Sunday, September 30, 2012

Getting the Cows

     This week I listened to a very humorous motivational speaker who was brought  to Red Deer by the Red Deer River Naturalists. Al Batt comes from rural Heartland Minnesota and I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation.

    Al's theme was mentor ship. He used his father as an example. Al was the youngest in a farm family that was very busy. One day seven year old Al asked his father if he could have a job. Al's Dad said, "Well what do you have in mind?" Al said, "I'd like to drive the combine. " The "no" answer came pretty quickly. However, Al's Dad gave him the job of getting the cows from the pasture twice a day. Al was very happy and set about to do his job as best he could.

     One morning when Al was looking for the cows he saw something white on a fence post. Little Al thought it was a ghost. Al took the cows home and told his Dad. Al's Dad immediately took him by the hand and went back to see the ghost. Al's Dad explained that it wasn't a ghost on the fence post but a snowy owl. His Dad told him all about snowy owls and that is what got Al interested in birds so that today he is a highly respected ornithologist. 

    This story reminded me of my own farm experience. I had to get the cows morning and night starting when I was about five years old which was about 1944. The cow pasture was always close to the farmers's yard and was usually submarginal land if possible. Sometimes it took a very long time for me to find the cows as I had so many interesting things to look at . The area was only about half developed so there was still some excellent native habitat. So I knew where Saskatoons, chokecherries, Pincherries, raspberries, strawberries and a whole lot of other good things were.  There were sloughs, willows brush and grassland. It was super habitat for birds. 
I don't have a picture of my brother when we wee little so here he is long after the days of getting cows.

    I always had to take my little brother along. He was less than a year younger than I was. He was a pain. I liked to talk to myself but I didn't like anybody to listen. I would make him walk behind me but he would sneak up behind me and listen. I would make him walk ahead but he would go so slow I would catch up to him. He didn't know how to chase cows, according to me, so I blamed him if the cows went the wrong way. So we got a lot of free fighting time in when we got the cows from the pasture. This job had to be done in all weather. To this day I still like walking in the rain.

    Before I was given the job of getting the cows it was my Mom's job. Mom would have to take a three year old (me) a two year old ( my brother) and a one year old (my sister) in a carriage. I often think of poor Mom and how difficult her life must have been. One day my Mom asked me if I wanted to see a very pretty bird. She told me I had to be very, very quiet. We crept through a ditch and willows. We were crouched down low and there I saw it. Right at eye level I saw a mallard drake swimming on a small pond. It was very near to us and I stopped breathing as it was such a beautiful thing. 

    So Mom was my mentor. She took time from a hectic , chaotic schedule and showed me a very beautiful bird. I've been a birder ever since. Nice mentor Mom! Thanks for setting me on a most enjoyable life time activity.

    So Al Batt reminded me of when and where I got my interest in birds and so the mentor ship theme was reinforced for me. From about 1955 on this type of farming was discontinued. I often think about what farm children miss by not having to "go for the cows."

    Now I realize that for many readers this post will have very little meaning because they never had the experience " of getting the cows."  I hope that you will be mentors to others in other areas. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Antique Dilemma

      Many people are very interested in antiques.  Some people have a general interest and anything that is somewhat old is interesting to them. Some people are mainly window shoppers and they enjoy looking through antique stores just to see what's there. Some have very specific tastes and collect only salt and pepper shakers . Some want salt and peppers from a definite time period made in a precise fashion. Many people spend much time and money on their antique hobby.

    My Dad had an auction sale in 1974 to dispose of his household effects. Dad was really pleased and happy with the prices paid. When he found out that many items were bid up for their antique value he was somewhat insulted. Many things he had were bought on auction sales so by the time he was ready to part with them they were old. At that time people were becoming more interested in antique articles.

     I have a lake property which I never developed. We spent much time out there. My last post told how I sold my travel trailer. The trailer had been used when we spent time at the lake. We also built a garage and set the garage up as a summer kitchen. We bought a propane stove and fridge. We hauled a picnic table  in and had  a comfortable camping facility. We had many fun summers.

     The other day someone was in the garage. A few days later they emailed me and asked if I might be interested in selling my  stove and fridge. What a deal! I thought I'd never sell those items. I thought I would have to take them to the waste disposal site. 

    My wife wanted to know what the guy wanted these things for. You guessed it. He wanted them for their antique value. He is planning to set up a place and wants to work these items in somehow as antiques.  

