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Issue 26 - September 2020

Matching plans
for that special day
with the changing times
Northern Exposure:
Passion for Photography
(Port Carling) Limited
(705) 765-5700
Port Carling
Richard Scully
www.M uskokaC ottagesF orS
...telling the Muskoka story
Nature’s Forge – Blacksmith
Reects Her Environment
Article by Matt Driscoll
Photography by Heather Douglas
e story of re and metal is nearly as
old as civilization itself. Although the
methods have changed over the
centuries, Deb Harkness follows a very
long line of blacksmiths bending metal
to their will. Her passion lies
with recreating the
natural world in
forged metal.
Wild Muskoka Botanicals –
Backyard Edibles
Article by Judy Vanclieaf / Photography by Kelly Holinshead
Just a nibble of any one of Wild Muskoka Botanicals’ products will take your
taste buds on an exquisite journey of avours of Muskokas wilderness. Wild
Muskoka Botanicals is the producer of artisanal wild foods, cocktail mixers and
traditional botanical medicines.
Downsizing Weddings to Fit the Changing Times
Article by Meghan Smith
Responding to pandemic constraints, wedding planning in Muskoka has seen
couples pivot to continue the celebration of their love and commitment. ere
are many couples wanting to uphold their marriage date who have changed their
plans to something a bit smaller and then there are those who wanted something
smaller in the rst place.
Northern Exposure – the Photography of Helen Grose
Article by Matt Driscoll / Photography by Tomasz Szumski
A ne art nature photographer, Helen Groses mission is to frame
the canvas of the natural world and share the experience with the
wider world. Tracing her love of both photography and wildlife
back to her earliest days, Groses passion lies in capturing
the natural beauty of Muskoka and the
surrounding area.
All About Kitchens
e possibilities are endless
3 Gray Road
4 Centre St. N.
All About Kitchens
e possibilities are endless
3 Gray Road
4 Centre St. N.
Our Cover
Photography by Carlyn Hurst
of Lenny and Hume
For Taylor and Brandon Jordan,
their Rosseau wedding was a
small gathering of 25 family
members and friends that
allowed time for an intimate
moment around a campre.
Matching plans
for that special day
with the changing times
Northern Exposure:
Passion for Photography
What’s Happened
Article by Karen Wehrstein
News abounds throughout Muskoka:
Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith will
represent 444 Ontario municipalities as
the new president of the Association of
Ontario Municipalities, Muskoka North
Good food Co-op branches out, and new
champions have taken on the Muskoka
Shoebox project. Supporters of the
OSPCA are nding a way to support their
favourite cause
Cottage Country Cuisine
Article by Karen Wehrstein
Photography by Tomasz Szumski
Muskoka is a land so full of lakes that
from a plane it looks like a latticework
of land and water.
With that in mind, it should come as
no surprise Muskokas many eateries
oer local sh prepared
in all manner of
Embracing Healthy Living in Muskoka’s Outdoors
Article by Meghan Smith / Photography by Andy Zeltkalns
Whether you enjoy tackling new pursuits, prefer to
stick to a tried and true hobby or simply want to be
in condition for your usual daily tasks, Muskokas
landscape lends itself to outdoor activities and
adventures. No matter your age and no matter the
season, there are boundless opportunities to be
physically active in Muskoka.
Enterprising Alfred Hunt Launched
Muskoka Banking
Article by J. Patrick Boyer
Muskokas self-starting early residents refused
to let others decide their fate. When ignored by
the country’s national banks, that “can do
spirit inspired Bracebridges Alfred Hunt to
open a private bank for the communitys
unmet nancial needs in 1884 on the
towns main street.
Muskoka Insights
By Don Smith
Muskoka Moments
By Michael Duben
September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 5
…telling the Muskoka story
Unique Muskoka is published
six times per year
by Unique Publishing Inc.
Donald Smith
Publisher and Editor
Donna Ansley
Lisa Brazier
Susan Smith
J. Patrick Boyer
Heather Douglas
Matt Driscoll
Michael Duben
Kelly Holinshead
Meghan Smith
Tomasz Szumski
Judy Vanclieaf
Karen Wehrstein
Andy Zeltkalns
Annual Subscription Rates:
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In Ontario $30.00
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Copyright © 2020
Unique Publishing Inc.
No content published in Unique Muskoka
can be reproduced without the written
permission of the publisher.
Mailing Address
Box 616, Bracebridge ON P1L 1T9
Street Address
28 Manitoba St., Bracebridge ON P1L 1S1
6 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
Contemporary buildings
in the natural landscape.
Peter Berton
72 Stafford Street, Suite 200
Toronto, ON M6J 2R8
T: (416) 560-0630
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Muskoka Insights
With the arrival of September, there is a
change in the air. e nights are cooler. e
air is fresher.
e fall palette of colour adds a whole
new dimension to the landscape. While it
may be an indication winter
is getting closer, my
philosophy has always been
to celebrate each season for
what it oers and there is
much to be celebrated in the
fall months.
Quite frankly, autumn is
my favourite time of the year.
Not too hot, not too cold.
Just right!
Spring and summer have
seen much upheaval in our lives as we
attempt to adjust to the impact of the
COVID-19 pandemic. And, as weve
discovered, we are resilient.
Like those who have gone before us, we
have discovered new ways to go forward,
carry out our daily activities, celebrate, do
business and more. Our focus has changed
and, in many cases, that is not a bad thing.
Priorities have become more evident as the
realities of COVID-19 have become clearer.
For over 150 years, the time when the
rst European settlers began locating in the
District, there have been many challenges in
Muskoka. And, in each circumstance,
ingenuity, entrepreneurial determination
and community caring were among the
attributes that secured the future.
Whether it was the challenges of early
development when medical care was
limited, the spread of the Spanish u, the
threat of tuberculosis or polio, Muskokans
were not immune to hardship. However, in
each situation, those that came before us
Often, it is the personal little things that
make a dierence. When we can nd a way
to continue our routines, it is much easier
to endure the bigger issues.
Interestingly, in this issue of Unique
Muskoka, we are able to tell several stories
that reinforce there are ways to remain
focused while we wait for the days when the
threat of COVID-19 is behind us. Physical
health is so important to mental health and
were pleased to tell the story of how many
of the proponents of tness have taken a
new tack in moving their programming
outside. From yoga to tai chi
and from boot camps to
cycling clubs, Muskoka lends
itself to those who want to
stay t. Embracing Healthy
Living is an encouraging
feature that opens doors for
Likewise, learning to
celebrate special occasions is
important. And, again,
Muskokans have proven they
can work within the constraints of the
times. In her feature Downsizing Weddings,
regular contributor Meghan Smith shares
the stories of those who are celebrating the
beginning of their lives together in smaller
but personally fullling expressions of their
And, as always, there is much more to
read about in this issue of Unique Muskoka.
From the intriguing success story of Wild
Muskoka Botanicals that oers the tasty
bounty harvested from the wilderness to the
stories of the creativity of blacksmith Deb
Harkness and photographer Helen Grose,
you’ll nd much that inspires.
When we look to our roots, we nd
there are many interesting stories of
determination in Muskoka. Again, historian
Patrick Boyer’s research provides insight
into how early Muskokans nd ways to
overcome the limitations that hindered their
progress. e story of banker Alfred Hunt is
just such a story.
As the beauty of autumn unfolds, we
hope you’ll nd some time to curl up with
this issue of Unique Muskoka.
Happy reading!
September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 9
10 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
he story of re and metal is nearly as old as civilization itself. Although
the methods have changed over the centuries, Deb Harkness follows
a very long line of blacksmiths bending metal to their will.
Unlike her forebears, Harknesss nished products are more creative than
those traditionally crafted by blacksmiths. ree dimensional animals, custom
made weather vanes and one-of-a-kind dining sets, all fall within Harknesss
Although she creates a multitude of designs for a multitude of functions,
her passion lies with recreating the natural world in forged metal.
“I live on the water and what I see in nature is what truly inspires me to get
moving in the shop,” says Harkness from her studio in Beaumaris.
Article by Matt Driscoll / Photography by Heather Douglas
September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 11
12 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
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30 Cairns Crescent • Huntsville
Floors for
Home & Cottage
Harkness spent most of her professional life
working for the federal government but shes
always had a love of the arts, and black and
white sketch work in particular. She found the
stark beauty of that work reected in three
dimensions via the world of metalworking.
She became inspired to take up
blacksmithing after watching local artist Jim
Carter at work. Carter has been blacksmithing
for over 30 years and runs a studio on
Falkenburg Road, just outside of Bracebridge.
“I would go out to watch him work, and
sometimes I would buy his work,” she says.
“He would have demonstrations as well and
that was where I really started thinking this
was something I wanted to do.
In 2000, she decided to take a course
oered at Sir Sandford Fleming Colleges
Haliburton Campus.
e artist blacksmith program teaches
students how to control re and hot metal to
create pieces that range from small scale
objects to large installations. Flemings
blacksmith studio has multiple propane
Effective August 28, the COVID-19 testing sites
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Effective August 31, one Assessment Centre
to service all of Muskoka has opened in
an outbuilding adjacent to the helipad at the
back of the property at South Muskoka
Memorial Hospital.
Call 1-888-383-7009 for an appointment
Hours: Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: 75 Ann Street, Bracebridge (not in the hospital)
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forges, coke (a grey, hard and porous fuel
with a high carbon content and few
impurities) forges, cutting and welding
equipment, as well as specialty tools.
“I thought it was a wonderful experience,
she says. “It was quite a condensed course but
it really laid the foundations.
Upon her graduation, Harkness started
apprenticing at a local blacksmith shop,
learning the basics at rst and then expanding
her knowledge and skill set.
“You begin by drawing a sketch on
cardboard and then transfer it onto 14 gauge
sheet metal and start cutting it with the
plasma cutter, then it just grew from there,
she says.
Harkness apprenticed for eight years and
then decided it was time to branch o on her
own. Building a blacksmiths studio is a time
and money intensive process, she says.
“I had to get my forge certied and import
a power hammer from took
quite a while to get everything in place,” she
Her studio now has a propane forge with
three burners that oer instant heat, along
with a variety of dierent hammers and
various other tools of the trade. Each hand-
forged piece comes to its nal form through a
method of sketching, forging, welding,
While the methods have changed over the centuries, Deb Harkness follows a very long line of
blacksmiths bending metal to their will.
September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 13
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Harkness is originally from Pickering but
she moved to the area in 1985 to live year
round with her husband at his Birch Island
cottage on Lake Muskoka.
“Its an absolutely beautiful place to live
but it can be treacherous getting to and from
an island during the ‘in-between’ seasons,
says Harkness.
