Progress continues, as do other events

Since returning to Calgary there have been a few celebrations worth noting.  First my dear niece got married.  Well, she isn’t exactly a neice, but a second cousin whom I consider to be a niece.  Desiree Butler, cousin Kim’s daughter married her true love, Carm Salenga.  I only received a couple of photos of Desiree in her wedding dress.

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First a photo of her talking to her Mom (Kim w/ the gray hair up in a knot.  Below is her Dad, Terry w/ the purple shirt.  That’s Carm on the left of Desiree, then right below.  Isn’t she beautiful?!!

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How about these 3 taken by the professional photoghrapher showing her dress & a couple of beautiful close-ups.

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I also ended up w/ a beautiful photos of the complete Steven Usher family – wow – what a great-looking group eh?!

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I also had a birthday & my dear friend Debra sent these gorgeous flowers!  (speaking of wow!)

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We went out for dinner w/ Bill, Mom, cousin Jane & brother Brian.  I think my 97-year-old mother looks better than me, 30 years younger!  OMG!

On Saturday (Aug. 27) we were visited by The 2 Usher daughters & Les’ new beau.

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Here’s Mom w/ Leslie, Jill & Michael (Michael is Leslie’s new beau!)  They’re embarking on a trip across the country.  They will drop Jill in Kingston, where she’ll finish her classes at Queen’s Univ.  Les & Michael will continue on to Newfoundland!  He’s from England & Les wants to show him Canada.  What a great trip eh?

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Soon after I had lunch with my dear friend Geri.  Isn’t she lovely?  We always have such a good visit.

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On Sept. 17th, another cousin had a birthday – my darling almost-sister, Robyn Usher.  Here she is a few years ago.  Since she was born in 1860, she’s looking pretty good eh? Those gray eyes!!!

It’s been a wet summer in Maple Creek & Blaine has had a back injury, so we’ve had a bit of a hiatus in our house build.  However, we made another short trip to MC Sept 20-21 & took Mom with us.  Had to cut it shorter than we’d planned because there was a conference in town & the Lodge was booked for the next night!

Cousin Karen was going to come down, but harvesting was happening at their place – plus they’d just returned from the Landing where they’d enjoyed camping for a few days while the weather was gorgeous.

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She sent us these 2 photos of the harvesting “Going about 50/60 bushels per acre.  3 combines going. Awesome!  👍👍”

We did however, get to take Mom to the site & get her into our house!

We had asked Blaine if he could get a ramp or something to get Mom into the house, since she can’t really climb a ladder.  His ingenious solution was to put a ramp on the forklift – amazing.  All 3 of us could go up on it (Mom, Bill & I).

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Here’s Mom in our bedroom.  You can see the messy neighbours, which is why we want to build a high fence between us.

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Here’s Mom with Blaine in the dining room where you can look out the front window & onto the front porch.

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This view from the back door into the huge garage!  Lots of room for 2 vehicles, gardening implements & bird seed!

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Here is the back of the house with Blaine’s forklift in front of the patio doors where he did the magical lift!

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This is the side of the house where the workmen climb the ladder into the front door “hole”.  You may notice that our beautiful charcoal gray metal roof is on!

The basement now has a floor, so that’s a great thing.  The windows arrive next Tuesday (Sept. 27th) & doors are ordered, so hopefully it will be closed in soon!  The bad news is that the kitchen won’t be installed until Nov. 15th.  So now we’re hoping to be “in” before Xmas.

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I snapped this shot through the car window just as we took off from in front of our house – our beautiful street of elm trees in fall colors.

The day after we got back another cousin had a birthday.  Joan Fahselt is a year older than me.

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She is a true swim suit model, as you can see.  Oh Joanie – you little beauty!

We will make another trip out to MC in 2-3 weeks, so stand by!

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Onward & upward!

Aug. 2/16:  Had dinner w/ Penny & Wilf last night.  Well, who did we run into in the restaurant?  Cousin Barry Larson & his beautiful daughter, Lauren!

