A longtime rural resident, I use my 60 plus years of life learning to opinionate here and elsewhere on the “interweb” on everything from politics to environmental issues. A believer in reasonable discourse rather than unhelpful attacks I try to give positive input to the blogesphere, so feel free to comment upon rural issues or anything else posted here. But don’t be surprised if you comments get zapped if you are not polite in your replys.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Emerald Ash Borer

From Bayshore News “The Emerald Ash Borer continues to migrate north, now the infestation is reported in Kincardine. Officials say they have received confirmation that the destructive bug has reached the community.
In a news release, town officials say the response plan will address the removal of infected trees on municipal land that may present a hazard to public safety or property.”

This is not the first report of EAB in Grey Bruce but does show that it is becoming more prevalant in the area. Whilst previously efforts were made to 'control' the spresd of the pest by removing all ash trees under municipal areas is has become evident that the spread CANNOT BE STOPPED and that the removal of trees is simply for safety and liability purposes. Also efforts were made when they were first found in southern Ontario to restrict the movement of firewood and lumber from infected areas to non infected areas, such restrictions still exist but in that the 'control area' now encompasses all of Ontario north to Sudbury and beyond it is not a consideration for the average landowner in Grey Bruce.

In that this insect has been a problem in many northern states for many years there is quite a bit of information available but there are NO METHODS TO CONTROL it. I have been unable to find any information as to if it effects young regrowth saplings except that “the female lays numerous eggs in bark crevices and between layers of bark” so presumably until the tree is mature enough for such crevices exist they will not lay their eggs in then. However it is noted that they will kill a tree “before it is mature enough to produce seed” so long term they could eradicate the ash tree in North America.

As a landowner with 1000s of ash trees in my bush and millions more on surrounding properties what can I do about it all? Nothing except keep my head up when working or hiking in the bush. I will be trying to select ash trees, particularly those showing signs of dieback, for firewood rather than other species and leaving the Maple, Cherry and other unaffected trees to fill in but given the amount of ash regrowth it will be beyond my lifetime before it makes any significant impact in my bush.

All that said here is a little information from various sites giving details on the Emerald Ash Borer:-
The adult emerald ash borer emerges May - July and the female lays numerous eggs in bark crevices and between layers of bark.
The eggs hatch in 7-10 days into larvae which bore into the tree where they chew the inner bark and phloem creating winding galleries as they feed. This cuts off the flow of water and nutrients in the tree, thereby causing the tree's dieback and death.

Signs & Symptoms of EAB
The most visible sign of infestation is crown dieback. Branches at the top of the crown will die and more branches will die in subsequent years. As the tree declines, ‘suckers’, or new young branches, will sprout from the base of the tree and on the trunk.
The bark may also split vertically and woodpeckers may feed on the beetle leaving visible damage on the bark. Successful treatments with insecticides are limited but continue to be studied. All ash trees near any new infestation will most likely become infested and die.
Adult beetles emerging from trees will leave a unique “D” shaped exit hole. This is a small 1/8 inch diameter distinctly “D” shaped hole that may appear anywhere on the trunk or upper branches.
Follow this link for some good pictures of the life cycle of the EAB and some of the damage it does.

As of today, most of the areas currently regulated to control Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) in Ontario and Quebec are now consolidated into one large regulated area. This will enable authorities to better protect Canada's forests by focusing on preventing EAB from spreading into new parts of Canada.
It is prohibited to move firewood of all species, as well as ash trees, ash nursery stock or ash wood (including wood chips, wood packaging or dunnage), out of this area without written permission from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). These materials could be infested and spread EAB. Moving these materials from the regulated area without permission could lead to fines and/or prosecution.

