Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: snow

Snow, beautiful snow

It’s springtime in Saskatchewan and our yard has begun to emerge from the winter’s accumulation of snow. We were greeted this morning by more of the white stuff falling from the sky; by dinner time about 10 cm has accumulated. Beautiful, glittering, pristine white snow.

I had planned to go to the city this morning, but decided to rather stay home and contemplate the beauty of the snow. My decision was largely motivated by the knowledge that the city streets will be pretty ugly by now.

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A few minutes ago Pookie (who looks very much like the cat in the photo above) decided he wanted to go out. I opened the door and the sight of all that snow on the doorstep seemed very uninviting.

Well, why don’t I make the world outside a little more inviting for a kitty? A few minutes with a push broom cleared the heavy wet snow off the door step and the patio stones in front of it.

Pookie went out, walked down the steps and to the end of the patio stones. Then he gingerly stepped into the snow, excavated a spot, used it for a bathroom, covered it up and came back in.

There is a litter box in the house, but that is shared with two other cats. This is much more sanitary.

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Winter – month five

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Snow is such beautiful stuff, so sparkly bright and clean, a symbol of purity. We just got another 30 cm of it over the weekend to mark the beginning of month 5 of winter.

Perhaps you can tell that my enthusiasm is somewhat less than it would have been when I was a seven year old boy. So I try to remind myself of the benefits of snow. When there is snow on the ground we don’t have a bug problem and I don’t have to cut grass or weed flower beds. Plus, this fresh blanket of snow should be thick enough to muffle the mumblings and grumblings about drought – for a few weeks at least.

Honestly, though, I won’t be disappointed when it leaves. Our cats are getting cabin fever, and so are we.

Winter’s adventure lost

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Seventy years ago, when our family wanted to go somewhere in winter we used a cutter much like the one illustrated.  We dressed very warmly, heated a stone or two in the oven, placed them on the floor of the cutter and draped horsehide robes over our laps and feet. Nowadays, I push a button to start the car before we go out to the garage, get in the car, push the buttons to heat the car seats and the steering wheel, and we’re on our way without really feeling how cold it is.

Seventy years ago there was no equipment for keeping driveways and roads open when the snowdrifts got deep. Nowadays, we expect driveways, roads, streets and sidewalks to be as clear in winter as in summer.

Seventy years ago we got up to an icy cold house, got the wood fire going in the kitchen stove and dressed around the warmth of that stove. We shovelled coal into the big old furnace in the basement and the heat would gradually rise up to warm the rest of the house. Nowadays the thermostat automatically turns the heat up when it’s time for us to get out of bed and turns it down again when it is bedtime.

Seventy years ago we wore long underwear and heavy socks in winter. To go outside we put on a parka with a hood to pull up over the toque on our head, put insulated boots on our feet, a scarf around our neck and two layers of mitts on our hands. Nowadays, we put on a coat, and sometimes gloves, and walk out to the car that is warming up already.

Seventy years ago I enjoyed winter. Nowadays, not so much. What happened?

Will the Paris climate conference save us from the dastardly Chinook wind?

Leonardo DiCaprio was filming in Calgary in January of this year when a Chinook wind came up. It terrified him. “We would come and there would be eight feet of snow, and then all of a sudden a warm gust of wind would come.” “…it was scary. I’ve never experienced something so firsthand that was so dramatic. You see the fragility of nature and how easily things can be completely transformed with just a few degrees difference. It’s terrifying, and it’s what people are talking about all over the world. And it’s simply just going to get worse.”

He claims that some local on the film crew told him “This has never happened in our province ever.” There is a serious misunderstanding here, nobody could live in Calgary and be ignorant of the Chinook winds that visit southwestern Alberta dozens of times every winter.

A Chinook begins on the Pacific and comes ashore laden with moisture. This moisture falls as rain in the coastal regions and as snow further inland and on the western slope of the Rockies. When the wind comes over the top of the mountains it has shed all its moisture and flows down the mountain and across the prairie as a warm dry wind. Chinooks have been known to melt a foot of snow in an hour.

There are numerous folk tales about Chinooks. In one case, a farmer in pioneer days is said to have been going to town in a sleigh drawn by a team of horses and just keeping pace with the front of the Chinook. The horses were belly deep in snow, the sleigh was in mud up to the buckboard and the cow tied behind the sleigh was kicking up dust on the road.

