I have written elsewhere on this board and in my newspaper column about Emily-the-ugly-coyote. She lives around the farm, does no harm, and provides us with considerable amusement when we watch her eat apples in the orchard.

This evening I cut the patch of hay below the garden. Emily oozed out of a stand of ragweed, then decided to ignore the tractor and continue her hunt for the very large mice (I can’t call them rats) that I often see on the ground there while mowing. More power to her.

But I got a very good look at this almost hairless coyote over a period of time as I made repeated trips past her. The more I looked at her head, the more I kept thinking of a Jack Russell terrier. Finally it hit me. Emily is not a spectacularly ugly coyote. She’s a coyote-coloured dog with a skinny tail. Jack Russell tails are docked for good reason, likely. When regarded as a terrier Emily suddenly looks like a large, robust, very well-fed specimen with a tight coat. I didn’t see any evidence of mange, just short hair.

This might account for her casual attitude toward us when we happen upon her. Terriers aren’t afraid of much. There’s a family of coyotes about, but the pair I saw two nights ago in the young walnuts were patterned more after a German Shepherd than a Jack Russell. They’re not exactly terrified of me either, but they keep their distance.

Emily obviously gets along with the coyotes because they share a territory, but I don’t know if she belongs in their singing group or not.

So I googled images of terriers. No, even though Emily is much shorter than most coyotes, she is way too big to be a Jack Russell. And her skull is too straight and triangular. It’s more like a bull terrier’s. Come to think of it, The rest of her is very like a bull terrier, as well, though she is somewhat lighter in build.  Her Coyote’s ears are a poor fit for that skull.  Face-on, peeking up out of the hay, she shows a distinct resemblance to Yoda, the Star Wars character.  Anyway, as Dr. Bill Barrett commented the first time he saw Emily, “There’s a lot of dog in her.”

Westport grocer Neil Kudrinko has earned the Green Party nomination to run in the March 4th by-election to replace Leeds-Grenville MPP Bob Runciman.

Property values in Westport are higher than in Smiths Falls. What’s going on in North Leeds?

Let’s face it. North Leeds is a great place to live. An increasing number of retirees look to the area around Westport, so increased demand has driven up the value of property.

As a business owner what concerns me about rising market values is the increased assessment which can lead to higher property taxes.

We need to ensure that people who have lived in the community all their lives don’t suddenly find themselves unable to afford their homes. We need also to be careful not to penalize owners for making improvements to the energy efficiency and comfort of their homes.

For example, in order to reduce the environmental impact of our grocery store we have recently spent a half million renovating and retrofitting to reduce the carbon footprint of our business by 26%. This was a long-term investment in local jobs and our ability to service the community. A tax increase because of the improvements would hurt.

We shouldn’t penalize businesses and homeowners through property taxes for making good decisions.

Mr. Harper and Mr. McGuinty have jointly created the 13% Harmonized Sales Tax. Its implementation weighs heavily on voters’ minds. What’s your take on this tax reform?

Quebec and the Maritimes have the HST now. Under its rules businesses can claim exemptions on investments on equipment and supplies that we can’t in Ontario. Ontario Farmers are exempt from the 8% PST but other businesses are not. This puts Ontario businesses at an 8% disadvantage right off the top, so the business community in general is very excited about the HST because it will reduce in some cases their cost of operation.

However, as a small business owner I don’t think the HST will create day-to-day savings that we will be able to pass along to the consumer.

For most people in Ontario the greater concern is the extra 8% on their heating oil bills and services from electricians and contractors. The Green Party position on the HST is that it cedes the province’s power of taxation and puts it into the control of the federal government. We feel as a party that is too important a role to leave up to another level of government.

What are the implications down the road? If we are so tightly integrated with the federal government that we have no leeway, we won’t be able to make changes in how we collect sales taxes without the approval of Ottawa.

Mr. McGuinty’s 50 Million Trees Program sponsors the planting of trees on privately owned land in Ontario. From your perspective as a candidate to represent Leeds-Grenville in the Legislature, what do you think of the plan?

We need to make reforestation of marginal land a priority in this province, but we need to avoid monoculture, the planting of a single species in a field, because we need the mix.

