Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: winter

Too close for comfort

The days are getting short, the nights cold. These are the days when folks used to gather around the Quebec heater to visit. Stoves like the one in the picture below were found in most Saskatchewan farm homes, and in most stores.  Most wood stoves still come from Quebec, for the same reason that most maple syrup comes from Quebec — that’s where the trees are.

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On a  Saturday night about 70  years ago, Dad placed the big square galvanized tub on the living room floor, Mom filled it with water heated on the stove and we had our baths.  It felt chilly in the room when I got out of the tub, so I backed up to the stove to warm up and dry myself. I backed up just a bit too far and felt a searing pain on my backside that made it inconvenient to sit down for a few days.

Our cats in winter

It is cold here, many mornings the wind chill has been -40° or worse. School has been cancelled numerous times as school buses do not go out when it gets that cold. Monday the temperature got up to -18° (that’s 0° Fahrenheit) and it felt positively mild!

Our two cats don’t like this weather any more than we do. They want to go outside, but even when they do gather up enough courage to do so, they don’t stay out long.

Each has chosen his favourite nesting spot in the house. Angus gets up on the washing machine. It’s located in the hallway in the centre of our house and he expects some attention every time one of us passes by.

Pookie likes it under our bed. The floor is carpeted and there is floor heat. He finds it nice and snug there, protected from drafts and warmth seeping up from below.

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Sunday we were invited to friends from our church for dinner. It was sunny and I noticed a couple of cats outside. I think they spend nights in the barn. I should have counted the cats when we left, because when we got home there was a piteous wail coming from under the hood of our car.

By the time I got a dish of cat food and went back outside the wailing had stopped. I lifted the hood and there was an orange tabby comfortably ensconced on top of the air cleaner.

He jumped out as soon as he was exposed, but didn’t go far.  He looked around this strange yard, trying to figure out where he was then ate some of the cat food. His owners showed up shortly thereafter to take him home.

Ten beautiful things about winter in Saskatchewan

1. Sparkling landscapes. The timing is unpredictable, but every once in a while every tree, bush and weed is turned into a dazzling crystalline structure by hoar frost.

2. The purity of the snow. All that is ugly is buried under a white blanket.

3. The absence of flies, ants and beetles. They will return in spring, but our winters have so far kept fire ants, killer bees and Burmese pythons from venturing into the province.

4. The absence of road construction crews. No more detours and delays.

5. Birds at our feeders. Many have left for the season but chickadees, woodpeckers and other birds are still here and appreciate the food we offer.

6. Children skating on outdoor rinks. I remember when I had that kind of enthusiasm and like to see the young ones for whom it is much more than just a memory.

7. Coming in to warm up. Somehow, coming in to cool off on a hot summer day just doesn’t have the same charm.

8. Christmas carollers. Hearing car doors slam and the sound of happy voices, then a couple of the old carols sung heartily just outside our door is a heartwarming part of growing old.

9. The shining faces of children singing and saying their parts at a Christmas concert. We love to hear the program presented by the children of our Christian school and so do many of our neighbours.

10. Spring. How can one truly appreciate spring if he hasn’t survived a real winter?

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.

Brain benumbed by beastly biting cold

We are in the midst of a Canada-wide cold wave, with temperatures 15 to 20 degrees below seasonal averages. (Those are Celsius degrees, too. Each one is worth 1.8 Fahrenheit degrees.) The National Post reports that it was colder in Winnipeg this morning than it was at the North Pole, the South Pole and the Gale Crater on Mars, where the Curiosity rover is located.

Sounds awful, doesn’t it? Yet it was really only -30° in Winnipeg, and the three locations mentioned above are usually much colder than that. Still, the lowest temperature ever recorded in Scotland was -27° at its far northern tip. And the Canadian Forces Station at Alert in the NWT was -7°.  That has to be a fluke, since Alert is farther north than any Inuit settlement. The sun will not be seen at Alert for another two months.

My car started Christmas morning at -28°. When I went to open the rear lift gate it was frozen shut (I washed the car last Thursday). But it unlatched enough to turn on the interior light above the door. I guess that was enough to run down the battery, because the car would not start two days later. The -31° temperature wasn’t in it’s favour either.

This is now our third winter with this car and I knew that I had plugged it in a time or two each of the previous winters. But I suffered a brain freeze in the cold weather and couldn’t for the life of me figure out where to find the plug for the block heater. I looked all over the engine compartment and the grill and found no sign of it. Eventually I noticed it just poking its nose out of a vent under the grill.  I plugged it in and after a few hours the car started.

Today I went to Saskatoon. That is a 150 km round trip and depending how much we crisscross the city it could be as much as a 200 km trip. I got to wondering just where an electric car would die in this weather. Our car has a good interior heater and defroster, plus heated seats and a heated steering wheel. Add that load to the battery load in an electric vehicle and how far would it go? I believe a comfortable driver is a much safer driver than a driver wearing layers of clothing, felt-lined boots and two layers of mitts who can hardly see out his frosted windshield.

Forty years ago we had a little Asian car and in weather like this we had a choice between keeping ourselves warm or seeing out the windshield. It couldn’t do both at the same time. I won’t name the maker, because their cars have improved immeasurably since then. The car I’m driving now comes from another Asian manufacturer and is about as good as one can get for driving in our winters. What are the chances that electric cars might improve that much over the next forty years?

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?

Tips for newcomers to Canada – No. 1

Listen carefully when Canadians talk about the weather and you will discover there is a protocol that we all follow. For instance, here where I live, we just had an early snowstorm. When we get together with neighbours, the first thing one does is to complain about the weather: “It’s not fit for man nor beast out there;” “Quel temps de chien!”

The proper response is to agree how bad it is and give an example, perhaps how they barely made it to town in the deep snow on the road. Everybody takes his or her turn, adding details of how awful the weather is.

Then, somebody will say “Do you remember the blizzard of ‘98? Now that was a storm!” Then we all start to talk about how we’ve experienced weather that was a lot worse than what we have today.

Do you see what’s happening? We love to complain about how hard we have it living in this harsh climate, but then we flip it around and boast about how tough we are and we can handle it. The same protocol is followed when talking about mosquitos or grasshoppers in summer, or any other event in our immediate environment.

If you are a newcomer to Canada, listen until you get a feel for the drift of conversation, chip in with a personal experience if you wish. Be careful, though! This is not the time to tell us about floods, earthquakes and hurricanes in your home country. It’s not that we don’t care, but the flow of conversation will just wash over such thoughts as if they hadn’t been uttered.

Let us enjoy our little pity party / boasting session. It’s part of who we are. If you can learn to just go with the flow, nod at the right moments and add a word or two when appropriate, we’ll begin to feel like you’re one of us. Eventually, someone will ask you what things were like where you came from. Then you will have our full attention.

Please slow down

It is winter inauto-70075_1280 Saskatchewan. Last night there was a heavy fog; the fog deposited its humidity on roads and streets where it formed a sheet of ice. After a rash of accidents in Saskatoon this morning, the police issued the following bulletin:

Speed limits are set based on ideal road conditions. THESE are not “ideal” road conditions. Please slow down.

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).

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