Monday, November 30, 2015

The Landscape of November

Before we say good-bye to November, I feel obliged to document this unique season that we sometimes get in late fall before winter.  It's the season of bare, leafless trees, of dull browns and greys, cold temperatures and often wet conditions.  Some years we don't get this at all if the snow comes quickly and covers it in white.  This year it's only snowed once in the month, and we're getting an extended 'November Season'.  It's not what you'd call 'pretty', but I like it because the landscape is laid bare so to speak.

Let's start off with the better days - we do get sunny days and blue skies occasionally in November.  This is one of my favourite views across farm fields, here the corn recently harvested.  You couldn't see the farm until they did that.

One more sunny day view before we switch to more typical November weather.  Across miles of the landscape, the trees are all just bare, though some hayfields retain a touch of green.

This is the bad weather.  I just can't warm up to days of rain when the temperature is close to freezing.  It's not much good for anything except staying indoors.  And the hazy mist in the distance totally cuts off the view of Georgian Bay.

I've got great fall pictures of this line of trees in brilliant reds and orange.  But this is its November look, on another wet day.

At least it was dry this day.  One advantage is that with the leaves gone you can see a long way through the trees.

Simple gates have been closed, and the cattle gathered into the barn or nearby for winter.  Here the 'gate' is just a bit of fencing that is stretched across the opening.

A few fields are ploughed, where farmers are renewing hayfields, or rotating their crops, though most cropland is now just chisel-ploughed.  I've always thought this farmstead looked particularly well cared for, but I need a sunny day photo to show it off.

In a few places I saw field with a fair dusting of snow today.  It's likely that this results just from very localized snow squalls rather than remaining from our last snowfall over a week ago.


Walking Time: 1 hour.  I finished the cardiac rehab program nearly a month ago, and it's amazing how fast your dedication to getting the time in wanes!  In the past I've counted steps, and counted distance.  I've used treadmills and bikes.  This summer I was riding my 'real' bike around the roads (that's what I enjoy most).  In the more distant past I worked out regularly, and skated for fun.  The cardiac rehab program measures time spent in effort serious enough to raise your heart rate.

The loop road in our little subdivision can be walked in easy 15 minute increments.  So now my plan is to walk the dog for part of my time every day, and go for a longer walk on a trail someplace two or three times a week.  My goal is to get in an hour a day, on average, over the week.  So I'm going to post my times here, just to remind myself.  I'm inspired by a certain blogger I read who gets up in the dark and walks 5 or 6 miles every day!  I can't do that, but I think I can achieve my modest target.  And you can keep me honest.

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Finding Lichens

Right here along our old stone fencerow we have lots of lichen-covered boulders, and a few logs and old beans, also lichen-covered.  In addition every now and then I find interesting lichens on our hikes, though I don't usually carry my macro lens to capture close-ups.  Here are a few of the interesting ones I've seen the past few weeks.

I don't actually stop to look too closely as I walk by boulders like this.  I just notice the general interesting pattern, so easily visible at this time of year.

Even when you do look closely, you may not appreciate the details, at least with my vision!  But you can tell it's not a uniform pattern.

But if you get really close, you find these interesting tiny fruiting bodies, like open cups, some even with a bit of water sitting in them.  Generally these lichens are more or less flat on the rocks.

On the old wooden beams we have sitting out there, a different type of lichen has spread.  I noticed this patch of pinkish colour in the otherwise bluish lichen, though the actual growth form doesn't look different.

And here's a really close look at that pattern.

Other lichens form a little forest of thin stems.  I'm not sure I've ever really seen this one closely before.

This one, found on our Spirit Rock hike the week before last, is quite different.  I has wider flat 'leaves', brown on top, and white underneath, but the white shows as the lichen leaves curl up.  It seems to grow on top of the moss.

And I found another huge patch of Pixie Cups along our fencerow, of course growing in a position that was really awkward to photograph!

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Flesherton Farmers' Christmas Market

We'd had this date on our calendar for some time, and headed out to the Flesherton Farmers' Christmas Market in good time - things sell out fast.  At 9.30 we were already too late to pick up a cherry pie!  But we got all our Christmas baking done in half an hour (as we do every year), at a remarkably reasonable cost and very little effort apart from fending off the other customers!

My favourite stop is the pie ladies, though I've learned to my regret that I can't eat one of these every week, much as I'd like to.  I missed my cherry pie, but I treated myself to a delicious triple berry (blueberry/blackberry/raspberry) pie.  About the same flavours as my favourite jam, if you also add lots of black currants!

At the same table, my wife discovered that all her Christmas baking had been done for her!  We picked up several of these too.  This is a market where I make multiple trips back to the car with our goodies!

There is quite a variety of things available, and I liked this display of wooden spoons.  The core of this group are the vendors who are at the Flesherton Farmers' Market all summer, so we know many of them, and frequently stopped to chat.

