Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring Has Sorta Come

        When I started Hiawatha House I did not intend to write very much about weather. This will be my eighth post this month about weather. I've joked about spring coming. I've whined about lots of snow. There's been lots to post about weather for the month of March. It's not been normal weather. It's just been awful!
        We have now had two days of temperatures above freezing. Yesterday it got to plus 2 C (35 F) Yippee!! Today it got to plus 7 C (43 F) so there was some snow melting. Alas, tomorrow it will be cooler and won't be above freezing and maybe some snow!!

         This March we have had about 30 cm (12 in ) of snow. It's been cloudy for days on end. That's how we got the 30 cm of snow. It's been quite cold with lows of around minus 15 C and highs of 7 C. We've had wind day after day and blowing snow. This is normal winter weather. We can get warm weather in March and many times our snow totally disappears by mid March. Last year and many other years I was riding my bicycle by mid March as the roads were dry. I bravely posted a few weeks ago that I had skied my last ski on winter snow. I was wrong. We still had winter skiing conditions on Sunday Mar. 27.

      Spring will be interesting and messy. There is lots of snow to melt. If it melts quickly, there will be lots of running water. I did see swans fly over this afternoon.
     I will be very ready for some above normal spring weather and I hope I don't have a reason to do a post on weather for quite a while.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Pleasure of Meeting Dr. Barry

         The other day I had occasion to visit the emergency department at our local hospital. There are about twenty doctors who staff the department twenty-four hours a day seven days a week.

         So it was a real treat to have Dr. Barry drop in to see me. Why Dr. Barry a special treat? Well Barry was a former student of mine in junior high school.

         Now whenever I meet a former student I truly enjoy the contact. I knew that Barry was an emergency physician and that he worked in the local hospital. However, I had never bumped into him. I hadn't seen him since he left the junior highschool. Barry is now 40 so it's been awhile since I've seen him. I had kept bumping into his parents so I kept up with Barry's whereabouts.

         I remember Barry as a quiet, bright and  pleasant person. I had Barry for language arts which probably wasn't his favorite subject since if he was moving toward medicine I would think he would like science. I remember him being an extremely keen student. In those days we still taught spelling. I didn't mind using a few gimmicks. If you got 105%  five times in a row you could miss the next spelling assignment. Barry liked this idea and I think he got 100% all year. I would also bonus assignments that were done above and beyond what was called for at that level. So I didn't have any problem giving kids 11 out of 10 or even 12 out of 10. Barry could think ahead so he asked me if his average was over 100% would it show on his report card? So you see that he was not just bright but keen.

      So we had a little visit the other day which I enjoyed. I was also looked after very competently...probably 110%!

      Now you can see what happened to me. There was spontaneous bleeding in my eye. I had the same thing about 10 years ago and I thought that's what I had now but I didn't want to self diagnose so that's the reason for my emergency department visit. It's not a serious condition and the blood will absorb in ten days. There is no risk to my eyesight. It's a little hard to look at.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Owl Web Cam at Ellis Bird Farm

        I recently put a link to a web cam on a great horned owl nest. Now I admit that I'm not someone who will spend much time watching any web cam.

       I have seen many owl nests from the ground. There's not really much to see as the owl sits low on the nest. Many times you're not really sure that there's an owl on the nest. I've seen many excellent photographs of owl nests.

     However, this web cam gives something I have never seen before. We have had seven days of continuous snow. We have received about 30cm (12 in.) of snow. This makes for a nest view that I have never seen before. The edge of the nest has a good build up of snow and the owl seems to be sitting in a snow bank. The owl shakes her feathers from time to time to get the snow off her body.

     I have a better idea. Click on my link and go to the web cam and see the owl on the nest with all the snow piled up around her.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'm Back!

         I'm back on the net after a frustrating day of being away. I missed reading blogs, checking Face book, email and Twitter. I also missed visiting sites that give me information.

        When I signed in to the internet yesterday morning I was given a message that my web browser wasn't working. I tried entering two or three times and then left. I came back a few hours later and the same conditions were found. Now this bothered me. I usually fix most stuff around my house. Although about a year ago I wrote a post called reluctant handyman. I even fix my cars. My first step is to wait and see if the problem clears up on it's own and then go on to other plans.

       So after supper when I found the same condition I phoned my friend Bill. Bill told me to unplug the modem for at least a minute and that the computer would find itself. I had done this about a year ago. It worked then. Sadly last night nothing happened. So I phoned Bill again for plan B. I was advised to phone my internet provider. After waiting on the phone for twenty minutes a tech answered. He said that a web browser that doesn't work isn't part of delivery service, but he thought he knew what to do and would walk me through the procedure. So within two minutes my web browser was back in business. He had me go into the control panel and reset my internet settings. Wow! Was it great to be back on the internet!

