Sault Ste. Marie News | Latest Local Headlines | Sault This Week
Steelworker donations in 2020 total $233K
Sault Ste. Marie and area United Steelworkers locals donated $232,576 to various charities in 2020. Among the charities to benefit are Algoma District School Board’s and Huron Superior Catholic Board’s breakfast programs, ARCH, Pauline’s Place, Royal Canadian Legion, Sault Area Hospital, Soup Kitchen, The Twinkie Foundation, St. Vincent Place and Women in Crisis, says a media release. USW also offered members eight courses despite the pandemic in 2020. The courses included stewards training, financial officers training, mental health (offered through Prevention Link) and Unionism on Turtle Island. The eight does not include union orientation courses presented by the locals at various workplaces. District 6 co-ordinator Marc Ayotte says in the release, “Going forward, in addition to serving our members, the Steelworkers will continue to help local charities and organizations in the community. Serving our members involves more than just their jobs. It also involves trying to improve things that affect the day to day lives of our members and their loved ones.” From a media release
Landfill, hazardous waste depot open
The current Ontario-wide lockdown hasn’t affected Sault Ste. Marie waste and recycling collection, nor will it halt normal spring operations. The city’s Household Hazardous Waste Depot has opened for the season Tuesday to Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., says a media release from the Public Works and Engineering Department. Items such as paint, varnishes, pesticides, pool chemicals, drain cleaners, motor oil, antifreeze, propane cylinders and electronics are accepted. For a complete list of acceptable waste visit www.saultstemarie.ca/hhw. All services provided by the Hazardous Waste Depot are free of charge to Algoma District residents and no gate fee is charged. The landfill at 402 Fifth Line East is open for the season. Hours are Monday to Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A gate fee of $11 applies to all loads. Visit www.saultstemarie.ca/landfill for more information. Security will be on-site enforcing social distancing and public health recommendations including mandatory mask wearing, for the safety of staff and visitors. Expect vehicle lineups as space at drop-off bins is being limited, the release says. Leaf and yard waste begins Monday, May 3 for Collection A and Monday, May 10 for Collection B. To view the Leaf and Yard Waste Collection calendar visit www.saultstemarie.ca/collectioncalendar. From a media release
What can you plant in early spring?
It is such an early spring, with beautifully mild weather, that everyone is itching to plant. A word of caution though: be sure your soil has dried up enough to be workable before thinking about getting your hands in the dirt. If your vegetable garden is dry enough, add compost to get the area ready for planting. We are going to still see frost and maybe even some snow. It is just too early to put tender plants and seeds into the garden, so focus on cold hardy crops. I always get questions about planting strawberries and asparagus. Since both crops are hardy perennials, and will be a permanent part of your garden, take time to plan before planting. Planting a row of asparagus is an investment in the future. You will be starting with bare root crowns that will send up thin, wispy stocks for several years. It is especially important that you give the plants lots of time to get established. Be patient. You won’t be harvesting until stocks are the diameter of your baby finger. This can take up to three years. Planting from seed will take even longer. Plan a spot for your asparagus patch at the back of your bed or along a fence in a nice sunny spot. By mid-summer, the foliage can reach 5 feet tall. I have two rows planted at the back of my raised bed. The feathery foliage makes a beautiful backdrop for the rest of the garden. You can also establish an asparagus patch along a property line to define space. The tall foliage will give you a bit of privacy from the end of June to late fall. Here are some guidelines for planting: • Plant crowns deeply to protect them from the cultivation needed for annual weed control. • Dig a trench of about 12 to 18 inches wide and six to eight inches deep. If digging more than one trench, space the trenches at least three feet apart. • Work an inch of compost or composted manure into the bottom of the trench. • Soak the crowns briefly in lukewarm water before planting. • Make a two-inch-high ridge of soil along the center of the trench and place the asparagus crowns on top of the mound, spreading their roots out evenly. • Within the trench, space asparagus crowns 12 to 18 inches apart (measured from root tip to root tip). • Once you have spaced out the crowns, add two inches of soil, firm well to get rid of air pockets and gently water the trench. • As the stocks shoot up, slowly add more soil, two inches at a time, until the trench is filled in. • Plan to top dress your asparagus patch each year with an extra inch or two of compost. Hardy strawberry plants can also be planted in early spring. Choose a sunny area with well-drained soil for your strawberry patch. If your soil is heavy clay, a raised bed is the best option. Being a low crop, plan an area at the front of the garden or along the side of a building. Follow these guidelines for success: • Work compost into the soil in preparation for planting the strawberries. • Trim the bare roots of the strawberry plants to six inches with sharp scissors right before planting. • Dig a hole for the strawberry plants deep and wide enough to accommodate the roots without crowding. • Cover the strawberry roots with soil, leaving the crown exposed. A crown covered with soil will rot, damaging the plant. • Space the strawberry plants at least 14 inches apart. Leave at least two feet between rows of strawberries. • Water the bare-root strawberries immediately after planting. Keep the plants moist throughout the growing season.
