Razzle-Dazzle at the Midway

On a balmy June evening at Stouffville’s Memorial Park, my grandson gave me the stink-eye for taking too many photos of his baseball team. I meandered 500 feet away to explore the midway attraction for next day’s Canada Day celebrations and local Strawberry Festival. I gained permission to wander the site and take photos of it, and the busy crew. All were friendly and indulged my curiosity. I concluded that midways are all about colour, and at peak times: loud music, canned laugh tracks, whistles, motors, squealing kids, junk food … . Brings to mind words like “razzamatazz” and “razzle-dazzle.”

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About ten crew, men and women, unloaded huge plastic bags holding smooshed Minions, Pikachu, Super Mario, Spiderman, Gremlins and assorted Disney icons they hung from colourful gaming booths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tired crew still had a few hours of work ahead of them. The young man had a gash on his arm, and I overheard talk about a salve someone had for him.

Tired crew still had a few hours of work ahead of them. The young man had a gash on his arm, and I overheard talk about a salve someone had for him.

This lovely girl agreed to have her photo taken by the Fish Pond, her station as I was to see when I visited the site the next day. Travelling with the "Midway" is an unusual summer job, but pays for her college education.

This lovely girl agreed to have her photo taken by the Fish Pond, her station as I was to see when I visited the site the next day. Travelling with the “Midway” is an unusual summer job, but pays for her college education.

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Stouffville Farming Heritage

Sights and sounds of earth-moving are commonplace on Stouffville’s perimeter. The city of 42,000, is fast-growing, conveniently located 30 minutes by car (excluding rush hour) north of Toronto in Ontario.

For years, high-priced land values convince many farmers to sell, gradually converting exceptional farmland to urban subdivisions. While developers hold land for zoning approvals, they rent it back to existing farmers. But unused farmhouses deteriorate and barns collapse. Pride of ownership is gone.

I’m a relative newcomer to the city, one who benefits from owning a new house. But I’m also a heritage sentimentalist. To add to the disappearing photographic history of what will soon be gone, I photographed some of what existed in Spring 2013, viewed from the roadsides dotted with For Sale/Sold signs. Progress is inevitable. Hopefully there will be remembrance.

Typical landscapes encircling Stouffville

Typical landscapes encircling Stouffville, a city on the southern borders of the Oak Ridge Moraine

The Oak Ridge Moraine borders the northeast of Stouffville's boundaries

A healthy functioning farm very close to  eastern boundaries of Stouffville’s development

Derelict barns, once vital to the farmer rot from disuse, or conversion to storage.

Derelict barns, once vital to the farmer rot from disuse.

A recent capitulation that will disappear within a couple of years for the housing encroaching the property lines.

A recent capitulation (for sale sign) that will disappear for housing within a few of years,  encroaching the north side of the property on the right. The CN Tower in Toronto is viewed from this high point looking south on the left.

This appears to be a functioning farm south of Stouffville, although it might be for sale at the right price.

This appears to be a functioning farm south of Stouffville

Zoning signs indicate this will be cemetery land in the future

Zoning signs indicate this will be cemetery land in the future, although recent council is reconsidering this use.

Spring is a busy time for farmers whether owning the farms or renting. Tractors till the soil.

Spring is a busy time for farmers whether owning the farms or renting. Tractors till the soil.

Open barns provide shelter for foraging animals and birds.

Open barns provide shelter for foraging animals and birds.

Spring planting north of Stouffville. The water tower on the left is on Stouffville's 10th Line beside the once famous Stouffville Country Market. View looking southeast

Spring planting north of Stouffville. The water tower on the left is on Stouffville’s 10th Line beside the once famous Stouffville Country Market. View looking west

On a clear day this farmer can see the CN tower, which is southwest of Stouffville

Rolling quality of farmland southwest of Stouffville

Barn and outbuildings north of Stouffville on 9th Line

Barn and outbuildings north of Stouffville on 9th Line near Bethesda Road

Abandoned farm on 9th Line south of Stouffville, formerly Cheepack’s Market and Antique store, which advertised “runny butter tarts.”

 

Although the paint is peeling, it's a typical "little red barn" south of Stouffville

Although the paint is peeling, a typical “little red barn” south of Stouffville

Often, after farms are sold, developers continue to rent the houses and land to tenants or local farmers who wish to expand their farming use. But the barns have no function without ownership, and are often torn down for safety reasons.

Developers continue to rent houses and land to tenants or local farmers who wish to expand their farming business. But the barns have no function without ownership, often torn down for safety reasons.

In southeast Stouffville, a new subdivision encroaches on farmland. This one is located on high ground where expensive homes will enjoy a vista, and if well located, see Toronto's skyline in the distance. Part Two of this series will show how housing encroaches the farmland and changes the landscape.

