Chilly Wind But Warm Smiles At Orangeville Tree Planting

This past Saturday was the annual Earth Day Tree Planting in Orangeville and once again the community came out in great numbers to get 450 trees and shrubs in the ground.

For the fourth year I was lucky to be helping Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) at this event as one of their volunteer leaders (there were four of us there as volunteer leaders). The event always seems to falls on trout opener, so this year I got up a little early and ran down the driveway to the creek to take a few casts before leaving. That early start had quite a chill in the air and had me throwing on an extra shirt before I left the house.

Once arriving at Rotary Park, it was obvious that the brilliant sunshine and clear blue sky had fooled more than a few people into thinking it was actually warm out. A cool wind raced down the line of registration tables (the Rotary Club’s Garbage Cleanup makes up the other half of the event each year), making it hard to hold onto sign-in sheets while shivering volunteers filled in their information as quickly as possible to get their hands out of the cold. Turnout was up noticeably this year and the two of us at the registration table came close to needing more papers to get everyone signed up.

Year after year I am blown away by the community involvement at the Orangeville tree planting. Other tree plantings I attend fail to attract as many volunteers and as much community support. Many of the same faces keep coming back, eager to pitch in and do their bit to make their town a healthier place. Quite a few Girl Guides and Scouts groups attended the event, and a few teenagers took advantage of a fun morning of digging in the dirt to earn some volunteer hours. It’s just as important for people to enjoy themselves at events like this, as it is for the trees to get in the ground.

Orangeville

About half of the amazing volunteers that showed up for the Earth Day Tree Planting.

Orangeville

Tree planting is a great activity for anyone!

The trees were planted behind the Best Western hotel and in the stormwater pond adjacent to the hotel. Maples, birches, spruces, dogwoods, and other native trees and shrubs now dot the areas, providing improved scenery, habitat for wildlife, water quality benefits, and improved air quality. As the trees grow they will also provide a barrier from the traffic noise on Highway 10. It’s amazing how much of a long-lasting benefit there will be thanks to a few hours of work by a great group of volunteers.

It felt like no time at all before the last tree was in the ground and the last shovels were stowed in the trailer. The Rotary Club finished off the great event by holding a BBQ for all those involved.

Volunteering provides as many benefits for the people doing the volunteering as it does for the cause they are helping out. At this time of the year there are always environment-related volunteer events like tree plantings, and more volunteers are always needed. Donate a morning of your time one weekend, help a good cause, meet great people, and leave with a smile. The 2016 Earth Day Tree Planting in Orangeville left many people with a warm smile on their face, despite the chilly start.

CVC has all sorts of volunteer events coming up in the next couple of months. Check out their Events Calendar for more information.

Spring Thinking and Dreaming

It’s mid-March and the snow is all but gone. There are clumps of white hanging on in the areas where several feet deep snowbanks towered just over one week ago, but otherwise, the land is various shades of brown and green. We went from furiously trying to seal up drafts in the chicken coop while bundled up in heavy winter clothes, to ditching our jackets while working outside. Even though it’s March in Ontario, one can’t help but think it’s spring.

Most winters I would be hoping for the cold to last a little longer, just so I could spend more time on the ice and bridge the gap until trout season opens. Not this year. There are just too many things to look forward to and I want it to be spring.

spring

The main flock has been loving the warmer temps and nice weather.

spring

Arrow brought his ladies up to the house a few times today. I often feel like they’re stalking me until I give in and get them some treats.

While the winter has been relatively mild, we have seen more than enough snow for my liking. Today I noticed green shoots in the front garden, a sign that even the flower’s think it’s time for spring. The singing of the birds has increased and changed in tune – they have more than food on their minds these days. Even the species composition has changed drastically in the past few days. While doing my FeederWatch this weekend I noticed that the grackles, red-winged blackbirds, and starlings had all returned, while the number of dark-eyed juncos has dropped.

Aside from the usual reasons I look  forward to spring – the nearness of trout opener and the chance to get the boat back in the water, this year I’m looking forward to all that we have planned around the homestead. At this time last year we had just closed on the house (yay – our first home!) and though we had plans, we were still just trying to settle in. This year…well, we’ve made enough plans to keep us both busy for quite some time.

anniversary

The incredible dinner Darrell made to celebrate our one-year anniversary of owning this place. Apple pork with havarti mashed potatoes and an apple-mushroom gravy. It was incredible!

 

As I type this, I’m listening to whirring of my new Brinsea Mini Advance incubator. One year ago I was just starting out with chickens and now I’m hoping my feathered friends are about to become parents (you know, the kind that don’t have to deal with their offspring). I’ve never incubated eggs before, so this is a learning curve and despite having done my research and read the instructions, I feel like I’m just crossing my fingers and hoping things will work out. I’ve been driving Darrell crazy since last fall, hemming and hawing about possible matings and constantly changing my mind. I finally settled on doing a round of Olive Eggers for my first try. These chicks (if everything goes well and I end up with chicks) are Ameraucana x Black Copper Marans and will hopefully produce dark green eggs. The incubator only takes seven eggs – a strategic buy on my part to try and limit the number of birds I end up with, since I so often go overboard with animals – so I’ve chosen a selection from four hens and two different roosters. We shall see how it goes.

chickens

Fingers crossed for these eggs!