      Now I remember someone making the "I'm back!" comment about three years ago. About three months before my Dad died he went into a very quiet period where there was very little communication. One day my brother dropped in to visit Dad and Dad cheerfully told him, "I'm back!" My brother felt like asking where Dad had been but this would have gone over Dad's head. Dad told my brother that he had been really sick but now he was feeling better. Sadly Dad's recovery was brief and he lasted three more months all the while becoming quieter and quieter.

      I hope my computer coming back is more permanent than Dad coming back.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Another Good Dump of Snow

      Last night we had another 5 cm of snow and it snowed all day. This spring storm was forecast for Alberta so we were expecting it and it wasn't a big surprise. I looked out at 3 AM and the sky was full of snow as it was snowing heavily. So by the end of the day we had a good dump of snow.

      Now some of you may be saying, "Why is he telling me about all the snow?"  I know that some of you do not want to hear about snow at all. But I thought if I tell you about all the snow here it will make you feel so great that you don't have snow. Probably 95% of readers will be in the no snow category. 5 % will still be in winter mode so it doesn't matter.

March snow

     Heavy spring snow storms are common here. We get most of our snow in March. It doesn't worry me as I know that our snow will disappear quite quickly as the days are lengthening rapidly. The sun rose at 7:38 this morning and sets at 7:49 tonight so we get a little more than 12 hours of sun.

     I saw the first crow yesterday which is a good sign of spring. This morning at 7 AM about 20 crows were sitting in a big poplar tree about a block from my house. Crows are very hardy birds and they will have little difficulty putting up with a spring snow storm.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Energetic Spring Storm

        We had a very energetic spring storm here this morning. It was a typical March blizzard.

        At 7 AM we had 3 or 4 cm of snow. When I looked out at 8:30 I said, "Ooh, We've had a lot of snow!" It was snowing heavily and the visibility was down to 1 Km.

        We had an appointment at 10:00 AM. The road was still good...not slippery. By the time we left the appointment at 10:45 much more snow had fallen, the temperature had risen to close to zero and the visibility had dropped some more. Needless to say, the road conditions had deteriorated greatly. The highway between Edmonton and Calgary was treacherous and not recommended for travel. Many people had hit the ditch.

      The snow slacked off just before noon and stopped during the noon hour.

      I had shovelled snow before leaving for the appointment and shovelled after returning from the appointment. I went out after lunch and shovelled again. We had about 15 cm of snow altogether.

     So this is a typical spring storm here. Short of duration and heavy snowfall. It was not forecast to any extent. We were told we would get 2-4 cm. So I got my exercise today!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ellis Bird Farm Web Cam

         Today I have installed a link that takes you to a live web cam of an owl nest at the Ellis Blue Bird farm. I hope enjoy watching a great horned owl on its nest.

        This great horned owl has nested for several years in this location. The nest is built in shelter belt trees of the Ellis Blue Bird farm. The Ellis blue bird farm was established when a large chemical company established a huge petro chemical plant on farmland near Red Deer Alberta. Charlie and Winnie Ellis who farmed the land had been great bird lovers. They had put out bird boxes for blue birds and had a sizable nesting population on their farm. It was decided that the original farmstead should be turned into a research facility on birds The nest boxes are still maintained and research is carried out at the site.

       Visit the Ellis Blue Bird Farm website for more information.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Book Review: Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson

        I few weeks ago I did a small review of Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea. Since that time I have finished Greg Mortenson's second book Stones into Schools.

        Stones into Schools is a continuation of Three Cups of Tea. The work of building schools and establishing positive relationships continues. There is more of an emphasis on girls education and the expand into Afghanistan. With all this activity the challenges faced also grow. There's no free ticket that comes with experience in these projects.

       At the end of Three Cups of Tea some tribesmen from Afghanistan meet Greg and want a school . They have ridden a long way to find Greg and of course Greg promises them a school. However, it takes ten years before the school is built. All sorts of road blocks appear that delay the project. The location is extremely remote and pack animals have to be used to carry supplies in the last few miles. However, the school is finally built and a desperate people have an asset that their government and no other NGOs could produce.

      Greg suffers some break down as a result of pushing himself for too long. He deals honestly with his difficulties .