In southeast Stouffville, a new subdivision encroaches on farmland. This one is located on high ground where expensive homes will enjoy a vista, and if well located, see Toronto’s skyline in the distance.

Bruce’s Mill Conservation Maple Syrup Festival

In March, Canada’s maple trees drip watery sap into metal buckets tapped into their trunks – a sure sign of spring’s approach. Bruce’s Mill Conservation Park’s educational Maple Syrup Festival runs for 9 days near Warden Ave. & Stouffville Rd. in York Region. I visited the site today, pleasantly surprised to see a great turnout and interesting displays.

This 1858 flour mill near Warden Avenue and Stouffville Road in York Region replaced

This 1858 flour mill structure built by brothers William & Robert Bruce replaced the original water-powered mill built 1829 by pioneer Casper Sherk. Situated on a tributary for the Rouge Watershed, the mill operated until 1962.

 

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Natives erected small, bark wigwams to shelter them from the cold outdoor labour required for collecting the sap in birch bark containers. Early pioneers used wooden stave barrels, and later, metal pails. They brought black iron kettles from Europe for boiling the sap and making what we today recognize as maple syrup. Their first task was to chop and stock enough wood to keep fires at high flame for long periods of boiling time. Maple syrup was the single source for sweetening, as sugar was not available.

Native wigwam

Native wigwam

Europeans produced more syrup using iron kettles

Europeans produced more syrup using iron kettles hung over fires

 

 

 

 

 

 

After breakfast at the on-site restaurant (pancakes, maple sausages and syrup), we headed to the horse-drawn wagon ride. There were pony rides for youngsters, games and a straw maze. A juggling unicyclist added to the festival atmosphere.

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Four predatory birds (with knowledgeable handlers) drew large crowds: snow owl, great horned owl, Harris hawk and a fourth unknown to me. I didn’t hesitate to have a turn standing eye to eye with this spectacular horned owl hunter commonly found in our area.

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I walked a distance to find the mill (now empty). There is a fascinating spruce tree growing along the pathway. I suspect its girth might have been common in pioneering days, but its notable size (and preservation) puts one in awe of what we are missing today.

No Substitute for Experience at Harry’s Woodworking Shop

 

Schell's 2nd storey woodworking shop, Edward St., Stouffville, Ontario

Schell’s 2nd storey woodworking shop, Edward St., Stouffville, Ontario

My photo-safari buddy, Cheryl Andrews, and I crept up worn treads in the narrow staircase leading to Harry Schell’s  100-year old woodworking shop.

Located above Schell Home Building Centre we found 86-year old craftsman, Harry, working at his desk, which he does 5 days a week. After introductions, Harry kindly permitted us to photograph a significant piece of history in my Ontario town, Stouffville.

IMG_3796Wesley Schell purchased the lumber business in the 1920s (originally an 1878 planing mill ), and years later turned it over to sons, Harry and Percy. Harry managed the mill workshop, while brother Percy managed the office. Long before Wesley died in 1984, he and his sons had converted the machinery from steam-driven to electric. The family expanded their services to become Stouffville’s hardware and lumber experts. The cornerstone of their business is sound knowledge, friendly service and ingenuity.

Harry Schell

Harry Schell

 

Today, the brothers’ children and grandchildren work in the sprawling lumber yard, gardening and hardware stores, and woodworking shop.

 

Glen cut out 278 custom railings that day.

Glen cut out 278 custom railings that day.

Craftsman, Glen Byer

Craftsman, Glen Byer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Workshop:

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IMG_3877IMG_3866Machinery: There is more machinery on the floor than I’ve shown here, many with identifying manufacturers’ names from a bygone era, useable today.

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IMG_3818IMG_3817 IMG_3871 IMG_3864The Details: Certain elements of the machinery or assorted components are appealing subjects to photograph.

There were hundreds of metal forms for customizing moulding and trim. Schell craftsmen are often referred to for restoration of moulding/trim for historic homes.

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Hand tools: Old-style amongst the modern.

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Beauty of Design:

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Custom-finished Shelf Unit:

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Miscellaneous:

Schell’s separate Country Living store sells an eclectic mix of gardening tools and outdoor products, bird feeders, outdoor utility clothing and footwear. It’s also where you buy custom-made doors, granite counters, etc.

Schell's separate Country Living store offers everything from gardening tools, to bird feeders, to outdoor utility clothing (in a huge range of sizes.

Compare the size of the boot I’m holding in the photo below to the Size 9 boots I’m wearing. And I found another pair of boots larger than this, later!

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Bright windows overlook Edward Street.

Bright windows overlook Edward Street close to the heart of town.

