Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

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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.


My day so far

9:00    check weather – forecast of 10 -15 cm snow, winds 40 gusting to 60 km/h
9:30    wife leaves for city just as snow begins to fall
9:35    start work – day’s plan is to catch up on filing
9:45    cat #3 wants out – open door, watch as he assesses the situation and turns around, close door
9:50    back to work
10:00    pet cat #3 who is bugging me
10:05    back to work
10:10    check weather again
10:15    pet cat #3 who has jumped up on my lap, then wandered over desk
10:20    back to work
10:30    pet cat#3 who is bugging me
10:35    back to work
10:45    comb cat #1, the big fluffy one
10:50    wash hands, open bag of chips, try to go back to work
10:55    give kitty treats to cat #3 who thinks every rustle of a bag means treats for him
11:00    back to work
11:10    pet cat #3 who is bugging me
11:15    back to work
11:30    check weather and roads, not good
11:35    pet cat #3 who is bugging me
11:40    back to work
11:55    pet cat #3 who is bugging me
12:00    give kitty treats to cats #1 & 3
12:05    back to work
12:15    pet cat #3 who is bugging me
12:20    back to work
12:30    wife calls, leaving city for home
12:35    make sandwich and eat it
12:45    check weather and roads again, getting worse
12:50    back to work
12:55    pet cat #3 who is bugging me
1:00     back to work
1:15     clean snow off steps and walk
1:20    back to work
1:30    wife is home
1:35    all 3 cats are sleeping peacefully and I can go back to work

US disasters vs Canadian winters

Seventeen years ago at Easter time we drove down to Arkansas where our daughter was teaching. Deborah, a friend of our daughter, travelled with us.  There in the deep south we saw mounds of dirt here and there in the fields. We asked one of the local ladies what they were and she told us they were either crawdads or fire ants.  Deborah turned to us and quietly said, “You couldn’t pay me enough to live in this country.”  No doubt folks from the south would feel the same about our winters.

Because of our cooler climate we do not have many of the insect pests that thrive in the warmer clime south of us. Nor do we have alligators or Burmese pythons. We do not get nearly as many severe storms or floods either.

Last year at this time Christian Public Service of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite had five rebuilding units operating in the USA, usually with six young brethren at a time and a couple as houseparents, volunteering their time to rebuild homes damaged or destroyed by storms and floods.  In addition, hundreds of brethren give time every year for short term Christian Disaster Relief work in emergency cleanup work after storms, fires tornadoes and floods.

Some of that happens in Canada, too, just not nearly as often.  On  June 30, 1912 a tornado hit Regina, Saskatchewan. There were 28 lives lost, 2,500 left temporarily homeless and a large part of the downtown severely damaged.  There have been many tornadoes in the one hundred years since then, but that is still the worst in Canadian history.  Storms like that, and much worse, are annual occurrences in many parts of the USA.

But winter comes to us every year, bringing little personal emergencies with it. Let me tell you about our day yesterday.  Friday and Saturday were mild, with temperatures above freezing. A strong north wind came up in the night, the temperature began to drop rapidly, and when we returned home after morning church no water would come from the taps in the bathroom on the north side of the house.  We have had problems with some sort of creature digging on the north side to find a warm spot under the house. We have closed the hole many times with rocks and gravel. I knew that there had been some activity there again, but it had been covered by snow until the recent warm spell. Now a large hole was exposed and the north wind was whistling in.  I filled the hole again and heaped more gravel on top.  Then I set an electric heater to blow hot air in from the access opening to the plumbing. Within an hour the water was running again.

In the evening, after church and a visit to our children, I could not unlock the back door when we came home. The key would not go all the way in; apparently some moisture had gotten in and frozen. I went to the garage and got a rubber mallet (“When in doubt, use a bigger hammer”), gave a couple of taps, not too gently, on the handle, and then the key went in easily.

The repeated thaws and freezes this month have turned our yards into seas of ice.  One elderly gentleman slipped on the ice and broke his hip.  This is winter in Saskatchewan. Every year is a little different than the previous years, testing our homes, vehicles and bodies in new ways. We always find a way to “muddle through.”

