Welcome to My Little Piece of the Prairies ...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Sweet Smell of Silver Berry

If you have ever walked through a native prairie pasture in the late spring and summer, there is a sweet smell that fills the air!  The Silver Berry or Wolf Willow (Elaeagnus commutata) is likely the culprit!  Although not the most beautiful shrub when it comes to shape and size ... as it tends to grow as a clump of single "sticks;" it does however, have the most gorgeous silver foliage and the sweetest smell!  If I could bottle the smell I would!  

The Silver Willows are finally leaving out, and although faint, that sweet smell is starting!

Monday, May 30, 2011


My White-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii) that is!  A few of you may remember my earlier post of 'Jack' back on March 26th.  Back then, this character was still sporting his winter coat. 

Well, on this particular afternoon, I managed to sneak up on this lad taking in a few zzz's!  Now fully into his summer coat, we see him and his mate, merrily hopping through our yard on a regular basis!  With their fuzzy white tails and those EYES and EARS... one learns to appreciate these characters ... especially when they've become a permanent fixture around the place!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bird on the Run!

Well, at first the boys yelled "Mom, there is a duck on the road!"  (I swear we have more ducks on the road than gophers ... I am serious!) ... but it didn't waddle like a duck!  So, I quickly snapped some pics and thought for sure this was a female ring-necked pheasant!  After all, the male keeps wandering through our yard, in front of our big windows ... when I am on the phone and can't grab my camera!  However, this lady does not have the long tail feathers.  So...

... with that fancy lil' head crest she is sporting, my best guess is a female Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus)!  But I have been wrong before!  If I am, please let me know!!!

Something that I do know for sure ... while out feeding "Lucky" we spotted our pair of geese and their 2011 offspring!  We are happy to report that it looks like there are 4 new goslings swimming with "Honker 1" and "Honker 2!"

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Green-Winged Teal

Our big slough out by the feed yard is always a flurry of activity ... especially when waterfowl are involved!  At any one time you can easily find at least five different kinds of ducks and grebes.  Along with the Northern Shovelers, Mallards, Red Heads, Blue-Winged Teals, etc., I was able to snap a few shots of this Green-Winged Teal!  A handsome lad that didn't seem to mind my willow stakeout spot!  Haha!

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Moose!!

Well, if there was ever a reason to purchase a new camera and a much bigger lens with a teleconverter ... Moose!!  I love these majestic 'Swamp Donkey's!'  I have always found them fascinating and never grow tired of seeing them!  Lucky for me, while out checking crops with the crew (my boys), we came across this young moose up to his neck in this slough!  Unfortunately, by the time I crawled through the fence and bush to get a few shots, he was heading out.  It's so frustrating having 'the shot' and not having the reach of a lens!!!  UGH!!  So, if you see my husband, remind him my birthday is next!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Relics in the Pump House

The old pump is sits just east of our house!  Many years ago, my husband and I discovered that the cement floor was made with a mixture of homemade cement and grader blades!  Who needs rebar ... when you have grader blades!  Although it still houses the pump for our well, it houses a few 'relics' from the past.  When the wooden door creaks open, you catch a glimpse into one of "Uncle Doug's" work areas.

There is an old wooden work bench underneath the window with recycled paint cans separating nuts and bolts, an old crank drill press mounted on the west wall, a stack of metal buckets recycled into heat lamps, and old swather canvases rolled up and placed across the roof trusses.  But my favorite site is of his oil can, perched on his make shift grinder wheel.   Yes, using the base of an old cream separator, he mounted his grinder wheel on top!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Swampy Aspen!

Heading out this evening to feed "Lucky," our orphan calf, I stopped by our big slough situated down by the feed yard.  I was hoping to catch a glimpse of our geese and perhaps some goslings!  But instead, I found a war zone of mosquitoes and hence quickly snapped a picture of the aspens growing in and around the slough!  Each tree, its own character and each mosquito I encountered ... VERY HUNGRY!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Web of Diamonds!

Well, I could've snapped a few more shots of ducks waddling down my laneway; I did mention that it happens more often than one thinks!  However, we will not go there, at least not today!  Haha!  But on this very soggy morning, I did manage to come across a spider's architectural masterpiece shimmering with rain drops ... each rain drop sparkling like a diamond!  Who knows what the Spider will attract ... perhaps this web of diamonds will be its best friend!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rainy Day

A rainy day is the perfect time for a walk in the woods.  ~Rachel Carson


If you are a pair of Northern Pintails ... it is a perfect time to walk down my laneway!

