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Unique Muskoka Issue 43 - Spring 2024

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SPRING 2024A HAVEN FOR ARTISTSLIQUID GOLDRelics reveal extensive Indigenous historyThe sweet taste of springMuskoka In Bloom

Page 2 (705) 765-5700 108 Maple Street, Port Carling,

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 1CHELSEY PENRICEBroker705.205.2726MuskokaLuxuryProperties.caLAKE MUSKOKA$2,995,000LAKE OF BAYS$1,995,000MARY LAKE$1,395,000

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2 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024...telling the Muskoka story24Muskoka Comes Alive Article and Photography by Tim du Vernete spring thaw sets the stage for animals, insects, plants and trees to adjust their schedules and begin preparing for the next season. As the sun’s warmth changes the temperature, Muskoka’s plant life flourishes, providing bursts of colour to the forests and fields of the region. 32The Sweet Taste of SpringArticle by Bronwyn BoyerPhotography by Andy ZeltkalnsIf spring had a taste, it would certainly be maple syrup. e Muskoka Maple Trail and Maple Festival celebrate the joy of spring and all things maple syrup, from various culinary delights to sugarbush tours to horse-drawn sleigh rides to arts and crafts vendors and live music. Sweet maple syrup takes centre stage. 40A Haven for the Curious and CreativeArticle by Bronwyn Boyer Photography by Josianne MasseauAs a self-described “serial entrepreneur,” Andrea Balmer likes to keep things moving forward. An abstract painter and fibre artist herself, Balmer also teaches art from her Let e Cat Go Studio within e Annex, a large gallery and studio space for a collective of over 20 artists in Bracebridge. She’s committed to breathing new life into the heart of Muskoka and collaborating with others to make it happen. Features11The Early Days – BalaArticle by J. Patrick BoyerAlthough not the first humans in the area, early settlers across Muskoka had a significant impact on the development of the region as we know it today. e Burgess family can, in many ways, be considered the founders of Bala, as their settlement in and development of the area paved the way for more settlers and tourists to enjoy the area. 18 Nancy Beal’s Endurable Alex TilleyArticle by Meghan Taylor Photography by Josianne MasseauYears in the making, author Nancy Beal is thrilled and honoured to share the life story of Alex Tilley in her new book, e Endurable Alex Tilley. e authorized biography of Tilley’s life showcases his dedication to Canadian-made goods and is a culmination of many years Beal has spent getting to know the man beneath the iconic hat. [40][24][18]

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 5Our CoverPhotograph by Andy ZeltkalnsTapping maple trees is a sure sign of spring in Muskoka. Traditional metal buckets on trees are just one way to collect the sap for boiling into magical, delicious maple syrup. SPRING 2024AA HHAAVVEENN FFOORR AARRTTIISSTTSSLIQUID GOLDRelics reveal extensive Indigenous historyThe sweet taste of springMuskoka In Bloom64Muskoka MomentsBy Kelly HaywoodOpinion9 Muskoka InsightsBy Meghan TaylorDepartments48Artifacts Reveal Muskoka’s Indigenous FoundationsArticle by J. Patrick BoyerFor uncounted generations, Indigenous artifacts across Muskoka’s landscape have waited like patient time-capsules to offer clues and open deeper understanding about humans living here for millenniums. Ceramics, pendants, cooking vessels and tools scattered throughout the region give a glimpse into the history of Muskoka, long before settlement was even an idea. [58]Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 5[48]54What’s HappenedArticle by Matt DriscollMuskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) announced controversial changes to levels of service at South Muskoka Memorial Hospital (SMMH) in Bracebridge and Huntsville District Memorial Hospital. Matt Richter of Huntsville was named the deputy leader of the Green Party of Ontario while Gravenhurst snowboarder, Liam Brearley, claims a World Cup victory in Switzerland. Several Muskoka municipalities announced significant tax increases in 2024, Muskoka Lakes considers tightening short-term rental rules and the Muskoka Lumber Community Centre in Bracebridge nears completion. More than half of the unlicensed waste bin locations across Muskoka have been transitioned out of service and Muskoka Conservancy adds to its protected lands. 58Cottage Country CuisineArticle by K.M. WehrsteinPhotography by Tomasz SzumskiEggs – a humble, versatile ingredient that is critical to so many classic dishes. Chefs Randy Spencer and John Cooper provide their exclusive versions of meals which highlight the richness and simplicity of eggs. Grace Willows of Windmill Bakery offers her own take on a simple egg-based dessert with incredible texture – crème brûlée.

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…telling the Muskoka story Unique Muskoka is published six times per year by Unique Publishing Inc.Meghan TaylorPublisher/EditorDonna AnsleyJennifer MontpetitSalesLisa BrazierMarianne DawsonDesignSusan SmithAdministrationBronwyn BoyerJ. Patrick BoyerMatt DriscollTim du VernetKelly HaywoodJosianne MasseauTomasz SzumskiK.M. WehrsteinAndy ZeltkalnsContributorsAnnual Subscription Rates: (including HST where applicable)In Ontario $30.00 All Other Provinces $36.00 U.S. $60.00 All Other Countries $72.00HST: 773172721Canada Post Publications Mail Agreement Number: 43268016Copyright © 2024Unique Publishing Inc.No content published in Unique Muskoka can be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher.Mailing AddressBox 616, Bracebridge ON P1L 1T9Street Address28 Manitoba St., Bracebridge ON P1L 705-637-0204 6 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024muskokaseptic@gmail.com705-375-2797muskokasepticservices.comSeptic PumpingSpecializing inWATER ACCESS PROPERTIES HUNTERS | JUMPERS LESSONS | SALES 4171 Line 11 N Coldwater, ON(705)

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 7

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 9Muskoka InsightsSpring, in so many ways, is talked about as a new beginning – a time to start fresh, a time of renewal or rebirth. However, spring also signals the end of winter. For those who relish in cold, sunny days in the woods or on the ski hill, the lengthening of days and the melting of snow and ice indicates the conclusion of these activities for another year. Often, the endings are what set us on new paths or create space for new ideas to take hold. Personally, the month of February can be a difficult time of year, and this year has been no exception. At the end of February, my grandmother and my great aunt both passed away, within minutes of each other. At the ages of 100 and 93, respectively, they had lives filled with love, kindness, laughter and determination. Sisters originally from Scotland, they blazed their own trails and lived life on their terms, right until the end. ese endings, although sad, are not tragic. One of my two brothers noted it was “oddly comforting” to know they were gone together, as they had spent so much of their lives together, as friends as well as siblings. ese women were influential figures in my life, and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. e memories and legacies of these two women will carry on. Endings, even sad or difficult ones, present the opportunity for renewal. As humans, we don’t hibernate through winter like many animals. But, for animals who do emerge from their dens in spring, the end of winter is a chance to begin again. A new beginning is a chance to honour the past and what has been done while moving forward, to a new place, making use of all we know in the present. e hope of spring is in the possibilities that await. Like the fresh shoots of grass poking through the melting snow, the transition from winter to spring gives hope for brighter days, warmer temperatures, and new adventures. is is the first Spring edition of Unique Muskoka since 2020 and the long-lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am pleased to once again have a Spring edition to bridge the gap between our late Fall/Winter edition and our June edition. Like the season, this edition has plenty for you to take in. Spring’s sweet treat, maple syrup, is the focus of one of the features in this edition of Unique Muskoka. Regular contributor Bronwyn Boyer shares details of the Muskoka Maple Trail and the Muskoka Maple Festival, along with details from local sugaring operations about crafting the sweet syrup. Bronwyn Boyer also shares how artist, teacher and self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” Andrea Balmer creates a collaborative yet unpretentious space in the heart of Muskoka. Balmer’s love for community and art breathes life into downtown Bracebridge.Local historian and contributor J. Patrick Boyer delves into the foundational history of Muskoka. ousands of years before settlement, Indigenous people called Muskoka home, even if only temporarily. e artifacts that have been found in the region provide a glimpse of the lives lived and give perspective on the history of the area being much more extensive than settlement. For those ready to get out into forests and explore the colourful sights and fresh sounds of the season, Tim du Vernet shares his knowledge of the varied flora that comes alive as the temperatures shift and the days grow longer. Whether you see spring as an ending or a beginning, or a bit of both, there are plenty of features in this edition of Unique Muskoka to look to for inspiration and information. Enjoy the most of this transitional season. Happy reading! Photograph: MacKenzie TaylorGENERATORSSMART HOME SYSTEMSNEW CONSTRUCTIONLIGHTINGECRA/ESA #7010474RESIDENTIAL / COMMERCIAL / INDUSTRIAL519.805.3200ARKLTD.CAinfo@arkltd.caARIYA HYBRIDby DreamStar BeddingMUSKOKACURATED COLLECTIONby Marshall MattressYour Home and CottageMattress Centre6 Monica Lane, Bracebridge705.646.2557www.mattressesofmuskoka.comTHE LARGEST SELECTIONOF IN-STOCKMATTRESSES IN MUSKOKA

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 11In 1866 omas Burgess from Scotland and his family travelled up the primitive Muskoka Colonization Road to Graven-hurst, and boarded A.P. Cockburn’s just-launched steamship Wenonah. Enraptured by forested shores and pristine waterways cross-ing to Lake Muskoka’s unsurveyed southwest shore where Musquosh Falls (now known as Musquash Falls) drained the lake over a rocky ridge downriver to Georgian Bay, they became increasingly intent about creating a settlement in the breathtaking land they had heard so much about. e Burgesses had only before seen such splendour at Bala Lake in Wales, also a stunning freshwater glacial lake in serene wilderness. omas and his wife, their children and in-laws went ashore to an abandoned logging camp and occupied the lumbermen’s shanty. A government dam at the falls controlled the lake level. omas set about building a sawmill on the river’s mill stream, producing lumber for their house and general store. e family caught pickerel and bass up to 16 Thomas Burgess, shown here in 1898, along his wife Margaret and other family members, founded Bala in 1866. Burgess helped attract many enterprising settlers by developing a sawmill, bakery, general store, blacksmith shop, and supply boat. Bala was a quiet town hosting mostly campers and sportsmen, until 1904 when construction crews for railway rivals Canadian Northern and Canadian Pacic blasted rock and laid tracks, changing the village into Muskoka’s new playground.Article by J. Patrick BoyerPhotograph: Frank MicklethwaitePhotograph: Sutton Family & Muskoka Herald Archives

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12 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024Boating service was essential to Bala. Sam Hurling pioneered a boat livery, a business John Hamill continued, aer which by George Adams operated it for many years.Photograph: Sutton Family & Muskoka Herald Archivespounds and hunted game in the flourishing woods. Cockburn’s steamship delivered household supplies, items the Burgesses ordered for their store, and livestock to begin “bush-farming” with sheep and cattle grazing and chickens pecking wherever they could find feed. e Burgesses dubbed the wee place their own Bala. Other settlers arrived, most from Great Britain. In 1868, Ontario offered free Muskoka farmland. e homesteader trickle became a flood.By 1872, omas Burgess’s application to be postmaster

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 13Photographers put Muskoka on North America’s social map as an elegant place for roughing it and this picture shows what it took. A photographer readies himself with a box camera as well-dressed city folk strike poses in the “wilderness” – at Bala’s Baby Falls.Daily arrival of trains at Bala’s many resort hotels and waiting steamships made the town so busy the OPP established its rst detachment in Ontario and Canada Customs opened an inland clearing house for American vacationers.BUILDING CUSTOM HOMES & COTTAGES FOR 50 YEARSVisit our Gravenhurst Model Home or Toronto Design Centre, & we’ll bring your dream to life.GRAVENHURST MODEL HOME2278 Hwy 11N.| Gravenhurst, ON P1P 1R1 | 1.888.417.8761GREATER TORONTO AREA DESIGN CENTRE130 Konrad Cres, Unit #18 Markham, ON | L3R 0G5905.479.9013SERVING MUSKOKA / GEORGIAN BAY / HALIBURTON1-888-417-8761 www.techhomeltd.comVisit us at thePhotograph: Frank MicklethwaitePhotograph: Frank Micklethwaite and his suggested place name “Bala” were both approved. A rite of passage for a pioneer community, landing a post office enabled communications and put the community on the map. at year, opening the Musquosh Road between Bala and Gravenhurst was another leap forward.Schooling the children got underway in 1875. e Burgesses offered their home until a log schoolhouse was built, with Mrs. Henry Guy as Bala’s first teacher.

