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Winter

We’ve been enjoying amazingly warm temperatures for the time of year, but sadly that’s coming to an end this weekend. So I figured it was time to update my winter prep post from 2013. As I pointed out back then, I don’t remember ever making any special preparations for winter when I lived in England. But here it’s a very different story! If this is your first winter in Canada, here are some of the things you might need to think about.

Snow removal
Get those shovels ready by the front door and if you own one, make sure your snow blower is working. Be prepared for icy windshields (windscreens) and have an ice scraper ready. You’ll also want a container of ice melter to make your paths less treacherous to walk on. You may prefer to hire someone to clear your snow. If so, start looking early as many people who offer this service are fully booked very quickly. I’ve been lucky enough to find someone local to take of our plowing the last few years. As we have a gravel yard, after the first major snowfall we drive back and forth over the snow to pack it down and make it easier for plowing. We didn’t do this the first time we used our snow blower and we had gravel flying everywhere! If you live in a rented apartment, snow clearing should be taken care of for you. And if you get little or no snow where you live, feel free to  ignore this section!

Digging out: my first Canadian winter

Digging out: my first Canadian winter

Keep warm inside…
Have your heating system inspected and serviced. Heating contractors get very busy at this time of year. Our propane contractor told us he’s just done 60 installations in one month! This is probably people switching over from oil heat, as we did in September. We live in a rural area without natural gas.

and outside…
Dig out the winter coats, boots, scarves, gloves, thermals… If you don’t own any (or can’t find them!), prepare for a shopping trip. It’ll soon be time to bundle up.

Getting around…
Winter vehicle maintenance is extremely important. Have your winter vehicle fitted with proper winter tires. I was late calling to make an appointment for a tire change this year so I’ll be negotiating a week or so of winter weather with my summer tires. Check tire pressure, oil levels and make sure your windshield washer fluid is winter grade. You’ll get through a lot of this very quickly. Also consider fitting your vehicle out with an emergency kit: food supplies, blankets, flashlights (torches), emergency flares, plus a shovel and tow rope in case you ever need to dig yourself out. If your area has really cold temperatures and you have to park your car outside, check to see if your vehicle is fitted with a block heater. You can plug this into an electrical outlet overnight to help protect the engine and make your vehicle easier to start. My car is housed in a heavy duty canvas garage, but I still plug in. And if I’m going to be at home for a while and not driving anywhere, which usually happens over the Christmas vacation, I run the car engine every other day to try and avoid flat batteries.

Winter driving

Don’t try and drive anywhere when it’s like this! (Insane British tourists near Algonquin Park, winter 2004)


…or staying parked

If you have vehicles you don’t plan to drive this winter, call your insurance company to remove the collision portion of the insurance. Then it’s time to “winterize” them. This also applies for garden equipment such as lawn mowers. If you still have gas (petrol) in the tank, add some fuel stabilizer such as Stabil, which you can buy at Canadian Tire and other auto stores. Remove vehicle batteries or keep them on a trickle charge. There’s nothing worse than trying to start up your pride and joy in the spring only to discover the battery is flat.

Outdoor clean-up
Clear any supplies from outside that might not survive the cold temperatures– car cleaning products, deck stain, paint etc. I’m no gardener, but I notice that lots of people protect their trees and shrubs with burlap or special tree wrap. I’ve also seen temporary “screens” used to shield trees that are close to the road.

And once all this is done, put your feet up, grab a Bailey’s and give yourself a well-earned break. Now you can start planning for the spring!

Here in Northern Ontario, we’ve had record temperatures for November! In past years there would usually have been snow on the ground by now and we’d be settling into the long winter. But last weekend I was on the road with my husband in our Corvette, for our final trip of the year.

20161106_122258

We took one of our favourite scenic routes via Field, stopping off for a quick peek inside Marten River Provincial Park. Sadly it’s all closed up for the season now, so we parked by the gate and had a quick stroll down to the water.

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Then it was on to one of our regular eating spots – Average Joe’s, overlooking Trout Lake in North Bay. It was beautiful looking out onto the water with the sun streaming in. I had delicious flatbread with roasted veggies (with enough to take home for Monday’s lunch!) followed up by a “Peppermint Patty”–peppermint schnapps with hot chocolate. Mmm!

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The next day we managed to fit in a final car wash before putting the vette away for the winter. So this year for once I’m actually fairly organised and have most of my winter prep jobs done before the snow and freezing temperatures arrive! There’s nothing worse than fumbling with numb fingers to finish outdoor jobs in below zero. Sadly I’m less organised with Christmas gifts as I’ve missed the surface mail deadline for Europe by a long way.

Now Hallowe’en is over and the clocks have gone back, we’re full swing into the Christmas season. Sudbury has its annual Santa Claus parade coming up–always held in November to avoid the worst of the weather. Plus there’s the Festival of Lights at Science North. I hope to get to at least one of these events this year. We also have many local craft fairs, ideal for gift hunting.

As an immigrant, it can definitely take a while to adjust to the shifting seasons and the change in routine this brings. But I’ve found that learning about and participating in those seasonal rituals and traditions is part of what makes you start to feel really at home here. More than ever, I feel very lucky to be living in Canada. If you’re reading this and interested in moving here, but have no idea where to start, please get in touch. I’m happy to try and help point you in the right direction.

How was your Christmas? Mine was green! For the first time since I moved to Northern Ontario in 2005, there was no snow on Christmas Day and no ice on the lakes.

Dec. 25th. It's green!

Dec. 25th: Christmas Day at the beach.

 

Canadian Tire was getting desperate...

