A Few Thoughts About Short Fences

blog fenceShort fences.

We’ve spent a lot more time in the city this year and I have been watching the role short fences play.

Our corner lot has a short fence around our ground level deck at the front, and along the length of our backyard. We have discovered our short fence plays the role of being an invitation rather than a barrier.

Since the snow has melted we have had many discussions over the fence. We have met new neighbours and visited with ones we have known for years. We’ve talked about dogs and kids, vacations and music, yoga and knitting. We’ve heard of neighbours moving, summer construction projects, and visits to the Saturday Market.

The short fence creates an opportunity to be neighbourly. It lets neighbours talk. It creates community.

The whole experience has left me thinking a lot about neighbourhood design, building styles, and how they affect the general well being of a community. It is a well known fact that when neighbours know neighbours that it builds strong, healthy communities. People watch out for one another and communities are safer.

We live in a neighbourhood from a different era. Houses range in age from 110 years old to brand new infill housing, but it is still the old fashioned layout of big yards, boulevards and mostly detached garages. The layout of the older properties means that neighbours have the opportunity to interact. We see each other clipping hedge, mowing the lawn, building decks, pulling weeds and shoveling snow. High maintainance yards make for lots of opportunity to see your neighbours out and about.

However the few new infill houses, even though they are in the same neighbourhood, function differently, especially the ones that  have attached garages. These are “new suburban houses” houses built in an old neighbourhood; attached garages, swaths of concrete driveway, a “low maintainance” garden (token shrub and mulch), and the compulsory prison like fences. The car disappears into the garage, with the neighbour never to be seen until the car emerges again. I can’t help but think of how damaging this design model is for a community. These styles of homes don’t allow for neighbourly interaction and fragment a community.

My short fence has left me appreciating how neighbourhoods were built in the past. They were built to create community. They were built so that neighbours would know their neighbours. Perhaps it is time for city planners to rethink how they are building current neighbourhoods. We need to bring back the front porch, bring back the low fence and eliminate the attached garage. It is time to take the streets our houses are built on and turn them back into communities.

My thoughts inspired by my short fence.

The Hidden (yet interesting) Side of Blogging

view from pender island

Writing and reading blogs is always fun, however the hidden side of blogging can be equally interesting and perhaps at times intriguing. The hidden side, as I call it, are the statistics and other information that bloggers can read behind the scenes.

I’ve noticed the more and more I blog the more I watch the “Stats” page. When I first started blogging I was only really interested in how many visitors and views my blog received each day. Once my two older sons started watching my stats it became all about “Views by Country”; they loved watching the map of the world fill up as visitors found the blog, and there was always excitement when there was a view from a tiny country on the other side of the globe.

I then discovered it was quite interesting to watch the section titled “Top Posts & Pages”. This became quite interesting as I could see the blog posts that were being read, the hot topics. Some posts are very popular and are still read months later while others are more just a post for the moment. Strangely I have discovered readers are more likely to push the “like” button on a frivolous post, yet exponentially more people read meatier posts about things like bad developments, problems with math in the Alberta education system and city hall not enforcing their by-laws. In a way it makes sense because honestly, how can anyone “like” habitat being destroyed or paying for an education system where children aren’t taught.

My most recent obsession has been watching the “Search Term Engines”, which shows the words and phrases people have used which eventually led them to my blog. This is a truly fascinating read and gives you amazing insight as to what the searchers are looking for. There are of course a lot of very boring terms, but then there are the ones that really stand out. For instance I have seen a huge number of searches regarding RV parking by-laws with the City of Red Deer……..to those searching I wish them “good luck”, you know the city isn’t going to enforce them, they are too busy holding”Red Deer is Ready” rallies and wanting to build yet another swimming pool. Another search that comes up all the time is “east pit mine”; this is a little recreation area west of Edmonton where you can walk and fish. Sometimes you find out about things by accident through the search terms, in this case it was an incident that happened at my son’s high school; that was an eye opening experience as to the seriousness of some searches. Some search terms just make you feel bad like the one that came up this winter reading “frozen septic system cabin lake isle”……those poor people.

pender island

I have also seen my name come up in search terms, which is quite normal as I have a lot of customers that remember me more by name than the business name. Today, however, I read the most interesting and specific search term I have seen. The search term read “debra hunter on pender island bc does she like living there”. Pretty interesting. The search term is so specific, and obviously not from a blogger or they would have gone to “about” or the “gravatar” and just gone to my Pender Island blog. Really interesting.

