Sunday, April 25, 2010

April Showers

April showers bring May Flowers.

That’s how the old saying goes. We need the moisture of the rain to nurture the beauty of nature. Too little and plant life will wither and die. Too much and they will rot and mold. Either way there is a problem for all who rely on plant life for day to day life. In other words – all living creatures from the smallest of insects to the largest of animals and of course us humans.

We rely on Mother Nature to provide the right balance of sunlight and moisture to help us in our day to day life. Sure there is a lot that science can do to help things along but we can’t survive indefinitely without the assistance of Mother Nature.

The winter here was cold and not nearly as much snow as usual. I wore my duck boots most of the winter and only pulled out my heavy winter boots for about six weeks – from early January to mid February – and that was more to keep my feet warm than for the depth of snow!

Spring came unusually early here in The ‘Peg. It was actually showing signs of spring by mid March. Sure we got a smattering of snow after that and some more cold weather, but it was bound and determined to come earlier than usual to this neck of the woods.

A couple of local golf courses were open by the last weekend in March. Granted the “greens” weren’t really that green yet and you had to wear a jacket but they were open and the diehard golfers were lining up to get in the first game of the season.

The Canada Geese have been heard flying north for a few weeks already. Other birds are also arriving from the south. The Pussy Willows and Crocus’s are out.

Some farmers are well into seeding. That is at least a full two weeks earlier than usual. Seeding this early is always a risk though, as you can’t rule out a killer frost for a few more weeks yet. Grain crops can go in much earlier than produce and flowers. The general rule of thumb for produce and flowers is waiting till the Victoria Day long weekend in May before planting those with reasonable safety.

The weather this month has been sunny and for the most part, above normal temperatures. Our April showers have been almost nonexistent. We got a bit of snowfall on Friday and Saturday of the Easter weekend – about 18mm of precipitation in all. Since then there has been only a trace of moisture from the skies – less than a mm.

The lack of normal winter snowfall and minimal spring rainfall isn’t all bad. At least there was minimal flooding this spring. Only a few low lying areas were affected but no major damage was reported.

The biggest downside to the lack of moisture is that there have been a higher number of grass fires in the last few weeks. There is even a “no burn” order in effect until conditions improve.

The grass really isn’t turning green yet – unless of course property owners are using their sprinkler systems. The trees are starting to bud though. I may be legally blind, but even I have noticed this bit of Mother Nature’s artistic paint brush at work.

The historical weather data on the Environment Canada web site shows that on average, the month of April should get about 31.9mm of precipitation. About a third of that amount is usually from snowfall and the other two thirds is from rain.

There is a slight chance of rain today and Monday, but at this point our best chance of showers may be later in the week – the last two days of April no less!

That really is cutting it a bit close for April Showers isn’t it? Of course, that chance of showers is subject to change. It is hard to predict weather accurately that far ahead. Environment Canada has already changed their minds - and subsequentily the forecast - on chances of rain a couple of times for the coming week. Don’t get me wrong the above normal temps of late have been a nice change and I know a lot of people have really been enjoying the weather, but we really do need some moisture in the parched soil.

I’m just thinking out loud here but maybe Mother Nature was getting some maintenance done on her version of the sprinkler system. Maybe that is why it hasn’t rained more than a few drops since the beginning of the month. Or, maybe she has also been hit by the downturn in the economy and is behind on her payments to the water company. Oh wait – she owns the company. Scratch that last idea.

Okay, it is probably maintenance or repairs. If that is the case then I hope that when the system is fixed, that we get a nice gentle soaker rainfall. The kind that slowly penetrates the earth and helps provide the growth for farmer’s crops, gardener’s plants, trees and other plant life that makes this such a beautiful place to live. The kind of rainfall that can make you want to go for a walk in the rain or make you want to take a nap or curl up with a good book.

Note to Mother Nature: Last year, many of us complained about a long, cool and wet spring. Sorry about that. We know that we have to take the good and the bad. It is just that we do like our nice weather. We are loving this spring and are trying not to complain - but we also need a bit of rain to freshen things up. We need the rain to help things along and settle the dust.

I know that you will do as you see fit, BUT when you do turn on the taps again, please don’t forget to turn them off from time to time. We don’t want a drought – but we also don’t want too much. We want to enjoy the beauty that you create not build an ark.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring Cleaning

So, we are about a month into spring. How is your spring cleaning going? Have you even started?

Unfortunately, it isn't one of those things that does itself. Too bad really as spring cleaning can be a lot of work.

When I was a kid, we used to do a really thorough cleaning that including moving all the furniture and washing all the walls. We also sorted the clothes of the seasons to see what still fit or needed mending before being stored, given away or taken out for the upcoming season.

Spring cleaning is one of those necessary evils. It helps to get rid of unnecessary clutter and freshens up the place after the confinement of winter.

The problem is finding the time and the energy to even attempt a half assed attempt at the whole thing. Doing a basic cleaning is relatively easy and done on a regular basis - like when the dust bunnies start building condos under the coffee table.

