Monday, July 26, 2010

Sometimes Good Things Happen - UPDATE

Well, Stacey just arrived, accompanied by his two sweet daughters. As promised, he'd picked up a 40-lb bag of wood pellets in Nanaimo for me and delivered it straight to my door.

All with a smile.

Thanks to Stacey - a complete stranger, remember -, Kiltie and Brodie are set up with enough litter for their commode for another 12 months; and with a bonus!

Stacey managed to find pine pellets, the kind I wanted most. The local store was out of the pine when I went to purchase pellets last year and the bag of mixed pellets I bought instead hasn't been as good.

The pine holds its freshness and scent longer, as opposed to the alternative, which is a mix of fir, spruce and pine. 

This household is in for a nice fresh pine scent for many, many months to come. Kiltie, Brodie and their human are very pleased with this situation.

Stacey is setting a fine example for his daughters, who are a couple of very lucky little girls.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sometimes Good Things Happen

Posted the following notice to my apartment building's bulletin board about a week ago:


I need someone to carry a 40 lb bag of wood pellets to my 3rd-floor apartment.

Unit 311

No response... despite several able-bodied tenants who could do this without breaking a sweat.

My plan was to go with friend Daisy to Shar-kare in Duncan; have them place the bag of pellets into her car; once here, somehow manoeuvre the 40 lbs down six steps, through a heavy locked main entry door and across several feet of hallway; dump the bag, with a resounding thump, under the ground-floor stair landing; and attach this note to it: For Unit 311.

Best-laid plans...

Given the lack of response from my most immediate neighbours I posted a SERVICE WANTED message to my local recycle ReUSEIt1 site... and received this response mere minutes later.

Hi, I can carry it up for you... I work days and have variable hours available... Can you arrange and pay for the item and I will pick it up from the store for you and deliver it one evening? Feel free to phone me, Stacey at thanks

Picture yours truly donning her headphones, then using Skype to key in Stacey's phone number.

We talked.

Turns out that Shar-kare has a branch in Nanaimo that's virtually next door to where Stacey works.

Stacey suggested that rather than my going to the Duncan store, he get the pellets for me in Nanaimo. Then he'll bring them by at a time to suit his schedule - likely sometime tomorrow afternoon or evening.

Sometimes people let you down. Other times, thanks to people like Stacey, they don't; and good things happen.

1 We used to be associated with the ReUseIt network, which I mention in the linked post. Now we're with the ReUseIt Network - and here is the Cowichan group!

ETA: This morning, two three four other men responded to my free recycle post. After the disappointing lack of response from the tenants in this building, this has been reassuring.

ETA 2: See follow-up post.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Provincial camping: a CHEAP vacation?

Okay, so here I am, still visiting at my sister's place in Southwestern Ontario.

She says, 'Let's go camping for a few days along Lake Huron'. 'Great', I say. I view this as chance to enjoy some of Ontario's beautiful natural conserves without having to fork over pots of money for overnight accommodation. We will use tents! We will bring our own food and cook it over an open fire!

However, to camp in the Provincial Campgrounds in Ontario one must reserve a campsite via telephone, on-line, for $8, or go in person to the desired campground ahead of time and pay $9. The cost of the cheapest site weighs in at $28.00 per night. This is basic camping, folks: a place to put your tent up, a firepit, drinking water from a nearby tap and an outdoor biffy (called a 'vault') within walking distance of your set-up. If you want a campfire, you must buy pre-approved wood, off-site, at $7-8 a bag, plus tax. No sinks or showers for this price and not all campgrounds offer the low rate.

If you cancel or change your reservation, 10 -15 percent is held back, while the reservation fee is non-refundable.

Then there is the HST.

Hmmmmm, and what if you are one of the many 'working poor' who want to take your family for a vacation, where the 'basic' rate for a campsite might only pay a small portion of the vehicle operation/running costs to get you there?

By now I am beginning to get the picture that camping is not the cheap vacation I was anticipating. I wonder how I would make the reservation if I did not have a telephone, were not on-line or could not afford to drive to the campground ahead of time to request a site?

Sigh, if only I were a homeless person in BC, I would be allowed to camp in the local parks overnight~for free.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shameless Self Promotion

First, it's my birthday today. Sixty years of age. I made it!

Second, my name, the WISE book and economicus ridiculous get mentions in an article today in The Tyee.

The writer has done a good job on the issue. That's no surprise coming from The Tyee, an independent media organization that does British Columbians proud.

