Friday, May 29, 2020

An Explanation

So why did we end up with thousands of homes being built across southern Ontario in the 'gothic revival' style that my post yesterday illustrated?  Well, in a Canada Farmer issue of November 1865, an illustration as well as building plans were provided!  Along with directions to follow as you started building!  Pretty useful for the do-it-yourselfer.

Here's one of the illustrations of the 'gothic revival' farm cottage from 1865, copied over and over, but you can still make out the style.  This one was of board and batten.

A second illustration shows a stone house in a similar style and size, including the side elevation showing the one-floor extension out back.  It's not surprising that thousands of these homes were built when illustrations and building plans were provided!

And what does 'gothic revival' mean?

Gothic revival refers to a renewed interest in medieval architecture, as perhaps expressed best originally in the great European cathedrals with their statues, gargoyles and spires.  In the 19th century many early great churches, some schools, and university buildings were built in this style.  Perhaps the best widely known gothic revival buildings in Canada are the Canadian Parliament buildings in Ottawa.

This decorative style of architecture was dramatically simplified in the small gothic revival cottages.  This architecture is typified by steep rooflines, gingerboard trim and other decorations such as finials, sidelights and a transom around the front door.  And don't forget the tax incentive that made this one-and-a-half story home so popular.

After photographing the five brick homes in yesterday's post, I finally noticed a similar frame house across the road.  Again it's that same architectural style, though it's not built in brick.  Note the little triangular window under the dormer.

I learned quite a bit the past couple of weeks looking up this building style and trying to understand it.  Hope I haven't just confused you!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Gothic Revival Cottages

As I explored Nelson Street here, the road I ride down most frequently, I realized this spring that there were 5 small original farm cottages, in among some 30 houses altogether, in a style labelled 'Gothic Revival'.  This was the most common style of residential houses for 100 years, right up until 1950 here in Ontario.  Let me explain.

Straight down at the end of the street is this house which illustrates the style, a door in the centre with two downstairs windows, and a small door into the attic.  In this case there's also a wide front porch.  Now see if you think these five houses have a similar style.

This house also has a decorative 'finial' at the peak oft the roof and nice stone caps over the windows and this tiny attic door.

And if you look around the side you'll see there are two symmetrical windows both upstairs and down.  It was actually a lower tax rate that inspired the story and a half design in the late 1800s, because with this you got a lower tax rate, even though there was still usable space upstairs for bedrooms.

This is another house, right across the corner, though this one has an attic window rather than a door.  But it also has the stone window caps, and the front door side panels, just like the first one.

 A close look at the front door which has the same side panels and glass over head as the first house.  You can see there used to be a porch roof here, though today's porch needs a little work!

A third nearby house is the same style - dormer in the roof, centre door with symmetrical front windows.  In this case there's a central porch with the top serving as a balcony, as well as a tiny triangular window over the upstairs attic window, a common feature in these houses.

There's also a one-floor extension out behind.  This was part of the original design of these houses and was used for the kitchen, washroom (if there was one in the original house) and wood storage, as all these houses would have had wood stoves.  You can also see the decorative corner stone work, common to  many of these homes, sometimes done in brick rather than stone, and now often painted.

A closer look makes me think that this is an attic door, rather than a window, opening onto the porch roof.  As well there's another decorative finial, his one just hanging down from the peak of the roof.

A fourth house nearby is similar, but has a different style of attic dormer which makes a big difference in its appearance.

However, this house is the only one that still has the decorative 'gingerboard' under the dormer, and at the tops of the porch pillars.

The last house of the five is further east down the street and you can easily see the similarity.  It has the peaked attic dormer, in this case with a triangular top, and the symmetrical door and windows downstairs.  In this case the window and door caps are made of brick.

Hope you enjoyed this tour of five 'gothic revival' cottages here in Meaford.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Birds of Spring

It's a wonderful time of year to sit and listen to the birds.  On these beautiful mornings I've been able to sit on the deck and enjoy my coffee while all around me I can hear the birds calling.  With only about a dozen species hanging around, I've been able to learn their calls well enough that I know who is singing even if I can't see them.

Although usually a winter bird here, one pair of Downy Woodpeckers has been staying around and I suspect they're nesting nearby.  A rear view shows this is a female, with no red spot on the back of the head.

There is a similar pair of Chickadees, which we also usually see in the winter.  But this pair visits late in the day for some seeds.

I think there may be a family of Blue Jays around now. We here their raucous calls every day when they swoop in.  I think they're nesting in the tall spruce across the road.

The White-crowned Sparrow was still around at least a few days ago, though I'm expecting it to migrate on north.  I think the Dark-eyed Juncos have already left.

We have both a pair of Chipping Sparrows and a pair of Song Sparrows nesting nearby.  I hear their calls regularly, both the long trill of the Chipping Sparrow and the musical song of the Song Sparrow.

And so far the Baltimore Orioles are still here, the male a bright oragne and the female much more subdued.  I hear them calling too.

Besides these that I have pictures of we have the usual Crows, Starlings, Grackles and here Cardinals calling in the distance.  A Turkey Vulture soars overhead about once a day, and a small flock of teenage Canada Geese usually flies over every day.  Altogether the sights and sound of birds outside add a nice new dimension to my world in spring.