No, this is definitely not a great photo, in fact, I snapped it through our window!  However, I couldn't resist sharing!  How often does one get a pair of ducks wandering down their laneway?  I am not actually going to answer that ... 'cause it happens more often than one would expect!!!!  Yikes!  Haha!  Yes, it has been a soggy spring day ... its still soggy!  However, the alfalfa is loving this moisture ... just what we need for a bumper hay crop!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Crabby Blossoms!

When the going gets tough the tough get 'crabby!'  With spring seeding put to a halt due to rain ... the crab apple trees have decided to spread some 'crabby cheer' with their beautiful blossoms!  How can something so crabby be so delicate and stunning!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Grain Truck with Character!

Our 1979 GMC Astro with a Silver 92 Detroit motor!!!  Yup, the boys love hauling seed with their Dad in this grain truck!  It snorts and shakes and has an air horn that no 5 or 6 year old can resist!  With a few more days of good weather, we could have our seeding wrapped up!  Here's hoping the rain will hold off for just a couple of more days!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Potted Kitty Cat!

It has been a hectic spring day!  However, the peas are seeded and the wheat is next on the 'hit list.'  Usually by now, my garden is in and my flower pots are planted.  That is definitely not the case this year ... and it looks like Eli doesn't object!  I just hope he realizes he can't take a 'cat nap' in my flower pot once my pots are planted!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Buffalo Beans

Spring is sooner recognized by plants than by men.  ~Chinese Proverb

It rained last night and much of the day was partly sunny with nice big clouds continually rolling by; at times threatening another drop or two of rain.  Despite the sun ducking in and out throughout the day, replacing the crocuses in the pasture and along the roadsides are the bright, sunny 'Buffalo Beans (Thermopsis rhombifolia).'  They make a perfect bouquet on one's kitchen table, especially if they are presented to you from a 5 year old! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Creative Fencing!

Labelled on a map as "Farrell Lake" but referred to as "Long Lake" by locals ... this 53 Chevy was placed some 30 plus years ago to anchor a chunk of fence line at the eastern edge of this very long, shallow, alkali lake.  This car is always a conversation piece with our two young boys!!  "Mom, Dad ... how did that car get there, why is that car there ...?"  We've witnessed this car just sitting in a dry lake bottom for a number of years.  With all of the rain last year and the abundance of snow this past winter ... one might understand why a fence needed to be anchored.  Do you think the Northern Shoveler's (Anas clypeata) realize they are crossing the property line?  Haha!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Prairie Forbs

Spring time on the prairie brings an abundance of color if you look for it!  Having a background in range plant ID and management, I find myself forever surveying our grasslands and testing my knowledge!  Haha ... more like guessing if I can remember!  Well, this sunny lil' herb is one that I do in fact remember.  This is a smooth leaved cinquefoil plant (Potentilla diversifolia), a perennial herb that's low to the ground ... a great place to be if you want to avoid the gale force winds we are still having!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Against the Wind!

And so the wind blows ... and it blows and it blows!  If we think its a struggle to stand in the wind these days ... have a chat with this lil' Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor).  I watched her and her mate the day before being tossed in the air like rag dolls and today was not much better!  However, instead of being tossed in the air, she was just bracing herself on top of the fencepost awaiting her mates return.  It was a bit of a struggle for the lad but eventually Mr. Tree Swallow made it back to their nest and the two of them put on a united front and stood strong ... beaks into the wind!!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Joe's Truck!

Heading south-west into some of our native pasture, off the road and up on the hill, sits Joe's truck!  This late 40's (I'm guessing) International truck has great character, much like man who once drove this beast!  Joe was a very hard working, kind, soft spoken gentleman that always had a smile and a kind word.  He was raised and farmed in the area his entire life ... into his 80's.  He survived the dirty 30's, WWII, and all the bumps and bruises that go with farming.  I love seeing his old truck up on the hill.  It reminds me of his character, of those before us, of the hard times, yet it brings a smile to my face knowing Joe always had a smile!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Spring Seeding!

And so it begins!  Spring seeding!  After a few 'hiccups' we finally got to the field and began seeding the first of our canola fields.  Here's to a good spring, a great summer and happy farmers everywhere!  Happy seeding everyone!

Technical Difficulties!

Living out in the 'middle of nowhere' surrounded by its beauty and solitude has its bonuses! However, when you rely on the 'techno' (wireless communication) part to reach friends across the landscape and across the 'ponds,' sometimes there is a hitch!  Well, the hitch is fixed and here are Thursdays and Fridays posts with todays post coming up later!  Sorry for the glitch!!  :)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

We've been walking at a 45 degree angle these days ... fighting the wind!  But with the warm wind comes a sea of green!  Yes, finally this darn prairie is loosing the dull brown/grey tone from last fall and is being replaced by glorious GREEN!  I feel very fortunate to live where I do.  Smack in a transitional zone between the Mixed Grass Prairie and the Aspen Parkland, I enjoy the 'bald ass prairie' that I grew up with in Southern Alberta but I get to enjoy the beauty of the Aspen groves in Central Alberta!  Trees are rather novel when you grow up without them!  Well, I am happy to report that the Trembling Aspens (Populus tremuloides) have begun leaving out!  And there is nothing prettier than seeing a grove of aspens swaying in the wind with new green leaves!

