Monday, October 31, 2005

Of sowthistle and saltgrass

I've started to notice patterns in the vegetation of our yard. If you don't know the Arcola area, you might want to know some background. The area in general is a glacial lake bed, with mostly clay soil as I recall, and high salinity in the lowest areas. Our yard (pictures here and here) is right on the margin of the old "brick ponds," where there used to be a brick factory about a century ago. I don't know what the areal extent of that operation was, so who knows - maybe the soil in our yard was disturbed back then. Presently it's mostly lawn with some unimaginative hedges and tree rows along the edges. Last year I didn't do much to it besides planting some veggies in the square of bare (well, weedy) soil and mowing the rest. This year I've noticed three main types of growth in the lawn: the thin scraggly stuff in the shade north of the house and under the tree rows; a fairly healthy patch on sunny level ground just south of the house; and a weedy area on the very sunny slope south toward the brick ponds. The scraggly stuff doesn't cut neatly with my push-powered reel-type lawn mower, but as noted in my previous post, I've come up with a plan to greatly reduce the area of such grass. Now it's just the weedy area on the sunny slope that's bothering me. Why is it so thick with sowthistle? I asked our neighbour, and she said it's because of all the sowthistles blooming in the long grass around the brick ponds and spreading seed. Maybe partly, but there's a definite area where they are almost choking out the lawn, and in other areas I don't notice sowthistles at all. I got thinking it must be something in the soil. I guessed salinity might be an issue, and the vegetation seems to confirm that: I found desert saltgrass (Distichlis stricta) growing through the same area as the sowthistle, as well as some kochia patches nearby. It would make sense that there could be some salinity on this slope above the brick ponds, due to evaporation and capillary action drawing water up from the ponds through the soil and leaving its salts at the surface.

Now what? I suppose the most common approach would be to try to kill the sowthistle with a herbicide, but that won't fix the salinity. Irrigation might, but if I'm going to water my landscape, I'll water the garden part. No, I'll have to look for something more subtle. I am thinking maybe if I overseed some other salt-tolerant plants, like Nuttall's salt-meadow grass (Puccinellia nuttalliana), I can give the sowthistle some stiffer competition. I'm also wondering if I should look at some alternative to lawn there, like some low shrubs to shade the soil more to reduce the evaporation. However, that's one area where I do like to have a mown lawn, just as a deterrent to any wandering creatures that might come in from the "wilds" of the brick ponds. I'm still pondering.

Thanks to Wayne for a post that prodded me to write about all this.

Leaf mulch

I don't like to admit this, but I'm not very consistent about composting. Most of the time I have a mouldered heap of kitchen scraps and garden cullings, but it rarely gets more deliberate than that. I could try getting some straw to help draw air into the pile, and build a second bin to store the drier materials for doling out between doses of wet kitchen stuff, but it's hard to get motivated when I know I can just go get a truckload of manure from the farm for the garden, and be done with it. On the other hand, I might as well have a compost pile, just to keep stuff off that big truck that hauls our trash about fifty miles to the landfill.

Every year around this time, I start thinking about building that extra bin, to store next year's leaves. It's always too late for this year. Except this year, I found a new idea for the leaves: mulching that big shady area under the tree rows beside the next house. The grass in there is always straggly and thin and weedy, and it's a nuisance to try to mow around and between the trunks. When Umbra at Grist mentioned using leaves for mulch, it seemed so simple. I'll just rake leaves off the good grass, and pile them on the scraggly grass. Hopefully in a couple of years I'll have something more like forest understory under the trees. I'm thinking that I'll try adding seeds or berries from native understory plants like Canada violets, fairy bells, false solomon's-seal, snakeroot, and wild sarsaparilla. Mom hasn't had much success germinating seeds from forest plants, but I figure that if I can create a forest-ish environment and let the seeds go through a typical cycle of winter exposure, maybe they will grow okay on their own. I might put a few shrubs in, too (dogwood and Wood's rose from Shand Greenhouse).

