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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Look Who's Walking in the Woods!

We went for a walk.  I don't seem able to do that without an escort these days. Achmed loves to come hiking.  And, of course, Taffy came too.

We started along the shoreline, then moved up into the sugar bush.  The corn snow creates interesting patterns and shadows.

Snow moves away from the base of the trees, where the trunks hold the sun's heat.  This is good weather for maple syrup.  Sap rises in the trees when the nights are freezing, the days are warm, and there is snow on the ground to provide moisture to the trees.

A swift melt and hot spring might make people happy, but it's bad news for the forest.  This slower, more deliberate melt, is healthier. Although, now we are almost into April, it really is time for Winter to get the memo: It's Over.

Taffy was intrigued to find a deer trail packed through the snow.  Like ourselves, deer tend to follow the same tracks, turning them into little super-highways in the woods.  Rabbits, mice and squirrels all do this as well, but their tracks are not quite as readily apparent as these.  As the snow thins, the deer are more able to leave these trails and spread out in the woods -- where they will devour any bud and twig they can reach. This is a hungry season for the deer: as the snow lowers, the browse line gets higher, and out of reach for many of the smaller deer.  People who have been putting out corn and alfalfa during the winter will have helped drive up the deer's metabolism to the point that they need more food than Nature can provide.  It's not uncommon in April to find deer that have starved to death.   Often peoples' well-meaning efforts feeding wildlife backfire big time.

Achmed  (trying to get above the "Taffy Line" and not  get rolled over in the snow by the puppy) helped find this beech tree, complete with the claw marks left last fall by a climbing black bear.   Always stop to examine beech trees -- their smooth bark acts like a book, writing down everything that has happened to the tree.  Bears will climb these trees to feast on the beech nuts.  Squirrels do the same... the deer will dig around the base of the tree to find the nuts that have fallen.  Bears will be waking up now, after their long hibernation. They will be hungry, and grumpy, like some people I know when they get woken up early...

I was the one that found the Owl Pellets.  Owls, lacking teeth, eat their food whole.  They can't chew.  Instead, the rip their prey apart with strong, sharp beaks and scarf it down whole.  The meal is then slowly digested by separating the softer material (such as meat) from the harder material (bones, feathers, fur).  That hard stuff is not useful to the owl, who rolls it into pellets and regurgitates it.  Owls will return again and again to their favoured trees -- which are marked by these tell-tale pellets at the base.  These no doubt belonged to the barred owl who was calling to us a few nights back.

We finished up by crossing the road into the back fields, which were brilliant in the sunshine.  I thought Taffy had big feet... Wolf tracks are bigger!  Fox tracks are smaller.  They were all on display.    It never gets old, walking in the woods, checking out the wild neighbourhood, watching the seasons change.
Come on up. We'll be happy to take you for a prowl in our 600 acres.

Ice as Art Form

 Spring, as winter starts to lose its hold, the snow and ice shift in subtle ways, creating artscapes.  Beautiful enough to stop you in your tracks.

They can be as tiny and fragile as the rime frost formed on a single blade of grass.


Or as delicate as the ice lingering over a spring freshet, the ice worn down into lace.

This is performance art -- it changes all the time. 

For sheer beauty, it is breath-stopping, and well worth taking a walk in the woods!  Spring -- bring it on!


Monday, March 28, 2011

Muskrat Love

Spring is in the air. Or it will be, if this snap of cold weather lets up...  Muskrats all around the country are dusting out their burrows, putting on their top hats, brushing out their tails, and getting ready for the breeding season that starts with spring break-up.  Cheery little rodents that they are, muskrats don't mate for life, and the breeding season will carry on, dare we say almost unabated, until sometime in August.  It takes about a month after mating to produce a litter, and a month after that, the mother is ready to give it another go, so a muskrat can produce a whole lot of little muskrats.

The muskrat is basically a large (very large!) fieldmouse, adapted to life in and around water. It has a rotund, paunchy appearance. The entire body, with the exception of the tail and feet, is covered with a rich, waterproof layer of fur. The short underfur is dense and silky, while the longer guard hairs are coarser and glossy. This has made it very desirable to the fur industry, where it continues to be popular today, contributing more to the total combined income of North American trappers than any other mammal.  It is also (so I am told) very tasty on the dinner table, with meat that is fine-grained, dark red, and tender. Better soaked overnight in salt water, to reduce the gaminess, it whips up into quite interesting dishes, such as Smothered Muskrat and Onions. No, I'm not making this up.

