Southern Ontario — A Trip Home for Family Visits & Nature Discoveries!

A long-awaited trip to Southern Ontario was just what I needed to rekindle family connections in person and enjoy nature with new perspectives! I grew up in Eastern Ontario in the Kawartha Lakes, but for the past 30 years, my family has lived in Southern Ontario near Long Point which is known for its flat, sandy soil farming country — great for tobacco and ginseng!

I chose just a few things to feature on my nature journal pages that caught my eye and were so different than where I live in the Pacific Northwest (PNW).

Northern Cardinal. I don’t get to see red cardinals in the PNW and I enjoyed many sightings throughout the week! My brother saw the first one of the week and pointed it out to me as I was searching for the source of beautiful birdsong up high in a tree. It was so much fun to see the flash of red (males) flitting from tree to tree that you just can’t take your eyes off of. These year-round residents have a very pretty birdsong and I was so fascinated by the parts of it that sound like an electronic video game to me!

Sumac. Sumac is abundant in this area and the dried red sumac fruit catches your eye! We use ground sumac as a spice on our Mediterranean food, so it was fun to be reminded of where it originates. These plants can reach a height of 33′ and and we saw a lot of them overtaking the many abandoned wood tobacco kilns in the area.

Milkweed. Monarch caterpillars ONLY eat milkweed! We saw a lot of dried milkweed pods on their stalks that had dispersed their seeds in hopes of spreading and taking root. In June, the adult monarchs will arrive from their long journey from Mexico where they overwinter and lay their eggs on young milkweed plants. The next stage larva (caterpillar) devour the milkweed leaf which is poisonous, but they are able to tolerate it and use it as a defense against being eaten by birds! At the butterfly stage, monarchs expand their food source and feed on nectar from flowers and the cycle begins again.

Insect Galls. In a natural area full of grasses and wildflowers, I noticed a large (1″ diameter) ball on some plant stalks. The ball was very hard and I was curious about what had caused it! I dissected the ball and discovered a tiny insect in the center, surrounded by material that provides both a dwelling and a food source. Galls rarely injure the plant and once the insect has matured, it burrows its way out and exits the gall.

Indian Summer Poem. I’m pretty sure a lot of Ontario students had to memorize this poem in school! I remembered many of the words that represent my home province — crimson, blue jay, maple, sumac, river, wild birds flying south.

Ontario Architecture. I enjoyed the historic homes that my Mom and I saw in the countryside built with concrete, red brick or stone. The buildings had a lot of character and very different than the common HardiePlank siding in the PNW. The stone farm houses were built with beautiful fieldstone from Scottish influence around the 1850’s.

There are many abandoned tobacco kilns across the countryside that are gradually disappearing from Norfolk County and overgrown with vines and sumac. The first tobacco kilns were made of wood and built around the 1920’s and are now being replaced by more resilient metal structures.

One nature find that did not make it into my sketchbook, but was very memorable was the discovery of frogs in a pond laying eggs! I love the sound of frogs and my Dad & I were drawn to the edge of the pond to investigate. They stopped croaking and I wondered if they knew of our presence? I crouched down to look in the shallow water and could see several frogs paired up and strings of eggs all around them. I learned later that frog eggs are fertilized externally, where the female releases her eggs from her body into water, then the male releases his sperm to fertilize them. What an amazing process to observe!

I hope you enjoyed this journey through Southern Ontario nature and history!


#nature #naturejournaling #ontario #milkweed #northerncardinal #bluejay #insectgall #sumac #indiansummer #southernontario #norfolkcounty #fieldstone #mansions #ruthven #cottonwoodmansion #tobaccokiln

Sparks of Inspiration!

On this Ontario focused blog post, I wanted to share a few of my favorite Canadian inspirations — all from Ontario!

  • Drawing Inspiration Podcast: It is a joy to listen to Mike chat about his amazing creative art projects with graphite, watercolor, gouache and Procreate with a variety of talented artists!
  • Shayda Campbell: I find Shayda’s YouTube flower tutorials so relaxing as she guides you gently through easy watercolor, brushpen, ink and gouache projects!
  • A Random Walk with MJ: My longtime friend shares her reviews and thoughts on books and travel. MJ analyzes books so thoroughly that I find that I want to read many of the books she reviews! We have both been guest bloggers on each other’s blogs. One of my most favorite blog posts which is fascinating is Sustainable Living: Being a No Car Family!

8 thoughts on “Southern Ontario — A Trip Home for Family Visits & Nature Discoveries!

  1. Awesomeness, Karen! I felt like I was in Ontario with you! Love your nature discoveries; really great paintings of the cardinal, sumac and milkweed pods! I didn’t know only monarchs ear milkweed. Wonder if that’s true of all milkweed species? I was especially awed by your urban sketching of historic buildings. Urban sketching is such a challenge but I’ve been playing with the technique. Especially hooked on Paul Heaston’s YouTube videos. Mike Hendley interviewed him a few weeks ago ….. did you listen? Thanks for including such a nice poem, and inspiring on-line sources. This was a wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Barb! It was a wonderful trip! Many species eat milkweed, but it is the only food source that the monarch caterpillars eat as they prepare to become butterflies. Isn’t nature amazing! I haven’t done much urban sketching, but enjoyed it very much! I always want to add color, but I chose to leave it as just ink this time. I will check out Mike’s podcast episode on urban sketching – next on my list! Thanks for your kind comments! (My husband suggested I add more photos, so I just added some as another visual aid.)

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Nina! I felt that sketching and painting a few highlights from my trip really helped to enhance my memories of the trip and make connections to things I saw in my childhood. Thanks for reading and for your lovely comments!


  2. Thank you for sharing your lovely art work and journal of your journey to Ontario, a city with many interesting features. Evidently you now reside in the Canadian pacific northwest offering a completely different climate, culture and environment for you. Enjoy your pen, ink and watercolors recording adventures in your journal.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! It was a fun trip to explore nature that I grew up around. I do live in the PNW, but in WA state – yes, a very different environment, but so beautiful! We visit Anacortes, Deception Pass and Whidbey Island often as one of our most favorite places. Thanks so much for visiting my blog and for your lovely comments! I enjoy your blog posts very much as well!


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