Natural Gas the next big Innovation in Agriculture

Natural gas represents next big innovation 2

Debra Pretty-Straathof, Special to the Examiner

Monday, November 3, 2014 2:15:21 EST PM

An Enbridge Gas Distribution vehicle. EXAMINER FILES

Delivering natural gas to rural Ontario will be the biggest game changer on farms since tractors replaced horse power. Natural gas expansion to farms and rural Ontario communities promises to dramatically boost business – by significantly lowering energy costs. That’s the message the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) delivered to government at the recent Natural Gas Opportunities for Ontario event at Queen’s Park.

The OFA strongly advocated for expanding natural gas at a recent Queen’s Park event alongside industry partners Enbridge and Union Gas. Taking part in a panel discussion, OFA laid out the economic benefits of replacing electricity, propane and heating fuel with natural gas. Natural gas is currently only available to less than 20% of Ontario farms and rural households. Simply expanding access to natural gas to just 60% of Ontario farms, rural residents and businesses would free up $800 million per year in new disposable income. Imagine the amount of reinvestment and economic development those savings would fuel in rural Ontario.

The Natural Gas Opportunities for Ontario event gave OFA a platform to outline the importance of expanding natural gas to rural and small towns across Ontario to MPPs, political decision makers and energy industry representatives. The OFA reminded attendees that energy ranks as one of the biggest input costs for Ontario farmers, and access to natural gas will make our farms more competitive, and our communities will attract new agri-business ventures.

The OFA has been advocating for affordable, accessible natural gas across rural Ontario, and continues to push government for progress. The recently announced loan and grant program – $200 million in loans and $30 million grant over two years – is a good start. We will learn from the initial work and move to a long term program to provide gas to rural Ontario.

We know what our industry and rural Ontario needs to grow and continue contributing to the provincial economy. And it starts with affordable natural gas.

The OFA is committed to continue building the momentum. And our message to government is clear. Greater access to affordable natural gas will fuel future growth across rural Ontario, and keep our industry strong.

Debra Pretty-Straathof is an executive member of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. 

Tips for converting to a tiny home or cottage

Tips for converting to a tiny home or cottage

By Stacey McLeodStacey McLeod

Tiny home

Photo by Bent Nordeng/Shutterstock.com

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It’s no mystery why the tiny homes movement is creeping its way into the mainstream. As housing prices soar, some are drawn to the financial perks of a smaller footprint. Tiny homes and the land they’re on can often be paid for up-front without the burden of big mortgages. For others, it’s more of an environmental decision, choosing to live within less space and clean out the clutter from their lives. According to the Canadian Homebuilders Association, the average single-detached Canadian home clocks in at around 2,000 square feet, while tiny homes can be as small as 100 square feet.

But taking the plunge into tiny house living is no small feat and requires some real planning. Whether you’re dreaming of that perfect guest bunkie behind your cottage or adopting a more nomadic lifestyle with a tiny home-on-wheels, these tips can help turn that little dream into a sustainable reality.

How small can you go? Check with your municipality

Tiny house living may be a leap into a more simple life but navigating local building codes can be anything but. Consult with your local municipality before you take the plunge and make sure you’re aware of building permit requirements, zoning laws, and whether or not it’s even legal to construct a tiny home on the property in the first place. Several factors can impact decisions, like if your tiny addition is simply a guest bunkie behind an existing cottage, or if you’re looking to construct a permanent home on a vacant plot of land. If it turns out that your original dream needs to be amended, look for possible workarounds. Many pre-assembled tiny houses come on wheels and can actually be considered mobile homes.

Try a tiny home trial run

Have you spent much time in a tiny space? Have you truly been confined to close quarters with your partner? If you’re exploring the idea of living in a tiny house full-time, invest some time in visiting other homes and see what works for you. You’ll discover how much space you actually require and the layouts and amenities that best suit your lifestyle. You can find lots of tiny house rentals across Canada on Airbnb or check out these tiny rental options from around the world: fastcodesign.com.

Purchase a prefab home

Prefabricated tiny houses are homes that are either already constructed and just need to be moved, or come in kits with pre-cut pieces that can be quickly assembled on-site. There are lots of advantages to purchasing these pre-designed tiny homes. For one, experts have already figured out how to maximize the space and they often come with built-in furniture and features. Secondly, many of these homes are on wheels and can be moved to new locations. Check out mobile Canadian options like Nelson Tiny Houses in British Columbia and Leaf House Homes in the Yukon.

