C & W Roofing have been at work for several days on the roof of the front wing of the house on our farm in Young’s Hill.  It has been a massive job arranging the ladders to gain access to the roof surfaces, let alone removing the shingles.

It turns out that the sheeting is intact under the layers of shingles, some of which were badly eroded by the concentrated exposure to the sun of a very steep, southwest-facing roof surface.  The front dormer is extremely steep, and the south side of it hides behind a chimney rebuilt in the seventies. The fireplace under the old chimney drew well, but zig-zagged its way up over forty feet to clear the roof line.  The furnace also had a flue.  There’s no way to clean one of those chimneys.  Eventually the soot erupted and after a hairy evening Dad decided it had to come down.  The replacement bricks started to deteriorate soon after the new chimney was completed, and the thing had been abandoned for years.

The crew worked their way around to the south side of the dormer yesterday morning, and Paul Peters  told me that the chimney was too dangerous to work around, so I offered to take it down with the winch.  That sounded o.k. to the crew.  Paul asked for a couple of planks to put against the back side so that the cable’s pull would be distributed over the entire height, rather than risking cutting through the chimney and having the top half fall over on the roof.

It was quite a job lifting two scaffold planks up there and standing them up against the chimney, then pulling the winch cable up, but there were lots of hands.  That makes a big difference on a project like this one.  Derek Simpson shot a video of the pull, but it’s only accessible to his Facebook friends at the moment.
Anyway, I had the tractor at idle as we tightened the cable, but the tall brick monolith didn’t move.  I speeded up the engine, another hard pull on the clutch rope, and then the whole thing let go, twisted slightly on its axis in response to the hook’s eventual placement at the southeast edge of the chimney, and plummeted like a ton of bricks. It landed precisely where I had planned, with not a brick out of place.  Most of the rotten masonry turned to dust on arrival.
Crew members gradually emerged from cover.  Everyone was truly impressed by the smash.  C&W Roofing owner Rick Warriner and superintendent Greg Cournyea drifted in the driveway just in time to see Derek’s video of the demolition.
I put the winch in gear to extract the cable from the rubble, raised the blade, and put the tractor away.  Job done.
Then Paul went to work from a 40′ ladder with hammer and chisel to cut the remaining stub of masonry down below the new roof line.  This took several hours of awkward work.  The big problem was the heavy flashing around the old chimney, which had been installed above the original steel shingles on the roof.  Two layers of shingles above the steel had ensured that no leaks occurred.
When he was ready I cut four 17 1/2″ boards, 12″ wide and 1″ thick, and he screwed them into place.  The waterproof membrane stuck down over the fresh wood, and the landmark chimney was no more.

Ruby, our 2004 Porsche Cayenne S, requires fairly frequent oil changes to protect her cylinder walls from ring-scraping.  Her previous owner didn’t go over 5,000 km between oil changes, but he drove very limited amounts in downtown Vancouver traffic.  I drive on the highway almost exclusively, so a 10,000 km interval seems more reasonable.  The only time Ruby has used oil was the time I forgot a washer and didn’t torque one of the two drain plugs to the full 37 foot-pounds.  That spilled a litre over 8,000 km.

But the regular oil change requires nine litres of 0W40 Mobil 1 European Auto Formula.  It says so in the engine compartment as well as in the manual.  That’s two jugs of oil, normally priced at a bit over $50.00 each:  double the cost of a normal oil change, just for the oil.

Canadian Tire fortunately has put that particular oil on sale on a regular basis, and my son, Tony and I have been stockpiling it to meet the needs of our various Porsches.

Last Thursday Tony sent a message that CTC had the oil on special again.  Then he tried in Smiths Falls and reported that it was no longer offered.  I checked the Internet.  Nobody seemed to have it except the Division Street store in Kingston.  I called and attempted to order six jugs and pay online.  Yes, they have 22 jugs of product #028-9441-2, but I have to have a Canadian Tire card in order to buy it online.  My moans had no positive effect, so I resolved to drive to the store at first opportunity and make the purchase in the good old-fashioned way, with my bank card.

Sunday morning at 9:00 I was one of the three or four eager souls admitted through the auto parts door.  On the oil wall I found three jugs of euro blend, but they were 4.7 litres rather than 4.4, and the price was a bit north of $51.00.  The clerk at the auto desk spoke politely to me and then made me wait fifteen minutes while she answered a series of telephone calls.  Then she assured me that her store has only three jugs of euro blend and its price is $51.xx, but the Cataraqui store has 22.  She implied that I must be mistaken, and she wrote down the number of the auto parts department at the other store.

