Tag Archives: Huron County

Bayfield’s rich history stored in one building

16 Mar

bayfieldarchives3By Diva Claire Carter

Huron County is full of amazing stories. As residents, we sometimes forget the contributions to culture and Canada’s history that have come from our own backyards.

I’d walked past the beautiful dollhouse-like building that houses the Bayfield Historical Society and Archives many times, but had never gone inside.

That changed on a quiet trip to Bayfield.

A visit begins with a warm welcome.  It is hard not to feel a spark of curiosity as you open the old door.  Walls are lined with artifacts, artwork and books. Visitors can purchase books about the area and prints by Bayfield artists. Locally produced videos can be viewed on a big screen. I watched the film about Maud Stirling, a nursing sister from Bayfield.

bayfieldarchives1Volunteers host historic walking tours each Saturday in July and August, starting at 1 p.m.  As the website says, “Learn about the history of the area, the ghosts, the fires and the fascinating characters who helped make the village the wonderful place it is today.” The $10 fee supports Archive initiatives.  If you can’t make it on a Saturday, self-guided tours are available at the Archives and a number of other local outlets for $5.

Located at 20 Main Street North, the Bayfield Historical Society and Archives is open May to November from 1-4 pm on Wednesday and Saturday.

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Mini-vacation in Huron County – just in time for March Break

14 Mar

naftel3The following is the second in a series of winter day-tripping ideas from Diva Shari Parsons, who has a special passion for driving adventures, trail hiking and photo opportunities.

Recently, my hubby had a week’s holiday but since we couldn’t “get away” we decided to enjoy some of the local attractions.

There is the saying “a change is as good as a rest” and even one night away from home feels like a mini holiday. We decided to use some travel reward points to book a Jacuzzi King Suite at the Dreamz Inn on Hwy. 21 between Goderich and Bayfield. We had stayed there one night last winter and enjoyed the experience so we decided to do it again.

After checking in, I swam for an hour in their clean, saltwater pool while my hubby alternated between pool, dry sauna and hot tub. We ate a picnic style supper, which we had brought with us, while watching TV on their good-sized flat screen TV. We ended our evening by snacking on potato chips while sharing a romantic soak in the large Jacuzzi tub in the firelight of the electric fireplace. The King bed was comfy as were the downy soft sheets.

In the morning, my hubby skipped down to the breakfast room to grab some free breakfast munchies while I enjoyed another soak in the Jacuzzi tub. When he came back we enjoyed blueberry muffins, yogurt and tea.

The sun was shining and the temperature was mild so after checking out of the hotel, we decided to go for a hike at Naftel’s Creek Conservation Area on Hwy. 21., just south of the Dreamz Inn. The Conservation Area’s entrance is on the east side of the highway. It is not well marked so you need to be looking out for it. The parking lot has a fair amount of space. The trail is popular with people walking dogs and cross-country skiers in the winter.

naftel7The main trail is fairly flat and winds its way through evergreens, hardwoods and cedars in wetland areas so there is a nice mix of environments and eco systems. There is a pond and a couple of tinkling creeks.

The beginning of the trail runs through a conifer plantation. Recent windstorms have toppled a few of the trees and you can see how wide but shallow the root system is that anchors these tall trees. You can tell by the tracks in the snow that the uprooted tree bases make for great shelter for the forest creatures.

naftel2naftel6Boardwalks lead you through mini forests of cattails in the wetlands as well as over bubbling streams, the edges of which are marked by deer tracks coming to the creek for a drink.

There had been a snowfall the previous day so the woods were covered in a fresh blanket of puffy white. Some tree stumps sported puffy caps making them look like giant mushrooms.

naftel5In the cedar groves, the trees on either side of the trail reach up and lean towards each other over the trail forming a natural cathedral ceiling and make the hiker feel like they are walking through a woody tunnel.

naftel1A winter hike on this trail is very quiet and peaceful with only the sound of the occasional chickadee.

