Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: winter

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?

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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).

We’re headed in the right direction

It is -30° this morning, the sun won’t rise until 9:15 and it will set again at 5:00 P.M. But the days are getting longer — I need to keep reminding myself of that.

Twenty-five years ago I took a statistics course taught by a man originally from India. He told us how he and his family had arrived in Toronto one frosty January day and the rest of the family had turned to him and asked: “What kind of a country have you brought us to?”

“Look,” he said, ” we talked this over and over when we were back in India and we all agreed there would be a better future for us in Canada. Now we are here and we need to learn to like everything about this country.” Then he went out and bought winter clothing, skates and skis for himself and all the family.

I wish I could be more like that. But I know the command start on my car won’t work this morning and the garage door opener will take about five tries to get the door open all the way. So I will need to walk out to the garage, push that button five times, and put the key in the ignition to start the car (It is plugged in and will start without a problem, it’s just that the electronic circuitry in the command start relay doesn’t handle this cold very well.) Oh, the hardships of winter!

Maybe I’m getting too old to get much pleasure out of winter. But I know that winter is only for a season and before many months we’ll be enjoying 16 hours of sunlight.

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.

Chicken apocalypse

 

 

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A couple in the city of Saskatoon has been ordered to get rid of the chickens they are keeping in their backyard. Two city councillors came up with a whole list of reasons why it is a terrible idea to keep chickens in the city. Chickens attract pests, they are noisy, chicken manure smells. They might freeze in the winter and then the city would be blamed. Somebody might get ill and die from food-borne disease from eating a backyard egg with a cracked shell.

Let’s see now, are chickens as noisy as the dogs that bark in the middle of the night, or the next door neighbours whose patio party lasts until 1:30 AM? If the city is responsible for winter, why didn’t they come and clear my driveway every time it snowed? Are chickens in one neighbour’s backyard any messier than the cats that use my children’s sandbox for their litter box? As for eggs with cracked shells, I guess that would be a danger if you ate raw eggs.

How many chickens did these people have in their backyard anyway to cause such a furor on city council?

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That’s right, three. It took three chickens to get these two councillors into a tizzy. The chickens are kept in a 40-square-foot, insulated coop. The neighbours have no objections. But the couple has purchased an acreage outside the city and plans to move soon. Problem solved . . . . until the next time. The newspaper article names four Canadian cities that do allow backyard chickens, as many as 12 in the case of Edmonton. I’m sure the question will come up again in Saskatoon.

Another councillor, with a little firmer grip on reality it would seem, suggested that people have become disconnected with how food is produced.

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