Although planning for chicks has been a part of our winter, planning for the garden has been a much bigger part. Our ultimate goal is to produce as much of our own food as possible. We had a good harvest out of the garden last year and learned a lot about what works for us, what doesn’t, and what changes we need to make. This year, we’ve decided to move the garden, expand it, and try many different varieties. I’ll admit, I went a little crazy with the seed order. One of the things we found last year was that we didn’t have enough time with our tomatoes or cold season crops. The tomatoes started producing too late in the year to be much use, and since we went from final frost to summer heat quite quickly, the cold weather crops never got going. To counteract this I have started a pile of seeds this winter. To be honest, I started a lot more seeds than I had realized. It was when I was transplanting them to bigger containers that I started wondering why I had planted so many.

Despite the dire warnings we read about starting seedlings without artificial light, we went ahead and just used the sunlight coming in the windows. We didn’t have the money to buy and setup a bunch of lights. I was worried about this decision at first, but the plants seem to be doing well. Maybe they’ll end up a little taller and spindlier than plants started under lights, but I think it will work just fine for us. Darrell’s been building shelves and cabinets to house all the seedlings I started, and I bought a cheap plastic greenhouse from TSC to move them into once we get a little further along. I hope all this work results in a bounty of food, but even it doesn’t work as well as we hope, I’ve really enjoyed being able to garden in the house these past few weeks.

seedlings

The tomato seedlings seem to be happy these days.

The list of projects is endless – building runs for the chickens, preparing a new chicken coop for the birds I plan to keep from hatching, getting areas ready for meat birds and turkeys, more fencing, lots of gardening, and many vehicle/boat repairs. But man is this fun!

Though it may seem like time for fishing will be scarce this year, I actually think we’ll get out more than we have in the past couple of years. We now know that we have a great brookie stream across the road, we have excellent lakes close to us to throw the boat in, and we can take the canoe into all the local ponds.

Spring is a time for renewal and hope, and I can’t help but look forward to it.

Going Light and Going Small – Ice Fishing at Island Lake

When the forecast calls for little wind and nice temperatures, and it looks like the last weekend for good ice, going ice fishing becomes the number one priority.

After a month where Darrell and I couldn’t seem to stay healthy, the ice fishing season blew by without us. We can count our number of combined ice fishing outings on one hand. That’s disappointing. But there’s not much that can be done when you’re battling illnesses and infections, while still having to stay on top of regular household chores. The desire to go fishing was there, but the ability and time was not.

Island Lake

There were plenty of anglers on the ice at Island Lake in Orangeville today.

Today, with a promising forecast and reasonable health, we headed for Island Lake in Orangeville, knowing it would likely be our last chance to hit the ice for the season. Because it was such a nice day, we opted to go light, leaving the hut and the majority of the gear at home, only taking the essentials with us. We were thrilled to find lots of open space in our favourite area to target panfish through the ice, drilled some holes, and dropped down the electronics. Fish were nowhere to be seen on the camera, but it looked like we were in a good depth and there was some decent vegetation, so we dropped down our lines and took a seat on our buckets.

I started the day with a pike rod, thinking a big jig might draw some attention. Darrell went small and looked for the perch bite with the best little spoon we have for calling in panfish. Only a few minutes in I heard Darrell  talking to the fish finder – a clear sign that he’s marking something. While the mark would follow his lure, it wouldn’t commit. I dropped the camera down but couldn’t see anything. I went back to my hole and heard Darrell continue to mutter. A few minutes later he had me throwing my line down his hole to catch what he thought might be a pike. When I had a bump but no taker, he grabbed my light rod with a pink micro jig and dropped it down. A few seconds later, up came the first perch of the day. It wasn’t long after releasing that one that he caught a pumpkinseed sunfish and we had a pattern to fish for the rest of the day.

island lake ice fishing

First itty-bitty perch of the day.

ice fishing

My first sunfish of the day. Yes, I look ridiculously happy to have such a small fish, but these little guys always make me smile.

I managed to land a small perch followed by a little sunfish. Slightly jiggling my micro jig and then dead-sticking it tended to get the best results on those first few fish. The bite was slow in the original holes, though, so we drilled a few more holes, and then a few more after that. The last three holes were the winning ones. The first hole was over a dense weedline, with the next couple being on the other side of it. That seemed to be the right area and we had fish coming through the ice for the rest of the day.

Darrell was using the sonar on flasher mode and was able to entice his fish by watching the reaction from their marks on the screen – did they chase the lure, did the mark disappear, were they marking right on top of the lure…all the great things you can discern from electronics. I had the camera, which at first was proving to be useless since I was having a hard time seeing anything. Eventually, though, I got the camera set just right and proceeded to have the most fun I’ve had in ages. Interactive fishing at its best. It was like sight-fishing from the boat, but I was doing it through the ice.

ice fishing

The best setup all day – the camera at my feet so I could watch the screen and my line.

