The story of Hope Ness

IMG_0186Oh, if only these rocks could talk, what a story they could tell about how they got here thousands of years ago. They were part of what’s now called the Canadian Shield, a primeval formation of igneous rock, forged over many millions of years. When the vast glaciers of the last ice age began their slow, relentless march south, these rocks were broken off the shield and pushed south by the immense power of the ice. So great was the weight of the ice, several kilometers thick, that it tilted the eastern edge of an ancient sedimentary rock seabed upward, thus creating the unique, cliff-edge rock formation we call the Niagara Escarpment. When the ice age waned, and the ice began to melt and retreat, these rocks were left right here, where you see them now, on the section of the Bruce Trail from Hope Ness to Hope Bay, on the Bruce Peninsula. Hope Ness is the name settlers gave the promontory of land that reaches out into, and protects Hope Bay, which is part of much larger Georgian Bay. It in turn is part of Lake Huron, one of the Great Lakes. Those are all names with a relatively brief history so far. The indigenous people who lived here for thousands of years before the “age of contact” with people of European descent had their own names, including for Hope Ness. I find it interesting, and comforting in a way, that in researching the Indigenous history of the area, the nearby Chippewas of Nawash First Nation have found it was regarded as a “place of healing,” a hopeful place where people came from far and wide.

I’ve certainly come to realize that’s why I’m here, and why I feel strongly the need to share this special place, especially with those who are in need of hope. Perhaps in times to come Hope Ness will have another similar name, or a renewed and restored one, expressing that same spirit.

Hope Ness was almost destroyed about 50 years ago when the Dow Chemical Company wanted to develop a huge quarry to mine the limestone bedrock for its rich magnesium content. The plan included a large shipping facility at the foot of the Niagara Escarpment at nearby Hope Bay. The plan did not proceed. But in the meantime Dow had acquired a large interest in most of the land, which the Ontario government ended up owning, and still does. It includes the provincial Hope Bay Nature Reserve which surrounds my homestead on all sides. More details of the story of how that happened, and other aspects of the history and continuing existence of a special place can be found here, in Finding Hope Ness. Welcome.

 

Saugeen Ojibway Nation land-claim lawsuit at a crucial phase

bruce park

In recent years the Bruce Peninsula National Park has become an important international tourist destination, with much of the attention focused on the Grotto, above.

(This update corrects an error in the naming of the two First Nations that comprise the Saugeen Ojibway Nation. It also adds some additional information regarding the status of the case.)

The original version of this blog-post was published in Finding Hope Ness on December 19, 2015. The title then was, Saugeen Ojibway land claim lawsuit may soon be settled, one way or another. At the time there were reasons to think 2018 could be the crucial year for reaching a resolution of the now-almost 25-year-long court action.

But 2018 has come and gone, with no indication to the general public that a negotiated settlement is in the works.

The Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) took the unusual step in 1994 of filing a lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to settle long-standing land claims, after years of frustrating talks with government officials. Continue reading

I do (gardening); therefore, I am

DSC00552I look out my window and watch the winter storm blow in and get steadily worse. I don’t have to go on-line to check if the roads are closed: that’s obvious enough. The line of the forest trees to the west has all-but disappeared behind the blizzard. After just a couple of hours, drifts have filled in the driveway I blew clear yesterday.

At my age now, I should be celebrating every moment as a gift. Surely, there’s no sense in looking forward to better weather, or to a spring season still a couple of months away, at best — let alone the early summer, when I may have a modest crop of strawberries to pick from the 100 dormant plants I just ordered from a nursery. Continue reading

On growing old, and the health care crisis

Finding Hope Ness

aging(This blog-post was originally published in January, 2017. The current CBC Marketplace investigation being featured by the public network prompts me to reblog, to make the point that this crisis — and that’s what it is — is not new. It’s also worth looking at again because Ontario’s Conservative, Ford government is now in charge, and that doesn’t bode well. And for the record I am well into my senior years, so this is personal.)

First, full disclosure: I am a senior. I have been for more than a few years. I am also the main caregiver of a much older, beloved family member. For some months now we have appreciated the help of the Community Care Access Center (CCAC) in Owen Sound, and the Personal Support Workers (PSWs), visiting nurses and other medical professionals who come to our home. Their genuinely caring attitude has been an important part of…

View original post 989 more words

Making the best of a Canadian winter, mindfully

dsc00547

I hear spring flowers and blossoms are starting to bloom in Victoria, on Canada’s Pacific Ocean, west coast. But everywhere else in this country, known for its long, cold, snowy winters, such a thing is still the stuff of day-dreams. The reality of spring is three months away here in Hope Ness, Ontario, halfway between the Equator and the North Pole; more if spring is late this year like it was last. Continue reading

Morning surprise is thought provoking

dsc00539

A stoat, or ermine, caught in my live trap, soon to be released back into nature

I got quite a surprise when I checked the live-trap this morning in the basement cold room where I store produce from last summer’s garden. I’ve been setting the Havahart trap with pieces of squash for several weeks to control an over-abundance of red squirrels getting into this old farm house. So far, I’ve caught seven of them, which I take down the road, far enough I hope that they won’t return.

