Saturday, May 23, 2009

The End of a Life

We attended the funeral yesterday for one of Scott's father Ivan's oldest and dearest friends.

After the service at one of the two funeral chapels in town, we joined the procession of vehicles to the cemetery where only the family and close friends attended. Then we headed to the community hall for a mid-afternoon lunch and some visiting.

Alec Bajbula (pronounced BaBOOla, if I've even got it right) was 30 years old when he was the victim of an industrial accident that kept him in a wheelchair till the end of his life. He was in his seventies when he passed away last week. Wheelchair or no, with the help of his little firecracker wife Sylvia he farmed right up until last year.

He had a nice little silver half-ton that would pull into the yard and, if you didn't notice him out there right away, he'd phone you in the house so you'd know to go out and see what he wanted. Ivan and the boys sometimes gave Alec a hand on the farm and Alec helped them out in return by allowing them the use of some of his machinery. But often he was just looking for Ivan so they could have a visit without Alec having to make his way out of his truck, into the wheelchair, and up the ramp to the house. The ramp, of course, must have been built instead of steps so that Alec could get easily into the house.

But mostly, when I think of Alec, it will be sitting in his truck with a smile on his face.


When Scott went out to check the cattle this morning at 5:30, the thermometer read —3C.
Today the sun is shining and Sonnyboy and I are off to the garden. Scott's got Devon, my old friend and Scott's unofficial brother-outlaw, with him and they are going to do some work on the house today. Yippee!! The furnace-replacement screwups are a story in themselves and still going on, but at last it looks like the weather is cooperating and Scott can make the most recently received wrong part work. One of the sheds is sheltering our new windows, some $4000 worth, and Scott wants to start putting those in too.

My "hack" sounds pretty bad, according to Scott's mom, but I am thinking it's nothing compared to the fever and sinus issues I was dealing with before that. I'd much rather be coughing and am sure it's just a matter of time before that's nothing to worry about either.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cuddles Has Kittens

Cuddles is a two-year-old barn cat that's just had her third litter of kittens.

Peeking in from the tiny doorway, you can see her snuggled up with the three little fellows at the back of the cathouse, purring, with her eyes half closed. It seems like she is in heaven.


As of yesterday I'm feeling human again, if not able to exert myself for more than an hour. Should be back at full speed by the weekend, if not sooner. After school every day my son has been digging up manure by the barn and wheelbarrowing it to the garden, while I prune deadstalks from last fall and dig fresh dandelions up by the roots with a slim, long-handled tool. I've tossed flower seeds saved last year into flower pots and chosen spots, and slowly and lazily mixed shovelfuls of manure with worn-out soil. I'm not pushing myself, but after one hour I still come home and collapse onto the couch to rest.

Friday, May 15, 2009


"He's so huge, I think I'll call him Goliath."

I turned down two invitations to go out visiting today, because I’m still coughing and blowing. But I didn’t have the heart to refuse the one that came from Scott after supper.
“Wanna bring the camera out and get a picture of me with this big calf?”
It was born today and is twice the size of most newborn calves, and Scott is tickled.
So I put on my winter jacket and a pair of shoes and followed him to the corral next to the barn. It wasn’t until he opened the gate and made his rubber-booted way across the thick, spongy manure-covered ground to a brown calf on the other side that I hesitated.
“You want me to go in there? With that mother cow eyeing me like she is?”
“She won’t bother you.”
“So you say. She’s not happy about something.”
“She’s telling me to leave her baby alone, and she wants him to go to her.”
“Yeah, well….”
Walk in shit up to my knees, and risk that cow coming after me—no problem. You'd think he'd know me well enough by now to realize—but no, apparently not.
“Are you going to take a picture, or not?”
By now the calf and its mother had reunited and the cow had returned to her feeding station, and Scott had followed and was wondering what my problem is and why I’m such a coward. Which I am; never doubt it. But I set forth across the crap, one eye upon that one-ton Annie, and snapped a photo for the man. He loves those little calves and it's quite endearing, really, to see him scratch their chins and heads and listen to him talk to them like pets. And they are cute and curious.


Last time he told me not to worry about cattle was a few weeks ago when he'd asked me to go for a walk in the pasture with him to "check on them." That was this spring when, as now, there are newborns and there are cows in labour most every day, and one has to be on top of the whole thing in case a cow needs help giving birth. I was reluctant, but went along, and was nervous as hell.
"Just stay close to me," he said. Exactly what I wanted to hear; it didn't make me feel any more confident.
Unfortunately, the neighbour's dog happened to be here that evening and decided to follow us inside the fence. We were in the midst of the herd of cows and calves when the cows spotted the unfamiliar dog and rounded on it. Their hooves hitting the ground sounded like thunder and I thought sure as shit we were going to be pounded into dust. It's not like that didn't scare me any.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Snowy Day in May

Yeah. I am not frigging kidding. Took this picture early this afternoon, through the kitchen window.

On the positive side, He Whose Name Must Not Be Mentioned left the Saskatchewan Birds book open on the kitchen table before leaving to school, to the page showing the rose-breasted grosbeak. There were a half-dozen pairs out there to be admired. Guess they're passing through. I didn't think to get a picture of them chasing the smaller birds away from the seeds on the ground.

