Bondi Resort Blog

Come on into our Blog for a look at the wonderful world we've got to share! With over 240 hectares (600 acres) of wilderness woodlands surrounding the resort, just ten minutes from Algonquin Park, we feature over 400 metres (1200’) of waterfront and beach; boat rentals; summer hiking trails winding through fields and woods; 20 km. of groomed cross country ski trails and snowshoeing in winter; access to nearby snowmobile trails for sledders, and a toboggan hill for the young at heart.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Napster, Not so Starving Artist

Napster the cat has decided to come off the comfy couch and embark on a new career. Inspired by his horse friend Moses at Bearly Thayer Studio, and by Nicholas the Dolphin at the Clearwater aquarium, Napster has decided to dip into artwork.

With his tail. He enlists an assistant to support him, and to help select the colour palate and load up his "brush", but all the sweeping colour statements are entirely his.

His first work, titled "Spring Gardens" and notable for it's bold use of yellows with poignant red and green accents, went up on his Facebook page, and he got an almost immediate offer from one of his friends to purchase the work.

The second piece, the colour palate selected by David, evinced a sweeping vision with a dipped and dampened tail, accented with the dry tail detailing. It has been titled "Muskoka Sunset" Charmian took one look and asked if Napster could provide one of his works for a Church Fundraiser this summer. He will be happy to oblige.

Today his friend Anne dropped by. She was delighted to be asked to assist, and she and Napster spent a little cuddle time on the sofa selecting the shades for his next piece. Executed entirely with the 'dry tail' brushing method, it evokes a wonderful sense of lyrical energy and life. Anne swears she can see a vaulting rider on a horse, and has asked if it may be titled "Voltige by Moonlight". You may see something else in this, because that is the nature of artwork.

The thing about a productive hobby such as this is that it keeps his nose out of the cat kibble, and encourages him to work on his exercise program. Although he is holding at a four pound weight loss on his walking program, with summer coming, he's hoping for another pound at least before it's time to hit the beach.

Who knows? The cat may be on to something. After all, way back in 1989, Canada shelled out 1.8 million to buy Voice of Fire. Napster would be quite happy to offer any one of his works to the Gallery for half that amount...

From Here to There and Back Again

It's a journey, farming the land. It's a circle.
We are often asked, at the stable, what do we do with the manure produced. Well, it's a fact of life that if you have a horse, you have manure. To put it politely. The average horse produces in the range of 31 pounds of the stuff every day. That's the sort of thing that can keep piling up. And it does!

For us, it starts here, with the hay. We no longer make our own hay. The amount of work, and the timing, and the equipment required, make it not so feasible for the number of horses we have, so we purchase hay. This, Nancy points out, is where she has gone seriously wrong. Once upon a time, not so very long ago, she remembers us taking the hay off the front field, that lovely open stretch that is now lawn and host to baseball games, soccer games, manhunt, kite flying and a host of other open space activities. We sold that hay. Now she has horses, and we mow the lawn and buy the hay. It's enough to make Kevin O'Leary weep.

Back to our journey.... the hay goes to the horses.

And then, after a little processing, the hay goes into the stalls. The chickens provide their own special blend into the manure mixture.

From which it moves here, to the big orange dumpster provided to us by Aces Waste Management. We've got it down to a system. When the bin is full -- which takes about five weeks, it is moved into the back field far away from any water sources or neighbours, and piled up. There are three different piles on the go at any one time.

There is the old pile, which has had up to ten years to age to a fabulous black compost soil. There is the middle pile, which is no longer active, and is well on its way to becoming black gold for future gardens. And there is the current pile, receiving regular donations.

Since the manure pile also receives all the Kitchen compost from our own houses and from our guests, this can be an interesting spot. Seeds often spring up, from some discarded scraps. Last year, some pumpkin and squash seeds 'volunteered' up there in the back 40. The entire manure pile was covered with thick dark vines, and heavy with fruit come fall. Native grasses will move in on the older pile, but underneath that, when Brian pulls away the top layer, the compost is rich and dark, crumbly and clean and just shouting out to be spread in the gardens. We do sell it to friends and neighbours. As Julia, from Foxwood Inn, says, she doesn't take s*** from just anyone...