The weather was still sunny after our hike and we didn’t feel like ending our mini holiday by going home yet so we decided to go for a country drive. We once again headed north and did the Blyth Road to Auburn then Base Line Road route. This time we decided to explore Maitland Block, a loop that cuts off of the Base Line Road and catches a portion of the Maitland River. It ended up that we weren’t able to traverse the whole road as not all of it is maintained in the winter, but on the way down, we watched a half dozen crows heckling a large hawk and soon saw the hawk’s mate following behind. On the way back up the road, I was looking at the tree-line and spotted a bald eagle sitting in a tree snacking on something. We got to watch it for quite a while before it majestically flew away.

We pulled off the side of Base Line Road at Little Lakes Road and walked down the hill to the historic Ball’s Bridge as that end of the road is not winter maintained. Down at the bridge we noted another group of crows displaying incredible acrobatics as they were swooping and dive-bombing another hawk in a tree.

ballsbridge4The icy edges of the riverbanks were covered with the wide-toed tracks of snowshoe hares.

ballsbridge1 ballsbridge2After walking back to the car (watch for snowmobiles as this is part of their trail) we drove to Londesboro Road. And then turned onto River Line Road. On one side of the road is an old brick building surrounded by antique farm machinery – an interesting contrast of textures and colours. On the crest of the hill, there is a large home resembling a fairy-tale castle, complete with rounded tower. This home has an incredible view of rolling farmlands and woodlands to the east.

ballsbridge8River Line Road becomes Hills Road, (a good name for the location) which is dotted with Victorian farm houses. We then headed through Benmiller on our way home.

There is so much variety and beauty in Huron County that you don’t have to leave to enjoy a winter holiday.

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dreamzinn

Dreamz Inn as Your Destination:

What:

A contemporary designer hotel with luxuriously appointed rooms, with attention to detail. Non-smoking family atmosphere, with saltwater pool, fitness centre, outdoor lounging areas & multi-purpose court. Complimentary breakfast.

Where:

79272 Hwy. 21, at the intersection of Union Road and Hwy. 21. Between Goderich and Bayfield.

When:

Open year round.

Contact:

Website – http://www.dreamzinn.ca

Email – reserve@dreamzinn.ca

Phone – 519.524.7396 or toll free 1.855.524.7396

Auburn Grill offers a hearty breakfast menu

28 Feb

auburnrestaurantexteriorBy Diva Heather Boa

It’s obligatory for a reviewer to order the signature dish at a restaurant. And the top breakfast menu item at the Auburn Grill & Family Restaurant sounded pretty tempting – a Belgian waffle topped with corned beef hash, eggs and a special cream sauce.

So I ignored the usual offerings of eggs, omelettes, pancakes and sandwiches and put in an order for the Breakfast Special ($8.50) and a cup of coffee, then took note of my surroundings. The Sunday morning patrons were the usual rural crowd of ball caps and plaid and fluorescent work jackets, which in my books means the breakfast will be hearty and traditional, and the coffee will be refilled regularly. The melamine tables and crown-backed chairs were arranged around the work area, where customers pay for gas from the pumps outside, frozen meals and other convenience items, or fresh pastries from the glass case. Behind a piece of wood lattice, the cook prepared food in the kitchen.

Outside the picture window, the occasional vehicle drove by on Cnty. Road 35 (Blyth Road)  and on the other side of the road a farmer’s barren field lay exposed, a row of orange-tipped sticks all that remained to mark the trail snowmobilers would travel to come for a meal.

I was surprised to hear rock music playing in the restaurant, a little heavier variety than one usually hears in public places. I liked it well enough.

Breakfast arrived – a prepared crispy waffle with a light inside, corned beef (but no potato to make it hash), nicely scrambled eggs, and a thick cheesy white sauce that would stick to your ribs on a cold morning.

auburnrestaurantBut I might have made a tactical error in ordering the Breakfast Special, and I’ve since learned that the restaurant is really known locally for its generous portions of standard breakfast fare – eggs, meat, homefries and toast. I’ll make a note of that for my next visit.

