Naturally – Green Awakenings

Author – George & Elizabeth Churcher

Every day right now is filled with little surprises.  As we move gingerly towards the end of March, warm Spring sunshine reaches out to anoint us with newness:  hints of green begin to appear among the thatched grass and our earliest perennials are showing signs of promise. The great expanse of snow has disappeared from our fields and lawn, and only remnant patches remind us that winter has left us for another year.  — And yet, the snow flurries filling the air last evening and this morning’s sharp, icy gusts are reminders that we are still in transition.

Trembling Aspen1

Despite the inevitable fluctuations in temperature, the force of life is inexorable.  While we search for those tiny indications that Spring has truly arrived, we have to admit that the landscape around our home still has a very drab cloak.  Without their pristine white blanket, our surroundings are dominated by various tones of brown, of fading darkness.  We continue to dream of fields and woods clothed in gentle soft greens, in shimmering lime shades and in deep forest tones.  Yes, our whole world will soon awaken.

— But if we look deeper, indications of life are present.  The deciduous shrubs and trees in the fencerows and up into the woods are still bare of leaves.  It’s early yet to witness those outer garment changes but deep inside living forces are at work.  Just look at the clear, sweet sap dripping into the buckets that many in our area have hung on their Maple trees in recent weeks.  These trees are mustering their life force, beginning to send the sugar sucrose upwards throughout the tree:  they are mobilizing that starch that was stored lower down throughout the winter, directing it towards the living, growing cells of the trees and transforming it into sucrose which supplies energy for all of the cell processes.  Stop for a moment to scan all of the trees and shrubs around you.  Beneath their bark, the life-blood of all is beginning to flow, each on its own timetable.

The master plan for survival and growth is spread across the entire year.  Long before their winter rest, during last year’s early summer growing season, the trees and shrubs formed buds.  Nestled in those buds are the embryonic cells that will produce this year’s leaves and flowers and the embryonic cells of the growing points that will increase the length of the main twig and its side branches.  The leaves, flowers and growing points are all pre-formed in the bud.  As Spring moves forward, food energy from sucrose sugar, minerals and water from the roots and warmth from the increasing air temperature will cause the leaves to expand, all the while shedding their bud scales.  The little, delicate new leaves gradually grow larger by cell growth and division.

On the outside of the leaves, we see beauty but inside we must imagine an industrious flurry of activity.  Their food producing cells manufacture complex molecules of chlorophyll.  Each of the chlorophyll molecules has an atom of magnesium at its centre, just as each of the hemoglobin molecules in our red blood cells contain an atom of iron at their core.  The magnesium atom comes from the soil:  the iron atom is from our food and also originally from the soil.

Throughout the winter, the stark trunks and branches of our trees and shrubs are a constant reminder that it is a season of rest but for our herbaceous plants, only a shrivelled, grayish brown stalk remains.  Life has left their stems and their true value is now in the nutrients that they can contribute to our compost piles or to the enriching of the soil where they fall.  — But life will awaken!  These plants can be categorized into three groups based on the length of their lives and their patterns of reproduction.  Annual green plants produce all of their new growth from the seed.  Biennials, such as Blueweed or Evening Primrose, send up new stems from a growing point at the centre of the rosette of leaves which formed the previous year and overwintered under the snow.  Finally, perennial herbaceous plants, like Goldenrod and Asters, produce new stems from growing points in underground structures such as roots or underground stems called rhizomes.  This group can also increase in number by sending out above ground running stems called stolons with which we are very familiar in our Strawberry patch.

As we wait patiently for the unfurling of buds and for the bouquet of colour to light up our gardens, let’s be vigilant and capture each new awakening.  It’s time to start looking for the Skunk Cabbage that leads the way among our herbaceous plants, flowering in wetland areas in March.  Not too long after we celebrate this unique plant’s re-entry, we will be treated, in early April, to a flourish of gold along some of our roadsides.  The yellow flower heads of Colt’s Foot always give us such a warm welcome to Spring.

