Old Barns on the Aragon Road

There are five farms with historic barns along the Aragon Road. A very large barn is located just north of the Aragon Road on Battersea Road. This was once part of the Colonel Fair “empire”. Below is the series of barns, shown in a slide show, that we will tell more about.

The Hogan barn and milk house stand at the end or the Aragon Road. On the south side of the road, Hogan built his limestone house, one of the original farmsteads along our road.

The roof and the south side of the barn, shown here, seem in good shape, however, the north side of the limestone lower wall and foundation are near collapse.

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At the north side of the barn, the siding is in poor shape and the limestone wall, hidden behind the vegetation has partially collapsed.

East and north side of the barn. Photo credit: Mark Fleming, 2020

Inside the barn top floor or hayloft. Photo credit Mark Fleming, August 2020

Just think of the history represented here in the upper structure of this old barn. Long ago, before 1878 when it was already shown on maps of the area, this barn was alive with dairy cows and their calves. The space above the stalls would be jammed full of hay to feed the cattle during the winter. The Hogans would start milking at four maybe five in the morning, process it in the milk house, and ship it to market in downtown Kingston. Over the years, the boards of the barn have weathered and shrunk. The roof is in remarkably good shape, it might have been replaced one or more times during its lifetime. Note the steel roofing material. The method for making corrugating iron was originally patented in England in 1829 and by the mid-1800s it would have been readily available in Canada. One might well assume that Hogan installed corrugated metal on his barn. The big wooden cross braces that run from the bottom to the top of the back wall give it structural strength. Note the different posts: one is square, hand-planed with a broad axe from a large pine log, two are round tree trunks. The large horizontal beam is most likely re-purposed from another barn, notice the large notch that does not fit with the post. Or the post has been replaced at some time. There are some steel cables, at the top of the photo, a modern attempt to stabilise the vertical structure.

For the names of the parts see this diagram.

There is no brace in this junction of post and beam, a sign that this is a repair job done in earlier years without much regard for structural integrity and strength.

A detail of the inside wall of the stalls. Note the severe cracking and collapse of the wall and the round broken support beam reinforced by three modern dressed floor beams.

How long will this barn adorn our Aragon Road? It takes a long time for barns to collapse. And we should be grateful to the current owners, the Keirsteads, for their efforts to stabilise the structure. We remember that family members restored the south wall several years ago as a “birthday present” for James Keirstead. It took them a mighty effort to make the wall structurally sound. To fully restore this barn is most likely beyond any modern human effort and expense. The old structure should be admired for as long as she will stand.

About a kilometre to the west we reach the Cecil and Wilma Graham farm. Wilma Graham remembered much about the farm structures and how the barn in the foreground was moved from the field across the road to up on the hill.

Graham’s barns. The photo was taken around 2000. At that time the cows were fed for slaughter, the pasture near the road was poor but often the cows would be let out to feed in the fields north of the farm house. Also Cecil Graham, and later Henry would go on their “doughnut” rounds to downtown Kingston to pick up discarded food from McDonald’s and other restaurants to feed their “organically raised cattle.”
See Henry’s story End of an Era.

Winter on the Graham Farm. Seen from the west side over the fields.

How was the large barn with the white roof and parallel with the road, relocated from the field south of the Aragon Road to north of the road? The fieldstone foundation must have been built first while the wood-clad timber-framed structure was moved over a distance of about a hundred metres, uphill. Cecil and his brother and father with the help of neighbours had logs placed under the structure and with a tractor and pulleys moved it slowly to its new site. It must have taken days of hard labour. In Wilma Graham’s words: There was a barn on the south side of the road across from the field we call Kennedy’s. The barn was moved up beside our driveway and is now called our Hay Barn. Cecil and some men and several horses dragged it across the field on large beams, like a sled, then across the Aragon Road and into the location where it is now. CLICK here for more.

