Maple Sugar Shack!

Today we spent a beautiful spring(ish) morning at the Maple Sugar Bush. We took some of our visiting Mexican students along to have the ultimate Canadian experience!

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Family Road Trip

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

We were blessed to be able to visit our friends who live in Redding, CA this past week. We took the scenic route, visiting the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and travelling up the very beautiful and picturesque highway 1 along the Pacific coast. Lots of memories. Lots of pictures.

All in all a wonderful trip!

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For the birds

Another cold day. Another winter hike! 🙂   We headed out of town a little way to a hiking trail nearby, with our friend from Brazil. Look at the little friends we found! They were pretty hungry so we had lots of visitors to our seed-filled mittened hands. Feeling their little feet on our hands was amazing and their feathers were so delicate and beautiful.

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Road to Bethlehem

What a cool experience we had this evening! Check it out here:

Happy (almost) Advent!


The Curious Critters in the Forest

Gorgeous day today! We took advantage of the sun and the warmer temperatures to hike a trail nearby. We heard tree frogs, and saw many wonderful things. We felt the smooth gray bark of the beech tree, noticed mushrooms and fungus, looked under logs for salamanders, investigated rotten logs, and observed bugs, including some strange sort of insect that had white fluff coming from its backside! Upon our first glance, we thought we had found a branch covered with white mold.  As we examined more closely, we noticed that the mold seemed to be moving! The little critters had legs, but large white fluffy bits on their backsides. It seems that we had discovered some Beech Blight Aphids (Grylloprociphilus imbricator), also called the Beech Wooly Aphid (more info here).  The highlight (as always) was the garter snake that Eden spotted, and Dawson chased down. He was quite a feisty little guy! Two and a half hours later we emerged from the trees. What a wonderful way to spend a warm fall afternoon!

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Apple Time!

Today we had the opportunity to visit a local farm that produces exceptional apples and apple products. Brantview Farm has been in the Howell family since 1820 and the 7th generation is now farming the land. I learned a lot from a very passionate apple farmer. He explained the different jobs that have to be done during each season of the apple farm. I learned that there is no ‘down time’ in the winter as every single tree on 39 acres needs a “haircut”. This year has proven to be a difficult year for the apple farmers due to some seriously wonky weather in southern Ontario. We had a warm winter, which meant that the trees did not completely go dormant; Mr Howell explained that it was like they were ‘napping’ as opposed to ‘sleeping’ as they normally would during a cold winter. We had an early, warm spring which caused the ‘napping’ trees to begin their growing season which was disastrous during a very frosty April. Nippy nippy nip… the blossoms died on the trees. Brantview had anticipated a crop of 10% compared to other years, however, they have discovered that they are up to 25% of previous yields, not bad considering the other weather factor which was a very dry summer. In fact, the dry summer meant that the trees did not put out as many buds as they may have normally, which means that next summer’s yield will be less as well! Who knew that apple trees have already decided on their yields for next summer?!? (I, obviously, did not)  I was impressed to learn about their integrated pest management system (IPM) that has been active on their farm since 1947. It enables them to grow their apples with less need for chemicals and pesticides. They have their apples tested every year by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, and consistently score in the top 5 farms in the province for the least amount of chemicals. In fact, Mr Howell believes that his apples are pretty much on par with organic apples… not that they are accredited as an organic orchard. I was happy to learn that when I eat Brantview apples, I am not consuming pesticides and sprays that are often found on apples. After the informative talk, we had a wagon ride, visited the corn maze, and picked our own Golden Delicious apples. All in all a great outing!

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Mountsberg Conservation Area

A gorgeous day to visit the raptors at Mountsberg! It is incredible to be able to be up so close to such amazing creatures as birds of prey. Especially when they are as large as the bald eagle! I love going here to check in on the raptors, and to walk the lovely paths in the woods. Today we had the opportunity to observe the wild resident osprey in a small lake from the shelter of a wildlife blind. We will definitely be back….

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A visit to an organic farm

Today we enjoyed a trip out to Everdale Organic Farm. What a great time we had! We ground flour from wheat berries and then we got to bake some dough in the outdoor fire-stoked kiln. We learned about sheep and the products they give us, and then we got to hang out with the ewes and their sweet little lambs. We also visited the hens that were located in the same field as the sheep. I felt inspired to bake some fresh bread at home, and Dawson stated that he wanted to be an organic farmer when he grows up. There was something about being on an organic farm that made me want to a) be a farmer b) eat more organically and c) shun fast food forever. We’ll see, eh?

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Crocs, and snakes and spiders… oh my!

Do you know the difference between poison and venom?

Or that certain scorpions flouresce under black (uv) light?

Have you seen the amazing skin of a crocodile, close up?

Yesterday we visited Reptilia, the reptile zoo just north of Toronto. Serious fun. Amazing creatures. Check it out!

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To visit the donkeys

We in Guelph are fortunate enough to be right nearby The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada, a permanent home for unwanted or abused donkeys. My first visit there was several years ago, and I was struck by the humble nature of the gentle donkeys that I met. Today I took the kids so that they could experience the DSC.

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We had a fantastic time, checking out the donkeys and where they live. There were several excellent displays and lots of information about the care of the donkeys – hoof care, nutrition, teeth care, etc.

We met a donkey with the same name as our cat! And this particular donkey was the oldest one living at the sanctuary, at 41 yrs of age.

Dawson learned that you have to keep donkeys’ hooves trimmed (once every 8-10 weeks) and his favourite donkey was “Solo”.

Kaelan was glad that donkeys didn’t bite him and his favourite part was petting them.

Eden said that she enjoyed petting the donkeys too, and that her favourite donkey was “Summer” because she had the same name as our cat.

We hope to go again (perhaps when the weather isn’t as damp and cold as it was today!).

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