Monday, March 31, 2008

Blake Station Hotel

Blake Station, now Brown Hill, is on the border between two towns in an area that developed somewhat later than most of East Gwillimbury.

The Blake Station Hotel is on the EG side, in a hamlet that was once a going concern because the Lake Simcoe Junction Railway (no longer in existence) had a stop here. One reason for the station: a local stock buyer had two pens nearby and shipped two carloads of stock every week.
At first, the railway brought prosperity and growth to communities like Blake Station but ultimately caused their decline after the turn of the 20th century. The railway changed the way people did business, making it easier to access markets in Toronto. Small businesses to the north of the city couldn’t compete.

The Blake Station Hotel was at one time larger than what you see in the photo, but parts of it were torn down. Later, the hotel was converted into a store. Now it’s a private home in a tiny, quiet community from which everyone travels by highway or back roads to work and shop in much larger places.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Eastern Grey Squirrels

What colour is an eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)?

Yes this is a trick question. ;-)
Eastern grey squirrels--common to eastern Canada and U.S.--come in grey, BLACK, and occasionally white (albinos).

Lots of people think black squirrels, which far outnumber the grey in my neighbourhood, are a different species from the grey, but black is often the dominant colour in Ontario and Quebec. Black squirrels also live in pockets of Detroit and other cities in the northern U.S.

These squirrels are sunning themselves on the south side of this tree. Their black fur absorbs the sun more efficiently than grey would, which may be the reason most black eastern grey squirrels (I like saying that -- it's sort of a tongue twister) live in the northernmost part of the species' range.

City squirrels are often bold but these guys are country squirrels and a bit more wary than their city cousins. As I moved in closer to get a better photo...
they scurried into this hole. Actually, there were five of them and they ALL fled, entering the tree through this hole. And not a one would poke it's head out again so I could snap its picture.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Old Barn & Chicken Coop

Like Kim at Celine Daily Photo, I love old barns. And just as "progress" is changing Texas it's also revamping Ontario.

I keep wondering how this can really be "progress" if homes, roads and industries are taking up most of Ontario's farmlands. But what do I know? Maybe I'm wrong and some big hand from the sky is going to reach down and save us from ourselves.
Here's a another view of the same barn. This clearly shows that the chicken coop is no longer in use. The hole in the roof gives that away. LOL

Friday, March 28, 2008

Anglican Church Part 4/ Sky Watch

This is my fourth and last post (for the time being) about the Anglican church in Holland Landing, the westernmost (and largest) community in East Gwillimbury. But you can see in this photo that the day I took the photos was a beautiful day with a gorgeous blue sky -- no clouds.

If you look at the first post on this subject, you can see that these small stained-glass windows above are at the back of the church on the south side.
Looking more closely, you can see an angel in the glass. Very subtle from the outside but it may be more pronounced looking at it from the inside with the light behind it.
For more photos celebrating Sky Watch Friday, pop on over to Wigger's World!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Anglican Church Part 3

I LOVE the pointed windows and the decorative arch above each one. The top photo is of the window on the tower (thanks ex-shammickite for telling me what it's called) above the red door. (I also didn't know red doors are traditional on Anglican churches, so thanks Chuck! But I'm going to check it out because I think the door on the other Anglican church in town is black.)

In this photo you can't see that the leaded glass is green and gold. So look below.
Unfortunately early records of this church have been lost, so I don't know wherethese windows were made. What I do know is that glass was among the first items manufactured in North America. And between 1840 and 1860, Canadian glass factories manufactured green window glass and bottles. But there were also glass factories in the northern United States so it may have come from there.

Did you know that to make window glass, workers blew a long hollow tube, then cut off the ends, slit the tube lengthwise and opened it out and flattened it? Then it was cut into various sizes, the largest possible being about 30 by 40 inches. I had no idea that was how it was done until I looked it up. ;-)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Anglican Church part 2

Three photos today to show you more clearly what the Anglican church I posted about yesterday looks like. This is the front door...but you cannot see it from the street. Such a shame. The door faces Old Yonge Street, but trees and a cemetery are in between.

