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.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Those Google 'Stats'

For those who do not have their own blog it should be noted that when you have a free blog on Google Blogger they provide a basic overview of visitors to your blog, where they are located and, if following a link, from where that link originated. Many of us like to look at this to see if we are being read and by whom, most bloggers are after all a bit of a self centered lot, myself being no exception.  Trouble is like any statistical information the criteria when assembling the data can be misleading depending upon what and how its being counted.
According to my Google Blogger stats my site here has received a little better than 7,000 "page views" in the last month, if that were accurate I would have a hard time getting my head through the door! I actual fact 99% of these "page views" were unsuccessful  'bots' visits blocked by Google but still counted as 'visits'. Digging deeper, and with the ongoing debate about if or when outside sources stole the U.S. election, I see that 1700 of these visits were from Russia closely followed by 1600 from U.S. addresses, seems both countries have their problems with 'hackers', government sponsored or not.
The visits from those who may have some actual interest in my scribblings, those in Canada, are somewhat more accurate so far as I can tell, that being a total of 10 individuals over the last month. Talk about a deflation of ego!
It bothers me not (much), like most writers I write more for myself than others. If you have stuff on your mind, write it down, start a blog, have a rant, even bend the ear of someone willing to listen..... its so much better that bottling it in and letting it build into something far worse than a minor irritation, hence this rant!

PS. I do note that Google has a 'full service' stats utility which can be installed on any web site but what a hassle to set it up particularly if you want to see the visitors to the various pages on your site.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Labour Force Survey Misleading.

I have had a go at this before.....
Just noticed a piece in the Sun Times titled “Region's unemployment rate drops”, the first line says “Part-time job growth drove November's unemployment rate down to 3 per cent in the economic region consisting of Grey, Bruce, Huron and Perth counties.” This may be true in that its the “Four County Labour Market Planning Board” serving “Grey, Bruce, Huron, Perth” and all the statistics for that area are lumped together. In fact I am told that separate statistics for the various counties and/or economic areas within them are not available, this to me makes this information not only all but useless but highly misleading.
That generally work found is in “the precarious types of employment – i.e. part-time, casual, entry-level, low-pay” jobs. Nor does it “reflect the degree to which people are under-employed” and “they don't reflect how many of those employed part-time would rather work full-time.” further adds to the problem with the “Labour Force Survey”. (A full time job lost is equivalent to a part time job gained in this and most other “employment” statistics.)
The survey goes on to say that 3,200 jobs have been “gained”, however it seems that 90% of these are those “part time precarious employment” positions so across the entire region from Tobermoury to Stratford just 300 full time jobs have been found and no one knows whether these were in Owen Sound, Goderich, Collingwood, Walkerton or Hanover areas.

Then there is this bit “The top two gains were in the services-producing sector in "accommodation and food services" (read waitressing) and "wholesale and retail trade" (read cashier) categories, which gained 1,200 each. Employment in the goods-producing sector saw gains in all categories the highest gains in that sector were in "agriculture" with 1,100 jobs. “ (make me wonder what positions are included in that sector) Losses were all in the services-producing sector, 900 jobs, in "other services," and 800 jobs in "finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing,". Reading between the lines it would seem that blue collar workers are SOL, a quick look at local Grey Bruce job listings would seem to confirm that.

My biggest problem with this whole thing is that it lumps completely disparate areas together and appears to assume that the job market in southern Huron - Perth is the same as that in northern Grey - Bruce. I strongly dispute this, I believe from my own observations of various employment “opportunities” web sites that the situation varies greatly across “the four counties”.
If the Four Counties Labour Force Survey is to be taken seriously and to be of any use in assisting LOCAL employers, the unemployed and organizations in addressing the issue of the LOCAL economy then we need LOCAL statistics.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Is Internet an Essential Service?

I have previously ranted here about the difficulty faced by many rural residents to get any affordable internet connection to their home let alone a 'high speed' one. For those who do not have a 'line of sight' to an internet suppliers transmitter tower they are left with just two options (dial up internet now being all but useless except for email use due to 'heavy' content of almost every site) those being satellite connection or Cell phone connection, both being expensive and with low volume thresholds. In some cases the physical location negates even these options.
For those who take their connections for granted or those who think an internet connection is an unessential frill I offer this clip from a letter to The Owen Sound Hub from one Shane Patey,

The last few years have seen a major shift toward content held exclusively online by outlets that would have previously delivered the same content through both print media and television. The area is enjoying a major increase in new year round residents. Living here should not mean that we can not access the same information as our city based counterparts just a few kilometres away.
This move to online content and other resources for engaging citizens (learning portals, health supports, and more) is not happening alongside similarly robust development in physically situated and accessible by the public resources, and far and wide is replacing many that have previously been physically accessible. Also, recognizing the challenges of engaging many who feel marginalized and vulnerable related to various physical and mental health experiences, publically funded entities like NGOs and community health outlets are being funded specifically to deliver content and education online by both federal and provincial funding bodies including but not limited to Ontario's Ministry of Health and Longterm Care, and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Funding arrangements are continuously evaluated for their reach and impact and the last year and a half has seen the addition of evaluation criteria specifically pertaining to an organization's capacity to engage stakeholders via traditional online outlets, and social media.
Shane is of course correct, government is increasingly 'centralizing' services and seems to think that making these services available online make them available to those distant from those urban centers where face to face service is available. Unfortunately many rural residents do not have, and often cannot get, reliable affordable internet connections and given the difficulty of servicing some areas with either cabled service or wireless service this will not change much in the foreseeable future despite all the hype about bringing “high speed internet' to Grey County. Some of those in community's already served by such connections may well get improved service but those away from major arteries will continue to struggle to get any reliable (affordable & unlimited) connection.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Changing the clocks

I hate all this buggering around with the clocks every 6 months, not only does it make me even more out of sync with the rest of the word and mess with everyone elses internal clock but it is totally unnecessary in today’s world.
Brought in 100 years ago to......” minimize the use of artificial lighting in order to save fuel for the war effort during World War I” I think that that war is over! Modern almost 24hr a day work / life habits negate any 'savings' of any kind and may in fact cost us by disrupting folks circadian rhythms. “Clock shifts sometimes complicate timekeeping, and can disrupt travel, billing, record keeping, medical devices, heavy equipment, and sleep patterns.”......and piss off old men!

