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We and the Tree

23 Jun

Trees. Ya gotta love ’em or cut ’em down, or at least part of them.

A beautiful lakeside ash has storm damage. Of course it’s at the top, the unreachable, unscalable, unclimable top. I’ve tried yanking it, swinging from it, swearing at it. Nothing worked, except the last choice felt really good for a while, a very short while. The brown, dead leaves are a blight on my sense of aesthetics.

We and the tree. Mr Bill and yours truly, happy, optimistic. Before the truth but not the branch came crashing down.

We and the tree. Mr Bill and yours truly, happy, optimistic. Before the truth but not the branch came crashing down.

Calling Mr. Bill. You might remember him from a few years back helping put on the boat tarp. Among others Mr Bill has three exceptional qualities: he’s tall, not afraid of heights, and when asked he said OK.

We put the ladder on one side of the tree and climbed and cut and hacked and sawed and cursed. We put the ladder on the other side climbed, cut, hacked, sawed, and swore. Swore at heavy ladders, fumed at twigs and limbs that scratched and gouged. I think the tree was laughing at us. Stupid tree.

We and the Tree. One of us knows what he's doing. Hint: not the one at the bottom of the ladder.

We and the Tree. One of us knows what he’s doing. Hint: not the one at the bottom of the ladder.

Well we ended up with a lot of debris and trimmings all over the yard, but that damaged branch was unreachable and uncuttable. Haughty in its deadness.  in short, the damned thing is still there, mocking us. Maybe sometime this decade it will just fall down itself and break its stupid tree-neck, probably while Brute and I are underneath mowing the lawn.

Ah well, Mr Bill had to go back home and climb up on his roof to help adjust his TV satellite dish.

We and the Tree. Sad conclusion. Me taking out my frustration cutting firewood ouut of tree bits

We and the Tree. Sad conclusion. Me taking out my frustration cutting firewood ouut of tree bits

Me? I got out the chain saw and started cutting up the debris for firewood. Varooom, varooom, cut, gouge! Take that you stupid tree bits. Ha ha. I have the power. You, tree, are not the boss of me. Take that, and that. Varoom, varoom! Oh, I think I’d better quit. I’m hyperventilating and I need some comfort food.


Ya Gotta Luv Country Living

26 Jun
I have a sign. I am all powerful. Obey my commands! Gad, I hate my job!

I have a sign. I am all powerful. Obey my commands! Gad, I hate my job!

S-S had to drive into Gimli the other day. She came to the inevitable road construction going on on highway 9 through town. The sign holders, who seem to sprout like dandelions in warm weather, blocked what was now a single lane. However, they didn’t seem to have read their job description.

There was the usual Gimli rush hour traffic jam of two cars or so. As S-S pulled up to the sign holder the sign suddenly turned to STOP.

“Well hi,” says sign lady, and continues,  “I’m hot and the bugs are something fierce. I’ve tried every bug spray there is.” She then proceeds to haul out of her orange-lime-lemon yellow vest every can, tube and bottle of Deet ever made, and to explain the pros and cons of each.

“Uh, Huh,“ says S-S in that way that can range from “Oh, how interesting!”, or “Gimme a break, lady!” (polite version.)

Meanwhile the traffic jam increased to three cars.

Sign lady finally finishes displaying her entire Deet stock and motions to S-S to drive on, at exactly the same time the other sign lady finished talking to her car at her end. Both signs now reading SLOW.

So now we have two cars squished into one lane heading towards each other with no place to turn off. What would you do? All I know is that S-S somehow made it through without a dent or scratch on the car. Coyly she will not explain the magic of how she did it.

The sign holders are still there, randomly turning their signs, spritzing themselves with bug spray, creating those horrendous Gimli traffic jams, and sending drivers into a single lane demolition derby.

Country life. Nothing like it!

No Water. The Well’s Gone Dry! We’re All Gonna Die! Or Maybe Not.

29 Sep

At this time of year I sometimes think back to our early years here, soon after we had bought our house.

It started one weekend afternoon when S-S turned on the kitchen tap. The usual flow of expected water soon turned to a trickle, then a dribble, then nothing.

The Pump that Whirrs and Slushes and Gurgles

The Pump that Whirrs and Slushes and Gurgles

Civilized and educated people that we are we immediately knew that something was wrong. Education is such a marvelous analysis platform. Immediately we leapt to civilized problem analysis: the well’s gone dry; the pump is broken, there is a leak somewhere in the system; it’s the Second Coming. Our panic was only mild. Well, maybe a bit more. Oh the humanity: no water; the money to fix it; something’s broken; the money to fix it; we can’t flush the toilet; the money to fix it! I already had visions of building an illegal outhouse. Comfort and sanitation before thirst.