— And the march continues!  Later in April, our woodland wildflowers will appear in perfect timing to make food and be pollinated before being shaded by the forest canopy.  Then in early May, the first flush of green, in beautiful delicate shades, will cloth our woodland scene, as tree buds open and their leaves expand.  Trembling Aspens will leaf out first at the edge of our woods, an event in Nature’s calendar that we fondly anticipate each Spring.  The breath-taking richness of the hues of colour on display is a wonderful signal of ‘Green Awakenings’ that will continue to enliven our natural world.  Let us open our eyes to each new awakening and appreciate more deeply all that Spring has to offer.

NATURALLY – Colours & Patterns

Colours and Patterns                                                                                                                     March 22, 2017
George & Elizabeth Churcher


“Oh, the old Maple is alive with colour! I see purple, red, gold, pink, brown, gray, black and white!”, Elizabeth called out as she clasped her binoculars to get a closer look. The late winter snowstorm had brought all of the birds to our feeders in early morning.  As we stood watching and reviewing what we had shared about plumages last week, we decided that a logical extension would be to look at bird colouration.  After all, the feathers of birds are in various distinctive colours and patterns which give each species a characteristic look that we learn to recognize.  We have only to think of the bright yellow and black of the male Goldfinch, the brilliant crimsons of male Northern Cardinals and Scarlet Tanagers (pictured), the beautiful blues of Blue Jays and male Indigo Buntings, the captivating orange and black of male Baltimore Orioles.  — And there are the rich, distinctive browns, blacks, whites and grays of Sparrows.

How do the feathers of birds acquire their colours?  Paint brushes and dyes are not needed: rather they are internally equipped to provide themselves with their attractive outer garments.  Feather colour occurs in two main ways, by pigments and by feather structure — pigmentary colouration and structural colouration.  We must remember also that, in addition to feathers, pigments colour other parts of birds such as bills and legs, bare facial areas and the irises of their eyes.

Let’s look first at pigmentary colouration.  Pigments in birds fall into three main groups — melanin, carotenoids and a third category comprised of several pigments found in a few groups of birds.  Thoughtful consideration of the names of these pigments, applying knowledge we have acquired in other realms, gives us some clues to the specific colours that each produces.

Melanin is the most common bird pigment — indeed, melanin is an extremely common pigment in animals:  for example, human hair colour and skin colour are products of melanin.  One type of melanin produces the blacks of birds such as Red-winged Blackbirds while the other kind of melanin dresses up birds with a wide range of colours, from bright gold, auburn and cinnamon to rust.  Think of the eye-catching, rusty red of the Brown Thrasher.  The more concentrated the melanin, the deeper and more intense the colour.  This concept applies to all of the pigments.  — And to add variety, both types of melanin can be combined to provide a whole range of hues.  Melanins, synthesized from amino acids in birds’ diets, are responsible for caps, masks, bars, spots, bibs and stripes on birds’ plumages.  In addition to adding colour to our avian friends’ clothing, we can appreciate melanins for their durability.  They are resistant to wear which is why the wingtips of birds such as Gulls are often black.

The other main pigment group, the second in our discussion, is the carotenoids, comprised of about a dozen kinds in all.  Birds cannot synthesize carotenoids but must obtain them from their diet:  only plants can make them.  Carotenoids contribute the yellows, golds, oranges and reds that give some of our birds the splashes of colour that quickly attract our attention — but not only ours!  A female bird judges the suitability of a male to be her mate by assessing the brilliance of his plumage.  An intensely red Cardinal male, for example, will probably be a better provider than a less bright male — he has been able to acquire more carotenoids — he has a better diet and will be a stronger provider for the family.

The third category of several pigments includes turacoverdin, a green pigment found in one group of birds — the Turacos of Africa.  They are the only birds whose green is the result of possession of a green pigment.  Acknowledging this fact prompts us to question more.  What causes blue and green colours in the birds that we see?  — And what about the white feathering in birds and their white beaks?  As always, in our pursuit of understanding the natural world, we are reminded of how little we know and of the vast expanse that we have yet to explore.