So as I contemplate waking at the same time as I always do but an hour earlier according to the clock & sit around for hours waiting for for the sun to emerge from behind our forest of trees at 9.30 or so, (or is that now 8.30 or 10.30, I dont know, I get so confused by all this back and forward thing,) I say why dont we just leave the bloody clocks at one setting or the other.

They say old folks dont need as much sleep, I dont know about that I could USE more sleep I just dont GET more sleep. As I struggle to keep my eyes open for a couple of hours after the evening news, a fight not helped by the absolute crap on the box during that period, I contemplate waking up to see the clock saying 4.30 instead of 5.30 and thats if I sleep in for a bit! I think perhaps an afternoon nap may be in order but will that mean I get even less sleep at night, however without one I could be falling asleep right after supper .....or worse do a face plant on my plate!


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Chatsworth Community Forum

A few weeks ago I posted an article promoting a couple of local news letters and floating the idea of an online community forum. Whilst I received very little response to that idea I never the less have spent a little time building such a website on my home computer both as something to keep the old brain busy (as with the old bones its use it or loose it) and to have something to show those who may be interested in such a concept. It is readily transferable to a live website in short order once a site has been established on line.

Below are some screen shots of the “Forum Index” to hopefully grab your interest:- (click to enlarge)

As you can see there are additional pages to get help for those not familiar with forums in general and a page with links to other local resources. The footer has “news" feeds from the County website and hopefully from the Township website once they are established.

Regarding the upgrade of the township website, the Township Web Site and Notice Provision Committee, of which I am a member, will be having its first meeting shortly and news feeds and subscriptions is one of the many items to be considered! There are many other items on the list and the process may take some time so have patience, I can assure you that better access to more information is high on on the agenda.

Meanwhile I will once again invite Chatsworth Township residents to weigh in on the possibility establishing a Chatsworth Chat Forum to enhance communications between local residents, clubs, organizations and to establish a one stop place to tell us all about meetings, events and goings on in the communities that make up our rural area.

Leave a comment here or contact me by email and please share this article with other area residents.

Friday, September 30, 2016

A Farce of a Electoral “Consultation”?

Last week I posted the details of out local Mp's (Larry Miller) upcoming Telephone Town Hall re Electoral Reform not to promote him but to promote discussion about this important initiative. Well said teleconference is now history and the reports are in and they are not good. I had said in my previous post that I had little faith in Mr Miller accurately forwarding the broad range of opinion that could well ensue and that the number of folks actually getting to express their view would be limited.
Apparently that will not be a problem in that allegedly those that wished to express a view that did not coincide with Mr Millers FPTP and referendum views did not get a chance to speak and thus 100% of the callers did in fact, as Mr Miller previously alleged did the callers to his office, “support the current first-past-the-post voting system.”

This from our local news blog “The Hub”
Anyone who listened in on Larry Miller's tele-forum Tuesday evening, Sept. 27, was treated to a Miller kiss fest and a merry orgy of misinformation. Larry got what he wanted. Sure enough, one hundred percent of his constituents were opposed to proportional representation. No doubt we'll hear him trumpeting this "fact" soon enough.
Perhaps all the supporters of PR were smarter than I was and just stayed away knowing it would be a farce. Or they were, like me evidently, screened out by Larry's operators, with only clapping seals who wouldn't challenge him being let through.
I was waiting in the queue for 40 minutes. At one point toward the end, we heard him say, "I see another call has come in," and he took the other person. What about the queue? My call was already in. Why wasn't I next? Was it because his operator had earlier asked me what I intend to say and I foolishly blurted out the truth that I wanted to provide some information about proportional representation?
Fortunately the results are so lopsided that they shoot him in his own foot. That not one person was heard to support PR advertises the lack of credibility of the whole vain exercise. Like those third world despots hated by their people who are elected with 99 per cent of the vote every time.............
Read more

Interestingly, it not being a 'live' meeting there is no direct report from any other local media for comparison, we wonder if this was a deliberate move by Mr Miller to avoid such reporting? Mr Miller however continues to defend his 'no change' position and says the 30 or so people who did get to express their views were not 'filtered'!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Local MP to hold Teleconference.

September 27th, 2016 - MP Larry Miller will be hosting a community TeleForum for residents in the riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound. 7pm-8pm. Residents will receive a phone call at approximately 7pm and will be given instructions on how to participate.

Larry Miller, Member of Parliament for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, will be hosting a telephone town hall meeting (teleforum) with residents of the riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound on the topic of electoral reform. The teleforum will take place on Tuesday, September 27th from 7:00p.m. – 8:00p.m.
Residents will have the opportunity to listen to and join in a discussion with Mr. Miller on the topic of electoral reform including: whether a national referendum is required to change the voting system, alternative voting systems, mandatory voting and online voting. The discussion from the teleforum will inform a submission from Mr. Miller to the Special Committee on Electoral Reform (ERRE).
Residents will receive an automated phone call shortly before 7:00p.m. on the 27th and will be prompted to remain on the line. Those wishing to participate must simply remain on the line. Those who miss the call but receive a message on their answering machine will be given instructions on how to participate.
"I am looking forward to hearing a number of different concerns, questions, and opinions on electoral reform," said Miller. "It is my hope that a community teleforum will allow for the greatest number of participants possible. I hope that all will take the time to participate in this important discussion."
Those with questions or concerns about how to participate are encouraged to contact Mr. Miller's office.
The Sun Times reports that....
Miller said there should be a full national referendum before changes are made to the electoral system.
He said about 80 per cent of the people he has heard from share that view.
Miller said about two-thirds of the constituents who have contacted him or responded to a question that was sent in a recent mail-out from his office have said they support the current first-past-the-post voting system.”
Personalty I am not going to bother, I have made my views known directly to the committee and I have little faith that Mr Millers report to them will accurately represent the wide variety of opinions that will no doubt been pressed by those that manage to get a minute or two to speak in the hour allowed at his teleconference.
As for the majority contacting him “supporting the current first-past-the-post voting system.” that may well be true in that the Conservative mantra is just that however this does not reflect the general feeling a cording to a number of national polls. The only reason for supporting a referendum on any changes is to further support this position in that those that do not understand a new system will undoubtedly vote for the status quo, and make no mistake some of the options currently on the table are fully understood by very few citizens.