Nowadays, the congregation access the church from the back on Petr Street (the view I posted yesterday). So if you simply drive by you miss the beautiful door -- I LOVE the hinges!
Over the door is the date the church was built. The lettering seems to fit the style of the building, don't you think?

And a closeup of the steeple, Hmmm, I think you still call it a steeple even if it doesn't have a tall spire.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Anglican Church

At the top of a hill in Holland Landing, the westernmost community in EG, stands this lovely country church built in 1843. It’s surrounded on three sides by a cemetery, headstones attesting to both the short and long lifespan of its early parishioners.

Technically, the church is on Old Yonge Street, once Yonge Street said (but disputed) to be longest street in the world, stretching from Lake Ontario to the Minnesota border.

This view is of rear of the church. The windows fascinate me. Building the church must have been a labor of love -- such attention to detail way back when this community was truly in the boonies on a muddy road over swampy land between Toronto and Lake Simcoe.

Monday, March 24, 2008

When the Red, Red Robin Comes…

Can you see the robin sitting in the sumac? He's almost the same colour as the berries. Saturday morning, out on errands with my husband, I spotted a flock of perhaps ten robins (Turdus migratorius) sitting in and under some staghorn sumacs (Rhus typhina). They were chomping down on last year’s fruit.

My husband stopped the car but as soon as I stepped out, the birds flew off - story of my life. But hey! We waited and after a few minutes, the birds came back. They must have been very hungry. (Or maybe birds don't have taste buds? Sumac berries are tart! I know because I've made a lemonade-like drink from them in late summer.)

People say a few robins stick around southern Ontario all winter, but I don’t recall seeing them during the coldest months. So when I DO see them in March I get pretty excited.
These were not the first I've seen this year, though. Last week, another small flock visited our apple trees to feast on a few mushy apples still hanging from the limbs. I rushed out with my camera, but the snow was still deep so I couldn’t get close enough to take a decent photo.

But the little guy under the sumacs in the photo above was cooperative...and very photogenic.

Usually a robin pair or two summer in my gardens, and that’s a very good thing! All summer long they help me battle grubs, caterpillars and beetles. Ha! They also fight me for the red currants, Saskatoon berries and raspberries. Hmmmm. They get ALL of the Saskatoon berries, but I usually get my share of the red currents and raspberries. I guess it’s their pay for eating some garden pests. ;-)

I can hardly wait to see where they’ll build their nests this year in my yard!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Male Mallard -- Spring

Who doesn’t recognize a male mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) when they see one? After all, mallards live on every continent but Antarctica, and their glossy green heads and necks and yellow bills are so distinctive. However, the female is less colourful and therefore not as recognizable. She’s a dull, mottled brown with an orange bill.

Common, yes, but it’s still a joy to see the first mallards each spring -- it usually means the ice is melting on the ponds and lakes. This solitary mallard has found a small hole in the ice, Brrrr. How can he swim when the temperature is below freezing?

Adaptable (or maybe not fussy?), they’ll nest just about anywhere there’s water. They prefer grasslands, which is why so many breed in the Prairie Provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta), but more than a few have been known to waddle with their brood across Canadian city streets, stopping traffic.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Staking Out Their Territory

I’ve heard them overhead, seen them in the distance, and TODAY my camera caught one as proof that it’s not an illusion – the Canada geese (Branta canadensis) are really back!

This goose/ gander (they are difficult to tell apart) has probably already mated as geese often do so before they return to their nesting areas. Geese are said to mate for life and--since they can live more than 20 years--they could be together for a long time. Canada geese live in flocks most of the year, except when they’re nesting.

The goose in this photo is standing on ice, guarding what he/she considers to be his/her pond. Most of the pond is still iced over, but there's a small melted area for swimming. It’s a tiny pond and the goose doesn’t want to share it with another couple.

But if I were the goose, I’d be much more worried about the gulls flying overhead than fretting about other geese. Gulls have an appetite for goose eggs.

Although called Canada geese, these birds live all over North America from the tundra to the Gulf Coast as well as in some places in Europe. They are large birds, ranging in length from 30 to 43 inches. (They tend to be larger in the southern part of their range. And believe it or not -- although I live in Canada--I live in in the southern part of it's range, the boundary being latitude 60°N.)