— So let’s probe more deeply.  The blues, the greens, the whites are produced largely in the second main way that we mentioned earlier — structural colouration.  Birds’ feathers, beaks and claws consist of a substance called keratin, the same material that makes up our hair, fingernails and toenails.  Structural colours such as blue result from the interaction of light with the ultramicroscopic structure of the feather’s keratin.  Visible light is composed of differing wavelengths which are perceived as different colours by the eye.  Think of experiments you did at school when you shone light through a prism and got the spectrum of colours on a screen.  Rainbows are produced as sunlight shines through water droplets in the air:  each droplet acts like a tiny prism.  Some wavelengths are absorbed by the feather and others return to the eye and are seen as the colour blue, for instance.  The colour green is caused by the blue structural colour passing through yellow carotene pigment:  blue and yellow mix to be perceived as green.  Those lessons that we learned about primary colours so many years ago are still helping us!  —What about white?  Here, the light entering the feather is randomly scattered in the microstructure, causing white to be visible to the eye.

— Finally, iridescence.  What causes the electric shimmering colour of the Ruby Throated Hummingbird’s crimson gorget, the wonderful purple sheen of the Common Grackle and the iridescent green of the male Mallard’s head?  The feather structure is responsible for light interference and different colours when the angle of view is changed and the light strikes the area differently.  What a thrill when the Ruby-throated Hummingbird’s gorget transforms from black to electric crimson right before our eyes as the little bird turns his head!

Every species of bird produces colours in several ways simultaneously.  The male Goldfinch, for example, displays yellow feathers that are made by the carotenoid pigments from the food they eat while his black colour is synthesized by melanin pigments.  Now we leave the rest to you.  It’s time for you to think of your experiences with birds and explain their colouration in terms of pigmental or structural origins or a combination of the two.

The purpose of colour in birds reaches far beyond the need to have an appealing presence.  While they are concerned about appearance, their reasons are linked strongly to their desire to survive in a challenging world.  Birds use their colours and patterns to attract their mates, to signal to potential rivals in their territory and to conceal young families on the nest.  Our natural world is designed in complex and intricate ways to support every member of the vast family.

As we pause to reflect on the birds at our feeders and in the wilds, we are overwhelmed by what there is to learn about a single topic like bird colouration.   Digging deeper, grasping a few additional details about the giant web, helps us to appreciate even more the gifts that Mother Nature shares with us.  As we anticipate the return of our spring migrants adorned in their beautiful patterns and colours, let us enjoy their wonderful display, realizing that the beauty that they offer us has a much deeper meaning in their own lives.

Endless Possibilities – Stoco Lake

Capt. Jason Fawcett
RCAF C-17 Pilot/Avid Fisherman
Streamside Prostaff
February 7, 2017

Ever get to your favorite fishin’ hole, excited because you haven’t been in a while, only to find a dozen other people already there? Believe me, I know the feeling. In an era dominated by social media and globalization, more and more of our favorite fishing spots that were once hush-hush, are now well- known and advertised via social media. So, if you’re like me, you use every means available, put in a little homework and search out new waters, perhaps even new species. One thing we can be certain of despite all this, is that the Municipality of Tweed and the Land O’ Lakes, being right in our backyard, offer a plethora of fishing opportunities whether you like crowds or not.


Being an avid steelhead fisherman, I am very familiar with crowed rivers and creeks and having to find new spots to fish. This can sometimes ruin what you thought was going to be a great day to fish. But it doesn’t have to, and I’ll tell you why. Use the tools around you to seek out new fishin’ holes and make use of all resources to help put the odds in your favour on unfamiliar grounds. What does this all mean? Well first, access Google Maps on your mobile phone or computer and make sure you have roads and satellite photography enabled. This will help you identify locations to park and fish, as well as places to potentially avoid (private property). If you aren’t already familiar with the Ontario government website Fish Online tool, you should be  is a fantastic website that makes use of an interactive map and data sets that identify what kind of species are in each lake and also lists any fish-stocking taking place on any particular lake you query. Once you find a lake and elect to target a specific species, do some research online about the techniques avid fishermen use to not only locate them at certain times of year, but present your bait that best suits that species. The tips you read or watch online will identify specific structures and depths to key in on. For fifteen dollars, NAVIONICS has an app you can purchase on your mobile phone which is your underwater lake topography. Used in conjunction with the GPS settings already on your phone, it can place you on the exact spots you wish to fish!