Cross posted at Democracy Under Fire

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Banking at your Post Office?

It is a VERY rare occurrence when I agree with any union organization who are generally about getting more, more, more for their mostly well paid members, but on this one I cannot but help agree.....

OTTAWA - Canadians have flooded their Members of Parliament with messages in support of postal banking after Canada’s six biggest banks reported a combined profit of $10.4 billion last week. Banking is the most profitable industry in Canada, but Canadians pay some of the highest bank fees in the world, averaging $185 per user per year.
Calls to bring back postal banking are gaining momentum as the Liberals’ public review of the post office enters its second phase of consultation. After bank profits were announced last week, thousands sent messages to their MPs in support of a postal banking alternative.
“These profits could be used to reduce the sky-high banking fees we pay in Canada. But because the big banks have cornered the market, they’re charging us more than ever,” said Dru Oja Jay, Executive Director at Friends of Public Services.
“Postal banking would be a powerful, low-cost alternative.  And profits earned by postal banking could help keep the post office thriving as a public service and bring returns to communities,” said Mike Palecek, CUPW national president.
The action was coordinated by Delivering Community Power, a campaign backed by over fifty labour, environmental social justice and anti-poverty organizations that envisions a revitalized postal network with postal banking and expanded services to address Canada’s climate and economic challenges.
"We support postal banking for its potential to address economic inequality and climate change in Canada.  Affordable banking, investment in local clean energy projects, and better services for rural communities and First Nations -- let’s make the connections and make it happen.” says Avi Lewis of the Delivering Community Power coalition.
Postal banking is supported by the postal workers’ unions, anti-poverty and community groups, and over 600 municipalities across the country. It’s already instituted in many parts of the world and existed in Canada until 1969.

This idea has been proposed before to enhance services in small rural communities where all such things are gradually being 'centralized' away to the urban centres. Of course when the unionized postal employees go on strike and you cant get at your money it could be a bit of a problem?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Rural Vs Urban Hydro Delivery Rates

With the current focus upon Hydro rates initially brought on by a Global News report on the difficulty many residents of my own riding of Bruce-Grey are having in paying their bills I thought I would look closer at the difference costs between rural and urban hydro costs..
To clearly represent the facts I have created a spread sheet showing those costs based upon Hydro Ones published “Residential Delivery Costs”. These figures only show those details for customers served directly by Hydro One, I believe that many city folk served by their own Hydro Utility’s will in fact be receiving their electricity at a lower price at the door than shown here for high and medium density customers.

Residential Delivery Costs as per Hydro One
For “Residential – Low Density.” the distribution service charge is automatically reduced by $31.50 The hydro One chart shows the rate AFTER the discount, the rate would otherwise be $74.82

Delivery Rates2 Kw per month  Urban High Density Medium Density Low Density

Distribution service charge 
($ / month) inc 31.50 disc for LD)

22.86 30.88 43.32

Distribution volume charge
(metered usage - ¢ / kWh)

1.6 2.98 4.27

Transmission connection charge
(adjusted usage - ¢ / kWh)

0.49 o.48 0.46

Transmission network charge
(adjusted usage - ¢/ kWh)

0.69 0.68 0.65

Smart metering entity charge3
($ / month)

0.79 0.79 0.79

Adjustment Factor
1.057 1.076 1.105

The Calculations for 1000 Kwh / Month

Total per Kwh charges -cents/Kwh
2.78 3.66 5.38

Total fixed charges - $ per month
23.65 31.67 44.11

“delivery” cost 1000Kwh / month $ 1000 51.45 68.27 97.91

Electricity cost @ 13.2 Kwh for 1000Kwh $
132.00 132.00 132.00

Grand total before tax
183.45 200.27 229.91

27.52 30.04 34.49

Your cost
210.97 230.31 264.40

Cost per Kwh at your door (at mid peak rate)
0.21 0.23 0.26

The Calculations for 500 Kwh / Month

Total per Kwh charges -cents/Kwh
2.78 3.66 5.38

Total fixed charges - $ per month
23.65 31.67 44.11

“delivery” cost 500Kwh / month $ 500 37.55 49.97 71.01

Electricity cost @ 13.2 Kwh for 500Kwh $
66.00 66.00 66.00

Grand total before tax
103.55 115.97 137.01

15.53 17.40 20.55

Your cost
119.08 133.37 157.56

Cost per Kwh at your door (at mid peak rate)
0.24 0.27 0.32

Most customers usage will be 'adjusted' re 'line loss', their bills will be 5% to 10% more than calculated above. The line loss is no longer shown on your bill, for this rural user it is 1.105 resulting an additional 10.5% usage.
Edit - Note:  Upon asking why the 'line loss adjustment' (for both electricity usage and per Kw delivery costs) is no longer shown upon our bills Hydro One replied.......
The Electricity Charges portion of your bill will now only display the metered consumption in kWh, the price difference between the adjusted consumption in kWh and metered consumption in kWh has been moved to the Delivery Charge line of your bill.”The total Electricity cost will depend upon the time of day used – the above is all at mid peak cost.
Just for interest at 1500 Kw/ month the totals are $302, $ 327, $371 and cost per Kwh 20c, 22c, 25c
At 100 kw /month rural customers would pay about $72 or 72c per Kwh!