    I don't remember where we got the stove from but the fridge has a story behind it. We started looking for the propane appliances in 1980. At that time there were radio spots where some one could advertise items. Somebody said they had a propane fridge. We phoned and it sounded like something we might like. We went out to look at it and found that it did not have a freezer. The old fellow thought for a while and then said one of his old farm neighbors might have one. He phoned for us and yes they still had their propane fridge. 

    So away we go and found that the fridge was in an open shed and hadn't been used for a while so it was pretty dusty and dirty. The fridge had been purchased in 1948. The lady assured us that it would work and told us how to start it. She looked around the yard and found various draws and shelves.  Well, we wanted a used propane fridge and this might be the only one we could find so we bought it.

    My wife spent many hours cleaning up the fridge so that it was perfectly clean. This fridge served us extremely well.

    So now I know how Dad felt when his household effects sold for antique value. I don't know whether to laugh or cry or does that mean I have mixed emotions. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

On Losing a Longtime Friend

     Yesterday I said goodbye to a friend of forty years. The parting had been coming for a few years and finally it happened. Yes, I sold my old travel trailer yesterday!

     I bought my 16 ft travel trailer in 1969. It was the same day that I picked up my new son from the adoption agency. So as the saying goes if walls could talk this little trailer had a million stories to tell.

    We had been campers as a couple. We wanted to keep on camping but with little kids we needed something that had more protection and conveniences. In the trailer we would be dry, warm and have all kinds of space to bring along necessities. So supplies and clothing were much easier to handle. 

    We didn't travel extensively but did get far from home once and made many short local hops. Mostly the trailer sheltered us at a lake lot that we bought. The lot, development, lake and beach provided the kids with all kinds of places to play and explore. We have many stories to share. When my daughter was six , she accidentally stepped on a wasp ground nest. As the wasps came up and started stinging her she froze and howled. We could hear her from 400 m away. It wasn't a funny story but just one of the many adventures. Most adventures were of the happy type. Many hours were spent sitting at the table playing games. When we cleaned the trailer out we found the old games and left them there.
     We advertised the trailer for several months. There were many inquiries and some people seemed really interested. The last caller seemed really interested. He came to look at it and I'm sure had made up his mind before he came as he had the money in his pocket. What's more he had two boys who were five and six. These little guys were just bug eyed over the trailer. They took it home and slept in it the first night.
"Out of the garage the old girl's easin."
"Out to the road she bounces"
Out of the gate so slowly
"The last time ever I saw her." I get tears looking at this shot!

    So it was with some mixed feelings that I parted with my old friend. But the writing was on the wall. I had not used it for seven years and I was not ever going to use it again.

    So goodbye old friend with some sadness and a lot of happy times.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fall Equinox

    Sometime in the next few hours the sun will be shining directly on the equator for a few brief moments before it crosses to shine more directly on the southern hemisphere. That means we get the last day of summer and first day of fall. So it's the beginning of a darker colder season for us. In the southern hemisphere they are looking forward to increasing light and warmth. 
A huge aspen in brilliant color although the left side is still hanging on to the green.
Contrast with green and yellow on the same tree.

     So the equinox is a day with some significance. Ancient peoples knew that the day and night were equal. They also had a pretty accurately established the time. They had more fun than us because the equinox was celebrated in some fashion according to the different cultures. 
A green ash  in fine color.
Some maple behind caragana which hasn't turned color.
     So here we go enjoying colorful foliage and reaping our crops. I have harvested most of my vegetable garden. I'm waiting for a few good frosts before I take out carrots,  turnips and parsnips. My few carrots may be finished before we get the good hard frost. 

     So to the southerners enjoy your spring and summer. For us northerners we will have to make some changes to survive comfortably and find different things to do outdoors for fun.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Senior Ripoff

      Yesterday while I was having breakfast, I discovered a ripoff the affects mainly seniors.

      I had two boxes of the same cereal on the table as one was just about empty so I had  a full one so I could have the usual cereal serving. I happened to notice that the weight of the old box was 1.45 kg. (Sorry, I don't know what this is in the English system.)   The weight on the new box was 1.24 kg. So the new box weighed 210 gm less or .21 kg less. So this is almost 15% less. And you guessed it the price was the same for both boxes. 

     Today when I did my shopping the price on the 1.24 kg box was $7.49. That's almost a twenty percent percent increase from $5.99.  Now that's a real big kick in the pants. How low can some big food companies go so that they can squeeze out more money from little old age pensioners ?

    So why is this mostly for seniors? Well, many young people don't eat breakfast. Raisin bran is consumed mostly by seniors as it keeps them in great condition. Would kids eat raisin bran? I think not. So this company hits hard on seniors.