Canadian Tire was getting really desperate to shift that winter merchandise. But they didn’t have to worry for long…

"Betty" in the snow

Dec 29th: “Betty” in the snow.

 

Yes, winter is back… and I’m sitting here at 3:00 in the afternoon wondering if the City will ever be around to plow my road today*. I’m on vacation this week, but regardless I don’t think I’d have been making it into work today.

So I was really interested to read about “Track My Plow,” a service that currently operates in the Owen Sound, Simcoe, and Huntsville areas of Ontario–all prime snow belt territory. Just click on the map and follow a plow along its route! The service is still in test mode, but the plan is to expand it province-wide eventually.

The downside is that this only tracks plows on provincially maintained highways and not your local city streets. But if the technology is already there, why not track local plows too? Real-time information on bus services is now available for example, so I don’t see why we couldn’t have information on local plow routes. It would remove so much uncertainty and allow people to plan their days a little better.

If you’re setting out on a long journey, as many people are at this time of year, it’s well worth checking road conditions and possible road closures before you leave. The Ontario Ministry of Transport provides Ontario 511, a telephone service and Twitter feed with updates on latest conditions.

Not in Ontario? Check the road conditions for your province:

Alberta

B.C.

Manitoba

Nova Scotia

Quebec

Saskatchewan

*It eventually showed up at 4:00!

I really did my best to pretend it wasn’t going to happen, but I can’t put it off any longer. Winter is starting to make itself felt here in Northern Ontario with temperatures already below freezing at night and a few snowflakes in the air. There have been  lots of winter prep jobs to do. It’s always a little sad taking down our Canadian flag for the season. But let’s look on the positive side! This winter there will be…

Less snow to clear*
Arranging snow removal can be a difficult business. But our snow plow contractor from last year has already contacted me, so our yard will be taken care of, leaving me with just the deck and steps to clear.
*But probably not less snow :)

All the fun of winter driving

All the fun of winter driving

Money saved
Starting in 2016, Ontario drivers will qualify for a reduction in their car insurance premiums if they have winter tires fitted on their vehicle. My husband has always been insistent that we have winter tires for better safety, so we’ve used them every winter, and I think it’s well worth the investment. I was curious to see how much this would actually save us on our insurance premiums, so had my research assistant (my husband) call up the Cooperators. On our policy that costs about $1000.00 a year, we can expect to save $57.00. Not a huge amount, but every bit helps.

And extra sleep!
This Sunday morning, at least. The clocks go back one hour in all Canadian provinces except for most of Saskatchewan, which doesn’t make the switch to daylight savings time. There are also a few communities in B.C., Northwestern Ontario, Quebec, and Nunavut, that skip the change. Judging by most of the comments on this CBC article, most Canadians would be quite happy to follow them.

How do you feel about Canadian winters?

I don’t remember ever making any special preparations for winter when I lived in England. Here it’s a very different story. Cold temperatures arrived early in Northern Ontario this year, with nights dropping to almost freezing in Sudbury by mid September. No! It’s too early! This has meant that I’m making my winter preparation task list much earlier than normal. If this is your first winter in Canada, here are a few things you might need to think about.

Snow removal
Get those shovels ready by the front door and if you own one, make sure your snow blower is working. I was caught out last year, so this year I had some my snow blower in the shop in August! Icy windshields (windscreens) were back last week and of course I couldn’t find my ice scraper. You’ll also want a container of ice melter to make your paths less treacherous to walk on. You may prefer to hire someone to clear your snow. If so, start looking early as many people who offer this service are fully booked. If you live in a rented apartment, this may be taken care of for you. And if you get little or no snow where you live, feel free to  ignore this section!

Digging out: my first Canadian winter

Digging out: my first Canadian winter

Keep warm inside…
Have your heating system inspected and serviced. Heating contractors get very busy at this time of year. I’m still waiting to hear back from our regular contractor. Not so many people service oil furnaces now, so I’m hoping I don’t have to look for someone else.

and outside…
Dig out the winter coats, boots, scarves, gloves, thermals… If you don’t own any (or can’t find them!), prepare for a shopping trip. It’ll soon be time to bundle up.

Getting around…
Winter vehicle maintenance is extremely important. Have your winter vehicle fitted with proper winter tires. Check tire pressure, oil levels and make sure your windshield washer fluid is winter grade. You’ll get through a lot of this very quickly. Also consider fitting your vehicle out with an emergency kit: food supplies, blankets, flashlights (torches), emergency flares, plus a shovel and tow rope in case you ever need to dig yourself out. If your area has really cold temperatures and you have to park your car outside, check to see if your vehicle is fitted with a block heater. You can plug this into an electrical outlet overnight to avoid problems with your car not starting the next day.

Winter driving

Don’t try and drive anywhere when it’s like this! (Insane British tourists near Algonquin Park, winter 2004)


…or staying parked

If you have vehicles you don’t plan to drive this winter, call your insurance company to remove the collision portion of the insurance. Then it’s time to “winterize” them. This also applies for garden equipment such as lawn mowers. If you still have gas (petrol) in the tank, add some fueld stabilizer such as Stabil, which you can buy at Canadian Tire and other auto stores. Remove vehicle batteries or keep them on a trickle charge. There’s nothing worse than trying to start up your pride and joy in the spring only to discover the battery is flat.

Outdoor clean-up
Clear any supplies from outside that might not survive the cold temperatures– car cleaning products, deck stain, paint etc. I’m no gardener, but I notice that lots of people protect their trees and shrubs with burlap or special tree wrap. I’ve also seen temporary “screens” used to shield trees that are close to the road.

And once all this is done, put your feet up and give yourself a well-earned break. Now you can start planning for the spring!