Fall – as it happened.

Autumn is the time when leaves fall from the trees. It may seem like a gradual process but often, leaf loss can be sudden; especially after an overnight frost or during gale force winds.

As summer winds down, deciduous trees produce cells at the base of each leaf stem called the abscission layer. This layer weakens the attachment of the leaf to its tree while blocking nutrients from nourishing the leaf causing its chlorophyll to degrade. Since chlorophyll is green, other colours such as red or yellow can then become more prominent.

Frost can accelerate the process by further weakening the abscission layer so that leaves are very loosely attached and will fall at a slight breeze. Early frosts are the enemy of glorious fall colours as they can send leaves to the ground before colours can develop.

This video was taken in Raymore Park on the morning of November 12, 2013 and illustrates how quickly leaves can fall from trees when conditions are right. There had been an overnight temperature of -4°C the night before, severely weakening abscission layers and even the gentlest breeze was enough to send large numbers of leaves to the ground.

 

September 2016 Construction Progress Report.

The finished product - at this end anyway.

The finished product – at this end anyway.

The finished appearance of the retaining wall is now evident at its southern end with a green vegetative planting just starting to sprout on the slope at the top of the wall. Regardless, there’s still a long way to go. It also looks as if the homeowner with riparian rights has now wisely decided to take advantage of the opportunity and so construction has begun further upstream. The original intent was to construct the wall along the full length and that now seems to be the plan.

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A nice cross-section is visible from the northern end of the wall. (click to enlarge)

Astonishingly, even after all this effort, the work looks as if it’s only about 40% done and so there is a long, long way to go before this project can be signed off. The wall construction was originally scheduled for completion this past spring with brick removal from the access area and subsequent landscaping to take place this fall. Obviously, that ain’t gonna happen. My estimate at the current rate of construction is that they’ll be lucky to have the project completed and everything restored by the end of 2017. This seems to have been quite a miscalculation by the planners. The project was to cost a maximum of $250,000.

I’ll bet that marker was skated past months ago.

Raymore Park goes Hollywood

On Tuesday, August 23rd, Northwest Folks Productions will be filming the movie, “Different Folks” in Raymore Park between 7am and 9pm. Scenes will take place ‘on the Raymore Drive area part of the trail, and on the bridge’. The movie, a comedy, will star 16 year-old American actress Bailee Madison and is being filmed under the auspices of Pinewood Toronto Studios. I don’t know if the production company is aware of all the construction going on around the park as it’s quite noisy around here these days. Hopefully they’ll be able to coordinate between various work crews to achieve some peace and quiet when needed.

Bailee Madison.

Bailee Madison.

UPDATE: Technical problems caused cancellation of the shoot for today; Kat Hidalgo from Northwest Folks Productions tells me they may be in the park tomorrow (24th August).

Construction Progress Report

Much has been going on in Raymore Park over the summer although progress on the retaining wall seems to be slow. The dog leash enclosures are partly complete but not without controversy.

  1. The retaining wall is looking quite magnificent and it looks as if it will do the job for centuries. It looks as if the wall will be curtailed, ending before its planned end-point. This is apparently because riparian rights for the end property extend to the river and the owner feels that remediation will cause further erosion.
The wall in a completed section.

The wall in a completed section.

A view of the total wall so far.

A view of the total wall so far.

2. The off leash areas.

Two areas are being built, one for smaller dogs and one for larger breeds. One section has been built (topsoil removed, drainage completed and topped with limestone chippings).

Sadly, a sanctuary for birds and small animals has been removed to create the area. It was basically a couple of trees surrounded by dense shrubs that were impenetrable to all but small animals. It was a bit of an island or small thicket in the park but it has been removed in what seems like callous disregard for wildlife. Surely there was room to place the leash free zones without destruction of a natural resource like this?  It speaks to a lack of care for the environment and a distinct lack of planning. Let’s hope there are no more unpleasant surprises from Toronto Parks who don’t own but manage Raymore Park.

The island in from Google Earth.

The shrub island (to the right of the old baseball diamond) from Google Earth.

This thicket is no more, sacrificed for the dog enclosure.

This thicket is no more, sacrificed for the dog enclosure.

The island site shortly after its removal.

The island site shortly after its destruction.

One of the dog enclosures; further north than anticipated.

One of the dog enclosures; further north than anticipated.

More fencing and drainage pipes for the next area.

More temporary fencing and drainage pipes for the next area.

