Sifton Bog

This is where I went for my morning walk today:

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The Sifton Bog is considered an Environmentally Significant Area within the city of London, Ontario.  It is jointly owned by the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (30 hectares), the City of London (10 hectares), and private landowners (10 hectares) for a total of 50 hectares (124 acres). 

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The portions owned by the UTRCA and the city contain a boardwalk and hiking trails open to the general public.  Here is a map showing the 2.5 km (about a mile and a half) of trails including a 370 metre long boardwalk that leads out to Redmond’s Pond in the centre of the bog:  http://www.thamesriver.on.ca/wetlands_and_Natural_Areas/sifton_map.htm

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The bog is the southern-most acidic bog in Canada and is considered a Class 2 wetland.  For explanation of the classifications, check out this link:  http://www.tompkins-co.org/planning/nri/html_pages/DECWetlands.htm 

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What’s really interesting and significant about the Sifton Bog area is that it is a floating acid bog that bears the qualities of boreal plant life that one would normally only find in more northern climates but yet it’s surrounded by deciduous swamps and Carolinian forests that you would normally find in our more southern location.  As I once read, at the bog you can experience changes in vegetation in a 10 minute walk that would normally require travelling hundreds of miles. 

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The bog was first discovered by naturalists in the 1870s and has had an interesting journey through history.  In the 1900s, some tried to drain the bog so that they could grow celery there, there was a period of time in which they harvested the peat from the bog, and at one time, some of the Black Spruce trees were sold for Christmas trees. 

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During World War I, sphagnum moss was mined from the bog as an alternative to cotton gauze and donated to the war effort. During World War II, Alder Buckthorn was harvested from the bog and again donated to the war effort to produce gunpowder.

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In 1957 a movement was initiated to preserve the bog as a significant natural area.  In 1967 the bog’s name was changed from the Byron Bog to the Sifton Bog when the Sifton Construction Company donated their 30 hectares to the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority. 

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The bog was caused by the effects of glaciation.  When a block of ice broke off of a glacier and then melted, it left behind a depression with no drainage.  Redmond’s Pond is 0.2 hectares in size; what’s left of a 23 hectare body of water which has been filled in with peat over the last 10000 years.  The pond is less than 5 feet deep but the peat layer in areas around the pond has been measured at 60 feet. 

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This means that today when I nearly fell in, it would have been better to fall into the pond section rather than the peat area where I was.  (ps – trying to step OFF of the boardwalk to get closer to the subject you’re photographing is not such a great idea even if the peat layer is so thick that it looks solid!)

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Since it’s cool and lacking in oxygen, dead plants sank to the bottom of the pond and didn’t decompose fully.  So, they become compressed into peat and eventually, the peat forms into a mat that partially floats.  Over the years it has become bigger, creeping in from the outer areas of the bog towards the centre of the pond. 

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Plant life in and around the bog include:  Water Lilies, Leatherleaf, Small Cranberry, Black Huckleberry, Highbush Blueberry, Orchids, Southern Pond Lily, Duckweed, and carnivorous plants such as the Pitcher Plant and Sundew. 

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Around the bog, Black Spruce, Tamarack, Red and Silver Maple, Black Cherry, Sugar Maple, White Pine, and White Birch trees grow.

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Animal life in and around the bog include: many kinds of birds such as warblers, sparrows, winter finches, Blue Jays, Great Horned owls and water fowl such as Canada Geese and a variety of ducks; raccoons, gray squirrels, Eastern chipmunk, 6 varieties of frogs including green, gray treefrogs, spring peepers, leopard, chorus, and wood frogs, painted and snapping turtles, some very uncommon butterflies like the Bog Copper and the Bog Elfin, dragonflies, damselflies, mice, voles, rabbits, a large population of white-tailed deer, and even some coyotes on occasion.  A few years ago, a bear was found in the neighbourhood around the bog – the first known bear sighting here in London.

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My Roses are Starting to Bloom

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London Art Hike: Downtown Murals Pt. 3

The final installment of the super cool tour I went on will be showing you some indoor murals found within some of the buildings in downtown London, Ontario.  90% of these were new to me and there are some real treasures here!