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 14Embrace Your Exterior!Spring Booking Specials on Now!www.norstarexteriors.comSERVING THE MUSKOKA, PARRY SOUND & HALIBURTON REGIONST: 705-645-8404 T/F: 800-732-0158 F: 705.645.7263Siding • Roong • Soft • Fascia • Decking • Eavestrough • Gutter ProtectionAlu-rexProtects your eavestroughs fromdamage caused by snow and ice.Make your eavestroughsmaintenance free. Repel leaves,sticks and branches, no rusting,chipping or peeling.Lose the leaves... get ClearwaterEavestrough andGutter ProtectionOur Selection of Rainware Products will Helpyour Home or Cottage Weather the Storm

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 15BATH & KITCHEN SHOWROOMDESIGN. INSTALLATION. REPAIRSERVING ALL OF MUSKOKA279 MANITOBA ST, BRACEBRIDGE705.645.2671KNOWLESPLUMBING.COM @MUSKOKABATHTHE RIOBEL MOMENTI™ COLLECTION AVAILABLE AT KNOWLES PLUMBING!279 Manitoba Street, Bracebridge 705.645.2671 @knowlesplumbing @knowlesplumbing @knowlesplumbingBATH & KITCHEN SHOWROOMSALES•INSTALLATION•REPAIRSERVING ALL OF MUSKOKAknowlesplumbing.comMuskoka’s Bath & Plumbing CentreA steamship sails past the 75-room Bala Falls House on the south side of the bay above the falls, a typical scene for popular Bala from its earliest days as west Muskoka’s vacationing hub. Bala’s second hotel, it was built by Thomas Currie, the Burgess’s nephew.Photograph: Frank Micklethwaite She and husband Henry, from England, first operated a boarding house, then claimed 200 acres on nearby Acton Island to farm. When omas Burgess was elected reeve of Medora and Wood’s combined townships, with Bala its hub, his businesses included a general store, bake shop, blacksmith shop, and supply boat to cottagers. Henry Guy became Medora-Wood’s first municipal clerk.In 1881, Protestant Mohawks led from Quebec by Chief Louis Sahanatien arrived to escape persecution under the Catholics. omas assisted with transport downstream through 12 arduous miles of rocky forest to the shore of Gibson Township’s Black Lake where, without the supplies Ottawa promised to re-establish themselves. ey struggled like homesteading pioneers to establish

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The Clion House had name and ownership changes in Bala’s early years, becoming the Windsor Hotel when sold to the owner of a Gravenhurst hotel with that name. Destroyed by re in 1909, its replacement, seen here, was the “New” Windsor Hotel. By any name, it was popular and much needed.An aerial view of the town of Bala shows the landscape that made it dicult, yet rewarding, to build a community and provide extensive transportation services (two railways, dozens of steamships, and a highway junction) on a small patch of Muskoka.With Ball Falls House in the background and the dam and falls at the right, Frank Micklethwaite orchestrated 16 of Thomas Currie’s guests to reect seriously on what it means to be in Muskoka. Whatever their thoughts, the dress code for summer holidaying speaks to the culture of casual living in Bala’s early days.Photograph: Frank MicklethwaitePhotograph: Frank MicklethwaitePhotograph: Sutton Family & Muskoka Herald ArchivesWahta First Nation on their purchased land.Arriving from England the next year, Ephraim and Rose Anna Sutton cleared a lakeside farm, then launched Camp Sutton for American fishermen and others. With Bala sprouting horse livery operations, boating services, and more people, the couple added the Swastika Hotel and another general store to the community. Church life got underway in 1892 when Presbyterian Burgess donated land on which a tidy white church for Presbyterians, Methodists, and Anglicans arose the following year.By 1907 Canadian Northern Ontario Railway (CNOR) and rival Canadian Pacific Railway both reached Bala, making it Muskoka’s most accessible tourist centre with scenic beauty and recreational opportunities. Each operated busy stations, with CNOR even adding a second for summer, delivering thousands of visitors to waiting steamships, transforming Bala into such a lively place the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) opened its first Ontario detachment and Canada Customs began in-land clearance service for American vacationers. Bala boomed providing all the services its burgeoning tourist trade demanded. In 1914, with population enough for municipal incorporation, Bala skipped the village stage to become Canada’s smallest town – its proud mayor was Dr. Alfred Burgess, son of the community’s visionary founders. 16 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 17www.OntarioCottageRentals.cominfo@OntarioCottageRentals.comWith over 20 Years of ExperienceOntarioCottageRentals.comCottage Rental Experts705-788-1809 6 Main St W, Huntsville, OntarioMuskoka Parry Sound Georgian BayKawarthas Haliburton Near NorthWe’re There for You!✓ Helping prepare your cottage✓ Reservations✓ Reducing risk by applying advanced screening methods✓ Marketing✓ Payments✓ Housekeeping services✓ Assisting with local municipalities✓ STR guidance

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Article by Meghan Taylor / Photography by Josianne MasseauThe Tilley name is an iconic one in Canada; both for the Tilley Endurables brand and the man originally behind it – Alex Tilley. Alex built a brand he was proud of; Canadian-made goods with a lifetime guarantee. “Alex’s life story is also a Canadian story that needs to be told,” says Nancy Beal, author of The Endurable Alex Tilley, the authorized biography of the man beneath the world-famous hat. Many may know the Tilley brand and its rise to fame but Alex’s entrepren-eurial outlook on his business differed greatly from tradition. As the company’s sole owner, he made the choice to continue producing Tilley clothing entirely in Canada, despite the impact on his bottom line.“He chose to earn less profit in order to ensure the continued employment of his beloved employees,” shares Beal. “Alex marks a new path to entrepreneurship that embodies the Canadian spirit: putting the priority on product quality, customer service and his employees. Profit was important, but secondary.” For Beal, the book is the next step in a long line of articles she has previously written about Alex, and a lifetime of writing, professionally and personally. While e Endurable Alex Tilley is Beal’s first published work, she has been writing all her life. “I wrote my first book at age 10,” says Beal. “It was actually a short story, but because I had rescued a discarded book cover from the school library’s garbage can, it became the cover to my book and made it look very official.”Since that first short story, writing had been a constant in her life. During school, career, and life changes, writing was always something she was called back to. After spending years trying different jobs and careers, developing what one employer called an “eclectic” resume, Beal was still searching for what she wanted to be when she grew up. A self-proclaimed generalist, Beal noticed a job posting for a reporter in the town she was living in at the time. Writing since the age of 10, Nancy Beal’s rst Writing since the age of 10, Nancy Beal’s rst published work, published work, The Endurable Alex TilleyThe Endurable Alex Tilley, is , is available this April.available this April. 18 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 19author profile - Nancy BealFULL PAGE“I soon discovered that my eclectic background was a great match for the job of small-town reporter,” Beal explains. After several years enjoying the life of a reporter, Beal was drawn back to Toronto, where she worked for the Ministry of the Environment in corporate communications. “I loved my job, but city life wasn’t for me,” says Beal. Beal had grown up in Toronto but recalls her first exposure to Muskoka at just three years old. “My father thought building a cottage on Muldrew Lake was a great idea for our family,” she shares. “Forty years later, in 2002, I moved here full time. Muskoka has always felt like home, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.” Once she had relocated to Muskoka, Beal continued to flex her experience in writing, freelancing as a journalist and in corporate communications. “I discovered there were great rewards from living in a place I loved, surrounded by nature and a strong sense of community,” Beal explains.However, Beal had to pursue additional side-jobs as compensation was much lower than in the city. She also filled her time with volunteer work, feeling strongly about contributing to the community she was living Thirteen years in the making, The Endurable Alex Tilley is a testament to Beal’s dedication and determination; mirroring Tilley’s own staunch determination in Canadian-made, quality products throughout his years as the sole owner of Tilley Endurables.

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20 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024Quality Barbecue GrillsOutdoor Kitchens Fire Pits, Rings & TablesFireplace & Leisure CentreFireplaces & WoodstovesFireplace AccessoriesBeachcomber Hot TubsServing Parry Sound & Muskoka for 33 YearsWETT Certified Staff1.888.334.8693 705.746.6800 90 Oastler Park Drive, Seguin, ONin and loved. Splitting her time among so many ventures made it challenging to focus on her own writing. “I had been writing books and short stories in my spare time but never felt they were ready to submit to a publisher,” says Beal. While writing as a freelance journalist for North Country Business newspaper in 2003, Beal was assigned an article about Alex Tilley’s talk to Muskoka small business owners. “I found myself fascinated with his entrepreneurial spirit and passion for quality and customer service,” she shares. “His Tilley hat and travel clothing had become an international success, despite all the obstacles he had to overcome – personal and professional. I admired his marketing genius and found his ads clever, humorous and inspiring. Who was this person, really?”From that first encounter, Beal wrote more articles about Alex Tilley, including an in-depth feature for Muskoka Magazine. During the interview, Beal sailed on Lake Muskoka with Alex and Hilary Clark Cole, who The iconic Tilley hat, as well as the travel clothing he developed, became international successes, despite all the obstacles, personal and professional, that Alex Tilley had to overcome.

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 21100% Canadian Artists• Large Original Paintings• Turned Wood Bowls• Sculptures & Carvings3181 Highway 169, Bala, Muskoka, Ontario705-765-7474www.redcanoegallery.comCELEBRATING 31 YEARS IN MUSKOKAPainting: P. Garbett, “Bear” 72x42, encausticNOW LOCATED IN BALAwould later become Alex’s wife. ey had met in 1992 at Cole’s gallery in Gravenhurst. In 2011, Alex called Beal and asked her to write his biography, sharing that it was Cole’s idea.“I was honoured to hear that they had selected me because of the accuracy they had seen in my earlier work,” Beal explains. “It has been an extraordinarily long journey with extreme ups and downs. Was it worth it? Time will tell, but I couldn’t have not completed the book. I was driven forward, even when I crawled.”e road to publishing has been demanding and Beal has remained persistent, even when feeling discouraged. Nancy Beal rst encountered Alex Tilley in 2003 when she was a freelance journalist. In 2011, aer several more feature articles on the man, Tilley asked Beal to write his biography, which she says was an honour.

