Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Claybanks

It was long past time to wash the dust off my canoe, and I have been wanting to see the claybanks from the water where you actually get a good view of them.  So we put in at Christie Beach, and paddled west on Georgian Bay, picking a sunny day with little wind so the bay would be calm.

The long delay in getting my canoe on the water this year reflects how busy we've been.  This won't be happening next year after we move!  More time for this sort of stuff!

You can see the high steep claybanks along the shoreline from the beach where we started.  Most of the beach is private, but there's a small public park where the road meets the shore.  I've only seen them from standing at the top, when we walked in the trail to see them.  But you get a VERY different view from the shore or the water!

We paddled for quite a distance, probably over 2 km, with the claybanks on our left, ...

... and Georgian Bay on the right.  You can see the Bayview Escarpment above the tank range in the distance and a tiny bit of white on the water at the left which is the sailboats and tiny lighthouse in Meaford harbour.

The claybanks are more varied than I expected, with shallow gullies, trees growing on some parts of the steep slopes (often leaning downhill) and erosion creating an uneven appearance.

The gully on the left in the upper photo seemed to have a small waterfall or seepage eroding into the shale.  You can see the bluish-grey colour of the shale where it's eroded here.  The claybanks are a huge thick layer of shale, below the bottom of the Niagara Escarpment known as the Georgian Bay Formation.

Then you come to the broad open slopes of the highest, steepest part of the claybanks.  This is the only part I had seen, and only from the top.  If you want to read about that visit, check it out here.

I actually spotted two people standing at the top, presumably where the trail comes out to the edge.

Can you see them in this photo?  They're about 2/3rds of the way across the top from the left, in a clear spot to the left of two white birch trees.  You can use their height to estimate the height of the cliff.

This formation is almost pure shale, with only a few very thin layers of limestone.  I'm not sure it would be physically possible to climb this slope unless you were outfitted with spikes and an ice axe for mountain climbing!

After nearly an hour we pulled into a tiny narrow beach beyond those open slopes and enjoyed our lunch, before paddling back to the east.  A good adventure - a beautiful day and a new place I've been wanting to see.  And the dust is now washed off the canoe.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Webwood Falls and the Roadside 'Monster'

Dropped by to check things out at Webwood Falls today, a Bruce Trail property that attracts a lot of visitors because of the waterfalls.  We've invested quite a bit of effort in providing a viewing platform and fencing off some of the dangerous slope.

There was lots of water, given how much rain we've had and are still having.  It wasn't the usual trickle for this time of year and it made a great picture.  All of these were just handheld, leaning against the railing of the viewing platform to keep the camera steady, a 1/4 second exposure.

It looks to me that there's been some further erosion here.  You can see the reddish and blue layers of the soft Queenston Shale at the bottom of the falls, behind the curtain of water.

Sadly though, I wasn't there to check out the falls.  We had had a report that the roadside had been trimmed heavily, leaving a mess.  I went to check it out, since I'm the volunteer Land Steward Director.
The local municipality, Grey Highlands, has obviously bought one of those infernal trimming monsters that can drive along the roadside and shred all the saplings and lower limbs of trees.  They had trimmed this wall of cedars for 200 yards.

They trimmed both sides of the road beside the falls, leaving a major mess in my opinion.  I think I have a personal dislike of these mechanical monsters.  A little tree trimming would be fine, but not like this.

The new entry to the Bruce Trail continuing north from here shows how the machine shreds branches rather than cutting them off cleanly.  We've taken a popular tourist attraction and downgraded it to a mess!  Though the falls is still nice.  Maybe I'm just an old curmudgeon who's against progress.  If that's the case, I'm happy to be a grumpy old curmudgeon!

Further to yesterday's post, we don't actually move until mid-October, so we have a good lead time to be ready!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Progress Report

As you'll know if you read this blog regularly, we're moving this fall.  That has transformed this into a very busy summer, with a constant list of things to do to be ready.  You may have noticed that I'm writing a lot of blog posts about what I see nearby, not many Furry Gnome adventures this year!  But we're trading our big country property and gardens and some winter isolation for a tiny urban lot, easier access to services, and more time for adventures in the future - travel, exploring and photography, and writing.

Our new house is coming faster than we expected, as our builder has decided to use it as a model home for a couple of months before we move in.  There are multiple trades there working every single day, and there's never a gap in progress.  They're already installing the cupboards in the kitchen.  So far we're very impressed with the quality of the work.

It's a tiny lot, but we do look out on the local golf course, so hopefully we won't feel too hemmed in.  I hope I can find hours to walk around it when it isn't busy.  This will become our new garden - we're planning very little grass, at least in the back yard.

The saga of our shed has been challenging.  We ordered a small shed for the back yard, but when it was delivered, the wire at the end of the street was hanging a little low.  It caught the peak of the shed and pulled it right off the truck.  So back it went to be repaired.  Now it's sitting on the vacant lot next door waiting to be moved into place.

Meanwhile, back at home, we've been working like mad.  Don't have pictures of our garage sale, or our trips to the dump and other places, but we've been working like mad at downsizing.  One disadvantage of my big garage is there's too much space for junk!  Now that I have to get rid of it I notice what a packrat I am!

