High Water

July 29, 2017




Today we discovered that the road through Bedford Mills is cut off by flooding.


How the Lake works

April 8, 2017

Readers of the ice reports on this blog have a proprietorial attachment to the body of water which surrounds Scott Island, but the coming summer will be one of celebrations on the canal and free lock passes, so it’s a good idea to look at surrounding lakes and the culture of those who cherish them.

The Big Rideau Lake Association’s website now features an ongoing series of learned essays under the general title How the Lake Works.  They sent me copies of the first six papers.  Of very high quality, the essays seek to inform without bias, so the tone remains carefully neutral and the bibliographies are good.

I particularly recommend the paper on water levels by Brian Hawkins, and Life Under the Surface by wildlife biologist Buzz Boles which will be posted over the next few weeks.


Or you can go immediately to my neighbour Doug Bond’s lyrical description of the geological features of the area:



It went dark.

March 7, 2017

This evening I was just going to sleep when the bedside lamp suddenly went out.  Then I noticed all of the LEDs in the room were no longer there.  It was very dark.  And I had lost my sense of direction.

With no idea of where a flashlight might be, I opened my MacBook and used its powerful flare until I could find my phone, then searched out flashlights, then candles.  No matches.  Found a lighter.  A lifetime non-smoker, I couldn’t remember how to operate one.  Woke my wife up to light a candle.  She was less than pleased, but co-operated.

All lights off as far as I could see.  Eerie.  Then the street lights in Crosby came up.  A utility truck began to flash lights in Forfar, lighting up half the houses in the hamlet.

My Internet was out, so I couldn’t even instant-message anyone on my phone.  Had to text.

Soon I became bored with the darkness, so I went outside in the rain (46 F, thank goodness), lit up the Kubota, hitched it to the generator, and backed it up to the dangling emergency cable.  I had already flipped the generator switch in the basement, so in a couple of minutes I had the 220v feed adjusted to 60 hz, and we now had heat, water, and refrigeration.  And Internet, it turns out.  Seems at some point I must have deemed the circuit to power the router essential, because I noticed it was lit up.  I plugged a lamp into one of the plugs in the load centre, and we now had one light on the main floor, though the basement lights proved to be on the generator panel, as well.

A flashlight search of the house eventually located my laptop (upstairs bathroom, exchanged for large candle) and I logged onto the Hydro Storm Site.  Surely enough, we have a power outage from a pole fire.

.Incident Id: 4919341
Customers Affected: 285
Crew Status: Dispatched
Cause: Pole Fire
Estimated Restoration: Mar 8, 12:45 AM

Oh, well.  I didn’t miss anything on TV, and I finally had a chance to run the little pto generator I bought 3 years ago.

We don’t get many outages in Forfar since the Ice Storm.

Funny how dark it felt when the lights went out, though.

Update:  12:01, 8 March, 2017

There’s no longer evidence of work progressing in Forfar.  All is dark.  I checked the Storm Site:

Incident Id: 4919341
Customers Affected: 307
Crew Status: Crew Working in Area
Cause: Pole Fire
Estimated Restoration: Mar 8, 2:00 AM

Maybe they had to go get a pole, or a transformer.  Meanwhile, the Kubota’s humming contentedly as the wind steadily rises.

Update:  4:04 a.m., 8 March, 2017

Power restored at 3:40.  I had just refuelled the Kubota on-the-fly when the fire alarms bleeped and the lights came on.  I waited for the furnace to finish its cycle and then switched the generator panel back to Ontario Hydro power.  Neither the Kubota nor the 7.5 KW generator showed any sign of stress from about 15 litres of fuel turned into electricity over five hours on a warm, rainy night.

We are now in mud season.

Update:  1:30 p.m., 8 March, 2017

I have just spent an interesting hour researching pole fires.  The short version is that at this time of year, dirt and road salt can build up on the ceramic insulators which keep the wires away from the large bolts which support the wires and connect them to the pole.  Dry salt does not conduct, but under the right conditions of humidity, the accumulated salt can begin to conduct current through to the metal bolt beneath the insulation.  This can in its turn heat the bolt which chars the post, sometimes to the point that the wood ignites.  This produces a pole fire, the most common cause of power outages in cold climates.  Repairs typically involve replacing the pole and any hardware attached to it, as it’s all toast if there is a fire.

Last night’s pole fire resulted in a six-hour outage to four hundred customers.  Though they restored the power in that interval, I saw the crew was still at work on the pole (which appears to hold three transformers) in front of Baker’s Feeds at noon today.


13 April, 2017  Douglas Fyfe accepts the proffered mantle.

Jim, thank you for graciously passing of the Mantel. In this increasingly unpredictable world we live I am grateful for the constants, including Rod and his diligent efforts to keep us informed and distracted with all things ice and snow.  Of course, Newboro Lake is far from predictable –  indeed she is complicated.  I would never claim to know her secrets and any indications otherwise are simply the result of her toying with us.  I  am lucky – very lucky to have bestowed on me the honour or Ice Out winner for 2017.  More importantly, I am lucky to be able to spend quality time on Newboro lake year after year and to share in her delights with so many others.  See you all on the lake! 

Doug   (Emerald Island)


12 April, 2017  Jim Waterbury relinquishes the Mantle:

Hello Rod,

As the proud bearer of the 2016 Ice-Out Mantle I am very pleased to relinquish it to Doug.  Doug seems to have a good nose for the lake as this is the second time in 3 years he has been correct in his predictions!

