1.  The original owner was a retired judge in Ottawa who used his Subaru to go to the boat in summer and the Lexus for winter trips to Florida.  After four years he took me to the Ottawa Lexus dealership with him to buy his trade-in while he paid cash for a 2009 es350.  He and his wife repeated this process twice more for his son and daughter.  His widow still claims that the 2005 was the best Lexus of all of them.

2.  Ice fell off his roof in the Glebe and dented the hood on one occasion.  A scrape in a parking lot caused the trunk to be repainted on another.  Though he took it back to Tony Graham’s for the repairs, neither paint job was up to Lexus standards.  My wife and I were about to trade the car in at Kingston Toyota a year ago when we went to a restaurant for lunch to talk it over.  When we came out someone had sideswiped the right front fender, necessitating $1100 worth of paint, including a redo of the non-Lexus paint jobs on the hood and trunk and the left rocker panel moulding which I had partially stripped with a pressure washer.  No new parts were needed for this rather fine local repair.
3. I did routine maintenance in our hoist-equipped hobby shop.  The car uses Pennzoil synthetic and has never been late for an oil change.  Kingston Lexus did the timing belt for the reasonable sum of $835, as I recall.  I made appropriate mileage notations in the service manual for the oil changes and timing belt replacement and likely for the tune up.
4. Brian Madeley is a European car and bike specialist in Kingston.  He took the top off the engine to change the spark plugs and tighten the head bolts as part of the scheduled tune-up.  At the time he remarked upon the superb condition of the car. He also repaired a minor power steering leak about three years ago.  I changed the battery at ten years, and the alternator at 14. This spring I replaced the hood latch and cable with Lexus parts. I replaced rear control arms because of worn bushings two summers ago, and brakes and front lower control arms for the safety check.
When I replaced the parking brake mechanism I had to gain access to the cables which hide above a stainless steel cover above the exhaust system.  Three, 10 mm nuts on studs hold this baffle in place.  In this location after long service, the nuts and studs should have degraded, but these little nuts backed off relatively easily to allow access to the cables, and then twisted back on.  The quality of the components in the original build of this car is quite remarkable.
5. I keep a supply of oil spray cans (the pink stuff from CTC) on my bench.  Whenever a car is up on the hoist I spray whatever looks as though it needs attention, regardless of the car’s age.
6. Our son hauled an 8.5X20 enclosed trailer home from Vancouver with a 2004 Porsche Cayenne S he bought for the purpose to tow his track BMW.  The car impressed me, so I asked him to find me one the next time he was in Vancouver.  He shipped another ’04 Cayenne S home by rail in the summer of 2016, and it quickly became my hobby and our daily driver, with the Lexus relegated to my wife’s bi-weekly grocery runs.
7. No one has smoked in the Lexus, but our spaniel has occasionally joined us for evening ice cream runs, and the previous owners had a schnauzer.
8. After three years with the thirsty Cayenne I wanted a Prius, but my wife wouldn’t consider the idea because of the name.  She also hated the styling of the new Lexus models, but when I found a 2014 es300h on a private sale in Hamilton, she took to it rather well.  The Cayenne is too useful a tow vehicle to liquidate, so the 2005 es330 and the 2002 Tacoma need to go.

A decorative maple grows near the Ranger’s shed at the farm. Its large, ruby leaves blow off during storms. One of these appeared before us on the grass as we walked toward the main part of the lawn. I held it up to Ada.

“What kind of leaf is this?”

“A big leaf.”

“From what tree?”

“A maple tree.” Ada examined it carefully, but chose to discard it as it was too bulky for her insect jar.

Later she had captured her frog again and transported it in its net to the bird bath for a wetting. She apparently recalled my comment last week that frogs need to keep their skins wet in order to breathe properly.

She looked for quite a while at the frog from the safety of the other side of the butterfly net, then commented to Bet that that maple leaf had two colours, like the frog. It looked like a frog.

She seems to have begun to think about mottled colours, perhaps because she finds it so difficult to see the frog when it is crouched in the grass of the lawn.

Ada will turn three next week.

After painting the steel roof beneath the bucket, I had to repaint some areas splintered by the roofers’ nails, and get rid of two old wasp nests at the very highest point of the cornice.


A mysterious, splintered hole appeared in the coping above where I am applying a tidy patch secured by many small brass screws to bend the plywood to the contour of the moulding.