The boys' dad had driven out from Edmonton to go along with the Grade 11 biology class on its trip to the Moose Jaw tunnels and Grasslands National Park. The plan was to sleep in teepees last night. I had made my son wear his winter jacket, which turned out to be a good thing. The underground tunnels were fascinating; I remembered to send the camera along with my kid, but he forgot to carry it with him when they toured the tunnels. Too bad; I've never been there. They say Al Capone smuggled liquor through the tunnels. That was cool, I was told, but it was depressing to see where the Chinese had lived underground while building the tunnels. They were housed in terrible conditions, paid slave wages, and abused when they appeared aboveground among the precious white folk.

The national park was busy digging itself out from under a foot or two of snow, so the overnight part of the trip was cancelled. Just as well.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Well Shoot - the Virus Got Me

I was healthy as could be on Sunday, so it was left to me to deliver the vases and flowers to our grandmothers and to Scott's mom.

Afterward, the boys and I went to pick up fast food at the drive-through for supper, and I said "Remind me to start taking ColdFX when we get home." With Scott fighting strep throat since Friday and Everett still sniffling from his head cold, I should have started boosting my own immune system days ago.

Alas, I got up Monday morning with a runny nose and have been wiping and blowing ever since, and have a slight fever. What a waste of two lovely days, as I'm staying in, resting (and working at my desk) rather than "playing" in my garden, which is where I'd be if I could.

Damn colds.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


For two days it was too cold, even in the glassed-in deck, for my babies.

This afternoon the air warmed up so I cleared off the kitchen table. Let's hope this cold and snow business is over for the season.

Everett and I spent some time hauling the Adirondack furniture, the plant pots, the hoses, the water barrell, and so on, from one of the sheds out to the garden. I dug up the last half-dozen shasta daisies, which many people call "weeds," from the area they'd been seeded into last year. I know how they spread; that's exactly why I like them. They're tough as hell and their foliage is a deep bushy green. It was a patch of solid daisies between a sidewalk and a tall fence that first turned me onto flowers when I was in my late twenties, and I intend to have a field of them in my own garden too. There are already more than a dozen that were transplanted in the fall so there will be no shortage.

The flower displays at the Co-op store on Friday were a big hit, buzzed around by all the local ladies, who ooh'd and aah'd in small gatherings while the flowers flew off the shelves at high speed. I bought arrangements for Scott's mom and our two grandmothers, and a bouquet for myself in case no one else thinks of me. It's a good thing, too, because Scott is down with strep throat this weekend and neither of my sons asked to be taken shopping. But when I put my bouquet on the table, Everett said, "I'll pay you for those, okay?"

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cold Enough for Snow

This roadside memorial is next to the highway just east of Watson.

My heart always gives a little flip when I drive past it, because this lad was in school with Emil. He had recently graduated, gotten himself a job in the oil patch I think, and was on his way back to work early one morning after a visit with his parents in Wadena when his truck rolled into the ditch and he was killed. I don't think it is known what caused him to lose control of the vehicle; road conditions were good.

I'd never stopped to have a close look at the cross, until I was on my way home from Humboldt the other day. The greenhouses are open and I've been visiting them.

Last night my lovely bedding plants were shivering in the glassed-in deck, so I brought them in. This morning there is some snow on the ground near the house. It's so cold on the deck that I don't want to put them out there for the day; instead I've carried them all to the kitchen table, where they can at least be next to a window. I'm glad to have them there anyway, where I can admire and talk to them. Who needs a table to eat on? I've got a lap.

We did have several warm days when I was able to spend a few hours in the garden, with my trusty horseshoe hoe. The slough near the house is so loud with frogs that even indoors, with a couple open windows, the sound permeates the air. Between that and the flocks of snowgeese flying over the yard, Golden Grain Farm is a pretty great place to be these days. When I'm in the garden the supper hour goes by without my noticing; the fellas can fend for themselves; I have spring fever.

Friday, May 1, 2009

International Wetland

The horses still can't find anything green to eat.

Yesterday was the last piano lesson forevermore (boo hoo)(that is me, weeping into my hands) for He Who Must Not Be Mentioned. We planned to have supper in town afterward. He wanted to go to the drive-through for french fries and mozzarella sticks, so once we got our food we motored out to the wetlands look-out. It is an international bird station and will be a fine place to go walking, when the weather warms up.
As it is, I wore a winter jacket to read the billboards. A bundled-up lady came off one of the windy trails and asked if I was a "birder." I said no and began to explain that I am a birdlover, though, when she put her binoculars to her eyes and said "I think that's a [some kind of warbler] I'm looking at" and scribbled in her notebook and I'm sure she wished I'd be quiet. So I was.
It looked like the warbler that's been at our feeders for a couple days: the yellow-rumped warbler. I'm not a birder, but I have Saskatchewan Birds, by Alan Smith, and a decent pair of binoculars.
For the first time in my life, I was old enough to order off the seniors menu, thank you very much. My fellow 50-year-olds, I see you turning green already.