Speaking Engagements

I am available to speak to groups throughout most of south-central Alberta. Areas farther afield considered on some occasions. I have many stories and adventures to relate about life with animals and Nature on my Alberta ranch. I also can speak about my books and the inspirations behind them. My style is laid-back and casual and I have been told I relate well to my audience. In the past I have spoken to librarian conferences, (adult) sororities, Women’s Institutes, Literacy Conferences, and numerous school and other education-related groups. Fees are negotiable depending on the group and location.

Contact me for more information.

Is This The Way Its Going To Be?

I have always loved summer. Dreams of sunshine, green grass and leaves, and butterflies sustain me through our endless winters. However, things have been a bit different this year. Winter faithfully did its thing-with enthusiasm. Cold with lots of snow and very few Chinooks. By some time in April we were wondering if it would ever end. Normally, the cows would be free to roam several acres of woodland, depositing new calves under trees of their choice. But not this year. A calf deposited under any tree would immediately disappear under a couple of feet of snow. The cows were kept confined and straw-bedded in the big corral which contributed to a very successful calf crop. But what was going to happen when all that show melted? Surely all the streams would be flooding. But, suddenly, it seemed like all in one day, winter turned to summer and all the snow was gone. And where was the great run-off? There was none. Apparently, after last year’s hot, dry summer the soil just gulped the water down as fast as the snow melted. Actually, it was quite a dry spring-not that good for hay. Up until late July we were blessed with enough thundershowers to keep things growing. But then came the heat and the showers disappeared as we sweated through the 30 plus days while wanting to throttle the cheery people revelling in the summer sun. Mostly, the garden grew-if watered daily. The tomatoes on the south side of the house did reasonably well. They would have done even better if not rendered inaccessible for some time due to the three large wasp nests constructed in the eaves above them. In August, came the smoke. Day after day it hangs above and around us, a gift from our neighbors to the west as BC endures over 500 forest fires these days. Altogether, it hasn’t been a sterling summer so far but, to steal a line from an old country song, “We’re still a livin’ so everything’s all right.”

September’s Gone—October 1, 2017

It seems such a short time ago that I was writing about the cold and muddy April. Shortly after that things changed! It has been the hottest, driest summer I can remember. The hay, well-watered in the spring, grew well and early and was all baled in great shape early in July. Usually we are trying desperately to get the job completed in late August. The pastures also grew wonderfully with the early moisture and the later heat. The cows are rolling in fat. The garden wasn’t so successful. The peas got off to a bad start with water lying on the ground until late May and the soil not working up nicely. The wet then turned to dry and watering was an almost-daily chore. In late July a hailstorm finished the peas and almost destroyed the beans. With all the watering the potatoes did quite well and by the time I had them all dug I wondered if I was trying to grow enough for the entire neighborhood. But the real success story was the apples. After a crop ruined by frost on the blossoms last year, the trees made up for it this year. Hundreds of apples! Sadly, almost everyone had a pockmark or two from the hail. However they were fine inside and I spent hours peeling, coring. Chopping and freezing them for pies. Some pies have been made and sampled and I can say that it was well worth the effort on the apples. Today, as I write this my world is a beautiful place. The leaves are mostly golden with a few red and orange highlights and they have lasted longer than they have in many years. We took a trip through Kananaskis this past week and the scenery was spectacular all the way. One of the joys of ranching-and being somewhat retired-is the ability to take a day off when you choose-unless, of course, the cows get out or some other unexpected event rears its head! Now, the wind is blowing hard so many of the leaves will be lost and snow is expected in the next day or two. That sounds like the end of perfect days. Oh well, we’ve had them this past week-and we seized them!

