Monday, September 17, 2012

Hidden Treasures

Our land has been undergoing a lot of changes in the past few months. If you know us, or have been following my blog for quite a while, you know about the terrible flood we had last year. In a sense, we are still battling the flood as we now prepare our land for a drastic change. We have already overhauled it in preparation to move our house, an extreme measure that seems inevitable, given the high probability of our flooding repeating. I have probably mentioned before how much I loved our driveway. It's like a nature trail winding through the trees, beautiful and wild. Only now we have built a new driveway. It is wide and straight. Civilized. I do like it, but I can't help but be sad about the old one. It was damaged in the flood and it is on lower ground than the new one, plus the new one runs directly to our new location, so it makes a lot more sense.

A few days ago I was driving home from somewhere with the boys. (As usual, I can't remember where. Maybe it was the same trip where I was attacked by the snake. Who knows?) Anyway, as we drove down our old winding driveway, I slowed right down and took a good look at the trees beside me. Many of them were dead, which surprised me. I hadn't realized so many of our bigger trees had died and I was concerned about disease. But then I realized it must have been the flood that killed them. For months the forest floor was underwater, and I guess the trees were affected badly. I continued scanning the forest as I drove around the corner and then I spotted something I never expected in a million years. A good twenty or thirty feet into the trees stood an apple tree. It was sparse and pathetic, like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. But there were apples on it, and they looked quite big. I can tell you that around here, lots of people have apple trees, but they do not just grow in the wild. People plant them on purpose. I could not imagine how this tree got in the bushes like that. So I took some pictures.

Can you see them in there? Hiding in plain sight, in the middle of the photo. I was so shocked. I showed them to Mike later that day and he went right in and picked them. He came out covered in burs, but he was holding seven apples. (I am not sure, but I think he picked every apple on the tree, if that gives you an idea how pathetic it is.) He tasted one, though I have not yet. He said it tasted like a goodland apple. Apparently those are really delicious and are great for baking with or even eating by themselves. 

I was wrong. He picked eight. You can see there are several bite marks on them from animals or bugs, but maybe next year we will get to them before the wildlife does!

This one is the biggest one of the bunch, and also the only one without any bites or marks on it. I wonder if next year we might even get a pie out of it. Funny thing is, I have wanted an apple tree here for a long time, and I have never noticed this tree before. Even funnier, Mike said it had a fence around the bottom of it, so obviously it was planted deliberately. But why in the middle of the trees like that? It could have been planted a long time ago, but if that were the case, you'd think it would be bigger by now. Either way, I am thankful for our apple tree. This land has always been beautiful to me, since we bought it, but I have loved finding the little treasures that I did not originally know were here. The vast and beautiful sand, for one thing, is amazing. The endless water supply has been a blessing, even though last year it kind of crossed the line into curse territory. I remember the day I found a wild cactus growing on our ridge. I had no idea they would grow wild here, in Manitoba! I was thrilled. We have an abundant supply of saskatoon berries when they are in season, and they make the most amazing pies. We also have a ton of wild raspberries, which we have not taken advantage of because they are well guarded by a sea of poison ivy! (But one of these days we will find a way to breach it and pick a whole bunch instead of just the few that are in arms reach of the path.) And now we have our very own apple tree. It may sound silly, but that day it felt like the tree was just a little gift from God. So I guess this is a post about counting your blessings. Sometimes they are all around us and if we just open our eyes, we will see them everywhere.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Unconventional Motherhood

Wow. September is nearly halfway over and this is my first post. Who knew life with four kids was so busy? The truth is, even in the moments when I am having down time, I still can't post in here because I am usually holding Lauren, whether to feed her or whether because she has just fallen asleep on me, and it is impossible to type when holding an infant. Okay, it's not impossible, but I am a fast typist. I have no tolerance for one-handed typing. That's part of why I am not big on texting too. It is way faster to type an email, but only if I have both hands free and an actual keyboard.

Anyway, a lot has happened this month so far. More than I can update in one post. Cody has started grade one. Where has the time gone? And more significant is Jamie's introduction to the world of school. He has started Junior Kindergarten, and that has been an interesting transition. But that's for another post too.

This post is about me and my Steve Irwin moment. It happened a few days ago. We were going somewhere. Where? I can't remember. How terrible is that? I know I had all the kids with me, because both of my boys had stayed home from school sick. (That's right, in the first full week of school Cody missed two days and Jamie one, because they were already sick. Sigh. At least nobody barfed.) I think we must have been going to the post office. Yes, that's definitely it. Trips to the post office are even more thrilling than trips to the dump. Well, that's not entirely true. It's more like they have the potential to be thrilling. Like when packages come. But that doesn't happen that often, and anticipating a package, while exciting, is also a breeding ground for disappointment. Such was the case on Tuesday when we drove all the way there and there was no package, or even personal mail of any kind. But it was still nice to get out and get some fresh air and sunshine.

It is dry and warm lately, and quite pleasant, actually. September is often that way around here. In recent days, I have seen many snakes basking in the sun and the dust on the gravel road. Snakes. EEEEWWWWW! Right? Well, I should mention that there are no poisonous ones around here. And we don't have giant snakes, like pythons, boa constrictors, or anacondas. We just have garter snakes, and really pretty green ones that Mike calls grass snakes, though I don't think that's an actual species title. Strangely enough, I am not afraid of snakes. I never have been. I have caught and held many a snake in my day. The other day when we were driving I saw a snake near our new driveway. (Yes, we have a new driveway. That's for another post.) I got out of the van and approached it, thinking maybe I'd catch it for the boys. But it slithered into the grass and I lost sight of it. Oh well.

I got another chance on the way to the post office. I was about a mile down our gravel road when I spotted it. I was pretty close when it caught my eye, laying in the middle of the road. Like a lunatic, I slammed on my breaks and did a fancy fishtail all over the road. I sailed past the snake and couldn't help but notice that he did not move out of my way. Wow. Kind of a cocky little guy. I came to a stop several feet past him, dust billowing around the van. I needed some Clint Eastwood music.

"Who wants a snake?" I announced enthusiastically. "MEEE!" chorused all the boys. Ah. Finally a mom moment I can succeed in. Everybody's happy. I have everybody's full attention. I unbuckled my seatbelt and threw the door open, beginning the approach to the snake, which I noticed had still not moved. I hoped it was not dead. As I got closer, I couldn't help but notice it was a pretty big snake. For those of you who live in desert areas, or in the Amazon, you would laugh at that assessment. But for a garter snake, this one was big. Probably the biggest one I had ever seen. A seed of doubt took place in my mind. I pressed onward.

The snake was more concerned about me than he had been about my van. He started slithering towards the side of the road. I would have to move quickly. I leaped into his path and he immediately changed directions. He was fast. And big. Did I mention big? This was going to be fun...or not. Okay, I lunged a second time into his path. Then I saw him do something I have never seen a garter snake do before. He curled into a position that I knew could not be good. Kind of like this:

My doubts increased tenfold. This was not a good idea. But garter snakes don't bite, right? I've caught many in my lifetime, and never has one bitten me. It would be okay. I took another step towards it and suddenly it lunged at me in a terrifying attack! I did what any mom would do in my shoes. I screamed like a little girl and ran away. I was not going anywhere near that horrible snake. I went back to the van and got in. Thank goodness my boys are young enough to still respect me after that display. I was like a bad version of the Crocodile Hunter. I think I have decided that it might be a good idea to be normal and be scared of snakes. I probably won't try that again.