You never knew when things would get difficult though. You might be doing the most mundane thing and then would be reminded about why we were all there and the end of my sister's life and how sad it will be for my brother-in-law and my nieces and nephew. On Thursday my niece and I popped into a grocery store to quickly pick up two more pumpkins to carve. When we were checking out the cashier asked us if we would like to donate money to help fight breast cancer. I glanced over at my niece to see how she was doing and made the donation. Then the cashier asked if we had a loyalty card from that store. I didn't since I was from out of town, but she said she could look it up from my niece's phone number. When she found the number she announced that there was a card belonging to Diana ... gulp ... just when you thought you were doing something so innocuous and fun as buying pumpkins, you are reminded about her death. Unfortunately I think there will be a lot more moments like that for them.
Mixed in with the sad moments, though, there were pumpkins to carve and costumes to make. My niece had her heart set on being a popsicle for Hallowe'en, so several of us helped my niece and her friend make popsicle costumes out of boxes and a pink tablecloth - phew! Several hours of work later they looked really cute, which is fortunate as I had my doubts when we were in the middle of the process.
On Thursday we went to the Oak Hammock marsh, which is a wildlife management area, just north of Winnipeg. It was great to see my sister's children running, and climbing, and playing, and laughing.
The Oak Hammock marsh is an important wetland where thousands of birds, especially waterfowl, gather to feed on the grains in the area before their long migration south for the winter. Usually there are thousands of Canadian geese, snow geese, and ducks here in the fall, so many in fact, that apparently when they are startled the birds darken the sky as they take off.
Unfortunately the weather had turned cold at the beginning of the week so the last of the masses of birds left the previous weekend. We did see a few stragglers, but they were not really hanging around fattening up - they were on their way south.
This ice was in the shadows - I'd move on too if I were a goose. Winnipeg's nickname is Winterpeg for good reason.
The ice looked like a piece of art when held up to the sun.
We hiked along the trails, although it was a little bit wet. The prairie fields have huge puddles and wet areas which has made it difficult for the farmer's to get their crops in and the water level in the rivers are very high.
We looked for some prairie dogs in this active colony, but of course they have all gone to sleep for the winter.
That didn't stop the fun, though, as there were cartwheels to spin, and rocks to climb, and piggy-backs to give,
and boardwalks to take us through the marsh and the dried tall prairie grasses.
The interpretive centre is a lovely sinuous building made out of stone the colour of the prairie grasses.
This cabin, built in 1938, used to be the ranger's station. I love its early prairie vernacular style. According to my brother, a lot of prairie buildings have the roof sloping in on all four sides like that so the wind can't catch any shingle edges and blow them off.
I just wanted to show you how flat the prairies are. Well, in actual fact they aren't always - but they sure are around the Oak Hammock marsh!
While we didn't see the thousands of geese we would like to have seen, we did see some and it was lovely to get out and walk in the tall grass prairie.
The funny thing was, the next day we drove down to North Dakota to pick up my sister who was travelling from Kentucky by train and we saw all the geese in the photo below while we were waiting to cross the border.