Saturday, June 30, 2012

Prairie Travels

Three intrepid travellers headed across the prairies last week. 

The journey, according to Google maps if you ask for directions from Falkland to Winnipeg,  should be 1,885 km.

If, however, there is a mudslide covering the TransCanada Highway at Perry River, the itinerary goes off track from the get-go. One must cross the Monashees via Cherryville, cross Arrow Lake via the Needles Ferry, lunch at Nakusp, take the Galena Bay Ferry and the arrive at Revelstoke. Google Maps tells me the journey is now 2,149 km east.

If I tell you that it was pouring rain most of that day and all of the next two (with occasional episodes of lightning, torrential rain and hail), you'll understand why there are no photos available. 

Lunch at Bassano, AB. Overnight at Swift Current, SK. Winnipeg the following day.

Bryan and I went on a nostalgia tour (for him) of Headingley and area. The road below is returning from a jaunt to the farmstead where the family lived for a few years.

You'll note there's little (no) gravel on this road. Also that the photo is heading east, not west, because on the way out this road, I was too mad to take pics, and on the way back, I wanted proof of where he took his mom's car.

We laughed later - well, he laughed at the time (at me more than the road) and then both of us as mud flew everywhere as the car gained speed on the paved highway.

Manitoba prairie near Headingley.

When it isn't raining, this is the prairie in summer. Beautiful.

Oh, and we didn't get stuck because (a) the road wasn't the gumbo clay we lived with up north for 25 years, which conditioned me to avoid wet ungravelled dirt roads like the plague, and (b) mom carries a luck horseshoe in her car at all times. Truth.

This cairn should be of particular interest to anyone who uses and/or understands the grid survey system used across the prairies and NW BC. It's on the TransCanada Highway just west of Headingley.

While in Winnipeg, Mom stayed with her brother while we bunked with friends Marc and Gail ....

... and Jack (Jacque? Didn't ask the spelling), the inexhaustable Golden Retriever X Poodle.

We spent a few days meeting new friends, like Betty (L) with Gail, and long-time friends (photos to follow).

We took the siblings on a day trip to Steinbach, La Broquerie and Marchand. Uncle Stan sports his jaunty hat while Bryan escorts his mom over the rough terrain, 'visiting' family in a rather obvious location.

Note the sunny blue sky? The weather was absolutely perfect for three days.

Shaw Park Winnipeg. Winnipeg Goldeyes vs Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks

We went to a Winnipeg Goldeyes game with Gail, Marc and Yvonne. What a perfect evening! and to top it off, the Goldeyes beat their archrivals, the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks, in classic fashion: top of the 9th with Fargo at bat, two out, full count, runners on 2nd and 3rd bases, and the Wpg pitcher strikes him out in three pitches!

The remarkable building under construction in the background is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. It will be a stunning place when done.

The night before our departure for places west, Gail and Marc hosted a great party of old-time friends. Above are René and Marc,



and several others who were either camera-shy or not likely to appreciate the photos I did manage to get of them (not all photos are flattering of even the most attractive people!).

At 2 am Bryan was already long a-bed and I reluctantly informed Gail that I really did need to get at least four hours sleep before it was time to collect Mom and head out!

Saskatchewn: "Easy to Draw, Hard to Spell"

We stopped at Moosomin for lunch with brother James, then Grenfell for an overnight visit with sister-in-law Linda. Too tired for photos, but a nice walk through an area filled with grand old homes.

TransCanada Highway looking east near Tilley, AB

I would say this is a representative shot of the road both - either - way for much of the trip east of Calgary.

Near Tilley, AB

And the landscape. I can with full authority, however, tell you that it's just outside Tilley, Alberta.

And if you think there's nothing to see ... well!

We saw five horse running along a ridge at Jumping Pound, manes and tails streaming behind them, profiled against a dramatic skyline.

We saw four pronghorn sneaking through a wire fence, trying to avoid attention.

We saw three jack rabbits with their giant ears alert, tuning in to the sounds on the air like TV antenna.

We saw two Canada geese teaching their goslings how to swim in line with military precision.

And we saw one long expanse of beautiful open countryside that takes my breath away and can't be matched anywhere else in the world. (I might be a wee bit biased on that last point.)

West of Tilley, then north of Hwy 1, you will eventually come to this lovely location, home of brother Scott and his smokin' hot wife Pam (just ask him, he'll tell you.)

From their home, there is a panoramic view of southern Alberta in almost every direction, and the Rockies straight ahead in this pic (which you won't see well in this particular photo as it was taken very early in the morning with weak light and heavy humidity, but they were certainly visible in real life).

I spent a lot of road time reading, doing Sudoku or working on a quilt. Got the binding done on the way out, then marked the pattern and started the quilting in Winnipeg.

I was asked how small the stitches are (a mark of pride in hand quilters). This shot shows the needle poking through my wedding ring, and stitches already set in a line beside it.

