It’s the May long weekend, the beginning of cottage/camping/boating season, and for once the weather has cooperated! Everything is greening up here and there’s plenty of wildlife out and about in my garden: a grouse, fox, and rabbits (and blackflies… ). Not to mention the squirrel that’s found a way into the house more than once. We’re still trying to work out where it’s getting in.
And this week, for the first time since we moved here 11 years ago, we had a visit from a black bear. We’ve seen them before at a safe distance away, but never so close to the house. I instantly had visions of bear claws ripping through screens and destroying my screen room. But no–this bear just ambled around to the front of the house and settled down under the washing line to chew some grass. We watched him for a little while (safely from inside), then my husband figured he’d better yell at the bear to move it on–and it obligingly did so. No return visits–so far…
Our house is in the country and surrounded by crown land. So it’s not that much of a surprise that a bear would find its way into our yard. But with so much new construction taking place on what was previously green space, bear sightings can also be a concern if you live in more built-up areas in town. So it’s good to be aware of some of the “bear wise” basics:
Always clean up your barbecue thoroughly
Keep your garbage stored securely, and only take it to the curb the morning of collection, not the night before.
Don’t leave bird food–or pet food–outside during bear season.
For more information, including what to do if you encounter a bear, read the updated advice on the Ontario government web site. Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry no longer traps and relocates bears. So residents here are now instructed to call the police if a bear is displaying threatening behavior. Guidelines vary across the different provinces, but most have similar “Bear Wise” programs, such as Alberta BearSmart.
I’m happy that my screen room stayed intact as I plan on spending plenty of time in there during this beautiful sunny long weekend, as well as visiting Windy Lake Provincial Park. Hopefully I won’t encounter any bears!
Spring may have officially arrived on March 20, but it’s not felt too spring-like here until this week. Now the last stubborn patches of snow have vanished, most of the ice has melted on the lakes, and it looks like warmer temperatures are finally here! So it’s time to start working though the springtime checklist. Always more fun than prepping for winter, here’s a quick run-down of some of the things to consider.
Hopefully you put winter tires on your vehicle. Once the daytime temperature is consistently seven degrees or more, it’s time to switch them out for summer tires. This is also a good opportunity to book a service and oil change on your vehicle. After negotiating all the new pot holes that appear each spring in Sudbury, our car always needs a bit of TLC. Not sure if your tires are still roadworthy? Canadian Tire has a helpful guide.
It’s time to bring out the lawnmower and put away the snow blower. Follow any recommended maintenance tasks, and if your mower has a battery it’ll need a charge after being stored all winter.
If you have vehicles you use just during summer, you’ll need to add collision coverage back on your insurance policy and check that the batteries are in working order. The May long weekend is traditionally the time to get your “summer toys” back on the road. But we were always impatient to get out in our Corvette or camper van as early as possible! Here we were camping at Killarney Park in March 2010.
Snow plows can leave your yard looking the worse for wear. Now is the time to remove all the sand off your lawn, or hire someone else to do it if you can. If you have a gravel driveway or yard like I do, the worst spring task is clearing all that gravel that’s been thrown up onto the grass . Well, maybe not the worst…. I’m a former dog owner after all
You may want to start planning your garden. It’s a little early here for planting, although the temporary garden centres at the grocery stores are almost ready to open up for business. If this is your first year in Canada, it’s a good time to take stock of your new yard and landscape. I’m not much of a gardener, but I like to have a few hanging baskets and pots around the place. If you’re a newbie Canadian gardener, Canadian Gardening is a helpful resource.
Be prepared for the bugs. I’ve already heard our annual frog chorus late at night, so I know the bugs won’t be too long in arriving. Check your supplies of repellent and anti-bite. Deet repellents are the only ones I’ve found to be effective around here, although there’s a wide range of alternatives to try.
If you’re thinking of putting up a gazebo or temporary screen room, now is a good time to work on that. We had a permanent screen room built last year, and I have to say I’m so happy we made that decision. Once the warm temperatures hit, dust down that patio furniture and barbecue (I still don’t have one!), set up your deck for the season, and treat yourself to a well-earned drink.
Unusually for Canada, we’ve been much in the international news over the last couple of weeks. Justin Trudeau with those pandas, then his visit to the US. Not to mention the huge spike in “Move to Canada” searches from Americans scared at the impending prospect of a Trump presidency. (I’m with you on that one!)
