Friday, July 30, 2021

More on Trout Hollow Land Donation

Although John Moir's connection with Trout Hollow is what intrigues me the most, there was another important industrial development in the Hollow that is quite fascinating.  This is the Georgian Bay  Milling and Power Company which generated hydro for street lights in Meaford from 1902 to 1923 before Ontario Hydro's government support drove all the small power plants like this one into bankruptcy (and did spread the benefits of electricity to homeowners, a big step forward).

Here you can see the two remnants of the dam that crossed the Bighead River, big concrete abutments on each side.  The Trouts' sawmill was just out of sight behind the dam remnant on the right, on the far shore.

Here my friend Glen was pointing out the slots for timbers that were part of the control structure.

Beyond this was a high rock embankment that we walked along.  It controlled a holding pond on the left where water was pooled before it ran down to the turbines.

These are the gates that provided control before the water moved into a long flume.

The water emerged from this gap in the berm.

And headed toward the powerhouse in a flume on this ridge, now part of the Trout Hollow Trail.

There it abruptly disappears into this big dark pipe.

From the other side it's a huge S-bend, five feet in diameter.  This fed water into the powerhouse where it turned the turbines and generated the hydro.

There isn't much left of the powerhouse today, just a few leaning cement walls, looking strangely out-of-place in the middle of the forest.  

The Trout Hollow Trail continues downstream into the town of Meaford, and you get some great views of the river from the bluffs.  The donation of Trout Hollow by the Knight family is truly a big story for conservation in this part of Grey County.

I was perplexed though that the donation story on the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy's website focuses on the power house story and only makes passing mention of Muir.  You would think that John Muir's connection with Trout Hollow was more significant for a 'Biosphere Conservancy'.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Trout Hollow Donated to Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy

Where John Muir worked in 1864-65.  The property along the Bighead River on the edge of Meaford on which Trout Hollow sits was recently donated to the Environmental Biosphere Conservancy, one of the largest conservation organizations in this part of Ontario, by the Knight family.  Trout Hollow was the sawmill owned by the Trout family where the famous American conservationist John Muir spent a year or two working in 1864-65.

The Trout Hollow Trail starts out on the unused (and sometimes very wet) Sideroad 13 road allowance south of Meaford, and passes through a bit of forest before reaching the Bighead River.

Then quite abruptly you step out of the cedars and you're on the gravel bars lining the river.  I've hiked in here three times in the past, and one of those hikes was led by a local John Muir expert, Robert Burcher.  He had done a lot of research to find the exact location where the cabin the millhands lived in was located.  It would have been in the centre of this picture on the far bank, up in that cedar forest.  Of course it was probably all open in 1864!

Burcher led us along the rocky shore where I spotted this beautiful Serviceberry in full bloom.

We continued along the riverbank until we could climb up the low bank on the left to the site of Muir's accommodations while he worked at the mill.

Here he told us of how he originally learned that the great John Muir had actually spent two years in this part of Ontario, and how he narrowed down the cabin location until they were able to have an archeological dig.

They found a number of artifacts, such as this pottery fragment (pottery is a favourite of archeologists) which enabled them to date the site approximately.

But there's other evidence too, including this old map which shows the road into the sawmill and the location of two Trout family cabins as well as the sawmill itself.

Not only that, but John Muir completed a sketch of the log cabin himself.  Pretty tangible evidence for a historian!  I was becoming amazed by this story of Muir in Canada myself by this time.

This would have been Muir's view in front of the cabin - approximately.  Undoubtedly the river itself has changed its course a bit in 160 years!

This tangled mess of fallen trees and branches is the site of the sawmill where Muir worked.  Muir was something of an inventor by this time, and he came up with a machine to make the tool handles that the mill specialized in, faster, thus increasing their output.  Tragically for the Trout family, the mill burned to the ground in 1865 destroying all their progress, leaving them bankrupt and leaving Muir with no job.