Friday, May 13, 2011

"If you're not from the prairie, You've not heard the grass.  You've never heard the grass.  It whispers its secrets - they tell of this land and the rhythm of life played by nature's own hand." ~ David Bouchard

As the prairie winds blow, indeed that prairie wool bends and sways too!  I didn't have the best lens with me to attempt capturing the wind bending the prairie wool in half but it doesn't sound like the wind is going to be letting up anytime soon ... looks like I'll be given another chance to capture such movement.  Haha!  I've completely lost it now ... taking pics of grass blowing!  Geesh!  

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Guaranteed Crop!

A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.  ~Doug Larson

Well, spring seeding is finally on the way.  And whether or not we are planting a garden, a flower bed or on a larger scale ... cereal, pulse, or oilseed crops, we are ALL guaranteed to have a crop of Taraxacum officinale, otherwise known as the dandelion!  This widely unloved, very successful weed is the bright, sunny perennial that smiles across the landscape!  If only we could convince ourselves that dandelion wine was a 'good thing!'

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

St. Edmunds Church!

Spring season is also 'soccer' season in our household!  And for a change, the kids are actually enjoying some typical spring weather this week.  On route to Stettler, we pass by the Village of Big Valley, AB.  This quaint village boasts a rich history in ranching, rail, coal and oil!  The community started back in 1907 and the village was established in 1914.  High up on the valley edge, over looking main street, stands the infamous 'blue church!'  St. Edmunds Church was built in 1916.  Although I am certain it did not start out as blue church ... the 'blue on blue' on a beautiful spring day, can be seen miles away!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Red Barn!

I drive by this majestic beast every day!  Just north of home and located on my father-in-law's land, the faded red paint and historic hip roof, lends itself to being a common land mark.  "Go south past the red barn ...,"

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

I've come to the conclusion, that this cold spring weather has a few bird species a bit confused!  Normally, one does find 'White-Breasted Nuthatches' darting in and out of our trees.  However, on this cold, damp day, I was lucky enough to snap a shot of this lil' Red-Breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis).  They are usually found further north in the spruce-fir and pine forests!  Apparently the cooler temps and the spruce trees in my yard have halted their travels to a more northern destination!  Hmmm ... perhaps they think they are already there!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Rain, Drop, Plop!

Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain. 
~Author Unknown 

I don't know how many of the local farmers would be 'dancing in the rain' at this time of the year (especially with so many yet to start spring seeding).  However, rain was in the forecast and rain is what it did ... in fact, its still raining!  The amazing thing about rain at this time of the year is you can literally see the grass grow and watch the tree buds burst!  After getting our truck stuck while checking one of our fields last night (prior to any rain) ... I suspect we will need a few more 'drying' days now!  

Friday, May 6, 2011

Kissing His Girls!

While out and about today with our 5 year old, my lil' man decided to check on the horses. The ladies of the group were quick to come to his side and were more than happy to stand and receive kisses from him.  "Gypsy" returned the favor by nuzzling his ear!  Brady exclaimed, "HEY, that tickles!"  But with a giggle and a smile, he quite enjoyed standing there while the mares continued to nuzzle his hair!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Papa on Patrol

Our pair of Canadian Geese have been home for a month now.  These days, you might catch a slight glimpse of the Mrs. up on our straw stack, but you have to know where to look.  She is busy tending her nest!  However, 'Papa Goose,' is always in and around the slough, just beside the straw stack, keeping tabs on all the 'comings and goings' in the pasture.  On this overcast spring day, while taking a paddle, he kept a careful eye on us while we were out checking cows.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Woody Wood Pecker?

May has arrived and to my surprise, a rare wood pecker to this part of Alberta, arrived as well!  At first I thought this was a 'Yellow-Bellied' Sapsucker but the red patch on the back of the head would indicate that this in fact is a 'Red-Naped' Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus nuchalis).  Sapsuckers take a different approach to the standard 'woodpecking!'  They will drill holes or 'wells' in parallel lines in tree bark.  These holes fill with sap, attracting bugs which, of course become trapped.  The Sapsuckers return in May and immediately start 'lapping-up' the previous year's sap wells!  Apparently a 'tasty' treat!  That's your Sapsucker education for the day!  Haha!


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