Come spring, when we are getting our big organic garden ready to go for the year, we bring back truckloads of the compost to be worked into the soil. There will be some harrowing moments with the garden tractor and a roto-tiller, and then the seeds go in.

Come summer, the vegetables will be ready for the table. The corn will be ready for our world famous cook-out. The horses will even get some of the carrots, and the chickens will enjoy some of the corn as well.

It's a circle. And it's all good...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Not Christmas Yet!

We've already had some people booking with us for the coming Christmas season... That's too far away for me, just at present! I'm still taking bookings for this summer. We have vacancies spread throughout July and August, including a week in August when the big LODGE is available, a unit that rarely comes available because it is so ideal for small groups, family reunions, extended families, etc.

But we still take the Christmas bookings... even this early. After all, if people are planning ahead, we're all for that.

To remind us that there are other seasons, this Christmas cactus has suddenly sprung into glorious bloom in my living room. While it might have its seasons slightly mixed, we're thrilled with the blossoms, and we'll take it, in any season!

Everything Old is New Again

This old ice-box Frigidaire once lived in the main house at Bondi Farm. Milk, eggs, bread and veggies were sold to our guests from this fridge. A big ice block cut from our lake in winter kept everything nice and cool inside.

Over the years, it got re-wired, fitted up with a "modern" refrigeration unit. The ice left, the hydro came. The fridge continued in service the entire time we served meals in our six bedroom LODGE. Salads on the left, desserts on the right.

When the Lodge was converted to a housekeeping unit that can accommodate a group of up to 18 people, with its own spacious kitchen, the fridge began to be just too big for our needs. Not so efficient as the newer models. It was moved into storage in the big barn, near where the resort laundromat is now.

A few years ago, as we renovated that space for our guests convenience, the fridge found itself on the move again. At that time, it was still painted in its 1970's turquoise, with big blue flowers on the doors. Not so stylish now...

To refinish it, we moved it into the stable. That sounds so easy... the thing is solid oak, insulated, lined with zinc... weighs about 800 pounds. Moving it takes more than lip service. We managed it, with the help of 5 husky guys and a truck with a platform that lowers to ground level. Once in the stable, Brian and the BMD were able to set wheels under it, so it could move about within that building. Refinishing it was a slow process...

But it's done. It's lovely. The wood just glows.

Now, all we need is a place to put the thing...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Versace makes the Best Dressed List... again...

Jan and her black quarter horse Versace spent last summer with us -- but while Jan was working on her PhD , Gwen got to spend some time riding the stylish fellow.

Today they all trailered up from Barrie to play for the morning. It was the first time Gwen had ridden Sache over fences. Although they were very new to each other, they had a blast.

We even moved out onto some of the smallest of the cross country fences near the arena.

And it all finished with a grateful pat, happy happy horse, and happier rider.

And once again, Sache gets the award for the best colour co-ordination and most stylishly dressed horse to school at Fox Point Farm with NCCP Level 3 coach Nancy.

In fact, he put the people with him to shame with his tasteful turnout!

Do Good Fences Really Make Good Neighbours?

Here's a peak at some of the security fences currently being constructed for the G8 Summit here in late June.

A local firm landed a four million dollar contract to install this. After the event, it all comes down again.

That's good news for the local dog park in Huntsville, which has been offered some to help out their building expenses.

Skiers who are familiar with Hidden Valley Highlands may recognize the Chalet lurking behind that fenceline...
It will be interesting to see just how extensive this fencing project is before the Big Day. All part of the Better Safe than Sorry school of security!

