Western Provinces

This week, with the help of photographers from flickr, we will just enjoy looking at some photos of lovely places in Western Canada, which includes Alberta and British Columbia.

Capilano Suspension Bridge CLIFFWALK Preview

Capilano Suspension Bridge Cliff Walk, BC – Photo by Jeremy Lim

Wintertime At Botanical Beach

Botanical Beach, BC – Photo by James Wheeler

Columbia Icefield, Canada

Columbia Icefields, BC – Photo by Gary Ullah

Hoodoo Country

Hoodoos, AB – Photo by Aaron

Rippled sand, Long Beach

Long Beach, BC – Photo by Ruth Hartnup

Activity: With the help of google maps or an atlas, find these places and mark them on your map of Canada. Which one would you like to visit?

A Walk Through the Prairie

The prairie is a grassland ecosystem and this is all the animals, plants, and organisms that depend on each other in order to live. When any part of the ecosystem is disturbed, it has an effect on everything else in the ecosystem.

Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan

Photo by Marshall Drummond

The prairie is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. Would it make you sad if you never saw a real Frosted Elphin or a Karner Blue butterfly? What about a Passenger Pigeon, or a Greater Prairie Chicken?  Maybe it would break your heart to never see Golden Indian Grass, or Small-Flowered Sand Verbena? These are all creatures or plants that are either no longer found in Canada or at risk because of human activity in the prairies.

Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis)

Karner Blue Butterfly

We may think of the prairies as enormous fields of grass and flowers, and at one time they were with over 200 different species of plants, but today most of the original prairie has been turned into enormous fields of wheat, rapeseed, flaxseed, sugar beets, barley or potatoes.

Cannola

Field of Canola

Let’s take a short visit to the prairie. Can you see the wind as it blows across the land, bending and tossing the grasses? The green and brown of the landscape, with touches of colour here and there,  stretches to the sky in every direction. Doesn’t it make you feel small? Can you hear the sounds of insects buzzing, and birds singing?

bigbluestem

Here is a grass that can grow to 10 feet tall, and it’s roots can descend into the ground up to 12 feet. It is called Big Bluestem, or sometimes Beard Grass or Turkey Feet because it has long seed heads that look like a turkey foot. When a lot of it grows together, it protects the soil from being blown away by the wind and is excellent food for grazers like the bison.

Aren’t the seedheads lovely on this Buffalo Grass? It is a much smaller grass, growing only to a height of a few inches, but it is able to grow with very little water. And it doesn’t mind being chewed down by the prairie dogs – it will just grow right back.

animals-prairie-dogs-rodents.jpg

And there are the prairie dogs, popping out of their burrows to see what is going on. They play a very important part of prairie life – many other creatures use their abandoned burrows, they are a food source for other animals, and they aerate and fertilize the ground. However, there are not as many as there once were.

We will end our time in the prairie with the song of the meadowlark, a beautiful bird who loves the wide open grasslands too.

There are attempts to preserve some of the prairies for the future: Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan, and the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve in Manitoba are probably the two largest in Canada. Maybe you will have to visit them one day!

Activity: Since I am writing this post while there is snow on the ground, it is not a great time of year to look at grasses, but I wonder if you have ever noticed how many different kinds of grass grow near you. What would you find if you left one corner of your lawn un-mown until the grass went to seed? Grass is beautiful, and so when the season is right, collect some grasses and enjoy their beautiful seedheads.

Until then, you can find out a bit more about the prairie with this little game: Build your own prairie.

Terry Fox

terryfox

If you have grown up in Canada during the last 36 years, you have most likely heard of Terry Fox. Perhaps you have even done several Terry Fox runs to help raise money in the fight for a cure for cancer. But Terry Fox wasn’t just about raising money, he also wanted his life to give courage to people who had been given the awful diagnosis of cancer. He wanted to show that it was important to keep believing in miracles and to keep pursuing dreams.

Terry’s dream was interrupted by cancer, and that is what cancer often does. However, when Terry started his run from Newfoundland towards Victoria, he also had a goal of encouraging every Canadian to give $1 towards cancer research, and by the time he had to stop running he had raised more than $24 million dollars. In that respect, Terry had reached his goal.

Since then, the Marathon of Hope has been held every year and over $650 million has been raised for cancer research.

Terry was born on July 28, 1958 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. If Terry had lived, he would be 58 years old today. But when he was 18, he started getting pain in his knee, and was eventually diagnosed with bone cancer. His leg was amputated, and he went through chemotherapy and had to learn how to walk again with a prosthesis.

Those of us who have no disabilities, cannot fully understand what it must be like. But we can feel how inspiring it is to see someone rise above their adversity and make something of their life anyhow.

Terry decided to run across Canada and raise money for cancer research. To do this required a lot of training and commitment beforehand. In 1979 he ran the Prince George to Boston marathon of 17 miles, and even though he finished last, he still finished!

In April 1980, he dipped his foot in the Atlantic Ocean in the harbour of St. John’s, Newfoundland and began to run. He ran 26 miles a day for 143 days before he had to stop. His cancer had returned, and was now in his lungs. He died in June of 1981.

The Terry Fox Run, or Marathon of Hope is now held every September on the second Sunday after Labour Day.

It took cancer to realize that being self-centered is not the way to live. The answer is to try and help others.

I guess that one of the most important things I’ve learned is that nothing is ever completely bad. Even cancer. It has made me a better person. It has given me courage and a sense of purpose I never had before. But you don’t have to do like I did…wait until you lose a leg or get some awful disease, before you take the time to find out what kind of stuff you’re really made of. You can start now. Anybody can.

Terry Fox

Activity: What are you made of?

Pioneers on the Prairie

Saskatchewan sod house

A sod house in Saskatchewan

During the late 19th and early 20th century many people immigrated to the Canadian prairies to take up an offer of “free” land. They could claim 160 acres at a cost of $10 as long as they built a house on the land and cultivated a certain amount of it during the next three years.

It was not an easy task. It required persistence, optimism, resourcefulness and a whole lot of hard work.

Think of all the things one would have to do after leaving one’s own country behind, sailing across the ocean with probably just a few clothes and precious items, and then travelling by train or by wagon for miles and miles to get to the piece of land that would then be called home.

  • Build a house and a barn and an outhouse
  • Dig a well
  • Make any furniture needed (tables, chairs, beds)
  • Grow a vegetable garden
  • Preserve the garden produce for winter
  • Raise cows, chickens, sheep, pigs and work animals
  • Milk cows, and make butter and cheese
  • Clear fields and grow wheat or corn to sell or eat
  • Spin wool into yarn and then weave it into cloth
  • Make the family’s clothing
  • Forage or hunt for wild foods
  • Cut and dry hay for winter
  • Cut firewood for winter
  • Learn a new language (if not English)

 

pioneerkids

If you are able to, read Pioneer Kids from the Canadian Flyer series.

The people who came to live in Canada were from many different countries in Europe, and for that reason, Canada has always called itself a “cultural mosaic” in the belief that respect for different cultural traditions makes us stronger.

It is not always comfortable to be different or accept people who are different, but it is a good lesson to learn.

In this book, Stefan has an egg that his mother has decorated. Ukrainian Easter Eggs are beautiful. Take a look at how they are decorated here: Ukrainian Easter Eggs.

Activities: Here are a few ideas that may make you feel more like a pioneer.