Friday, December 16

Herding Chickens

Fern Glen Inn •

Whoever coined the phrase "herding cats" clearly never had chickens. Or at least never had chickens on the run.

I returned from a walk this afternoon to discover that the ladies -- all six of them -- had escaped their pen and were ranging freely. I'm tempted to say they hatched a plan but I don't want to inflict my poultry sense of humour on you (sorry, couldn't resist). Planned or otherwise, they all flew the coop today.

Luckily, they didn't wander too far from their hen house. They had the whole wide world at their disposal but just scratched up the dirt within a 20 foot radius of their home. In fact, I only realized they were out because Saba saw them first.

I knew something had Saba's attention because she stopped suddenly, dropped her head low, cocked her ears forward and took a few slow, measured steps. Just like when she's stalking a squirrel. Or when she's ready to pounce in front of Casey (her buddy, the basset hound) to try to tease him into playing. I don't know if Saba was thinking snack time or playtime, but when I realized her gaze was fixed on one of our own dear hens, I didn't wait to find out.

I escorted Saba safely into the house, grabbed a tub of bird seed and went back to round up the ladies. I also took a moment to wish that Jim, aka the chicken-whisperer, was home to deal with this instead of me.

As I've mentioned, herding chickens is no easy task. For one thing, they're fast. Chickens can run like nobody's business. I've also discovered (during previous jail breaks) that chickens can and will fly if pursued with vigor. If approached slowly, they scatter. There's no catching them, at least not if I'm the catcher, and I'm a little bit afraid of them as I am with all birds. So even if I could get close enough to grab one, I wouldn't. I just couldn't.

So I had to outwit them. First, I propped the door to the hen house wide open then circled way back behind the farthest-ranging chicken. Then I started throwing small handfuls of bird seed toward the open door.

Chickens are remarkably curious and decidedly food-motivated. After half a dozen pings and bounces of seeds against the coop wall and on the hard ground, the chicken closest to the action moved in to see if there was something edible going on. Slowly, one by one, the rest of the ladies came to check out the commotion. I swear chickens have a spidey sense when it comes to food because even the two who were out of sight on the far side of the coop eventually came bobbing around the corner.

As the chickens gathered, I started tossing the bird seed through the doorway into the hen house and the hens just followed the food. As soon as I counted all six little cluckers in the house, I closed the door and that was the end of their adventure for the day. And mine, too.

So perhaps it wasn't such a monumental task after all, but it does leave me wondering one thing: Would it have been easier or more difficult herding cats instead of chickens?

Thursday, December 15

Mocha Porter Chocolate Cake

Fern Glen Inn •

There's a lot of baking going on at this time of year, much of it involving fancy cookies and fiddly concoctions. Don't get me wrong -- I love the jumble of flavours, colours and textures on a platter of christmas cookies (and will happily eat my way through all of them!). But sometimes the only way for a dessert to stand out among all that finery is to pare it down, way down.

Enter the Mocha Porter Chocolate Cake. It's ultra simple, dark, elegant, with an unexpected yet subtle flavour profile. The secret ingredient here is a generous addition of Mocha Porter beer in the batter. The resulting cake is moist, rich, and not too sweet.

On it's own, served with just a dollop of lightly-sweetened whipped cream, it is the perfect foil to the wild array of sweets filling tins and trays everywhere you go. Think of it as a sophisticated black dress among colourful frocks. Both are beautiful, but in different ways.

Similarly, a unique and finely-crafted bottle of specialty beer makes for a welcome change of pace amid the wine, spirits and eggnog abundant at so many holiday parties.

I like to sip a glass of Mocha Porter along with a slice to bring out the complex notes of the beer within the cake. The taste becomes more pronounced on the second day after the flavours have had a chance to meld and develop. If you try this recipe, let me know what you think!

Mocha Porter Chocolate Cake
This cake is wonderfully moist and rich enough to stand on it's own with little embellishment but it will also 'play nice' with other flavours and textures. It has a fine crumb, slices beautifully and is excellent in layer cakes. The Mocha Porter adds a subtle depth of flavour that becomes more intriguing after a day or two.