You’ll soon hear more about ALUS, or the Alternative Land Use Services Program in Norfolk County. This new program compensates farmers for taking marginal land out of production so that it can be replanted to extend the Carolinian forest in the area to widen woodlots and improve setbacks along river banks to create natural filtration systems.

It’s important that we make landowners partners in the process, and that we get the mix right.

Should there be a bounty on coyotes?

I like to eat wild game and I help my friends cut up their deer, but I wouldn’t personally go out and participate in a cull of a species I couldn’t eat. The coyote population is currently high, but nature has an interesting way of keeping itself in balance. We’ve all been concerned about fishers over the last few years. The coyote population will correct itself. There’d have to be a lot of science behind a large-scale cull of the coyote population. We shouldn’t leave this one to anecdotal evidence. That said, we must recognize and keep in mind the need for farmers to protect their livestock from predators.

What issues do you see emerging in Leeds-Grenville over the next ten years?

A continuing issue is energy costs and other costs of operating businesses in small towns. We need to make sure that we as a community — that includes municipalities, businesses, and home owners — are making the investments that are going to ensure that we can compete with larger centers in years to come.

All too often a small business ends up subject to regulations that were originally intended for big corporations. We need smart regulations that will differentiate between the two and not unnecessarily penalize small operators who were never the intended target of a regulation like the Nutrient Management Act. Take the example of Forfar Dairy. It had to stop cheese production because it could not comply with the Nutrient Act. And yet the true target of that regulation was not the small producer, but the large industrial scale producer like Parmalat or Kraft. The loss of Forfar cheese production has resulted in one less source of production for local dairy farmers.

The problem with the McGuinty Government’s approach to regulation is that it is focused solely on standardization. It fails to take into account the needs of individual producers.

The Ranger TM in Snow

December 19, 2008

Saturday, January 10, 2009: It was about zero F this morning, and the Polaris wouldn’t start. By noon it limped into motion on one cylinder, and eventually the other one cut in after a long warmup. It may be old plugs, but with 130 hours on it, it shouldn’t be. I’ll give it some new ones tomorrow and then try it.

To its credit, it did manage to start without a boost or a battery charge, but this isn’t good enough. I put the battery on the charger for the afternoon and then it lit up quite easily, so it may be a maintenance, rather than a design issue.

22 December I added an update at the end of this article.  The TM did much better today on a cold start when other engines on the farm had trouble.
I posted a further update on 29 December.

YouTube is full of film clips of  Polaris Rangers in sand and mud, but I haven’t seen much about the cold weather operation of the machines.

This week during a cold snap the shift cable froze solid, imprisoning the TM in its tent/garage until heat from the idling engine eventually thawed it out.  Requests for information from ATV forums didn’t produce anything useful, quite possibly because all of the avatars of contributors have their machines surrounded by sand or mud, not snow.

The 2004 TM is still under factory warranty, so I called the dealer and explained that this intermittent failure of a cable could be a real safety issue for me if I’m out on a frozen lake in mid-winter, so he ordered a replacement cable.

The Subaru 653 twin didn’t start all that well on the cold morning, either, picking up on one cylinder and the choke, and only gradually getting #2 into the act.  I bought the machine as a demonstrator last fall with almost 100 hours on the engine (now 130), and I’ll bet it has never had a plug, though, so I’ll hold off on complaints about cold-weather starting until I have fresh spark in it.

This morning I took the TM for a drive to follow the tracks of the coyote who had scurried out of the barn as I approached.  I had a pleasant morning wandering around a hundred acres of fields and pine, spruce and walnut seedlings.  The coyote is clearly doing her job, foraging for mice almost exclusively around my young seedlings, so I guess her Christmas bonus is assured, and I’ll try to forgive her persistent use of the miscellaneous piles of shavings in my barn as her personal litter box.  What’s with that anyway?

Most of the footing was frozen grass under about four inches of powdery snow.  As a test I drove the TM at low speed as far as it would go into a field with a gradually thickening pack of snow and ice left over from an earlier storm.  With no load in the back the traction failed before it dragged bottom.  Fine.  I backed up, interested to see whether the thing would get itself out of a situation on the flat, or if with the differential locked it would skid off the the side and compound the problem.  I was quite pleased to find that in reverse it follows its track quite faithfully, and seems able to back out of whatever situation I create for it while driving forward — on the level.  It would be foolish to expect to back uphill to get unstuck with a 2WD machine.