Creative, convertible furnishings

In a tiny home, every inch of space counts and furniture often has to serve more than one purpose. Seek out convertible pieces designed for tight spaces, like these sofas that quickly morph into bunk beds, or look for creative ways of creating counter space. But keep in mind that sometimes when making the most of a micro home, custom and built-in furniture can be a great solution.

Look to the outdoors for extra living space

Your home’s footprint may be tiny but your living space doesn’t have to be. Remember to incorporate the outdoors into your lifestyle. Create lounge areas around gardens or lawns, covered outdoor dining areas, and even platforms where you can pitch tents when you have overnight guests.

Is your septic ready for winter?

Take steps now to prevent frozen septic systems this winter.

Every winter, many people have to deal with the frustration of a frozen septic system when the temperature drops well below zero for several days. Last winter, many septic systems in western North Dakota, especially new installations, had problems due to freezing conditions.

Dry soil conditions, very cold air temperatures and a lack of snow cover during an extended period all contribute to the problem, according to Tom Scherer, North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural engineer for water quality and irrigation.

“A frozen septic system can be a real headache in the middle of the winter,” he says. “With a little effort now, many potential freezing problems can be eliminated. Take the time to examine your system.”

Fresh snow is an excellent insulator. Ten inches of fresh, fluffy snow containing about 7 percent water is approximately equal to a 6-inch layer of fiberglass insulation with an R-value of R-18.

“Of course, the insulating capacity of snow will decrease as it becomes compacted, but any accumulation over 12 inches will provide significant frost protection,” Scherer says. “So when there is very little snow to cover bare soil or mowed areas, frost will penetrate deep into the ground.”

A typical septic system has four main parts where freezing problems can occur:

The pipe from the house to the septic tank
The septic tank and, for some systems, a pump lift station
The pipe from the septic tank to the soil treatment system
The soil treatment system

A common problem area is the point where the pipe from the house to the septic system exits the basement wall. During a cold winter such as the one in 2013-14, if the house sewer pipe is less than 4 feet below the ground’s surface where it leaves the house and it does not have added insulation, problems with freezing likely will occur. Often, the wind keeps snow from accumulating next to the north and west sides of the house, allowing frost to penetrate deeper in those areas.

If the main sewer line from the house is on the north or west side, then water fixtures that produce continuous but low flow rates, such as dripping faucets, high-efficiency furnaces and leaking toilets, will freeze where the pipe leaves the basement wall. An ice dam will form until it blocks the pipe. This problem also occurs when people do some landscaping and remove soil above the home’s sewer line.

“If you have experienced this problem, first fix any leaky fixtures in the house,” Scherer advises. “Next, place some type of insulating material (hay, straw, bags of leaves, etc.) at least a foot thick and at least 5 feet wide over the sewer line exit point and shovel snow over the area or place a snow fence in the area to trap snow.”

Water holds a great deal of heat, and with daily use, septic tanks rarely freeze, even in the coldest weather. However, when the house is vacant for a week or more, water does not enter the tank to keep it warm and it may freeze.

If you have a septic system that is used infrequently during the winter, place a layer of insulating material at least a foot deep over the tank and extend the layer at least 5 feet past the edges of the tank. Using a snow fence to trap snow over the tank also will help.

The pipe from the septic tank to the soil treatment area is subject to the same problems as the pipe from the house to the septic tank. A lack of slope, which results in slow water movement, is another problem that may cause freezing in this pipe. Often, water will freeze in the distribution boxes for the drainfield laterals. An insulating layer above these critical places likely will prevent freezing problems.

The pipe may slump due to soil settling or vehicle traffic, which can form another place for water to collect and freeze. Often, the pipe slumps right next to the septic tank due to soil settling around the tank after construction.

The soil treatment system (often called the drainfield) is subject to freezing if the area above it is always wet and soggy. This condition indicates that the effluent is not infiltrating properly and you may have other problems with the drainfield.

If your drainfield is soggy or wet, now is the time to bring in a septic system installer for a professional examination. The solution may be simple and inexpensive or it could be complicated and require extensive renovation of the drainfield.

