Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Proud Members of Team Tinfoil

The residents of Pacific Gardens are proud members of Team Tinfoil - a term coined by a reporter to describe those beleaguered B.C. citizens opposed to the installation of Smart Meters in their homes.

We are among the 85,000 B.C. Hydro customers who have refused the meters, despite threats, bullying, and scare tactics from the Corix installer who first visited us a little more than a year ago.

If you follow the link below, you can read the news story about our first encounter with Corix (you'll also see a picture of Susana, looking uncharacteristically glum, standing in front of our current meters be-decked with refusal letters).

Nanaimo News Bulletin - Nanaimo co-housing residents block smart-meter installation

I am personally not convinced of all the claims for health risks cited by opponents of the meters, and as a green-weenie, I think it's a good idea for people to pay more for hydro if its gets them to reduce their electricity usage.

But I am concerned about the evidence in peer-reviewed medical journals that there are negative effects on brain development in children from electromagnetic devices. And that's good enough for me, especially as we have several young children living here.

Why not exercise the precautionary principle in the light of this evidence?  And why not take these concerns seriously, instead of castigating those who rightly want to have a choice in the matter?

So, when the Smart Meter installer showed up again at the entrance of Pacific Gardens last week, he was politely turned away by one of our young mothers, and the Tinfoil Team once again swung into action.

We wrote another refusal letter, which we sent to B.C. Hydro, Corix, the leaders of all three political parties, the chief medical officer of health, the health  and energy ministers, and the opposition critics for health and energy.

We also developed a plan for alerting residents if the installer came again, and determined what our best response would be. Team Tinfoil was absolutely determined that these meters would not be installed in our building.

However, it now seems that the B.C. government has bowed to public pressure.  The Minister of Energy has issued a statement saying that home-owners will not be forced to accept Smart Meters.

B.C. Hydro also issued a statement saying it will not install Smart Meters without the customer's permission, but this is just for now, as Hydro wants to take extra time "to work with customers who still have concerns."

So the Tinfoil Team at Pacific Gardens will not be disbanded yet, and when B.C. Hydro comes to call, we will be ready with our questions.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wet Winter Wonderland

For those of you reading this from outside Canada, there is something you need to know about our Canadian winters.

You have only two choices - to be freeze-dried, like the folks in Winnipeg (or Winterpeg, as it's fondly known), or soaked, like those of us living on the Wet Coast.

It's January and a wet winter wonderland on Vancouver Island.  That means fog, damp, wind, drizzle, showers, downpours, rain, heavy rain and grey skies,  plus all the accoutrements to deal with it.

Dripping jackets hanging in the hall closet, heaps of muddy boots at the door, and umbrellas everywhere - drying in the living-room, hanging from a railing, left on the bus, or abandoned in a flower-bed after a particularly gusty day.

It also means every day after school there's a roaring horde of energetic children running up and down our inner atriums safe and dry while the usual winter monsoons pelt down rain by the bucketful outside.

Now you would think that living in this soggy, sunless climate would tend to make us gloomy at this time of year.  It does, a bit, but not for long.

That's because we know it will soon change.  Unlike the rest of Canada, here spring starts showing itself early, and in anticipation of that, our Seedy Saturday events are usually held the first weekend of February.

In another four weeks we will see  the wild violets growing on the hillside leading down to the river at the bottom of the Pacific Gardens property, with snowdrops and crocuses in our gardens.

By  mid-March it could be warm enough - and certainly windy enough - to start hanging the wash on the umbrella clothesline outside my window, although I may need extra clothespins to keep everything firmly fastened.

So, eat your heart out, the rest of Canada - it may be soggy out here, but at least it ain't snowing, and pretty soon we may even see some sunshine!


Inspired by Kathryn's post, I (Judy) wanted to jump in and share some photos of past springs on the "Wet Coast."  As Kathryn said, we know this is all just around the corner for Coastal British Columbians.

Here is a photo of daffodils, taken in a friend's yard on Thetis Island in February 2010:

Next is a photo of my husband, Greg, with our kayaks on Pylades Island in February 2012:

Below, our kayaks are JUST visible on the beach on Penelakut (formerly Kuper) Island in March 2012 -- with a broad-leafed evergreen green tree, the ubiquitous Arbutus, in the foreground.  After 27 years in Calgary, the broad-leafed evergreens are one of my joys on the BC Coast.  Spectacular as the Rocky Mountains are, they have no broad-leafed evergreens or vines.

The next photo shows our windbreak on that beach on Penelakut Island in March.  It was a bright, but breezy, day.  Yet, behind the shelter of our windbreak, we were able to strip down to our T-shirts and soak up the sun.

Greg went beach combing on the Penelakut shore.  Not only did he return with a bunch of daffodils that he'd picked from the edge of the forest, but he'd also found a "vase" in which to arrange them -- an empty pop can.  

