Ready to Lay

originally written for Just Sayin’ Caledon – a news commentary


There are going to be some new girls in Town this spring, Caledon, and they’re all coming to the Albion Hills Community Farm. They are known in the industry as RTLs – ready to lay pullets – and they are going to teach us a thing or two about home grown food.

Yes, these are our special backyard hens that will be on display at the Albion Hills Community Farm all spring, summer and fall. Thanks to our research with municipalities around Ontario last year as we were preparing the Town’s By-law on keeping Backyard Hens, we were able to connect with some top breeders.

We will we be hosting the standard backyard hen known as the Golden Buff, or more commonly as the red cross sex-link from Frey’s Hatchery in St. Jacobs, ON. These four girls will be on view in our permanent coop and run built to Town by-law specifications by the talented students at Humberview Secondary School.

But we will also have the only Canadian breed of chicken known, and the only natural winter egg layer known, the endangered Chantecler from Quebec. Thought at one point to have gone extinct, the Chantecler was rediscovered on a few small farms and the stock is slowly rebuilding. The owner of Cirrus Farms in Meaford was so impressed with our enthusiasm for bringing the backyard hens to Caledon, that she hooked us up with a Chantecler breeder. We were lucky enough to get four RTLs that I will be picking up in April.

These hardy all Canadian girls will be showcased in our portable chicken ark courtesy of a partnership with United Lumber’s Home Hardware in Bolton. Part of the purpose of this display at the AHCF is to help educate the public on the proper care and realities of taking on backyard hens for your family. Besides the expense and time, this is long term pet ownership and requires responsible adult supervision. Our project at AHCF will document the costs, caregiver time, egg production, health and safety issues, and pleasures of raising local food.

Not to mention that our “coop cams” will give a 24-hour live feed to entertain and inform Caledonians and the international community who are connected to AHCF online.

Over the winter months when the AHCF is closed, our hens will go home with caring families to backyards in Caledon, portable chicken ark, water heater, and feed included. Although the Golden Buffs will lay very little over the winter, families will still get a few fresh eggs, so checking their coop every morning is an ongoing part of the responsibility. We’ll compare that with the Chantecler winter egg production as part of our three year studies for the Town.

For those who hear stories about the hens only laying for two to three years, yes it’s true. IF you are a factory farmer who leaves the lights on all the time to force egg production. I’m sure Liam Neeson is going to make a movie about this called “Taken 4 Granted”, where he goes to rescue his hens from a factory farm before 15,000 of them get slaughtered every few years and composted so the barn can be cleared for the next batch of productive ready to lay pullets.

When left to their own devices, most hens slow down in the winter according to the reduced daylight hours. That’s why there will be no artificial lights in their coops – every girl needs a winter vacation. This way their natural egg production will continue for many more years. Of course, if you are an all-Canadian, you just keep going and going through all seasons. Our Chanteclers are very special and will be part of an international study on heritage breeds.

So there you have it in an eggshell! The backyard hens are coming and they are ready to lay fresh eggs right in our own backyards.

Tremendous thanks to Patrick Trafford and the Town of Caledon for their excellent work in preparing a best practices by-law to bring the backyard hens to Caledon. And a very special thank you to the Mayor and a majority of Caledon Councillors and Regional Councillors who championed and supported this endeavour.

Now, let’s get cracking!


Skid Crease, Caledon

Conduct Unbecoming

originally written as an editorial comment for Just Sayin’ Caledon

There are very good reasons why the Town of Caledon should be examining their Code of Conduct and Workplace Harassment policies, and questionable behaviour from a couple of politicians is only one of the them.

First, a Code is mandated under the new Modernizing Ontario’s Municipal Act Legislation 2017. Not a discussion item. But what is up for discussion is the wording of the Code of Conduct and its alignment with best practices in dealing with Workplace Harassment.

In fact, Municipalities may combine their policies on Code of Practice to Address Workplace Harassment with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and their Code of Conduct.

