Archive for the ‘Visual Values’ Category

Himself !!!

The Lyndhurst Fair takes place Saturday September 17, 9-4.

I’ll be there with all 3 of my books – Invisible Army (natch!), plus Pathfinders and Fish Tales – in the Lyndhurst library.
Lyndhurst has a great stone bridge, and some fine old houses.
It seems to me that I went there back in 2006 to talk to the family of Cornell “Chef” Bennett, a former guide. His story is in Fish Tales, in the chapter on Westport.
For those unfamiliar with Lyndhurst, it can be reached from Kingston by taking the Briar Hill road from Morton ( on Highway 15) near Jones Falls. An alternate route from Ottawa or Brockville is to go to Delta and then take Hicock Road to Lyndhurst.
As a former parish priest used to say when encouraging attendance, “Come numerous!” I hope to see you all there.

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Take a look at the new page that I added, called The Good Old Days.

It gives us some insight into living conditions in the Rideau Corridor in the 1840s.  “Ansley’s Mills” is now Battersea, not so far from Brewers Upper and Lower Mills lock stations.

I plan to add other pages over time in order to illustrate just what the “good old days” were really like, for both city and country living. And … the examples will be based on eyewitness accounts and planned actions of local administrations: for example, there were constant struggles to get usable roads built. The example used here is no exaggeration.

Always open to comments, questions, etc.

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Well, I have three talks to give to community groups in the next few months. The first one is on Sunday, February 20th, in Merrickville. The Historical Society and the Heritage Society are jointly sponsoring the talk.
The second talk is in Kemptville in early March. This is as part of a “Local Authors” panel.
The third talk is in May in Brockville to the local Genealogical Society.

Actually, there is a fourth talk scheduled for November in Ottawa to the Ottawa Historical Society, but that’s so far away that I’m not really focussing on it at the moment.

For a theme, I’m using “Lemonade from Lemons”. The notion is that the Rideau Canal has been generally regarded as pretty much of a failure since its opening back in 1832. It was seen as a military failure – never used; a commercial failure – not a lot of commercial traffic; a failure as a catalyst for growth in the Rideau Corridor. I argue that it was actually reasonably successful in ways that were not foreseen.

A “slack water” canal is all about water management – mitigating floods in the spring with droughts in the summer – the “navigation” was the prime directive for the canal staff. The growth of tourism and guiding linked the rise of the “back to nature” movement in the northern US with all the “nature” available in the Rideau Corridor – especially the area between Battersea and Smiths Falls. There was excellent boating and fishing  provided by the flooding associated with the “slack water” nature of the canal. In fact, it was precisely the spread of tourism, resorts, cottages, and boating that provided the ultimate necessity of maintaining the water management function. The fact that the “beancounters” had refused to update the technology over the decades simply added to the attractiveness of the canal and ultimately “guaranteed” the World Heritage status that it enjoys today.

So …. in a serendipitous way, the canal staff made the resorts and guiding profession possible and the success of the guiding and tourism made the survival of the canal staff and the canal possible. Funny how things work out, eh?

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Dad-sketch-5Looking for something to do next weekend ?
Plan a daytrip to Newboro Lockstation. Take #15 to Crosby and then follow the road to Westport. (You’ll get to Newboro first -just follow the signs to the Lock Station).

EVENT:          Newboro Boat Show

WHEN:           June 13th & 14th

WHAT:           Day Trip

HOST:            Rideau Boat Tours

START:          Saturday June 13 @ 10:00 AM

END:              Sunday June 14 @ 6:00 PM

WHERE:          Newboro Lock Station

See you there!

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May 29, 2009

 Courtesy of the RVCA

Canadian Rivers Day Cleanup


Sunday, June 14th is Canadian Rivers Day and to help celebrate our local creeks and promote clean water, the City Stream Watch program is holding a stream  cleanup on Sawmill Creek in Ottawa.  

From its headwaters along Lester Road, Sawmill Creek flows north through the community of South Keys and along the heavily-urbanized Bank Street before eventually joining the Rideau River at Billings Bridge.   Because of its urban watershed, a lot of garbage tends to collect along the banks and in the stream itself which can harm the important fish and wildlife habitat along the creek.  

The Sawmill Creek Cleanup runs from 9 am to 3 pm, with on-site lunch generously provided by the Monterey Inn Resort and Conference Centre.  If you would like a sandwich, please register by Monday, June 8th.   

We will meet at Heron Park and wade along the creek from there.   Heron Park is off Heron Road east of the Airport Parkway and west of Bank St.  From Heron Road, turn north onto Clover St., and the community centre and park is on the left side of the street.  We will park and meet there at 9 am.    Please bring your own drinking water, sun block, rubber boots, chest waders (if you own them) or sturdy footwear.  

