Sunday 30 November 2008

My Town Monday - Toronto Normal School

[1-Normal School on Gould Street circa 1859]

Teacher training in this Province began on November 1st, 1847, when the Provincial Normal School was opened in the old Government House at the corner of King and Simcoe Streets.

[2-Sir John Beverley Robinson]

The Toronto Normal School was a teachers college in Toronto, Ontario. A normal school was a school created to train high school graduates to be teachers. Its purpose was to establish teaching standards or norms, hence its name. On November 1, 1847, the Normal School was opened in the old Government House at the corner of King and Simcoe Streets. Attending on this date were the Chief Superintendent of Schools (Dr. Egerton Ryerson) Bishop John Strachan, Dr. John McCaul, Chief Justice John Beverley Robinson (who was at the Battle of Queenston in 1812) and others.

[3-Dr. Adolphus Egerton Ryerson, circa 1850]

Dr. Ryerson delivered the address by explaining the meaning of the name of the school. "The word Normal signifies according to rule, or principle, and is employed to express the systematic teaching of the rudiments of learning. A Normal School is a school in which the principles and practice of teaching according to rule, are taught and exemplified."*

In 1848 a Model School was soon located at Church and Gould streets in central Toronto, and was a predecessor to the current Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. The Royal Ontario Museum, the Ontario College of Art & Design and the Ontario Agricultural College all originated at the Normal School's campus, officially named St. James Square, such that the school became known as “the cradle of Ontario's education system”. The school's landmark building was demolished in 1963, but architectural elements of the structure remain on the campus of Ryerson University.

[4-Toronto Normal School circa 1907]

The School was built in Classical Revival style buildings designed for this site by F.W. Cumberland and Thomas Ridout. In 1941 the Normal School was moved to a different site and renamed Toronto Teachers' College in 1953.

Research: Wikipedia, *Toronto Normal School 1847-1947, School of Graphic Arts (1948)

Photocredits: [1][2][3][4]-Wikipedia.

My Town Monday is the brainchild of Travis Erwin, founder, whose link can be found under MTM. There you will find other members writing about their home on this planet we call Earth.

Saturday 29 November 2008


The submission of my flash fiction piece, 'A Stash of Goods' has been accepted by BEAT TO A PULP. When I know the publication date, I will advise.

Friday 28 November 2008

Dressage Pairs With a Mini

For years in the equestrian sports, riding dressage has a certain elegance to it. Horse and rider moving effortlessly through their paces.

Europe came up with slightly different demonstrations of dressage executed in pairs; and the Spanish Riding School in Vienna had their horses doing quadrilles.

The following video shows a demonstration of dressage in pairs of a slightly different type.

Thursday 27 November 2008

Hiking Trails - Takakkaw Loop - Day 2

Trail is considered intermediate/difficult
Closest Town: Field, BC

This hike takes place in Yoho National Park in British Columbia in western Canada. Today is the second day of a hike that began last week at the Takakkaw Falls.

This hike covers the trail to the Whaleback and on to the Twin Falls campground to stay overnight. The distance to be covered is 11.5km.

[1-Morning sun on peak above Little Yoho Valley Campground]

The Little Yoho is a hanging valley immediately behind President Mountain, above 2000m.

[2-Bright sunshine in morning in the Little Yoho Valley]

[3-Waterfall in Little Yoho Valley near campground in morning light]

[4-Looking up Little Yoho Valley from the Stanley Mitchell Hut]

The Stanley Mitchell Hut is operated by the Alpine Club of Canada. Members can enjoy their stay with sleeping space for 26 in summer (22 in winter), well equipped with a woodstove, propane system for cooking and lighting. The Little Yoho Valley has long had a reputation as an excellent alpine climbing area as well as a magnificent skiing area. The Canadian military used the area during the summer of 1943 as a training site for mountaineering techniques.

[5- Stanley Mitchell Hut kitchen]

The hut has undergone a few renovations, but is relatively the same as it was in 1940. It is presently in excellent condition; a comfortable facility set in beautiful meadow and mountain terrain, and a fine memorial to one of the Club's founders. The Stanley Mitchell hut was designated a Federal Heritage Building in 1997.

