Sunday, August 20, 2017

Meaford Harbour

It was time to do some touring around the valley and beyond.  Mrs. F.G.'s brother had come to visit for a few days, and we wanted to show him around.  So we headed up to Georgian Bay.

We stopped right in the Meaford Harbour, and found it was a beautiful day on the bay with a nice breeze for sailing.

The harbour was jammed with yachts and sailboats.

 Parts of it a forest of masts.

All of these are floating docks because of the winter ice, and I suddenly noticed that the ramps that link the pier to the docks were flat!  In past years these have dropped quite sharply downwards - the water level is up about 3 feet.

We were just in time to see a class of learning young sailors come round the end of the breakwater.  Week long sailing camps are offered by the local sailing club.

Then the leaders came charging around the point in the white dingy corralling the sailboats over to one side, while a large boat sailed by out of the harbour.

Out in the bay the boats were coming and going, and two small sailboats were still out there in the advanced class.

I always like to check the Coast Guard Station.  That day the Cape Providence was in harbour.  It's the boat that patrols much of Georgian Bay.  Then we moved on to visit Thornbury.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sandhill Crane Family

Every year we hope to see one or two Sandhill Cranes.  The other day we got a good look at a family of four, two adults and two young.  We see them most often along Grey Road 18, in the vicinity of Bognor Marsh, and this time was no exception.

They were separated into two pair when we first saw them, walking slowly through a soybean field.  You can see the adult on the right is larger, and has the characteristic grey neck and head; the youngster on the left still has its reddish brown colouration on the neck and head.

There were another two further away across the field.  Usually only one chick will survive to adulthood in a Sandhill Crane family, so this group has done well.

 Sandhill Cranes apparently mate for life, so the ones we've seen along this road (all close to this spot), may well be the same pair of cranes over the past several years.  One year I saw two Sandhills at a nest in the far distance right in Bognor Marsh itself.

This map, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, show the distribution of Sandhill Cranes in North America.  Blue indicates areas where they winter; yellow where they are seen migrating, and brown where they nest.  They winter mostly in Texas and Mexico, migrate across the U.S., and nest in Canada, all the way to the Arctic.  But notice how they're not found in the east, according to the map, not even in southern Ontario.  So it's still quite unusual to see these huge birds here, and we're glad when we spot them every year.  They are slowly spreading here from northern Ontario and Michigan.

The most unusual thing about Sandhills is their call, described as 'bugling' or 'trumpeting'.  Once you've heard it you'll never forget it.  Check this link and have a listen here!

Eventually all four of them gathered together, and headed away across the field.  A highlight of this summer's wildlife sightings for us!

 Linking to:

Friday, August 18, 2017

Changing Seasons

I've been meaning to write about the changing seasons; signs of the change have been accumulating for a week or two.  I'm not quite ready to use that four-letter word 'fall', but it's certainly late summer.  Here are a few things that strike me about the change that's started.
The big sign of late summer here at home for me has always been the Goldenrod that takes over the meadow.  Everything looks yellow.

This year it's actually a little different.  Queen Anne's Lace has taken over for the Goldenrod, whether that's just this year's weather, or the gradual succession of plants in the meadow.  Those yellow flowers in the back are Grey-headed Coneflowers.

Some mornings we have a little mist or fog, though it quickly dissipates in the morning sun.

And for weeks now we've usually had heavy due in the morning, after cooler nights.  (In fact this year I don't think we've had even one really hot night)!

Most of the migrating birds are gone now, and remaining birds are much more quiet.  I caught this Bluebird feeding young last week though, a very late brood.  Most of the birds we see now are those that will stay all winter, the Goldfinch, Chickadees, and Blue Jays.

In the garden, the spreading False Sunflowers take over from the Day Lilies and turn the back of the garden yellow.

A single leaf on the Burning Bush by the front door has turned bright red.

And down in the swamp the first maples are turning a dark red.  It's only been 3 months since they leafed out!

And of course there's that wheat harvest, a big mark of late summer in the farm landscape around here.  Late summer, with its cooler weather, the imminence of school restarting, and the last chance for family vacations, is well underway.  I'm not complaining - just maybe about the rainy day and drizzly evening we're having again today!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Unusual Crops

Before I leave my crops update for this month, let me share a few unusual crops we've seen this summer.  See if you can recognize them!

Recognize this one?  We saw this field about two hours to the south.  They obviously do multiple plantings, in order to ensure a continuing supply of cabbages over the season. 

How about this farm?  It's about 45 minutes south, so we pass it every time we go back and forth.

It's garlic, and they pick it manually, hiring local families to come and work for a week or two.  The harvest is usually in late July.  That's a lot of garlic bulbs to pick up!