    So therefore I have made the accusation that seniors are being ripped off. 

    Now I could include pictures of the boxes of cereal to provide evidence of this scam but I would have to take off the name of a very big cereal company or I may be liable for slander just because I inform seniors 
that they are being ripped off.

     I think I'm going to have to find some hot cereal that is far less expensive than the cold cereal. That'll teach them for ripping me off.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Summer Cycling Goal Met

    Regular followers have seen a post like this before. They know that I set out to ride 1000km (625 mi)  each summer. Today I turned the 1000km for this summer!
And here he comes down the trail!

    Each summer is different. This year until early July we had cold, cool and wet weather.  AS a result I had not done much riding by mid July. What got my butt moving was  when a fried accused me of being a "fair weather cycler." That did it . I go out when it was windy and cool. As a result the kms quickly built up. 
 Photos from 2008 when I was speedier

    What was different this summer is that I felt I was always pushing. It was hard to ride. I felt like I was weak. I oiled my bike. I tuned my bike. I checked the break adjustment. Something wasn't just right. Was it me or the bike. Was age catching up to me? I didn't feel that it was age or my physical condition. I gradually began to suspicion something. It took me a while to get around to testing out my theory. 

    Finally , one day I got around to changing the seat. That did it. Immediately I could feel that the legs were different and that there was lots of power left in my legs. So it was  both me and the bike that were at fault. I was using a big wide seat and it was putting pressure on the inner thighs and somehow a nerve must have been pinched so that leg power was reduced.

    I felt much relieved when I made that discovery. there's still lots of time left to ride. I'll keep going as hard as ever and see how much I can do for the summer.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Child Security

     My last post covered an aspect of seeing that our children are safe. It was a somewhat tongue in cheek post.

     Our children are the most important part of our lives. You hear many people say, "I don't know what I would do if I lost a child." Many people have lost children through disease, accident or crime and it's a horrendous experience for them. My parents lost an eleven year old daughter from illness. It was an extremely painful part of their lives and it stayed with them and altered their lives forever. The last time my Dad talked about the loss of his daughter he was 94 and it was still painful for him to talk about it. He never went back to the city she died in.

     Therefore the security of our children is of utmost importance. We want to do everything we can to see that they are healthy, safe and secure from any risk that would harm them.

    There are many workshops and programs to assist parents to raise their children in a safe manner. There are organizations such as block parent which tries to set up  community programs. 

   After my last post and the experience I went through as a teacher I have reflected on the security issue. I have thought about this issue since it's beginning. I'm of two minds. We must be prudent and err on the side of caution when it comes to security.

    However,  there are some side effects which concern me. Parents fall into a trap and begin micro managing their children. Some micro managed children do not learn to think for themselves and lose a very important skill. Some children who are closely supervised do no learn and practise the necessary social skills to get along with their peers. Their self confidence just doesn't get developed. These children tend to spend more time indoors and watching television or playing electronic games. 

     As a middle school teacher I saw some kids who had difficulty coping at that level. They had been walked to school for five years by a parent. When they started walking on their own, they weren't prepared for all the challenges. What's a worse situation is when kids are driven to school . Then they move in complete isolation.

     Many times we get caught in the trap of saying when I was a child. Those memories can be very selective and  only the good things are remembered. My daughter who is forty, likes to talk about her experiences. She reminisces about being out in the neighborhood from preschool and that many times her parents only vaguely knew where she was. Later she had free range over the subdivision. She talks about activities they participated in and I didn't know about it. These were not bad things . It was just children playing. We didn't worry about bad guys or bad kids harming our children. 

    So I have questions when it comes to the security practices we use today to protect our children. Some where there has to be a security system that protects and still allows children to learn to become independent when it's the proper time to learn. There are times to learn something and if that time is missed it's very difficult to learn later.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I Was Eyeballed Yesterday

      Yesterday I was eyeballed. Not once but three times. It's gone to my head! My head is two sizes bigger!

       My friend Tom believes that children should walk to school. My place is between his place and the school. Since I've known the kids from the start. He asked if I wouldn't mind if the kids could use my house in case they had any difficulties. The kids haven't had any difficulties and they've not had to call at my house. But I have had many awesome visits with them. If I'm out in the yard and they are coming up the street , I get a wave and that means a visit. Since they are both great talkers that means a rather long pleasant visit. They are both bright and the topics they talk about are quite advanced. They are still kids and very enjoyable.

