Friday, December 31, 2021

Best of 2021 Part II

Looking back on the summer of 2021, one highlight was the arrival of the Monarchs, which have laid eggs on our Milkweeds each year since we moved here.  These two pictures are by Mrs. F.G. since she can get closer than I can, but we have lots of pictures like this from the past and it's always fascinating to watch them.

In later spring we were in Harrison Park in Owen Sound and found that the old 'One Mile Drive' has been paved as a walkway.  And the pavement makes it completely accessible to me.  I don't know of any other paved trail like this through mature forest.  It's an absolute delight to me!

This photo isn't exciting - unless you love going to the library and you're in a wheelchair!  The wide aisles and the short stacks make our new library totally accessible, and I love it!

September 30th is Orange Shirt Day in Canada, a day to remember the children from native communities taken away to residential schools, forcibly if necessary.  These are a pair of children's handcuffs they used when children didn't want to leave their parents.  The day is named after one such child, Phyllis Webstad and her memories of the orange shirt she wore for the first day of classes.  It was immediately taken and burned by the nuns who ran the school.

One of the joys of my life is simply riding around the nearby streets and heading downtown for a cup of coffee.  I see lots of things of interest, but these New England Asters were I think, one of my best photos of the year, simply because I could get close to them.

I must also speak of the welcome I've felt at McGinty's, our downtown cafe.  They go overboard in being friendly and welcoming, as well as in brewing great coffee and making delicious sandwiches.  It goes a long way to making me feel a part of this community.

The fall colours mark the mid-point of fall, and we saw some great colour in Harrison Park, beyond the ones here in the neighbourhood.  They're always one of my favourite things to photograph.

It was fairly late in the fall when I managed my last visit down to the harbour, but there always seems to be something new to see, and I managed several visits over the summer.

And in December we got our first snowfall, just a light few inches, but it still means winter is here.  Even though I speak of hibernating during the winter, I actually now look forward to it as a peaceful time of working on things I want to write.  And Mrs. F.G, is always gracious enough to take me out 3 or 4 times a week.

So in spite of covid, I think it has been a good year overall. We've gotten out, I've made new friends, and my coffee group is enjoying itself.  We continue to go searching for Snowy Owls and Sandhill Cranes, my PSWs continue to arrive and help me, and the seasons unfolded here as they should.

So Happy New Year everyone!  And may 2022 be a better year for all of us!

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Highlights of 2021

It's become a tradition for me to look back over my blog posts for the year and pick out the highlights from each month.  These aren't necessarily the best photos, but they represent highlights of our life together, things we can look back on and be pleased about.

Every year for a while now we have gone in search of Snowy Owls, and we did again last January, driving around the countryside NE of Paisley - successfully I might add.  It was Jan 6th, and I will never forget it because I checked my phone for some reason, probably to check the map, and saw that people were storming the Capitol in Washington.  The world has never been the same!

During the winter I started reading about the Arctic, and I learned a great deal.  I posted about the early explorers, about the search for Franklin's ships, and about the amazing work done by Parks Canada in finding those two ships.  I also learned that local traditional knowledge played a big part in our understanding of that mythical history. 

In reading about the Arctic I also learned about the Arctic communities and all the limitations they face.  The enormous and fast shift from a traditional lifestyle into settled communities is the story of the Arctic over the past 70 years.  Those communities depend heavily on the annual 'sealift' for their year's supplies - of everything!

In March or April we go hunting for Sandhill Cranes, which are among the early birds to arrive back from migration.  This photo is from an earlier year, and later in the season, but Sandhill Cranes searching, in both spring and fall, has become a regular part of our year.

And a little later in the spring I spotted a Fox sitting out on the golf course.  Over the next 5 months or so we watched it (there were actually a pair) come and go, and then appear with a litter of three kits!  It was our most interesting wildlife sighting since moving here.

I can't pick out the highlights without touching on the amazing garden Mrs. F.G has created with her green thumb.  This rich red Clematis is only one of many flowers that bloomed, starting in early spring.

And a little later in the summer all our Day Lilies come into bloom.  This is one I can get really close to, but it's only one of about 15 different varieties.

