Monthly Archives: September 2014

Hyde Mill Streetsville

Sat. Sep. 20, 2014

A beautiful morning for the final Saturday of summer.  We parked on Mill street in Streetsville. Taking the little trail that heads north on the west side of the Credit River we passed through and area where the young bushes were cropped off a foot off of the ground.  Deer had grazed as they made their way along the river bank.  We followed them toward the walls of an old mill we had seen when we were in Riverside park a couple weeks ago.

At the mill site water was diverted from the stream or mill pond to the water wheel by a small stream that was usually man made.  Where the water was brought to the wheel was called the head race.  The water wheel, or later a turbine, was used to transfer the energy from the falling water to turn the gears inside the mill.  This would drive the grinding wheels in a grist mill or the saw blades in a saw mill.  The water was then returned to the river by means of the tail race. We found the tail race to the mill and knew that it would lead us there.

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The remains of an old vehicle, likely a late 1940’s or early 1950’s, lay at the bottom of the hill. This car may have been here for quite a long time as it is damaged beyond identification.

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A second car lies decaying in the same area.  This car is in much better shape although it has been stripped clean of every usable part.  The trunk lid still contains an old decal showing how to use the tire jack.  From the part number on the decal we were able to identify this car as a 1977 Ford Galaxy 500.  These two vehicles must have been dumped down here before the trees grew up on the embankment above.  They may have been stolen and dumped down here or just abandoned here by their owners.  Either way, it is hard to see why they were left here and not removed by the city.  There is now a new acronym for those wishing to make fun of Fords. (F)ound (O)n (R)iver (D)rowned.

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The car in the foreground of the picture below shows what the Galaxy 500 would have looked like when it was new.

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Heman and Mary Hyde ran a large inn at Church and Main street for 40 years and this, along with proceeds from their saw mill, placed them among the wealthy in early Streetsville.  Their son, John “Church” Hyde, built his own little merchant-miller empire.  By 1840 he had built a mill on the west side of the river near the end of Church street.  The mill expanded into a saw and grist mill, cooperage and stave factory.  Staves are the thin wood boards which were used by a cooper to make barrels.  He also built quarters for his workers at the mill site.  In 1906 the mill was converted to produce hydro electricity for the town of Streetsville.  It was Ontario’s first municipally owned power plant.  The plant continued to be the source for power for the town until 1943 when Streetsville joined Ontario Hydro.  The plant continued to provide auxiliary power until 1960 when it was shut down.  In the photo below are two tunnels under the building where water was used to turn turbines.

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There are two holes where shafts from the water turbines came up from these water tunnels below.

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A steam pipe like the one below helped us to locate the Millwood Mills during a hike back in June.  This also helps to identify this part of the mill as being of the newer 1906 construction.

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The mill is designated as a heritage site because of the remaining door and window frames which can be seen in the cover photo.  Since it is now intended to be preserved I find it odd that the interior of the mill is allowed to become overgrown with small trees. In a few years these trees will push over the walls and ruin this historical building.

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When the mill was restored in 1906 a new dam was built across the Credit River.  The foundations remain in a pattern of squares on the river bed.

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Fall would officially begin a day later, but there was a hint of colour coming in some maple trees already and the sumac trees are bright red.  Fall’s showcase of beauty is about to begin.

 

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As we had hiked up the west side of the river we had seen the remains of yet another mill, this one on the east bank of the Credit river.  Hmmm….

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Google Maps link: Hyde Mill

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Forks Of The Don

Sunday, Sep.. 14, 2014

Sunny and warm with a temperature around 16 degrees.  My seventh wedding anniversary and a few minutes for a short walk while my wife gets ready to go out with me for dinner.  I parked in E. T. Seton park off of Thorncliffe Park Drive.  Taking a left when you reach the bottom of the hill will bring you across an old bridge and into a parking lot.  This parking lot is on the site of several former buildings.   The bridge crosses the East Don River and right beside the bridge is a trail that goes down and under the old rail bridge.  Soon you will hear rushing water which tells you  that you have come to a waterfall at an old dam.

