Caledon’s Healthy Backyard Hens

originally published for Patti Foley’s Just Sayin’ Caledon

***

With the first summer of the Backyard Hens demonstration project successfully completed, it’s time for a cluckingly brilliant update.

To begin, the hysterical concerns from certain politicians and their resident coven of followers about backyard hens wiping out the businesses of the fowl farmers in Caledon, spreading avian flu across the Region of Peel, and infecting Caledon chicken lovers with salmonella turned out to be FALSE. The salmonella bacteria that avian species carry in their guts for digestion was defeated by a new medical miracle called … hand washing!

So far this year in North America, Zero – O – deaths from salmonella infections, although a few dozen people came down sick after eating President’s Choice chicken meat products. Our hens and their organic, free-run eggs are in the clear.

Much like the fears about “hydrogen bombs” at the Canadian Tire Distribution Centre, and the concept of a “freight village” destroying the rustic atmosphere of the quaint rurban town of Bolton, the hysteria turned out to be classic fear mongering spread by ignorance.

It should be noted however, that in 2018 the bacteria that we mammals carry in our intestinal flora, E.coli, killed 5 people in the U.S. and sickened over 200. Canada only reported eight sick people in all and no deaths. Maybe we should wash our hands more after a visit to the throne room, and not drink water downstream from manure piles.

On a healthier and happier note, we now have two demonstration flocks – our four prolific Golden Girls, and our four Canadian Heritage Chanteclers. Those eight hens laid organic Omega 3 enriched free-run eggs every day and weathered both heat waves and torrential downpours. From May through to the end of August those girls produced over 720 eggs – that’s 60 dozen healthy, home grown eggs!

The only accident all summer long at the Farm was when I cut my finger moving a piece of equipment. When a non-supportive local politician saw my bandaged finger and asked what had happened, I replied “Chicken duty.” Her eyes glowed with anticipation, thinking that I had been attacked and pecked close to death by an angry flock, thus proving her theory of the dangers of backyard hens. Apologies to the “over eager for a crisis” politician, but as Wesley says in The Princess Bride, “Get used to disappointment.”

In an attempt to educate this same politician, I invited her to the Farm to meet the Golden Girls. “Are they dirty?” she asked. I sighed, “They’re chickens. They bathe in dust. WTC?!” So much education to complete, so little time. Losing patience. Do NOT re-elect!

For the education of the rest of our citizens, both demonstration coops will be open for visiting at the Albion Hills Community Farm Honey Garlic Festival on Saturday, September 29, 2018 from 12:00 to 5:00. The demonstration coops and runs, which conform precisely to Caledon’s Backyard Hen By-law, will be dedicated that day to the Krick Family, whose daughters and their Christmas chickens were the inspiration for the by-law.

Come out and meet Clovis and Bee, our Honey Garlic Festival Mascots, and the “Chicken Whisperer” who will be introducing you to the Golden Girls and the Chanteclers. It’s eggsactly the kind of thing to do on a fall weekend in Caledon – celebrating our right to grow local food and celebrate our deep and abiding connection to agriculture.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, an author, an internationally renowned speaker, and a lifelong educator currently living in Caledon, Ontario.

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You’ve Gotta Have Heart

It was time for my big heart check-up at the Peter Munk Centre with the UHN at Toronto General Hospital. Having been brought back to life from heart failure in 2016, I had no intention of blowing the incredible work done by Dr. Heather J. Ross and her team in the cardiac ward.

However, living in Caledon, with no easy public transportation route down to the Big Smoke, as I loving call Toronto haze in the summer, that proved to be the most stressful part of the day. There was catching the ride to King City, GO train to Union, subway to Queen’s Park and a short walk to TGH. Then I had an Echocardiogram, blood work and my report card from my cardio team ahead of me.

That’s when the day got so much better. The staff at TGH from the information desk to cardiac reception were friendly and informative – and this was at 8:00 am! I had arrived early and registered early. The ECHO lab took me right in and my blood pressure was high from the trip down. But that is where I met the first bright light of my day, Laura from Brampton.

She was professional, personable and human. People often complain that our health care system is broken and cold. Not here. This young professional was personally engaging, professionally competent. and fully human. An Echocardiogram is like an ultrasound on the heart – it takes time and patience. I went in stressed – I left feeling calm and like I had been looked after with the best of care. My blood pressure was a perfect 110/80.