After an hour or so we entered “problem solving” mode. Who might know how to fix it. Well Uncle G used to have a cottage, let’s ask him. Uncle G says, “Maybe you should check under the house.” Our pipes are all in the crawl space under the house, so down under I go. S-S asks “Why are you going down there?” I wisely reply, “I dunno, Uncle G said to.”  After a half hour squirming around in dust dirt and spiders I find nothing. We need a Plan B.

Plan B is calling Mr. L, a local handyman we know but he costs. Mr. L will come out right away so he is the choice. Well Mr. L always comes along with “the wife.” It was about three years before we actually found out “the wife’s” name. While S-S and “the wife” talked about country wife stuff Mr. L and I went back under the house. After an interminable 15 seconds Mr. L asks, “What’s that?” “That” was an electrical line. Since Mr. L is also and electrician we have to check out “that.” Personally, I thought, “what has an electric wire got to do with water flow?”

The Pump Switch with Instructions for City Morons

The Pump Switch with New Instructions for City Morons

The Pump Switch Sneaking a Peek From Behind the Ironing Board

The Pump Switch Sneaking a Peek From Behind the Ironing Board

Back in the house we trace the line to the laundry room right above where we first saw the line. Hmmm. An ironing board is resting against the wall. Hmmm. S-S is not a fan of ironing so the ironing board has never been moved. Behind the ironing board a “Swiffer” and its long handle has slipped.  Hmmm. Mr. L moves the ironing board, then the Swiffer. Underneath the Swiffer is a wall toggle switch. “What’s that?” asks Mr. L. I, in my profound wisdom, say, “I dunno.” Boldly, fearlessly, Mr. L flicks the switch. We hear the pump begin to whirr and slush and fill up. We have a pump switch, Lordy, Lordy! More importantly we have water. We have a switch we knew nothing about. So as tip to those of you who buy a new house, check behind the ironing board. And watch out for wobbly Swiffers.

Victoriously we return to “the wife” times two who promptly roll their eyes wondering why it took us so long to fix. Laughs all round. Mr. L only charged us $30, giving me the city moron discount.

But we have a pump switch. Switch on, switch off, switch on, switch off, switch on, switch off …


Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off To the Dump We Go

15 Sep
The Dump's New Cell.

The Dump’s New Cell.

I was down in the dump today, literally. Late summer and early fall are the times to get rid of a lot of “stuff” collected over the summer: garden junk, especially from the veggie garden; and reno garbage be it lumber, siding, painting leftovers and the like.

Although we have a pretty good garbage and recycling system in the backwoods here, there are some things they won’t take, such as the above. That means loading up the back of the RAV and toodling off down the dirt roads to the dump site. And it’s a loooong toodle. Ah, the dust, the plinking of rocks against the undercarriage, and then the hill. Yes, believe it or not we actually have a hill here in flatland. Rising to the majestic height of 6 or 7 metres, plus or minus 5 or 6 metres. It’s actually the old sandy shoreline ridge of glacial Lake Agassiz that covered most of southern Manitoba and well beyond. Creatively it’s named Ridge Road. Turn right and down more dust and dirt. I’ll have to give the RAV its annual wash early.

Seagulls by the thousands resting at the dump. Hard to see in this pic but they are there

Seagulls by the thousands resting at the dump. Hard to see in this pic but they are there

The dump is off down below the ridge, a vast stretch of old TVs, old washing machines,  and seagulls, seagulls, seagulls, circling, arcing and shrieking. Oh and don’t forget the flies. I opened the RAV rear to toss the garden stuff. Immediately the car filled with hundreds of flies, literally hundreds. Maybe they were tired and needed a lift, because once inside they wouldn’t get out; they just buzzed and swarmed and preferred to rest on me. Maybe it was a hint that I needed my monthly shower.

New Cell Vista

New Cell Vista

Well, with my carload of passengers I drove to the “new cell.” What is a cell you might ask. From what I could see it is a big square hole in the ground just waiting to be filled up. And it was filling up. I got the rid of the reno junk. The flies didn’t help. They just preferred to sit in the car and wait for me to finish. The attendant took my address and licence plate number. That was all there was to it, although he did thank me profusely. Something about being glad to get out of the bulldozer because the shocks were gone and his behind was hurting something fierce. Too much information.

The Dump Pond

The Dump Pond

And yet I found a site there where if you didn’t know the actual location you would think it was some part of an idyllic pond in a northern landscape. The water was surrounded by high grass and sunflowers that had gone wild. The sky was blue, the sun warm and the water would peel the skin off you. Looks are deceiving. Photographs do lie.

Anyway, The trip home was an exercise in trying to dump my freeloading fly-riders. Along the dusty road, all windows open, most got the message. There were only about 50 or so by the time I got home. I must have bored them because as soon as I pulled into the driveway the rest took off. Nature can surprise you, although I’ll now not only have to wash the car but also have to clean out fly poop.