Speaking of shrubs, Garth wanted to get some saskatoon bushes. While I was busy concentrating the leaves into one part of the yard, I paused to lean on my rake and happened to look up, and there was a saskatoon bush. How could I have missed it? Granted, it's one of those shade-affected bushes that looks more like a cluster of small trees, with no leaves below at least eye level. Still, it makes me wonder if I've had some sort of negative attitude making me blind to the advantages of this little yard. I'll have to watch next spring to see if it flowers. Then again, the chokecherry always has loads of flowers and almost no fruit at all. Birds, I'm guessing.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Letters from Nepal

The Carlyle Observer has started publishing Garth's weekly column from Nepal. I just put the first instalment up on Garth's web site, and I'll be adding them each week after they come out in the paper, so you can follow his adventures there.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

October Crocus

It happens fairly often, with crocuses, and moss phlox, and probably other early bloomers. I guess they are just set to seize life less cautiously.

Though the frost come late,
still, she will fall too soon.
but she was beautiful
and there is no changing that.

Monday, October 24, 2005

I bought too soon: LED lighting update

An unexpected result in a graduate student's project looks like a breakthrough for LED lighting. I'd better finish installing those compact fluorescents before they're obsolete.

That, and do some harvesting, and get the cow pie off my walking shoes, and pick hymns for next Sunday, and clean two houses, and make lunch before the kids get home... Awww, heck. Maybe I'll just go for a bike ride.

Friday, October 21, 2005

From the archives #1

I'm leading worship here in Arcola, at St. Andrew's United, for four weeks straight while our minister's husband recovers from bypass surgery. With all the sermons and prayers I'm writing, there doesn't seem to be much creativity left over for blogging. This morning, though, as I ran a search on the hard drive to make sure I hadn't used a sermon topic before, I turned up a piece of writing from three years ago that I would like to share.

Arcola, Saskatchewan, August 18, 2002.

Two days ago I returned home from a journey to Brockville, Ontario, where I participated in the summer school of the Royal School of Church Music, Eastern Ontario Branch. I feel obliged to write a report of what I learned, so that I might review it later, or pass on some gem of knowledge to my choir.

Yet what stands out in my mind is not so much the facts presented in the workshops, as the impressions I felt between the words.

The concert the first evening was impressive: powerful, flexible, expressive singing with skillful piano accompaniment. Yet I was oddly unmoved, even critical. Why? Perhaps the singer was just too young, too obviously happy and well dressed, to be singing these wistful wanderer songs. What does it take for music to be convincing? Is there any hope of delivering service music with conviction, when the mind is usually scrambling between the current tempo struggle and the worry of "what comes next"?

During the organ movie, I was astonished to find myself moved to tears. Partly just weariness, I supposed. Yet I sensed, even from sound and images tightly circumscribed by television projection, how the grandeur of organ and chorus could support the soaring of the soul.

At Jeff Hanlon's guitar concert, I found myself restless. My wandering thoughts frustrated me. Why couldn't I focus on this intriguing music? It crossed my mind that I wanted to move, to be outdoors. Not to leave the music, but to hear it in a different place, and to move. Yet I was frozen, hardly remembering to breathe, with only my thoughts stirring in restless betrayal.

The music that we explored at the anthem reading sessions was distinctly in three flavours. No, more like two flavours, and one completely different food. There were traditional anthems, and there were contemporary anthems. Then there was song: music for all to join. At the time, I noticed the contrast in emphasis. Now, I notice a paradox. I was more comfortable singing along in the songs than carefully following my part in the anthems. In the anthems, it was harder to feel a stirring of the spirit, with my mind so active. Yet for someone who is even less comfortable singing, would it be distracting to try to sing along in a song, rather than to listen to an anthem from a choir?

At morning chapel, I noticed the prelude. It took three times, but I noticed. I noticed its separateness, the silence bracketing it. It was not just sound filling time. It was an announcement, a calling together.

Back home, I suggested to our minister that instead of playing the organ continuously from 10:15 to that moment around 10:45 when she enters and crosses to the pulpit, I would stop at 10:40. I would come out and partake of her prayer with the choir, and then go back to the organ to play a distinct prelude. We tried it. Perhaps members of the congregation will comment otherwise, but we liked it.

At Wesley Warren's organ concert, I was at first bewildered by the seating arrangement. Our backs to him! I contemplated joining those who sat in the chairs near the front of the chapel, swiveling their chairs to face the loft at the rear. Yet as the recital proceeded, I sensed the wisdom of the arrangement: the music from an unseen source, behind, is offered together with the forward gaze of the congregation, flowing together in a single act of worship. Somehow musicians, music, and gathered people are all part of one procession approaching God.