Infested ash trees become extremely porous and are at risk of breaking or falling, posing a danger to residents, adjacent buildings, vehicles and property. For landowners, businesses or municipalities who have prized ash trees, the inoculation treatment is a natural, biological compound called TreeAzin which degrades naturally in the tree tissues.
Prices for the treatment vary according to the tree size as well as outside conditions such as temperature, wind speed and the level of humidity.  Prices can vary between $100 - $500.  The process must be done between June and mid-August and must be repeated every 2 years for full effectiveness.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Goderich Eatery

You wont often see restaurant reviews here, I am much too comfortable in my country hideaway to spend much time on the road or in town however I did recently make one of my rare trips away from home. Over my working years having become totally tired of the workingman’s box lunch routine I ate at many restaurants and in that I am a vegetarian found that my choices were usually Grilled Cheese or Fried Egg sandwiches with an occasional omelet being available. Not exactly fine dining (not that I would even want to spend big $$ to wait forever for two mouthful’s of food 'presented' in a fancy manner) but a few places did provide a decent meal within these limitations.

That all said I recently did go on a field trip to accompany my family to celebrate my granddaughters birthday and comply with her wish to visit some museums, our choices being Goderich Museum, the historic Jail and the small Airport Museum depicting details of those flyers who were trained during the 2nd World War at several air bases in SW Ontario. After trampling around the first of these an exercise that involved several sets of stairs (yes there is an elevator but I just followed the younger set!) we were ready for lunch and my daughter recommended The Grill on Courthouse Square (err- its a circle!) and after several circles looking for a parking spot thats where we ended up.
I was truly impressed, the menu in particular is fantastic particularly for vegetarians, super all day breakfast menu with omelets galore and even extra choices of ingredients and a particuarly wide range of other choices. The others (non vegetarians) were well satisfied with their grub also, good choices, good food, good service & good prices (av $12 per meal for 6 of us). Prob the best choices and meals I have seen in a restaurant for years!!!

I am pleased to recommenced this establishment should you ever find yourself in Goderich, Ontario and whilst there check out the dozens of different trees planted around the Court House across the road that were planted to replace the many trees destroyed in the 2011 tornado that destroyed much of the town.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Rogers Internet Craps Out

Having recently spent the better part of an hour talking to Rogers about the dismal internet speed I have been recently getting via my Rogers Hub and after much further testing on top of my own documented speed and throughput testing over the last week or so, I have decided to post the latest numbers here on my blog. I would love to send these numbers to their customer service and engineering dept but as is the norm with such services there is no email link or (so far as I can see) a way of sending them such info. I was told Sunday evening that the complaint would be 'escalated' to the engineering dept and recognize that perhaps on the long weekend that such staff were probably reduced but having gone from a measured 300k at times on Sunday to less than 100k at times on Monday I am now getting a little pissed off. To be fair I did briefly get above 1Mbs around 7am but it quickly went down the tubes as the morning went on. Its not like this is a one time problem, my connection speed goes from a high of around 1Mbs to no connection at a drop of the hat with an average connection speed of around 2-300Kbs. This naturally is heaven compared with my previous 33kbs dial up but at 3 or 4 times the cost AND a 3Mb limit before premiums kick in I expect it to WORK not crap out several times a week!

All that said here are the numbers from the Internet Speed Test at around noon Monday 4th August.

Below are a ping test and route trace to the Rogers site which seems to indicate that the problem is entirely within their network which is probably unable to deal with the weekend volume. That is not a valid excuse for these kind of numbers in my view

Click images to enlarge

And yes, I can here you city types snickering, internet connections are not the strong point for rural living, if you are lucky you can perhaps hook up to a wireless provider that does not rip you off with high prices and low speed and volume limits but many of us have two choices – Cell hookup via a hub or even more pricey satellite hookup also with speed and volume limits. When I see those ad's on TV talking of streaming video or re-watching a good documentary I can but say “I wish”, there is little doubt that internet is available to most Canadians and the network is expanding to more remote areas, but AFORDABLE high speed internet without crippling limits is another matter.

Meanwhile I'm stuck with Rogers, but at least now I can tell the 'customer service' guy to go to my blog and see the evidence of their crappy system!