Jam is something we don't buy, because my wife is such an enthusiastic jam maker herself - I get my special custom-made jams to order right here at home.  Our grandson gets his favourites too.  But you could certainly get your choice here!

There's one local artist who comes to the market all summer, and I like his art, usually local subjects, rural landscapes, barns, waterfalls, lighthouses and such.  Very similar to my favourite blog topics when I think about it.  We have one of his paintings of the valley we purchased several years ago, and today I bought a series of small postcard-size prints of lighthouses - all lighthouses up the Bruce Peninsula that we visited last summer.

There's a fair bit of sewing and knitting and craft work.  There are some additional vendors who only come to the Christmas Market, and a few of the fresh produce vendors from the summer don't attend, having nothing to sell at this time of year.

We often buy a couple of these cookies for our grandson (our grand-daughter isn't old enough yet), and he loves them.  This vendor asked if could link to the Market's Facebook page, so here it is:  Flesherton Farmers' Market on Facebook.  You'll see one of this vendor's cookies in the header photo, lower left corner.  I'll also post a link in reverse if I can figure out how to do that!

There are a lot of apiaries in this region, and we always buy our honey from local beekeepers.  Once we toured a beekeeping operation, which was fascinating.  Honey and maple syrup which we can buy right from the producers are always popular gifts in our family.

This market and a few others we attend largely cover our required Christmas shopping.  We rarely actually go to stores, though sometimes to small local ones, certainly not any of the big ones.  So we've gone home with quite a few Christmas gifts covered - a far more reasonable way to shop than 'Black Friday'!!

Which reminds me, I saw a great idea on Linda's blog The View from Squirrel Ridge (her post of Nov. 28th) - give up 'Black Friday' for 'Green Friday', and get your kids outside, or 'optoutside', a program sponsored by the Virginia State Parks.  The future of the world will be much more enhanced by doing that than by spending another day shopping, especially fighting crowds in order to go shopping!

This post and this photography was a bit different for me, but I think the photos turned out well.  Just turned the ISO up high and didn't have to worry about flash, and the colour is more realistic too.  I hope I captured the flavour of the market without flaunting anyone's picture on the internet, something I don't do much of on this blog.


Although our main reason for going is the baking, I admit, the Farmers' Market is also a great social outing, at any time of year.  Today I think we met and chatted with at least 7 or 8 couples we know well, and we chatted for awhile with at least 8 vendors too.  We ended up going out for coffee in the local coffee shop, Highland Grounds, with 4 of those friends.  And we ended up visiting two more Christmas sales later in the day, getting more Christmas gifts, (but no more baking - you have to be there early to get that!).  The most relaxing and sociable way to do your Christmas shopping that I know of!

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Old Barn and Homestead

The last interesting sight on our hike into Spirit  Rock that I'm going to share with you is the old barn foundation and evidence of a homestead just as we began our hike.  If you read this blog much you'll know that I'm fascinated with evidence of the past history of settlement here in southern Ontario.

The old barn foundation was just past this beautiful big Sugar Maple, right beside the trail.  I've been driving past this corner for many years and have no recollection of a farm here, so I expect this was abandoned several decades ago.

It's still mostly standing, but certainly not in good shape.  However, there were obviously several windows and a couple of doors at ground level.  Here I'm standing on top of the old ramp up to the haymow, looking down at the barn.

The most amazing aspect of all the old barns I see is the care with which the corners are constructed.  All these limestone blocks, cut into huge blocks with flat sides, with only hand tools to work with.  And lined up to form square corners, though they are far to heavy to lift easily.  The outer walls are usually built of larger rocks and these blocks, and mortared, to keep out the weather.

The inner sides of the walls like this, are often built of small boulders like this, and sometimes not even mortared carefully.

Almost all this barn was limestone, the light-coloured rocks, but there are a few metamorphic or igneous rocks included, usually with a darker or reddish tint.  Of course this was sitting right on top of the limestone cliff, so it was not surprising they used mostly limestone.

Looking through a window into the barn.  It's a long time since this barn saw cattle in there!

The Bruce Trail Conservancy honours major donors with small plaques, and the donors get some choice in where these plaques are placed.  Obviously this old barn is a popular spot, as there were three different plaques outside the foundation.  This property is now owned and managed by the Bruce Trail Conservancy, paid for with private donations.

The barn was of course the main evidence of the former homestead, but this patch of lilacs (the more densely branched shrubs to the left of centre) silhouetted against the sky, suggests a former house.  Old lilacs and day lilies are one of the most common bits of evidence of pioneer homes here in southern Ontario.  And I expect that big Sugar Maple in the first picture above was also planted, about 150 years ago.  Hope you enjoyed my 3 posts on our Spirit Rock hike!