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22 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024“One friend recently told me I was the ‘poster child for what can go wrong in publishing a book,’” Beal shares. “I tried traditional publishing but found it not to be a good fit so once the contract expired, I decided to self-publish.”She has continuously felt compelled to complete the book when she had set it aside, feeling as though she couldn’t’ move forward with anything else until this project was complete. “If you believe in something, don’t let others dissuade you,” says Beal. “Even Alex thought his own life story could be told in just 10 pages. For a long time, it was just me and a handful of family members and friends who thought the book was promising. And Hilary. I am grateful to all of them for their support.”With book launches this April, first at Arts & Letters Club in Toronto on April 4 and then at the Opera House in Gravenhurst on April 13, Beal is “honoured and elated to tell the story of a Canadian entrepreneur who overcame so many obstacles to fulfill his dream, serve his country and bring quality clothing to the world.”stoneway marble & granite inc.Les and Renata Partyka1295 Muskoka Rd. 118 WestBracebridge, to Nancy Beal, “Alex’s life story is also a Canadian story that needs to be told.”

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 23Huntsville67 Silverwood DriveHuntsville, ON P1H 2K2Telephone: (705) 789-5589part ofthe familyFurniture for Life in MuskokaChoose from our huge selection of in-stock frames, fabrics, configurations and power options or select your own customfurniture made to your specifications. Now offering shortened delivery time, lower pricing, and products made in Canada orthe U.S.A.We provide the best selection of quality furniture, backed by the largest furniture retailer in Canada. Shop in eitherof our two beautiful showrooms and compare the value of our products to any of our competitors’ offerings. Let us surpriseyou! Our platinum complete comprehensive furniture care treatment plan includes: stain and damage coverage, structuraldurability with a 5-year accidental stain warranty - see store for details.AVAILABLE ONLY AT LEON’S IN BRACEBRIDGE & HUNTSVILLE

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24 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024No amount of snow is more powerful than the sun. The melt in spring comes with the sun’s warmth as the days get longer and the sun more intense. No matter how old you are, the process of the spring melt prompts wonder in the magic of nature.For those who enjoy the activities of winter, it is a sad time because it means the end of skimming across the snow or ice. However, spring is the season of rebirth, renewal and optimism. Spring is such a busy time of year. Wildlife, from squirrels to bears, is awakening and actively foraging for sustenance. Maple trees are tapped as soon as the temperatures swing above freezing and the sap flows up from the roots. Insects begin to emerge as the ground thaws, while grasses, plants and trees stretch From a warbler’s call to the sounds of a stream rushing, the sounds of spring are another way Muskoka comes alive during the season.Article and Photography by Tim Du Vernet

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towards the sun for their own process of renewal. When snow recedes, the heat of the sun can quickly turn patches of the forest that were brown into lush, green growth. A key sign of spring’s emergence is the presence of fresh blooms. Muskoka’s forests support a wide variety of wildflowers. Some are an annual reminder of seasonal changes and others are so delicate you wonder how they survive the slightest breeze. Discovering the beauty of spring wildflowers can be right outside your door or while out on a hike deep in the woods. The spring thaw, as the sun warms the landscapes of Muskoka, bring about many magical spring transitions, from the growth of plants to the awakening of insects and wildlife.

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26 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024YOUR CUSTOM UPHOLSTERY & DRAPERY SPECIALISTSChoose from a vast selection ofready-to-order fabrics & upholsteries705.784.0906 • • • @muskokaupholsteryCall Curt and Paula Today!ready-to-order fabrics & upholsteries705.784.0906 • • • @muskokaupholsterye dogwood is distinguished by its showy white flowers that bloom in dense cluster on the shrub in spring. While dogwood is more common in southern Ontario it can be found throughout Muskoka. However, a fungal disease has been affecting the shrubs in some parts of North America. The bright orange variety of jewelweed is a native perennial that we can look forward to seeing each year. e plant is a member of the impatient family and the groupings can grow up to 150 cm tall. ey like the damp areas of the forest, and their name comes from the tendency of the ripe seed pod to explode when touched.

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 27Muskoka's Largest Home Service Company!No job is too big or too small! 705.687.9143 315 Industrial Drive, GravenhurstDutchman’s britches is a perennial herbaceous plant that pops up in the spring. ey grow in small clumps of 5 or more of white flowers, from the same stalk, with green three-part leaves. Due to their delicate nature, they seem to survive best in protected spots. ey grow up to about 25cm tall. eir seeds are dispersed in the same way as trilliums, through the help of ants. Bird’s foot trefoil is recognizable for its bright orange-yellow flower. is non-native plant is found in sunny roadsides and fields. e petals of this flower seem at curved right angles in pairs. e plant earned its name from the seed pods which look like a bird’s foot. A member of the lotus genus, the yellow creeping herbaceous plant is sometimes found supported by other plants.

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28 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024705-764-0765 | | 1163 Milford Bay Rd, Milford Bay ONBARGING STEEL & CRIB DOCKS SEPTIC SYSTEMS LANDSCAPING ● ●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.Carolina spring beauty is a native, tiny plant with bluish purple flowers with five petals. is perennial grows in groupings of two from the same stalk and grows to about 12cm tall. e leaves of the plant are green, long and narrow. What is most striking about the flower is the radiating white and purple colouring. ese spring beauties grow for a short period in Muskoka woodlands in early spring.Remember all those acorns that land in the autumn? Not only are they food for the deer, but they are the starting point for future oak trees. Oak trees drop their acorns in varied amounts with boom years every three to four years. When the acorn starts to sprout, it will send a taproot deep into the soil. It takes four or five years for the acorn to become a sapling tree.

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 29Trout lilies, also known as yellow dogtooth violet, are one of those delicate flowers that appears in the spring for a short period of time (spring ephemeral). e flower is quite noticeable with its bright yellow petals growing off a nodding stalk. e leaves are green mottled with brown patches. The less common red trillium is identifiable by its deep burgundy or purple colour. They are often first to bloom, before the white trilliums, and they carry a stinky secret. Likened to smelling like carrion or wet dog, their odour is to attract pollinating insects; flys and beetles. While the insects extract pollen as a meal, the eggs they lay on the trillium support its growth. One of the surest signs of spring is the Trillium, Ontario’s symbolic plant since 1964. Trillium seeds are distributed by ants, a method called “myrmecochory”, which is used by many flowering plant species. Trilliums are a preferred meal of deer, which also helps to disperse seeds. However, deer also enjoy eating taller plants, which can ultimately impact trillium growth and other plant life. ere is a strong connection between trillium dispersal and deer populations. Trilliums blooming are an early sign of spring, carpeting the forest floor, so it’s best to enjoy them when you first see them. 705.645.4294 TF: 866.645.4294STORE: 228 TAYLOR RD., BRACEBRIDGEOFFICE: 1646 WINHARA RD., GRAVENHURSTSales & Service of MajorPropane Appliances(refrigerators, ranges, fireplaces, furnaces & more)Safe & reliableNo electricity requiredBulk propane deliveryto your home or cottageAppliancesSERVING MUSKOKA &PARRY SOUND FOROVER 70 YEARS

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30 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024Another showy and easy to identify plant is the black-eyed Susan. ey are a native plant that likes sunny areas of open fields. e plants grow up to 90cm tall and are noticeable for their orangey-yellow petals and their dark-brown, nearly black, centres. While these are a native plant, they are often extensively cultivated in gardens as they are hardy and showy. e flowers of devil’s paintbrush are orange, almost red, colours which are apparently virtually invisible to bees. However, bees find them because the devil’s paintbrush also reflects ultraviolet light, which bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies and some flies, can see. ey seem to be a very hardy perennial that flowers reliably and for a lengthy period, making them an attractive accent to a garden and quite noticeable in fields. ey flower and grow in bunches, making their presence even more striking.Summer isn’t complete without walking by a field filled with swaying daises. e bees and other pollinators certainly appreciate them, but did you know they are not native to Muskoka. e English daisy, so common now, is made up of many flowers. e daisy flower looks as though it is just a center blossom with a lot of rays around it, but each ray is a separate flower, and every tiny yellow section in the middle is a separate flower. e name “daisy” comes from the concept that the plant closes at night and opens in the day, the day’s eye. ey originally came from Europe and the British Isles. While somewhat bitter, the daisy is edible and may offer many medicinal properties.Creeping phlox is a flowering herbaceous perennial plant that can be purple, pink or white. e flower itself can have five, six or seven petals with an orangey yellow centre stamin. It is native to Muskoka woodlands and creates a dense covering in damp areas along streambanks and in the forest. Bees seem to like visiting these plants repeatedly.Serving Muskoka and area for 36 yearsDIVERSE SELECTION OF PRODUCTS TRADITIONAL AND CONTEMPORARY DESIGNSKNOWLEDGEABLE STAFF TO ASSIST YOU WITH BEST SELECTIONS, WORKING ALONGSIDE YOUR ARCHITECTS, DESIGNERS AND BUILDERS ON YOUR NEW OR RENOVATION PROJECTSsales@windowworksmuskoka.net2358 HWY #11, RR#1 GRAVENHURST, Muskoka ~Authorized Dealer

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32 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024After the deep freeze of a long Muskoka winter, the return of spring is a relief for the senses. The warmth of the sun, the sounds of melting snow and bird songs, and the smell of the earth thawing out, all stir feelings of new beginnings. For maple syrup producers, these welcome changes signal the arrival of something even more delicious, and for many, their livelihood – the sweet, liquid amber of sustenance and delight. In Muskoka, maple syrup has long been one of the hottest commodities. Tapping trees is one of the oldest traditions in Muskoka, first practiced by First Article by Bronwyn Boyer / Photography by Andy ZeltkalnsFrom the collection of clear maple sap, through boiling to bottling, spring in Muskoka is synonymous with sweet, sticky maple syrup. The Muskoka Maple Trail, throughout Muskoka in March and April, and the Maple Festival, in Huntsville on April 27, celebrate the season in style.

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34 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024MODERN HOME CARPET ONE350 Ecclestone Drive • Bracebridgemodernhomecarpetonebracebridge.comTAYLOR CARPET ONE30 Cairns Crescent • Huntsvilletaylorcarpetonehuntsville.com705.645.2443705.789.9259HARDWOOD • LAMINATE • VINYL PLANK & TILE • VINYL ROLLS CARPET • CERAMIC • NATURAL STONE & MOREFloors for Home & CottageThe technology of maple sap collection and processing has changed signicantly over the years and varies by the size of the operation. Many smaller producers continue to use wood heat to boil sap. While propane is more ecient for boiling high volumes, it can be costly.Nations communities. And after tasting locally produced, farm-to-table syrup, nothing else compares. If spring had a taste, it would certainly be maple syrup.e Muskoka Maple Trail and Maple Festival celebrates the season in style. By collaborating with producers and businesses to incorporate local maple syrup into various culinary delights, sugarbush tours, and other experiences, there is a lot to discover. Now in its seventh year, the Maple Trail kicks off March 8 and lasts until April 26. en on April 27, the Maple Festival will be the grand finale. For the day of the festival, Huntsville’s main street will be full of maple syrup vendors offering various tasty maple treats, arts and crafts vendors, live music, maple beer, street performers, and all kinds of other surprises. Although the concept of making maple syrup is simple, modern developments mean there is increasingly more to learn about the craft, as new equipment and techniques emerge for greater and higher quality yields. Over the last 40 years or so, a pipeline system of 3/16-inch to 5/16-inch diameter rubber tubing has been a game-changer for sap collection.