The patio that Mrs. F.G. spearheaded, designed and planted an entirely new garden around has certainly brought a summertime transformation to my life.  I can ride down there easily and get close to a lot of different plants, watching their growth over the season and taking just as much pleasure in it as does Mrs. F.G.

More highlights tomorrow; meanwhile the house is smelling of turkey today!  (I wrote this on Christmas Day some hours before our turkey dinner!)

Monday, December 27, 2021

A (Mostly) Green Christmas

Snow has been coming and going so fast here that it's hard to keep track.  It was white two days before Christmas, but we woke up to temperatures slightly over freezing and a green Christmas.  Only a few bits of snow left where it had been a little deeper, and widespread fog.

I can't remember if it was actually raining or just melting, but it made no difference, a pretty dull looking day.

We sat beside our little tiny tree and exchanged gifts.  Look what Mrs. F.G. came up with for me, since I'm always feeling chilly.  It's a sherpa blanket, a very fuzzy blanket with a built-in hood.  I can attest to the warmth, though I'm using it for blanket on the bed rather than like this.

Mrs. F.G. outdid herself by cooking a full turkey dinner for us, with pumpkin pie for desert.  Even though it was just the two of us it was delicious.  A co-worker of our daughter-in-law had been exposed to covid, so they couldn't come over to join us.

Today it has started to snow and is slowly accumulating back to white again.  It may change to freezing drizzle this evening, but the forecast is a little unclear about this, so we'll wait and see.  We have nowhere to go.

The Omicron variant of covid seems to be sweeping through Ontario and elsewhere, though the risk of serious illness seems lower, especially if you've had your two vaccines plus a booster, which we have.  Never-the-less we've heard of 7 cases close enough to impact us, from close friends and a relative right here in Meaford, to 3 families among our more distant relatives.  Feels almost inevitable that we're all going to get it at some point.


Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas!

A very merry Christmas to all my loyal blog readers.  Your comments mean so much and keep me going.  Hope you and yours have a joyful loving holiday season and best wishes for next year.  A little light painting fun from a few years back.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

'Midwinter' - The Winter Solstice

I don't know if any of you are like me, but for me the winter solstice - TODAY - is the most important of the four astronomical events that mark our seasons, two equinoxes and two solstices.  I hardly notice the equinoxes passing by, which isn`t surprising considering that the days are fairly equal then anyway.  Nor do I notice the summer solstice on June 21st either, because the days are then longer than I`m up anyway.

But winter solstice I do notice.  It`s the relief of the days suddenly starting to get longer, and I find that noticeable even within the first week or two.  It`s not `midwinter` of course, because there`s a lag in the seasons as we experience them compared to the astronomical events, and the main winter season is yet to be enjoyed here in southern Ontario.  But it`s a promise that spring is on its way, and that gets me through the two short winter months.

The promise of spring has been with us for thousands of years.  At the winter solstice the expanding darkness started to retreat as the light won the battle and expanded through until summer, bringing warmth and the ability to harvest plants and wildlife.  Maeshowe (above), one of the greatest burial mounds in the world, was built on Orkney about 5000 years ago.  Its entry passageway is aligned with the setting sun on the winter solstice.

We`ve been there (above) and seen the incredible stone workmanship that went into building this enormous chambered cairn.  It pre-dates the pyramids in Egypt, and is built of flat slabs of sandstone that you can`t even slip a sheet of paper between today.  How did they do it!  And how did they know which direction faced the setting sun on the 21st of December!

Of course we weren`t there on the winter solstice, but visiting it and learning about its astronomical alignment opened my eyes to the importance of the winter solstice marking the most welcome change of seasons in the year.

So watch for the longer days and be confident that spring will soon be here!

P.S. The four astronomical events are sometimes confused with the four Celtic festivals marking the changing seasons such as Imbolc, Beltane and so on.  In fact those four traditional dates mark the mid-points of the four astronomical seasons, such as the beginning of lambing in early February, half-way between winter and spring, and the beginning of wheat harvest in early August, half-way between spring and fall.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Christmas Preparations

We're pretty well ready for Christmas, with all the major things done.  The cards and flowers have been sent, the big parcel has been mailed and arrived out west - faster than we expected, and the tree is now up and decorated.  We switched to a smaller table-top tree last year; the big one was just too much to handle.