This is climate change all right – and it has been happening many times every winter as far back as anyone can trace the history of the area. The First Nations people have legends about how the Chinook came to be.

The real problem here is that people have been told so many scary stories that anything that is not familiar to them becomes evidence of impending doom. I have more confidence in the Creator than in all the world powers and experts who were gathered in Paris to try to save the planet.

What will it profit a man to save the planet and lose his own soul?

 

All of a sudden it’s spring!

In books the scenario goes like this: the trapper / prospector / homesteader (choose one) is shut up in his isolated cabin in the north country. The snow gets deeper and deeper, the temperature gets colder and colder, the wood pile gets smaller and smaller, his winter supply of food is almost gone. The days are getting longer, but the snowstorms are more frequent, there is no hope of getting out for more supplies. Hope is almost gone when he wakes up one morning to a different sound in the treetops. There is a gentle breeze blowing from the southwest, the clouds are gone and the sun is shining brightly. The snow begins to melt and in a few days there is open ground, open water, and he is a free man once again.

That’s how it reads in story books. Real life is not like that — the sun shines one day with a promise of spring, followed by another blizzard the next day, or at least by bitterly cold temperatures and sharp winds that lash your face with ice crystals and make it difficult to find your way. Warm days alternate with cold days until the warm finally prevails and we have spring.

Except that from time to time it does happen exactly as the story books describe. We had bitterly cold temperatures last week, up to and including Thursday. Friday the sun shone, the wind came from the southwest, the temperature went above zero and the snow began to melt. This is the fourth day and bare  patches are showing up on our lawn. If this continues, as it is forecast to do, there won’t be much snow left after the coming weekend.

(Here’s a primer on the Celsius scale for those still addicted to Fahrenheit: 0° Celsius is the freezing point; -18° Celsius equals 0° Fahrenheit; each degree on the Celsius scale equals 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus today’s temperature of 5° would be 41° F and Saturdays forecast high of 15° would be 59° F.)

Whether it comes slowly or quickly, spring on the Canadian prairies is a dramatic event. The increased hours of sunshine have already boosted our energy level. Even our cats have spring fever. Soon the robins will be here, followed by Canada Geese, meadowlarks and all the birds of summer. The first native flower to bloom will be the prairie crocus, usually appearing before the snow is completely gone.

A friend asked me recently, “Why are we living here?” That is not so easy to answer during winter when the days are short, the nights long and a snowstorm just made our driveway impassible again. But spring reminds us of the life and beauty that teems all around us when winter is past, and of those long, long, glorious days of summer.

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease (Genesis 8:22).

Why wait for spring – do it now

A few days ago my wife and I got to talking about a catchy advertising jingle of fifty years ago that was heard incessantly at this time of year. My wife even remembered all the words and sang them. It was the theme song of a government of Canada campaign to help building trades people keep working year round.  It started with promoting the idea of homeowners doing interior renovations during the cold months, when carpenters, plumbers and electricians were readily available.

The idea of winter construction work took off from there. Nowadays the construction of new houses hardly slows down in wintertime. With the use of plastic sheeting and construction heaters it is even possible to pour concrete in sub-zero temperatures. The innovative campaign that began 50 years ago has been a resounding success, there is hardly a blip in employment for people in the construction trades during the winter months.

On another front there is still a need for some innovative thinking. It is said of Saskatchewan cities that they have the world’s most efficient snow removal system: it’s called spring.

It might have been better if my wife and I had never lived in Montreal. But we did spend four years in that city, which is reputed to receive the heaviest annual snowfall of any major city in the world. And they knew what to do when it snowed. It took an average of four days after a major snowfall to have all the snow cleaned up – major traffic routes, commercial streets, residential streets, sidewalks included. City crews and subcontractors worked in shifts around the clock; small tracked snowplows pushed snow from the sidewalks into the street, the snow in the street was plowed into a windrow down the centre of the street and then a loader would come along and blow the snow into a steady stream of trucks who hauled it to snow dumps. It was a marvel to watch the coordination and thoroughness of the job.