SAHF 5 Car Draw returns with new options
Sault Area Hospital Foundation’s annual 5 Car Draw, after its cancellation in 2020, returns this year with online ticket sales. Supporters will be able to buy tickets online from anywhere in Ontario, says a media release from the hospital foundation. The procedure is similar to what works in the successful SAHF 50/50 monthly draws – tickets will be instantly delivered by email. SAHF hopes to return to physical ticket sales locations throughout May and June once the provincial state of emergency passes. The foundation will announce those locations on the website www.5car.ca , the release says. In-person sales will be via debit or credit cards only. This year’s draw will include more options for grand prize winners. SAHF introduced a cash option in 2019, when the foundation set a personal best in ticket sales, and all five winners chose cash. This year each grand prize winner will have three options: chose Vehicle 1, Vehicle 2 or a cash prize, the release says. Other changes include: • New bulk pricing on tickets – one ticket is still just $25 – but now purchasers can get three tickets for $65 or five tickets for $100. • A $10,000 early bird prize – drawing on Tuesday, May 11 at 11 a.m. (just after Mother’s Day). Lessons from 2020 went into the planning of this year’s draw “to make it the biggest (and, hopefully, most successful) yet,” says the release. Tickets for 5 Car Draw are on sale at www.5car.ca. SAHF encourages the community to use the online ticket sales option to purchase safely while still having a chance at the $10,000 early bird prize. “If you know someone that isn’t online but might like to purchase a ticket, and you can help them navigate the online feature, please do so. We want to make sure everyone that wants to support and participate can,” says Teresa Martone, executive director, SAHF. Full details on the draw, important dates, prizes and more can all be found on the www.5car.ca website. The grand prize draw will be held on Saturday, June 26, at 7 p.m. • GRAND PRIZE 1: Choice of 2021 Honda Civic Sedan Touring ($35,364.70 MSRP) supplied by Great Lakes Honda; 2021 Hyundai Tucson Preferred AWD ($39,396.51 MSRP) supplied by World Cars Hyundai; $25,000 cash. • GRAND PRIZE 2: Choice of 2021 Chevy Terrain 1.5L Turbo SLE AWD ($41,350.00 MSRP) supplied by Prouse Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac; 2021 Toyota Rav4 XLE Hybrid ($42,981.60 MSRP) supplied by Northside Toyota; $30,000 cash. • GRAND PRIZE 3: Choice of 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.5L Preferred AWD ($44,707.51 MSRP) supplied by World Cars Hyundai; 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Big Bend 4×4 ($45,972.92 MSRP) supplied by Maitland Ford Lincoln; $35,000 CASH • GRAND PRIZE 4: Choice of 2021 Chevy Colorado Crew Cab ZR2 Short Box ($61,034.69 MSRP) supplied by Prouse Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac; 2021 Honda Passport Touring ($59,954.77 MSRP) supplied by Great Lakes Honda; $50,000 cash. GRAND PRIZE 5: Choice of 2021 Toyota 4Runner Venture Ed. ($66,802.00 MSRP) supplied by Northside Toyota; 2021 Ford F150 XLT Supercrew ($67,798.87 MSRP) supplied by Maitland Ford Lincoln; $55,000 cash. Just 45,000 tickets are available. Funds raised will go toward purchase of a new MRI to replace the equipment purchased when Sault Area Hospital’s Great Northern Road site opened, the release says. Estimated cost of the MRI is $3.4 million. “This 5 Car Draw won’t cover the whole cost of a new MRI, but it’s going to give us a solid start to a multi-year fundraising effort. You aren’t just buying your 5 Car Draw ticket; you are helping keep that essential service available at our local hospital,” says Martone.