      This year April 's brother goes to Middle School and can't walk with her. April has a good friend Philip to walk with. So yesterday I got the wave and met them for a chat. I had not met Philip before but it only took him about thirty seconds to warm up. I learned that obsidian also has a green form. I thought obsidian was only black. That's the kind of kids they are. We had our visit and off they went.

     Now I talked to Tom and he told me that his neighbor had seen April talking to a strange man on the street. Tom's neighbor drove around the block so she could check again. April seemed to be comfortable and happy talking to the strange man. Another trip around the block and the man was keeping a proper distance away from April and Philip. So the neighbor concluded that everything was alright.

     So I was eyeballed and didn't know it!

    So I'm happy that a neighbor knew these kids and was caring enough to keep her eye on them. I'm happy that she reported to April's Dad.

   A picture of these two kids would have been awesome. Would I post a picture of them? No. Pictures on the Internet and blogger are not secure. I wouldn't want pictures of children to get into the wrong hands. The only thing I can do is not post their pictures.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I'm Finally Allowed to Wash Windows!

     This is the first house we ever owned. Soon after we moved in we noticed that the windows were pretty messy. I never remember seeing my mother wash windows although I'm sure she did. I think my wife suffered the same window washing mentor ship.

     So one fine day my wife asked me to take the garden hose and swish off the windows. Of course all of you know what happens. You get a terrible mess. So my wife thought she could do a better job and she tried the garden hose. No better results.

     So my wife did some research and found that there were products available for window washing. Over the years she developed a rigid routine for window washing. We have the cleanest windows in town. First, she would take a dry cloth and wipe off the windows first and then the wood around the window. Second, she would wash the window with clear water and then the wood around the window. Last she would use windex with a wash and polish.

    Now the last couple of years I have been allowed to wash the higher windows as she said , "I'm getting too short to reach the top." I had a little difficulty with the rigid routine. I almost had to write it down to remember to do things in the correct order. 
The final polish.  Notice the reflections in this super clean window.

     This year my wife said, "I'm seventy five and I'm not getting on step ladders anymore."
Ah finished!  Again the vivid reflections.

     So after 42 years I am finally allowed to wash windows! What an awesome thrill!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Sometimes Adventure Gives You a Surprise

       I was 23 years old in 1963 and at loose ends in my life. I had taught four years and had decided to leave the position I had. If I was going to stay teaching I had to get back to University and finish a degree. I wasn't ready for that. I was half heartedly looking for another position. I really didn't know what I wanted to do.

     Then I saw an ad in the paper "Teach in Canada's North land." I thought , "This sounds interesting." I applied . I got an interview and a week later they offered me a position. I thought, "What do I have to lose?" The position was 1650 km (1000miles) further north of what I had been thinking. 

     I thought this would be great adventure hunting, fishing, airplanes, boats and new people. Off I went. I found even more than what I imagined. Bonus! There were lots of girls who were unattached. They were adventure seekers too. What fun! One of them latched on to me for some reason and she wouldn't let go. 

    After three years I was ready to go back and finish my degree.

    I wasn't finished with adventure and neither was my wife. We found a position in a small isolated settlement. Again lots of the outdoor stuff. There were 180 Inuit and 12 others. Our transportation was by small bush plane only. There was a six week break in service in spring and fall for changing from skis to floats or floats to skis. So six weeks with out mail.

    Things went well until one Sunday morning when there was a knock on the door. My wife was the nurse and we were used to calls at any hour of the day or night. One of the elders was there and in his very limited English asked my wife to come. Pita said, " Alisi's baby not good." My wife asked him , "Was the baby sick?". He just said ,"Not good."

    My wife went down and found that the toddler was dead. From my wife's nursing back ground she had some experience with people dieing but she wasn't prepared for what she saw. The toddler had been murdered in a brutal way. 

     My wife came back to the house and then we conferenced with the provincial administrator. We called the police 450km (300 miles) away on a short wave radio with very poor transmission. The police told us the airplanes had gone south five days ago but he would try to find an airplane to get to our settlement. He also told us what to do. We were to pick up the body and put it in a cardboard box and keep it in the storage shed. We were to write up a description of the injuries and write a statement as  to what we found at the site.Fortunately it was early Oct. and cool.

    This was one thing that I hadn't thought about when I was seeking adventure. It was a sobering experience.

     The police came in five days later and took the body and the mother. It was a very stressful ten days in my adventure.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

And Ice Skating Started Yesterday

      I never miss posting about ice skating. I have posted many times and also referred to ice skating in other blogs.
Off to the rink for another year.