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Here they are!  Janet (Barry’s wife) was back in Calgary, hence the reason for just the 2 of them.  Nice shot!

Penny & Wilf came back to OUR place this time after dinner (we’d bought a bottle of scotch!). We got to see some of their photos from their river cruise down the Rhine.  We got to identify an Egyptian Goose which was the only bird they noticed on their trip!  Wilf hadn’t wanted to go on this trip (he’s rather get on his motorcycle & drive!), but he admitted that he’d really enjoyed the whole trip – even the castle tours they went on!  He enjoyed Notre Dame Cathedral in Strasburg especially – was very impressed with the ancient, elaborate architecture.  Needless to say, Penny was very happy about how much he enjoyed it!

Aug. 3/16:  Thundered, lightninged & rained/hailed most of the night.  A very dark day (being so many clouds) – HOWEVER – Blaine dropped by around noon to say they’d gotten half the roof trusses up!  Also to arrange our meeting w/ plumber/electrician tonight.

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imageWe stopped by when we eventually emerged from our cocoon – hallelujah!  Really looks like a house now!  Actually it looks big!

I also stopped into the post office today to find out how we can get a box for our address here.  Unfortunately we are on a waiting list!  Also checked to find out when garbage pickup occurs.  In our area of town it’s Thursday mornings!

We heard from cousin Karen (we’ve been trying to connect with her too).  She’d gotten the followoing photos from Harold early this morning.

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Apparently there was lots of hail around the SK Landing area & hail damage to some crops – I think fairly localized.  Thank goodness it wasn’t larger!

We had 2 meetings  this evening – with the plumber & the electrician.  We’re very happy with both of them – recommended by Blaine, our builder.  I am not savvy about all the technical stuff – though Bill has educated himself on most fronts (he’s amazing!).

Thursday, Aug. 4/16:  A lovely sunny morning – high predicted 24C.  The cats enjoy looking for birds at a sunny window.

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This morning Bill spent quite a bit of time refining technical drawings & sending them along to plumber, electrician & Blaine.  After the cool weaher & nearly torrential rain, it is a hot, sunny day today.  Hopefully our building site will dry out a bit for the guys.

This afternoon we decided to go have a look at the house – just as Blaine asked us to come over.  There was something he wanted to show us.

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Here are Blaine & Bill looking at the little roof jut that will be manufactured all along the ridge to add some interest.  As you can see, the sheathing has been put on the roof & they’re about to lay the paper overtop to keep the wet out!  The yard is a mud mire!

Looks pretty good eh?!  You can see where our front porch will be just to the left at the front between those 2 posts & the wall.  Then on the right is a small peaked roof section to add more interest.

Friday, Aug. 5/16:  Market morning in Maple Creek where I got carrots from the Hutterites plus strawberries & nectarines rom the BC fruit truck!  Yum!

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We drove by the alley of our house today – and magically our garage has appeared!  Hold mackerel!  Even the roof rafters are on!  Of course, Blaine says this is the easy part!

Saturday, Aug. 6/16:  Drove into Swift Current today to meet with a couple of landscapers, who are doing bids for the yard.   Both seemed like good people.  More decisions1.

When we got back we drove by the house, since we knew they were working today because they’re away Monday.

Lo & Behold – our double garage closed in & so is the roof.  Here’s a look from both sides (the truck belongs to Blaine’s son, Jay).

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At the back of the property, between us & the good neighbor, is a large (about 6′ tall) chokecherry bush!  It’s loaded at the moment, but I couldn’t get next to it because the grass is tall & I had sandals on!  Drat!  What I also found out is that the little apple tree on our property has nice eating apples.

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They are small & a bit tart, but thin-skinned & delicious!  Penny gave me some of hers – the exact same type.  You can see that many have fallen on the ground.

They also added the roof detail, so here are a coupel of shots from the front as we left for home.

Now it’s Olympics on TV!

Sunday, Aug. 7/16:  A day of cleaning, packing & getting ready to go home.  Bill is also working on the gardening plan.

