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Friday, September 29, 2006

Sampling art in Simcoe County

Sampling art in Simcoe County

Paul Johnson, whose studio is between Barrie and Orillia, specializes in Spanish pottery.

Autumn colour and art seem to flow naturally together on Thanksgiving artist studio tours.

Here's an idea for a holiday weekend expedition. Take one of the many tours that will be featured across Ontario and you'll see lots of flaming autumn foliage and scenic landscapes. You'll also meet many friendly talented artists, visit the studios and homes they have created, view their work and perhaps do some early holiday shopping at bargain prices.

For this Thanksgiving, I'm recommending the 23rd annual Simcoe County Images tour, from Friday to Monday Oct. 6 to 9. It showcases 22 studios and 42 artists in the forest, farm and lake region between Lake Simcoe, Georgian Bay, Barrie and Orillia.

The whole tour is free. You don't have to buy any passports or spend any money. If you wish, you may drop a food or cash donation to the Barrie and Orillia food banks at any one of the studios.

You can pick up an excellent colour brochure with pictures, maps and info about the artists at Ontario Travel Centres, local chambers of commerce and many regional retail stores. You can also log onto or call tour coordinator Hartley Woodside at 705-728-3691.

I don't have space to write about all the fascinating artists on this tour. They range from basket makers, coin designers and stone sculptors to landscape painters.

I picked out one at random to visit. He turned out to be a potter, Paul Johnson, who lives and works on Sideroad 15/16 of Oro-Medonte, just off Hwy. 11 between Barrie and Orillia.

Friendly and fiftyish, Johnson was born in Hamilton, had Canadian artist Robert Bateman as a high-school teacher and attended the University of Windsor. Johnson then toured Europe, where he became interested in Spanish pottery and finally ended up at Georgian College, Barrie. Here, he fell in love with working on a potter's wheel and, thanks to a mortgage loan from a farmers' credit union, was able to establish a home and studio.

For 25 years he has been happily making pottery,selling it at craft shows and teaching the potter's art.

After watching a bowl appear under his hands on his potter's wheel, Johnson had me in an apron, my hands covered with muddy water, and seated at the wheel where I experienced the magic of shaping a piece of pottery.

Paul makes a wide variety of beautiful and functional stoneware. I didn't really need another piece of pottery but couldn't resist buying a lovely little blue-glazed bowl ($9.) for cereal. I admired many bowls, platters, mugs, lamps and teapots and one big mural that was priced at $1,400.

You can visit Paul any day and pick up one of the tour brochures. It's a good idea to phone first, 705-487-2581.

If you're looking for lodging, I can recommend Inn The Woods B&B, run by Bob and Betty Shannon. Contact or 1-800-289-6295.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Canadian Clean Shores Effort

Canadian Clean Shores
September 16 - 24, 2006

The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority is inviting its watershed residents to show their love for Lake Simcoe by cleaning-up their favourite patch of waterfront.

Last year more than 30,000 people participated in over 640 events across Canada. In addition to rusty bikes, fast food containers and cigarette filters, one clean-up crew from British Columbia actually found a live fish stuck in a can!

With a surface area of 725 square kilometres, Lake Simcoe is southern Ontario's largest body of water exclusive of the Great Lakes. It supports a $200 million tourism and recreation industry and is a source of drinking water for five communities. Anyone can help protect this vital resource by:

• Making a donation to the Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation;

• Following the tips listed in "An Action Guide To Cleaning Up The Waters of Lake Simcoe",

• Organizing a "Clean Up Canadian Shores Week" event this fall. By registering your efforts and sending your summary to your can help others change legislation and set up programs designed to protect our planet.

Please send your clean-up adventure photos to , on or before September 30th, so they can be posted to for everyone in the watershed to see.

For more information please call (905) 895.1281 ext. 242. or email

Monday, September 04, 2006

Ontario's waterways under attack

Ontario's waterways under attack

Many inland waters, no less than the oceans, have suffered from environmental threats, often from invading species released by seagoing freighters in their ballast water.

In the Great Lakes alone, some 180 invasive species have established themselves. Here are a few of the invaders that have found haven in Ontario's waterways and what methods of control, if any, have been found.

Zebra mussels, native to the Black and Caspian Sea regions of Asia, are now widespread throughout the Great Lakes and in many smaller lakes of North America. They arrived in the mid 1980s, presumably in ballast water.

With few natural predators and a high reproductive rate, zebra mussels have clogged water intake pipes along lake shorelines, often cutting off factories, lakeshore homes and even boats from their water sources.

By filtering out phytoplankton, they have made lakes inhospitable for certain tiny species, especially Diporeia, a shrimp-like organism that is an important food source for whitefish, smelt, sculpin and young lake trout from various Great Lakes. As these fish have declined, so have the numbers of sport fish that prey on them, including salmon, trout and walleye.

Zebra mussels have squeezed out many native clam colonies. In their vast accumulation, they have also damaged navigational markers, fishing buoys, fishing nets, and boat hulls.

The zebra mussel does millions of dollars' worth of damage every year. Scientists have not had much luck eradicating them. The best recourse is to prevent their spread from one body of water to another.

The round goby is the most common invasive species in the Great Lakes, and is now spreading to other lakes, including, just recently, Lake Simcoe. It also was carried to the Great Lakes in ballast water from the Caspian region. Since they feast on zebra mussels, their initial growth in numbers was explosive. They frequently feed on the eggs of other fish such as smallmouth bass and wild perch, and those sports fish have declined significantly in number. The round goby are easily caught and, because of their small size, fishermen often take them for bait for use in other lakes, which contributes to their spread throughout the smaller lakes. Scientists have not found an effective control method.

Lamprey eels were introduced into the Great Lakes in the early 20th century through shipping canals. Lakes Michigan and Huron are the most badly effected. Sea lamprey fasten onto large fish with a sucking disk and feed on their bodily fluids. All fish species are attacked, including lake trout, salmon, rainbow trout, whitefish, walleye and sturgeon. The lake trout fishery in Lakes Huron and Superior used to yield seven million kilograms annually, but by the 1960s, that figure had fallen by 98 per cent, largely due to the sea lamprey.

Remediation in this case has been huge effective, with certain chemicals proving effective as lampricides. Sea lamprey numbers have been reduced by 90 per cent and some fisheries have rebounded nicely.

The European frog-bit, a plant that resembles a water lily, is found throughout Eastern Ontario wetlands and is spreading west.