Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tent Caterpillar Egg Cases

The tree pruner came this week and did a nice job of the apple trees and pears and the Dolgo. He does the big trees which are standards and I do the smaller trees as I am now too old to climb high. About 8 to 10 percent of the 1 and 2 year growth on the apple trees have tent caterpillar egg cases this winter. I think we all knew an infestation was going to happen this coming year since the moths, Malacosoma, were extensive this fall on Lotus Island. We have yet to have a sharp frost which I am still hoping for, but rigorous pruning will get rid of the bulk of the egg cases and oil sprays will deal with some of them that are left as well, since they need to breathe. The pears are safe because the leaves have a harder finish. These caterpillars may be somewhat controlled on my apple trees, but the alders,birches,ocean spray,Rosa vulgaris and wild cherries are also loaded with egg cases and I can't prune the whole countryside, so in the end, we are going to have to rely on Mother Nature to interrupt the cycle with the Tachinid wasp. I have never tried BT but am going to do so this spring as I expect an inflorescence of worm, to follow the inflorescence of bloom, despite all these other measures. The trouble with spray is the worm appears in graduated stepwise larval stages over six weeks here, so multiple sprays are needed. Cost! The pruner is a nice guy but leaves his cuttings for me to pick up for shredding or burning. Thank goodness I've got Eddie who does the bending and hauling while I do the shredding and burn what I can't shred, on the beach. Shredding I am sure will destroy the egg cases when I compost the chips. Burning will certainly do it! One thing struck me as I wrote this and that is, Malus and Malacosoma: of course!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Diurnal Rhythm

If you have to take a nap or siesta after lunch, or struggle to stay awake in the early afternoon; if you wake up in the middle of the night for a period, or struggle to go back to sleep; and these episodes are consistent, you have a quadrinal rhythm, a variety of diurnal. Of course that rhythm is not satisfactory for most employers of today's workaday Western world, so those of us who had it, struggled to change to a diurnal sleep-wake rhythm unsuccessfully. Now that I am retired I can embrace my true quadrinal rhythm. The seasonal change of long dark nights and short days as now, in deep December, can increase the torpor of the organism, not only for Hibernators, but for the Quadrinals as well. Those of us that are dark-adapted will still thrive in the quiet and reflective 3am period when the night is long and satin. To thrive, one uses that rhythm to advantage. We do not mistake periods of torpor for depression, but see it as renewal, resting our metabolic rate, and being, rather than always doing! Sadly, those who have to manufacture energy, sometimes trumping the natural rhythm of the organism, may be stuck by the external demands of work. A paramecium embedded in a milieu, not of one's own choosing! At least, by embracing this concept one will erase blame and give one the hope that retirement will allow the natural man to emerge!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Smell a Rat

I went to the farm to pick up our turkey today. The farmer is a retired accountant. We talked about accounting and taxes since my grandson, of whom I am proud, is to article as a CA. The farmer friend told me how easy it was for an experienced CA to smell a rat in a tax return. It was an interesting conversation. He said, "Once a whiff of trapped rat is detected there is a hyper-vigilance annotated. A stench is often found with a little more time!" As I was driving home I thought about a friend who works for Revenue Canada as investigator. I think the phrase "I smell a rat" arose literally from the vermin arena! It occurred to me as I thought about it, that intelligent assessments, both with taxes and vermin, would use red flags as tip-off to a trapped rotten rat behind a wall. The audit is a bit like pest control! Some I know have a nose like a bloodhound. They get a whiff of the dead rat in the wall between Studs early on. I am a person with anosmia! "I can't smell a thing", I say. "You never do", they say,"'til it's too late." A little later, it's not a whiff, but a stench!" "I pick it up it now," I say. Well, the auditor gets a whiff, and looks forward to find the stench. Moreover,he looks for the loophole below that leads the rat to behind the wall of deception. The pest control needs to quickly find the hole that the rat used to get into the wall in order to plug it so only one rat is rotting. Since they run in and out, this too is a loophole. The more loopholes there are, the more rats we'll find. Rats aren't stupid. They multiply easily and if they live with anosmiacs they will last a long time with their fellow corpses before the stench subsides! Painful though they may be, fair taxes and plugged loopholes lead to an equitable, just and fragrant society. A toast to the CA's and Pest Controllers, cats and terriers!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Eureka, I think

Soon we will sing We Three Kings. The lyrics of the hymn are well known, but TS Eliot's poem, Journey of the Magi, is not wooden. The Magus who narrates the poem is alone and his epiphany was "Eureka, I think!" It wasn't easy and it wasn't sure and there was doubt. The epiphany both was, and wasn't, a long time coming. The poem stirs the soul because it reflects a thoroughly human person. Who provided the greater gift? Whose is the greater gift? That's easy! The Babe. The narrator of the poem has the gift of distance and time to arrive at the discovery of the paradox that out of death can come life. Someone said to me , "I don't understand what you mean by that last sentence. It doesn't make sense!" "Well" I said, "Read the poem! I'm not going to tell you what I think it means. It's not my job. You're not a stupid man so you will have your own ideas and they are as good as mine, though you'll never be as poetic as Eliot! And you'll never have to ride a thousand miles on a camel in the winter to find out either!"