But in his spare time wanderings Muir had fallen in love with botany, and I expect with simply wandering in the woods.  From his letters back home and other sources it appears that this was the period in his life when John Muir became fascinated with the natural world.  He later developed that love of nature to encourage the protection of the sites in California that he grew to love - especially the Yosemite Valley - the first National Park in the world.  Burcher had plates of two of Muir's botanical specimens to show us. this one the intriguing Walking Fern.  It 'walks' by the tip rooting and forming a new plant.  I've seen Walking Fern several places in the valley.

A Walking Fern I found some years ago hiking the Bruce Trail south of Meaford.  Going exploring along the trail was my great love!

And this is the famous Calypso Orchid that Muir found in the middle of a dense Cedar swamp - the swamp that is now the Holland 'Marsh', a vegetable growing area.  John himself described his find, and his slog through the swamp, in a letter to his former professor, J.D. Butler.  Butler in turn forwarded the letter to a newspaper in Boston, and it became Muir's very first published writing, written while he was still on his botanical sojourn in southern Ontario.  Many years ago I found the Calypso Orchid growing under some Cedars ion Flowerpot Island.

I'll end with a picture of the great conservationist himself, but in the next post I will finish the story of the donation by the Knight family.  Trout Hollow is indeed a special place in conservation history and the Knight family deserve a great deal of credit for their donation.

Muir himself headed south through the United States, eventually walking all the way to Florida, working for a time in a wagon wheel factory.  After a brief stay in Cuba he arrived back in New York and took a train to San Francisco.  He spent the rest of his life there, dedicating himself to nature conservation.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Riding Around

 As I said the other day, I've also found a great new route for riding that causes me less pain 'cause it's smooth pavement..  I made a conscious decision a few weeks back to try and avoid the painful bits, and went searching.  Turns out going downtown is actually quite good, though I'm forced to use the sidewalks down there, and Thompson Street is the other great ride.  You can just sail along at full speed and not even worry about it.

Going downtown via Thompson and Trowbridge Streets is quite interesting too.  This is a beautiful old stone church that is now used as more of a community centre, although it does still have an active congregation too.  The Food Bank is here, as well as a drop-in centre.  Notice the raised beds for veggies out front.  How many churches have that?

This is another old home at the other end of Trowbridge Street.  Note those high peaked gables and the beautiful gingerboard.  It's been redone in board and batten siding but is likely brick underneath.

One of you noticed a corner of this intriguing carved wood stump in my photograph of the house in my earlier post, so here is the whole thing.  It's the only one like this that I know of in Meaford.

Back closer to home I heard this tree trimming crew working on Noble Street and went to check it out.  They've already removed half the big branches of the old Ash tree in the top pictures, but much of the canopy is still there.  Take a moment and compare this to the second picture a day later.  The two tall spruce trees so obvious in the 2nd picture are almost hidden behind the Ash tree in the first picture.

The noise of a wood chipper has got to be one of the loudest machines that I hear anywhere.

It's also the time of year for us to stop in at Achy Back Acres, our favourite little veggie farm, half-way to Owen Sound.  Last week we got a big basket of peas and some new potatoes.  We eat the peas as a snack, and the potatoes were delicious.  We'll be stopping there regularly for at least the next two months.  I highly recommend them.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Garden Update #1

It's only been a week since I shared an update on the garden, but flowers continue to bloom and the seasonal change is passing fast.  There are a few highlights and interesting plants that I want to share.

It certainly is the heart of the Day Lily season, and new blooms are coming out every day.  We typically have at least 10 varieties in bloom every day, ranging from this deep purple to this almost-white flower.

The bigger Clematis continue to bloom, and this very small Clematis is now flowering.  As you can see, Mrs. F.G. tacked a trellis against a Sugar Maple and we're hoping this one with tiny white blooms, will grow up the tree.

This is an interesting plant because it's the only one we can think of that goes by two different names at different stages of its life.  It's both Cilantro and Coriander, the former referring to the fresh leaves, and the latter referring to the seeds.  Cilantro is more commonly a garnish on soups or curries and Coriander is a herb popular on Indian and Spanish dishes.

This is the beautiful Cleome that I mentioned earlier this week.  I ranges from white through pinks to this purple, my own favourite.  There are many species that look somewhat different, but the ones we have are Cleome hassleriana.  Also known as Spider Flowers or Grandfather's Whiskers, my own favourite name for a plant!

