From Loon Lake Road – Looking up for meteors and signs of rain

Barbara Hendricks' monthly column from a Loon Lake perspective.

In mid-August the weather provided perfect conditions for watching the Perseids meteor shower with warm nights and clear skies. As there is no light pollution at Loon Lake Road the clear night skies appeared as a limitless display of twinkling lights. Now there is a good use for the word awesome. Watching the light streaks across the sky set me to thinking about the unfathomable size of the universe and Earthlings’ ongoing search for “intelligent” life on other places in the sky.

A recent report I read stated that a new search for extraterrestrial life, called the Breakthrough Listen project, is about to begin at a cost of $135 million and will include efforts of some of the world’s best astronomers. I have heard it said that, despite our very sophisticated listening devices, the lack of signals from other places in space is an indicator that there is no intelligent life elsewhere. Really? I am convinced that if there is intelligent life out there somewhere, the first thing any real intelligent life form would do is to block any signals to or from Earthlings. We have really messed up this beautiful planet and are killing off other life forms here at a fast pace so why would any intelligent life anywhere want to have anything to do with humans? Beside I think it is quite arrogant to consider human civilization to be all that intelligent. While many individuals are very intelligent and capable of amazing invention, of planning and devising complex programmes, actions and machine, as a society we have failed to use these capabilities to benefit life on planet earth. The human brain has amazing capacity – for both the good and the bad. Human beings are a relatively recent arrival on Earth and we have not used our beautiful and rich planet all that intelligently. I certainly hope human kind never gets the chance to ruin another planet and life forms there. And so I watch the night skies and wonder just what that intelligent life out there beyond the starlight has decided about the life forms on planet earth and what kind of failing grade they have given us a life form.

 

As the month wore on some of us were watching the skies for a different reason. The dry weather and resulting low water levels have resulted in the Ministry of Forests requesting all water licensees along Loon Lake Road to voluntarily cut water usage by 30 per cent. Some rain would certainly help with the crops and grazing pastures as well as reduce the forest fire danger rating. Every day those rain clouds would pass over but no rain was delivered, even if I hung laundry out to dry. By the end of the month some brief showers and night dew helped ease the situation but hay and fodder for animals over the winter is in short supply and some ranchers are mulling over the options of how to deal with the situation. Others are trucking in large loads of hay in preparation for the winter feeding.

 

The end of August gave us a beautiful harvest moon and clear nights to enjoy it. In my garden the harvest has been good despite getting less water this past month. Many jars of preserves of all sorts now fill the shelves in the cold room and space awaits the potatoes, carrots and onions. Late August also brought some patches of frost with a killing frost in many areas on the first Saturday of September. So much for pumpkins and squash on the vine, however they had pretty well done their work for this year. Now the pumpkins can ripen their skins in a warm place and wait to become pies later in the fall. This time of the year also means bears coming down to lower areas and along water courses to eat rose hips and fruits and berries wherever they can find them. Apples need to be picked off the trees and out of the bears’ reach or they can break the trees. I don’t think bears should get into trouble for going after an apple on a tree; it’s in their nature but I do think the tree owner should get into trouble for leaving the apples on and attracting the bear.

 

Flocks of Sandhill cranes heading south confirm the suspicion that fall is coming. The wind also smells and sounds like an autumn wind. In nature many of the deciduous trees are looking tired and worn.  Various insects have had a good year and many leaves are chewed and discoloured. On drier slopes the leaves of saskatoon and chokecherry bushes have shrived and given up for this year. The cute fuzzy bear caterpillars, in their orange and black coats, are hanging in on fruit trees in the garden and I find it hard to resist petting them but it is best to leave them be. There seems to be more of them this year than in some other years. The garden is also so alive and rustling with little birds flying from bush to bush gleaning for insects and eggs. As the greater variety of birds move about my garden I feel that it is getting to be a healthier place with nature more in balance. Various warblers, as well as sparrows and juncos are busy. The little flycatchers appear to have already left for warmer climates and I miss their very distinctive call when I walk through the garden.

Barbara Hendricks

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