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Brian Jesney was the artist responsible for the mural above.  It’s painted on the side of a staircase leading from the first to second floor of the main branch of the London Public Library.  This 24 foot long mural faces a section of the library known as the Teen Annex, a space the library set up to encourage teens back into using the library again and to function as more than just a library space, but rather as a teen centre.  It’s a vibrant lively space with comfy places to sit, a wide variety of materials (including graphic novels, CDs and DVDs) geared to teen interests, and regularly held special events designed to appeal to a teen audience (poetry slams, movies, concerts, and more).  Jesney, 28 at the time he painted it, said that when designing the mural, titled U Turn, he thought back to his time as a teen and remembered how he felt like he was being pulled in many different directions at once and had to make so many decisions, many of which seemed to carry so much weight for his future.  That’s what this mural is meant to represent.  For more information: http://www.londontopic.ca/article.php?artid=1213

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This mural, perhaps strangely enough, has great sentimental value to me.  It’s called The Old Horse Comes Home and was painted in 2009 by A. R. Gillet on one of the walls in Covent Garden Market.  The story behind this mural is this:  The Covent Garden Market began in the 1800s as a local farmer’s’ market and has evolved over the years.  As of the 1960s there was one of those mechanical horse rides for children there named Trigger.  As with many others in the London area, I grew up going to the market with my family, my treat always being a ride on Trigger.  Much to the dismay of many city residents, the market that I grew up with was torn down and in 1999 a new one was built. 

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The Covent Garden Market as it looks today.

The new building does echo the design of the old one and I have to admit, it’s a lovely facility compared to the warehouse atmosphere of the old structure but I think we were all concerned about losing some of the charm of the original market.  In an attempt to honour the history of the place, certain references to the prior structure were placed in the market.  When A. R. Gillet was approached about doing a mural in the market, he wanted a theme that would be appropriate as a reference to the old market and knew immediately that it would have to be a painting of Trigger.  He contacted the owner of Trigger who happened to still have the machine in his custody.  The owner allowed Gillet to use Trigger as a model for his mural and even donated it back to the new market to be placed on display.  History of the Covent Garden Market

mural82pic Another mural within the Covent Garden Market by A. R. Gillet called The Woman Two Doors Down.  It’s an amazing trompe l’oeil effect placed among several real red doors so at first glance you really think this is just another one. 

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On the upper floor of the market, there’s a children’s theatre company, the Spriet Family Original Kids Theatre.  This mural, also by A.R. Gillet, is of John Darling, from the Peter Pan story by J.M.Barrie.

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More images from the theatre, these are collaborations by Gillet and Fred Harrison.  There are some Asian and Egyptian themes, a depiction of Laurel and Hardy, and scenes from Oliver Twist displayed in these murals.

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Above, another mural on the walls of the Spriet Theatre by artist Niven.

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More by Gillet reflecting the farm theme of the market above and examples of other murals throughout the market below.

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Andy Gillet has his art studio right within the Covent Garden Market on the second floor.

Within the CitiPlaza mall (the former Galleria) in downtown London, there are some really beautiful murals such as the ones below.  The first set of pictures show a mural of the London Music Hall (check out the link to see a photo of the actual building) from 1895 (formerly the London Mechanics’ Institute, located at 229-131 Dundas Street) on the wall outside the Rainbow Cinema.  The mural artist is Fred Harrison, a well known mural artist in the area, and in fact, across Canada.  He is also known as the official artist of Rainbow Cinemas and has murals on display at many of their theatres. 

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As you can see, Harrison not only works in elements of the city but also things related to Rainbow Cinemas like the movie reel to the left and the rainbow on the truck to the right.

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Fred Harrison, in partnership with Donna Andreychuk, created a series of other murals with CitiPlaza depicting various aspects of London life.

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Once again, above left, we see a painting of the Blackfriars Bridge and on the right, a picture of Eldon House, London’s oldest residence (these two parts painted by Andreychuk).

That concludes our tour of murals throughout the downtown London area. If you live in the area and would like to take part in one of Museum London’s art hikes, check out the information here:  http://www.londonmuseum.on.ca/programsevents/historyhikeswalkingtours/

The next hike is on May 21st from 1030 am to noon and focuses on sculpture within the downtown core.  Weather permitting, I’ll be there!

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More city buildings as painted by Harrison.  It’s interesting to look at the mural as a whole because although their styles blend beautifully and seamlessly into one lovely mural, you can pick out where Andreychuk’s painting ends and Harrison’s begins. 

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London Art Hike: Downtown Murals Pt. 2

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The painting above is another “faux” mural.  At first glance it appears to have been painted directly on the front of this building but it is on a large piece of wood and has actually been taken down and put back up a couple of times.  The name on it is V. Harrison and it depicts the royal visit to Canada of King George VI and his royal consort Queen Elizabeth in 1939.  Other than that, not much is known about it.