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Below is a photograph of one of the younger generations of Schells, Harry’s grandson, Jeremy. He overlooks the back parking lot where the railway runs between Schell and a condo development in the background. Until a few months ago, Schell’s parking lot was adjacent to one of five remaining rail-side elevators, demolished by the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville in Spring 2015 to make room for commuters to park their cars.

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When my husband and I tackle home improvement projects, Schell is our “go-to” store. Staff is knowledgeable and good-humoured. Best of all they have long-standing relationships with the best tradesmen in our area, and happily recommend them. Schell’s legacy in Stouffville is admirable. Harry and staff showed Cheryl and me great patience as we poked around the workshop asking questions and getting answers. A great photo outing. Thanks, Harry.

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Blood Moon

Two great events happened in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) today.

The Blue Jays Major League Baseball Club won the wild card position and will head into playoffs. Go Jays.

A Blood Moon (also known as Supermoon) brought my neighbours curbside on a balmy night to witness a celestial extravaganza. Since 1910 there have been only 5 times the sun, Earth and moon have been in perfect alignment. The moon passes through the Earth’s shadow and basks in the overflow of the sun’s rays changing the white orb to an orangey-red. The clouds parted for about 15 minutes, long enough to see the awe-inspiring eclipse.

I propped my arms on the hood of a car parked on the street and clicked away.

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Stouffville Grain Elevator: Going … going … gone

Heritage advisors and Stouffville Council tried to save and repurpose one of the last of 5 grain elevators in Ontario. I photographed the site just days before its demolition.

Stouffville's Co-Op in Metrolink's parking lot, opposite the Go train service.

Stouffville’s Co-Op in Metrolink’s parking lot, opposite the Go train service.

For 2 years Council negotiated with Metrolinx (Go Service) to find a new home for the building, which has been empty for 10 years and now derelict. There are legitimate liability issues for fire, animal infestation and public safety, but some consider the relic an unwelcome eyesore.

The 1650 sq. ft. building takes up precious parking spaces on Metrolinx land. The corporation offered up to 1 million dollars  to the town for dismantling and moving the building. Although there were a few repurposing solutions offered up, in the end, Council could not afford the anticipated moving cost of 2 million dollars. Since 1998 the town’s population has grown from 17,000 to 45,000. New roads and facilities for a growing town compete for dollars. The luxury of keeping town landmarks in the budget is often overlooked.

The grain elevator is a local landmark, a strong reminder of Stouffville's rural roots and the importance of the railway to the town's history.

The grain elevator is a local landmark, a reminder of Stouffville’s rural roots. The coming of the railway in the 1870s was important to local farmers.

The time limit for Metrolinx’s offer is past. It can legally swing a wrecking ball if it so wishes. Heritage advisors have asked it to keep some on the interior beams for a future project, but the corporation has no obligation. If it does so, it will be a goodwill gesture.

The town is divided on this issue, many blaming CN, the original owners of the elevator. They did not properly keep up the building once their lessee, Co-Op, left 10 years ago. Perhaps if they had considered the landmark significant, repurposing might have been possible today.

For a while, commuters will notice a gaping hole in the landscape of Stouffville's Go train station.

For a while, commuters will notice a gaping hole in the landscape of Stouffville’s Go train station.

Otter Lake Photography Workshop

Otter Lake

Arni Stinnissen utilized this magnificent lens

Naturalist and Photographer, Arni Stinnissen, utilizes this magnificent lens for capturing birds in their habitats.

How many times have I ruined photographs by dialing in the wrong settings on my Canon EOS Rebel T31? Countless times.

At the end of August, I joined five camera buffs for an Otter Lake workshop facilitated by Arni Stinnissen. Our goal was to sort out the confounding concepts of aperture, shutter speed and ISO on our cameras.

Cheryl Andrews hosted the event at her lakeside home near Parry Sound. The northern property offers interesting opportunities for sunrise/sunset, insects, flora and fauna, waterways, boats and architecture.

Arni taught the elements with thoroughness, patience and good humour. After each session we had ample time to practise what we had learned. Arni offered one-on-one time with each participant to help us understand how the concepts applied to our cameras.

At 10:00 pm we filed outside with our tripods and newly adjusted camera settings to photograph the Milky Way. The sky was ablaze with stars, but ground level was black. We learned the less glamourous aspects of night photography, like the inability to see camera settings without a flashlight, and fumbling the tripod to find the exact spot in the heavens to aim for. If there were any curious black bears around, they ran from our laugher.

The two-day workshop included a delicious dinner and breakfast – convivial times to get to know each other better. There were three teaching sessions and three free-times for roaming the house and property to practise our skills. Mental light bulbs flashed on as participants saw the improved results of switching from Auto settings to Semi-manual and Manual.

Here are two of my favourites that came out of the workshop.

Autumnal

Autumnal

 

Reflection

Reflection