On my way to Parry Sound last weekend, I passed a big wetland area that was crowded with signs of muskrat residency.  Right by the road was a large muskrat house.  Muskrats build their houses in wet areas, making it harder for predators to reach them.  They don't use timber framing, however, unlike our own ExcaliBEAVER down in Damalot pond. In fact, muskrats are not closely related to beavers.  Muskrats start by first heaping plant material and mud to form a mound. A burrow is then dug into the mound from below the water level, and a chamber is fashioned at the core of the mound. Later, the walls of the lodge are reinforced from the outside with more plants and mud.  Cat-tails and bullrushes are favoured for the final exterior cladding.

Shortly after freeze-up, muskrats chew holes through the ice in bays and channels up to 90 m away from the lodge to create "push-ups." After an opening has been created, plant material and mud are used to make a roof over it, resulting in a miniature lodge. Typically there is just enough room for one muskrat in the push-up. It is used as a resting place during underwater forays, and as a feeding station.

There's one just visible behind the bushes directly above the main house in this picture.

The muskrat is well adapted to a semi-aquatic life style. Although fully functional on land, it has evolved characteristics that make it at home in the water. At three weeks of age it is a capable swimmer and diver. As an adult, it swims effortlessly and can do so for long periods of time. This ability is greatly facilitated by the buoyant qualities of the thick waterproof fur. When swimming on the surface, the muskrat tucks its front feet slightly forward against the upper chest while using the back feet in alternate strokes to propel the body. The tail is used at most as a rudder. When the muskrat is swimming under water, however, the sculling action of the tail probably provides as much propulsive force as do the hind feet.

Of all plants available in marshes, cattails are most preferred as a food item. However, muskrats appear to thrive equally well on a diet of bulrushes, horsetails, or pondweeds, the last two constituting the basis of the diet in northern latitudes. They also eat a variety of other plants, including sedges, wild rice, and willows.

During the winter a thick layer of ice restricts the muskrat to the interior of the lodge or burrow and the watery environment beneath the ice. The animal’s highly developed diving abilities and its use of push-ups become critical in procuring food under those conditions. It covers considerable distances under the ice searching for food. When the muskrat reaches a feeding area it chews off portions of plants and carries them to the nearest push-up, where it eats. This foraging activity under perhaps a metre of ice and snow, in ice-cold water and almost total darkness, is truly a remarkable feat.

When their normal food items are scarce or unavailable, and food of animal origin is abundant, muskrats are known to be highly carnivorous, or meat-eating. Under these circumstances muskrats most commonly consume animals such as fish, frogs, and clams. However, muskrats rarely do well on this type of diet and consuming such foods is generally taken to be evidence of hard times.

They can spend up to 15 minutes underwater, and can chew underwater with their mouth closed, thanks to specially adapted incisors and lips that can close behind those front teeth. Speaking of which, don't mess about with these guys -- they may not be all that big, but they are vicious fighters if provoked or cornered. Best to just let them be...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ice Aways and Bad Aim

There's lots of ice on the lakes still, with this cold weather. The sun is just hot enough to soften the top layer, so it's pretty good for running snowmobiles still.

Or so you would think.  Take a close look at this picture.  You are looking a the Point on the right side, the one we swim to every week in the summer. Just around the corner is a boathouse.

That boathouse has an ice-away machine running. As do most of the boathouses around the lake, in an attempt to reduce ice damage.

But look again...  See that dark line extending from the point across to the left of the photo? The line just above the shadows cast by the trees, the long thin line heading for Lumina... It goes at least half way across the distance between the two points, and what you are looking at is open water.  From the ice-away.

Maybe it's not on a timer, which they should be. The idea is to keep the ice free from the boathouse, not to open up the whole lake.  Maybe it is incorrectly angled.  We'll bet the owners don't even know it's doing this, because -- like the majority of cottage owners, they just aren't up here much this time of year.

But that is a huge hazard to anyone travelling the lake.  It's not just here -- I'm using this only because it was an easy photo to take, and a good example.  We've got friends who live up here year round. He loves to snowmobile, and ice fish. She loves to snowshoe. They can no longer get out onto the lake in front of their cottage because both their neighbours run ice-aways that aim toward each other, rendering the ice in front of their property completely unsafe.