According to the Ontario government, by law, “harassment” may include:

  • making remarks, jokes or innuendos that demean, ridicule, intimidate, or offend;
  • displaying or circulating offensive pictures or materials in print or electronic form;
  • bullying;
  • repeated offensive or intimidating phone calls or e-mails; or
  • workplace sexual harassment.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) an employer may include the following behaviours as examples of workplace harassment:

  • offensive or intimidating comments or jokes;
  • bullying or aggressive behaviour;
  • displaying or circulating offensive pictures or materials;
  • inappropriate staring;
  • workplace sexual harassment;
  • isolating or making fun of a worker because of gender identity.

So, for example, a Councillor challenges the applicability of a report from a recently hired  member of the Town’s Senior Admin Team with the dismissive comment, “You’re new here.” If that member of Town Staff felt demeaned, intimidated, ridiculed, or offended by the Councillor’s statement, that’s workplace harassment.

Now, if that Councillor were a first term, barely elected representative of “the people”, and if the new Town Staff member had years of private and public legislative experience, the “You’re new here” comment could be considered workplace harassment by a narcissistic bully. Particularly if that Councillor had previously been found guilty of violating the norms of appropriate behaviour with colleagues.

Or suppose that volatile politicians, on hearing that a work crew in their ward is being harassed by members of the public, declare that they will take care of it. “Not so fast,” says the Town’s CAO, “Those workers are hired by the Town and it is the Town’s responsibility to deal with the situation.”

“Our boys – we’ll take care of it,” declare the fire, ready, aim politicians!

“No, the safety of the Town’s staff falls under the OHSA. Not your responsibility,” patiently explains the CAO. More proof positive that the adult model only works when you’re dealing with adults.

So, Town of Caledon, become educated in the rationale for pursuing a modernized guide to Conduct, Harassment and Workplace Safety designed to improve the quality of discourse and behaviour in the governance of our Town. This is not an attempt to muzzle the rights of free speech or to eliminate diversity of opinion. Rather it is to ensure respectful behaviour and communication between all members of the Town Staff and Council.

As much as the “Propaganda Machine” of local newspapers, and the alternative truth, libelous postings of blogging politicians and their spouses would try to convince you otherwise, the only people who fear an improved Code of Conduct and Harassment Policy are those incapable of playing nice.

The way I see it.


Skid Crease, Caledon








Oil Pipelines and Oily Promises

There is a certain sense of Alanis Morissette irony in watching two NDP provincial governments bicker over oil pipeline approvals. Alberta on the one hand is trying to defend the construction of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline for economic and employment reasons, and British Columbia is trying to stop the pipeline to protect their Pacific coast for ecological and cultural reasons.  When the right wing flow of Big Oil money hits the left turning paddle wheel of environmental ideology, the NDP provincial grist mill grinds to a halt. Well, if you won’t pipeline our AB oil, we won’t drink your BC wine!

So much for left of centre eco-governance. Well, unless we look to the recent statements of national NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. At the latest federal NDP gathering, he said that his fight wasn’t with the two feuding NDP provincial premiers, rather: “My fight is with the Prime Minister who promised to overhaul our environmental assessment process.” At the same time, he also endorsed the Leap Manifesto. An endorsement that left British Columbia smiling and Alberta stuck in the tar sands.

The Manifesto, spearheaded by Stephen Lewis’ son, Avi, and Naomi Klein, calls for an overhaul of the capitalist economy to wean the country quickly off fossil fuels. While Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley was telling delegates that pipelines are crucial to revive Alberta’s resource-based economy, among other things, the federal manifesto calls for no new pipelines. The “Leap” is really a reworking of then Liberal leader Stephane Dion’s “Green Shift” – a quest to move Canada from a fossil fuel economy to a renewable energy economy. Lest we forget, that put the federal Liberals into an election that saw the party abandon Dion faster than the Ontario PCs dumped Patrick Brown. And that led to eight years of the Harper regime.