In 1991 she moved to her current home in
Beaumaris, and says she continues to marvel
at the natural wonder oered by the regions
“e windswept Georgian pine is one of
my favourites, and it’s also one of my best
selling pieces,” she says. “eyre often made
of rock and steel and theyre some of my
biggest and heaviest pieces. I made one piece
Aer spending most of her professional life working for the federal government, Deb Harkness took an artistic blacksmith course oered at Sir Sandford
Fleming College’s Haliburton Campus.
September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 15
16 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
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where the tree was three feet high and
background was six feet across.
Peacocks, horses, candle holders and
owers have all been brought to life in steel on
Harknesss forge.
Recently shes been creating live edge coee
tables, moulding the legs
in all manner of
artistic relief.
COVID-19 has
limited Harknesss
ability to welcome
guests, she still
enjoys having
people in her
studio one at a
Its a unique
opportunity for
the curious to see the
incredible scenery of the
Lake Muskoka shoreline,
and its reection cast
back in solid steel.
Three dimensional animals, custom-made weather vanes, one-of-a-kind dining sets and owers, such
as the one in the inset, all fall within Deb Harkness’s purview.
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Article by Judy Vanclieaf / Photography by Kelly Holinshead
at your weeds” is something we would not have ever
heard our parents say. But then, we never had the likes
of pickled cattails, white pine vinegar, strawberry and
sumac shrubs or spruce tips with sweet gale salt sitting on the table.
Just a nibble of any one of these Wild Muskoka Botanicals products
will take your taste buds on an exquisite journey of avours of
Muskokas wilderness.
Wild Muskoka Botanicals is the producer of artisanal wild foods,
cocktail mixers and traditional botanical medicines. Company
founder Laura Gilmour has been practicing Hippocrates
philosophy, “Let food be thy medicine,” in her everyday living for
the past 20 years. A lot of what she considers food, most of us
would never imagine putting on our plates but that does not mean
we should not.
Digging deep into the roots of utilizing all things edible from the
backyard, Gilmour loves to experiment by developing her own
original formulas and modifying traditional recipes that she has
come across throughout the years. She personally hand picks her
ingredients in a sustainable manner, usually from her own backyard.
Its a backyard that happens to be a forest full of trees, shrubs and
plants. Take, for example, coniferous trees like pine, spruce and r.
All three are in abundance throughout Muskoka and each one is
exceptionally high in Vitamin C. White pine has a medicinal
value that can help with congestion, where spruce tips aid
with coughs and sore throats.
September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 19
Wild elderberry juice is Gilmour’s most
popular creation and is known for its
immune boosting qualities.
“I take elderberry syrup when I have a sore
throat coming on or feeling dragged down
from being so busy,” states Gilmour. “is
usually happens when I am preparing for a
trade show and I cannot aord the down
time. e elderberry juice has helped save me
from getting sick so many times.
Although it is the medicinal value of her
product that is the main component of her
business, she loves how eortless it is to slip
wild ingredients into her cooking and baking.
“One of my favourite recipes is my white
pine shortbread,” reveals Gilmour. “I love
using white pine in my baking, as it has a mild
avour and is very abundant.” She also
suggests using her spruce tip sugar in the
recipe. Wouldnt these unique and tasty cookies
be a huge hit in a holiday cookie exchange?
Another favourite of Gilmours is her wild
leek vinegar which she puts on every veggie
dish she prepares. “It makes everything taste
so good!”
en there is the shrub and bitters line.
ese artisan drink mixers are in a league of
their own. Just try putting a little strawberry
and sumac shrub into your cocktail or
“It is a avour you will never forget. In
fact, you may even become hooked,” grins
Wild Muskoka Botanicals bitters have
multiple uses as well. Not only do they aid in
digestion, but you can also add these to your
drinks. Another favourite creation is the
companys Muskoka Old Fashioned. Gilmour
adds a smidge of maple syrup and a couple of
drops of forest re bitters to her bourbon.“It’s
such a good avour for our region and gives a
nice distinction to the drink,” she claims.
“In the cocktail world, bitters are becoming
a staple ingredient and some of the small-
scale distilleries across northern Ontario are
Harvesting sumac panicles is but one of the many ingredients Laura Gilmour of Wild Muskoka Botanicals hand picks in a sustainable manner, usually
from her own backyard.
In addition to harvesting wild ingredients, Laura Gilmour grows vegetables
in her own backyard garden.
When she harvests, Laura Gilmour picks everything in small batches which
helps to keep the integrity of the land in mind.
September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 21
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starting to take them on to add avour to their
spirits,” states Gilmour.
Happiest when she was in nature, Gilmour
feels fortunate to have grown up under the
inuence of farmers and foragers throughout
her life.
“Before moving to Muskoka at 10 years of
age, I spent a lot of time with my Dad and on
my grandparents farm in Niagara. Hunting
and shing were a normal way of gathering
food for us,” says Gilmour. "My mother is a
Metis nature photographer who always took
me out in the wild where we would sh, hike
and camp. She was the rst one to open my
eyes to nature, where as my Dad instilled in
me a hard work ethic and entrepreneurial
After graduating from high school,
Gilmour left Muskoka for several years but
moved back 13 years ago and worked as an
ecologist for ve years.During that time, she
taught herbal medicine classes and foraging
for a variety of organizations, alongside
making wild food products and medicines for
her own use.
“Wild Muskoka Botanicals came to life in
2014 because of the encouragement of many
who wanted to buy my products that I was
only making for fun, as well of those who
wanted to take classes that I never had the
time to teach on my own.” Gilmour quit her
job as an ecologist and has never looked back.
Gilmour, her husband Chris and their dog
Marley live just outside of Dwight on what
they call “Wild Spirit Permaculture
Homestead.” ey have 26 acres of land
which abuts thousands of acres of Crown
land, surrounded by healthy wetlands.
“On our homestead, we have a vegetable
garden (where I intentionally let the weeds
grow), we have perennial crops, fruit bushes
and vines, and lots of dierent medicinal
herbs and mushrooms,”says Gilmour. When
she harvests, Gilmour picks everything in
small batches which helps to maintain her
focus on creating high quality products while
keeping the integrity of the land in mind.
“We see our land, not only as a resource to
extract from but a living ecosystem that
supports an abundance of life. By working
with the principles of nature we can grow
plenty of healthy food while building the soil,
supporting pollinators and increasing
Happiest when she is in nature, Gilmour feels fortunate to
have grown up under the inuence of farmers and
foragers throughout her life.
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in the same way your home insurance policy does.
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We’ve been protecting Ontario cottages since 1910.
September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 23
24 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
biodiversity.” She continues, “I also have a
responsibility to make sure that I do not
introduce invasive species and to protect
wildlife from harm.
In addition to the natural foods she
harvests, Gilmour also has laying hens and
breeds rabbits for meat.
Laura and Chris both share a deep-rooted
enthusiasm for the great outdoors and spend
a lot of time together doing the things they
love. Both are experts in wildlife tracking,
herbal medicine and ancient wilderness
living skills.eir talents complement each
other, especially when they run their
educational nature programs.
Gilmour particularly enjoys her wild
medicine program that she runs one day a
month from May until September.
“Here, students get to see the plants in
dierent stages throughout the summer with
a hands-on class which lets students learn the
basics of working with wild harvested plants,
mushrooms and herbs, and when the last
class is over, each student will have made a
variety of both wild food products and herbal
medicines to take home.
Chris helps with the foraging and farm
aspects of the business and often Lauras
students will come help at harvest time.
“I regularly have students who come to do
work-trade for classes that I hold. ey help
me with foraging and in the kitchen when its
time for the main harvest. is helps to
support Wild Muskoka at extra busy times
and provides my students with a unique
learning opportunity.’
Laura is deeply passionate about
connecting people to nature which she does
through her products and classes.
“I want to help people to see our wild
Muskoka with new eyes.Our goal is to not
just train people about foraging from the
but help people deepen their relationship to
the natural world through regenerative
harvesting and land tending.
Gilmour adds, “I still have a lot to learn and
it is not without challenges, but the feeling
of satisfaction that comes from harvesting
your own food
and making
your own
medicine is
worth the
Frameless Glass Railings
mounted onto mini posts with adjustable standoffs
Laura Gilmour
sees her land not
only as a resource to
extract from but a living
ecosystem that supports an
abundance of life.
September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 25
ll weddings have the same end goal
– a marriage or the union of two
people. e paths to achieving that
union and the scene on the day of the marriage
are drastically dierent, depending on the
couple. Brides and grooms spend weeks,
months and sometimes years carefully
planning their special day to meet their vision
and the expectations of their guests.
Like so many activities in 2020, the onset
of the COVID-19 pandemic and the
subsequent emergency measures resulted in a
complete upheaval of the wedding season in
Muskoka. e event industry overall has
suered signicantly with the inability to host
gatherings of any size. Resorts, hotels, cottages
and campgrounds that traditionally play host
to large weddings throughout the spring,
summer and fall cannot welcome their guests
as planned. Wedding vendors have had to do
whatever they can to work with their clients.
Article by Meghan Smith
26 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
Photograph: Rohan Riley/Brooklands Farm
Couples who had planned a
2020 wedding have had to change
plans, either cancelling, post-
poning or pivoting for their day.
ere are many couples wanting
to uphold their marriage date who
have changed their plans to
something a bit smaller and then
there are those who wanted
something smaller in the rst
“is pandemic has been a
learning curve for everyone in the
industry,” says Carlyn Hurst,
photographer and owner of Lenny
& Hume Creatives. “I’ve adapted
to suit my clients’ needs. You have
to be supportive and work with
people; ensure that the day is still
theirs and still special.
Whether it’s currently possible
or not, a traditional wedding can
be daunting. ere may be
competing family dynamics at
play. e couple may not want to
spend a whole day in the limelight.
Couples may be celebrating a
second marriage or have started a
family before marriage. e focus
of the wedding day is dierent and
the couples may choose to put
their attention elsewhere, rather
than pulling out all the stops for a
big gathering.
An elopement is just for the
couple and Muskoka presents
plentiful opportunities to steal
away and get hitched. ey may
not be running away in secret but
it’s a very intimate day, with only
the couple and maybe a few
“Elopements oer a lot of
options for locations, whether it’s
hiking a trail to a waterfall or a rock cut
overlooking a lake,” says Bryn Armstrong,
event and wedding planner and owner of
Primp and Pop Event Co. “Muskoka is such
a destination. e setting of a wedding at a
dock on the water or a beach or a forest
allows us to be a bit more creative because we
arent touring around with a huge guest
“Now that I’ve experienced it myself, I
couldnt recommend an elopement enough,
laughs Allison Holder, orist and owner of
Floral Designs by Allison. “eres this ease
and uidity to a small wedding. It’s so
incredibly intimate.