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We drove by the house so he could look again at the yard.  Here he is beside this huge fir tree in our yard.  Must be 40 years old or so.  The apple tree is just out of the photo on the left, behind a lilac hedge.

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The town of Maple Creek has previously won a “Towns in Bloom” award.  Here you can see what care they take of the main street.  It is planted with colorful flower baskets & has a striking street banner indicating its historical heritage.

I think I’ll post this now, since there will be no new house pictures for awhile!

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Another trip to Maple Creek!

July 26th – Leslie Usher’s 23rd birthday!  One of 2 resident tree planters in the family (Jill, her sister, being the other).

Our last trip to Maple Creek before the move  – we think!  Stayed in our Airstream in the RV park to help with some decisons going forward with the build.  We drove both vehicles out:  Bill pulling the trailer with the truck; me in the car.  I saw a beautiful sight as we turned off onto the #1 Hwy from near Cluny – a field of flax in bloom!  How gorgeous to see a blue field.  At first I thought it was a lake, then realized what it was!  Wow.  So sorry I don’t have a photo – had to keep following Bill & was driving!

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This is the first view of our house with walls up!  We didn’t really have time to stop.  Had to drop off the loaded trailer, hook up the Airstream, then get set up in the campground.  As evidence of how old we’re getting these days, we were so exhausted (after getting up at 5:30 AM, driving 4 hours to MC, then all of the above) – we fell into bed at 6 PM!  Old fogies indeed!

July 27:  Did a short drive north of town to see what we could see.  We haven’t birded except 1 short walk with our friend Lorne in Calgary this spring.  Otherwise it’s been since we were away in the winter.  How wonderful to get out to have a look.  Tons of baby chicks!  For any birders who are interested, this was our list in an hour – a quick 30 species:

Horned Grebe, Eared Grebe, Western Grebe, American White Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, White-faced Ibis, Mallard, Gadwall, Northern Pinail, American Widgeon, Canvassback,  Ruddy Duck, Gray Partridge, American Coot, Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, Marbled Godwit, Forster’s Tern, Mourning Dove, Rock Pigeon, Eastern Kingbird, Barn Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, American Robin, House Sparow, Vesper Sparrow, Lark Bunting, Western Meadowlark, Red-winged Blackbird

Boy, this is going to be a great area in the spring!  Yippee!

Got both the car & truck serviced on Thurs & Fri – then washed them.  Great to have that done.   Dear cousin Karen sent me a couple of photos.

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She’s been busy making pickles

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These Tree Swallows were flying around their place & landing on the power lines.  Moms, Dads & kids!

July 31/16:  Wilf dropped by yesterday afternoon to arrange when we can get together for dinner with he & Penny:  Tuesday!  He told us the wildflowers are the best he’s ever seen out on his property. The one he mentioned specifically was “those blue bell things”.  So this morning we headed off to Cypress Hills to see what we could see.

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Sure enough – lots of wildflowers – & here’s Wilf’s bluebells (“harebells” actually).

A wild rose, as well as goldenrod & some white flowers.

A beautiful purple bergamot plus some type of composite.

july 31-8A happy brown eyed Susan.

There are of course lots of birds around – as well as people.  The park is packed with campers & visitors for the August 1st long weekend.

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Black Terms were flying over the small lake in the middle of the townsite – both adults & juveniles.  Here’s a juvenile on one of the buoys around the endge of the water.

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This is an adult & juvenile Western Wood Pewee.  The young was just begging from the parent & his mouth was agape showing his bright yellow maw.

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Speaking of bright yellow…American Goldfinch!