While our temporary windbreak suited our immediate needs on the beach, Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community has a permanent windbreak (and rain shelter!) in the form of the glass-covered atriums to which Kathryn referred.  You can see the North Atrium being put to good use in Myriam's photos of the 2012 Winter Solstice celebrations   .

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mouse in da house

Eeek - we have mice at Pacific Gardens!  Actually, we've always had mice at Pacific Gardens, so you can get off the kitchen chair now.

It's only that we have just become aware as a community that we have several of the little critters living with us.

Folks here were happily - or unhappily as the case may be - dealing with them on an individual basis, before they found out that this was a collective problem.

As usual, we were alerted to it by an e-mail from our intrepid Mia. "I have the distinct feeling that our building is over run with mice. Mice getting ready for a mating spring ritual with babies, " she wrote.

"We need an all out response to get rid of those lovely little creatures and send some to heaven, wherever that may be."

And as usual, that resulted in a flood of e-mail responses.  It seems the mice had infiltrated almost everywhere, all the way to the top floor and down again.

I learned more about mice demise than I had ever learned before.  With traps - wood, dollar store or sticky?  (Wood not good; dollar store effective; sticky effective but icky.)

Peanut butter or cheese?  And when and where to place the tempting tidbits?  One strategy was to place them on a trap a couple of nights in a row before setting them.

Others swore by the mousing ability of cats.  Michelle offered the loan of her feline friend, whose favourite nighttime pastime was capturing the pesky rodents.

Then the heavy-hitters from the Building and Maintenance (known as BAM) weighed in.  People should clean more, keep food in containers, block off all holes where they may enter.

Chad pointed out that while preventative measures were good, they obviously hadn't worked. And since we believed in shared resources, we should buy good traps and loan them out.

The debate raged on while the mice played and people at PGCC borrowed cats, filled holes, bought containers for food, and became fanatic crumb-sweeper-uppers.

The final words of wisdom came from our elder Doris. "I think that mice are a fact of life, at least when you have all the close to nature features that we are so proud to show to prospective residents.

"People who live in the country have always had to use both prevention and control.  But all control measures have their limitations and neither prevention nor control can ever succeed completely.

"We just have to be watchful and use all reasonable measures in their proper context."

And my view of the solution to the mice conundrum? I'm not sure. I don't have any mice in my unit - yet!


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Artistically litter-free at PGCC!

John tries out our new art bin!

If you drive by Pacific Gardens, you'll see something different attached to the traffic sign at the entrance to our driveway - a brightly-coloured garbage can.

This is a gift to our community from the friendly folks of the South End Community Association, and it's designed to reduce litter in the neighbourhood.

The idea of providing the colourful garbage cans - or art bins as they're known - was dreamed up by an imaginative SECA member. If people had something to put garbage in, she reasoned, they wouldn't drop it on the ground.

And if the bins were funky and attractive, with designs made by anyone who wanted to paint them, they might even become a fashionable household accessory.

Turned out she was right.  The bins have become so popular that even people from Nanaimo's posh north end are clamouring to buy them.  But they're not for sale.

In return for giving an art bin a home, which comes fully-equipped with a chain, lock, and free garbage bags, all you have to do is take care of it and dispose of the garbage once it's full.

Our art bin is particularly special, because it was done by a youth group as a service project, and has a striking colour scheme - as you can see in the photo.

We're hoping that in addition to bringing a splash of colour to the grey days of winter, the art bin will also spiff up our section of  Seventh Street, and start a clean street trend!


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Car Catastophes at Pacific Gardens

I don't know what it is about Pacific Gardens that makes cars blow up, die,or have nervous breakdowns, but they do, on a frustratingly regular basis.

Now, you'd think with all us environmentalists living here, that wouldn't be such a big deal.  We'd all get the bus or ride bicycles or use some other form of green-weenie transportation.

Alas, Nanaimo is almost impossible to get around in without automotive wheels.  The transit system here is, as I've noted before, one of the worst in B.C., if not Canada.

Our city rivals San Francisco in its hills, and since much of the road engineering was done in the early days of its history, there are gradients that I'm sure would not be permitted today.

Add to that a rainy climate, a community dominated by widely-separated shopping malls, and a car is an evil necessity.

That can be real problem if your vehicle packs it in, as it did for three different sets of people at Pacific Gardens, including two families with working parents who travel all over the city and the island for their jobs.

But this is the great thing about living here.  One of the families put out a call for assistance when their car felt poorly, and had to go their auto mechanic to get fixed.

Then another family's van - purchased only a year ago, after their first one went to car heaven - died.  How were they going to get the kids to and from their French immersion school in another part of the city?

After just one e-mail, they each immediately got offers of rides and car keys from their neighbours who were happy to lend their vehicles to help them out.

I'm lucky enough to have a reliable old car that gets me from point A to B, but it's good to know that if it ever conks out, or I decide I shouldn't drive any more, there will be friendly neighbours willing to give me a ride.