Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Signs of Spring

We're just staying at home, so it's hard to get out and document the signs of spring,  But I see a lot right here at home and I know more is happening out in the countryside, even though most of the human world has shut down here.

It may not mean much to those of you further south, but the snow disappearing and the grass re-appearing is by FAR the biggest sign of spring here.  If you don't live with it you probably don't realize the ramifications, but the world outside my window has changed completely, and I'm ready to watch a sequence of changes until the leaves are fully out and the warmer weather is here.  Snowblowers get put away and soon lawnmowers will come out, winter tires are removed and summer tires get installed, winter coats, hats, mitts and boots go away and you forget all that stuff except for a summer hat and light jacket.

And if you're in a wheelchair, suddenly the world outside has opened up to you again.  You can get outside and go places without your tires coming in wet and coated with grit.  I've said before that you can't imagine what a difference this means for me.

Can you see the green shoots rising?  Spring is when all kinds of flowers grow and bloom again, like these Tulips and Hyacinths just poking out of the ground.  Everyone notices this and rejoices, but gardeners go a little mad and start frequenting the nurseries (what are we going to do this year?) looking for new plants.  Here it will mean a whole raft of outdoor work getting the garden ready and watching things grow.

Just after sharing the returning birds with you yesterday, this fellow landed right outside the window to say hello!

Jamie, one of my caregivers spotted this Great Blue Heron deep in the swamp and sent me this picture.  I like the way it almost disappears among the water and dark tree trunks.  We haven't seen one ourselves yet, but it won't be long.  Thanx Jamie!

The wildlife wakes up too, and sometimes groggily stumbles about the first few days.  This raccoon walked all the way across the golf course yesterday, disappearing behind our shed.  Sadly many raccoons, skunks and other mammals are killed on the roads at this time of year, unaware of the hazard vehicles represent.  And soon it will be turtle slaughter season too (maybe I'm being a bit cynical there).  

One thing I realize I'm leaving out are the sound of spring.  Frogs will be calling from the wetlands, and birds calling everywhere.  Stick your head out the door early in the morning and it's just a chorus of voices.  Unfortunately I'm not up early enough to hear the best part of this.  But spring is definitely here.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Spring Birds

Returning and more active birds are undoubtedly the biggest sign of spring for me.  We had very few birds visit our feeders through the winter, right into early March, but since then they've been quite active and a few new ones have appeared, back from the warmer south.

Robins are the most important harbinger of spring for me; this one seems to like the top of this stump, sitting there several times. 

Turkey Vultures are rapidly joining Robins as the earliest returning migrants we see in the spring.  This is an old picture, but we saw one ten days ago, and have seen them soaring over the neighbourhood several times since.  Don't forget the Sand hill Cranes and Tundra Swans we saw on our drive to Barrie either.  And a friends reported a Great Blue Heron yesterday.

The Goldfinch and Chickadees have been hear all winter, but they're certainly more frequent and active now.  And the Goldfinch are turning into their summer yellow plumage.

How's this for the hind end of a Red-breasted Nuthatch?

And this for a distant silhouette of a Cardinal up high in a tree.  We've hardly seen them all winter, but now they're singing like mad around every corner in the neighbourhood!

The Crows are much more active, flying past frequently.  I suspect a pair is nesting in the tall Scots Pines across the golf course.

Dark-eyed Juncos have appeared finally.  We usually see them in the winter, but not this year.  They only re-appeared ten days ago.  They will disappear again soon, flying north to nest.

A small flock of Starling has been flying around, and landing to forage out on the golf course.  We've seen Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds in the yard too.

This is my fsvourite.  I have two dozen pictures of this fellow, mostly twisted around behind the bird feeder.  But in this one he turned and looked straight at me.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

How I'm Keeping Occupied

I'm sure we all wonder how others are keeping occupied during our current enforced self isolation.   Well the short answer here is that I am writing my blog, doing my workouts, reading quite a bit, and learning some new history.

In fact,  days like these are not that unusual for someone who is disabled. Although most of the year we do get out a lot, there are many days especially in the winter, when you end up simply staying inside. You quickly learn how to keep yourself occupied and your brain active, otherwise you go stir-crazy!

It helps that both Mrs. F.G. and I are introverts so we've always spent lots of time together and alone rather than socializing.   We both have personal hobbies that keep us busy.  I also know that I have to keep up my workouts to build and maintain my strength.

So the first thing I do is try and write my blog every day. I miss occasionally, but I don't worry about it. Sometimes it's relatively quick and easy, like the series of barn posts I've been doing, but other times it takes a fair bit of research and thinking .   In any case that's a highlight of my day, and it makes me feel less guilty later on when I'm reading other posts. I feel like I've made my contribution.

Then I do my workouts. I  use small 3, 5, and 8 pound weights to build up my arms and shoulders. Then I do number of stretches with the Theraband. I also do a number of upper body stretches that try and keep me slightly mobile!  This tends to happen in between boats of reading, spread throughout the afternoon.

         [ I just saw a raccoon walk across the golf course! ]

I usually have a couple of books on the go, one fiction and one non-fiction.  Currently I'm reading AWOL on the Appalachian Trail, and A History of Canada in 10 Maps.   I also dip into the news, which I can read on my iPhone. Between this and watching videos after I've gone to bed in the evening, I get a lot of screen time during the week!

Just by accident we came across three videos on King Edward VI, Mary I (Bloody Mary), and Elizabeth I ( the three children of King Henry VIII), and that reminded me that I know very little of English history even though I know Scottish history quite well.  So I set myself the task of learning the English kings from William the Conquerer on, and now I'm reading beyond that to understand things like the War of the Roses which I've always found very confusing. That keeps my brain occupied and hopefully gives me a little bit of mental exercise!   Maybe after this I'll move on to Canadian and American history; I'm just fascinated with history.