So I have decided, in this post to answer the question., but first, a little background to get everyone up to speed.  We are a little nomadic. Jokingly years ago my husband said “Wouldn’t it be great to have shacks all over the place?”, and some how this idea stuck. We have three places, “home, home” as our youngest calls it, which is in Red Deer (Alberta, Canada), the cabin which is in Lac Ste. Anne County (Alberta), and “Pender home” which is on Pender Island (BC, Canada). The search inquiry is about us living on Pender.

The answer to “debra hunter on pender island bc does she like living there” is YES. It is a quiet island, with pristine beaches and lots of hiking. It has a great climate which allows for hiking and kayaking even in winter. The people at the hardware store, grocery store and sushi restaurant couldn’t be nicer…..plus the recycle depot is amazing. We do like living there……well as long as they keep nasty development at bay……but that seems to be the threat everywhere. Thanks to the search term I could answer the question.

I’ll also pass on the link to my blog about Pender Island; it is www.islandhomeblog.wordpress.com . Check it out, it is like a virtual walk on a beach (literally).

pender island beach

It will be interesting to see what search terms will pop up tomorrow, hopefully something intriguing and not another “RV parking by-laws Red Deer”.



Eight Tiny Reindeer?

Candy Cane Reindeer

Candy Cane Reindeer

“When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and
eight tiny reindeer”

…………………………………….or perhaps 200+! Our house has been a miniature reindeer factory over the past week. We have been making candy cane reindeer. We started a tradition a few years ago of making a Christmas craft or treat to send into school for our children’s classmates. When we first started this we had one child in school so it was an evening of crafting and very easy. Then a few years ago we decided to add our neighbours into the mini gift giving. In the beginning it was only our immediate neighbours, just a couple of houses, but over the last few years the scope has expanded. So now with four children in school, and our neighbourhood mailbox gift drop expanded to 2+ blocks, we now have to make over 200 of these little candy cane reindeer.candy cane reindeer

We managed to get a bit of a production line going, we being myself and the three-year old. I would glue on the eyes, then he would pop on the pink pompom nose, and I would then do the antlers. Our little one is quite proud of doing the noses.

candy cane reindeer

All the candy canes have now been delivered at school. This weekend we will do our door-to-door delivering our little festive reindeer to our neighborhood. The kids love running up to the mailboxes and leaving behind a Christmas surprise.

Making Our World a Better Place – www.mygivingmoment.ca

I came across a fabulous initiative  while watching “George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight” yesterday evening. The initiative is called “My Giving Moment” . The idea for the initiative has come from Canada’s Governor General, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston.  The core idea is that if we all give a little, through time or talent or resources, that we can make our communities and country a better place.

lending a hand

Some of the ideas are big, but many are just little things that can make our communities a better place and in turn make our communities stronger. One of the easiest “moments” is to bring your neighbour’s garbage can back to their house for them on garbage day….it’s that easy. Under “Find Your Moment”  there are many suggestions of how to help out your community, and if you wish you can even add your own “moment”. There is even a fun scoring system if you wish to participate.

People helping out builds strong communities.

People helping out builds strong communities.

I really wanted to share the link as it is a fabulous idea. The more that participate the better our communities will be.

Sometimes Good Things Happen – Red Deer, Alberta, Canada

A long time ago I wrote a blog post regarding the skating rink, or lack there of, in our neighborhood. Long time readers of the blog may remember how I wrote of how our little historic neighborhood, in the heart of Red Deer, had been stripped of our little outdoor rink, the resulting fuss that the community raised, the newspaper interviews, the television coverage, and in the end, the return of a snow bank rink.

Well today a wonderful thing happened. I drove past the park where the rink was last winter and believe it or not the rink was up WITH BOARDS! Now this is huge. We get our rink again and we get END BOARDS.

Woodlea skating rink on October 20, 2013. All ready for winter to come.

Woodlea skating rink on October 20, 2013. All ready for winter to come.