A new septic system (tank and drainfield) where the soil is bare commonly has freezing problems the first year. A thick insulating layer over all bare soil generally will prevent a frozen system. Insulating distribution boxes and around exposed inspection pipes, risers and the manhole is especially important.

Don’t drive any vehicles, such as ATVs, snowmobiles or automobiles, over any part of the septic system during the winter because compacted snow will not insulate nearly as well as undisturbed snow. For the winter months, place a snow fence or other suitable barrier around the drainfield to discourage any traffic in the area and help maintain a thicker layer of snow insulation.

“If we do happen to get a good layer of snow, don’t get carried away while plowing and remove the snow cover from any part of the septic system,” Scherer cautions.

Source:ndsu.edu

Farm land values are unpredicatable!

Seems the value of farmland is getting harder to put a figure on.  Factors such as amount of Quota or livestock operations in the area can have an effect on the value of farmland. Contact me to help YOU figure out what your Agri-business is worth in todays real estate market.

http://www.farms.com/ag-industry-news/study-examines-farmland-values-in-southwestern-ontario-114.aspx

Keeping Up With The ‘Nickels & Dimes’ During Tight Farm Times

Keeping Up With The ‘Nickels & Dimes’ During Tight Farm Times

Jeff Caldwell09/05/2014 @ 1:48pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Grain prices are in the tank. So, a hot topic lately has been how to trim your farm’s bills and expenses. And, why exert the effort on steps that just make small, incremental changes? Cut back on big-ticket purchases like tractors, combines and farmland, right?

Those big ones may be easy ways to put a dent in what you spend on the farm, but that’s not the only strategy to keep your farm ready for continued low grain prices. You spend a lot of “nickels and dimes” on everything from hitch pins and spark plugs to lawn mowers and small tires. And, there are ways to save a few bucks on these things here and there…if you’re willing to put forth the effort and pay attention to the “little things,” farmers say. A little bit here and there can add up, but the process of revealing these smaller things may do much more than that.

“Seems like since harvest last fall I have had a lot of non-crop expenses: blown truck tire, cut truck tire, lost hitch pins, worn-out lawn mower, new furnace, a crashed corn head and on and on,” says Agriculture.com Farm Business Talk senior contributor buckfarmer. “With the new market prices that seem to be coming, what do you do to reduce these kind of expenses?”

It’s the type of question that often elicits tongue-in-cheek responses — fellow Farm Business Talk member and veteran advisor Shaggy98 says for that broken furnace, he could always “pick up some extra blankets from the second-hand store” — but there are implications to small repairs like these that, during times when incomes are tight, can reach through and often point out some of the resource management issues a farm might be facing…issues that can directly affect a farm’s bottom line. A lot of minor expenses like these, buckfarmer says, can stem from the negligence of hired farm labor, for example, and other farmers say that’s a sign that there may be more systemic management issues underfoot.

“A careless employee will cost you more than he will ever be worth,” adds Farm Business Talk esteemed advisor sw363535. “And, some are spending $50 to save $10. When profits are good, we all ignore the small stuff. I have a neighbor who likes a salesman at a dealership 100 miles away. He bought his truck there and takes it to them for oil changes and service. Bet I don’t have to spell out the hidden costs there, on top of a wasted day of labor. We did some of this 2 years ago when corn was $6/bushel.”

Just like with sw363535‘s example, simple practices like driving a longer distance for vehicle maintenance may be doing more to hurt your farm’s bottom line than you think. But, so too can a common change in approach to maintenance that typically accompanies tighter economic times. Farm Business Talk esteemed advisor and North Carolina farmer Kay/NC says it’s important to avoid changing frames of mind when your bills stretch your bank account. In other words, don’t put off until later what you need to be doing right now.

“I would much rather fund maintenance than repairs any day. Something breaking not only costs more to fix as a rule, but might create a safety problem in its process of going kaputt,” she says. “There can be more or less costly maintenance plans, and hard times might cause you to elect a bit lower standard…but to forgo preventive maintenance totally is just asking for trouble

The best farmers’ markets in Ontario cottage country.

