Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mountain Lock Park

Grandma came by to visit during the March Break, and we went exploring! I had talked to Grandma in the past about finding this park, and looking around, and before she came I did a little Internet research to find out where it was - to my surprise we drive by one corner of it regularly!

If you are a St. Catharine's person, you probably already know (though I seem to have missed this for 13 years!) that Mountain Locks Park is just behind the Keg around Glendale! The City of St. Catharines even has a walking tour of this park, that we printed off and took with us!

Mountain Locks Park has the ruins and remains of locks from the first and second Welland Canals. Here is the group at what is left of one of the old wooden locks from the first canal. Part of the lock was rebuilt about 30 years ago, and even that part is falling apart now, the rest is just lines on the ground.

There are some really fun parts where you can climb on old parts of locks and weirs, if you are so inclined!

Or race along the top of an old lock, now filled in with brush. Some of these empty locks give you a feeling of how big they were, and these were all dug out by hand! Some of the locks have water passing through them still (see top photo), and there are also a few nearby buildings noted on the tour that played a role in early canal life.

I think Emmi sums up our trip to the park! Now we know where it is, I am sure we will be back, and there were a couple of stops on the walking tour we missed, so I would like to go back and find them!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Maple Syrup Days - the Volunteers

In the week of March Break, Emmi, Tim and I were volunteers at Agape Valley a couple of days. We all worked in the pancake house. Tim's job was to help here and there, and periodically to dress up as a giant bee and walk around shaking people's hands, and having his picture taken. Usually he was joined on his walk-abouts by another volunteer dressed as a giant squirrel. Although he did scare a few small children, he did very well as the bee! On his breaks he was able to play chess with other volunteers and eat pizza. Not bad! Here he is on one of his bee visitations.

Emmi was an "order runner". She had to stand by a window near the cashier and take papers with orders for meals from the cashier to the kitchen. It is an important job! She was a great worker!

I had one of the more glamourous jobs in the pancake house - garbage sorter. Volunteers would clear tables and bring me the garbage, which I had to sort into organics and the different kinds of recycling. Here is my station:

Interestingly, there is no actual "garbage" hole in this station, everything had a recycling or organics spot to go.

It was fascinating to work at the pancake house and see all the different (and vital) jobs needed to make it work well. There was a great spirit of camraderie, and we enjoyed our time there very much!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Maple Syrup Days - the Tour

March Break is maple syrup time! This year we added to our usual maple syrup experience by volunteering at Agape Valley. So this post will be in two parts, this is part one - The Tour. While Tim and David were bottling maple syrup in the sugar shack, I took Emmi, Ben and Pip on the maple syrup tour. One of our first stops was to see the traditional method of collecting syrup, in a bucket.

Although picturesque, it is not as convenient as the modern method, with tubes. Ben and Pip are happy to listen to our guide explain how the tube system works:

It was a pretty cool and wet day when we went on the tour, so we were very glad to get to the stop on the tour when we gather around the fire and learn how pioneers and First Nations people made maple syrup.

Once in the sugar shack, we were told how the evaporator works, and all sorts of useful information about maple syrup. Because I was the mom of one of the volunteers, I was able to go behind the plexiglass window to have a personal tour of the bottling stage. Tim demonstrated where David held the bottles that were filled with syrup stored in the large stainless steel vat.

Then Tim's job was to put on the tops, check for leaks, and pass the bottles down to the fellow who wiped them clean before the stickers went on. I was able to buy some syrup from the store that had been bottled by Marshes!

I returned with the little wiggles to the pancake house (where Emmi had been volunteering), she returned to work, and the boys and I enjoyed lunch! As I said, it was one of the cold and wet days, so we were very happy to be able to sit by the fire while we ate our hot pancakes and very local maple syrup!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sunday Tea

Here's a little treat I baked recently for our Sunday tea! They didn't last very long!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Homeschool Retreat

We were "up north" (to me - Gravenhurst area) recently for a homeschool retreat. It was fantastic to experience SNOW in abundance! It was also great to hang out with a lot of other homeschool families, and have some good chats with the other moms! The older children were in a program that had classes and curriculum, their theme was the Olympics. One of their activities was making Olympic torches and having a torch relay. Here is Tim doing his part:

They were also taught some sports in a more formal way. But we also got to try out some winter sports on our free time. Here is Tim again, learning to cross-county ski! (I know his poles are way too big for him, but they were the only green pair, and Tim loves green!)

The little ones pretty played the whole day, and slept really well at night! Here is Ben on a large snow hill where a "luge" run had been created (luging only on your bottom please!).

We also were able to snowshoe, play hockey, go tubing, and - new for all the Marshwiggles - go ice fishing! One of the camp staff drilled a number of holes in the ice of the lake, and set up these interesting fishing poles:

There is a line coming down into the hole, with bait on the end, and then when a fish bites it, the top of the pole bends down. You are supposed to be quiet near the fishing hole, so as not to scare away the fish! While Pip and I were out looking in one hole, another one several metres away suddenly bent down, and we all rushed over! The staff member (Andrew) started gently pulling up the line, as he got the fish close to the hole, the fish started to wiggle violently, and then - it bit the line! Andrew thrust his hands into the (COLD) water and flipped the fish out on to the snow! Wow! It wiggled around - to the great interest of Pip and other children who had gathered around. Then Andrew took his drill and made a little pond for the fish (not connected directly to the lakewater) and the fish stayed there for the rest of the afternoon. Here a group of boys keep an eye on the fish - it was a northern pike.

In spite of all the talk about eating him for breakfast, I have a suspicion the fish is still swimming in the lake (quietly returned by Andrew after we all went up to supper). Here he is - the hero of the hour - the fish:

We returned home with many damp mittens, but it was worth it!