From mid-April until mid-December, 2011, the farmhouse was renovated. As the work progressed, daily progress reports and photos were posted to show the details of how our contractor started with, for example, this:

Before: old dining room (click on all photos to embiggen).

and ended with this:

After: Charlotte's new kitchen.

For those interested in reading about troubles and triumphs of this project from start to finish, all posts concerning it have been consolidated into an article entitled “2011 House Renovation”, located in the Pages section on the right-hand side.

…that the federal and Ontario governments jointly announced a plan to build an airport and adjoining city in North Pickering. Part of Thistle Ha’ farm was inside the planned airport boundary.

On the 40th anniversary of this announcement, tribute was paid to members of the original Pickering airport protest movement, People or Planes (POP), who after years of dedicated effort finally convinced both governments that a dreadful mistake had been made. Airport plans were canceled in 1975. Unfortunately, all governments since then have dithered over what to do with 7,500 hectares (18,600 acres) of Canada’s best quality farm soil that they had expropriated for an unneeded airport. To this day, local groups such as Land over Landings, whose supporters include children and grandchildren of original POP members, continue to lobby the politicians to create a national land trust to be permanently farmed and provide food to surrounding urban sprawl now known as the Greater Toronto Area.

In the video below, local film-maker Peter Shatalow has captured highlights of the tribute, which includes many inset photos referencing POP people and their publicity stunts, including the clever signs, and the Pickering and white-clad Whitevale “fuseiiers”. The march recreates infamous POP protests which included the Grim Reaper and caskets symbolizing what the governments were killing in the community. This time, however, the march was one of hope – the casket was open, revealing seeds planted in North Pickering soil, waiting to grow this spring, and for many springs to come.

The Thistle Ha’ corn harvest is done. Despite a late planting due to a very wet spring, the corn yield was quite good.

I accompanied a 20-tonne load of corn to the local mill, and talked to the general manager. He surprised me when he said that they sell most of their corn as ethanol feedstock. Although Canada started promoting use of biomass (corn, wood products) to manufacture ethanol fuel in 2000 to combat global warming, he said the shift of corn sales from food to fuel has occurred just recently, after the U.S. government started subsidizing corn as a biofuel. This resulted in construction of numerous ethanol plants using corn as feedstock.

40% of the 2010 corn crop in the U. S. was converted to ethanol. This is past the “tipping point”; the U. S. corn crop is now insufficient to meet food needs. The wet spring in the U. S. mid-west and drought conditions in southern hemisphere corn growing regions has resulted in reduction of world-wide corn production in 2011, pushing corn to its highest price in recent memory. This has led to increased prices for other food crops such as soybeans and cereal grains. Although this trend has been beneficial to grain farmers and big agribusiness, increased feed prices have hit the poultry and hog industries hard. Cattle farmers are less affected since the corn mash byproduct from ethanol production is sold for cattle feed. More worrisome, some economists claim that the price of corn has started to track the price of crude oil. Has the U. S. policy to increase corn ethanol production in an effort to reduce the cost of imported crude oil to the American economy not only failed to reduce the cost of energy, but actually caused a permanent increase in global food prices?

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