Friday, August 29, 2014

Grey Highlands Skies

In between the rain we've had some beautiful late summer skies around here these days.  Deep blue sky with wispy white cirrus or puffy white cumulus clouds.  Here are a few skies, mostly from right here at our place.

Out the front door.

Looking north beyond the roofline.

Out the back door.

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They finally finished our cement work this morning, after being here on and off for 3 weeks.  It has been a mess.  But I have to say, they cleaned the place up very carefully, and left all the messed up lawn ready for grass seed.  We'll be able to use the patio this weekend. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tall Yellow Coneflowers

A couple of weeks ago I posted a picture of our brilliant red Crocosmia, hanging over our cedar rail fence.  Now those blooms are gone, and it's the tall Yellow Coneflowers that dominate the fence.

You can see here how our patch of very tall Yellow Coneflowers dominate the back of our garden.  They're nearly 8 feet tall!  The vegetation is so thick this year you can barely pick out the upper rail of the fence on the right.

But from the path on the back, the coneflowers and fence make a nice picture.  This patch seems very healthy again this year, and so far, my simple little fence has held up well.

A few errant stems have twisted around and found their way through the fence around this fencepost.

We have so many of these tall yellow flowers I have a hard time sorting them out, but I'm convinced that this one is a Coneflower.  Unfortunately, 'coneflower' is used as the common name for both Echinacea and Rudbeckia, as well as two other smaller genera, and there are dozens of horticultural varieties!

In any case, it's a pretty flower that gives a big splash of yellow in the garden from mid-August well into September.

 Another angle on the fence and flowers.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

More Horses at the Fair

I can't resist sharing a few more of my pictures of the heavy draught horse teams at the Fair.  There were three different teams of two each, entered in the Heavy Horse Pull.

 This is the pair in yesterday's post.  If I caught the names correctly, these are Riley and Louie.

 This was ultimately the winning pair, Kevin and Hank.

These are Pat and Dave.  I swear the closer one turned and looked at me as they were going by, getting ready to line up again.

Here are Riley and Louie on their way back from pulling.  Notice how all the weight of pulling is harnessed to the shoulders.
Pat and Dave in one of the early pulls.  All these horses were high spirited, and didn't really want to stop even pulling this weight.

And Kevin and Hank in one of the final pulls.  At this point this pair were pulling over 7000 lbs., and using all their strength to do so!

Can't resist a couple more of the cattle either.  Raising heavy horses is a pretty specialized enterprise now; there are far more farms with beef cattle than with horses around the valley.  Raising beef is the backbone of Grey County farms.

And there were quite a few smaller calves too, though by this time of year, they're growing fast.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Fall Fair

There's no marker of the changing seasons quite so obvious at this time of year as the Fall Fair!  Actually the one here in Markdale is fairly early; it isn't actually fall yet.  But it heralds a whole season of small town fall fairs across rural southern Ontario.

The heavy horse pull was probably the most popular event.  These enormous teams of beautiful workhorses are harnessed up to pull a stoneboat, and weight is continuously added until one team wins.  The strength in these horses is just amazing - this team looked like it has most of its feet off the ground at once!

Another of the beautiful heavy horse teams.  I can just never get enough of these magnificent animals.

There were several hours of individual riding events too, mostly populated by young girls, who obviously love their horses.  This team lined up and took off at a gallop.

But this girl twisted her horse through these posts like nothing I've ever seen, beating even the adults' time for the event.  It's very much a team of horse and rider; some beginning riders with horses who had never competed walked through this fairly slowly, concentrating on completing the course correctly rather than speed.  It takes a lot of competing to win the prizes!

There was the cattle show too, with lots of young people showing off the calves they're raised - in this case beef cattle.

I always enjoy seeing the cattle lined up waiting their turns in the pens.

And there were fun events for the little kids, including this young man we know, chasing bubbles!

The indoor displays are harder to photograph, but their are lots of them.  Dozens of arrangements of flowers.

And a lot of vegetable displays. Attending the fall fair is a great way to connect with the rural farm community around here; I always learn a lot and enjoy it - such a strong tradition among farm families.

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Late Summer Flowers

There are a number of new flowers in bloom since I visited the garden with my camera nearly three weeks ago as the 'seasons in the garden' continue to unfold.  And some of these are favourites of mine.