But this morning, when I saw the trap door had dropped and I took a closer look, I was amazed to see a pure white creature that looked far more like a small weasel than a squirrel. The long, sleek torso was the big difference, though, otherwise, there were many similarities as you can see. Continue reading

Canada and China – A Timely Remembrance of a Special Friendship

DSC00535

January 1, 2019, Hope Ness, Canada. The sun trying to break through the clouds before sunset

I am dismayed by the current, troubled relations between Canada and the People’s Republic of China. In my view, Canada has long had a special-friendship relationship with China, one that could and should be regarded as unique among nations. Now is a good time to remember it. Continue reading

Walking after sunset

DSC00532

After Sunset, 5:00 pm, in Hope Ness, Canada, December 15, 2018

Sunset comes early in Hope Ness, Canada a week away from the winter solstice. If I don’t feed and walk the dogs before sunset it will soon be too dark. I admit, however remote, the prospect of running into some member or members of the local wildlife community concerns me. Is it possible, with the unseasonably mild weather in the past few days, one of the black bears living in the nearby woods may have postponed hibernation?

One of the larger members of the weasel family, fishers, are in this area. An “exceptional predator,” according to Canadian Geographic, they are one of the few animals to prey on porcupines, and a host of other small animals, including even baby deer. They have a frightening, chilling scream when aroused. Their range extends from coast to coast in the forests of Canada. It historically included here, in what used to be called the Saugeen or Indian Peninsula, more recently, the Bruce Peninsula. But fishers must have been hunted, trapped or run out of existence here, until they were introduced again years ago to control porcupine damage to local woodlots. It’s fair to say they’ve flourished.

So did coyotes — and the stray dog, coyote hybrid known locally as coydogs — for a long time. It was common here in Hope Ness up until a couple of years ago to hear coyotes yipping and howling in the nearby woods as they began their evening hunts. Lately the woods have been quiet. Coyotes have lately been heavily hunted, sometimes by the pick-up truckload, as nuisance animals known to attack livestock. But to virtual extinction? That can’t be good. They have their role to play in nature’s wildlife balance. Whether or not a pack of coyotes would take on an angry, aroused, fisher, I do not know. I just know the silence in the woods is ominous

My little cockapoo dog, the irrepressible Sophie, wouldn’t stand a chance against a fisher if one ever came that close on our evening walks; or, I daresay, coyotes. My big German shepherd, Buddy, would put up a good fight to defend her, but regardless of the likely outcome in his favour, I’d rather that didn’t happen.

Deer hunting season is over now, both regular rifle for a week in November, and musket for a week just passed, as well as bow. I heard a few shots fired fairly close by. I turned around and headed back to the farm with the dogs. So, that’s how we got into the habit of taking our evening walks through the relatively small window of opportunity between sunset and the darkening sky.

In the time it takes to get to my touchstone and back daylight has just about gone. Today was special though: unlike most days this time of year, it was at least partly sunny, rather than overcast. And then on the way home the sky above was a beautiful rose after sunset. But it was receding toward the western horizon, over beyond the woods fairly quickly.

I thought, maybe I should just let it go, enjoy the passing moment. But then I thought again, grabbed my camera off the kitchen table, went outside, and took that photo you see above, to share with you my cyber friends, wherever you may be in the world.

 

Tracks in the snow

deer

Buddy woke me up early this morning with barking that tells me he’s picked up on something around or near the farm. My thoughts were of critters from the woods come to feast on the compost pile in the garden closest to the house.

But an hour-or-so later after the ever-so-important, two cups of coffee and the morning feeding of the dogs, the tracks in the fresh snow near the end of the driveway where the road comes to a dead end, told me differently. Continue reading

A conversation with the sun

 

DSC00513

Another cloudy day in late October with the front field to cultivate before it starts to rain, as forecast. I’m out beside Mr. Massey Too, checking his fluid levels before connecting the cultivator, when I get that feeling, you know, like somebody’s looking at me. So, I look up right where that feeling is coming from, just above the treetops of some tall spruce, and there it is, the sun – a faint light in the clouds, so faint that I can look right at it, face to face, as it were.

