Monday, July 28

August Happenings

Some of the events happening in Huntsville, Kearney, Burk's Falls, Emsdale and the area. Check back for additions and updates as the month unfolds.
Kearney Regatta
Our neighbouring town of Kearney is known for its annual long-weekend regatta and festivities. Street dance, beer garden, parade, water sports, slow pitch baseball, children's activities, Northern Lights Steel Band Orchestra, topped off with a grand fireworks display at dusk on Sunday night.
August 1 - 3

Backcountry Gear Exchange Grand Opening Sale
This new outfitter right in our little town of Emsdale is celebrating the long weekend with a grand opening sale. They buy/sell/trade/consign pre-enjoyed outdoor gear, equipment and clothing. They also rent canoes, kayaks and camping gear.
August 2 - 4

Jazz in Tall Tree's Garden
Enjoy tea or juice along with a delicious selection of pastries, cheese and fruit - while listening to smooth jazz sounds. Bring a lawn chair and sit among the beautiful gardens on the Spencer's Tall Trees property on Main Street in Huntsville. Tickets are $15. To order tickets visit
August 3 from 2pm - 4pm

Huntsville Place Summer Sidewalk Sale
Annual Summer Sidewalk Sale at the Huntsville Place Mall. Tons of summer goods on sale as merchants get ready to stock for fall and winter.
August 6 - 9

Concerts in the Park - Muskoka Concert Band
Toonie for some Tunes at the Huntsville Town Dock Park. Bring your lawn chairs to enjoy a variety of musical performances outdoors. Those in the audience are asked to contribute a "toonie" for the tunes. All monies go to the performer.
July 16 - August 20 at 7pm

Huntsville Dragonboat Festival
The Annual Bell Huntsville Dragonboat Festival will be at Avery Beach in Huntsville. Opening ceremony, a flotilla parade and entertainment will be on the evening of August 8, followed by a full day of Dragon Boat Races on August 9. Parking at Rock Ridge Recreation Park, with a shuttle service to Avery Beach.
August 8 & 9

Perseids Meteor Shower
Shooting stars by the hundreds! The Perseids meteor shower starts in mid-July and lasts until late-August, but the peak occurs this year on August 12. Count the stars and make your wishes under our dark sky. Guests at Fern Glen Inn can stay up late to stargaze on August 11 or 12, then sleep in for a late breakfast.
August 12 peak
Downtown Huntsville Summer Sidewalk Adventure
The Downtown Huntsville BIA presents the Summer Sidewalk Adventure. Inflatables for kids, entertainment by the Northern Steel Band Orchestra, and the shops will be bursting out with sales. Along Main Street all the way to the Swing Bridge.
August 16

Artists of the Limberlost is a collective of artists and craftspeople with studios along the Limberlost Road, off Hwy 60, east of Huntsville. At this, their second annual Open Studio Weekend, the public is invited to see artwork and fine craft; and to experience the working environments and to learn about the creative processes involved in each medium. The free tour features 8 studios and also the work of 14 guest artists from Muskoka and beyond. The work is for sale, so you'll have the opportunity to take home a 'piece of the Limberlost' for yourself.
August 16 & 17 from 10am - 6pm

Hawksley Workman live at Burk's Falls
Local boy turned Juno award-winning musician Hawksley Workman is performing live for three shows at the Burk's Falls Town Theatre. This is a small, intimate venue and sure to be a great show for fans of his music. Tickets are $25. Ask me about picking some up for you from the town office.
August 21, 22 & 23
Emsdale Fall Fair
This is a great day of fun for the whole family. There will be farm animals, chainsaw carving, drag saw display, old farm equipment, parade, baby show, live music, horse pulls, kids pet show and more. Gates open at 8am. The cost of admission is $3, children 12 & under are free.
August 23

Ongoing Events:

Tuesday Night Bike Ride
Bring your wheels and meet in the parking lot behind the Algonquin Outfitters store att 86 Main St. E, Huntsville. Be prepared for a night of trail riding around Huntsville. New to the area? What better way to find places to ride and people who enjoy riding! For more information call Andy or Bob in the Bike Shop, at 705-789-0262

Kayak Wednesdays
$15 per person. Algonquin Outfitters on Main St. will provide all the gear for an evening outing on the Muskoka River. Meet at the store before 6pm to register; guided paddle starts before 7pm and goes for about two hours, possibly all the way to Lake Vernon and back. For more information call Randy at 705-789-0262 ext. 36.