The best farmers’ markets in Ontario cottage country

By Sara ChappelSara Chappel

Farmer's market

Photo by sunlover/Shutterstock.com

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There’s more to cottage country produce than stopping by the side of the road for fresh corn or wild blueberries. When you explore any one of the many, many farmers’ markets throughout Ontario, you’ll have the opportunity to expand your palate in exciting directions. So pick up the corn and berries, but serve that corn with a side of swiss chard sauteed with farm-fresh garlic, and bake those blueberries into a lavender-scented galette. Your taste buds will thank you.

(And we know there are many, many more farmers’ markets in Ontario than these ones, but this is the perfect starter list!)

St. Jacobs Famers’ Market (Thursdays and Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. all year)

The St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market is the largest year-round farmers’ market in Canada. It’s also one that was almost snuffed out of existence a year ago, after a fire causing $2 million in damage destroyed the market’s main building. Fortunately for the market’s loyal customers, a temporary structure was soon up and running, and a new permanent building is under construction. Along with fresh produce, St. Jacobs is the perfect place to pick up items with a Mennonite flavour, including cheese, summer sausage, preserves and honey. If you’re feeling peckish, the apple fritters are a must-taste.

Keady Livestock/Farmers’ Market (Tuesdays, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.)

Located about 15 kilometres southwest of Owen Sound, Keady Livestock and Farmers’ Market combines regular livestock auctions with displays from more than 250 vendors selling fresh produce, baking, crafts, and antiques. Cages of chickens rub elbows with goats, ducks, and cows, giving the Keady Market a definite on-the-farm flair.

Gravenhurst Farmers’ Market (Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. until October 29)

The Gravenhurst Farmers’ Market, while seasonal, stays open further into the fall than other markets in Muskoka, which tend to close around Thanksgiving weekend. So if you’re closing up the cottage late this year, never fear: there’s still somewhere to get local produce, baking, and crafts even as the frost threatens. Attracting approximately 80,000 visitors each year, the Gravenhurst FM was voted best seasonal farmers’ market in 2001.

Haliburton County Farmers’ Market (Carnarvon: Friday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. until October 10; Haliburton: Tuesday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. until October 7)

 If you’re in the Haliburton highlands, you’re in luck: you’ve got two farmers’ markets to choose fromat least until Thanksgiving. Both markets feature live performances by a variety of buskers, as well as an all-season food or garden book exchange. Plus, don’t forget to check out the winners of the ongoing “oddest vegetable” contest.

Gore Bay Farmers’ Market (Fridays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. until October 10)

As the picture says on the Gore Bay Farmers’ Market Facebook page“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy local—and that’s kind of the same thing.” Vendors at the market are all local, with many family-run farms participating. While you’re there, pick up fresh Lake Huron fish from the Purvis Fisheries truck or a jar of haskap jam. (And if you’re not sure what haskaps are, well, it’s a great conversation starter.)

Carp Farmers’ Market (Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., May to October)

Contrary to its name, the Carp Farmers’ Market doesn’t sell fish. In reality, the market, located in the village of Carp, north of Kanata, is the largest producer-based farmers’ market in Eastern Ontario. Visit their website for a handy guide to what’s in season and for recipes to make use of all the bounty you’re bound to bring home. The market also runs an annual garlic festival in August, so pack breath mints for your visit.

Perth Farmers’ Market (Saturday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. until October 11)

The Perth Farmers’ Market is worth a visit just to take a look at its permanent home, which is a structure made from repurposed Ottawa bus shelters affectionately called the “Crystal Palace.” With live music, outdoor dining tables, and a wide range of vendors, the market is a good place to start a day wandering around Perth, a picturesque town on the Tay River that was voted the “Prettiest Town in Ontario” by TVOntario viewers in 2000.

Mountjoy Farmers’ Market (Timmins, Saturday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. until mid-October)

If you’re farther north than Muskoka, never fear—there’s still a farmers’ market to be found, right in downtown Timmins. Get there early, buy farm-fresh eggs and a loaf of fresh bread for breakfast, and you’re all set. If you want to spend a little more time, browse through the market’s selection of local art, including pottery and paintings. The market often has specialty items on sale for a limited time, like one vendor who sells birch syrup at the end of August.

