Monday, November 30, 2020

Lake Eugenia

Yesterday being a bright sunny day, we decided to go for a drive after church.  We headed south, picked up a sandwich in Flesherton for lunch and drove to the causeway over Lake Eugenia.  It provided a good spot to see if there were any interesting birds.

In short, there weren't any. unless you count 500 Canada Geese as interesting.  We parked just where the road is a little wider, with a view out to the little island.  Lake Eugenia was created in 1914 when the Beaver River (right in the middle of this picture, but underwater) was dammed for the power plant. 

Water runs in two pipes, over the edge of the escarpment, and down to a generating plant at the bottom.  It's the highest water drop in a Canadian power plant east of the Rockies, and is still going strong despite being 106 years old.
I zoomed in on the island and some small dots suggested there might be some birds sitting there, and on this occasion I had brought along my big telephoto.  It's still heavy for me to hold, but I'm managing for shooting birds out the window here, so I thought I'd try it.

The same picture with my Nikon, and I feel it's just a little sharper.  There are definitely birds sitting there, at both ends where there's exposed gravel.

But with the big camera I can zoom in a lot more, and these are definitely Canada Geese.

The other end of the island showed the same thing, only more of them.  Looking around there were a few more floating in the water, and some on other shallow gravel bars.  I think some of the birds in the water were ducks, but I certainly could not identify them.  Ontario Hydro slowly draws down the water at this time of year, so both stumps and gravel bars get slowly more exposed, in order that there's space to hold the volume of spring run-off, but it's not a time of year to expect many different water birds.

Here at home it's a dull grey day and has been raining heavily this afternoon.  We appear to be in for our first major winter storm, with up to 40 cm. (16") forecast here by Wednesday, along with more big northerly waves crashing onto the beaches in town and to the east.  I'll believe it when I see it, but if it materializes, we'll have Texas to thank for sending us another moisture laden low pressure system!

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Library Visit

Yesterday was a library visit, and Mrs. F.G. dropped me off and later picked me up.  She had suggested that I go there once a week over the winter, just to get out of the house, and I'm happy to oblige!  I'm very happy to have another thing to look forward to.  The library building is as nice as it was last week, although they're still finishing things in some corners inside.

I spent my time well, first exploring my favourite authors of mysteries to get familiar with where those books are.  There are about a dozen authors I read regularly, but for a few of them I've bought recent books during the wait for the new library to open.  Now I can explore those books at my own pace.  

Then I spent some time in the small Canadian history section, and found a good book on the history of indigenous peoples in Canada which I thought I'd like to read.  Finally I headed for the reading room and looked through a couple of magazines, just relaxing.  

I had bought Michael J. Fox's new book, No Time Like the Future, an Optimist Confronts Mortality and read it quite quickly.  Since it was brand new, I donated it to the library.  I did enjoy reading it and they appreciated the donation.

After that I went back to the Canadian history section and took that book on indigenous peoples over to one of the reading spaces and sat and read the first few pages.  It's well done.  I think I'll treat it like a reference book and try to read a little every time I'm in there.  There's something nice about just sitting and reading while you're actually in a library.  

I've been thinking I need some mental challenges over the winter, so I've been reading a bit online about indigenous peoples and about early Canadian explorers.  I've also been watching a video series by Samuel Jackson entitled Enslaved.  That's been very interesting too.  So you may find some future far-too-intellectual blog posts on these topics.

Of course, having taught university I am used to spending time in libraries, some of them pretty big ones.  My Ph.D. research on 19th century southwestern Ontario involved spending hours in the Ontario Archives in Toronto, reading old newspapers on microfilm.  I have no desire to read anything on microfilm every again!  But I did develop a deep interest in Canadian history.

So I have a new destination here in town, and it's one I can usefully visit throughout the winter months.  Three cheers!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

A Pileated Woodpecker

 Yesterday I was sitting quietly at the table when a large Pileated Woodpecker landed on a tree in the yard.  This was one of those 4 second bird visits when you hardly have time to grab your phone, let alone move to a better view.  And I only had my iphone with me.  And my view was through the screen door.  So. sorry for the low quality picture, but this was memorable, so at least this proves that it happened!

We've only seen a Pileated Woodpecker a few times, and not for many years, and I certainly didn't expect this to show up here in town.  It's like that Rough-legged Hawk that visited 3 weeks ago, one we'll remember for a long time.