This is the little waterfall I created - after 4 years of hard work, delays, lazy summers, and more hard work.  The waterfall part is done, though you can hardly see the water, but the planting remains to be done.  So I will treat this as the 'before' picture and sometime you'll see the 'after' pic.

But down in the corner was the most challenging project for me.  I wired up an outdoor plug for the waterfall pump, with a switch inside the house, so I can just turn the waterfall on and off from inside.  I put this off for quite awhile, simply because I was hesitant to stand there and drill a hole through the wall of our house!  And of course you need to know what you're doing and be careful when you're doing wiring!  But it's done and it works!

So now we've started digging up a few key plants to take with us, mostly Hostas and Day Lilies.  This is the garden works yard for the summer.

The garlic harvest has been lifted, and is spread out in the garage to dry.  Mrs. F.G. hasn't decided yet how much garlic she's going to continue growing, or where.

And on top of that, we have a new house going in on the long-vacant lot next door.  Having built my own cabin, and two big additions, I'm interested in the process.  Our lot was an open field when we started, 19 years ago, but this lot is tree covered.  So we've listened and watched while they cleared part of the lot (chainsaws and a wood chipper), put in the driveway (which is going to have to be moved according to the owner), dug the foundation, poured the footings and then poured the foundation, and now they are spraying gravel everywhere with a big stone-thrower.  I've talked to the owner a couple of times, in part just to welcome them, and learned that this house is a pre-fab house built in a factory.  It will arrive on two trucks and be lifted into place.  I'm looking forward to seeing that!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Flowers of the Roadsides and Meadows

The season rolls on, and a new set of flowers is out along roadsides, and in our meadow.  Queen Anne's Lace is such a big part of mid-summer, along with lines of blue Chickory at the edge of the road, and in a few spots the bright pink of Sweet Peas.

I think Queen Anne's Lace is one of my favourites because my mother loved it.

It's a very intricate flower if you look at it from below.

I'm seeing long lines of blue at the roadside in some places, and when you take a close look it's the beautiful blue of the Chicory.

Here's a patch of those Sweet Peas among the grass growing in a ditch.

Both White and Yellow Sweet Clover grow by the road where I walk every day.  It was a challenge getting these pictures while they were waving in the wind!

And today I spotted some of the Virgin's Bower vine or Wild Clematis smothering a lower branch of a Sugar Maple.  I've seen it before but not here in the neighbourhood.

It's one of those plants you find around here with three leaves very much like Poison Ivy.  I often pointed this one out to students as I prompted them to learn to stop and look before you touch any plant with three leaves!

Here at home this Common Mullein came up right outside the garage on our driveway.  I'll let it stay until it finishes blooming.

In one patch I threw a prairie seed mixture 10 years ago, and now we have bright patches of False Sunflower there, as well as in the garden.

Finally, the Mallow, in both white and pink varieties, common all over our meadow, along with some of the earlier plants like the purple Vetch and yellow Trefoil that are still widely in bloom.  A miserable drizzly day here, which we spent largely in Home Depot, picking out all the light fixtures for our new home.  Not an easy exercise!  We're exhausted, but we're getting there!

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Garden Close-ups

There are some really interesting things around the garden these days that demand a very close look.  By that I mean a really close look!  Here's a selection of garden close-ups I've captured in the past week or two.

The stamens and pistils of the day lilies are always worth a close look.

Some of our Brown-eyed Susans have suddenly burst into bloom.

But we also have a lot of False Sunflowers.  At first glance the flowers look similar, but the colour and arrangement of the stamens and pistils is quite different.

A tiny bee on a False Sunflower - I wish I knew more about identifying insects.

I like the bright mixture of colours in the Sneezeweed or Helenium flowers.

These are the tiny seeds of the Avens, which forms a bur that will dry out, fall apart, and you'll find individual tiny seeds sticking to your pants.  This is the sort of bur, with those tiny hooks on the end of each seed, that led to the invention of velcro.

This is one tiny seed of a Goatsbeard flower, which looks like a giant dandelion ball of fluff for awhile.  As individual seeds float away it reaches the point where you can pick out an individual seed to examine its parachute, about an inch and a half across.

In comparison, this is the similar tiny seed and parachute of the Valerian flower, but it's much tinier, perhaps only a 1/4 inch across.  The red circles are spots where two other seeds and their parachutes were attached.  Next time you're checking out your garden, take a close look at what you're seeing!

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Strange Critters (and a Fox)

We've seen a couple of notably unusual animals in recent weeks, so here are three of them.

This is 'Big Bruce', a statue of a Hereford outside the office of Elderslie Township.  Bruce County, west of us, is the heart of beef cattle production in Ontario, and Elderslie is the heart of beef production in Bruce County.  We pass Big Bruce on our way to see our son and daughter-in-law in the new old home near Lake Huron.

It's not just a gimmick, it's a memorial to Harvey Davis, a former local leader in the Cattlemen's Association.  Seems so suitable for an agricultural area like this.

These two on the other hand, seem totally out of place.  They live on a farm east of Arthur, a ways south of the valley, along with a number of other unusual animals.  These two were in a paddock right beside the road.

And finally here's a fox we watched for several minutes before it trotted away, just on the outskirts of Arthur, practically in backyards.

For your viewing pleasure, a rare picture of the Furry Gnome paying homage to Big Bruce.

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