Now anyone reading this in a country that doesn’t succumb to snow and ice for at least six months of the year may not understand how momentous this is, but for our neighborhood this is a great thing. Our kids get to skate within blocks of home any time they wish. The boys can now play hockey and when they shoot at the goal and miss (which happens 99.999999% of the time!) the puck will hit the backboard and bounce back instead of burying itself in a snow bank never to be found. Hide and seek is a fun game but not when it involves looking for a puck in snow that is three feet deep, especially when all the direction you get from your little hockey players is “I think it went somewhere over there Mom! Or was it over there.” And trust me, an orange puck doesn’t make it any easier……..we tried that too.

woodlea skating rink

A local school group skating one afternoon at the Woodlea skating rink in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada.

Our little skating rink is great for our neighborhood, but it is also great for the schools in our area that draw students from throughout the city. Last year on several occasions I encountered different schools using this park area. They skated and tobogganed. It was great to see.

The City of Red Deer has done a great thing re-installing our rink. I was happy with the snow bank rink last year, but having actual boards is going to make for a great winter for those who love to shoot a puck.

A big “THANK YOU” to those who made the decision to return the rink to our neighborhood. We really appreciate it. It is going to be a great winter.

Response From The City Of Red Deer

City Hall, Red Deer, Alberta

City Hall, Red Deer, Alberta

This morning I received a response from the City of Red Deer regarding the RV issue in the Waskasoo neighborhood in Red Deer, Alberta. Below is a purely copy and paste of the correspondence:

Hello Debra. Thank you for your email, pictures, and blog posts which all outline your concern about RVs being parked in the Memorial Centre parking lot. For your information, The City’s Land Use Bylaw was amended in 2005 to permit the temporary overnight parking (for up to two nights) of RVs at sites such as the Westerner, or churches and schools where events are being held. Council’s decision and the report outlining the rationale is attached.

3.23 Objects Prohibited or Restricted in Yards

(1) No person in lawful possession or control of a site shall allow or permit a trailer parked on such site to be used for living or sleeping accommodation except as follows:

(c) A self-container trailer parked in the parking lot of a church, school, recreation venue site, community centre or major hotel with conference/convention facilities providing:

(i) the occupant has obtained consent from the owner of the site and is attending a function or event in a facility on that site;

(ii) the owner of the site has obtained approval from the Development Authority;

(iii) overnight parking on the site does not exceed two consecutive nights unless approved by the Development Authority;

(iv) overnight parking on the site shall not exceed two occasions per calendar month unless approved by the Development Authority;

(v) no fees shall be charged for overnight parking;

(vi) the owner of the site will be responsible to ensure that all City of Red Deer Bylaws, including the Public Order Bylaw, are complied with.

It is our understanding that a Square Dancing event was held at the Lindsay Thurber School and the RV’s were in the school parking lot with spillover occurring at the Memorial Centre / Festival Hall.  The City was unaware of this event and approval from the development Officer was not sought so we will be following up with Lindsay Thurber and the Square Dance club to advise them of the requirements in case of any future events.

Additionally, while we do not notify the neighborhood for temporary uses such as this, in the future we will ask the Development Officer to add a condition to the approval that an event notice be posted by A-board sign on the site in advance of, and during, the event so the neighborhood is aware it is taking place.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Frieda McDougall | Manager Legislative Services The City of Red Deer

A little bass please…..

bass This week we had the opportunity to attend “Choir Kids” as two of our children were participating in the event with their school choir. Now I know if any parents are reading this they may have actually cringed at the thought of listening to an evening of children’s choirs, after all we’ve all sat through school concerts of tragically out of tune singing with smiles pasted on our faces, but this was truly different. To be honest, the evening, and the singing, was quite fabulous.

“Choir Kids” is an interesting program where elementary school choirs have the opportunity to rehearse and perform with the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra provides a scaled down selection of musicians so that the accompaniment is equally balanced to the volume of the choirs. This was an amazing experience for our children. They performed wonderfully and the teachers who make the choir program possible did a fine job of preparing the choir for the event.

This is the 15th year the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra has presented this event. This event is part of their Education and Outreach programming. The orchestra also welcomes sponsors for events such as this, and their office can be contacted for individuals or businesses who are interested in sponsorship.

I’d like to say “Thanks!” to the orchestra for such a great program and evening; it was truly a memorable experience for our children.