What’s your favourite farmer’s market?

try

By Sara ChappelSara Chappel

Farmer's market

Photo by sunlover/Shutterstock.com

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There’s more to cottage country produce than stopping by the side of the road for fresh corn or wild blueberries. When you explore any one of the many, many farmers’ markets throughout Ontario, you’ll have the opportunity to expand your palate in exciting directions. So pick up the corn and berries, but serve that corn with a side of swiss chard sauteed with farm-fresh garlic, and bake those blueberries into a lavender-scented galette. Your taste buds will thank you.

(And we know there are many, many more farmers’ markets in Ontario than these ones, but this is the perfect starter list!)

St. Jacobs Famers’ Market (Thursdays and Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. all year)

The St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market is the largest year-round farmers’ market in Canada. It’s also one that was almost snuffed out of existence a year ago, after a fire causing $2 million in damage destroyed the market’s main building. Fortunately for the market’s loyal customers, a temporary structure was soon up and running, and a new permanent building is under construction. Along with fresh produce, St. Jacobs is the perfect place to pick up items with a Mennonite flavour, including cheese, summer sausage, preserves and honey. If you’re feeling peckish, the apple fritters are a must-taste.

Keady Livestock/Farmers’ Market (Tuesdays, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.)

Located about 15 kilometres southwest of Owen Sound, Keady Livestock and Farmers’ Market combines regular livestock auctions with displays from more than 250 vendors selling fresh produce, baking, crafts, and antiques. Cages of chickens rub elbows with goats, ducks, and cows, giving the Keady Market a definite on-the-farm flair.

Gravenhurst Farmers’ Market (Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. until October 29)

The Gravenhurst Farmers’ Market, while seasonal, stays open further into the fall than other markets in Muskoka, which tend to close around Thanksgiving weekend. So if you’re closing up the cottage late this year, never fear: there’s still somewhere to get local produce, baking, and crafts even as the frost threatens. Attracting approximately 80,000 visitors each year, the Gravenhurst FM was voted best seasonal farmers’ market in 2001.

Haliburton County Farmers’ Market (Carnarvon: Friday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. until October 10; Haliburton: Tuesday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. until October 7)

 If you’re in the Haliburton highlands, you’re in luck: you’ve got two farmers’ markets to choose fromat least until Thanksgiving. Both markets feature live performances by a variety of buskers, as well as an all-season food or garden book exchange. Plus, don’t forget to check out the winners of the ongoing “oddest vegetable” contest.

Gore Bay Farmers’ Market (Fridays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. until October 10)

As the picture says on the Gore Bay Farmers’ Market Facebook page“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy local—and that’s kind of the same thing.” Vendors at the market are all local, with many family-run farms participating. While you’re there, pick up fresh Lake Huron fish from the Purvis Fisheries truck or a jar of haskap jam. (And if you’re not sure what haskaps are, well, it’s a great conversation starter.)

Carp Farmers’ Market (Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., May to October)

Contrary to its name, the Carp Farmers’ Market doesn’t sell fish. In reality, the market, located in the village of Carp, north of Kanata, is the largest producer-based farmers’ market in Eastern Ontario. Visit their website for a handy guide to what’s in season and for recipes to make use of all the bounty you’re bound to bring home. The market also runs an annual garlic festival in August, so pack breath mints for your visit.

Perth Farmers’ Market (Saturday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. until October 11)

The Perth Farmers’ Market is worth a visit just to take a look at its permanent home, which is a structure made from repurposed Ottawa bus shelters affectionately called the “Crystal Palace.” With live music, outdoor dining tables, and a wide range of vendors, the market is a good place to start a day wandering around Perth, a picturesque town on the Tay River that was voted the “Prettiest Town in Ontario” by TVOntario viewers in 2000.

Mountjoy Farmers’ Market (Timmins, Saturday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. until mid-October)

If you’re farther north than Muskoka, never fear—there’s still a farmers’ market to be found, right in downtown Timmins. Get there early, buy farm-fresh eggs and a loaf of fresh bread for breakfast, and you’re all set. If you want to spend a little more time, browse through the market’s selection of local art, including pottery and paintings. The market often has specialty items on sale for a limited time, like one vendor who sells birch syrup at the end of August.

What’s your favourite farmer’s market?