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dry Land Farm

In Saskatchewan in 1950, when I was in grade 12, a mandatory course in the provincial curriculum was called Agricultural Economics! It represented more than just another course. It was a signal that reflected the cultural imperative for the bald prairie following the hardships of the dirty thirties and the efforts of the PFRA (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration) to ensure that improvements in dry land farming would never again allow those dreadful times to recur . The shelter belts, contour plowing, deep furrow planting, stubble retention, summer fallow, early maturing wheat and prairie grass seeding were implemented in my time in the forties and fifties and were a deep and abiding part of our prairie culture as evidenced by the curriculum in school. In Kindersley I still vividly remember the wet rags around the windows during frequent dust storms, the relentless wind blowing the Russian Thistle across the bald prairie, unhampered by fences, seeding as they tumbled into the piled up top soil in the ditches. Later, in Conquest the planted 12 foot Carragana hedges(Siberian peashrub) served as shelter belts; planted in rows every eighth of a mile to check the wind erosion and preserve the blowing snow drifts for precious water retention for dry fields. The hedging protecting the roads from excess snow when we went to school by cutter. Many years later I couldn't even imagine such a course in high school that would so reflect overarching cultural mores and direct the interest in everyone of school age to its economic importance. I have changed my mind. That zeal we felt then has reappeared in new clothing. Dressed in today's energy toward a green revolution, and the ecological drive manifest by today's youth who are addressing a new problem with the same commitment and zeal that we had. Maybe harnessed with the same school effort that we were privy to! I don't have my essay from Grade 12 now, since I haven't saved my paper from 61 years ago, but I remember I got an A+ from Bill Cybulski for my report on the work of the PFRA. The changes were a matter of survival as a prairie society at that time. We knew nothing at that time about the presence of oil, potash,uranium or diversity of grains. For me, it is wonderful to watch today's economic renaissance in Saskatchewan and the need to achieve balance with the environment we have been given!

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Ronald Reagan was said to be the Great Communicator! Style and Substance: Short and Sweet and Succinct. It reminds me of the contrast from my early years of medical practice, and the later role I served in the complaints committee of the regulatory body. Many of the complaints about physicians arose as a result of failure to explain, failure to take the time to answer questions, and assumptions that people understood, when in fact they didn't. It all takes time, truth and syntax! It may reflect caring if you communicate wisely, but it is more important that the patient is truly informed for the benefit of the caregiver as well as themselves! We used to laughingly joke," We were taught in third year Medicine to write illegibly so that no one could use our records against us; and taught in fourth year Medicine how to mumble so no one could gainsay what we told them! The joke was of course, "We ended up with no communication skills." Some times that, in reality, was not far off. I have seen many cases of superb treatment provided to people who bitterly complained about the treatment because the communication, both before or after, was awful or non existent. Since I went to Medical School in the 50's and trained in surgery in the early sixties, communication took second place then, to technical skill. The "cared for" were patients, not clients, and certainly not customers. That terminology is evolutionary. We cared deeply in the olden days about doing good work, and we worked so hard, but we wondered why they didn't love us.The idea of the patient participating in their care or contributing was nonexistent in those days, even if you were not a Martinet. It's hard to even fathom that attitude now, but the change of patient, to client, to customer, for better or worse, is the great leveler. Certainly, like all else, nothing is cut and dried, respect is a two way street, and education of everyone is the key!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Force Vitale

My architect friend, who designed a post war modernist house for the pianist and me in 1970, phoned yesterday to tell me it was featured in a 3 month Legacy Show in Lotus City! It, amongst some other buildings, broke new ground at the time in the seventies, and for me the house was ground breaking, though in retrospect, I was an arriviste then and thought I needed such a vehicle.We sold the house after seventeen years of living as our family grew up and we simplified with an apartment in town and a cottage on Lotus Island.I never forgot the house through the intervening years as it was for me a crowning jewel throughout the time we lived there! When we left and the furnishings were gone I never returned to see it because it would have been painful. The pianist however went back to look at the empty house and as she looked in every room she knew: "A house without a force vitale; is only a beautiful empty shell." Time has healed desire for me now and I am looking forward to the Legacy Show. I hope I have conquered my arriviste tendencies. The heart of any house, beautiful or homely, is what creates the home. The pianist shared my feelings about leaving it, but it became apparent to her as she toured the empty house that it was a corpse, albeit a beautiful corpse, without a heart, awaiting a new transplant. I wish now that I had the pianist's foresight to revisit it once it was empty so that I could also write finis to the sense of loss that I felt at that time.