According to Hydro Ones own numbers rural delivery rates are scheduled to increase 9.9% in 2016 and a further 9% in 2017, it is difficult to get exact details but according to one intervenor at the OEB hearings
Hydro Ones proposed a fixed delivery rate of $141.12 by 2017 for rural customers, this before the cost of actual usage! The volume based delivery charge will be phased out so that the less hydro you use the greater the cost per Kwh at your door will be (even more so than at present). So much for conservation and those struggling with hydro costs already.
I note that on my own personal hydro bill the cost of “delivery” already exceeds the cost of the power used which in our case through careful attention to TOD rates is slightly below that touted by Hydro One as “average”. I can see how those with electric heat, or stay at home mums with several kids, or for that matter low income seniors will be severely impacted by these proposed changes and the measly 8% reduction just proposed by Winne will do little to alleviate the hardship.

Typical one month bill for City residents using 1,000 kWh / month effective May 2016
Ottawa ON $165.37
Halifax NS $158.83
Saskatoon SK $146.49
Regina SK $146.45
Moncton NB $124.98
St. John's NL $119.64
Saint John NB $111.71
Calgary AB $111.70
Vancouver BC $107.03
Edmonton AB $105.08
Winnipeg MB $84.29
Montreal QC $72.26

Couple of points here, it can be clearly seen that Ottawa Hydro rates (at the door) are well below the high density rates for Ontario Hydro ($183.45 before tax) and also clearly seen that Ontario electricity prices in general are far to high. If any number of provinces can deliver 1000 Kwh for around $100 why are Ontario rates at least 50% higher?
Finally for a full comparison try this link, it still does not fully reflect the Ontario Hydro prices but does give a good idea of the various different charges per province.

FYI - How many overpaid public service workers does it take to make Ontario the province with the highest electricity rates (excluding PEI which imports most of its power)? Well, at least 148 who made more than a quarter million dollars per year in 2014. See http://www.ontario-hydro.com/salaries-2014

I note here that I have no problem with high hourly rates paid to Linemen who regularly work with high voltage lines often up in a bucket in the middle of a winter storm, non of whom make anywhere like the amount taken home by these executives and supervisors.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Full of it....

There are many ways in which we are supposed to conserve our resources, save the environment and move towards a sustainable planet and I generally support these moves but not all are as effective as they are said to be. From wind turbines that need to be backed up by other means of generation because they have no storage capacity to some urban centers banning the use of a renewable fuel (wood) forcing folks to use a non renewable fuel (oil or gas). Such things are open to debate as to their overall contribution to both sustainability and fighting climate change, it all depends upon your point of view.

When it comes to water conservation which could become a more pressing issue with the drought / flood cycles that seem to be an increasing reality its the same kind of trade off. Here in SW Ontario a recent news article pointed out the millions of gallons of water that bottling companys take from our ground water at a minuscule cost per litre to put in plastic bottles only some of which are recycled. In my own case I have recently become aware of another mandated water conservation move that simply does not work.

Simply put, low flush toilets do not save water when you must flush them 2 or three times to remove the waste! The only thing I can say about our 4l low flush toilet is that I wish I could flush it down the toilet! At first I thought that there was something wrong with said situpon but upon examination and cleaning the flush holes around the rim (the first thing to do if toilet becomes slow to flush), removing the unit and checking for plugged pipes or other build up I finding nothing obviously wrong. Next move was to increase the volume of water per flush, the tank level was adjustable for less water but not more but manually filling it as high as possible proved that with sufficient water it worked .....most times. Part of the problen appears to be the almost 3 feet of bends and twists in the pipe on the toilet BEFORE it even gets to the sewer pipe, presumably to try and make the damned thing flush on insufficient water volume. There seems to be just enough water to move the waste from bowl to this maze of pipe (sometimes) but not down the pipe to the septic tank so that in the next use its partially plugged and its plunger time (again).

Wishing I had never replaced the old toilet I went on line looking fo a full flush toilet, apparently there is no longer such a thing in North America it now being illegal to manufacture a toilet that uses more than 6 litres .....shit! It appears from the hundreds (if not 1000s) of complaints on line by both customers and plumbers looking for solutions that I am far from the only one with this problem.

Although it would indeed save water I am not really keen on using the old outhouse down the bottom of the garden so will just continue my efforts to modify the tank float level and keep the plunger handy but to say that I am not impressed with this water saving devise is putting it mildly!

I note that looking at the model number that it is a “4L flush”, not something I was looking at or aware of when I bought it, with modifications to the float mechanism and the overflow tube it is now closer to an “8L flush” and has greatly improved its waste removal if not 'water saving' qualities!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Chatsworth Community News Letters

With the long ago demise of local community newspapers and the ensuing difficulty of spreading the news of community events and news I have been pleased to see a couple of quarterly community newsletters spring up. Voices In Print put out by Chatsworth Taxpayers For a Safe and Healthy Environment has been going for a couple of years now and features a variety of views and information from across our township. The most recent edition may be viewed here thanks to Trevor Falks efforts at Shining a Light on Chatsworth blog, for more information contact printvoices@gmail.com .

The second more recent newsletter that I have become aware of is the Desboro Community Newsletter which is focused upon the Desboro area in general and the Community Center and Arena more particularly, they can be contacted at desboronewsletter@gmail.com. I am not aware of any on line copies of this newsletter at this time. The Township of Chatsworth's annual 'newsletter' may be found here.

My thanks go out to these folks who are trying to keep us all in touch with what is going on, keep up the good work! Unfortunately such efforts are largely a one way street with the newsletters informing us of stuff happening but permitting only limited feedback from the rural residents unless they have an opportunity to meet with other of the same mind at some community event. In my view small rural community’s such as ours need more two way communication, brainstorming ideas to keep our businesses and villages thriving and viable, finding ways to provide local employment for our youth and their families.

I have long thought that one such way to enable such an open discussion about such ideas, as well as provide an additional way to promote local events would be an Online Community Forum where anyone can post their events, ideas or concerns and others from the Chatsworth area can respond with offers of help, better ideas and alternative points of view. Despite promoting such a forum here on my blog, through the W.I. Rural Voices initiative a couple of years ago, and more recently with some of the Chatsworth Taxpayers For a Safe and Healthy Environment members I have yet to see any great enthusiasm for such a forum despite my offers to build and initially moderate such an on line communication tool.

