The Story of the Land Part 3: The Schipper family learns from the land and the creation of Pigeon Lake

By Mieke Schipper

As told to a grade two class visiting Gamiing Nature Centre

25 years ago

It is 25 years ago when our family came here to this farm to live. We called it “Paradise Farms”, because we thought it was beautiful.  However, the land was rather barren, that means unproductive ; not much was growing there, except rocks it seemed, like large pebbles and small rocks.

We walked the land every day and went into a different direction each day.  And we began to wonder.  What has happened here?  Who lived here?  What did they do?  We had so many questions and we really didn’t know where to get the answers.

And then, one day, I got it. I thought, the land is telling us something.  But how can I find out what it is the land is telling us?

What do you think? How can we find out what the land is telling us?

Listening, that is good. But is the land talking? Well, yes, but the land is NOT talking like you and I can talk and listen to one another.

I had to learn to listen another way, in a way my friend Nancy listens. She is deaf, but tells me she listens with her eyes and nose and hands and mouth and smell. That is how she finds out what it is I am talking to her about.

So, I had to learn to listen like Nancy is listening,
with my ears –listen to the sound of the wind, the birds, the rush of water;
with my eyes – what is growing here and why is that not growing anywhere else, what kind of animals are living here;
with my nose – the smell of flowers, trees and shrubs, the smell of animals,the smell of the lake, which changes with the season;
listening with my hands – feeling the different barks of trees, grabbing a hand of soil;
and with my mouth – tasting what the land is offering me, like berries, lots of berries, roots of plants and young leaves of dandelions.

So when I had finally figured that one out, I started to walk the land in a very different way.
Why was it so barren and rocky?

 If you look at this land, right here at GAMIING, you will see many leftovers of the years when people chopped the trees down and tried to farm.

Here, we are on top of a hill. Down there is the lake and the lake is in a valley. The top of the hill is on the west side and the lake down below is on the east side. Most of the winds that blow here come from the west and they blow toward the east. So when the trees were all cut and the grass had not grown yet, what do you think happened to the soil? Yes, that all blew down into the valley. That is what we call EROSION, the soil was wearing off the underlying rubble.

That is how I found the land. Now there are some trees and plants and shrubs that can live on and between rubble. Christmas trees are a good example. So, I thought that is probably what the land would like, getting dressed up again, not laying so naked there.

baby christmas tree

So we planted hundreds of Christmas trees, spruce and pine, but also hardwood like maple and ash and walnut. The roots of these trees kept the soil in place so it stopped blowing away and under the trees other plants and grasses started to grow, plants that would die down in the fall, then rotted and that became a little bit more soil. Also the wind and the sand rubbed the rocks and that became soil. So after many years, there became more soil of the rotted plants and the scoured rocks each year and the trees started growing and birds came to the trees and they carried seeds from other trees with them and dropped them in the field and that started to grow and the wind blew in seeds and they started to grow.

And in the soil there were still seeds from long ago and they started to sprout and grow. So very slowly we are getting a forest back.

And then the animals came. They found shelter on the edges of the new forests. There is now white tail deer, foxes, coyotes, wild turkeys, grouse, pheasants and many other birds.

And the land is so happy. It gives us so much back every day. But we still have to help the land a bit because sometimes there are trees and plants that are just like bullies. They come in and grow and they want to take over, but they don’t belong here. So we have to make sure that that is not going to happen. We like to keep the land happy.

Now I want to tell you a little bit about a lake that used to be a stream.

Just a minute ago I told you about the wind that blew the soil in the valley. I did not say that it blew in the lake, because there was not a lake yet.

On this old map you can see where Pigeon Lake was and then there was Pigeon River.
Pigeon River still exists but now starts further south, near Omemee.

When the dams in Bobcaygeon and Buckhorn were built, the government went to the farmers along the Pigeon River and told them that their land would be flooded. And that is what happened. So much land along the Pigeon River was flooded that it no longer was a stream but now had become a lake. But remember, the soil that had blown in the valley, well that is now the bottom of the lake, and things started to grow there, cattails mostly.