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Some are wrongfully convicted – they need justice
It appears the Parole Board of Canada continues to insist convicted killers admit to their crime to become eligible for parole. Insisting on innocence just doesn’t cut it in the board’s eyes. That came through last week with the news that David Scott Hall, convicted of the brutal murder of Peggy-Jo Barkley-Dube in her Coulson Avenue home in May 3, 1999, had been denied full parole Hall was sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 15 years by Superior Court Justice Gladys Pardu. I am not advocating for Hall in this piece. What I am suggesting is that the parole board get away from any insistence that someone must admit to the crime for which he or she was convicted to be eligible for parole. In its recent decision, in which it did allow Hall two five-day unescorted temporary absences, plus travel time, the parole board told Hall it believes “You will present an undue risk to society if released on full parole at this time, and that your release will not contribute to the safety of society by facilitating your reintegration into society as a law-abiding citizen.” But then it also said at one point, “It is without question you have not taken responsibility for your actions,” and at another, “on the negative side, Hall continues to maintain his innocence and denies committing this horrific crime.” This, the admission of guilt, is where the parole board loses me. In Hall’s case, he has done the 15 years he had to do before he became eligible for parole. From this point on, whether he admits to the murder or not should have nothing to do with his possible release. The parole board should go solely on risk assessment to re-offend and how he would integrate into society. The board said an updated psychological risk assessment in December 2020 of Hall, who had not been in trouble of any kind before being accused of Barkley-Dube’s murder, indicated he continues to present a low risk for both general and violent recidivism. Considering the board said in its decision that it believed Hall would “present an undue risk to society if released on full parole at this time, it obviously chose to ignore the psychological risk assessment that indicated he was of low risk to re-offend. Canada is not alone in seeking an admission of guilt from people seeking parole. It is a problem around the world, at least in the places where there is some semblance of a normal justice system. In totalitarian countries, of course, the decisions are all of an arbitrary nature, with the inmate not having much of a chance at fairness. This is what Phil Locke, one of the writers with The Wrongful Convictions Blog, had to say about the system in the United States: “Now, here’s the Catch 22. An actually innocent, wrongfully convicted person serving a long prison term will, more likely than not, have to admit guilt and express remorse to be granted parole. Not only does this mean that the innocent person would have to compromise his or her principles, and admit to a crime they did not commit, but in admitting guilt he or she also closes out any options they may have for eventual exoneration.” Locke then showed a video clip from the New York Times titled The Innocent Prisoner’s Dilemma, something that isn’t included here. “This poor guy got caught in what I’d have to call a Catch 44 (that’s a double Catch 22),” Locke wrote. “For decades he refused to admit guilt, and was always denied parole, so after 23 years he decides he would compromise his principles and admit guilt so he could get paroled. “When he finally admitted guilt to the parole board, what do they come back with? ‘So, you’ve been lying to us all this time. Parole denied.’” I think Locke’s piece drives the point home as to how ridiculous it is to insist that inmates admit to the crime of which they are accused in order for their request for parole to be taken seriously. After all, since the advent of DNA it has been shown that there are many people who have been wrongfully convicted, some of them having been in prison for upwards of 30 years. In this day and age of our supposed enlightenment, it is time parole boards dropped the requirement that an admission of guilt is necessary to obtain parole. Put yourself in the position of a person who was wrongfully convicted. Would you be prepared to put your principles aside to gain parole? Or would you stick it out, knowing that you were going to spend extra time in jail because of it? Be thankful you are only being asked this question in the abstract rather than in real life. A report criminal defence lawyers Rachel Barsky and Adam Blanchard prepared for the Criminal Defence Advocacy Society some time ago revealed that there are more than 50 acknowledged wrongful conviction cases in Canada. Innocence Canada has helped exonerate 23 people since 1993 and is reviewing another 81 cases. It’s operating with limited resources; there are almost certainly more. For a criminal justice system that handles more than 300,000 cases per year, that’s actually remarkably few wrongful convictions, the duo said. But the report says this naturally is no comfort for the people locked up for crimes they didn’t commit and who are facing immeasurably grimmer lives because the parole board insists that offenders acknowledge their guilt if they want to be released. With so few people involved in the unfortunate behaviour by the parole board, there will never be a public outcry because most people only get involved when they are personally affected. Which, of course, essentially means all I am doing here is farting in the wind.
