Happy trails

Girl at trailhead

Eastern Ontario is a hiker’s and biker’s paradise thanks to the miles of abandoned rail beds that have been converted into trails.

A couple of weeks ago, Clare and I hiked a new portion of the trail. We started in Harrowsmith, which is the junction of the K&P Trail and Cataraqui Trail. It was a windy spring day, and the fur of our great Pyrenees Bella shimmered and rippled in the breeze like the rushes in the neighbouring wetlands. It was a great day to get out, enjoy the spring sunshine, clear our heads and get some exercise.

Dog in breeze

The Kingston and Pembroke trail was an old railway that ran from Kingston Renfrew. It was abandoned by Canadian Pacific Railway between 1962 and 1986 before being taken over by the City of Kingston and Township of South Frontenac. Most of the trail is now complete up to Sharbot Lake, except for a small stretch near Tichborne.

The Cataraqui Trail is 104 kms long and was the rail line operated by Canadian National. The 78.2 km section from Smiths Falls to Harrowsmith is part of the Trans Canada Trail. Harrowsmith is an excellent starting point since the two trails connect there with four different routes to hike.

We watched ducks and geese in the marshes, saw baby cows in the farmer’s fields and ate lunch overlooking a beautiful vista.

I’m always surprised how many people in Kingston don’t venture north of the city. This week’s #HappyAct is to get out and discover the beautiful trails north of the city. And best of all, it’s free!

Signpost on the K&P Trail

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The signature sound of August

cicada

August. Warm days, bugless nights and gentle breezes create a beautiful languor, as you submit to summer’s halcyon days.

The signature sound of August has to be the cicada. It starts as a slow whir and rises in pitch and intensity to a high-pitched buzz that engulfs the air. To me, it’s the signature sound of summer.

Cicadas are fascinating insects. Cicada comes from a latin word meaning tree cricket. The sound you hear is their mating call. Their shrill call can be as loud as 120 decibels, which one website claims is as loud as a rock concert or chainsaw.

Cicadas will actually gravitate to high pitched sounds, like lawnmowers. Apparently  female cicadas mistake them for singing males, and male cicadas will follow in order to continue wooing the females.

They are also quite beautiful when you look at them closely. Clare found one in the house the other day and we had a good look at him before we released him gently outside.

This week’s #HappyAct is to enjoy the sound of the cicadas and summer’s final days. Here’s a video clip of the cicadas at my lake.

Raising chickens

 

Chickens in garden

For the past three years, we’ve heard the pitter patter of little feet in our yard—chickens.

Whenever I tell people we raise chickens, it’s usually followed by a barrage of questions about how many eggs we get a day, how much it costs for feed and how to build a sturdy coop.

The answers, in case you’re wondering or thinking about getting chickens, is one egg per chicken per day (it’s actually slightly lower, so in 7 days, you would get about six eggs per chicken), $20 a month on feed for about 6 chickens, and…google it, but I can give you some design tips.

The thing I’ve been surprised about most is how much we enjoy our chickens. While I wouldn’t go so far as calling them pets, we do call them “our girls” and they have become an extension of our family.

I’ve learned the chicken community is a little crazy. I have one friend with a t-shirt that says “Crazy Chicken Lady” that she wears proudly.

I was at a 4H meeting earlier this year where another Mom plunked her chicken purse down on the table.

Harrowsmith magazine recently ran a story about raising chickens. The author said every evening around 5 p.m., she’d have cocktail hour with her chickens and took a picture of her with her glass of wine with a chicken on her lap.

I hope I’m not on the far end of the crazy chicken lady scale, but I do like my girls and we’ve certainly enjoyed additional benefits of raising chickens other than the beautiful fresh eggs every day.

You may have seen on Facebook a story about how raising chickens have given the residents of a senior’s home joy and purpose. There is something about caring for animals that provide sustenance. I also think they have helped cut down on the tick population in our yard.

This week’s #HappyAct is to go back to the farm—buy local farm fresh produce, produce your own, or if you really want to become a crazy chicken lady, look into raising chickens of your own.

Ed. note: This spring I blogged about the ultimate tacky souvenir. My girlfriend Danette on our recent trip to Vancouver Island, used my money to buy an egg holder for me with “Farm Fresh Butt Nuggets” written on the side. Okay, so maybe I am a crazy chicken lady now.

egg carton that says farm fresh butt nuggets

 

 

Chickens in sun on front porch
My girls sunning themselves on the front porch
chicken purse
My friend’s chicken purse

Find your true north

Ottawa River

One of the many things that makes this country great is the natural beauty of our landscapes, rich resources and biodiversity.

This summer, why not explore all Canada has to offer by visiting a Nature Conservancy of Canada property?

The NCC was founded in 1960 by naturalists who decided to take action to protect natural spaces and promote conservation. Today they have thousands of acres of natural properties across Canada and offer volunteer opportunities for Canadians to help in conservation efforts. They recently launched a new website naturedestinations.ca and are inviting Canadians to explore their properties.

There is probably a Nature Conservancy of Canada property near you and you don’t even know it. I just learned about three properties close to me: Whitefish Lake nature reserve, a 120 acre property along the shores of Whitefish Lake here in South Frontenac, Brighton Wetland, one of the last undeveloped shorelines on Presqu’ile Bay, and a property with the longest underwater cave system in Canada under the Ottawa River.

Some other land parcels worth exploring are the Green Mountains Nature reserve in Quebec’s Eastern townships, Cockburn Island in Lake Huron and the Eastern Georgian Bay Coast Natural Area.