Here at home, there were plenty of splashy headlines about the Liberals’ new changes to immigration. More immigrants to be welcomed this year and a more open, more pro-immigration attitude. This is reflected in the ministry name change from “Citizenship and Immigration Canada” to “Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada.” But how does this impact on economic immigrants, on those of you stuck in the Express Entry pool. Will any of these changes have a positive effect for you?
For 2016, the government is planning to bring in up to around 300,000 new permanent residents. This would be a 7.4% increase on 2015 levels. However, the emphasis is firmly on family reunification. So less than half of that number are expected to be economic immigrants. Targets are set at 58,400 for skilled worker categories (Federal skilled worked, Skilled trades, and Canadian Experience), plus 26,200 via the Quebec skilled worker stream. And 47,800 via provincial nominee programs.
A couple of measures that will be of interest. If you’ve applied through Express Entry and have a brother or sister already in Canada, you’ll now qualify for extra points. The new rules also help if you have older children as the maximum age for dependent children is now 22 instead of 19.
So it seems that now more than ever, Express Entry applicants will need plenty of patience and persistence, not to mention that all-important job offer. You can find full details of all the changes at the CIC site (which hasn’t caught up to their name change yet) as well as a breakdown of 2016 targets for each immigration stream.
To finish on a more cheerful note, have a look at the stunning site that’s been put together by radio announcer, Rob Calabrese. (Story here.) And be warned: if you weren’t already thinking of moving to Nova Scotia, after watching this video you might just change your mind!
I’m usually fairly organised when it comes to planning for birthdays and other special days. But Mother’s Day–or Mothering Sunday if you prefer–is the one that always seems to sneak up on me. While Father’s Day in June falls on the same date whether you’re in the UK or Canada, the UK Mother’s Day (March 6th this year) is usually a good 2 months ahead of the Canadian one (May 8th in 2016). And unsurprisingly you won’t find it marked on any North American calendars, or see any coverage in the Canadian media.
Locating Mother’s Day cards this early (especially in Northern Ontario) is a challenge. Thankfully my local Hallmark store has always come to the rescue so far, and choosing between the 4 or 5 different designs never takes very long Postage has become so expensive here that I’ve recently started researching ecards too. Blue Mountain has some fun designs. They offer a free trial and inexpensive membership.
Whether you’re with your Mum this Mother’s Day, or celebrating across the miles, hope it’s a special day.
Are you planning to fly into Canada this year? If so, don’t forget to check whether you’ll need an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA). These come into force from March 25th and will affect you if you’re traveling from a visa-exempt country.
Express Entry a year old
Did you submit an Express Entry profile in 2015? If a year has gone by since you sent it in, you have 60 days in which to re-submit your application. Any longer than that and you’ll have to send in a completely new application. The number of ITAs (invitations to apply) seems to have stayed fairly static at around 3000 per month. However, the good news is that the points requirement seems to have been steadily dropping over recent months and is now down to 453 points as of the last round of invitations on January 13th.
Home down payments
If you’re close to finalising your move (congratulations on getting this far!), you’ll want to be aware of upcoming changes in house down payment rules. Up until now, it’s been possible to buy a house in Canada with as little as a 5% down payment, but from February 15th, anyone buying a home costing over $500k will be required to place a 10% down payment on the portion of the purchase above $500k. The remainder will still require only 5%.
So what does this mean if you’re a new immigrant trying to get established in the Canadian housing market? The good news is that most prospective buyers won’t be affected. However, if you’re trying to get on the housing ladder in Toronto or Vancouver, it will have an impact. In these over-heated markets the average price for a detached house is hitting $1 million, compared to $455,000 for the rest of Canada. Here’s a currently listed million dollar house in Vancouver. Hard to believe, I know…
Or maybe some million dollar condo living in Toronto is more your style?
As usual I got distracted looking at house listings Hopefully when it comes to buying your new Canadian home, you won’t be having to look in the million dollar bracket.
With the new Liberal government now getting into its stride, and big challenges for the economy, it could be an interesting year in Canada. Look out for more changes ahead in 2016!
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.
Canadian Tire was getting really desperate to shift that winter merchandise. But they didn’t have to worry for long…
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:
*It eventually showed up at 4:00!
I like to sneak in a food post now and again, as it seems that food is my main obsession in life I’ve written before about the delicious pies my husband makes at Christmas. For Thanksgiving, I tried out Dreena Burton’s Festive chickpea tart, complete with traditional cranberry sauce. I loved this so much I’ll be making more to serve up again at Christmas, this time with my favourite, easy gravy from Robin Robertson’s Vegetarian meat & potatoes book.