DON DOUCET SCHOLARSHIP: Sault Ste. Marie Police Service reminds high school student preparing for graduation of the service’s Don Doucet Scholarship Fund. Any student graduating high school and enrolling in a law related area of study at a post-secondary institution is eligible to apply. Application deadline is Saturday, May 15. Since 2006, the Don Doucet Memorial Golf Tournament has raised money for the Scholarship Fund. Through 2020, a total of $82,500 of scholarships have been awarded to 85 local students. To learn more about Don and how to apply to the fund visit the Cst. Don Doucet Memorial page on the website saultpolice.ca . Open Cst. Donald Doucet Memorial at the bottom of the page.
Anti-smelter activists find way to campaign around pandemic
Discussion of the proposed ferrochrome smelter for Sault Ste. Marie has gone quiet since the pandemic began, but those opposing it continue to lobby. Tom Vair, the Sault’s deputy CAO of community development and enterprise services, told Sault This Week Noront Resources hasn’t much to update. “Noront has committed to provincial and federal environmental assessment processes for the proposed ferrochrome production facility but it has not started either of them at this time,” Vair told Sault This Week. “Noront is focused on advancing the road to the Ring of Fire and, as they communicated at their open house on Oct. 23, 2019, very little will happen related to the FPF project until the road project advances.” Those opposing the placement of the ferrochrome smelter in the Sault haven’t become complacent, and continue to make their concerns known. Taylor Dereski, who has co-ordinated several of the protests held prior to the pandemic, is organizing a protest featuring windows and lawn signs. She encourages all Sault residents opposed to the smelter to place signs with a clear “No Ferrochrome” message somewhere visible from the street. “The purpose of this socially-distant protest is to bring attention to the proposed ferrochrome smelter and the considerable threat it poses to the city and surrounding area,” Dereski said. “If I see a handful of signs I would be happy. Every little bit helps to bring awareness.” Like many others opposed to the smelter, Dereski said she has sent numerous emails to local representatives. “I receive a ‘Thank you for your concern’ as a common response, or no response at all,” she said. “The fact that our city council leaders have even given this a second thought tells me they don’t stand for anything. They are waiting for someone else to tell them what is right or wrong, safe or dangerous, but when common sense tells you not to, you don’t.” Abby Obenchain, another local environmentalist, has also been vocal about her opposition to the smelter coming to the Sault, though she said the pandemic has made it difficult to take action. Like Dereski, her opposition to the plant is multifaceted. “First, it’s well-documented that Sault Ste. Marie has among the highest cancer rates in Ontario already,” Obenchain said. “As a result of ferrochrome smelting, it’s possible for chromium VI, a known carcinogen, to be discharged into the environment. In my view it’s madness to add to our already significant cancer risk by locating a ferrochrome smelter here.” Obenchain then pointed to concerns about industrial safety claims and the lack of protection that claims of government regulation will ensure safety. “Algoma Steel recently received an extension to an exemption from limits on emissions for benzene, a known carcinogen linked to cancers like leukemia, and particulates. Noront may be promising magical pollution-free technology now, but will they actually deliver, and for how long,” said Obenchain. Obenchain and Dereski also oppose the placement of the smelter so close to people’s homes and to the Great Lakes, pointing to the recent declaration of Lake Superior smelt as dangerous to eat due to high mercury levels. The activists know the primary argument in favour of bringing the smelter to the Sault is the job creation that will come with it. Dereski said her goal “isn’t to stop progress or job opportunity for the Sault, but instead to be more conscientious about what we invite into our city.” Obenchain echoed these sentiments, pointing out, because most of the jobs created will be highly technical, they are unlikely to be filled by locals anyway. “I and many other people I know will move away if the smelter is built,” added Obenchain. “We are at risk of losing doctors as well… I already know of one emergency room doctor who changed his plans to move here because of the proposed smelter. Many small businesses will leave or be deterred as well. Any jobs the smelter offers will be offset by other businesses fleeing.” To support the sign protest, Obenchain has designed and is having printed a sign declaring, “Stop the smelter” and “Chromium VI causes cancer.” Many members of the “No Ferrochrome Plant Sault Ste. Marie” Facebook group have indicated they will display a copy. Many have already placed bumper stickers and decals on their vehicles. Dereski wants the sign protest to continue, “until the job is done.” “I love the Sault,” said Dereski. “I have family here and now I am raising my family here. I know Sault Ste. Marie has even more potential, but not by selling out our natural resources to the highest bidder. It’s our obligation to protect the city and the people who live here from businesses who wish to profit, even if it costs us our health. Sault Ste. Marie will be the one left to clean up the mess.”