Its now two weeks since my original complaint to Rogers and needless to say that 'escalated'  thing did NOTHING, no call back from 'engineering' as requested and once again this weekend we have connection speeds of less than 200k and ping values of  up to 3,000 ms at times. The satellite alternative is looking better all the time!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Getting Stoned in the Garden

Perhaps I should say I got my rocks off......... from the truck that delivered my washed stone yesterday allowing us to finish up creating our first of 3 or 4 'weed free' garden beds. I am quite pleased with how it all came together, the concrete pot holders casting went quite well once I had the molds set up to be easily set up and able to be released from the resulting holder. The bed layout also looks pretty good and will allow us to switch out the potted plants as they come into flowering time (or croak from lack of water, which with the bottom of the pots sitting on the under-laying soil should not be too much of a problem). As you can see below we have yet to set the brick surround in place which will allow us to mow right up to the bed but the plastic edging is in and should stop 'grass creep' between the bricks from getting into the bed. Looking good....... time will tell exactly how 'maintenance free' it is!

So no, I am not on drugs....... but I think I deserve a beer after getting this done (with some help) in the last week or so!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Flower Garden Makeover

As an apprentice many years ago I worked under an old fellow who when we were working at one of the several large country houses (in England) that had beautiful gardens would say “I like to see a nice garden ........ but I sure don’t like doing it!”. I must admit to agreeing with him for most of my life but now quite enjoy 'puddling around' in the garden but I still sure don’t like battling with overgrown flower beds or persistent twitch grass coming up in those beds that I have managed to keep reasonably tidy.

 The Jungle

With the above in mind we are ripping out two of our original perennial flower beds, splitting and potting the plants as we find them in the 'jungle' and will be making a whole new bed to accommodate them but this time with a few changes. Its going to be a 'pot' garden, the flowers will remain in the pots and be surrounded by a 4” or so layer of stone, sort of a cross between these two gardens....

The Plan

I have one major addition to this idea though, I am casting a number of concrete 'pot holders, bottomless concrete tubes that the pots will sit in that will sit level with the top of the stone layer. This will permit the ready exchange of those pots of plants that are done flowering, are not doing well or need weeding or TLC with others from the Green House or from our 'growing on' holding area. I could use large clay tiles (if I could find any) but even clay tiles will deteriorate over time and have to be dug out and replaced so I am going with a one time and done concrete surround.

Salvaged plants & Pot holders

Its a lot of work now with, I hope, a weed free maintenance free lazy mans garden emerging. The only real challenge right now is deciding upon the garden edging, I think we will be going with a brick border with plastic roll edging inside them to stop 'grass creep' into the bed. More to come as we get it done, don’t hold your breath expecting to see the finished project anytime soon, I may be doing much more looking than doing in memory of the old tradesman who is now looking down upon those 'nice gardens'.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Milkweed & Monarchs

Most folks are aware the the Monarch butterfly numbers are declining in part due to the reduction in the number of Milkweed plants growing here in Canada where they lay their eggs and feed upon these plants. I am therefore pleased to report that after a number of years where we only found one or two plants this year they are in very good supply, at least here on our property in the Klondike Hills. We leave some scrub areas and encourage wild growth of all kinds on our property, with over 30 acres we feel we can share with the birds, animals and insects that need such growth and anyway almost an acre of mowing is more than enough to upkeep!

I wish I could post a picture of hundreds of Monarchs clustering around the Milkweeds but thus far we have not seen even one, we can only hope some show up soon. For now I will post a picture of the plants just coming into flower and hope to update it with at least some butterflys on them soon.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Rural Election Stories

Originally posted over at Democracy Under Fire it is reproduced here for my handful of rural readers.

With the Ontario election now history and a slight uptick in the voter turn out I will relate a few of the problems various voters have encountered whilst trying to vote in an effort to make both the voters and those that run the system aware of impediments to voting during said election. Most of these stories are specific to rural areas and related to poll location and rural addressing issues, it may be that in urban areas such things are not such a problem and it would seem that Elections Ontario either is unaware of such problems or considers rural voters as less important than their urban counterparts. Non of the stories are new to the 2014 election but have been ongoing throughout the last several Ontario elections, some are relevant to the federal electoral system also.

