Monday, February 18, 2013

Spring Cleaning

We have been cleaning, junking, sorting, dumping.  Gathering 'stuff' into bags for Good Will donations.  Even filled a dumpster!  Washing walls, washing light fixtures.  Shredding personal papers.

Not much else getting done - have a couple of computers to configure and bills to catch up on, will get to those tomorrow night!

Feels good to get everything freshened up :)

Spring is still a ways away, but the sun is shining brighter and feels so good.  Cardinals and blue jays are chattering, lots of birdsong in the yard.  Weather is bouncing up and down, snow one day, rain the next.

Had a really nice dinner with our SIL on Saturday night - I love her laugh!  Sunday brunch, afternoon and dinner was a very interesting day with our youngest and her new beau.  What a nice fella! We get to keep our youngest for a few days - spring Reading Week at university, hurrah!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Update on bylaw

Well, I have to say, waking up to the news that the bylaw on FAILed made for a very happy start to my day! 

Doesn't mean the issue has gone away, the council is working on a bylaw and I'm sure it will come into being before the year is out.  Here's hoping there is considerable stakeholder consultation. 

Even in the few days between the announcement of the bylaw vote and the day of the vote, there was machinery sabotaged.  So much passion on all sides.

I did think of a few more good bylaws that should be enacted to balance what is likely coming ... for example - nationally, for every acre of farmland gobbled up by developers for urban development, for gravel pits, for utility servicing, must be replaced by the agency removing the farmland from production - by returning into productive agricultural use, current marginal land.  For example - the city wants to expand a suburb and takes over 100 acres of productive farmland.  The city must in return, purchase 100 acres of land that is currently in marginal agricultural production (within the region or province), rehabilitate that land to bring it up to a similar productivity to what they took out of production.  Further, they must maintain that property as a productive farm operation, in perpetuity, with the proceeds contributed to local foodbanks and social services. 

If there truly is a concern for being able to feed the world, there would not be a single acre removed from production. 

No way this would ever come to fruition.  But it's kind of fun to be rebellious :)

Friday, February 8, 2013

More ranting on municipal bylaws

Still so angry that I'm just getting silly.  Warning to readers - rant ahead - living the 'rebel' as outlined in the profile :)

There was a long article in the local small-town weekly paper by one of the people looking to pass a bylaw banning landowners from cutting their woodlots - so full of ranting and untruths and just factual errors that I am just disgusted and angry.  I may be obsessing just a titch.  Just makes me boil that urbanites believe they should be dictating how farms should operate - when they have no idea about any of the facts.  They are so far away from their food production they can't tell you what animal provides their milk or their eggs.

There is a motion before our municipal council coming up next week that will enforce a moratorium on clearing any woodlots or woodlands, for six months, while the administration studies the issue and conducts stakeholder consultations.  This temporary moratorium carries a $100,000 fine for any activity that could be interpreted as clearing wood.  There is no compensation or any other consideration for the loss of being able to manage our own property.  One of my favourite quotes on the issue:  "expropriation without compensation is theft".

The proponents of the bylaw claim environmental concerns are driving this.  But behind that are some pretty typical urban concerns about farming in general.  

Such as lamenting the loss of the family farm to 'industrial' operations and 'foreign investors'.  Hellooooo - the 'family farm' disappeared more than a generation ago.  The majority of small farms operating are supported by the primary operators working full-time off-farm.  Farm operations had to expand to become profitable and sustainable.  To feed and fuel the world.  They use big equipment and cultivation processes to maximize the yield and minimize input costs, while preserving and protecting the integrity and productivity of the raw resource - the land - for the long term.  Just like it was a 'business'- in business to operate over the long term. 

Such as farm operations today contributing to pollution, run-off, not respecting the land like the previous generations did.  What??? Obviously good stewardship is one of the primary drivers of a well-run farm operation.  Just like maintenance at a factory is recognized as good practice to keep the lines running.  Successful farm operators understand the whole picture of how the cropping and livestock management works, and are the last ones to run amok - because they have invested not only their money but are fully immersed in the operation - they are in it for the long run and will not jeopardize their entire operation and family.  They live where they work, the whole family works. It's a totally invested immersion into the operation. Do you know how many family dinners we have had where there was no discussion of farming?  ZERO.

