Saturday, July 31, 2010

Protecting our National Parks - Environmental Water Issues

The environment is something that I try, in my very small way, to protect. I recycle, I try very hard to re-use, and to cut back on purchasing things that are over-packaged. I also garden without using fertilizers and use compost to nourish my soil instead.

I have talked about our cabin in Riding Mountain National Park and how very special it is to us. It is a big deal to have the privilege of being in such a beautiful park. I believe we should do everything we can to protect it and that includes the water bodies that are in the park.

We do not have running water in our cabin, nor do any other of the 500 cabins that are in the Old Campground. There is a movement to have water installed which would eliminate the need to for communal washrooms, shared water taps and the communal shower building. The vocal minority (only 13%) have a desire for running water. We feel that they want to follow Waskasu's lead in Saskatchewan and where the price of the cabins jumped up to 150,000. when water was put in. The other 87% of us love our sense of community which would be long gone big-time if the water happens. Most of us just want our cabins to retain some of that sense of community that we have cherished over the years and part of what makes that is the having and sharing of washrooms, shower building and cookhouses, for us it is not about the money.

It also so much easier not to have water because there are a lot of other issues that will develop if this happens. Our little cabins are very close together and any odours from a bathroom fan will vent onto each others air space. I know I would prefer not to smell my neighbours bm's while sitting on my little patio. (Sorry for being so blunt but we are that close together!) Washers and dryers will come in as well as dishwashers. All of these appliances use an incredible amount of water and promote use of non environmentally friendly products. The dryers will vent to the outside as well and again, who wants to smell bounce or similiar products when we have such a great quality of air right now?

There is also the issue of locking up and preparing water systems in the fall. All the toilets and tanks, etc. will have to have an anti-freeze product poured into them to keep them from freezing and bursting in the winter. In the spring these products will be drained into the system and you can't tell me that this doesn't effect the watershed area. When you take that times 500 plus cabins that is a lot of anti-freeze and laundry/dishwasher products that will go into the watershed area that are currently not.

There are other issues as well, including the fact that in order to put in the water systems they will have to remove most of our spruce and other trees and that it will look like a new subdivision and become almost devoid of trees. Who wants that? Our trees are a major part of what makes this area so beautiful.

Another issue is the fact that the campground will be a construction zone for at least ten years, if not more. And so many families can't afford to pay for the the added construction of adding on an addition to accommodate bathroom facilities. It would cost a minimun of at least 15,000. dollars if not more by the time the dust settles. This is a large sum that most people would have a hard time coming up with, especially new families and retired folks.

This is an issue that is very contentious and ultimately will create a huge division in our campground. It is sad that this has to happen when summer is meant to be enjoyed and this could ultimately mar it for years to come.

Plumbing Rant

We had a bit of a problem with drainage on our kitchen sink about a year and a half ago. It would give us a glugglug sound everytime we ran water or poured something down the drain. Hubby climbed on the roof and poured some hot water down the vent stack, thinking that it was frozen up. Problem solved. That year. This last winter it started again and the sink was having issues draining. Up the ladder with a bucket of hot water and voila the problem was fixed - or so we thought. Then it started again with a vengeance. I used vinegar and water, drano and some other non-environmentally acceptable methods. Everything worked, for awhile, and then it would start glugglug again and the sink would slow down. We called in a rotorooter guy to clean out the sewer to the street thinking maybe it was tree roots. He put down drop cloths around the sewer hole and proceeded to snake the drain. After he was done he cleaned it up and put everything back how it was. Did it help? He did produce some tree roots and maybe it helped for a bit.

Grr-rr Now it has started in the summer and we are at our wits end! We decided to go with a professional and call a plumber. He came in a couple days later and went to work cleaning out the drain under the basement floor,thinking that was the issue. No drop cloths, no rags for mopping up. His phone rings and he answers it but it is dead. He starts again. The rings again and he answers it and has a short conversation. Hubby is instructed to fill the kitchen sink and release it when he yells. This he does but the plumber forgets to cap the pipe and water spews all over him and the basement as it gushes a couple feet out the pipe. He contines to snake it but his phone rings again and as he struggles to answer it there is crud splattered all over the wall, floor, and fridge. I got him some of my cleaning rags. He smeared it further and further up the wall until I told him to leave it. He headed upstairs and was going to snake it from under the sink. We removed some stuff but he said just to leave the rest. I wasn't keen on it but ok I would give him the benefit of the doubt (which was huge by now). Still no rags in sight. He snakes it down to the basement. His phone rings and he has another slightly longer conversation. It seemed to go well. Things were starting to look up by now.

