Important Information for All

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Dealing with Unwanted Plant Life

In our last post, we talked about invasive and/or problematic plants both in and out of the lake. This time, we’d like to share a little more on this subject, based on information and guidance received through our partnership with Severn Sound Environmental Association.

Their wetland biologist identified samples of two types of grasses taken from the lake as wild rice and hard-stemmed bulrush. We have received reports that one or both of these are crowding the shoreline of some properties. Before we continue, we must stress that there are legal and safety factors involved in dealing with both native and invasive plants and state that we do not advise anyone to proceed without professional, educated consultation.

Residents may be able to do some selective clearing to make a path wide enough for boat passage, however there are some rules to follow from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). DFO rules take precedence over the MNRF rules since they’re federal, but the best plan is to go with whichever is the more restrictive regulation.

Based on our location, a permit from the MNRF is not needed but there are some rules to follow. You must be the property owner, or conducting removal on behalf of the owner. You may only remove plants directly in front of your own property. You must dispose of removed plants on dry land, and any wheeled or tracked machinery or equipment used must be used, operated and/or stored on dry land as well. You may only use mechanical devices such as a rake or cutter bar, or bare hands to remove plants – dredging the bed of the water body is not permitted. There are also rules regarding the maximum dimensions of removal sites allowed, and about clearing during fish spawning seasons. To ensure that you are compliant should you wish to remove native aquatic plants, we strongly recommend that you contact the MNR district office before proceeding. They are located at 2284 Nursery Rd in Midhurst, or you can reach them by phone at 705-725-7500. To determine whether a DFO permit may be necessary, please contact them by writing Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 520 Exmouth Street, Sarnia, ON N7T 8B1 or you can call 1-866-290-3731 toll free.

The MNRF rules for removal of invasive aquatic plants such as invasive phragmites or purple loosestrife are very similar to those for non-invasive plants. There are currently a few patches of phragmites in the area that are not in the lake. The OLRA will look into the identifying whether these are native or invasive and, if necessary, their removal before the problem becomes more widespread. If you do see phragmites on your property it is important that they be removed or, at the very least, the seedheads should be cut off and burned to prevent windborne spread. Invasive phragmites grow through an extensive underground rhizome system so a single control method may not be effective.

Giant hogweed contains a phototoxic sap which reacts with ultra-violet (UV) light once it has come in contact with the skin. It can cause second degree burns. There are four species of giant hogweed but not all are found in North America. It is important to get to know this plant – and its “look-alikes”. Due to the health risks associated with giant hogweed, it is extremely important to become educated and seek consultation in dealing with it should it appear on your property.

We have added pdf files on the top left of the blog that detail best handling practices for both phragmites and hogweed. This is a good first step toward understanding what you are up against in trying to remove and/or control these plants.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Cruel September

As I write, the first day of school is just a few hours away. Once I craved this return to routine. When my days didn’t unfold in an orderly fashion I felt unglued and out of sorts. It was harder to focus and accomplish things that would leave me feeling satisfied with my small contribution to the spinning of the planet at the end of the day. I used to welcome fall and the return of schedules with open arms. Now it seems to me, despite what T.S. Eliot had to say about April, that September is the cruelest month.

These days, clocks and calendars seem more like unwanted guests in my home than beloved members of the family. There are a few exterior reasons for my change of heart. The kids who used to spend weekends in my basement are hanging out in post-secondary residences now. The first child I brought into this world is expecting the arrival of his own soon. My daughter, who has been occupying that basement since the younger kids expanded their horizons, is planning to move out on her own. All these events are exciting and evoke a ton of positive thoughts and feelings but also bring on retrospection and a pesistent desire to turn back the hands of time. Yet, simultaneously, retirement skips just a few steps ahead of me and I want to run to catch up. I can’t wait to have the freedom from the demands of a job and kids to plan my days around things that I never have time for. Essentially, I want things that are polar opposites and, for the moment, can have neither.

Then along comes September. Contradictory, deceptive, demanding September. It offers lovely, sunny hours free of humidity while slamming the door shut on the lazy days of summer. In the evenings we’re reaching for sweaters we haven’t even thought of for months but wishing we’d worn shorts in mid-afternoon. The geese are gathering as the leaves begin to turn colour but corn and pumpkins are still growing. On the surface, it looks as though September can’t make up its mind what it wants. It seems to both mock and mimic my own state of mind. Sure, April has its own back and forth dance but spring seems more like a playful child following any given whim. September is more like Grimm’s witch that builds a lovely gingerbread treat just so she can stuff you in her oven. It’s purposefully messing with us. September can be a real jerk.