Such as not understanding that crop canopy such as corn, actually sequesters carbon as efficiently as woodlots.  The greenery of the crops scrub the air just as trees do.

And then there is the prospect of handing control of my property over to municipal management.  The same people who have bylaws in neighbourhoods in town banning tree planting - only shrubs are allowed.  The same people who can't grade our gravel road properly and at least quarterly let it get so washboard-y that you can't drive it safely more than 50 km/hr.  The same people who expropriate productive farmland to build shopping malls and new subdivisions.  The same people who build 'business parks' from productive farmland that sit empty for 10 years now.  Yah, I really want these people managing and controlling anything I own.  

Just to throw in another aspect, we live beside a farm that was donated to the Nature Conservancy a few years ago.  This farm is 100 acres, and 50 years ago when my dad did the job of clearing the front 50 acres was not a 'wetland'.  The Conservancy has now decided to return the land to nature and set it up as a 'wetland'.  The first thing they did was build a berm (of sand!) and cut off the tile drains.    They brought in a bunch of dozers and created little hillocks, and planted grasses and trees.  Yes, this definitely has brought lots of wildlife back.  And really, I don't really object to their process - they bought the land, they can operate it how they want.  That drainage thing just meant we had to invest about $100,000 to retile our adjoining property. 

I also hear from the people promoting the bylaw, that they somehow are owed the right to drive throughout the countryside and enjoy the forests and glades and brooks.  

So ... my mind just gets away from me.  If these people are serious about wanting to improve the environment footprint in the municipality, here are a few bylaws that I should propose:
- all persons living within 2 km of a business or school shall be banned from driving or riding in a motorized vehicle between their home and business/school.  This would also be very beneficial in improving the health of the citizenry.  
- all shutters and other outer window/door treatments shall be lime-green.  I love lime-green - it's the 'new neutral'.  I love how lime-green looks on everything, it just refreshes me and makes me feel good.  And think of the tourism twist that this could be used for - 'Visit the greenest town in Ontario!'
- all home-owners must allow open access to their main bathroom, at any time, to everyone.  This will ensure that anyone needing to freshen up is freely able to do so at their convenience.  These rooms will be painted lime-green (see above bylaw) and all consumables will be kept well-stocked, at the home-owners expense.  These rooms will be maintained in pristine cleanliness, at the home-owner's expense, to ensure a positive experience by the visitors stopping by to use the facilities.  (You really would not believe what some people believe they have the right to do in someone else's woodlot!)
- ban on individual-serving everything and 'instant' everything.  The packaging and chemicals added to our food is a disgrace.  People don't know how to cook a carrot.  People have no idea that milk comes from a cow - some of my kids' schoolmates refused to drink milk after a field trip where they saw cows being milked!  All food products will be sold in bulk only, or packaged for a minimum of 10 servings.  All products sold as food-grade products, will be required to provide at least 10% of the recommended daily allowance for a minimum of 4 vitamins or minerals.

I have to stop now, I'm about to pop my cork.  I'm going to go have a nice glass of milk :)


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Opposing Clear Cutting Bylaw Proposal

his is a long one, folks. There is currently a proposal being considered by our local municipal council, to introduce bylaws that would immediately and permanently prevent landowners from cutting trees. The following is the what I've submitted to our council members ...

Please consider the following "fairy tale" when making your decision on approving OR NOT, the moratorium on woodlot clear cutting. These are my own words, and is likely too wordy but brings into focus many of the issues around the misunderstandings the farming vs non-farming communities.

I am a farmer, grew up north of XXXX, educated in the big cities, worked in the big cities, moved back home and invested in and worked at our own family farm (still in the former township of XXXX) since the early 80's. I also work off-farm full time in XXXX - it's a busy life! Here is my story ....

"Long ago (or last week), and not far away, there was a little girl who lived in a little city, surrounded by lots of productive farmland.

This little girl loves playing in the park, wandering the lovely treed pathways. She saw the city growing and saw that as a good thing - lots of new places to shop in big box stores, and big new houses. She didn't notice that the growing city was gobbling up the farmland and the trees she loved so much.

Her family loved the big box stores so much they never thought a moment to shop at the local Farmer's Market for fruit, vegetables, home baking and flowers; or to their local butcher shop for local meat; or from their local carpenter who lovingly creates furniture and cabinetry from carefully selected trees from well-managed woodlots.