There's a couple of things wrong with this.  One, the waste of energy. All ice-aways should be on timers, that are connected to thermometers, so they are only working when they need to be.  That's a lot of hydro being wasted.  Another is the amount of open water these, in their multitudes, create along the shorelines.  The lakes never really get to freeze over any more, and that open water absorbs sunlight that should be reflected back in winter.  Then there's the hazard created for people -- an animals (that route between the two points in front of Bondi is a popular highway for the deer crossing the bay). 

There are supposed to be signs posted, and markers in the ice, to delineate the area cleared by the ice-away, but all too often, there are not.  So, just a wake up call, to all of us -- if you're using these devices, please think about HOW you are using them, and WHY. 

I have no idea what the outcome would be if a snowmobiler, at night, ran into open water where there shouldn't be any open water, but there are doubtless plenty of places now along the lake where this scenario is being created.

Something to think about. Especially coming into Earth Hour.

Sure Sign of Spring

The ice hut came off the bay today.  Conditions were perfect -- firm crust on the snow, good ice, bright sunshine. No better place to be than outside, so the B.M.D. (Bondi Maintenance Dept.) swung into gear.

At first, it appeared they couldn't decide if it was winter -- time for snowmobiles -- or spring -- time for wagons.  Compromise is always best.  The wagon waited on shore, however, until later in the mission when it got pressed into service drawing home a load of firewood.
Arriving on the scene, they soon had the hut hitched up. 

 A last look down the hole to see if there was perhaps just one fish still to be seen...

And an astonished check of the thermometer. No, it's not wrong. The wooden door had soaked up enough sun that it was hot to the touch.

And away they went.  The hut sliding along nicely on its Rossignol skis. David sliding along nicely clinging to the side.  Just a note: don't try this at home. Leave it to the pros of the BMD.

Once on shore, the skis came off for the summer, as did the chimney (to prevent water leaking inside) and everything was made tidy and secure.  Steps were taken to prevent The Brethren (as David refers to the mice we seem to be seeing everywhere just now) from getting inside.

The hut can spend the summer on the shore, dreaming of winter, dreaming of fish.  Brian did make the suggestion that perhaps it would be better stored on planks straddling the nearby stream, so they could fish from it all summer... but cooler heads prevailed, and the hut will wait patiently for its proper season.

Close the Lights!

Over here, we say Turn the Lights On. Turn the Lights Off.

My friends in Europe say Open the Lights! Close the Lights.

We don't care how you say it, we just want to remind you that tomorrow, Sat. March 26, at 8.30 p.m. you can and should join the 1 billion people around the world who turn their lights off for EARTH HOUR.

Get a book, get a candle, and shut 'er down...  Take a walk outside -- it's going to be a lovely night, complete with stars.

Remind your friends.  Lots of folk say,"oh I just forgot" -- trust me, there's nothing that good on TV... so make a sign, stick it on the fridge. Remember.

If you've been living on the dark side of the moon, and haven't heard about Earth Hour, it started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change. Only a year later and Earth Hour had become a global sustainability movement with more than 50 million people across 35 countries/territories participating. Global landmarks such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, CN Tower in Toronto, Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and Rome’s Colosseum, all stood in darkness, as symbols of hope for a cause that grows more urgent by the hour.

Why not go one better? Go beyond the hour. Make some serious changes in the way you use, and no doubt waste electricity.  After all, it's a small blue planet, but it's all we've got. And honestly, is there anywhere you'd rather be? Take care of it...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Walking through the Past

This is all that's left of Hyram Wilder's old barn.  It was old when our grandparents, Joseph and Elizabeth, came here in 1905.

Located well away from the small house, and all the other little outbuildings that made up Hyram's holding, it now shelters under the trees beside one of our ski trails leading to the Hidden Lake.  A beautiful example of dove-tail construction is still evident.  The space between buildings was designed as fire-safety measure. There's not a lot of water up there. Fire could spread fast, and with the source of night lighting being gas-lanterns and candles, fire was a constant threat.

Achmed, who never misses a nature hike if he possibly can join in, Taffy the puppy, and I were up in our back fields this morning. The crust on the snow is incredible -- you can walk anywhere.  This time last year, these fields were clear of snow. Not now. It's a blanket of white, so bright it demands sunglasses.

