Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring to Life! Photo Contest

A celebration of Muskoka’s environment and the global Earth Hour and Earth Day initiatives.

Frogs, toads, snakes, and turtles emerge! Photo Rebecca Francis

Scour your backyard, nearby lakes, swamps, woodlands, and neighbourhoods for the unique found-only-in Muskoka shot of the local environment as it comes to life after a long, sleepy winter.

What we're looking for are photographs that exemplify the signs of spring in Muskoka. What comes to mind when you think of spring? What feelings do you experience when "spring is in the air"?

Critters like chipmunks come out and robins and red-winged blackbirds return. Swollen buds take over the tips of branches and clothes can be hung on the line. For each person spring shows up in different, subtle ways. Photograph submissions should reflect your personal experience of the transition from winter to spring- and our enjoyment of that special time. The snow melts and we can once again see the forest floor. Ground covers sprout up and woodland pools foster lots of life. Photo: Rebecca Francis

1st Prize! An in-flight aerial photography lesson with professional photographer Paul Bennett. Visit

2nd Prize! A one-year subscription to the Wednesday edition of your choice, The Gravenhurst Banner, The Huntsville Forester or The Bracebridge Examiner.

3rd Prize! A one-year membership with the Muskoka Heritage Foundation and a copy of the MHF DVD entitled Life on the Edge: Stories of Muskoka’s Past.

Ducks and other birds return from their winter away. photo: Greg Francis


  • Open to amateur photographers

  • Contest starts same day as Earth Hour— March 26

  • Entries must be submitted by 4:00 p.m. April 8

  • Email entry to

  • Photos must be at least 300 dpi and 8 inches wide

  • To be eligible, submissions must include the name of the photographer and a brief description of the photo, including where it was shot in Muskoka

  • 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize photos will be published in the April 20th, edition of Metroland’s local Wednesday papers (The Gravenhurst Banner, The Huntsville Forester, The Bracebridge Examiner) - 2 days before Earth Day!

  • Winning photos will be published on the Muskoka Heritage Foundation website

  • Metroland Media Inc. and the Muskoka Heritage Foundation reserve the right to reproduce submissions

Get outside, take your shots, and enter soon!!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Happy Earth Hour!

On Saturday, March 26 at 8:30pm millions of people around the world will be flicking their lights off in support of Earth Hour.

Earth Hour was started in 2007 by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and this year, its fifth year, it will be more popular than ever. Earth Hour grows in popularity every year. Last year, 128 countries and territories officially participated. Famous landmarks all over the world shut off their lights to show support. Currently, Earth Hour is the largest global initiative to fight climate change and it continues to grow.

Earth Hour provides an opportunity for the global community, no matter what background you are from, to join together to conquer one of our largest obstacles; climate change. Earth Hour gives the planet an hour of respect, where everyone can participate. This year, however, the WWF is campaigning for people to go beyond the hour, and make every hour Earth Hour. Some people only participate so they aren’t the only ones on the block with their lights on; but every year Earth Hour touches new people and makes them realize that our society must change so that we are living more sustainable life styles.

This year the Muskoka Heritage Foundation will try to get this message to Muskoka youth with the MHF Earth Hour Pledge. This will give students the opportunity to MAKE THE PLEDGE! on Facebook that commits them to participating in Earth Hour 2011.

Together our actions add up.
Happy Earth Hour!

Click on the logo to join the Facebook group and make the pledge!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Maple Syrup in Muskoka

Word from hard maple stands in Muskoka is that the sap is starting to run!

Buckets on trees
Maple syrup production has a long history in Canada, beginning with aboriginal people. Check out some neat photos of some of the first sap collection techniques used here.
Tools of the trade
Remember, it's the International Year of Forests, to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests. Maple syrup and forest health are strongly linked.
Sugar bush management involves thinning the trees to improve the health of the woodlot and the sap producing potential of individual maple trees. The development of wide and deep crowns is encouraged to support the production of large volumes of sweet sap.
The types of trees removed in improvement operations include the following:
  • Non-maple species including hemlock, beech and ash which interfere with the growth of maple crop trees.
  • Over-mature trees
  • Diseased, dying and defective trees
  • Trees producing sap with a sugar content of less than 1%

But remember, it is good practice to maintain species diversity to accommodate other values including aesthetics, wildlife and bio-diversity.