The little girl was confused - she didn't know about all the good things that grow right here where she lives. She's been hearing rumours of things like beef and pork for her fork, chicken and turkey for Sunday family dinners, eggs for her breakfast sandwiches, milk for her cereal, corn for ethanol for their car, soybeans and wheat, fruit, vegetables, wine, even flowers, all grown within a stone's throw. Her cousins, still on the family farm, wonder why the girl's family is so far removed from their food that they think chocolate milk comes from brown cows.

When the cousins talked to her about all they do on the farm, she wondered, 'If the farmers can manage all this local bounty, why can't they manage their trees?' Surely they can't know how to manage their trees because some really important people have decided that these successful entrepreneurs called farmers, need to have new laws written to tell them how to protect their woodlots.

The little girl was sad because she was hearing that she might not be able to breathe if this law doesn't get written. And she wouldn't be able to enjoy gazing upon these lovely trees as she drives by, if this law doesn't happen.

Sadly, the little girl's parents were diagnosed with a wicked variation of the dreaded 'NIMBY' syndrome. This was a cruel, twisted version where victims come to believe that only they know what is good for everyone, that they were entitled to trample over other's rights. The grown-ups infected with this syndrome are so healthy and wealthy and wise, they had way too much time to find 'problems' where none existed.

Luckily, the wise leaders were able to understand the underlying festering, see past the hyperbole and recommended a progressive treatment - to reward local farmers, stewards of their land, who were actually doing a great job ensuring that their farms, including their woodlots, were empowered to thrive and benefit the entire community.

Further, the leaders decided that they could invest in planting and maintain green areas within the cities, with lots of trees, flowers, shrubbery and greenery for all of the children and grownups to cherish, nurture and enjoy. They had planting parties with schools, girl & boy scouts, 4H groups, hockey teams and ringette teams, seniors' groups and JK's. Everyone got their hands dirty and loved it! They had so much fun they decided to commit to keeping the green areas green by volunteering to weed and trim all year long. Everyone was getting more fresh air, moving more, and feeling healthier!

The farmers were happy that their properties retained their value, ensuring they could continue to successfully grow the grain, fruit, vegetables, flowers and grapes to feed and fuel the community.

And they all lived happily ever after!"

The morals of the story:
- the hypocrisy of city growth eating up valuable and productive farmland being AOK while insisting that farmers should not be able to clear land to feed the city folk
- the absolute audacity of people who believe they somehow have the right to dictate how privately owned woodlots are managed - if they want to manage them, why don't they step up, bring their money to the table and invest themselves
- any proposal that bans landowners from benefiting from their property should include a clause to compensate the landowners for the loss of the use of the land - at fair market value for cleared land or competitive land rental rates for crop production?
- the fastest route to clear cutting is to threaten the landowners
- corn canopy is more efficient at scrubbing the air than trees - this article talks about the ability of the corn to sequester carbon: http://www.ncga.com/news-and-resources/news-stories/article/2013/01/study-provides-important-insight-into-true-environmental-benefits-of-ethanol or the original study: http://www.ncga.com/upload/files/documents/pdf/Carbon%20Sequestration%20over%2010%20years.pdf

- expropriation without compensation is THEFT (quote from a local prominent farmer)
- if the do-gooders insist that the woodlots cannot be touched, rather than stealing the land from the landowners, they can step up, slap their money down and buy the land themselves.  Seriously, they think that they somehow deserve to be able to drive by the woodlots to gaze lovingly at the greenery.  
- the same municipality that wants to enact this bylaw, has parts of the city where they BAN planting trees - only shrubs are allowed
- line fences are included in the definition of 'woodlot' - who in their right mind would even consider planting a nice new windbreak knowing that they can never cut those trees when they are over-mature and the roots have overwhelmed the tile drains.

Today's local weekly newspaper has a few articles on the issue - including the entire bylaw - excellent idea - let's deal with the facts!  And a long, rambling diatribe full of inaccuracies and untruths about foreign investors and farm practices.  What a waste of 4 minutes (reading the article) that I'll never get back.

Project 48 Quilt Finish

Project 48 Quilt We've had so much rain and wind it has been a challenge to find a good time for photos.  This is the finish of my ...