Award nominations sought
Sault Ste. Marie Community Development Award committee has opened nominations for the 2021 award. The award, presented annually by city council, recognizes exceptional community development projects from local businesses and organizations, says a media release. “We are looking for projects that contribute to the community in some way, such as fostering growth, sustainability and innovation, enhancing quality of life, preserving our natural resources, or promoting equity and inclusivity,” says Robert Burns, committee chair. “Projects are evaluated for creativity and impact rather than size and cost.” Submit nominations with a brief description supporting a recommendation to: Peter Tonazzo, senior planner, Community Development and Enterprise Services, City of Sault Ste. Marie, 99 Foster Dr., P6A 5X6 or email@example.com . Deadline to submit nominations is Friday, April 30. For more information, visit saultstemarie.ca/awards or contact Peter Tonazzo at 705-759-2780. Previous winners include Savoy’s Jewellers, the Trading Post and Frontier Village, Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre, Muio’s restaurant, the waterfront walkway and Lyons Timber Mart. From a media release
weather (Sault Ste. Marie)
Drug warning: white fentanyl circulating in Sault
Sault Ste. Marie Police Service and Algoma Public Health warn that a new form of fentanyl is circulating in the community. Officers with the police service seized a white coloured substance during an investigation in December. Analysis confirmed fentanyl as the substance. This is the first confirmed incident of white fentanyl in Sault Ste. Marie, says a media release. Street drugs can be mixed with dangerous substances, such as fentanyl, that can cause an opioid poisoning. Users might not taste, smell or see it, the release points out. Opioid poisonings can be fatal. “Opioid poisoning does not discriminate,” says Kristy Harper, manager of community wellness at Algoma Public Health, “… Anyone who uses drugs should carry naloxone and make sure they always have someone with them when they use.” To reduce risk: • Call 911 immediately if you think someone is experiencing an opioid poisoning; • don’t use alone – if this is impossible, have someone you trust check on you; • always start with a low dose and increase slowly, especially if trying something new or restarting use. • a previous regular user, having not used for some time, should not take the same amount as before, because the body will not be used to it and will be at high risk of overdose. • carry a naloxone kit; • never mix substances, including alcohol, as this increases the risk of overdose For more information, bit.ly/3sPSni1 . From a media release
Life in the U.S. – glad to live in Sault, Ontario, Canada
Two stories, one aired and one published, from the United States really caught my attention last week. One, a rehash on Michael Smerconish’s show on CNN with the individual involved, concerned a black man who had spent 26 years in prison for shooting a woman in the face in 1990 when he was 13, 18 of those years being served in solitary confinement. The other was a Washington Post story out of Atlanta, GA, which said that records show that undercover officers sometimes engage in sexual contact with spa workers during stings in which they plan to arrest the workers, a move trafficking experts say dehumanizes the women and has spurred calls to set limits on police In the first story the teen at the time of the shooting, Ian Manuel, was sentenced to life in prison without parole, even though the woman, Debbie Baigrie, lived. I thought the life sentence with no parole excessive in itself but it was the 18 years in solitary that really caught me. How does anyone survive that? It was to answer that question that Smerconish had Manuel on his program. Manuel said it was through extensive use of his imagination, thinking of getting out of prison and what he would do with his life. He was in a small windowless cell. My imagination wouldn’t help me survive a week. After that time I would be insane. At the beginning of his sentence, prison officials placed Manuel in isolation because of his age and size, according to The Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama nonprofit whose attorneys have been involved in the case since 2006. But being alone over endless days, he repeatedly acted out during what interaction he had with corrections officers, resulting in his separation from the general prison population for 18 years, mental cruelty in the extreme. Manuel was released from prison in 2016 mainly because in 2010 the Supreme Court threw out life sentences for juveniles and the victim, Debbie Baigrie, began advocating for Manuel’s early release, arguing he had served sufficient time Baigrie’s involvement was the silver lining in the piece. Manuel had phoned her collect at Christmas after a couple of years in prison to apologize and then began writing her letters, which she thought had to be written by someone else since they were so articulate. “As soon as she accepted the call I said, ‘Miss Baigrie, this is Ian. I’m just calling to tell you I’m sorry for shooting you, and I wish you and your family a merry Christmas,'” he said. “That’s what I blurted out. What do you say to somebody you shot, you