Warm Winter Woes

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6 March 2017 - 12:48, by , in Blog, Propane News, No comments

Propane pricing started a slow retreat throughout the month of February, no doubt due to a slackening demand facilitated by the above average seasonal temperatures. Strange February, I must say. As I write this article, which is late in February, I would have to say that winter is pretty well over. We may get a little cold weather yet, but in the scheme of things, the bulk of the home heating season is all but finished until next fall. Two mild winters in a row can get a propane home heating guy talking to himself. Just like the Toronto Maple Leaf fan says in regards to the Maple Leafs quest for the Stanley Cup: “Well, there’s always next season.” This propane guy is hoping that next season is actually a typical cold winter.

Something you might not know about us is that under the name Cedar Signs we are also in the sign manufacturing business. We produce municipal and road construction signage that we sell directly to those markets. The reason this is relevant in this propane newsletter is that when typical winter weather doesn’t show up to help support propane sales, many of our municipal customers continue to do work on their roads, which requires signs and posts. The original plan was to sell most of our propane from October through March, and as the weather warms up in March, the sign activity picks up and propane slows down. These opposing businesses have opposing seasons, which helps to keep us from having seasonal slow downs.  When the ground freezes up in November and we get snow, our municipal customers start to plow snow, salt, and sand the roads. When we get a warm winter, these road crews aren’t doing all the plowing and sanding. These conditions allow them to do other road projects, like replacing bent or broken signs and posts, and doing other sign maintenance.

We have found this diversification has been beneficial in maintaining a steady workforce and cash flows. I speculate that some of my competition who do only propane must have some sleepless nights when we have these warm winters.

How warm was it? Saw the sparrows building nests around the barn only about a month earlier than normal. On February 23rd I went to play hockey in Kitchener. It was a 10:30pm game, to which I wore a short sleeved shirt, and a light shell to walk from my truck into the arena, some 1000 ft (300 metres). No hint of being cold.

Sucks getting old. Apart from the typical things like wrinkles, wanting to take the odd nap, ear hair, and your body not wanting to do what your mind says you should be able to do… other stuff pops up. I have noticed that people tend to look past you, or are quick to disregard your opinion on all kinds of matters, and I know that twenty years ago under like circumstances, people would hang on your every word. This attitude does change when you have the solution to a problem they can’t solve. (These problem solving skills only come from all those years of experience that made you old in the first place!)

In June of 2016, I received a notice from the government informing me that a particular propane license that I went to school for in 1972 and have renewed every three years since could not be renewed on it’s due date in January 2017 without presentation of apprenticeship support documents from an accredited program. This license is for installing propane systems on internal combustion engines like lawn equipment, tractors, vehicles like your car, and things like that. So, I wrote to the appropriate agency and informed them that, at the time of my licensing, there was no formal apprenticeship program in place for this license, and that I had maintained my license all these years in good standing, never had any kind of code violations from their inspection and enforcing body. I ran classes in the early 1980s sanctioned by their inspection division for automotive dealership licensed auto mechanics, as well as several mechanics from Chrysler Canada. Had no failures amongst these trainees, who all wrote and received this particular license which allowed them to convert and service propane powered automotive vehicles. The agency wrote back to me and basically said: no apprenticeship documents, no renewal. I could however take a five year automotive apprenticeship and re-write the test. Like I’m going to do that! I then contacted my appropriate member of parliament, sent all documentation, and asked if they might intercede on my behalf. After a little foot dragging, they came back with the same canned reply. Basically said you’re toast. Less than a week after the reply from this member of parliament, I received a request for a political monetary donation from the same member. I didn’t send a donation.

Looks like I can park the new addition to the snow removal equipment until next season. Considering it was barely used by me after it landed here, it still looks brand new!

These mild winters have an impact on wildlife in as much as the mortality rates of most living things gets better. Great to see some species of wildlife more abundant, like deer and birds, but not so good when it comes to rodents, raccoons, and the like. So, expect to see more creatures of all kinds–some of which may try to get into your house, barn, shed, or garbage.

Anticipate spring with enthusiasm, even if we do get some cold and snow in March. Remember to participate in life every day.

Thanks for your tremendous support.

Peter Rivers

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