It's amazing, considering how graceful they appear when they fly overhead, that they can weigh as much as 20 pounds. They need long, strong wings to propel themselves through the air. And in fact, their wingspans vary from 50 to 68 inches and are powerful enough to use as weapons. It's not smart to anger a goose!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Sunset Over Snowy Field

Wildflowers aren’t blooming in our EG gardens yet but thank goodness we DO have pretty sunsets!

For more Sky Watch photos, visit Wigger’s World.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring Green

How about a bit of green since today is the first day of spring?

Oh boy! We sure could use some colour around here! White - and even worse, dirty white - is getting old, very old.

This well-kept barn is located near the centre of another EG community, a tiny one called Holt. As you can see, the green-stained siding brightens up the late-winter/early spring landscape.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

In business since 1938

You’d expect the Queensville Farm Supply & Country Store to carry a variety of goods including animal feed, fencing supplies, seeds, work clothing, horse tack, veterinary supplies, pet food and bird feeders…which it does.

But step inside and browse a while. Surprise! The country store also sells old-fashioned stick candy, maple syrup, Empire cheese (cheddars, Swiss, mozzarella), greeting cards, tiny guardian angels and Teabeary bears. Somewhere on the shelves there's sure to be a treasure you cannot resist.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Blue skies/fluffy clouds & train cars

I usually take my camera whenever I go out, even if I'm going to the hardware store. ;-)

The Mount Albert Home Hardware store is beside some tracks, so when I heard the engineer sound the horn, I skipped out the front door, ran around the building to the back and caught this...but missed the engine. OOPS! (Well, I had to skirt around some high snowbanks, LOL, and dodge a few trucks and cars!)
But the sky is so beautiful, the photos are worth sharing, don't you think?

PS: Mount Albert is a community in East Gwillimbury on the township's eastern edge.

Monday, March 17, 2008

1881 School

You probably reasoned that if there’s an East Gwillimbury there’s likely a South, West, and North Gwillimbury too. Nope, there’s no South Gwillimbury that I know of. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) But there IS a West Gwillimbury – and get this: it’s west of EG. ;-) And there used to be a North Gwillimbury, but it became part of the Town of Georgina in 1971. Yes, it’s north of here.

This old schoolhouse built in 1881 is proof of North Gwillimbury’s past existence. The building is now used as a daycare centre.

Isn’t the bell tower still in great shape?
Notice the two front doors: one for girls and one for boys. I guess cooties have existed at least as far back as 1881!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Canadian National Hi-Rail Truck

I’ve sometimes wondered how Canadian National Railway hi-rail vehicles stay on the rails when they travel the tracks. I figure if I were driving, the vehicle would tumble off for sure. Sheesh! I can’t even walk on the rails without falling off!

And to think the answer in the form of a truck was parked right here in East Gwillimbury this morning!
At a distance, hi-rail trucks look normal. And, in fact they ARE normal trucks--but modified. They can be driven on roads as well as rails. Their secret for riding the rails? They have steel wheels, lowered and raised by a pneumatic or hydraulic system.

If you’ve never seen a hi-rail truck in action, take a peek at this You-Tube video of a CN hi-rail truck. Enjoy!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Stubble at Sunset

Partially snow-covered corn stubble reminds me of an old man who hasn't shaved for a few days. Ha! But here the setting sun makes the field look almost presentable. ;-)

This stubble is the remains of field corn, also known as yellow dent corn -- eastern Canada’s most important grain crop. Sixty percent of the crop grown in Ontario is fed to livestock, thirty percent is for industrial and commercial uses, and the remaining ten percent is exported. (Not sure who it's exported to, though, since U.S. field corn is cheaper than Canadian so it's not likely we're selling it to Americans.)

Field corn is quite different from sweet corn, the kind we eat as a vegetable. Sweet corn has a thin skin and is loaded with sugars. In contrast, field corn has a thick outer skin that doesn't soften enough to eat even if you cook it for several hours.

And by the way, did you know country bumpkins like to snicker when they hear city slickers stealing field corn under cover of darkness?

OK, people can’t eat it (unless it's dried and ground or corn oil is squeezed out of it), but in the fall Canada geese LOVE to forage amongst the stubble, picnicking in large gaggles.