No matter what the meal, coffee is a deal breaker for me. Is it hot enough? Is it strong enough but not bitter? Is it refilled on a regular basis? And on all fronts, this coffee did indeed stack up.

The Auburn Grill and Family Restaurant also has a complete lunch and dinner menu, plus children’s menu, and is open seven days a week until 7 p.m.

 

Mini winter holiday in Huron County: Part I

28 Feb

hikinggoderich4The following is the first in a series of winter day-tripping ideas from Diva Shari Parsons, who has a special passion for driving adventures, trail hiking and photo opportunities.

What do you do when you need a “Winter Getaway” but you can’t actually “getaway”? That was the conundrum facing my hubby and me this past week. With a week’s holidays and only a beer budget, you have to get a little creative.

We decided to take advantage of some of our favourite activities in some of our favourite places right here in our own backyard of Huron County.

hikinggoderich3A sunny day with cold winds called for a road trip on country roads. We started down at the Goderich waterfront where I enjoyed looking at the fantastic ice mounds formed just offshore. The ice covering the one harbour entrance light made the building look like a frosted wedding cake. Snow and ice made for some interesting costumes for the dozens of Inuksuit (that is the plural form) still bravely standing along the ice-encrusted shoreline.

hikinggoderich2A stop at the north end of St. George’s Crescent in Goderich gives a fantastic view of the grain elevators, salt mine, and harbour, which on this particular day held three ships in an icy grasp. Puffy clouds on the horizon mimicked snow capped mountains in the distance. Turn around and you can enjoy the wonderful historical architecture of stately homes such as McDermott’s castle and the former home of lumber merchant Joseph Williams.

hikingauburn5We continued to drive north from Goderich on Hwy. 21 and turned onto Blyth Road (Cnty. Rd. 35) where we enjoyed the sight of rolling snow covered fields criss-crossed with sparkling creeks. After crossing the picturesque Maitland River in Auburn, we turned south onto the Base Line Road and pulled off at Manchester Park to take in the sights and sounds of the Maitland River on a sunny winter’s day. The sunlight made an interesting pattern of shadows on the snow from the long line of poplar trees along the lane. The snow was criss-crossed with the tracks of an adventurous field mouse.

hikingauburn6We continued south on Base Line Road, then turned west on the Londesboro Road and stopped at the former mill in Benmiller, which is now the Benmiller Inn. You can watch the Maitland River flow past the historic River Mills buildings. I took some photos of interesting architectural features frosted with snow. The blue sky, trees and historic building of Gledhill House were reflected in the water of Gledhill Pond.

hikingbenmiller8We returned home having enjoyed the bright winter sun, lovely scenery and some great photo ops.

Grab your favourite hot beverage, jump in the car and explore the beauty that surrounds us in Huron County!

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Coffee roasting 101: All you need is a skillet or a popcorn maker

23 Jan

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By Diva Heather Boa

ZURICH – A friend who is a psychologist once told me that addiction to coffee isn’t measured by how many cups one drinks but, rather, by the depth of emotion that one feels for coffee.

Well, I love coffee. Hot, rich, smooth, black coffee. In large quantities.

So when the invitation came to attend Coffee Roasting 101 at The Coastal Roastery in Zurich today, I was excited.

Many people are familiar with Coastal Coffee Company, with its green logo of a stylized pop-up top Volkswagen van, a regular at many farmers markets in Huron County. Perhaps not so many people are familiar with its coffee shop in downtown Zurich, where there’s always a pot or two of coffee and some baked goods available, along with everything you need to prepare a good pot of coffee. At the back, beyond the retail shop, burlap sacks of green beans – which are really the seed of a coffee cherry – grown by micro producers in Nicaragua, Columbia, Rwanda, Peru or some other exotic country sit ready for the gleaming Toper brand roaster in the centre of the room.

Today, the four of us in this class are not going near the commercial roaster.

