Swainson’s Hawks – Summer 2018

Alberta, Canada

Alberta Canada

Alberta Canada

The Feather Files
Name: Swainson’s Hawk
Species: Buteo swainsoni
Native to and Migration: In fall they fly to their Argentine wintering grounds in one of the longest migrations of any raptor. They form flocks of hundreds or thousands as they travel.
Date Seen: August 30, 2018
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Notes: These birds prefer to live on prairies, plains, and other wide-open ranges with minimal tree cover. They are commonly seen perched on poles or fence posts.

Spotted in my Yard – The Rare Red Couch

It snowed here again. I think this is the 4th time since early September that The Car Guy has had to plow the drive way. I wield the shovel – I am the Cleaner of the Walks and Photographer of the Event. Snow is often an event, especially if there is lots of it and more especially if I find a Red Couch in the yard.

Snow on branches – backlit, it had an almost translucent quality.

Canadian news outlets report snowfall in centimetres (1 inch is 2.54 cm), but like many older Canadians, I was raised with the Imperial system of measurements. Though I am ‘measurement bilingual’, my Snow still falls in inches. It snowed about 6 inches, but hardly any snow fell on the Red Couch.

Snow piled on the picket backs of the lawn chairs.

Canada began metrifying in 1970 because we were expanding trading relationships. Our government decided it should adopt a more universal language of measurements. Some of our Imperial measurements (the capacity units) didn’t even match the Imperial system of the United States. We ‘went metric’ in increments from 1970 to 1980.

Snow on branches with a Topaz Studio filter called E Hopper.

Many Canadians still work in Imperial for many things. They measure their height in feet and inches and their weight in pounds. Our ovens measure temperature in fahrenheit degrees. We measure the size of our homes in square feet and the distance to the rural neighbours house in miles because our land was surveyed in miles and our roads were built on those grids. We measure the elusive Red Couch in inches, of course.

Snow on chairs with a Topaz Studio filter called Degas.

The elusive ‘Red Couch’ is seldom seen on our property, and unknown in just about any other location in the entire world. I found it sitting in the clearing near the front of our property. It was resting, and made no attempt to flee as I approached. Clearly it had arrived after the snow fall. It was only lightly dusted with snowflakes.

Red Couch with a Topaz Studio Cartoon filter.

Would you call it a couch? Or would you say it is a sofa or a chesterfield? I believe a Red Couch is quite rare but maybe you often see couches of a different color, maybe a bland beige or drab brown, on your street or alley. What say you?

If you want to see the Red Couch in action, hop over to Jenifer Sander Photography. You’ll also see a Reindeer and if you scroll down far enough, you will see The Car Guy and I!

Lest We Forget

Calgary’s Field of Crosses

Each year, from November 1 to 11, over 3400 Memorial Crosses are placed in a park along Calgary’s Memorial Drive. Each cross represents a soldier from Southern Alberta who died in active duty during Conflicts and Peacekeeping Missions from 1899 to the Present.

Calgary Alberta
Field of Crosses, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Calgary Alberta

Vine, Henry W

The Car Guy and I walked the length of the park to reach our destination at the east end of the Field – the marker of Henry William Vine, my grandfather’s brother.

World War One

Henry William signed his Attestation Papers for the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force in September 1915. He was 17 years and 1 month old, and likely lied about his age in order to enlist. The family story is that a woman handed him the white feather of cowardice, and that is what compelled him to join.

Henry’s unit, the 49th Bn, arrived in France on March 26, 1916. Henry reported to base slightly wounded in June, 1916 but remained at duty. He was wounded again on September 15, 1916, apparently a gun shot wound to the right elbow. His third encounter with the enemy was his last. He was reported missing after action at The Somme, and presumed dead on October 4, 1916. His body was never found, making him one of just over 11,000 Canadian soldiers with no known grave.

The Battles of the Somme were launched by the British. On July 1, 1916, in daylight, 100,000 inexperienced, over burdened, inadequately supported men climbed out of their trenches and advanced shoulder to shoulder, one behind the other, across the cratered waste of “No Man’s Land”. 57,470 British soldiers were killed, wounded or reported missing on that first day.

In late August 1916, the Canadians moved to the Somme where they took over a section of the front directly in front of the village of Courcelette. By autumn, rains had turned the battlefield into a bog and the offensive came to a halt. The line had moved forward only 10 kilometers.

