Bear's Etcetera Etcetera
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Posted May 19, 2024

Time moves on . . .

Three years on and the war in eastern Europe still goes on and another starts in the Middle East. I just don’t understand the point of all the meaningless destruction and killing. Likely no one else does either. Add to this, the continued worldwide migration of people looking for a haven and hoping for a better way of life and not finding it in places like Europe, USA, Canada or elsewhere. In Canada we cannot even look after our own population of homeless so how can we contend with those who arrive illegally or by our government’s belief that we can accommodate immigration to the tune of 100,000+ people a year.

Add to that, housing scarcity and high rent costs, food insecurity and in general high prices on consumer goods, electronic or otherwise and general lack of adequate healthcare because of the shortage of doctors and health care workers and the list goes on.

Another topic of concern is the increasing number and types of scams out there to part folks from their hard-earned money. Spam email and text messages never quit and the endless calls to our phones, whether land line or mobile, promoting some product or attempting to get you to part with personal information and money goes on unabated. My sister recently received a call re the grandparent scam, but she knows the routine – push the big red button on her call blocker and hang up. PS she doesn’t have grandkids so it was an easy call.

Nothing has really changed dollar-wise over the years; the numbers just get bigger. I recall packing bags in a grocery store for 25 cents an hour, and as a kid it was enough at the time, but it was important to my dear old dad that I learned the value of working hard and the value of money. Nowadays the average pay for a grocery packer is $15.00 to $20.00 per hour typically classified as an entry level job.

Most jobs in skilled trades or in the IT (computer) industry have a starting hourly wage similar to a grocery packer. The difference comes in when you acquire trades training, certification, and experience. The same goes for those with advanced education via college or university. For example, a skilled tradesman’s or IT engineer’s high end hourly rate hits a high of $55 to $60 an hour. Add to that, benefits, and holiday pay, it adds up. Keep in mind that the wages I quoted vary from province to province and the location in said province.

The latest info about wages from StatCan says that the average hourly wage in Canada is now $34.95 – my take on this is that this number is skewed in favor of provincial and federal employee numbers, particularly federal employees, based on available information on wages in a quick online search.

When I looked at my recent invoice for the repairs of our Ford Econoline van which listed a door rate of $189 per hour it made me wonder. However, I knew that before the work started, so after I factored in wages, benefits, insurance, inventory, building maintenance and repairs, business taxes, property taxes, workman’s compensation, etc. it took the wonder out of it. Life in general is expensive!!

Good news, our ground based solar array install starts this coming week, it's a long process with all the permits and approvals but we made it through with no issues. Should be operational by the end of June. Let it shine, let it shine . . .

That’s all folks, till next time.

Posted January 1, 2024

Here we are into a New Year with hopes of joy, peace and freedom for all. However, the world continues to turn with nothing changed, except more of the same old crap that we experienced in 2023. I do believe there is always hope that common sense and peace will prevail.

But somehow, I doubt that will happen sometime soon with more than 195 armed conflicts currently taking place in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America according to the "Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights" in Switzerland.

Here we all thought that with the end of WW2, we had come to our senses and peace would succeed. However, power hungry autocrats and various other groups crave the feel of power and control by any means, whether by starvation, imprisonment, threats or by force. Problem is, there is no cure for megalomania or stupidity.

Having said all the above we can do our little part by loving and cherishing our friends and family as well as being civil, courteous and respectful to one and all. Happy New Year!

Posted November 19, 2023

Talk about "adding insult to injury," this comment refers to my October 30 post where I griped about the Maritimes heating oil carbon tax break. Anyway, the insult is the fact that we pay GST on top of the carbon tax according to my gas bill. Talk about double dipping, so it means that the Maritimers not only don't pay carbon tax on their heating oil, but they also get a break on their GST. My question is, do they still get a carbon tax rebate? I guess we'll find out somewhere down the road. Now don't get me wrong, I have no hard feelings for Maritimers and good on them for getting a break on their heating costs. But what about the rest of us? Maybe if we voted Liberal, we might have a say, according to the Liberal Rural Economic Development Minister, Gudie Hutchings.

Anyway, life goes on, strange as it is some days. I'm thinking I should quit reading the news as it seems there is nothing new from day to day and for the most part it's depressing and heartbreaking and as it's said, same old same old.

We can't say that we as Canadians haven't had political differences and sometimes violence, but we have managed to overcome it for the most part. However, it seems we are importing political disagreements from other parts of the world and taking sides could put you in the line of fire. Maybe we should adopt a rule, like in the old days, where you check your guns (bad feelings) at the saloon door. Or, how about having a civil discussion and finding ways to agree to disagree without involving violence. I more than suspect that there are foreign and domestic political activists (disrupters) causing trouble to advance their personal or political views.

On to another thing, somehow, dear wife put a bug in my ear about solar power and true to my nature I investigated it and concluded that it was a good idea. So, I embarked on a new project where, by May or so of 2024, we will have a ground based solar array. This will offset our electric power consumption 100% over the course of the year and reduce the risk of higher electricity prices. Capital cost payback is way down the road but that's another story.

Fortis Alberta power line crew

Fortis Alberta - it takes a lot of equipment to get the job done

There are a lot of steps in the project with one of them to upgrade our transformer from a 10kVA to a 25kVA which was done by Fortis Alberta. Existing power pole had to be replaced because of new height restrictions as well as the transformer. Power was shut off but our Kubota generator kicked in after about 20 seconds. Hey, it pays to be prepared. They did a great job and wrapped up in less than four hours. They also replaced the standard meter with a bi-directional meter whereby we can feed power into the grid as well as draw from the grid. Next step is the installation of the solar array come spring.