By eloping, a couple can be fully present
for the day without having to worry about
the details and schedule that come with a
large wedding. Holder and her
wife had planned a larger
traditional wedding next fall. But
as the pandemic hit, they took
the opportunity to assess their
own expectations and they
realized a large wedding wasnt
being true to them. When an
opportunity to participate in a
styled wedding shoot with Primp
and Pop Event Co. presented
itself, Holder and her partner
“We decided that with all of
these wonderful vendors I work
with in the industry, we could
turn it into our wedding day,
says Holder. “So, we jumped in
with under two weeks’ notice
because it felt really right. I have
to mention just how grateful we
are for all that Bryn did for us.
Bryn Armstrong conceptual-
ized and started Primp and Pop
in 2016 as a direct result of her
own wedding. Armstrong had
worked in the wedding industry
for over 10 years, planning and
executing traditional weddings.
“I loved it but what I was
planning for other couples didnt
mesh with what we wanted to do
for our own wedding,” shares
Armstrong. “We’d just moved
back to Muskoka, purchased a
house, welcomed a dog and we
were expecting our rst child, all
in the same year. Our priorities
were dierent.
Armstrong and her team at
Primp and Pop specialize in
elopements, micro weddings and
pop-up weddings. ese types of
ceremonies have a much shorter
timeline from booking to wedding day but
reduce the stress of a large function for the
couple. Having a much smaller guest list
allows for the exibility to customize and
personalize a wedding day.
“We start with ‘all-inclusive’, for lack of a
better word, and essentially it allows us to
handle all of the moving pieces for the couple
but in a very personal way,” explains
When Allison Holder was asked to design oral work for a wedding photo
shoot Primp & Pop Event Co. was planning, Holder and Amy Greenwood
decided to turn the occasion into their own wedding celebration.
Photograph: Rohan Riley/Brooklands Farm
Photographs: Nicole Alex Photography/Primp & Pop Event Co.
September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 27
28 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
Armstrong. “We’re not cookie cutter. We
work with our clients and spend time getting
to know each other so I can recommend
personal touches they can involve in their
Armstrong works in locations all across
Muskoka that could not typically be
considered for larger weddings. She also
curates vendors from all across the region to
provide unique, memorable experiences for
those focused on a more private union.
“I love being able to play a role in special
occasions,” shares Holder. “I studied
sociology and anthropology at school
and there is such an intense human
element to owers. ey mean so
much more than just looking pretty.
Holder has received over 30
inquiries for elopement owers in
addition to what was already
booked for this year. While that’s
good news, it’s also a challenge to
fulll multiple oral orders with
diering colours and types.
“For weddings, a lot of people
have cancelled or postponed,” says
Holder. “Elopement owers are the
only thing really going right now and they
are much dierent. is year is much more
relaxed, in that sense.
While everyone has had to step back from
the usual during this pandemic, venues have
had to deal with the inability to conduct
their regular business. For
Katya and Ken Riley,
2020 has changed
they had planned for Brooklands Farm.
All of our weddings were basically
postponed to next year,” shares Katya Riley.
“Weve had two that did go ahead; one as an
elopement and one as a micro wedding.
In 2012, as one couple requested the barn
to host their nuptials, Brooklands Farm
began hosting weddings and have been
solidly booked through each summer and fall
season since 2014. While Brooklands has
hosted big weddings of 140 people on
weekends for many years, they were
already beginning to oer micro
weddings during the week. e
pandemic simply pushed that
plan forward.
“Small weddings will be the
name of the game for the next
little while,” says Riley. “Dont
wait for it. Relationships dont
go anywhere. Life should go
on. Grab life by the horns
and get on with it.
“Small, intimate
weddings seem
a bit more
When Spencer and Rebecca Malloch-Redman had to
downsize their wedding due to COVID-19, they remained
focused on the importance of the day. “Honestly, for me,
my favourite part of the day was watching Rebecca walk
out of the cabin on time,” says Spencer.
Whether it’s currently possible or not
due to the restrictions created by
COVID-19, a traditional wedding can
be daunting. Many couples have
chosen to create a more intimate
occasion to celebrate their love.
Photograph: Carlyn Hurst of Lenny and Hume/Primp & Pop Event Co.Photograph: Rohan Riley/Brooklands Farm
times because you dont have to worry about
as many people,” says photographer Hurst.
In addition to supporting her clients
through the challenge of the pandemic,
Hurst has the added pressure of her own
wedding this September. A large, traditional
wedding was planned with family and friends
in Prince Edward Island. Now, theyre
hosting a much smaller gathering of 20
people at home in Muskoka and are planning
for it to be just as special.
“We decided to go forth with our wedding
because it’s not about the location or the
gifts,” shares Hurst. “It’s about us as a couple
celebrating our love and were ready for that.
Spencer Redman and Rebecca Malloch-
Redman felt similarly about their wedding.
What was supposed to be a celebration with
85 guests at Brooklands Farm in July 2020
became a much smaller gathering of 45
people under current regulations.
“It ended up being a lot easier than
expected to reduce the guest list,” explains
Spencer Redman. “ere were a lot of high-
risk people that cancelled ahead of time. We
didnt have to say no to anybody. Plus, they
setup a Zoom video call, so anyone who
didnt come could still see us get married.
While their original plans had included a
barn wedding with a full day on site, the
couple were pleased by how Brooklands
accommodated the regulations and still met
their wishes overall. e overall look and size
of the wedding may have changed from their
original plans, but Redman insists its still the
day they wanted.
“Honestly, for me, my favourite part of
the day was watching Rebecca walk out of
the cabin on time,” says Redman. “We’ve
been together for seven years now and it took
me six years to propose. When there was a
possibility we couldnt do it, we decided to
go ahead no matter what. Even if it was just
10 people in our backyard. Life doesnt stop
because of something like this; so, neither
did we.
“I think you can often lose sight of why
youre getting married, which is the person
you love,” explains Holder. “You spend so
much time on the production that you lose
sight of the purpose of the day. No matter
the couple, you should be doing what makes
you happy as a couple, not for everyone else
People across Ontario and
even across Canada have a
Muskoka connection.
Whether cottaging
every year, one
vacation or
summers spent
at camps as
Couples who choose to elope are oen outdoorsy, adventurous souls. Their special day can be a true
reection of their own style as couple.
For capturing the unique Muskoka feeling for a wedding photograph, a lake and an antique boat
are always signature features.
Photographs: Carlyn Hurst of Lenny and Hume
30 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
Family homes and cottages have always played a part in weddings but this year, even more so. These
spaces are already sacred for those who live there and hosting a wedding, no matter the size, adds to
the memories.
a kid, Muskoka leaves an incredible mark in
peoples memories – one they often remember
and want to include in their wedding.
“eres this magic surrounding Muskoka,
says Holder. “eres something romantic
about it. ere are so many beautiful natural
settings here. eres something about
eloping that’s this running away or escaping
the norm, and Muskoka really lends itself to
that idea.
Every season provides its own unique and
beautiful canvas. Couples who choose to
elope are often outdoorsy, adventurous souls.
eir special day can be a true reection of
their own style as couple, without having to
stick to the more traditional aspects of
“Muskoka has such a calming
feeling,” says Hurst. “When
you get up here and open
your truck door, you just
get this feeling. Muskoka
truly has it all. Were
surrounded by so
much beauty.
Family homes
and cottages have
always played a part
in weddings but
this year, even more
so. ese spaces are
already sacred for
those who live
there and hosting a wedding, no matter the
size, adds to the memories.
“Its a place of comfort and it's familiar, so
it’s a bit homier and more relaxing,” says
Hurst. “For years, the
Photograph: Carlyn Hurst of Lenny and Hume
When a small group
meets at a family
cottage for a wedding,
spontaneous, intimate
family moments
happen more
organically and are
less structured.
Photograph: Nicole Alex Photography
P.O. Box 330, Bracebridge, ON P1L 1T7
couple can return and relive their day.
Dierent spots around the property will
spark moments from their wedding day. “It’s
important for people to do what makes sense
for them,” explains Armstrong. “It’s
important to follow your heart. e
pandemic has been a reason for people to
take a step back when they were dealing
with big expectations. But dont let a
pandemic dictate your wedding day.
“Remember to do whats right for
you,” says Holder. “Get married how
you want to get married rather than
getting married how society tells you.
A big wedding celebration to enjoy
with family and friends can be the right
plan for some. But for others, a small,
simple, intimate gathering in the wilds of
Muskoka can be a beautiful way to celebrate
the love and union of two people.
People from across Ontario,
and even across Canada,
have a Muskoka connection.
Muskoka leaves an incredible
mark in people’s memories
– one they oen remember
and want to include
in their wedding.
Photograph: Carlyn Hurst of Lenny and Hume
10:00am - 4:00pm
4080 HWY. 118 West, Port Carling, ON
705 762 1232
Tour our Morgan Davis printing museum
and learn about the origin of printing.
Kitchenware, jewellery, lotions,
women’s fashions, purses,
Chelsea Chocolates, games,
assorted cards for every occasion.
Visit our kiddy corner for books,
beach toys, etc.
September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 31
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Increase your pride of ownership with exterior nishes that add timeless beauty and longevity to your
home or cottage. Since 1976, NorStar has provided a multitude of trusted siding and roong brands.
Get ready to embrace your exterior and endure any weather Mother Nature my put in your path.
Ask our experts about available discounts for contractors & roong companies.
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Davinci Roofscapes & TruCedar Steel Siding by
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Article by Matt Driscoll / Photographs by Tomasz Szumski
34 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
inute by minute and season by season, the
canvas of the natural world is transformed and
redrawn. It’s Helen Groses mission to frame
that canvas and share the experience with the wider world.
A ne art nature photographer, Grose was born in
Oakville but nds her muse to be an 80-acre piece of
property, just north of Milford Bay, between Bracebridge
and Port Carling. e property contains both her home
and her studio – a renovated barn where she has her work
on display to the public.
“e commute is pretty spectacular,” says Grose. “It
takes about two minutes unless I see something interesting
that catches my eye and I stop to check it out.
at could be plants or butteries, birds or four-legged
Muskoka residents.
“Last year, we had a pair of kestrels build a nest on the
property in one of the trees. I’d stop by regularly and see
how things were going,” she says. “It was fascinating but
the parents didnt seem to like it too much. ey’d come
over and swoop at me.
While Grose shoots everything from portraits and
sports to special events and editorial content, her passion
lies in capturing the natural beauty of Muskoka and the
surrounding area.
