Life is good

Kerry Knudsen

Picturing hope beneath the snow

BUILDING PERMITS on the federal level remain at record highs. As you will see in our Bullets department, Statistics Canada says Canadian municipalities issued $8.8 billion worth of building permits in December, up 6.0 percent from November, up 10.6 percent year-over-year and it was the fourth consecutive monthly increase. The gain, StatCan says, was largely due to higher construction intentions for multi-family dwellings and commercial buildings, with both components hitting record highs.

I always imagine it goes without saying, but building permits are one of the leading indicators of the health of our sector. Every multi-family dwelling and every commercial building needs a floor. Further, every multi-family dwelling and every commercial building may represent a move up for the new residents, which means a vacancy wherever they left, which indicates more spending on renovation.

In short, things are looking good. Very good. In fact, it’s hard to imagine how things could reasonably be expected to be better.

Sure, I see the horizon. We have a society that feels entitled to big spending, and we have unfulfilled obligations to government workers and unionized employees that likely cannot go on forever. However, today is a day to stop and smell the roses. I am speaking figuratively, of course, since it’s not exactly rose season in Canada, but you get the drift.

Royal Highness rose

My favourite rose is called Royal Highness. It’s a hybrid tea with a large, double bloom, it blooms pretty much all season and has long stems that make for dramatic cut flowers. It has few thorns, is light pink throughout and has a heady fragrance with the essence of cloves. I really like it, and have several scattered around the property.

The downside, since everything earthly must have a downside like unfunded liabilities, is the Japanese beetle. Talk about a worthless addition to Canadian wildlife. On first glance they are sort of pretty. Shiny, lots of colours and all that. However, they eat the flowers, buds and leaves of roses, and they specifically prefer my Royal Highnesses above any other of our roses.

You find out about Japanese beetles after it is too late. They bore holes in the buds, ensuring that the ensuing blooms are shot through with holes long after the offending bug is dead. They chew off the leaves, leaving only the vein from the middle standing skeletally in the sun. And they mate in broad daylight right on the apex of the plant, making certain they are visible as I back out of the drive as if to interrupt any business dealings I may have to deal with interlopers.

Mostly, I smash them between my thumb and forefinger, but they have an irksome habit of getting away. Like the lily beetles, that are another hated scourge of the garden, they simply drop when they perceive a threat, and they land in the leaf duff or mulch below and are lost. Of my attempts to mash mating pairs, I am mostly left getting one or none, with the survivor(s) chortling at me invisibly in the base.

I spent about $80 last year on nematodes — a new approach to bug genocide — hoping that the larvae will be wiped out before I see them this year. For me, “hope” is like a fantasy filled with fear, especially where Japanese beetles are concerned. For one thing, we don’t know how or whether the nematodes will work. For another, once you use nematodes you can’t use such traditional bug-genocide devices as malathion, since the pesticide also kills the nematodes.

We will see. It is March, and the nematodes should be down there, under the grass thatch, chewing away on last year’s bumper crop of beetle larvae under the crunchy snow.

Meanwhile, back up on the surface, we have a great opportunity to reinforce our products and services, retain our reputation for quality and advanced product design. Record permits mean record spending and lots of work for everybody.

Life is good.

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