We also wandered onto a farmer’s private land (unknowingly, since it said “McDougall Reservoir Maintained”).  The farmer – Angus McDougall – stopped by while we were watching Mountain Bluebirds with young, feeding along the road, along with Lark Sparrows.  He was not at all upset that we were on his land, just wanted to say a friendly “hello” & introduce himself.  So we told him we were moving here & were trying to find some good birding places.  He told us to feel free to go out to the reservoir.  We couldn’t find tha last bit of road so turned back before we got there.  It is one of the smallest reservoirs in the area, built by his grandfather in about 1910.  But we did add a Baltimore Orioe (juvenile male) to our list.  Swainson’s & Red-tailed Hawks were wheeling in the wind.  Lots of Eastern Kingbirds, Savannah & Vesper Sparrows.  What a nice day to get out, but somewhat cool (around 15-16C).

Monday, Aug. 1:  Blaine (our builder) came to take Us for a drive.  We at last met his lovely wife, Vonda.  He didn’t really rell us where we were going, but suffice to say, it was a reconnaissance trip for future birding!  This included an amazing wetland which is on his friends, Kevin & Rhonda’s farm east of here.  Their farm is called (Flowing Well Ranch) & it has a most wonderful wroght iron signs.  I will take a photo of it sometime in the future so you can see.  Will be a great spring birding area!

Tuesday, Aug. 2:  Met with Blaine at the building site after breakfast to talk a little more business.

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Here’s Bill & Blaine meeting over the computer on top of our hood.

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Bill standing at the front of the house, facint the back:  in the kitchen.  Blaine with plans in hand.

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View out our front window, with our car At the curb.

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From the kitchen looking out to the back where the double patio doors will lead out onto the deck.

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Bill climing down the ladder to the basement (no stairs yet).

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View out our bedroom window to the front yard (our car just visible among the trees).

It’s a hot day today, but supposed to rain tomorrow.image Looking from the LR/Kitchen straight down this hallway is the powder room & on the left the large bathroom.  On the right is our bedroom.

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Bill would be standing in front of the piano (in the LR) looking into his office.  Jay (Blaine’s son) is standing in front of the double glass patio doors.

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Late this afternoon, after i’d done laundry (at Penny’s, since the closest laundromat is at Cypress Hills), I found the above:  ROOF TRUSSES ARE HERE!  Can you see the front porch also taking shape on the left?  The door is set back & there are a few stairs up to it.  Enough house stuff for now.

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Not a lot higher…yet!

May 30th:  Here is our storage container in Maple Ck – about 1/3 full now.  Probably a couple more loads to take out.

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This is Kelly (& Jay’s arm) as they have had to man-handle some of the really heavy stuff – what a great help they are to us!  Jay is our builder’s son & Kelly his other workman.  If we hadn’t had them, we would have had to hire someone for half an hour to come & do this.

We had had to wait until the cement “cured” for 3-4 weeks before building can continue upwards!  So things are at a stand-still right now.

In early June Steven Usher popped into town for work & we managed to get together for dinner with Mom & Jane.  He has a great hat which he put on Mom..  He is so much fun & we really had a hoot!

On June 21st it is Mom’s 97th birthday.  Robyn, Arnie & Jane held a party at their place to celebrate – along with David’s son, Ben – who turns 23 on July 13th!

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Here are Arnie & Mom (she just loves him).  Pretty good for 97 eh?

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Here are Robyn & Brian…

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David, Omanthi (Ben’s gorgeous girlfriend) & Ben.

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A really nice one of Katherine.  Unfortunately her boyfriend couldn’t come.

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David, Katherine & Mom with her lemon cake & candles lit (Robyn had found Roman numerals:  L X X X X V I I -not the exact way it would’ve been written, but it worked!).  We were amazed that Mom blew out the candles in just a fraction of a second – we clapped mightily!

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Ben had chocolate mousse with only 5 candles:  2 left candles represented 10 years each, then 3 others representing 1 yr each.

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Here is Jane talking to Mom w/ Billy & Brian looking on.  It was a lovely event enjoyed by all.

July 5:  Took another load out & stayed overnight.  The drive is beautiful – so much rain on the prairies this summer so far.

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The canola is in bloom & lighting up the landscape (taken out the window while moving at warp speed on the highway w/ phone – not Bill’s great stuff).

