his coworker made coffee — if he got to the office coffee-maker first. (I understand his fellow office workers did their best to prevent that from happening. 😉 )

Here’s how he did it:
For a ten-cup coffee maker: put the little white paper filter into the basket as usual, then fill it level full with fresh coffee grounds (about 1¼ cups). Add the ten cups of water to the chamber and hit the ON switch. Dark, rich coffee will flow into the carafe. Full-bodied, you might say. (When your body is full of it your eyes will open wide.)

Try it sometime and let me know if your coworkers and guests find it invigorating.

Coffee

Bean me up, friend!

 

Janey’s Future

Time for another Friday Fictioneers tale and as usual, I can’t resist putting in my hundred words worth. In spite of the fact that Sandra Crook has donated the photo of a friendly looking old tree, there’s been murder and mayhem, death and accident in a number of tales this week. (Oh, and one hugging tree. Trust Eric to squeeze his alien in somehow. 😉 )

This Charge of the Write Brigade is being commanded as usual by Major Wisoff-Fields, DFFA, ATP. If you’d like to contribute your own tale hop over to her blog and click the Blue Frog, which will morph into a trusty charger on which you can ride into the fray.

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

JANEY’S FUTURE

“Wish he’d listened. Ditched that rotten ladder!”

Janey stared at the tree. “Chan never was one for taking advice.”

I looked around. “Can you run this place alone?” With two tykes and another due soon? Dumb, but what do you say?

She shook her head, overwhelmed. “I should sell.”

I reached for her arm. “I got an idea… You been a good wife to Chan, Janey…and a good mom. He was so lucky. I know I’m some younger than you, but…do you think…”

She considered me awhile; my heart pounded something awful.

Her eyes sparkled. “Yeah. I think.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Historical fact:
It wasn’t a park but a prairie homestead, and the suddenly widowed Mary was riding home from her husband’s funeral with her single brother-in-law, who also lived on the farm. Seeing her desperate situation, he proposed marriage. She saw the wisdom in this; in those days he couldn’t stay helping her on the farm without raising a LOT of gossip. So they turned the team around, headed back to town, and found the preacher. Tough times call for some quick decisions.

Personal note:
I’m putting the finishing touches on a pdf of my book, Silver Morning Song, and would like to give some away in exchange for some honest feedback. (And hopefully generate a few reviews on Amazon or Kobo.) If you’re interested and have the time, please let me know. I can send pdf, mobi, or epub.

Silver Morning Song is a collection of poems and short stories that consider the delightful world around us and the trials of home and family as well as Christian life. In a voice sometimes humorous, sometimes serious, in short stories and parables, the writer tells of folks facing issues, decisions and temptations. These are interspersed with accessible poetic descriptions of the natural world and the changing seasons.

Book Review: Tangled in Time

TANGLED IN TIME

Miss Main Street Book 1
By Angela Castillo

Although the book description hints at a mystery, I found no suspense and not much tension anywhere in the story. The pace is day-by-day leisurely with lots of setting details. Romance isn’t the main focus of the book, either. I see this more as chick-lit or general fiction with a romantic interest and elements of Christian fiction.

The main character, Darcy, has inherited her grandmother’s antique store in Wimber, Texas, and is determined to make it a viable business. There first few chapters are full of description, as recalls past summer holidays here, settles into her new property and prepares for opening day. Thoughts about God, his plan, a scripture verse and/or prayer are mentioned now and then.

Mention is also made occasionally of her grandmother’s secret closet and Darcy’s determined to open it and discover the contents; I guess this is the mystery angle. Another is the annoying town merchant who causes trouble and worry to the new owner. But why? Plus Darcy has the general stress of getting her store up and running and dealing with past and present love interests.

I think she comes across as wimpy when she’s avoids breaking up with her LA boyfriend. She thinks “It’s over” and he should realize it, yet she doesn’t voice her thoughts, dodges the unpleasant good-bye, ignores his calls, then sends him a “break-up text.” When he shows up wanting to know what gives, she thinks he’s self-absorbed and rude — labels that could apply to her behavior as well at this point. However, all we learn about the men in the story is through her feelings about them. This is what makes me think chick-lit: events are told only through her eyes; no other perspectives are given.

The book is well written and edited; I found only three minor typos. As a bonus, this book brings to light some interesting Texas history. The story flows along smoothly, if rather slowly — which suits the small-town feel — and the conclusion is satisfying. It’s light, clean reading for those who don’t want a lot of drama, terror, or sexual details.

I was given a free copy of this book from the Story Cartel in exchange for an honest review.