 

Not much progress

There seems to be little going on at the retaining wall site these days. It may have to do with negotiations ongoing with the owner at the north end of the wall. If the owner withholds permission for the wall to be completed on the end property, plans will need to be adjusted.

Old retaining wall blocks are stacked along the opposite shore.

Old retaining wall blocks are stacked along the opposite shore.

Part of the

The old retaining wall is being removed in preparation for a newer taller model.

Incidentally, the storm sewer pipe that is visible in the second image is one of hundreds that flow into the Humber. The structure above it may serve to prevent slope erosion.

Spring advances slowly.

An Asian ladybug checks out some fragrant Willow blossoms.

An Asian ladybug clambers over some fragrant willow flowers by the Humber in Raymore Park.

Cool weather continues to make spring a long season this year. The upside to this is the ability to watch plants come to life in slow motion.

Willow trees (Latin name, Salix) are common in Raymore Park and they are native to Canada. They love watery environments and are easily propagated. They can be seen planted throughout the park, although, like walnuts, they don’t need much encouragement. Their flowers are particularly fragrant and have a lilac type smell.

The ancient Greeks knew about the medicinal abilities of willow bark extract to cut pain and reduce a fever. Native Canadians also used it in the same way. Scientists in the 19th Century extracted a chemical, which they named salicin, from the bark and converted it to salicylic acid and later still, to acetylsalicylic acid. The drug in this form is still in wide use today and more commonly known as ASA or aspirin.

As for the Asian ladybug, this was introduced by farmers in the U.S. to fight aphids and they do that job very well. Unfortunately they are not as benign as our native ladybugs and tend to find crevices in homes as well as contaminate grapes used in wines. They have to a large extent displaced our native bug. One year at a Niagara winery I drank some red wine which was ‘flavour enhanced’ with large numbers of the creatures accidentally harvested with the grapes. They have an unforgettable and bitter taste! It didn’t seem to bother anyone else so I let it go. Canadians can be very polite and forgiving.

Wineries now take precautions not to harvest ladybugs along with their grapes.

Jane’s Walk tours old piggery

This is the same article that I wrote in WestonWeb, a blog with news about Weston. We covered ground on the opposite side of the river to Raymore Park moving up from Eglinton to the weir.

On Saturday, May 7, about 50 people took part in a Jane’s Walk to discover some Weston and Mount Dennis history.

The walk led by Mike Mattos featured guest segments from Alistair Jolly, an archaeologist with TRCA, Simon Chamberlain from MDCA and myself.

Alistair Jolly from TRCA with some artifacts discovered in the Toronto region.

Mike Mattos (L) listens to Alistair Jolly from TRCA with some artifacts discovered in the Toronto region.

A sample of the range of artifacts discovered around Toronto.

A sample of the range of artifacts discovered around Toronto.

After viewing some artifacts including clovis arrowheads, stone axes and clay pipes, we ventured under the Eglinton bridge at Scarlett Road.

Simon Chamberlain discusses the history of the area.

Simon Chamberlain discusses the history of the area.

A view of the graffiti adorning the walls of the Eglinton bridge over the Humber.

A view of the graffiti adorning the walls of the Eglinton bridge over the Humber.

Moving up the river from there Mike and Simon led the group to some interesting relics from the early years of West Park Hospital. Established in 1904, for patients suffering from tuberculosis it was then known as the Toronto Free Hospital for Consumptive Poor or the Weston Sanitarium. Since this was in the days before antibiotics, treatment consisted mainly of rest and fresh air. At the time, Toronto’s death toll from TB was considerable; something like 7 people a day. Even then, TB was known to be infectious and city workers fearing contagion refused to collect food waste from the hospital. As a result, the sanatarium set up a piggery and chicken operation on hospital grounds close to the Humber. The farm was self-sustaining and with 1000 hens and 50 pigs, there was no shortage of food. Pigs were slaughtered at the stockyards.

Water troughs for the pigs still remain.

Water troughs for the pigs still remain.

Antibiotics revolutionized treatment of TB and in 1954, the animals were swept away during Hurricane Hazel but evidence remains of the extensive farming operation that was operated by staff and patients.

By the river, there is a small informal pet cemetery that apparently has been used by local residents for years.

Those animals were loved.

An informal cat grave.

The last segment of the walk ended by the weir in Raymore Park and there was discussion of the effects of Hurricane Hazel on the area which led to the forerunner of today’s TRCA, the creation of many of Toronto’s parks and the preservation of this city’s famous ravines.

Another great walk; luckily we had no rain and as a bonus – mosquitoes haven’t emerged – yet!