The Four-Letter S-Word

The four-letter S-word:  Snow.  Yep, that’s an expletive around here.

Growing up on the Canadian prairies, snow and bitter winter cold were simple facts of life.  We dressed appropriately and respected the danger; but unless the temperature sank to -40 we carried on.

When I was in my twenties I moved to Calgary, Alberta, and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.  There was still cold winter weather, but it was regularly punctuated with chinook thaws where the temperature rose above freezing.


Years ago my dad and step-mom used to spend the winter in Victoria, BC.  I visited them frequently, and it never snowed.

Later, Hubby and I came to central Vancouver Island once or twice a year for ten years or so.  We visited in all the “winter” months, and it never snowed.  (Okay, once we saw about an inch, but it melted the next day.)

So after thirty years in Calgary we decided to move to Vancouver Island where ‘it never snows’.

Yeah, right.  We got suckered.

Last winter was the coldest and snowiest on record.  We had about two feet of snow on our yard, and it stayed for a couple of months.

But, hey, that was an anomaly, right?


Guess what happened last week?

Yep, about ten inches of sh-… I mean, snow.

Vancouver Island doesn’t deal well with snow, and often the power goes out when the weather is bad.

Fortunately, we knew this.  We’ve wired our house so we can switch over to generator power if necessary.  And it was necessary:  we lost power four times, for several hours each time.

When I was a teenager, our prairie farm was hit by a three-day-long blizzard.  The power went off the first day and was finally restored five days later.  The roads were impassable.  If we hadn’t been prepared, everything in our house would have frozen, including us.

So last week when the snow came down and the lights went out, my brain flipped into DEFCON 1:  “AWOOGA!  AWOOGA!  EXTREME HAZARD!  ALL HANDS ON DECK!”

I scurried around lighting candles, dragging out my big goose down duvet, and helping Hubby get the generator deployed; all the while knowing that WE WILL DIE IF THE GENERATOR QUITS!  What if we run out of gas?  We don’t have our wood-burning backup furnace installed yet, OMIGOD WE’RE GONNA DIE!

Um, no.

The temperature was barely below freezing.  There was no wind.  And even if the roads had been impassable and we had no heat source at all, our neighbours’ place is less than a quarter-mile away.  If we had actually managed to die, it would have been from sheer stupidity.

So maybe eventually I’ll get over my knee-jerk panic over winter power outages; but that sh-… um, snow… is still sticking around.  And it’s barely November.

We’ve been had.


P.S.  To be considered a true Islander I have to complain about the snow, but I’m secretly enjoying the pretty white sparkles.  This is the best of both worlds:  I can enjoy the snowscape in my yard, and if I need a break I can drive ten minutes to the coast where the grass is (usually) green and the ocean waves keep rolling in.  Paradise!  🙂

P.P.S Just because I needed a bit more stress in my life, my web host has gone belly-up, taking all my websites and email addresses with it.  If you’ve tried to email me, I apologize – your email has probably vanished into cyberspace.  I hope to be back in action with a new host by tomorrow.  Watch this space for updates…

Update:  I think (hope) everything’s working again… *fingers crossed*

Winter Is Cancelled Due To Lack Of Interest

Well, the groundhogs have spoken, and I choose to believe them even though their accuracy rate has only been about 37% in the past. (It’s still better than random chance, which is 33% according to an internet article I found… but then again, statistics are made up on the spot about 80% of the time.)

Still, we clever humans only manage to forecast the weather accurately about 40% of the time around here, so the groundhogs aren’t doing too badly.

You have to wonder about the science of weather prediction when a burrowing rodent is as likely to be right as a high-tech computer, but it’s really not the computer’s fault. In our crazy little microclimate around Calgary, our weather guys and gals can predict pretty much anything and get it both right and wrong in the same day. So why shouldn’t a groundhog have a go at it?

And speaking of ‘having a go at it’, I was disillusioned to discover that Groundhog Day isn’t the innocent G-rated celebration we’ve been led to believe. Nope, it’s all about sex. Apparently groundhogs aren’t taking their weather-related responsibilities seriously; they’re just scoping out the chicks. I feel so betrayed. *sigh*

Our two most famous Canadian groundhogs, Shubenacadie Sam and Wiarton Willie, disagreed on whether we’re going to get more winter. Nova Scotia’s Sam says it’s over, and Ontario’s Willie insists otherwise. So if you live in Ontario, you’d better keep your willie warm – it’s gonna be nippy out there.

But we redneck westerners are instinctively suspicious of anything that comes out of Ontario. Them gummint folks ain’t to be trusted. In fact, if you scroll down to the ‘Death and further scandals’ section on Wiarton Willie’s Wiki (try saying that five times fast) you can see why we weally wonder about Willie.

So out here, we consulted our own oracle: Balzac Billy, AKA ‘The Prairie Prognosticator’.