In this particular case I have learned through long experience it is NOT a case of 'build it and they will come', in another such place which I moderate that has a membership of over 100 no one seems interested in talking about that organizations problems and future. It is the lack of conversations that is self defeating, successful and active forums are those where members are regularly posting information and ideas and responding to same. Given the above to start such a forum, which I believe would be a great asset to our area, we need half a dozen people or more who can commit to doing just that in order to get those conversations started.

If you are a member of a local club, group or organization with information to share, an individual with views about our local environment, township services, council decisions and the like, or just have a bird or flower sighting and gardening ideas to share then perhaps this idea is for you.

Lets talk about it. Email me via the 'contact' link in the sidebar or use the blog comment utility below.

For those unsure as to exactly what a “forum” looks like or how it works here is a link to one active forum in Ontario this one about Lake Nipissing

Monday, August 8, 2016

Mud Puppies

As regular readers will know we try and maintain our 33 acres of grey county mixed bush in a sustainable manner and operate under a “Managed Forest Plan”, we keep lists of forest flowers, ferns, trees, shrubs, birds and animals we see on our property and try to learn a little about each new species we see. It is possible to know all that we have on this diverse hideaway, we do not list the butterfly’s, beetles and insect 'pests' that some years stress our variety of trees, the pine budworm, the forest tent caterpillar, the pine sawyer, etc etc. Nor do we track the snakes, frogs and other reptiles on our property, this does not mean that we do not take note of such encounters. Each and every new 'find' is exciting and important to us!

This week we are pleased to have our grandaughter visiting and along with her mother (our nature loving daughter) she was exploring around our small (6 x 8) man made pond in our visitor woodland 'gardens'. This is simply a semi- wild area close to the house to give folks who are unable or unwilling to take a hike a glimpse of what can be seen if you walk the extensive trails back in the bush area, but hardly a 'wild' area. We were really please to have our granddaughter come back with half a dozen newly hatched Mud Puppy’s scooped from said pond. My regime of letting the leaves from the trees that shadow the entire area accumulate in the pond each fall and rot down each winter seems to have paid off. Sure we do have to scoop a few wheelbarrows full off the bottom each spring or it would soon become totally full, but we always leave a good layer of sediment on the bottom for the frogs that help keep the mosquito larva in control.

The confirmation of this came when in looking up details on 'mud puppies' we learned that they do not normally travel more than a few hundred feet from water and take 3 or 4 tears to 'mature' (and will eventually grow to 12 or 14 inches) but will then lay several hundred eggs. It seems that despite the little pond being a 1000' feet or more from the next closest water somehow a mature Salamander (Mud puppies are a particular species of Salamanders who only exist in this small area of north America it seems) has found its way here and found my man made pond to its liking. The pond does not look particularly 'pretty' to those who want a 'manicured look' but obviously it looks OK to natures creatures ...... and that to us is far more important to us than an urban humans 'approval'!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Public Meeting” about Public Meetings!

Next week Chatswoth Council is scheduled to “discuss” a by-law that lays out when and how the public should be notified about upcoming “public meetings”. Below is my letter to council on this matter. The full proposed document may be viewed here (thanks to Mr Falks ongoing efforts to make information more accessible) or in the 5Mb July 6th agenda package on the Township web site.

I see that the Public Meeting to discuss By-law 2016-32, Being a By-law to Establish a
Provision of Notice Policy, has been rescheduled to the July 20, 2016 regular meeting
of Council.

And that “Questions or comments can be provided in advance of the meeting by contacting
Grace Nayler, Deputy Clerk at gnayler@chatsworth.ca 519-794-3232 ext. 125.

This then is my comments upon this bylaw as included in the 159 page July 6th “Agenda package”.

I realize that in most cases the criteria for public meetings may be set by the municipal act and that this document sets minimum standards for notification of those “public” meeting not covered by such rules. In my opinion said standards as now written are far too low a standard to be put in a formal policy document. The following three clauses are particularly troubling.

Whilst I am sure it is not the intention of this council to keep the public in the dark this document as written gives them and future councils the leeway to do so, they may waive the requirements of this policy and thus not even follow the very low standards set (for meetings not covered by the municipal act) and thus hold a “Public Meeting” without notifying the public at all. This is obviously unacceptable in a democracy. Please consider increasing the minimum standards for notification and deleting the “escape” clause #7 entirely, clause #12 already gives you the ability to skip the requirements “in an emergency”. Additionally clause 1f permits notifications on the website to be hidden in a sub folder and NOT directly published or mentioned on the front page this should be updated to at least ensure a mention on the front page.

It is unclear exactly what the difference is between a council meeting (which already is a public meeting) and a “Public Meeting” designated as such, whether held separately or at the same time as a council meeting. Perhaps this needs to be clarified, are the rules for presenting before council different than those to present at a “public meeting”. I would assume that during a “Public Meeting” members of the public may speak to the issue without prior notice and that anyone wanting to ask questions or add to the discussion would be encouraged to do so. I assume that regular council meeting may have different rules.

Such criteria need to be clearly spelt out for both types of meetings (and readily available on the website) so that the pubic knows the routine should they wish to speak to any issue before council. Perhaps the definition of what constitutes a “Public Meeting” and the criteria for public participation need to be defined in the document?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

“Public” Meeting in Chatsworth?

I don’t often attend local council meetings but recently having been given a heads up by a taxpayer who is much more up on what is going on than myself I decided to do so to address some failures in a topic to be discussed in which I had an interest, The Notice of Public meeting, once I had found it tucked away on the website said that the official policy re the Township Website was to be discussed at the “Public Meeting” to be held as part of the regular council meeting and gave a contact email for further comments or information. I then did my research and sought out the document in question, a very difficult job given that said document was buried deep in a 139 page PDF agenda document. Fortunately the same fellow who had alerted me to the meeting also regularly does the enormous task of splitting said document into its component parts and posting links to them on his private website. The policy document then can be found here.

Having notified the township via the email provided that I wished to speak to this issue I then prepared a brief two page outline of the points I wished to raise. Primarily ways in which the website could be more “user friendly”, be more accessible and make documents much easier to access.

