Thursday, June 02, 2011

E-I-E-I-O (May 30)

It's been raining a lot in southern Alberta this year (northern Alberta is, ironically, experiencing forest fires) which has turned numerous fields more or less into lakes. I snapped this picture (at about 9:00 PM, mind you) on our way to Auntie Colleen's farm:

The gold stuff is last year's wheat stubble. The blue stuff, you probably guessed, is water (except for the sky). And this wasn't an uncommon sight on the drive. I saw more ducks than I've ever seen in my life. They're having a heyday with all this water around!

Uncle LeRon's property has not escaped the lake effect and is fighting to drain water away from his fields before they morph permanently into lakes. What a headache—and that isn't the only headache he's had. Luckily, being on the farm is fun...headache or no headache.

First thing in the morning, while everyone else was having breakfast, Uncle LeRon went to check on the tractors. Andrew wanted to do a little agro-tourism since he has only ever been to the Torrie's farm once (and that was only overnight on our way to Heather Leavitt's wedding four years ago). He burst into the house yelling for Eric to come out and help him. 

A family of raccoons had made a nest in the combine and had made a mess of the engine. He was pretty upset about it. They loaded the shotgun and set off with a trap baited with marshmallows. They were able to scare off the mother raccoon long enough to kidnap her babies and set the trap. Craig carted the raccoon cubs to the house so that we could all gawk at them. There were six in total and I thought they were rather cute.

They were so young that their eyes hadn't opened yet and they kept calling pitifully for their mother (and each other; they quieted down quite a bit once Craig returned the sixth baby to the bucket).

I thought this little guy was particularly adorable, the way he was all curled up and nearly sucking on his toes. Craig described them as being part kitten, part puppy, part otter, part mouse. I think he forgot part possum. Raccoons, apparently, are related closer to bears than anything else...

A little frog hopped out from the bushes to investigate what all the noise was about. 

And later when we were carrying them out to the fields to have Eric carry out their rapture (he's the only one with a strong enough stomach for such tasks) we saw some owls perched on a silo. Craig jokingly called out to the owl, "Here's breakfast! Come and get it!" but we didn't actually leave the raccoons for the owl because we didn't want them to have to starve to death before the owls got to them.

It was just a good day for wildlife.

Miriam, on the other hand, found it to be a good day for rocks. She could hardly decide which ones to pick up; there were just so many!

I took a picture of Andrew in front of his first combine. "Hey!" he remarked, "There's one of these in Cars!"

They even got to go up inside the cab of the combine, which was thrilling, I'm sure. In the past I've spent hours and hours driving around in a combine, keeping my cousins company during harvest, so I didn't feel the need to try out the cab.

Miriam was brave enough to sit in the tire, but only after Auntie Josie showed her it was safe. Rachel wouldn't go near the tire and screamed and thrashed about every time we tried to convince her that it was a cute photo op.

We also took turns riding on the self-driving tractor. It has a computer program inside that will guide the tractor in whatever pattern you set it for. Farming sure is different than what it was when my Grandpa was farming!

We spent most of the day outside, even though it was cold and windy.

My cousins and aunt and uncle built a great play structure a few years back; it's a ship that they called The Dawn Treader (yes, after the boat in the Chronicles of Narnia). The girls had a great time playing make believe that we were surrounded by sharks.

I was impressed that Miriam could climb into the boat by herself. Rachel could not only climb up, she would also jump off. I was the only one brave enough to climb up to the crow's nest, though. I only managed to convince Rachel to climb up to the upper deck once; she can be a little timid.

At one point my mom and Auntie Colleen were outside playing with us. They were only half-playing, truthfully, because they were also half-chatting. Part way through a conversation, Auntie Colleen's attention was grabbed by Rachel screaming about sharks, and Auntie Colleen said, "Quick! Run to...ummm..." then she turned to my mom with a look of complete confusion on her face and said, "What's your name again?"

I couldn't help but burst out laughing. 

"Well, I think you should know my name," my mom answered, "You probably knew it before even I knew it."

"No! I know your name!" Auntie Colleen said, "I mean your grandma name! I can never remember what it is!"


"Right. Quick! Run to Naanii!"

Miriam thought it was funny when I explained to her that Naanii and Auntie Colleen were sisters.

"Sisters!?" she laughed, "Sisters cuddle!"

I'm really not sure why she found it so entirely funny, but she finds a lot of things hilarious that I don't.

Miriam had an especially good time playing in the sandbox with those sisters.

She had on a onesie, two sweaters, and a pair of pants and she still managed to get sand in her diaper!


I really shouldn't be surprised by that, should I?

Everyone enjoyed riding on the four-wheelers, especially Andrew. I'm not sure it would be an over exaggeration to say he was out riding for hours. He was out there for at least one hour, probably more.