Balzac is a small town just north of Calgary, and for those of you who are thinking, “Wait a minute; groundhogs don’t live around there”, well… you’re right. Balzac Billy is a guy in a groundhog suit.

Which raises a few unwholesome questions if you consider the rodents’ true motivation for leaving their burrows; but what the hell. The search for female company will bring most males out of their burrows. If a guy can attract the ladies despite being dressed as a giant rodent, more power to him.

But back to the weather forecast. Billy agreed with Sam: Winter is over here. And I think he may be right – winter never really got started this year (unless you count the snow we had last August, but we’re trying to forget that).

And anyhow, even if Billy and Sam are wrong, it could be worse. Winnipeg’s groundhog died last week, so it looks as though they’re stuck with winter forevermore. At least they’re used to it out there.

And groundhogs or not, we still have Environment Canada to give us all a healthy dose of delusional dreams.

What’s the weather like where you are?

It’s Gonna Be A Long Winter

Well, it’s that time of year again. The time when we question our sanity in living where we do.

Saturday was nice and sunny with temperatures in the high teens (that’s low 70s for you Fahrenheit folks), and Hubby took the motorcycle out for one last ride. Sunday we had six inches of snow and last night the temperature was -27 with the wind chill.

We knew winter was coming. We’re not shocked.  But the longer we live here, the more we start talking about other places we could live.  The problem is that other than the cold and snow, we can’t think of a better place.

Well, okay; the cold and snow and the fact that there are large animals here that would like to eat us. Grizzly bears and cougars and such.  They’re not really an issue in the city, but when we’re out at our garden in the country, they’re a threat.

Hubby and I considered and discarded a few options.

Tropical beaches have a special allure when our world is cold and white, but then there are the problems of jellyfish and sharks and undertows and red tide and hurricanes and tsunamis, which are probably of negligible concern to the people who actually live there, but they seem pretty scary to us.

And most places with warm tropical beaches also have giant bugs. And the giant bugs often occupy houses where we might want to live.  This is an issue for at least one of us.

I grew up in a farmhouse that was infested by big black crickets all summer long, and crickets eat everything. Including your underwear in the laundry bin.  I had crotchless panties at an age where I couldn’t imagine why anybody would want them.  So my bug tolerance is slightly higher than Hubby’s, but I still have no desire to cohabitate with bugs.  Ever.  Again.

Then there’s the whole snake issue. Here in Canada even our venomous snakes are polite.  We only have four kinds, and they’d all prefer to avoid humans if possible.  They keep to themselves in a few small geographic areas, and even if you manage to find one and convince it to bite you, you probably won’t die.

Not like some of the warmer climes where you can take your choice between being fatally bitten or fatally squished by a mind-boggling variety of reptiles. I’ve heard Hawaii doesn’t have snakes, but then again, they’ve got volcanoes and lava flows.  One way or another, something’s gonna sneak up and swallow you when you least expect it.

And if you go really far afield, there’s a whole ‘nother set of man-eating critters licking their chops. Oh, with tropical diseases thrown in as a bonus.

Having exhausted our discussion of alternate places to live, our kitchen table conversation swerved to this:

Hubby: Wouldn’t it be nice to just put all the big predators on an island somewhere so we wouldn’t have to worry about them?  I wonder who’d win in a fight between a grizzly bear and a lion?

Me: Cage match!  I’d put my money on the grizzly.

Hubby: How about a grizzly bear and a polar bear?  Polar bears are bigger than grizzlies.

Me: Yeah, but polar bears only hunt wussy stuff like seals and humans.  No claws or teeth or anything.  Grizzlies are mean mo-fos.  They kill other bears.

Hubby: Hm.  Yeah.  How about…

*discussion continues*

Yep, only three cold days and already cabin fever is setting in. It’s gonna be a long winter.

Please help us out: Where’s the ideal place to live?

Snow Fun

For those who weren’t privy to my whining on Facebook this weekend, we just had a foot of snow:

may snow

Eight inches after the first twelve hours. Drinks on the deck are postponed until further notice.

It’s depressing to get snow in May, but it’s not unheard-of here in Calgary.  And I’d rather have it now than in the middle of August… which has also happened:

I built this guy on August 20, 1992.

I built this guy on August 20, 1992.

Aside from griping of epic proportions, Calgarians have more or less ignored the snow and gotten on with life.  After all, we know it’ll probably snow again in a couple of weeks – it’s practically a tradition to get snow on the May long weekend.  But it’s okay, because snowbanks are a great place to keep your beer nice and frosty while you’re camping.

(Yes, we’re Canadian.  We push our lawn chairs into the snowbanks and sit around the campfire drinking cold beer on the long weekend regardless of the weather.)