  • 1 2/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour; plus more for the pan
  • 3/4 cup (lightly packed) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 5 oz. (1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs) soft unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for the pan
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Mocha Porter beer*, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter a 9" round baking pan. Line the bottom with parchment and butter the parchment. Flour the bottom of the pan; tap out any excess flour.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Blend in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the paddle as needed. Mix in the vanilla and salt.  With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture alternately with the Mocha Porter beer, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Mix on low speed until the mixture is smooth and mostly free of lumps.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out with only moist crumbs clinging to it, 40 to 45 minutes. Let the pan cool on a rack for 30 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the inside edge of the pan, invert the cake onto a flat plate. Remove the pan and parchment paper, then invert again onto the rack.

Serving and Storing
You can serve the cake the same day you make it, either slightly warm or room temperature, but you can serve it with pride for up to three days if you want to make it ahead. Cover and store at room temperature during moderate weather, or in the fridge if your kitchen is warm. I love a plain piece of this cake straight from the fridge for an afternoon snack. It also freezes well, double-wrapped in plastic and foil.

Dress it as simple or fancy as you like. 
For a simple yet pretty presentation, lay a paper doily directly on the surface of the cake. Spoon some icing sugar into a small mesh sieve and dust it liberally and evenly over top. Carefully lift off the doily and you'll be left with a lovely, lacy pattern. Serve generous slices with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream or scoop of softened icecream.

If you have the time and inclination to go fancy, knock yourself out; this cake will work beautifully with you. Pour a sleek, glossy chocolate glaze over top. Or slice the completely-cooled cake in half (or even into thirds) then sandwich the layers with ganache, mousse, cherry filling, whipped cream or buttercream frosting. Ice the whole cake or just the top. Garnish with chocolate curls, fresh raspberries, chopped hazelnuts, or chocolate coated espresso beans. The sky's the limit!

*Mocha Porter and alternative ingredients
I love using the Mocha Porter from Lake of Bays Brewing Company in this recipe. It has pronounced coffee notes and just a hint of chocolate, perfectly complementing the cocoa in the cake batter. Another excellent choice would be the Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout from Muskoka Cottage Brewery (then I'd serve it with a cranberry coulis). Both are seasonal, locally-crafted in Muskoka and available in many LCBO and Beer Stores throughout Ontario. 

If you can't find these, search out a porter or stout with notes of coffee, chocolate or vanilla. Alternatively, you can also use strong brewed coffee spiked with a splash of mocha liqueur or brandy.

Serves 10-12

Sunday, November 27

Dog Sledding in Muskoka

2012/2013 Schedule, Rates and Packages

Winter is just around the corner and this means our local dog sledding ranch will soon be running guided dog sledding excursions near Huntsville, Muskoka, on the edge of Algonquin Park. It's a popular adventure for our guests and you'll love it too. There's nothing like mushing through the woods, driving a sled behind a team of eager dogs.

Dog sledding is available throughout the winter season, usually starting mid-late December and going through until the end of March or whenever the snow melts. This year our guide says he has a good feeling about this season (and he was born and raised around here) and is expecting early snow. In fact, he's already taken bookings for December 18, 2012.

The Christmas / New Year's holiday is a particularly busy time for dog sledding, so reserve your spot early. For more information about what to expect, read about dog sledding in Muskoka here.

Dog Sledding Schedule

December 2012 thru March 2013
Start Date:
To be determined. Sometimes the season begins a few days before Christmas, depending on amount of snow base and trail conditions. I'll post an announcement on our facebook page once the trails are open. You can Like us on facebook here to watch for updates.

Christmas Day:
The inn is open and rooms are available on December 25th but there are no dog sledding tours running. Stay overnight on the 25th and go dog sledding on the 26th. 