April: The Cruelest Month

April 15: I’m sorry to admit my lack of culture but I really don’t know who penned the famous line: April is the cruelest month. Perhaps it was Shakespeare as he seemed to produce most of the most enduring quotes. Whoever said it hit the mark this year. I have never seen my usually-beautiful surroundings looking so awful. Last spring we were so dry it was scary. Then, in early July it started raining and kept it up for most of the rest of the summer. Although it played havoc with haying and harvesting, for the most part, we were still grateful. Drought and fire are formidable foes. We went into winter with ample groundwater and received a generous amount of snow. This was still fine. Then came April with almost daily snow or rain or rain and snow. The cows are calving and providing a dry bed for the babies is almost impossible. Water lies in every depression and falls steadily from above. Any areas where the cows are fed are quickly tramped into quagmires. The trails over which the four-wheel-drive tractor has been hauling hay have holes that would serve well as tank traps. When I look across the corrals, pastures, and trails I now truly imagine what conditions in the trenches in World War I must have been like. Nothing but mud, water, and muddy soup. April 16: It’s another day and right now the sun is shining. Immediately my spirits rise. In spite of the forecast for snow or rain every day next week, I am optimistic. The mud will dry up. The grass will grow. All will be well. Hope springs eternal.

April: The Cruelest Month

April 15: I’m sorry to admit my lack of culture but I really don’t know who penned the famous line: April is the cruelest month. Perhaps it was Shakespeare as he seemed to produce most of the most enduring quotes. Whoever said it hit the mark this year. I have never seen my usually-beautiful surroundings looking so awful. Last spring we were so dry it was scary. Then, in early July it started raining and kept it up for most of the rest of the summer. Although it played havoc with haying and harvesting, for the most part, we were still grateful. Drought and fire are formidable foes. We went into winter with ample groundwater and received a generous amount of snow. This was still fine. Then came April with almost daily snow or rain or rain and snow. The cows are calving and providing a dry bed for the babies is almost impossible. Water lies in every depression and falls steadily from above. Any areas where the cows are fed are quickly tramped into quagmires. The trails over which the four-wheel-drive tractor has been hauling hay have holes that would serve well as tank traps. When I look across the corrals, pastures, and trails I can now truly imagine what conditions in the trenches in World War I must have been like. Nothing but mud, water, and muddy soup. April 16: It’s another day and right now the sun is shining. Immediately my spirits rise and despite the forecast of rain or snow every day next week I am optimistic. The mud will dry, the grass will grow, all will be well. Hope springs eternal!

FW: Summer’ End

From: marilyn halvorson [mailto:halatsundre@telus.net] Sent: October-07-16 3:01 PM To: ‘only4blogposts@marilynhalvorson.ca‘ Subject: Summer’ End It’s October 7, snowing and cold with a piercing east wind. I guess that means that the convoluted summer of 2016 is finally over-although the petunias in pots against the house were still glorious as ever yesterday and I just picked the last tomatoes the day before. What a strange summer it has been! Throughout May and June great, promising black clouds sailed in, surely bringing us much-needed rain, but scarcely a drop fell. The pastures were looking stressed and the hay-well, there just wasn’t going to be any. Temperatures reached mid-summer highs in May and the apple trees burst into prolific bloom, only to be frozen by a sudden overnight drop well below freezing. Instead of the nearly 300 apples last year there were about seven! In early July, the one hayfield worth even cutting was put down and then baled with only a little rain on it. Yes, rain! Maybe it was all the jarring from the Calgary Stampede but, whatever it was, something knocked the plug out of the sky. For most of July, August, and September there was rain every two to three days. My green feed (oats grown to be cut green and baled for cow feed) was cut in mid-August with a forecast of about five days of sunshine ahead. Wrong again! By the time it was dry enough to bale it was late September and it looked like rather poor straw bedding. However, the summer was not all bad. The copious rain was sorely needed as the water table had sunk very low and wells were starting to dry up around the country. It took several rainy weeks to even produce puddles as the water just keep seeping into the parched ground. Now, we have good groundwater and the pastures have thrived like never before, still lush and green in most places. The cows are so fat they waddle. Although it took a lot of watering early in the season the garden did well and I finally got done digging all the potatoes. Now, we look forward to winter. Well, I’m not really looking forward to it but it’s coming anyway. Might as well get used to the idea. The chickadees and nuthatches have declared it time to be fed for some weeks now so I guess they’re prepared. As I write this the woodstove is making comforting stove noises behind me so as long as I keep packing in the wood all will be well. Hoping for Indian Summer!

