D. Schumilas/D. Happner
2009 Fox Report
“Up, up and away in my beautiful, my beautiful balloon …..” is this year’s song written by Jimmy Webb. You’ll have to wait to discover why this song was chosen.
Let’s begin where I left off last year … January -35°C with a wind chill taking it below -40. This was after it warmed up from -52 (which is the closest I have come to feeling death). I stayed put for several days but with this “warming”, I had to get to work. After only 2 hours on the block heater my 1988 Toyota Tercel actually started. Then I discovered something really stupid about humans. When the car starts, we think the inside will be warm in a few minutes. My car radio is old and has lost its plastic knobs. The 2 metal posts for adjusting volume and tuning serve me just fine – usually. I removed my mitten to turn on the radio. Instantly stuck! “AHHH!” That was followed by profanity but the exact string of words I don’t remember. “Don’t panic! Don’t pull off, you’ll tear the skin! Breathe warm air on the fingers … HHHHH… HHHHH …. Ok now let go. Run away! Owwweeee! Frostbite! Stupid!” So, the first song I had for opening this newsletter was Johnny Hartford’s “Turn Your Radio On!”
I’m still teaching the business program at the regional college. They plan to rest my program next year so I am assessing options. I’m thinking of taking the year off to have other adventures, and maybe record a new CD. It’s hard to find time for art and creativity when I work full-time. There is a good possibility I can teach part-time locally in another program (no long drives and home every night) and I keep open to the idea of a job in a place with mountains and a warmer winter.
The major family news item was the death of Uncle Joe on Valentines Day, shortly before his 91st birthday. Joe lived and long and full life, very independently, with full mental faculty right to the end. He died in his sleep with no pain, with his loved ones near.
We still have regular critter visits. There was a weasel and martin around much of last winter. Now we have snow, we see tracks of a weasel and a snowshoe hare. The weasel found its way into the house and ran right up to Don. It ran over a mouse trap, setting it off. It seemed uninjured but I think it was startled, as it has been a bit shy since. We lost a whiskey jack. For years there was a threesome. Now there is only two. I like to think that the lonely bachelor finally found a mate.
The spring bear hunt is still legal in Saskatchewan but the outfitter beside us had no customers. His business is very small, based on 1 customer – a US company that purchased hunts for employees as experiential professional development. The US economic downturn put an end to that! With no bear baiting, the beasties were moving out of the valley and we had 4 different black bear visit the yard. One was the biggest boar I’ve ever seen. My knees were weak just watching from the picture window. He just passed through and we never saw him again. Probably more dangerous was the cub that wanted to explore the yard. That’s because we knew mom was just back in the bush. We watched from the window as this little guy tasted our metal well pump handle and tried to climb up the bird feeder. Of course it came crashing down on his head. “Aroooo” as he ran a few steps, then he was right back, seeing if the painted wood was at all yummy. When mom finally called him away, the bird house was in pieces. I took the opportunity to give it a new coat of paint and Don hammered it back together.
Fall bought us a lone goose. All its friends were flying back and forth, strengthening their wings for the long journey, but this guy preferred to walk around our yard snacking on seeds. It took up residence under Don’s car and got quite used to us. Remember the Canadian geese that brought down the plane on the Hudson River in NY? They did extensive testing to prove that the geese came from Canada and were not American geese. In fact, they last fed in Labrador. Whew! I was relieved our little friend wasn’t involved!
The path to enlightenment has many dualities – yin and yang, day and night, good and evil. Here in Saskatchewan we have “mosquito-grasshopper”. If it’s too wet, we get eaten alive by mosquitoes and if it’s too dry, all greenery gets devoured by grasshoppers. This year we had just the right amount of moisture at the right time. We had tolerable mosquitoes and few grasshoppers. This will probably be the only year I get to say that.
Don’s son gave us a cordless screwdriver and impact – a very nice gift which ended up costing us $1500 (thanks Bramm – kidding!). Makita committed to making all their lithium ion cordless tools fit the same battery pack. This is a superb technology – lots of power, long lasting, full power until they die and a very fast recharge. Perfect for people like us who live off the grid and hate running a generator! We just had to get a 5” circular saw. Then we found a kit with a 6” circular saw, with the blade on the other side, a reciprocating saw, an angle grinder, battery, charger, more drills and a flashlight … all in a durable carrying case. We went tool crazy! When Bramm came to visit, he looked around and said “Give the man a screwdriver and he builds an empire!” Maybe we’ll get the house finished?
Two years ago I wrote about taking over the garage as recreation space (the $2000 dart board). We since added a target for gentle bow shooting and knife throwing. Tired of scraping my car, we bought a cheap “made in China” garage tent. We always enjoy reading the Chinglish instructions … like our Chinese health balls to stimulate hand acupuncture points … “avoid violent collision of balls with floor” …. Or our battery operated electronic bug bats … “clean with water and dry with cloth or by shining with sunshine” … and the liniment I bought because the instructions sounded like a 50’s rock song “for treatments of stricken or fallen, shocken and twisten …” The tent garage kit had illustrations instead of Chinglish but we could make no sense of the squiggles.
It took hours to get the frame up only to discover half the tent cover was sewn inside out! The store replaced the tent. The kit had tiny tent poles for staking it down – fine for camping in the basement. Is there no wind in China? Don built a frame bottom but before he could sand bag it, a gust of wind threw the entire structure upside down against our house, crunching the eave downspout and bending tent poles. He went out to assess the damage and, while standing inside it on the ceiling (because it was upside down) another gust came and suddenly Don was airborne! “Up, up and away …..” So far, it is still standing.
song came up again during a chimney cleaning expedition. I was curled up on the
couch quietly reading when our living room heater let out a huge burp, filling
the air with acrid smoke. Don leapt across the room from the kitchen table,
grabbed the fire poker and, wielding it like a sword, stood his ground against
the blaggard: “Arrr, ‘tis mutiny!” My shipmate was gallant but this pirate made
us walk the burning plank out to the snow! We decided to give the chimney a
The only recording we did was a youtube in July. Basically, we sang our song Dolce (Sweetly) in a studio and videoed it. To find it, search Schumilas at www.youtube.com. We got a call to do a 30 min opening concert in a 600 soft-seat theatre. It went fine and we may have another theatre booking later this year.
As usual, we spent some of the summer in the Kootenay Mountains around Nelson, BC as well as the Rockies around both the Crowsnest Pass and Jasper, AB. Don’s son is thinking about moving west to the mountains. If he does, we will probably visit him this summer, wherever that may be. I plan to take a short trip to Ontario in the spring and I think my U of S course will run again in July.
Last year I mentioned the genotype diet we follow (dadamo.com). The book was rereleased in paperback as Change Your Genetic Destiny, by Dr. Peter D’Adamo. I can get quite evangelical about this science which links genetics and nutrition, but I won’t start preaching. I’ll just say that we feel great! Both of us feel 10 years younger.
In Saskatchewan, we’re in the deep freeze for long stretches and it seems it only warms up to dump a foot of snow on us! Let’s get some perspective here.
Canada ranks #1 as the coldest country in the world (yes, we even beat out Russia). Only 2% of Canada’s land mass has an average winter temperature above freezing (some of Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the BC Lower Mainland). On average, 108 Canadians die from severe cold each year. (I wonder how many of those are in Saskatchewan?) The lowest temperature ever recorded in Canada was -62°C (-81.4°F) in Snag, Yukon on Feb. 3, 1947. “Upon exhaling, human breath would hiss and create a vapour trail that would linger for three or four minutes.” (Harrowsmith Country Life, Feb. 2008)
So, it could be worse!
Dawn and Don