The “Public Meeting” portion of the meeting was scheduled for 11am and allowed for just 1/2 hr to cover this item and the “Notice of Public Meeting” Policy (now scheduled for July 20th), hardy enough to do much more than just touch upon the problems but enough to get a few point across I thought. There were two citizens who had contacted council on this matter, myself being one of them and both our names were on the agenda under the heading of 'website policy'. I arrived about 10.30 only to find that the council meeting, which presumably started at the scheduled time of 10am, was “running an hour behind”. Sure enough the website policy issue did not come up until after 12 noon (this after council has taken a coffee break leaving citizens sitting waiting for proceedings to continue, no coffee was offered to us!)

The first citizen was then called up (no mention of this being the “public” portion of the meeting) and told in no uncertain terms to keep his presentation short, (I note here that previous 'delegations were not given this instruction but were eventually persuaded that council had understood their concerns). The presentation was indeed kept short being less than 5 minutes and not covering half the items on the printed sheet circulated covering his concerns. The Chair then said we will take a break and then move on to (an item further down the agenda, I don’t recall what), having now sat waiting for an hour & a half to say my piece I then asked “do you want to finish up with the web policy issue before moving on?” as was told “I though we had”. SAY WHAT?

I had thought that this was a PUBLIC MEETING portion of council, least that what it said in the “Public Notice” and for that matter in the agenda. To not hear from someone who’s name was on the agenda let alone not ask for “public input” from those others present at a public meeting is very strange IMHO. Anyway I was having non of that and insisted on speaking, whilst reluctantly being allowed to do so was pressured into speaking for less than a minute, possibly two and interrupted at least once during that period and told to hurry up. No discussion took place, I had the distinct impression that council simply did not want to know. They then went for their second coffee break despite the supposed urgency of moving on the other business! I left in disgust!

A final note on this, as I walked out I was approached by the (Interim) CAO who was sitting in on the meeting and was pleasantly surprised that HE at least was appreciative of the points raised and offered to TRY and set up a meeting with those involved with the web site to discuss such issues. I must thank him for his “intervention” without which I would have left considerably more upset with councils handling of this “public meeting”. I hope that collectively we can soon drag the Chatsworth Website and Council into the information age.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Baby Birdies

This week has been a productive time for our bird population around the house as their youngsters are all emerging from their nests and the parents are busy encouraging then to do so.
Naturally the Robins have built their usual over abundance of nests and we can confirm they have actually used at least one of then and raised a bunch of little ones. It seems that mother Robins are most particular as to where they lay their eggs and Mr Robin is forced to build a number of the foe inspection, unusually this year he did NOT build exactly where I had planned to do some work ..... perhaps because I planned none!

But this week its been the less obvious nest builder that we are seeing with their younsters, the Hairy Woodpecker was hard to miss as he sat inthe window feeder morning after morning calling to his youngster in a nearby tree “Look here, food, food, come and get it”. Eventually after several days of this the fledgling did overcome his shyness and came to the feeder ..... when that Red Bellied Woodpecker featured in a previous post was not hogging the seed. He (RB) is most vocal in giving me hell if the feeder is out of seed in the morning!

We have seen a pair of Phobes on the hydro lines that pass by the kitchen window for some time and they appeared to be flying towards the house on a regular basis but we could not figure out to where. The other day I looked up to see a long tail sticking out from above the brace for our satellite dish and upon further investigation saw this:-

Dad was perched close by.......

Then today whilst sitting out at our BBQ and seeing lots of fluttering in a nearby spruce spotted a family of White Breasted Nuthatches with at least two youngsters. Mom and dad are regulars at our feeders but the little ones have not been there yet that we have seen but a little Rose Breasted Grosbeak was in there yesterday...... guess I had better fill them before Mr RB gets pissed off again!

PS, I dont get a whole lot of visitors here at The Rural Canadian, lets face it , its as much for my pleasure in writing as your pleasure in reading, but if you do visit and enjoy my scribblings feel free to drop a note in the comments section to let me know. Its nice to know somebody’s reading my ramblings!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Chatsworth Council News

It appears that long standing CAO Will Moore is no longer with Chatsworth Council, although as far as I can tell no “official” announcement has been made there are a number of changes in staffing shown on the 'Contacts' page.
The administration staff is now given as:-
Acting CAO/Clerk - Norm Gamble
Deputy Clerk - Grace Nayler
Treasurer - Valerie Manning
Admin Assistant Finance - Teresa Buys
Admin Assistant Clerk & Finance - Heather Stirling

In other news it seems that after a couple of citizens expressed concern regarding a change in document retention on the website policies (see June 5th item) council is now reviewing its entire method of document filing, retention and access. Reading between the lines of the new Deputy Clerk's report its long overdue


(click to enlarge)
Staff then recommend that

“Council approve the purchase of TOMRMS (The Ontario Municipal Records Management System) for Record Retention and Management and that a new Records Management and Retention By-law be enacted as soon as it can be prepared.”

It is not specified anywhere (that I have found) what the policy regarding the website is, except that it should follow the general retention policy.

Whilst I have no major beefs with Chatsworth Council I do believe that they can do a better job of keeping the public informed both through the use of local media (radio & print) and online on their website and elsewhere. The change in staffing in the top administrative hierarchy one would think would merit such a announcement.

It has also been suggested to council that there are methods to make it much easier to keep up with items that are (often belatedly) posted to the website. Both RSS feeds and Subscribe to posts should be available so that interested citizens do not have to visit and troll the site to lean of new activities, reports or other content. I remain optimistic the the new CAO and his assistant will recommend and institute such modest but important changes soon.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Todays Birds

Our migratory birds continue to arrive and this morning we heard the Baltimore Oriole singing away for the first time this year and eventually spotted him perched high on the very tip of one of our pine trees.

Other recent arrivals include the Great Crested Flycatcher and the Phoebe, we have yet to see any of the usual sparrows and warblers that pass through on their way north. I think I heard the Oven Bird and the Red Eyed Virio as well as the Yellow Bellied Sapsucker who does a number on our some of our trees each spring the other day, there is lots of sap in the pine trees but he seem tp prefer our decorative garden Mountain ash!

