… back into blogging after what has turned out to be a two-month sabbatical. No apologies, no regrets.
It has been a marvelous summer, and at the moment we’re marveling that, here on the prairies six hours north of Montana, not only is summer still hanging on but we’re having a heat wave — high 20s Celsius, with a forecast 33 C for Thursday. The farmers’ crops are are drying in the fields, but the weather is perfect for the tomatoes and peppers as long as I can keep the water coming. And it’s getting dark now disturbingly early, just after eight o’clock.
Our own crops are harvested, such as we could this year. After we finished cutting and baling the alfalfa for hay, we cut and bale our barley crop early, several weeks ago, for greenfeed, instead of combining the grain. The boys are out as I type, with the water trailer, giving the shelterbelt trees a good soaking, and weeding the rows.
Speaking of the shelterbelt, in early July we took our first ever summer vacation, a whopping two-and-a-half days through Saskatchewan. Our main destination was the shelterbelt tree center at the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration in Indian Head, SK, which holds an open house every summer. It’s the first time in the four or five years since we’ve started planted trees that we’ve been able to make it, mainly because of the drought which meant the hay wasn’t ready yet for cutting. We attended seminars, took a tour of the center, watched demonstrations of the equipment — including the where-have-you-been-all-my-farming-life Weed Badger, which we are thinking would mean an end to endless weeding — and went home with all sorts of goodies, including notepads, water bottles, posters, and more little trees to plant. The town of Indian Head not only has a lovely ice cream parlor on Main Street, but has some of the most gorgeous Victorian houses, and beautifully tended gardens, on well-treed streets I’ve ever seen in a prairie town. We also stopped at Moose Jaw for a tour of the Tunnels and (even better) the Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre at the edge of town, where we met and handled George, the ambassador owl, fed grasshoppers to some others, and were able to buy very inexpensive owl pellets for dissection. Next stop was Rouleau aka Dog River for the kids’ sake, though admittedly we were about two years late with that one. On to Regina, where we managed to make a 6 pm tour of the legislature building and afterwards strolled through the lobby of the Hotel Saskatchewan since Laura has inherited from her mother and grandmother a love of grand old hotels.
Various other goings-on since my last post, but not in any sort of order (not much for pictures though, because either the camera hates the computer or vice versa and I can’t figure out which or why):
— Tom directed the kids to take the majority of the new-crop kittens to the fair, to Old MacDonald’s barn where they would be adopted. Only to turn into a softie when at said barn said kids discovered rabbits. Laura asked first — “Dad, could I have a rabbit please?” But instead of a direct “No”, Tom mumbled something about having to make sure she’d do all her other chores first, etc. Which sounded, to Laura’s ears (and to mine) very much like “Yes”. Which is all the boys needed to hear. Which is why we now have two bunnies, Verbena and Claudia, happily munching on carrot tops, kohlrabi leaves, and other garden scraps.
— The rest of the time at the fair was equally exciting. All three kids showed pens of chickens, their calves (on what turned out to be an exceedingly hot day), won prizes, spent two days riding the rides on the midway, showed off their handiwork at the exhibit hall (Laura displayed an example of handwriting, flowers, her quilling, and other things I know I’m forgetting; the boys displayed Lego creations, including Davy’s manure spreader made out of bricks, as well as first-prize winning birdhouses, one shaped like a grain elevator, and other assorted items; and all three and Tom displayed pint sealers of threshed grain, and sheaves of grain and forage). We all ate homemade pie from the United Church booth and drank lemonade, and watched the show on the grandstand with good friends who came in from out of town to take in the festivities. And, as usual, we brought home the chicks hatched out at the incubator display.
— The kids spent the latter part of the summer getting ready for children’s day at the Farmer’s Market in town, when anyone under 14 can get a table for free, instead of the usual $10. The boys decided to take what they learned from making my birthday present, a plant cart made from an old barbecue (I had seen the idea in the June 2008 issue of Harrowsmith magazine, and kept reminding the boys that it would make a dandy Mother’s Day or mother’s birthday present), and turn it into a business. The first project they did with Tom’s supervision and help, and then they knew enough to set out on their own.
— Davy fractured his wrist in early August, jumping off a swing at a friend’s house. His first injury in six or so years of professional swing jumping. But the new doctor in town said all he needed was a splint and an ace bandage for three weeks, which was very easy to manage, especially for showers and baths. The splint and bandage just came off, and the wrist seems to be as good as new.
— Tom’s aunt and uncle in town took off for a 10-day vacation, telling us we could pick all of their raspberries. One of the most delicious presents we’ve ever received. I went in every other day for an hour and a half of picking, and by the time they returned we had eaten as many fresh raspberries, and raspberry crisps, crumbles and clafoutis as we could, and I had canned the rest as jam and preserves to enjoy until next summer. Ditto with saskatoons, some which we picked wild and others from friends’ bushes. Chokecherries, Evans cherries, peaches, and pears are up next for syrup, jelly, and canning.
— We started up our formal studies yesterday, a bit earlier than usual, but then we’re taking off for a few weeks next month to visit grandparents in NYC, and then on to Washington, DC. Since Farm School is going to Washington, it seemed appropriate to spend our first day watching “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, which will be a springboard to the next two months of civics, folk songs, vocabulary, and more. Next up, “Much Ado About Nothing”, in preparation for the Folger’s new production. Oh yes, and math, grammar, writing, spelling, science… For Laura, science will be based on around one of her recent 12th birthday present from her grandparents, Birds of Central Park. I’m looking at a bird walk or two with Dr. Bob DeCandido, and have already found the perfect city souvenir for Laura.
Many thanks to the two or so readers, in addition to my parents, who’ve stuck it out over here in the barrens. Any point in a (not) back-to-school roll call in the comments, just to see who’s still here?