know?” Baigrie said she was shaken by the call since it was so fresh at the time. But she had found it heartbreaking when the judge sentenced Manuel to life in an adult prison and after the call she corresponded with Manuel, becoming a friend and advocate. I contrast the treatment Manuel received to that of the police involved in the stings in Atlanta, who as far as I am concerned are guilty of actually accepting sexual favours to get the goods on the women they are there to arrest. They call it a sting. I call it entrapment. The Washington Post said police descended on three massage businesses along a stretch of Georgia highway, part of what they described was a broader campaign against the illicit sex industry in Coweta County. An investigator said the goal had been to root out “human trafficking and child exploitation.” But The Post said records the paper obtained detailing the raids showed that while authorities said they found no evidence of human trafficking at the three spas, undercover officers engaged in sex acts with some of their workers, then arrested them. In one encounter, a sheriff’s deputy repeatedly grabbed a woman while she masturbated him, the documents say, while another undercover officer paid $200 and received oral sex. Police charged eight female spa workers with prostitution, according to local media outlets, which posted photos of their mug shots on the evening news, a media move I see as lowering themselves to the level of the police in this instance. Apparently while such tactics by police are generally permitted by law, policymakers are beginning to propose new limits on physical contact by police, which they say serves to dehumanize — and potentially traumatize — the very women the raids are purportedly meant to help. The spa owners and operators targeted by law enforcement, experts said, often go unpunished. As I ponder these two cases, I must say I am glad I am a Canadian. Keeping a person in solitary confinement for 18 years is an atrocity. Participating in a sex act and then arresting the other person in the act should not “be generally permitted by law.” Actually, these two cases are just a small part of what it going on in the United States that I abhor. Although President Joe Biden is bringing some cohesion to the fight against the COVID virus, many governors are working directly against him, shedding mask mandates. As well, nearly all the Republican governors are attempting to pass legislation that would make it harder for some members of society, mainly black, to work. There is the George Floyd incident, in which he was killed by a police officer who is now on trial for murder and there are many more. We may complain about our politicians and many things that happen in our country but I can’t think of a better place to be. And with the control of the COVID virus that has been done so well in our area as of this writing, I am especially happy that I live in Sault Ste. Marie.
Young entrepreneur program applications now accepted
Young people looking to be their own boss this summer could win a $3,000 grant to set up a short-term business. The young entrepreneur program Summer Company is accepting applications, says a media release from the City of Sault Ste. Marie. The program provides grants and mentoring to assist high school and post-secondary students in starting a seasonal business. Summer Company is open to youth ages 15 to 29 who are returning to school in the fall. Approved participants are provided a grant of up to $3,000 to start and operate a summer business. Full program eligibility can be found on the Government of Ontario’s website. “This is a great way for youth to experience entrepreneurship and learn from business leaders in our community,” said Jessica Maione, Economic Development Officer with the City of Sault Ste. Marie. “Despite these challenging times, we’re pleased to see some of last year’s participants maintain year-round operations.” Since 2010, a total of 140 businesses in Algoma District were started through Summer Company. The program is funded by the Province of Ontario and administered by the Economic Development division of the City of Sault Ste. Marie. Application deadline is Monday, May 17, and space in the program is limited. For more information and to apply, visit the Millworks website or contact Jessica Maione at firstname.lastname@example.org. From a media release
Spring is the time for dormant pruning
I usually write an article in mid-April about dormant pruning. This year with spring upon us so early, if your lawn is dry enough to walk on, you could certainly start dormant pruning. Many trees benefit from pruning at this time of year to open the canopy and correct poor branch structure. When pruning deciduous trees, look carefully at the structure before you begin. First remove any dead and broken branches, those touching buildings and lower branches that are a hazard when walking next to the tree. Next look for branches that tangle or cross. One branch rubbing on another will result in bark damage that allows insects and disease spore to enter the tree. Decide which of the two branches is in the better position for good growth and remove the other. Also remove suckers that grow from the base of a tree and waterspouts that grow straight up from a side branch. They will