Have you noticed how apocalyptic weather reports have become? “Unprecedented Siberian cold blankets the prairies!” “High risk of frostbite and hypothermia.”
Those of us who are native to the prairies love to complain about our weather extremes. I used to tell people that when I was a boy we had days every winter when the temperature went down to 50° below zero Fahrenheit and every summer we had days of 105° above zero Fahrenheit.
Sifting through my memories a little more realistically, I believe that 50° below zero happened twice during the years I attended school. I had a half mile walk to school, I was bundled up in layers of winter clothing and still had to keep clapping my hands together to keep my fingers warm. And the coal-fired boiler at school had a hard time getting steam up to the registers in the second floor classrooms.
As for the 105°, that happened at least once. We were having a family picnic beside Plaxton’s Lake in Moose Jaw, I was wearing swimming trunks and it took a few days to recover from the sunburn.
Yesterday we cousins had a get-together on Zoom to exchange New Year’s wishes. A cousin in Portugal said that they hardly went out to a café because it was raining all the time. She grew up in Saskatchewan, the high here was -27° Celsius yesterday, what was she complaining about?
I have concluded that we here in Saskatchewan love to complain about the weather because it proves how tough we are. We can handle it.
It helps, of course, to have a warm house, a car with heated seats, a heated steering wheel, all wheel drive and enough clearance not to get hung up on snow drifts. And a grandson who comes over with a big machine to clear our driveway.
The people who are opposed to the COVID vaccines point to the fact that vaccinated people are getting COVID anyway. That’s true, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
The statistics here in Saskatchewan show that if you’re not vaccinated you are five times as apt to get the disease and 20 times as apt to need hospital care. In other words, if vaccinated people get COVID, it’s usually a mild case.
The really scary statistic is that only 10% of people over the age of 60 in Saskatchewan are not vaccinated. But that small segment of the population accounts for 75% of the people hospitalized with COVID.
Now this is just a personal observation, I don’t know what the statistics are. But there is a possibility of getting myocarditis from the vaccine. I don’t know anyone who has, but I know at least two people who have suffered life-threatening cases of myocarditis as a result of having the disease.
I’m a statistician, a numbers guy. Put a bunch of numbers in front of me and I’ll start analyzing them. Here are the numbers I have been puzzling over today:
Saskatchewan: number of new cases of COVID – 449 / number of people in hospital due to COVID – 311 / number in ICU – 65
Québec: number of new cases of COVID – 469 / number of people in hospital due to COVID – 321 / number in ICU – 94
The numbers are almost the same, yet the population of Québec is more than seven times greater than the the population of Saskatchewan. That means that COVID is seven times as big a problem in Saskatchewan. Why is that happening?
I think part of the answer appears when we look at the vaccination records. In Québec 73.3% of the population is fully vaccinated (two shots); in Saskatchewan the number is 61.5%. That seems like a pretty significant factor, especially considering that 75% of the infections and 80% of the hospitalizations are unvaccinated people.
Does that mean that the government led by François Legault is doing a much better job of handling the COVID crisis than the government led by Scott Moe? Both government have made vaccines readily available and made it as convenient as possible to find a nearby location to be vaccinated. They have urged people to get vaccinated.
Does it mean then that the folks in Québec are just a wee bit smarter than we are here in Saskatchewan?
I won’t venture an answer to those questions. I have probably stuck my neck out too far already in asking them. What do you think?
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.
The high today was 40°. That is 104° on the Fahrenheit scale. Someone asked me the question above. Well yes I have, I remember a family picnic 70 years ago when the temperature hit 105° F. I was shirtless much of the day and got quite a sunburn, but I survived that and other weather extremes.
I remember a hot, dry summer when Mom hung sheets over all the windows in an attempt to keep the dust out of the house. I remember a summer when all the ditches were full of water. I remember winter mornings when the thermometer showed -50° F, I wore two layers of clothing to walk a half mile to school and had to step lively to avoid frostbite. I remember blizzards that lasted two or three days and stopped traffic on highways and railroads.
I believe I was six years old when a passenger train was trapped by a blizzard a few miles outside the town of Mossbank. The people in town carried food through the blizzard so those trapped on the train could eat. When the blizzard ended, it took a small army of men with shovels to dig the train out.
Saskatchewan is a land of weather extremes. I remember spring floods, droughts, dust storms, grasshopper plagues, prairie fires, hail, tornadoes. Solomon said: “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9.
In between the extremes there has been a lot of good weather, good times, a lot of beauty. Saskatchewan is one of the most productive agricultural areas in North America and a good place to live. I have lived in other places, but always came home; the last time was 23 years ago.
Spring comes with a rush here. In a few weeks we go from brown grass and lifeless trees to an explosion of green, populated by a profusion of songbirds. Last to arrive are the swallows, wrens and hummingbirds. The little guy in the picture is a Carolina Wren. They don’t come here, but the house wrens in our yard are almost the same except the eye stripe is not as pronounced. They are very active, very vocal. heard more often than they are seen.
Summer here is short, but it is intense. Today there are 16½ hours between sunrise and sunset, which explains the explosive growth of trees, lawns, gardens and field crops.
Yet this is dry country, almost desert. The Palliser Expedition 0f 1860 described a large part of southern Saskatchewan as unfit for cultivation. There have been years of drought, but the development of drought tolerant grain varieties, along with improved tillage equipment and methods that disturb the soil as little as possible have made this an immensely prosperous farming area.
The prairie landscape was treeless, except along the rare water courses. the people who settled here planted trees around their farmyards and in their towns. Many of these trees, like poplar, Manitoba maple and caragana, might be considered weeds elsewhere. But they grow quickly and survive our harsh winters.
There are native wildflowers, like the prairie lily, crocus, scarlet mallow and wild rose pictured below. You have to look for them, though; because of the climate many grow close to the ground or only in sheltered areas.
Nurseries have selected and developed a great variety of flowers, vegetables, fruits and ornamental shrubs that are hardy for this area. So, for a few months every summer, our country blossoms like a rose.
Chris had been on a waiting list for surgery since last October. The last time she enquired it sounded like she would have to wait a few more months since the medical system has been occupied caring for COVID patients. Then out of the blue came a phone call saying the surgeon has an open slot on May 25, due to a cancellation. Do you want it?
She jumped at the chance to be done with the waiting. We got to the hospital by 7:00 last Tuesday morning and the surgery took place three hours later. After the surgery she was given Tylenol and morphine for the pain. She came home the next afternoon with instructions to take three regular strength Tylenol every four hours. They gave her a prescription for morphine, in case the Tylenol wasn’t enough.
We didn’t know what to expect, but her recovery has surprised both of us. She never needed to get the morphine prescription filled and by today hardy needs Tylenol either. She should not lift anything over five kilos nor do anything too strenuous. She asked me to change the sheets on the bed yesterday, but is able to do almost all of her normal activities. Best of all, the surgery has corrected the original problem!
At the same time, today is the first day of the first stage of reopening Saskatchewan. If all goes well, stage two will come in three weeks and if that goes well, stage three will follow in another three weeks. That will mean the end of all COVID restrictions.
It’s beginning to look like an enjoyable summer ahead of us. We are thankful to God for bringing us safely thus far and this double recovery is extra cause for rejoicing.
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.
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?