Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Magic Snow Balls

Every so often, here in the frozen north, conditions are just right for a curious phenomenon (I suggest clicking on the pictures for a larger view).

Nope, we weren't attempting to create winter lawn bowling with snowballs. This phenomenon can sometimes occur when we get a deep snowfall in cool temperatures, followed by a rise in temperature to just above freezing, accompanied by a strong warm wind. As you might imagine, these conditions do not occur with much regularity. The last time I remember seeing this happen, I was probably around 13 or 14 and it happened at night. It was also much larger in scale. So we woke up the next day to fields of snow covered in snowballs ranging from around baseball size up to perhaps volleyball size, all with a long trail marking their creation. I wish I had a picture from back then, but these were taken just a couple of days ago.

Pretty cool, huh?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Snow Day 2

Well, after a night of more snow and no grader work done on the farm road, it was a second day of not being at the farm. It snowed all day and is still coming down so its hard to say if I will even get there tomorrow. Looking out at the parking lot and my buried truck, I'm not sure I'll be able to get out. Just another sign that I should be living out there.

When I do get out there, I can tell I will be blowing a shitload of snow. Having said this, I suppose I have little room to complain as its nowhere near the amount of snow that has fallen out east. And the forecast is for above freezing temperatures later in the week so I will be able to use the tractor to clear a lot of snow away. I may wish I had put the chains on though.

Oh well, we'll see what it will be.

Peace and comfort, all.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Adult Snow Day

So, the phone rings this morning, about 45 minutes before I would normally head to the farm for the day. Turns out there was enough snowfall over night, combined with drifting, that my little 2 wheel drive truck would likely not make it down the road from the highway. So I am having my first day "off" in a few months.

Now while this did make me smile, it was a very guilty smile and I do not really like the time off because it means most of what I normally do has to be done by my should-be-retired parents...plus using the snow-blower to open the paths and road up so that these chores can be done. Not only that, but its still pretty cold here at -27 C. But at least its not windy like yesterday where the windchill had the temperature down around -37 C (although I swear it felt colder at times).

Still, I must say that I feel an exhilaration being outside even in those conditions, an exhilaration that I do not recall in my youth. Back then it would have been hard to get me outside at all, never mind enjoying it so much. Now, I must point out that in a lot ways we are operating little more than a hobby farm at this point. We are tending to less than 20 head of cattle, 6 hogs, and around 130 chickens. This can still be a fair amount of work though, when real winter returns like this. For example, it will have taken at least 2 hours to clear the driving areas of snow today. This must be done whenever there is enough snowfall or drifting, such has been the case twice this week. I know this kind of thing is faced by farmers all over the north, and I am not complaining, merely pointing out that at this time of year the smaller amount of animals we have does not necessarily mean a lot less work.

From a certain perspective though, I still have things pretty easy. I'm generally only out there for 5 or 6 hours a day during the winter. I was doing just 2 or 3 as that was enough to do the lion's share of the work that needed doing, but when I realized that putting the calves and their mothers back in at night was taking dad around an hour...when it just takes me minutes...I decided to find ways to fill in the couple of hours until the early evening when they need to go back in. So now, to fill in that extra time, I have been building a fire in the wood stove in the old house that I grew up in. I then "cook" up some rolled barley for mom's chickens, giving them a warm meal for their gizzards once a day. This seems to be really helping them to lay more regularly during what is becoming a bit of a cold winter. We have our two male barn cats in the old house while a stray female is around, and they just love it when that fire gets stoked up. One of them sits on the oven door, basking in the direct heat from the oven. The fatter one sits on top of the stove until it gets too hot for his feet, then he gets up on the adjacent pantry, laying up there snoozing and absorbing the less intense heat. I must remember to take some pictures of these handsome, if nosy, young fellows, though I have been meaning to do so for months.

But back to my snow day, after a bit of a guilty nap, I figured I should take advantage of the time home to catch up on some cleaning in the kitchen and general tidying. Nowhere near all that should be done, but some of the blatant tasks. I also had the chance to have a look at my one operating worm bin here at the condo. The few worms I brought out from the farm seem to be doing quite well but I see I must bring some more. I also rooted through the one finished bin, loosening the wet castings up so that some of the moisture can evaporate, as well as fishing out 5 or 6 worms that still remained. It never ceases to amaze me how long worms can survive with very little attention, even in finished castings.

I'm quite excited about the amount of castings that I have for the next growing season. All together I must gave enough to fill one large Rubbermaid tub, although it is all quite wet so could be mashed into quite a dense little clump if that is what I wanted...which I do not. Suffice it to say, there is easily 3 times as much as we had last year, which yielded a very nice tomato patch. In addition, I found a naturally occurring deposit of worm castings in one of our old barns late this fall. These worms had been protected by a thick pile of plywood which had been forgotten and left laying flat over a thick layer of cow manure. So before the snow fell I was able to gather about 6 large sacks of dry fluffy worm castings...just perfect and ready for the garden come spring. This should mean one kick ass garden this year. I'm kind of excited.

Back to my day off. Peace and comfort, brothers and sisters.

Friday, January 07, 2011

A New Year Song

I've had this Youtube video open on my browser since before Christmas, as I waited for the right way to share its meaning for me.

Listening to it again now, I realize that it suits this New Year time quite well. For me, the new year period is a time of reflecting on what has been and what may come. This song just rings with that message.

And then it is a special song to me for another reason as well.

You see, I first heard this song on the local country music radio station, somewhere in the early 90's. It was credited to a new duo on the Canadian music scene, Bourne and Macleod. At the time, the song struck me as quite beautiful and I found Bill Bourne's voice to be very original.

A couple of years later, I was at a nearby summer music festival known as the North Country Fair. I had never heard of this event until a good friend went and returned with many fun tales. The Fair is something very rare in Alberta, a very "hippy" sort of folk-ish little festival in rural Northern Alberta. It's local nickname is actually The Hippy Fair. Turns out that attending this festival was a sort of magical part of what was probably the most fun summer of my life, to date...kind of my summer of '69 I guess. I won't try to share how just amazing a weekend this was, but for now I'll just say that Bill Bourne was performing at this festival so I had a chance to see the top hat and funky glasses wearing musician live. As I recall, he was playing with Shannon Johnson. Anyway, I know I heard him play this song at the festival. I also got to learn that he was as enjoyable live as canned.

Fast forward a couple more years, to my first year working for the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival. Back then the office and technical staff had plenty of socializing/fraternizing opportunities and I had developed a rather large crush on the cute volunteer coordinator. One Friday night we were hosting a fundraiser concert and I went, quite excited at the chance to chat her up a bit. Not only that but one of my favorite musicians of the time, Bill Bourne, was going to be playing. It was sure to be a good night.

Well I showed up to the event and, after chumming with some friends, went looking for the focus of my crush...only to be crushed myself when I found her at a table with some office staff...cuddled up to...you guessed it...Bill Bourne. Suddenly one of my favorite musicians feels like the enemy. I gotta say, that was a pretty uncomfortable moment. I was so put off that I didn't even go over to meet the man.

Anyway, I've never run into him since. Which is surprising in a way, since I have worked with so many other Canadian artists in one way or another. If I had taken the offered gig at the local college though, I'd have worked one of his performance last year.

Funny how these things go sometimes isn't it?

But yeah, it seems like a good song for this time of the year. My thanks to the person who shot and uploaded this video. If only I could find one of Bourne and Macleod themselves.