Stoco Lake Contour Map.jpg

The techniques described above have helped me and many others find success on new bodies of water here in the Land O’ Lakes.  Stoco Lake in Tweed is no exception. Just a short drive north of Belleville, Ontario, Stoco Lake is home to many species of fish and worth every minute of homework you put in to guarantee success. Known for its Black Crappie, Stoco Lake also has healthy populations of Walleye, Musky, and Bass. The Municipality of Tweed has done a tremendous job supporting local fishing in and around the area, including several Crappie fishing tournaments and one even for kids coming up this weekend! These tournaments have grown in size and popularity amongst the fishers in the area, and in-turn, contribute to the economic success of Tweed itself.

2017 Tournament.jpg

So if you’re tired of crowds and willing to try fishing new waters, make use of the resources described above and get out and explore. Don’t hesitate to stop and chat to locals, who I have found to be quite helpful and full of knowledge about fishing in the area. Respect private lands, pickup some garbage, and share your experiences with those around you. Pay close attention to the rules and regulations wherever you go, and practice CPR (catch, photo, release). Hope to see you on the water!

For more information about the Municipality of Tweed visit or follow them on their Facebook page

The History Of The Tweed Arena

Building the Community Center, A Town Coming Together
By Jordan Prato


For the last 52 years, Tweed’s rink on St. Joseph Street has been rightly titled the town’s community center. Over the years it has hosted many local events such as public skating, hockey games and hunting shows, becoming the heart of the community. Since 1964 it has drawn people together but this is not a surprise, seeing that the project to construct the building took the entire community’s involvement.
The town’s old rink, was an outside rink and stood where the present fire hall is on Metcalfe Street. The structure collapsed years earlier and the community decided it was time to rebuild another one, bigger than the past one and in door, so that it could be used year round. A Tweed Rink Committee was formed to set the project in motion with prominent members of the community into departments of finances, fundraising, publicity and construction.
The initial project price was $70 000 but once completed cost $95 773. The cost seems small now but considering inflation and the cost of a house these days, it would be the equivalency of $737 000 or just under three quarters of a million dollars. The finance team worked diligently in appealing for government funding and was able to receive ten thousand dollars from the Ontario Department of Agriculture but the largest monetary grant came from the township of Hungerford, which gave the committee eighteen thousand dollars under the condition that the building be built on the fair grounds. With this funding in tow, the rink committee had a strong initial backing but there was still 42 000 dollars to fundraise. Over the next two years, the town held countless 50/50 auctions, baseball games, dances, car washes and movie nights to reach their goal but the biggest community fundraisers held were a sport celebrity dinner each year. In 1962 and 1963, legendary North American sport stars such as New York Ranger’s coach “Red” Sullivan, Bryan Watson a Bancroft boy playing for the Montreal Canadians and Canadian Heavy Weight boxing champion and third in the world, George Chuval as well as Gordie Bell, Red Kelly, Lou Fontinato, Lloyd Percival, Gus Bodner, Jack Adams and George Patterson attended the dinner, gave speeches and autographs throughout the evening. The dinners were held in St. Carthagh’s Hall which at the time was property of the church. Each year, the dinners sold out and there was barely standing room for all 300 people. These events were nationally covered, with journalists and broadcasters cramming into what is now St. Carthagh’s School gym. At ten dollars a plate, the event cleared $2000 each or the equivalency of $15 300.
With the project funding finally gathered the beginning of the construction initiated July 13th, 1963 with the sod turning ceremony witnessed by the entire town. Just over 6 months later, the community center was opened, and held free admission for skating. Following that day, it cost 15 cents to skate for those under 12 and for those over 12 it was thirty five cents. Since then, not much has changed about the community center beyond regular maintenance but the roof had been replaced ten years ago, to the burgundy brown it is now. Despite the events unfolding around the center’s creation occurred 52 years later, the community center still stands proudly and looking back, the entire town’s engagement and dedication to such an undertaking is something Tweed should still be proud.