Summer’ End

It’s October 7, snowing and cold with a piercing east wind. I guess that means that the convoluted summer of 2016 is finally over-although the petunias in pots against the house were still glorious as ever yesterday and I just picked the last tomatoes the day before. What a strange summer it has been! Throughout May and June great, promising black clouds sailed in, surely bringing us much-needed rain, but scarcely a drop fell. The pastures were looking stressed and the hay-well, there just wasn’t going to be any. Temperatures reached mid-summer highs in May and the apple trees burst into prolific bloom, only to be frozen by a sudden overnight drop well below freezing. Instead of the nearly 300 apples last year there were about seven! In early July, the one hayfield worth even cutting was put down and then baled with only a little rain on it. Yes, rain! Maybe it was all the jarring from the Calgary Stampede but, whatever it was, something knocked the plug out of the sky. For most of July, August, and September there was rain every two to three days. My green feed (oats grown to be cut green and baled for cow feed) was cut in mid-August with a forecast of about five days of sunshine ahead. Wrong again! By the time it was dry enough to bale it was late September and it looked like rather poor straw bedding. However, the summer was not all bad. The copious rain was sorely needed as the water table had sunk very low and wells were starting to dry up around the country. It took several rainy weeks to even produce puddles as the water just keep seeping into the parched ground. Now, we have good groundwater and the pastures have thrived like never before, still lush and green in most places. The cows are so fat they waddle. Although it took a lot of watering early in the season the garden did well and I finally got done digging all the potatoes. Now, we look forward to winter. Well, I’m not really looking forward to it but it’s coming anyway. Might as well get used to the idea. The chickadees and nuthatches have declared it time to be fed for some weeks now so I guess they’re prepared. As I write this the woodstove is making comforting stove noises behind me so as long as I keep packing in the wood all will be well. Hoping for Indian Summer!

What season is it?

May 22: The Long Weekend. We’ve been waiting for this for months. No, not for the reason many city people eagerly await the May long weekend. We had no intention of joining the rush to the campgrounds. What we on the farms and ranchers eagerly awaited was the almost-guaranteed wet weather that so often lands on this weekend. And we were not disappointed. The entire weekend here has been cold, wet, and sometimes snowy. But the moisture is a life-saver for our pastures and hay. It has been such an unusual, warm dry winter that it sometimes seemed like spring was a long time coming-until we reminded ourselves that it was still only March. What little snow we had disappeared early with no trace of spring run-off. The creeks started the spring low and only became lower. May temperatures were higher than we usually see in August and rain clouds came and went without losing a drop. Then came Fort McMurray, a shock to the whole province-and a reminder to me that my yard, bordered on three sides by thick forest, was also vulnerable. More than once I lay awake formulating a plan for loading the cats, dogs, and me into the motor home and “getting out of Dodge.” However, thank God, we dodged that bullet, for now, anyway. Spring moves on with all its work and pleasures. The apple and cherry trees bloomed beautifully in the hot weather. It now remains to be seen if the snow and frost has killed the unformed fruit. The garden went in early and the hardy vegetables that have sprouted should be okay. The trees are alive with birdsong, often beginning before daylight and I was so pleased to see a little bird take off carrying one of Apache dog’s many tufts of shed winter fur. Someone had a warm nest for the cold weekend! The brash little yellow-bellied sapsucker begins every day with a loud drum roll pounded out on the old TV antenna. Loud town meetings are held by the flock of geese frequenting the beaver dam across the road. The calves, a bit slow in coming this year, are healthy and happy, so far. In short, all is pretty much well in my little corner of the world. Hope it is in yours, too.