Instead, we’re learning to roast micro batches of coffee using a few methods that adapt to our own kitchens or campfires. The class ratio is a phenomenal 1:1, with staff sharing their considerable knowledge and skills.

Jason Wiebe kicks off the demonstration with a cautionary note that a butane burner should not be used indoors and a popcorn maker should not be modified in any way.

coffeeroasting5Then he fills a dry cast iron skillet with 250g – that’s one cup, for those of you still on Imperial measurements – and we watch as he flips the beans like a chef making an omelette, chaff floating into the air. In time, the beans turn from green to yellow to deep brown. And there is a cluster of cracking sounds, like sluggish popcorn, at two intervals in the process. We’re told the green beans smell like wet grass in the first few minutes, then like hay, then like fresh bread as the sugar in the beans start to caramelize. When they’re done, Jason flips them onto a baking pan to cool.

coffeeroasting8To watch a short video of coffee beans in the skillet, check out their Facebook video post on Jan. 23.

coffeeroasting9Ben Gingerich takes an even smaller portion of beans, just 80g, and pours them into an old, sturdy popcorn maker that’s been modified with the addition of a steel can missing both top and bottom fitted like a miniature smoke stack. The hot air tosses around the beans and every now and again he gives the popcorn maker a shake. We shine a penlight onto the beans, checking their colour because we can’t hear the beans crack above the noise of the machine. In a shorter time than it took to skillet roast the beans, this batch is done.

2016-01-23 14.46.03There is a third process for roasting coffee at home, but it seems to be the least favourable choice: using a relatively pricey electric drum roller with presets.

At the end of the two-hour class, we grab homemade cookies and yet another cup of coffee, we are given green beans to roast at home, and we get a sample of the beans we roasted.

Even if my sample of green beans never hits a skillet or popcorn maker, I have a much deeper appreciation for coffee, which is a big part of my day.


 

What: Coffee Roasting 101

When: Saturday, Feb. 27, starting at 1:30 p.m.

Where: Coastal Roastery, 17 Goshen St. N., Zurich

Cost: $40

RSVP: Space is limited. Email: info@coastalcoffeecompany.ca

 

 

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Cooking like a chef at Samuel’s Hotel

18 Jan

samuelsspencer6By Diva Heather Boa

GODERICH – They’re five basic ingredients: flour, kosher salt, eggs, olive oil and cream.

But they hold so much potential, as a dozen aproned people discovered during a Saturday morning pasta-making class led by Chef Spencer Vail at Samuel’s Hotel Inc. just north of Goderich.

In three hours, those ingredients were mixed, kneaded, rested, pulled, cut, filled, folded, pinched, and shaped into delicate pasta packages stuffed with all sorts of delicious mixtures. Chef Vail, of Cait’s Kitchen, demonstrated a few fundamental techniques, a few simple sauces, and a couple of cheats for making pasta on a weekend that would result in easy meals through the working week. The students gathered around the kitchen island to watch intently, ignoring the winter river scene out the hotel suite’s patio windows.

samuelsspencer11There was butternut squash baked and blended with cinnamon, fennel seeds, peppercorn, cloves, and star anise, which were piped onto waiting pasta to make a folded agnolotti, then fried in butter and sage.

There were braised chicken thighs, flavoured in a stock of onions, carrots, water, salt and peppercorn, which would be pulled for the filling for ravioli, then topped with a sauce of the stock reduction, along with mushrooms and kale.

There were aged cheddar, Swiss, and jalapeño goat cheese filled into pasta shaped into tortellini and topped with a mixture of simmered cherry tomatoes, chopped onions and smoked garlic, with a touch of cream added at the end.

samuelsspencer9“Any paste you like the taste of you can use as a filling,” Chef Vail said, as students pulled pasta through the pasta-making machine and cut shapes in the dough.

As one budding cook pointed out, all we needed was a good bottle of red wine – or a bad bottle of red wine.


