My First Car

April 21st, 2016

I've been thinking about my first car. It was actually a hand-me-down from my mother which she sold to me, when I was 19, for a fraction of its worth. A standard transmission, orange, 1974 VW Beetle, Mom had named Adolph.
My mother always named her cars. They all had boys names.

I haven't followed that tradition.

In fact, I stopped calling Adolph by its name when it became mine.

I think it was because I started driving in that car and used to borrow it frequently, when I was in high school. Many of my friends were of Jewish descent and they'd ask me not to park outside of their home because it upset their parents.

I drove that car for years. I had a friend do body work, another replace the heaters and still another do brakes... which was a big mistake... but that's another story. I kept that car cobbled together for nearly a decade... because it was what I had.

I've never cared much about my vehicle... as long as it starts and gets me where I want to go. I don't know if that's part of having once been married to a car salesman and driving something different every other day... or if it's because of Adolph.

I suppose it doesn't really matter.

A Good Time to List

April 7th, 2016

My regular blog readers will know that I've always said the best time to list is when you are ready to sell. Well, I've got to let you know... if you've been contemplating, now is a really good time. Bar none, my colleagues are all searching for properties- for ready and willing buyers. I personally have people looking for properties of all descriptions and price ranges.

This isn't to say that you can ask the moon and the stars for something that isn't up to par. These days, Buyers are savvier than ever and while they will pay a premium for premium property, they won't be fooled. Sellers need to be realistic. A properly priced property is going to sell in this market and a real estate professional knows how to price a property.

A real estate professional will discuss what needs to be done to maximize a sale price because a Buyer isn't likely to pay very much for "potential", especially if it means there is a lot of work to do. If the Seller doesn't want to do the work, the price should obviously reflect that or the Buyer is forced to submit a low offer. This isn't the same as a "low ball" offer. A "low ball" offer is when a Buyer puts in an offer well below what they know the place is worth- it's usually an opportunistic move, when they think the Sellers might be desperate.

Right now, the problem is that there aren't many options for a ready Buyer. There are only a handful of properties available in most categories and Buyers want to have a selection from which to choose. That's what makes this a particularly good time to list!

The Weather may be cold... but the Market is hot

March 31st, 2016

Sold signs are popping up all around our area. We've had an early start to spring Real Estate sales... but there's something that I address. Blog after blog, news article after news article and blah blah blah, have been written about the differences between rural and urban living... and rural and urban real estate... but city people still tend to have unrealistic expectations of what they should expect from cottage country living.

I'm a transplant myself, so I understand that there's going to be some culture shock... however, it's important to realize that rural living must be a conscious choice and when you move here, in essence, you're agreeing to accept our "ways". There's usually a fairly steep learning curve for prospective buyers who come from a city. Most local real estate sales people have funny stories about dealing with city folk- and we're not making fun of people, we share the stories the same way that proud parents talk about how their kids stumble and fall, while learning to walk.

The cottage country Realtor has to do a fair amount of teaching- even with experienced buyers. Aside from obvious differences, like septic systems and wells, we frequently have to explain things like road & shore allowances (opened and unopened), assumed and un-assumed roads, township maintained versus privately maintained roads, rights-of-ways, encroachments, set backs, school bussing, postal delivery, garbage disposal facilities, the care and maintenance of hydro poles and why there are huge tracts of land that suspiciously look like subdivisions in the planning, that have looked like subdivisions in the planning for decades.

While many city dwellers have natural gas heating piped into their homes but gas isn't available here. We have many different types of heating systems, some are combinations of more than one type of heating- which may appear to be quite non-traditional to the city person, but are quite acceptable- if not envied- by the local folk. Some of the local homes have been updated with granite or marble counter tops... but we drive through granite walls, on the roads, every day and having granite isn't a priority. Most country homes don't have walk-in closets, because we don't really need them. We have a pair or two of good shoes, work shoes, rubber boots and winter boots... and they're all pretty sensible looking stuff and that's because the surfaces we walk on are quite rugged and uneven and we need to be practical. We tend to dress more casually at work- because we're in and out of snow and mud and wind and rain and it's far more practical to be tidy and comfortable.