In 1846 the Taylor Brothers built a paper mill near this dam to join the saw and grist mill already here.  This became known as the upper mill.  The Taylor’s had two other paper mills.  The middle mill was just above Todmorden and the lower mill was at Todmorden.  Mid-nineteenth century paper was often made out of rags.  Homespun wool and cotton was mixed with straw and jute and cooked with soda and lime.  It was then washed, drained, pressed and dried to be made into various paper products.  All traces of this operation have either been removed or are hidden in the tall weeds.  At least the old mill dam is still easy to find.

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The Don river is divided into the East and West and just south of Overlea Blvd., right where Don Mills Road crosses the river,  is where they meet.  The forks of the Don can be approached from either bank as well as the little point of land that juts out between where the branches meet in the picture below.  The cover photo features the dam from between the East and West Don.

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Don Mills road was named for the saw and grist mills that it provided access to.  Originally it ran from the mills at the forks of the Don down to Parliament street.  It was later extended as far north as York Mills road, passing through various people’s well established land grants.  Since this road was independent of the actual mandated road allowance it was called the Independent Mills Road for a time. More recently it has simply been known as Don Mills Road. When it was widened to four lanes in the 1950’s a section south of Gateway Blvd leading down the hill was abandoned.  It remains today as part of a trail and a parking lot at the bottom of the hill.

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The old Don Mills bridge now carries a trail instead of a road across the railroad tracks. The bridge is constructed of steel beams bolted and pinned together.  I arrived here while the Terry Fox run was going on.  Crossing this bridge I could feel the sway caused by the runners as they pounded their feet.  It must have been interesting when cars and trucks were crossing here. The new Don Mills Road bridge can be seen in the background.

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Monarch butterflies are likely the most commonly known species of butterflies in Ontario.  They migrate south each winter to central Mexico.  Point Pelee Park is the most southerly point in Canada and on Sep. 17, 2014 (2 days ago) they reported over 2,000 monarchs spent the night in the park on their way south.  From this they estimate that populations will be up next summer. The butterfly in the picture below is a male.  Male monarchs have two little black spots on their rear wings (seen near the back end of the body) that are used to release a scent to attract the females.  Monarch’s taste bad due to a chemical in he milkweed they eat and that provides them with protection from being eaten by birds.  Another type of butterfly that looks almost identical is the Viceroy.  Viceroy’s are slightly smaller and have a second black ring around the back of their rear wings.

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Credit Meadows Park

Saturday Sep. 13, 2014

A rainy Saturday morning and only 11 degrees.  We parked in the parking lot on Creditview Road just north of where the Credit River crosses near Britannia Road.  This is the second lot north of Britannia and was home to Ephraim Steen who lived here from 1842 until he died in 1921.  Ephraim also owned land on the other side of Creditview as well as the land where Riverside Park and subdivision now stand in Streetsville.  This lot of land was taken over by the conservation authority in the late 1950’s and named Credit Meadows Park.

We didn’t wander too far from the cars but there is always something to see.  There is frequently one or more great blue herons that like to fish on either side of the bridge. We watched one feed across the river from us.  Heron’s in this part of the credit are likely feeding on Blacknose Dace which are one of the most common minnows in the river.

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Near the parking lot is a stand of mature trees which includes several old black walnut trees. They can live for 130 years and attain heights of 40 meters.  The tree in the cover photo has had a tree fort built in it many years ago but only the ladder remains today.

Pileated Woodpeckers feed on beetle larvae and ants that live in trees.  They are known to bore out large, roughly rectangular, holes in trees while searching for food.   The tree in the picture below features a shelf mushroom just below the woodpecker hole.  These mushrooms are also known as The Artist’s Conk.  They have a soft white underside that is perfect for carving in. When they dry they become as hard as a piece of wood and can last for many years.  They usually will stand up on the flat side where they grew on the tree.  They can grow to be 50 cm in length by 30 cm wide.

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We found a branch growing a fungi called Turkey Tail.  Turkey Tail grows on fallen hardwood. This fungi is known for it’s medicinal properties especially as a supplement for conventional cancer treatment.  It is helpful for overcoming the side effects of chemotherapy.

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Wood frogs are easy to miss as they blend in well with their surroundings.  The small specimen in the centre of the picture is only a couple of centimeters long.  Wood frogs winter close to the surface and have the ability to withstand being frozen and thawed many times during the winter.  They convert their body fluids to urea and glucose, both of which don’t freeze as easily as water.