Want to learn more about the work of the NCC? On August 23rd the NCC is looking for volunteers to restore habitat in one of their Warkworth properties in the Rice Lake plains.

You can also sign up for their blog.

Today’s #HappyAct in honour of Canada Day is to explore all this great land has to offer this year. Happy Canada Day!

Ed. note: If you are in Eastern Ontario, another great property to check out is the Depot Creek Conservation Area at 6329 First Lake Road. This 71-acre property was purchased from artist Kim Ondaatje who still lives next door in Blue Roof Farm.

The cottage life

I can’t imagine anything more Canadian than heading to the cottage for the long weekend.

Life is definitely sweeter at the cottage. It’s as if the kaleidoscope of life’s daily challenges stops turning the moment you turn off the paved highway onto the cottage laneway.

You roll down the window to drink in the fresh pine air, and slow down to a normal pace (and to avoid the potholes and washboard).

The moment you step out of the car, you leave the city and its troubles behind you. All that matters is whether you have enough wine, ice cream and bug spray for the weekend, whether it’s going to rain, and who the best Rummoli or Boggle player is.

I live on a lake but the lure of the cottage has never left me. I’ve been blessed over the years to have wonderful friends who have kindly shared their cottages with my family. They are always my most favourite weekends of the year.

Time stands still at the cottage. No one cares if you sleep in til 10, eat lunch at 2, nap at 3 and declare cocktail hour at 4. There is time to actually read…books of all things.

There’s more time outdoors, kayaking, swimming, boating, and playing horseshoes. And then there’s eat and drink (and lots of it).

But the thing I love the most about cottage weekends is the precious time spent with family and friends and the warmth and camaraderie of these gatherings that have created so many wonderful memories over the years.

This week’s #HappyAct is to experience the cottage life this summer. Here are some pictures from last weekend and our annual girls’ spring get-together at my best friend’s cottage north of Minden. It was the first time we invited Grace and Clare, “the next generation” to join us for a girls weekend.

Young girl on dock

Girls and dog at cottage

Girl in boatLake at sunset

Shut up and fish

Author with fish

I remember driving home years ago listening to the CBC, when this song came on the radio. It was about a guy whose wife gave him an ultimatum, saying if he went fishing that day, she’d pack up her bags and leave him. That was the first time I heard Brad Paisley’s The Fishing Song. The lyrics go something like this.

“Well, I’m gonna miss her,
When I get home.
But right now I’m on this lake shore,
And I’m sittin’ in the sun
I’m sure it’ll hit me
When I walk through that door tonight
That I’m gonna miss her
Well lookee there, I gotta bite…”

I mean really. Can you blame the guy? I would have went fishing too.

We went fishing tonight to cap off Father’s Day. Dave always said his favourite time to fish was Sunday nights, when the lake was quiet and he knew the cottagers were stuck in traffic on their commute back to the city.

It was a beautiful evening—still blissfully warm with blue skies and feathery clouds. A deer meandered down to the shore to drink in the cool lake water on our neighbour’s property as we cast in the weed beds. Owls serenaded us with their nightly calls in the distance.

Deer at lake

 

 

 

 

 

One of the many things I love about fishing is it is a time to be still and quiet. It’s great to talk and spend family time together, but sometimes it’s even better to just shut up and fish.

Clare and I each caught a rock bass; Dave had better luck the night before. Murphy sat on the dock and howled. It was a good night.

girl with fish

This week’s #HappyAct is to shut up and fish. Here is a video clips of Maddie and Tae’s Shut Up and Fish to get you in the mood.

Stop and smell the lilacs

Lilacs in front of author's house

Washington is known for its magnificent cherry trees. Ottawa is known for its tulips. In my region, the unofficial flower is the lilac, and there’s no better time to come visit the area north of Kingston than now, when the roads and trails are infused with the intoxicating smell of our lavender treasure.

When I moved to this region more than 20 years ago and experienced my first spring, I was delighted and entranced to see the fields burst into soft purples and whites as the lilac bushes bloomed to life. Hundreds of years ago, wise farmers planted lilacs as wind breaks beside the roads and in fields. Today, if you choose your routes wisely, you drive down country lanes where the lilac bushes stretch in hedgerows for kilometres. It’s breathtaking.

I don’t remember ever seeing so many posts on Facebook and social media as this year of lilacs. I follow Jeff Scott who shares post from his blog, The Countryside View on Facebook. Scott and I need to get together because he blogged about this same topic last week, calling on Kingston and the Township of South Frontenac to explore how we could capitalize on the beauty of the lilacs in this region for tourism (you can read his blog post here.)

Several communities have lilac festivals—I’ve been to two in this area. Warkworth, a charming upcoming arts village near Peterborough hosts one every May. They created a Millennium Lilac Trail, (which is still maturing), and hold all kinds of events, including concerts, street sales and gardening forums to celebrate the lavender flower.

The Franktown Lilac Festival is a one-day event on the last Saturday in May, featuring wagon rides and walks through a field full of lilacs, a pancake breakfast, craft sales and more. Both festivals are a fun day for all ages.

Let’s hope one day soon, we’ll have a lilac festival in our region. The only thing that would make it even better, would be to combine it with a butter tart festival, featuring Mrs. Garrett’s butter tarts!

This week’s #HappyAct is to go for a drive north of the 401, find a country road, and roll down your windows to breathe in the beautiful aroma of lilacs.

lilac trees

white lilacs