Its really starting to look like summer despite the 3C low temperature last night, enjoy yours.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

May Flowers in June

No, no, not climate change, at least this time! As our spring forest flowers see the tree canopy fill in and shade them from the sunlight and gradually fade from view it was nice to come across this carpet of Canada Mayflowers just off one of our trails.

Whilst the Trilliums, Trout Lilly, Bellwort and other early arrivals all seemed to show their faces at the usual time of late April / early May the did not seem to last long, perhaps because of the unusually warm and dry May here in the Klondike Hills. The Canada violets as well as the Blue Spurred and Dog Toothed violets which normally show a little later were rather sparse this year, a good rain may yet bring a few more out.

We just planted some of the Oak saplings purchased from our local conservation authority last spring and potted on to give them a better chance of survival and I can tell you that in the pine clearings the soil is dry down to the depth of the shovel and the ground cover of pine needles and cone is crisp underfoot. A little rain is promised tomorrow and I hope it shows up as the next chance seems to be next week where the is “a chance of rain” for much of the week. Such promised do not always show up, weather forecasting is far from an exact science eh!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

More Spring Arrivals

Recent arrivals include Rose Crested Grosbeak, Phoebe, White Crowned Sparrow, Song Sparrow, House Wren and Humming Bird. It looks like spring is here to stay now and the hard frosts seen this past week will not be repeated.

Spring arrivals at my daughters place a little further south include this little one who needed a little TLC and seems to have made itself right at home!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

In the feeder this morning........

Cardinal, Hairy Woodpecker, Female Purple Finch, Tree Sparrow, White Breasted Nuthatch, Red Breasted Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, several Juncos, up to 6 Goldfinch and a never ending supply of Chickadees......

Female Purple finch, Tree Sparrow and Goldfinches vie for a place in our window feeder 
Yes, window needs cleaning!

We were pleased to see our Red Bellied Woodpecker return  on Thursday, we are on the northern edge of his range which is gradually expanding and we think he raised a young one here last year'

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Teaching the Teachers

It appears that Elementary School Teachers in Ontario, who have graduated High School and gone on to further education and obtained their Teaching Certificate, need further education in order to teach BASIC math to elementary age kids. It also seems that schools need to be forced to teach this basic skill with any consistency with many schools spending less that an hour covering math skills.

Concerned about a troubling slip in elementary math scores, the Ontario government will require all students from Grades 1 to 8 to have at least 60 minutes of math instruction a day starting in September.
In a $60 million “renewed math strategy” unveiled Monday by Education Minister Liz Sandals, Ontario also will require each school to have at least one “math lead teacher” — in larger schools,

Are we saying that a teacher who has their certificate does NOT have the skills and knowledge necessary to teach basic math and we need more 'specialist' teachers? That we need to give said teachers up to five additional days of math professional development a year at a cost of $60 million in order that they can do so?

Some teachers questioned which subjects they will have to cut to find 60 minutes for math, but many already spend that much time on math, suggested Poleen Grewal, superintendent of curriculum and instruction for the Peel District School Board, which is in the second year of a big push on math improvement. You’d actually have to spend that much time if you’re engaging in problem-solving; a lot of schools actually spend two 40- to 50-minute periods on math, so I don’t think 60 minutes is a stretch.”

The president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario questioned the ongoing focus on literacy and numeracy......... whilst other subjects are no doubt also important perhaps he can explain how you can write reports or indeed understand other subjects like science or geography without these basic skills.

Let us ensure that our kids AND the teachers have a good grasp of the basic skills of Math and English before proceeding to other areas of interest.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Daughters Scrapbooking Place

My Daughter writes........
“After years of scrapping out of bins on my kitchen table, I asked my dad an amateur woodworker to create a workplace for all my goodies. I clipped pictures of all the little storage ideas I had seen over the years and along with a pamplet for the Scrapbox left him to it.”
Apparently I did OK as she thinks it good enough to submit an article about it to https://creativescrapbooker.ca/blogs/where-you-create-with-mary-jane-rawls/

Sorry its no use asking me for plans as all the drawings were stored in my head and those files are mostly lost to time!

Still a guy can be proud of his past achievements cant he?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

On Socks, Rakes, Old Bones & Spring Chores

My other brother would put this in rhyme but my brain, what little is left of it, does not work that way when I reach for a word that matches old or ache or garden cart, I just find nothing and have a brain fart! So I will just narrate yesterdays emergence from winter in words!

The hardest work I do all day is putting my socks on, how is it that my feet get further from the ends of my arms each time I get dressed. Used to be I looked at them “old farts” who shuffled down the halls of various nursing homes where I updated their electrical and 'call systems' with a little amusement, no longer is that funny. I now see why they wear no socks and slip on footwear and shuffle their feet rather than step out with confidence, you just cant trust those creaky knees and distant feet!

With spring now bringing a little light at the end of the winter tunnel here in the Klondike Hills of SW Ontario I find my self with the desire to get out and do something, anything other than sit on me arse and watch snow falling. Putting seeds to soil in the green house and sliding them into the hot bed certainly helps but sitting back in the following days watching them grow is no less frustrating than the previous occupation of doing nothing and resting after..

Given the above I decided that it was time to get out and rake the dead grass off the flower beds.....I know, I know, grass is not the preferred crop in a flower bed but in an effort to minimize the upkeep we decided upon mostly “perennial bed”, what we seem to have achieved is perennial grass and weed beds rather than flower beds. Our new regime is now potted plants set in holes that we can remove or replace as the need arises, So now at least all out 'failures' are in pots”

Anyway given the above sudden surge of ambition I foolishly decided that spring gardening clean up should not be done in slippers and that perhaps the tall 'slip on' insulated boots dedicated to traipsing through the snow out to the mail box in the winter months were, perhaps, not realty suitable for these tasks and thus dug out real 'work boots', you know with solid tread, ankle support and .....laces! All I am going to say that putting you socks on in the morning pales besides this task, particularly the first time in several months and on only two cups of tea!