Let us first look at a couple of lads who were first time voters and who lived across the road from each other one of whom had found out where to vote and took his buddy along to also vote. Trouble was that his buddy was to vote at a different poll, not one across the room or even a couple of blocks away but 8 or 10 miles away. These lads had already travelled 10 or 12 miles from their home to get to the poll and unfortunately it being 8.45pm had no chance of getting to the other poll location before closing. Not a good first time voting experience!

At the same poll a number of seniors some using walkers came to the poll location situated just a few houses away only to be told that they could not vote as their poll was in a village some 10 to 12 miles away. To add insult to injury the entire village where they lived was directed to the distant location despite there being more than enough room to accommodate more polls at their local hall. This issue is common to many rural polls and has been well documented in my personal blog during the previous election.

At an advanced poll a fellow came in to vote and pulled out his recently renewed drivers licence for identification only to find that the address did not match, his drivers licence still showed lot and concession instead of the now required road and fire number (rural equivalent of street number). Seems that the word has not reached licence renewal folk that lot and con is no longer a valid address!

At the same advanced poll a fellow came in to register and vote as no voter card was received, not a problem except that he had not moved in the last 10 years and had corrected his information before the last two elections and his information on the voters list was STILL not corrected on the list. Third time lucky perhaps?

A number of voters either declined their votes or deliberately spoiled their ballots. How do we know this? To decline a ballot the voter must hand the ballot back to the clerk and tell them they wish to decline, anyone nearby can hear and see this transaction. By the same token at locations where a tabulating machine is used (as in most advanced ballots) the machine will reject an incorrectly filled out ballot, the voter must then tell the clerk that they want the vote processed as filled out. There is no 'Declined / None of the above' box on the ballots!

These are just a few of the 'difficulties' that I have been made aware of most of which in my view are not that hard to fix or at least make less of a problem. The addressing problems can only be corrected by keeping an up to date database which requires those moving to somehow get that data input into the system, how is that we must update our drivers licence immediately after moving but this does not filter down to voting lists and that rural addressing conventions are still not being observed despite Canada Post recently declaring that they will soon stop delivering rural mail unless it has the road and fire number on it.

Finally how is it that at advanced polls anyone from within that riding can vote at any poll but on voting day you MUST vote at a specific poll location? The major impediment here is that the voter lists are still being distributed to the polls in printed form and to wade through some 80,000 names on hundreds of loose leaf pages is a major chore, just ask an advanced poll clerk about that. At the very least the riding list should be on computer as a read only file with a search utility (the feds have done this at advanced polls) but should not updates and the fact that the citizen has voted not be instantly updated via computer? As it stands it takes 24 hours or more for the written changes to go to the district office, be entered and new printed lists to be produced and sent out to the advanced polls. If someone wanted to vote multiple times it would be relativity easy and whilst it would probably be picked up eventually and (presumably) the perpetrator taken to task, the votes themselves could not be cancelled as no vote is coupled with any particular voter.

Whilst so many of us are calling for election reform in the way in which our votes determine the composition of the legislatures, the way in which we actually cast our vote is at least as important if we wish more citizens to make their wishes known. Its a difficult thing to ensure that any system is not subject to manipulation by those who would 'cheat' but we must try and make it less of a chore and eliminate as many problems as possible so that ALL citizens can and will vote. In my opinion whilst paper ballots must still be an option the use of technology can only help with this despite the perhaps increased possibility of voter fraud and the difficulty of conducting a 'recount' in such situations.

I note that information as to where to vote and identification required was available on line or by telephone but for many folks who do not use the internet or were unaware that they had a problem until they went to vote it was too little too late. I wonder how many folks actually read the bulk mailing that went out right after the election was called and how many thought to take action when they did not receive a voter card. The above difficulties are not ALL the systems fault!

Let us know about your Rural Election Stories!