Fast forward to the federal Liberals of today, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is also caught between the sticky bitumen and a hard place, trying to defend his mantra of environmental sustainability and economic security balanced peacefully in a consensual partnership. The problem is that the male economics of Big Oil have a long history of abusing the female ecosystems of Earth, and the environment is now saying “Me Too!”

Jagmeet Singh is absolutely correct; the Prime Minister seems to have forgotten a promise to clean out the National Energy Board of its Harper era appointees, and replace the pipeline approval process with a scientific fact-based analysis involving full participation from all local communities, particularly First Peoples. A promise broken is a trust lost, as the young protester at a BC Town Hall scrum recently reminded the PM. To which he angrily responded, “Really?” And had the protester removed.

Yes, “Really!” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. You made all of Canada a promise. Now either act like a statesman and keep that promise, or behave like a politician and spin it. But you can’t defend approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline with the current flawed process. Nor can you trust a  company that has accumulated over $160,000,000 million in environmental violation fines over the last decade alone with the responsibility of protecting the ecological integrity of the planet’s north west Pacific coastline.

How can we do business with a company that states, on the record, oil spills “can have both positive and negative effects on local and regional economies,” because of the economic benefits related to clean-up efforts. “Spill response and clean-up creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and clean-up service providers.” Really? That’s sort of like trusting Dick Cheney and his Halliburton Corporation with rebuilding Iraq after the U.S.A. destroyed it while looking for non-existent weapons of mass destruction. War, like an oil spill, is good for business; it’s not personal.

However, dear bickering and back-sliding politicians, it’s personal for those of us not on the next Elon Musk trip to a space colony.  For 99.9% of us, there is no Planet B. Either make the Green Shift and Leap into a new energy paradigm, or get off the pulpit of false prophets. Either begin the smooth transition to a renewable energy economy, or planet Earth will make the decision for us.

Canada cannot stand on the world stage and pretend to be a productive part of the Paris Accord at the same time it is defending the construction of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline under the current skewed National Energy Board review and approval process.

Our children and our communities are asking that same old question of commitment just like the woman in the Meatloaf song, Paradise by the Dashboard Lights, asked,

“What’s it gonna be boy? I gotta know right now! Before we go any further,                          Do you love me? Will you love me forever?”

Yes, or No – we need to know right now.


Skid Crease, Caledon

Mittens in the Snow 2018

Once again the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) hit a home run .. with a snowball in a snowstorm! It was hard to miss the invitation this year:

But if you did miss it, just stick a Mitten on your 2019 calendar and get ready for next February!

This is only one of the Outdoor Education workshops the SCDSB has staged  for its teachers since the initiative began in 2014. Under the guidance of Superintendent Paula Murphy and program leaders Sandy Clee and Julie Fisher, an incredible team of staff and volunteers including Becky, Cathern, Crystal, Jessica, and Marsha put together a full day event three times a year. Teachers losing hope for the future of outdoor education Professional Development opportunities in Ontario, take heart – it is alive and well in Simcoe County.

Picture over a hundred educators enthusiastically and voluntarily coming together on a Saturday in the fall, winter, and spring to learn how to engage their students in that natural world outside of those four classroom walls. The events are appropriately named Hands in the Dirt, Mittens in the Snow, and Singing in the Rain.

Over the years, the conference has taken place at different venues, including the grounds of the Board Office. But a partnership with the Beausoleil First Nation, the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) and the Ministry of Natural Resources has given them access to Springwater Provincial Park and the Tiffin Centre for Conservation. Mittens was held at Tiffin this year and it was magical.

Besides the hundred plus educators from various Boards who attended, there were also dignitaries from the Ministry of Education and the Simcoe Board who dropped by to visit, including Director Steve Blake. And for those of us used to the local trustee stopping by for a quick handshake, the Chair of the Board, Trustee Peter Beacock spent the entire day with his teachers.

