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.

Friday, November 25, 2011

I'm Done, I'm Done, I'm Done!

Fall is always a busy time what with finding & putting away all the gardening tools left in various hidden corners, leaning against this tree or that or, surprise surprise, back where it actually belongs! Gathering those tender pots of plants just hanging around, dragging the citrus trees grown from seed saved from fruit eaten many Christmases ago back into the greenhouse, and doing all the little thing that the onset of winter dictates that we must get done NOW adds to the list!
This fall in addition to the usual chore of transferring 6 or 8 cord of wood from the 'woodyard' to the woodshed and then felling, moving and cutting up a number of damaged, twisted or dieing maples for next years firewood we cut about 20 pine for lumber. It is now all sawn thanks to Dennis and his portable sawmill and 2000Bd ft or so of pine lumber is put away to dry ready for next summers building projects, and the mostly maple logs are all blocked ready for splitting come spring.
The old Fergison tractor is serviced and blower hung on back, pails of soil brought in ready for feb / march seeding of more perennials (though where we will plant them when grown is a bit of a problem). A gentle stroll around our bush trails  reveals many recently blown down small dead limbs to be picked up for firewood or moved off the trails but at this point in the year that is yet another job for after winter has added to the pile.
Meanwhile both the wood box and the rum bottle are full AND the sun is out .......life is good.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wind Wars

As some urban dwellers in Ontario rail against a gas fired generating station intended to provide power for their area continuing to be built in their neighborhood despite election promises to move it, the war between rural communities and wind farm advocates also continues. The difference is that a gas fired plant provides power 100% of the time and a wind turbine perhaps 30% of the time, the gas plant provides power within the community in which it is built whilst the wind farms covering large areas of rural land are intended to serve primarily the needs of distant urban communities, the urban area has sufficient population to provide objectors with enough 'clout' to make politicians at least listen whilst the rural populations are but a whisper in the wind!

Much of the problem that has arisen is purely due to the “Green Energy Act” which removes any meaningful control of the location, size or even very existence of wind farm projects from both the local population and their local councilors, it overrides any land planning, environmental or atheistic considerations that would normally be part of the planning process. It is not that wind power is all bad, just that (as I have said before) its ability to provide relief from using other forms of hydro generation is severely limited until and unless high capacity storage solutions are part of such projects. That such an intermittent source of power should find strong support from large corporations is not a surprise given the governments guarantee price (for 20 -25 years) of the electricity that is generated at what is currently many time the going rate for hydro.

MPP Chris Bentley the man in charge of this file “promises to listen to suggestions about how to make wind turbines more acceptable in rural areas. But Ontario’s new energy minister, who doubles as the Liberal government’s point man to make peace with rural Ontario, says science shows turbines pose no health risk and he has no plans to let their location be returned to local control.”
Given that “Another 2,000 turbines have been approved.” I don’t thing there is going to be too much “ peace with rural Ontario” any time soon! Do the math, at a typical 500m spacing that is another 1,000sq km of rural Ontario covered with these things, and proponents of the projects wonder why rural dwellers oppose such developments. We wonder what would be the reaction were every park in Toronto had a wind turbine erected in it .........!

Since it seems that the fish and urban folks have more clout than either the birds or rural folks and have stopped the proposals for offshore wind farms its seems to me that other forms generation such as tidal / wave action projects should be considered. The latter may well be suited for the great lakes given that being relativity shallow they develop a great deal of wave action with little excuse. Ice may create some limitations in fresh water locations but I suspect that it would be at least as viable as wind. The long term answer would, at least given Icelands experience with it, seem to be geothermal however as of yet I have seen little appetite in Canada to develop such high capital cost ventures. It remains to be seen whether the change from a majority to a minority government will mean any changes to Ontarios GEA that will encourage other innovative and perhaps less intrusive way of supplying our power hungry society.

It is not that any of these types of energy supply should not be part of our system but that consideration must be given to both the impact upon the environment AND those living near such installations.
And thats the way it looks from my neck of these rural woods!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Rural Voices Network

The Women’s Institutes of Ontario very recently launched a project to develop a “Rural Voices Network” (RVN) and whist it is early days yet it gives me some extra hope that our rural voices will become more audible in Queens Park and Ottowa. I have written extensively about rural issues, government reports about such issues and even tried, unsuccessfully, to better define exactly what 'rural' encompasses , this initiative then is one which I fully support. The WI has long been active in rural communities, far more I suspect than in urban areas, and thus may well already have more insight than most into the challenges that rural communities face.

Activities within this initiative include creating a Project Advisory Committee, a literature review, ‘Let Your Voice Be Heard’ public forums, online forums, public survey and establishing collaborative networks.  The RVN project is sponsored by a $140,200 grant from The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF). The purpose of the RVN Project is to examine what enables rural citizens to participate in the common life of their community, and to identify barriers to rural civic engagement.  The Rural Voices Network is driven by the mandate to give rural citizens a space to have their voices heard, and to collaborate with charitable organizations and leaders in all levels of governance. 

They will be holding several Public Forums commencing Nov 10th 2011 in 7 communities to understand why and how people participate in the common life of their communities. All community members are welcome to participate in the forums. The aim of the public forums is to have rural citizens ‘voice’ their opinions, life experiences and ideas to be key influences for a Province-wide survey relating to rural civic engagement.

They also have an Online Forum where citizens can initiate discussion and forward ideas or respond to other interested rural residents without the need to participate in a face to face Public Forum. I for one expect to be quite active in said space over the next few months as this idea progresses.

Finally a Tip o the Hat to The Guelph Mercury for publishing an article on this and thus bringing it to my attention.