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 35From sap collection to bottling takes approximately six weeks for smaller operations. The yield from litres of sap is signicantly less maple syrup and the collection window may be limited, depending on how quickly the onset of spring progresses. Operations like High Falls Woodlot and Barmont Farm can quickly sell out of their maple syrup.www.mikeslandscaping.cainfo@mikeslandscaping.caPaul Sullivan of High Falls Woodlot in Bracebridge knows from experience how difficult it is to collect from buckets, as he and his wife Pam started their small operation in 2020 without a pipeline. “e pipeline makes the process much faster and easier,” Sullivan explains. “With buckets, you can only collect a few trees’ worth of sap at a time. To make a small amount of syrup takes about 40 trees, so that’s a lot of traipsing back and forth through the bush.”Now that they have 250 trees connected to a pipeline, Sullivan says expansion is a fairly simple matter of adding more lines. “Off the main pipeline, we have lateral lines that reach out like a spider’s web from tree to tree,” Sullivan explains. “Once the lines are set up, you can just leave them in place. There is some maintenance involved in preparation for the season, as sections get chewed by squirrels or taken down by deer and you have to replace them.” e size of a maple farm ranges anywhere from 1,000 to 18,000 trees. While larger producers use vacuum pumps to harvest sap, Sullivan uses the smaller 3/16-inch line that

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36 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024creates its own vacuum to gently draw sap out of the trees naturally with the flow of gravity. “For a small operation like us, it’s more cost effective, and we get a higher sap flow with less trees,” he says. Another difference with operation size is wood heat versus natural gas. Propane is much more effective to boil large volumes of sap, but for a smaller producer, it’s too costly. Luckily since Sullivan has a sawmill, they have plenty of cut offs and scraps to fuel their evaporator. Wood heat means more preparation though, as it means securing at least 12 cords of seasoned wood that will burn hot. Julian Montpetit of Barmont Maple Farm in Huntsville doesn’t miss the old days of bucket collection either. “I started making maple syrup on our family farm as a young boy, and I’m now 74,” he says. “We had up to 100 buckets back then that we’d collect with a skidoo and big tub on a sleigh. en sometime in the 90s we got the pipelines put in. We’re a small family business, so we still use wood fire for our evaporator, but for everything else, it’s pipes and pumps. We don’t have electricity in our sugar house, so we rely on a generator.” Now with 1,000 trees being tapped at Barmont Farm, the sap is vacuumed from the lines into holding tanks and then pumped into the evaporator. From there it’s pumped into a reverse osmosis (RO) machine for the rest of the process. “e RO machine takes half the water out right away which cuts wood consumption and boiling time in half,” Montpetit explains. “Basically, the high-pressure electric pump runs it through a membrane that just speeds the filtering process up. We make about 800 litres a year on average. We’ve done better some years, but that’s what we shoot for.” From sap collection to bottling, the process takes about six weeks for the family of five. Bottling is an arduous task, but many hands make light work. After that, both Sullivan and Montpetit quickly sell out of their product through word of mouth from family and friends. Barmont Farm has also been a vendor at the maple festival each year, and they sell out there too. “It’s a lot of fun,” says Montpetit. “We’ve done extremely well at the festival, even when the weather is unpredictable. I’ve stood out there in the wind, the rain, the snow, and the sunshine. My niece Collette likes to make maple sugar and maple butter as well, which has been a big success. It’s a wonderful celebration because it’s springtime and everybody’s in a good mood.” One of the stops featured on the Maple Trail is Back of Beyond Equine Centre in Huntsville, which offers horse drawn wagon rides through a forest trail. “It’s a really neat opportunity for people to experience an old-fashioned sugar bush,” says Cathy Foyston, founder of the centre. “e early settlers would

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 37have used horses to collect their sap, so it’s like a step back in time. We don’t make maple syrup because we’re so close to Sugarbush Maple Farm, but we have taps and buckets along the trail so people can see what it would have looked like and see them filling up.” At the end of the ride, there is a campfire with hot chocolate and roasted marshmallows. Everyone gets a bottle of maple syrup from either Sugarbush Hill Maple Farm or Maple Bluff Farm, to sweeten up their hot chocolate or just take home. e trail rides are private, but they have various wagon sizes for either a couple or a large group. “We get quite a few people out,” Foyston says. “It’s a great activity for all ages, particularly for older people to get out and enjoy nature with their families.” After the ride, people can stay as long they like at the campfire or visit the horses and other animals at the centre. e Maple Trail and Festival initiative is a Pam and Paul Sullivan of High Falls Woodlot check the sap collection lines of a few of their 250 tapped trees. Making a small amount of maple syrup requires collection of sap from approximately 40 trees. The classic bucket collection (le) requires signicant time and manpower to collect enough sap to boil.Over the last 40 years or so, a pipeline system of 3/16-inch to 5/16-inch diameter rubber tubing has been a game-changer for sap collection. Additional lines can be added to the main pipeline, making the expansion to include more trees, and therefore more sap, much easier.

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38 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024partnership between Muskoka Tourism and the Huntsville/Lake of Bays Chamber of Commerce. e Trail is curated by the former, while the latter handles the festival. Val Hamilton, executive director of Muskoka Tourism, is excited about the possibilities for adding more local businesses to the Trail. “e idea is to drive people to the area over a longer period than just a weekend,” Hamilton explains. “We have about 30 stops across Muskoka. Operators really enjoy participating in it because it drives business to them at a time that was typically seen as the off-season.” Maple syrup is the feature of the Trail but there are a variety of drinks, dining and experiences across the entire region. “I also think it’s a great event for locals,” Hamilton adds. “Even though it’s meant as a tourism draw, we also encourage local residents to come out and experience the maple harvest. I think sometimes people forget what’s in their own backyard.” The size of a maple farm can range anywhere from 1,000 to 18,000 trees, while individuals can also tap a limited number of trees on their own property to produce their own maple syrup. Jayn Golsby collects sap by snowshoe on their small family operation.A listed stop on the Muskoka Maple Trail, Sugarbush Hill Farm oers year-round public tours of their state-of-the-art maple sugaring facility, with 3,200 trees tapped on their Huntsville property.

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40 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024Andrea Balmer named her arts studio “Let the Cat Go” after a twist on her maiden name, Lukachko. e phrase came from her mother, who told her kindergarten students, “just call me Mrs. Let-the-cat-go” when they couldn’t pronounce it. “e joke isn’t as clear since my last name became Balmer, so some have wondered if I’m against cats,” she says with laugh. “I love cats; I have three of them.” Let e Cat Go is an arts and crafts teaching studio located in e Annex in downtown Bracebridge. e Annex is an ever-evolving space where over 20 local artists and business owners can co-operate to sell their creations. e space can also be rented for small parties and events. Balmer grew up in Kitchener, Ontario, where her creativity was never in question. “I come from an artistic family,” she says. “One side is artists and architects, so I grew up helping setting up art shows and then going to them on the weekends. I just thought everybody did that, it felt normal to me. en the other side of family were teachers, so that part is in me too.” After earning a degree in business and fine art from the University at Waterloo, Balmer worked for the YMCA, running Camp Pine Crest in Torrance with her husband Coel. “After turning the camp into a year-round operation and raising our children there, we fell in love with Muskoka and never left,” Balmer recalls. After settling in Bracebridge in 2012, Balmer’s entrepreneurial spirit soon took over. “Having small children and being a taxi driver to sports and other activities, I realized Muskoka needed more education in the arts,” Balmer explains. “Even though there is such an amazing arts community, there wasn’t a lot of teachers. So, I took a chance and started a small studio and gallery in 2016, and it blew up.” Balmer started with children’s classes for ages ranging from 18 months to older youth preparing their secondary school portfolios. Next, she added adult classes and paint nights. “At the beginning I was nervous about teaching art, because I didn’t think I was qualified,” she recalls. “So, I hired an amazing group of teachers who helped build those classes and made our studio what it is today.” Balmer feels that giving children an early exposure to art will set them up for a better future. “Kids need to learn something that is process-driven, experimental, messy, and Photograph: Article by Bronwyn Boyer / Photography by Josianne Masseau Carmen’s Pottery is just one of many artisans on display at The Annex in Bracebridge.

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impulsive,” she explains. “It sets the foundation for problem solving because it allows them to think creatively and try different things.” On the other end of the age spectrum, senior painting students that attend classes all year long especially enjoy the social interaction while learning new skills and being constructive. In 2019 Balmer discovered e Annex and took the leap. As the classes were expanding Andrea Balmer wears multiple hats, operating Let the Cat Go Studio and Una Studio out of The Annex in Bracebridge. Let the Cat Go is Balmer’s art teaching studio, providing classes for all ages, while Una Studio are her own works as an abstract painter and bre artist.

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42 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024The Annex, started by Balmer in 2019, was a way for everyone to be able to experience art. It has become a vibrant arts community space the likes of which Bracebridge had seldom seen. Artists like Conel O’Regan, can display their work and also support the operation of the space.quickly, she needed a larger industrial space for multiple classrooms as well as a gallery. “e gallery offsets the classes and vice versa, so it’s a com-patible relation-ship,” she says. “At that time, half the Annex was classroom space with classes running all the time, and then there was the gallery and a juice bar - it was great.” Balmer also collaborated with Trillium Lakelands District School Board for elective programs, as well as Wahta Mohawks, the Parry Sound Mental Health Unit, Enliven Cancer Care, and Muskoka Arts & Crafts. And after Balmer’s career with the YMCA, offering a children’s day camp also made sense. Meanwhile, e Annex was becoming a vibrant arts community space the likes of which Bracebridge had seldom seen. An open space full of plants, colorful art and couches at the front gave creatives a comfortable spot to work, get inspired or just hang out. “I started e Annex because I wanted everyone to be able to experience art without feeling like it’s pretentious,” Balmer explains. “I think it’s really important that everybody has an opportunity to see how art makes them feel.” LARGEST SELECTION OF TILLEY HATS IN MUSKOKATHERE’S A TILLEY FOR EVERY OCCASION28 MANITOBA STREETBRACEBRIDGE | 705-637-0204SHOP

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The Annex is an open space full of plants, colorful and varied art with couches at the front to give creatives a comfortable spot to work, get inspired or just hang out.Let The Cat Go is an arts and cras teaching studio located in The Annex in downtown Bracebridge. The space oers classes for young children all the way to seniors, of all dierent backgrounds and | 705-765-5565 | Inspired NatureNaturebye COVID-19 pandemic shut down food sales and classes at the Annex, but it didn’t shut down Balmer. “Since the big front windows are garage doors, it’s an open-air situation,” she says. “So, when we could only sell curbside, I stood there every day with a collection of everyone’s stuff and ran back forth to grab things people wanted to buy. It kept us afloat.”Balmer also put together lesson plans and art kits to accompany them, which she delivered to everyone’s door, then recorded the lessons and posted them online. “e videos were pretty basic,” she laughs. “But it kept people engaged with Let the Cat Go during a time when people really Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 43