She can trace her love of both photography and wildlife
back to her earliest days.
Born in Oakville, Helen Grose nds her
muse to be an 80-acre piece of property,
just north of Milford Bay.
September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 35
36 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
Helen Grose’s photographic passion lies in
capturing the natural beauty of Muskoka and the
surrounding area.
21 Robert Dollar Dr, Bracebridge, ON P1L 1P9
Kia's All New 5 Seat Subcompact SUV
Featuring a Balanced Exterior Design and Dynamic Interior
705-764-0765 | | 1163 Milford Bay Rd, Milford Bay ON
Muskoka Barging
Family run construction company
with over 35 years experience
operating in the Muskoka Lakes area.
No job is too small or too big.
“I honestly dont remember when I rst
became interested in photography,” she says.
“Even when I was a kid and people would ask
me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I
would say I wanted to be a photographer for
National Geographic.
Her father gave her his old lm camera and
taught her the basics, but Grose says shes
almost entirely self-taught.
“In my opinion, there are really two types
of photographers – those who are most
interested in the technical side of things like
the latest technology and the number of
megapixels – and those who approach it from
a more artistic side,” she says. “I denitely
skew more towards that artistic side.
Grose says without researching and
knowing your subjects, without patience and
determination, without truly understanding
the beauty and feeling the experience
unfolding in front of you, youre simply
watching life through small pieces of expensive
While she was born and raised in Oakville,
Grose says her childhood property was more
rural during that time than it is currently. She
attended Lakeeld College School, just
Photograph: Helen Grose
outside of Peterborough, and says that’s
where her love of the outdoors really took
Her professional career in photography
began with her travelling across North
America and Europe, shooting professional
sporting events. Her subject material expanded
over the years, as did the list of publications
that included her work. Forbes magazine,
National Geographic Kids and e National
Post are just a few names on the long list of
publications that have used her work.
At the time, Grose worked out of Toronto
primarily but was a frequent guest to
Muskoka and fell in love with its unique
landscape and wildlife. When the opportunity
presented itself to open a gallery in the area
in 2015, Grose was all in.
When the gallery closed its doors for the
rst winter season, Grose decided to turn her
eorts towards renovating her property and
creating her own gallery. She ocially opened
her gallery doors to the public in August of
2019 and says the response has been great so
She lives on the property year-round with
her partner and her four “fur babies.’’ ey
consist of two cats and two dogs: Hudson (a
Moosonee Puppy Rescue dog named for his
original home near Hudson Bay) and
Beatrice (named for the studios proximity to
the Beatrice Town Line).
Grose has also been increasingly focused
on the instructional side of her vocation. In
2017, she decided to become a photography
instructor at Georgian College in Barrie.
“I actually had a friend who was teaching
the class and she wasnt able to continue
doing it with anyone, so I took it over,” says
Grose. “I had already been hosting my own
workshops, as well as a womens photography
weekend in Algonquin Park.
Grose says teaching the classes and hosting
outdoor workshops has become one of the
most satisfying aspects of her work.
“I just love seeing it click with people,” she
says. “When youre out in nature, you can
have some truly incredible experiences.
The property contains both Helen Grose’s home and her studio (Above) is located north of Milford
Bay. A renovated barn (Below) is where she has her work on display to the public. “The commute,
Grose says, “is pretty spectacular.
September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 37
38 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
When youre with other people, youre able
to share those experiences. It puts it on an
entirely dierent level than when youre by
One of her favourite locations to conduct
workshops is Algonquin Park, a location
where shes spent countless hours tracking
and shooting across all four seasons.
“ere are some very rewarding spots in
Algonquin but I spend a lot of time exploring
new areas,” she says. “I’m passionate about
wildlife photography and that’s primarily
what I shoot but I will shoot landscape, if it’s
something striking.
Grose says her favourite animal to shoot is
the wolf which she feels has garnered a
signicant amount of unwarranted resent-
ment from the public.
“Its such an elusive animal that it makes
those shots even more meaningful,” she says.
“eyre aware that youre there but I’ve never
felt intimidated when I’ve been shooting
Helen is a member of Nature First – an
alliance for responsible nature photography.
e group is guided by principles developed
to help educate and guide both professional
and recreational photographers in
sustainable, minimal impact practices that
will help preserve nature. She says her
workshops help her share those values with
other aspiring photographers.
“I think helping them to develop that
connection with nature really helps people to
get a better understanding of conservation,
she says. “e more people have an
understanding of the natural world, the more
we can help ensure that natural world is able
to thrive.
Above: This unique wildlife photo by Helen
Grose combines two photographs to create an
intriguing image. It joins the many images on
display in Grose’s studio gallery (Le).
Photograph: Helen Grose
40 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
iving a healthy lifestyle
can have a broad range
of meaning, depending
on the audience. What
constitutes a balance of physical
and mental well-being changes
as we age and depends on
our stage of life.
Whether you enjoy tackling new pursuits,
prefer to stick to a tried and true hobby or
simply want to be in condition for your usual
daily tasks, Muskokas landscape lends itself
to activity and adventure. No matter your
age and no matter the season, there are
boundless opportunities to be physically
From cycling or paddling to walking or
running, stretching and strength training
to yoga and tai chi, starting or continuing
your own tness journey as you become an
older adult does not need to be dicult or
frightening. Setting a goal to do something
each day, even for only a few minutes, is
always better than nothing.
“Its never too late to start,” comments
Erin Bailey Boyes, personal trainer and
owner of Body By Design Fitness Studio.
“Start at any age, whether youre an older
adult or not, and make your health a priority.
Find something you enjoy and go for it.
“I believe strongly in overall wellness and
health,” explains Jen Scev, instructor and
Article by Meghan Smith / Photography by Andy Zeltkalns
Strength training increases the overall quality of life as we age.
Fortunately, Muskoka’s natural environment makes it easier to take
part in strength training activities including boot camp tire tossing.
owner of Yoga 44. “Yogis dont necessarily
have the ttest looking bodies. ey are
exible and can hold poses. Practice is really
a mix of calming the mental state, condence
from standing tall and the physical benets
of stretching and strengthening muscles.
Regular physical activity is a critical part
of a healthy lifestyle. After age 30, humans
begin to lose 3 per cent to 5 per cent of
muscle mass per decade and after age 40, that
can increase to 8 per cent per decade. As we
age, activity often becomes less of a priority
with other more pressing obligations, such as
careers or families. However, the importance
of physical activity to our overall health and
well-being only increases.
“Its crucial to keep up some sort of
strength training as we age,” explains Boyes.
“You can slow down and counteract the
losses of aging by doing so many things.
Strength training, and including
functional tness and movement into that
training, increases the overall quality of life as
we age. Functional tness trains muscles to
work together and prepares them for use by
simulating movements typically employed at
home or at work. Keeping muscles in shape
leads to stronger bones, increased muscle
mass, increased joint exibility and decreased
eects of arthritis.
“People often focus on weight loss as their
main goal, which can be important,” says
Boyes. “But being able to play with your
grandkids, walk without pain and enjoy your
life – that’s the type of movement training
and weight training that’s so important.
Tai chi, one of many martial arts, focuses
on balance, mindfulness, proper breathing
techniques, healthy eating habits and a
spiritual connection.
“Tai chi works at bringing everything into
balance – mentally, physically and spiritually,
explains Valerie Houston-Peel, instructor at
Temple Knights Martial Arts Academy. “Its
all encompassing. Tai chi is practical as a self-
defence tactic but many people study now
just for the overall health benets.
e health benets of tai chi are physical
as well as spiritual and emotional. Regular
practice improves concentration, focus and
awareness. Physically, it strengthens every
muscle, joint and ligament in the body, along
with improving balance, exibility and
posture. It can also have cardiovascular
benets, reduces stress and fosters a feeling of
harmony and well-being.
“Its a wonderful organic art form that you
can practice by yourself or with a group of
people,” says Houston-Peel. “ere are 108
movements in the choreography but you
dont learn them all at once. You’ll learn
something new each class and thread them
all together.
e movements and forms in tai chi all
connect together for a continuous, graceful
ow of movement. Similarly, yoga blends
both physical and mental practices.
Whether it’s informal cycling club outings (Top) or dockside yoga classes, Muskoka’s landscape lends
itself to activity and adventure. Lower Photo: Yoga instructor Jen Scev oers full-service private
sessions across Muskoka Lakes throughout the spring, summer and fall.
Photograph: Yoga 44 by Jen Scev
September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 41
42 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
Physically, yoga promotes blood ow
through the body, which promotes healing
and helps to prevent disease. Mentally, yoga
practice helps in quieting the mind,
building awareness of the body and
managing stress. Healing from within and
creating internal and external balance are
key to strong practice.
“Yoga literally means to unite, and to me,
that focuses on uniting postures with breath,
explains Scev. “You focus on your breath
while performing but breathing is a part of
everything we do. We wouldnt be here
without that breath.
Yoga 44 currently provides full-service
private dockside sessions across Muskoka
Lakes throughout the spring, summer and
fall. Scev arrives with a rolling suitcase of
mats and blocks and takes great care in
curating the music and ow of each session
she instructs.
“I lay the foundation of the practice and
the alignment of the postures with my
playlist,” explains Scev. “People love the
power part, which I do at the beginning and
for a lot of the session but the meditation is
so important. Its really important to slow
and take time for the poses.
ere are many forms and kinds of yoga,
aimed at various levels of diculty and
meditation. Focus on posture and breathing
are key, so performing the poses can be
completed seated or standing. For some, the
poses may be too dicult at rst, requiring
continued practice to achieve. Even those
who cannot practice the poses, being present,
hearing the cues and focusing on healing and
breathing can improve their wellbeing.
“Half of the battle is showing up,” shares
Showing up and making physical activity an important part of your daily or weekly routine can be helped by teaming up. Having a friend, a group or a
personal trainer creates accountability, making it more dicult to ignore your plans.
The health benets of tai chi are physical as well
as spiritual and emotional.
With COVID restrictions, outdoor training sessions became an important part of the workout routines
oered by Bracebridge-based personal trainer Erin Bailey Boyes.
Scev. “Roll out the mat and give it a try. I like
to include a lot of instruction about why
were doing a pose and how everything
connects in the anatomy. Its not about the
workout. It’s about the intention. ats
Showing up and making physical activity
an important part of your daily or weekly
routine can be helped by teaming up. Having
a friend, a group or a personal trainer creates
accountability, making it more dicult to
ignore your plans.
“When COVID hit, my concern was for
our community, that the gains and progress
would be lost by our clients,” shares Boyes.
