Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Orange Shirt Day

Today, Sept. 30th is Orange Shirt Day here in Canada, a day to remind ourselves of the suffering experienced by indigenous children who attended residential schools.  Following the passage of the Indian Act in 1876, residential schools developed across Canada, designed to remove Indian children from their homes and assimilate them into the dominant Canadian culture, in words of the time, "to kill the Indian in the child".  Legislation in 1894 made it compulsory for all native children to attend these schools.

The residential schools were mainly run by churches.  They were residential boarding schools, and the children were often treated harshly, sometimes abused.  Of 150,000 who attended over the years, about 6000 died, but often families were not even told, and burial locations remain uncertain.  Children were not allowed to speak their native languages.  The forcible removal of children from families on isolated reserves tore families apart.

This entire horrible episode in Canadian history was the focus of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, who wrote a report in 2015 outlining 94 calls to action.  The commission concluded, among other things, that children were usually acculturated enough that they no longer fit in their native communities back home, but sadly they also did not fit in mainstream Canadian society, facing a life of racial prejudice.

The result was often post-traumatic stress disorder, leading to alcoholism, drug addiction and an epidemic of suicide, all of which continue today through generations of families who suffered through the system.  It didn't end until 1896.

Our son saw this for himself when he went to school in Thunder Bay and worked in Kenora for two seasons, both home to many natives.  He worked as a pilot for a reserve community for a summer, flying residents out to traplines and favourite fishing spots, or out to larger centres,  The nurse, the teacher and the pilot were the only white faces in the community.  Later, flying for the native-owned Wasaya airline,  he flew freight into the isolated northern reserves, up to Hudson Bay, which didn't have road access.

Where does the Orange Shirt come from?  The idea came from Phyllis Webstad, of Williams Lake in B.C., who told the story of how her grandmother who raised her bought a special new orange shirt for her first day going away to school.  When she arrived she was stripped of the shirt and never saw it again.  It has evolved into a nationally remembered day across Canada and many children will be wearing orange shirts today.

Here in Meaford the nearest memorial to the residential school system and other injustices indigenous communities have suffered is the Wiidosendiwag-Walking Together Tour that was developed in Owen Sound to take walkers past the site of an ancient Nawash village and two burial sites on the west side of the harbour, at the mouth of the Pottawatomi River.  That initiative was headed by the Truth and Reconciliation Circle at First United Church, together with representatives of the Saugeen First Nation and the Neyaashiinigmiing Chippewas of Nawash.  I hope to get to see at least part of it some day.

So I challenge you to learn a little bit more about the challenges indigenous communities have faced, and indeed simply to learn where these communities are located, especially if it's near you.  There are lots of resources online and at museums which are increasingly portraying a balanced view of this history.

Sorry I can't give you the links; I haven't figured out how to do that n the new Blogger format.  Google the two highlighted titles above to find starting points.

Monday, September 28, 2020

John Muir Lookout

 Yesterday was a beautiful sunny warm day, so after church (properly distanced and masked of course) we headed out for a drive.  After picking up a sandwich for lunch we drove straight south down into the valley, and our first stop was the John Muir Lookout.  I get the impression that many don't realize that John Muir, the great conservationist, father of the American Nation Parks system, spent most of two years here in the Beaver and Bighead Valleys.

There's an interesting information plaque that provides an overview of Muir's time here.  The knowledge has come to light from his diaries, from letters he wrote, and from plant specimens he collected (which recorded locations).

The plaque features this quote, which captures the essence of Muir's love of nature, an almost rapturous delight.  It's hard to believe this was written about the setting of a sawmill on the Bighead River (where he worked in between rambles) but could equally be written about the western mountains.

This is Muir's sketch of the cabin he lived in with others at the Trout Hollow Sawmill, now the focus of its own walking trail.

Here is the story in a nutshell, on the historic plaque at the lookout.

There were certainly a couple of pretty trees nearby, already decorated in their fall colours.

But as a lookout over the valley, the place has its shortcomings, because the trees beyond the fence keep growing!

It took Mrs. F.G. wandering down to the fenceline to peak through at a nice view.

The tiny conservation parkette was bordered by White Pine.  Many don't realize that they lose their needles too - but every 16 months rather than annually.  Looking closely you'd see that none of this year's growth has turned yellow, but last year's needles have.  That's hoiw a pine plantation get carpeted with needles.

But what shocked us was the number of cars, about 12 plus 8 motorcycles, in a tiny spot where you'd be lucky to see 2 vehicles almost any other day of the year.

Later on, just as I was sitting at the spot, this bumblebee came to get some late pollen.  An iphone close-up, but not too bad.