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44 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 202428 MANITOBA STREET, BRACEBRIDGESHOP ONLINEwww.uniquemuskoka.com28 MANITOBA STREETBRACEBRIDGE | 705-637-0204INTRODUCINGCanadian-MadeShop Onlineuniquemuskoka.comor In-StoreAPPARELCanadian-Made28 MANITOBA STREETBRACEBRIDGE | 705-637-0204INTRODUCINGCanadian-MadeShop Onlineuniquemuskoka.comor In-StoreAPPAREL(The warm hats with hide-away ear warmers – both stylish and practical.)It’s getting cooler and we’ve stocked up with Tilley toques and Tilley winter hats KEEP WARM THIS WINTERYOUR STORE FOR UNIQUE GIFTS

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 45Running programs at Let the Cat Go inspired Balmer to focus on her own projects. The high ceilings at The Annex allow her to complete large 10-foot x 10-foot wall hangings and carpets, in addition to the canvases, handbags, pillows, and anything else she may take on.needed it.” Running programs at Let the Cat Go inspired Balmer to focus on her own projects. “rough teaching, I found my stride and passion for art again,” she explains. “So that’s when I started Una Gallery.” Una Gallery features Balmer’s own work as an abstract painter and fiber artist. e high ceilings at e Annex allow her to complete large 10’ x 10’ wall hangings and carpets, in addition to the canvases, handbags, pillows, and anything else she may take on. Balmer creates pieces for the Princess Margaret Lottery House, One Of A Kind art show in Toronto and Muskoka Arts & Crafts show, as well as private clients. But feeding the creative spirit is an especially fulfilling part of her own studio. Connecting You to Hospice Muskoka 24/7 705-204-2273 (CARE)for more information, visit hospicemuskoka.comAdvance Care PlanningGrief & BereavementCaregiver EducationShort Stay/ RespiteCaregiver SupportVolunteer Home VisitsAndy’s HousePain & Symptom Management

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46 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024“When I step away from a canvas or a frame and I wow myself, or surprise myself with emotion, that’s my definition of success,” she says. As a self-described “serial entrepreneur,” Balmer likes to keep things moving. “All three businesses form a controlled chaos that rely on each other and complement each other,” she explains. “I also want to feel like I’m doing my part to give back to the community any small way I can.” Balmer is also committed to breathing new life into the heart of Muskoka. “e main street is exploding with art right now,” she says. “With three or four galleries on the main street, Muskoka Arts & Crafts moving into the area, and new murals going up, I feel like we’re getting there. I think it highlights the importance of having a collective business model where we help each other out.” As for Balmer’s next moves, she encourages people to keep checking online to stay up to date. “Our classes change every six weeks as we add new instructors,” she says. “We like to keep things fresh.” The gallery space at The Annex provides ample space for the diverse and talented artists of the Annex Art Collective to display their work, from jewelry to paintings, bre art to photography, sculpture, ceramics, and everything in between.When you shop in our’re supporting the work of Canadian artisans, writers, craftspeople and other unique Muskoka businesses.28 MANITOBA STREET, BRACEBRIDGESHOP

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48 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024Anniversaries are opportunities to look back and take stock. In 2017, when Ottawa staged “Canada 150” to celebrate a century and a-half of Confederation, many pointed out that six of today’s 10 provinces and all three northern territories only became part of the country after 1867, while Indigenous Peoples protested that a scant 150 years overlooked their longer history on this land. With Bracebridge contemplating 2025 as the 150-year mark since the settlement’s 1875 incorporation as a village, it may be salutary to open a longer lens onto continuous human life here that predates even Egypt’s pyramids. Before Euro-Canadian settlers, Ojibwe people dwelt in settlements with planted crops and fish weirs, travelling waterways north and south between Lake Couchiching, Lake of Bays and Lake Muskoka. In Muskoka’s north, the Menominee family by Lake Vernon had stone buildings on their farm and horses from the Prairies. Along Muskoka’s Georgian Bay coast, Beausoleil Island settlements entertained summertime Indigenous wayfarers from long distances while Potawatomi people from Michigan began a mainland community in the 1830s. However, this is still just recent history. For uncounted generations, Indigenous artifacts across Muskoka’s landscape waited like patient time-capsules to offer clues and open deeper understanding about humans living here for millenniums.Indigenous oral tradition – the accounts elders pass on through generations – suggested Beausoleil Island might reward those seeking news about times past. In 1989 Parks Canada’s senior archaeologist, Brian Ross, brought a team of archaeology students to launch a “dig.” Two painstaking decades later, still digging, Ross described Beausoleil as “one of the most Article by J. Patrick Boyer

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 49fascinating sites in Canada” because many different cultural groups are represented by the variety of unearthed artifacts. These historically significant treasures date from millenniums before Contact. “We’re finding material representative of both northern Ontario and southern Ontario aboriginal groups, from as far away as north of Lake Superior to Hudson’s Bay, and south to Michigan and Ohio,” Ross explained. “People have been coming here for thousands of years to swap ideas, exchange goods, probably to forge treaties and alliances, make marriages. Definitely, Beausoleil Island has been a gathering place for these people for eons.” Beausoleil’s packed earth, yielding to years of careful excavation, released many stone arrowheads and spearheads (“points,” to archeo-logists), stone knives, scraping tools, engraving tools, drills, axes, and adzes. “We’ve found pendants, a great amount of pottery, and native ceramics,” Ross itemized. “ere are storage vessels, cooking vessels, and Photograph: Many prehistoric pictographs painted by Indigenous craers exist but few have been identied in Muskoka. This rare petroglyph near Sparrow Lake in south Muskoka was photographed in 1992 by Robert MacDonald, managing partner of ASI cultural heritage services, while doing eldwork for Muskoka’s archaeological master plan.Photograph: Robert MacDonald and ASIPhotograph: Royal Ontario Museum / Jennifer SumnerThis small stone blade was a scraping tool, embedded at Eileen Gowan, Lake Muskoka. Found by Jennifer Sumner, Royal Ontario Museum’s Dr. Mima Kapches, identied it as being about 4,000 years old.

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50 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024miniature vessels for small amounts of precious substances. We’ve found a few pipes.” e earliest implements are stone tools, one “an incredibly beautiful chipped-quartzite knife” dating from between 7,000 to 5,000 years ago. In addition to those sobering dates, pottery artifacts and ceramic vessels display distinctive decorative patterns that enable archaeologists to distinguish between cultural groups. Parks Canada’s close examination of attentively crafted works pin-pointed “people who came from a laurel tradition in northern Ontario, the Saugeen complex in southern Georgian Bay, the Point Peninsula Indigenous complex farther east and south in Ontario and New York State, and people from Michigan.” Evidently, the idea of summering in Muskoka did not begin with vacationers and cottagers arriving alongside 1860s homesteaders. These distinct First Nation groupings, widely separated geographically, had characteristic decorative styles displayed in the various pottery designs on objects unearthed all over Beausoleil. Parks Canada discerned that some displayed combined decorative techniques. “People from one group were integrating with another group, exchanging ideas, and trying another’s pottery designs on their own,” interpreted Ross. “We see traits from one culture intermixed with another’s on the same vessel, so it’s definitely transitional. This exchange and interaction of ideas confirms there were distinctly different peoples gathering on Beausoleil Island.” Again, Muskoka as a crossroads of cultures for the last 150 years with hinterland values and urban expectations continuously mashing-up, is also nothing new. First Nation artifacts revealing Muskoka’s human heritage extend inland from Georgian Bay Township. Eileen Gowan in Lake Muskoka had First Nation artifacts embedded along the island’s shoreline, including a tobacco pipe and various stone points. Jennifer Sumner, teaching the community development program at OISE/University of Toronto, photographed findings near her cabin and sent them to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto to arrange an appointment with Dr. Mima Kapches, senior curator of Ontario Archaeology. A Muskoka cottager herself, Dr. Kapches became so intrigued she drove over from Bala in her own boat to investigate the exact location of Sumner’s Eileen Gowan finds. She identified the pipe as an Iroquoian ring bowl pipe, circa 1,500 AD, believing it either a gift or traded item. A large spearhead was a Lamoka-type point dating from 2,000 to 1,800 BC; the sharply edged blade a stone tool for precise cutting of animal hides. When Sumner showed Kapches a 2½ inch arrowhead, she confirmed it far older than the other items, dating from around 3,000 BC. “is can mean people have been summering on this island for over 5,000 years,” Sumner said in humble awe. “We are just part of a long line of humans who have chosen to live on this island during summer months.”On Lake Muskoka’s Gairney Island, Toronto lawyer Donald Wright was puzzled by a smooth stone a couple feet wide resembling a board embedded in the shoreline embankment like a step. His wife Mary, also intrigued, took it to the Royal Ontario Museum’s “bring it in and we’ll take a look” identification service for peoples’ archaeological discoveries. e Gairney Island stone, not of local material, likely originated in Michigan, with staff hypothesizing it had been traded or gifted.In 2014, Huntsville teacher Shelley Yearley began researching her 2019 history of the family’s generations-old Springfield Farm at Fairy Lake, consulting specialists Bill Allen and Dick Day about Aboriginal stone-cutting tools, pounding tools, arrowheads, and spearheads retrieved over decades past. Allen photographed and measured each while Day addressed their provenance. None came from decades of extensive clearing and ploughing fields but were unearthed near the farm beach. Research on watery areas indicated a likely presence of eels in the creek draining the property that drew food-seeking Indigenous People. Fascinating evidence of First Nation presence in south Muskoka is a Sparrow Lake petroglyph. To the north in today’s Parry Sound District, similar images on sheer rock faces at lake edges provide tantalizing Indigenous records. Southeast from Sparrow Lake, Peterborough Petroglyphs display several hundred images on the white marble face of an outcrop. Parks Canada erected a plaque celebrating “one of In 1980 the Ontario Ministry of Culture’s archeology division conducted a dig at two of nine sites discovered near Dorset at Kawagama Lake and adjacent lakes rich with Indigenous records of land occupation several thousand years ago. Screening soil to separate small items, from beads to arrowheads, is an important step in the well-honed routines of an archeological dig. This arrowhead, discovered on Eileen Gowan, was identied by ROM specialist Dr. Mima Kapches as dating from 3,000 BC, or 5,000 years ago.Photograph: Ontario Ministry of Culture / Dorset Heritage MuseumPhotograph: Andy Zeltkalns