In the evening we watch a bit of TV,  usually watching British mysteries, garden shows, or travel shows.  We only watch things available on a streaming service like Netflix where we can choose what we want to watch and there are no commercials!

Too soon the caregiver is here to get me back into bed. So I do all this in about an 11 hour day, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.  I do usually get eight hours sleep a night,  but I lie in bed either waiting for the caregiver in the morning or after I've been put to bed in the evening.  That's when I watch YouTube videos.

And that's the end of my day.   Hope you are keeping occupied too!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Through the Seasons

After reviewing my collection of barn pictures repeatedly the past few days, there's one that turns out to be my favourite.  And it also turns out to be one where I have pictures through the seasons, so here it is.

Early Spring

 Early summer

 Late Summer


Hope you've enjoyed my obsession with barns!

Friday, March 27, 2020

A Few More Barns

I'm sure you're tired of my barn pictures, but I'm quite enjoying them and I'm certainly not getting out to take other pictures these days!  So here are an almost last few barns for you to enjoy. 

This is a friend's farm just down the road from our former home.  I thought this distant shot from the back looked nice.

Another neighbour had this large cattle farm, but he also kept a team of large workhorses which he brought to the fall fair.  We'd see them out in the pasture with the cattle.

This farm dedicated a field to the Canadian Food Grains Bank.

At this cattle farm we once rescued a calf that had escaped under the gate!

I took this shot more for the shadows than the barn, but it's a very well-maintained cattle farm.

This is the farm where that dry stone wall I posted about last week is found.

Sometimes I manage to frame the picture of the farm buildings in the distance with a big tree in the foreground.  I think it makes a nice photo.

And last, I wish I knew the story behind this pickup-topped silo!  Someone was having a little fun!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Renovated Barns

One group of barns I have seen renovated is barns owned by rural non-farm owners.  These might be weekenders, retirees from elsewhere, or people with deep roots in the community who have lived here for decades.  I got to know several neighbours near our former home who renovated their barns, so I have a bit more familiarity with those than from just driving by.

These barns have some new siding and a new roof; they were just around the corner from us.

This is one of my favourite barns, in a spectacular setting down in the valley.  It is simple being maintained by replacing boards as needed but I really like how they've painted the doors bright red.

Another friend around the corner uses his big old barn for storage, mainly of wood for his woodworking projects.  That part on the left with windows and a pipe for his wood stove pipe is his woodworking shop.  At some point he replaced the siding too.

When another friend was renovating their small barn to allow for barn dances, I got to have a close look inside.  These old beams show the original adze marks.

Looking at the framework of timbers that make up a barn we are often unaware of the very strong mortise, tenon and peg joints that have enabled these barns to stand for 100 years.  You can see the tenon on the beam to the left (the part where the beam has been cut down) disappearing into the mortise (or slot) in the upright post here, as well as the end of the peg used to secure the joint.  A close look gives a little more meaning to 'post and beam' construction!

The end of this big beam, removed from another barn being rebuilt, shows the tenon that was created on the end of the beam where it fit into the mortise.  I think I've learned a lot about timber frame construction just by taking a close look at two old barns being renovated.

This is my friend's barn with its new siding as well as a new interior floor for those barn dances.  Well done I'd say for these rural non-farm residents saving at least a few of the old barns.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

New Barns

The new barns built around here in the past few years represent the opposite end of the spectrum from the old dilapidated barns I posted pictures of yesterday.  So just to keep things in balance, here are some recent signs of investment on farms.

These are the barns at Hope Haven Farm, the terapeutic riding centre near our former home.  If these buildings aren't new they are certainly well maintained, and the riding arena, the red roof of which you can see on the right, is quite new.

This is a small but brand new barn built not far away.

And this is a big new barn addition on a cattle farm.  They've retained the older barn behind it.

The lighting is poor on this one, but it's a very nice new barn on a farm that sells meats locally.

Sometimes the new investment is a drive shed, which makes me think that they're getting into cash cropping and have a lot of equipment to store.

This is a huge new drive shed built a few miles to the south.

And sometimes fabric barns are increasingly popular, this one used as a riding arena I believe.

Others are used for hay storage.   So there is some balance among farm buildings, new investment balancing the old barns that fall down or are dismantled.  But the story is more complicated than this; I'll share some more examples tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

I've been Thinking about Barns

On our drive to Barrie last week I was struck by the number of barns that were starting to look dilapidated or where they were missing entirely.  Coincidentally, this week's local newspaper had an article on an organization known as Ontario Barn Preservation, lamenting the disappearance of the century old original barns in southwestern Ontario.  That got me thinking about barns.

This was in the middle of the fields where we saw the Sandhill Cranes.  I suspect it's just a rural non-farm residence now and the barn is being neglected.

Down the sideroad was this old barn, which looked like it needed some maintenance.

I don't want to portray it all negatively.  This was a nice barn still in use and being well cared for.

It even had a colourful barn quilt on the end.

So those 3 barns sent me back to look through the 200+ barn photos I've accumulated over the past 10 years.  I'm pleased to say that there were relatively few that were looking dilapidated or about to fall down.  But this was one near our old home that we watched slowly disintegrate over about 8 years.

At first glance this barn looks stable, but if you look closely through the gaps, mush of the back wall is missing.  It;s gone now.

This one is obviously on its last legs.

Thjs barn is in the village of Heathcote.

And this one that I drove by for several years has now collapsed.

But I'm thankful to say that I have pictures of many more old barns that are being maintained, or have been restored.  Over the next few days I'll share some of those and my thoughts about the future of barns in Ontario.