Someone commented, "All those layers, and you can hear them all!" Is my hearing faulty, or just untrained? At times I heard only a wall of sound. Yet I was delighted by the conclusion of the Bach, where one by one the voices resolved out of a dense jungle until there was only a pure, transparent, yet magnificent chord.

The journey home from Brockville was long and poignant. Along the highway, I shared confidences with Rosemary, who had been my chauffeur, roommate, and frequent companion during the summer school. At a parking lot in Campbellville, I bid her goodbye. I waited there for Merrilu, a friend from a summer work term in my undergrad days, and over supper, we began to gather up the old threads of our friendship. At the airport in Hamilton, I bid her goodbye. On the plane, I calmed my nerves by focussing on the task of remembering when I last flew, and in the last few minutes of the flight, discovered that the woman seated next to me had recently started voice lessons and an exploration of Voices United. On the ground in Winnipeg, I bid Melissa goodbye. My former piano teacher met me at the airport, took me to her home, and sent me to bed. In spite of my weariness, I woke early, tormented by a bewildering blend of excitement over new ideas, and simple longing for home. Over breakfast, Mrs. Burland and I talked of music in worship, and the peril of its becoming show. She confessed to sharing my lukewarm reaction to organ music. We could have talked for hours, but she could see that I was anxious to be on the road. In the driveway, she clucked over the state of my aging car. I bid her goodbye.

As Portage Avenue became the TransCanada Highway and Winnipeg's suburbs opened into grain fields, I felt a thrill, and cranked up an all-oldies station to support it. Westward! I remembered an oppressive sensation from ten days before, as we moved east from Winnipeg: that we were driving toward the dark depths of civilization. It seemed as if months had passed, but I had survived it all, and now I was free. Westward! I did not stop until the fuel light came on.

Somewhere in my travels I had commented to someone about my habit of driving at 90 or even 80 kilometers per hour on Saskatchewan highways. No way I could do that in the tight high-speed rush of Ontario's express lanes. Yet here I was pushing the limits all the way home, throwing fuel efficiency to the wind.

And so my thoughts came around again to the lure of power, whether it be the controls of a car, or the console of an organ, or the podium before a choir. How easy it is to cross the line between employing power in service, and exploiting power in personal gratification.

"For the beauty of the earth." Two lines from that hymn haunted me earlier this summer. I searched my mind fruitlessly for the rest of it, or for the first line, to look it up. Finally I found it, and discovered that in Voices United, those haunting lines have been changed. The most significant word is gone. "Lord of all, to thee we raise/this our sacrifice of praise." Apparently, the word sacrifice connected the hymn to communion, so it was taken out to make the hymn more general. Yet I had never heard it as a reference to communion. I heard it as an unusual insight: in any act of organized praise, we make a sacrifice. We sacrifice resources through our travel to gather; through the heating and lighting of our worship space; through the electricity powering the organ; through the past use of energy to produce the materials of the building and the organ and the hymnals ("embodied energy"). The larger the building, or the more magnificent the organ, or the more rehearsed the choir, or the longer the journey of the worshippers, the larger the sacrifice.

The guitar seems so quiet and humble. No electricity required.

My husband would remind me about the embodied energy in those strings I keep replacing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Photographic evidence...

...that Garth really is way over there in Nepal.

He misses Garth?

I miss him too, but not that much.

He phoned this morning (which is this evening, over there) and it was so wonderful just to hear his voice, until the little gaps in the sound got bigger and bigger and it was more frustrating than wonderful and then it was cut off altogether. He phoned many times, actually, playing with different settings of the antenna etc. ("voice over internet" at his end of the call). At one point I held the receiver down for Pumpkin (the cat), and he sniffed intently at the speaker end of it.

Then we tried the internet phone at both ends, and things got really weird. I was hearing only blips of his voice, and he started typing chat messages at me, and I got confused about whether to talk or type ("TALK, don't type," he typed). At one point it was almost working, so that he could type at me and I could talk ("you get to talk and i just listen," he said--gotta like that!) but then the voice connection was lost. We settled on typing chat for a while, and that was just too much fun. An online romance with my own hubby. We finally managed to say goodnight, and actually quit typing, and then it got bizarre. The phone kept ringing, and I kept answering and hearing garbled bits. Finally I heard his voice, evidently murmuring as he typed, saying something that had come through on the chat at least five minutes before. Back to the chat I went, and he explained that voice has lowest priority, so it didn't get through till the typing slowed down. Also the packets may have been routed through Japan instead of Pakistan, or something like that.