'Citiots' - we find ourselves almost constantly complaining about the urbanites from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) who come to visit, especially on weekends.  Ordinarily tourists are a good thing, but with the threat of covid transmission, we have an instinctive reaction against them,  Most of Ontario's cased are in Toronto and a few other urban centres, and we here in Grey County still have very few.

So seeing crowds of cars at spots where we'd normally be almost alone is aggravating.  On top of that, a significant number of ski chalet or cottage owners have apparently decided just to stay for the winter.  Two small schools that we know of each suddenly have 100 extra students this year.  We can't park at our favourite farm store.  It's hard to make a left turn onto the highway.  And house prices are through the roof!

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I find myself frequently saying that 'they should just build a wall around the GTA and keep all the citiots inside!!!'

Friday, September 25, 2020

More Harbour Pictures

Continuing along the shore from yesterday, I headed to the far end of the park.  On such a beautiful day the skies were blue, and there was only a gentle breeze.  Pretty nice for sailing, or for visiting the waterfront.  And lots of people were doing just that.

No-one was at the little beach as kids are in school or daycare now, but just past it I stopped to check out these two sailboats.  Can you see the second one on the horizon?

I was impressed with these nice bikes.  Don't often see bikes parked down here.  Their riders were eating lunch at a nearby picnic table.

There were certainly lots of cars, and people sitting on the rocks or having lunch.

I rode all the way to the end of the park and down into the centre of the farthest beach area to gaze out at the bay and watch the very gentle waves wash in.  One more sailboat in the distance.

There was a raft of ducks and a few geese almost out of sight, but there were quite a few of them - just to the left of the gull.

This is a gravel beach, full of small wave-washed and rounded stones, thrown up on the shoreline a lot further by last year's storms.  I even took you a shadow selfie.

As I sat there I started thinking about where else I had been down to the shoreline on Georgian Bay.  On the north and east shores that we can see from here I've only been down to two locations, both of them on canoe trips.  Looking over the point right in the middle of the picture would take you to the distant French River delta, perhaps my most memorable canoe trip.

And right over the middle of this view would take you to the Massassauga Provincial Park, just south of Parry Sound, among the Thirty Thousand Islands.  The north and east shores are very rugged, often dangerous for boating, and not settled.  Highways are some distance inland - really part of northern Ontario.

I said good-bye to the big red chair, and headed back downtown to run my errands before heading home.
Just a gorgeous day for weather.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Another Ride to the Harbour

 Yesterday I enjoyed a wonderful two-hour ride down to the harbour.  I've figured out the least bumpy route, and made the best of it.  It was a beautiful sunny fall day and the temperature was just right.  Blue skies and fresh air all around.  I did some errands after, and was greeted like a long lost friend at my favourite coffee shop, The Kitchen.

Arriving down at the water I turned right instead of left and got this shot of the inner harbour just before the bridge.

I wanted to see of they were adding a sidewalk to this side of the bridge so that I would be able to get across in the future.  That would double the area I could explore down here.  I think they are, but at this stage of construction it was hard to tell.

I turned around and headed west.  A gentle breeze wafted across the water, just riffling the surface.

This unfamiliar boat was docked here, all shut at the moment, but looking like an old fishing tug..

The stern has been draped shut to close it in.  I was able to find an online reference to the Benjamin-Charles, and it is a fishing tug, originally from Lake Erie.

The R.A.Hoey was still docked there, as it has been for two years as far as I've seen.  Built in 1961, this is a passenger boat, originally used to provide ferry service to Christian Island from Penetang.  It's docked here in Meaford because it's for sale.  There are lots of pictures of it online.

Looking over the Hoey's stern, there were lots of other boats in for servicing, and another one circling out of sight to the right trying to find a spot to dock.

At the back entrance to the marina they were doing a major shoreline protection project.  This area is just used to store boats in the off-season, but with the high water levels it's become a large puddle about 6" deep.  I think they're trying to both reinforce the shoreline protection and raise the ground surface in the low spot.

More tomorrow as I continue west.  It's not really west, the shoreline here faces north-east, so I'm really moving north-west as I ride along the shore.  The main street in Meaford is never straight for more than a block or two; it varies from just north of west as it enters town, through almost north downtown, then north-west again and leaves town heading just south of west.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020


 As we drove to our friends up on top of Blue Mountain we passed several orchards.  One was on the sideroad where it was safe to stop for pictures, so I bring you a report on the apple harvest.  We saw the farmers and the team of apple pickers, probably from Jamaica, just wrapping up for the day.

This was not one of the largest orchards, but still a good size, with rows and rows of densely planted younger trees stretching off onto the distance.

There were some very young trees, but they still had a good crop.

We were surprised at how densely laden the trees were; it's a good illustration of the crop to be gained from high density planting - and so much safer and faster for picking.