We can’t force it to be a more decisive month any more than I can change my adult children back to babies or quit my job today. The next best thing, I suppose, is to just roll with it. Tidy up what we can, put a few things on hold and start fresh all at once.

For the OLRA, the annual general meeting tidies up issues that have previously arisen and presents new concerns that need attention. In the area of closure, we heard a report on lake testing conducted by the SSEA during 2015 and closed the effort to have waste collection day changed after we were unable to achieve a majority in favour. Still in progress are an update on septic re-inspection and investigating obstacles to providing a kayak and canoe lock-up at the park. New business focused on plant life both in and out of the water with discussions regarding expanding lake grasses and the recent appearance of phragmites and hogweed in our area. Residents who have already purchased their 2016-17 membership should already have received a full copy of the meeting minutes. If yours didn’t arrive in your inbox, please let us know. For those who would like to review the minutes but are not current members, please see the membership section on the right to purchase your membership online or contact us to use an alternative method of payment.

With the writing of this post, I’ve finished taking care of what I need to do today and I’m heading outside to enjoy a few more hours of freedom. Maybe I’ll stick my tongue out at September while I’m at it.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Another Successful Picnic!

While there’s still lots of summer left to enjoy, the OLRA recently wrapped up the 2015-16 season with our annual picnic and general meeting. We couldn’t have asked for better weather for the picnic and it was wonderful to see both familiar and new faces joining in the fun.

As always, Susan Eccleshall did an outstanding job of organizing an event that has long been a fun-filled summer tradition for many Orr Lake families. Some of those families - the Moffitt and Woods families in particular – consistently give of themselves and we owe our sincere thanks for their donations of prizes, funds and time. We are also indebted to local businesses that sponsored the raffle. Please be sure to reward their generosity with your patronage. These include A’s Fish & Chips, B2’s Pizza, Coffee Time, Corner Cut Salon, Elm Flower Shoppe, Elmvale Foodland, Elmvale McDonald’s, Food Forest, G&S Computers, Georgian Bay Living, Nanny’s Bloomers, Orr Lake Golf Club, Steeler’s Restaurant and Pub, TD Canada Trust, The Village Shoppe, and Twice Around Thrift Store.

A special thank you to Elmvale Home Hardware for their donation of materials for the ever popular nail drive, and to Stefaniuk Precision Carpentry Design & Renovations for providing ice and propane supplies for the BBQ.

Music plays a huge part in setting the festive mood, and the microphone is a necessary component too. Many thanks to Joe Boffo and family who kindly allow use of their hydro to power our sound system.

We are able to share the big-heartedness of all these great donors only with the help of a hardworking team of volunteers. We would be well and truly lost without their contributions of time and effort. A greatly deserved pat on the back to community helpers Jack Beyfuss, Paul Byrne, Charlie Digaudio, Tony & Margaret Eccleshall, Betsy MacDonald, Ernest Stefaniuk, and Ruth Woodcock. The help of local students is also invaluable. Thanks to Tom Deas, Scott Huggard, Colby Scott, and Delaney Scott for proving that the spirit of giving is alive and well among the younger people in our community. The success of this year’s picnic is a credit to you all!

Last but certainly not least on our list of those to thank are our executive volunteers. Their efforts this season brought us increased membership and more frequent communication through various media, which helped to raise attendance numbers at the picnic. They also gave their time to canvassing for raffle donations, shopping for food supplies, staffing the races, and more. A huge thank you to Sonia Kadela, Nick Heintz, Matt & Stephanie McKeown and Louise McGonigal for helping to make our annual event run so smoothly.

A new addition to this year’s line-up was the presence of Mabel Moon Face Painting. Nearly all the kids and a few adults waited patiently for their turn and soon filled the park with Ninja Turtles, kitty cats, dragons, flower children and more. Mabel’s work is outstanding and we’ve already booked her to return next year. Be sure to check out her website, to add a fun twist to your next event.

If you missed this year’s picnic, just remember that it is always held on the Sunday of the August long weekend. Residents and cottagers alike often host family and friends at this time, and the picnic is a great way to let us help you entertain.

At this year’s AGM we were pleased to welcome our guests Mayor Bill French, Councillor Perry Ritchie, and Aisha Chiandet of the Severn Sound Environmental Association. Be sure to watch for our next post when we’ll recap the highlights of the meeting.

Monday, July 25, 2016

See you at the Picnic!

It’s time to celebrate summer in Orr Lake at the Ratepayers Picnic! Residents and cottagers from Orr Lake are invited to join us for an afternoon of fun to remember as you meet or reunite with neighbours and friends on Sunday, July 31 beginning at 12:00 noon at Orr Lake Park on South Orr Lake Road. Admission is just $10 per family which includes your 2016-17 OLRA membership.