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These murals have been painted on the side of a building near the corner of Dundas and Wellington Streets.  The main artist is someone who has dubbed himself as Captain Ron, with some portions being done by other artists.  The only signatures I could see on the mural were that of Captain Ron and Mike.  I wasn’t able to find any additional information on Captain Ron other than the fact that he has stated that his mission is to enhance the artistic environment of London.  As you can see, this is a true mural in that it has been painted directly on the bricks of the building.

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One of the things that Captain Ron (and some other mural artists) does that I really like is to incorporate parts of the building’s architecture right into his murals.

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This portion of the building was kept unpainted so that the original purpose of the building could still be seen.

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Here’s another small Captain Ron mural (is it still a mural even though it’s on an electric box instead of a wall?).  Although it’s been defaced by the addition of graffiti and some flyers, it still makes me smile to see something as boring and functional as an electric box being enhanced in this way.

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Another Captain Ron mural on the back of a building.

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This mural, done in 2010,  is a collaboration of several people.  The artist who did the major portion of the painting depicting stylized scenes from downtown London including Victoria Park, the Talbot block, and the corner of Dundas and Richmond is Tommy Bradnam.  http://tommybradnam.blogspot.com/  Other portions of the wall space were opened up to graffiti artists, partly in response to the crackdown of city police on graffiti.  A space was given to some of the graffiti artists to add their images and tags where it was being done legally, with permission, and would not be removed or covered over.

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I have no information on this mural and in fact, it was not a part of the tour.  I just happened to see it on the side of a photography store as we were walking and decided to snap a shot of it as well.  I thought perhaps that it wasn’t being included in the museum’s tour because of it being an advertisement for a business but we later did see some other murals that were done as ads.

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Here’s one of the other ones that was done as an advertisement, this time for Bud Gowan Antiques.  I have no information on the artist and only know that this was commissioned by Bud Gowan who had a very specific image in mind and that very little control over the design was given to the artist.

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Here is another example of a mural done as an advertisement, this one being for Eightball on King, a pool hall.  This mural was painted by T. Denomme in 2000 and once again you can see that elements of the building’s architecture were incorporated right into the mural.  The only information I have on the artist was that he was formerly a teacher at Fanshawe College and that he is now deceased.

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This is another “faux” mural, created on wood and framed, and then attached to the front of a building housing a store that has now closed.  There’s something about this that really attracted me – I think perhaps it’s because I almost feel like I’ve stepped back into time and that I’m seeing something that could have happened on the streets of London so many years ago.  What saddens me about it is that this mural has suffered a good deal of weather damage (as well as some attacks of graffiti in the form of moustaches being added to many of the characters) and if restoration is not done on this in the near future, this mural will be lost completely.  I’m hoping that someone in London will take up the mission of getting the building owner’s permission and raising the funds to have this piece restored.

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This is a very long mural placed along the wall under the overhead walkways along King Street.  The street was shut down for a weekend and the mural was painted all within that time.  The artists who designed this mural were from Argentina and the idea behind the mural was to promote friendship, acceptance,  and unity among North, South, and Central America.  The Argentinian artists came in with an idea for the design and then local artists joined in to help them carry out their vision.  The colours at the far right end of the mural are somewhat muted and as you travel to the left, they become more and more vibrant.

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There’s still one more part of this series to go!  Keep watching the blog for more.

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London Art Hike: Downtown Murals Pt. 1

I went on an adventure today.  A few weeks ago, I attended the opening weekend of The Met, weekend artisans market in downtown London, Ontario.  I had parked under the Covent Garden Market and as I walked through the walkway (basically an alley that’s been turned into a pretty courtyard-like space) to get across the street to The Met, I got the chance to look at some really pretty murals depicting familiar sites from our city on the walls of the buildings there.

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These murals are found in the walkway leading from Covent Garden Market (Market Lane) to Dundas Street.

I had seen them before in passing but this was the first time I had been able to see them in any great detail.  So, when I saw that Museum London (our local art museum) had scheduled an art hike focussing on murals in the downtown area, I had to attend.  It was fascinating!  Not only did I get the chance to learn more about those murals I had seen a few weeks ago, but I saw many more I had never even known existed.

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Painted by Felipe Rocha, 2005

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Painted by Maria Loaiza 2005

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A mural is defined as a piece of art that has been created directly on a wall.  We saw murals that had been done both on the outside of buildings as well as on interior walls of some buildings.  We also saw some that stretched the definition of murals slightly, as you’ll see later.