After that I got an early entry to my cardio check-up, efficient and painless blood work done (six vials later…), and then went to wait for the report card from Dr. Ross. That’s when the second bright light of the day happened. Into the room walked Tayler, a researcher working with Dr. Ross, doing a long term study on predicting the outcomes of a patient’s prognosis. For example, if For example, if your doctor recommends that: “If you eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, keep a low sodium diet, be mindful of stress, watch out for the high heat and humidity days, and listen to Jann Arden’s Greatest Hits once a week, you’ll be fine.”

Tayler’s role is to see whether the patient’s condition a year later matches the prognosis. Of course this depends on the ability of the patient to follow the doctor’s good advice. Advice taken. Tayler will give me my report card in one year. I intend to get an A+.

We talked for several minutes about her research and how important it was. We talked about life and jobs and how lucky she was to be working with Dr, Ross.  And then this young professional, who was so insightful, looked at me and said, “My Dad would like you.” No sooner had I arrived home than I received an email from Dad acknowledging his exceptional daughter.

Now, tell me that the personal care and attention provided by our medical professionals isn’t exceptional. Perhaps the Cardiac Team at the Peter Munk Centre at Toronto General Hospital is out of the ordinary. I know that Dr. Heather Ross is exceptional. Perhaps the entire UHN is exceptional. Then that means we are in good hands. No complaints here. Our cardiac medical teams spend long days and nights, late shifts, and ongoing research to ensure that we live. Like Captain Tom Miller says in his dying breath to Private Ryan, “Earn this, earn it.” I intend to earn it.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, journalist, Caledon

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Scientific Laws of Politics

 

The first in a series of humorous insights …

 

The Law of Integrity:

The greater the volume of a politician’s complaints against an Integrity Commissioner, the less the likelihood that he or she has any integrity.

 

The Law of Self Aggrandizement:

The louder and longer a politician boasts about his or her accomplishments, the less he or she has truly accomplished anything of significance.

Corollary – the more time a politician boasts about the time he or she spent reading a report or attending a meeting, the less the likelihood that comprehension was achieved.

 

The Law of Posing:

The more a politician only turns up for the smiling photo-op without participating in the event, the greater the chance that he or she is unqualified to hold office.

 

The Law of Private Influence:

The more a politician’s voting  record shows that he or she is consistently supporting specific interests, or avoiding votes that would oppose those specific interests, the greater the reality that the politician is owned.

 

The Law of Facebook “Community” groups:

The more you eat excrement – the more you are full of it.

 

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, humourist

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Conflicts of Interest

Ah, the words that rev up every political junky’s heart – “CONFLICT OF INTEREST!” Yes, we just love to get the dirt on our politicians at every level. It helps to distract us from our own failings. There’s just one problem. It is a politician’s responsibility to report any potential conflict of interest prior to that item being discussed in council or in caucus or in parliament. It’s not exactly headline news. Unless you’re a C grade reporter trying to create a crisis as happens often in one of our local papers.

Really, the stories we should be reporting are about the politicians who DON’T declare a conflict of interest, I’ll give you an example, purely hypothetical of course but, just in case, the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

First, here’s an example of a case that goes by the book. A politician who lives in a rural area in Ontario, decides to sell the family farm. Kids have moved on to software development, and, as much as they love the grass fed beef, don’t want to be mucking out the barn anymore. The sale of the farm may affect the course of residential development in the area, The politician rightfully declares a “conflict of interest” and is dutifully excused before the issue is resolved,

No biggie! Unless you’re a reporter hungry for headlines and think you’re the smartest guy in the room. NOT.  A politician declaring a “conflict of interest” is a non-story – it’s what they are supposed to do. We don’t report on every dump we make in the toilet. It’s just not front page news. Unless you are trying to create a crisis … or relieve a lower bowel impaction.

What is front page news is about the politicians who DON’T declare a conflict of interest. Keep in mind that the “pecuniary” advantages and financial impacts of these deals can go up or down. A land deal close to your abode could jack up your home value, or a huge warehouse next door could lower your residential development potential. The good politicians declare. The slimy ones don’t.