Never the less after resting for some time after those exertions, and another cupa, I did spend some time with that lawn rake.....some of which I actually used it for raking rather than leaning on and contemplating how the crap on the top of the “flower” beds provide insulation for those thing that we planted that probably wont reemerge anyway! Thankfully after a couple of hours of this my wife arrived from picking up our granddaughter and dragged me fighting and screaming away from my gardening efforts, Then I was informed that our visitor has requested hot dogs for supper and it being probably the nicest day since sometime in September decided to fire up the BBQ.

Now we do not subscribe to those fancy thing that come on wheels with a tank full of heating juice but prefer our stone. wood fired. monolith. This takes a little time to get going and thus I was forced to leave the lawn rake rest and clear off all the accumulated junk, grills, and 'stuff' from around on and in the BBQ structure and actual put fire to wood. After a hard days raking dead crap from on top of half dead crap this understandably a tough job and required 'refreshments.' in order that one did not become dehydrated in the steaming +12c temperatures.

I am going to end my narration here with the notation that our first BBQ of the season was a small tease of better days to come even if shortly after the hot dogs went on the sun went AWOL. My old bones are aching and there is LOTS more to do out there but I just cannot wait to get at it.....in small doses. Now will someone design 'slip on work-boots and a way to put my feet closer to my hands!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Small Town Democracy

This week a number of observers have been focusing on the place and influence that the MSM, in particular print media, have upon our democracy. More particularly our 'need to know' what is happening in our various governmental institutions so that we the public can hold them to account and ensure that they are respecting our democracy and following the rules and keeping us informed regarding the decisions they are making on our behalf.

Much has been said of late on this subject and concern that the loss and/ or amalgamation of various print media is seriously impacting our ability to have accurate, in depth, knowledge of government policy’s, decisions and proposals. This week I first watched a discussion on this on “the West Block” with Samara's Jane Hilderman, I then read Lornes take on things at Politics and its Discontents and Kirbys follow up at kirbycairo . What more could one say?

Perhaps the best place to start is at the Municipal level, not my usual fodder here but how much closer to the electors can you get when looking at democratic issues? One of the problems I have with addressing this at the local level is that since the loss of local small town newspapers (or their assimilation by major corporate chains) there is almost no regular information available to the average citizen. Even IF one goes digging about a specific local issue the information is spotty at best. Sure most councils post their agendas (in some cases AFTER the meeting has taken place!), minutes (very basic, we discussed this and decided this) and if one digs deep enough perhaps some supporting documentation. Of public discussion (if indeed there was any), rebuttal and suggestions put forward by citizens (again if any) you will find NOTHING in the official minutes. There is nothing wrong with that, they are after all just minutes meant to reflect the decisions of council, however unless citizens were firstly aware of the issue and then took the time to actually attend said meeting these 'details' are lost and unavailable to interested parties.

The days when reporters attended EVERY council meeting and reported, even briefly, on such goings on are long gone (at least here in rural Ontario), sure when a highly contentious issue comes to the public’s (and thus the MSMs) attention it will be briefly reported, but beyond that our councils may as well be operating in a vacuum. This to me is just a forerunner of what may well happen in upper levels of governance if our MSM continues to struggle with how to fund their operations and pay their staff, particularly those 'investigative' reporters, The sad part for me is that I would fully support a small independent newspaper (on or off line) but in my area there is no such thing, there are a couple of small town weekly newspapers that belong to a major chain that print non local 'articles' gleaned from various contract writers and a few local 'headlines' but real LOCAL news is sparse. The corporate owned daily paper in the nearest (small) city on the few time I have read it was not worth the paper it was printed on, the total local content would perhaps fill a weekly!

Then there is the TV news that according to this report is where over 80% of the 60% who do in fact follow the news get their information. (Lorne has more to say on that here) If you live in Toronto or another city where a TV station is located you may well see a little local news but outside of those areas your community may as well not exist.....until a major disaster or some other 'newsworthy' thing happens to get their attention! Sure you will learn all about the latest bombing in Timbuktu but in depth news of small town Canada, not a chance. Our local radio stations are now rapidly becoming the only source of local news and generally speaking they do a fairly good job of that but even they rarely cover Municipal Council deliberations, in short if you want to know what your Councillors are doing you must either go digging on line (with in some cases very limited success) or attend every meeting to personally listen to the proceedings. Not an option for most folks.

Bottom line here whilst 'modern communications' have made it possible to have almost instantaneous news of events world wide, fewer and fewer folks are keeping an eye on and using those tools to report on what is happening at various levels of governance (and it would seem from the above report fewer even care) resulting in less accountability to those they serve. Will it become news by press release? Is this a taste of things to come in upper levels of government? In short I wonder if democracy will survive because of the internet or in spite of it!

Originality posted at Democracy Under Fire and reposted here to highlight the lost of independent rural community newspapers.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Things that piss me off....!

Computers that go tilt just as you need them (which is just about all the time)
Multiple (unnecessary) trips into town to get it repaired.
New computers only available in local stores with Windows 10.
“We cannot install or step back to Windows 7 for you because it is no longer sold”
Microsoft Corporation.
“No you cannot pay cash at the store and have us ship you one from our online inventory”
The inability to transfer the OS (win 7), all additional software & personal files directly to a new computer. (Yes I have my personal stuff backed up)
Microsoft Corporation.
Computers that go tilt!

I should not get so wound up over the loss of a “tool” but it is not until you loose the use of said tool that you realize how much you depend on it. I see many hours of work ahead loading LINUX UBUNTU on my new computer (after yet another trip into town to buy one with friggin Win 10 on it) and installing all kinds of other software on it, restoring my personal files and learning my way around the new OS. (The wife has a little notebook with Linux on it but I have not used it much and its not the full fledged Ubuntu version)

Who knew that a little problem with video output on my laptop would give me days of tearing my hair out, high blood pressure and such an insight into how much Microsoft has everything tied up so far as computer sales.

This from a win 2000 desktop resurrected from the “we better keep that just in case” pile!

PS Have you noticed that MS no longer includes word processing software etc with their distributions but want you to pay extra for that. Open source software like Ubunto, firefox, thunderbird, foxit etc are much better anyway, may Microsoft Corp stick their OS & software where the sun don’t shine.

There......now I feel better!