[6- Stanley Mitchell hut living room]

Water can be obtained from the spring-fed stream behind the Stanley Mitchell Hut. It is recommended this water be boiled before drinking.

The first 2.5 kms east from Little Yoho is a comfortable hike through a thick forest. Keep a lookout for bears.

The hiker will approach a three-way junction. For the Whaleback Trail take the left turn. From here the trail becomes very steep with switchbacks over loose rock, roots and other obstacles while climbing over Whaleback Mountain.

[7-Whaleback trail]

[8- Whaleback Trail with summit in sight]

The end is close, as there is a glimpse of the trail summit. The Whaleback Trail goes as high as 2300 metres (7,545 ft), the mountain summit is at 2,633m (8,638ft).

[9-Whaleback Trail summit]

The reward on reaching the top is the scenic highlight of the Yoho Valley which is 2 kilometres away. At the top you will enjoy panoramic views of the valley including the Daly Glacier, Yoho Peak, Mt. Daly, Yoho Glacier.

On the other side The Vice-Presdient and The President Mountain (peak on right) can be seen with Emerald Glacier.

[10-The Vice-President and The President, 3,132m (10,246 ft) behind Emerald Glacier]

Another available view is of Mount Des Poilus, named in honour of the million and a half privates in the French army who were killed in the First World War, and the Des Poilus Glacier.

[11-View of south ridge of Des Poilus]

[12-Top of Twin Falls]

This seasonal bridge lies over the river that topples over into the "Twin Falls."

[13-Another view from the bridge looking out over the Yoho Valley]

Farther along the hiker will cross Twin Falls creek above the falls courtesy of a seasonal bridge that is only available in summer. There the hiker can stand at the top of the falls to look across the Yoho Valley.

[14-Whaleback Trail on edge of unprotected cliff 100 metres above the Twin Falls Chalet]

The trail parallels the edge of a cliff where there is a good location to have a lunch break after the strenuous exertion of climbing the Whaleback.

For the descent there are about 4km of steep switchbacks through the forest which will take the hiker to the valley bottom. It is important to be careful going down.

[15-Twin Falls]

[16-Twin Falls lower and streamlet]

[17- Twin Falls Chalet]

To reach the Twin Falls campground, the hiker will pass the Twin Falls Chalet, originally a teahouse built in 1908 by the Canadian Pacific Railway to accommodate travelers in the Canadian Rockies. Yoho National Park now owns the Twin Falls Chalet, operating it as a backcountry lodge open july to September (Labour Day). There is another 60m on a steep descent before you reach Twin Falls campground.

The Twin Falls campground has 8 camping sites with a privy and food storage pole.

If you have time, there is a short hike (2.3km) with an elevation gain of 250m from the campground to the edge of Yoho Glacier.

[18-Near edge of Yoho Glacier]

Reservations must be made three months in advance to stay overnight in the backcountry campgrounds. A wilderness pass must also be purchased ($9.90 overnight or $69.35 seasonally) to stay overnight in Yoho National Park. These may be purchased through ParksCanada.

Research:;; ParksCanada; wikipedia.
Photo Credits: [1]-inottawa CC=flickr, [2][3][4]-brilang CC=nc-sa-flickr, [5][6][10]-wikipedia, [7][8][14][15]-damclean CC=nc-sa-flickr, [9][12]-pinkcanoe CC=nc-nd-flickr, [11][16]-mikewarren CC=nc-sa-flickr, [13][17]-jason rust CC=nc-nd-flickr, [18]-jondon CC=nc-nd-flickr.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Canada's First Visitors

[1-Map of Vikings Voyages]

L'Anse aux Meadows (from the French L'Anse-aux-M├ęduses or "Jellyfish Cove") is an archaeological site on the northernmost tip of the island of Newfoundland in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Discovered in 1960, it is the site of a Norse village, the only known one in North America outside of Greenland. As of 2008, the site remains the only widely-accepted instance of pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact among those hotly debated by human migration theorists, and is notable for possible connections with the attempted colony of Vinland established by Leif Ericson in around 1003, or more broadly with the Norse colonization of the Americas.


Archaeologists determined the site is of Norse origin due to definitive similarities between the characteristics of structures and artifacts found at the site and those of Greenlandic and Icelandic sites from around AD 1000.