Huntsville Farmers Market
Thursdays, 9am - 2pm, Canadian Tire parking lot
Fridays, 9am - 2pm, beside Robinson's Independent

Muskoka Cruise-in Nights
Wednesday evenings
Saturday evenings

Antique cars, classics, hot rods and special interest automobiles on display. Door prizes and draws with proceeds going to local charities.
At the Canadian Tire parking lot in Huntsville.

Group of Seven Outdoor Gallery
Stroll through Huntsville's downtown district and enjoy over 20 outdoor mural replicas honouring the works of the Group of Seven. Free maps to the mural locations are available at the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce and here at the inn.

Quote for a summer day:
Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.
-John Lubbock

Friday, July 11

Swimming in Muskoka and the Almaguin Highlands

The swimming season here in Ontario's Cottage Country is short, but oh so sweet. There is nothing like the feel of cool, clear lake water enveloping you on a hot summer afternoon, with a view of green hills rising up from the shore around you to meet a big blue sky above. Nothing else says 'vacation' quite so eloquently.

July and August are peak swimming months, but depending on the weather, it can start as early as mid-June and go on into September. Jim has even been known to jump in for a dip in October!

Guests who are new to the area always ask "is there anywhere to swim?" and are pleasantly surprised by the number and variety of options. Within a short drive, we have sandy beaches, smooth rocky dropoffs, deep steady rivers, and rushing rapids. We provide guests of the inn with directions and a map, and we're always happy to recommend our favourite spots. Here are just a few:

Long Lake
A quiet lake just 6 1/2 km from the inn, Jim and I swim here often. Similar to an Algonquin interior campsite, with shady trees and natural rock steps and ledges. There is no beach or slowly sloping entry here; instead the land drops off abruptly into the lake. Either you're in or your out. This is good for getting me in the water quickly (instead of slowly inching my way in) and we love the short drive through the woods to get there. Floating dock for jumping and diving.

Birch Beach
Sunny, wide, sandy beach at the south end of Doe Lake, between Sprucedale and Emsdale. Shallow, gradual entry, then swim out as far as you like. Sunny lawns and shady birch trees make this a great beach for lounging even if you don't feel like swimming. This is a large lake with motor boats; floating dock.

Clear Lake
Small sandy beach with warm shallow water. The beach is tucked in between cottages and motor boats and jet skis are on the lake, making you feel just like you're at a cottage. Grassy slope for sunbathing.

Brook's Falls
A lovely waterfall to visit at any time of year, Brook's Falls on the Magnetawan River is also a great swimming spot in the heat of summer. Splash in the rapids just below the falls, sit and soak in natural whirlpools, or swim in the deeper water downstream. More about Brook's Falls here.

Katrine Beach
Large sandy, shallow beach on a big lake. Popular with families. Playground, bbq stands, not much shade.

Magnetawan River Rapids
Unofficial and unmaintained as a swimming spot, but regularly enjoyed by local residents. Sit in on smooth bare rock in the rapids above a waterfall, or splash around in the river below the falls.

Arrowhead Lake and Stubbs Falls
With two lakes and the Big East River running through it, Arrowhead Provincial Park is a great place to spend a summer day. Swim at the beach or sun bath on the flat rocks by the falls. Canoe and kayak rentals are also available at the park.

Ilfracomb Beach
Sandy beach in a pretty little hamlet. Jim and I just discovered the spot in the spring and haven't tried the water there yet. It looks like a sandy, shallow entrance into a beautiful clear lake.

Hutcheson Beach
Large, popular sandy beach on Lake Vernon on the west side of Huntsville. Playground, change rooms.