Posted November 11, 2023

Valour LullabyIn my October 30 posting I spoke about current "troubled times" in the world, and today is a day we reflect on past troubled times and remember those brave Canadians who served and those who died in past wars and peace keeping missions. And we must keep in our hearts and minds the many people that currently serve in our armed forces at home and abroad to protect Canada and our friends around the world. Click on the link to a video of a song by singer/songwriter Dianne Joy celebrating one such hero, my Dad.

Posted October 30, 2023

Well, its about time I got back to writing. Since 2019 some things haven't changed, we're still getting Covid and flu jabs and add to that a recommended RSV jab for those of a particular age bracket. One thing to note, is that we have not contracted any virus-related ailments over the course of the pandemic and to date, neither Covid nor influenza, which gives credence to "better safe than sorry."

Last year (2022), after our last trip with our truck and travel trailer to Eagle Valley Park Campground in southern Saskatchewan, we sold both, which freed up a lot of room in my shop. So, I had an idea for a new project where I designed and built a hydroponics system for growing lettuce, YES lettuce. It worked great and we had lots of leafy greens until I decided to add green peppers and tomatoes to the mix which required different nutrients. It wasn't a good idea as none of my plants did very well. So, I threw all the plants out, cleaned the system and when I get enough time, I'll start a new batch of lettuce.

About this time last year my dear wife, a singer songwriter and her singer songwriter friend had a discussion with the owners of Tribal Connection Market in Okotoks and with their blessing, decided to start up an open mic. A once a month - third Monday of the month - open mic where musicians and listeners are welcome to participate and enjoy music and coffee. It has been extremely successful and they recently celebrated their one year anniversary of the project. Me, I'm the sound guy and I provide the equipment and setup to make it all work for the performers and listeners. Both experienced and newbie musicians enjoy a friendly and non-threatening environment to enjoy and share their love of music.

Last fall I figured I'd best get some overdue repairs to our deck done, so I started off by pulling up a few deck boards to replace them as they were somewhat weather beaten and, in some cases, rot had set in, mostly where the screws were. After unscrewing a few of the worst deck boards, I found, to my dismay, the trusses were also in bad shape. Well, long story short, it was too big a job for me, so I hired a local company I heard about through my headset radio whilst out harrowing my fields with my Kubota. This summer the deck and our walkway were rebuilt. They did a darned fine job so we're good for another 25 years or more. One thing to note is that I unscrewed every deck board myself, (to save some money on labor) over a period of three days, my knees and back were very happy when I'd finished. One thing though, we salvaged most of the boards and our friends picked them up and turned them into a windbreak on their farm. Better than going to the landfill. And speaking of decks, I contracted the same company to rebuild my sister’s deck and pergolas. A much bigger job than ours but it's almost complete and we'd hoped it would be wrapped up before the snow arrived. That didn't happen as it snowed in mid-October and nighttime temperatures hit -17C. The weather is warming up so work should resume and be completed shortly.

This year I got back to making hand soap, something I did several years ago. It's a great way to get a good quality soap and it makes great gifts. Just about out now, so I must get back at it in the next few weeks. However, I had a lot of scraps left over so I tried my hand a re-batching the scraps. It worked well but using a double broiler wasn't the best way to do it, it took too long. Next time I'll use a crock pot. Live and learn, I guess.

In the meantime, I started another new project as we're installing a ground based solar array to help offset our electric bills. While we are not building it, it takes a lot of serious investigation and planning to hire a reputable company to get the job done in a timely manner. More on that in 2024.

The old saying "the world is going to hell in a hand basket" seems to ring true in these troubled times around the world. Not only that, our neighbors to the south, can't for the life of them figure out how to deal with illegal migrants and their southern border security. Seems Canada isn't doing much better on that note.

Back to troubled times - the death and destruction in the middle east and eastern Europe makes one want to cry. It makes me sad and very afraid of where the world is heading all because of the hatred people have for each other. What we need is a time out. Just think of all the good the money and resources we spend on wars could do, not just at home but around the world.

However, back here on the farm, we've had the worst hay crop in many years, virtually nothing worth harvesting. Farmer Dave, who cuts our hay, said his mower can't cut low enough to make it worth while. Which meant I had to cut what was there with my trusty Kubota and rough-cut mower to get rid of the weeds and brush that seems to grow regardless. And the other reason to cut it was to be able to harrow and knock down the pocket gopher mounds that seem to get worse every year. With the fields mowed and harrowed I could spot where new mounds come up so I could set traps to get rid of the pesky critters. Left alone, the pocket gophers will destroy a hay field. Not a pleasant, time consuming, task but one that needs to be done on a regular basis in the spring and fall.Kubota with a view

My Kubota and rough-cut mower on the hill overlooking our spring, ponds and hay fields

Our liberal Prime Minister (JT) can't keep his mouth shut or maybe it's a case of hoof in mouth, either way he is an embarrassment to Canada and Canadians. I guess it's like father like son. JT's screw ups are ongoing, from SNC-Lavalin, holidays with the Aga Khan, costumes on his India visit, elbow in the breast in parliament, blackface, WE Charity, current relations with India and the list goes on. I suspect if the liberals weren't supported by the NDP they would have been turfed some time ago.

Seems to me, that the recent comment by the Liberal Rural Economic Development Minister, Gudie Hutchings, about western and prairie provinces electing "more Liberals" to have their voices heard, adds credence to the claim that Liberals are buying votes by giving carbon tax breaks to the Maritimes - a very Liberal part of Canada. You be the judge!

On another note, in my Old Soapbox about appealing an MD decision and water licenses granted to a neighboring hemp operation, I stated that the water flow from our spring was 10 IGPM, I did the same test this year and it's now 8 IGPM measured approximately the same time as last year. That's a 20% drop in flow. It could be an aberration or a sign of things to come, let's hope it's an aberration.

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