A small detail of a map that showed the CLERGY LANDS and the different farms around the mid-1800s. The Hogan farm is about two hundred acres, the Corrigan farm is much larger while the Ghaham farm is still relatively small. It would later be enlarged by buying smaller fields from the neighbours. The numbers in large font such as 40 for Hogan and 37-39 are the original two hundred acres plus lots the British government had surveyed. The road that meanders from bottom left to the middle of the map on the right is the Aragon Road, a “forced” road, or original cow path connecting the fields and farms. The straight road at the left from south to north is part of the grid laid out by the government, it is called the Fitzpatrick Road. The one along the top of the map is the extension of Unity Road.

The Shortell Farm was located on the west side of the Fitzpatrick Road, at what was once the Thomas Dowling Property, seen here at the left on a detail of a larger map. For the deeds and maps section on this site CLICK here. John Hogan’s land is clearly shown, including the limestone farmhouse on the south side of the Aragon Road. Below the large holdings of Dennis Corrigan is the Graham farm. Wilma tells about how the land grants for the workers on the Rideau Canal were small, 42 acres for a labourer or retired soldier. Some people sold their grant and moved on and through that process farmers would accumulate land. At least two hundred acres would be desired for a meaningful farming operation. CLICK HERE FOR MORE where Wilma talks about buying the Jas Kennedy, sub-lot 23, land, and the moving of the barn.

The photo below shows the site of the Shortell farm. The current house and a modern steel barn that were built on the site are hidden behind these dense trees. The Shortell farm had a beautiful red barn that burned down. CLICK HERE: Dollie Vallier recounts an interesting story about the Shortells.

 

Moving to the west along the Aragon Road we come to the Draper farm.

The Draper farmhouse. There is a large barn which we hope to photograph and show in this post. The Quintin’s lived here for a long time but the property was sold in 2019 to Graig and Sonya Young.

Further to the west just before the cluster of bungalows from the 1950s, there is a large barn with a farmhouse that belonged for a long time to the Lockett family. The house has been built onto and is stuccoed. A feature that shows Colonel Fair owned this property before the Locketts. Wilma Graham told us that originally this red brick farm house was identical to theirs.

 

The barns on the former Locket property. This was part of the Colonel Fair “empire”. The roof seems in good shape. Note the cattle feed storage silos to the right of the barn. Click for more here.

Fair was a rich man with roots going back to the early settler farmers in the Glenburnie area. He had made much money in insurance and international business which took him frequently to Singapore and the Far East. While he was able to accumulate money in the years between 1920-30, leading up to the great economic depression, the local farmers, affected by the hard economic times, might have needed to sell all, or part, of their properties. Fair was thus able to assemble large tracts of farmland, about 3800 acres. More about Colonel Fair later in this post.

Inside the barn, we see the timber-framed construction which was so common for these rural buildings. This is a relatively long and narrow barn.

 

Just a reminder of the parts that form the structure of a barn.

Next, just off the Aragon Road on Battersea corner Mapel Ridge Drive, formerly Bur Brook Road extension to Battersea Road is the farm of Cecil Grahams’ brother.

The barns are all in good shape except the little log-build tool shed. This farm, originally the property of one of the Graham brothers was inherited by Cecil and Wilma Graham. After they died, John Turner became the new owner.

Henry kept a large flock of sheep here.

See also Wilma remembers.

Looking north from the Aragon Road one sees the white and green barns of the former Colonel Fair farm, see slide series below. These barns were among the largest in Ontario at the time of their building. Marjory Allen recalls the history of the Hemlock Farm.

A few kilometres to the north, On the Paterson Road a large century farm owned by the Carey family recently acquired the Graham farmstead and now they cultivate the fields all the way from the Paterson Road to the Aragon Road. This land is assigned Class A farmland to be preserved under Ontario legislation.

