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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bank Barns

Let me try to give you some history about the barns I've been posting pictures of the past few weeks, since a reader asked about it last week.  This part of Ontario, Grey and Bruce Counties, widely known as 'The Queen's Bush' in the 19th century, was opened to new settlers in the 1860's, after settlement roads had been pushed through to Owen Sound.  There is some very interesting earlier history of black pioneers here, and of course the First Nations, but those are other stories.

I went over to a friend's place to illustrate this with pictures of their barn, which is no longer in use for farming, but has been recently restored, with entirely new siding and interior floor - and they did most of the work themselves!  This is a very typical old bank barn, similar to most of the others I've had pictures of.

It's known as a 'bank barn' because it's built into a bank in the landscape, enabling access to the upper floor directly on the one side, and access into the stone foundation on the other.  For most of it's farm life, this barn like all the others, held animals below, and hay stored for the winter, along with some grain bins, upstairs.

Here's the lower back side of this barn, the foundation open at ground level so livestock could walk in and out.  Most farms started out in the late 19th century as mixed farms, with some cattle, at least two horses to work the fields, and perhaps some chickens or pigs.  Now most of these barns have no livestock at all, nor any hay!

I'm always amazed by the stonework in the foundations, usually put together by itinerant stonemasons.  Not only could they cut limestone into square blocks, they could do the same with granite!  Here you also see the ramp to the upper leve. of the barn, built up a little to provide a ramp, in spite of being built into the bank.

In the very early years, before combines, the upper floor where this huge sliding door opens would have been used for threshing, with grain being stored in small rooms built as grain bins.  The rest of the upper level would be used for hay storage for the livestock.  But combines were commercialized soon after these barns were built, so primarily they have always been used for hay storage.

Here's another friend's barn, this one built on flat ground, so as you can see in the picture below, a ramp had to be built to the upper level.  Originally hay would be harvested loose, and piled loose in the haymow, using a huge hay fork that dropped from the roof to unload the wagons.  I remember seeing this done at my uncle's farm when I was young.  Square bales soon took over, though they're a lot of work.  It's the large round bales handled by tractor and stored outside that make these old barns largely redundant today.

The other end of this barn shows the ramp to the upper level.  It's also full of clues that this is not a farmer's barn!  The big new garage door, the windows, and the pipe for a wood stove all tell you that this belongs to a rural non-farm resident.  In this case, there's a wonderful large workshop inside those windows, and the main barn is used to store wood for furniture projects.

Next time I'll show you the inside of one of these barns, and tell you more about their construction.  There is no 'Barn Collective' this week, but I'll link in again next week.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Chi-Cheemaun in Dock

We were in Owen Sound a week or two back and spotted the Chi-Cheemaun at it's winter dock.  This is the ferry that transports vehicles between Tobermory, at the north end of the Bruce Peninsula, across the waters between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay to South Bay Mouth on Manitoulin Island.

Taking the ferry saves about a 7 hour drive eastward and north around Georgian Bay, but is a 2 hour crossing, an hour or more of waiting in line, plus 2 or more hours of driving to get to the same place.

After I took the first picture, I realized that there was quite a nice reflection here, so I lined up more carefully to capture it.  As you can see, the water was starting to freeze, blurring the reflection a bit.

We rode this ferry about 40 times back and forth when we were travelling to Manitoulin Island reguarly - 20 years ago or more.  It's a 'drive-on-drive-off' ferry, and this picture shows the curved line at the bow where the entire bow of the ship lifts up to let cars drive off.  It has to lift up about 30 yards before it actually docks against the ramp, and let me tell you, if you're the very first car in line inside there, it's a little unnerving to look out at the deep water 15 feet in front of you.  You gotta hope your brakes work!

The ship is big enough to take full size transport trucks, and there is usually a full load of vehicles during the summer season.  Sometimes you're waiting four or five hours in Tobermory for the next sailing.  Because of the ice of course, it is docked in Owen Sound for the winter.  The season is from mid-May to early October.

The ship docks for the winter just where the river (flowing in from the left) begins widening to form the harbour.  The harbour has been fixed up so that there are nice walkways and a number of interesting historical plaques along the side.

In the distance you can see the two main big industries left, the grain elevators, and on the right, cement elevators.  One hundred years ago this was a busy industrial shipping harbour.  By the way, 'Chi-Cheemaun' means 'Big Canoe' in Ojibway.

Linking to:

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Interesting Sunrise

We had a very interesting sunrise on the second sunny day of the last month, about a week ago.  It started out with a large grey bank of clouds in the east that I would describe as snow clouds, and I thought we'd see no real sunrise.  But then bands of faint pink appeared on a higher level of clouds above the grey cloudbank.


As I watched it became obvious that the grey clouds were disappearing in the east, but higher level clouds were coming the opposite direction, towards me.  The pink clouds turned white, and others in the background started turning orange.

These clouds were moving fast to the northwest; this and the picture below were just a few seconds apart.

But then the sun rose and it became to bright to get a good picture.