Secondly, let us suppose that a major golf course development is being proposed for a property that abuts ours. Prior to being elected, I rant long and loud about this proposed development. After my election, I say nothing. Am I guilty of a conflict of interest? Oh, yeah … big time. But it doesn’t make the front page.

You think? So, let’s start reporting on the politicians who are NOT reporting their conflicts of interest, specially if they’re running for higher office. And leave the good ones alone to do their jobs without incompetent reporters trying to make headlines over smoke and mirrors.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease. journalist, Caledon

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Canoeists in Cars Getting Coffee

With total apologies to Jerry Seinfeld and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

As narrated by Sharon …

***

“Hi, Harry, this is Sharon. In your neighbourhood and wondering if you’d like to go out for a coffee.”

“Sure Sharon” replied Harry.

Now the car I picked out for Harry, although he is more at home in a canoe, is my 2006 Porsche Boxster. This car can do zero to 60 mph in under 6 seconds.  It’s a 5 speed manual transmission, a 2.7-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder that develops 240hp.  The engine is located behind the seats (mid-engine) but ahead of the rear axle. This gives the car two cargo compartments. Very practical.

But it also has the enlarged front and side air intakes for cool styling. Finished off with 17-inch alloy wheels. Inside, two occupants enjoy body-hugging leather-upholstered bucket seats.  Seat warmers included for cool spring and fall temps. Bose surround sound and a navigation system. Not a bad choice for my favourite teacher.

He was rather astonished when I pulled up in his driveway. “We’re going for coffee in that!”

“Oh yes,” I answered, “and with the top down. Harry, this car is like our friendship.  Still going strong after many years and stands out amongst others. Will always be a classic. We are stylish.”

“Alright,” said Harry, “I am definitely in a Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee episode. Drive on!”

It was a wonderful afternoon. Having missed the 50th Reunion of my Junior High School, I wanted to catch up and hear the stories. Harry had attended and had been mobbed by his old students, from science to English to outdoor education. He had been our guide through the wilderness, and school, and far beyond. The lessons we learned on trips with him will remain with us for life. Over those years we became such good friends that I even asked him to give the speech for the bride at my wedding.

“So Harry, what’s retirement like?” “Eggsellent,” he replied, as I got to learn all about his current Caledon backyard hens project. With that teaser, I just had to see the hens, so the Boxster navigated the potholes on the Albion Hills Community Farm driveway to visit the hens.

He’s there at 5:00 in the morning and 9:00 at night and those hens love him. I even got to take home some free run, organic Omega 3 eggs for my son’s breakfast the next day. After the hens, we headed to the Four Corners restaurant in Bolton for that long awaited coffee – and it was a perfect cappuccino.

Then began that exchange of catching up on the many years in between the canoe trips of my youth and the realities of life as a working mom. Harry talked about his family and his children and his journalism. Mostly he reflected about how important his students were to him. I got to share my enthusiasm for golf, my children, and my grandchild. We both reflected on the joys of getting older with my knee problems and his cataract surgeries. But our memories are always young.

My friends and I travelled with Harry on canoe trips from Grade Eight until we left high school. The level of training and our capabilities of performance increased every year. It was almost as though he was waiting to see if we could fly on our own.

On the last night of our final canoe trip to Algonquin Park, my friend Marie noticed another group just upwind from us washing their dishes in the lake. Harry, who taught us to always leave our campsite cleaner than we found it, had spotted this but uncharacteristically hadn’t said anything. Marie marched right over to their campsite and said, “Excuse me, but I don’t appreciate you washing your dishes in our drinking water!”

That was our last trip. Harry told me over coffee that he didn’t say anything that day because he was waiting to see what we would do without him.

“When Marie spoke up that was the precise moment when I knew my work here was done.” We had all learned to fly.

And now I drive a Porsche Boxster taking Canoeists in Cars to Get Coffee. I wish I had been able to be at the 50th Reunion at Zion Heights, but I got to see the joy of it through Harry’s eyes as he talked about how wonderful it was to see almost all of us together again and recount the glory days with happiness.

I dropped him off at his home with the teaser that he could get to drive it the next time. Now I’m off to watch the Seinfeld episode that he said is most like him – Jerry taking Steve Harvey for a coffee. Who knew our teachers were such comedians! And would be friends for life.

Sincerely,

Sharon

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