The hardest thing about any kind of cleaning is actually starting. I find that it is one of those things that you have to be in the mood for. Not easy. To do a proper spring cleaning, you should actually be willing to part with items that no longer fit, are of no use or are broken beyond repair.

That isn’t always easy either– especially if the item is even remotely of sentimental value. You also want to keep things that may come back into fashion or will fit if you lose that extra weight you’ve been trying to shed. Even if we haven’t used something in years, odds are that within weeks or months of parting with something we will need it! It’s just the way that life works!

We all have that area(s) that we use to stash the things we don’t know what else to do with or that we just don’t want to get rid of – yet!

Come on, if we are honest, pretty much all of us have a space like Fibber McGee and Molly’s hall closet...

Some people have a rule that if it isn’t used for a certain amount of time then it either gets thrown out, recycled or given away. The time limit on how long to keep things varies greatly. Some say a couple years, but that seems awfully short to me. I think ten is far more reasonable.

As you age, ten years is even more reasonable as the odds are, by the time you get around to cleaning out that decade, you may not still be around to do it yourself. It might be your family and friends going through your belongings instead. Not always a great scenario for them - but at least you didn’t have to clean it!

Many years ago, I helped some of my family go through my grandma’s home after she moved into an assisted care facility. She wasn’t well enough to help. She wasn’t a pack rat – at least not in the sense of huge amounts of clutter in the home. Hers was more confined to a full, floor to ceiling wall of drawers and cupboards and a couple of storage closets. Years earlier, she used to have a basement full of things too, but a few spring floods in the town where she lived got rid of most of that! Even so, she still had a lot more stuff than any of us realized until we actually started going through it! Grandma had made a list of many of her belongings and stated who had given them to her and who should receive them after she was gone but it sure didn’t cover everything!

Anyways, going through her stuff was a little overwhelming after awhile as we were also sorting it for various family members to take home with them. It got to the point that if you looked at something for more than a few seconds or commented that item looked interesting then there was a chorus of “it’s yours!” from the other family members!

My mom and I still laugh about all those days we spent sorting. The problem is that, mom also has years of stuff saved. The majority of what she has, still has sentimental value to her so she doesn’t want to part with it. Like my grandma, she has also made a list of many of the items and who is to receive them, but that sure isn’t going to cover everything. I’ve already told my sister that when we have to go through mom’s stuff that I’m busy that year!

Okay maybe it isn’t quite that bad, but getting rid of stuff is hard! You have to be in the right frame of mind when you are cleaning. It is one thing to dust and clean but quite another to actually get rid of things.

I don’t live in nearly as big a space as my mom does or as my grandmother did. I don’t have nearly as much as they have had, but I do have items that I don’t need or use anymore.

This past winter, I actually got that oh so rare urge to clean AND throw things out! Granted there was a bit of incentive as there was work being done in my building that required tenants to move things in our apartments for worker access, but I still had the urge to get rid of things! I knew I had to move on this before it disappeared for at least another decade.

Over several weeks, I slowly and methodically went through pretty much every closet, drawer, cupboard, box and file. I did a little bit every day. I found items that I had no idea that I still had. There were things I had no idea why I had even saved in the first place! I made several trips to the garbage and recycling bins. I even had the guys from Good Will come and pick up a big pile of my previously prized possessions.

It felt really good to get rid of all that “Stuff”! Sure there was also a lot that I wasn’t willing to part with yet, but it was a start. My home wasn’t cluttered to the point of not being able to move, it was more behind the doors and such. But it was “my stuff”. It was a LOT of work, but I’m glad I did it!

I was telling a friend about all the cleaning I’d been doing and how much I’d gotten rid of. They said: “so you’re actually a pack rat!”

I said: “No – I just have a lot of stuff...”

Oh my, did I say that?


Sunday, April 11, 2010

At The Lake....

When I was growing up, I spent time at "The Lake" every year. Anywhere from a few days to several weeks. But "The Lake" that I grew up around wasn't your typical lake. In fact it wasn't even a real lake.

Farmers have to have a sense of humour - it is the only way to survive what Mother Nature can dish out. The land where I grew up was settled by my paternal great grandfather and grandfather in the early 1890's. There is a creek that twists and turns through the yard and the farm house is surrounded on three sides by the creek.

My father always said he was like a rich Texan. He didn't have to take his family to the lake - he brought "The Lake" to us - at least once every year!

The problem was that "The Lake" was actually flood water from that creek that runs through our farm. Spring thaw and flooding are par for the course.

The creek is actually rather small and narrow but it runs off of a larger river further upstream. That river and part of the creek also run through the nearby hills. Because of that, we can get flood effects several times in any given spring. The first is a general melt of snow off the land and the creek itself. The second and sometimes third floods are off the overflow from the river and the snow melt from the hills. Add into that the normal late winter snowfalls and spring rains and you are pretty much guaranteed at least a small flood every year!