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The build hasn’t gone far since last time, though the gravel has been filled in around the basement.  They’ve been working on finishing a large home in Cypress Hills.  But now’s our turn!

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There was a small amount of concrete yet to be poured, which happened while we were there.

Had dinner w/ Penny & Wilf.  It’s always fun to hear the latest news – & they’re going on a river cruise starting in Holland next Tuesday!  All part of Penny’s 70th birthday (which is July 7th).  Wilf was organising a surprise party for her I think!

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Here are she & Bill in front of their house – such lovely roses!  Doesn’t she look slim & beautiful!  She no longer wears glasses since she got her cataracts removed & has 20/20 vision in those baby blues now!

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Last view of the property in the morning before we left.  The guys are putting the floor joists on.  Yay!

One further development (or non-development as the case may be) – we have taken our condo off the market.  The market it terrible at the moment, & we aren’t sure when our move-in date will be.  So we’ll put it back on the market next spring.

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Steven & Fran Usher have successfully sold their long-time family home in Ashburn, ON – a beautiful heritage home.  So there are  other movers & shakers in the family!  Now there’s a happy note to end this post!

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First update & other excitement

May 3rd: Talked to our builder Blaine today.  They’ve begun the basement!  Yahoo!

May 6th: Our dear friend Debra Wolinsky’s 60th birthday today!  We’re headed for Vancouver to celebrate on 2 evenings – the 1st for out-of-towners & family for dinner at Debra’s place – the 2nd at a lovely restaurant!  We walked in Stanley Park both days since our hotel was right downtown (& near Debra’s place & the restaurant).

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We found a Mute Swan (native to parts of Europe & Asia – introduced into NA) on a nest.  We saw her re-arrange her eggs (which are very large & pale blue).  A Mute Swan is much larger than our more common Tundra Swan (22 lbs VS 14 lbs; measurement from tip of bill to tail: 60″ VS 42″; wingspan: 75″ VS 66″).

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The 1st shot is with my iPhone, but when we walked the 2nd day, Bill brought his camera.  A much better quality shot.

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Bill didn’t have his bird photo equipment, but here’s a Spotted Towhee we spotted (ha ha).

The rhododendrons were in bloom, probably nearing the end, but were fabulous!  Some other beautiful flowers as well including yellow flag iris.

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On night 2 of the party:

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Here’s Debra (looks about 30!) in her fancy dress with the flower lace overlay – wow!

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There were 26 people there & here we are on the right at one of the tables at Yew Restaurant.  Debra is 4th from Bill on the right.  It was loads of fun & excellent food!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

May 7:  Once again, our dear cousins have been keeping us abreast of the happenings on our home lot!  Thanks Penny & Wilf!

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Here is the latest report with photos of the start of the basement walls.  They are made of a double layer of styrofoam, well braced with metal rods then to be filled with cement for stability – and obviously well insulated already!

May 10:  The day from Hell!  We spent about 4 hours at IKEA, picking up all the items we need for the house.  It took us 3 carts each (= 6 carts) of stuff which we had to go to each aisle & put on the c are.  Some of the items were so large or heavy as to need help.  Bill can’t really do this any more due to his heart issues, so we had to chase someone down to help us (though they were pleasant about it).  We had the truck & trailer parked right out front of the doors, but once there, needed help loading everything into the trailer.  We had to go through the till each time & pay for our loads, then go back for more.  Three trips to get everything from the self-serve shelves.  Then there were 2 more carts of stuffed from the warehouse, which they got for us & set the carts out into the open area.  We then had to wheel them outside & wit for help to load.  Hence the reason for being there over 4 hours!  We were exhausted by the end of this.  We had planned to also pick up our bedroom suite plus dining table & chairs.  After getting the latter into the trailer, we felt the bedroom would likely not fit into the trailer.  So we headed back to Okotoks to store the truck & trailer for the nightl.  We hadn’t even had lunch, so went into the town for dinner in order to miss rush-hour in Calgary.  This is why we’re fleeing to Maple Creek!