Dec 26 thru Jan 2, daily:
10:00 am -- 1-Hour guided dog sledding
1:00 pm --  Half-Day guided dog sledding

Jan 3 thru March (or whenever the snow melts), daily:
9am -- Half-Day guided dog sledding most days (Enquire about 1-Hour, 2-Hour or Full-Day options)
1:30pm -- Half-Day guided dog sledding most days (Enquire about 1-Hour, 2-Hour or Full-Day options)

Dog Sledding Rates

Add-on a guided dog sledding excursion to any stay at Fern Glen Inn

1-Hour: $90/person
Half-Day*: $150/person
Full-Day*: $250/person

*Half-Day (3 hours) guided dog sledding includes break with hot chocolate and granola bars. Full-Day (6 hours) guided dog sledding includes trail lunch.

Taxes are extra. Rates are for dog sledding only and do not include accommodations. Dog sledding is only available with an overnight stay at Fern Glen Inn. Check room rates here (room rates are per room, not per person).

Every overnight stay includes:
• accommodation (queen bed and private ensuite bathroom)
• delicious served breakfast
• use of the property and guest facilities including
   • snowshoes to use on our 10km of private trails
   • toboggans to use on our hill (conditions permitting)
   • guest lounge with real wood burning stove

Dog Sledding Packages
Chili-Dog Getaway
Enjoy a dog sledding excursion, a hearty chili dinner and comfortable accommodations in a winter wonderland setting.

Spend two nights in cozy comfort and start each morning with an abundant breakfast. Mush through a beautiful wilderness landscape behind your team of dogs on a guided dog sled excursion at a local ranch. If you're still game for some outdoor activity, borrow snowshoes and explore our private wooded trails. After working up an appetite out on the trails, head back to the inn for a dinner of hearty beef or vegetarian chili and homemade cornbread served hot from the skillet. Unwind with a hot chocolate in front of the fire before turning in for a good night's sleep.

• 2 nights accommodations
• breakfast both mornings
• chili dinner on one evening
• use of property, private trails, snowshoes and toboggans on site
• Half-Day guided dog sledding at a local ranch

Starts at $285 per person, based on double occupancy
Taxes are extra. Rates are higher during long weekends and Christmas-New Year's holidays.

Group Getaway
Round up your favourite friends, family or co-workers and organize a winter weekend getaway.

Book at least four rooms for two nights and get a discount off the regular rate. You and your friends will enjoy exclusive accommodations and delicious breakfasts. Visit a local ranch for your guided dog sledding excursion through the Muskoka woods on the edge of Algonquin Park. Snowshoe private forest trails, toboggan down the hill, make a snowman, play games in front of the fire and enjoy good times in good company.
• 2 nights accommodations
• breakfast both mornings
• exclusive use of property, private trails, snowshoes and toboggans on site
• Half-Day guided dog sledding at a local ranch

Starts at $255 per person, based on 8 people in 4 rooms
Ask about adding Chili Dinner or other meals to your Group Getaway!
Taxes are extra. Rates are higher during long weekends and Christmas-New Year's holidays.

How to Reserve Your Dog Sledding Getaway

Call toll free 1-866-311-8519
Email for more information
Check availability online
Fill out our secure online reservation form

Want to see what a dog sledding adventure looks like? Check out this video!

Thursday, November 24

November Forest

The forest in November is a trove of subtle treasures. With the flash of foliage fading, textures and patterns are revealed -- at least to those of us who stop to look.

There is unexpected artfulness in colonies of fungi growing on fallen logs. Just a few months ago these were obscured by leafy underbrush.

Leafless branches (in this case on my favourite tree, Bertha) reflect an unseen root system. Elsewhere, a spire of an old trunk, whittled by time, reaches for the sky.

In November, we can see the varieties of bark which sheath the trees. Beeches in tight-fitting smooth grey, ironwoods in shaggy scales, maples in deeply creviced armor. The ropy bark of cedar trees draws the eye upward and inward.

Of course, the forest is not all brown and drab. There are brilliant shots of green running throughout the woods. Our "Mossy Trail" is, as one might expect, verdant even now with a patchwork of different mosses. 