To register or for more information, please contact Julia Sutton – City Stream Watch Coordinator at citystreamwatch@rvca.ca or  613-692-3571  x 1180.

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                                                                                                                                                          May 28, 2009

 Here’s a contribution from Charles Billington, the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, with a well-timed update to your New Year’s resolutions.



            Now here’s a mid year resolution to consider: spend more time in the hammock this summer.   Read more.  Sleep more.  Leave the lawnmower and chainsaw in the shed.  Remove less vegetation.  In fact, let your shoreline revegetate itself.  Let nature take its course.  Relax.  Both you and your lake will be healthier for it.      

            After all, Mother Nature knows what she is doing.  Those soggy shorelines you see along the creeks, streams and lakes of the Mississippi and Rideau valleys are mixtures of alder, bulrush, sedge, cattail, pickerel weed, Virginia creeper and mud sometimes called “wet scrub”.  These streambank areas are also known as the “Ribbon of Life” because about 90% of the plants and animals living in the water need these scruffy-looking areas at one time or another in their life cycle.  And they are as essential to the health of the river as your kidneys are to you. 

            Plants are right at home here.  Insects, fish, birds and mammals move in where the plants are.  These rich areas are nurseries, food cupboards, hiding places and hunting grounds.  They are a buffer against floods, wind and erosion.  They filter out large quantities of nutrients washing in off the land.  Vegetated shorelines are small pieces of ecological heaven with the best of all worlds: heat, light, water, land and food. 

            These fragile areas are under siege in the urban and rural parts of our local watersheds.  People cut and fill in and “clean up” and “harden” the shorelines with little thought for the health of the stream or lake.  Those types of old-fashioned practices have let us down badly.  Clean water, lots of wildlife and stable shorelines are at risk in many parts of the Mississippi and Rideau valleys. 

            That’s not to say that we can’t use and enjoy our rivers, lakes and streams.  We can but it does take a little shift in attitude towards the unique and fragile Ribbon of Life.  It costs nothing and it pays huge dividends in terms of a healthy river system for future generations.   

            It is time to start respecting our alders.   Leave the natural vegetation along the shore alone.  It has been there through thick and thin for the past 10,000 years and is in perfect harmony with the river environment.  If it’s already gone or substantially changed, let it grow back by not mowing within five metres of the shoreline (ten metres is even better).  Mother Nature will do the rest.    

Avoid using fertilizers and other chemicals on your property.  Common sense tells us that liquids do find their way into either the groundwater (which we drink) or lakes and rivers (which age faster with chemical boosts).   Check that your septic system is up to scratch.   Check with your municipality, Conservation Authority or Parks Canada about permits needed for any shoreline projects such as docks.    A good first step is always the helpful folks at the LandOwner Resource Centre at 613-692-3471 or 1-800-267-3504 ext 28 or ext 32 (or info@lrconline.com). 

            The battle for healthier waterways will be won by thousands of people staying in their hammocks longer on the shorelines of every lake, river and creek in Eastern Ontario.  Power to the people indeed!

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Dad-sketch-5Flash! The great wall of the Rideau is being rebuilt and for only $2 million –  read all about it this morning in the Ottawa Citizen. Minister John Baird is positioning this expenditure as necessary to remain attractive to tourists –  something like Botox ?

I recall reading that the post-WWII Department of Reconstruction paid then-big money to rebuild thousands of feet of concrete wall along the canal and around Dow’s Lake. This was aimed at stimulating an economy just making the transition to peace-time industries and looking for employment for returning soldiers.

When the Canal Basin was abandoned and filled during the late 1920’s, the original thousands of feet of concrete wall went up. There was 1455 feet worth from Connaught Place to Laurier Avenue on the west side; over 6100 feet of concrete went up on both sides of the canal from Bank to Bronson; 655 feet on the north side of Dow’s Lake, and a further 3000 feet planned to join this small wall to the rest of the canal.

The late 1920s was the flourishing era of the new concrete technology – it quickly pushed out the original stone masonry of the canal lock structures. Stone in the necessary sizes had become scarce, and thus expensive – concrete was one-third the price and didn’t need skilled masons, stone-cutters, etc.

Hartwells, Long Island, Burritt’s Rapids, Old Sly’s, Beveridges, Beckett’s Landing, Nicholson’s, Smiths Falls Combined, Chaffey’s, Jones Falls, Ottawa Locks – all had facilities reconstructed in concrete over this period.

I guess that we can’t go back and replace the “heritage” concrete with stone now, even if we could find it and the skills (and the money) to do it. It just wouldn’t qualify as “shovel-ready”.

Sic transit gloria mundi ……

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