In closing we present a slide series of different barns some almost gone, others in pristine condition. Many historic barns are no longer maintained and left to the forces of nature. Others are lovingly kept up either as buildings on a working farm or as a historic extension to a hobby farm, or equestrian centre. Here are some examples from around our area including the Kingston Mills Road, Paterson Road west of Battersea Road, Orser Road, and the village of Wilton.

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End of an Era

At the end of summer 2019, Henry Lach, who had spent almost his whole life at the historic Graham farm on the Aragon Road, left our neighborhood to live in Camden East with his family.

Henry Lach

His world was the farm, the cows, and sheds where he stored odds and ends, large and small, metal and wood, and much, much more…

The Graham’s century farmhouse

Slide show of the Graham Farm on the Aragon Road, Glenburnie, Ontario

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Here is a story written by Jackie Duffin who knows Henry well.

At the end of August 2019, Henry left Aragon Road to move in with his brother John and sister-in-law Linda of Camden East. He was a familiar sight along our Aragon road. With Cecil Graham, he hayed our fields for many years, and he has handled our snow removal single-handedly since 1988 (31 years!). After our apple tree grew too large and too low for his tractor to handle our drive, he kept it up by hand. Henry dropped by in mid-August to tell us that we had to find another solution for the coming winter, and I was lucky enough to have a long chat with him about his life.

Born in Kingston around 1949, he was the second youngest of five kids—John, Mary, Greg, Henry, and Michael—who became wards of the Catholic Children’s Aid, when their father died in 1952 of cancer at age 42.

Their mother Doris worked in a hotel, but she could not look after the family. The children’s early life with the Sisters of Providence orphanage was described in 2016 in the story of his older brother John, click here.

Henry remembers that he was just about to turn 9 when he came to the Graham farm around 1957. A Catholic couple, Wilma and Cecil Graham had no children of their own. Wilma’s memories are also at this website.
All the children did chores around farm before and after school. Henry loved the outdoor life and looking after animals. But he recalls the home-life was somewhat “rough” – and said that there “could not have been a worse” place to receive foster kids. For example, when they first arrived and for many years, there was no toilet – only a bucket with a toilet seat, which they had to carry outside to dump, even in winter.

Henry went by bus to St Theresa Catholic School and then later to Frontenac high school. Lasalle school still was under construction (opened 1966). Sometimes Henry walked home. He completed grade 9 and 10 in the Occupational program, but never heard if he passed or not. Apparently, if students passed grade 10 Occupational, they could switch to grade 9 in the academic program. Only after Wilma died May 13, 2015, at age 94, did he find out that he had passed grade 10. He thinks that the family did not tell him, in order to keep him at home working on the farm.

Henry admits to having a temper. Occasionally he would get so angry with Cecil that would try to beat him up. Cecil could be difficult, and he fought with John too. Henry was very sad when John decided to leave home. He remembers begging John not to go while they stood together at the sink doing dishes. It was the year of Expo, 1967.

John served in the army and for a while was out in Edmonton. Henry recalls a time when John went AWOL and a military truck arrived at the farm while Cecil and Henry were haying. Henry quipped, “There must be a war!” and they trudged back to the house to see what was happening. Looking for John, the soldiers wondered if he might have returned to the farm. Henry found it highly amusing that John would even dream of returning to the farm when he had left in such anger. In the end, John showed up back at the army base…and later he returned to the farm too.

When in school, Henry was aware that the teachers and other students saw him as disadvantaged and slow—an “orphan kid tied to Wilma.” But he says, “I’m nobody’s fool.” He has a well-developed sense of honesty and a reliable dose of suspicious propriety that always led him to recognize (and reveal) when he was being mistreated or taken advantage of.

From an early age, Henry drove vehicles around the farm and to the “other farm” owned by Cecil’s brother, Matt Graham, at the corner of Battersea road and the Bur Brook Road. But Henry did not get his driver’s licence until he was 42 years old. Cecil was getting on in years, and Henry would be needed “to do the donut run.” Cecil had long left the task of Henry’s licence to Wilma, but Wilma was too busy. And so Henry just stuck close to home, driving around the farm and to the “other farm” a short distance away. Never did he venture any further. Finally, a friend named Gus spent some time giving Henry a few lessons and to everyone’s amazement, including himself, he passed the driving test.