Mrs. F.G. was delighted to find a small Tulip Tree seedling at a nearby nursery this late in the season.  We'll baby it along in a pot for now and plant it in the fall.  We're certainly at the northern edge of its range, but we had two at the last house which did very well, so we're going to try it.

Finally our cherry tomatoes look like they might eventually produce some fruit.  I always think they finally turn red very late in the summer, but here's hoping!  

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

I'm Back!

Well, I've enjoyed a nice relaxing break away from the pressure of a daily blog posting.  Let me tell you a little about the thinking I've done and the decisions I've made.  

It started with recognizing for myself the pandemic rut I was in.  As I've written and told people several times, staying at home during lockdown hasn't been that different from normal life for me, and I expect the same would be said by many of the mobility-limited.  But I've got comfortably used to it; in particular I haven't stayed in touch with my coffee buddies.  I'm just too comfortable!

I also need to remember that I simply don't have the hours in a day that all of you do, as I'm only out of bed and upright for about 11 or 12 hours a day.  And out of that comes time for meals, exercise, going for a ride and anything else I do.  Finding time for organizing photos and writing a blog post is difficult at the best of times, especially in the summer.

So I've made several decisions.

- I will write two blog posts a week, one an update on the garden and such, and one a post on some other featured story I want to tackle.

- I have organized the two projects I need to finish, and got some ideas for future projects,

- I have decided to also focus on writing a Blurb book on some our past travels; some of this work may find its way into the blog as well.

- I have found a new route to ride that is both all smooth pavement and has interesting things to see.

- And I need to find a way to re-organize my coffee group.

And for those of you who come to the blog looking for pictures, here are a few.

It starts right outside my front window, which looks like this at the moment.

I've got downtown for a ride a couple of times recently.  Now that we're through the winter and bug seasons, it's construction season here in Meaford.  The main street is closed at one end of downtown, Nelson Street near me is a mess as they put in a new watermain, and east of town they're paving, with enormous delays for traffic.

We did get out for a ride on Saturday, driving down in a somewhat new direction to the tiny hamlet of Massie where we stopped by the village millpond.

This intriguing historic house is on my new smooth riding route, along Thompson and Trowbridge Streets in the older part of town - a smooth ride and interesting too!

To forecast one of the featured stories I want to write about, this is the Bighead River along the Trout Hollow Trail.  There has been a big land donation here which includes both the 150 year old site where John Muir lived and worked in 1864-65, and the old Georgian Bay Power Plant.  I'll tell you a lot more soon.

And finally, my favourite new flower in the garden this year, a Cleome.  Scientists disagree on the botanical classification of this plant, but this is probably Cleome hassleriana.  It is native to southern south America and is also known as Spider Flower or Grandfather's Whiskers.  I can relate to that!

Thanks for allowing me this break and these changes, and hope you enjoy the results.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Taking a Blogging Break

Taking a blogging break for a few days.  I've got some other projects to get caught up on.  And I'm a little tired of posting about the garden, the neighbourhood and the harbour.  Maybe I'll get some fresh perspective.  In the meantime I'll just enjoy the rain, stuck at home.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021


It's been a beautiful day, a little on the hot side, but it appears this will be the only sunny dry day til Sunday, so as you can imagine, I got out!  Propelled myself down to the waterfront and for only the second time this year explored northward to Raper Park  The waterfront was busy with tourists or locals seeking some breeze.

There were more little sailboats out than I've seen in a long time.  I counted 10 in this picture, including the blue hull of a boat down, just beside the second sail from the left.

There were numerous people just sitting in the shade (or sun) relaxing.

Both beaches were in use, this one the gravel beach, the other is sand.

It was these four small boats setting out from the harbour that I saw first, from the sailing school.

They sailed northward and met up with six others that were already out there.  That's how you get 10 for the top photo.

I can't believe that I've never stopped and made note of this cairn and plaque before.  It was erected as a 1967 Centennial project to remember the first postmaster of Meaford who started his job in 1841.  The original post office was across the street behind me.