The days are getting longer now, the time between sunrise and sunset is increasing by more than three minutes per day.  Those who live where there are no winters do not know the drama and excitement of a prairie spring.  Nor the glories of a summer with sixteen hours from sunrise to sunset.



The first day of winter

Today is the winter solstice, the day when winter officially begins.  In real life, we’ve had a month of winter here already, with far too many days when the temperature went down to -30°  Celsius at night and only went up by 5 or 10 degrees in the daytime.

Our two youngest cats insist on going out whenever they see the sun shining brightly outside.  Pookie, the youngest, soon comes in and seems thankful for a warm home.  Angus stays out longer but doesn’t venture off the back step into the snow.  When he comes in, he begins to wail in an accusing tone: “Who stole my summer?  What did you guys do with the green grass, the birds and all the other living things?”

Panda, the oldest, remains curled up in a chair.  Elle a déjà vu neiger.  This is French for she has seen it snow before, which is the French equivalent of she wasn’t born yesterday.

I was born in winter time, which means I am now entering my 72nd winter.  I have seen all kinds and it seems like lately we are getting back to the kind of long winters I knew as a boy.

But there are still “experts” telling us that the world is getting warmer and we need to take drastic measures to avoid an apocalypse.  My experience, and the reading of history, convinces me that there is no such thing as normal weather.  What we call normal is only the average of the extremes.

It seems foolish to take a few years weather data and extrapolate  a long term trend from it, especially when more recent data does not support the original predictions.  I’m afraid the main expertise of the “experts” is in sowing panic.

I’m with Panda, there’s no point getting excited about the weather.  But maybe I’m a little like Angus, too — it does make a good topic of conversation.



We had a wonderful weekend, except for the last 80 km.

Saturday was sunny and mild.  We arrived at the home of my cousin in time for supper and spent the night there.  Kara and her husband have four children, aged 9 to 18.  Their oldest son is an enthusiastic lad of 16, almost six feet tall and possesses a deep powerful voice which doesn’t seem to have much of a volume control.  If anyone wonders how John Wesley could preach to thousands of people in outdoor settings, I believe Jordan would be able to demonstrate that it is indeed possible.  In fact, I believe that Jesus, the prophets, and preachers in the days before sound systems, must all have had voices like this.

Sunday morning we joined around 200 other people at the Sinclair congregation of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, just inside Manitoba, about 45 minutes from our cousins.  After the Sunday School and worship service, and much visiting in church, making new acquaintances and renewing old ones, we had dinner in the home of one of the ministers, who had also invited several other couples.   All in all it was a day of spiritual refreshing.

We left for home at 4:00 PM.  Our daughter called around 6:00 to inform us that there was a snowstorm at home.  We continued on our way, hoping to get most of the way home before encountering the storm.  Most of our travelling was on four lane highways with a 110 km/h speed limit.  We encountered rain on the last 10 km before we turned off the major highway.  The moment we turned off, the rain turned to snow.  For the first while there was no snow on the highway but the visibility was poor in the driving snow.  Then slush and snow began to build up on the highway, slowing us down even more.  We finally came to the end of this lonely 50 km stretch and made the turn north toward home.  The visibility in the storm became even worse on this stretch, including a couple of whiteouts where I could just barely see the road.

But finally we saw the lights of home.  As we drove into our yard, we saw a pile of snow by the garage, evidence that our son-in-law had been there and cleared the snow away from  the garage door.

Coming home is the best part of any journey.  Being welcomed by our three cats and being able to sleep in our own bed brought our day to a comforting close.

My wife says we need to make this trip again, but not until May.  I expect that winter is here to stay, which makes the comforts of home even more appealing than at other times.

Maybe snow isn’t so bad, after all

Where I live we suffered through a long winter and a spring that progressed at a barely discernible pace.   The weather always gives us something to talk about here in Saskatchewan, mostly in a worried or complaining tone, but summer did eventually show up, just as it always has.

Now we are in those glorious days where the sunshine never seems to end.  The sun rises at 5 AM and sets at 9 PM.   The birds start singing at 4 and don’t stop until 10.  And we still have a month to go until the longest day.