Milk safety, plain and simple

Canadian Dairy Farmers explain the safety of their milk, plain and simple

Most people only see the hype around food safety concerns and don’t think to perhaps go to the source and ask how food, in this case milk, is actually produced.

Click on the link to hear it from the farmer.

http://bit.ly/1mhWCyO

Renting Land can be a Legal nightmare!

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5 Big Misconceptions About Farmland Leasing

Jeff Caldwell10/08/2014 @ 7:18am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Whether you’re renting out your farmland or you’re leasing the land to farm yourself, today’s lower grain markets put a premium on reaching a fair agreement in which both sides of the deal will be able to make it work. Regardless of the agreement — cash rent, flexible rent, crop share, etc. — there are a few misconceptions that can sometimes damage what would otherwise be an amicable, fair deal.

The most important thing, one specialist says, is getting everything in writing. That may seem to be a foregone conclusion, but a lot of land deals are confirmed with a handshake, says University of Nebraska Extension ag law specialist David Aiken. So, get the deal down on paper and, in doing so, “spell out the rights and responsibilities before issues arise,” he says in a university report.

Here are five misconceptions Aiken says are common in land lease agreements. Look out for these whether you’re the landowner or lessor:

  1. Landlords can tell their tenants how to farm the land. “During the period of the lease, the tenant is in charge of how things are done on the farm, not the landlord. From a legal perspective, the tenant calls the shots unless the parties both agree otherwise,” Aiken says. “If the landlord wants to specify how it should be farmed, the best route to avoiding misunderstandings midseason may be to discuss farming practices and note them in a written lease.”
  2. Trespassing is still trespassing even if you own it. That’s right; even if you own the land but are leasing it out, you can be prosecuted for trespassing if you venture out on that ground without the lessor’s permission. This is one area where a written lease can be a huge asset. “Without a written lease, the landlord legally has the right to come onto rented land only to collect the rent and make repairs,” according to Aiken in a university report. “Otherwise, the landlord can come onto the property only with the tenant’s permission. Of course, the tenant would be pretty short-sighted to push this too hard.”
  3. Selling land and terminating leases. It’s commonly thought that if a parcel of land is sold to a new owner, any previously held leases are ended. Again, getting a lease down on paper is critical when this scenario unfolds, Aiken says. “If the landlord sells rented land, the new buyer is subject to any existing lease. And if the lease has not been legally terminated, the new buyer may be stuck with the tenant for one to two more years,” he says. “If the landlord sells the land, the tenant is not likely to give up the lease without being paid.”
  4. Raising rent. The new crop year for Aiken’s state of Nebraska, for example, is March 1. And, the state’s lease establishment deadline is September 1. After that date, the landlord cannot change rent “without the tenant’s agreement,” he says.
  5. Hunting on leased land. If you own it, don’t assume you can automatically go onto your land to hunt, which is common in many Plains and Corn Belt states. “Landlords can’t hunt on rented land unless the tenant agrees to it,” Aiken says.

It’s critical to make sure any considerations like these — especially those that can raise question and potentially cause disagreement between landowner and tenant — are well-thought out before any agreement is signed, especially when farm budgets are tight.

“Discussing these rights ahead of time and noting them in the lease can help avoid misunderstandings and keep landlord-tenant relations positive,” Aiken says. “While the savvy tenant often will accommodate the landlord’s interests in order to keep the lease, working from a written lease will benefit both parties.”

Is fall the best time to buy a cottage?

Is fall the best time to buy a cottage?

By Kim PittawayKim Pittaway

The Question

Is fall the best time to buy a cottage?

The Answer

It can be. “The season’s over and the seller might be more motivated to unload it because they don’t want to carry it through the winter,” says Christine Martysiewicz of Re/Max Ontario-Atlantic Canada. But is the price low enough to compensate for the fact that you’ll be carrying those costs for those first six or eight months when you likely won’t get much use from the property? “If there’s a lot of available product in the area, you have the luxury of saying ‘We’ll wait until spring, and if it’s still there, we’ll buy it. If not, there will be other properties to consider,’” says Martysiewicz.

There are reasons besides price to look in fall though, says Haliburton broker Anthony vanLieshout of Royal LePage Lakes of Haliburton brokerage. “I’ve always felt that fall’s the best time to buy,” he says. Many of the lakes in his area are reservoir lakes, where water levels drop two to nine feet in the fall. “You’ll get to see the shoreline at its most visible, and see what the low water level is like. And with the foliage coming off the trees, you’ll see the cottage’s privacy level when it’s at its worst.”