Doug, I know you will bear the Mantle with grace and humility, while entertaining all onlookers with your acumen and keen insight.  Congratulations!

May 2017 be another wonderful year for all of us on the lake.


Jim Waterbury



11 April, 2017, 8:45 a.m.

There being no contrary assertions to Maggie Fleming’s report of 10 April, 2017, I hereby declare Doug Fyfe of Emerald Island the 2017 winner of the guess-the-ice-out contest for Newboro Lake.  Congratulations, Doug, and may you enjoy the all of the rights and privileges which come with this award.

Thanks to all who took the time to enter this competition and follow through its tumultuous progress.  My thoughts remain on the loss to the ice of Doug Good, a neighbour and good friend to the Rideau Lakes and Cataraqui Trail.

5:00 p.m., 10 April, 2017.  

Maggie Fleming of Newboro has just announced that the ice is out of Newboro Lake.

A look at the remaining entries shows Doug Fyfe of Emerald Island (2015 winner) with his selection of April 8th as the likely winner, as I have no other remaining contestants but Dr. Roz Dakin (2014 winner) on April 14th.

Due diligence requires a delay to allow news of a remaining section of ice of an area greater than 100 square feet remaining in some isolated bay, though I see little need for an inspection voyage in the Judge’s Launch this year.  Perhaps it’s time for Jim to prepare to hand the mantle on to Doug, who will no doubt offer an acceptance speech befitting the solemnity of this grand occasion.

Feel free to post any parting thoughts here, Mr. Waterbury.

If no one reports an ice floe on Newboro Lake by 8:00 a.m. Tuesday, April 11th, I shall declare Doug Fyfe the 2017 winner of bragging rights for the season on Newboro Lake.

Past-winners of the Newboro Lake Ice-out Guessing Competition

2016: Jim Waterbury  (current holder of the bragging-rights mantle)

2015: Doug Fyfe

2014  Dr. Roslyn Dakin

2013   Louise Pritchard

2012  George Kitching


To the winner of this competition passes the mantle of Ice-Master/Mistress of the Lake, with all of the bragging rights and free-beverage privileges which go with it, until the mantle again passes on at the conclusion of the 2018 competition.


Entries may only be made by posting comments at the end of this post with the entrant’s first and last name and the geographical area of the Lake each has chosen to represent, and of course the date in 2017 on which the entrant predicts that judges and volunteers will no longer be able to find a patch of floating ice of greater than 100 square feet in surface area on Newboro Lake.

As usual, the dates are on a first-posted basis.  If someone double-posts on an already-taken date, the moderator will void the second entry, using the date stamp of the message software to establish priority.  The moderator will make a reasonable attempt to notify any thwarted aspirants to a particular date, but entrants would do well to read the comments section of this post religiously.

Emails to Rod with dates, or postings to the Ice Observations Page will not be accepted as entries this year.

Contest entries will be accepted until 11:59 P.M. on March 15, 2017, so beware the ides of March.

Exercise in winter

January 20, 2017


Today conditions were perfect for a bit of exercise, so I began to gather up slash left over from the trimming job on a stand of ten-year-old white pines.

Last fall a contractor offered the trimming in return for the pine needles which he sells in Toronto for wreaths at Christmas.  The crew came back a couple of weeks later and dutifully trimmed the stubby branches off the trees, but I decided if I got a chance I’d clean up under the canopy so that I could mow it once or twice a year.

Five loads of branches transported to a burn pile were enough for today.  If the weather holds I’ll get back at it.  There’s little danger of running out of branches to gather in the near future:  these rows are 700′ long.

Of course the best part is the unloading:  just back up to the pile and flick a lever.  The trailer dumps itself.  A little overcapitalized?  Maybe, but it’s fun.

The Ada Virus

December 24, 2016

My super-efficient MacBook Air computer has begun to suffer from performance problems relating to a lack of disk capacity. Routine purges of the hard drive fail to contain the deterioration. It seems Google Photos has linked my phone’s camera to the computer and automatically saves a version or two of everything the camera takes to my hard drive.

Each new photo automatically becomes sacrosanct, for almost all are of an adorable infant, our first granddaughter Ada. A tentative attempt to delete one or two this morning earned me an electronic slap on the wrist: the blasted things are locked! Many of these artifacts have come from other family members in an earnest effort to document Ada’s life and travels around the province.

Pretty well every time Ada opens her eyes there’s a camera there to record the event, and Google Photos immediately and automatically distributes the new data to other named recipients.

This reached a fever pitch about when Ada’s first selfies hit the Internet. At three and a half months, the kid has now become smart phone-sophisticated, calmly maintaining eye contact with the camera as a natural part of her personality.

And of course the album links get forwarded: we have created the Ada Virus.

The impulse to share one of Ada’s pictures popped up from some unfamiliar corner of my brain as I finished typing this deliberation, so I tried to upload one to WordPress.  I couldn’t find a single photo accessible to this program’s software.  The virus has now concealed itself!


*This online document  has been checked and declared free of the named virus.

You’ll find it saved as a page at the top of the column to the right of this post.  Please forward your reports as comments to that page.  I’ll sort out a title for it which places it high on the alphabetical list.

Here’s a URL for cross posting: