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. www.bondi-village-resort.com
Many people, when they think of Muskoka, think only of the lakes and the summer season.
There is a whole lot more. While the standing joke is that Canada has too much geography while Europe has too much history, there is a startling amount of "history" up here as well.
This statue is in Gravenhurst. Sculpted by Brenda Wainman-Goulet, it commemorates Dr. Norman Bethune. Born in Gravenhurst, where his home is now a National Park museum, he is still revered in China as example of selfless humanitarianism. The last years of his life were spent in China as a battlefront surgeon and teacher during the Revolution. His story is remarkable, and extensive, and should be known by all Canadians. There is a good reason that the commemorative plaque is in English and French -- but also in Spanish and Chinese. During the Spanish Civil War, Dr. Bethune "invented" a blood transfusion system that saved thousands. In China, he is still a national hero.
There are a great many museums and historic sites located throughout Muskoka. This is just one, which I post today because I was in Gravenhurst this week at a seminar on Heritage, right next to this sculpture.
Brenda Wainman-Goulet, the artist, has also rendered the Tom Thompson statue in Huntsville. We have one of her earlier works right here at Bondi Village -- a life-sized redtail hawk soars over our front lawns, in memory of our father, Paul Tapley.
Talented artists are abundant in Muskoka. Art and Studio tours, combined with museum tours, offer all sorts of options above and beyond sitting on the dock.
The last check at the stables happens late. I wander up, under the stars, with Taffy at my heels and usually Achmed trailing along.
Last night Taffy was on high alert as we approached the barn, and since we've been having fox issues, I wondered if we had a fox in the stable. Just to be safe, I grabbed the dog.
Good thing. It was no fox. It was this little black and white "Woods Kitty" who was exploring the feed room. Now, that is no need to panic, provided one has the dog in a firm grip. Taffy got unceremoniously stuffed into the Tack Room, while the skunk and I had a short discussion about what was going to happen next.
These are gentle souls, who prefer to be just left alone. I explained that I had the dog under control, so no fear about that. I explained that I needed to come into the room to get the night feed for the horses. Achmed bopped on it just to say hello...
We all of us went about our lawful business. Skunk withdrew under the old fridedaire that serves as a cupboard in the feed room. Achmed sat at the edge to continue his conversation -- the cat also has an on-going relationship with the fox, who is frequently seen sitting on the lawn about ten feet away from the cat, the two of them carrying on a long discussion about who knows what. Horses just shrugged, and tucked into their hay. Chickens were snug in their coop. Taffy got snapped onto a leash to ensure she stayed with me all the way home. While we do have an excellent recipe for removing the smell, midnight is not the time of day to be starting up the process!
Achmed stayed behind -- there was evidently more to talk about.
Walking home, I could hear the wolves way way way back on the hill to the north. An owl was hooting nearby. Stars were vivid and close and the air was as clear as it can ever be. There were faint Northern Lights shimmering in counterpoint to the wolf-song.
When I walked into the living room, Napster, too, had joined the act.... there was a mouse running across the carpet, with the Artist in keen pursuit.
Some nights there is just almost more wildlife than one can handle...
These are pictures Brian took on April 24, after the sudden spring storm.
The snow is all gone now. Temperatures are heading back up.
Thoughts are turning to the May Long Weekend... Mother's Day. Couples' getaways to look for Moose in the Park.
Or just spending some quality time unwinding and recharging. Enjoying a relaxing break admiring the view, and listening to the quiet.
The canoes will be back in the water for the Victoria Day weekend. Not before -- with that little reminder that winter isn't quite done with us, the water is just too cold.
The birds were not particularly enthralled with the snowstorm. They vanished. But they are back again, the swallows sketching designs in the clear air.
Summer is on the way. These sudden weather shifts just remind us how sweet the warm weather truly is.
Everyone likes to think that an early spring means winter is done.
Not so fast.
We always get at least one "last blast". I can recall early May weekends with snow coming down so hard you couldn't see across the yard.
This morning we woke to a time warp back into winter. Quite lovely, if you were enjoying it through a window.
Or from the seat of the snowmobile... Brian got it out of storage right away and took advantage of snow to tour the fields. Why he felt he should zoom down my stairs is anyone's guess... Boys and their toys... Perhaps we can blame that on Spring Fever.
We could see where the wild turkeys have been out on a route march. We could see the fox tracks -- I did consider trying to follow them back to the den, but they went on and on. The fox has been scoring chickens, having sadly mistaken us for the KFC Drive-Thru of late. We are working on a security system -- the hens do love to be ranging free and far, but come spring when the foxes have kits in the den, we need to have somewhere fox-proof for them to range instead.
Taffy did her bit -- she chased the fox away. And a handsome fox it was too. She then came back to celebrate by jumping for joy, adding a splash of colour to a day all dressed in black and white. Lots of white.
It has all melted now. Spring continues unperturbed. And, to be honest, we can use the moisture in the ground, so it's all good!
Our cousins, Ross and Anne Marie, over at Logging Chain Lodge have gone into bee-keeping. Not a big leap, since Anne Marie's family have been in the bee business for, like, ever...
I remember her walking through our bush one day, commenting that the really big, really old artists' fungus were very useful in smudging hives. Bee people know stuff like this.
We all need bees. They are responsible for the majority of our foods -- who else works so tirelessly to pollinate everything out there? And bees are in trouble, being overworked and over-pesticided in far too many places around the world.
So it is with great glee that I can report the Logging Chain bees are living happy wild lives in North Muskoka, well away from any people, any houses, any pesticides. They are harvesting pollen from wildlflowers and happily doing what bees do best -- make honey.
We are pleased to offer the Muskoka Honey Bee pure Ontario wildflower honey for sale here at Bondi Village, along with locally made pure Maple Syrup. And our free range eggs and garden produce in season.
Wandering through the back fields this evening, with Taffy and Achmed escorting us, Sharon and I paused to sit on one of the cross country horse jumps and listen to the woodcock. Or, to their friends, Timberdoodles.
These are amazing birds, and very tough to see. Described as shorebirds that live in a forest, they have long beaks (about 2" long) that they use to probe the forest floor for worms. Handily, they can open just the tip of the beak while it is plunged down in the dirt, enabling them to snaggle a worm without snaggling a mouthful of forest dirt. There are few things in the air that look less aerodynamic, either.
This time of year, just at dusk as the light fades and the stars begin to show, the males come out for their mating display. He gives repeated "peents" on the ground, often on remaining patches of snow in the early spring. They don't just stand there -- the woodcock likes to do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight. After a time he flies upward in a wide spiral. As he gets higher, his wings start to twitter. After reaching a height of 70-100 m (230-328 ft) the twittering becomes intermittent, and the bird starts chirping as he starts to descend. He comes down in a zig-zag, diving fashion, chirping as he goes. As he comes near the ground he silently lands, near a female if she is present. Then he starts peenting again. I found a great video for you!
It's called a "peent" but it sounds more like a "meep" to me. We hear them every spring in the horse pasture, on the open lawns and of course in the back fields. They love the forest, but for their mating display they prefer to be out in the open to show off to their best advantage and impress the ladies. They are very proud of their skydance. In fact, while the male American Woodcock gives no parental care, he does continue to display long after most females have laid eggs. Some males display at several, widely separated singing grounds and will mate with several females. A female may visit four or more singing grounds before nesting, and she may keep visiting even when she is caring for her young.
I took my friend Barb to the Bush Company Restaurant today, for a birthday lunch. The restaurant is only a few minutes drive from Bondi Village Resort. It is a favourite all winter with the snowmobiling crowd. Come summer, it's patio is busy with locals and tourists alike.
The waitress heard it was Barb's celebration. She shares the same birthday week with Barb. We were surprised, pleasantly, when following a very tasty lunch indeed she came out with a birthday dessert, on the house. Complete with cute spiral candle, and blueberries, and attention to detail in the way the food was plated. Barb was so pleased by this unexpected surprise.
Every day new birds return to Bondi Village and north Muskoka. Some come to spend the summer.
Some are just passing through.
This week we welcomed home a pair of Belted Kingfishers. Their call is described as a "coarse rattle" but that doesn't do it justice. It is certainly distinctive -- and will cue you to start watching for these fast flyers. They are delightful birds, with a really funky Mohawk crest, and if you ever have the opportunity to sit quietly on a bank and watch them fish, it will both entertain and educate you tremendously.
Saturday, while I was outside raking, I was suddenly surrounded by a flight of tree swallows. These charming birds are among my favourites. They not only consume prodigious quantities of mosquitoes and blackflies during their swooping soaring flight, they are just beautiful to watch in the air, skimming over the lake surface for a quick drink, gathering on the wires to chatter amongst themselves. I am always happy to see them return. But here's the thing. For as long as I can recall, you could virtually set your calendar by the swallows' return. They appeared in the sky during the week of April 21 to 28. Very rarely, they came late. The last few years, they have come in at the beginning of that date range, or a day or so early. This year... March 6. I mean, Seriously????
Yesterday the chickens were glancing nervously skyward -- and since last week we welcomed back a pair of Red Shouldered Hawks, Here is another bird with an easily identifiable and unmistakeable call. I thought that might be the cause of their distress. Not so.
Circling over the field behind the stable were two turkey vultures. I confess to a small fondness for these big birds, who hang on the air currents, their distinct 'fingertips' extended. Last year, when I was still wearing an eye patch following retinal surgery, the fine people at Muskoka Wildlife Centre loaned me Barfolemew, their resident vulture, to be my "pirate's parrot" at a fund-raiser for A Wing and a Prayer bird rescue.