May 11:  Off to MC to drop off our load.  It was a cool day, but dry.  When we got there, we found out Blaine, Jay & Kelly had already picked up our washer & treadmill from the Sears outlet & put them in the storage container!  What great guys! Where else would you be able to find a store which would give your appliances to a stranger (well, they do know him)!  We were extremely grateful!  In no time flat they’d unloaded that huge trailer load with all the very heavy items.  Probably less than half an hour!

We met with Blaine back at the site to discuss a few details & we’re thrilled to see the progress.  They’d built the basement up to the window levels!  They’d had lots of moisture (both rain & snow), so couldn’t book the cement truck until it dried out.  The ground is so soft, it would’ve sunk & probably gotten stuck.

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I was thrilled to see my lilacs in bloom!  The top photo shows the hedge in front of our truck (with its door open).  I took the close-up with my phone.  They smelled gorgeous!

We were pretty tired when we got home & have decided to take a week break before we take the next load over.

May 13:  Lucky Friday the 13th!  We had girls night out while Leslie Usher visited (cousins Steven & Fran Usher’s middle child)!

She was here for a wedding, so Robyn, Jane, Mom & I treated her for dinner.   She is quite an amazing young women – beautiful & smart.  What a great treat to hear about her tree-planting experience in Scotland & the amazing adventures life brings her.  She’s headed for Prince George, BC for another season of tree planting in Canada – then back to Scotland for 1 more season there.  Holy Mackerel – an amazing outdoor-loving woman.

May 16:  What promised to be a great outing to Stars on Ice (we’re such huge figure skating fans) turned out pretty badly.  We were accosted by the security people when we came in about Bill’s “big” camera.  We had been through all this a few years ago with the Saddledome staff & Stars on Ice, so explained that it was approved.  Then during the 1st half of the show, Bill was taken out & told he must surrender his camera or leave.  We both left feeling very upset & missing most of the show.  Here are a few of the photos he took.

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Scott Moir out-staring Patrick Chan.

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The only one we got of the gorgeous Tessa Virtue – next to her Scott Moir then Eric Radford.

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Jeffrey Buttle

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Elvis Stoiko

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The incomparable Patrick Chan

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The beautiful dance pair which should have won the world championship this year, Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (the handsomest male skater I know).

So we got a few nice shots, but were extremely disappointed to miss the rest of the show.

May 18:  Our faithful cousins have once again kept us up-to-date on what’s happening in MC!

They are pouring the cement into the basement walls!  There’s the pumper truck – left, from the front of the house – right, from the back alley!

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In the beginning…305 Harder Street

Since we returned home to Calgary on March 1st, we have been massaging our architectural drawings, including a trip north to visit Chris Laing who has helped us so much.  The plans are now finalized & we awaited the return of our builder, Blaine, from Arizona the 1st week of April.  We are excited about building our new home in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan!  Here are some drawings & plans to give you an idea.

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Here is the front view, also showing the basement via dotted line.

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Back view showing the deck to the right of the garage.

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Side view showing solar & thermal panels on the roof

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Other side (the neighbours are pretty messy – hence the reason for small, frosted Windows!)

NOTE:  All the plans are fairly preliminary ones – I don’t have the finals, but it gives you the idea of everything!

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Here is the landscape plan.  The numbers correspond to a plan of plants we’ve chosen.  Suffice to say  there are lots of berry bushes as well as attractive flowers.  (I may include the chart next year when it gets finalized.)  This shows the size of our lot & how the house fits.  This leaves a large area for our bird-attracting area, which we’ll observe from the deck!  We plan to have several bird feeders, a bird bath & a few  bird houses.

It is not a large house – only 1400 square feet (plus same sized basement).  The lot is a double lot which used to have 2 small houses on it.  They were basically ready to be condemned & we had them torn down before we left for the south last fall.

Here are some photos taken of our lot – the large one looking straight on & all the way through the alley to neighbours on the next street.  Top photo of the right=hand neighbours – bottom the left-hand neighbour.