      I find Greg's story fast paced and he has an excellent segway from one area  of his activity to another area. He spends time in Montana with his family, speaks at fundraisers and travels to Pakistan and Afhganistan so all of these activities take place at the same time. He tells of one activity and when it's just right he leads you into another area.

     I enjoyed Stones into Schools every bit as much as Three Cups of Tea. I'm looking forward to the third book Listen to the Wind.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Excellent Winter Snow Skiing Conditions

        Today I went out to my favorite cross country ski trail. There were excellent winter snow conditions.
The trail I ski is about five kilometers around a local golf course. Most of the trail is beside the river. 75% of the trail is through heavy mature spruce. This protects the trail from sun, but certainly contributes spruce needles.

       Winter snow condition means that the snow has not thawed. It is still powdery and easy to ski on and you have good control of your skis. I thought this might be the last winter snow to ski on as it is forecast to be above zero tomorrow.

       We will have a great spring skiing season. The trail has a great base that will not melt away very quickly. I don't do spring skiing as I find it difficult to handle those snow conditions. People who have mastered spring skiing conditions love it . It's fast and takes little effort to propel yourself down the trail.

      I like this ski area both summer and winter. Part of the river is open all winter. Quite a few ducks stay in this area all winter. Today there were scads of golden eye ducks and a few mallards. Bohemian waxwings were on the ice where there was overflow. They were drinking but I didn't see any of them bathing. It's common to see both bald  and golden eagles. They patrol the river and feast on ducks and fish which have not survived. I didn't see eagles today.

     There certainly was evidence of moose in the area. We are at the top of the snowshoe hare population cycle so there are  many runs and lots of evidence where the rabbits have been eating bark from young trees.

     Altogether it was a very pleasant afternoon for probably my last ski of the season.

Friday, March 11, 2011

My Dishwasher Blues

      There are two dishwashers in my house...ME and the machine.

      Now I'm a capable dishwasher. I get the job done. I'm steady as I wash dishes three times a day seven days a week. Sometimes I wash more than three times a day if there is baking or extra food prep. On the other hand I'm pretty old and wiggly. Sometimes I don't see the dirt! Maybe I've had one too many whacks with the cast iron fry pan? But I'm the kind of person who doesn't look for dirt. I just don't see dirt very well. I also don't see dirt in people. I look for the good stuff and ignore the rotten stuff.

     Now the machine is 24 years old. So it's old and wiggly. It has been on a down hill roll for several years. It runs well, but it doesn't clean very well. Maybe it doesn't see the dirt too well? Maybe it's tired? Several years ago I stopped making the old dishwasher wash glasses. They just didn't come clean. Then I stopped putting cutlery in as it was always spotted. When the rest of the dishes showed some stain I decided to quit using the dishwasher and washed dishes by hand. The dishes shined up in a hurry. Then I read the old manual and found out I was supposed to put soap in two places instead of one. I tried putting soap in two dispensers and the dishes came out perfect. The next time I ran the dishwasher the second dispenser did not release the soap  so my dishes were a mess again. The sensor to release the soap door did not release. On my next wash there was a big click while the water was heating? Oops I think the second soap release door opened. Sure enough! It had opened. So I'm going to try the dishwasher one more time.

    This dishwasher being twenty-four years old doesn't owe me anything so if it doesn't work I will throw it away.

    Now new dishwasher shopping? That's another story1 I posted long ago that I hate shopping. I think you''ll probably have to read one more whiny post!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

You Know It's Spring When...

      You know it's spring when you get up to cook breakfast and you don't have to turn the lights on! This morning when I came out to the kitchen  the room was light and there was no need to turn on lights. What a treat! The sun rose at 7:01 and tonight it sets at 6:29 so we get about 11  1/2 hours of sunlight.

Three Porridge bowls

      Now I will enjoy this treat for only four more days as the time changes to daylight savings time. Then I will be making breakfast in the dark for a few weeks. When the time does change we will instantly get long evenings. So next week the sun will set between 7:35 and 7:40. It will be very pleasant for evening walks from now on.

    So it doesn't matter what end we get the daylight on it still means the days are getting longer.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Sure Sign of Spring in Central Alberta

       This morning I was out just a few minutes before 7 AM and I heard a chickadee "fee beeing." It was minus 26 C(minus 13 F). Now people will all know what I'm talking about if chickadees are resident in your area. The fee bee call is one that catches your attention right away. This chickadee  was doing his call constantly which indicates he's pretty serious about spring and mates.
My snowy bird feeded this morning.
       The male chickadee selects a territory which has suitable nesting habitat and a good food supply. Then he sings his little heart out to all the females in the area to come and have a look at him and the fine territory he has chosen. The interesting thing about chickadees is that they sometimes really rush the season and give a few calls in January. These are usually just one or two calls. So when I heard the call this morning it was a very good indication of serious mating activity which really says that spring is here.