Talented facilitators like the unsinkable Bonnie Anderson who started us off with a rousing rendition of the song “Hibernation” (with full apologies to the original lyrics from “Alouette”). The highly skilled NVCA staff like Grant Wilson and his incredible quinzee (now of Twitter fame), and Maegan McConnell, who introduced us to the Tiffin porcupines, made the day all the more memorable.

With workshops on everything from winter survival shelter construction to bird feeder building, to kick-sledding, to snowshoeing, to math and science and geography and natural history and the just plain joy of being outdoors, Mittens has it all. Not to mention literacy as author Jacob Rotenburg introduced the award winning book he co-authored with naturalist Drew Monkman called, “The Big Book of Nature Activities”

And then there was that outrageous moment at l;unch when Grant Wilson and I were trying to identify the age and sex of a porcupine by its scat, and Bonnie came by and ate the “scat”  much to the shock of the packed lunchroom. More on that at the next conference.

See you in the spring when we’ll be “Singing in the Rain”, and where I’ll be doing a workshop on “scat” identification, and sharing some trade secrets …

;>) Yours outdoors,




YENYR and the Ecohacks

NO, this is NOT an Icelandic alternative rock group! YENRY is the acronym for the Youth Environmental Network of York Region, and Ecohacks was their most recent conference held at the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University.

I had the honour to be asked to be their keynote speaker, but best of all, to tour the classrooms where the Ecohackers were hard at work prior to the keynote. The participants were all highly intelligent young high school students taking on the challenge of designing apps that would help our black mirror society become more environmentally literate.

Here are just a few examples: an app on your phone so you could take a picture of a product and it would give you its entire ecological footprint. Or another that could analyze the air quality of your specific GPS location and produce a time lapse video of your air quality history. Or another that let you know how far your produce had to travel to your store so you could make better “shop local” choices. Or, how about one that would alert you if you left an appliance on – like the proverbial halfway to Florida, “Dear, did you unplug the iron?” Yes, no more turning the car around thanks to Ecohacks!

Of course, being a bit of a rabble rouser, I would walk into each pod of hard working, app designing students and ask, “So, is this the room where you’re designing the dating app?”  It always got a laugh, until one group looked up and said, “That’s a good idea!”

“No, no,” I tried to explain, “I was joking.”

“Yes, yes,” they replied, “Still, a good idea!”

Their idea was to put together an app that would identify all the members of SEN in the GTA – if you wanted to get together for a brainstorming session to make the world more sustainable, you just had to go to the SEN “dating app” and find a group of like-minded, intelligent, respectful students near you and invite them over. Parents would love it!

“Hey, those SEN kids are coming over tonight. Again.”

“That’s fine, dear, Maybe we can go out to the movies then. You know those kids take such good care of the house when we’re away. I wonder if they’ll design an app for my next recipe ingredients – I do want to make sure they are sustainable and ecologically wise.”

So, from a joke about a dating app for environmentally literate students getting together to an app about sustainable development, we’ve come a long way baby. Gro Harlem Brundtland would be proud.

“The children of today are wiser than the children of light,” as my wise old Dad used to say about any gem that I verbalized, I never knew who the “children of light were, but I think I met some of them today at SENYR Ecohacks.

Now, I just need an app to help me find my glasses .. and my keys! “Honey, where are my … ? However, the app that won the day was “Littervision” winning The People’s Choice and Best Hack Award. They had the program that allowed users to take pictures of trash and identify the materials. Also, “Locomotion” won “Best Pitch” – they created the website that allowed people to easily buy local foods.

And all this from the mouths of babes, albeit very bright, very engaged babes The wisdom of the Elders is not a chronological reference point. And although I was their “Elder” keynote speaker, they had to guide me in and out of the building. A senior’s moment, and I trusted their guidance absolutely.

Our future will be safe in their hands if we just let them guide us there.


Skid Crease, Caledon