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A slide show of “The other farm.” Owned by Matt Graham a brother of the late Cecil Graham, The barns, high on a hill, can be seen from the the Battersea Road at Maple Lawn Drive/ Burbrook Road. The house is hidden by a grove of maple trees.

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[Henry pauses for an aside. Matt Graham’s wife had left him for another Graham brother, but all along growing up they had not known that he had ever been married.]

Henry can’t remember how long he has been recycling—certainly well before it became fashionable. Cecil Graham had a deal with local businesses—grocery stores, donut shops, dairies – to collect their outdated products, which he then used to feed his cattle. Henry carried on after Cecil’s death on 7 November 1992. After the cows had been sold, he became well-known around town for his “business,” collecting metal pop empties from curbside boxes, which he took to Kimco for cash—mostly cans and bottles. Sometimes he gots in trouble with neighbours, the city, and the police –especially when people noticed him at night. But he was always baffled by these problems because he would collect only things that had been already discarded.

Henry liked all aspects of farming. Before Cecil died he told Wilma that she should plan on 20 calves a year to provide a good income. The work fell to Henry and he felt pressure to make sure all 20 would survive.  Sometimes a calf would die – and Henry said that people would blame him for not paying enough attention owing to his his pop-can activity. But he thinks it wasn’t that; rather it was just nature. One year he increased his pop-can activities and all 20 calves survived. He had a knack for helping newborn calves—and was able to encourage the reluctant ones to suck. More than once, he successfully used a trick with Aspirin to save sick calves. He also understood animal psychology and the best way to manage stubborn bovines without coercion. He was hurt when Wilma decided to sell off all the cattle without consulting him, but he gathered them all in the corral to help the man who came to take them away.

Henry also looked after sheep at the other (Matt Graham) farm. One cold winter night, we visited him there and he proudly showed us the lambs. He sometimes had to work very hard to keep them alive; taking milk from a ewe who had an abundance and encouraging a tiny weakling to drink. During lambing season, he did not get a lot of sleep.

Haying was hard work too, but Henry enjoyed it. He liked working the bailer for small square bales, but he did not like the big round bailer. He found it clumsy to use with its many more controls. With humour, he describes his troubles in learning how to use it. “That was an ordeal,” he says.

Henry is proud of his “new” big black pickup truck, with he bought from Jack Blacklock, a retired car dealer in nearby Mount Chesney. He uses it for his business and to visit his sister Mary who left the farm to live in town and in many ways continued to look after her “little” brother.

The farthest Henry says that he has been from Aragon Road is to Camden East. He found his way by reading the signs on the 401, but he jokes that he might have missed it and ended up in Toronto. He interrupts himself to recall that long ago, he did go further away with school trips to Upper Canada Village, Expo’67, and the Hershey Factory at Smith’s Falls (closed 2008, and now making cannabis products).

“You gotta hear this,” Henry often says. “You won’t believe this!” On the day of our chat, he had a great new tale about an aluminum ladder that he had left behind near recycle bins while he was helping someone else. When he returned it was gone…stolen! “My theory was,” he said, that it had been taken by a city truck. When he spied a city truck, he voiced his complaint. To his amazement and delight, a different city truck soon appeared, and his ladder was returned.

This home-spun raconteur, philosopher, and psychologist (of both animals and people) will be missed along Aragon Road and we wish him well in his new home.

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Some images of the fields Henry roamed in and the mailbox of the Graham farm that Henry checked every day after the mail delivery.

Weather and Climate

Erratic weather is not the same as climate change. Weather is only predictable in the short term, while the latter is a long term phenomenon. However, if weather becomes unusual and deviates from the norm towards another normal, such as higher seasonal temperatures, it might be a telltale sign that climate change is involved.

We visited the Aragon Road towards the end of December 2019, after we had moved for more than a year from our perch at the west end of Colony By Lake . We wanted to see how the neighbourhood looked between Christmas and New Year.

There were no ice-sailors, no hockey rinks and no cross-country skiers and only one brave ice fisher trying to catch a fish.

But he is not alone on thin ice, far away in a very cold country there are two more…

These two ice-fishers were not on Colonel By Lake but could have been. Instead they were on a small lake just outside Moscow, 7324 km kilometers to the east. The caption informed us that their little lake was barely frozen and ice fishing was risky. Recorded temperatures had never been that high shortly before the new year. That’s MOSCOW. Things seem to be the same here in Kingston. Photo credit: EPA at: https://www.scmp.com/news/world/russia-central-asia/article/3043991/russia-has-hottest-year-records-began-1891

Where there is open water, waterfowl are congregated. We could see hundreds of Canada geese, gulls and ducks on the shore and bobbing in the water. On our way back to Battersea Road we saw an osprey perched in a tree near Graham’s farm.

When I stopped our car to have a better look, the bird flew away. This is the nearest image I can show of what I saw. Photo from the www at: https://unsplash.com/s/photos/osprey

From what we have experienced during our forty years of living on the Aragon Road, this is the first time, just before Christmas, that the temperature has been for weeks well above freezing, the roads are clear, fields are brown with patches of green and just a dusting of snow.

Three small barns on the hill at Grahams’ farm, halfway down the Aragon Road. Early January 2020. Photo credit Henk Wevers
The wooded area opposite the boat ramp at the end of December 2019. Photo credit Henk Wevers

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lt wasn’t always so. Some of the winter activities around Christmas a year ago in 2018 are shown in the collage below. Overall, that was also a mild year, but it gave us an old-fashioned winter.

Let’s hope that 2020 will be the year when we take climate change seriously. There will be snow and ice but how much that’s anybody’s guess. Have a nice one anyway.

Planned and Unplanned Actions City of Kingston

The City of Kingston prides itself on “where innovation and history strive”, and there are indeed examples of exciting policies and good infrastructure emerging  in our city. A good example is the city’s Waterfront Master Plan. Click here to see how it affects the Aragon Road. 

But if eager civil servants do not communicate between the silos they inhabit at City Hall, good plans  go awry. Take the latest example of unwelcome and unplanned tree planting in the Cecil and Wilma Graham’s nature park  opposite their century farm  on the historic Aragon Road. Located adjacent to the Esther March Bay, a secluded bay off Colonel By Lake, where nature has been left alone for the last century plus and where nature thrives.

Suddenly,  rows of evergreen seedlings in a straight pattern appeared in the park area that has been used for haying as long as people along the Aragon Road can remember. The soil has been treated with chemicals to destroy the grass  and flowers that grow in this ecologically important meadow habitat. It was Cecil and Wilma’s wish when they donated this valuable land bordering the lake, that it would remain natural and would be enjoyed by the public for observation of wildlife and for light recreational activities like hiking and birding.  Why would the city plant 4000 trees in a mono-culture of spindly evergreens in a strict geometric pattern, which is not compatible with a nature park. Photo credit: Jackie Duffin

Concerned citizens asked our Councillor Gary Oosterhof if he could help to explain this unwanted action.Bob Wolfe past member of the Rural Affairs Committee sent a letter to Councillor Oosterhof which is included in the August agenda for the meeting: click here for the letter with supporting documentation. It will be discussed at the September 25th meeting.

And here is the answer to inquiries from him, sent to the Councillor by the Department of Transportation and Public Work. (highlights by the website editor):

This is a seedling planting program that is done in partnership with the CRCA ( Cataraqui Regional Conservation Area, ed.) under a Provincial Program called “50 Million Trees”. It is part of a reforestation program and the City has participated since 2016 to support Council’s priority to Double the Tree Canopy. I believe the CRCA has a 3rd party that does the planting. I understand they do spray so the seedlings have a chance to survive rather than competing with the grass. I don’t have all the details but I can assure you the planter would be registered and would only use approved products. We can ask the CRCA for additional information if that is required. The planting is (sic) being done in a municipal park and it has not been our practice to notify area residents when we are planting trees on public land.

Sheila Kidd, Commissioner Transportation and Public Works

The Cecil and Wilma Graham park should not have  been used to plant trees without regard for the historic nature of the environment of the Aragon Road. It is a forced road, having evolved since the mid-eighteen hundreds into a heritage road with many important natural features that remind visitors and residents of our rural history. This is especially important to recognize since the road runs parallel with the Rideau Canal watershed, a UNESCO world heritage site.

We ask that the natural meadow features be restored to what Wikipedia describes as:  A meadow is an open habitat, or field, vegetated by grass and other non-woody plants. … They provide areas for courtship displays, nesting, food gathering, pollinating insects, and sometimes sheltering, if the vegetation is high enough, making them ecologically important. Click here for more.

The City’s Planning Department works hard to recognize habitats, historic features and sight-lines  in our natural environment and in the so-called build environment in the city’s center and  along its waterfront. All of this is part of the Official Plan and written in more detail in the Waterfront Master Plan. Why is Public Works going outside this plan and ignore  our efforts to keep the Aragon Road Kingston’s best kept nature’s paradise?

For the name “Paradise” see the Oral History of the Road. Click here.

Part of the Cecil and Wilma Park area looking from the Aragon Road to the west. This meadow is used for haying. We have spotted foxes and their young, wild turkeys and their fledglings, deer and many different species of birds and insect-pollinators. At the edges  and in other sections of the park, milkweed grows that is essential for the monarch butterfly population that is just recovering slightly from years of habitat destruction and is threatened with extinction. Photo credit: Jackie Duffin.

The park looking to the east over Esther Marsh Bay and Colonel By Lake. The waterfront is part of the Rideau Canal and the UNESCO World Heritage site. Photo credit: Henk Wevers. 

Esther March Bay bordering the Cecil and Wilma Graham Park. A sensitive secluded area that offers an undisturbed water and wetland habitat intertwined with the meadow habitat of the park. Photo credit: Bob Wolfe.

There will be continuing discussions in the Rural Advisory Committee on this topic and the citizens who care about the preservation of the historic aspects of the Aragon Road demand that the seedlings be removed to prevent the establishment of a disturbing mono-culture of spindly evergreens. See photo below which shows a planted plot of pine trees after thirty years of growth.

Is this example of a mono-culture what Public Works wants for the sight lines towards the Rideau Canal? Would Parks Canada like this view, and does it honor our history and the Waterfront Master Plan?

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SUNRISES OVER COLONEL BY LAKE

Sunrises over Colonel By Lake vary in an infinite series of colours and shapes, sometimes changing in a matter of minutes. The photos were taken in the fall and winter from the patio of our house at the western end of Colonel By Lake.

These photos were taken in the winter looking east over the lake. Cloud formations make the sunrises more interesting. Click the arrows on each side of the the picture for the slide show to start, or use the dots below the photos. These pictures are not protected by copy right. Please feel free to use them as you see fit.

AND NOW, we have reached the end of this post, I hope you liked the sunrises, just a small selection of many in my database. This post was made with updated software that includes slide shows and allows different arrangements of several photos in a block.

The next post will show a sample of sunsets. In many ways they are even more spectacular as they occur in the evening a time of the day that allows to admire the subtle changes, as the sun slowly but quite perceptibly sinks below the horizon.

Stay posted.