Lots of people hate cattails and marshes and wetlands and weeds in the lake. But actually if you listen very carefully, marshes and wetlands are the very best thing that can happen to a lake. They work like a coffee filter. The water goes through it but it holds dirty stuff back, like the coffee grinds in the filter. The marshes and wetlands are also home to many different kinds of birds and ducks and blue herons and ospreys and fish. And there are many flowers growing in the marshes. The marshes and wetland here at  Gamiing Nature Centre are called Victoria Wetland and they are special. They are an Area of Natural and Scientific interest, a mouth full. Just call them ANSI wetlands but remember that they are special!

So next time when you hear someone complaining about the weeds in the lake, especially about the marshes and wetlands you can tell them that these “weeds” are doing a bang-up cleaning job keeping our water healthy and they are home to many plants and birds and mammals and amphibians.

So, that is to story of the land. I hope when you go out that you can listen to the land and learn from it too.

My 30 Day vegan challenge – Week 4 (and day 30)

By Kirk Lilwall

“What the caterpillar calls the end the rest of the world calls a butterfly.”
~Lao Tzu~

 30 days have come and gone.  The whole idea of this challenge was to see if I could indeed make it 30 days without any dairy, fish, or eggs.  While I had been ‘vegetarian’ (technically lacto-ova pescatarian) for a while before embarking on this challenge, I had noticed that my reliance on those select animal proteins that I still consumed was becoming more and more prominent.  I ate so much fish you’d think I lived in a coastal town.

Looking back over my previous entries, I realize that I never really explained my background nor my reasons for wanting to try a vegan diet.  I was very much raised in a ‘meat and potatoes’ home and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I decided to switch to vegetarianism.  While I am an animal lover and an environmentalist, the reason for my switch was purely selfish.  I wanted to lose weight and I am afraid of eating my way to diabetes.

While I did lose some weight the results were limited by my love of junk food (especially sodey-pop.)  But there were other benefits in that I felt better and learned to cook new foods without relying on a piece of meat to be the centerpiece of the meal.

Now, why did I set out on this challenge?  I don’t fully know.  Again, I need to lose weight.  Also, my love of the natural world is strong (and the meat industry is undeniably a major contributor to climate change.)  My love of animals is stronger than ever, I suppose.  Did I do it to be contrary?  Difficult?  Different?

I’m honestly not sure why I did this challenge but I do know that I have enjoyed it.  I have lost a little weight, I sleep so much better than I did, I got to try some foods I may not have otherwise tried, and I just plain feel better.

With all of that said, I think this challenge may be shifting from 30 days to lifestyle change.  I’m a believer in possibilities (as in, nothing is impossible, only highly improbable a la Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy) so I will not say that I will never knowingly eat animal protein again but I will say that I plan to continue along this vegan path as far as it will take me.  I hope that you’ll join me as I plan to continue these posts as I travel.

Thanks for reading and happy eating!


Climate change and future climate projections

By Luisa Cristini, PhD. University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The climate issue has become topical in the last years and the public opinion is fed with the most disparate and confusing explanations. Words like “climate change” and “future climate projections” have become popular, although, their meaning is not clear to many. Why does climate change? And how do climatologists know what the climate will be like in a hundred years?

What is climate?

To reply to these questions, it is important to first answer another question: What is climate? Climate is rather difficult to define because it involves factors from the smallest oceanic microorganism to the Earth’s astronomical configuration. Climate is not weather, though the two are often confused. The weather in a certain location is the state of the atmosphere at a particular time. This is characterized by physical parameters like temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind, pressure, etc. The statistics of weather over a time period of many years (at least 30, as defined by the World Meteorological Organization) is the climate of a specific location. However, the atmosphere, and therefore weather, is influenced by the other components of the Earth system, i.e, ocean, land surface, biosphere (animals and vegetation) and cryosphere (ice). Therefore the state of Earth’s climate also includes the conditions of those parts. All the Earth’s subsystems are connected with each other; hence a change in one of them has consequences for the others. It is easy now to understand the difficulties of predicting how climate can change in the future.