In which we eat locally, and well, in glorious surroundings — Meanwhile, at the Manse

Many’s the time I’ve told you about how good we are, here in the Queensborough area, at serving up great community meals. Whether it’s the famous St. Andrew’s United Church suppers (the Ham Supper in the spring and the Turkey Supper in the fall, and more on the latter at the end of this post), […]

via In which we eat locally, and well, in glorious surroundings — Meanwhile, at the Manse

The Women Who Ran Tweed



In 1967, the 1,800 residents of Tweed Ontario hadn’t decided whether to be proud or embarrassed about having an all-woman council – possibly the first of its kind in Canada. According to Reeve Barbara Allen, the village stands to gain about a million dollars’ worth of publicity. The council became an all-woman stronghold in mid-September when the sole male councillor resigned and was replaced by a woman. Reports of the Council were even published in Switzerland. However, the 37-year-old mother of three admits that publicity can be a two-edged sword. Will the public think Tweed has an enlightened electorate of weak-kneed men? Mrs. Allen served as the only woman on Tweed’s council for four years before being acclaimed reeve in November. The eight men who were nominated for four council seats withdrew or failed to qualify, leaving the ninth nominee, Mrs. E.J. Cournyea to win by acclamation. A second nomination meeting was held a few days later in an attempt to find nominees for the remaining three council seats. Two of the eight men nominated agreed to stand and were elected on Dec. 14 along with Amelia Bosley. Mrs. Bosley ran “because I was a little annoyed at the men for not coming forward and offering their services.” The two women candidates who trailed Mrs. Bosley in the balloting, Mrs. George Sinclair and Mrs. Russel Whitfield, became legally eligible to join the council when the two male councillors subsequently resigned. Rev. D.G. Sinclair (no relation to Mrs. Sinclair) resigned in April. Burton Thompson, who has been named bailiff and justice of the peace, gave up his post last months. Mrs. Whitfield said she has been interested in municipal politics for years but never had the nerve to run before women started getting into the act last fall. Mrs. Sinclair and Mrs. Cournyea are concerned about the town/s image. “I don’t want anyone to get the impression that our men aren’t manly” Her husband is a research forester with the Department of Lands of Forests. “I’ve found it takes a fair amount of time to be a councillor and men in business just can’t afford the time.”

“Our men are as busy as bees,” added Mrs. Cournyea, who has been so busy herself that she is going to resign as secretary-manager of the Land ‘O Lakes Tourist Association. She also works as secretary at a lumber company. “They built our $100,000 arena and an all-male board runs it. They serve on the Hydro commission, church boards, service clubs and particularly on our three school boards. Mrs. Cournyea said that of the 15 to 18 school board members only two are women. Her husband and Mrs. Sinclair’s husband are school board members.”

“They seem to feel it will put the men in a bad light and a lot of them resent the fact that I’ve said housewives have a lot of free time,” Reeve Allen explained. “They point out that I have households help, but I still feel that once the children are in school, something is wrong if a housewife can’t get her housework done in three hours.”