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Directly across from the previously shown murals in the walkway from the market to Dundas Street, is this painting.  This one doesn’t entirely fit the strict definition of a mural because although it is hanging on the exterior wall of a building, it has been painted on a separate wooden surface and hung here.  It can be taken down and moved to another location.  This painting was done by Slava, Mindy, Pneil, and Juan, members of the London Multicultural Youth Association as part of the Youth Uniting People Murals Project of 1997.

The painting is called Bridging the Gap and it depicts the building of the historic Blackfriars Bridge here in London.  It was chosen as a symbol of unity and cooperation between cultures.  It shows a view of the bridge looking north from the east bank of the river at the foot of Ridout Street.  In the background of the painting, you can see some other iconic landmarks of the city including the Thames River and the old Carling brewery.   At the time the bridge was erected, west London was known as the village of Petersville.

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A photograph of Blackfriars Bridge from 1880.  The bridge was built in 1875 from a kit that had been mail-ordered from the Wrought Iron Bridge Company in Canton, Ohio.  It is one of the rarest types of truss bridges, a wrought iron bowstring (tied arch) bridge.  Most of these were built around the same time as this one but have not survived due to the limited weight they can support and the intricate nature of the structure.  Work has been done to update this bridge and keep it working as it is still used today for both pedestrians and vehicles.  At 216 feet long, it is the longest working span of this type in North America.  For more information check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackfriars_Street_Bridge

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These paintings were done by Andrew Silk as the result of winning a competition to create hockey related murals in honour of London’s hosting of the Junior World Cup in 2007/2008.  He incorporated some interesting elements into this mural: the players wearing green uniforms are, of course, members of the London Knights hockey team and his scene resembles one of those old-fashioned hockey games.  (There are actually two murals on either side of this alley, looking like the two ends of the hockey game).  I’m actually torn by one aspect of this.  You can see that this is just a grungy old alley and there are trash bags right under the murals.  On the one hand, I think, oh what a shame to have his artwork sullied by the presence of the trash but on the other hand, I think that maybe his artwork adds some beauty to an otherwise ugly space.

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Our downtown area, when I first moved to London as a child was a busy, thriving area full of life and activity.  There were many stores and other businesses there and it was a hub for the city.  I remember hopping the bus and heading downtown many many times to meet up with my friends, go shopping, grab some lunch, go to the movies, and so much more.  Then, the downtown core began to die off a bit.  Many stores were moved out to malls in the suburbs where parking was abundant and free, some buildings fell into disrepair, the homeless population increased (sadly), and many people simply stopped visiting or working in the downtown area.

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In recent years, as with the downtown areas of many other cities around North America, there has been somewhat of a rejuvenation of our downtown core.  The addition of these murals has been part of the plan for beautifying and breathing new life back into the area.  These murals are painted on the glass windows that used to be some storefronts at one of the main intersections (Dundas and Richmond Streets).  It is also the location of a very busy, major bus stop/transfer area and it was felt that there needed to be the addition of some artwork to give passengers something beautiful to look at and to draw them back to the downtown area.

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Murals painted on the inside of glass windows by Steve Tracy.  The only reference I could find to Steve Tracy was here: http://www.londonarts.ca/Default.aspx?Select=ArtistsDetail&Business=tibgRe%2Bjvdbhes%2BVxlwxqg%3D%3D

Stay tuned for the next installment of this amazing art hike!

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Art at Brock University

Recently while in St. Catharines, Ontario (near Niagara Falls) on the campus of Brock University, I had a little time to kill and decided to take a few pictures of some of the artwork there.