It was great to be on the road, lovely to see friends but it's always wonderful to be home again.

Especially when these beauties great you at the door.

Going to be great when the whole group of them comes into bloom over the next month.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Wandering Through the Garden

The rain continues to fall. Friday was the sole respite, bright and sunny.

With the rain comes strong winds, and one of the bearded iris was a victim of the wind. While out on aphid and spit bug patrol Tuesday night, I found the broken stem and brought it in the house, trimmed it and popped it in a vase of water.

Thursday, it blessed us with a display of its glory, opening steadily as we watched:

This is its mother plant out in the front yard:

And so I went wandering through the yard Thursday evening between rain showers. 

More German bearded iris, these ones in the southwest corner keeping company with Marguerite daisies, sedum and many other plants yet to come into their own:

Did you have a Grandpa like mine who told you the Legend of the Bleeding Heart while gently pulling apart one of these fascinating flowers? 

Grandpa was an old cowboy who also taught me all the verses to The Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Spider ('That wriggled and wiggled and tickled inside 'er").

The front yard along the retaining wall, looking southeast. Remember photos from 4 years ago when this was bare soil, stones and weeds? Now there are common iris, meadow rue, Jacob's ladder, common lilac, butterfly bush, gooseberry, Marguerite daisy, columbine, Siberian iris, knautia, tomatoes and soapwort visible in just this shot:

Soapwort, creeping thyme, and dianthus in pink bloom. Don't make me list all the others in this bed - it's pretty full of stuff. The lavender is a favorite spit bug target this season:

Shifting just to the left from the photo above, with the stunning iris in front that starting this wandering:

Looking up (north) towards the house; the white posts and lines are electric fence, detering deer from the many roses in the foreground:

Now a 90 degree swing to the right, facing east, and a view of the new house under construction (its rear lot line abuts our east lot line):

Back to flowers, much nicer to contemplate instead of new houses:

I prefer red columbine but somehow I've got more purple ones. Lots of pink and purple in the yard at present, perfect for bees and butterflies:

Pink again, this time the lupins. I have (had) scarlett red ones, not yet in bloom, and there are deep blue ones along the west side of the house:

I'm so proud of my Japanese maple that survived the winter! And it's gorgeous right now:

The weigela gets smaller every year (the Bernie Golany School of Horticulture method - she's gonna flip when she reads that) but still pops with lovely blooms:

The west (cool, shaded) side of the house is lush with bleeding hearts, lily of the valley, ostrich fern, astilbe, hostas, Japanese lantern, lilacs of several varieties, coral bells, lupins, delphinium, Siberian iris and yellow iris:

I adore Icelandic poppies. They are definitely childhood plans. I'm always excited to see the colours that come from their cross-pollination:

This crossbreed is the most delicate peach:

Lush is definitely the by-word with all this rain. The sorrel has become a force to be reckoned with: 

Rhubarb doesn't need much encouragement to turn into a garden giant:

And I'm thinking some of you outside Canada may not know rhubarb. On the prairies, it was called Pie Plant because its main use was in rhubarb pie. It's the stems that are eaten; the leaves are poisonous:

and enormous (that's a size 7, Euro size 38, flipflop on the leaf), and this isn't even a really big leaf:

One neighbour, not a gardener but always keenly interested in mine, gingerly asked Bryan why I'd left these weeds in the vegetable patch:

"Not weeds," he assured her with all the confidence of one who's been trained by a rabid gardener, "Those are sunflowers, planted by the birds, and she leaves them there on purpose." 

Which is true. Back in the day, when a 2000 sq.ft. vegetable garden kept my family fed all year round, I was more disciplinary about such goings-on, but now I'm pretty laid back about the situation.

The sisal twine with bells is deer-deterent, and it works - mule deer don't like surprises:

So I've taken you down around the front of the house, up the west side and to the veggie patch out back, and you've only seen half the yard and plantings, but that's enough for now. 

Coming around the corner, I see the garage door open (and the garage in full summer mode, meaning no room for the car - obviously):

And then the reason the door is open - Bryan returning from an ice cream run to our little store, because there's bumbleberry pie for dessert and - horrors! - no ice cream to go with it:

I have a week vacation time coming up. Bryan and I are taking his mom on a trek across the prairies on a pilgimage to Steinbach, Manitoba. Google Maps directions informs me it's 1,949 km from Vernon to Steinbach, with a driving time of 23 hours, 4 minutes. (Really? 4 minutes?) We'll be in Revy Sunday, to depart early Monday morning.

My intention is to cross Saskatchewan and the White Horse Plains in the back of Mom's car, working on a baby quilt for Niece Jolene. Can you imagine anything more perfect yet fraught with danger than spending a road trip with one's spouse and mother-in-law while having sharp sewing implements to hand?!

Gonna be great.