When you first arrive, visit the Welcome table where you can purchase your membership, raffle and 50/50 tickets, or enter to win with your best guess regarding the candy jar’s contents. We’ve received some wonderful donations from many local businesses and families in our community so don’t miss your chance to take one home. We’ll also have Orr Lake t-shirts available for purchase.

Bring the kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews and we’ll be happy to wear them out for you with a variety of games and races such as the ever popular egg toss and shoe kick. There are events for those who excel individually, and lots for those who work better as part of a team. Races are divided into age categories with a huge variety of prizes for all, plus medals and ribbons that make great additions to the summer scrapbook. Don’t forget to start working those biceps in preparation for the horseshoe and nail driving competitions.

When you’re expending all that energy, you’ll need to fuel up. Enjoy grilled burgers and dogs flipped and served up hot by our barbecue volunteers. Cash only please – no cheques, plastic or trading of children, mothers-in-law, or burnt-out boat motors.

If you’re more of a worker bee than a competitor, we can always use an extra body or two to help out with spotting during races, supervising competitions and so on. Volunteer hours are given to high school students. Please get in touch to find out how you can lend a hand.

This all adds up to a day of great fun on the shores of our lovely lakes so mark your calendars now. We look forward to another terrific turn-out of neighbors to make this year’s picnic the best ever!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Community-wide Yard Sale

Last year's community yard sale was a great success, so we're coordinating another this year. If you would like to take part on July 9, 2016 from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm, please let us know so that we can help out with advertising. We will be renting space to promote the event on the sign at the park in Hillsdale with the hope that this will increase traffic and sales. Call or text (905) 716-2571 or email us at to have your address added to the list.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

It's a brand new season!

Can I be perfectly honest with you?  I don’t feel like writing this entry today.  Usually when I sit down in front of the keyboard I’m inspired or, at the very least, I enjoy the hunt for words to address my chosen topic.  Not today.  Please don’t be offended.  My lack of interest extends to doing the laundry, catching up on housework and even enjoyable things like reading or calling friends I haven’t talked to for a while.  It’s just one of those lackadaisical days.  I have plenty of energy and no lack of tasks requiring attention.  I just can’t find a sense of purpose.

If I had a grain of sense, I’d drift through the day and be happy to just let things happen.  Having a purpose is important though.  It’s a defining characteristic of being human.  We crave it.  It helps to reduce stress by keeping us organized and focused.  Directing our attention to external pursuits and activities gives us less time to listen to the babble of our own brains, helping to ward off anxiety and depression.  Our sense of well-being is enhanced when we step outside of ourselves and become a part of something bigger, something more.

Being an active participant in the workings of the Orr Lake Ratepayers Association is a wonderful way to expand your personal sense of purpose. 

Are you friendly, outgoing and physically active?  The one area where assistance is most required is our door to door membership drive.  Whether you are willing to canvass an entire neighbourhood or just a few houses, your help is invaluable.  Memberships are currently our sole source of funds to hold events such as the annual picnic and pay for materials needed to advertise events and cover Association costs such as hall rental for the AGM, insurance and FOCA membership.

Perhaps your interests tend more toward planning and organization.  Serving as a member of the OLRA executive is the perfect way to let your talents shine and to acquire first-hand knowledge of all that pertains to our community.  Most positions require a small commitment of time and energy.  Meetings are held once monthly. Since technology allows those who can’t be physically present to take part we have shifted to weeknight meetings so as not to interfere with weekend plans.

There are many ways to get involved on a smaller scale as well.  What could be nicer than to spend a few hours outdoors chatting while you staff one of the new events we introduced last year such as the perennial exchange or bottle drive?  This is a great way for students to earn community hours.  If you make it your habit to keep up with Township Council meetings, it would take but a moment to advise us of any items on the agenda of relevance to Orr Lake.  Consider donating a percentage of your proceeds from the community garage sale to the OLRA.  Do you have a small collection of new items gleaned from stockings or unused gifts that could serve as prizes at the annual picnic?  Perhaps you have other thoughts on how you’d like to take part that we’ve never proposed.  Feel free to bring them to our attention.

The first executive meeting of the 2016 season is Tuesday, May 10th at 7:00 pm.  If you’ve considered volunteering in some capacity but aren’t sure what that would entail, we invite you to join us at 2089 South Orr Lake Road to learn more and ask any questions you may have.

