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.”

Travels Abroad

My response to the Ragtag Community prompt: DAMP

Dear Cousin Francie,

Well, Lily and I arrived back home yesterday from our two-week trip to the South seas. I know you would have loved it! I can’t tell you how many times Lilly and I said we wished you were there sharing the great times with us.

We boarded our boat on a lovely, sunny day. For the first couple of days we were travelling not far from a gorgeous luxury yacht.
Wet 8

Lilly and I chose the economy package, so our boat wasn’t as high-class, but we managed quite well, though it was a little more work. We had all the showers we wanted, but washroom facilities weren’t the best.
Wet 9

At times the wind picked up and the seas got a bit wild, which made the voyage an exciting challenge for our captain and crew.
Wet 8

We expected a shower or two even in those tropical climes but we were prepared for nature’s surprises and enjoyed our trip in spite of the occasional sprinkle.
Wet 6

We visited the local markets and chatted with the vendors:
Wet 5

And stopped at other tourist spots in the city:
Wet 1

Some of our mates managed to get some unique selfies.
Wet 7

On days at sea with nothing else to do, we invented a fun guessing game. We called it, “Who’s behind the door?”
Wet4

And of course we were delighted to catch glimpses of the creatures playing in the sea around us:
Wet 3

Oh, yes, dear cousin, you certainly missed the thrill of a lifetime —and  all because you weren’t willing to leave the comforts of home. Baah! Next time we go, you’re coming along and no excuses.

Affectionately yours,
Cousin Twyleen

 

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.

Strange New Critters

As the week, I feel, so the summer. How can it be almost gone? Nevertheless it’s Saturday —and yesterday’s weather was a good taste of things to come. The weatherman has predicted rain for today, but rain in harvest is odious, so none of us will mind at all if it doesn’t come.

There are still a few hummingbirds with us; I saw two, possibly three, off and on yesterday. Last night I actually brought the juice inside so it wouldn’t be so cold for the tiny creatures if they came — spoiling them, I guess.

I waited until after dark to take down the feeder, but while I was still on the deck, two steps up from the ground, I noticed — a hummingbird?? — gathering nectar from the flowers in the three tubs just below me. I watched it zip from flower to flower, coming within a few feet of where I stood. I was rather dumbfounded to see a hummer foraging in the dark. Poor thing must be starving to be so bold!

The tiny bird, not much bigger than a dragonfly, whizzed among the petunia blossoms quite unmindful of my presence so I stepped down and took a better look. I’ve never before seen a hummingbird this small — nor noticed the cross-wise stripes on its back. Almost like a wasp. Wait a minute! This just can’t be a hummer!

So I called my husband to come see this odd creature, which zipped around us a few times as we stood there, then went back to the flower pots. Our cats were outside now, too, and it zipped almost by their noses. I had to chase Pookie away or he would have caught the clueless thing! Bob got a fair look, too, as it slurped nectar from the petunias and said it must be a moth of some kind.

So I Googled, “moth that looks like a hummingbird” and there really is such a thing: a hummingbird hawk moth. This photo from a Bug Guide post shows the exact creature.Hummingbird Moth, black and white, British Columbia, Canada - Sphinx perelegans

Learn something new every day! Here’s another article about it.

This morning I put out the juice again and an adult female hummer was at the feeder at 6am. I think the little guys have been gone for a few days already. How much longer until they’re all gone?

I wonder how you all will be spending your day, and this weekend? Not weekend-at-the-lake weather here; rather, this would be a good day to bake and warm up the house with oven scents. I’m still keying in my misc scribblings and other clipped-out items I’ve saved over the years. I’ve finally decided there’s nothing intrinsically sacred about the words, though; I can toss the poems that aren’t that great. Ditto with my own writing. I’ve been telling myself, “One of these days I’m going to polish all these writings.” Time to face the music.

Here’s one little “thought” I wrote a few years back, in the midst of another decluttering effort.

ACCUMULATION

A lifetime of knickknacks:
souvenirs, gifts from friends,
inherited from elderly aunts.
The accumulation filled
her space. There was barely room
for the stretcher when she died
while rearranging her stuff.

Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Smoke Again

again this smoky haze
the incense of
an unwanted cleansing

Forest Fire

A thick blue haze has settled on the fields again today. We’ve shut all the windows, as the smoky air is hard to breathe. I hope you’ll pardon me if I’m boring you with all my versifying about forest fire —I find it hard not to think about it whenever I step outside.

On a positive note, two bright but very timid orioles have been snitching from our hummingbird feeder today.