They tend to come a few weeks apart. It can start as early as mid March and come slowly or rise in a matter of hours depending on the weather. The first round starts to recede and it is almost dry enough to start working the land and cleaning the yard. If the weather has been kind - with a slow melt and little extra precipitation - then you might be lucky and only have that one flood. But, if it goes too quickly or you get more rain or snow, then all bets are off! You just bide your time and hope for the best. It's a frustrating but inevitable part of living on this land.

Floods don't just happen in spring though. Nope. There have been several years where a heavy rainfall has triggered the creek to overflow its banks and turn our yard and fields into a mini ocean. We've had them in June, July and August.

Some of the pictures that have been taken over the years, can be deceptively beautiful until you take a closer look and realize that there was a potentially bountiful harvest of grains underneath. The vegetable garden that promised produce for the coming winter was gone. And the flowerbeds and lawn that were so lovingly nourished were now a murky and muddy mess.

Row boats, small motor boats and the front end loader for the tractor were often used to get around the property. We'd park the vehicles and implements on high ground and wear hip waders to get to them. When we still had livestock, the baby farm animals sometimes had to be moved onto higher ground or even up on a makeshift level of bales for a few days.

We've been lucky though. Our house may be surrounded by the creek, but we have rarely had more than a few inches of water in the basement. There have been the odd years that hip waders were required to go to the basement, but those were the exception. Many years a sump pump could handle most of the moisture that did seep in. The water often lapped at the top of the bottom step into the house, but we have also been lucky in that we have never had water on the main floor.

We don't have pictures from every flood - especially the early years, but my mom has put together a photo album with a lot of photos of the land and yard under water. I borrowed that album a few months ago and have put together a slideshow of some of those pictures. There are almost 60 photos here that cover the last 70 some years. I've added the year to all of the pics and text to a few.

For the best view of this slideshow, I suggest watching it in full screen. To did that, click the second button from the right (four arrow icon) at the bottom of the video box.

So for a few days - or a few weeks - as the case may be, we had waterfront property every year. I haven't actually been at "The Lake" for several years and I don't particularly miss it. It got to be rather inconvenient and tiresome after awhile.

A couple of weeks ago, during our regular Sunday morning phone call, my mom informed me that she was at "The Lake" again this spring!

Some things never change...


Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Little Easter Humour...

Today is Easter Sunday, and for a lot of people that means a religious celebration. It may also mean a family gathering of some sort. But for many of us, it is just another great reason to have some chocolate and enjoy a little Easter humour....

When one breeds an angora rabbit with an Easter Bunny is that a cross hair?

All I Need to Know About Life I Learned from the Easter Bunny

Don't put all of your eggs in one basket.
Walk softly and carry a big carrot.
Everyone needs a friend who is all ears.
There's no such thing as too much candy.
All work and no play can make you a basket case.
A cute little tail attracts a lot of attention.
Everyone is entitled to a bad hare day.
Let happy thoughts multiply like rabbits.
Some body parts should be floppy.
Keep your paws off other people's jellybeans.
The grass is always greener in someone else's basket.
An Easter bonnet can tame even the wildest hare.
To show your true colors you have to come out of your shell.
The best things in life are still sweet and gooey!

Q: What do Easter Bunny helpers get for making a basket?
A: Two points, just like anyone else.
Q: Why did the Easter Bunny hide his eggs?
A: He doesn't want the other bunnies to know that he was fooling around with the chickens.
Q: Why was the rabbit rubbing his head?
A: Because he had a eggache! (headache)
Q: How do bunnies stay healthy?
A: Eggercise
Q: What does a rooster say to a hen he likes?
A: Your one hot chick!
Q: What do you call ten rabbits marching backwards?
A: A receding hareline.
Q: Do you know how bunnies stay in shape?
A: Hareobics.

Saving the Easter Bunny

A man was blissfully driving along the highway, when he saw the Easter Bunny hopping across the middle of the road. He swerved to avoid hitting the Bunny, but unfortunately the rabbit jumped in front of his car and was hit. The basket of eggs went flying all over the place.

The driver, being a sensitive man as well as an animal lover, pulled over to the side of the road, and got out to see what had become of the Bunny carrying the basket. Much to his dismay, the colorful Bunny was dead. The driver felt guilty and began to cry.

A woman driving down the same highway saw the man crying on the side of the road and pulled over. She stepped out of her car and asked the man what was wrong.

"I feel terrible," he explained, "I accidentally hit the Easter Bunny and killed it. There may not be an Easter because of me. What should I do?"

The woman told the man not to worry. She knew exactly what to do. She went to her car trunk, and pulled out a spray can. She walked over to the limp, dead Bunny, and sprayed the entire contents of the can onto the little furry animal.

Miraculously the Easter Bunny came to back life, jumped up, picked up the spilled eggs and candy, waved its paw at the two humans and hopped on down the road. 50 yards away the Easter Bunny stopped, turned around, waved and hopped on down the road another 50 yards, turned, waved, hopped another 50 yards and waved again!

The man was astonished. He said to the woman, "What in heaven's name is in your spray can? What was it that you sprayed on the Easter Bunny?" The woman turned the can around so that the man could read the label. It said: "Hair spray. Restores life to dead hair. Adds permanent wave."

Happy Easter!