We had four inches of snow a week and a half ago. My wife and I were in Saskatoon four days later and the main thoroughfares had been cleaned fairly well. That was it, and the city seemed to feel they were doing a better job than in other years. Residential areas will probably not see a snowplow all winter. For most streets of the city the snow is left to be compressed by traffic into a rutted ice pack.

There was another eight inches of snow last Saturday and I have a doctor’s appointment in the city tomorrow morning. That will no doubt further my education on how to drive on icy, rutted streets.

I’m all in favour of reviving the old jingle and applying it to snow removal: Why wait for spring  – do it now!

The benefits of winter

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We are having weather today — just what kind isn’t exactly clear yet. Yesterday was mild,  light rain began in the afternoon and froze after dark. Last night we drove home from our first Christmas gathering on roads that were just a little icy. This morning there was light snow falling, which turned to rain and later back to snow. Further south it is mostly rain that its falling; a little to the north it is mostly snow. I expect that when we go to church tomorrow we will drive on roads having a buildup of snow, with ice underneath. Soon we will only have to contend with snow.

And that isn’t all bad. Living in a cooler climate means that we don’t experience nearly as many severe weather related natural disasters, like tornadoes, hurricanes and floods. Flooding does occur some springs, there are tornadoes, but they are usually small, localized events. The worst tornado in Canadian history occurred a century ago in Regina, Saskatchewan. No tornado since has caused as much damage or loss of life.

This is dry country. Winter, with its snow cover, prevents moisture loss due to evaporation. When the snow melts in spring, it waters the soil more uniformly than would a heavy rainfall, as the rainwater would tend to flow to the low lying areas. Cold winters keep some pests from venturing this far north. So far, there have been no reports of fire ants, killer bees or Burmese pythons in Saskatchewan, or anywhere else in Canada.

A whole range of athletic activities have developed to take advantage of winter conditions: downhill and cross country skiing, snowshoeing, tobogganing, skating, hockey, ringette, broom ball, curling, snowmobiling and dog sled racing. Children make snowmen, snow forts and snow angels. There are ice sculpture competitions.

Above all this, winter is a tremendous economic stimulant. Snowstorms provide work for snow removal contractors, tow truck operators and taxi drivers. Ski resorts and ice rinks hire many seasonal workers. And think of all the jobs created by the manufacture and retail of snow tires, snow shovels, snow brooms, windshield scrapers, parkas, winter boots, winter gloves, mitts and scarves, skates, pucks, hockey sticks, curling rocks, curling brooms, broom ball brooms, ringette sticks and rings, skis, ski boots, ski poles, snowshoes, snowmobiles, Zambonis, snowplows, ski slope grooming equipment, insulation, weatherstripping, heating systems, construction site heaters, and so on. There are also the lamps made for therapeutic use, to prevent seasonal depression caused by reduced exposure to sunlight during the short days of winter.

Winter is the ideal time to stay indoors, play ping pong, crokinole or Scrabble, sip hot chocolate of hot apple cider, and swap stories about the blizzard of ’47 and other memorable winter events.

Winter travels

Our fall was much warmer than usual, but now it has turned cold and every once in a while we get a little skiff of snow. There is just enough to cover the ground this morning and most of it could disappear if we get a sunny day or two. Nevertheless, this is the beginning of winter here on the flatlands.

Winter was much more formidable when I was a small boy. Formidable for the adults at least, since there was no machinery to keep the country roads open. Even our driveway filled up with deep snowbanks, due to the thick windbreak of trees between us and the road.

The only way to get anywhere was to walk, or hitch up the team of horses to the sleigh and go around the trees and across the fields. We had heavy horsehide robes to place over our laps and my mother often heated stones in the oven to place on the floor of the sleigh to help keep us warm.

I had a one mile walk across country to get to school. I remember one winter morning, I think I was eight years old. It was bitterly cold and there was five feet of snow in the driveway. Dad had the sleigh hitched up and ready to go as soon as I was finished breakfast. Mom fixed my lunch and I dressed up warmly, climbed into the sleigh, pulled the horsehide robe up over my knees and we were off . The sun was just coming up and it seemed that every snowflake over the whole landscape sparkled like a diamond in the light.