I quickly called Mrs. F.G. so she got to see it too, but it flew away almost immediately.  Oh for my other camera, looking out a different window!

In other news I've just got off the phone and laptop with a nice young lady at the library in Thornbury, trying to record my presentation on waterfalls using Zoom.  But she could not get the audio feed working.  We tried everything we could think of with no luck, so we've rescheduled for next week.  Otherwise another quiet day inside.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Continuing Caregiver Struggle

Currently we face a continuing very serious home care and elder care staffing shortage here in Ontario.  More than 2200 long term care residents have died during the pandemic, and that accounts for 66% of all Covid-19 deaths in the province, a horrible disaster for Ontario elders.  In Canada it's over 80%, the highest reported in the world!  Much of this can be put down to staffing problems, as well as outdated facilities that crowd residents sometimes four to a room.

The same staffing shortage is making home care programs steadily worse.  Patients on waiting lists can't get home care at all, and other patients sometimes get told no-one is available, leaving them sitting up in a wheelchair all night!  Home care is by FAR cheaper than sending people to long term care, but it still operates as a second class service.

Twice during the past week we have been left without help.  In our case my wife can get me out of or into bed, but certainly not easily.  Paralyzed and needing a mechanical lift to shift me in or out of bed, I'm not easy to deal with!  Today, because of the schedule, I wasn't out to breakfast until 10.30!  But many elders receiving home care live alone, so without help they are stuck, many of them also not able to use the bathroom.

If you trace this back, of course it goes back to government cuts and low wages.  It's hard to see a way out of this except with greater public investment.  I'm afraid that you easily feel you worked hard for 30 or 40 years, and then if you get ill and need assistance, you're just dumped on the rubbish pile.

I should be clear that the people who actually provide the home care (and I'm sure it's the same in long term care) are uniformly wonderful people who do their job well.  These PSWs (Personal Support Workers) are dedicated and committed.  But I sometimes fear that the managers above them are hired for their ability to talk a corporate line - and at the moment that line is always the staff shortage that prevents them giving the care they'd like to.

If you visit the website of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP), the top headline you'll see is "Fire the Minister!", complete with a petition to fire the Minister of Long Term Care here in Ontario.  Sign the petition and maybe we'll send a sharper message to the politicians!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020


It's not surprising that at this stage in November we're getting a light snowfall.  What's surprising is the forecast, for 10°C on Thursday!  Meanwhile today was a physio day and I expect to be a little sore tomorrow after a whole group of new exercises.

We woke to this light snowfall, not much but enough to turn things white.

It had actually started the late afternoon before, a very light drift of snow but it continued all night.  It came across the golf course like a wall of white, convincing me that a bank of fog was approaching.  Then suddenly it was gone, living a dusting of white flakes over everything.

Mrs. F.G.'s ornaments had white caps.

And I noticed later little frozen drops of water, telling me that the temperature dropped suddenly.  Rain had turned to freezing rain at some point overnight, during a quick transition to snow.

I love this view of all the big horizontal branches to the east, but it's hard to get a picture of because of the angle.

On the other hand looking out the kitchen window provides quite a different view.

For a few brief moments we had a flutter of birds out back as several Goldfinch and Chickadees visited.  The Chickadees are here every day, but we've had very few Goldfinch visitors this year.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

The New Library is Open!

Meaford's new library finally opened yesterday after an extra 3 week delay!  I was down there shortly after lunch, and it was a wonderful building.  Much of the focus has been on creating an entirely accessible library, and it was.  This is going to be a common destination downtown for me.

The building is a striking renovation of the former grocery store, with the addition of a LOT of windows.  It does contrast with the historic buildings of the rest of downtown, but to me it looks great.

Inside it is bright and open, with lots of space, and even a lower check-out desk for children (and wheelchair users).

There was a huge fund-raising campaign; this is the main donor recognition wall.  Some of the rooms are named after the really big donors.

This is one of two large meeting rooms.  There are also several smaller rooms, all set up with audio-visual equipment.

The stacks are wide open and not too tall.  The only disadvantage for me now is that the bottom shelf is awkward to use.  I did find two books and sign them out.

There's a nice children's section where I thought these wavy shelves were really neat!
I was very impressed, and look forward to spending more time here in the future.

