Saturday, September 24, 2016

Sailing, Scarecrows and Biking

I was in Meaford on Georgian Bay the other day, and had time before meeting a friend for a bike ride.  So I headed down to the harbour to see what I could see.

Obviously it's still summer, and the boats are still sitting by the docks, patiently waiting to be taken out on the bay.

For some reason sailors like the colour blue for more than the water.  Though sails are white, the canvas they wrap the furled up sails in seems to always be blue.

It was a weekday and only two boats were out, but it was a perfect sailing day, an almost cloudless sky and a good brisk breeze.

You can't walk away without noticing the clear water of the bay!  That's a big reason it's such a popular sailing area.

Meantime, downtown, the scarecrows have invaded in preparation for Meaford's Scarecrow Festival next weekend.

This guy was looking a little worn out.  The scarecrows hang around for a full month or so.

On this occasion my destination was a bike ride.  I finally got organized enough to get my bike on the car carrier and bring it up here to meet a friend for a short bike ride.  I was more wondering whether I could successfully transport it than whether I could ride!  (Meanwhile Mrs. F.G. was at the Quilt Guild meeting in town).

After my bout of serious illness 9 years ago now, I bought an electric bike.  I was never a great bike rider, but I rode to work for years, and really enjoyed it.  I wasn't about to give up biking yet!  So I loaded on the magic battery that gives me a boost when I need it, and off we went.

It worked out well.  The motor magically senses how hard you are pedalling and gives you just enough of a boost to make it seem like you're on the level.  Expensive at the time, but I've got a lot of enjoyment out of it.  And Meaford has some nice places to ride, so I was glad to try it out.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Frogs and Foxes

I've seen a lot more livestock while driving around than I have wildlife, but my keen-eyed spotter did see a couple of foxes one day.  And our little Spring Peeper visited the deck again.

This was just a friendly little Leopard frog, though he was choosing some rather rough gravel to cross.

Is this frog habitat?!  Apparently it is; works just as well as a tree!

This little guy is the Spring Peeper that's been visiting our deck.  That support pole for the umbrella is  only an inch and a half wide, which gives you some idea of the frog's size.

And yet, if you get a close-up, he looks like quite a monster.

Anyway, he scampered up that pole without hesitating, the sticky pads on his feet working just fine on the metal pole.  If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I would not have believed it.

The foxes, two of them, were in an old pasture, and Mrs. F.G. just caught a flash of something orange.  We watched and waited.

One of those day when I forgot the binoculars of course, but it was neat to see them.

Linking to

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Equinox Sunrise

Today is the equinox, when for our part of the world the hours of night start to get longer than the hours of daytime.  It means that fall has officially arrived here, and spring has arrived on the other side of the equator.  But today the length of night is equal to the length of day.  In fact fall feels like it has been here for at least a week or two.

I've enjoyed sharing a bit of our trip to Ottawa, but it's time to get back to the 'seasons in the valley', tell you what's happening around here and link in to some of my favourite memes again..

Sunrise happens so late here just now that I don't even have to get up early for it.  The sun doesn't rise til nearly 8 a.m., so I caught this view a good deal earlier, quite a dramatic sky to wake up to.

It shifted from pink to orange, and with the lumpy pattern of clouds all the way across the sky I thought we were going to have even more colour once the sun got close to rising.

And for a time it was quite dramatic, the golden edge of the clouds just along the horizon of trees.

But it faded the other direction, and the colour disappeared, though the sun kept promising to show itself just above those trees.

I never did; it rose behind the clouds.  But the whole sky was quite dramatic regardless.  Quite a great start to fall.

My camera couldn't take it all in, but the whole sky was patterned with small lumpy clouds for a while.  And the day that followed was beautiful all day long.

Linking to:

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Icelandic Settlement Disaster

We had a nice drive across the 8 hours from our place here in the valley east to Ottawa last week, a road we've never taken before.  Passed through a number of small hamlets, villages and towns, the most interesting of which was Kinmount.  We were looking for a break by that time, and pulled off into a park in the middle of town.

We were surprised to encounter a monument to the Icelandic settlement disaster here in 1874, a bit of history I had never heard before.  The abstract sculpture carved out of limestone, 'In the Presence of a Soul' is said to represent the image of a mother hugging her child.

It sits beside the old railway station in Kinmount, a building that's been preserved, though the Victoria Railway is long gone.  And it's in a nice small park that provided a nice walk and a pleasant break in our travels.

The settlement disaster of 1874 was the arrival of a group of  352 Icelanders seeking a better life, who were offered work on the Victoria Railway.  But they arrived in late fall, were housed in shanties, suffered disease, and within weeks children started dying.  In total nearly 40 children and adults died over that winter until the remaining group returned to Toronto.  Through the intervention of Lord Dufferin, the Governor General at the time, they were resettled successfully in Gimli, Manitoba, the start of a major Icelandic community in Canada today.

