Thursday, November 30, 2017

First Light

For about 2 minutes, it looked like we were going to have a beautiful sunrise.  The first light lit up the line of trees out the back window in the distance.  But then the clouds moved in, and it's been a dark rainy day ever since!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Getting to Know Meaford

I'm slowly starting to look around town and see what I can find about the history of Meaford, our new home.  It seems to me there aren't many significant historic buildings left, but there is certainly some interesting history.

Meaford has been known as the apple growing capital of Canada, and has a 'Big Apple' downtown, a common meeting place for Bruce Trail hikes.  It's a combination of the moderating effect of Georgian Bay and the gravelly soils that make for the best apples, though there are more apple orchards around Thornbury now than near Meaford.

Meaford Hall is a big local success story.  Built in 1908 after the earlier Town Hall had burned down, it served as the heart of the community for nearly 100 years.  The second floor was a popular Opera House, apparently with great acoustics.  When it was left empty in 2002, the community rallied, sought a grant, and refurbished it.  Now it's a very busy location for concerts and meetings, returning to its role as heart of the community.

Right beside it stands the old fire station, with it's tall tower for drying hoses after a fire.

The architecture of the main street is as historic as anything in town.  This block needs a little care, but the symmetry of the original facade, the mixed brickwork, the curved lintels (and the tiny balcony) all must have made this a beautiful building when it was constructed.  The Kitchen by the way, is my favourite coffee shop.

And look at the brickwork on the local Stedmans Store further down the street.  This was clearly a local businessman showing off his wealth, with imported yellow brick and an obviously talented Brick layer!

This large downtown block of three buildings illustrates the optimism of the 1880's, 90's, and just after 1900, when the railway had been built and small towns in rural Ontario boomed with growth.  What did they ever intend those 2nd and 3rd stories for?  I've seen the odd century-old multi-story store in southern Ontario, but most of these have never served as more than storage and now small apartments.  And in the long run the railways served to drain off the wealth to Toronto rather than the other way around.

This is one other old building I know of, the Net Shed.  It serves as a used bookstore in the summer months, run by the Friends of Meaford Library.  Books are all donated (we donated several boxes last summer), and purchases are also by donation.  And it is an actual old net shed down by the harbour.

And I did find this old millstone in a local park, but reading the inscription I realized it was donated to the town and came from a mill some distance away.  I think I have a lot to learn still about local history here, but I've started making the connections.  Over the next few weeks I hope to include posts about a number of local stories, like the Army Base, John Muir's time here, Beautiful Joe (a famous local dog), and of course the harbour, a big part of the town, though it has lost almost all its former industry.  Gradually I'll fill you in on things around here.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Crops Update #6

It's hard to believe that the corn harvest is still going on as we approach December, but there are still a few fields left to bring in.  It's perhaps the most extended harvest of all our crops, because corn is harvested in two different ways here.  And it's certainly the last piece of my growing-season-long crops updates.

On cattle farms, where corn is grown for feed, the crop is often harvested as silage.  As you can see, not much plant material is left in the field after harvest, the entire plant is used.

In this case the corn is harvested by a corn harvester, and the entire plant is chopped up, blown out of the back of the corn harvester into these wagons.  The cows get to eat the greenery as well as the grain, all mixed together.  I saw quite a lot of this, as far back as early October.

The grain corn stands in the field a little longer, well into November, hopefully drying out.  Then it is harvested by a combine, which picks only the ears of corn off the plants, and separates the grain (the corn kernels), usually as a cash crop.  Lots of plant residue is left in the field.

So we've seen lots of these grain wagons out on the edge of fields, which combines drop their load of grain into.  The 'combine' is named because it 'combines' the old operations of reaping, threshing and winnowing the grain - or cutting it, and separating the grain from the plant, all in one operation - an enormous labour-saving invention!

I don't think this farmer was very happy leaving this old grain wagon at the side of the road after what was probably a long working day!  We've seen lots of big grain trucks on the roads as well.  They visit farms to pick up the grain, and take it to an elevator somewhere nearby for storage (and sometimes for further drying) before it is shipped.  A lot of grain is shipped out of Great Lakes ports.

So that brings us to the end of the year's crop cycle.  I've really learned a lot about farming around here by following individual fields over the season, and talking to a few farmers along the way.  If you look carefully, you realize that the next cycle has already started, with winter wheat showing its bright green shoots, planted in mid-fall.  It will sit under the snow and be ready to take off fast in the spring.  So it's not just an 6 month growing season, it's a 12 month cycle.

And a number of fields have already been ploughed in preparation for next spring's plantings.  This depends on what place in the sequence of a crop rotation an individual farmer is at on different fields.  Most fields won't get ploughed every year. 

Hope you've enjoyed following along on my 6 crop posts over the season, and perhaps learned a little along with me.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

More on Memorial Park

There is a bit more to Memorial Park than the Georgian Bay waterfront, though that's the highlight for visitors I'm sure.  A couple of months ago a friend showed me the trail through the woods.  It's not a large bush, but at least it's a little to walk through.

November Beech Leaves

One of Meaford's Big Red Chairs
The chair is crooked, not the photo! 

Part of the now deserted campground.  
These waterfront sites are popular during the summer! 
Might come and park ourselves here sometime on a sunny summer day.

 And into the woodland trail.