[3-Authentic Viking Recreation]

L'Anse aux Meadows is the only known Norse site in North America outside of Greenland and it represents the farthest known extent of European exploration and settlement of the New World before the voyages of Christopher Columbus almost 500 years later. It was named a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1978.


Archaeological excavation at the site was conducted in the 1960s by an international team led by Anne Stine Ingstad and later, in the 1970s, under the direction of Parks Canada. Following each period of excavation, the site was reburied, in an effort to protect and conserve the cultural resources.

[5-Sod huts inside]

The settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows has been dated to approximately 1,000 years ago, an assessment that agrees with the relative dating of artifact and structure types. The remains of eight buildings were located. They are believed to have been constructed of sod (turf) placed over a wooden frame. Based on associated artifacts, the buildings were variously identified as dwellings or workshops. The largest dwelling measured 28.8 by 15.6 m (94.5 by 51 ft) and consisted of several rooms. Workshops were identified as an iron smithy containing a forge and iron slag, a carpentry workshop which generated wood debris, and a specialized boat repair area containing worn rivets. Besides those related to iron working, carpentry, and boat repair, many artifacts found at the site consisted of common everyday Norse items, such as a whetstone, a bronze fastening pin, a bone knitting needle, and a stone oil lamp. Food remains included butternuts, which are significant, since these do not grow naturally north of New Brunswick and their presence probably indicates that the Norse inhabitants travelled farther south where they obtained the nuts. Archaeologists concluded that the site was inhabited by the Norse for a relatively short period of time.

[6-Rune Stones]

In addition to the European settlement, evidence of at least five or six separate native occupations has been identified at L'Anse aux Meadows, the oldest dated at roughly 6,000 years ago, although none was contemporaneous to the Norse occupation. The most prominent of these earlier occupations were by the Dorset people, a Paleo-Eskimo culture that preceded the Inuit culture in Arctic North America, who predated the Norse by about 200 years.

Research: ParksCanada, Wikipedia.
Photo Credits: [1][2][3][4]-wikipedia, [5]-DragonWoman CC=nc-nd-flickr. [6]-Tonto & TLL CC=nc-flickr.

Tuesday 25 November 2008

Tuesdays For Travis - Pinery Provincial Park

[1-Ausable Channel] The Old Ausable Channel is a wide, slow-moving river which flows through the park. It was separated from the main Ausable River when two channels were excavated at Port Franks and Grand Bend at the end of the 19th century. This river was called Riviere aux Sables or "sandy river" by the French which through time became the Aux Sables River in English. The name was condensed to Ausable in the early 20th century.

Pinery Provincial Park is on Lake Huron north-east of Sarnia, where there is camping in three campgrounds with 1,000 sites, some including electrical campsites, hot showers, washroom facilities and other amenities. The park consists of 2,532 hectares.

[2-Ruby Crowned-Kinglet] This bird is rarely seen in summer as it nests high in the trees, constructing its nest of tightly woven out of grasses, bark and feathers suspended from a branch. For a small bird (4 1/4 inches) it lays a large clutch of 5 to 12 creamy white eggs with brown and gray speckles. These are incubated for 2 weeks and the young leave the next two weeks later. This bird feeds mainly on insects but will eat fruit. Its habitat is coniferous, mixed woodland and thickets.

[3-Sandhill Crane] This long-legged bird is 34 to 42 inches tall with a wingspan of 73 to 90 inches). It is capable of skipping and hopping, leaping as high as 20 feet into the air. These birds are usually seen in flocks of 20 to 100 individuals and feed on insects, small animals, and spilled grain. They breed on the Arctic tundra and also in isolated marshes further south where a large pile of vegetation is used to make a nest for two eggs. After both parents have incubated these for about a month the young quickly leave the nest. They are capable of flight at 10 months but stay with the parents until the following spring. They spend the winter in the south and the summer in the north.