We got to school on time, but no one else was there. I was confused at first, then a little spark of memory lit up.

“Umm, Dad, I guess I forgot. Today is a holiday.”

The ride home was very quiet.

I guess I’ve always been absent-minded. This incident is still clear in my memory. The time was probably February of 1950 and the holiday would have been due to a teachers’ convention. Dad may have been upset, but he never scolded me.

Spring fever

In books, spring always seems to come in a rush. Homesteaders on the prairies, or trappers in the northern bush, endure a long harsh winter, their food  and their firewood have almost run out and the snow is so deep they can’t get out to replenish their supplies.. Then one day they notice something different in the air, a warm breeze begins to blow and the snow melts  away in a matter of a few days. Well folks, I have to tell you the awful truth — it just doesn’t happen like that in real life.

I have to admit though, that when we lived in Ontario my rose-tinted memories of prairie life went much like what I have read in books. In south-western Ontario spring comes early; around the beginning of March the snow melts, the rivers run free and everything is wonderful — until the next big snowfall. I learned the hard way to expect three big snows after I thought spring had arrived.

Our first spring in Ontario, one day at the end of March or the beginning of April, I was in the M&M convenience store in St. Marys. The street sweeping machine was going down the street, picking up the dust and gravel left by the snow which had been gone for several weeks already. A customer in the store remarked that it was about time to clean the streets. Dick McPherson, the owner of M&M, suggested that they had probably waited until they were sure there would be no more snow. Everbody had a good laugh at that. The next morning there was six inches of fresh snow on the ground.

Here in Saskatchewan spring began three weeks ago. We had lovely mild, sunny weather, above zero temperatures and the snow rapidly began to disappear. After a few days it turned cold again, with about half the snow left and several light snowfalls adding to it. Monday morning the temperature was -22° Celsius.

Now it seems that spring may be here to stay. The temperature was up to 4° yesterday and there were puddles in the yard again. The forecast is that by Tuesday the temperature will be up to 14°.

I have another memory from my childhood about the timing of spring. I’m not sure anymore how much to trust those memories, but as I recall, I could never ride my bike to school before the Easter holidays, but I always could when school began after Easter. It was that way whether Easter was early or late. This year, Good Friday is two weeks away and we still have lots of snow left, perhaps there is something to it.

Our cats definitely have spring fever. With the longer days they want to be outside a lot more, but it’s still too cold for them to stay out for very long. Have you ever noticed how a cat is always on the wrong side of a door? That’s definitely the case at this time of year. We are getting spring fever, too. Even though there’s not a hint of green on the lawn and our garden is still under a couple feet of snow, I am getting anxious to get things ready.

More about cat #3

Cat number three is Pookie, an almost two year old  flame point Siamese. He is our most antsy and most vocal cat, but usually settles down mid morning for a good sleep.

Yesterday he was much more antsy than usual. I really believe that he knew my wife was out in that storm and was worried about her. Chris wondered if perhaps he was reacting to my nervousness, but if I was showing any nervousness the other two cats didn’t notice it.

Cat number two is Angus, an almost three year old black short hair who shows a lot of Siamese influence. He is Chris’s cat and shows all the anxiety of a Siamese. I didn’t mention him in yesterday’s post because he slept all the time that Chris was gone.

Cat number one is Panda, large, black, long haired, of mostly Maine Coon Cat ancestry and almost twelve years old. She demands special attention several times a day, wanting to be combed and brushed. Her behaviour  yesterday was completely normal.

Pookie does not like to be picked up and never sits on our lap unless we are in one of the recliners with our feet up. Yesterday was the first time he ever jumped up on my lap when I was sitting at the computer. Even then he would not settle down.

At the last, especially after I went out and cleaned the snow off the steps and walk, he seemed to know that Chris was on her way home. He went and sat on the bed in our spare bedroom, not to sleep, but to watch the entry way so he would see when she came in the door. Once she was home, he found one of the cat beds sin the living room and slept the rest of the afternoon.

This is the feral cat who showed up on our doorstep one day, half grown, half starved, fully expecting to find a home. When I opened the door, he calmly walked in. I had never seen him before, but I suspect he had been watching for awhile and knew this was a cat friendly place. Never underestimate the intelligence of a cat.

 

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