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 51the largest known concentrations of prehistoric rock carvings in Canada.” ey range from realistic animal and human forms to abstract and symbolic representations which, notes Parks Canada, reflect “the spiritual and intellectual life of the Algonkian Indians who carved them between AD 900 and 1400.” To settler society, these petroglyphs are a fascinating heritage site; to Indigenous peoples, a sacred place.Radiocarbon dating developed after the Second World War enables scientists to identify eras of Indigenous habitation by identifying when and in what regions specific, yet diverse cultural remnants originated, science-based detective work establishing both era and origin of Muskoka artifacts. Muskoka’s Master Plan for Archaeological Resources, a thorough and comprehensive record prepared in 1994, identifies markers of significant First Nation presence over past centuries by specifically listing cultural artifacts, areas of cleared land, cemeteries, and extensive points collection locations. To learn more from such heritage markers, it helps to examine “Greater Muskoka” – the contiguous Canadian Shield landscape known to First Nations before Ontario’s government drew arbitrary mid-1800s boundaries between Muskoka, Parry Sound, Haliburton, Simcoe, and Georgian Bay’s coast. is larger territorial unity’s range of spearheads, stone pipes, rockface designs, and sculpted landforms enables correlating artifacts and better establishing patterns of human habitations and activities through time. For example, Indigenous artifacts come to hand through accidental discovery by children digging, farmers plowing fields, contractors excavating construction sites, tips from oral history, and organized archeological digs. Down Lake Huron’s shore from Georgian Bay Township at Wiiwkwedong (Kettle Point First Nation), Ontario’s first Indigenous archaeologist, Brandy George, was guided to her work by growing up walking behind her grandfather Mishoomis when he plowed a field following a rainfall knowing she would find freshly unearthed arrowheads in the furrows. “It was exhilarating to witness the first flash of sunlight announce the emergence of an ancient arrowhead hidden underground for more than 10,000 years.” Mishoomis had repeatedly told her, “Our people had been here since time immemorial.” It was something her DISCOVER THE LOCAL MARKET WITH BIG CITY SELECTIONS IN HISTORIC DOWNTOWN• Black Angus AAA beef, Ontario lamb, pork, chicken and sustainable sh• Assorted selection of house-made sausages• Variety of cheeses, dips, sauces and exclusive pantry items• Chef-inspired ready-to-eat meals and salads• Catering for staff luncheons, private parties and everyday needs• Fine Artisan Breads Daily• Assorted Baked Goods• Made in House DessertsServing fresh gourmet and artisan coffee and an assortment of teas, hot beverages and seasonal refreshmentsHIRAM ST MARKET 705-204-0857SULLYS MUSKOKA705-204-0857BIG RIVER BAKING COMPANY705-394-4499OPEN TUESDAY TO SATURDAY11A TAYLOR ROADOPEN TUESDAY TO SATURDAY 8 a.m. to 3

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52 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024scientific study of ancient arrowheads now confirmed. Peter Storck, an archaeologist and senior curator at the Royal Ontario Museum, shows that the flint trade extensively influenced social interaction between early peoples. e types of imported flint, or chert, in a given area “reveal information about how Indigenous groups travelled and traded,” explains Storck, “and the kinds of social relationships they had with other groups.”Counterpoint to the Beausoleil Island dig in Muskoka’s southwest is the 1979-80 Greaves Site excavation in the district’s northeast, near Dorset, just over the Haliburton line in Livingston Township. Carmen Greaves, a summer cottager at Kawagama Lake began digging for an addition. For years locals were finding fragments of ceramic bowls and stone points, keeping or discarding them as they fancied. Greaves discovered cached remnants right beside her cottage. Attending the 1979 Sportsmen’s Show in Toronto, she studied Ontario Ministry of Culture displays and realized she potentially had a significant First Nation site on her northern property and contacted the ministry’s Roberta M. O’Brien who promptly directed site testing in June of an archeological site threatened by cottage extension. Greaves and neighbour Bill Tyes, owner of adjoining property, agreed to large-scale testing to determine the extent and nature of Indigenous occupation. Two students on O’Brien’s archeological team, surveying north of Kawagama, located seven more sites at lakes Crown, Wolf, Livingston, and Fletcher. Greaves own site bore results of flooding after 1867 when dams raised water levels and disturbed shoreline profiles, impacts of logging white pine, bush-farmer cattle foraging, access road construction, erection of cottages and outbuildings, and footpaths to the shore. Yet these sites yielded ceramics establishing visits during the Late Woodland times, and also earlier in the Middle Woodland era (between 700 BC to 1,000 AD.) Artifacts recovered include pottery vessels with charred food remains indicating use in cooking, a vasiform (hollow tube) pipe bowl made between 1350 and 1575 AD, and a decorated trumpet pipe bowl fashioned sometime during the 14th to 17th centuries. Stone tool manufacturing was indicated by chipped remnants scattered on the ground. e pottery was crafted in the fashion of Point Peninsula people, who J.V. Wright explains in Ontario Prehistory: An 11,000-year Archeological Outline, “continued to maintain the seasonal migratory lifestyle of their earlier Laurentian People ancestors, returning to small campsites [like the Greaves Site] from year to year.” Algonkians traded with visiting parties of Iroquoian-speaking people bringing corn and fish nets to exchange for furs and meat. Dorset Heritage Museum holdings include artifacts, photographs, Ministry reports on the Greaves and Kawagama digs, and specimens in display cases. Muskoka Lakes Museum in Port Carling, former site of the Ojibwe settlement Obajewanung, has the largest holdings of points in the district and information panels accompanying many other artefacts. A 7,000-year-old lanceolate (a narrow, jagged-edged point tapering like the head of a lance) used by Indigenous people of north Muskoka to hunt large animals is the oldest and much-prized artifact in the Indigenous collection of Huntsville’s superbly curated Muskoka Heritage Place. In 1967 when 100 years of Confederation were celebrated, a 30-metre-high teepee at Expo ’67 in Montreal refreshingly showcased First Nation culture with Indigenous Peoples of Canada presenting their own story. Today Gravenhurst’s Muskoka Discovery Centre features its new Misko-Aki exhibit Confluence of Cultures that carries forward the Expo inspiration, portraying artifact meanings in the fulsome richness of Indigenous history, as told by First Nation communities of Greater Muskoka themselves. In today’s Muskoka, that unique story increasingly enters mainstream society, helped by artifacts from soil beneath our feet opening the past, revealing confluence of cultures, bringing a richer story, and bequeathing deeper respect.Displays of First Nation clothing, basket weaving, and other items of cultural importance, like those on display at Muskoka Heritage Place in Huntsville, have generally been made by Indigenous craers in the past century or so. Also on display at heritage centres throughout Muskoka are prized artifacts discovered by people locally or excavated archeologically.Photograph: Andy Zeltkalns

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 53If you have the power to turn another planet into Earth,then you have the power to turn Earth back into Earth.- Neil deGrasse Tyson Conservancyis conserving naturelocally and is partof a broader movementcreating change globally.Learn more at:Photography by Kayley Amo,winner of the 2022 Michael FosterPhotography Contest

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54 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024Controversial hospital proposal sparks debatee discussion over the future of healthcare services in Muskoka has become one of the most contentious issues in the region.In January, Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) announced plans for significant changes to the level of service at South Muskoka Memorial Hospital (SMMH) in Bracebridge and the Huntsville District Memorial Hospital site.Under the new proposal, dubbed the Made-in-Muskoka Plan by MAHC, both facilities would have 24/7 emergency rooms with SMMH increasing emergency room beds from 11 to 27. e number of inpatient beds in Bracebridge would decrease from 67 to 18. Huntsville’s inpatient care beds will go from 56 to 139.MAHC said they anticipate surgical/procedural visits will go from 3,900 to 9,700 in Bracebridge but the facility would lose obstetrics. e proposal was lambasted by many south Muskoka healthcare workers, politicians and members of the public during a series of meetings MAHC hosted across the region.“I am confident that a more balanced and equitable plan can be achieved,” said MPP Graydon Smith. “is process must be centered on engaging with the community and having meaningful dialogue with doctors and nurses to develop a new plan that is satisfactory for all.”e province is responsible for the vast majority of funding on the nearly $1 billion project. Updated cost estimates from MAHC have put the project, as originally proposed, at closer to $1.5 billion. at increase in cost was the primary driver behind the creation of the proposed Made-in-Muskoka healthcare system, according to MAHC.“is plan is not going to work for the communities of south Muskoka, so MAHC is going to need to go back to the table with doctors, nurses, and health care workers and try to find a better-balanced model,” said District Municipality of Muskoka Chair Jeff Lehman.In late February, MAHC announced they were taking a step back to reconsider the plan and no final decision was imminent. “We want our communities to be clear that no decisions are being made for quite some time,” said MAHC via a press release. “Our primary focus is continued consultation to reach the best possible model of care for the future. We are committed to our promise to take all the time that is needed to meet with our stakeholders, to listen to feedback, and make adjustments.”Several Muskoka municipalities have signicant tax increasesTax increases for 2024 are now in across Muskoka and they indicate double-digit spikes in some municipalities.e District Municipality of Muskoka, which oversees the six lower-tier municipalities within the region, announced in December they had approved a $155.9M tax-support budget. As a result, Muskoka residents will see a 3.94 per cent increase in the district portion of their municipal property taxes to fund municipal services and a 0.4 per cent increase to support hospital redevelopment. is represents an annual impact of approximately $40.38 per $300,000 of assessed property.e highest lower-tier municipal increase was in the Township of Muskoka Lakes where the 2024 budget has a net levy of $15.9 million, which represents a 14.3 per cent tax rate increase over 2023. Huntsville is also facing double-digit tax increases of 10.89 per cent for 2024. at number was reduced from the initial proposed net tax rate increase of 15.26 per cent. Lake of Bays Township came in with a 9.06 per cent increase, Bracebridge residents can expect a 6.8 per cent increase, and Gravenhurst council approved a 2.99 per cent increase.e Township of Georgian Bay has yet to finalize their budget.Muskoka Lakes considers tighter short-term rental rulese Township of Muskoka Lakes is proposing a new licensing system for short-term rentals (STR) but not all residents are on board.e Township recently hosted a lengthy public meeting at its offices in Port Carling Photograph: Matt DriscollProposed changes to the operating plans for South Muskoka Memorial Hospital and Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, presented by Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) in January were met with strong opposition from healthcare workers, politicians and community members. Whats Happened

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 55to hear public feedback on the proposed STR licensing system. Dozens of residents attended both virtually and in person to speak for and against tighter restrictions on STRs.Staff told those in attendance the Township has been attempting to deal with the issue of STRs for the past eight years. ere were more than 800 STRs in operation in the Township last year. e bylaw department reports increasing concerns over issues like noise, smoke, parking and overcrowding on the lakes.Under the new rules, STRs would pay $1,000 for a two-year license and would be limited to only renting properties for 50 per cent of the summer and 50 per cent of the remainder of the year. Guests would be required to stay for a minimum of seven nights in the summer and three nights during the rest of the year. Stays under 14 days would not fall under the new bylaw.While some spoke in favour of the new rules, expressing their frustration with what they see as numerous bylaw infractions by STR guests, the majority of those who spoke were opposed to the new regulations.Several said that renting properties is one of the only ways they can pay off expenses like the upkeep of their property and increased municipal taxes. Some expressed concern that the problem was not so much with short-term rentals as it was with a lack of enforcement of the existing bylaws.Council emphasized the short-term rental licensing regulations are simply a draft at this point. ey said council will take all the public input under advisement before finalizing any type of bylaw related to STRs.Arena/library complex in Bracebridge headed for August openingOne of the largest infrastructure projects in Bracebridge’s history is now nearing completion.As of February, the construction of the Muskoka Lumber Community Centre on Salmon Avenue in Bracebridge is more than 70 per cent complete.Slated for opening in August 2024, construction crews are currently working on electrical and mechanical work in addition to other interior finishing. e building exterior work is largely complete, including the brickwork, glass and roof. e ice plant for the arena is in place, with cooling lines and headers laid and the concrete slab poured.“It’s hard to believe that we are only months away from the grand opening of the Muskoka Lumber Community Centre,” said Bracebridge Mayor Rick Maloney, upon the announcement of more financial donors for the project in late January. “We have come this far because of the ongoing generosity of our sponsors and donors, and the continued support of the community. ank you to everyone who has played a role in helping bring this generational facility to life.”In addition to the arena, auditorium and library replacements, the centre will include a multi-sport field house (double-sized gymnasium with track) that is expected to support a wide variety of community uses and groups. Other amenities include a concession, outdoor playground, trails, open spaces, parking and an area retained for a future second arena.In December, Town council approved an additional $2.9 million in funding for the project, bringing the total expected cost of the 113,700-square-foot facility to $75.3 million.Gravenhurst snowboarder claims World Cup victory in SwitzerlandA young snowboarder from Gravenhurst found himself on top of the podium in Switzerland earlier this year after winning gold at the FIS Snowboard World Cup.Competing on the Laax, Switzerland leg of the world tour, Liam Brearley claimed his first-ever victory with a score of 89.93 points.“What a crazy week out here in Laax! So happy to come away with my first WC win!! ank you to everyone for the messages and support,” said Brearley via social media.Brearley had previously finished second on two occasions and third on another.His first World Cup victory came nearly Gravenhurst snowboarder Liam Brearley topped the podium, taking home the gold medal, at the FIS Snowboard World Cup in Switzerland earlier this year.Photograph: Town of BracebridgeThe Muskoka Lumber Community Centre in Bracebridge, one of the largest infrastructure projects in the town’s history, is nearing completion. In addition to the arena, auditorium and library, the centre includes a multi-sport eld house, concession, outdoor playground and additional outdoor space retained for a future second arena.Photograph: Liam Brearley