Meanwhile, we hear that Gander, Newfoundland, at the far east end of Canada, had a freak snowstorm Monday, dumping 60 cm of heavy white stuff.  For those who don’t speak metric, that is a whole two feet.  Those poor people!

Then we heard of the tornado in Oklahoma – homes, schools, a hospital reduced to rubble, many lives lost.  That puts a different light on our little woes.  No lives were lost in Gander, all the buildings are still standing.  The snow will soon be only a memory and life will go on as usual.

The worst tornado in Saskatchewan history, the worst in all of Canada, happened in 1912 in Regina.  The funnel cloud went through downtown and a large residential area, causing immense amounts of damage and taking 28 lives.  We have never had anything like it in the 100 years that followed.  Last year we had 33 tornadoes in our province, a record.  Most of them were small and occurred in places where they did no property damage.  There have been no lives lost in Saskatchewan due to tornadoes for many years.

I suppose that comes from living in a more northern climate, where the heat does not build up to the intensity it does in places like Oklahoma.  Maybe snow isn’t so bad after all.

I think we had better stop complaining about the weather we have here and start praying for all those in Oklahoma, and elsewhere, who have lost homes and loved ones.  May God grant a special grace through the coming days.

Could we please just have spring already?

For at least the past three weeks the weather forecasters have been telling us that sunny, springlike weather is just five days away.  I am still clinging to the belief that one of these days it will actually happen.  Our winter accumulation of snow is slowly going down, even on cloudy days when the temperature doesn’t quite get up to zero Celsius.

The official beginning of spring, March 20, brought us a two day blizzard that heaped huge, hard-packed drifts  over our highways.  The morning of the 22nd, the Department of Highways called on our son-in-law to help clear the highway that runs through our local area.  Two men and two front end loaders spent a day and a half cutting through snow drifts that were four to six feet deep in places and moving the snow back off the shoulders.  We didn’t get that much snow, but there were already high snowbanks along the highways from previous snowfalls and road clearing and those places filled in and were packed hard from the high winds.

The local rail lines, used by long trains of bulk grain cars, also had huge drifts in many places.  Last Wednesday, two weeks after the blizzard began, we watched as someone with a small tractor and a snow blower spent six hours clearing the mile of railroad southwest of our home.  That must have been the last blockage as the trains began running the next day.

Last Sunday morning we decided to visit a congregation 275 km north of us.  It had snowed in the night and was still snowing, but the roads were not bad at first and we kept on going.  An hour from home we hit snow packed highways and drove on that for most of the rest of the way.  We heard an inspiring message from a visiting minister from California, had dinner with old friends and by the time we returned home the snow had mostly melted off the roads.

The wind came up again Wednesday afternoon and snow began to drift and accumulate on the highways.  Snow fell during the night and by morning there were reports of serious traffic accidents from various places.  Just before 8:00 am, there was a two vehicle collision not far from our closest small town.  Three ambulances were called out to taken seven of the passengers to the closest hospital and a helicopter ambulance to transport a boy to a Saskatoon hospital.

Much of that fresh snow has melted.  Yesterday, the weather forecast spoke of sunshine and warm weather beginning on Tuesday.  This morning, that has been pushed up to Wednesday, still five days away.  And there is more snow coming tomorrow and maybe Sunday.

Three years ago, in late summer, we were experiencing an overabundance of rain.  One elderly gentleman said it was all the farmers’ fault:  “They are mostly God-fearing people and when it was so dry after seeding they all prayed for rain.  But they forgot to say how much.”

There was a lot of concern earlier this spring that if the snow we received last winter would melt too fast we would have flooding.  Maybe by now we could stop praying for a slow melt and just take what comes?

As you may have noted, I am not doing so well at taking things as they have come this spring so far.  Our cats are equally frustrated.  They have cabin fever, wanting to go out and explore the yard but finding it mostly buried in snow.  We are having a major cat hair problem.  Maybe they are getting mixed signals, telling them to grow heavier coats for winter and at the same time telling them to shed their winter coats in preparation for summer.


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