“How could we assist our clients in
maintaining or even improving their health
in all of this? We were forced to get creative
and oer virtual and then outdoor sessions.
For Dave Rasmussen and his friends, their
informal cycling club developed over eight
years ago through connections at their
Probus club. ey co-ordinate rides several
times each week through the spring, summer
and fall seasons. Rasmussen credits the
people he cycles with for all that hes learned
over the years and his ability to stay healthy.
“e feeling I get when I’m cycling is the
same feeling canoe tripping used to give me,
shares Rasmussen. “When you start riding,
everything else youve been worrying about
all day, that just goes
e group has
10 routes across
Muskoka they
cycle through but
each year is slightly
dierent depending on
what roads are under
construction. ey plan
various meeting spots or starting points, in
advance, and sometimes even plan tours
further aeld, arriving by car and then
cycling their route and then travelling home.
“We hardly ever all ride the exact same
route,” explains Rasmussen. “Some
of our group, who are
riders, can go longer and do more challenging
routes than others. We can have a broad
range of skill levels riding at any given time.
Starting o easy in the spring and slowing
building their endurance, the group usually
targets rides that are at least 30-kilometre
loops when theyre together. However, some
of the group also ride on other days in the
week by themselves. e
Mentally, yoga practice
helps in quieting the mind,
building awareness of the
body and managing stress.
Physically, yoga promotes blood ow through the body,
which bolsters healing and helps to prevent disease.
Photograph: Delaney McAndrew MediaPhotograph: Yoga 44 by Jen Scev
September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 43
44 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
average age of their members? It’s 75 years
“Its as much a social thing as it is an
athletic thing,” says Rasmussen. “What we’re
looking for is people who are congenial, can
ride at least 30 km and who are prepared to
be exible in the sense that if the day calls for
it, they’ll push themselves or be happy to take
a slightly dierent route.
No matter what activity you choose to
engage in, ensure the movements are being
completed correctly to eectively achieve
goals and reduce injuries. When adding
activity to your routine, whether its a new
outlet for you or you are rarely active, start
small and slowly add on to it. Often,
individuals jump into something new and
cause themselves injury by doing too much,
too quickly.
As we age, we can get an injury and
become sedentary,” shares Boyes. “Movement
is magic. Keep moving but in a pain-free way.
You’ll have a better quality of life and live
much longer.
Pain when youre working out or being
active should be a red ag. Having pain in
muscles and joints, beyond muscle fatigue, is
a sign to stop that activity and have it
professionally assessed.
“e key in staying well is nding an
activity you enjoy,” says Boyes. “Find out
what it is you like, whether that’s tennis
lessons, a walking club or a stretching or yoga
class. Find like-minded individuals and
create a community. Start slow and
gradually build up.
Tai chi, one of many martial arts, focuses on balance, mindfulness, proper breathing techniques, healthy eating habits and a spiritual connection, explains
instructor Valerie Houston-Peel (Le).
There are multiple cycling routes throughout Muskoka with
some oering greater challenges for those wanting a more
demanding ride and workout.
“Find people with a common interest and
talk to people to see their skills levels,” says
Rasmussen. “I really enjoy the camaraderie
and how my body feels at the end. Well,
maybe not at the end but after I recover!”
“e fact that tai chi touches people not
just as a physical exercise allows you to
connect on so many dierent levels,” says
Houston-Peel. “ere are the friendships that
develop but I’ve seen such incredible health
benets and change in people from regular
Overall health and tness is about
connection to your own bodys strengths and
limitations, connection to those around you
and connection to the environment around
No matter your
age and no matter
the season, there
are boundless
opportunities to
be physically
active. Muskoka’s
almost endless
rivers and lakes
oer many
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46 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
Article by J. Patrick Boyer
arly Muskokans were cash strapped.
“ere is little money in Muskoka,
wrote a settler at Barlochan to her
family in England, repeating a common
refrain. Perhaps that explains why, even by
the 1880s when settlement, commerce and
manufacturing were strong across Muskoka,
not a single “national” bank had a branch in
the District. ose banks, protected and
privileged since Confederation as Schedule
A” banks under the Bank Act, enjoyed easier
prots elsewhere and failed to see Muskokas
Fortunately, that eras self-starting
Muskokans refused to let others decide their
fate. Homesteaders, frustrated at not getting
a government bridge over the Muskoka
River, built it themselves. Farmers, unable to
grow crops on rocky elds, instead pastured
milk cows and grazed sheep on them and
prospered supplying Muskokas dairies,
cheese factories, woollen mills, leather
tanneries and meat markets. at same “can
do” spirit inspired Bracebridges Alfred Hunt
to open a private bank for the communitys
unmet nancial needs.
By the 1880s, Bracebridge boasted more
than a thousand inhabitants. e village
hummed with small factories. Services
ranged from livery stables to print shops,
mills and transshipment operations to hotel
accommodations and stores, one of them a
general store owned and operated by Alfred
Hunt and James Clerihue.
Most of these businesses needed assistance
with nancial requirements but for bank
service, owners had to journey to Orillia,
Barrie or Toronto. From at least the early
1880s, these twin money problems in
Muskoka – lack of currency that created a
barter economy which constrained commerce
and neglectful absence of the hinterland by
Canadas big banks – led Alfred Hunt to
extend personal loans to individuals he
judged to be making sound investments in
the community which in turn provided jobs
and contributed to economic growth.
By 1884, he formalized these nancing
services by opening Muskokas rst bank on
Bracebridges Manitoba Street. Prominent in a
red brick building on a principal thoroughfare,
Hunt’s Bank did more than provide essential
service. Customers valued the convenience of
local banking and the security of not having to
transmit money through the postal service.
e Government of Canada, under sway
of the Schedule A charter banks from
opening day of Confederation, had taken a
pass on establishing convenient and reliable
Even by the 1880s when
settlement, commerce
and manufacturing were
strong across Muskoka,
not a single “national”
bank had a branch in the
District. An enterprising man
with wide-ranging interests, popular
Alfred Hunt (Right) had large brown eyes,
prominent nose and black beard.
Photograph: Boyer Family Archives, Bracebridge
Photographs: Boyer Family Archives, Bracebridge
post oce banking service, in the pattern of
European countries, despite its existing
network of local post oces throughout the
country. Muskokas only bank, this private
one used by farmers and logging companies,
millers and contractors, was thus vital to the
Districts surge in industrial and economic
Hunt’s Bank was as welcoming a place as
his general store. He and his bank clerk T.H.
Pringle knew customers by name. With
Bracebridge also Muskokas capital, the land
registry oce, District Court and other
government services brought lawyers,
conveyancers and those with public business
to town. ey, too, made good use of Hunt’s
Bank, including its safekeeping service for
valuable documents. Muskokans
condently opened accounts,
made deposits, obtained loans,
secured money orders and lodged
documents in the safe.
As his bank grew busier, Hunt
moved into larger premises. He left
the heavy safe in the basement of
his rst bank building, not because
he was giving up safekeeping
operations, but expanding them. In
his new 1893 purpose-built structure at 36
Manitoba Street, a large walk-in safe was
built into the basement bedrock.
From the day Alfred England Hunt arrived
in Bracebridge in 1870, hed become involved
in local nances, rst as treasurer of Macaulay
Township, then of Bracebridge. In fact, the
slim, smart man of great initiative became so
engaged in local aairs, it became hard to
think of the town without him. An
accomplished violinist, he sometimes played
in the Methodist church as part of the service.
He built a large frame house on Toronto
Street (now Taylor Road), at the wedge-
shaped property intersecting with Richard
Street, (now Bird Lane) atop the plateau of
land east of the river. e rise of land then
became known locally as “Hunt’s Hill.
It was more than tting that a piece of
land should be nicknamed for Hunt. He was
dealing in real estate all the time, alongside
Bracebridges other major property players,
Hiram McDonald and William Holditch.
When property values were assessed to
compute municipal taxes, these men
crowded the court of revision. One year,
Hunt launched 21 appeals against his
assessments – most on technical grounds of
some error in description or ownership, but
pretext enough to get the assessment
reconsidered and, in the process, reduced.
Alfred Hunt didnt just show up in the
Town Hall to seek assessment reductions. He
was often present at the council table and, at
times, in the reeves chair or the mayor’s
oce – as of right. e merchant, banker,
musician, realtor had rst been elected a
Bracebridge councillor in 1877. He was
again on council in 1882.
In that era of eective democratic
accountability, citizens across Ontario voted
on their municipal councils’ performance
every 12 months – each year’s council elected,
ttingly, on New Year’s Day. On January 1,
1884, the same year he launched his private
bank, Alfred Hunt was elected reeve, an oce
to which he was also re-elected in 1885.
In 1889 with growing Bracebridge now
incorporated as a town, and for the next
three years, hed easily won re-election as a
councillor. He was so popular and so
connected with the
through his bank
that in 1893, Hunt
ran for mayor and
won. ough re-
elected mayor in
1894, and again in
1895, demands of
his banking business and real estate
transactions caused him to gear down to a
seat on council in each of the next three
years, while Singleton Brown, owner of a
shingle mill in town and a Hunt Bank
customer, occupied the mayors chair instead.
Alfred Hunt was politically active in the
community and when it came to provincial
and federal elections, he sided with
Conservatives. Back in 1878, when F.T.
Grae and Harry Oaten launched a
newspaper called the Muskoka Herald, their
weekly not only emphasized a district-wide
focus as its name made clear but, unlike the
Gravenhurst Banner, Bracebridge Gazette
and Huntsville Forester, it alone supported
the Conservative cause.
First copies of the Muskoka Herald came
o the press on ursday evening, April 11.
Many Tories showed up to support a paper
they could believe in. Sam Armstrong,
businessman and later mayor, auctioned o
two or three dozen of the rst Muskoka
Heralds as they came o the press – the rst
to Alfred Hunt on his bid of $25. (At the
time, his stipend as Bracebridge treasurer, for
Above: This rambling frame building on the triangular wedge where Richard Street intersects with
Taylor Road in Bracebridge was Alfred Hunt’s home. This direction signed by Henry J. Bird of Bird’s
Woollen Mill to Alfred Hunt, Banker, was how he obtained $58.75 – present value, some $1,400.
September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 47
48 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
the entire year, was $15.) Other bidding
reached $15 or $10, large amounts which
only the bravura of an auction among close
acquaintances was capable of generating.
at night’s haul, for a paper selling on the
street at 2¢ a copy, helped Grae and Oaten
keep the Muskoka Herald aoat through its
start-up year; it would not fail with Alfred
Hunt around.