Hyram was quite the character. He, his father, and four brothers were the first pioneers onto these lands.  In fact, Hyram cleared the land at Bondi itself. Seeing the light regarding the future of agriculture on the Canadian Shield, he sold his acreage to Mr. McIelwain, and moved onto this piece of land located behind the resort.  Mr. McIelwain sold to Joseph Tapley -- and then hired back on to help run the farm for the first several years, since what Joseph knew about farming could be contained in a very slim volume.  Hyram preferred to work with the horses... He'd love that now we gallop and train over cross country fences up there, with several of the jumps incorporating his labouriously stacked stone walls.  There was money in horses, before the automobile came along, so he did well enough. He did even better with a sideline in moonshine whiskey.  Local legend holds that when he was told the "government men" were in Dwight, and heading his way, he tied his still to a rope and tossed it into the Hidden Lake.  This little lake is actually a black spruce bog. Bottomless...  The rope was, shall we say, past it's best before date.  As far as anyone knows, the still is down there yet.

There was a running feud between Joseph and Hyram -- evidently the Tapley encyclopedia of farming lore didn't have a chapter on fencing in livestock. Our cattle were repeatedly to be found in Hyram's fields.  He threatened to sue. To show there was no animosity, he named his black heifer for Joseph's daughter, Violet.  And asked Joe to help him write up his will.  He could blend a mean whiskey, but he wasn't very literate.

Brian and Nancy, at Hyram's old barn -- it was already
close to 100 years old by this time.

Hyram was a great help to our grandparents, teaching Elizabeth how to drive a team of horses, and helping with the stock and horses.  He suffered a stroke, and was brought to Elizabeth's door. With a longstanding tradition of wearing the same clothes summer and winter, citing that "what keeps out the cold will keep out the heat," he wasn't someone you wanted to stand downwind of.  Elizabeth refused to have him in the house until she had stripped and scrubbed him, dressed him in clean clothes and tossed his into the laundry before she  tucked him into a warm bed.  It didn't help. He passed on, and one of the neighbours commented that it was inevitable, given that Elizabeth had "washed off all that protective dirt."

Dr. Stewart, who built the Stewart Memorial Church in Dwight, had known the Wilder's before they relocated to the wilds of Lake of Bays. The minister would come up in the summer's and travel about, preaching from the doorsteps of their various households.  I like to think of that, of the good preacher thundering out a sermon on hell and damnation, while down below, in the hidden depths of the spruce bog, moonshine whiskey percolated silently through it's still, and in the fields our cattle roamed a little too freely.  Ah, those were the days...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Electric Moon

Ice Skaters on Pigeon Lake, Bobcaygeon.
Photo credit: Fred Thornhill,Reuters, through
National Geographic, with gratitude.

We hope you all had a chance to see the Super Moon rising on the evening of the 18th... it was a superbly clear night, and a beautiful sight.  While we do understand that the moon itself doesn't change size, it's position relative to ourselves was shifted just enough that close to the horizon, it really did look BIG.
As it climbed higher in the sky, the effect lessened, but any night with a full moon and no clouds is a spectacle worth visiting.

The best shots of the full moon, if you missed it, can be found through the website of the National Geographic, who are famous for always having great photos of everything.

Jackie Godard snapped this at Lake of Bays

While standing out there enjoying the sight of that big, beautiful full moon, nobody on Earth got an electric shock -- although you may have had a bit of a thrill as it lifted over the horizon. Had we all been standing on the Moon, enjoying the sight of a bigger, beautiful blue Earth, however, the situation might have been different. Recent data from a probe deliberately crashed into the Moon is bringing back interesting information on the Moon’s  magnetic  properties, and how Earth affects them.

We all know that the moon affects our tides – in fact, if you have the right instruments, you can actually measure the tide in a cup of coffee – but as with most things, it goes both ways.

Earth's magnetic field creates a protective bubble known as the magnetosphere, which surrounds the planet and shields us from solar wind—a rush of charged particles, or plasma, constantly streaming from the sun. Without this, we’d all be in serious trouble.

As the solar wind pushes on Earth's magnetic bubble, the planet's magnetosphere stretches, forming what's called the magnetotail. This brings us phenomena like Northern Lights. But it does a lot more – it reaches beyond the orbit of the moon, and it's always pointed away from the sun. Meanwhile, we see a full moon when the lunar orb is on the opposite side of Earth from the sun—and therefore within the magnetotail.

