From Loon Lake Road – Cranes head south, hornworms move in

Barbara Hendrick's monthly column of community news and events in Loon Lake.

This month has wrought changes to the landscape in a big way as the leaves on the aspen and cottonwood turn from green to yellow, the wild grasses now are brown and droop to the ground and the pine trees are shedding many old brown needles. Soon the coloured leaves will be gone, revealing the fine network of branches and twigs of the trees skeleton. Vines and some shrubs have gone brilliant red thanks to the frost on Sept 11, followed by many days of sunshine and nice weather.

That first frost day was also the first day I noted the passage of the Sandhill cranes heading back south.  Those were the early travellers. Sept. 27 it must have been their big moving day as there was a constant stream of cranes passing over. It  amazes me that they keep in formation the way they do, all the while making that very crane-like sound that always accompanies my fall gardening chores. One flock must have been dissatisfied with their arrangement and for several minutes I watched as they circled and changed elevation until everyone was once again in a satisfactory position and on they went.  There are very few small birds migrating past; I have seen a few white crowned sparrows and several song sparrows, a couple red winged blackbirds but no flocks of any size. It seems we are losing our birds at a great rate.

The garden has done all it can for this year. Some plants produced good crops, other not so good but that is gardening at Loon Lake Road. Now is time to get ready for colder weather and dormant plants. The dahlias and summer bulbs are up and drying, green tomato mincemeat is put away for the winter and it is time to rake up leaves, prune the berry bushes, spread out the compost and mulching and finally plant spinach, chard and kale for early spring sprouting.

 

There are very few yellow jackets or other wasps around this fall, unlike the plague we had last year and I am very glad for that.  The weather is still pleasant enough to enjoy eating outdoors and the freedom from the wasps makes the experience even more pleasant. It is however a year of the rodent – mice, chipmunks and squirrels are everywhere and there seems to be even more pack rats looking for winter quarters as well. One day my cats had five chipmunks chased up on the top of one of the bean trellises; there they sat all lined up like they were posing for a family photo.

I usually let coriander, dill and over wintered kale go to seed so I can collect them; this year the chipmunks have eaten all the seeds off the bushes, even before they ripened.  I am sure there still will be lots of volunteer plants coming up in the garden in the spring but I was unable to collect any seeds.

A new to me garden insect appeared on the scene this month – a tobacco hornworm –  it is a huge green caterpillar – almost fits into the category of wildlife at the size of 8 mm. So far I have not noticed any damage to any of the plants they like to eat but it is only a matter of time at that size. Young grouse are doing their slow walk around the yard searching out currants and other berries. I wonder what an insect eating bird would do with such a hornworm – would they think they had dinner for a few days or would they ignore it?

 

This past month some visits from the younger generation in the family brought me to ponder about the things that today’s youngsters do well and about those things they don’t know. In the evening here we tend to play group games and cards. One of the popular ones is picture bingo, something that even very young children can join in. It was remarkable that when the young ones took turns calling out the pictures there were objects they could not identify because they no longer see or use them- items that were in every house in my childhood and still can be found around my home. For example they couldn’t identify a clothes peg – one called it a giant paper clip, which brought us oldies to laugh well and long.  They did not know what a clothes iron is – an electric one, that is. I have yet to pull out the old sadiron and see if they can figure out what it would have been used for. The image of a windmill, the kind that works to grind grain for example, was a puzzle for them; finally it was called “a funny kind of air conditioner”. In the kitchen helping make preserves and pickles, they do not know about ounces as a unit of weight but quickly dealt with chopping and weighing out 1500 grams of plums for jam.

 

At the end of July there were several notices in this paper announcing the closing of the Clinton TV Society and informing residents of Loon Lake, Clinton and area that there was a free alternative option called Local Television Satellite Solution available through Shaw. The notice gave contact information and stated that the programme would end on Nov. 30, 2014. A number of residents contacted Shaw and gave their details and were told that a satellite dish would be in the mail in a couple of weeks. Further, they were told that when it arrived they should call again and arranged for installation. This was at the end of July.

Nothing happened all August, no satellite, no paper confirmation. At the end of August residents began calling Shaw, as their promised satellite dishes had not arrived. They were then told by the Shaw staff that the programme had ended at the end of August and they were not eligible for the programme. It completely escaped the Shaw people that the end of July occurred before the end of August and these people had actually been enrolled in the programme while it was still available – at least they thought they had done all that was required to be enrolled.  The customer support people at Shaw just kept repeating “the programme is over, you are not in the system, and there is nothing we can do.”

I understand there are at least 80 residents of the area who have complained that they had enrolled and later been told they were not “in the system.” Our local MP takes great pride in all the money invested in efforts to improve communication networks in rural areas of her riding. This programme however appears to be just another way of transferring tax money to private corporations without providing the promised service.

Somebody should be held accountable for this shambles. Staff of the TNRD Community Services Dept. has taken the issue up with Cathy McLeod and while it is unlikely that residents will get the programme it is gratifying to have the local government go to bat for Loon Lake residents. That is the positive aspect of this shambles.

 

It’s deer migration time as well. As the days shorten and dusk comes earlier and earlier, more deer will be congregating along the roadsides to chew on the alfalfa and roses that like to grow there. Collisions with deer are always a shocking experience for both sides so do drive with extra care and attention at this time, expecting a deer to be on the road around the next turn.

Barbara Hendricks

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