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Wild Grapes, also known as River Bank Grapes have been climbing the larger trees in GTA parks for many years.  They can reach the tops of the largest trees and are capable of smothering the tree and killing it.  The woody vine can be several inches thick where it sprouts from the ground. The vine in the picture below is about four inches thick and easily supports the weight of an adult.  My picture of a Canadian Tarzan, however, will have to remain in my personal collection.

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This mushroom is known as a Dung Loving Bird’s Nest.   When mature they have a cap that has a few spore capsules that look like eggs in a bird’s nest.  It is designed to use the force of falling rain to distribute it’s spores and can throw it’s spore capsule up to two meter’s with the force of a single raindrop.  These mushrooms have already launched their spores.

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The Yellow Waxcap mushroom is edible but is not recommended as there is a poisonous mushroom that looks very similar.  They appear in late summer and there were many of them scattered throughout the woodlot.

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Riverside Park Streetsville

Saturday Sept. 6, 2014

It was a cool morning following a night of rain.  We decided that there was time for a short hike. Parking on Riverside Place we walked the path down to the east bank of the Credit River.  We thought we just might find evidence of Timothy Street’s mill, after which the town of Streetsville was named.  Streetsville has retained it’s small town feel even as it has been surrounded by the city of Mississauga.  In 1953 two of the first suburbs in Canada were built near Streetsville.  The one on the north east was called Riverside and opened in 1955.  The park at the bottom of the hill along the river may have contained the mill pond.  The tree in the cover shot is a massive black willow that stands near the side of an old mill race.  It is likely over 100 years old and witness to many changes in the river valley.

We watched a female downy woodpecker looking for lunch on a dead tree.  The downy is the smallest woodpecker in Ontario.  The males can be distinguished from the females by the red cap on the back of the head.  The downy and the hairy woodpecker look almost identical, yet they come from different genera.  Downy woodpeckers average about 6 inches while the hairy is normally around 15 inches in size.  They have the same markings except the white feathers on the tails.  Being unrelated they cannot inter-breed raising the question as to why they look so much alike.  Scientists use the term “convergent evolution” to describe two apparent random sets of independent mutations that, against all odds, somehow produced the same result.

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The Goldenrod Gall Fly is a small brownish fly that lives it’s entire life cycle around the plant.  In the spring the male will wait on a plant for the female to arrive so he can dance for her.  After mating she deposits her eggs directly into the stem of the young goldenrod plant.  The eggs hatch in about 10 days, roughly the same time as the adult completes it’s two week life cycle and dies.  The larva live their whole lives inside the plant where they chew a nest.  Their saliva causes the plant to grow a gall around the larva, up to the size of a golf ball.  Just before winter the larva will chew an escape tunnel out almost to the outer skin.  Then it converts most of it’s body fluid to glycol, a substance like anti-freeze, and sets down for the winter.  In the spring the larva wakes up and molts into the pupa from which the adult fly will hatch.  The adult will escape through the tunnel it dug the fall before.  When it reaches the end of the tunnel it inflates special pouches in it’s head to “blow apart” the skin of the gall.  The male fly then begins it’s two week life cycle on the outside.  Goldenrod galls are easy to find but it is rare to see two galls on a single plant.

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Wild cucumbers grow along the edges of Toronto’s rivers and streams.  They are related to cucumbers, squash and other gourds but unlike other members of it’s family, are not edible. The fruit will contain 4 seeds which drop out of the bottom after the pod has ripened.  The plant dies each fall and re-grows in the spring from the seeds of the year before.

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Milkweeds produce a pod which contains hundreds of little seeds.  These little seeds each have a silky tassle which allows them to be blown by the wind to aid distribution.  Milkweed is essential to the life cycle of monarch butterflies.  They lay their eggs on the plant and the emerging caterpillars eat it.  Monarch butterflies travel 4,800 km to Mexico to winter every year. In the winter of 2013-2014 only 44% of the butterflies arrived compared to the year before.  In order to improve the future of these butterflies the David Suzuki Foundation has a program promoting the planting of milkweed in Toronto.

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We found the old Streetsville mill but it was on the other side of the Credit River.  Exploration awaits…

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Summerville

Saturday August 30, 2014

It was partly sunny with humidity making it feel several degrees warmer than the 21 degrees on the thermometer.  We parked off of Nelson street and followed a little path to the edge of the creek.  From there we went south on the east side of Etobicoke Creek.  We very quickly saw two Great Blue Herons flying upstream followed shortly by a Belted Kingfisher.  A minute later one heron flew back downstream with the kingfisher scolding him all the way.  Having chased the heron out of his personal fishing hole, the kingfisher chattered final warnings as it flew back upstream.  Although we followed the heron downstream he was spooked enough that we never got a good picture of him.

