Reflections on a Year of Steward’s Notes

This year I’ll be celebrating 2 years of writing Steward’s Notes. This week I’ll be celebrating a year of taking it more seriously and a nomination for an award! When I started writing Steward’s notes in 2017 I was just starting a Masters of Sustainability Studies at Trent University, part of my job as a student was to reflect on our regular colloquium events on Trent’s internal communications tool “Blackboard”. These reflections were meant to be presented in a blog format visible to other students in our program. Unfortunately people who are not students of the program were not able to access the reflections of some of the brilliant minds in my program. In an effort to tie my studies closer to the community I started writing my own blog on Sustainability and Environmentalism in Peterborough. (Initially I included some other content, but that has since migrated to another site) I believe the interest in this blog reflects a real desire in the Peterborough community to hear real grounded stories on environmental issues, where people can and are making a real difference in our city. I also believe that this has been an excellent opportunity to share the diversity of life and nature in our own back yards.

Working with some Fleming Students to complete a baseline documentation of environmental conditions in Harper Park.

For myself this blog has been an opportunity for catharsis, when the issues of the day frustrate me, I like to write about how I might act to solve them. The name Steward’s Notes comes from my desire to take real concrete action to care for the land we live on and to do the best that we can when we can. I have a fondness for the term stewardship, it conjures a picture of one’s labour being reflected in the places and people they care about. I believe that others appreciate the work that I have done and have used it for inspiration to take their own actions.

Reflecting on the stories that I have written over the past year, I see that the most popular stories are ones that share the hidden beauty of our home, or those that promote real action that people can take (And one April fools joke). I think that in a period of political disenfranchisement, being shown a way forward is an act of empowerment that people can latch onto. In a recent interview someone described to me how for their organization, moving forward was the only option and that banging heads against a wall is a pointless exercise. In a land where we enjoy the privilege of freedoms that we have, it is possible to take advantage of a world of opportunities for caring and stewardship before we need to start pushing boundaries (Not that we shouldn’t push boundaries). I was recently reminded of this by a good friend, and it goes to show that sometimes being forced to refocus can have incredible effects. I like to think that in my own little way, Steward’s Notes is an outside beacon encouraging people to refocus when they get lost in the details of environmentalism, sustainability and stewardship.

One of my favorite images of our beautiful landscape, taken within the city limits of Peterborough. Beauty and nature is in our back yard.

As a final note, I’ll say that I’ve discovered that the three (or four) pillar approach to sustainability makes for good and engaging content in addition to being much more holistic way of viewing the world. Much of the most popular content I’ve written in the past year has been when I have made a conscious effort to consider an issue from all environmental, economic and social perspectives (I’m still not entirely sure how to separate culture from social in the four-pillar approach). Logically this makes sense, since you could expect that readership would have some vested interest in viewing any particular issue from their pillar of expertise. Mostly I view the world through an environmental lens, but it is a useful tool to remind me to leave my comfort zone and consider other ways of thinking and being.

Never miss a post. Subscribe and get Steward's Notes updates sent directly to your inbox

An additional fun little tidbit I’ll share is that according to my internal analytics, the large majority of my readership has a love of dogs. Not sure what this says about the blog, but as a bit of a dog person myself, I’ll take it.

Salamanders at Ingelton Wells

It was a warm overcast evening at the Ingelton Wells Property with the Peterborough Field Naturalists. The ground was saturated with water throughout the forest and meadow. Had a great deal of success finding blue spotted salamander, red backed salamanders and 2 egg masses from spotted salamanders (One mass being infertile). Located a pair of buried wood frogs that did not survive the winter.

On the other side of the property It was possible to hear a modest chorus of spring peepers, distant coyotes, woodcocks, and what I believe was a great horned owl.

This New Sticker Drive’s Doug Ford Nuts

With the newly legislated carbon tax propaganda stickers, here at steward’s notes I decided to tell the real story (according to the Nobel prize winner this year)! These vinyl die cut stickers can be placed “at your discretion” anywhere you choose! Share with your friends and relatives! Head on over to the shop page and I’ll get your stickers in the mail ASAP. Profits will be donated to environmental charities in Ontario.

Its no secret, placing a price on carbon is the most simple and effective way to lower carbon emissions. Even Stephen Harper agreed while he was Prime Minister. The current plan is not perfect, but it is better than anything proposed by the Federal or Provincial Conservatives. This bumper sticker is nothing but a statement of the objective truth.

Sorry for the clickbait 🙂

Birds in the City

Nice day today and yesterday. Went for two walks around downtown. Jackson Creek was high, but not full. Turkey vultures and crows around Hopkinsville neighborhood today. About 2 dozen sparrows of different varieties and a cardinal around the feeders in front of the credit union. Mostly sunny with an ocasional dramatic cloud passing by. The last of the snow is disappearing!

Steward’s Notes Celebrates Successful Bid to Replace Simcoe St. Parking Garage

Today Steward’s Notes is pleased to announce a successful bid to replace the Simcoe St. parking garage with a natural outdoor park! This will provide an excellent opportunity to bring daylight back to Jackson Creek and create outdoor space for the downtown community! After working with municipal counterparts it was agreed that the parking garage was underutilized and should be replaced with a showcase of Peterborough’s Natural heritage and beauty! Once again daylight will shine on Jackson Creek for the first time since the 1960s. The multi-million dollar contract will enable the total removal of the parking garage and subsequent replacement with outdoor greenspace. The bus terminal will be relocated to the King St. Parking Garage once construction begins. The benefits of this park promise to be immesurable and include:

  • Health Benefits for Nearby Residents
  • Reduced Urban Heat Island
  • Improvements to Water Quality in Jackson Creek
  • Improved Capacity to prevent major flooding
  • Opportunities to fall for an April Fools Joke!

