Tag Archives: north bay

A Partridge in a Pine Tree

A few weeks ago, I accompanied my sister Ashley to our hometown of North Bay, Ontario, for a weekend of ribs, beer, and as it turned out, a little hunting. We stayed with our cousin and her husband and their two little girls. The weather was outstanding; warm and sunny, the trees in full autumn display. Of course, the thing to do was to head out on the 4 wheelers and shoot some partridge.

Ruffed Grouse - copyright MadTinman 2008

What we call partridge in the North is actually the Ruffed Grouse, a different bird altogether. Grey partridge, which were introduced from Europe, are common in the open fields of southern Ontario, while ruffed grouse are found in the dense bush and woodlands. They are tricky to spot; their feathers make efficient camouflage, and they are frequently perched in low tree bows. But my cousin’s husband, or “cousin-in-law” as he shall hereby be known, managed to snag the daily limit, five.  And, nice guy that he is, sent me home with two. By the way, if anyone is curious, I cooked the “partridge” breasts for my partner for his birthday. I did them in the oven, wrapped in bacon, with a little rosemary.

bringin' home the bacon...er, bird.

Hunting is a topic that can draw a lot of heat, especially amongst those who have never experienced it, or grew up around it. Living in Toronto, hunting isn’t exactly part of your day-to-day life. Unless you count hunting for a Starbucks. The connection between man and food, in some cases, has disappeared. Most people do not think of what they are eating while they are eating it, or where it came from. When you, or your family, personally hunt an animal for food, your connection to the natural world is actually strengthened. I feel better about eating moose, felled at the hands of my uncles, than I do about eating some poor, anonymous slaughterhouse cow. While I certainly agree with, and actively support, protecting our wildlife, I can also see a positive side to hunting. At least, as a food source.
At any rate, our pals the ruffed grouse seem to have it figured out. Studies have shown that controlling predators and disease do not increase their numbers. Conversely, hunting by humans also barely makes a dent. The natural balance has worked for them.

My family has a long history of hunting, typically for moose. And as it’s now Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, almost all the men in my family are heading up to our camp near Temagami.  In fact, I can barely remember a Thanksgiving that wasn’t almost completely devoid of males. It was so engrained in my childhood, that this picture almost seems normal:

this is normal, right??

This is two-year old me, sitting on a dead deer that is being propped up by my uncle and grampa. I don’t remember having this photo taken, but I do remember this maroon snowsuit.  I love my family.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to my kitchen to hunt down a snack.

Falling in love with Fall

I just spent a perfect weekend in my hometown, North Bay, Ontario.
Not only did I eat my weight in food, down 2 or 10 beer, and spend time with my lovely family, I also got to fully experience the fall colours.
Living in Toronto, one doesn’t really get the full effect. There are trees, of course, however they seem to be very spread out. One bright red tree can be gorgeous, but it can’t compete with a whole forest full of yellow, orange and red beauties.

The trees that line my aunt and uncle's property

My sister and I headed up to our aunt’s farm with our cousin, her husband and their two little girls. We decided to head out into the trails in the bush on the 4-wheelers so we could get to the sugar maples. This area of the woods is important in the spring, as my uncle produces a very delicious maple syrup every year.
On the way, we stopped several times to take pictures and stroll around. I found an old bear skull, probably left by a neighbour who’d shot a few problem bears in the past.

Most of the teeth were still intact. Scary.

It's possible that I've become a little too obsessed with bears lately.

But I digress. The foliage was the main event. The sugar maples were the crowning glory. It was magnificent. But instead of typing thousands of words, here’s some pictures:

The really amazing thing is, the pigments that produce the yellow and orange colours are actually always present in the leaves. During the growing seasons of spring and summer, the leaves are dominated by chlorophyll, which gives them the green colour. Carotenoids, which are yellow or orange, are always present, but in lower numbers. As the sunlight dwindles towards the end of summer and into fall, the chlorophyll begins to decrease, and the carotenoids are revealed in full force. Carotenoids are also present in carrots, corn, canaries, daffodils, egg yolks and bananas, among others.

The most explosive and awe-inspiring colour, in my opinion, is fiery red:

The pigments responsible for this colour, anthocyanins, are not present all year round. They begin to develop during the late summer in the sap of the leaf cells. When the days of autumn are bright and cool, and the nights are chilly but not freezing, the brightest colourations usually develop. Anthocyanins are also found in cranberries, red apples, blueberries, cherries, strawberries and plums.

At any rate, nothing compares to the beauty of this time of year in the north. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely a summer person. When it’s 35 degrees outside and everyone else is melting and complaining, I’m finally getting comfortable. Fall usually only serves to remind me that winter is coming, and that makes me feel very tired just thinking about it.
Fall in Toronto is generally overlooked as a brief transition stage between summer and winter. Patios are beginning to close up, or put out heaters. Legs go back into hiding. It begins to become difficult to know how to dress, so vast is the difference in temperature from morning to night.
But fall is also a deliciously cozy time of year. The air is fresh and clear, tinged occasionally with that smokey wood stove smell. Sweaters that have been hibernating all summer are being woken up. And the trees are ablaze with colour. I’m beginning to see the appeal. I could maybe fall in love with fall.

Just don’t tell summer I said that.