I would jig my lure ever so slightly, then give it a pop to draw attention. The technique worked great and I could watch fish come in on the camera. From there, I could alter my technique depending on the response of the fish. Most of them wanted subtle movement with frequent stops. A perch would come in down near bottom, bump the lure, wait a moment, then gently suck it in. I would start reeling as soon as the lure disappeared and never felt many of the bites. The sunfish were suspended about a foot higher than the perch, so I would have to raise my lure to get their attention, but they wanted the same subtle movement. An occasional pop of the jig would sometimes get a favourable reaction, and on one such occasion a larger perch bolted onto the screen out of nowhere and inhaled the jig. What a riot!

ice fishing

Hello Momma perch!

ice fishing

The snow turned into big, soft flakes and made it a perfect winter setting.

The action might slow down for a few minutes, then another group of fish would move through and we’d each being pulling up several perch and sunnies. I was smiling like crazy and thoroughly enjoying my day on the ice with my favourite fishing buddy. We ended up landing a pile of fish between us and had fun watching them all swim back down the hole.

It may have been an abbreviated ice fishing season for Darrell and I, but this trip is what we’ll remember about it. What a fantastic day on the ice!

Searching For A New Canoe

Several years ago I won a 12-foot Sportspal canoe at the Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular. It was a great little boat that allowed Darrell and I to get out on the water wherever, and whenever, we wanted. We took it to all our favorite local lakes, used it to drift down the Grand River during the Grand River Bass Derby, and put it into the Elora Gorge many summer evenings after work to have a quick fish. As the years passed we were able to buy Luma, our 12-foot aluminum boat, and she quickly replaced the little canoe for our fishing outings. With Luma we could take all the tackle and anything else we wanted, never worrying about the weight. We used the canoe less and less until I decided to sell her one day.

Since selling the old canoe, Darrell and I have often talked about replacing her. We wanted something that we could use for camping trips, something stronger, and something with a lot more room. At boat shows we would look at the canoes on display and re-visit the “should we buy a canoe?” debate. We researched various companies, different models, and different options, but a new canoe remained on the backburner.

Then we moved.

We moved and found ourselves in the middle of a lot of fishable water. Many of the small towns around here have ponds stocked with trout and brimming with bass. The Saugeen River and its tributaries are everywhere we go. And then there are the small lakes that receive very little fishing pressure thanks to the difficulties of launching even a small aluminum boat. But a canoe…well, a canoe would fit in all of these great places and give us access to more fishing opportunities. It would be a great way to see the beautiful area we live in.

Finding a canoe became more urgent.

There are many great canoe companies out there, producing boats for the novice paddler to the advanced, and everything in between. I am not a strong canoeist and normally follow Darrell’s lead, so I didn’t want anything that would require much skill to stay upright in. Durability was also important, since we always consider the chance of landing a great fish to be more important than avoiding a scratch in the boat. And following that, we needed something that wouldn’t be a problem to repair. The new canoe had to be light enough for portaging but big enough to hold fishing gear and camping gear should we take it for a trip. We wanted to buy local if at all possible – not just buy it from a local outlet, but buy something that was made locally.

new canoe

Our research lead us to The Holy Cow Canoe Company. We knew they were a local company – we had seen the sign outside of Acton (Ontario) for many years and knew they had recently relocated to a shop outside of Guelph. Holy Cow was one of the companies we had researched a few years ago and knew they had many great options available. Their Algonquin Prospector model had been used for canoe rentals at Fairy Lake and we often saw them ferrying paddlers around with ease, showing surprising stability when novice paddlers made questionable moves. But what sealed the deal for me were the reviews I found online, praising the excellent customer service.

Darrell and I decided to to look through the Factory Specials page on the Holy Cow Canoe website. A clearance canoe with cosmetic blemishes sounded right up our alley. After looking through the specs, model descriptions, and material choices, we settled on a 16’6″ Ultra Glass Algonquin Prospector. The max weight capacity of the 16’6″ was exactly what we were looking for at 1100lbs. And while the 12lbs lighter Kevlar version sounded pretty nice, we opted for the ultra-glass material, knowing that our fishing habits are likely to drag it into places that could be rough on a boat. The price difference between the two materials also factored into the decision (Kevlar is more expensive). We found the exact canoe we wanted and emailed the company to make arrangements.

On Saturday, we arrived at the shop to find our beautiful new canoe waiting for us. Gulam at Holy Cow helped us load it onto the car and gave us a lesson in how to properly tie it on. We’ve transported canoes before, but I learned a lot on the weekend and feel far more confident about going somewhere with the canoe on the car (the old Sportspal fit in the bed of the truck). Considering that we drove home in winds gusting to 70km/h and the canoe never shifted, I’d say Gulam’s technique and tips are spot on. Before we left we were filled in on the warranty for the canoe, tips for using it properly, and all sorts of useful information. I cannot stress enough how wonderful The Holy Cow Canoe Company was to deal with.

new canoe

Now she’s home, our lovely new canoe. I’ve never wanted winter to end more than I do right now. There are so many places I want to put this boat into. There’s a little lake up the road from us that we’ve been wanting to fish – we’ll be heading in there as soon as possible. We’re going to have a lot of fun with this new canoe!