Another way Hunt imprinted himself on
the Muskoka community was the picturesque
way he meshed farm and town life. Poultry
in a large shed behind his home not only
provided a source of eggs and chickens for
family eating but fed his fervour as a
competitive breeder. Under Hunt’s
leadership, the Bracebridge Poultry
Association became an active concern. Its
annual highlight was a December bird show
in the Town Hall.
Poultry Association members and their
show birds converted the council chamber
into a chaotic barnyard scene of feathers,
sawdust, straw, cages, prize ribbons, crowing
and loud clucking. Additional breeders
arrived from Midland, Orillia and Huntsville
with caged poultry of exotic varieties
enlarging this gaggle of exhibitors and
heightening levels of excitement and noise in
Bracebridges municipal headquarters.
Alfred Hunt, instigator of it all, was an
ardent competitor in this eld. Year after
year, he consistently entered far more birds
than anyone else, not hard because his
hatchery and hen house were but three blocks
away. One year he had 43 birds in the show,
netting many red, blue and white ribbons.
On the 1897 bright spring morning of
May 27, bank clerk T.H. Pringle arrived at
Hunt’s Bank to open for the day. Stepping in
the doorway, he was stunned to be greeted by
the strong odour of gunpowder. e building
had been entered during the night. Racing to
the basement, he found the vault’s heavy steel
door open. A hole had been drilled through
it and the combination lock blasted o.
e blood drained from Alfred Hunt’s
face as he soon stood beside Pringle,
evaluating a professional withdrawal from his
bank. Stolen from the vault were $1,000 in
bills, several gold watches, some notes of
exchange, Mickle Lumber Company orders,
and $9,000 worth of the towns most recent
waterworks debentures, issued to Richard
Lance of Beatrice, whod left them with
Hunt’s Bank for safekeeping.
Across town at the same time, omas
Magee was discovering tools missing from
This building at 36 Manitoba Street, two stores
south of Chancery Lane, was erected in 1893 to
house the Hunt Bank. The door at le led into
the bank; at right, up to oces upstairs. By
1919, as shown here, it had become the
Dominion Bank’s Bracebridge branch.
Hospice Muskoka
We are so sad to announce that
has been CANCELLED due to Covid-19
We look forward to seeing you next year for this fun event!
Beauty, Badges,
Bags & Bingo 2020
Photograph: Boyer Family Archives, Bracebridge
279 Manitoba Street, Bracebridge
Muskoka’s Bath & Plumbing Centre
his blacksmith and wagon shop. His stolen
brace, sledgehammer and crowbar – stamped
with his initials, TM – had been abandoned
inside Hunt’s Bank. Constable Armstrong
questioned Magee and claried he was
another victim, not the real culprit, but kept
TM’s tools as exhibits for the trial. e
investigation petered out. Nobody was ever
brought to justice for a brazen robbery,
clearly based on close knowledge of the town.
Hunt’s solicitor, Arthur A. Mahay,
sought to persuade his client that the bank
remained fundamentally sound and should
be kept open. In Huntsville, respected J.R.
Reece had now begun managing a loan and
savings agency next to the post oce, in
conjunction with his telegraph and telephone
services and implement sales. Vital
communities needed local nancial services,
said Mahay.
But Hunt, focused on the bank’s sizeable
problems rather than its basic soundness,
remained shaken all year long by the unsolved
heist and its uncompensated victims. Feeling
angry, violated, humiliated and sick with
money stress, he at last overrode Mahays
counsel and in desperation
assigned his assets for the
benet of the banks creditors.
He directed the Mahay &
Ashworth rm (which was
paying him rent for oce
space in one of his buildings)
to initiate liquidation of his
assets and the bank.
On the weekday morning of
May 25, 1898 – almost a year to
the day after the robbery – the
doors at Hunt’s Bank remained
closed and locked. Consternation
spread among Bracebridgites and
other Muskokans. What did the
banks failure mean? Rumours
spread that the Dominion
Bank would take over Hunt’s
bank. Representatives of
Dominion had been spotted
in town. Despite preliminary
negotiations, that did not
Instead, Muskokas private
banker proceeded to assign his
extensive business interests, except
for his home on Hunt’s Hill and
a property in his wifes name, to
Muskokas sheri James Bettes.
e following week, a
hundred of Alfred Hunt’s
creditors gathered in the
Herald Hall, the second-oor
meeting room of the Muskoka
Herald newspaper building at
27 Dominion Street. Arthur
Mahay, as the banks solicitor,
chaired proceedings. Sheri Bettes
read a nancial statement reporting
assets of $73,696.77 and liabilities
at $53,717.23. Hunt himself
explained that his nancial
embarrassment began with
Top: Arthur Mahay, solicitor for
Hunt’s Bank, believed the bank
still viable despite its unsolved
robbery. Le: James Bettes,
Muskoka’s rst sheri, had the
legal obligation to liquidate the
assets of Muskoka’s rst bank.
Photographs: Boyer Family Archives, Bracebridge
September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 49
50 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
real estate investments in Toronto, seven years
earlier, which lost $38,000, then continued
with losses of $15,000 due to business failures
of lumbermen and others to whom hed
advanced cash.
rough Muskokas weekly papers, Sheri
Bettes publicly advertised Hunt’s assets for
sale: 33 vacant properties in Bracebridge,
lakeside properties, and farmland in
Macaulay, Brunel and Stisted townships.
ere were town lots and properties in
Gravenhurst, and a timber limit in Parry
Sound’s Armour Township. ere were store
and house properties in Bracebridge: three
brick buildings occupied by Merrill,
McEachern, omas & Booth, and Mahay
& Ashworth; his own brick bank building at
34 Manitoba with oces above rented to the
provincial government; a laundry; nine lots
with houses; stores occupied by Tillson &
Whitten, J.W. Ney, Macready & Company,
J.O. Phillips, and the store south of the
Dominion Hotel. Quantities of lumber were
also put up for liquidation sale.
Initial sheri sales enabled Bettes to
announce by November an initial 20 per
cent dividend for Hunt creditors. Solicitor
Mahays view of the banks operations being
basically sound was born out. As Hunt’s
assets were liquidated, bank creditors
recovered close to 100 cents on the dollar for
all their stolen assets.
Alfred Hunt, though still a member of
town council for 1898, attended no further
meetings after May that year. Nor did he ever
again run for elective oce. His operations
contracted to things like brick veneering the
British Lion Hotel across from the new
District Court House on Dominion Street in
1903. He died in 1917, in the bleak depths
of a cataclysmic world war.
In the wake of his banks demise, the
nancial needs and opportunities in
Muskoka which private banker Alfred Hunt
had shown existed sparked the big banks to
swiftly ll the vacuum. First to set up shop
was the Bank of Ottawa, which on June 2,
1898, hurriedly opened a branch in the
Manitoba Street building of tailor Robert
McEwen, who himself went out of business
and relocated to Vancouver.
Joining the parade in 1904 was the new
Crown Bank of Canada, chartered only the
month before it opened a Bracebridge branch
on July 18 on the west side of Manitoba
Street. Some directors of the Toronto-based
Crown Bank were Muskoka summer
residents who saw the need for a branch in
the district. One of Crowns major accounts
was e Bird Woollen Mill Co. Limited,
pillar of the Muskoka economy, which had
banked with Alfred Hunt.
In 1908, Crown amalgamated with
Northern Bank of Western Canada to
become Northern Crown Bank and relocated
its Bracebridge branch into another main
street building once owned by Alfred Hunt.
In 1918, when Northern Crown and Royal
Bank of Canada merged, the local branch
displayed its next name, Royal Bank.
More national banks, with changing
names from corporate takeovers and mergers,
opened local branches across Canada,
including in Muskokas towns and villages,
like common franchises of an increasingly
monolithic operation whose design, decision-
and direction would increasingly lie beyond
local control.
In 1919, when the Bank of Ottawa
merged with Bank of Nova Scotia, the
Bracebridge branch simply changed its name
and kept operating in the same ne premises.
In addition to Bracebridge and Huntsville,
other Muskoka communities began getting
banking service. In 1901 the Dominion
Bank, which had been sning around
Bracebridge, set up shop in Gravenhurst
instead, in a rented building before moving
into its newly-constructed facility at the
south-east corner of Muskoka and Royal
streets. Port Carling was another. In June
1920 the summer-busy village got a pop-up
Bank of Nova Scotia, under direction of
Bracebridges branch. Two years later,
enjoying steady boat-builder business, it
became a full branch operating not June-
September but year-round.
By 1919, the Dominion Bank nally
appeared in Bracebridge. From 1906 to
1914, Dominions interests had been
represented locally by Henry Warren,
nancial ocer of J.D. Shier Lumber
Company, who returned to his former
position with the bank as a manager in
Toronto. When the Bracebridge branch,
with Warrens lobbying, materialized after
the war, he came back to town as its manager,
occupying Alfred Hunt’s former bank
building at 36 Manitoba Street.
is Bracebridge heritage building has
been boarded up in recent years, its basement
steel vault standing open, about the way
bank clerk Pringle discovered it on that ill-
fated morning of May 27, a century and
a-quarter ago.
The brick building at the right, on the west side of 1890s Manitoba Street, with TAILOR sign, was
vacated by Bracebridge’s garment-maker Robert McEwen so the Bank of Ottawa could open a
Bracebridge branch on June 2, 1898 – one week aer Alfred Hunt liquidated his bank.
Photograph: Richard W. Ryan, Photographer; Boyer Family Archives, Bracebridge
52 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
Whats Happened
Food Co-op opens
downtown in Huntsville
Possibly you have heard of the Muskoka
North Good Food Co-op but never found
it, as it has been tucked away far from the
heart of Huntsville.
at all changed last month when the
Co-op added a cafe and store on Main St.,
Huntsville, right across from the town hall.
“From the start of when the pandemic hit
us,” says Co-op general manager Kelli Ebbs,
“business started to really pick up.” No
restaurant meals meant more cooking at
home, she notes, adding she thinks the
pandemic also has brought it home to
people that supporting local food producers
ensures a reliable local food supply.
Around July 17, the owner of Whimsical
Bakery, a Co-op supplier, let Ebbs know she
was closing, leaving her Main St. location
“Our wheels really started to turn,” says
Ebbs. She did up a business plan over the
next weekend, presented it to the board of
directors on the following Monday and got
approval on Friday. Sta worked four to ve
volunteer hours a night for a week to make
the space ready to open its doors on Aug. 1.
With three tables outside and two inside
plus take-out, the Co-ops cafe oers salads,
soups, sandwiches, baking, pizza and
local-roast espresso. e store section oers
convenience-store fare Co-op style – local,
organic, GMO-free and accommodating all
diets by serving alternative milks, vegan
goods, gluten-free goods and more. You can
also purchase beeswax candles, holiday
cards, locally-made pottery and other items.
e downtown Co-op is open 9 to 4 on
Sundays and 8 to 5 all other days.