Anyone Can Play

It was another awesome Muskoka day. Some of our neighbours dropped by, and took advantage of the Frisbee Golf Course. We have a full 9 hole course at Bondi, and since there is now a pro-tour, it's always wise to start the kids out early in the direction of a career...
Now, we keep saying this is a game that Anybody Can Play. And it is true.
James demonstrated wonderful form, for a disc golfer who is barely as tall as the basket of the target... What he lacks in finesse he more than makes up for with enthusiasm. Ray reported James had 4 holes in one... even if they were from about a foot away.
Jenna had a better aim. And Dad, well, he carried the frisbees, and James, and got out of the way a lot... And whipped the discs around himself with a pretty steady hand...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Walk on the Wild Side

Sharon came over yesterday evening. She walked up with Brian for a little lesson on the Solar Panel experiment, and then we headed out for an evening hike. It began in the back fields, but soon we left the open land and worked our way into the Hidden Lake. This took some careful footwork -- the moss is heavy in there, and at this time of year, it's pretty wet. The trick is to step only on high ground, while not stepping on any of the rare plants that make this their home! The tamarack trees are just starting to leaf out. The opening buds line the branches like jewelry.

Farther in, the pitcher plants are waking up after the deep freeze. They're waiting for a little bit warmer weather, and the influx of flies that will fill up their traps and provide some nutrition!

Moss and lichen coat the trees in this black spruce bog. The old man's beard lichens hang from branches. We could hear the ducks on the pond, but we didn't see them. We saw the evening sun reaching across this secret spot instead. The mixture of sun and shadow turned half the pond into gold. The rich dark greens that will mark this place later in the summer are still in their pastel shades, a sure sign that it is early spring. The spring peeper frogs were in full song, and we stood for a bit listening to the chorus. Hard to believe that such deep, loud tones can emanate from such tiny little frog throats!

Leaving the bog, we worked our way across the old gravel pit -- it is still active, but we don't work it very hard. We weren't the only ones out enjoying the evening. Turkey tracks criss-crossed the sand.

Criss-crossing the turkey tracks, Mr. Fox had left his paw prints. We left our own tracks, and crossed the road to move into the hardwood forest.

The light was starting to fade, and in the woods it was lovely, shaded, silent. Well, silent except for the songs of birds and the rat-a-tat-tat of woodpeckers. We passed a huge hemlock, whose bark was raddled by the tell-tale holes left by the yellow-bellied sapsucker. That, along with the artists' fungus taking up residence, indicates that the health of this tree is not all it might be if it had national health services... look for a woodpecker in its future.

We hadn't gone far before we found signs that we weren't so alone in the forest, either. Beech trees always bear careful scrutiny... and please do note the play on words. Beech trees are where you find bear claw marks. This tree, while not particularly robust as beech trees grow, had a great collection where a bear had climbed all the way up... and then all the way down, probably looking for beech nuts last autumn. It's located right on the edge of one of our trails, so it's going to be easy for our guests to find and admire.

A little closer to home, we spotted the old nest of either a hawk or an owl, high up in a tree, a great messy sprawl of branches and sticks. Nobody was home when we walked by, but it will require a little surveillance this summer!
Then we came across a big pile of wood chips on the trail. These are larger than the chips left by a chainsaw when the guys are working on clearing windfalls off the trails, and they were a complete giveaway. They indicate the pileated woodpecker is at work over your head. It's incredible how large a piece of wood the woodpecker can hammer out of a seemingly solid tree!

We looked up to find the source of the chips. Woodpecker is working on quite an excavation right where the broken branches fork. And the moon was hanging in the sky, lighting our way back across the road to the resort, and home along the shore of the lake.

We have a wonderful backyard...


Mike's back from his winter working at Panorama Mountain in B.C. That brings the BMD (Bondi Maintenance Dept.) back to full strength, and Brian immediately took advantage of that.

