We arrived home at midnight Monday from our trip to Quebec. The next morning I went to pick up our cats from the place where they were boarded. They were both sleeping peacefully when I first saw them, but as soon as they heard my voice they began a loud chorus of “Get me out of here!” Now we are all home and have spent the past two days resting up from our trip.
Can’t stand the smoke, can’t stand the heat, we’ve got to get out of this place.
We are in the middle of the hottest driest summer in years. Farmers are giving up on getting a grain harvest on some of their fields and cutting the grain for green feed for cattle. Hay crops are poor. The smoke drifting across the prairies from forest fires in B.C. and northern Saskatchewan adds to the misery. We see it, smell it, taste it, feel it burning our eyes.
My wife and I have decided to take a week off to visit a part of Canada where they have an amazing natural phenomenon – water droplets falling from the sky. They call it rain, perhaps you’ve heard of it?
OK, bad joke. I’m just in a bad humour. I hope a week in Quebec will brighten my outlook on life.
Effective Sunday, July 11 (yesterday), all COVID-19 restrictions required by the government of Saskatchewan have come to an end. When I sat down in church yesterday morning, the brother beside me said:
“This is something new!”
“No it isn’t,” I replied, “This is something old. We are done with the new.”
My wife sets dishes of water on the lawn for the birds. We think birdbaths can be a deathtrap for the little guys – a cat can sneak up beneath an unsuspecting bird and remain hidden by the lip of the dish. With the dishes at ground level, the birds can see any approaching danger.
She filled those water dishes before going to bed last night; this morning they were all empty. We suspected something else than birds had been around in the night. Finding a trail of scat droppings across the lawn confirmed our suspicions and gave sufficient evidence to identify the visitor.
Yep, we have moose in this country. We may not often see them, but sometimes they leave evidence of their visits.
At 3:30 in the morning the melodious song of a brown thrasher is heard through our open bedroom window. He is up at the very first glimmer of day, but it’s much too early for us to get up yet. He is the size of robin, with a much longer tail, shy about letting himself be seen, but not shy about letting himself be heard.
At this time of year here in the flatlands of Saskatchewan, there are 17 hours from sunrise to sunset, and 18½ hours when it is light enough to read outside without artificial light. The trees around us are alive with the sound of music. The brown thrasher is heard mostly in morning and evening, other birds from time to time, the wrens are twittering all day long.
We have many birdhouses around our yard. The wrens take possession of most of them, nest in two or three, and fill the rest with twigs. It seems they want to discourage others from moving in next door.
Last Saturday was the school closing program for our school. The rules now allow 150 people to gather outdoors, so we brought our lawn chairs and sat on the church lawn as the children sang and spoke to us. Whenever there was a break in the singing from the children, we could hear a brown thrasher singing from the trees.
The next day we gathered for an outdoor worship service. It was a hot day, so we spread our lawn chairs out under the shade of the poplar trees and the ministers spoke to us from the shade of the church entrance. There was quite a distance between us, but two big speakers brought their voices to us.
That makes me wonder; I can hear the song of a meadowlark sitting on a fence post as I drive by on the highway with the windows closed and the air conditioner going. Why do I have trouble understanding what someone says in church if they don’t speak directly into the microphone?
A few days ago we still needed to run the furnace in the morning to make the house comfortable. Today we have to try to cool it down. The temperature at 11:00 am is 30° (86°F).
We had a long winter and a slow spring. But now we hear birds singing at 4:00 am and I was hearing the serenade of a brown thrasher as I ate my breakfast. Chris was almost despairing of seeing the swallows this year, this is much later than their usual first appearance. This morning they are back!
I haven’t cut the grass yet, the lawn is green but hasn’t grown much because of how dry it is. Little yellow flowers have appeared on our lawn and I enjoy the splash of colour. The scent of lilacs will soon be wafting through the air. Our neighbour’s house has disappeared behind a wall of green leaves. In a few days we won’t be able to see the highway from our house. It is half a mile away and last summer was the first time that the trees on the west side of our acreage had grown dense enough to block our view.
We are enjoying the beautiful weather, farmers around us have been busy the past two weeks and most of the crop is now in the ground. Now we are hearing the old flatlander lament:
We sit and gaze across the plains And wonder why it never rains.
For the past three weeks the long range forecast has promised heavy rains 7 to 10 days in the future. It’s like a mirage, it keeps moving and we never get closer. One of these days it will surprise us.
Michelangelo, when asked how he managed to create such a lifelike sculpture of David out of a block of marble, replied “I just removed everything that was not David.”
Chaim Potok, who wrote novels such as The Chosen and My Name is Asher Lev, said something much the same: “I think the hardest part of writing is revising. And by that I mean the following: a novelist has to create the piece of marble and then chip away to find the figure in it.”
What is a yard in Saskatchewan without a couple of rhubarb plants? But this yard did not have any when we moved in 13 years ago. Ten years ago I bought one plant from a garden centre and planted it in a back corner of the garden. It grew, but never produced enough stalks that we dared cut any for eating.
I finally had to admit that I had planted it too close to the trees. They were thriving, the rhubarb just surviving. Last spring I dug deep to get all the root and transplanted it to a more open area. We didn’t expect much the first year after transplanting, but the rhubarb surprised us. It loved the new location and produced enough for us to have a few good desserts from it.
And was it ever good! In other places where we have lived we planted rhubarb that promised to be redder and sweeter than the old-fashioned rhubarb and could barely discern the difference. This stuff is different. Well, you can’t exactly call rhubarb sweet, but it is much less bitter than others. We look forward to treating ourselves to more this summer. Now I wish we had two plants. But how can I find another plant like this when I have no idea what variety the first one is?
If I remember correctly, this happened 40 years ago when we moved into our house in Fullarton, Ontario. This was before the days of 220 volt plugs, I had to hard-wire the kitchen stove. Then wed put a couple of frozen pizzas into the oven to feed those who helped us move.
Pretty soon we were all sitting down, chatting and waiting for the pizzas to cook. It seemed to take a long time. I checked the oven; it was only warm. What was wrong?
I flipped the breaker, pulled the stove out, looked at the connections and decided I had fastened the wires to the wrong terminals. I unscrewed the clamps, switched the wires around, tightened the clamps, pushed the stove back into place and turned the breaker on. The aroma of cooking pizza wafted from the oven and soon we could have our lunch, just a little later than planned.
Well, I never pretended to be an electrician. I do pretend, however, to be a writer, though still in the learning stage. Half-baked writing has no more appeal to me than tepid pizza, and I’m sure readers feel the same. That’s why I am still studying how to get the connections right in my writing so that the story flows as it should.
The Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, in a recent speech to the British parliament, was highly critical of Canada for over-ordering Covid-19 vaccines. He said that we have five times what we need in the pipeline.
The view from this end of the pipeline is quite different. The pipeline ran dry the week before last and the proportion of people vaccinated so far is much less than many other countries. The vaccines are supposed to start trickling out of the pipeline again next week, but there are great uncertainties about how long it will take to receive enough for all of our population.
The Canadian government has no plan to vaccinate us all five or ten times, nor to stockpile more than we need so other countries cannot get what they need. They are just trying to get enough, from whatever source they can. They have ordered from a number of different companies. Many of those vaccines are not even approved as yet.
I don’t want to seem disrespectful of the Most Reverend Mr. Welby, but I wish he would have shown a little more respect for the facts.