And speaking of geese, I spotted a flock of Canada geese today! Not in a field of stubble, but on a pond. Whoo hoo!!

And a red-winged blackbird was at our feeder. YAY!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sunset After Snowstorm

Last Friday and Saturday, Ontario experienced a 36-hour snowstorm. The next day - Sunday, eh? - Mother Nature apologized with this beautiful sunset. ;-)

In this photo, the sun is setting over an East Gwillimbury horse farm.

For more Sky Watch photos, visit Tom at Wigger's World.

Weathered Barn

Many old wooden barns seem to have joined the ranks of "endangered species" but this East Gwillimbury barn, greyed by the weather, still houses cattle, hay and some farm equipment.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Horses & Hay

Two horses enjoying each others company over nibbles.
Speaking of nibbles, even mid March long after harvest, bales of hay are out on some East Gwillimbury fields with little protection from the weather. Apparently, round bales shed rainfall and retain food quality.

Do you know the difference between hay and straw?

HAY: grasses and legumes (such as clover and alfalfa), which farmers feed to their livestock because it’s loaded with nutrients

STRAW: after harvesting, leftover stalks of plants (such as oats, wheat and barley), which is great for bedding because it’s absorbent and lightweight.
And now for something completely different but still beginning with the letter H, why not visit Mrs. Nesbitt?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Wanna Peek?

I can see only three sides of this long, low, rectangular-shaped barn from the road, but it appears to have only ONE window. And this is it. On the south end.

Aren't you just a tiny bit curious about what's inside? I am.

The barn is quite close to the road - the long, westerly side parallel to passing cars. I'm curious. How can I not wonder what the barn contains when I can see this window every time I pass by on my way north?

I can't see in because the window is too far up. Besides, it would be trespassing.

What do YOU think might be inside?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Yellow Brick Farmhouse

Say “brick” and most people imagine rectangular orange or reddish blocks. But travel along country roads in southern Ontario and you’ll see many soft yellow (some say buff) brick farmhouses, brick made of local clay, which contains less iron than soil that produce terracotta colours.

Built in the late 1890s or early 1900s, this East Gwillimbury home-- still on farm land! -- has two verandas. The one at the left of this photo faces west. Can you imagine the turn-of-the-century owners congregating there at the end of long summer days to watch sunsets? (Today they likely gather round the TV or computer receiving signals from around the world via satellite -- see the dish?)

The second porch faces south where the sun reaches it for most of the day. What a nice place to enjoy a fresh cup of tea or coffee before setting out to do chores.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Mommy says to share ;-)

I'm thinkin this is a sign not many of you see in your neighbourhoods. Am I right?

SKY Watch - Red Barn/ Blue SkY

Would you believe this photo was taken yesterday afternoon after a morning snowfall? The clouds moved in, dumped their load and then moved out, leaving a pristine landscape. By the time I snapped this photo, the clouds had almost completely evaporated. Snow still remained on the ground because it was a frigid day, but it had almost completely melted off the black and metal roofs.

FINALLY it's March and the sun's heat is slowly gaining the edge on East Gwillimbury's icy cold winter.

The roads were a bit greasy though, so mushy with road salt that water leaked through my not-so-waterproof boots when I got out to snap this photo. OOPS!

Sky Watch this week is hosted by Tom at Wigger's World.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Hearty Welcome to EG

Welcome to East Gwillimbury, a rural township north or Toronto on the verge of becoming more citified as an influx of population moves northward from Toronto as well as from towns in York Region.

We're growing at a furious pace. I kid you not: town planners predict EG's population will more than double to 51,000 by 2021 -- that's only 13 years!

Those of us who enjoy space, however, can take refuge in the fact that the township encompasses 238 square kilometres (almost 92 square miles).

The township contains five communities: Holland Landing, River Drive Park, Sharon, Queensville and Mount Albert, plus there are picturesque farms and wild areas in between. It's a town that's in the midst of change--growing by leaps and bounds. But EG also has foundations rooted in its past--tons to photograph and tell you about!

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East Gwillimbury is a rural town less than an hour north of Toronto, Canada's largest city. My family calls me CameraGirl because I take my camera with me wherever I go.