Bracebridge mayor
heads Ontario municipal group
Bracebridge mayor and deputy chair of
the District of Muskoka Graydon Smith has
been chosen for another position: president
of the Association of Municipalities of
Ontario (AMO) which represents 444
municipalities from across the province.
After having served the organization as a
board member for four years and an
executive board member for another two,
Smith put his name forward with
unanimous Bracebridge town council
support, as a candidate for president in
May. On Aug. 18, he was elected by more
than 1,300 municipal government leaders
during AMO’s virtual annual general
“I’m very excited to take on this role for
the next two years,” Smith says. “To be able
to lead a great board of elected ocials
from throughout Ontario is very gratifying.
Our relationship with the provincial
government as municipalities is the most
important relationship we have. We have to
make sure lines of communication are
open, sharing our concerns but letting them
know the good things that are happening,
AMO is a not-for-prot and non-
partisan association that acts as the voice of
Ontarios municipalities to the provincial
government on matters of advocacy and
policy. It also helps empower municipal
government by providing educational
opportunities and resources to its members,
and promoting municipal government as a
vital and essential part of the nations
governmental system.
As well as his work on the AMO board,
Muskoka North Good Food Co-op in Huntsville has increased its community visibility with the opening
of a café and storefront on Main Street in the downtown core.
Photograph: Robert Nelson
Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith now leads the
Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
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Graydon Smith has served as chair of the
AMO’s Health Task Force and chair of
Ontario Small Urban Municipalities since
2018. He is currently in his third term as
mayor of Bracebridge and has served on
both Bracebridge and District Councils
since 2006.
Muskoka Shoebox
reinvents its giving
under new leadership
Two big-hearted local women have
stepped up to lead Muskoka Shoebox into a
new mode for the COVID-19 era.
Jennifer Stevenson, who lives near Port
Carling, and her daughter-in-law, Sarah
Stevenson, took over in July, relieving Joanne
Buie, Penny Burns and Barb Baldwin, who
founded the Muskoka chapter of the
international giving program ve years ago.
Traditionally, donors purchase $50 worth
of small, self-esteem-enhancing gifts and
wrap them with an inspirational note in a
shoe box, which is then given to a woman or
girl in need. “Sometimes its the only thing
they get for Christmas,” Jennifer says.
When she rst participated in the
program, Jennifer was struck both by the
degree of need and of generosity in Muskoka.
In its history, Muskoka Shoebox has
provided just shy of 5,000 boxes, or
$250,000 worth of items.
“We didnt want it to end,” she says.
is year, the shoeboxes will be virtual.
Donors can buy the items and write the note
online or donate gift cards. “e important
thing is to check o ‘Muskoka’, to keep it in
the community,” Jennifer says. She expects
the need to be greater than usual this year.
for more information.
Overcoming COVID
to support OSPCA
Two Muskoka residents laced up and hit
the road last month for a 60-kilometre
relay-style run as part of the Ontario SPCA
and Humane Societys new Sweat for Pets
fundraiser in support of animals in need.
Registered as Team Cat Ladies, Melissa
September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 53
54 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
Kosowan and Jessica Sheppard began their
run west of Rosseau on Aug. 22 and headed
along Highway 141 to the Ontario SPCA
Muskoka Animal Centre in Bracebridge.
Alternating runners approximately every 10
kilometres, the pair conquered the rolling
hills and raised over $2,500 for the
Muskoka Animal Centre.
“It takes a community to change the lives
of vulnerable animals and we wanted to do
our part,” says Kosowan. “Sweat for Pets
combined our passion for running with our
love of animals to raise the critical funds the
Ontario SPCA depends on to help animals
in need.
Sweat for Pets is a new virtual fundraiser
in support of programs and services
provided by the Ontario SPCA and
Humane Society. Funds raised through
Sweat for Pets support life-changing work
to give animals a second chance.
“Were so thankful that the community
has come together to support our new
Sweat for Pets event,” says Jane McCamus,
Manager, Ontario SPCA Muskoka Animal
Centre. “We’ve had to shift gear with our
fundraising due to COVID-19, and your
donations ensure vulnerable animals
continue to receive the care they need to
prepare them for a new beginning with a
loving family.
To get involved, visit to
make a donation, or create your own
unique challenge and ask your friends,
family or neighbours to pledge their
– Prepared by Karen Wehrstein
Team Cat Ladies, Melissa
Kosowan and Jessica
Sheppard helped the local
OSPCA undertake a charitable
run to assist the organization
which has had to shi its
fundraising during the
COVID-19 pandemic.
Responsibly Made
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Natural Pure Fabric.
Timeless, Artisan-Made Weave.
Simplicity, Eff ortlessness.
Thank you to all our supporters!
Together we raised over $50,000
for nature conservation in Muskoka!
Norm Moat, Muskoka Conservancy President
thank you from our organizing team!
Karen Lang
Rob Jennings
Hope omson
Allyn Abbott
Susie Drinkwater
Cathy Gibson
Scott Young
Rob Abbott / Marie McFarlane / Rob Clark / Bob Weekes / Loon Island / Chris Cape
Special Thanks to our auction donors!
Fish, Muskoka style
Great eating out of the lake
Article by Karen Wehrstein / Photography by Tomasz Szumski
In every region of the world that has
lengthy coasts, sh is a meat staple in the
local diet. So, of course, it is popular in
Muskoka – a land so full of lakes that from
a plane it looks like a latticework of land
and water.
In Muskokas eateries you can have sh
prepared in all manner of ways, from your
good old English-style, crisply battered,
deep-fried sh ‘n’ chips to the delicate raw
slabs with rice, soy and momentarily
tongue-immolating green paste that make
On todays pescatarian journey, we will
meet two chefs who have both worked in
some other interesting places as well. First,
we’ll boat over to meet Chef Steve
“Where I grew up,
chefs would come
out and talk
to you,
take feedback on everything,” he reminisces.
at may be because he grew up in
Bracebridge. He still speaks reverently of
John Hudswell, his food technology teacher
at Bracebridge Muskoka Lakes Secondary
School. “Mr. Hudswell taught me how to
make a burger,” he reminisces. “He taught
us seasonings on plain burgers; too much
salt and it would be ‘ughhh!’ and that’s how
youd learn.
By 16, Norsworthy was working for a
butcher shop in Bracebridge, learning all
about meat. He also cooked for the Old
Station Restaurant in Bracebridge upon its
opening. After graduating from high school,
he moved to
Ban where he lived for about 10 years,
skiing during the day and continuing to
learn his craft on the job at night, from two
great European chefs,” in particular.
After working both the front and back of
several houses in Calgary, he picked up the
skill of ice carving when one restaurant
owner bought an ice-carving business in Las
Vegas and hired him to work there.
In his eight Vegas years, Norsworthy not
only got to meet international-class chefs as
they ordered ice sculptures for major events
and celebrities. He rendered the character
Colour and presentation are important, says
chef Steve Norsworthy.
56 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
Elmo in ice for Michael Jacksons son Prince
and a pair of boxing gloves for Sylvester
Stallone. He visited Jacksons house without
knowing where he was until Jacksons
mother laughingly told him, and also got to
enter the Playboy Mansion and meet Hugh
“eyre just regular guys and girls,” he
says, knowingly.
In late 2010, Norsworthy
connected with a high
school sweetheart who
had divorced her
rst husband
and he
Canada, working at Horseshoe
Valley for ve years. ey then
moved to Prince Edward
Island to run a bed and
breakfast together while he
managed multiple
restaurants. Last year, he
moved back home at
the request of his
parents. “I
dabbled here
and there,
House, South Muskoka
Golf Club.
You will nd no salt and
pepper on your table in an
establishment whose kitchen
he heads. “We spice it,
Norsworthy says. “Try my
food the way I do it!”
Colour and presentation
are important. “It’s like art to
Maple Glazed Salmon
Steve Norsworthy
6 oz fresh Atlantic salmon llet,
skin on
¼ cup Marks Muskoka Maple syrup
¼ cup white wine
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
½ tsp Garlic Plus seasoning
1 Tbsp garlic butter
½ tsp dried parsley akes
• Season the salmon on both sides with
Garlic Plus, salt and pepper. Melt the
garlic butter in a small oven-friendly
saucepan. Add the wine.
• Just before boiling point, add the
salmon esh side down. Cook for 30
seconds. Flip salmon pour the maple
syrup over it (esh side must be up).
Cook for another 30 seconds.
• Place in convection oven at 325° F for
ve minutes. Dont overcook the salmon;
the centre should still have a sliver of red
in it.
• Get your plate ready for service with
boiled and seasoned basmati rice and two
fresh sauteed vegetables. Maple, parsley,
honey carrots and green beans almandine
are a nice mixture. (ey are indeed.)
Remove salmon from oven and place it on
the plate, half covering the rice.
Bringremaining butter, wine and maple
syrup in saucepan to a boil, then carefully
spoon the thickened sauce evenly over
salmon. Sprinkle plate circumference, rice
and top of salmon with dried parsley
akes and serve.
• Serves one: multiply ingredients by
number of diners.
• Chef-recommended wine pairing:
Pinot Grigio (the wine he uses in
the sauce) or Sauvignon Blanc.
Chefs Tips
For salmon llets, Norsworthy
recommends Your Independent Grocer or
your local butcher shop if it has them.
Best time of year is now as the salmon are
Garlic Plus is a seasoning mix made by
Club House which he gets from his
suppliers and you can sometimes nd at
the supermarkets. An acceptable
substitute would be Mrs. Dash. “I stay
away from garlic powder, garlic salt, onion
powder—anything white,” Norsworthy
says. “It burns and will turn black.
For the best taste, get the darkest
available maple syrup.
To make the garlic butter: mix salted
butter with Garlic Plus, minced garlic and
parsley, to taste.
Bonus recipe
How would Chef Norsworthy cook
up a sh he caught in Muskoka
“If I landed a nice lake
trout or pike, I would
clean and llet it then:
• With butter, oil the
surface of a 14-18-inch-
long piece of aluminum
foil, center llets on oiled
surface, salt and pepper them,
then turn up edges of foil to
hold liquid ingredients.
• Sprinkle liberally with
chopped yellow and green
• Add a few splashes of beer—
Muskoka beer, of course.
• Lay lemon slices and cilantro
sprigs on llets.
• Fold and tightly seal packet
then lay in coals of re or on hot
Turn and move frequently.
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes.
