Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: nature

Smoke gets in your eyes . . .

and your sinuses, and your throat. The forest fires in British Columbia are still burning. The smoke has wafted in other directions for the past several weeks, but yesterday and today it is back in our country. There is a blue haze in the air, accompanied by a faint aroma of burning evergreens.

Elderly people and those with respiratory allergies or impaired immune systems are advised to take precautions. I qualify on two of those counts and have been taking double doses of antihistamines all summer. We are two provinces away, imagine what it must be like in B.C.!

One side benefit (?) is that the smoke filters the sunlight and moderates our temperatures.

Other trivia from today –

I spent part of the day doing bookkeeping at the vet clinic. Then I went to check out the sale on the town square of Delisle where my daughter had a table selling Tupperware. (There would be room for debate about whether Delisle has either a downtown or a town square. The business district consists of one block, with a vacant lot at one end that serves as the town square.)

From there, I went across the street to the coffee shop to have a latte. The young lady behind the counter asked me if it had been a busy day at the vet clinic. What? I had to ask her how she knew I had been at the vet clinic. It turns out she had spent a few days there as a work ed student while in high school. Okay, the light began to dawn, I do remember seeing her there. And she made a super latte with the perfect design in the cream on top, just like you see in pictures.

Pine siskins have been mobbing our thistle seed feeder for several weeks now and the goldfinches seemed to have disappeared. Today we saw a goldfinch, but there wasn’t room for him at the feeder. I guess they have been crowded out from our feeder and are most likely going next door. We have hummingbirds fighting for a turn at our hummingbird feeder. These are the young from this year and it seems that there is always one male who is boss and won’t let the others near until he has had his fill. Nature is not all sweet peace and harmony.

Compassion for a magpie?

magpie-1987710_1280A magpie is one of the most striking and beautiful birds that you will see in our parts. Its iridescent feathers may appear blue or almost black, depending on the way the light falls on them.  Adults are 46 cm from beak to the tip of their long tail. The wingspread is 64cm and they are very graceful in flight.

Their song is anything but graceful, a harsh, loud chattering. Most people consider them a nuisance, even a pest. They steal pet food left outside and two of them will torment a cat, one chattering and walking back and forth in front, just out of reach, the other trying to sneak up behind to peck the cat’s tail.

Magpies are members of the Corvid family, related to crows, ravens, blue jays and gray jays. Birds of this family are reputed to be the most intelligent of all birds. Magpies are the only birds that can recognize themselves in a mirror.

Magpies are year round residents here and I consider them a nuisance in all seasons. My daughter likes to see them around, I can’t imagine why.

However, for the last few days I have sensing a most unfamiliar feeling within myself towards at least one magpie. We see it daily, pecking around on our lawn. It is unmistakably a magpie in all ways but one – it doesn’t have a tail. We wonder what disaster befell this bird that it has lost its tail feathers. It can fly, but it seems to take more energetic flapping of the wings than usual for a magpie.  I’m sure the loss of a tail makes a big difference in its aerodynamics.

I’m sure the tail feathers will grow back. In the meantime – who would have ever thought that I would be feeling compassion for a magpie?

Nature: red of tooth and claw

Welcome guests:

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Unwelcome guests:

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The welcome mat is out in our yard for goldfinches, swallows and all of our beautiful native songbirds. We wish that there was some way to convince the murderous English sparrows that they are not welcome here.

For several years we have had swallows nesting in a box clearly visible from our bedroom window. This year the swallows started building a nest there again, then we saw that sparrows had taken over. Chris took down the box to clean out the sparrow nest and found the body of the swallow they had killed at the bottom of the nest.

We have now declared open season on English sparrows in our yard and several fathers have brought their boys over for a little target practice. I don’t own a gun and don’t like the idea of killing, but if we do nothing all the birdhouses on our yard will be filled with mother sparrows raising more baby sparrows.

There are also native sparrows: chipping sparrows; song sparrows; grasshopper sparrows and more. They are interesting and inoffensive. It is only these foreigners who have no respect for the native citizens that we consider to be pests.

The title of this post comes from Tennyson and it is an accurate description of nature. There is beauty all around, but there is also savage killing and destruction. “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22). Everything changed when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. Even the murderous sparrow is evidence of that

“I marvel at the audacity with which some people presume to speak of God. In giving their evidence to unbelievers, usually their first chapter is to prove the existence of God from the works of nature. . . . But that is not how Scripture speaks, with its better knowledge of the things of God. On the contrary, it speaks of God as a hidden God, and because nature has been corrupted, he has left men to their blindness. They can only escape from this through Jesus Christ, for without him all communication with God is severed.” – Blaise Pascal.

Robins and skunks on O’Malley Road

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The songbirds are back: robins, meadowlarks and others – spring has come to Saskatchewan. Sometimes we can even tell it by the weather. Last Saturday was a beautiful sunny day with a high of 22° Celsius. That would be 72° in Americanese. This morning the ground was white again for several hours and the high for the day was 2°.