Josie was, as well.

And even I took a turn driving one, by myself. First time ever. I hate driving. And I hated driving the four-wheeler. I didn't take a very long turn. BUT! I took one, so that's something.

Miriam had a ride with Daddy and she loved it. 

This one time when Josie was (much) younger, we took a trip out to San Diego to visit my Auntie Arlene and we went to the beach while we were there. You could hear Josie laughing over the roar of the waves. Likewise, you could hear Miriam laughing over the roar of the motor. She had a blast!

When it was time for her to give up her seat to Rachel, she was loathe to do so. When Daddy sped off with Rachel, Miriam called out after him, "Daaaaddyyyy! SHARE! MEME!"

She was not happy to have her turn end but Rachel was excited to have her turn begin. Andrew said she was even using the throttle by herself once she figured out where it was; she wanted to go faster!

Andrew and I rode out to a field with Eric and Josie to check the level of water. That was a bad idea for Andrew, who is much-loved by mosquitoes. They were swarming all over him; a cloud was following him around while we were zipping around on the four-wheeler. He had dozens of bites! I got one or two. No one else got any. That's how much mosquitoes love Andrew.

His wrists swelled up so much that he could hardly move them by Wednesday morning. They're much better now.

He insists that we have tiger mosquitoes in Alberta, because they had stripes on them. I don't deny the mosquitoes were striped, and there are 43 (or 44) different species of mosquitoes in Alberta, but the tiger mosquito is not one of them—they seem to be only in the southern States, and only since 2007.

Still, mosquitoes are a huge problem in Canada; mosquito season is so bad it's almost a national joke.

Uncle David, Auntie Josie, Craig, and Eric went out to set up some pumps in the field. Andrew did not because he was afraid of being carried off by a swarm of mosquitoes (with good reason). Then they turned on the combine so they could park it and Craig suggested they run the thresher to get out all of last year's leftovers. Suddenly the machine started to whine and jolt. They turned it off and poked around until they found...the mother raccoon.

They failed to catch her using a marshmallow as bait. They failed to catch her using one of her babies as bait (although she did eat half of it through the bars of the trap; what a kind mother). The combine, however, took care of her for them. 

Building a nest inside a machine wasn't exactly the best idea in the world in the first place. It was bound to end up an ugly mess eventually. We're all just happy that the entire raccoon family is together again. 

Everyone went inside for dinner—I guess looking at that dead raccoon made us hungry...or not—except for Josie who was put to work mowing the lawn. When Naanii told Rachel that Auntie Josie was mowing the lawn, Rachel asked if she could see so Naanii took her to the window. Rachel looked outside and said, "Where's Auntie Josie? I don't see her."

"She's right there on that tractor," said Naanii.

"That doesn't look like Josie," said Rachel.

"Well, it is Josie," Naanii told her.

After dinner we had singing time for FHE. We sang Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam and Once There Was a Snowman more times than I'd care to mention. We also sang some regular hymns, including Love at Home, which Uncle LeRon called the "clenched teeth" song. Auntie Colleen was known to sing that (through clenched teeth) whenever her children were fighting.

We put the girls to bed and then waited up to look at the starry sky uninhibited by the light pollution of the city. Unfortunately we got tired before it got dark enough to see the stars (we waited up until nearly midnight but it still wasn't dark enough to be breathtaking). That will have to wait until we go up in the winter (because then you only have to stay awake until six o'clock to have it be pitch black).

The next morning we got up and drove home. And now we're working feverishly to prepare for our next trip. We'll sure be glad when we can be in one place for more than a few days!


  1. What a great trip!!! Those baby raccoons sure were cute. That little (or rather large) ship is awesome! My kids would LOVE it, especially Anthony, since he is everything boat-ish.

    I'm glad you all had a great time in Canada and I look forward to reading about more adventures in the future!

  2. A few corrections:
    1. Craig and I went to put the new insurance tags on all the farm trucks and as he was showing me the new combine, we discovered the raccoon nest.
    2. The raccoons had nested in the rock catcher on the bottom of the combine. They could not be touched by the mechanism even if it got turned on, but they could easily get dumped out by releasing the catch - which we did - and voila, six baby raccoons.
    3. They purposely turned on the combine on slow to kill the mother. It worked in less than a minute.
    4. Craig did not accompany us in doing the pump work, but he was priming the sprayer to get ready for spraying crops the next day.
    5. More times than she cares to mention equals twice each. :)

    It was a really fun day.

  3. Thank you for adding your details, though your version, naturally, differs from what I heard from Uncle LeRon, Eric, and Craig. But that's why history is beautiful; for, "to know the truth of history is to realize its ultimate myth and its inevitable ambiguity."

    (Roy P. Basler...hopefully)

  4. I detest mosquitoes for the same reason that Andrew does.