Respecting our land

Various aspects of weather since April Fool’s Day have made us all a tad testy. Certainly the heat and the drought are major factors but, for example, I am outraged that my prediction for when we would finally get a real rain was dead-on: two or three days in the middle of July.

Various aspects of weather since April Fool’s Day have made us all a tad testy. Certainly the heat and the drought are major factors but, for example, I am outraged that my prediction for when we would finally get a real rain was dead-on: two or three days in the middle of July.

If you’re seriously into growing garlic, as many people are these days, you know it doesn’t need much water, and you do not water at all in July, prior to harvest, because it makes things difficult with huge mud balls on the roots to remove with a dog comb, and splits in the bulb’s wrapper, causing storage problems.

The big July rain doused my dreams of the first easy garlic harvest in four years.

Until the harvest happens, I enjoy the perks of the self-employed, staying cool, or warm in the storms, reading upwards of 20 newspapers a week, while keeping a TV eye on the Pan American Games and the Tour de France.

The news that we are again going to have a Tour of Alberta tests my testiness. The reason I watch the tours of France, Italy, Spain, etc., is for the scenery, the wild landscapes, characterized by a respect and veneration for native trees in these old societies.

Last year’s Tour of Alberta was bland, flat biking past countless pump jacks, canola fields and cattle, betraying to the world a new country that destroys its watersheds and scenery by clear cutting and flogging its native trees for stumpage fees so low they are a standing joke in neighbouring B.C.

What we need is something like the Charter of the Forest of 1217 that took back the commons (public land) from the Crown, to the people of England, and which, along with the Magna Carta, is currently on tour in Canada.

Brian Mason, Alberta’s new transportation minister, is exploring options for improving off-road vehicle safety, after three children have died and 20 hospitalized in ATV accidents since April 1. During the same period, according to Alberta Health Services, a total of 45 children have been seen in the province’s two pediatric emergency departments after they were injured while riding ATVs. Last year, 318 children under 16 were injured on ATVs and 40 were hospitalized. Two of the 40 died.

Options most often mentioned include a minimum age for ATV operators, and mandatory requirements for helmets, seat-belts, roll bars, etc. But, as he always has, Progressive Conservative leader and former transportation minister, Ric McIver, opposes those mandatory options in favour of, presumably, mandatory education.

“Nothing beats education,” McIver said recently, “education of kids’ parents has to be number one; parents need to take a responsible view to what they let their kids do and what they don’t.”

In a perfect world, maybe. Several years ago I was travelling a back road from Red Deer to Bigelow Lake for training sessions with a new Brittany pup. One day, an ATV with a kid of about six driving, shot out of a farm driveway and crossed in front of me, making it by about three metres.

A week or so later, it happened again, but the clearance was better this time because I had a premonition. I drove into the farmyard, knocked on the door and had a brief word with mom. She told me to mind my own blanking business, which was to drive safely and keep a sharp lookout for children playing.

Yes, there has to be education; a mandatory course and passage of a test before you can get a licence to operate a Kamikaze 500, or whatever weapon of mass suicide you favour. The course should also include sections on respecting our land and waters. But there must also be other mandatory safety options for the totally uneducable among us.


When it’s really hot, deli stuff, or ordering in is an interesting option in Red Deer, the fast food capital of Canada. Thai noodle salads and Vietnamese Bun are good options. But since when did “bland” get tacked on to the classic flavours of Asia, hot, sour, salty, and sweet? Why do the ethnic chefs have to dumb down classic dishes? The dishes named need fresh mint, basil, cilantro and both need a sauce or dressing with snap, such as home-made Vietnamese Nuoc Cham, which I can produce in 10 minutes on a hot day.

On a cold, stormy day, there is nothing so warming as a bowl or three of Chinese Hot and Sour Soup, and sometimes I make a pot of the classic Sichuan recipe. We’ll have to get doing that again, because the takeout product is hazardous to my health, so full of sugar that one bowl raises my blood sugar from the usual 5.5 to 15 or so. I learned to make it from the masters, and there is very little or no sugar in the dozens of Hot and Sour (not sweet) Soup recipes I have studied.

Bob Scammell is an award-winning columnist who lives in Red Deer. He can be reached at

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