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56 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024four years exactly after he won three medals at the Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympic Games, where he hit the podium in halfpipe, slopestyle and big air.Majority of District waste bins have now been transitionede District of Muskoka is reporting they have now transitioned 54 of the 88 total unlicensed waste bin locations across the region.Dozens of waste bin sites have been used for decades throughout Muskoka but in 2019 the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks told the Muskoka government all the unlicensed bins needed to be removed by 2026. e bins were primarily located at commercial businesses like marinas or on road allowances or vacant lands and were intended to be used by Muskoka residents who do not have curbside pickup.“I think we’re making really great progress to move towards our completion date of 2026,” said Commissioner of Engineering and Public Works James Steele when updating the district council earlier this year. According to Steele, transitioning and decommissioning efforts will continue in 2024, with special attention and consultation being paid to Georgian Bay Township, due to its high number of sites.ere was some concern among District councillors that proper notification was not being given to all residents of Georgian Bay Township.It was reiterated that councillors should do their best to reach out to constituents and inform them the moves are being made primarily in the interest of the local environment and the sustainability of local landfills.Councillor Dan Armour stated that the experience of the transition in Huntsville was challenging but handled well by District staff. He went on to say many residents are happy with the new system. “I have to admit that to date, there’s a lot of people reaching out now saying that it’s a great program they’re running with the opportunity now to be able to use organics. eir waste is really reduced,” Armour said.Matt Richter named deputy leader of the Ontario Green PartyA longtime local representative of the Ontario Greens has been named to one of the marquee positions of the party.Matt Richter of Huntsville was recently named deputy leader of the Green Party of Ontario.Richter has been the Parry Sound-Muskoka provincial candidate for the Green Party in every election since 2007. During the most recent provincial election in 2022, he managed to garner more than 40 per cent of the vote – one of the highest percentage totals for a Green Party candidate in all of Ontario.“I am delighted to step into this new role with the Ontario Greens,” said Richter upon the announcement.Shortly after the announcement, Mike Schreiner, the leader of the Ontario Greens, joined Richter in Bracebridge for a housing Town Hall.“Matt brings a lot of drive and energy to the Ontario Greens, and I’m delighted to have him join our leadership team,” said Schreiner.Muskoka Conservancy adds new 597-acre propertye Muskoka Conservancy has added a pristine slice of Muskoka's natural beauty to the 55 properties they currently protect.In January, the Conservancy announced their purchase of a 597-acre property in southeast Gravenhurst bordering on the Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park.e new property features mature mixed forest, rocky barrens, wetlands and a small lake. It also contains a former hunt camp that has several kilometres of trails, some of which extend into Crown Land and the neighbouring provincial park.“We could not have done this without excellent donors and funding partners,” said Scott Young of the Muskoka Conservancy. “e previous owners each made a significant donation of land, without which, frankly, we would have had a challenge building the momentum to see this through. As it worked out, we are extremely happy and grateful to have attracted excellent funding partners to complete the purchase.” e Conservancy says they plan to explore potential uses of the land for nature education programming, bird watching, nature photography and recreational activities like hiking and snowshoeing.“Muskoka Conservancy’s immediate priority is to get to know the land, its ecosystems, habitat types and species,” says Young. “Based on that, we will develop a conservation plan that prioritizes nature conservation. In the not-too-distant future, we would like very much to offer this new reserve as a hiking destination for nature lovers.” Matt Richter of Huntsville was recently named deputy leader of the Green Party of Ontario.Photograph: Matt Richter Muskoka Conservancy has added a 55th property to their protected lands, this one located in southeast Gravenhurst. Photograph: Muskoka ConservancyFeature by Matt Driscoll

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 57 the QR code or visit learn more scanRenovating your kitchen this spring?Let our team make it easier. Book yourfree kitchen removal and we’ll providea tax receipt for your donation. Yourdonated kitchen will be sold at theReStore to support affordable housingin the community.relaxwe’ll even take the kitchen sink

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Article by K.M. Wehrstein / Photography by Tomasz SzumskiSpring is here and Easter approaches, putting us in mind of a humble ingredient without which some of cuisine’s most divine recipes could not exist: the egg. Delectable even unseasoned, wrapped in its own natural packaging, the chicken egg has certain unique properties and flavours it can impart to dishes.Eggs are the business of Brian Currie, co-owner with his wife Andrea, of Currie’s Corner Farm near Huntsville. Raised on a dairy farm near Bracebridge, Currie had a career in computers but upon retirement returned to his farming roots by buying a hundred-acre lot. He started raising chickens around 2016 and now has a flock of 300 Rhode-Island-Red-hybrid layers. Not only do the Curries sell free-range eggs – about 100 dozen a week, all year – as well as free-range chicken meat and beef on the farm, but they provide the only egg-grading service between Newmarket and Powassan. What does this mean? ‘Candling’ the eggs to check for flaws, weighing them to categorize them properly into the standard sizes, having the facility inspected twice a year and filling out lots of government forms – but the reward, of course, is quality.“Chickens are pretty easy to maintain, as long as you have shelter for them.” Once out on land, he notes, “they eat anything that moves.” ey will keep an area of meadow thoroughly mowed, and even perform a public service by pecking mosquitoes out of the air.It’s this free-range diet, especially the grass, that gives free-range eggs their deeper yolk colour, and a flavour Currie describes as “a bit richer, a fuller taste.” Now let us turn to chef and caterer Randy Spencer of Spencer’s Culinary Creations for breakfast: an enhanced eggs Benedict created exclusively for Unique Muskoka. Accounts of the origin of eggs Benedict differ except that it was first prepared in New York City in 1894. e sauce used for the dish is traditionally hollandaise. Spencer uses béarnaise instead, both because his wife Karen much prefers it and because the tarragon – plus two other innovative ingredients – add more flavour. To the whole dish he adds spinach (inspired perhaps by eggs Florentine), two other flavour-intense vegetables and, spectacularly, smoked trout. Acquired locally, of course, from Milford Bay Trout Farm.“e trout is hardy. It stands up to the sweet red pepper and onion,” Spencer says. Don’t warm up the fish, he recommends. “It’s nicer cold because that complements the warmth of the hot eggs.”For eggs Benedict generally, the sauce’s sourness is crucial in enhancing the delicate flavours of the bread and eggs and uniting Cracking the secrets of deliciousness- new takes on classic egg recipesTo have eggs, you have to have chickens. Curries Corner Farm near Huntsville, operated by Brian and Andrea Currie, has a ock of 300 Rhode-Island-Red-hybrid layers. 58 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 59Eggs Benedict Muskoka – Randy Spencer, exclusive for Unique MuskokaIngredients(Makes 4 portions)8 whole eggs4 large everything bagels or 8 smaller bagels, sliced in half widthwise and toasted.Cream cheese, as desired½ cup sweet red pepper sliced finely in 1½ inch strips¼ cup onion fine sliced in 1½ inch strips12 ounces fresh spinach (“I prefer the crinkly type rather than the baby.”)2 cloves minced garlicDash each salt and fresh ground pepper2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice1 Tbsp butter8 to 10 ounces Milford Bay Trout Farm smoked trout fillet(s) cut into 1-inch strips (approximately 1 oz. per slice)Fresh dill for garnish2 litres water brought to a simmer with ¼ cup vinegar.Method• Sauté the sweet pepper, onion and garlic in the butter; do not cook too much as you only want to cook to tender. Add spinach, cover and steam for a few minutes then drain off excess moisture. Season with salt and pepper, mix in lemon juice and set aside until ready to assemble the dish.• Poach your eggs to desired doneness, less a few levels to compensate if you’re going to brown under your broiler for a brief moment (this gives a rather nutty flavour to your Benny’s).• On a tray assemble each half-bagel, spread with some cream cheese over each, divide vegetable mixture amongst each bagel and top with poached eggs – two eggs per bagel if using large bagels, one egg per bagel if using small.• Top each egg with a spoon full of béarnaise sauce.• Complete au gratin, if desired: brown under broiler, watching closely as it does not take long.• Remove from oven and top each portion with smoked trout and a nice garnish of fresh dill sprigs.For regular eggs Benedict: use a halved English muffin and a slice of peameal bacon as the base for the egg.Chef ’s Tips“Both these dishes go great served with a side salad or your favourite home-fried potato.”• How to poach eggs without them sticking to the pan edges: stir the water into a whirlpool in the pan and drop them in the centre.• Smoked salmon can be substituted for trout. • Dairy-free version: “Just use the vegetables and smoked trout with the egg, without butter or sauce.”Sauce Béarnaise Ingredients3 egg yolks¼ tsp fresh ground pepperDash of salt½ tsp dry tarragon, finely chopped1½ Tbsp red wine vinegar 2 Tbsp water4 oz. melted butter Dash each Tabasco sauce & Worcestershire sauceMethod • Combine all ingredients except melted butter in a 1-litre stainless steel or heatproof glass bowl.• Over a pot of simmering water, whisk ingredients until creamy in consistency. Go slow and remove from heat periodically so as not to let the sauce get too hot and scramble the yolks.• Remove from heat and slowly whisk in butter to incorporate into sauce.Chef Randy Spencer provides his own twist on a classic egg dish, eggs Benedict. Spencer’s version substitutes the hollandaise for bearnaise, adds spinach and replaces the traditional peameal with smoked trout. The result? Spectacular avour.