I get the sense the son wants to tell me something; so, I say, “What? What’s up? What’s on your mind?” Continue reading

Sing out for life

DSC00510

With the sun now fallen below the equator, the mornings have come later with seeming haste over the past several weeks, as if anxious to move the season along toward winter.
It will come soon enough with all its challenges, I tell the sun, in hopes of seeing spring again. I cannot let go easily of this life. My spirit has not journeyed through the cosmos for God knows how long, and awakened to find myself alive on this little jewel of a planet, to welcome death; or, for that matter the end of the world. It is a gift, and to be alive for this brief moment, to be given the mind and body of a being set free to be joyful on the Earth is a wonderful miracle.

Like the children at the well, I could not contain myself. Maybe I was one of them, dancing around, coming closer, drawn by a certain delight we saw in the holy eyes, and the generous smile, in the empathy that made him one of us. No, he said, don’t chase them away, don’t diminish their joy in any way. Rather, be like them, and you will surely be in Paradise.

No, I am not one to let go of this life easily, or, God forbid, happily, in the name of supposed “end time” prophecy, the big lie of these terrible, lying times. Neither was he who wept in the garden at the imminent prospect of death. He loved life too, though he saw only too well what the future held, and tried to make another miracle to save the world.

And now?

“Oh, my dear friend,” I sometimes feel like crying out to the sky when the rain falls, “what have they done to you?”

Actually, it’s depressing to be alive in the last couple of years and wonder if the creeping madness of an unfolding tyranny can be stopped. Where are the “checks and balances?” How can so many people not tell right from wrong? How can people who should know better, who must have some knowledge of history, surely, continue to enable evil? Haven’t we been here before?

Sometimes, I think I’ll just stop watching the news. Just let it go. What can I do anyway, one small voice? I might be, probably would be, a lot happier. And there is something important to be said about going out into the world with wonderful happiness, like the children at the well.

But then I think that the best thing that could happen now, perhaps the only hope, is that as many voices as possible, millions and millions of them, are raised in unison, singing out another Ode to Joy for the sake of the world and life on Earth.

 

In Praise of Corn

dsc00508.jpg

How well I remember my first sweet corn experience. I was a young boy of the inner city, invited out on a picnic by a country friend and his family. Two fresh-picked, unhusked cobs of sweet corn, were lifted from the embers of an outdoor fire. The husks were carefully and skillfully removed by my friend’s father, spread generously with butter, and presented to me on a plate as we sat at a picnic table. The sun was shining brightly on a midsummer afternoon. The kindly, attentive man showed me how to eat the corn, by picking the cob up at either end and first going down the rows with front teeth like a mower. He made it look like fun.

My first few bites were a revelation: I had never tasted anything so delicious. I looked up from the cob with wide-eyed, childish excitement. “This is GOOD!” I exclaimed, with all my heart. My friend’s father smiled broadly, as I also often do now myself these many years later, when someone bites into a cob of sweet corn I have proudly grown, just picked, and love to serve to others. To this day freshly-picked sweet corn, cooked just enough, remains my favourite food.

Back in those days, many decades ago, it was by far mostly yellow corn. Before that, white was the sweet corn of choice. Some years after my first corn experience the Ontario Seed Company (OSC) came up with a bicolour corn they called “peaches and cream.” Bicolour sweet corn soon took over the market. In my market-garden experience buyers often referred to all of it as “peaches and cream,” but there’s really only one by that name, still sold by OSC, while the many other varieties of bicolour corn go by other names. I started growing corn about 25 years ago. My favourite bicolour variety was Seneca Appaloosa. It helped me get a lot of rave reviews for my corn. Lots of people said it was the best they ever had. But Seneca Appaloosa suddenly became unavailable about 10 years ago. I’ve tried other varieties, but to my taste nothing was as good. The last few years I’ve gone back to the original peaches and cream, the old stand-by, I guess you might say.

The 2018 growing season was a challenging one for growing corn, and most other things. Spring came late, and the soil temperature was slow to warm up when it finally did arrive. Corn wants at least 21 Celsius. I took a chance and planted toward the end of May. But it got unseasonably cool for a while again and, because I use corn seed not treated with fungicide, the germination rate was poor. I planted again a week into June. But by that time a prolonged drought had set in, from the end of May to mid-August. I hand-watered the emerging corn from two, old dug wells, but still it struggled. There’s nothing like rain. An even later – second week of June — planting of a few rows of peaches and cream benefitted the most when the rains finally returned. And now, in mid-September a few more days of sun and heat are just what those rows needed to fully ripen.

Three rows of beautiful, sweet, corn-on-the-cob isn’t a bountiful crop. But it’s enough to share with friends and family, to satisfy my seasonal hunger for my favourite food, and to bring back fond memories. So, I rejoice.

Food for the soul as well as the body, that’s corn, for the boy in this old man.

DSC00507