There are a lot of decorations left over when we finish with this tree!

We have a nice collection of small nutcrackers - who have never been used for cracking nuts, but look colourful!  The turkey is in the freezer and our son and his wife will come for late Christmas lunch on Christmas day.  Just a few little things left to do, like a couple of gifts I have for Mrs. F.G.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Ride Down Nelson St. West

Back on Nov. 8th, I rode down Nelson St. West.  I'd been avoiding that ride for several months, because I just got fed up with the construction on Nelson St. leaving bits of gravel scattered across the street.  But construction is finished and they hired a paving company that actually knew what they were doing, so that part is ok.  And I told myself that I still needed to ride down here once this fall, since I used to enjoy it so much, even though there's a lot of poor 'alligator pavement' on this part of the street.

This beautiful older Victorian home was sold during the summer and has been under renovation since.  It's one of my favourite among the older homes.

Just look at this little wrought iron railing around this tiny upstairs balcony.

And the panes in this tiny upper triangular window in the right-hand dormer.  Classic Victorian architecture.

Much further down the street I'm always impressed by this patch of Hydrangea, now weathered brown but still beautiful.

The street is ultimately 'L' shaped, but the other angle of the 'L' was built much more recently, and is frankly, rather boring!

But I admire this very functional workshop built in the backyard of the corner home by a carpenter who needs a place to make furniture.  I've spoken to him in the past, but I haven't seen him this year.

The big four Sugar Maples in front of one big home on my way back are still looking healthy.  That's a yellow ribbon around the 4th tree.

Sorry about the positioning of this hydro pole - couldn't be much worse, could it!  But the big White Pine behind it is beautiful.

Sadly these 3 big old Sugar Maples have been trimmed demonically into 'halftrees' by the hydro people.

The little stream valley at the beginning of the street is looking good, and it was here that I photographed a cluster of Silver Maple leaves.

Heading back I rode down the section of Nelson St. that had been under construction, smooth as a pancake.  The construction only dug up a trench down the right-hand side of the street, but thankfully they paved the entire street.  Well done.

Today is a crazy 8°C and sunny all day.  Beautiful, but strange for mid-December!


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Thornbury Fishermen

Catching up on the distant past, even longer ago than my last harbour visit, we headed for Thornbury one day at the very beginning of October.  There are a lot of very dedicated fishermen in the fall on the lower Beaver River.  Mrs. F.G. went off to her dentist (yuck!), but I was turned loose to take in the Georgian Trail bridge over the river, and look down on the fishing action. 

You may remember that this is an old railway bridge, repurposed for the Georgian Trail which goes straight through Thornbury.  It's easily wheelchair accessible, though the trails down below aren't.  As you can see, it was built to hold trains, not just a few lightweight people, or even 300 lb. wheelchairs!

Below the mill pond dam the river flows very quickly for a few hundred yards before reaching the level of Georgian Bay.  Those waters would be fun to run in a canoe!

Through the trees you can see two of the gates in the dam, one open and one closed, just below the traffic on the bridge.  And of course the fishermen.

Can you imagine swimming against that current?  Yet the migrating fish do every year.  There is a splendid fish ladder built into the dam, designed to look natural, and it's amazing to see how salmon can fight their way up there through a current much stronger than this.

Looking the other direction from the bridge, you can see downstream toward the bay, an apartment building on the right hand side.

There's a pedestrian bridge down there, and a very narrow island with steps down to it - and of course more fishermen.  Throughout the fall the Salmon, Rainbow and Steelhead all migrate up this river and through the millpond before spawning in the shallows upstream.  Fishermen wait in line, all hoping to capture the big one!

Here's a picture of that pedestrian bridge from earlier in the season - unfortunately not in the least bit wheelchair accessible.

Rest assured there will still be fishermen down by the harbour, fishing their time away, both here in Meaford and east of here in Thornbury all winter long - though not perhaps as many as there were during the spawning run that these pictures reflect.