But even in the deciduous hardwood section of the forest, pockets of green thrive. Rocks, roots, stumps and living trees are covered in green velvet. Tender ground cover and ferns brighten creek beds and marshy areas.

If one takes the time to look (and really, in November we have the time) the forest is anything but stark or barren. It is, as ever, a dynamic work of art and design.

All photos were taken on the private hiking trails here at Fern Glen Inn with a standard point-and-shoot camera. You're invited to come experience them for yourself. Bring a macro lens and wide angle lens if you have them to do an even better job of capturing the landscapes -- the big and the miniscule -- that make up this forest.

Friday, November 4

Season for Readers and Writers

The quiet season is upon us and things are, well, quiet. Oh sure, there are still trails to hike and sights to see, if you're so inclined. And most of the parks, galleries, shops and restaurants are still open, though perhaps with shortened hours to match the shortened days. But if you're looking for non-stop excitement amidst a high-energy crowd of adventurers, you won't find it here (at least not until the snow comes!). 

On the other hand, if a low-key interlude of ambling walks in the woods and toasty, fireside nightcaps are your thing, then you've found the right place and time. The quiet season at Fern Glen Inn offers crisp air, stark landscapes, and the pace and space to breathe and be.

It's the perfect time for those of us who revel in the written word. Be you a writer, an aspiring writer, an avid reader, or one who wishes you had more time in your daily life to lose yourself in a good book, this is the season for you. 

To help you celebrate books and other quiet pleasures, we're offering two special packages and more...

Solo Writer's Retreat
A popular quiet season package, the Mini Sabbatical is perfect for writers. Whether you're working on your memoirs, a collection of poetry, your great Canadian novel, or simply catching up on a personal journal, this getaway will free you to focus.

The Solo Writer's Retreat Package includes:
  • 2 nights accommodation for 1 person
  • breakfast both mornings
  • lunch and dinner on your full day
  • writing journal for you to keep
$239 + tax
Available until December 15, 2011.

Book Lovers' Romantic Getaway
Perfect for partners who need a bit of quiet time to just be together. Read, walk in the woods, play scrabble while taking turns choosing pretty chocolates from a box of truffles.  

The Book Lovers' Romantic Getaway includes:
  • 2 nights accommodation for 2 people
  • breakfast both mornings
  • box of 8 gourmet chocolate truffles
  • sturdy Fern Glen Inn book bag for trips to the library and book store
$239 per couple + tax
Available until December 15, 2011.

20% Discount at The Bookcase
The Bookcase independent bookstore in downtown Huntsville is a great place to spend a lazy afternoon. Louise Parkinson, owner of the store and founder of the NorthWords Literary Festival, has written a guest post on Books for Writers. Read her post and mention it in the store to receive a 20% discount off all regular priced books in store for the month of November.

Book Swap
Bring a book to add to our eclectic collection and take one of ours home with you. We have all sorts of genres and authors; there's sure to be something for everyone.

NaNoWriMo Support
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this month? What do you need to achieve your word count? Extra coffee packs, a thesaurus, a self-serve lunch so you don't have to interrupt your creative flow, moral support or a figurative kick in the pants? Let us know and we'll do our best to help you reach your goal.
Learn more about National Novel Writing Month at 

Call or email us at Fern Glen Inn, or book online for your quiet season getaway.