I am waiting patiently for the return of our Eastern Bluebirds. This time of year is a paradise for bird-watchers, as all the species return to the north. Not only that, away from the city you can actually hear the sounds of the Earth and its creatures. Noise is as polluting as light, or garbage... the constant bombardment of sound in the city is not good for living things. We need to be unplugging and stepping out of the soundscape of civilization, stepping into the quiet of the natural world, listening for and to our non-human neighbours out there. They have plenty to tell us, if we can only hear them.
In a previous post I talked about our wild turkeys, waking me up with their calls in the early morning hours.
I mentioned then that Ontario obtained the ancestors of these now nicely acclimated and settled in wild turkeys during an exchange with Michigan. We gave them Moose, from Algonquin Park. They gave us turkeys. Think about that.
I said then that I was going to try to ferret out some of the photographs my father took during the 1985 Moose/Turkey exchange. And, amazingly enough, I was able to find them. Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, I was also able to scan the slides and -- ta da! -- you, gentle reader, can see the Moose, hanging about. So to speak.
The top close-up photo of the air-borne moose shows the muzzle, to protect their noses and their lungs from too much cold air kicked up by the helicopter. They were also blindfolded, and had earmuffs put on, to protect them from the helicopter noise, and from the (for a moose) probably scary sight of the earth slipping along beneath them.
Moose -- and motorists passing by -- are unaccustomed to views like this. Tree-topping moose.
When the moose arrived at the Mew Lake Campground, they were welcomed by a well padded, helmet wearing landing crew. Each person in the crew was responsible for grabbing one leg, and ensuring it was folded up carefully underneath the sedated moose so it wasn't injured during landing. Now, when I saw sedated moose, don't think of Bullwinkle mildly accepting his new status as flying moose. The sedation doses had to be a bit of guesswork, it being a challenge to weigh the moose before hand. For some of the cows, they were blissfully snoozing throughout the flight. For some of the big bulls, they came in cantering along under the helicopter, legs on the move. A misplaced leg on one of these fellows could be broken, so the ground crew had quite a task, grappling with a flailing leg as the chopper settled toward the ground and the snow begin to kick up around them. There was another crew in the yellow Huey -- their job was to collect the moose from the wilderness where it had been sedated and prepare it for transport. For them, the moose were usually more groggy, but also often less accessible and in areas where the snow had not been packed down for the landing area. The people who worked on this transfer did heroic work, and careful work. And compassionate work.
At the landing zone, the moose were weighed, blood and hair samples taken, wormed and thoroughly examined before being loaded into Safari crates to be loaded onto a truck and driven non-stop to the release point. The crate was constructed around the moose: walls attached, rear wall and roof locked on. Hay was placed inside to provide something to nibble, and a big scoop of snow added to provide something to moisten the mouth. Just as the front door was being moved into position, the vet would step in, and administer and antidote to the sedative. He then leapt nimbly out as the front door of the crate was slammed shut. Often on nearly a ton of moose who was already scrambling back to his feet, dazed, disoriented and thoroughly unimpressed with the entire operation.
And this is how we sent moose to repopulate the Michigan pan handle, and they have done a sterling job of it. As, at this end, have the wild turkeys.
I'm really pleased I was able to get this
Yesterday was a hot, sunny, crocus in bloom, let's get going with the raking sort of day.
The sun sparkling off the water put me in mind of summer. Of settling comfortably into that Muskoka chair with a book and a drink to enjoy the view and relax. Time to consider booking a cottage for the summer, that is for sure.
That was then.
Silly goose... we should have all been ready for Mother Nature's April Fools trick!
We woke up this morning to find the world was white.
Yes, indeed, it snowed. We had enough to cover the ground, and coat the leaves that are just hesitating to leaf out on the lilacs.
The geese drifting on the bay didn't seem to mind, but let me tell you, the robins on the lawn were miffed.
Very funny, Mother Nature. We're still laughing...
We'd love to hear from you. The experiences our guests have are precious to us. If you have photos you took at Bondi, we'd love to have those as well. You can email them to Nancy at firstname.lastname@example.org
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We are very proud of Napster, our tail-painting cat, who uses his lovely artwork to raise money for charities. This lovely little creature passed away July 2015, but left a huge legacy, having raised over $12,000 for various charities through the sale of his artwork. That artwork, through prints and notecards, is still available. Click here to visit Napster's Blog and visit the gallery of his tail-paintings.
Now sold around the world, he was honoured to have his artwork sold around the globe -- he even has a print with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Click on the following links to enjoy a 'virtual ski' round some of our 15 km. of groomed track set cross country ski trails. Thanks to Altitude and Attitude, North Muskoka gets the kind of winter you can really enjoy. Huge thanks to Eric Prince, the creative mind that made this videos happen!
Click here to enjoy seeing a variety of our trails.
And Click Here for another cross country ski adventure.
and this one, in 2014, just days before the snow vanished, from Hawke Lake on down. Click Here
And Click Here for just one more...