How about this one?  Big leaves with small white flowers, and sometimes they grow this for honey production.  This is buckwheat, not a wheat at all, but a relative of rhubarb.  It does have seeds though, and you can buy buckwheat flour.

I saw this band of bright yellow in the distance and thought I had found a field of sunflowers.

But when I found some close to the road, they weren't a crop at all, but an infestation of bright yellow Sow Thistles!  For whatever reason, this field didn't get planted this year allowing the thistles to grow.

Finally a hay rake.  I should have added this to yesterday's post.  It's a stage between cutting hay and baling it, when farmers use a hay rake to combine individual swaths of the hay and fluff it up to dry it.  Then it gets baled.

That's enough of crops for now!  Thanks for sticking with me.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

When is a Hay Bale not a Hay Bale?

As I've been following individual farm fields this summer to see how the crops grew, I've come to realize that there is a lot of variety among 'hay bales'.  In fact, not all those big round bales that I have dozens of pictures of are 'hay' at all.  So here's what I understand after watching all these fields, and talking to a few farmers.  Just come back tomorrow if this level of detail doesn't interest you, but I want to sort it out in my own mind.

The simplest answer to my question is that a 'hay bale' is not a hay bale when it's a bale of straw.  When wheat as in this field is harvested, the combine takes the grain, but it does not take the stems and leaves of the plant.  These are left in long windrows in the field and later baled.  Without the grain included, this makes very poor fodder for cattle because it's not nutritious, but straw is widely used for bedding, for horse farms as well as cattle farms.

You can see the fine plastic mesh that the baling machine wraps the bale with, keeping it looking nice and tidy.

This is another example of bales that are not 'hay'.  In this case a grain crop has been cut and baled while it's still green, and wrapped in plastic to preserve it.

This is the field when it was being harvested.  This is a mixture of barley, oats and peas, which will provide a very nutritious food for cattle in the winter.  Increasingly farmers are trying an option like this here, in order to get higher quality feed.

As we get half-way through this story, this is actually a field of hay.  In the normal sense here hay is a field of grasses of various species.  In this case it was harvested very early in June, to maximize the nutrition value, because this is a dairy farm.  All the seeds of the grasses are simply included, and that's where the nutrition is.

Because the first cut in this field was so early, they got a second cut recently.  In a well managed hayfield like this, the growth beneath the grasses is alfalfa, which grows more slowly, so the second cut is composed more of alfalfa than of grasses.

Because it's a dairy farm, both of these harvests were baled in the white plastic, to preserve it for next winter.  Like the peas/barley/oats mixture above, this will be very nutritious for the cattle, who like the moister fodder than really dry hay bales.

Finally, this is a good old ordinary hay bale, grown for beef cattle.  Beef cattle are not nearly as demanding as dairy cattle, so their fodder doesn't have to be so nutritious.  Often beef farmers also have another job, and stay on the farm because they love the lifestyle.  With some pasture and a few days 'making hay' over the summer, you can raise beef cattle with less work than dairy cattle.  Often the hay doesn't get cut until quite late in the summer.  That's not to say there aren't some very talented full-time beef cattle farmers around.

This is that white mesh that holds the bale together.

Some balers use a green mesh, and other use a very sparse line of plastic cord rather than mesh.

And a few older balers don't wrap the bale much at all, though there are a few cords around these bales if you look really closely.  All of these hay bales that are unwrapped are probably stored under cover, either under big plastic tarps, or in canvas roofed farm shelters.

So next time you see a field of straw bales, don't confuse them with 'hay bales'!  Big round bales are more varied and complex than I thought at first.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Crops Update #4 - Other Grains

While the winter wheat has been mostly harvested now, other grain crops planted this spring continue to mature, some of them starting to turn golden brown like the winter wheat did 6 weeks ago.  Our rain has helped the growth, but I'm not sure we've had the heat to bring on a high yield of grain.  Here they are in early August.

The corn crop is looking really good, towering over your head, and starting to tassel.  You can see the early stages of the developing corncobs too.  Each of those thin strings leads to a single kernel of corn.

This field that I couldn't identify early in the season, turned out to be barley, with it's very long 'awns' distinguishing it from wheat.  This field is starting to turn golden.

This field is mixed grain, both barley and oats, and starting to mature too, but still showing a lot of green.

And this is the field of spring wheat I found, also starting to turn golden.

The beans are looking a rich green, and have started to form beans,  The little tiny seeds inside those beans will be the final harvest.

And finally the canola fields have lost their yellow blooms, and started to form seed pods as well.  The product here is the oil made from the tiny seeds in these pods.

And now you're up to date, except for one more post on 'Hay Bales - when is a Hay Bale not a Hay Bale?'  I'm working on getting photos to illustrate that one.