And a closer look shows even more interesting colour as the sun nears the horizon.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Those Fences With-the-very-close-Posts

I shared some of our unusual fences with posts only a couple of feet apart last week, and asked if anyone else had seen these.  I've since consulted with a couple of my friends who are long-time farmers in the area and got the real story behind these.  Several of you suggested they were snow fences, and you're partly right.

My friends first pointed out that you only see these fences along roads, not dividing the internal fields of a farm.  The fact is that these fences get totally buried in snow thrown by the snowplow, which shatters the light structure of new-fallen snow and leaves the snowbank at least twice as dense as the snow elsewhere, and of course pile the snow much deeper.

You then have to think about how these deep roadside snowbanks behave in winter.  As we get milder periods, the snow collapses further on itself, becoming ever more dense, and if the temperature is high enough before freezing again, forming a layer of ice.  Over the winter season, these snowbanks will become densely-packed with icy layers in between fresh snowfalls.

We're in the snowbelt here, as you can see in these two pictures, so the snow might be 10 or even 15 feet deep over these fences by late winter.  And when all that collapses in the spring thaw, it takes the fence wires down with it.

This is the same roadside pictured above, from last February.  The snowbanks got about 5 feet deeper at their highest point.

So farmers stick extra short posts in between the 'real' posts, often simply sitting on the ground, and staple the wires to each of these intervening posts.  This is enough to keep these fences from collapsing after being buried in winter snow and ice as the intervening shorter posts keep the wires from sagging.  Interesting local adaptation to our sometimes crazy snowbelt winters!  So these fences are about accumulating snow, but not exactly snowfences.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Getting the Ski Hill Ready

Another sign of the seasons around here is all the work done to get the downhill ski slopes ready over at the Beaver Valley Ski Club.  As soon as the temperature dips below freezing, they think about making snow.  It was one of those bright sunny days when I got these shots.

This shot from below the slopes shows about half the runs at the ski club, not a big hill compared to the mountains, but popular locally.  It will be busy on the weekends all winter.

I stopped at the top, and they had quite a few of the snow guns going down the slope.

This is one of the big new snow-making guns, one that uses much less water.

Further down in the Avalanche bowl, three other guns were blowing snow onto another slope that is far to steep for me to ever consider!

Meantime, the evergreens at the top get plastered of course.  Ten days ago when I shot these, it looked like they were well on their way to skiing over Christmas, always a hoped for bonus for the season.

But then our recent thaw arrived.  The temperature has been at or above freezing for 4 days now, providing a nice foggy atmosphere, but melting the snow too.

We only have a little snow left here now, though I haven't checked the ski hill.  As soon as it dips colder again you can bet they'll be out there trying to make more snow to be ready for the ski season.  That's the way the early winter season goes around here.

 Linking to:

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Few More Barns

I'm getting quite captivated by all the different barns around the landscape here in the valley, now that I've started collecting photos of them.  And there are enough to keep me going for quite awhile.  They're such a big part of the farming landscape here, and they tell us a lot about the farming that has gone on.

These first two are on the drive up the 7th Line to Meaford, taken on that bright sunny day when I photographed the ice along the shoreline.  I think this is my favourite, both in terms of composition, with the tree framing the barn, and because it's a gambrel or hip-roofed barn.  Until I started taking these pictures I didn't realize these were so unusual.

A nice red barn that I drive by frequently, until recently the home of a small herd of beef cattle.

These pictures are on a more typical grey December day, and are all just around the corner from us.  I must have driven by this barn dozens of times - and never noticed!  Take a close look at that silo!  I don't know why this farmer collects the big cranes.

More commonly the barns around here are simply weathered barn board, unpainted.  They seem to last just as long as the painted ones, but perhaps aren't as attractive.  These are two simple bank barns, joined at the corner to make an 'L'.

And here's a restored barn - notice the new barn boards on the east side, rapidly weathering to grey, and the low horizontal line of windows across the wall.  It's always nice to find rural residents maintaining these barns, and best of all, using them.

Hope you enjoyed more barns around the valley; to see more, check out The Barn Collective.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Icy Shoreline

I promised you some more pictures of the icy shoreline on Georgian Bay in Meaford, so here they are.  Taken on Friday when we had one of those rare sunny days.  The weather since has been hovering just above zero, the snow is turning to fog and drizzle!

It wasn't very rough on Friday, and it doesn't take much of a splash to throw water up over the rocks.

In a corner near the harbour you could easily watch how the water would splash on the boulders of the breakwater, leaving ice coating everything above.

In fact you had to be careful not to stand too close, both to avoid the splashes, and to avoid the ice-coated boulders.

Never-the-less, I thought it was very beautiful, a little ephemeral treasure thrown up for our enjoyment by nature - I wonder how many others noticed!

I liked these curly-cues, as well as the ice-covered shrubs.  I'm sure the scenery here changes a lot with the weather too - these are probably gone by now.

I think I have enough blue in these 
pictures to link to Blue Monday:
It was actually a very beautiful Friday!