      So yesterday our season started and will go to the last Tuesday in April. We skate for an hour and then off for coffee. Both the skating and coffee are fun social times. I know that I am with very supportive people who care very much about each other. People who have stopped skating are still remembered and supported. We have a Christmas reception where all former skaters are invited back for coffee and goodies.

    This year our skating group has a major first. One of our skaters turned ninety this summer so yesterday's skate was the first time Howard had skated at age ninety. Howard is still a strong steady skater and when he turns on the jets I can't keep up to him. Howard also likes to couple skate as he likes to skate with the music. Howard has had a passion for skating all his life and is the major promoter of senior skating in our town. So here's to Howard and many more years of smooth skating.
Cruising down the ice.

      I have gotten to know many of the skaters extremely well. We share experiences from family, career, good time and bad times. We find we have much in common.

     And of course, when you know people so well there is always a good amount of joshing back and forth and some of it can be pretty tricky.

    So I enjoy the exercise from skating and the association with really neat people. Both of these help to keep a senior in good physical and mental health.I wish you could come and join me for a skate.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Brenda Schultz: The Challenge and the Progress

      I have posted about Brenda before.  Her accident occurred a year ago today. she has written a very powerful post telling about all aspects of the past year.
     Please follow the link and read her post.

Monday, September 3, 2012

More Bureaucracy and Age

     I have mentioned in several posts that I spent five years in the Arctic as a teacher. At one very isolated settlement I was teacher, principal and Local Administrator. To say the least, I was a very busy boy. I had a mechanic and caretaker to supervise as they ran a little diesel power plant. I looked after everything that pertained to government business in that settlement. It was very interesting but very much work. 

    Two of the problems I spent time on dealt with age. The Dept. in Ottawa, that looked after family allowance, kept asking me if I knew were one certain child was. I would go to the family and ask them, "Where is this child? " They would get a very puzzled look on their faces and say they didn't know what I was talking about.    Three months later I would get another letter and ask the family again. This went on for about a year. One time I had their eldest son as an interpreter. Lukasi was a very good interpreter. They began talking among themselves and finally Lukasi told me that it was a baby that died out on one of the islands when they were  hunting. Somehow the death had not been reported in the community by one of my predecessors. The person may not have ever known of such a child as there were changes in staff. However, someone in the upper bureaucracy knew that the child was missing and pursued it until they got an answer. The family were a little disappointed as the money they had been paid for the deceased child would have to be taken back.

    So my point is that some bureaucrat did his/her job in spite of the difficulties of distance and language.

    The other problem was much simpler and resulted in getting money. A local lady had applied for old age pension. She had been born in the days when very little government operations were present so she didn't have a birth certificate. How was she going to prove her age? It was simple. Her daughter was getting old age pension! End of story. She got her old age pension. 

    These were two of the situations that I had to solve while I was there. It was interesting but I didn't have an awful lot of time to work on it.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Bureaucrats Get a Bad Rap

       I got some rather interesting comments on the post I did about my Dad and his birth not being recorded. He did not feel any displeasure with bureaucrats. In fact, he thought it was  pretty funny. He particularly liked the line , "Mr Kline we have never heard of you."  In my post I was not upset with bureaucrats as this happened a long time ago when all records were kept by hand. Most readers and commenters could see that the best was done at that time. 

      Some of the comments seemed to hint at bureaucrats being the cause of such a problem and they were. However, one bad apple does not mean that all the others are bad apples. Most govt. workers work hard and do what they are supposed to. 

     I have had some direct experience with this issue as when I taught in the north I was a civil servant. I had to take an oath of some kind which all Govt. employees had to take. Now some employees were a waste of time but not very many. It was easy to pick out who pulled their weight and who didn't. Many went above and beyond what they had to do to get the job done. In my experience I found that information was lacking due to people filling in information incorrectly or incomplete.

     I also know that many private companies have their dead wood employees too and in a way they are protected by company bureaucrats. My daughter worked for a large oil company and was amazed at how politics were played out. 

     So my main point is that we should not judge all bureaucrats by just one who messes up on the job. It's like racism where we label a whole group by what we see one or a few doing and so label all the others as having that fault. We have to put the responsibility where it belongs and that only belongs to the one with those negative characteristics and behavior. 

    I suppose I have a fault that I root for the underdog and don't like to see people unfairly treated. I would also hope that I respond in a clear fair manner when I comment on ideas presented in my blog comments. To me comments are always interesting and make me think about my post.