I can't believe that we've gone from late snow to it being too hot for comfort in just over two weeks!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Georgian Bay

After a very long time since the last visit, we got down to the shoreline here to check out the bay.  They've cleaned up all the fist-sized and smaller rocks that were thrown up on the grass and pavement, so it's safe to drive in and park.  The little beach where the waves ate 50 feet into the playground in last fall's storms remains to be dealt with.  I believe the current plan is to remove the playground, but there's still a lot of other restoration work to be done.  They haven't even thought about the boulders along the shore yet.

The bay, a north-westerly view toward the army base.  There's a proposal for an enormous pumped storage facility here which is generating a lot of controversy, but that's anther story!

Straight out in the bay.  It's a hazy view in the distance, with no sign of the distant islands out there.

And then one of the trees that presents such an amazing picture in the winter when the waves splash up and cover the lower limbs with icicles.

Finally, looking to the right toward the harbour, the little rangelight out on the end of the breakwater, and a lot of boulders!

I was trying to show here how the big boulders along the edge of the shoreline get rolled or even tossed up onto the grass.  I estimated that this line of boulder is about 10 feet inland from its natural, pre-storms position.  You can also see how the soil gets eroded along the inner edge of the boulders.  Shoreline erosion due to rising water levels is going to be a serious problem for years to come here.

The worst storms seem to be at the end of October and in early November when the lake level is also at its seasonal high.  Last fall they had to close the shoreline street as it was flooded, and there were rocks a cubic foot in size thrown onto the grass.  This fall is predicted to be the historic high as long as records have been kept.  Wish us luck!

Saturday, May 23, 2020


We're in the middle of spectacular warm sunny weather finally, so of course it's time for gardening!  Yesterday we worked all day (well Mrs. F.G. worked all day and I put in a good two hours or a bit less), and got most of our planters planted.  It feels like the beginning of spring, birds calling and leaves bursting out overhead.

Yes, I was put to work as best I could on one of the wheelchair height planters.  I've still got my leg in this damn splint as the surgeon thought another two weeks would be better.

This is most of the planter I was working on, looking good now, but still with veggies to come up in the vacant spaces.

This patch is typical, yellow beans at the back, three Marigolds, and three fragrant herbs - lemon thyme in the lower left, rosemary in the middle, and purple sage in the top right (along with a giant ladybug)!  If you run your fingers through any of the three herbs, you get a really nice fragrance.

One of the lower planters, planted by the head gardener.  We have totally changed our roles from our last home where the under gardener did all the work and the head gardener made all the decisions, to now where the head gardener has to do 95% of it, and the under gardener makes a tiny contribution where he can.

Our trailing clematis survived the winter.  This variety is not a climbing vine but trails over the side of the pot.

We've also got a pot of lavender that is greening up nicely.

Our son has transformed into a gardener and grew quite a few tomatoes from seed this spring.  These are two of the ones he gave us. planted in large pots separately.

Our little magnolia hjas been doing well, ...

... but our little rhodoeendrons are disappointing.  They look scrawny with no new growth and only 2 or 3 tiny blooms.

And our ornamental dogwood looks even less promising, with no sign of leaves coming out at all.  Time will tell.  Hope you're enjoying weather as nice as we are, and getting your gardens in if you haven't already.

Friday, May 22, 2020


Five years ago today our lives were shattered when our oldest son William was killed while fighting a forest fire in northern Alberta.  He was a water bomber pilot, whose plane went down in a fire tornado.  He is always in our hearts.

William 1977 - 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Painted Rocks and Chestnuts

Painted rocks seem to have become the latest thing for kids (and kids at heart).  It'a a bit like geocaching, hide it (not too carefully, so it can be found), and leave it.  If you're putting out painted rocks then you can take other ones that you find.  I've seen about 6 around the route I travel, but already half of them have been 'found'.  It seems like a great game for kids in isolation at home.

This was one of the first I found, at the base of a post box.

This was in the grass at the base of a hydro pole - nice paint job I thought.

This one is a great paint job too.  Sitting at the bottom of a big old maple tree, it's obviously had a clear layer of varnish added for protection.

Now for the Chestnuts.  I've been watching as the buds on trees grew, and the Chestnut is obviously far ahead of others.  These were the buds two weeks ago.

And this was five days ago.

By yesterday the buds had started bursting, and ...

a few tiny leaves were already unfolding.  This Chestnut is around the block, and I'll be watching as it blooms and the chestnuts grow.  Headed out for a slow ride in the warm sun now, the first actually warm day we've had.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Here at Home

I've been out exploring my usual route here in Meaford almost every day, and the weather is comfortable, if not warm.  But the forecast is looking good!  Meanwhile here at home we have a number of plants making progress, and a few blooms appearing.  But we'd REALLY like some WARM weather to finally start seeing some leaves!  It's May 19th and still no leaves on the trees!

Our dwarf Yellow Iris is doing very well this year, and has lots of blooms right now.

And our Magnolia has come into bloom, looking pretty against the Spruce tree in the distance.  As you can see the Pansies are doing great too.

We have a deep blue Pansie on the front porch too.

And we have one of the best two lawns for Dandelions in the neighbourhood.  We're expecting neighbours to start coming over and offering to help get rid of them!

This Hosta is looking nearly full grown; it's a miniature whose leaves hardly get any bigger than this.

And our spiky Blue Fescue is looking nearly full grown too, apart from the florets that will appear on longer stalks later in the season.

Totally unconnected, but there's a farm on the road to Owen Sound that has some free range pigs.  They were out last week when we went by, and I finally got a picture.

And this wonderful rhubarb cake appeared on our counter the other day, and boy is it delicious!

Hope you're all looking forward to warmer weather like we are!