For snacks and gifts, I’ve made up a big batch of Dreena Burton’s softly spiced nuts recipe (from Eat, drink and be vegan). I’ve always had good comments about these and make them every year – usually several times as they never last very long. And as an alternative to cookies, I tried out Angela Liddon’s famous “Glo Bars”, included in her Oh She Glows cookbook. These were definitely a success. I’m also thinking of trying to make a tunis cake. Tunis cake was always (and still is) part of my family’s Christmas, but I’ve never been able to find them here. So it’ll be fun to try and recreate it.
Of course not everyone will be into my plan for a veggie Christmas dinner A typical Christmas meal in Canada would be turkey with all the trimmings. Canadian Living has a guide to cooking a classic Canadian Christmas menu. Or you could try a menu with more of a French-Canadian flavour, courtesy of Chatelaine magazine. And if you’ve ever watched Christmas Vacation (a Christmas Eve tradition in our house!) and wondered what eggnog is, find out here or here for a egg/dairy-free version.
However you’re celebrating, and whatever you’re eating over the holidays– Happy Christmas!
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
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?
My relatives flew back to England last weekend after a two-week stay. Previous family visits have always involved camping or cottages, but this time we stayed home and enjoyed some Northern Ontario day trips. It being September, we weren’t sure what to expect weather-wise, but we had almost constant sunshine and temperatures into the 20s, at least at the beginning of the fortnight. Here are some of our holiday highlights.
We decided to visit Huntsville to show my Mum-in-law “the Christmas shop”–i.e. Christmas Thyme–and it didn’t disappoint. She enjoyed browsing all the Christmas trinkets and had her picture taken next to a big snowman. It was sad to see though that yet another cottage country restaurant has been taken over by Boston Pizza. The drive along Hwy 3 between Rosseau and Huntsville was really fun and there were pockets of countryside where the leaves had changed colour more than in Sudbury, which was surprising.
We’d never made it to Manitoulin Island with my husband’s family on previous visits, so were determined to get there this time. We made our usual lunch stop at the Anchor Grill in Little Current, where they were in the process of taking down their patio – a sad sight! From there we went on to one of my favourite places on the Island–Kagawong. Normally when we stop at the Bridal Veil Falls there are perhaps one or two cars in the car park. But this was the day when everyone had decided to visit and the place was heaving! Manitoulin Chocolate Works was also on the agenda and–being pretty much the only place open still open on a Sunday afternoon– was doing a brisk trade in coffees.
We took our favourite route to North Bay, which involves a short detour north via Field. This is a great route for anyone who likes their road trips a little twisty with lots of lakes to enjoy. Plus, this being a little further north, the colours were amazing.
Average Joes was awarded meal of the holiday. We decimated our huge portions (Yes, I’m addicted to sweet potato fries…) and lingered at our table after eating, enjoying the view over Trout Lake. Here too, it was patio dismantling time. After a browse round the mall for a little early Christmas shopping, we braved the strong breeze on the waterfront. Bizarrely, the Chief Commanda II had been “parked” for the season, so no fall boat cruises available to enjoy the colours at their peak.
We finished the vacation by watching “Men with Brooms,” a Canadian comedy starring a young Paul Gross and Leslie Nielsen. And filmed in and around Sudbury! I first watched this back in England when it was first released, so it was fun to see it again all these years later. I’m still none the wiser about curling though
It was great to have the opportunity to be a tourist again for a few days and I’m now looking forward to the long weekend and hopefully a little more touring and exploring.
I can’t believe it’s already September. And with the new college semester just underway, family arriving for a visit in less than two weeks, plus negotiating the installation of a new well pipe, it’s definitely a busy time!
The arrival of fall is always a mixed bag: that “back to school” feeling, cooler temperatures, and starting to think ahead to winter prep. jobs. But it’s also the beginning of Canada’s most beautiful season: time to plan some fall drives or hikes and pick the best places to view those spectacular fall colours.
Here in Northern Ontario, I’m spoilt for choice – it’s just a short drive to Killarney Park, French River, Manitoulin Island, AY Jackson Falls, Muskoka… In Ontario, Algonquin Park is probably the most renowned–and the busiest!–spot to see the colours, and is one of the places highlighted by The Weather Network for prime fall colour viewing. Outside of Ontario, their recommendations include Gros Morne National Park and the Cabot Trail, both of which appear on my Top Ten Places I’d like to visit list. Maybe next fall!