They were using a lot of the new plastic apple crates, but still had some of the traditional wooden ones filled.  It looked like a good crop to us.

These crates are all standardized for easy handling in the apple processing plant.  Many farms have an on-farm store, but the bulk of the high quality apples are marketed to grocery stores and the rest for juice.  Most of the apple pickers are migrant workers from either Jamaica or Mexico, and most come back to the same farm year after year, so that they become like a seasonal family.  The season starts in late August and is mostly over by the end of October here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Challenges, Development, Garlic and Day Lilies!

 As you'll realize from my lack of daily posting, we've had a few busy days.  So I thought I'd give you a report on what we've been up to.

Challenges - I've compiled all my mileage and donations for the local hospital's 5K Run, and I'm very pleased with myself.  I did my 'official' 5k one day in early Sept., and timed it in 38 minutes.  I then kept accumulating kilometers to a total of 53.1 over 19 days.  It sure does serve as motivation to get out there!

The donation side is even more positive, and after all, that's what it's all about.  By challenging my coffee buddies I pushed the total to $530.00.  PLUS there was one mysterious anonymous donation of $80.00!  Who knows?  And our friends at Achy Back Acres who read my blog regularly, insisted on giving me $10.00.  Pushed it all to $620.00!!  I hand in the results Thrusday.

And for my much longer goal of riding the distance of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain, I've just passed 150 km.  That's a MUCH longer term goal - maybe two years from now if I'm lucky and dedicated.

Development - You know the view out of our house over the local golf course, which we really love.  Last week we received notice of the first development that we fear will eventually replace much of the course.  It's a street of single family homes closer to the far end of the course than here, but we'll certainly be able to see it.  And yesterday there were two surveyors working away on the unused fairway right behind our house.  Who knows what the future will bring.

Garlic - But today we had a friend who lives on a farm visit, bearing gifts.  She brought us a wonderful basket of garlic, enough to keep us for the entire year.  She also brought beets and peppers!  What wonderful gifts!  And Maria already has some garlic, so now we have enough to give away!

Day Lilies - Other friends had offered some day lilies for us.  The email showed pictures of the 6 labelled varieties; they're much more serious day lily growers than are we.  And following that other friends emailed with more pictures of other day lily varieties.  Again the emails went back and forth, as we certainly couldn't take all of them.

So this afternoon we were out the door to collect these very welcome offers.  We did pay for them, directing the money toward the church sale that's coming up.  But these prices are far lower than commercial prices!  Now Mrs. F.G. has a few days of final preparations and decisions as these get planted, all perhaps the most exciting stage for a gardener.

Luckily we are just in the phase of expanding our garden after putting in the patio.  There is lots of room for new plants, its just a question of where they would like to go.

So that is how our life unfolded last week and this.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Two Years at Home

It was two years ago today that Mrs. F.G. brought me home from the hospital in London after 7 long months of first surviving and then recovering.  We have been given two more years of life together which is a huge gift compared to my dying 31 months ago!  At least in our brighter moments we both rejoice that we've had this time together.  In our darker moments we have to remember that every day I'm alive is a gift.

I won't disguise the fact that it's been tough.  Our lives are now so limited compared to what they were.  My lack of mobility severely constrains what I can actually do, and Mrs. F.G. is stuck in the chief caregiver role which is very demanding.  We don't travel as we used to, and I'm in constant pain.  We have to always watch out for the complications that come with paralysis.  My age certainly hasn't helped, though I would never wish this on a younger person.

One of my favourite pictures of me, out and about - 
this was heading out on a trail in Harrison Park last fall.

I would venture to say that we've succeeded in reaching a plateau in my recovery now.  I'm about as mobile as I'll ever be I think, though I intend to continue improving my strength.  And at least some parts of the care I need are going well.  And, given the paralysis I'm as healthy as I can be with no serious lung, skin, bowel or bladder issues though all these are seriously compromised.

Mrs. F.G. is amazing and I'm very lucky to have her.  Not only has she picked up all the work I used to do, she's also doing everything she used to do herself.  She's an expert on details, organizes everything, and does all the driving.  This morning she's outside with our garden helper working on more planting.  The patio was her idea, as is the plan to turn all the surrounding yard into garden.  Next summer this will make a big difference to my life, and be a continuing source of joy for her.

I do wish people would understand more of the difficulties a paraplegic faces, and the wide differences they experience.  People seem to see you in a wheelchair and think it's just a mobility limitation, solved by making places more wheelchair accessible.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Let me list some of the other issues.

The pain! - our medical system can work miracles, and millions are invested in 'cures', but they've never come up with a good way to handle nerve pain.  This is my biggest daily frustration.

Health issues - the other bodily problems you're always watching out for, those skin, lung, bowel and bladder issues.  Hours are invested every day in preventative care.