Explore the possibilities with this exciting new project on May 11th with Dylan Radcliffe as he leads a Jane’s Walk exploring the river as it meanders hidden through Downtown Peterborough!

Winter Storm at the End of March

Woke up this morning to an incredible winter wonderland. Stepping into the backyard it was as if I was stepping into a large room, the snow had enveloped the space as if it had plastered the trees. Sound traveled in funny ways as if I was in a recording studio.

Change Comes To Steward’s Notes

With the coming spring and increased readership of Steward’s Notes I have decided to introduce some exciting changes! Some of you may have received an email late last night that read like a cryptic field note, and for that I would like to apologize! I am adding a section to this site where I will be publishing my regular field notes. To keep email spam to a minimum, subscribers will not receive an email in the future when field notes are published, only for the more substantial content published here. If you are interested you can find a link at the top of the page.

Additionally, I have recently removed all of the content from this site around some of my other projects such as the 3D printers, DIY cell phone etc. You can find all of that at my sister site patchworksmfg.com This change is to keep the content of this site focused on my passion for Peterborough and the outdoors. It always seemed rather clunky to me to have a site dedicated to nature and making even if I did try and create some overlap. I found as time went on that blog subscribers would drop out when content they were not interested in was published. I have therefore decided to entirely focus this site on Peterborough’s natural heritage and natural history.

Never miss a post. Subscribe and get Steward's Notes updates sent directly to your inbox

Thank you to the Peterborough Community! The support I receive for this little blog is nothing short of incredible. I look forward to sharing and hearing stories of the land we love in the coming years!

Foxes and an Impressive Storm

Great storm passed through town today dousing the streets and melting away the last of the snow that remained hiding in shadows. A small fox wandered into the neighbor’s backyard. I suspect that it was searching for a meal from the chickens. Chickadees and starlings abound in the backyard.

Developer Plans Destruction of Habitat for Endangered Butternut Trees

A couple of weeks ago I received word through the Ontario Environmental Registry that a developer was seeking an application to “harm or kill an endangered species.” The Peterborough Examiner reached out for comments from the developer and their official statement was that roads and campsites would ideally be constructed around the trees. Wrapping the roads and campsites around the trees will do nothing but stress the trees and decrease the success of any saplings.

If we are to take the estimate of 10,000 remaining trees in Ontario as a reasonable number, the proposed removal or harm to 93 trees is just shy of 1% of the total population estimate. I would like to encourage everyone to submit a comment to the environmental registry before the April 8th deadline.

When it comes to endangered species management it is important to consider the removal of trees as a last resort after all other options have been considered. In Canada we have no known cure for the butternut canker disease that has decimated their populations and we have not located any disease resistant trees at this time. It is therefore critical that we ensure that every known piece of genetic resource of this species is preserved until we have developed a solution to prevent the eradication of this beautiful tree.

Exploring Jackson Creek’s Lost Tributary: Hidden Creek

About two years ago I was having a conversation with a friend and he asked me about a small little creek that ran through his backyard at the time. Knowing where he lived, I knew it was a tributary of Jackson Creek, but nothing more.

I’ve passed by this creek countless times, small creeks have always fascinated me but I’ve never had the opportunity to explore this one in particular. Small creeks and streams are some of our most fragile yet least understood aquatic ecosystems, yet they make up a large part of our watersheds. As Peterborough was built, countless small creeks were filled in, many people have wet basements because of it, but this small creek remains.

Having recently acquired a copy of a historical atlas of Peterborough, I wanted to understand how some of these environmental features of early Peterborough might still be visible today. This little creek seemed like an excellent starting point.

Blessed with a sunny day and high spirits, I decided to go out exploring….

At the base of Hidden Creek you can see where it spills out into Jackson Creek. The culvert has clearly been installed for several decades. Its nearly invisible this time of year, with Jackson Creek’s levels so high. Its not clear if any water is actually spilling out from underneath the bicycle pathway.

Hidden Creek spills into Jackson Cree

One block north on McDonnel St. it is possible to see where the embankments have been stabilized to make room for more construction. The heavy concrete construction seems to indicate that this creek may have been a bit of an engineering problem at the time. I suspect that before sewer system upgrades this little tributary received a lot of rainwater runoff from the city to the north. Continuing several blocks to the north, you can see how this little creek has been tucked away between lotlines, hidden from view. Neighbors have attached their downspouts to the channel to quickly convey rainwater away. From street level there are sometimes ornate iron bars that prevent passers by from falling into the channel. As you approach the head of the stream the water is not frozen, perhaps there is a hidden spring feeding this creek from below the city.

Finally upon reaching Parkhill road, is the most natural portion of the creek. Its “headwaters” you might say. From underneath the roadway Hidden Creek spills forth into a small grassy space. Apparently this land is municipal property! A great opportunity for a community group to install a pollinator garden or do a small tree planting along the creek’s edge!

Peterborough is full of long forgotten creeks, and this is but one of them. Do you know anything about this tiny Hidden Creek? Do you know of other little environmental hotspots in the city? Perhaps as the summer progresses I will try to discover more of these forgotten places.