This is also tax season. The personal income tax deadline is April 30, but that falls on a Saturday which makes Monday May 2 the actual deadline. I am busy getting last years books in order for my business bookkeeping clients to take to their tax accountants. I only do a few personal tax returns, mostly for seniors. Last week that led to meeting two delightful ladies, both of them 90 years old and still going strong.

Saturday I attended a Christian writers’ “wordshop” in Saskatoon. This is an opportunity to get together with other writers for mutual encouragement and to hear talks that hopefully inform and inspire us to persevere, write and publish. It is also an opportunity to buy books from our fellow writers – I came home with five.

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For years we have been having problems with creatures resembling the cute little guy above getting under our mobile home. Most of the time they are quiet, inoffensive neighbours. There have been a couple of times when some other creature troubled them and we had to leave home for a few hours to let the resulting aroma dissipate.

I think we are dealing with one persistent pair. We have tried various means to let them know they are not welcome and/or to evict them. We try to limit ourselves to methods that will not cause unpleasant olfactory results for ourselves. Saturday we set up an ultrasonic sound generator that is supposed to drive them bonkers and make them want to escape.

Today one of them ventured out of the hole under the skirting of the trailer and into  the awaiting cage trap. They are not supposed to be able to spray when confined in this small cage, but our son-in-law had to step lively to avoid a direct hit when he came to take our guest away. One down, one more to go. At least I hope that is all there is.

 

Looking for sense in the scent

My wife woke me at 7:00 AM Saturday, saying “We’ve got to get out of the house!” When the cobwebs had cleared from my brain, my nose told me the cause of her concern. The pungent odour of skunk was permeating the house.

We live in a mobile home and were aware that a skunk had burrowed under the house. We have every intention of sealing off the perimeter of the house so this won’t happen again. But we don’t want to seal the skunk in, and we can’t do much as long as the ground is frozen. As long as the skunk was minding its manners it seemed like waiting was the best plan.

I got up, turned the furnace off to stop circulating the aroma through the house, then opened windows. Saturday was a sunny and mild day and the house didn’t cool down all that much. We left for part of the day, had dinner in the city and came home to a house that was somewhat less repugnant. I turned on a few electric heaters for heat and we tried to stay away from the part of the house that smelled the worst.

Angus, our middle cat went outside in the evening and it was quite late when he returned home. We didn’t notice anything on him, except that he was wet (and it was not raining outside) and seemed nervous. A few minutes later he was attacked by Pookie, our smallest cat. We separated the two and put Angus in a room by himself for the night. He seemed traumatized and even afraid of us. He has scratches on his face and shoulder; we don’t know if that happened outside or was the result of Pookie’s attack. These two often squabble, but no harm has been done before. It was almost like Pookie didn’t recognize Angus – perhaps he didn’t smell right.

Angus has made a quick recovery and there is no more evidence of animosity between him and Pookie. Today there is a little white-faced tabby on our doorstep.He comes running whenever he sees us at the window, yet dashes down the hole dug by the skunk when we get too close.

Could there be a connection between the skunk spray, this newcomer and what happened to Angus? We don’t know, but it has been an eventful weekend.

The skunk scent has dissipated from most of the house, except right by our entrance door. The hole is close to the doorstep and I suspect the wood under our entrance is saturated. So if you come to visit us, hold your nose until you get further into the house.

Cloven hooved rodents and Irish Spring soap

I was hauling a load of garbage to the dump this morning; a pickup truck was coming my way, returning from the same errand.  Shortly before we met, a mule deer went bounding across the road between us. Yes, we live in the country where the deer and the antelope roam. Way too many of them, the deer anyway. We consider the deer to be cloven hooved rodents.

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Sometimes the deer roam through our yard. I know some readers will be shocked to hear this, but we don’t like them roaming through our yard. They eat our trees. Around here, deer are regarded with approximtely the same amount of affection as mice.

All you Bambi lovers can relax, I don’t own a gun and we don’t use violent methods to keep deer out of our yard. We don’t use commercial deer repellants, either. A tree farmer in British Columbia did an experiment a few years ago, using every brand of commercial deer repellant he could get his hands on, plus deer netting, and Dial soap. None of the commercial products made one bit of difference, the deer contentedly snacked away on his young trees. However, they did avoid the trees where he had hung bars of Dial soap. He thought any strongly scented soap would have the same effect.

Inspired by that report, I started hanging mesh bags of Irish Spring soap next to our young trees. That was over three years ago and there has been no evidence of the deer nibbling on the trees protected by Irish Spring soap.  Those trees have grown very quickly since they stopped being lunch for deer.

I think it would be best to buy the original (stronger-scented) Irish Spring soap for this purpose.