: :   : :   : :   : :

For an occurrence to become an adventure, it is necessary and sufficient for one to recount it. ~Jean-Paul Sartre

Thursday, November 3

Books For Writers

This month, as we revel in the written word, I've invited a local bibliophile to write a guest post on Books for Writers. Louise Parkinson is the owner of the Bookcase independent bookstore in Huntsville. She's also the driving force behind the NorthWords Literary Festival which brought a number of stellar authors—including Margaret Atwood, Terry Fallis and more—to town this fall.
Louise has provided an excellent list of resources along with some sage advice for writers and aspiring writers. And to top it off, she is generously offering a discount on books at her store this month. See details below. 
I hope you enjoy Louise's guest post as much as I do. If so, please take a minute to let her know—either in the comments here or in person at The Bookcase.
Happy reading everyone,

Hey there
I’m Louise Parkinson and I own the Bookcase in beautiful downtown Huntsville.  Jackie has asked me to be a guest blogger to talk about what I feel are the best books out there for writers.  I am a writer myself so I have personally seen and read many books on writing.  I have also spoken to many authors about the tools and books they use for reference.  And yes, surprisingly, there is a lot of consistency in it.  Let me share some of the titles that keep popping up.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B.White
Everybody’s bible on writing.  Small but very powerful.  An absolutely must have for all writers – no question!  If you haven’t got it, you need to go out and get this invaluable resource right now.

On Writing by Stephen King
Don’t be put off by the author here.  I am in no way a Stephen King fan, but this is one of the best writing books out there.  It is part memoir, part inspiration and part instruction booklet.  After reading this you will have no choice but to sit down and create your own masterpiece! 

Reading like a Writer by Francine Prose
If anyone has had the pleasure of reading anything by Francine Prose, you will know that she is one of the greatest writers of our time.  Her work is stunningly beautiful.  It makes sense that what she has to say on writing is worth hearing.  She insists that we need to know what good writing looks like before we are able to do it ourselves and in this book she teaches us how to do exactly that.  A valuable resource.

Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott
"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my  brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird.”  Anne Lamott
Anne Lamott is another author that if you are not familiar with, you should seek her out.  I know a lot of people who just adore this woman’s work and for good reason.  One of the main messages of the book is start small and don’t let the bumps along the way derail your attempts.  Told with humour and grace.

How to Write a Sentence by Stanley Fish
Fish obviously loves the written word and you will too after reading this. His insights into crafting the perfect sentence every time are invaluable to any writer.  He uses examples from the great masters of fiction to ensure you are able to recognize and create sentences that will inspire and move you.  Outstanding book.

There are many books out there on developing characters and plot and other matters of form, to help you develop your skills.  One that I seem to go back to time and again is The Writer’s Notebook Craft Essays from Tin House, Various Authors.  Tin House runs a well established writer’s school in the States which offers writer’s craft courses each summer.  This book is a compilation of the best classes and essays from the program presented by some of the best in business.  A great resource to have on hand.

Finally, I would like to add the most important tool of all for would-be writers and one that is surprisingly often overlooked, and that is reading.  To be a good writer you need to be exposed to good writing.  Read everything you can from your genre and everything you can from outside your genre.  If you are writing picture books for kids, read every picture book you can find, study them and find out what makes them work.  If you are writing fiction, read fiction voraciously, looking at different styles and techniques.  It takes time and effort but it is the only way to learn.  Unfortunately most people don’t bother to do it.

Good luck with your writing.  If you are in Huntsville, come by and say hello.  Come in the month of November and mention this blog and I will give you 20% off all books.

Kind regards,

Louise Parkinson
The Bookcase
93 Main St. E
Huntsville  ON  P1H 2B9
705 789 9111

Monday, October 31

End of Season Blues

October is heaving her last sigh and it signals the end of our busiest seasons. In the heady days of summer and the colourful days of autumn foliage, a steady stream of visitors come to Muskoka, Algonquin Park, the Almaguin Highlands, and right here to Fern Glen Inn. And though you might think the pace wears us down or uses us up, quite the opposite is true.

While our guests are recharging their own batteries and filling up their own buckets of adventure, we somehow thrive on their energy, buoyed by their excitement. The pace is slowing now, as it inevitably does for the month of November, and I know I'll get a bit of the end of season blues. What can I say, I miss our guests already!

It's not like we don't have things to do. At this time of year, Jim and I fill our days with all sorts of things that need doing. Bringing in firewood to see us (and our many winter guests) through the snowy season is nearly a full-time job in itself. Many local residents start the process in September and are well finished the task by now. There are also maintenance jobs to take care of, repairs to make, equipment and outdoor furniture to put away until spring. Jim has his design clients to take care of and I teach a course in self employment for one of the local service agencies. 