eventually cause a tangled mess. Avoid pruning the leader of a tree. You will end up with a cluster of weak branches competing for dominance at the top of your tree. Caution: avoid getting close to any overhead lines. If you see a problem branch in a tree near wires, call the appropriate company to deal with the situation. Never prune maples in the spring. Sap is running and they will bleed excessively when cut. Maples should be pruned after the leaves have fully formed. Removing some of last year’s growth before new growth begins encourages healthy, bushy shrubs. The general rule of thumb is to remove 1/3 to 1/2 of the previous season’s growth. For example: if your Spirea shrub grew 12″ in height and width last year, use pruning shears to remove four to six inches from the top and sides of the shrub. Try to follow the natural shape of the shrub tapering slightly out towards the base. By angling your shears down and out, the base will be slightly wider than the sides. Sun will hit all the foliage, resulting in a nice full bush. If you angle your shears inwards when pruning, the base will be narrower than the top and sunlight will not reach bottom branches. Leaves may die out and resulting in a shrub with a bare bottom. Most summer and fall blooming shrubs benefit from dormant pruning. Those to avoid are early spring bloomers such as azalea, rhododendron, serviceberry, and forsythia. They should be pruned a little later in the spring once flowering is finished. Shrubs that are grown mainly for interesting foliage rather than flowers can be pruned in the spring when dormant, e.g., Dwarf Burningbush, Dappled Willow, dogwood, Golden and Diablo Ninebarks. Deciduous hedges are shaped in the spring as well: Peashrub, Alpine Currant, honeysuckle, and privet. Be sure to prune hedges a bit wider towards the base as mentioned above. This pruning method ensures a nice full hedge right to ground level. Lilacs are NEVER pruned in the spring. They set flower buds on the ends of their branches immediately after blooming. These are the full, plump buds at the ends of the stems. If you prune in spring or fall, you are removing the potential for flowers. Their ideal pruning time is immediately after blooming. Some evergreens can be pruned lightly now to correct shape. Cedar, yew, juniper, boxwood, euonymus, and hemlock fall into this category. Their main pruning time is early June, once spring growth is complete. It is also good weather to apply dormant oil and lime sulphur to help prevent insect and disease problems. This combo will smother insect eggs, scale, mites, and disease spores. Apply to fruit trees, roses, ornamental trees, and shrubs on a day when temperatures are just above freezing. As its name implies, dormant oil is only used before active growth begins. This horticultural oil will damage any green tissue. When oil is added to the lime sulphur, it does help the sulphur to evenly coat stems and branches.
Looks like the U.S. gov’t is out of step on marijuana use
I smoked weed. Once. I realize this is no big deal for most people because they did this long before it became legal in this country. But I bring it up now because of news out of the United States that five White House staffers have been fired as a result of prior marijuana use. My one-time use apparently wouldn’t have precluded me, if I were an American, from serving in the White House. Apparently there were additional security issues for some of the fired staffers, such as hard drug use. “Of the hundreds of people hired, only five people who had started working at the White House are no longer employed as a result of this policy,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted on Friday. Normally, White House staffers must receive top-secret security clearance, for which drug use can be disqualifying. To get around this, an Associated Press story reveals staffers who have used marijuana only on a “limited” basis and whose jobs don’t require this security clearance would be given a waiver to work without the clearance. The policy does not actually allow staffers to use marijuana or even to have previously used it more than once or twice a year. According to the AP story, “limited” use of marijuana means fewer than 15 times in the past year. Though the Biden administration apparently has been more permissive than previous presidential administrations, the terminations have faced widespread criticism, particularly because marijuana has been legal in DC for over five years and in many states as well. However, it remains illegal at the federal level. On his Saturday morning show on CNN, Michael Smerconish posed the following question: “Should past marijuana use disqualify you from government service?” Of the respondents, 95.76 per cent said no, only 4.24 per cent said yes. Although I would have voted no, I was surprised at the high percentage of no votes, considering how intolerant so many of the conservative persuasion in the US are. I have a problem with those who would still treat marijuana as an offensive product in this day of growing legality. A person who drinks but not to excess can hold down a government job. Why should it be any different for those who use marijuana? There is undoubtedly a lot less violence from marijuana use than booze. When I tried marijuana, back in the