Glorious Days

Almost halfway through October and summer-warm and glorious in every way. The past month has been all one could ever ask of autumn. The colors of the leaves have glowed like pure yellow flame for weeks. Now they are falling fast; in some places only a beautiful mosaic on the ground is left. Still, there are patches where scarcely a leaf has fallen and the yellow shines against a sky of the kind of blue that only autumn brings. Yesterday, as I gazed at Nature’s beautiful gold and blue canvas a raven sailed across it, a jet-black accent to complete the picture. As wonderful as the sights are, the aromas are not to be outdone. As I walked this morning I was surrounded by the tang of slowly decaying balsam poplar leaves. It took me back to late spring when those same trees exude the scent of unrolling sticky leaf buds, different but just as wonderful as their scent in fall. Now, we live on borrowed time, knowing that winter lies in wait–but also knowing that nothing can take away what we have today.

MID-SUMMER STATUS REPORT

Doesn’t that title sound impressive? Well, all it means is this is how things are right here right now. Things have definitely been different this spring and summer. It has been unusually hot. Many Bergen summers have seen me in sweatshirts most days. Not so this year. Many days in the high 20s or even 30C. Too hot for me! Add that to the fact we had almost no spring run-off from our low-snow winter and a real shortage of spring rain and we found ourselves with a sparse hay crop. Now, let me add that we are not in a real drought like so much of the prairies. Throughout the summer we have had enough showers to keep the grass growing. Gardens needed watering often but how they grew in the heat! Most vegetables seem to be about two weeks ahead of usual. Now that what hay there is has matured and needs to be cut, we are in a showery phase with a little rain almost every day so things are at a standstill in that department. Having said all that I must add that we are so blessed in Bergen. The TV news shows us houses almost destroyed by vicious hailstorms and hail lying like snowbanks all over the land a day later. These storms have struck in two directions, each only an hour or two from here but, so far, we are untouched. Yesterday a fierce-looking black cloud sailed off to the southeast. It whipped itself up a small tornado which touched down near Calgary. I live in a beautiful little notch in the thick forest and would be all too vulnerable to fire. Here again, we have been spared the horrible forest fires that have blazed in BC, Saskatchewan, and northern Alberta. No great excitement in my life. But remember the ancient Chinese (I think) curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Bring on the boredom! Just a few miles from here is Bear Valley Horse Rescue which takes in unwanted horses that would otherwise go for slaughter. Among their many guests are a number of two-year-olds, well-bred, beautiful animals which did not find buyers last fall. Although I don’t dare climb onto a green horse any more I bought one and took in two for “foster children.” There are a roan, a sorrel, and a chestnut, gorgeous fillies. Just watching the grace of their movements and the flash of their sleek coats in the summer sun is more fun than an expensive holiday. They love me dearly, too, especially when I’m carrying apple wafers! That’s all for now. Wish me luck with the hay!

PARADISE FOUND: SPRING IN BERGEN

Yes, it was a great winter-the exact opposite of last winter’s snow and cold. But, now the last vestiges of even a good winter are gone and it is SPRING! Everywhere I look, trees and plants-including the ever-faithful weeds-are turning green. Animals laze in the sun, their winter coats falling out in handfuls as their summer ones turn sleek and glossy. As I work in the yard and garden I am serenaded by music more beautiful than anything produced by the great composers. This is the music of the returning birds. Chief in the orchestra is the rose-breasted grosbeak, one of those rare creations who is as beautiful to the ear as to the eye. His song is loud and almost continuous all day. By nightfall he must be utterly exhausted! His song is like that of a robin but longer and more complicated. To see him is to be captivated by his attire-black back, white breast, and a crimson patch over his heart. Of course he is not the only bird around. The robins also sing loudly and cheerfully. The grosbeak’s cousins, the evening grosbeaks, are also gorgeous, the males a deep yellow, accented in black. Sadly, like me, these fellows cannot sing a note. However, they are not ashamed to be heard and loudly proclaim their presence with their ear-splitting whistles. The chickadees, our faithful winter companions are also vocal with their spring songs and, not to be outdone, the woodpeckers and sapsuckers chime in with percussion, loudly hammering on whatever takes their fancy, preferably something metal with a good ring to it. If only spring could be bottled and sold it would be more intoxicating-and better for the health-than any spirit on the market! Cheers.