Looking forward to the same adventure next year. Maybe, perhaps.

Fishflies: Dracula’s Castle or Hallowe’en in July

16 Jul
Fishflies and Cobwebs, just a sample framing the house

Fishflies and Cobwebs, just a sample framing the house

It’s that time of year again. Fishfly season. The time when spider webs and hordes of fishflies combine to create effects right out of horror movies, thus the Dracula’s castle effect. Cobweb/fishfly patrol and clearing becomes a daily routine, especially when company is coming. The pests come once every year – the flies that is, not the company –  and last for a week or two. They used to come earlier in early July but lately have been coming more mid-month. They are a pest. They are quite stupid but they are still a pest. Some local wags like to scare visitors calling them Manitoba mosquitoes. Surprisingly quite sophisticated people actually believe this. It doesn’t really help Manitoba’s mosquito-plague image though. Technically the bugs are harmless but keep reading for what they do to the mind.

They arise from the lake in swarms and cling to anything that is vertical. That includes walls, windows, doors, trees, blades of grass and people. Anything outside on the deck is uncomfortable. Mowing is impossible since they rise like one of the biblical plagues, in brown swarms, clinging to anything, including yours truly. One of their favourite tricks is to fly between my glasses and my eyes and to stay there, flapping their wings, and twitching their bodies and ovipositors. Eventually, in about a second my sight is gone. Mowing stops to clean my glasses. I then start the mower, resume mowing, two seconds later eyeballs coated with fishflies, stop mowing. Repeat until I realise how foolish this stop-start process is and call it a day. Stupid fishflies have won this round! Stupid me sometimes takes an hour to realise the exercise in futility. I don’t think this is my fault though. I think the flies transfer some of their stupidity to me by some magical or chemical process.

Fishflyus Nuisanscus quazillionus

Fishflyus Nuisanscus quazillionus

They get everywhere inside the house usually piggy-backing one one’s clothes if one is foolish enough to go outside. Months later we will find their corpses in closets, drawers, bookshelves. Cleaning them is tricky. If they are fresh and alive they make a thick, black, greasy, smear when wiped up. The smear is semi-permanent. The buggers also moult leaving dessicated shells hanging on everything. When they die one understands why they are called “fish”-flies. They stink like dead fish, adding a coastal, nasal hum to the atmosphere.

This year is not considered a “bad” year. No need to shovel them off the sidewalks and out of the doorways. Their numbers are considered a sign of a healthy lake. Hmmm. I’m getting mixed feelings about cleaning up the lake.

Nature Rebounds

9 Oct

It’s quite amazing how nature compensates to stay in balance. This past summer was clear, hot and dry, fortunately not drought conditions. The days were long and balmy. October has changed all that what with snow, rain, cloud and constant rain. Plans to get on the roof to prune overhanging branches and to clean the eaves had to be put on hold. I have no plans on being blown off the roof and becoming a stupidity statistic. Also, the wet has delayed plans to mulch leaves and grass as a final cut for the lawn. So I will have to try this week. I will have to put up the snow fence over the  septic field and use some of the leaves to catch snow to form insulation over the field and connecting water lines. I’ll also have to bag some of the leaves to cover the water line from the well head. No point in taking chances of a freeze up. I have used straw in the past but find that leaves work just as well and do not have the disposal problems of straw. Some of the straw will be used as mulch in the vegetable garden. I will not be raking and bagging all the leaves as in previous years. Last year I bagged 63 giant size bags. Mulching and insualtion seem much more practical and result in less blisters and no sore back.

After the snow and frost I had to pick the last of the spaghetti squash and swiss chard. The squash had hardened nicely. The chard surprised me in that it was still growing. Hardy stuff. The zucchini, summer squash, had died off weeks ago. Wimpy by comparison.

The driveway is turning into a gravel pit and occasional mud bath. The gravel here can turn into a sticky gumbo that does not want to let go of shoes and cars. Does wonders for hardwood floors. It seems to find its way into the house no matter how careful you are.

Deer in the Garden

Female Spruce Grouse Coming Out of the Conifers in the Garden

Larger local wildlife is becoming more evident. Deer have not been as visible over the summer as they have been in previous years. The principal evidence has been the decapitation of plants in the flower garden and multiple scat deposits on the grass. With the snow their tracks can now be easily seen. Next year the grass will grow extra thick wherever they have pooped. Small flocks of female spruce grouse wander out of the conifer wind breaks. Birds seem extra cautious since we have at least one resident bald eagle scouting the area.One delight of the season is the fall supper. Last weekend we went to one in Riverton. Two weekends from now we will go to one at Camp Arnes. The food amount and quality is amazing. So much for the diet.