Natural changes in climate

Since the beginning of Earth’s history, climate has always been in constant evolution, due to natural forcing (natural changes). The ultimate source of natural climate change is Earth’s position with respect to the Sun. The solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface is not evenly distributed in space and time, due to the movement of the planet. In particular the periodicity of the Earth’s three orbital parameters -eccentricity (how close the orbit is to a circle), obliquity (the degree Earth’s rotational axis is tilted from perpendicular to its orbital plane) and precession (the circular movement of Earth’s North-South rotational axis) – over hundreds of thousands of years gives rise to the glacial and interglacial eras. Climate can also change as a result of tectonic movements, i.e., the movements of Earth’s crust, which can lead to different oceanic regimes. Changes in the atmospheric composition can lead to increase or decrease of the air temperature, with consequences on glaciers and ice sheets or land biosphere, just to cite two examples.

Human-induced climate change

Since the Industrial Revolution, a couple of centuries ago, humans are also contributing to climate change mostly by the continuous burning of fossil fuel and the extensive use of land and ocean resources. The human impact on climate is called anthropogenic forcing. We know that the current climate change is human-induced because it’s extremely fast (on geological time scales!) and computer models cannot reproduce it without including anthropogenic forcing, in addition to natural forcing. According to the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), present and future climate change arises from the complex interaction between human and natural systems, socio-economic development and the associated emission of greenhouse gases.

Climate modeling

Future climate projections (not weather forecasts!) are produced with climate models on the basis of “emission scenarios”. Each scenario makes different assumptions about important factors such as how the world’s population may increase, what policies might be introduced to deal with climate change, how the global economy will develop and how much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases humans will pump into the atmosphere. The resulting projection of the future climate for each scenario, gives various possibilities for the temperature, but within a defined range.

Climate models are simply ways to quantify our understanding of climate. They are based on our understanding of basic scientific principles and climate processes and on observations. Obviously, they have limitations and will never be able to forecast the future exactly. However, over the last decades, climate models have become able to simulate physical, chemical and biological processes, and work on small spatial scales. Modern models are accurate in reproducing how climate works and have been able to reproduce the overall climate of the past. Additionally, models are tested and validated against many types of data. The results from climate modeling are robust (a variety of tests produce the same results) and have both theoretical and observational support. These results give us a reliable guide to the direction and magnitude of future climate change.

References and further resources

The Story of the Land Part 2: First Nations’ wars to the first European Farmers (1000 to 200 years ago)

Gamiing Arial photo 2010

Gamiing Land 2010

By Mieke Schipper

-as told to a grade 2 class visiting Gamiing Nature Centre

1000 years ago – 600 years ago

The Kawartha’s became an area were people fought a lot with one another:

The Ojibwas, Huron’s and Algonquin’s were coming from the north and north west and the Iroquois came from south. They canoed and portaged to the Kawartha’s because of the rich hunting grounds and they all wanted to live here.

400 years ago

About 400 years ago, European people came from France, England and Holland and they all wanted to become rich of the fur trade that the native people had set up. They played mean games with the native peoples. They said that the land was not worth much, so the native peoples sold the land for only a few furs and then they were pushed away unto reserves. Even today they are arguing with the governments to get their rightful lands back. Do you think that is right? What do you think should happen?

200 years ago

About 200 years ago, a man named Peter Robinson was sent by the government of England to this area. He had to divide the land up in rectangles of 100 acres or 50 hectares each. Then he sent for farmers from Scotland and Ireland and England and they had names like O’Neill and Perdue and Taylor and McDonald.

This land was still all forest, marsh and streams. But they came here, because they wanted to farm here. So they cut all the trees down. That took them a very long time, because they did not have chainsaws. And once they had felled the trees and used the logs to build their cabins, they still had to dig out the tree stumps. When they were finally ready with that, it had well taken them three years to clear one field. They found out very quickly that there was a lot of rubble in the soil (remember that the melting ice dropped pebbles and rocks and sand?) and that the layer of soil was very thin and that no matter how many times they cleared out the rocks, they kept coming up through the soil. Eventually they figured out, that this land was not good enough to grow barley and grain and wheat and potatoes, what they used to grow in the old country and that it was only good for some pasture.