All in all, it was a whirlwind introduction to the technology of tomorrow and fifteen years ago, all at once.

Goodnight once more, sweetheart.

His first cinnamon buns

Phyllis has been sharing the secrets of her renowned cinnamon buns. Ruth was in on the first class, among the adults, and has since been helping Phyllis teach youngsters. (Reminds me of the regional college calligraphy class I took when I was about her age, and then ended up teaching the same class to mothers and grandmothers!) James was in a recent class, and this was the result.
I think Ruth may have been a teensy bit jealous.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

He's on his way

Sorry if I keep coming back to this one topic, but I haven't had time for much else besides keeping up with chores and getting Garth on that plane. We had a last-minute glitch which had us scrambling for a transit visa for India. It meant a quick trip into Regina Tuesday evening, getting visa photos at 7 p.m. and then getting to the courier office by 7:15 to send them to Vancouver. Then we had to wait and hope and trust that a helpful stranger in that city could make things happen at the Indian consulate. Friday evening at 7 p.m. I got the email saying the visa was on its way; we picked it up when the courier office opened at 9 this morning, and got Garth to the airport for a flight departing at 10:10. Right now I assume he is in Toronto, minus the suit jacket that we left behind in the scramble this morning, and the multi-tool that he had inexplicably packed in his carry-on luggage. Small world though: the security officer who brought it back to me was a friend from Luther College. Good to see you again, Keith.

Garth is planning to give us reports on his adventures, at Nothing seems very different yet, and yet... there is this funny twisting feeling down deep inside. Something in me knows that he is already a long way off. And he hasn't even left Canada yet.

Update - he phoned from Delhi, exactly 12 hours of time zone away. Sounds pretty excited, hasn't had much sleep. One more flight and he's there.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

My rain gauge fell over

It wasn't in the forecast until just before it happened. Sunday morning I looked out at the rain and wished I'd taken the small trouble to set my rain gauge upright again. A little later I looked out and saw mist above the shingles on the garage, telling me it was really coming down. We left town for a day, and there was no rain at Qu'Appelle, but when we got home there were still big puddles around. Mom said they got well over an inch at the farm. With all that rain plus the wet snow last Wednesday, you would think the soil should be saturated.

I was digging in the garden today, planting some asparagus from Garth's mom, and I found the wetting front at about eight inches deep. Below that the soil was dry.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Light Up the World

It was the reference to Nepal that caught my eye. I was browsing through an old Reader's Digest in Garth's old bedroom at his mom's farm. His trip to the other side of the world is less than a week away now, and Nepal is very much on my mind. Here was a story with plenty of now-familiar references: the Annapurna hiking circuit, a Sherpa guide, Pokhara. Yet what held my attention was the project that grew out of Dave Irvine-Halliday's unscheduled hiking trip. Dave visited his guide's family, and wished he could see their faces as they visited in the dark, smoky home. He later looked in the window of a school classroom and wondered how the children could see to read. When Dave got back to the University of Calgary, he found his lab technician John Shelley experimenting with LEDs. They tracked down a white LED and developed a durable, low cost lamp with very low energy consumption. This lamp, combined with a battery and a household-level renewable power source such as a pedal powered generator or a solar panel, forms the basis for Light Up the World (LUTW).
Light Up The World Foundation brings ultra-efficient, durable and near permanent White Light Emitting Diodes (WLED) lighting solutions powered by renewable energy to the world's poor in ecologically sensitive and remote rural areas.
Why haven't I heard of this before?

The more I thought about it, the more ideas came. I have some LED Christmas lights, and Garth just got a tiny LED flashlight. Why not LED household lights for energy conservation? I admit this is a somewhat discouraging thought, since I just bought a dozen compact fluorescents to make my home lighting more efficient. Constantly changing to something more efficient strikes me as... inefficient. But anyway...

My first thought was that on alternating current, LED lights might flicker. I had noticed a strobe effect with my Christmas lights when the light string was swinging across my field of vision. Then I remembered Wayne's article about gradually isolating various appliances from utility power. LED lighting could be very effective on a DC system powered with solar panels, couldn't it? The low power consumption would be a good fit for the solar, and the DC supply would be a good fit for the LEDs. For me, this underscores what a powerful idea Wayne has. If we get away from standardizing everything to 120V AC, not only will we find new ways to apply renewable energy, but we could also discover side benefits such as backup for service interruptions, isolation of sensitive electronics from surges on large power systems, ingenious storage solutions, and probably many more benefits that haven't occurred to anyone yet.