Most residents were born here and the rest of us made a decision to live here. We came because of the trees and the rivers, the trails and the lakes and the wildlife and not because of a generous number of square feet, public transportation or access to shopping malls. We live in the town and the region- not in our houses.

& that's another thing... it costs the same, if not more, to build in the country. We don't have subdivision builders... in most cases, new construction begins with a raw piece of land that may not even have a basic driveway or a hydro pole yet. We have to get drawings and permits and opinions about what type of sewage system and water supply we need to have installed. All of our building material is trucked in, usually from a fair distance... and the costs associated with delivery get passed along to the consumer. What we do have, is relationships with the suppliers and service providers. They're our neighbours and they are there to help us. In the country, we learn how to make things work.

The people who have gardens really have put some effort into them. You can't just grab plants at the nearby nursery and expect them to grow in most of the soil and weather conditions here. Our property lines change with the season, as local waterways rise and subside with spring run off. Our lot lines are seldom straight and properties have strange shapes, because 100 years ago, someone swapped a chunk with a neighbour in order to get their livestock to some meadow or a water source. In some cases, a bit might have been severed off and given to one of the children and you really have to get to know the history of the property, to make sense of it.

Many of our citizens are retired and on fixed-incomes. We have a fair level of unemployment and a high level of entrepreneurship. We have a lot of government and non-profit agencies, sprouted from need and very savvy in assisting people who want to etch out a life here. Local clubs and associations hold suppers and dances, trivia nights and card games. Sometimes, there are movies on- at the local playhouse... but generally we travel an hour and a half to see a movie, in a theatre. Most of us have secret Netflix addictions... but you can't expect to get high speed internet everywhere... but that IS improving... so is our cell service.

In the meantime, many of us listen to the peepers and bird songs. We collect interesting rocks (after all, we're the Mineral Capital of Canada). We watch the clouds and the stars and the deer as they meander through the forest and into our yards. Sure, now and then you hear that a bear or moose has been spotted- but not really that often... and periodically, there's talk about bobcats or cougars, but some people still think that's a myth.

One thing we all share, is appreciation for the natural beauty of our surroundings. We talk about the trees and the leaves, water levels and the weather, road conditions and our health. We're really in it, together.
These are things that are hard to explain to the uninitiated. These are our priorities. These are the things one learns to love about cottage country living. They matter so much more than bricks and mortar.

The Irish in Ontario

March 17th, 2016

Peter Robinson, a prominent York businessman and a member of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada was responsible for the administering the passage and settlement of over 2500 poor Catholic families from Ireland, in two waves of emigration, to Upper Canada. Robinson personally selected the immigrants. They had to be poor, Catholic and possess a knowledge of farming. Males had to be less than forty-five years of age and in good health and families were unrelated. The majority of the Irish emigrants were chosen from North Cork.

On July 1 of 1823, 568 paupers (mainly from County Cork) to sailed on two ships for a month, toward Quebec. Upon arrival, they boarded steamships, barges and wagons to travelled another month, into the hinterland of Ontario. The first wave settled around the Ottawa Valley.

In the spring of 1825, Robinson recorded nine ships with 2024 passengers in the second wave. They left Cork Harbour with everything they owned. By that fall, each family had been allocated property around the Scott's Plains, upon which they were required to erect a log shanty. The plains had originally been settled around 1820 by Adam Scott who had moved from Port Hope to establish a sawmill and gristmill on the west shore of the Otonabee River (near what is now the corner of King and Water Streets).