mid-60s when I was a reporter at The Edmonton Journal, it didn’t go that well for me because I didn’t smoke. The inhaling brought about a lot of hacking and coughing. But it wasn’t the hacking and coughing that kept my use to that one time. It was the result. For about three hours just about anything would bring about a fit of uncontrollable laughter. This was fine in the apartment of the friend who provided the marijuana, but it was embarrassing when walking down the street to the bar where we were to meet other friends, in the bar as well and then at the reception we were all to attend shortly. When telling a story at the reception I came to a point where I broke into laughter so crazily that I had to retire to compose myself. When I returned I was asked to resume and when I came to that same point, I lost it again. This time I simply went home. I suppose I was driving high but out of the whole experience I don’t think I ever really knew what high was. Everything seemed normal except for the stupid laughter. I learned later that marijuana can affect people in different ways. A colleague at the paper said he and his wife tried it together but where it made him feel happy, his wife descended into a severe bout of depression. My only other involvement with an hallucinogenic drug was watching a friend try to light what he said was a hunk of hash. I had heard of hash oil but never a hunk of hash. He said he had been told to push it into the end of a cigarette and then light it. “But you don’t smoke,” I said. He said the friend who had given him the hash had also given him a cigarette and some matches. He pushed the hash into the end of the cigarette and lit it. Before the hash lit up it fell out of the cigarette and onto the floor. He picked it up and, after putting out and relighting the cigarette, tried it again. He did this several times, all with the same result. The hunk of hash never lit up. I asked to see it. It didn’t take much of an examination to see that he had been trying to light a rock from the floor of my Volkswagen Beetle. He spent some time looking through the stones on the floor of the passenger side of the vehicle in the hope of finding his hash but came up empty. I think you can see I wasn’t going to have much success with drug use. I’ll have to stick with booze. ABC News reported that the broader federal government was somewhat more lenient than the White House in regard to marijuana use, with the Office of Personnel Management releasing a memo that said a person should not be deemed unfit merely because of past marijuana usage. The seriousness of the use and the nature of the position will also be factors in judging new hires. This is as it should be. And the US government should move to bring federal law regarding marijuana use to a point where it is in line with that in most of the states.
Tent near a playground could lead to useful conversation
Within the last month or so, a tent popped up in Jamestown across from the soup kitchen. I heard/read plenty of comments about the tent’s presence, with the general consensus being negative. All of the chatter came to a head for me today when I saw comments saying that the tent should be taken down because – being so close to the park – it shows that our kids’ happiness is ‘irrelevant.’ Somehow this commenter felt that the tent meant that kids can’t play at the park. I was utterly disgusted when I saw these comments. How is that where your mind goes when you see someone living in a tent? How has our society devolved so much, and individuals become so self-absorbed, that a person is more concerned about their kid having to look at a tent than about the person who has nowhere else to go? (I also don’t understand how the tent impedes your child’s enjoyment of the park. It’s not like it was set up on the playground. Do they just not want their children to have to think about homelessness? Or about others’ well-being?) I see in it an opportunity to teach children a lesson. To teach them about why and how some people become homeless. About what the government does to help and what more could (and should) be done. About what we can do to support those dealing with homelessness and to promote systemic changes. These are conversations I’ve already had with my oldest. She knows I work at a homeless shelter, so we’ve talked about what my workplace does and why it’s needed. It hasn’t caused her any kind of irreparable trauma to have these conversations, and in fact I think it has made her a more caring person. I walked my kids over to the park this afternoon, intending to have a conversation with my kids about the tent, but it’s no longer there. I’ve since found out that the tent was erected by someone who lives in a neighbourhood apartment, and the tent is more a product of his mental health struggles than housing issues. That, of course, opens up a whole new set of problems, but my issues with the commenters who were upset by the tent for all the wrong reasons still hold. It seems that this lack of compassion and empathy is what is hurting our society more than anything. I understand that not everyone can donate their money or volunteer their time to organizations working to fight issues like homelessness, but a kind word costs nothing. Putting yourself in others’ shoes goes a long way.