Ground-Horse Day

We have groundhogs in Alberta and in many other parts of Canada, but I’ve never seen one out here on the farm. We do, however, have a lot of other little critters that live in the ground, small cousins of the groundhog, and none ventured out of their holes on Tuesday to see their shadows. An early spring, perhaps?

When Canada’s most famous ground-dwelling weather forecasters, Wiarton Willie, Shubenacadie Sam, and Fred La Marmotte, all called for an early spring, horses across the province were celebrating. But then word came in from Balzac Billy, Alberta’s “Prairie Prognosticator” calling for six more weeks of winter.

The groundhogs rely on seeing their shadow, or not, to predict the timing of spring which has always struck me as rather circumstantial. Doesn’t it just depend on whether or not the sun is shining on February 2, and what does this have to do with the weather to come? Just saying.

Unlike the groundhog, I don’t have a warm burrow to hide in until spring (although our shelter is a pretty close second) so what’s coming in the next six weeks has a lot more impact on my life than his. Why they’ve been the go-to animal for weather prediction for nearly two hundred years despite the complete lack of science behind their approach is a mystery.

The closest thing we have to a “burrow” in the background.

Even Wikipedia says, “While the tradition remains popular in modern times, studies have found no consistent correlation between a groundhog seeing its shadow and the subsequent arrival time of spring-like weather.” No shit!

I, on the other hand, a horse, consider a number of factors when making my prediction— El Niño/ La Niña patterns, climate change, and the PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation)—science-y stuff. If I wasn’t an accountant, I think I’d have been a scientist. I also consider the behaviour of local birds and animals and, most of all, my hair coat.

Checking the wind for signs of spring. Nope, not yet.

As you probably know, horses shed their coats in spring, and most do it quite reliably at the same time every year. The growth and shedding of our coats is driven by the amount of decreasing or increasing daylight. More science-y stuff. But I’ve noticed in recent years, as I’ve grown older, that my shedding varies from year to year, sometimes starting as early as February, which it has this year.

I’m shedding!

You might be thinking that my body was tricked by our mild January, and there is that possibility, but I believe that nineteen years of living in Alberta, combined with my very sensitive nature, has turned me into an equine weather forecaster, a ground-horse if you will.

So, the 2021 spring prediction from Storm the hypothesizing horse … drum roll please …

The crowd waiting in anticipation of the announcement.

🌼 AN EARLY SPRING! 🌻

Hot Dogs, Cold Dog

It’s the 22nd of January which means that many winters since 2011 you’d have found us somewhere south of the Canada/US border by now, enjoying the sun and warmth of Arizona or California. We’ve departed Canada in November, in December, and in January, but never this late. Pretty sure that means we’re not going.

It’s the border closure, of course, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, that’s keeping us home this year. I’m mostly okay with the situation. I love home—my favourite beds, trips to the barn, exploring our prairie landscape, and I’m normally included in all outings to town or to the city.

City outings sometimes involve one of these magical places — the drive thru!

A few years ago, I wrote a post about loving snow, and I do. What I’m loving less as I get older is the cold. Logan used to talk about getting cold more easily as he aged and I thought I’d be different, but recent events have changed my mind.

If I’m moving, I am comfortable in almost any weather, even my paws don’t get cold. I stepped into a mountain stream to get a drink on Monday and continued along the trail as before, toes quite comfortable.

Cooling my tongue and my toes in Ribbon Creek.

But, when I stop moving, the chill creeps in quickly, I feel the cold seeping through my camp mat, and the frost crawling into my bones. That’s when I start to shiver, just a little at first, and then it takes over and is like someone hit my vibrate button and turned it to the highest setting.

On Monday, we went on our second “day camping” outing of this stay-at-home winter. I think these day trips are designed to keep us all from getting cabin fever and missing our desert time too much, but I’m not sure it’s working for me. I love the hiking part—there’s nothing quite like a new trail and Ribbon Creek was fantastic—but the picnic in the snow and cold, other than the food, not a huge fan.

Love the exploring part of our day-camping trips.

Evenings can get chilly in the desert at this time of year, and I sometimes need some blanket support, but out in Kananaskis on Monday, I had a woolly coat, was wrapped in a blanket, sitting next to a roaring fire, and still shaking like a leaf. Built for comfort not for cold.

A January late afternoon in Arizona.
A January late afternoon in Alberta.

T’s planning to bring a thicker bed for me on the next day camping adventure, to put more between me and the snow. I’m happy to hear it and hoping it will help, and yet I hate being such a wuss when it comes to cold. I like to think it’s the winters south, not age, that have softened me, but since this is our third winter in a row at home, I’m not sure this theory continues to hold water.

A thicker bed would be nice. And staying on it probably wouldn’t hurt either.

Despite the increasing chill as the sun dropped below the mountains, I did eventually fall asleep, once I’d had a beef chew, two turkey weiners, a few potato chips, and my dinner.

Foto Fur-iday: Home, Home on the Range

I’ve had the chance to explore a lot of cool places in my life and many of these adventures have been written about in my blog posts of the past nine years. This year alone, despite the pandemic that’s kept us closer to home, we’ve been to Banff National Park in the Rocky Mountains, to the David Thompson region of central-west Alberta, to the north near the boundary with British Columbia, and to the far southwest of the province along the Cowboy Trail. It’s been quite a year.

But, the reality is, for every day we were away on an excursion somewhere, we spent at least ten here at home on the prairie. Since our step-out-the-door-and-pick-a-direction adventures often don’t make my blog posts, I’ve picked some photos from the summer and fall to show you where I trek on the days we don’t get in the car or truck and go somewhere.

Along the irrigation canal is always a favourite direction,
partly because I can stay wet and cool on the warm days,
by doing some of this,
followed by some of this.
And it’s also just a really great place to explore.
For a different kind of adventure, once the farmers have harvested their fields, we walk southwest,
or south to visit these strange looking neighbours,
or sometimes northwest,
or due east.
We don’t even have to leave the property for a great walk,
and a visit with the horses.
The snow will ultimately have an impact on where we can walk,
and how much time it takes to go the same distance,
but for now it just changes the scenery.

With winter on our doorstep, a closed border to our winter camping grounds in the southwest deserts, and a pandemic discouraging visiting and travel, there’ll be a lot more roaming the home range in the coming months. Stay tuned!