Tapping the tree
Feeding the fire to boil the syrup
Did you know?...It takes about 40 litres of Sugar Maple sap to make 1 litre of maple syrup!
Filtering the syrup
Upcoming workshop: Savour Muskoka is running a workshop at Brooklands Farm this Sunday, March 20th about maple syrup production fundamentals. For more details and a full description visit the "Stewardship Workshops and Events" page.

Want to know more?
Thanks to Ariel Zwicker for the great photos from her family maple syrup operation!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Baysville Horticultural Society

Baysville Horticultural Society gets a sneak peek at the Species at Risk booklet!

I presented to the lovely folks at the Baysville Horticultural Society last week. I spoke with them about land trust properties near Baysville, native species in the area, the importance of shoreline re-naturalization, the Well Aware program, and of course, the stewardship program.

I also spoke with them about the upcoming publication of the MHF’s Stewards’ Guide series, which will include the topics of Species at Risk in Parry Sound-Muskoka, Forest Management Options, Shoreline, Wetlands, and Trail Building. I had just received the proof from the printer for the Species at Risk booklet so they got to have a peek at what's to come! The Species at Risk booklet will be available at the MHF office in March and on the website soon!

Tyler, MHF Communications Intern, came along to help me sell tea towels and promote MHF programs.

The folks at Baysville Horticultural Society were a very engaged, interested audience who asked great questions and were enthusiastic about stewardship. Thank you!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

March Break Nature Retreat – Earth Mentoring

This week a profile of a very cool program in Muskoka: Earth Mentorship Programs

Earth Mentorship Programs runs a variety of programs designed to help participants learn valuable and comprehensive knowledge of the natural world through experiential activities, story telling and the application of ancient wilderness skills and bush craft. They also help implement land stewardship projects and write/approve Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program (MFTIP) plans.

Check out this cool video from the founder and main mentor, Chris Gilmour.

Earth Mentoring Programs are excite to offer the 3rd annual March Break Nature Retreat!

This retreat will offer you a chance to rejuvenate in nature’s beauty, deepening your connection to, and understanding of, the natural world. We will be expanding our awareness & knowledge, while exploring some of the many uses of nature’s gifts. Come learn new skills to bring back to the classroom or integrate into your life outside of work.

Activities Include:
- Studying Wildlife through the Eye of a Tracker
- Snowshoeing and Camp Fires
- Basket and Container Making with Natural Materials
- Wilderness Awareness Games/Activities
- Story Telling
- Wilderness Crafts with Natural Materials
- Intro to Earth Based Mentoring (coyote mentoring)
- Good Food & Good Fun

When: March 15 – 18, 2011 (March Break)
Where: Wolf Den Bunkhouse, Oxtongue, ON, 8 min West of Algonquin Park. Each participant will sleep in a beautful log cabin.
Food: We will provide healthy, wholesome dinners.Participants bring & prepare their own lunch & breakfast in the Wolf Dens communal kitchen.
Kids/Youth – If you have children you wish to bring along, arrangements may be made for nature based day care during the program. Please inquire.
Price: $360/person – Includes 3 nights accommodations,3 dinners, course materials, snow shoes extra if required

Contact Chris for more information or to register!

Or click on any of the photos to go to the Earth Mentorship website

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tree Trivia & Stewardship Conference

Globally, forests are host to 80 percent of our biodiversity.
Ten percent of the world's forests can be found right here in Canada.
And remember, the United Nations has declared 2011 the International Year of Forests.

photo: Greg Francis

Registration opens today for the 2011 Muskoka Stewardship Conference!
View the full agenda and register here
There will be speakers about the Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program, wildlife topics, native species gardening, water quality, and more!
It is an excellent change to learn more about stewardship in Muskoka and network with like-minded folks.
Hope to see you there!