I had a host of little jobs to do around the 1896 brick house which would have been at the upper end of my 40′ ladder.  But it is too heavy for me to put up by myself any more, and I can rent a really cool tool, an electrically-powered cage with which I can climb in comfort while taking along my power tools, paint, and mortar, all in the same trip.  Cash in some ways can be a substitute for youthful vigour.  Bet appreciated having our friend Les around to operate the hoist and easing the pressure on the spousal unit.

This is a shot from the May, 2016 session where over three days we scraped and painted whatever was white, wherever we could reach it from the bucket.


The only catch is the rig’s weight.  At 4200 pounds it’s a bit too much for my 4 cylinder Tacoma with its elderly and much-maligned frame.  Even the rated 3500 pounds towing capacity seems heavy for the venerable old truck.

Of course Ruby, my 04 Cayenne S, is rated for 7400 pounds, even if it has been sitting in disgrace since I concluded that her replacement, a 2014 Lexus es300h hybrid, costs 2.7 times less per mile to drive.  But I needed a relatively heavy duty vehicle to pick up the hoist an hour away in Kingston, and prices are down again on premium gas, so Ruby got the nod and a chance to redeem herself.

Ruby’s build sheet lists a factory trailer hitch for $2000 and change, yet it has given me fits to get trailer lights to work on the thing.  I finally used an adaptor for digital bulbs into which I drilled an additional 12V lead, the other end plugged in like a cigarette lighter to the rear-hatch 12V feed.  I connected the constant 12v feed to the running lights for the trailer.  Then the signal lights would work.  Brake lights?  Gee, Officer, they don’t work?  Are you sure?  I just have to remember to shut off the lights.

My son’s Cayenne has an after-market hitch and his lights work brilliantly.  My inability to solve this signal light mystery was not for a lack of trying, though it has removed Ruby from contention as a tug for my son’s 20X8.5 enclosed car trailer.

Anyhow, at the rental place Ruby of course refused to fire the Bil-Jax’s signal lights.  A bit of contact spray the rental agent had got them going.  Once under way, Ruby handled the long, unwieldy device quite well on the road, and we soon arrived at the farm.

It was when I had to take the Bil-Jax up and down a steep slope and along a terraced driveway that I gave Ruby’s low range and centre differential lock a chance to work. Both functioned flawlessly on an off-camber path which unweighted one wheel after another. The diff lock and low range shifted out as easily as they had engaged.  An ’04 Cayenne is a serious tow vehicle at 1 km/hr.  I wonder how many Cayenne owners have really tested the low-speed pulling abilities of their pigs?


Les operated the Bil-Jax for all sessions, leaving me to juggle masonry, woodworking, and painting equipment in the bucket.


The Bil-Jax has a series of three hydraulic cylinders controlling booms.  The topmost boom had a fault whereby it started off with a vicious outward whack, regardless of whether it was asked to raise or lower the cage.  The instrument panel in the cage was ideally situated to injure a vertebrae on an unwarned passenger who was standing with his back to it, holding a pitcher of paint, for example.  Paint falls down through the expanded mesh of the cage without a problem, though it wreaks the usual havoc on brick and stone 40′ below.

Apart from the spilled-paint debacle, the rig allowed us to get a lot of brick repair, painting, tin roof painting, bee’s nest removal and the repair of a hole chewed by a squirrel into a chestnut fascia board 40′ above the ground.  Go figure.


Here I am at the height of an extended 40′ ladder, repairing the hole a squirrel carved in the fascia board of the house. A family of greys climbed the brick wall all winter to use their penthouse den.

The 110v feed in the Bil-Jax cage proved quite handy to run a reciprocating saw while I fitted a plug for this hole.   There’s also an air hose installed on each machine, though on the last one it was easier just to run a 100′ hose straight from the compressor to my nail gun.

At just under $300 CDN per day for rental or for a two-day weekend, I find the World of Rentals product a good value.

It turns out that Ruby still has considerable fun potential at the farm, even if Cayenne ownership seems rather fraught in comparison to the mindless ease of a Lexus hybrid’s.

I’ve found a new way to annoy the world:  hyper-miling in the Lexus es300h.

The hybrid encourages a whole new attitude toward driving.  I have gone from “that jerk in the Porsche passing everything in sight” to “that damned old geezer in the Lexus holding up traffic.”

It’s fun getting to know what uses up the fuel.  I have gotten good at making the round trip to Rosebridge at a fuel burn rate of 5.1 L/100 km.  That’s with the windows and sunroof open, and the a.c. shut off on the dash.