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Grana Padano Carbonara with Pancetta and Leeks – John CooperServings: 4Ingredients350 g fettuccine noodles150 g pancetta, finely diced2 leeks, thinly sliced1 cup heirloom grape tomatoes,halved4 large egg yolks1 cup grated Grana Padano cheese3 cloves garlic, mincedSalt and pepper to tasteFresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)Olive oilMethodPrepare the pasta• Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.• Cook the fettuccine noodles according to package instructions until al dente.• Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta water, and set aside.Cook the pancetta, leeks and tomatoes• In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.• Add the diced pancetta to the skillet and cook until crispy, about 5 to 6 minutes.• Remove the pancetta from the skillet and set aside.• In the same skillet, add the sliced leeks and minced garlic. Cook until the leeks are softened, about 3 to 4 minutes.• Add the halved heirloom grape tomatoes to the skillet and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.Prepare the Carbonara sauce• In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, grated Grana Padano cheese, and a pinch of salt and pepper.Assemble the dish• Return the cooked pasta to the pot over low heat.• Add the cooked pancetta and leeks to the pot with the pasta, tossing to combine. Remove from the heat.• Slowly pour the carbonara sauce over the pasta while continuously tossing to coat evenly. If the sauce is too thick, add some of the reserved pasta water to loosen it up.• Continue tossing until the sauce thickens and coats the pasta, about 2 to 3 minutes.• Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Place tomato halves evenly spread on pasta.Serve• Divide the Grana Padano carbonara pasta among serving plates.• Garnish with freshly chopped parsley and an extra sprinkle of grated Grana Padano cheese, if desired.• Serve immediately and enjoy!Wine pairing: Tarà Pecorino (white)Basilico Spiced Sour– Nick Watson1 ounce bourbon.75 ounces Calvados.75 ounces spiced simple syrup.75 ounces lemon/lime juice1 egg white (approximately 1 ounce)Dash of Angostura bitters1 apple chip (sliced fine like a potato chip, and cooked)Chill a martini glass with ice• Add all ingredients except bitters to shaker and dry shake for 1 minute (or shake by hand).• Add ice to shaker and shake an additional 30 seconds.• Remove ice from glass and strain drink into it.• Float 3 drops of Angostura bitters on top.• Add apple chip to garnish.Basilico’s new chef, John Cooper, prepares a version of a classic carbonara dish. Carbonara combines egg yolks and cheese for a subtle avour and texture prole, complemented by Cooper’s addition of tomatoes and leeks. 60 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024

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Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 61Coconut Crème Brûlée – Grace WillowsMakes four portions using a 4-inch cup; about 100 g each.Ingredients400 g or 14 ounces coconut cream4 large egg yolks50 g or ¼ cup regular sugar½ tsp salt4 g or 1 tsp vanilla extract Method • Preheat oven to 325°F.• Whisk egg yolk, sugar, and salt until smooth.• Heat cream in a pot until slight bubbles appear around the edge, then take off heat.• Slowly mix the cream into the egg yolk mixture with a spoon until thoroughly mixed, then add vanilla and mix.• Pour into four ramekins and place into a pan, then add water to a depth of half the height of ramekins.• Bake until slightly jiggly in the centre and showing little brown patches (about 30 minutes).• Remove from water bath and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate covered for at least two hours (to set).• Sprinkle with coarse (crystalline) sugar to desired amount, then heat sugar with kitchen blow-torch (or regular blow-torch, set low) until is brown and bubbling. It will then fuse into a solid crust.Baker's Tips• For regular crème brûlée, simply substitute 1½ cups whipping cream for coconut cream.• To make coconut cream out of canned coconut milk: refrigerate can so it separates out, and use the remaining cream. “ickness is what you’re looking for.”• Do not boil the cream. “is is the secret to crème brulée: not letting the eggs cook yet. You want to make it smooth and homogenous.”• Portions without the sugar can be frozen for later use.• Brown sugar can be used (and imparts its special flavour) so long as it’s coarse. Fine sugar tends to burn up rather than melt nicely.• Don’t take the servings straight from oven to fridge; “they tend to sweat.”Crème brûlée is another classic egg-based dish. Grace Willows of Windmill Bakery in Huntsville shares two varieties of the dessert. While the ingredients list is short and simple, the trick is the execution.

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62 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024YOUR GUIDE TO SERVICES AND RESOURCESDIRECTORYJOHNSON LOG HOMERESTORATIONS705-738-7831 Staining Chinking Log Repairs Sandblasting Timber Frames Renovation Log Wash Custom BuildsLogHomeRestore.caWE BUILD QUALITY - Roads, Septic Systems, Driveways and Landscaping - On Budget and On Time!Our Business Depends on Your 705-229-9985 greenleafexc@gmail.comthem with the meatiness of the peameal, or in this case, trout. Spencer’s béarnaise lingers on your tongue as a pleasant tart memory long afterward, and the whole dish’s multiple flavour layers work brilliantly together. Don’t leave the dill garnish on the plate – it adds to the dish’s flavours too! Now let’s head down to Basilico at the Inn at the Falls in Bracebridge and an entrée courtesy of Chef John Cooper. He worked in the Inn’s restaurant many moons ago, 2009 and 2010 to be exact, and returned this Feb. 1 after many years at e Old Station and other places. “ey let me do whatever I want and it’s 300 yards from my house,” he says happily.A carbonara dish is mandatory for an Italian-themed restaurant, he feels. “I’d be kind of disappointed to go to an Italian place that didn’t have it.” Accordingly, his carbonara is on the Basilico menu for 2024. “It’s a very traditional recipe and a classic execution,” he says, noting that carbonara was originally made with guanciale, that is, pork cheek, and now more often uses bacon. “My only additions are the leeks and tomatoes, because it’s too much heavy without something fresh, and also for colour. e tomatoes add a lot.”Basilico diners, Cooper says, “are saying nothing but nice things” about this dish, and you can taste why. e carbonara sauce is subtle, almost not there, but adds a warm mouth feel – one of those properties of eggs mentioned previously. Lovely little chewy bits of Grana Padano and pancetta along with still-juicy tomatoes make the flavour BRACEBRIDGE GENERATION LTD.Water Power Generating a Cleaner EnvironmentInterested in more information or a free tour? www.bracebridgegeneration.comLeover egg whites? Why not try them in a cocktail like the Basilico Spiced Sour, craed by Basilico bartender Nick Watson. Egg whites add to the viscosity of the drink, creating a mouthfeel that complements the varied avours.

Page 65 Budget Propane Sales & Service705.687.5608 Toll Free 1.888.405.7777Serving: Muskoka • Gravenhurst • Haliburton • Barrie • Simcoe CountyWe’ll take care of your propane needs for your home, coage, or business.CAPTURE THE SCENTS OF MUSKOKACrimson Yard CANDLESAvailable at28 Manitoba Street, BracebridgeMUSKOKA MADEand texture experience comprehensive and complete.But wait… what to do with the leftover egg whites, so they don’t go to waste? Meringue for lemon or other meringue pie is an obvious possibility, and you can even make it crispy if you know what you’re doing, which can evolve into pavlovas. ere are various cakes that call for whites to lighten up a batter (another special property).Or, like Basilico bartender Nick Watson, you can make a Basilico Spiced Sour. It’s based on the traditional sour, spiced up especially for Basilico. It is more sophisticated than your average mixed drink in its complexity, combining tart, burning, spicy and sweet with the head the egg whites produce for a drink that has it all.Say “top-of-the-line egg-based dessert” and what comes to mind immediately? For me it’s crème brûlée. is is true also of Grace Willows, co-owner with her husband Dan of Windmill Bakery in Huntsville, and from them as well we will get both traditional and innovative versions of an iconic dish.“Last spring/summer we were looking for another dessert,” Willows recounts. “We knew we had people who needed dairy-free, so we finally came up with coconut crème brûlée.” e bakery also sells regular crème brûlée of late, inspired by an “excellent” recipe from her sister-in-law Sharon.On paper, with just five ingredients thrown together for the filling, crème brûlée is deceptively simple. e trick is in the execution. “You have to get the consistency right,” advises Willows. “You might have to try it a few times to figure it out. It took us a few tries.” So have patience and be prepared for some errors among your trials.Windmill’s regular crème brûlée has the typical French kind of flavour, a richness that wraps around your tongue like a warm embrace, and a consistency like clouds, while sweetness comes almost like punctuation in the crackle of the sugar brûlée. is may be the greatest dish ever for sheer contrast of textures. e coconut version is not at all overpowered by coconut flavour as sometimes happens with coconut desserts but offers it quite delicately.Spring 2024 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 63

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64 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Spring 2024Muskoka MomentsArticle by Kelly HaywoodA LoveRooted in MuskokaI’m always reminded after spending time away from Muskoka, hanging out with city folk, that even though I wasn’t born and raised in Muskoka, I sometimes talk like I was. I am a local in my heart and I want to contribute to my community in every way I can. As I drive the winding roads of Muskoka, surrounded by towering trees and beautiful lakes and rivers, I can't help but feel a sense of profound contentment. It's been 24 years since I first arrived here, but the love I have for this place has only grown deeper with time.My journey to this idyllic haven began with a love story – one that changed the course of my life forever. We fell in love amidst the juxtaposition of my chaotic urban life and her peaceful small-town life. As our relationship blossomed, so did the realization that the frequent three-and-a-half-hour drives back and forth to Ottawa were less than ideal. And so, with my heart full of love, hope and excitement, I decided to leave behind the hustle and bustle of city living and seek refuge in the tranquility of my partner Jackie’s home in Lake of Bays, on Rebecca Lake. As I arrived in my new hometown for the first time, I remember feeling a sense of awe at the natural beauty that surrounded me. It was like stepping into a painting – a world untouched by time or turmoil.Very quickly, however, I realized moving to Muskoka would become one of the most challenging and humbling experiences of my life. After leaving behind a high-paying and prestigious job in the city, I had envisioned a smooth transition into a new chapter filled with opportunities and success. Reality hit me hard as I struggled to find employment in our tight-knit community. Job openings were scarce or only offered weekend or night shifts, and competition was fierce.As the days turned into weeks and then months, the strain began to weigh heavily on me. It was difficult to accept I might need to take a step back in my career and settle for a minimum-wage job just to make ends meet. Over time, I worked extremely hard and then took a risky leap of faith and resigned from a decent full-time job to accept a maternity leave at the Huntsville/Lake of Bays Chamber of Commerce. Twenty years later, I resigned from this position to accept a budding opportunity with the Huntsville Municipal Accommodation Tax Association (MAT). During my tenure with the Chamber of Commerce, I always kept the difficulties of my employment-seeking experiences top of mind and made it my mission to focus on the challenges and opportunities in this community. In my new role for the local MAT organization, focusing on shoulder seasons is paramount, as it allows us to maximize the utilization of our resources and infrastructure throughout the year. By strategically promoting our destination during these magnificent but off-peak periods, we can attract a different demographic of travellers who appreciate quieter surroundings and a more authentic experience. For me, giving back to our community became a way of life, a way to express gratitude for all the love and kindness I had received since my arrival. In this small town, surrounded by nature and embraced by good people – and now almost my entire family – I have found a sense of belonging I had never known before. I found solace and joy in the simple pleasures of rural living – the smell of the fresh air, the sound of birdsong in the morning and the sight of neighbours waving as they passed by.As I reflect on the past 24 years, I am filled with a profound sense of gratitude for the life I have built here – a life filled with love, purpose and a deep connection to our community. And though the journey has not always been easy, I wouldn't change a single moment of it for anything in the world.For in this small town, amidst the beauty of nature and the warmth of its people, I have found my true home – a place where my heart is at peace, and my soul is forever rooted in the soil of Muskoka.Photograph: Kelly Haywood

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