I have a question of my own.  I’m pleased about getting this edition of Currents wrapped up and feeling somewhat fulfilled but still don’t feel like finishing the laundry.  Any takers?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day 2016

Are you #Rooting4Trees this Earth Day?  This year marks the beginning of a wonderful initiative by the global network of Earth Day organizations.  Around the world, they are kicking off an ambitious campaign to plant 7.8 billion trees, one for every person on the planet, by 2020. Canada’s contribution to this worldwide goal is 35 million trees — one per person in Canada. From April 1st to April 30th, Earth Day Canada will be collecting pledges to support tree planting projects across the country.

Deforestation is a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for up to 15% of total emissions. Deforestation plays such an oversized role in climate change, in fact, that part of the 2015 Paris Agreement singled out both the end of deforestation and the importance of reforestation to hitting national climate goals. Planting trees – lots and lots of trees – is the best way to counteract deforestation. Take action by pledging a tree or planting a tree this Earth Day! Visit to learn how to participate, and to find out more about Earth Day Canada’s programs.

In the interest of achieving balance, let’s follow up all that feel-good Earth Day activity with something most of our readers are likely less than thrilled about - yet another increase to hydro rates announced last week. This one’s a doozy.  In a release, the OEB says "Ontarians consumed less electricity than expected over the recent milder winter.  As a result of lower usage, Regulated Price Plan (RPP) prices did not recover the full cost of serving RPP customers. One of the main reasons prices are increasing in May is to recover this shortfall."  Crank up the AC!  Do your laundry on a Tuesday afternoon!  Run the dishwasher on half loads!  What does it matter?  We’re charged more when we use too much and, now, when we use too little electricity.  Is it coincidence that this latest increase follows so closely on the heels of the debt retirement charge elimination and the introduction of the Ontario Electricity Support Program? It would take far more space than we have here to fully explain all the factors in the mismanagement of energy that has led to poorer families having to choose between running their fridges and having food to store in them.

We are, of course, not advocating that you disregard all of the energy conservation efforts you make.  Yet, the fact is that fixed distribution rates plus increased charges for less usage serve to undermine the energy saving measures we’ve been encouraged to implement through costly marketing and advertising strategies.  Talk about adding insult to injury.  For many, switching off the lights when you leave a room is a life-long habit, and a good one.  Our elders used to say, ‘waste not, want not’.  While rising costs for all of modern life’s necessities are making it more difficult to see that adage reflected in our bank balances, it still applies to our responsibility as humans on this planet.

Most mechanisms for generating electricity release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into Earth's atmosphere. While small quantities of carbon dioxide exist naturally in the atmosphere, the generation of electricity has greatly increased the presence of greenhouse gas.  Those gases lead to air pollution and acid rain.  The dangers of radioactive waste produced from sources like nuclear energy add to the ways in which electricity affects the environment.

Let’s not get so distracted by the frustration of being chained to the hydro giant that we forget there’s a far more important benefit to conserving energy than saving money.  Since usage is less relevant to that number on our hydro bills with every rate and policy change, start (or continue) to think of conservation in terms of caring for the planet.  All those Earth Day trees we were talking about at the beginning will bring much needed change.  Don’t make it negligible by giving up.  Keep doing your part to help all the living entities on our planet, including ourselves, to thrive.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Clean-up, Burn Permits & Waste Collection

In putting together our last post, I was caught up in the romance of early spring and chose to ignore the rocky moments of the relationship.  We were lucky to escape the damage that our neighbours to the south suffered during the recent ice storm but it did serve as a reminder.  This season that embraces us with warmth and serenades us with birdsong can be a cranky suitor with a practical side too.  Let’s get some of those matter of fact issues out of the way this time around so we can get back to the courtship.  Despite the snow on the ground as I write this morning, it won’t be long until we’re cleaning up our yards and enjoying warm summer evenings around the fire.

We’re foregoing an organized spring clean-up day this year.  Most residents tidy up areas adjacent to their own properties.  Please remember that ditches play a big part in keeping the lake healthy.  Reeds and other natural growth provide a filter for run-off that travels through them on its way to the lake so grab the garbage, but leave the leaves.  To maintain other areas, we ask that you consider taking along a bag and pair of gloves when you head out for a stroll on the warmer days to come.  If even a few of us make a habit of picking up bits of refuse along the way we’ll keep our community litter free year round.