 

What: Cook Like A Chef, with Chef Spencer Vail

Where: Samuel’s Hotel Inc., 34031 Saltford Rd., Goderich, ON

More details: Learn some pretty great kitchen skills and share in the meal prepared. Stay Friday or Saturday night in a cozy room with a fireplace and enjoy a hot breakfast the following morning. Classes are held Saturdays. Packages priced per couple. Additional guests taking part in the classes are $70pp.
January 16 ~ Local Ingredients, International Flavour
January 30 ~ That’s How I Roll
February 13 ~ Get in the Game
February 27 ~ To be Announced

February 6 ~ Valentines Crash Course: Beyond Making Toast and Boiling Water – Learn How not to Suck at Cooking (This class is for men only. Craft Beer is included in this class)

To register: Email kim@samuelshotel.ca, phone 1-877-524-1371 or 519-524-1371

Website: http://www.samuelshotel.ca

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There’s treasure on Hwy. 86

14 Dec

bushart1By Diva Heather Boa

HURON COUNTY – It’s easy to image carloads of tourists and cottagers rolling along the picturesque Hwy. 86 – the dividing line between Huron and Bruce counties – in search of adventure during the summer months. They stop to poke around the markets, garden centres and studios that surround Wingham in a big arc, and they eat picnic lunches or enjoy coffee breaks at pretty parks set in small villages.

This time of year, the swarms of summer visitors are gone, but many of those places remain open to be discovered in this week before Christmas.

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Bush Art, 86457 Norman Line, Wingham

The roadway sign at the corner of Norman Line and Hwy. 86, just west of Wingham entices folks down a dirt road and up a farm laneway. It would seem unlikely that on this dreary day the place would welcome travellers, but there’s the neon “open” sign lit up with red light bulbs. I enter a room filled with wooden angels with crosses of copper wire hanging from their necks, walking sticks with patterns burned into their smooth surfaces, a massive tree burl with every curve highly polished, and other items crafted from materials found on the farm’s acreage. As is Huron County custom in the rural area, I know that the owner will eventually discover my car in his laneway and come out to greet me. True enough, within a few minutes, retired-farmer-turned-artisan Brian Wellsted joins me, inviting me to wander further into the old barn, where used row upon row of books neatly line his handmade bookshelves, organized in categories just like you would expect to find at Chapters or Coles. He leaves me alone with the hum of the heaters and the rhythmic tap of rain against the old window panes, while I explore the mystery section, picking out two reasonably priced hard covers, and then sifting through the Canadiana, gardening, travel and sections.

I leave with my two books and wooden angel just as what appears to be a mother-daughter combo enter for their turn to explore.

Pioneer Conservation Area, 13 Clyde St., Bluevale

Today the ball diamond is empty, the playground equipment quiet. There’s no one under the picnic shelter. It’s peaceful. A great place to read my new book, enjoy a cup of coffee and recall the last time I was here – as a reporter, observing a mock disaster built around a scenario of a bus accident. There were student actors hanging in tree branches, caught under the bus, trapped inside, thrown clear across the field and impaled by branches. They waited while emergency workers co-ordinated efforts to get medical help to them and extract them, in a rehearsal of their skills. But on this day there’s no one in the park and on the footpath to the Maitland River even though it’s quite pretty.

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Old 86 Farmers’ Market, 44229 Hwy. 86

The fry truck is all closed up now that the sun has waned, but there’s still plenty to see at this massive farmers’ market of locally produced frozen, boxed and preserved food, and everything from gardening tools to home décor to underwear.

I wander through a front room filled with wonderful preserves by Glenn Hill, turkey products by Hayter’s and new giftware, picking out a jar of marmalade for a Christmas morning treat.

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Then I head back into the vast room, at the least the size of an arena floor, and sift through toys, gift wrapping, golfing shoes, work clothes, wall signs, books and all sorts of items that would make great gifts or stocking stuffers. In the end, I pick out two pairs of gloves with little no-slip nubs of plastic on the palms, perfect for the gym.

With my haul of treasures in the back of the car, I head back down the highway, this time in search of lunch.