Land O’ Lakes broker Chris Winney of Royal LePage ProAlliance Realty tips towards spring. “It’s wet,” she says. “In my experience, water is one of the worst enemies of a cottage, and in spring, you’ll get a good sense of how dry the cottage stays.” You’ll also see how water-laden the ground itself gets.

And what about winter bargain hunters? “I get nervous when people buy in winter,” says Winney. “You can’t see the shoreline, and unless you or the agent know the property or have good photos of the shoreline, it’s hard to know what you’re getting.”

The top sources of noise pollution at the cottage

The top sources of noise pollution at the cottage

By Sara ChappelSara Chappel

Weed wacker

Photo by LUCARELLI TEMISTOCLE/Shutterstock.com

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When you climb out of the car once you get to the cottage, you can feel your shoulders relax straightaway, right? After all, leaving the chaos of city traffic, the roar of the highway, and the constant din of construction for the peace and quiet of cottage country is all you need to start feeling refreshed. That is, until your neighbour’s kids haul out the jet skis and start doing doughnuts just off your dock.

And then your other neighbour fires up her riding mower, complete with a blaring stereo, so she can hear the music.

And the local motorcycle club decides to hold a jamboree down the road.

And then you remember that you have to get out the chainsaw and cut up that fallen tree.

Yup, noise is a problem everywhere, even at the cottage. In fact, because noise carries across water, it can seem even worse if you’re on a lake or river.

Sound is measured in decibels, on a scale where the smallest audible sound is measured at 0 dB. And, just for comparison, conversational speech tends to be around 60 dB, background office noise clocks in at about 50 dB, and continuous exposure to sounds over 85 dB can cause hearing loss. Anything above 130 passes the threshold of pain.

Here are some of cottage country’s biggest noise offenders, along with some advice on what you can do to avoid becoming a noise nuisance yourself.

Stereo (70 dB, unless the volume is cranked up)

Everyone likes music, but not necessarily all the time, and when a Mozart enthusiast and a Metallica lover have side-by-side cottages, there may not be much common ground. Your neighbours shouldn’t be able to hear your music, period. If you’re not sure how loud it is, leave it on, stop by their place and have a listen—if you can hear it, it’s probably too loud. If you like to have music on while you’re sitting on your deck, at the very least, turn your speakers away from your neighbours’ cottage. If you’re planning a party, warn your neighbours in advance (better yet, invite them along) and make sure the music stops by at a reasonable hour—including singalongs.

Jet skis (80 dB)

In passby tests, jet skis are often quieter than motor boats, but because jet skis tend to consistently go at full throttle and stay in a limited space, they seem louder and, by extension, more annoying. If you enjoy bombing around your lake on a jet ski, keep well away from shore, stick to the local speed limit, and try not to stay in one spot for long periods of time. Also, allowing your jet ski to warm up a little first can help reduce noise.

Motor boats (70-100 dB, depending on speed)

Motor boats get louder the faster they go, which means, unlike jet skis, they tend to be the noisiest out on open water. For both noise issues and safety purposes, make sure you’re not going full-throttle close to shore. Also, keep your exhaust system in good repair, and make sure your engine is running at the right RPM—anything higher than 4,800 RPM and you should get a prop with a higher pitch. Finally, if your boat is made of fibreglass, it’s going to be noisier than if it’s made of sound-absorbing wood.

Power lawnmower (90 dB), weed whacker (92 dB), snowblower (106 dB) chainsaw (110 dB)  

Work needs to get done, even at the cottage, but it goes without saying that early-morning engine revving isn’t appreciated by anyone. Of course, “early” is relative, so have a conversation with your neighbours about when your work would bug them least. Consider working for an hour, then taking some time off so the cottages around you don’t get eight straight hours of noise. For your own good, wear hearing protection while you’re working—most power tools operate at a noise threshold that can cause hearing loss with continued exposure.

Most noise complaints can be nipped in the bud with a little consideration and a whole lot of communication. After all, we’re all at the cottage to enjoy ourselves.

What techniques have you used to deal with noise at your cottage?