To ground the solar array, a deep trench was dug along the front of the framework -- and we do mean deep. This was then filled with material that will hold water better than the classic Muskoka gravel that is currently there. Every time I see any digging taking place on that hill I marvel again that our grandparents, Joseph and Elizabeth, were able to farm this land at all. The topsoil cover is very thin... the sand and gravel, on the other hand, this we had in abundance. It is worth keeping in mind that this hilltop is part of the same land where the gravel was dug out to build not only the early Township Roads (back when it was Franklin, not Lake of Bays!) but also to build Bigwin Inn. That gravel was taken out by hand, one wheelbarrow load at a time, and transported down past the rows of potatoes to the barge tied at the shore. Up to 14 men worked away at that -- Elizabeth got paid by Bigwin to feed them lunch and dinner -- for the several seasons it took to build the Inn in the late 19-teens (is that the correct term for the period between 1918 and 1920?) and early 1920's.
This is an early postcard of Bigwin - note that the Dance Pavillion is not yet built, and there are causeways across to the little adjacent Shaw's Island. The circular buidling at the water's edge -- well, that's Bondi gravel at work. It's still at work today, in the renovated Bigwin Island Golf Club currently on the Island.
C.O. Shaw, owner of Bigwin, was a tyrant. He was of the opinion that the workers who had the old-fashioned wheelbarrows with metal tires would be allowed to walk up and down the slope to the lake at Bondi, but those who were using the new-fangled models, with rubber tires... well, they should run.

All in all, we're glad Brian, Dave and Mike were using a backhoe.
Into the trench, newly filled with more conductive friendly fill than sand, went realms of copper cables and various do-dads that ensure this structure is correctly grounded. After all, once the array starts to hum, it will be generating sizable amounts of energy, so safety precautions are always necessary.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Calling the Mother Ship

The Solar panel array just looks more Science Fiction with every step forward. Today the frames went up. (tomorrow we'll be adding the radar dishes, aiming them at Alpha Centauri, and waiting for radio signals. Next week, expect crop circles to appear in the fields nearby...)

Seriously, every step along this journey in green power is an adventure. This was the chapter in which I learned that power production is hugely enhanced by cold weather. That in very cold, like 30 below weather, the production is up over 25%. Or as Drew, who was happily bolting these frames in place, cheerily said, "the whole thing is just humming."

That's good news, because in winter we get a lot of sunlight up here. Not to mention a lot of cold.

Stay tuned, as the next steps unfold. There's a special construction that takes place to ensure the whole thing is properly grounded that is far from being as simple as driving a few lightning rods. The panels themselves have not yet arrived... there's still a lot to do.

In the meantime, we can let the array communicate with the Mother Ship, way out there in what Dave describes as "some sketchy constellation." And perhaps the crew of the Mother Ship will send us the words, so the array won't just have to hum.... just a whimsy...

Fill up the Feeders, the grosbeaks are back!

We are delighted to welcome back to our bird feeders a small flock of evening grosbeaks.
Time was, these noisy colourful birds would descend in huge flocks and empty the feeder faster than you could pour sunflower seeds back in.
But this winter, they've been notable in their absence. All our songbirds are under threat these days, mostly from habitat loss, and also from climate change.
At our end, we do what we can. Our spruce bog, for example, remains virtually untouched as a breeding ground. Almost all of our 600 acres are in managed forest -- managed not only for trees, but also for wildlife, including the maintainance of several large open fields.
Still, we were thrilled to have a flock at the feeder. More seed was delivered immediately. And they've been back every day.
Of course, that might have something to do with the perch they've found near the feeder...

Pass the Gravy

Congratulations to the Dwight Lions on another hugely successful fundraising dinner.

Where else can you get a home-cooked meal like this for $14?

I mean, come on... where? Big smiles on all the faces of the servers, attentive Lions prowling up and down the tables to clear away the plates. Pies made by the Women's Institute (and can those ladies cook! Wow!) The apple pie slice was just too big to even get it in the camera frame, honest!

There was a wonderful turnout, and lots of camaraderie. It is events like this that help glue a Community into being a community -- a gathering place for everyone.