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Mute Swan Couple Persists; 2015-2019

“All up”: Queen Elizabeth’s swans checked and counted:

EXPERT BUILDERS

The animals around us are busy building  their nests and hatching their young. Mark Fleming, a neighbour on our road and and avid  nature photographer, explores the lake and the river in his kayak as soon as the water is ice free. He sent us beautiful photos of water birds and mammals building their nests and dens and starting the breeding  season early in the month of May, 2019.

A Mute Swan couple near the large wetland  that is part of Esther Marsh. 

A goose’s nest has been built, eggs laid and now the hatching begins.

In the same area, but more to the south is evidence of beaver dam building.

The large dome of the beaver den has been co-opted by a  Canada Goose, and why not. It’s great for safely hatching her eggs.

Can you see her?

Maybe not, so have a look at the cropped photo below.

For details on the building habits of animals see this blog of the National Geographic.

mark mute swan nest island 20 may 2019

The rocky island, just south from the canal between Colonel By Lake and the River Styx, has always been an attractive place for gulls, cormorants and since 2016 a pair of Mute Swans, that built a nest on the rocks. A hard but solid foundation. This year when the photo was taken,  Common Terns, on the left, sit side by side, resting from their long migration. They  will spend several weeks in our area.

North American  terns spend the winter in South America or along the Pacific Coast of Central America. One-year-old birds often stay on the wintering grounds and do not migrate to the breeding grounds until they are 2 years old. For more CLICK HERE.

mark mute swan nest island detail 20 may 2019

Here is mother swan with six cygnets seeking the warmth of the sun and of the mother. In the first week of their lives they are prone to hypothermia from the cold water, rain and wind. They also have to learn to feed, while depleting the nutrients of the  egg yolk that  clung to their bodies  when they  hatched.  

Three years ago, I was able to observe this couple from my boat. They had two offspring and none survived. It is well-known that young couples are not very successful in breeding and protecting their young. Of these six cygnets at best three or four will grow up to fledglings  and then they might run into more trouble on their migration to open water south where they overwinter.  However there are plenty of Mute Swans, an invading species, around the lake and especially in the River Styx, all along the wetlands going up to Lower Brewers Locks. Adults can live up to 10-20 years and they mate for life.

And finally, a female Red Winged Blackbird.  She is clinging to two different stalks of bulrushes.

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Spring 2019

One our neighbours on the Aragon Road alerted us in mid-February to the early presence of waterfowl in the open canal that connects the River Styx with Colonel By Lake at Alan’s Point, at the end of the road. On February 15th, around 4:15 pm she counted sixteen Mute Swans in the shallow water that is rich in bottom vegetation that the birds can reach with their long necks.

Mark Fleming, another nature-loving neighbour went out, a few days later and took  photos that he shared with me. There were less swans, but now there were a large number of Canada Geese as well.

This photo is taken just to the west of the canal where it joins Colonel By Lake, the dead tree stump in the background has served as a nesting post for an osprey pair that return to the lake in late March and early April.  

On the ice and in the water at sub-zero temperatures in February, 2019. Sixteen Canada Geese and two Mute Swans, one on the ice the other in the water.

“Welcome back.” As soon as the breeding season starts in April when the ice is out of the lake and the river, these birds become fiercely territorial and the stately Mute Swan will chase away the Canada Geese, sometimes over long distances across the lake or from one bay into the other.

Restoration Work of Kingston Mills Locks

Parks Canada started restorative work on the locks and infrastructure around it in November 2018.  It will take three winter and spring seasons to complete it. The work will stop at the end of April of each year to allow for the opening of the Rideau Canal early May.  It’s hard to believe but that is only a bit more than three months from now.

The first step was to built extensive enclosures over the locks so the space can be heated with propane. The photos will give an impression of the extent of the construction site.

Enclosure of the west side of  the first lock at Colonel By Lake. When finished, the lock space can be heated and the restoration work can be started. The logistics are extraordinary and the work will involve removal and replacement of damaged limestone blocks, backfill and grouting. In fact, it will involve a total overhaul and rebuild of the stone works.