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Although popularly known as The Bullet around campus (in the past it was called the Rhino or the Cannon), this piece is actually titled She Wolf.   It was installed at the university in 1992 as part of the Teutloff Collection (Lutz Teutloff is a director of a commercial art gallery in Germany and an art collector).  The exterior of the sculpture is clad in copper and the interior is wooden.  The piece was sculpted by Ilan Averbuch who created it to represent a head turned on its side where you can see inside of it, the hollow interior symbolizing an empty mind.  It was also intended to symbolize a weapon.  The name She Wolf was given to it as a  reference to the story of Romulus and Remus.  They were the sons of Mars, god of war, who were raised by a shewolf and went on to become the founders of civilization.  When it arrived, it unleashed controversy among members of the university community.  The Fine Arts department was unhappy that it wasn’t a Canadian piece and the Women’s Studies department wanted it removed because She Wolf in Latin means prostitute.  Others complained that the piece had a “sinister appearance” to it.  For a time, She Wolf was attacked with graffiti and removing it without destroying the copper cladding posed a challenge.  Nowadays, this piece is still much talked about but for other reasons.  The hollow sculpture is well known around campus as a popular location for young lovers and drunken partying despite the fact that the wooden interior makes for an attractive environment for wasps.  Check out more about this here:  http://www.brocku.ca/brock-news/?p=7719  Personally, I am not offended by this piece but I don’t find it interesting, provocative, or attractive.  From my experience, none of the students seem to know what the sculpture is supposed to symbolize and view it as an odd addition to their campus.

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This is another piece from the Teutloff Collection, presented to the university in 1988 and was also sculpted by Ilan Averbuch.  It is called The Path of Possibilities (note: a postcard from Brock University calls this The Endless March) and was placed at the main entrance to the university to symbolize the many paths and choices lying in front of the students as they embark on their futures.  I suppose I’m not a big Averbuch fan because this is another piece that I dislike.  I find it a very strange piece that looks like animals in bizarre poses and I cannot figure out how it has anything to do with a path of possibilities.

These are just two of many pieces on the Brock University campus but they were the only ones nearby when I was hanging out there.  Next time I go back, I’ll check out the rest of the artwork and share those with you as well.

For additional information on the Teutloff Collection, follow this link:  http://www.teutloff.net/brock-university_en.php

Clearly, art is subjective and the fact that I don’t care for these pieces doesn’t mean that others don’t find them fascinating.  What do you think?  Do you like them?  If you do, what do you like about them?  Perhaps your opinion will give me a new perspective on them and help me to find some appreciation for them.

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Girls’ Day Out in Sparta

My daughter and I had a wonderful day out!  It was an event known as Girls’ Day Out in Sparta (our favourite little town!) and we went with my local women’s group.  For $30, we received so much and the profits went to help support the continued development of Sparta’s Community Centre.  Upon arrival, we were given coffee/tea and muffins.  We were also presented with a boxed picnic lunch to take with us so that it could be eaten anywhere along the route.  We were also given a goodie bag filled with an information packet of the places on our “tour”, a votive candle (Sparta is famous for their candle shop), and a lovely scarf/shawl.

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Sparta Tearoom, pictured above

For some more information and pictures of Sparta check out this post from last summer https://cynssurroundings.wordpress.com/2010/08/29/sparta/

There was a map of locations – one set within the town of Sparta (in walking distance) and the rest out in the country surrounding the town that had to be driven to.  At each location, you could hand in a ticket from your goodie bag and you would receive some more swag.  Locations we visited include a Rhea farm, a lavender farm, a winery, the candle shop, the tearoom, a few artists’ studios, and more.  Gifts varied from bath salts to more candles to art prints to lavender honey to a fabulous corkscrew and more.  Our two favourite locations, as always, were the tearoom (they were holding an afternoon cream tea in honour of the royal wedding) and Lucy Ogletree’s Winter Wheat.

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Winter Wheat is the name of Lucy’s (and her husband’s) property containing their home, Lucy’s art studio, Mike’s workshop, the store, and the enchanting grounds on which it all sits.

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Wearing her scarf from the goodie bag!

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Lucy’s husband makes some of these items while her work is more on the painting side of things.

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The grounds contain several of these little buildings.  Each one is like an oasis.  There’s music playing, tea and cookies at the ready, a comfy place to sit, and beautiful folk art to take in as you sit and relax for a while.

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Winter Wheat is whimsical and playful.  Around every corner, in every little nook there is something to make you smile.

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There are sometimes spiritual themes to Lucy’s work and it suits the environment of Winter Wheat as it’s certainly a place where one feels connected to the beauty of nature and the spirits of the earth.

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Lucy and Mike are very supportive of worthy charities and of local artisans and on this day, in one of the buildings on the grounds, there was a harpist playing.  The music added to the already serene mood.

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Mike and Lucy’s Home

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On the angel’s wings is written Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

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Music seems to be a common thread through a lot of their work as well.

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I love the way they recycle and reuse items in such imaginative ways – can you tell what the hat on the dude in the centre is made of?

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a Canada goose!

ps – our very own Queen Bee has a small piece of Lucy’s art!

Check out the Winter Wheat website! http://www.winter-wheat.com/index.html

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