The funny part is that the snow was preceded by rain, and it was the rain that totally messed people up.  You’d think it had never rained before.  Drivers bumbled through red lights, turned from the wrong lane, inexplicably slowed to a crawl in the middle of the road, and generally made me wish for a crate of Zombie Bullets and a Gatling gun.  I don’t know what it is about rain that makes Calgary drivers so painfully stupid, but my best guess is that IQ points are water-soluble.  Lucky it doesn’t rain very often here.

Someone once said, “Marriage is all about give and take:  Give blame; take credit”, so I blamed Hubby for the snow.

In the first place, he fired up the motorcycle a few weeks ago, which is a sure-fire way to make it snow.  Then he started talking about outdoor archery tournaments, and our fate was sealed.

I did my best to trick the weather into thinking it was okay to warm up:  I left my snow tires on the car and the snow shovels by the back door.  But it wasn’t enough.  Hubby’s bad juju trumped my feeble efforts.

Interestingly, the only time Hubby ever has bad luck with weather is here at home.  When we’re travelling, he’s a good-luck charm.  We often visit Vancouver Island in the middle of winter, and its coastal winter climate dictates rain, rain, and more rain.  But any time we’ve gone, the weather turns nice as soon as we get there.

We even went to Tofino in the middle of December:  prime storm-watching time.  But not for us.  It was raining a bit when we got there in the late afternoon.  The next morning the sun came out, wispy clouds floated across a blue, blue sky, and the rufous hummingbirds came out to dance a ballet on the sunbeams.  It was Disney as far as the eye could see.

“Storm-watching” at Tofino.

“Storm-watching” at Tofino.

And speaking of Disney, yesterday I discovered the true culprit behind our dump of snow.  Apparently the morning of the big snowfall, one of my employees’ little granddaughters stared out at the white-coated world before turning wide eyes up to her mother.

“Mommy!” she exclaimed, “My frost magic must have leaked out while I was sleeping!”

So now I know who’s to blame, but she’s so darn cute I’d feel like an ogre if I did.  And that’s snow fun.

* * *

P.S. If you want to connect on Facebook, the link is over in the right-hand column of the page.  I promise I don’t usually whine… but you’ll be subjected to whatever silliness falls out of my head.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Love My Beaver!

Well, it’s time for another “proud to be Canadian” blog post.  In previous years, my national pride has been stimulated by achievements such as world-champion profanity and the world’s fastest motorized toilet.

Fitting neatly into the topic of stimulation, this year I had originally planned to point out that we Canadians are a sexy bunch.  A recent study showed we indulge in lots of interesting bedroom shenanigans, with threesomes being a popular choice.  After all, it’s cold outside a lot of the time, so what else are we going to do?  But my favourite statistic from the study was this:  apparently 8% of Canadians have had sex in a canoe.

There’s one for my bucket list.  Fortunately, they didn’t specify that the canoe had to be on water to qualify, ‘cause Hubby can’t swim.  I’d offer to keep you posted on our progress, but I’m sure you’d rather not know.  So moving right along…

I had also considered informing birders that Canada is home to the little-known Kiki bird.  Although it’s an extremely common bird, most people in warmer climes have never encountered one.  The Kiki can be spotted year-round in extreme northern Canada, and throughout most of the country during the winter months.

It’s a very large bird, completely flightless, and its plumage varies through every colour of the rainbow, making it impossible to determine its gender at a glance.  You might think this would make it difficult to achieve a positive identification, but it’s instantly recognizable by its distinctive call:  “Ki-ki-ki-riiist, it’s cold!”

All you have to do is step outside whenever the temperature dips below -20 and you’re likely to hear at least one.  Go out in -30 or colder, and you’re guaranteed to hear a chorus.

The Kiki bird (winter plumage)

The Kiki bird (winter plumage)

Either of those things would have been worthy of a “national pride” blog post, but today I’m gratified to report our most significant achievement yet:  everybody sucks the ass of our national animal.

No, seriously.

My blogging buddy Murr Brewster pointed it out back in October, and she’s not even Canadian.  I was buried in writing the final chapters of Book 7 at the time, but it’s one of those things I just have to bring to the attention of my readers, even if I’m a little behind (sorry).

It’s true.  Beaver bum goop (actual words used by National Geographic’s columnist) is used in perfumes and as a food component, particularly in vanilla flavourings.  And beaver butt smells good.  I realize there’s a significant segment of the population that has always insisted beaver smells and/or tastes good; but I always kinda thought it was a subjective and largely gender-based opinion.  Now I stand corrected.  NatGeo says it’s yummy, so I defer to their expertise.

A couple of years ago, one of our senators had the temerity to insult our national animal and suggest we should change it to the polar bear instead.  The backlash was swift and overwhelmingly negative, and no wonder.

After all, what other country can boast that its national animal is industrious, a stellar structural engineer, a devoted spouse, peaceable when left to its own devices, and a formidable fighter when provoked?

In every sense of the expression, its shit doesn’t stink.

Yep, I’m proud to be a Canadian!