Chef Steve Norsworthy began his
training in Bracebridge before
heading throughout North
America to broaden his
September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 57
58 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
With roots in British Columbia,
preparing sh is a natural for chef
Brian Norrish.
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me,” he says. Fresh
ingredients, local
ingredients and onsite
prep are key to his
philosophy, as is
e recipe Chef
Norsworthy has given us
is vintage 2020 and features
Atlantic salmon with a very
local glaze. “I just put maple syrup
over it and cooked it,” he recalls, about the
rst time he made it. “e saucepan had
butter and wine and seasoning, and I boiled
it, like boiling maple syrup.
at syrup-based sauce somehow adds a
sweet, delicately smokey taste to the salmon,
and is also indelibly delicious where it has
soaked into the accompanying basmati
rice. is very generous
chef let me
taste two
other of
his items
as well,
including a
burger more tender
than any other I’ve
had as well as deliciously
seasoned, and a ravioli to die for.
Now lets jump back in the boat
and cruise down the river past
people shing o docks and into
Lake Muskoka. We’ll slalom
through the wakeboarders,
paddleboarders, RMS Segwun
and people shing in boats
past Milford Bay to Port
Portside Fusion
Restaurant opened in
2019. It has a back
porch patio, fenced in with
glass, that overlooks the locks
between lakes Muskoka and
Rosseau from high above and is
surrounded by huge deciduous
trees for an intimately spectacular
eect. e rushing of the
water over the lockside
dam is your constant
companion. e
mouth-watering smell
of the grill wafts out of
the kitchen. If it’s
raining, you can take
the roofed roadside patio
Executive Chef Brian Norrish
was born in the Okanagan Valley and
grew up in Abbotsford, close to Vancouver.
He moved east “because Ontario has some
of the better culinary schools,” he says,
attending Humber College in
Toronto. Renowned
Toronto chef
PK_Muskoka Patterson Kaye Re so rt
w w w . P a t t e r s o n K a y e R e s o r t . c o m
1 8 5 5 6 4 5 4 1 6 9
P a t t e r s o n K a y e
- Resort & Restaurant on Lake Muskoka -
Milford Bay
Grilled Trout
Brian Norrish, Portside Fusion
Mediterranean Salsa
1 roast red bell pepper
¼ c. kalamata olives
6 rainbow cherry tomatoes halved
4 piece artichoke hearts cut in
¼ c. roast red onion cut in
small triangles
1 Tbsp fresh chopped oregano
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
• Cut the roast red pepper into a
medium dice and toss with the rest of
the ingredients. Allow to sit while
preparing the rest of the dish.
1 cup cooked beluga lentils
½ cup ne diced carrot, celery, bell
pepper and red onion in equal
portions, mixed
1 tsp chopped raw garlic
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
• In a hot pan with a splash of vegetable
oil cook the diced vegetables until
lightly browned. Add the lentils, garlic,
butter, and season with salt and pepper
to taste. Cook for a further minute and
nish with the vinegar and chopped
2 pieces trout llet, approximately
6 oz each, skin on
2 Tbsp garlic herbed oil
Salt and pepper
• Coat the sh in the garlic herb oil and
season with salt and pepper. Place skin
side down on a hot grill, rotating once
per side and ipping once until no
longer translucent in the centre.
• Place a base of the lentils in a shallow
dish, top with the cooked trout and
garnish with the salsa.
Serves two. Chef-recommended wine
pairing: “Sauvignon Blanc. It’s light and
crisp, not too sweet.
Chefs Tips
To make garlic herbed oil: add several
cloves of garlic to a jar of oil plus sprigs
of herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme,
savoury, etc. Avoid cilantro.
• How to cook trout and other sh so
they dont end up dry: “However long
you think it’s going to take, take it o
two minutes earlier.” Lake sh, he
cautions, must be fully cooked. “But sh
should never be dry.
Bonus Recipe
How would Chef Brian Norrish
prepare a trout he caught in
“I’d open it up, clean it, ll the
body cavity with fresh lemon slices,
dill and lime leaves, wrap it in foil,
then barbecue it for 5-10 minutes
unless it’s big in which case, longer.
Poke it to see if it’s cooked. is
gives a nice aromatic air to the sh.
122 Kimberley Avenue, Suite 2
Bracebridge ON P1L 1Z8
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September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 59
60 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
hired him
straight out of
school into his
restaurant, North 44, and he
took a second traineeship at Stage
West Hotel in Brampton. During these four
years, Norrish got his TV cred, appearing in
a supporting role to McEwan who starred in
the catering reality show e Heat for its
full run of two seasons.
Subsequently, Norrish partnered with one
of the North 44 sous-chefs to run a small
Italian restaurant in Toronto for six years,
then joined the Banquet Team of Casa
Loma, where hed cook six weddings a week
throughout each summer.
“We won the Biggest Bash Award for
Best Wedding Venue,Norrish boasts,
unsurprisingly. After two years of making
brides eat like princesses in their own castle,
he was hired as executive chef at the elegant
Rosewater Room in Toronto.
About a year later, Portside Fusion came
up as an opportunity. “Two of the owners
are chefs that I worked with,” he explains.
“ey had a project going and they gave me
a shout because I’ve always been more of a
country boy. I wanted the chance to cook
outside the city, and year-round.
Norrish likes to use local and seasonal
ingredients with a
low carbon footprint and
health-conscious preparation (no deep-
frying sh here). e fusion theme oers
him the leeway to mix styles in a fun way,
such as a smoked brisket bao that’s “a little
Asian, a little Texas,” and a mushroom
penne which, he thinks, would generate
popular unrest were it taken o the menu.
“e octopus is insanely popular,” he
says, noting that it is slow-cooked with
aromatics in water for ve hours using an
immersion circulator.
“Coming from the west coast, I’m drawn
to seafood, in general,” Norrish says. “Its
hard to come by in Toronto.” In Muskoka,
however, he can get the star ingredient for
the recipe hes sharing with us right from
where its swimming around – right down
the road at the Milford Bay Trout Farm.
Milford Bay Grilled Trout, its author
says, “is a play o a couple of dierent
things that I’ve mixed and matched into a
new dish that would be appropriate for the
area. A lot of dierent countries do lentils:
Spain, Italy, the Middle East. Were really
lucky that we can get trout on demand, and
it’s as fresh as you can possibly get.
Now, of course, freshness is important
with all ingredients – but sh more than any
other. is trout absolutely melts in the
mouth, it’s so fresh. e way it and the
tastes of the other ingredients blend makes
for a meaty, tart, strongly-bass-noted
aromatic and avourful whole that words
cannot do justice. I dont know about you,
but if I taste something really amazing, I get
taste-ashbacks of it for days afterward. It
doesnt happen often. It did this with one.
Life is good for the Muskoka pescatarian.
Chef Brian Norrish’s fusion theme oers him the
leeway to mix styles in a fun way, such as a
smoked brisket bao that’s “a little Asian, a little
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62 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
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September 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 63
Muskoka Moments
By Michael Duben
Unforgettable Muskoka hospitality
Photographs: Tomasz Szumski
64 UNIQUE MUSKOKA September 2020
For many years, scores of visitors
from all over Canada and the world
have journeyed to Muskoka to enjoy
this idyllic part of Ontario, blessed
with spectacular natural features.
Muskoka is well known for delivering
world class hospitality at its many
ne accommodations which include
resorts, inns, lodges and more. Upon
arriving in the fall of 2013 to take on
the role of Chief Administrative
Ocer for the District of Muskoka,
my family and I quickly learned
Muskokas reputation for hospitality
extends well beyond the tourism
sector. From the moment we moved
into the community, we were welcomed with
open arms by everyone we came across.
As you might expect, one of our very rst
encounters was with the owner of the
neighbouring property. After introducing
himself and making us feel very welcome, he
immediately oered us a place at his
boathouse to park our non-existent boat.
Although we do not have water access, we
did eventually acquire a small watercraft and
entered into an arrangement which consisted
of our neighbour sharing our bear bin for his
trash in exchange for us docking our boat at
one of his slips. While initially convinced the
deal we struck was a testament to my
negotiation skills after years of practicing
law, it really was borne out of his generosity
and hospitality. We witnessed this type of
kindness over and over again. Following a
minor but no doubt entertaining mishap,
attempting to pull an improperly secured
U-Haul trailer along Highway 118, it was a
kind passerby from a local construction
company who stopped and selessly saved
my day.
No matter where we were, our rst few
months in Muskoka were full of situations
where people made eorts not just to greet
us, but to do so warmly and often with an
open oer to help. Whether at our respective
places of work, at Rotary meetings, at
holiday parties or at recreational events, we
were always met with kind people,
introducing themselves and welcoming us to
Kindness from others was not limited to
just myself and my spouse. Our teenage son
Marcus was also a regular recipient of
benevolence from Muskokans. Friendly but
unknown neighbours insisted on driving
him home from his bus stop anytime the
weather was foul. Furthermore, knowing
that he was undergoing a challenging
transition to a new school in the middle of
grade 10, teachers and administrators at
BMLSS went above and beyond to make
him feel as welcome as possible.
is penchant for welcoming us to
Muskoka went beyond people. Even Mother
Nature got into the act, albeit with less
warmth. We were welcomed to Muskoka in
the winter of 2013 with 18 feet of snow and
a Polar vortex. A very large bear “greeted” me
outside of my window at our home,
seemingly not that impressed by the fact that
I was enjoying a nice long walk on my
treadmill at the time. Unfortunately, a
deer welcomed me and my vehicle to
Muskoka… twice! Neither the deer
nor the vehicles have been doing much
welcoming of any kind since.
e community hospitality has
continued throughout our almost
seven years, here, in Muskoka. e
support Muskokans provide to each
other when others are in need is
absolutely extraordinary.
For me, this generosity was never
more evident than when I joined
volunteers lling sandbags during the
2019 ooding. e general sentiment
of all those volunteers was that of
others need help … I can help … so I do.
We will, of course, miss many things
about Muskoka and will take many
memories with us but the gracious
hospitality and welcoming nature of
Muskokans will never be forgotten.
A warm and heartfelt “thank you” to all
who have made our time here so special.
Michael Duben joined the District
Municipality of Muskoka as its Chief
Administrative Officer in 2013, bringing
almost 20 years of experience as a lawyer and
senior municipal leader. He has accepted a
position as the CAO for Oxford County.
A very engaged Rotarian, he served as club
president twice and was District Governor in
the Detroit and Windsor area. He and his wife
Shelly, a local school principal, founded an
educational project that has enhanced the
lives of thousands of children in five African
e Dubens have two adult children, Justine
and Marcus, and are expecting their first
grandchild in the fall. ey enjoy travelling
and hiking and Michael is an avid volleyball