The year 2020 will go down in most of our memories as being one of confusion, turmoil, and for some, disaster. There have been lots of online jokes about the stream of major events and disruptions that have a good chance of changing things in our society forever – some hopefully for the better.
While our social structure has been disrupted, it has given me the opportunity to spend more time in nature, and I have been surprised at the things I have learned. There is a spring-fed pond on the farm where I grew up. I have spent countless hours there watching nature through the seasons and I didn’t think anything could surprise me there anymore.
But this spring we were spending a bit more time and observing a bit more closely. We were happy to see the return of beavers, who maintain the water level so that it actually is a pond rather than just a marshy weed nursery with no bottom. I would go in the evenings with my binoculars and watch the beavers do their nightly laps back and forth.
My sister got into it too and sent me some pictures – she thought we had nutria back there. Confused, I thought that sounded more like part of some weight-loss program than something that could be living in our pond. Of course, I Googled it, and discovered that sure enough, her photos of the critter definitely looked like a nutria. It couldn’t be a muskrat because it was much too big, but it also couldn’t be a beaver because instead of the big flat paddle tail, it had a skinny ratty tail. While they are not native to our area and are considered invasive, they have been raised for their pelts and may have made their way this far. They may have been here for years, undetected. From what I’ve read about them, they do not cut down trees but will drive beavers away and can cause substantial damage.
We finally got the bulk of the spring work behind us – all the crops planted, sprayed, and all the stone picking we are going to do tidied up for this spring. Just as we were starting to catch our breath, the hot,humid weather rolled in which was quite a bit ahead of schedule. We had severe thunderstorm warnings and heat warnings issued for our area for the same day. I have to admit, I take the severe weather warnings with a grain of salt these days because sometimes it seems as if a heavy dew will trigger a weather warning of some kind.
But this was not one of those kind of warnings. I had driven into town and was headed home, watching the black clouds and feeling my vehicle shift with the wind. I felt a trickle of fear as I wondered how much wind it would take to flip my car over. I thankfully turned onto my concession and was feeling relief that I’d made it home when I drove past my parents’ house and saw three maple trees snapped off at the base – two laying on the driveway, and one that was lifted across to the other side. My Mom and sister had driven through there minutes before the wind tossed those trees like playthings. Of course the first thing in my mind was “tornado”, but I had not seen any funnel clouds and the trunks were not twisted like a tornado might do.
My sister, having lived most of her life in Alberta, wondered if it was a plough wind. I had never heard of that before but discovered it is a meteorological term used to describe winds that are more common in western Canada than here. Plough winds are “strong, sudden downdrafts that bring cool, dense air from aloft, rapidly spreading it outward ahead of a thunderstorm or squall line. Plough winds often strike a larger area than tornadoes but can be just as strong. Straight-line winds are fairly common in the west, inflicting more property damage than tornadoes” (Environment Canada). Looking at the way the trees were laying, it definitely looked like something that could have been called a plough wind. Whatever you label it, that storm did some damage and we are still cleaning fallen trees off lawns and crops.
My daughter has been working as a Personal Support Worker at the Braemar Retirement Centre in Wingham. They have been working hard at her home to keep everyone safe and healthy – and recently partnered with the Registered Nurses Association (RNAO) to become a Best Practice Spotlight Organization (BPSO).
I have been so impressed at the things they have been doing to keep the spirits up of both residents and staff. They have had lots of fun activities, but my daughter came home to tell me that they have started a butterfly farm. They had caterpillars, watched them make their cocoons, and then the butterflies emerged and were released. The Braemar Facebook page has beautiful photos of the residents and their butterflies.
My daughter told me the butterflies were orange and black, but not monarchs. We looked them up – and discovered that they were a butterfly that I’ve commonly seen, but never taken the time to learn about. The Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) is one of the most widely distributed butterflies in the world and has been found one all continents except Australia and Antarctica.
After the scary stories that we’ve heard from around the world and closer to home, it is reassuring to know that not only is our local seniors’ home staying safe and healthy, but also keeping activities that allow the residents to feel engaged, loved, and cared for when their families can’t be there. Once again, I am thankful for all the caregivers and people who are working so hard to care for others and keep them safe – reminding us of the positivity and good in our communities. “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly,” (Chuang Tzu). ◊