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Here is the floor plan for the main level

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Here is the basement.  As you can see, we have 2 guest rooms – yahoo!  A king-sized bed in one, two twins in the other.  There is also a bathroom (not shown) just above the twin room.

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This is a model of the kitchen.  It is unusual since we are having green cabinets!  We saw it in a show room & fell in love.

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Here is a sample of the wood color & our handles

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We have borrowed a small trailer from our builder, Blaine, to transport some loads of stuff out to a storage site in Maple Creek.

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This is our first Saskatchewan licence plate!  (Of course, it isn’t really ours – it belongs to Blaine!)

On April 28th we took the first load of stuff to our storage container in MC.  Our dear nephew – Ben – & his friend Kelly helped us load the stuff we’d been storing in our dining room.  Took two hours!

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The partially filled trailer getting ready for the first load to go to MC!  At the other end it was much easier to get things unloaded into the storage container – only about half an hour!  Our builder’s son & his fellow worker did the job.  Blaine also helped out!

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At the front-left side of our property there is an old lilac hedge.  It has nearly started blooming!  Can hardly wait until we live here!

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Friday, April 29th:  How wonderful we have relatives in town.   We were sent this photo by Penny & Wilf showing that they’re starting to break ground on our house!

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Heading home!

Feb. 24:  Today is my BFF’s (Sandy) birthday.  She is younger than me (by 3 years – 63 to be exact) & very beautiful – inside & out.

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She has an infectious smile & we always have a great time together.  I love you darling San & can hardly wait to get home to celebrate your day!

We headed to Beaver, UT today.  A perfect day for driving, though there was snow in the fields as we approached our destination.  High today was 5 (though with no wind & nice sun it was about 15C! – low tonight -5C!). Didn’t unhook overnight.

Feb. 25:  Off to Brigham City.  Saw my first Black-billed Magpie!  It’s always a great sign that we’re getting close to home when we see one of those.  We went out to dinner at Maddox Ranch Restaurant – which we always do at least once while we’re here.  It’s home cooking at its best.  The only drawback (at least as far as Bill is concerned) is that you can’t get a glass of wine with your meal (Utah you know).

Feb. 26:  So here we are in northern Utah hoping for some spring birding!  Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is only half an hour from us, so that was our 1st choice.

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It was still mostly frozen, with a little open water but birds are starting to pair up.

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A pair of Bald Eagles standing on the ice.

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A pair of Tundra Swans standing on the ice.  We saw many flocks of swans – close to 200 I’d say.  At first they were very far away & I didn’t think we’d see any very close.  But obviously we did – yay!  It was true spring birding with mixed flocks of ducks as well – numbers dominated by the elegant N. Pintails.

Our friend Don will be jealous (unless he’s already seen 1 & we haven’t heard yet) because we saw a Eurasian Widgeon, among the American Widgeons.  They are seen around Calgary regularly & must be becoming more plentiful over the years.  Also a pair of Cackling Geese among the Canadas.

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One of our favourite Ducks is the Red-breasted Merganser.  A couple of males (not a pair – at least I don’t think so!).

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Still can’t resist those beautiful Cinnamon Teal – another pair.

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We came across a pair of Sandhill Cranes courting!  They were leaping in the air, flapping their wings & calling to each other.  It was just wonderful – though they stopped when we stopped the truck & Bill leapt out to photograph them.  (Sigh)

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No shorebirds to be found – nor a meadowlark.  The only singers were Red-winged Blackbirds, though the sounds of ducks could be heard.  A couple of Song Sparrows were singing as well as Horned Lark.  N. Harriers were soaring around – One male amongst the females.

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On the way out we noticed a group of Eur. Starlings taking a bath.  They didn’t like us stopping to photograph this intimate activity (sorta like the Sandhills!) but you can see that this one certainly was still wet.

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They flew off to this tree.  We surely missed seeing our Guineafowl this year.  Nor did we rack up a Pheasant, which we normally hear in these fields.  Oh well – better luck tomorrow.