“Men have full-time jobs and families to feed. I don’t blame them for hesitating about serving. The council has become a job more suited for women.” According to the lively, articulate reeve, whose past hobbies include buzzing around town on a Honda and raising prize Labrador Retrievers, women are doing a good job. “We never had a written agenda until I was reeve. We chat less than the men and our meetings are much shorter. The councillors keep records and files on their committees which the men hardly ever did. They have been very efficient. This isn’t just a hobby or pastime with them.” For example, within a few weeks of taking office Mrs. Sinclair, who heads the roads and sidewalks committee, knew every pot-hole in town, and the best way to repair them. Running a village isn’t that much different from running a home – only the light bulbs are bigger, the pipes and the vacuum cleaner are bigger. It isn’t all such a great big mystery.” Current council business includes working with the Ontario Water Resources Commissions on a preliminary plan to determine if a sewage disposal plant will solve the tow’s pollution problem. In view of the four councillors’ apparent reluctance to run re-election, it appears as if the all-women council’s days are numbered. Tremendously enthusiastic about their work and the community, the councillors seem to feel a lot will depend on how the council is accepted in the coming weeks. All expressed the hope that they be given a chance to prove what it can do. The women are on the spot and they know it. They’ve already been accused of serving tea and cookies at a council meeting. “It wasn’t and there weren’t any cookies.” Mrs. Cournyea explains. “I brought some coffee in a thermos bottle one night.” Of course the coffee-drinking stopped. Then there is the group of men Mrs. Allen refers to as the shadow cabinet. “They meet for coffee along the main street and nitter-matter among themselves. They’re a lot sillier than women.” Strong support is forthcoming from the editor of the weekly newspaper, The News, W. Clyde Bell. Mr. Bell advocated an all-women council last December as the town’s Centennial project. The Reeve’s husband, Dr. Gibson Allen, who is chief of staff at Belleville General Hospital and a former councillor, also thinks the women should be given a chance. “An all-women council can be as good or as bad as an all-male council. And I don’t think all the old women here are wearing skirts. All too often intelligent people are denied the chance to serve the community because they are women.” Gregory Duke co-owner of the Tweedsmuir Hotel, was one of the few men questioned at random who would consent to the use of his name. “Well, I’ve lived under kings and queens and I’ve always had to pay my taxes. I don’t think there will be much difference.” Most men looked uncomfortable and had to be coaxed into expressing an opinion. “It’s going to be good. Sure, bless the women. Is that the type of thing you want for your story?” one man said laughing. “There is some concern that the women will spend so much time on the council that they won’t get home in time to serve the family dinner,” another said. “But that hasn’t happened yet.” “I’ll say this for them, they got the water tank painted cheaper than anyone else ever did,” a young man said. “I think they are sincere and doing a great job. How did it happen? The men here are either too busy or too indifferent.”

We’d like to thank the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre for helping us research the all womens’ council by showing us the information they have on them. If you’d like to learn more about Tweed and the surrounding area, go on down to the Heritage Centre and take a tour or do some research. There’s A LOT to see and learn.

The Kiwanis Pavilion


Within the Tweed Memorial Park sits the Kiwanis Pavilion. This pavilion is one of the few remaining of its type in Ontario, being completely constructed on June 20th 1929 (it only took 44 days). This relic of the past symbolizes how important dancing was in the turn of the 20th century as a form of recreation and it still hosts many events within Tweed like the Art-In-The-Park Celebration. The pavilion itself is surrounded by other structures like the picnic facilities, recreational buildings, the Stoco Lake, the park, and mature trees. In the past, as far back as the 1930’s, people would walk, drive and even boat to the pavilion for Friday night dances. The pavilion was designed for happiness and only happiness. No matter the style of music, the pavilion is meant to bring people together, to experience the flow of dancing and generate socialization among people. No matter how many times the mainstream genre changes in music, the pavilion was and still is a place where people develop friendships, fall in love with each other and create experiences that they will remember 30 years down the road.

In 1999, restoration began on the Kiwanis Pavilion by a group of dedicated citizens of Tweed after a prolonged period of neglect. These improvements included straightening the fundamental structures through roof truss tightening and reinforcements throughout the foundation of the building and preventing ice damage from the lake in the winter as well as other a few other things. In 2009, the pavilion went through another renovation but on a much smaller scale. This included repainting the buildings, moving the primitive bar to the old lifeguard/first aid room, upgrading the electrical services to the kitchen, construction of the dressing room facilities and partial repairs to the concrete floor. Between 2011 and 2013, the building was upgraded again by refinishing the original maple hardwood flooring, installing sliding glass windows, installing high-speed circulating fans as well as other things.