Travel - for us travel, whether locally or further away, has been a big part of our life.  Trips give you something tp look forward to, and thereby transform your entire life.  It's very difficult in you're paralyzed!  

Photography - my photos are pale shadows of what they used to be, and I can’t get close to any of the things I’d like to take close-ups of.  Because the big camera is so heavy I'm mostly limited to my iphone.  Sometimes when I’m posting my blog I find it very frustrating.

Sidewalks - these are a bane of my existence. You have no idea how painful it is to drive over every little bump in a sidewalk and the big bumps are horrible!  I'm slowly getting brave enough to just drive on the road and to hell with it!

Guilt - I feel horribly guilty for Mrs. F. G. having to give up her former quilting life when she spent hours in her sewing studio almost every day. Sadly I am taking that away from her.

As you can imagine some days are tough. I have no sympathy whatsoever for people who complain about being kept at home during the pandemic!  That's just normal life year-round for a paraplegic!

On  the other hand, we have many of the 'learning how to care for me' things sorted out. We have good caregivers every morning and evening, we have good doctors, and we manage things in the house at least relatively well.

I have the feeling we are on the verge of next steps - a better social life, time for Maria to sew, and more challenging activities for me.  I hope we can get out and about a little more too.  We need to find ways to have a life, not merely survive.

So wish us luck as we head into our 3rd year here in Meaford.  And I'll be thinking of you too.


Friday, September 18, 2020

More Signs of Fall

 I have two days left to accumulate mileage for the Hospital 5k Run, so I've been out riding lots.  And I'm seeing a few more signs of fall as I go.  But it's the temperature that really tells the story; the gloves have come out of my pockets more than once, and it's a jacket for every ride now.

Right here at home the Geraniums and Petunias have been replaced by Mums, Brown-eyed Susans, Pumpkins and some bright paper flowers.

I've only seen one other fall decoration in the neighbourhood though. 

A few more trees are showing light touches of orange colour.

And the Mountain Ash berries look ripe, though it's a very thin crop this year compared to last year.

I saw this large unused crop of fallen pears in a front yard.

I really liked this combination of yellow and purple at a friend's house - Brown-eyed Susans and Amaranth.

Those Amaranth leaves were looking really red!  Sunny but cold today, I'm headed out for my ride later.  As you can tell, the new Blogger is still having trouble with spacing!

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Chasing Keefer Creek

You may remember the valley of Keefer Creek that we drive across when we drive to Owen Sound.  I have been under the impression that the tiny streams we see there, that represent the beginnings of Keefer Creek, emerge from springs around the hills south of the highway (to the left below).  The rock cuts that we go through at either end of the valley tell me that the entire valley is indeed below the escarpment.  However a friend here mentioned to me that the creek actually flows above the escarpment ridge before dropping down into the valley, and there might be sinkholes involved, so we went exploring.


Keefer Creek valley as you drive along Hwy.26.

This is one of the three tiny creeks that we see crossing the highway.  I've been thinking that they emerged from tiny little springs to the south.

But when we went exploring, this is what we found, Keefer Creek flowing above the escarpment west of the valley!  And it's not just a tiny stream.

The stream was bordered here by a dense growth of Knapweed, Queen Anne's Lace and some Milkweed.

And across the road a dense growth of Joe-pye Weed, the first I've been able to get a close picture of this year.

We drove on down the road, bordered by trees and fields.

Passing these wild Brown-eyed Susans behind a chained off field entrance.

And then we came to Keefer Creek Farm!  This I was not expecting, but checking the air photos on Google Maps later I saw the creek, which does appear to have its origin in the front field of this farm.  I wonder which came first, the name of the farm or the creek?

There wasn't much view of the farm available though.

So we drove down the road to a corner, just to see where it went, and passed both these bright Sweet Peas at the end of one drive, and these beehives in a corner of a hayfield.  (The road goes to two long dead ends in a swamp).

As we got back near the highway I got a view of the creek as it disappeared into the woods on the east side of the road.  So this creek must either tumble over the edge and down the slope, or vanish into a sinkhole and emerge as a spring lower down.  Based on my exploring I think the sinkhole is much the more likely option, but it's hidden somewhere back in the bush.

And I'm sure you remember the reason for my interest in Keefer Creek.  Yes, it's Keefer Falls several miles downstream where it falls over a lower level of the escarpment, the Manitoulin Formation.  Note the icicles still remaining in the shade of the rock; this was mid-April, 2016.

Much of Keefer Creek's drainage seems to be a mystery or a secret.  There is only one published reference to the falls, and it's in an out-of-the-way place where you have to know how to find it.  There is no public access, no conservation area.  And lists of the waterfalls around Owen Sound make no mention of it.  But it's a beautiful little waterfalls.