Puddles!

We have puddles! *does happy dance*

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’re undoubtedly studying that first sentence and trying to figure out where to find the double entendre.  That’s a valid and downright laudable reaction.  If you find one, I hope you’ll share it – I do love a good double entendre!  But that wasn’t actually my intention (for a change).

No; this post is in celebration of spring.  It’s my favourite time of year – crocuses and tulips and daffodils peek out, the grass turns green, the birds come home, it snows two feet… you know; the usual stuff.

Back in arid Calgary, spring puddles are fleeting – the snow seems to evaporate instead of melting.  But here on the coast we have good old-fashioned puddles that bring back delightful childhood memories.

I grew up on a prairie farm where the terrain was dead-flat for miles.  That and our heavy clay/gumbo soil made it prime puddle territory.  Venice had nothing on us.  I remember riding the school bus along our country road and looking out at water as far as the eye could see, neatly divided into a one-mile grid by the raised road allowances that were the highest point on the prairies (and only a foot or two higher than the water level).

Every kid had a pair of rubber boots:  the taller the boots, the better.  Puddle-wading was both art and science.  We learned about refraction early – the place you thought you were stepping wasn’t always where your foot ended up.  The penalty for that was a boot full of icy water, which didn’t dampen our enthusiasm at all.  It was a sport to see how far we could wade into a puddle before we filled our boots.

We also had a small inflatable dinghy that we could row across our puddles (we had serious puddles on the farm).  And there were always ditches full of water that required all sorts of digging in the mud to produce complex drainage trenches and dams.

Sometimes it turned cold enough to freeze the puddles hard.  That was prime ice-skating:  glassy-smooth, with grass and fallen leaves locked below the surface as if cast in crystal.  But it was always tricky to determine whether the ice was strong enough to bear our weight… which brings to mind another favourite sound:  a slow ominous creak followed by the buzzing crack of ice failing, usually accompanied by squeals and splashing.

I still love going out in the early morning when temperatures are below freezing.  Overnight some of the puddle-water seeps into the ground, leaving a white fragile ice shell floating over empty air.  There’s nothing like the sharp hollow sound it makes when stepped on – it’s almost as addictive as popping bubble wrap!

At 52 years old, you’d think I’d have developed enough dignity to leave the puddles alone; but nope.  Not even close.  I’m still incapable of walking by a shell of ice without breaking it, and last week I went out and bought myself a pair of tall rubber boots that’ll make me the envy of every kid in town.

I’m going out to play in the puddles now… how about you?

P.S. Here on the coast I’ve discovered a ‘new-to-me’ type of spring ice: long silky filaments that form as water is pushed up out of sodden soil into freezing temperatures. How cool is that? (Literally.) ;-)

P.S. Here on the coast I’ve discovered a ‘new-to-me’ type of spring ice: long silky filaments that form as water is pushed up out of sodden soil into freezing temperatures. How cool is that? (Literally.) 😉

 

24 Comments

Filed under Commentary, Life

24 responses to “Puddles!

  1. el Tea

    Okay my previous comment was about life in the 1960s through the ’80s. We could count on adequately thick ice for skating the whole lake by late November (US Thanksgiving day) and those with ice houses on the lake had to remove them by March 1st. Soon thereafter the lake ice would turn porous and dark gray as it melted and the lake ice would be totally gone sometime around or after Easter.

    This year at Christmas the ice on lakes had just begun to freeze a fragile thin whisp of ice only thick enough to support birds and there was no snow cover. Yesterday I heard on the news that a large inner city lake was just declared free of ice- a record for early ice-out in Minneapolis. That means this year our winter was shortened by about two months from how it was when I was a child. Still I have two brothers who believe climate change is a leftist myth aimed at causing businesses economic hardships. Only a month and a half of temperatures under freezing? In Minneapolis?! Christmases without snow-cover?! What’s politics have to do with that?

    Okay I’m done ranting.

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  2. el Tea

    That ice formation looks pretty unique. I’ve never seen anything like it before either. I grew up on a small lake. So small that no motorized watercraft was allowed on it, thank God!! Once jet skis were invented they would have been the plague of any otherwise quiet night. There is nothing like a quiet paddle on a lake after dark. As autumn changed to winter our prayers would be that it wouldn’t be snowing or breezy when the lake would freeze over, or else the vibrations from skating over tiny frozen wavelets or sponge textured ice would drive you crazy. Once Dad verified the ice was suitably thick we were allowed to skate the whole lake if we stayed away from where an underground stream fed the lake. Early in the season the skate blades cased minor cracking that would begin underfoot and you’d hear the crack as it expanded all across the lake. Spooky! As sub-zero temperatures took hold in the coldest days of winter you’d hear loud booms as the ice cracked as it expanded (exploded?) into inch wide crevasses in such cold. You could hear it just fine while you burrowed into the covers on your bed. At those temperatures the ice was thick enough to support a parking lot full of pickup trucks, a small neighborhood of little sheds and the semi-frozen nutcases who fished in or near them. I had no reason to believe there were any decent fish to be caught in our little lake. Just bullheads and catfish mostly. By that time there was so much crusty snow covering the ice that the only place to skate was the family rinks adjacent to the homes of people who had any interest in maintaining an ice rink. There were a lot of hockey enthusiasts, but my family’s interest was more figure skating or speed skating. Dad’s interest extended far enough that he ran a trench 300 yards or so from the house to the end of our peninsula to house electricity and speaker cable to put up flood lights and music to skate to. We had a picnic table to use as bench seating to change from boots to skates. There is little colder than sitting on a bench freshly cleared of snow for the time it takes to swap footwear. But still it was pretty magical if someone in the house kept on top of flipping long playing records for you every 15 minutes or so.