There are a couple of changes to the acquisition of burn permits to pass along.  Effective February 1, 2016, there is a fee for Recreational Burn Permits of $15 per calendar year.  For the first time, permits may be obtained online using a major credit card.  Visit the Springwater Township website to get yours.  Under the Municipal Services menu, click on Fire & Emergency services.  On the left hand side you’ll find a link to the Burn Permits page.  You’ll need to have your property roll number (found on your tax bill) at hand and be sure to click the check boxes beside each of the conditions for recreational fires.  Permits can also be obtained at 2303 Ronald Rd, Minesing (Station 3) or 2231 Nursery Rd, Minesing (Township Administration Building) between the hours of 8:30am and 4:30pm, Monday to Friday (excluding holidays) or at any of the three library branches (Midhurst, Elmvale and Minesing) during regular business hours.  Rural open air burn permits also incur the $15 fee but are not available online and must be purchased at either Station 3 or the Township Administration Building.

There was a bit of confusion in our neighbourhood regarding the County’s Easter weekend waste collection when pick-up was cancelled on Good Friday due to the storm.  This temporarily created the impression for some that there was actually a scheduled one day delay due to the holiday.  By ‘some’, I mean me.  Usually the County’s waste management calendar hangs in the garage but we didn’t receive one this year.  Currently, I’m not sure whether we were simply missed or if the County has discontinued distribution of the traditional paper copy.  However, the situation did lead to all kinds of new discoveries when I checked the County website.  From the home page, I found my way to Waste Management Services through the Services tab at the top.  There, I clicked on ‘When is my collection day?’ in the sidebar menu.  On that page there are a host of options.  Viewers can download and print a copy of the calendar, which was my original intent until I saw that I could sign up for weekly reminders and notifications about changes to collection via email, phone or Twitter.  There’s also an option to add the collection schedule to your personal calendar if you use iCal, Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook.  Technology often drives me crazy, but this is one of its better uses.  For those without access to either a hard or digital copy, please note that yard waste collection will begin April 25, and continues every two weeks until the week beginning June 6.

If the weatherman has his facts straight, we’re in for a week or so of lower than average temperatures but after that we should be seeing real spring in all its glory.  It’s a time of plans and projects, so use the coming days to organize so you’re ready to get outdoors and enjoy when it arrives.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Missed Waste Collection

Waste Collection did not occur on Good Friday due to icy road conditions. There will be a double bag day for the next collection day to accommodate one extra bag. Thanks to Marilyn Husak for passing this info along.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Spring Fever

Even after a relatively mild winter like the one we’re just emerging from the early signs of spring are most welcome.  Already we’ve enjoyed a couple of days when we could open the windows for at least a few moments, take a stroll without hats and gloves.  People smile more, perhaps because the kids are outside again.  There’s a feeling in the air that’s unique to this time of year that’s wonderfully described by Mark Twain in a quote that reads “It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want—oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”

Perhaps you remember, as I do, the heightened sensations of youth that attended each changing season.  Seemingly endless summer brought peace and freedom, with cool water on sun-baked skin, sand between toes and the potential for adventure right outside the front door.  Fall was melancholy with its haunting winds and leaves dropping like tears.  Winter came with a harsh, cold snap that meant business and the comfort of fires and flannel sheets.  Oh, but spring.  Old cares were swept away with months’ worth of dust and dirt.  A face upturned to the cleansing rains felt nurtured and refreshed.  Spring was a blossom scented promise borne on a gentle breeze that at once soothed the soul and filled it with excitement.

What happens to that intuitive strong bond we once forged with the environment?  We could blame the accountability that our understanding of adult life demands.  There is also much discussion about technology causing a disconnection with the world around us, but all of our responsibilities and gadgets aren’t the cause.  They’re merely symptomatic of the choices we have made.  Perhaps the same could once be said of books, toys or even schools.  Some histories of the 18th century define it as a period when the upper class view of the role of children shifted, when adults began to supervise and manipulate their growth rather than letting it happen naturally.  It’s possible that the influx of products and services directed at the youngest members of the family unit during that time planted the seeds of withdrawal from nature.

Wherever this neglect of the natural world began, we are not obligated to allow its continuance, nor should we.  Studies show that it’s not only our moods that are affected by what we experience in the individual moments of each ordinary day.  Our immune systems respond to the body’s reaction to its surroundings as well.  Pleasing atmospheres such as those found in nature heal, soothe and restore.  They help us connect to one another by stimulating the parts of the brain associated with love and empathy.  We can recapture the love affair we had with nature as children, but we have to want it.

 While I’m not immune to that nameless yearning that Mr. Twain spoke of, there are definite things that I’m sure I want.  One of those is to do what I can to give back a little of all that nature has given to me.  It’s the reason that I joined the OLRA executive board six years ago.  Another thing on my wish list as we begin the season that marks the sixtieth anniversary of the formation of our Association is to see it flourish and thrive for another sixty years.  If you’re feeling that longing to get back to a more natural life, a craving for something new when the very world around you is welcoming your involvement, why not connect with us and find out how we can help you reconnect with nature?