A friendly guy answered, listened carefully, then put me on hold while he ran out to check his oil wall.  He did not return.  Fifteen minutes later I ended the call to save on cell expenses, if nothing else.

On my retreat from the Division Street store a sympathetic clerk asked me if she could help.  Then she directed me to the customer service desk where the woman in charge gave me access to the Internet.  I promptly located the ad, gave her the product number, which enabled her to call Penny and send her to the warehouse for the six jugs of oil.

The unrepentant Penny brought them out and I made sure that the correct price went through at the check-out.  I left the store at 10:00 a.m.

What could have been a wild goose chase had been saved by a couple of alert staff at the Division Street CTC.  The lesson from this:  Don’t try to buy anything on sale at CTC if you don’t have at hand the product number in the ad.  Store computers don’t have access to the online ads, and you’ll look like a fool to the Penny’s who also work there.




September 14, 2018

I just ran across a brilliant idea in a comment on Quora.  This guy said that during campus voting his university always included a final choice:  Reopen Nominations!  In the case of a plurality of RON votes, I guess the election was quashed and re-run.

In a world where Proportional Representation has proven to break down quickly and give rise to authoritarian rule, the RON option might be a satisfying way to bring in the appearance of electoral reform.

Field mushroom season

August 27, 2018


Agaricus Campestris or meadow mushroom

These are the mushrooms both my grandmothers taught me to find and bring to their tables, so in spite of my wife’s misgivings I regularly pick and cook them. Today I learned a new rule of mycology, though: don’t hunt from a lawn mower.

I accepted that I had to remove a lot of green chaff from the caps. What threw me a bit was the quantity of sand the gills had collected from a single pass by the Kubota. I guess those brown folds work very like an air cleaner. They not only hold spores. They also do a wonderful job of trap trapping airborne sand.

I told myself that it was the sea salt in the omelette, but my molars were unconvinced. Great aroma, though.

A Quora questioner asked me to tell the story of the weirdest piece of driving on a public road I have ever seen.  There were a number of examples from that summer of 1970, not all of them my own creation, but this is the one I chose to recount.

It was 5:30 in the afternoon on a very hot day in August of 1970. The place was a highway overpass on the 401, the major highway through Ontario. I was working on an asphalt crew just outside Kingston, and as the sun got higher, the drivers grew sillier. The speed limit on the 401 at that time was 70 mph. We knew from experience to watch out for light green license plates from neighbouring Quebec. Ontario Place had opened that summer, so a lot of tourist traffic was making its way up and down the 401.

We had the traffic forced over into the centre lane, five or six trucks lined up ahead of the paver and the three rollers strung back at intervals over a half mile behind it on the right-hand lane.  Three flagmen and a few cones had the job of swinging the oncoming traffic into a single lane on the left.

All of the sudden a lime-green Mustang Mach-1 with a Quebec license plate appeared on the wrong side of the back roller, then slalomed around the other two rollers inside the cones before the driver realized that he was on soft asphalt and he had to get rid of some speed right then! He threw the Mustang sideways, or maybe the brakes weren’t balanced. Anyway, we weren’t quite over the driving lanes below, so those of us who could jumped off and dove under the guard rail.  The Mustang slid sideways until it stopped against the back ledge of the paver with a thump.

Hot asphalt had sprayed everywhere. The car was pretty messy, but drivable, so they took the guy’s insurance details and got him out of there. Traffic was heavy, eh?

There was no saving 100 yards of pavement. The only thing was to bring in loaders, pick it up, and send it back to the plant for re-manufacture.

Glen Lawrence, the company owner, swore that the Division Street Bridge was jinxed. Two previous times that summer he had to pick up the asphalt on that stretch. Once it was jammed electronics on a paver, another time the mix got too cold to roll properly and the inspector rejected it, and then this yob from Quebec slid through it sideways.

I wonder what sort of story the driver told his pals to account for his new car covered with asphalt?

A brief tree-hug

July 8, 2018


Then there’s the little white mulberry in my garden.  It came up as a weed and I drove over it with the mower but somehow the blades missed.  It bent over and avoided them.  I backed up and tried again.  Again I missed.  So I forgot about it and went on cutting weeds around the garden.  The next year it had righted itself and shot up into a little tree, though the trunk bore the scars of incredible abuse.  I mowed around it.  The year after that it offered a few amazingly sweet mauve mulberries to bribe me not to cut it down.  O.K.  Each year it has grown, self-repaired its shape, and produced more of the finest mulberries I have ever tasted.  Now the garden is gone but the tree remains a source of shade and comfort.