So our pace isn't much slower, but it is different. And it doesn't generally include the whirlwind of people from around the province and around the world passing through our doors. This year we had people from England, Scotland, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Denmark, Zimbabwe, China, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Mexico, the United States, and of course Canada. I know I'm missing some countries but I think I've covered the continents!

We've welcomed newlyweds, and "oldlyweds", all sorts of couples, some family groups, solo travelers, life-long friends, and happy pooches. Everyone is different, yet we're all the same. Everyone has a story -- an interesting one! -- whether they realize it or not. And it's so amazing for us to enter into it and take up a small role in their history.

So we'll try to make use of the empty hours while we have them. And we'll happily welcome the guests who do come to share in the quiet season (it really does have its own charms). Then before we know it, it'll be mid-December; the snow will come and bring with it all sorts of people who will come to play in it. I can't hardly wait!

Friday, October 28

Cornmeal Drop Biscuits, the Souper Sidekick

Fern Glen Inn •

At this time of year, with the days getting shorter and cooler, a big pot of hot and hearty soup is the superhero of supper. And what does every superhero need? Why, a sidekick, of course! That's where biscuits come in.

Like every upstanding citizen knows, a good sidekick should support the superhero, with complementing -- not competing -- strengths. It should contribute essentially to the victory, but not take all the glory. It is content to be simple and steadfast, leaving the complexities and flashiness to the superhero. A sidekick can stand on it's own in a pinch, but it really shines when working as part of a team. Does this have you thinking of Robin, Tonto and Cornmeal Drop Biscuits? It should!

Biscuits have all the characteristics of a great sidekick. They're unassuming and rather plain-looking, but hot and fresh from the oven, they're the perfect partner just about any type of soup or stew you can conjure up. And drop biscuits are super-easy and quick to whip together. Unlike flaky biscuits, they don't have to be rolled or patted out. No cutting into neat pucks or squares. Just drop the dough by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet and pop them in the oven. They'll be golden and ready to eat by the time the soup comes to a simmer.

I like the cornmeal in these biscuits for the added crunch and interesting texture. You can also dress these up for more of a staring role by adding all sorts of extras. Try stirring any of these into the bowl after you've cut in the butter but before adding the wet ingredients:
  • sliced green onion
  • snipped chives
  • diced ham
  • diced or shredded sharp cheese (cheddar, gruyere, emmental are good)
  • crumbled feta or goat cheese
  • chopped sundried tomatoes
  • roasted red peppers or jalapenos
  • hardy herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage)
  • toasted walnuts
  • whatever super accessories will work well with the flavours in your soup

Partner these biscuits with a stellar soup and you'll have a victory at the supper table!

Cornmeal Drop Biscuits
Makes 10-12 biscuits.
These are best served hot or warm, fresh from the oven, but can be reheated in a microwave or crumbled into a bowl of soup the next day.
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) cold butter, cut into dice
  • 1 cup heavy cream, table cream or buttermilk*, plus more if needed
Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or two knives; or rub together with your fingers.
Mixture should look like coarse meal with some pea-sized pieces of butter. Add any extras (herbs, cheese, etc).
Make a well in the centre and pour in one cup of cream (or buttermilk, if using). Stir with a spoon until just combined and no dry flour remains. Add more cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed to fully moisten the dough.

Drop by large spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Serve within half an hour.

* For the richest, most tender biscuits, use heavy cream and don't think about the fat content -- let a hearty, tomato-based bean-and-vegetable soup be the virtuous partner in this duo! 
But if you can't do that with a clear conscious, use a lighter cream (table cream or half'n'half).
Buttermilk is an excellent low-fat alternative. The biscuits won't be quite as tender but they'll have great flavour.