Today because it was raining I needed the fan for ventilation, but I didn’t want to run the a.c. because of the fuel penalty, so I went into the climate settings and shut the compressor off.  The computer showed 4.6 L/100 km.  That’s 61 miles per Imperial gallon on the return leg from Rosebridge.  Not bad for a 3800 pound car.  Almost up to diesel standards.

This question turned up in my Quora feed, so I felt obliged to respond:

The Prius is a very recognizable automobile, but to the extent that the bulk of them end up as battered and grubby urban taxis, it’s hard to attribute the glamour to them that the term status symbol suggests. That is not to say that “Prius” does not have some important connotations. The car’s frugality and long life put it at one end of a choice-continuum which is balanced at the other by a short-life gas-hog like my Porsche Cayenne S.

Would a buyer gravitate logically from one to the other? Perhaps, if the buyer is of a certain elemental nature, determined to avoid the bewilderment of choices in the mushy middle.

If I’d had my druthers I would have bought a new Prius a couple of months ago to replace my Cayenne, but my less radical wife would have none of it. She did find a used Lexus hybrid acceptable, though, so that is what we bought.

But when I am alone in the car it’s a Prius to me, and like Walter Mitty I poke along down country lanes, happy in my own internal dialogue, eyeing the battery graphic and whispering “Pocketta-pocketta-pocketta.”

According to Google Earth it’s 40.2 km from our home to the parking lot of Rosebridge Manor where my mother is a resident.  For most of the route there is little traffic, though there are a number of small, restricted-speed hamlets and stop signs.

Tonight with the 2014 Lexus es300h I got 5.2 L/100 km on the drive.  That’s 4.1808 litres of regular fuel for the round trip, or $5.35 at the current price at the service station in Toledo of $1.279 per litre.

Fuel consumption rates vary from 5.1 to 5.4 for the trip.  This is with air conditioning and headlights off, seat cooler on, windows and sunroof open, fine weather on a summer evening, 80 to 85 km/hr, and using electric power while passing through the hamlets.

On the same route under the same conditions, my 2004 Porsche Cayenne S had a fuel consumption rate of 10.1 L/100 km on premium fuel.  The last time I filled this car the rate was $1.399 but that was a couple of months ago.

Marshall challenged me to repeat this test with the Lexus es300h “while driving it like a Porsche.”  I obliged on a 33C afternoon, glorying in the air conditioning, even leaving the car for fifteen minutes with the air conditioner (though not the engine) running.  I set the cruise control for 100 km/hr instead of 80 and passed on the two-lane roads whenever the opportunity arose.  Fuel consumption was 6.4 L/100 km.


Four years ago I ordered 20 Saskatoon berry bushes from Calgary and planted them in a disused garden plot at the farm.  Nothing much has happened until this year when there were oodles of blossoms and my neighbour lent me a roll of netting to protect the fruit from the flocks of birds which follow two pairs of cedar waxwings around to the choicest eats.

Perhaps it was the soaking rains, but this week we have had a bumper crop of large, juicy Saskatoons.  So far Bet has bagged and frozen seventy cups of the fruit for winter.

I am torn between wanting to believe that this wonder berry is the latest crop miracle, and/or rationalizing that it’s just the effect of too much rain which has caused the bushes to produce freakish amounts of berries, a one-year-in-a-hundred phenomenon.

I enjoy picking berries, and these grow on little trees.  No uncomfortable bending is involved in the harvest.  The shrubs bear exceptionally well, and the fruit can be picked in bunches if you hold a flat pan underneath to catch everything.

Saskatoons are reputed to be the best berries for pies, bar none.  We’ll see.  Raw, the ripe berries taste a little bland, but they are pleasantly chewy and more substantial than blueberries.  Cooked, they have a more nuanced flavour and are quite nice.


UPDATE 22 JULY, 2019:  I have just completed the final picking of the patch.  It netted 2.25 pounds of berries after a heat wave which I expected to destroy the fruit.  Unlike mulberry trees which shed ripe fruit at the first breeze, Saskatoon bushes hold onto their mature product quite well through heat and high winds.

This will put our winter cache to about 120 cups, a reasonable number if they are used each day for cereal topping, as well as other baking projects.  I plan to keep a couple of pounds in the refrigerator for use fresh until late fall.  They keep well.