Adam Scott had been born in Edinburgh Scotland in 1796. He was a millwright. In 1812, he left England and settled in New York state where he married and produced six children- three sons and three daughters. In 1818, Scott was contracted by Squire Henry to build a mill at Cobourg and there he lost nearly all of his savings. In the spring of 1820, he moved to 12 acre lot beside the Otonabee. The site was densely covered with huckleberry bushes and a few pines.

Standing 6'4" in height and weighing 260 pounds of pure, muscle, Scott was reported to have once carried a heavy mill crank all the way from Peterborough to Port Hope for repair. He is known to have often crossed the Otonabee on stilts, to reach his oxen which were pastured where the village of Ashburnham is now located. Scott's wife died in 1825 of cholera and by 1827, he had lost all of his property to debt. Although he was asked by Peter Robinson to assume the immigration agency, he declined and moved to Cavan township.

There had been no road to Scott's Plains, so Robinson had set his man to build a sixty-foot scow which they poled for more than twenty miles to the Plains, which Robinson called the "prettiest place" he had ever seen. There, past Scott's ramshackle buildings and the riverside willows, stretched what was really a natural park covered with the most beautiful wildflowers, feathery pines, oaks, balsam and silver birch.

Robinson had hundreds of lean-tos built, using poles, bark and slabs from Adam Scott's mill. This encampment would house the families until they had proper log shanties erected. In addition, he built five large long houses, which he called Government House. It took sixty trips in all, to bring the settlers from Cobourg to Scott's Plains. At least twenty died that first autumn, while Robinson pressed on, hiring guides and axe men to help. Before the snow, Robinson had settled 1,900 people in six townships that spanned an area if thirty miles from north to south and fifty miles from east to west.

Within four months, there was a flourishing village with all sorts of shops, dwellings and businesses. The community had also laid out lots for a school, church and jail to be built by the following spring. The settlement was renamed Peterborough, in Peter Robinson's honour.

They Called it the Greatest Real Estate Sale of the Century

March 9th, 2016

In May of 1964, two young Realtors from Peterborough (John Bowes & William Cocks) advertised 120 homes owned by the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation on sale in the townsite of Cardiff. There were three styles of bungalows available for almost half the cost to construct them and potential buyers were enticed by the offer of either a maple rocking chair or a helicopter ride over nearby Paudash Lake. With a 10% deposit and $41 per month payment, buyers could avail themselves of long-term mortgage rates to purchase retirement or investment properties in a community that boasted municipal water and sewers, a modern school, swimming pool, stores, both a United and Catholic Church, dial phones and television reception- in the healthful moderate climate of the Highlands of Haliburton.

In the late 50s and early 60s, 3 communities (Bicroft Heights, Dyno Estates and Cardiff) had been built to accommodate mine workers. At one time, there were about 1500 people employed at the mines known as Bicroft Urnanium Mines Ltd, Canadian Dyno Mines Ltd, Faraday Uranium Mines Ltd and Greyhawk Uranium Mines Ltd. Few of the miners actually purchased their homes because they moved on to follow mining jobs. The communities had been put together through government programs and the province was left on the hook for the costs of the infrastructure. When the mines closed, many of the houses were simply bull dozed, but by some accounts, about 300 people traveled to the former mining community to have a look at the homes which had cost over $8,000 to construct and were being offered at $4250 for a 2 bedroom model and $4500 for a 3 bedroom model. The average lot was 24 X 43 and all models had full basements, four piece bathrooms, oak hardwood floors, forced air oil furnaces and double glued asbestos siding.

Studies undertaken in the 70s revealed that waste rock had been used for roads, driveways and building foundations. The Paudash Lake Conservation Association alerted authorities to the lack of remediation and concerns that crushed waste rock my be contaminating groundwater with heavy metal and radionuclides. Tailing ponds were deteriorating and leaking into nearby creeks, potentially entering the local aquifers- although the ads declared "Cardiff: Where the Air you Breathe and the Water you Drink is the Purest in North America". That was true, pure spring water was piped in and on tap.