Monday, October 17

The Turning of the Tamaracks

Visitors make a mad rush to Algonquin Park and the surrounding area every autumn in order to admire the scarlet hues of the hardwood forest. 

There are a number of Fall Foliage Reports tracking the progress of the maple trees—the amount of colour change and the amount of leaf fall—culminating in the status of Peak Colour. And once the peak has past, the park and its neighbouring towns quickly empty out with the collective understanding that it's all over for another year.

What visitors don't realize is there's a second act. One that I call The Golden Encore. I've written about it before and I'm compelled to write about it again because, year after year, it delights me still.

During this encore performance it's the tamarack trees who move into the spotlight instead of playing backup. By now the maples have lost their leaves, especially in the high canopy of the forest and the crests of hills. This allows the sun to reach the leaves in the understory, turning the maple seedlings yellow and peach. The birch trees are sporting bright yellow leaves and their clusters stand out among the bare deciduous branches around them. And dotting the hills, skirting lakes and bogs, the tamaracks are a brilliant gold.

An oddity in the tree world, tamaracks are the only coniferous tree (native to this part of the world, anyway) to turn colour and lose their needles in the fall. They can reach magnificent heights and are impossible to miss at this time of year. I love that they wait until the flashy reds of the maples are finished before they begin their show, so that we can best appreciate the vivacity of their colour against a more muted backdrop.

So while others are bemoaning the end of "leaf season" I am loving my walks in the woods, admiring the colourful carpet of fallen leaves underfoot and the swish of my feet shuffling through them. I'm driving the back country roads to town, where the trees press right up to the shoulder and I can see into the yellow interior of the understory. I'm walking up to the little lake and admiring anew the tamaracks that stake their hold along marshy shores. It's the denouement of leaf season, the turning of the tamaracks, the golden encore. And I love it.

Tuesday, September 27

And the winner is...

Fern Glen Inn •

Our Summer Holiday Photo Contest has come to a close and the results are in! We had many entries that beautifully depicted the activities and sights our guests can enjoy during a summer holiday based at Fern Glen Inn.

For this contest, we had three prizes to be won—each a free night at the inn. Two prize winners were by random draw and one prize winner chosen by a panel of judges.

All photos were entered in a random draw to win one of the prizes. Every "Like" a photo received gave it an extra chance to win. Laura Jimenez's photo "Guardian Kitten" was the lucky winner for this draw. The picture shows a decorative "kitty" watching over the red and yellow inn against a backdrop of blue sky and green treetops. Congratulations Laura!

Everyone who "Liked" any of the photos was entered in another random draw to win one of the prizes. Erin D'Arcy was the lucky winner of this draw. She liked Stella Barnett-Walsh's picture of "Hartly enjoying the canoe ride with Dave". We look forward to meeting Erin when she claims her free night at the inn!

The Best Photo prize was determined by a panel of three judges: one from the Explorers' Edge regional tourism organization, one a photographer and cottage-county enthusiast, and another a visual artist with a love for the region.

All three panelists shared one common short-listed photo, and that was Diane Brough's "Pete, the friendly seagull". Diane and her family spent three nights here at Fern Glen Inn this summer. On a day trip over to Parry Sound, they took an afternoon cruise on the Island Queen, touring through the 30,000 islands on Georgian Bay. How considerate of "Pete" to pose so nicely for Diane!

Collectively, the panelists shortlisted 11 photos from the entries, and even that was very tough to do. Many of the entries beautifully captured the essence of a summer holiday within the broad area we love to play and relax in. Just two of the entries which deserve honourary mention are Pedro Goldman's lovely water lily "Summer Offering" and Mark Grieve's stunning sky over "Oxtongue Lake". 

We'd like to thank all the photographers who entered the contest -- and we're doing just that by offering each of them a $20 discount off their next two-night stay* at Fern Glen Inn!

Visit the contest photo album to see all the entries. And save your photos for our next contest!

* Valid on stays of two nights or more before March 31, 2012. One discount per photographer. One discount per reservation, not to be combined with other discounts, specials, or offers.