Monday, July 5, 2010

GST/HST/LICAT Credits Benefit Low-Income Households

Got my $146.25 GST/HST/carbon tax credits! That's $585 per year!

(There must be a cost of living allowance built in, likely on the GST and/or LICAT credits - $230 and $100, respectively. With BC's $230 HST credit, the total comes to $580, not $585.)

The $230 annually from BC for the HST is a boost I appreciate. On an income as low as mine, no way does the sales tax I pay come anywhere near it, let alone approach $585. Which means more money for food, less worry about my rent going up by $15 next month.

In fact, so far this year, and this is as of June 30 before receiving and calculating in this latest credit, I'm ahead by $57.86.

Thank you BC Liberals for doing something right for a change. HOW you did it, in not coming clean with the electorate, is another matter.

I also give credit to the BC Liberals for implementing their "Climate Action," or carbon, tax. It doesn't go far enough, but it's a start.

Taxing consumption is the way to go. Yes, despite the incessant cry: "But the jobs! If you tax goods and services, there'll be no jobs!!"

Well, if society would move toward green jobs, which produce environment-preserving, innovative, and more efficient goods and services, then it would have less of a problem, wouldn't it?

ETA: See follow-up re comments below about effect of HST on BC Hydro bills.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Surreal Land of Plenty

Here I am, at my sister's place in Ontario. A surreal land of plenty.

A one way plane ticket was sent so I could attend my nephew's wedding. Sis lives in beautiful Southwestern Ontario in a two bedroom, two bathroom, full basement brick home with her hard working husband. Her now adult children (and grandchildren) all live within a 20 mile radius and everyone gets along well. I love my sis and her family.

Their lifestyle is middle class mainstream. This means they lack for little in the North American Capitalist arena. I find myself gasping at the way the money flows in this household: instead of one four litre plastic jug of ozonated, distilled water there are eighteen: instead of thawing three frozen chickens the night before a barbeque, my brother-in-law goes to the butcher to purchase 'fresh' chickens. Running to town in one of their two vehicles to buy one forgotten item is not a problem. Leftover food is thrown out, as bro-in-law won't eat it.

They have a dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, air conditioner, dehumidifier, two computers, two television sets and every conceivable kitchen gadget imaginable, not to mention the hundreds of tools, camping gear, extra clothing items, bicycles, sports equipment, tent trailer, utility trailer and sundry other STUFF that has been purchased.

Not being around others who live such a lifestyle for any length of time, I am astounded that this seems to be the norm.

When you live well below the poverty line, as do I, such monetary excess seems obscene, unnecessary and sickening. For me, nothing that requires spending my meager income is taken for granted. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is done without preplanning.

When I write, I forget that most people don't really have a clue as to how I make ends meet on a daily basis. It is a constant challenge, which I have mastered over many years of eking out a living.

Sis says that only I, of all my siblings, have an acquired 'Grace' to endure living well below the poverty level. To Sis, I reply: There is nothing graceful about poverty.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tips 'n Tricks: GST/HST and Snack Foods

Ever buy trail mix? Ju jubes or other chewy candy? Chocolate or salted nuts?

GST or HST applies to all of them. In some cases, so does the provincial sales tax.

Any snack-type foods to which salt has been added, even if they are sold in bulk - such as salted nuts and seeds - are GST/HST applicable.

The tax also applies to unsalted or salted mixtures of otherwise non-taxable food items; ergo, trail mix. In that case, you're paying for the service component of the 'Goods and Services' tax.

Among non-taxable bulk food items are chocolate chips for baking; raisins; dried fruit such as mango, cranberries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, apricots and pineapple; and unsalted nuts and seeds. (Beware: unshelled nuts sold in packages are taxable, regardless of whether or not they are salted.)

Therefore, if you want to buy trail mix but don't want to pay the tax, buy each of the ingredients individually - all unsalted. Then mix them together yourself and add salt, if desired.

For chewy candy, go for dried cantaloupe, which is eerily similar to sugar-coated candied jelly; or dried mango, grapefruit, pineapple, and so on. Experiment!

To satisfy your craving for chocolate, buy it in chip form from the bulk bin or in packages where it's sold for baking.

You can make a further saving if you have a food dehydrator. Then you can dry your own fruit and other foods.

I'd acquired a free food dehydrator a few months ago. Unfortunately, it didn't work. Am hoping that another, functioning one will find its way here eventually.

ETA: Carob chips, which are a vegan alternative to chocolate chips, are also sales tax free. Added bonus! - they're about two-thirds of the price of chocolate chips and can be used in baking as a substitute for chocolate.