The temperature rose, and the rain came, making the past two days dreary, dark and wet but unfortunately typical November days.  All our snow is gone, though this afternoon the temperature plunged again, and we had wet snow on our drive back from Owen Sound this evening.  Tomorrow is another pre-Christmas Saturday, which means Christmas fairs and markets.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Spirit Rock Staircase and Shoreline

The other interesting part of our hike at Spirit Rock (after yesterday's post on The Corran), was the shoreline on Colpoy's Bay, and the spiral staircase to get down the cliff to see it.  Georgian Bay always looks so good on sunny days, in any season.

There were only 2 or 3 places where you got a view out to the bay from the trail on top of the cliffs as we hiked in, but this is a nice picture looking across to the south shore.  I always love the colour of the water on sunny days.

Then we came to the spiral staircase, and I looked over the edge, unsure of what I'd see.  It turned out to be quite solid, and a quick walk down.  It was entirely steel with steel mesh steps.  It appeared to have been built in place.

Spiral staircases always make interesting patterns.  Do you think this railing would qualify for TexWisGirl's 'Good Fences'?

Once we got down on the shoreline there were beautiful views out across the bay.  Even near noon though, the low angle of the sun at this time of year creates a sharp contrast in the light. 

This is the route of the main Bruce Trail, with the white blazes, in contrast to the blue-blazed side trail up above.  It looked like a tunnel through the cedars, just 20 feet in from the water.

But there were several gaps in the trees that provided a chance for more pictures, here looking out to the far northeast end of Colpoy's Bay.  Skinner's Bluff is on the right, and Malcolm Bluff on the left.  The Bruce Trail follows both of those in a huge curve around the bay, right through downtown Wiarton.

It wasn't a storm, but there was enough wind to form small whitecaps, the wind coming down out of the northeast.  I've slowly learned to include more foreground in pictures like this, and adjust the depth of field for the foreground to be in focus.

Then it was back to that spiral staircase and up the cliff.  We headed north along the trail out to Colpoy's Bay Road where we had left the car.  This was certainly one of my more interesting hikes along the Bruce Trail, with full credit to my hiking buddy for choosing this location.  I think I'll be going back to explore, perhaps with my Photography Group.


We're having a brief warm but wet break in the weather today.  It rained almost all day and the snow is 90% gone, just small patches left.  And it hit 10°C.  Same is forecast for tomorrow.  Left my phone at our daughter's Tuesday, and she shipped it home to me.  It arrived today.  The Post Office now has specific small boxes for shipping cellphones - I guess lots of old fogies like me forget their phones and leave them behind!

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Corran

The Corran, the ruined mansion we found in the Spirit Rock Conservation Area, is a fascinating place.  It brings to life a picture of life in the late 1800's here, that is such a contrast with today.  These historical buildings in the landscape that reflect a vanished past always give a deeper picture of what you're seeing today.

This was the original front of the house, facing the cliff and Colpoy's Bay about 100 yards away (but now all regrown in trees).  These steps were the main entrance, and there was a front porch, including a conservatory on the left.

And here's a historic picture, taken from the display board, showing the same view of the house before  it started to go downill.  It was built in the late 1800's by Alexander McNeill, and his wife Hester.  She was really the reason for the mansion.

Inside this wall on the main floor was the library, and on the outer wall are two information plaques, one a floorplan of the house and the other some historical details.  Inside the library was apparently the largest collection of books north of Toronto at the time, according to the plaque below.

The description makes it sound like a grand mansion indeed, with large garden parties, and features such as stained glass, carvings and good china in the house.  Apparently there was an amazing collection of rose bushes on the grounds.

This back part of the house was the kitchen.  Undoubtedly there was a group of servants who allowed the owners to live a life of luxury.  There are a number of places where you can see evidence of old fireplaces or chimneys too.

 I was really impressed with the stonework, parts of which have held together well.  The limestone blocks were quarried on the site, and there would have been numerous stonemasons available to do such work among early Irish and Scots immigrants to Ontario.  In the shadowed part of this picture there was also a grand spiral wooden staircase to the second floor.

As is typical of old buildings on public land where there's an effort to save the ruins, the walls are capped with cement to stop frost damage, and prevent further deterioration.  Most of the old buildings I've seen this on though are old mills, not houses.  The house still had a roof, but was otherwise abandoned and in poor condition by 1974, and then there was a fire in 1976.  You can see how the cut stone blocks were just an outer facing, as we use brick today, with rougher stone used for the interior wall which would have been all plastered and wallpapered.

There's also an old stable block or barn in somewhat poorer condition.

If you look at this, you'll get some idea of how long it's been abandoned, with the trees growing inside it.  At least 40 or 50 years I think.

The stonework of this building is not nearly as carefully done as is the house.  It's much more reminiscent of barn foundations I've seen, whereas the house had that outer covering of cut stone blocks.  For some reason I'm always fascinated by window and door frames in these old foundations.

Out in the parking lot, we found this request for a fee from visitors using the parking lot in the summer.  I've never before seen the opportunity to use your smartphone to pay admission!

Eventually, after my partner thought I had enough photos, we headed back to the main trail and north to the cars.  This was our final view of The Corran through the trees.