Solar wind always ensures the electrification of the moon, regardless of whether the moon is in Earth's magnetotail. The day side of the moon becomes positively charged, as solar radiation knocks electrons from the surface. Meanwhile, electrons build up on the night side of the moon and give the surface a negative charge. But for about 6 days each month, the moon is within the Earth’s ‘magnetotail’, which blocks the solar wind, but causes a huge spike in the electrical field from the plasma sheet, which runs down the middle of the magnetotail.

So now, when you are enjoying the sight of a full moon – be it a super moon or not – as well as admiring the beauty, looking for the golf ball on the surface, and pondering the fact that this is the only extra-terrestrial body we have actually visited in person, you can also think about the fact that the Earth’s interaction with it’s nearest neighbour is, quite literally, an electrifying experience.

Spring, Springing

On the first day of "official" spring, it seemed only fitting to get out there and check out the state of the season.  The sun is now carrying quite a punch.  Winter hasn't gone completely away -- we get reminders in the shape of a flurry of snow, a bitter blast of wind -- but spring is here. You can hear it, in the songs of the birds, who have now begun their siren calls for the mating season. A new species shows up daily now. The red-winged blackbirds came yesterday. The starlings the day before. Mourning doves are back.  Red polls, and finches, seem to be here in droves.
Along the shore, the springs are 'winning' -- extending their reach farther and farther towards the lake.  This one has carved its own canyon extending from the beach at Clover Cottage.  Taffy and Achmed explored the science behind erosion while on their walk with me.

Frost writes poems in rime frost every morning, and at every opportunity.   The snow is retreating.  We are heading into the Mud Season, but still, if you are willing to take a moment to look, there is beauty everywhere as the water starts to run again. 

I thought Taffy had big paw prints, until we crossed the wolf tracks near Springside cottage. They were enormous. Of course, wolves do have huge feet, to help them pad across the snow, but even so, these seemed larger than strictly necessary.  Luckily, the 'wolf tracks at the door' in this picture belong to the dog!

Every winter, the water level in Lake of Bays is drawn down, to allow for the snowmelt that will come pouring into the lake come spring. Like now.  One of the side-effects of this is that we have a lake with hills.  Which reminds me of the old joke about getting a pair of water skiis for a birthday gift and spending the whole summer looking for a lake with hills.  If you look closely, just in front of Taffy you'll see a long crack in the snow. That's where the ice has broken and dropped down. Taffy is standing on ice that is resting on the beach. From the crack, the ice has sagged down looking for the water level. Thanks to the shadow from the trees on shore, you can actually see that slope. Ideal for waterskiis!  Later, as the ice retreats, we'll see our original beach -- the way the bay looked before the dam at Baysville jacked the water level up five feet back in the early 1900's.

Adjusting the lake levels is a tricky business.  The loudest complaints come from those who have spent a lot of money building huge docks and boathouses, who think the water should remain at an exact level for their convenience.  Downstream, the complaints come from those being flooded out by spring water levels.  The quietest voices, but I think the most important, come from the trout, who spawn in very selective shallows in late October, and the eggs that hatch out now, in the spring.  If the water level stays high in the fall, the trout will spawn just the same, but the winter draw-down that prevents flooding will cause massive die-off by freezing the trout spawn.  To avoid this, the lake levels are drawn down in the fall -- to encourage the fish to spawn in what would normally be deeper water. Levels then come back up with the autumn rains, and are gradually pulled down again in spring before the big melt.  It's a tricky bit of science, and if humans get it wrong, the fish are the ones who pay the price.  You can always fix the dock... you can't always fix the eco-system.

Something to keep in mind...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Good Cheer, Good Friends, Good Music... can't beat that...

The fine folk who make up the congregation at the Hillside Pioneer Memorial Church understand the humour of the saying, "It's okay to pretend to be Irish at St. Patrick's, because we pretend to be good at Christmas."

Maybe so, but they are certainly "GREAT" at St. Paddy's Day!  They make  St. Patrick's Day special, with  Noah's Larks lifting up their voices in song, along with a packed room, for their annual Sing-a-Long.  This year, the theme was Goldies and Oldies, and the singers did themselves proud.   

 There is something very special about people gathered together, making their own entertainment, and the entire room joined in with voice, feet tapping, and even a little table top percussion.

There was even some high stepping dancing taking place in the kitchen! (where the ladies thought they were safely out of sight!)