Thursday, November 19, 2020


Yesterday after physio we picked up sandwiches at Tim's and drove down to the bay to have lunch.  It was a dull grey day, but the first icicles that we've seen this season had formed on the trees, after the cold night and some wave action splashing up on the trees.  There will likely be much more over the winter.

We had woken to a dusting of snow, evidence of the cold night.

It certainly was a grey day on the bay with no waves today.

When we arrived on the shore to eat lunch we found these icicles.

They're really just getting started, but undoubtedly they'll come and go, and grow, over the winter.  These ones are looking dirty from washing off bits of loose bark.

There are 3 more icicled trees, but they're all beyond the barrier closing off the beach area.

This looks pretty typical for November days here to me.  But today is up to 10°C, and tomorrow may hit 13, so the ice will be all gone.  I may even get out for a short ride this afternoon!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Enjoying the Patio

Just a week ago we were outside sitting in the sun and enjoying the patio during our days of balmy November weather.  It was actually warm!  But a week has passed and it seems a whole season has turned now!  A glazing of that white stuff fell last night.

The new garden is all in place, mostly not showing above ground yet, but protected for the winter, and the yard is entirely put to bed.

Our heron/ostrich/crane has been moved out to a more public spot (but it blew over in the wind Sunday night and is now back to a more sheltered spot).

There even one tiny touch of colour in the leaves of the Coral Bells.

Our Celtic fish sculpture is leaning safely against a tree for the winter while its usual base is used for a bird feeder.

Between the patio and the deck there will be lots of room for me to roam around next summer.

And my ramps are working well.  I don't know if I shared with you the final improvement to the ramp leading up into the house.  Even though the boards were only one inch+ thick, it was an awkward bump getting onto in.  Our carpenter suggested this solution and it works great, so both ramps are now smooth to use.

Mrs. F.G. has added a few colourful balls to the planters so there's a bit of a Christmas look outside the window.

But this is the view today - at -1°C!  I guess that was my last day on the patio until next spring.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Another Harbour Ride

In between my other rides during those beautiful days last week I got down to the harbour two more times.  On both days the clouds were striking, but otherwise the shore was very familiar.  And our new library which was supposed to open Nov. 2nd so it could become another downtown destination, , STILL isn't open!

The usual view greeted me when I reached the harbour wall, with both the Hoey and the Glen still docked there.

And the clouds overhead were interesting.

I stopped just past the back entrance to Richardson's Boats and got this different view of Cape Rich (behind the Willows) and the bay.

These three lines of big boulders seem to say a lot about the shoreline we're creating in developed areas of the bay.

More clouds, 

and my more typical view of Cape Rich.

But the small beach area that I would ride down into was covered in rocks thrown up by the waves 10 days ago and blocked off with caution tape and fencing.

Heading back I was struck by the juxtaposition of this White Birch and the distant white harbour light.  The birch itself was pretty interesting too.

That was it for that trip - back downtown, a stop at the drugstore, and a ride back up the horrible sidewalk on Nelson Street.  Yesterday was thoroughly miserable weather here - cold, rainy and very windy.  Several things blown over in the back yard.  Hope you're having better weather where you are!

Saturday, November 14, 2020

The Beaver Pond

It was five years ago today that we stopped by a beaver pond on our way driving south.  And we saw the beaver!  We`ve never otherwise had this close a view.  So I`m taking you back for a look.

My eagle-eyed navigator spotted movement on the far side of the pond, so we drove around and this is what we saw.  That ripple at the bottom of the screen is a beaver working underwater where they have dammed a culvert to create the pond.  

It was dusk and getting dark rapidly, so the lighting was terrible, and these pictures came out very dark.  I had to edit them to make them lighter to see anything.  But you can actually see the beaver's tail, so it's not a muskrat!

They swam quite close, and seemed unafraid, though leery about actually coming back to work on damming the culvert where we were parked.  And yes, we did see two of them, though only one at a time.

We've only seen beaver twice before in our lives, so even though the pictures aren't great, we really enjoyed getting a close look at these busy active critters.

We had almost turned to go as it was getting seriously dark, when one climbed out on the shore a short distance away.  Though I had to lighten the picture considerably, you can clearly see the animal here with its broad flat tail.

One of them kept swimming in a circle out in the pond and then back closer to us.  They never stopped moving in the time we were there.  Sad to say the beaver were trapped out after that and the pond drained.  We have never again seen as much water here, let alone active beaver.

Hope you enjoyed this flashback.