[4-White Crowned Sparrow] These birds are 7 inches long. They are found in the tundra, alpine meadows, and boreal forests, woodland edges, scrubland and thickets. The males learn their songs within the first few months of life from their environment, and because they tend not to move from their territories, song dialects emerge. They are influenced by daylight hours, and birds in the extreme north will often sing through out the night. It weaves a grass nest high in a tree and lays 3 to 5 pale blue eggs with red-brown spots. The female incubates these for 12 to 17 days and the young are fledged 10 to 12 days later. They move in mixed flocks, usually with White-throated Sparrows. Thid bird's diet consists mainly of seeds, grains, and insects for which they forage on the ground.

There are 319 species of birds and 32 species of mammals including the red squirrel, chipmunk, raccoon, beaver, flying squirrel, and white-tailed deer seen most often on the bicycle path.


For fishing enthusiasts there are perch, salmon, rainbow trout, bass, panfish, and pike available in the Ausable River channel and in Lake Huron.

[6-Painted turtles on a log]

Several hiking trails go through mature oak and pine forest along the Ausable River, and other locations throughout the park.


On the shore of Lake Huron, vast waves of sand dunes roll back to meet stands of towering oaks, the largest oak savanna woodlands remaining in North America. There are boardwalks, bicycle trails and sand beaches to be enjoyed summer and winter.


Research:,, wikipedia, A Field Guide to the Birds of North America by Michael Vanner.
Photo Credits:[1]-ndh CC=nc-flickr, [2][3][4][6][7]-geomaticsman CC=sa-flickr,[5]-bertdb CC=nc-nd-flickr, [8]-gt_hawk63 CC=nc-nd-flickr.

Sunday 23 November 2008

My Town Monday - Spadina House (Toronto)

[1] Spadina House aka Spadina Museum is a historic manor on Spadina Road in Toronto.

The first house constructed on the site was built in 1818 by Dr. William Warren Baldwin. He named his 200-acre property and estate Spadina, which derived from the

[2-Side view] native word espadinong, which translates as "hill" or "sudden rise of land". Baldwin himself designed the two storey wood frame house. The house burnt down in 1835, and owing to the three mile (5 km) trek from the estate into York, he moved to a house on Front Street. He built a smaller country estate on the property in 1836.


James Austin, Toronto businessman and financier, founder of the Dominion Bank and president of Consumers Gas, purchased 80 acres of an original 200 acre farm lot at auction in 1866, from the Baldwin family. He built a two-storey Victorian farmhouse with a view of the lake from its perch on the Davenport ridge. To the north up to St. Clair were farm fields.

[4-Dining Room]

In the nineteenth and early twentieth century the area was the wealthiest in Toronto, with a number of Toronto's leading families having large estates. Austin subdivided and sold off the land west of Spadina Road in 1889, which amounted to 40 acres. In 1892, James Austin turned over the house, and 20 acres of the property to his son, Albert William Austin.

The estate was enlarged and remodelled by Albert Austin between 1898 and 1913, reflecting the changing times and tastes of the Austin family over three generations. He added a third floor in 1912, a stone garage/chauffeur's quarters and a greenhouse, where he could indulge his interest in horticulture. The historic house illustrates the evolution of styles from mid-Victorian to 1930s Colonial Revival and includes items from both the Arts and Crafts and Aesthetic Movements, as well as items in the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. The rooms contain furniture purchased by the family, much of it made in Toronto.


The influence of new technologies such as gas lighting, central heating, electricity and the telephone can be seen here.


The life of the domestic staff is represented in the working kitchen and pantries.

[7] The most visible reminders of the original house are the former front door (photo), sidelights and fanlight, which now form the back entrance.


He sold much of the property to the City of Toronto in 1913 for the construction of the St. Clair Reservoir. Albert Austin died in 1933.


The last member of the family to live in the house was Anna Kathleen Thompson, a daughter of Albert Austin, who lived there from 1942 until 1982. The aged house had outdated wiring and needed a thorough overhaul; that would have been far more expensive than rebuilding it. While the house could have been sold to private interests such as the Keg Restaurant, the family decided instead to donate the house and all of its furnishings to the city.



In 1984 it opened as a museum, jointly operated by the city and the Ontario Heritage Foundation. The museum is well-known for its gardens. The family still keeps some links with the house and celebrations such as weddings are held there.