An old stump covered with tiny bracket fungi.

And a very interesting big flat boulder, almost looking like it had been cut this way.

 Eventually I circled around and ended up back at the water.

Where I amused myself a bit more trying to get shots of the foamy water running up on the beach.
Woke up to white again this morning, but only a little and it's supposed to be warm again by Tuesday.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Exploring Meaford - Memorial Park

I'm gradually getting out on some of the walks around Meaford, trying to find the best places to go for a walk locally.  Today I tried Memorial Park, on the shoreline at the east end of town.  It's a short walk, but I think it will be a favourite because it's right along the shore of the bay.

A panoramic shot with my iphone gives a very distorted picture, but it does capture the view from the shore.  It's a gentle shoreline where the waves can wash right in, but it's more round cobbles than sand.  And the sound of the water is mesmerizing.

Looking east you come to private property, marked by the line of rocks, but you can see a lot of Georgian Bay in the distance.

Looking west, back toward town, you can see the Bayview Escarpment in the distance, and toward the right of the far shoreline, the Meaford Tank Range, another story I need to delve into.

Part of the walk along the shoreline at Memorial Park is on a concrete retaining wall in front of some campsites.  You can look down on the water boiling over the rocks below.

I think I could try forever to get the perfect pictures of waves rolling in.

Knowing that these pictures don't do it justice, I tried a video.  It provides the never-ending roar of the waves as well as the visuals.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Christmas Lights

The Christmas lights in Goderich are an interesting story.  A tornado ripped through the town, tearing right through the centre of the downtown several years ago.  It destroyed almost all the large trees in the park behind my sister's house, and all the large trees surrounding the town hall in the 'Square'.  There was so much glass embedded in the soil in the Square that they had to strip 6" of soil off before restoring it!

Without the trees downtown, they needed a new plan for the Christmas lights, and they switched to the park behind my sister's house.  A number of good size trees had been planted, and using them and some metal frameworks, the town's Christmas light display is now right outside my sister's kitchen window!

So I borrowed her tripod and went out to get a few pix.  There's a narrow one-lane loop road through the park, so locals can drive slowly through the display.

It sure brightened up the back yard!

A nativity scene, complete with camel.

And a very big snowman.

This was the view from the upstairs window in our bedroom.

Then I got a little wacky, and did some silly light painting.

I guess this was a foretaste of feeling quite loopy the next day after getting out of the light anaesthetic needed for yet another medical test at a London hospital.  But stopping in Goderich cut the morning drive in half, and provided a nice break compared to one of those 7 hour driving days!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

We Found the Hidden Waterfalls

I was determined to find those 'Hidden Waterfalls' if I could.  So I consulted with my son-in-law about exactly where they were.  If you notice the Google Maps image yesterday, they are supposed to be very close to a road.  So on one of our last days out west, my grandson and I went off to find them again.  Was I surprised by what I found!

Warning, a picture heavy post again, and a few slightly blurry shots as these are all handheld on a dark grey afternoon deep in the forest, at a slow speed.

We stopped at a pull-off on the road, and looked for a trail.  We found this one immediately and went in about 100'.  Can you recognize it as the opposite side of the stream we reached on the previous hike?   Beautiful, but no waterfalls, and thick impassible forest on both sides of the stream.

So went back out to the road and looked for another trail lower down.  There it was, and within 50' we found this tiny 'waterfall' pouring out of a culvert under the road.  I could hear a lot more roaring water downstream though, so we headed on.

I was trying to snap quick pictures while keeping an eye on my adventurous 7-year-old, who wasn't in the least afraid of the steep wet slopes on both sides of the trail.  Turns out there were two streams, and we were on a narrow peninsula between them.  This photo is as far as we got, a view downstream at the point they join together from left and right.

We headed back up a little more slowly, and I realized that it was dark enough in the late afternoon light that I could get some 'slow' pictures.  This was the biggest single drop on the northern stream, just a small rocky ledge.

But this was what the rest of the stream looked like - tumbling down over the rocks fast.  I would estimate it dropped 100 feet in 200 yards!  A foaming rapid most of the way.

The site is totally 'undeveloped'.  Though there's a narrow worn trail, there are no signs, no protective railings, no warnings, and very steep rocky banks down to the water.  It was impossible to get clear views without branches in the way, because the place is simply too wild - the way I like it.

This is the second stream, on the south side, also a tumbling rapids for about 200 yards, and dropping even further, perhaps 125 feet.

This is the single biggest drop on that side, perhaps 6 feet.

Personally, I like the ripples over the rocks as the stream pours downslope as much as the actual small waterfalls.  And the water is roaring all around you.

I think this was my favourite picture.  But given that these were all handheld, mostly for 1/4 second exposures, and all slightly blurry, I am definitely going back here with a tripod, and lots of time to myself!  These two tumbling streams are definitely one of my favourite all-time waterfalls.  The fact that we had to hunt to find them just made it all the more adventurous!  It ended up a great grandfather/grandson explore!

I was initially thinking that it's a shame there isn't a sign.  But upon reflecting, and feeling somewhat selfish, (and keeping in mind safety), I'm glad there are no signs, and hope there aren't any in the future.  Perhaps the place will retain a little mystery and wildness.  Given how visitors behave at waterfalls along the Bruce Trail here in Ontario, this place would be an unsafe disaster if it was heavily visited!