You couldn't have heard a pin drop, because the full house was all singing along, but you also would have been hard pressed to find someone not enjoying themselves, not involved and attentive. The kind of house a performer dreams of! Really!

 Joined by the Silver Strings, a group from up Kearney and Emsdale way, to provide some variation, the Larks welcomed a packed house for the evening.  There were jokes strategically placed at each table, so everyone could join in the telling.  Several people went "off script" to tell jokes of their own, and the whole place rocked to laughter.

With a little fiddle music, some banjo, an assortment of guitars and a ukelele, all backed up by a keyboard, the evening rolicked along nicely, with an intermission for cake and sandwiches.

The whole room sang along as the Noah's Larks lead off the familiar, friendly songs --  A Daisy a Day; I've Got Sixpence; Dust on the Bible; The Unicorn; Ain't She Sweet... and more and more.  Dave and Charlie got right into the spirit with their rendition of A White Sports Coat, and a Pink Carnation... 

Marg, heading up the fundraising committee, even managed to fit a great little info-mercial for one of the Church fundraisers -- the sale of a streak free microfibre cloth. Let me take you along on this sales pitch, because Marg was brilliant.  For a pittance -- $4/each or 3 for $10, you get the KB Wonder Cloth.  "People tell me that they just can't stop cleaning," said Marg, "because it's just that easy with this product.  Just wet it, wring it, wipe any surface. Streak free, lint free, spot free... using only hot water, it's eco-friendly, and," she paused, "Gender friendly."  Now, being someone who's idea of house work is to sweep the room with a glance, and who hasn't done windows since she got a computer that does, I might have been a tad sceptical, but Marg spiked those guns by giving me a sample. Dash it all, she's right. This is one funky little cloth that just kind of lures you into wiping down every surface (including the cat, not recommended)  Give her a call at 705 789 5883. After all, it's time for Spring Cleaning!

These social moments are the glue and heart of a community, and it is wonderful to see so many people out taking part.  In a communication age where it is increasingly difficult to communicate, where conversation and information is exchanged in text messages and twitter updates, an evening like this reaffirms that people need people, that face to face conversation will never be improved upon by a blackberry, and that there is a timeless magic in coming together to make your own cheer.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

That moon is Super!

Anyone who is into Omens is probably having a field day right about now, especially if they work for CNN.  It's an unquiet Earth, this blue orb where we live. 

Tonight is going to bring along yet another omen -- a full moon which appears to be much larger than normal.  Much larger.  What can this mean!?? Run!!! Toss some virgins into the nearest volcano...  Gather together in loud lamentation! Repent! (well, the repent bit is usually always a good bet, but still...)

Settle down. Enjoy.  It's the March full moon.  And yes, it's HUGE.  That's because the Moon, our planet's faithful companion, is at its closest approach to the Earth in two decades.  It's what Science calls Perigee -- as opposed to Apogee when it's at its furthest reach.  Yes, this may well bring with it stronger tides, as it has every time it has come that close, but that is a normal part of the Moon's orbiting pattern. Been there, done that. The Moon swings around Earth in an elliptical orbit, meaning that it is not always the same distance from the Earth. The closest the Moon ever gets to Earth is 364,000km, and the furthest is ever gets is around 406,000km. This Full Moon on March 19, 2011 will see a slightly closer approach of 357,000km).

Twenty years is a good long time, though, and there will be plenty of people who have never had the chance to witness this.  Particularly if the last one happened on a cloudy night... which would push back the timeline considerably.

And yes, it looks bigger -- a full moon at perigee will appear 10% larger than a full moon at apogee...

Here's the fun bit -- while it will indeed appear much bigger than normal, it really isn't. It's all an illusion, a trick of the eye.   Nobody changed the actual size of the Moon!

Ebbinghaus Illusion: both orange dots are the same size!
The full moon always looks larger on the horizon than it does in the sky. It's called the Moon Illusion. When the Moon is low on the horizon there are lots of objects (hills, houses, trees etc) against which you can compare its size. When it’s high in the sky it’s there in isolation. This createssomething akin to the Ebbinghaus Illusion, where identically sized objects appear to be different sizes when placed in different surroundings.

This is a welcome Full Moon -- in older times, people gave names to all the full moons. In March, as temperatures began to warm and the earth to thaw, earthworm casts appeared. This heralded spring, the return of robins, the approach of the planting season and the end of winter's lean menu.  It was dubbed The Worm Moon.

