Wednesday, September 30

Fall Colours!

It's that time of year again! The time when I can barely drive down a country road or walk along a forest trail because I'm too busy looking up and around, trying to take in this stunning visual art show known as the Fall Colours.

The season started with a string of bright, sunny days and cool, frosty nights... the perfect combination for bringing out the most brilliant colours in the maple leaves.

Right now the forest is a great bouquet, a patchwork quilt, a mosaic. The colours range from soft pastels to deep hues, from peach to persimmon to paprika. The reds are deep and cool in burgundy and oxblood; or bright and sassy like a harlot's dime-store lipstick.

Words just don't do it justice. Unfortunately, nor do photographs. At least, not the ones I take with my camera and skill set. The pictures here were taken on our trails and along the Seguin Trail up to the little lake. They show what I saw, but they don't capture the essence of the season.

They don't let you hear the rustle of the fallen leaves underfoot, or smell the aroma of earth and autumn that kicks up as you walk. They don't make your cheeks rosy in a nippy breeze, or shower you with a confetti of leaves when a gust blows through the trees. You really do have to experience it first hand. And I hope you do!

Happy Autumn!

Tuesday, September 22

Dyer Memorial

Autumn is perhaps the favourite season for visiting Muskoka and the Almaguin Highlands. When the air is crisp and the leaves are glorious, countless visitors flock to the area to hike the trails, drive the country roads and marvel at nature's fiery colour palette.

At this time of year, some of the most popular parks and attractions of the area can be busy and crowded, which is why we have a few out-of-the-way places to share with our guests. These are the hidden gems and under-hyped scenic spots that don't draw quite as many tourists but are well worth a visit.

One of these spots is the Dyer Memorial. Located deep in the woods on the outskirts of Huntsville, the Dyer Memorial was once a beautifully maintained botanical garden requiring the services of a full-time seasonal gardener. It has long since lost the funding needed for such maintenance, but it is still a public park and, to my mind anyway, quite lovely in its naturalized state.

The memorial itself is a large stone monument "erected in fond memory", as the plaque explains, "of Betsy Browne Dyer, 1884 - 1956, by her husband Clifton G. Dyer, 1885 - 1959". The rest of the plaque is a sweet sentiment of appreciation for what must have been a fulfilling marriage.

The monument stands on a hill and overlooks gentle slopes of grass and overgrown flower beds spilling over stone paths. A few wooden bridges span the Big East River which winds through the park. Willows, birches, maples and pines create the backdrop.

It's an idyllic picnic spot, especially at this time of year. You might expect it to be a busy stop for sight-seers, but it's a little off the beaten path, and down a road that doesn't quite live up to the term 'road'.

The pictures here were taken late one October, after the maples and birches shed their leaves and the forest was getting ready for its winter sleep. A visit at the peak of the fall colours is sure to reward you with a stunning sight—and very likely few people to share it with.

Tuesday, September 15

Critter-sitting for the neighbours

Jim & I are not farmers. While we're proud of all we've learned about country living since we left the city nearly 5 years ago, we're really 'woods' and not 'pasture' kind of country folk.

But nevertheless, when our neighbours asked us to critter-sit for them while they took a September vacation, we said sure, no problem. So for nearly a week, we trotted up the road twice a day to do our chores.

We fed pigs (definitely a two-person job; I acted as rodeo clown while Jim got the trough right-side-up); fed dogs; watered chickens and collected their eggs; and let the horse and pony out to graze.

Our neighbours had warned us that the pony, Buddy, is a little Houdini, but we didn't realize that Mocha, the horse, also had aspirations to wander the neighbourhood while
her people were away.

Twice they decided to take themselves for a walk down Fern Glen Road. We discovered that convincing one pregnant horse and one stubborn pony that it's time to go home requires some skills in equine negotiation that we haven't quite mastered. With some help from a horse-friendly guest (thanks Murray!) and another neighbour (thanks Bob!), we managed to corral our little herd.

Aside from some rather unnerving moments -- an angry dog, food-frenzied pigs, hens trying to fly the coop, the pony stepping on my foot (owch!) -- we had fun! If our neighbours ask again, we'll say sure, no problem. That's what we country folk do.