And they raised money towards the great volunteers who drive the cancer patients from our area to their treatment centres in Sudbury, Ottawa and Toronto, so what could be more worthwhile.

Great Job, Dwight Lions -- everybody Roar with Pride!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Grounded? The Air's Clear up Here!

Life is what happens when you are making other plans. Evidently, volcanos are something else that happens when you are making other plans.

We have guests staying with us this weekend, while they are waiting on the ash cloud to settle and their plane to be able to fly them back to England. Their airline told them it would not be likely before next Wednesday. Maybe Thursday.

We know what it's like to be at the end of a holiday and suddenly discover that you are going to be there longer, even if your bank account is not going to be right there with you... And we know what it's like to be at the tail end of an absence from work, expecting to be back... suddenly finding yourself making alternative plans for the care of the dog, the running of the office, picking up the kids from grandparents...

The last time we had 'refugees' from Pearson International Airport was back in 9/11, when the skies abruptly emptied of planes. We took in a group of German tourists who had pretty much run out of cash.

We offered them our best deals, put them in comfortable, clean cottages... we did everything we could to ensure they had a comfortable, enjoyable time while waiting out events far beyond anyone's control. We're doing it again this week. For Michael and Ellie, we even provided them with free eggs from our chickens. Ellie commented how lovely it was to just stop moving for a while, to be able to cook their own meals. They caught up on laundry and lounged in front of the fireplace, went for a walk, caught up on the internet with their places of work thanks to our Free Wi-Fi service... They're planning on taking the Park Pass for a drive to look for moose, and I've offered to hike with them in to see the Beaver ponds. The deer showed up on the lawn to greet them, and there is a loon in the bay. Our Frisbee golf course is open. So are the local driving ranges. There's shows at the local theatre... or we'll just go out and talk about the stars -- maybe the Northern Lights will be 'turned on' again this week, and we can enjoy the concert provided for free by the spring peeper frogs.

Which got us thinking... if it's going to be several days before the Icelandic volcano stops making an ash of itself and the planes can fly again, up here at Bondi in North Muskoka is a far far better place to wait it out than lined up on camp cots in the airport... We're already offering great rates for our Off Season Spring Special, and for Volcano Stranded Travellers, we're doing our best to help them stretch their travel dollars. Maybe we can turn this inconvenience into a wonderful memory. We're sure ready to try!

705 788 4284 is the Volcano Hotline for us right now, since we're in and out of the office, catching up on gardens and spring cleaning. You can also reach us on the office phone, 705 635 2261 or by email through our website.

We're only 2 1/2 hours from the airport, so we're close enough that you can get back on track as soon as the air clears.

Spending the wait here, enjoying Algonquin Park and our own trails and area attractions sounds like a better use of time than sitting in the airport trying to learn how to pronounce Eyjafjallajokull.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Speed Dating, Wild Turkey style.

On our way back from visiting the beaver pond, we spotted wild turkeys in the field next to the Fire Hall.

Three days ago, we saw them in the field across from the Fire Hall... and we hear them often now, gabbling and gobbling away in the woods.

Catching a glimpse of them, and getting them onto film, however, are two different breeds of turkey... they are wily, shy creatures who move away as soon as they suspect they are about to be targetted by the papparazzi.

While we were able to sit in the car and admire the tom displaying for his harem of hens, this was the best photo I was able to catch.

Lucky for me, some friends have been more successful. Mike sent me these pictures, taken on the Limberlost Road, of a tom turkey strutting his stuff. Mike (and I say this is the nicest possible sense) really can sound like a turkey, and he was able to call the tom closer to the road -- and the camera.

The huge fan tail rather hides the turkey, however! It's rather like the farmer from Saskatchewan who retired to Vancouver. Asked how he liked it, he admitted it was nice enough, but the mountains sure did block the view...

The toms strut their stuff, wings lowered, tails raised, and colourful heads held high. Evidently it impresses the ladies.