Feb. 27:  Off to Antelope Island State Park.  It was a cool but sunny & calm morning (temp 0C when we got up – but by 9 PM).  Perfect!  Since is is Saturday, quite a few people are heading for the park – and lots of cyclists who enjoy both the paved roads & mountain bike trails, horse trailers since riding is quite popular also as well as runners.

Here’s some of the scenery.

But we were here for a couple of target birds & immediately after crossing the causeway out to the island, spied a Chukar sitting on a rock just ahead.  Unfortunately there was no shoulder to pull off onto & the traffic started coming up behind & scared it away.

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imageAs you can see however, we found a few more & here are a couple of shots of a great looking bird!  Sun on the rocks made its tummy glow!

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At last the Western Meadowlards were singing!  Not as many as last time we were here (several weeks later than this).  This one’s for Tarie who loves hearing the first ones of spring on the prairies.  They have a different song than Eastern Meadowlarks – we think much nicer (!!).

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Bill saw his first Black-billed Magpie on this trip.  Took this one for Brian (it’s his favourite bird) – eating on a dead rabbit on the road.

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Here at last is our Burrowing Owl!  The only one we saw.  It did not come out from hiding behind the grass.

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The Bison keep increasing in numbers as far as we can tell.  Here is one with what we thought was probably a Brown-headed Cowbird on it – but NO – a Starling!

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Here’s another – what great looking beasts.

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Yes, they named the island after me – because I’m such a cool dude!”

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He is pretty cool!

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Looked twice at this bird – female Red-winged Blackbird – because they’re not usually alone!

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The masked Loggerhead Shrike.

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At last something for my friend JB (the tall, seismic cowboy).  A few shots of riders we saw today.

This will be the last of the bird photos (I imagine) since we’re pushing for home starting tomorrow.

We saw a Robin in a yard as we went to dinner last night!

Feb. 28:  Through the rest of northern Utah, a bit of Idaho, into Dillon, MT.  Good day for travel.  Clear & sunny, though pretty cool.

Feb. 29:  It rained & snowed last night – but just a bit.  Ice covered 1 side of the truck & trailer.  Temp was -7!  But we loaded up & left – changing our route to veer a bit further east on Hwy 41 to miss some of the hills & forested area.  The road report showed some ice/black ice/wet roads on Hwy 15, so it was a good choice.  We spotted our first Pheasant (male) on the road just after we left town – yay!  Grand total now 213!

From Boulder to Helena there were a few more hills & forests, but the roads were nice & clear.  The high in Shelby was only 3!  After Great Falls it flattens out & was very, very windy, but clear with sun & clouds.  Saw a Horned Lark just north of Great Falls, but the only other birds were Canada’s on the open rivers & a few C. Goldeneyes.  (Of course, magpies all along the way!)

Shelby was pretty cool & windy.  Overnight it really froze, so Bill had to go out & disconnect the water & hook up to the site next door (no one else in the RV park attached to the Best Western).

March 1st – Did quite a bit of packing & prep to stow the trailer.  Unfortunately, the propane heater was acting up again, so we’ll figure out how to work this out.  Can always put the cats in the truck in their carriers.  There was open water here & there with quite a few Canada Geese & some ducks (likely mostly N. Pintails).  A Bald Eagle flew over.

Border crossing was fairly uneventful except for Bill declaring his new camera lens & the officials making him pay duty on it because it was made in Japan!  Unbelievable!  He was happy to pay GST, but since he bought it from a very reputable dealer in NYC, couldn’t believe they’d make his do it.  He will appeal!

We were able to call the RV repair place in HIgh Rivr so dropped off the trailer to them & drove the truck to our storage place in Black Diamond.  Transferred everything to the car, left the truck & we’re hope around 4 PM.  HOME AT LAST!

GRAND TOTAL 213 BIRD SPECIES!

I will be keeping a blog of the building of our new home in Maple Creek, SK.  Probably not many will be interested, but it’s a great record for us!  I will post the plans & take photos as it comes progresses.

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