Grass Spiders, also known as Funnel Weavers, weave a large web with a funnel shaped hole near one side where they sit and wait for prey.  The web isn’t sticky but the spider makes up for this with it’s lightning speed.  When I opened the back door of my car I found a large mess of spider web running from the door to the head rest on the back seat. One of these grass spiders, about an inch across, was trying to hide along the door seal. Living in my car and walking up my neck while I am driving is not an option but she jumped to the ground and ran away fast enough to avoid becoming a sticky mess on my shoe.

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There is still plenty of evidence of last year’s July flooding along most of Toronto’s ravines. Rows of sticks and other debris has been packed into plants and trees high above the normal water level.  In one of these places we found an old tractor tire in which a grass spider has built it’s nest.  The round hole near the centre of the picture is opening of the funnel which is the spider’s home.

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In the 1820’s John Silverthorn  built a saw mill and a grist mill north of Dundas Street on the Etobicoke Creek.  John also built a road through his property from Burnhamthorpe Road  to Dundas Street to help people bring their goods to his two mills.  This road still exists today as Mill Road north of the Etobicoke Creek.  South of the creek a clever city planner named it Southcreek Road.  The mill was at the crossing of the river but is now off limits to hikers as it is on property owned by the Markland Wood Golf Club.   A community grew up around the mills and by the 1850’s it had a population of around 100 with two blacksmiths, the grist and saw mills, a chair factory and, naturally, two taverns.  It took the name Summerville in 1851 when the post office opened.

John’s brother, Joseph, built Cherry Hill House in 1822 and it is said to be the oldest house in Mississauga.  As seen in the 1972 photo below, the house was allowed to fall into ruin. It was restored in 1979 and moved to it’s current location on the corner of Silvercreek Blvd and Lolita Gardens where it now serves as a restaurant.

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A Spud Bar is a cylindrical steel tool which is typically 5 to 6 feet long and weighs up to 15 lbs.  They usually have a chisel point on one end and a tamper two to three inches in diameter on the other end.  In north America they are also known as millwright bars reflecting one of their primary uses.  Early millwrights built water powered mills like the saw and grist mills of john Silverthorn.  The millwright bar in the picture below, and in the cover photo, was found quite close to the location of the Silverthorn mills.

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Not much to say here other than this is included as one of the strangest findings of all time.

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We could see a thunderstorm coming our way and we made it to the bridge on Dundas before it arrived.  The storm only lasted for a few minutes and the rain evaporated quickly, increasing the humidity and making the hiking a little stickier.

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Along the side of the embankment was a long section of old bridge siding.  Hurricane Hazel took out over 50 bridges and it is quite likely that this is part of one of them.

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“A Mari Usque Ad Mare”, From Sea to Sea.  These words adorn the Canadian Coat of Arms. Just below the words Mari and Mare appear two purple thistles.  These are Canadian Thistles and have appeared on our Coat of Arms since 1921.  In-spite of the name, it is not actually native to Canada and is classified as a noxious weed here.  Other names include Lettuce From Hell and Cursed Thistle.  In spite of it’s status as an unwanted intruder it hangs on the walls of our government buildings, graces the 50 cent coin and shows up wherever the Coat of Arms is displayed.

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Apples, pears, cherries, peaches and roses are all related, being members of the “Rosa” family.  They all produce a type of fruit where the flower was.  The rose plant grows a fruit which is called a Rose Hip.  These are used for a wide variety of things including herbal teas, jams and jellies, pies and wine.  Rose hips contain 50% more vitamin C than oranges do and are one of the best natural sources.  They are also known to help prevent cancer and improve cardiovascular function.  Don’t just stop and smell the roses, take some time to eat them too!

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Barney and Friends debuted in April 1992.  The purple singing T-Rex was the star of 248 children’s tv shows until PBS cancelled the show on Sept. 18, 2009.  Listed by TV Guide as one the top 50 worst tv shows of all time it is rumored that no one has seen Barney since. Perhaps not until now….

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