These are BIG birds. Last summer we found a roost tree, and we've got fingers crossed that they will be returning to that this year again. It's hard to imagine these big chaps flying up into the trees, but that's what they do. When you watch them strut and fan up their tails, you'd never believe they could even fly. You might not be far wrong -- they aren't going to give an eagle a run for the money in the air, but they can get good vertical lift into trees. There were two shining moments that stick in memory about turkeys in flight. The first was several years ago, when it was still very rare to see them. I was driving home from Dorset, where Highway 35 winds through some very impressive rockcuts. A turkey leapt from the top of one cliff and began to flap across the road. He was steadily losing altitude, approaching the vertical cliff face. With images of Wiley Coyote plastering himself onto rock walls in my mind, I couldn't take my eyes off this desparate flight. The turkey made it -- just. And I found myself slamming on the brakes to avoid plastering myself into the same rock cliff! Moral of the story: eyes on the road, not on the turkeys around you!!!

The second incident was on our lawn here at Bondi, last summer. A large flock of turkeys were grazing their way across the lawn. When we came around the corner into their line of sight, most of them scurried for cover in the trees by the road, but several took to the air. One of them, the one who had evidently failed the navigation portion of flight school, flew slap into the side of Tamarack cottage... trickled down the wall to the ground, and then ran, rather unsteadily, for cover. No turkeys were harmed in this incident, but there is a small dent in the siding of the cottage.

Special thanks to Mike for sharing his pictures, and also to Deb Bradley, who caught this glorious close-up of a tom turkey in full breeding splendour. Who could possibly resist a face like this?

Dam Impressive

Sue and I walked in to take a look at the Beaver ponds on Thursday. After all, it was a stunningly beautiful day, and any excuse to be outside sounded pretty good to us!

The trail into ExcaliBEAVER's domain is one of the easiest walking trails on our property. The path is carpeted with moss, and then as it moves down into the pine forest, with pine needles so thick it is like walking on a carpet.

From the top of the hill, the beaver's workplan unfolds to the horizon. There are three separate ponds, terraced by extensive dams. You can easily see the first two of these ponds in the first picture on this post. The third is of course the lowest, and the farthest away from the camera, so harder to see from here. Beaver has his mansion in this first, deepest pond. You can see it from the vantage point at the trailhead, as well as his food stash anchored to the bottom of the pond. So well stocked is his larder that it breaks the surface of the pond. Of course, not all the meals are placed in storage -- you can see from this stump how carefully the beavers have nibbled off the bark -- no doubt enjoying a bit of a picnic in the process.

Farther along, the trail moves downhill, and skirts the edge of the 'work zone.' Right at the edge of the trail is one of the 'canals' the beaver has dug to make the job of moving the trees easier. It's interesting to see not just the stumps, but the intervals where the wood chips are spread about, evidence of how carefully the logs have been cut into manageable lengths.
As the trail smooths out again at the base of the hill, it winds into the pines, a cool shady walk that takes us right beside the first of the dams. This is a big, long dam. It may not be the largest ever found -- that honour at present goes to a dam in Northern Alberta that is about 850 meters (2790 ft) in length, and estimated to be about 23' across at the base. All the same, the Bondi beaver has developed one impressive set of dams.
We weren't the only ones enjoying the beaver ponds. There was a pair of mallard ducks dabbling in one of the two creeks that flow into these ponds. I really like this picture, with the cool green reflection on that section of the water. The ducks were the only reason there were any ripples at all. On the other side of the trail, on the pond itself, it was all sunshine and mirror surface. There was also quite a lot of wolf scat along the trail, but none of the 'depositors' was around to pose for the cameras!
While we understand that there is a great deal of industry and effort that goes into the care and maintenance of beaver dams such as these, there is something tremendously calming and soul-restoring about the quiet serenity of ExcaliBEAVER's Camelot. Or should we call it BEAVER-lot?