 A mulberry tree is God’s way of telling you to slow down and enjoy a hot day.  You get to stand in its shade and eat your fill.
Update:  July 24, 2018
The tree is still bearing away, but I hardly ever get a berry because of the tree’s overwhelming popularity with the local bird population.  At first there were just three cedar waxwings who could tell that these light mauve berries were sweeter than the tart-but- black fruit of the red mulberry trees around the garden.  Then one morning I flushed 13 goldfinches from the tree.  The robins caught on, and since then it has been an all-you-can-eat free-for-all.
I happened upon the tree at daylight this morning and savoured a dozen sweet, succulent fruit.  The early bird, and all that.

July 1st Canada responded to Trump’s trade war. Tariffs on steel and aluminum on top of softwood lumber and Bombardier aircraft made Canadian journalists and politicians jumpy, but then Trump shot off his mouth and Canadians got behind retaliatory tariffs on a shopping cart of items.

News stories invariably refer to whiskey, boats, sleeping bags, maple syrup and Harley Davidsons when they talk of the trade war, but I would suggest to you than none of the items on that list mean much, except for Heinz Ketchup.

Heinz Ketchup. “I’ll wait for the Heinz.” How many times have you heard that slogan? It has been the punch line in generations of high-quality T.V. ads designed to make the Heinz Ketchup brand identification as visceral as any. Product placements surpass those of Coca Cola.

But Heinz, a major employer in Leamington, Ontario “The Tomato Capital of Canada”, abruptly dumped its Canadian supplier and moved the factory south. Well-read shoppers took umbrage and discovered that French’s Ketchup could easily fill the niche as Canada’s ketchup, if they could dragoon Loblaw’s into stocking it. Loblaw’s did, and other supermarkets followed. French’s Ketchup may now appear on a bottom shelf, but it is at least present in the store.

The next squabble may be fought in fast food chains, where the bulk stuff and the nasty little plastic packets will need to change their brand labels, if not the actual content, in order to protect their bottom line.

But The Ketchup War will succeed or fail on the very type of decision which put Donald Trump in the White House. The supermarket ketchup aisle has become a ballot box, complete with its moment of private introspection where the barrage of subliminal information meets one’s private urges, prejudices, aspirations and pocket-book calculations.  The shopper must consciously reflect upon the choice of condiment. Will they* wear their maple leaf on their sleeve and boycott Heinz, or follow deeply-ingrained habits and grab another bottle of the all-too-available foreign product?  (*I know.  The mangled pronoun agreement gives me feelings of nausea as well, but the language has changed.)

Update, 4 July, 2018, 12:33 p.m.:

My wife read this over and demanded that I remove a comment she had made about the relative unavailability of alternatives to Heinz Ketchup in smaller supermarkets, so I have complied with her desire. She further reported that the display of large ketchup bottles she examined at Gordanier’s in Elgin this morning is located on a bottom shelf. Half of the display markets store brands: President’s Choice and No Name, in equal proportion. She noticed little depletion on this portion of the shelf. The other half of the display allocates the space equally to Heinz and French’s. Both appeared to have been equally depleted by the weekend shopping blitz.

Update, 9 July, 10:30 a.m.

CBC Business Reporter Sophia Harris has an article on The Ketchup Wars on the CBC website this morning.  The head marketing guy for Heinz is whining about the unfairness of the ketchup tariff, yada yada yada.  The compilers of the Canadian tariff list  seem to have taken a dim view of town-killing decisions by American businesses.  Heinz got it for leaving Leamington tomato growers and processing-plant workers in the lurch.  Hershey’s Chocolate received similar vengeful thoughts when the charitable corporation (I read the charter) pulled the factory operation out of Smiths Falls with no plausible reason to do so.  There was labour peace, a skilled work force, status as the largest employer in town — Hell, the water tower still advertises Hershey!  Still, they put 550 people out of work and abandoned a profitable factory in perfect condition.

But just wait and see what happens if Trump puts a tariff on automobiles.  Then it will be time to go after the drug patents controlled by American drug companies.  I’m inclined to think that the enabling legislation is already written, and there won’t be any month-long delay this time.  Let’s see how Trump reacts to the president of a drug company shooting out his porch light.  Big Pharma has more money than the auto sector.

If you feel helpless but angry in the face of a trade war, take heart from the gander in the video.