      A few years ago I happened to be surrounded by three male chickadees doing their call. One female was in the area. These little guys really called with all the vigor they had. The female went and took a look at all three callers and then flew out of the territory. She could probably hear anther male calling which my ears were not able to detect. The three males she visited all called after her as if to say come back and take another look at me.

     So some people see robins as the perfect indicator of spring. Others see first green plant shoots of some kind as their sign of spring. Other people have a favorite blossom which to them indicates that spring is here. For me the little chickadee is all I need to hear for a sure sign of spring. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

That Annual General Physical Medical Examination!

       Today I had the good fortune to have my annual general physical medical examination!

       Now I'm not a big fan of the annual general. I get it for two reasons. 1) It keeps the decibel level down a bit because Home Farm Girl is adamant that the annual mandatory. 2) Way back in the reptilian part of my brain is something that tells me the annual general might be important.

      Now I started with the disliked annual long ago and it's been done at least 25 years. I'm not sure that it has been of any value. So far they haven't found anything! Well maybe that's a good thing and it shows that I am very fortunate to have good health. Or maybe I am just lacking period. Now if they did find something , would I blame the medical for the problem.

     A few days ago a friend was taking two five gallon water jugs into her house. And a funny thing happened! Something went twinge in her back! She was telling a friend that she was getting an Xray on her back. Her friend's reply was don't get an Xray on your back! Get one on your head! A second friend was there and he said don't waste the time for a head Xray because there's nothing there! I feel like this sometime.

    Now I've had my Doc for about 35 years. He's been a good Doc and still is. But he's my age and I know that there are little pieces of the brain that aren't quite as sharp. I started to reflect on his performance and the state of our health care. Home Farm Girl has developed a nasty foot problem which really interferes with her walking. A toe is badly out of joint. One surgeon has 500 on his waiting list and will not take anybody. For another guy there's a two year time to get an appointment.

     When I think back to when my Doc was young things got done right on the spot. The Docs ruled the hospital. What they said got done. If you were referred it, was almost immediate. Docs were allowed to run things and they got things done. They were proud of their performance. Now the bean counters run the hospital and I'm sure docs feel unwelcome in the place. My Doc spends very little time at the hospital. He stays in his office shuffling patients in and out. Not a very satisfying practice for him as he is only involved in such a small part of medical care.

     So let the docs run things and we will be taken care of. 

     Oh yeah! Thanks for the 25 or so annual physical examinations and 35 years of medical care!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

More White Dog Days of Winter

     So today I got really brave and went out to look at the white winter I've been complaining about. I also remembered to take the camera.

      Snow removal from our streets is "sorta." They scrape the snow of and push it to one side of the street so that we have about a lane and a half to drive on and no place to park.

     For intersections in a close they push the snow on to the boulevard.

     To navigate my backyard I've had to shovel little paths. These have been snowed in several times this winter.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dog Days of Winter

         Now I know you'll be saying "dog days of winter!" What's he talking about? I know I'm borrowing very heavily from dog days of summer. I also know that dog days of summer refers to the hot muggy uncomfortable time when the best of summer is over. I also know that for the ancients they knew that the most prominent star at the time was the dog star and that's how we think we got the term "dog days of summer."

       I like to think that we are in a very uncomfortable part of our winter which is slowly moving toward it's end. February here has been brutal this year. We usually think that once we get to February that we will get a cold spell but it won't last long as we will get a mild spell. Not this year. We've just had one long cold spell with only one little break where it was mild enough to thaw. We've had snow cover for 110 days. We have about 50 cm (20in.) of snow on the level. We've had high winds and blowing snow. Blowing snow here in the city is pretty rare.

       So I feel that the term "dog days of winter fits pretty well. I will apologize to dog owners ahead of time if they take offense to me using the term dog in a negative sense. We are all tired of the long cold spell and really look for a break when the forecaster said , "It's going to be a cold spring!" That's too much!

      Now I know I'm ranting and raving. I even changed my mind yesterday about posting such a rant on the weather. I had read a very positive uplifting blog post and for a short time it cheered me up.

    However, I know that spring is soon to appear and our snow will start to melt and all of this will seem like a bad memory. I promise to post about beautiful spring time conditions when they get here.