Enclosure in progress on the East side of the lock.

The picnic area is now a staging and logistics area. This will be restored again to a grass covered camping and picnic area in April-May, we imagine.

The lockmaster’s office grounds have become a storage area for propane tanks and piles of scaffolding.

All the while the lake level is low and will remain extreme low to  allow the restauraton work to proceed. The run-off below the weir creates a nice winter scene.

From the Parks Canada website: Kingston Mills Lock Rehabilitation is part of an unprecedented $3 billion dollars investment over 5 years to support infrastructure work to heritage, visitor, waterway and highway assets located within national historic sites, national parks, and national marine conservation areas across Canada. These investments represent the largest federal infrastructure plan in the 105-year history of Parks Canada.

For more information go here: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/on/rideau/visit/infrastructure/kingston/ecluses-kingston-mills-lock

 

WINTER MIGRATION 2018

Jackie Duffin and Bob Wolfe, neighbours on the Aragon Road, sent us early morning photos of water birds congregating on a thin sheet of ice that had formed overnight on Colonel By Lake

“On 22 Nov we woke up to find the lake had frozen with the extreme early cold….(the only year it happened earlier was 1995). But more amazing was the massive number of geese and some ducks that had flown in the evening before and remained there overnight. At first we couldn’t tell it they were floating in the water or sitting on top of the ice. As it got brighter we learned that it was the latter. They were huddled to keep warm — and to our amazement a lonely swan showed up too. By the end of the day they had all flown away.”

The photo below is especially beautiful with some of the birds in focus while others are resting in the early morning fog that hovers over the cold surface. To the right of the standing geese seems to be a little open water with two geese floating in the opening.

Why don’t their feet freeze to the ice? I looked it up on Google: Ducks, as well as many other birds, have a counter-current heat exchange system between the arteries and veins in their legs. Warm arterial blood flowing to the feet passes close to cold venous blood returning from the feet.”

That means the arterial blood flowing into the feet has given off its heat-energy to the the venous blood that is being returned to the body. And that means the cooled arterial blood flowing into the feet doesn’t lose much heat to the cold ice.  In this way only five percent of body heat is lost through the feet. In fact the feet are close enough to the temperature of the ice that they don’t freeze to it. A wonderful evolutionary heat exchange system.

Why don’t  waterfowl  that float and swim in ice-cold water not become hypothermic and die? Are the feathers and down so well organised in layers that the skin doesn’t get wet? And therefore the body doesn’t lose much heat? After all we would die from hypothermia in less than a few minutes if we were submerged in water at zero degree Celsius.

Google: “If you can watch some ducks for a while you might notice that they spend a lot of time nibbling their feathers with their beaks. This is called preening. While the duck is preening she is spreading oil all over her top layer of feathers. The oil comes from a special place near her tail called a gland and when she spreads the oil over her feathers it makes her feathers waterproof. The water can’t get through the first layer of oily feathers and so all of her feathers underneath stay dry and fluffy and keep her warm all over.”

A view from the Wolfe/Duffin property on Colonel By Lake, just north of Kingston Mills on the Rideau Canal between Ottawa and Kingston, Ontario.

Among the many geese there is one lonely swan.

This could be a mute swan, a trumpeter, or a tundra swan. It is difficult to see from a distance like this. It’s most likely a mute swan, the ones we see each spring and summer on Colonel By Lake and in the River Styx. These swans are an introduced species from Europe and Asia. They have an orange coloured beak and an elegantly curved neck while swimming. Tundra and trumpeter swans have a black beak with a straight neck and are more in groups. We saw them last week on our visit to the Opinican Resort at Chaffeys Locks on Lake Opinican about forty kilometers north of Kingston on the Rideau Canal.

We hope you like the photos of a very late fall migration on our doorsteps.

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