As always when water is involved, use caution and common sense. Enjoy the many water features of Muskoka and the Almaguin Highlands, but do so at your own risk.

Monday, July 7

Strawberries Aplenty

Local strawberries, like summer itself, were a little late this year, but now they're ripe for the picking. Our neighbours spent a morning at one of the local pick-your-own strawberry farms last week and brought us back 2 baskets brimming with sweet, ripe berries.

Since then, these little gems have made their way into fruit courses, compotes and desserts; and topped waffles, french toast and even homemade ice cream. Many, many berries went straight from colander to mouth!

Of course, I can't let our brief local strawberry season pass without indulging in the classic dessert to showcase these berries at their best. What would summer be without Strawberry Shortcake?
Summer is also a time to be lazy, so I keep things simple and cut out a few steps (like making one big shortcake instead of individual ones). The result is a quick and easy show-stopper.

Strawberry Shortcake

For the shortcake:

1 tbsp lemon juice

3/4 cup milk
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp sugar

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a 9" cookie sheet with parchment paper.

together the lemon juice and milk. Reserve 1 tbsp of the mixture to use as a glaze. Set aside the remainder to sour until ready to use.

In a large bowl sift together flour, baking powder, 3 tbsp sugar, salt and baking soda. Use a pastry cutter to cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in enough of the soured milk until dough clings together. (You can do these steps in a food processor if you like, just don't over-process the dough.)

Dump the mixture onto a floured surface and knead together 5 or 6 times. Pat out dough into an 8-inch round and use a bench scraper and broad spatula to transfer to cookie sheet. Brush with the reserved 1 tbsp lemon-milk and sprinkle the top with 1 tsp sugar.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on cookie sheet then cut horizontally in half.

While cake is cooling, prepare the filling:

4 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 to 2 tbsp sugar, depending on the sweetness of the berries
1/2 cup mascarpone or cream cheese (optional)
2 tbsp sugar
1 cup whipping cream

Toss the strawberries with 1 to 2 tbsp sugar and set aside. In a cold bowl with chilled beaters, beat the mascarpone or cream cheese (if using) and 2 tbsp sugar until smooth. Beat in the whipping cream and beat until soft-stiff peaks form.

Assemble the shortcake:

Slide shortcake onto a serving platter. Carefully remove top layer (use the bench scraper and broad spatula) and set aside. Top bottom layer with half of berries and half of cream mixture. Top with top layer of shortcake. Pile remaining cream mixture and berries on top. Slice and serve immediately. Makes 6-8 servings.

Wednesday, July 2

Summer has (finally) Arrived!

If you believe the calendar, it's been summer for over a week now. But I've learned—especially since moving to the north—that the calendar sometimes stretches the truth.

The rain, cool temps and resurgence of mosquitoes last week felt decidedly spring-like. This week, though, we're 'singing better late than never' because now
Summer has arrived in all its glory!

Jim and I have been reveling in beautiful sunny days, enjoying a light warm breeze and a remarkable scarcity of insects. I don't even don my mesh jacket for walks and bike rides along the Seguin Trail. I'm convinced there is no better way to spend an afternoon than stretched out on a lounger on the Coop deck, beverage in one hand and novel in the other. We had some more energetic guests this weekend break out the croquet set for a couple of matches, and then follow it up with their own little bocce tournament around the back lawn.

Our returning guests from last year have been happy with the addition of the new deck. Jim and our good friend, Ed, built it this spring (my job was to feed the work crew. tall order!). We added a patio table for al fresco snacking or games, and the loungers fit in perfectly for afternoon nappers or late-night star-gazers. We also added a new gazebo after the wind ate our last one. It's nice to have a screened place to sit at dusk.
If you're coming up to enjoy a relaxing getaway here at the inn, don't forget your bathing suit for a dip in the hot tub. A daytime soak provides a front-row seat to all the action at the hummingbird feeder. At night, you can still see some fireflies (but not for long!) or tilt your head back to view the stars.

Summer is here. Make the most of it!