Here is Helenium.  This striking flower looks best from underneath, with the sun shining through.  It's a fascinating mixture of colour, from yellow to orange to red.

And this is the view from above - what a difference! But with that red colour underneath, this is definitely one of my favourites.

One of our small yellow clematis vines now in bloom.

And we have quite a few coneflowers.  This one, about 5 feet tall and a light and airy plant, seems to spread well by seed - so much so that we dig it out of the main garden to prevent it taking over.  But there are now isolated splashes of this light yellow in several spots in the meadow.

This one, which at first glance looks almost the same, is quite a different plant, heavy and coarse, and nearly 8 feet tall.  We have three large clumps of it, but it has never spread at all from those clumps - the clumps just get larger.

An interesting close-up of the same plant.

I thought we had lost this red coneflower, but it was just later blooming, and is now looking bright under the apple tree.

And we have lots of the pink/purple varieties, which seem to spread a bit each year.  I thought the colour in the garden would be fading a bit into late August, but it really just changes as the season gets more like fall.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Frog Critters

I've seen a number of frogs which sat still enough for me to get a good picture this summer.  I always like frogs, perhaps because you can identify them quite easily by their calls, and their calls are such a big part of spring to me.  There are only a few species in Ontario, and the calls are quite distinctive, so they're easy to learn.  They're a sign of healthy ecosystems too, so I'm always pleased to see them still around.

We spotted this Spring Peeper sitting on the top of a  spent daylily bloom in the garden, not seeming much disturbed by us.

I had to chase it to another plant, but got a good look at the 'X' on it's back that is so distinctive.  One of our smaller frogs.

I've already featured this big fellow on my post about walking around Bognor Marsh wetland.  We all must have taken a dozen pictures of this large Green Frog sitting on a lily pad near the shore, and just staring back at us!

There were lots of Leopard Frogs around too, with their spotted back.

Did you notice the second frog in the picture above; they were about one inch apart.  I think this is probably an immature Green Frog.

This is my more typical sighting of a Leopard Frog, hopping through the grass in the back yard.

This one is for those who like to play 'spot the frogs'.  The big green frog is in the lower centre; can you spot the other two?

Here they are, just 18" to the right of the first Green Frog we were all taking pictures of, and nobody spotted them til 10 minutes had passed!

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Canoeing the Saugeen - Again

About four weeks ago (how time flies!) we canoed another stretch of the Saugeen River, downstream from Walkerton.  This is about the most exciting stretch of the river, and as good as it gets for some gentle 'white water' in this part of southern Ontario.  And we had a perfect day for it, with beautiful blue skies studded with white clouds, and cool temperatures.

At this point in its journey, the Saugeen is a relatively large stream, and for the first mile or two it's flowing down in a forested valley.  You could think you were in the wilderness again.  And there was a fair current, so paddling wasn't strenuous.

Part of the way along you encounter this huge sandbank on the east side, lining a great sweeping bend in the river.  The current speeds up, and going around the bend is perhaps the most challenging stretch of 'white water' on the route.

The vertical sand patches provide a place for bank swallows to excavate their nests.

I say 'white water', but it hardly reaches that glorified status!  For canoeists who have done more exciting class 2 or 3 rapids further north in Ontario, eveything on this river is very easy, but it is exciting to have to actually pay attention, steer carefully to avoid rocks and standing waves, and bounce downstream a little.  Of course during the more challenging rapids I had to be paddling, not taking photos!  So this is actually a very mild stretch of water in the picture, but as you can see, it's not entirely placid.

Halfway along the section we paddled you emerge from the deeper forested valley and begin seeing farmland along the shore.  Still I don't think we saw more than one building in a 3 hour paddle.

A wide gravel bar provided a great place to stop for lunch.

And there I found a few interesting plants, including this Wild Cucumber vine in bloom (in white), and some bright purple Vervain, along with a stalk or two of plantain.

Overall it was a great paddle, partly because it's well managed by the local Saugeen River Conservation Authority.  Although the river flows entirely through private land, there are designated public access points, good signage, and even a published map giving you an idea of what to expect.

I've paddled several stretches of this river, and parts of several other southern Ontario rivers, and this stretch was definitely one of my favourites.

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