The City of Owen Sound is located on the southern shores of Georgian Bay in a valley below the sheer rock cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment. Owen Sound is characterized by a magnificent harbour and bay, two winding rivers, tree-lined streets, an extensive parks system, and tree-covered hillsides and ravines, which are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna.
Owen Sound is the largest urban community in Grey and Bruce Counties, which combined represent a primary commercial market of 158,000. Owen Sound is the seat of the County of Grey government, and is the location for a number of regional, provincial and federal government offices. There are twelve elementary schools, three secondary schools, and six private schools in addition to a Georgian College campus.
The downtown, recently refurbished and reminiscent of the 1900s, offers an economy that is balanced and diversified. The Heritage Place Shopping Centre on the east side complements the vibrant, scenic downtown core and other arterial shopping areas.
By Emily-Jane Hills Orford
Mom claimed she always wanted a fish pond in her garden. One full of waterlilies, goldfish and, of course, tadpoles. After we all grew up and moved out, Mom got her wish, but this new addition came with unwelcome visitors. Where I had once played in the yard, making snowmen and snow forts in the winter and playing badminton in the summer, was dug up to become Mom’s fish pond, water garden and so much more. As per city regulations, she had to fence in the area, since the pond was considered deep enough to cause drowning. That didn’t stop people from wanting to take a short cut through Mom’s fish pond garden, just to take a look. However, it wasn’t just the human trespassers that created a problem (people enjoyed taking shortcuts through my parents’ yard in order to see the fenced-in pond, often leaving trash behind in their wake), it was the animal ones as well. The area became a key attraction to all kinds of predators, the skunks and raccoons being the worse.
“They’ve done it again,” Mom grumbled one morning during my spring visit. “I wanted to show Emily the tadpoles and goldfish, but they’re all gone.”
“Raccoons?” Dad asked.
“Probably,” Mom agreed. “I’m sure I heard them last night.”
“Isn’t there something you can do to deter them?” I asked. I could feel Mom’s disappointment. She loved her garden and was especially proud of her newest addition: the fish pond. I had to admit, it was something spectacular. I had arrived late the previous night, so wasn’t able to see much, but she had sent me photos of the work in progress and it was a fascinating transformation of the backyard.
“I have live traps set,” Dad explained. “We’ve caught some squirrels, skunks and the occasional raccoon. Then transported them to the country.”
“Is that legal?” I asked.
“It’s less cruel than steel traps, I suppose,” Dad argued. “I really don’t know if there is any law against what we’re doing. Wildlife in the city is out of control. Sad, but true.”
I knew it was similar in my new hometown, but I never thought of catching live wildlife and moving them to the country. “There must be a better way,” I suggested.
“Well, if there is,” Dad countered, “I’m all ears. Transporting the captured wildlife to the country is risky. Especially the skunks. So far, I haven’t been skunked.”
Dropping the argument, we ventured outside to survey Mom’s plundered fish pond. I marveled at the lilies and the newly planted seedlings around the pond. Dad had done an excellent job laying rocks around the pond’s perimeter and throughout the garden for artistic effect.
“Well.” Mom let out a deep sigh. “I guess we should make another trip to the water garden centre and get some more goldfish and tadpoles. Maybe this time I’ll be lucky."
We walked around a little more then made plans to go off to the water garden centre. I had never visited one, so this was an adventure.
Later, home with new ideas to thwart the annoying plunderers, and a new selection of fish and tadpoles, Dad took the honor of carefully releasing the new additions into their new home. I watched with fascination as the fish swam around, exploring the pond, finding sanctuary amongst the waterlilies. Next, Dad released the tadpoles which instantly scurried beneath the rocky overhang and underneath the leafy waterlilies.
Then came Dad’s biggest intervention. As Mom and I sat on the bench by the pond, watching the new life in the water, Dad installed his motion sensor lighting system and added a motion sensor contraption to the watering system.
Once finished, he proclaimed, “We shall see if this works. Water and light flashing away at the intruders will hopefully scare them off.”
They did for the first few nights. However, even wildlife learns to adjust. Mom managed to keep some of her second collection of goldfish and a few of her tadpoles matured into frogs, ribbiting the nights away. The garden grew and Dad developed more ingenious ways to deter wildlife. It became his passion to outfox, so to speak, the intruders and he had countless stories of his attempts, both successes and failures.
NOTE: This was the late 1970s. Regulations regarding re-locating wildlife to the country hadn’t been addressed. While my siblings and I challenged Dad, he stood his ground and showed his own form of respect for those he captured and re-located over the years. He talked about how happy the relocated squirrels were when he released them into the wild: “I’ve taken them to squirrel heaven,” he would say. I’m not sure if the farmers would agree. Now that I have my own gardens, I can understand the frustration Mom and Dad faced with constant wildlife plundering.
Emily-Jane Hills Orford has published several books, creative nonfiction stories mostly about her family. Growing up in Toronto, then Hamilton and finally London, Emily-Jane has lots of family stories to warm the heart. In her most recent novels, “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost” and “Mrs. Murray’s Hidden Treasure”, the author returns to her roots and the fond memories and dreams, growing up in a haunted old Victorian mansion in London. For more information about the author, check out her webpage at: http://emilyjanebooks.ca