The plumber then proceeds to feed the snake up the vent stack. There is a loud snap and some angry words from the plumber. I come back in the kitchen and find out that the snake has broken in the stack and is still up there. He makes a couple phone calls and has a couple conversations. Then he goes to get another snake to snare it and hopefully bring it down. No luck. I am not a plumber and please correct me if I am wrong but I would think that you would feel it when it is blocked - wouldn't you? I have to ask you - wouldn't you stop before it breaks?

The plumber then decides to check the drainage on the sink by filling it with water and letting it drain. His phone rings and he has a conversation. In the meantime, he forgot to put the plug back on the pipe and the sink full of water literally gushes out all over the inside of the cabinet and the kitchen floor. Hubby and I scramble for more towels and rags to clean up. As we cleanup, his phone rings and he answers it (6th time?). Eavesdropping his conversation, I hear him give advice to whomever is on the other end and say he will help him out in a half an hour. Things are taking a decided downturn again as he explains to us that he has to remove the dishwasher, cut the pipe and try to fish it out that way. !!!!?? I am getting a little stressed by now wondering what other destruction he is going to bestow on us. Then he is suddenly packing up and says he will come back Tuesday morning to finish. ??? We tell him that Tuesday does not work that he has to come Wednesday and why is he leaving when the job isn't done? Says that he has to go to another job. This job he volunteered for as he was working under my sink!!

After the plumber leaves I crawl under my sink to make sure the plumbing is where it should be and that everything is sealed back up. As I crawl out I realize that everything, including the cabinet is covered in black crud. I remove the rest of the stuff, fill the sink and wash down the cabinet and all the stuff that was under it. Grrr!

Now we have a snake with its head stuck up an already challenged stack, thereby reducing air flow even more and another day that will be tied up with plumbing. Now we have a dilemma - do we allow him to come back and correct his/our problem and probably wreak more destruction on my home or do I call someone else to clean up the mess left by this fellow?

I do have to add this - he was a very nice man which made it difficult to get angry with him but that does not excuse all the mess.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Active Retirement

I had an interesting kind of week in mid-July when I was invited to go check out apartments suitable for a retiring person who is still active. No, it is not for me but it did give me a lot of food for thought when we went around looking at suites. It is amazing the variety of apartments out there and what they offer or don't offer for seniors. It gave me a whole new perspective on what is up and coming in the future when I look at retiring.

I think one of the most important things I came away with was how isolating being retired could be. Imagine moving to a new city where you only have a few relatives, no job and no car. I can't imagine anything more isolating. You have to somehow meet other people and set up a new life for yourself when everyone around you is already established into their lives and possibly have less time to socialize than you. It therefore becomes important that the place you choose has some sort of club or social area where you can meet other potential friends. These types of buildings are extremely few and far between or they are located in an out of the way locale.

You also have to find a new doctor in an already squeezed system. What with all the shortages of doctors in most locations, getting a doctor is like winning a lottery and almost as unlikely. As we age, most of us will require more doctoring than less, so finding a doctor is paramount.

Location becomes one of the most important factors in choosing an apartment - it has to be within walking distance of the mall so shopping is easier, otherwise you have to take our rather spotty public transit or depend on your relatives who are all working full-time (again spotty but heart-felt transportation). It also needs to be near that spotty public transit system or you are left with paying through the nose for taxis to get around.

You also have to think of the fact that you are getting older and that your living accommodations have to reflect this. Having an elevator in the building is a godsend when you are carrying groceries or if you later require a walker. Stairs can be a major obstacle to someone whose mobility is challenged. Then there is the issue of a suitable washroom with bars and a raised toilet. Unsavoury thought that it is but ask any senior whose mobility is challenged somewhat how far down a regular toilet can seem.

These are all things that are important - I just hope when I do retire and have to leave my home that there will be a nice place out there for me that is close to the mall, has access to transportation, and a good social center to meet friends. What a challenge retiring can be! I am glad I was given the opportunity, once more, to check out the facilities here. I am one step ahead of the game, only about 20 years or so early.