 

Summer in sunny Saskatchewan

I hope everybody had a chuckle over the mistake in my last post. Two millimetres a year would come to two hundred millimetres in a century, or twenty centimetres, not two metres. If you look at the post now, you will see that I have corrected the error.

Warm weather was late in arriving this year, but when it came the appearance, and sound, of our yard changed almost overnight. The trees between us and the farm yard next to us have become a dense forest, obscuring any hint that there might be another house and other buildings a short distance from us.  All the birds are back, singing happily in the cool of the morning and evening.

Tuesday morning I heard a loud humming from the caragana trees south of our house. Walking closer to see the source of the sound, I found bees busily collecting nectar from the yellow blossoms which cover the trees. They buzzed around me, but didn’t bother me.

As I walked down the road a marbled godwit circled overhead, loudly announcing my presence. There were ducks on the ponds on either side of the road, frogs conversing loudly, blackbirds singing on the fenceposts and from somewhere I heard a willet and what I think was a grasshopper sparrow.

There are swallows and wrens nesting in the nestboxes in our yard. Godlfinches come to our birdfeeder and sometimes we see a brown thrasher underneath the feeder. Meadowlarks and robins make themselves heard, we think we got a glimpse of a catbird one day. The lilacs are starting to bloom, the strawberry plants are full of blossoms. In short, the beautiful days of summer are here.

There is another aspect of Saskatchewan weather that makes itself felt in summer as well as in the other seasons − the wind. A book published twenty years ago, If you’re not from the prairie . . .*, contains these lines:

If you’re not from the prairie,
You don’t know the wind,
You can’t know the wind.

Our cold winds of winter cut right to the core,
Hot summer wind devils can blow down the door.
As children we know when we play any game,
The wind will be there, yet we play just the same.

We had such a wind yesterday, and not being children anymore we didn’t feel much like going out to play.

*If you’re not from the prairie . . . © 1993 by David Bouchard for th poetry and © 1993 by Henry Ripplinger for the illustrations. Published by Raincoast Books.

Meditations on spring in Saskatchewan

For months our yard looked barren. Spring came, the snow melted, yet the weather remained cool and we waited week after week for signs of a change. The grass was brown; the trees were dry sticks. Very hesitantly, signs of new life began to appear. Last week warm weather arrived in full force, temperatures as high as 31°. Now the grass and the trees are green, the strawberries are not only green, they are flowering. The mountain ash and the lilacs are loaded with flower buds and my wife has filled her outdoor flower pots with flowering plants.

An incredible transformation in just one week. Isn’t this what Jesus was meaning when He said: “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30)

Do we doubt His power to transform us from dull lifeless creatures into children of the most high God? Or His ability to provide for all our needs?

The birds are back, too. We saw goldfinches and orioles for the first time last Sunday. At one point yesterday afternoon there were two dozen goldfinches around our bird feeder. This morning we drove into the church yard and as soon as we stopped a yellow warbler lit on the hood of the car, hopped around a bit, then perched on the mirror on my side of the car. This little bird, weighing at best 25 grams, less than an ounce, has flown 6,000 kilometres from Central America to brighten our lives for the summer.

How is that even possible? Yet it happens year after year. Jesus tells us that His Father knows all the little birds, where they are, what they are doing. “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7)

The glories of spring are evidence of God’s care for His creation, and promises of what He wants to do for each one of His children. How much does the yellow warbler understand about all this? I have no way of knowing, all I know is that he goes south in the fall, returns to the north in spring and trusts that he will find what he needs.

Jesus’ statement that not one of the little birds is forgotten by God boggles our mind. Such knowledge is far beyond our grasp. Yet it is so hard for us to trust. We want to understand God’s plan for us, not just for today but for tomorrow, all our tomorrows. Isn’t that why Jesus said “O ye of little faith”? Why not just trust our times into His hands, do the little things that He prompts us to do right now and see where that will lead us?

Enforced liberation?

Feminism, on the other hand, was, to the extent it presented itself as liberation, much more a liberation from nature than from convention or society. Therefore it was grimmer, unerotic, more of an abstract project, and required not so much the abolition of law but the institution of law and political activism.

-Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind © 1987

Big or small, the Bible fits us all

They say that if you take a most powerful magnifying glass, and examine any flower, or even just a blade of grass, that the patterns that we see branch off into hundreds of other patterns, and they branch off into hundreds of others, and so on, and every last thing about it is as perfect as it can be.

Ma says that God shows Himself just as wonderful in making the smallest things perfect and beautiful as He does in the big things, like the sun and the stars and the way they move on their way.

She says that’s the way with the Bible, too.  It fits into the smallest trouble and joys, and helps the stupidest minds, and at the same time it is full of new thoughts for the wisest ones.  The same sentence can shrink up so it just fits the need of the littlest ones, or swell out beyond the thoughts of the biggest ones; and that’s how we know it was inspired by God.  No other book could do it.

[excerpted from When I was thirteen, copyright estate of Christian Young Plumb.]

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