In the meantime, I did some Googling, and concluded that LED household lights are indeed available, with some limitations, but flicker doesn't seem to be one of them. I am assuming that it's probably eliminated by the circuitry built into an LED "bulb" (which is actually an array of diodes on a base that fits a standard light socket).

The limitations for household LED lights seem to be brightness (the brightest I found was approximately equal to a 40 W incandescent) and beam angle (generally quite narrow even with arrays of diodes plus lenses and reflectors). Currently LED lighting is advertised mainly for accent or task lighting. Now I feel better about my compact fluorescents, but who knows how fast things will change?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The refrigerator saga

Everything I'd read about conserving energy at home told me I had to replace the 1970s refrigerator. Garth told me it was all a scam to sell more refrigerators. He insisted that the power we'd save would not make up for the resources used in making and transporting a new refrigerator.

I pulled out my EnergyCheck printouts, but they were highly suspect. According to their figures, the potential energy savings around our place exceeded our total energy usage.

Then I pulled out our actual power bills and listed a full year of monthly power costs. Garth started calculating out loud how much of that power probably went to the computer to support my blogging habit, and then...

the wind went out of his sails. He came up with only a fraction of the power use. It had to be going somewhere. "Okay," he said, "you've convinced me."

His brother came down to help him work on vehicles, and I seized the opportunity to get some heavy lifting done. I drove to Carlyle, bought the new refrigerator, helped the two Sears ladies load it (it's a small one, rather light), tied it securely into the truck box (I am sinfully proud of my skill with a few good knots), and brought it home for the men to haul inside. They were desperately trying to finish a repair to the car before Garth had to drive off (in said car) to a weekend event. He was already late when they finished, but they moved the refrigerator in, took the old one out to the garage, and left.

I got busy with the operating manual, carefully wiping out the interior as instructed, although hurrying because of all the food getting warm on the kitchen table. At last I was ready. I plugged it in - and yanked the plug out again.

Surely it wasn't supposed to hiss like that?

Hesitantly, I plugged it in again. Again that spluttering hiss, and I unplugged it quickly.

I walked around it, looking at the coils and compressor for obvious problems. I looked at the warming food. I plugged it in once more. This time I endured the hissing long enough to circle around to where I could see the coils.

My expletives brought curious children onto the scene, as I scrambled to unplug it for good. I could actually see a mist of refrigerant leaking out of a join between the compressor and the coils. What is that stuff? Didn't I read somewhere that the new refrigerants are less damaging to the ozone layer, but not completely harmless? Do I want that stuff in my kitchen? How am I going to solve this mess and get cleaned up and get over to the fowl supper and eat before I'm supposed to be scraping plates at seven?

A couple of phone calls got me an assurance from the Sears ladies that I could exchange the refrigerator the next day, as well as a lecture from a refrigeration technician about worrying about "that stuff you've been fed." I went ahead and worried anyway. There was no answer at Mom and Dad's.

Meanwhile Ruth was building up to a rant about how I wasn't helping her get fed and ready to go to a birthday party. She made some comment along the lines of "Why can't I just have an ordinary life?" and I exploded. She seemed to be suggesting that I actually liked having everything go wrong. She wanted to carry on with her social life as if nothing had happened, and furthermore, she wanted me to help her do that, but she wouldn't consider helping me deal with my refrigerator crisis. But after some shrilling and sobbing on my part, she quietly helped James and me carry all the food out to the old refrigerator in the garage. I took the kids over to the fowl supper, and Ruth paid for both their meals because I didn't have any cash. I walked right in without paying, in my grubby clothes, looking for my Dad. Finally I spotted Mom cutting pies, and she pointed me to Dad's table. In talking with him, I decided that I could probably find out what substance I was dealing with from the manual, and find out its properties from the Internet. I left the kids to fend for themselves at the supper. Ruth was going on from there to the birthday party.

The MSDS for HFC-134a eased my worries somewhat. I opened windows, turned up the thermostat to run the forced air briefly, and then closed off the kitchen and left its window open. I changed into decent clothes, biked downtown for cash and then back to the fowl supper, gulped down turkey dinner in fifteen minutes (no pie for me) and reported for plate scraping duty. When I got home, Ruth was still out at the party. I phoned over to find out when she would be getting home - 10:30 or eleven was the reply. I waited up.