A completely accurate table of World War One losses may never be compiled, but it is estimated that 8,500,000 soldiers died as a result of wounds and/or disease. It has also been estimated that 13 million civilian deaths were attributable to the war.

IN FLANDERS FIELDS
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McRae, December 8, 1915
Doctor serving with the Canadian Artillery

Indoor Cold Storage – Project Accomplished!

New fridge

The new fridge finally arrived. Twice actually. The first time, the delivery truck couldn’t negotiate the deep snow in our drive way and had to abort the mission. With little hope that the snow would melt before spring, The Car Guy abandoned his plan to mow the grass one more time this fall. He removed the mower from the tractor and installed the snow blade. I helped him. We had some brief discussions about either buying a new tractor with easier implement changing, or moving to the city…

Two days later the fridge was delivered. If you have been following the Fridge in the Middle Story, you will note that the fridge just fit into the cabinet and all is right in the kitchen again. Now, and here is the ‘cool’ part, we have a water and ice dispenser – and not just cubed ice – crushed ice too!

Think of the summer drink possibilities – except now it is fall.

Fridge with a graphic filter

Or, it should be fall except  winter arrived first. The two seasons have been exchanging blows – snow, some melting, more snow, some more melting. Today we are back into snow.

I tried to dig the potatoes during one of the melting spells, but the garden was one large mud patch. It just wasn’t worth the effort for a bucket full of potatoes. It really is too bad, because the hills I did dig yielded very few potatoes, but they weren’t scabby. First time ever. The weather forecast says we return to normal fall weather next week. Maybe I’ll get the spuds out of the ground yet.

Spuds, taters – is there another word for potatoes in your part of the world?

I bought a big bag of potatoes and it’s growing eyes like crazy. Other foods rot. Potatoes want to see.
– Bill Callahan, Letters to Emma Bowlcut –

Another snow day

Canadian Thanksgiving

Fall grass with a molten gold filter

Canadian Thanksgiving is today (the second Monday in October).  It is a celebration of thanks for a good harvest – and it occurs earlier in the fall than American Thanksgiving because Canada’s climate is colder and our harvests end earlier. At least, our farmers hope they end earlier, but the early snow we’ve had here in Alberta has delayed harvest somewhat.

Fall grass with a cartoon filter

We’ve had our family Thanksgiving feasts already. On Saturday we hosted a Thanksgiving lunch. The featured ‘guest’ was a fairly large ham. Though we bagged up a lot of ham and sent it home with the family, we still have a lot of ham left over.

Eternity is a ham and two people.
– Dorothy Parker –

Grass with a scratchy line drawing filter

Yesterday (Sunday) we went to the daughter’s house for a Turkey Dinner. Son-in-law got a little carried away in the selection of the size of the turkey. This caused them to own a bird that just barely fit into the appliance that cooked it. There was also lots of mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry jelly, several salads, three kinds of desserts. Delicious. They bagged up a lot of turkey and sent it home with the family. They still have a lot of turkey left over. Another kind of eternity.

May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!
– Author Unknown –

Tonight The Car Guy and I will dine on left-over ham and turkey. Tomorrow – maybe a casserole with ham or turkey. The next day, maybe split pea soup made from the ham bone. The next day – anything that doesn’t involve a bird or a pig.

Happy Thanksgiving, Canadians! Happy Columbus Day (or Indigenous People’s Day), Americans!

First Big Snow – It’s a Home Day!

There is a reason why we talk about the weather so much here in rural Alberta…

Early October, and it is the first big snow of the 2017-2018 Winter. The good news is: the UV and Pollen Counts are really low.

The not so good news is that the tractor is still set up for mowing grass, not plowing snow.  More snow is in the forecast – possibly 20-30 cm (7-12in) in total. The Car Guy is doing an effort/time/temp/risk/reward ‘put blade on tractor’ analysis as I write this. I think he is going to take the optimistic approach – Mother Nature will remove the white burden for him by the end of this week.

The photo above shows most of our ‘fleet’ docked on the driveway. None of them will be going anywhere until the snow melts and they can be moved into the garage for the winter. Hey car buffs – can you identify them with their snow coats on?

Topaz filter
Mountain Ash with a drawing filter

A few days ago, it was still fall, though the temperatures were more like winter. The mountain ash was a glorious gold colour with big blotches of red berries.

The same mountain ash with a different drawing filter – a snowy feel!
Topaz expressionism filter
Another filter – sort of expressionism.