[12-Produce from garden on sale at market]

The Spadina House was awarded the Peggi Armstrong Public Archaeology Award in 2004; and the Ontario Museum Association Award of Merit in conjunction with Dawn Roach Bowen for their Black History Month programme ‘Meet Mrs. Pipkin’ in 2002. Mrs. Pipkin was a laundress at the Spadina house in the 1860s, where she came after escaping slavery in the United States.


Research:, wikipedia
Photo Credits: [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][13]-Judley CC=nc-sa-flickr, [12]-suzannelong CC=sa-flickr.

My Town Monday is the brainchild of Travis Erwin, founder, whose link can be found under MTM. There you will find other members writing about their home on this planet we call Earth.

Saturday 22 November 2008

American Badger - Endangered Species in Ontario and Canada


The American Badger, is a North American Badger, somewhat similar in appearance to the European Badger. Recognized sub-species include: Taxidea taxus jacksoni, found in the western Great Lakes region; on the west coast of Canada and the US; and Taxidea taxus berlandieri, in the south-western US and in northern Mexico.

In Ontario, the badger is found in the southwestern part of the province, mostly close to Lake Erie in Haldimand-Norfolk County, and in northwestern Ontario in the Thunder Bay and Rainy River Districts. There are thought to be 218 individuals in Canada. Protection provided by Ontario's Endangered Species Act, 2007 prohibits actions such as killing, capturing, possessing, and selling or trading this species. Badger dens are protected under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. Nearly all the sites in Ontario where the badger lives are on private land.

This animal prefers dry open areas with deep soils that are easy to dig, such as prairie regions.

The video shows an American Badger digging a burrow. A badger can dig a hole faster than a man with a shovel.

The American Badger has most of the general characteristics common to badgers; stocky and low-slung with short, powerful legs, they are identifiable by their huge foreclaws (measuring up to 5cm in length) and distinctive head markings. Measuring generally between 60 to 75 cm (23.6 to 29.5 inches) in length, males of the species are significantly larger than females (with an average weight of roughly 7 kg (15.5 pounds) for females and up to almost 9 kg (19.8 pounds) for males). Northern subspecies such as T. t. jeffersonii are heavier than the southern subspecies. In the fall, when food is plentiful, adult male badgers can exceed 11.5 kg (25.3 pounds).

Excluding the head, the American Badger is covered with a grizzled, silvery coat of coarse hair or fur. The American Badger's triangular face shows a distinctive black and white pattern, with brown or blackish "badges" marking the cheeks and a white stripe extending from the nose to the base of the head. In the subspecies T. t. berlandieri, the white head stripe extends the full length of the body, to the base of the tail.


The American Badger is a fossorial carnivore. It preys predominantly on pocket gophers, ground squirrels, moles, marmots, prairie dogs, pika, woodrats, kangaroo rats, deer mice and voles, often digging to pursue prey into their dens, and sometimes plugging tunnel entrances with objects. They also prey on ground-nesting birds such as bank swallow or sand martin and burrowing owl, lizards, amphibians, carrion, fish, skunks, insects, including bees and honeycomb and some plant foods such as maize, peas, green beans, mushrooms and other fungi, and sunflower seeds.

They are mainly active at night, but may be active during the day. They do not hibernate, but become less active in winter. A badger may spend much of the winter in cycles of torpor that last around 29 hours. They do emerge from their dens on warmer days.

Badgers sometimes use abandoned burrows of other animals like foxes or animals slightly smaller or bigger. Badgers are normally solitary animals for most of the year, but it is thought that in breeding season they expand their territories to actively seek out mates. Males may breed with more than one female. Mating occurs in the summer, but implantation is delayed (similar to bears) and the young are born in an underground burrow during late winter. Litters consist of one to five offspring.

Although this video was filmed in Yellowstone National Park, it shows a mother badger with 2 kits on the move. When they reach the sagebrush they become almost invisible.

American badgers will sometimes form a symbiotic relationship with Coyotes. Because coyotes are not very effective at digging rodents out of their burrows, they will chase the animals while they are above ground. Badgers on the other hand are not fast runners, but are well-adapted to digging. When hunting together, they effectively leave little escape for prey in the area.

Research: ParksCanada, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Wikipedia

Photo Credits: [1]-wikipedia, [2]-slambo_42 CC=nc-sa-flickr.