At 2 a.m. I finally put together a vague recollection of Ruth saying something about a sleepover, with the obvious fact that she was not home yet, and realized that 10:30 meant: in the morning.

James wakes early, so I woke early, and set to work preparing to take the refrigerator back. Dad had said he would help move it, but he was out somewhere. I found that I could roll it along a smooth floor by myself, so I moved it out near the front door. Then I rewired the electrical outlet for it, because the old refrigerator hadn't needed a grounding outlet. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the cable supplying the box did have a ground, so I didn't have to fish any wire, just put in a new receptacle. Mom and Dad arrived, and we got the refrigerator back into the truck and tried to replace the packing materials around it to the way they were before. I was tying it down, making some self-congratulatory remark about my trusty knots, when Dad pointed out that my two-way tie-down wouldn't keep the refrigerator from tipping forward over my toolbox. I guess I was lucky on the first trip. We made it a three-way tiedown, and off I went.

At Carlyle, I helped the two Sears ladies unload the damaged refrigerator and load another one. When I got back home, I phoned Dad but Mom told me he was now out mowing ski trails. To be ready for his assistance, I backed the truck up to the step, working it into just the right angle for the maximum overlap of the tailgate onto the step. With all the back-and-forth manoeuvering to get the angle, I developed a pretty good sense of where the step was. I knew I was close but stopped backing and got out to check how much room I had left.

About an inch.

I untied all my trusty knots and slid the refrigerator onto the tailgate. It was only a couple of inches of drop onto the step; surely I could manage it. I did.

I took the packing materials off, except for the foam slab underneath, and pivoted the refrigerator into place directly in front of the door. It was just a couple of inches up to get over the sill.

"Ruth," I called, "I think we can do this."

She came and looked at the situation and confidently agreed. James came to help. We got one refrigerator foot hooked over the door sill, and there it stuck. Ruth kept trying to get me out of the way so she could lift. I kept trying to figure out what was holding it. Ruth tried to push it "that way" without looking at where I was pointing. Finally we got it slid along the door sill enough that it could tilt in the necessary direction, the second foot cleared the sill, and we were away. Ruth phoned Mom and told her, "We got it moved in, so Grampa doesn't have to come."

"Good Gracious!" said Mom.

We rolled it into the kitchen, and I repeated the wiping-out ritual, and tried plugging it in.

Just a sweet hum from the compressor, nothing more.

It was time to put the food in, but I hesitated. The door should be reversed, and if I loaded all the food in now, we might just never get around to changing the door. The manual said I should have a helper, because the refrigerator would have to be tilted.

I thought about it. I looked at the refrigerator. I pulled it away from the wall and leaned it, pulled it a little farther from the wall and leaned it again, until I found a secure balancing point. Ruth steadied the refrigerator when I reached the point of actually pulling off the door. A little more work and it was done.

Just a few hours afterward, I found myself thinking about my upcoming time without Garth around to help me, and feeling a bit daunted. Then I thought about the refrigerator saga.

It's okay, I thought.

I can do this.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Autumn gold in Arcola

Today was one of those grey days that make the autumn gold blaze. I kept looking at our hedge of lilacs and thinking about cutting it down. (Why not? It will grow back better than ever, or if I like it gone, I'll have all winter to think about how to keep it gone.) Several times I walked out in front of it, trying to imagine how the house would look without its stilted screen, and each time I found myself looking up at the distorted elm crowns with their branch tips still scorched where they got whipped against the 3-phase in that summer storm. What to do with the elms? I just don't know. They would be magnificent if only someone had thought to plant them away from the wires. They may be gone in a few years anyway.

I tried to picture some other trees or shrubs in the front yard. Finally I decided to walk around town and look at other people's trees. What a treat. The ash trees are nearly bare, and the Manitoba maples are getting there fast, but the elm leaves have just started to fall, so there is still plenty of gold in the townscape. Lilacs are still green; dogwood and cotoneaster shrubs are vivid red. At first I walked through the older parts of town, where most of the yards are hedged with caragana and shaded with Manitoba maples. As I moved into a newer area, I noticed a much greater diversity of trees and shrubs: silvery willows, dark evergreens, and the graceful shapes of crabapple and weeping birch trees. I still don't know what I might plant in our front yard.