Here in the northern regions, tribes knew this as the  Crow Moon -- because the cawing of the crows signalled winter's end. If you've been outside lately, you've probably heard them!  Some tribes called it   Crust Moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night.

The Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation. To the settlers, it was also known as the Lenten Moon, and was considered to be the last full Moon of winter.

But tonight, March 19, it's simply the Super Moon -- a marvellous little chance to interact with science, learn cool new phrases like the Ebbinghaus Illusion, and say a little "Welcome Back" to spring.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

This is the Day they said would Rain

 What a glorious spring day, with sun sun sun and temperatures driving up to about 10 degrees.

Our guests skied and hiked out to the Island -- a mile away (1.6 km.)  Easier, perhaps, than swimming that distance, as we do every week in summer, but just as beautiful.

Anna was trying cross country skis for the first time, and found the lake the perfect place to find a rhythm of kick and glide.

Later in the day, as the sun continued to shine, the lake began to water up -- these are classic March conditions. Skiing will now give way to skating on the bay, probably early in the day before the sun gets a good grip on the snow.
For those who are making maple syrup, these are the money days:  for the sap to run, warm days are needed, along with cold freezing nights and lots of snow on the ground.  Last year's thaw was so swift that the syrup season was truncated, so with any luck, this year will be a better run.

Fish huts will be coming off the lakes in the next week or so, while conditions are good for moving them.  It's been a few years, but who knows, maybe Brian will have a chance to get the Ice Boat out -- when we see the ice watering up like that, and we know there's still cold mornings in our future, if there's just a bit of a wind, the Ice Boat is more fun than you can really justify...

So, on this day that the Weather forecasters said would rain, we had brilliant, achingly bright sunshine, sweatshirt weather, bird song and soft snow...  Nothing wrong with that, except the forecast. Don't believe everything you see on the Weather network... 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spring Forward

These are springs along the shore in front of Clover cottage.  They keep clear of snow all winter long -- providing a great spot for the deer and birds to come for a drink, but it is at this time of year that they really come into their own, driving the ice away and reaching way out into the lake.

The colours are remarkable, and there is an endless fascination in watching the water bubble up and away.

Spring is starting to make its presence felt. Coming back from Dwight yesterday, I spotted ExcaliBEAVER near the Craft Cabin, happily waddling along one of our ski trails. Now you don't often see a beaver on a ski trail -- he was dragging his tail along, flattening out the ski tracks.  We can live with that... Beavers get tired of their submerged stash of branches this time of year. The bark is getting stale, the taste is getting monotonous, and they will take the opportunity to get out in the sunshine to find something fresh for lunch.

Beav would approve of these springs, keeping the water moving and alive, and cheerily heralding winter's end.

Slip Slide

Dwarfed by the Lumina Hill in the background, Dave got some mileage out of his new skis today.  Last year when he was here with the family for March Break it was all about skating on the lake.

This year, we've still got lots of snow, although winter is loosening its grip, the creeks and springs are running again.  Mornings are cold enough that the snow is hard and crusty -- good for cutting up into blocks to build forts, but not great for skis.  Once the sun gets onto it, however, it's classic spring corn snow conditions.

And where better to stride it out than on the lakes...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lark Rise

Noah's Larks, the congenial and harmonious gang from the Hillside Pioneer Church, are welcoming everyone this Friday, at 7 p.m., to the Church, for a Sing-a-Long, light snacks -- and cake! -- and camaraderie.

It's a great get-together, for all ages, with the opportunity to sing along to some of the best known, best loved songs, and to hear some pretty humourous ones that might not be quite so familiar.

The Silver Strings will be there to add some 'back-up' and diversity.

It's $7.50/person, at the door.

These are the events that form the glue of the Community, and they really should not be missed!

Nor, come to that, should you miss the chance to visit this little gem of a

church, firmly rooted in the history of the Lake of Bays.  In 1867,  the Reverend Robert Norton Hill, came to Muskoka to seek land for himself, his four sons and two daughters. He located 700 acres of good clay/loam soil on the shores of Peninsula Lake, east of Huntsville on what is now highway 60. He blazed a Trail called Hill’s Trace (now Highway 60) and as the first pioneer in the district he opened a Post Office in 1878 called “Hillside”, which later became the name of the community.

So, FRIDAY, 7 p.m.... at Hillside Pioneer Church... we'll see you there!