Monday, July 19, 2010

384 Square Feet of Pleasure!

I am still amazed that we own a cabin. I have just had the privilege of spending several glorious days at the cabin and am lucky enough to be headed back there this afternoon for most of the week!

We have a small (384 sq.ft.) cabin in Riding Mountain National Park in the "Old Campground" area. This is now our 16th year there and we have a yearly lease, no running water, communal shower building and log cookhouses where we can heat our water and cook when it is too hot to cook inside. Although we are building a cabin on a beautiful lakefront property at Tokaryk Lake - about 1 hour and 20 minutes from Brandon and 45 minutes from the Park, we will never sell our cabin in the park. It just has too much of our family history tied into it and if our children ever want to have a cabin there - there is no way that they would ever be able to afford to buy back into the park when they are old enough to want to as it would probably be financially too far out of their reach. I know we will spend time at both because they each offer different attractions but my heart will always be in the park. Besides, my daughters would probably never talk to me again if we sold it and I couldn't live with that.

In this day and age it may seem odd not having running water but it actually allows for more freedom and flexibility in the maintenance of the cabin. We don't panic if we don't get up there before everything freezes. (Did I mention we don't have heat either?) We can just flip the breaker, lock up the cabin and walk away. Granted, when it rains running to the washroom is a bit wet but coming back in where it is nice and cozy more than makes up for it! Although I am not a fan of getting up in the middle of the night to use the facilities, whether in town or not, you can't beat the walk up the hill to the shower building on a warm summer night. If it is clear, we have a wonderful view of a sky full of stars and if we are extra lucky, we will have northern lights. In my opinion, it beats using an in-house washroom any day! (Oh - Did I mention that I don't have to clean a bathroom up there anytime either?) (The picture of the wood-burning cookstove heating kettles of water is from the Clear Lake Cabin Owners Assoc. website. - it is our source of hot water for dishes, etc.)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fire and Heartbreak

We live in a very nice typical 60/70's style neighbourhood. Our homes and yards are lovely and the neighbours get along well. We have large mature trees and just the kind of ambiance suitable to a lovely stroll. Today, we were visited by a huge tragedy. A new neighbour - who just recently joined our neighbourhood about six months ago - had the horrible experience of witnessing her home burn down to the ground.

Around 3:30ish today there was the sound of a huge explosion and glass shattering. Shortly after, was the smell of something burning...It was our neighbour's home. She was not there at the time but her lovely orange and white cat and her little puppy was. The house is not salvagable. They firemen rescued the cat and sent it off to the vet but they were unable to locate her puppy. We are all hoping it escaped but when you see pictures of the house you realize that hope is slight. Our neighbour came when her home was half-way gone - what a devastating sight for her.

I have never seen a house fire in such close proximity. My initial reaction, and I noticed some of my other neighbours reacting in the same way, was to cry. It is so overwhelming. I cannot imagine how it would be if it had been my home. It is not so much the house but all the accumulated memories that you would lose. The lock of baby hair, the wonderful pictures, the old china given to you by your grandma, not to mention all your other treasures like handmade quilts or whatever. I realize that it is all just stuff but sometimes the stuff is the only tangible thing that ties us to those who have passed or a happy time that is no longer. My heart just broke for her and her family. I only hope in my heart that she can move on from this devastating experience. So sad.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

She could hear the grass rustle quietly under her feet and feel the damp under it. Hot on top and damp underneath. There had been so much rain that the ground squished in some spots. She could feel them following her in moving clouds - a thousand pairs of eyes. She kept a hand over her face to shield herself. Pausing briefly she shifted her watering can and continued around the yard. She knew if she didn't finished her watering that she would have to fight even more later and the thought of it almost overwhelmed her.

Watering completed, she dragged her sticky carcass up the steps and sank into the papasan on the deck. Looking around the yard, she felt a satisfaction with how beautiful it was. Pockets of sun and shade shifted frequently in the wind creating a gently moving landscape that hid those millions of eyes - she could just sense them waiting... The heat was more bearable here because of how the Amur maples shaded the deck. With the shade they rapidly came in droves, her peace short lived as they pierced her thoughts. It was stifling hot and the counts were high but she didn't need CBC to tell her that. As she swatted the mosquitoes away, she admitted defeat, retreated indoors unhappily, leaving them to enjoy the beauty of her backyard.