My 30 day vegan challenge – Week 3

By Kirk Lilwall

Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible.
The Dalai Lama

There is a phenomenon I’ve noticed.  While some people do not know how to react to my new Vegan-ity (not sure that’s a word), there are some who seem to have figured out how to use it in their favour.

I should tell you that I, like many of my friends and family, do not like to be the person who decides for the group.  Like, perhaps, many of your friends, my friends and I will often spend over a half-hour trying to decide where we should eat when going out.  No-one will just pick somewhere!

Enter some of the more opportunistic and clever amongst the people I associate with.  There are a couple of people who will now play this card almost instantly when a similar conversation comes up: “Well, Kirk, you have the most restrictive diet; where can you eat?”  This forces me to decide or, at the very least, provide some options.  They are now relieved from having to decide anything, as I must choose where we dine.  It can be a little frustrating but I’ve decided I will start to use this to my advantage.  There will be more Kale and beans consumed in the near future for anyone who plays this game.

Part of my experiment with vegan life, is examining the culture around the issue.  This weekend I had the opportunity to see a film called Forks Over Knives.  It is a documentary that follows and outlines the work of two doctors doing separate research and coming to the same conclusion: a whole foods diet that has very low or no animal protein in it is far healthier than one that has high amounts of animal protein.

The research not only shows that heart disease, diabetes, and many forms of cancer are higher in diets like the ones commonly practiced in North America and the West but that a switch to a whole foods based diet can prevent and, most amazingly, reverse these conditions.  It is certainly a film worth checking out and, if you want to delve deeper, check out The China Study, (a book that outlines some of the research highlighted in the film.)

The other thing I’m doing is reading a book called Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry.

As you might have guessed from the title, this is not light reading.  This book has many first hand accounts of workers, inspectors, and other members of the meat industry.  It is both shocking and disturbing.  While I think everyone should be educated about how this industry operates (your health may depend on it) I would advise anyone who reads this book to do so with care and caution.  I have been moved to tears several times, feeling empathy for both the abused animals and the abused workers.  I’m about 2/3 of the way through the book and will say that if I do decide to eat meat again in the future, it will not be store bought, processed meat.  Organic, locally sourced certainly seems to be a much safer and prudent choice.

Today marks 21 days for my vegan adventure and I can honestly say I feel really good.  Please feel free to keep the comments coming (as well as the handy links!)

Thanks for reading and happy eating!


My 30 day vegan challenge – week 2

By Kirk Lilwall

“Chicken isn’t vegan!?” – Todd Ingram, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

This week lead to some new challenges and new discoveries.  What I’m discovering is, that it’s not that hard to cut out animal protein if you approach it from the right point of view.

People hear that I’m trying out a vegan diet and they are immediately amazed at all of the limitations that I will face.  This is not how I see this.  If I were to focus on limitations, I’m not sure I’d be able to see all of the possibilities.  Don’t get me wrong, there have been moments of “I can’t eat that?” but they are few and far between.

One of the things that I discovered this week (through conversation with my partner and her mother) was that sugar is not necessarily vegan.  Seems weird, right?  Part of making sugar, is the filtering process.  It turns out that a lot of commercial sugar is filtered through animal bones.  The use of ‘bone char’ is used to remove the colour from sugar (to make it nice and white rather than brown.)

This means, of course, that animal product can end up in your sugar.  Luckily, this is not nearly as common a practice as it once was.  If you want to be extra diligent, you should buy sugar that is raw or organic.  You may want to avoid refined sugar if you are concerned about this possibility.  Another thing to note, brown sugar is not necessarily raw.  It can actually be white sugar that has been coated with molasses to make it brown.  Read labels!

I should note that I was thrilled to get a comment on my first entry.  I hope I answered the question asked but if you feel my answer was incomplete, please enter the conversation in the comments sections below these posts!

Thanks for reading and happy eating!