A few notes after an exhausting eight hour drive in a car full of kids:
* While it's been raining all the time in Toronto and Ottawa, the weather has been perfect in Ontario south of London. In fact, some lawns are dry. Seems the storm systems have been following the same track all summer.
* The zebra mussel scourge is over in Lake Erie. The lake was full of them five years ago. This year, there don't seem to be any. Friends along the lake say the animals' shells got soft and the fish ate them. There are lots of shells of dead mussels mixed with sand and pebbles along the coast but the boulders along the shore that used to be covered with mussels are now back to being green with seaweed. I wonder if this will be the case in the other lakes and rivers where zebra mussels took over? Lake Erie now has a large trout and salmon fishery, along with the perch and pickerel. There are far fewer cormorants, also a pest a decade ago. The ecosystem has, again, found its own equilibrium.
* Pelee Island is beautiful. I was greeted upon arrival by the sight of a bald eagle landing in a tree. The former mayor loaned us his car and we went all over the island, including to the very busy winery. I must have a real soft spot for islands. I could live there. It's a gorgeous place with a slow pace of life, interesting marshland, a huge winery and spectacular coastal views. From the west side, you you see the 350' monument to Oliver Hazard Perry at Put-In Bay
* I have never seen so much land in southern Ontario in cash crops. There are (barring a disaster) going to be huge harvests of corn and soya beans in a few weeks. All the people dooming and glooming about a corn shortage or, like Jeffrey Simpson, trashing the ethanol industry never reckoned with farmers putting every acre possible under cultivation.
* Along the shore of Lake Erie south of Chatham, enterprizing people have set up quite a few windmills. "Environmentalists" in the area say they are a threat to birds. I wonder if these are the same environmentalists who squawk about the need for alternate energy? The wind mills turn faorly slowly. A bird would have to be pretty stupid to get hit by a blade.
The area south and west of Chatham must be nearly self-sufficient in natural gas and oil. People often forget there's an oilfield in that part of the country and farther north, in Lambton County. Some farmers have oil wells sitting in the middle of parcels of the best agricultural land in Canada. In fact, some lucky families use small natural gas wells to heat their homes. Larger gas wells are used to heat the hundreds of greenhouses, some taking up twenty acres or more.
* I heard ghastly stories about the "plastic plantations" in Essex County, south of Windsor. The local greenhouse operators now have hundreds of acres under glass and plastic and import temporary workers from Mexico who earn a lower minimum wage and, I'm told, are often exposed to chemicals used to control insects and fungus. The wolrk is back-breaking, the hours are long, and no one complains because they immediately get sent back to Mexico. The Mexican government has a consulate in Leamington that "handles" the money of these migrant workers, most of whom are desperately poor. Their situation in Canada is no better than it is in California.
* I didn't meet anyone who wants a federal election, but I did meet some people in the Point Pelee area who wonder how the CAW became a "company union". Buzz's support won't be worth much to the Liberals, at least in the Windsor area. Casino workers and people who are employed in other non-auto industries unionized by the CAW seem especially disappointed in the union.
* Coming from a town that has Larry O'Brien as mayor, it's easy to find common ground with Detroiters who are embarrased by Kwame Kilpatrick. No one was talking about John Edwards, but the Americans I met, mostly from Michigan, were chatty with Kwame stories and hoped he's be kept in jail. Kwame's misdeeds are too lengthy to recount here, but his latest offence involves violating his bail conditions to visit Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls? Must have been on the SFH tour route.