Wow, now it is really snowing. I’d better suit up and shovel a path to the truck again!

Playing with Snow

Not enough snow to play IN! Just enough snow to play WITH! Photo filters are courtesy the program Topaz Studio.

My back yard. Most of the trees are just beginning to put on their coat of fall colours.
I like the effect of this filter, even though it erases most of the snowflakes.
Really big snowflakes! They sure stood out against the spruce forest in the font yard.
This impasto filter turns the photo into a painting.

Any interesting weather in your part of the world today? When was the last time you had a snowball fight or built a snowman?

Fridge in the Middle

The Car Guy and I decided to replace our refrigerator. It is over 20 years old and well past its ‘best before’ date.

This is a haiku
Haiku’s don’t have to make sense
Refrigerator
– Author Unknown –

The appliance store had so many fridges to choose from – at least, that is what we thought when we first walked in the door! But, as our sales associate, Todd, walked us through the choices, it became clear that our new fridge would be ‘one of a kind’. Yes, if we wanted a fridge with an ice maker/water dispenser, with two upper doors and a lower freezer, that would fit in the space we had, in the colour white (to match the appliances we weren’t replacing) – our selection was one fridge.

So we ordered the fridge. It was supposed to be delivered in a week – two weeks tops! That was almost two months ago.

On a very local scale, a refrigerator is the center of the universe. On the inside is food essential to life, and on the outside of the door is a summary of the life events of the household.
– Robert Fulghum –

In the meantime, my old fridge is in a ‘not so convenient’ place in the kitchen. The Car Guy had to pull it out so that he could add the plumbing for the ice maker/water dispenser. He also had to raise the cabinet above the fridge by one inch.

He didn’t move the fridge back into the fridge ‘home’ because the fridge is heavy, awkward to move and only fits into the space if you give it a mighty shove… and the new fridge might arrive any day now!

Figuring out why people who choose not to do something don’t in fact do it is like attempting to interview the elves who live inside your refrigerator but come out only when the light is off.
– Eileen Pollack –

A fridge in the middle of the room seemed like a huge inconvenience initially. Now it is merely a mild annoyance. We can still use the fridge, even if the doors don’t open all the way. We can still get to the coffee maker and we can squeeze by the fridge to get from one room to another!

My theory on housework is, if the item doesn’t multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you?
– Erma Bombeck –

In the grand scheme of  Red House Renos, the ‘fridge in the middle’ is way down the list of projects that seemed to take forever to finish!

Open your refrigerator door, and you summon forth more light than the total amount enjoyed by most households in the 18th century. The world at night, for much of history, was a very dark place indeed.
– Bill Bryson –

What is the oldest appliance in your house? Which one would you love to replace?

How many times have you been watching an episode of ‘South Park’ and thought, ‘I’d like to be able to watch this on my television while hooked into my mobile device, which is being controlled by my tablet device which is hooked into my oven, all while sitting in the refrigerator?’
– Trey Parker –

Fall Harvest – The Race is On

Alberta has 21 million hectares (52 million acres) of agriculture land that is used for farming and ranching. Wheat, barley, canola, oats, rye, dry peas, lentils, flax, dry beans and potatoes are the primary crops.

An Alberta Harvestpast and present.

Alberta Irricana Pioneer Acres

Irricana’s Pioneer Acres hosts an annual Farm Days which features working demonstrations of  the farm equipment that would have been used by our grandfathers and great grandfathers. This photo shows a wagon, a stationary thresher machine (which separates the grain from the straw and chaff) and a grain truck. The thresher is powered by a tractor (not shown).

Today, harvesting is done by self propelled Combines that cut the crop and threshes it. The combine doesn’t even have to stop moving to transfer the grain to trucks.Alberta Canada

This is one of three combines that harvested the quarter section behind our place yesterday afternoon. It was a dusty day for everyone within a mile of the action (but probably not for the driver!)

Farming has always been a risky business and that is no less true today than it was in the past. In terms of absolute number of fatalities, farming is the most dangerous occupation in Canada.

Safety in his business means getting the word “hurry” out of everyone’s vocabulary. I’ve never seen a crop that didn’t get taken off the field. But I’ve sure seen cases where we had to bury someone when there was still a crop in the field.
– Brent Lee Johnson –

I ran the photo of the combine through Topaz Studio. The first photo is my favourite!

What crops are grown in your part of the world?