Field Notes for Winter 2020
What to hear, do, play this winter.
Christmas tree magic
Thanks to their frosty outdoor settings, our region’s Christmas tree farms offer an experience nearly indistinguishable from pre-Covid times. Picking just one to visit is the challenge.
Elliott Tree Farm, north of Hillsburgh, opened in mid-November with its heritage gift shop, food truck and bonfire ready to go. Over at Wintersinger’s Tree Farm on 3rd Line Hillsburgh, customers must reserve a 90-minute window ahead of time to ensure no crowding.
In Mono, Hockley Valley Farm is a storybook setting on 90 acres on Hockley Road. Don’t forget to bring a mask for cut-your-own fun, wagon rides and gift shopping in the 120-year-old Christmas barn. Charitable goodness abounds at nearby Hockleycrest on Airport Road. Along with volunteers, owners Dave and Sally Moule manage the trees and donate all proceeds to the Bruce Trail. Tree sales begin December 5. Cut your own or choose precut Fraser firs donated by Everett’s Somerville Nurseries. At Fandango Tree Farm on 7th Line Mono, they’re happy to cut trees for buyers and deliver upon request. They’re open weekends (weekdays by appointment). Just a short drive north on 7th Line, Cricket Creek Farm offers certified organic white and blue spruces, starting November 28.
Adams Tree Farms west of Shelburne offers cut-your-own balsam fir along with precut options. Complimentary wagon- and hayrides are available by appointment starting November 27.
And if you know you want to grab and go, Glen Echo Nurseries in Caledon hangs trees of various sizes from the ceiling in their charming open-air space. Their offerings include silver, balsam and Fraser fir and Scotch pine.
These retailers scored a spot on our nice list. Jessica Wisniewski of Flux Glass Co. has opened Erin’s Element Inspired to feature her work alongside that of other locals, including Orangeville interior designer Emily Lane, Erin-based Sideroad Candle Co. and Howell Metalworks. Tara McCreadie and Laura Meakings recently unveiled Limitless Inc. by My Crafty Neighbour in Shelburne. The shop boasts a DIY craft studio and local pieces such as macramé by Tanya Kobayashi of The Knot and Needle. Beloved clothing and decor shop Noinkee’s has moved from Orangeville to Belfountain next to Higher Ground Café. More Than Just Baskets in Orangeville now has a website to purchase foodie- and spa-inspired baskets online (delivery available).
In a year marked by massive educational upheaval, outdoor learning has struck a chord with kids and parents alike. At Headwater Hills Montessori School in Orangeville, outdoor education is a guiding tenet. Their forest school program is led by teacher Regan Ross, who trained as a forest school practitioner at Forest School Canada, an education program run by the Ottawa-area charity and advocacy group Child and Nature Alliance. Kids aged three to five participate in experiential, play- and place-based outdoor learning. Older students move on to camping expeditions and learning to grow food. “A relationship develops between the children and the land that provides innumerable opportunities to stimulate and inspire learning. Why do birds fly south? How can I move this big log? Why are the snowflakes different today? What kind of animal made these tracks?” says Regan. “The students learn how to safely enjoy the cold and snow – there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!”
Orangeville Forest School (part of the Ontario-wide At Last Forest Schools franchise) opened in Island Lake Conservation Area this fall. It runs a full-day program two days a week for kids ages four to 12 and a half-day parent-tot program once a week. “Students are developing strong connections with the land, noticing changes as small as a new drop of sap on a familiar tree. They’re naturally taking on leadership roles, gaining self-regulation and confidence,” says principal Emily Stitt.
Grotto Forest School, operated out of Guelph Grotto Climbing Co., offers K-to-8 school days on Tuesdays and Thursdays through the winter at a variety of locations in the Erin and Caledon area including Scottsdale Farm and school leader Dave Shepherd’s family property on 10th Line, Erin.
For a less structured approach, parents might consider adding the new Island Lake Natural Playground to their kids’ routines. Open year-round, the playground features outdoor musical instruments and natural structures for climbing and imaginative play. Winter activities will include a circular track for skiing and skating.
Getting in tune
Orangeville’s Achill Choral Society goes virtual this holiday with a YouTube compilation of archival performances from previous holiday concerts – going live Wednesday, December 16 at 8pm. Members of the storied local choir will jump in to introduce the pieces. Register on achill.ca for a free ticket to the link and listen at your convenience.
Game for a gift
Take a walk on the Boardwalk – Island Lake boardwalk, that is, with the limited edition Orangeville-themed Monopoly from Outset Media, a Canadian games company. Sold exclusively at the Orangeville Walmart.
The seasonal workshops hosted by Melancthon’s Petals Flower Co. seem custom-made to battle cabin fever. Design an urn arrangement with locally foraged greens and distinctive berries on December 5 at 9am. And construct a lush wreath with fragrant evergreen, cedar and balsam on December 5 at 1pm. Instruction, materials, warm drinks and treats are provided.
Herb HastingsJun 25, 2020 | | Over the Next Hill
Herb Hastings is an original member of the Achill Choral Society, is working on his 13th end-to-end trek of the Bruce Trail by hiking 30 to 50 kilometres every week.
Hallelujah! Handel’s Messiah Comes to the HillsNov 20, 2010 | | Arts
A registered Canadian charity, Achill Choral Society began as a community choir in 1982.
“Your Christmas concert must be first-rate. Nothing less!”Nov 17, 2014 | | Historic Hills
During the 1800s, teachers in local one-room schools faced a list of expectations and responsibilities so onerous, it’s a wonder so many carried on.
Was Christmas ever ‘Old-Fashioned’?Nov 20, 2010 | | Historic Hills
Christmas was once a simple season of carolling and school concerts, of neighbourly greetings and family visits, of tinkling bells and sleigh rides in gently falling snow, all blessedly free of commercial pressure. Well, maybe.
At Home with Noinkees Owner Miyeko SimonsNov 20, 2018 | | At Home in the Hills
Local retailer Miyeko Simons is guided by her signature pared-down style at home, especially over the holidays.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas treeDec 19, 2013 | | Two Blue Boots
Christmas is not really about the tree. It’s about the people that surround the tree – and “home” is wherever you feel loved.
Meet the Maker: Jessica GiovanattoNov 22, 2019 | | Made in the Hills
A local florist leans into the holiday season with artful wreaths of foraged greenery.
Life at a Flower FarmMar 19, 2019 | | Farming
Meet the women behind the blooms at Petals Flower Co., Purple Hill Lavender Farm, Stonewell Farm, Broadside Flowers and Caledon Hills Peony Farm.
The Florist Farmer: Petals Flower Co.Mar 19, 2019 | | Farming
Melanthon’s Amber Swidersky creates lush bouquets with blooms just steps from her floral studio.