All in all, the Ranger TM is quite a pleasant machine in cold weather.  So far I have only had one morning when it wouldn’t work, and this may be easy to fix.

A month ago the dealer offered me a used cab frame, windshield, cab enclosure and plastic roof, but I declined after considerable thought.  A small cab like this would frost up quickly from one or more persons’ breath on a cold morning.  There’s no defroster.  Further, if I towed the machine to a lake over sanded highways, I’d have to clean the windshield before starting out.  That would be rough on the plastic.  The doors would have to be removed for safety when traveling on the ice.  What’s more, I have a perfectly good 4X4 pickup which is most capable off-road.  Why would I create another, inferior copy of it?

The advantage of the Ranger is that I can look up and enjoy the tall trees when driving through my woodlot.  In buildings and around obstructions it’s the easy visibility and lack of fragility of the body which give it an advantage over the truck. A cab would reduce these benefits.

So instead of a cab I have opted for a snowmobile suit and helmet with full face shield and a scarf for the chin area under the helmet which freezes instantly without it.  Feet don’t seem to get all that cold, but very heavy mitts are a necessity, as well.

My first cold-weather run nearly froze me before I adapted to snowmobile attire.  That time I had some carburetor icing or governor issues:  at full speed the engine would bog down to medium revs for a while, then speed up again.  It continued to fire well throughout the slowdown, though.  Surprisingly, the problem has not recurred.  Perhaps there was moisture in the crankcase which frosted the carburetor, but once it had cleared the problem resolved itself.

I haven’t started my 1976 Ski Doo Alpine yet this winter, and we have had lots of snow.  That says something about the appeal of the Ranger TM.


UPDATE  22 DECEMBER, 2008:  Today was so cold my Toyota groaned when starting, but the Polaris lit right up, and the shifter hasn’t whimpered since that one tantrum a week ago.  The snow was too deep for the TM, but I had work for it to do, so I cleared a trail back to the woods with my tractor and 5′ snowblower.  It was able to bull around enough in the deep snow to turn around at the ends of the road, though more weight in the bed might help.  Inexplicably, the left dog on the tailgate release stuck in the on position late this afternoon.  (Turns out the right cable had doubled inside the gate, jamming it to the left.  No biggie.)

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the reason I needed the Ranger was that my faithful old Massey Harris 30 gas tractor wouldn’t start.  Those things always go, but it was too cold today or else it was feeling neglected because of all the attention the Ranger gets.


UPDATE 29 DECEMBER, 2008:  Yesterday’s high temperatures and gale-force winds swept the snow away in our area, so I took the Ranger for a tour of the property to check for damage.  No doubt because of the improvement cut in the winter of 2006, the woodlot held up well to the onslaught.  Traveling on the trails was easy because the snow was all gone from beneath the maple crown.  Then I emerged onto the butternut plantation, which is sheltered from the wind on the eastern side of the woodlot.  The far side of the field sported a band of green, but the corn snow (crystalized from freeze/thaw cycles) lay a little deeper than I would have liked in the 150 yards separating me from an easy drive back to the house.  Do I back up and go around, or try to get through the deep snow?

I hit the snow at about 3/4 throttle, acceleration limited by some ice on the trail.  The Subaru engine sounded as though it was working for once, as I kept the revs up and let the locked differential chew its way through about a foot of soft, heavy snow.  It seems the way to get through deep snow with the two wheel-drive Ranger is to keep the rev’s up and let it paw away, because as it passed the point where I thought it would lose momentum and stick (necessitating a rescue with my truck), it just kept going at about jogging speed.  It carried on through snow that was quite a bit deeper and harder than I expected, and we gratefully reached the grass on the sunny side of the field.  What impressed me was the lack of axle-bouncing of the sort I get in my Toyota when spinning in deep snow.  The TM’s axle stays in place well while spinning.

Family members accuse me of deliberately trying to get stuck with my toy.  But how can you trust a machine if you don’t know its limits?