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    • Oh, wow, what wonderful memories! Kudos to your dad for making a magical skating experience for you. We used to skate on our dugout in the dead of winter, so I have similar memories – Dad chopping a hole in the ice and pronouncing it safe for skating; the teeth-rattling frozen ripples; and the deep-toned crack-boom of ice settling while we skated. Even though we knew the ice was a foot thick by then, it still scared us!

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  3. Okay, you got puddles. This morning, we got SMOKE! From grass fires 250 miles away! Have I mentioned that it’s dry in these parts? And windy?

    Seriously, what I see outside looks like we’re having fog. But it doesn’t smell like fog. Everyone looks as though they have been crying. Red, puffy eyes, runny noses, the works.

    I’d gladly take puddles. So would the folks up around Amarillo, too, I’d bet.

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    • Oh, yikes! That’s brutal. We had that a couple of times in Calgary for several days at a time and it’s no fun at all. I hope you get a break from it soon… and I hope they get the fires out, too (not necessarily the same thing, I’m guessing).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m an old man; I have puddles. I think you know where this is going.
    Puddle stomping may be a way to cover up the other puddles.
    Hard to explain, though, when it hasn’t rained.

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  5. Like you Diane my childhood springs were spent stomping in puddles, streams and creeks. As you describe the ice cracking I can hear it. No puddles in Calgary yet but I could offer you some ice ruts in the back lane.

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    • I figured that as a Saskatchewan kid you’d relate! 🙂

      And hmm. No, thanks; I’ll pass on the ice ruts. We’ve had enough of the white stuff here this winter. (And they’re predicting more for the weekend. We’re afraid people are going to blame us for bringing it with us.)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, Diane, the memories your post brought back. Our puddle in the yard were nothing. We were in Knob and Kettle country, not the Red River flats like you, so we had sloughs that could run three or four feet deep. One was 1/4 mile from home and we would walk up the road to it and go rafting. Or try. Our rafts were never very floataceous. And we never came home until our rubber boots were full.

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    • I love your word “floataceous”! I think that was part of the joy of rafting… or sinking, as the case may be: It was all about the challenge. Before we got our inflatable dinghy (which was just a cheapo vinyl pool toy about four feet long that was in constant danger of collapse) we spent many happy hours trying to cobble together rafts from scraps of plywood and castoff lumber. I think “Santa Claus” got tired of drying out kids’ boots and clothing so “s/he” gave the dinghy to the three of us to share. I’m not sure if it actually kept us any drier, but it gave us hours of fun!

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  7. The few times I saw that much water when I was a kid on the farm, well, there was big trouble. The land where we lived looked flat, but it wasn’t quite. Small differences in elevation spread over wide areas mean the rain has someplace to go. Barely. Playa lakes, they’re called in these parts. Usually a little water in them most of the year. Sometimes it all dries up, but mostly there’s a little water around somewhere.

    Then it rains. And when the rain comes, the runoff ends up there. And when it REALLY rains, well, they cover more area. Lots more area. Like right up to our back door. While the day before, water’s edge was a solid quarter of a mile away.

    Dad took the tractor to town to get supplies. Nothing else would untrack.

    Upon reflection, there’s not much about farm life that I really miss. 🙂

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    • Wow, that would be scary. As a kid I was oblivious to those sorts of risks, although I don’t think they were as much a concern as your playa lakes. The network of ditches worked pretty efficiently, and there was so much flat area of land that a rise of only a foot or two was enough to keep our buildings dry and laneways passable. We had a good gravelled road out to the main paved highway – I don’t remember ever getting stranded at home because of mud. I guess I wouldn’t be nearly such a fan of puddles if I’d been in your place!

      Liked by 1 person

      • The previous owner of the place had it surveyed when he bought it. And while the surveyors were there, he had them mark the place on the south boundary line that was just higher than the ‘saddle’ in the land that would allow the ‘lake’ on the property to overflow through that saddle to the next low place in the terrain–the neighbor’s playa lake, as it were–that was both deeper and covered a larger area. In other words, if a heavy flood came, the other low place on the neighbor’s property would hold more than his would, even after his overflowed.

        So that’s where he built the house, just on the uphill side of that line. Therefore, the house would not flood. He did good, too. The back door out of the kitchen had water lapping at the wooden steps that led up to it. We know this, because the playa lake overflowed onto the neighbor’s property just before our house would have floated away.

        He might’ve cut it just a little too close. Just sayin’…

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  8. jenny_o

    Oh, I love this post! But are you sure you didn’t misspell L-A-K-E-S? 🙂

    We also played in puddles (ours were tiny compared to yours), dug “rivers” for the water to flow between puddles, etc.

    There are some awesome rubber boots out there these days. We will want pictures 🙂

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    • LOL! Oh, right: L-A-K-E-S. Must’ve been something wrong with my smell chequer. 😉 And I will definitely supply pictures – just have to find a puddle worthy of my new boots! So far I haven’t found anything more than ankle-deep, so I may have to walk into the ocean to get the full effect.

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  9. I remember a lot of mud from my time in Saskatchewan as a child. A lot of snow and a lot of mud. 🙂

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  10. Oh, puddle stomping has become a lost art, to be sure! I miss doing that, and when I do, hubby looks at me like I’ve done lost my mind! But I love the photo you attached, never seen anything quite like that. Totally cool!

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    • My hubby just watches me with a tolerant smile – by now he’s pretty much immune to my oddball behaviour. But I’d never seen anything like that filament ice, either – when I first saw those fibres lying on our site I though somebody had left behind some insulation or something. It took a while before I realized what it actually was!

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