They even had a version of the plaque in Icelandic!  I was personally intrigued because my father flew out of Gimli during WWII when he was a navigation instructor in the Air Force, teaching navigation by the stars.  No wonder he knew the constellations!

A short walk down through the park, on the banks of the Burnt River, the small town has preserved the actual Austin Sawmill, which you can visit if you're there during the summer when it's open!

Restoration is not the right word here, but the Austin Sawmill Heritage Park project has secured and partially restored the dilapidated sawmill so that it can be visited, and the displays tell the story of the history of logging in the area.  I was impressed that a small town would successfully do this, more than many larger towns have accomplished!

There's a working, revolving waterwheel, a replica I'm sure, but the photographic record is allowing them to do the work accurately.

Although we couldn't' get inside, we could look through the windows, and it appeared that they have things displayed very realistically.  It's the sort of place I'd enjoy visiting when it was open.  But more than that, it gave us a nice break in our trip, and left me with a very positive impression of Kinmount!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Parliament Lightshow

My last post from Ottawa is a group of somewhat blurry pictures of the Northern Lights lightshow on Parliament Hill.  Shown nightly once it gets dark for two months over the summer, this is a bilingual sound and light show that tells the story of Canada's history in images projected against the Centre Block.  Sorry my pictures are less than great, but here it is.

We weren't sure what to expect, and I thought it had something to do with the 'northern lights', but I was wrong.

It used colours, photos, and silhouettes to tell the historical story, as well as a lively soundtrack which I can't reproduce here..

Sometimes there were actual recognizable characters; that's Sir John A MacDonald on the left, our first Prime Minister.

Other times it was lively music and streaking strobe lights.  Quite a crowd had gathered on the lawn out front to watch the show.

I didn't have a tripod, so was shooting at a very hight ISO; it still wasn't really enough to avoid some blurring.  But it was certainly an interesting half hour 'on the Hill'.

Wonderful cool sunny weather continues here; if my computer were as co-operative as the recent weather has been, I'd be happy!  Still using the old laptop with its microscopic print!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Library of Parliament

In my humble opinion the Library of Parliament in Ottawa must be one of the most beautiful rooms in the world.  I was thrilled when we finally got in to see it.  It's the beautiful natural woodwork that appeals to me, so if your preference is for art, stone, or statues, you may feel differently.  But you can't avoid seeing how beautiful this room is.

It was one time I wished I had a wide angle lens, but these two photos showing the left and right sides of the room will have to do.  That's Queen Victoria standing in the very centre of the room.  It's a completely circular room, said to be modelled after the Reading Room of the British Museum, but that room doesn't come close in terms of the natural pine woodwork.  The atmosphere was just stunning.

On the outside, as I already showed you, it's a wondrous piece of High Victorian Gothic architecture, best viewed from across the river, or from the water if you take the boat.  Finished by 1876, it was the only part of the original Parliament to survive the devastating fire of 1916, when a quick thinking Librarian closed the iron doors that linked it to the rest of the building.

This picture, on display inside the library, shows the complete devastation of the rest of the building, but the library still standing.  It also survived a tornado in 1888, though all the slate shingles were torn off.

But it's the woodwork inside that inspired me, three floors of library space, all built in pine, with beautiful carvings.  Even the shelves, the railings, and all the other features were beautiful.

As tourists we only got to stand inside the door and look, and it was a Sunday, so it wasn't busy.  But what an experience it would be to actually go into the stacks and wander around.  It has had a complete modern renovation that included proper climate control, fire sprinkler systems, and repairs to the structure, inside and out.

There's a wide variety of carvings, including flowers, creatures, and coats of arms of the provines that existed in 1876. All of this has been cleaned and restored where needed.

The library itself is an octopus of an organization, reaching out from this main parliamentary branch.  Three hundred staff do research on a wide variety of questions, not just for Members of Parliament, but for government staff, and there are several branch libraries in different government departments.

 From the domed ceiling to the parquet floors in cherry, oak and walnut, it's an architectural masterpiece.

We did poke our heads into the Parliamentary Chamber, where our elected politicians argue and bicker, heckle, and occasionally approve important policies.  This is the room from which the country is governed, and in spite of my slight cynicism about politicians, has generally been well governed for 150 years next year!

We also saw the Senate Chamber, often known as the 'Red Chamber'.  At its best our Senate provides a 'sober second thought' before legislation is passed, a role quite different from the U.S. Senate.  In fact the two-part Parliamentary system of democracy we have is quite different overall from the three-part U.S. approach, where the President is a separate office.  In Canada, the Prime Minister is head of the elected party that gains the most votes.

After all these years, I was very glad to see inside the Parliament, especially that library, a room I won't forget!