Got Allergies? Come to the countryside.

June 14th, 2015

The number of allergy sufferers has been practically doubling every decade and scientists feel that climate change is to blame.   With longer and more intense spore and pollen seasons, there is a noted increase in financial and social costs associated with allergies.


Some experts feel that this year, as many as  33% more people may be hit by allergies- because of the longer pollen season and increased load of some types of pollen that was brought about by the unusual weather we have experienced this year.  


It isn't unusual for the same people who have allergies to tree pollen, to have a reaction to grass pollen as well.   The allergic trigger is protein in the pollen- the same proteins can also be present in our food.   Some of the most offending trees are alders, ash, birch, cedar, elm. maple and oak.  Oak being the worst.  In species where there are gender specific trees, it is the male tree that produces the pollen.


Generally, pollens from grasses begin to affect us in June and July.  The worst offenders here areBermuda,Kentuckybluegrass, timothy, fescue and sweet vernal.  Pollination runs longer for grasses, meaning that the symptoms will be prolonged. Plants like ragweed seem to be multiplying heartily and they are known for their allergy-irritating pollen.


Ragweed allergy is often called hayfever.  It is twice common in urban areas, because of air pollution.  Pollens stick to airborne particles of pollution, increasing the chances that someone will ingest them. Good weather often means an increase in the pollution index, intensifying symptoms- even affecting people who have never experienced allergic symptoms.  Aside from higher levels of pollution, cities are often warmer than the countryside and the higher temperatures increase the production of spores and pollens.


Itchy eyes are most common to grass allergy sufferers.   Some mould spores cause allergy- two of the most common are found both indoors and outdoors.  Some are found on carpets and window frames, others outdoors on plants and in the soil.  Still others grow on rotting vegetation, logs, in compost or on grass and grain.


Fungus likes moist surfaces.  When your indoor humidity goes over 50 percent, the probability of fungus growth is increased substantially.  This can have serious consequences for people with allergies or asthma.

Baptiste of the Ottawa Valley

May 29th, 2015

The Anishnabeg or "real people" is how many North American aboriginal tribal groups refer to themselves.  Remains of their camps and artefacts have been discovered widely throughout this area. 

Bits of pottery, tools and implements with their distinctive markings provide evidence of a communications and trade in the Bancroft area, more than 400 years ago.  Most native groups are identified on the basis of the style of their pottery vessels and their decorations.

While different groups carried out hunting and gathering expeditions in the Bancroft area, many journals and diaries refer to a trade route through the Ottawa Valley, which followed the St Lawrence, ascending the Bonnechere River to Round Lake, through Kamaniskeg into the Madawaska and its streams, the Little Mississippi and York (Shawashkong) Rivers. 

Records of the Seminary of St. Sulpice at Lac Des Deux-Montagnes (Lake of Two Mountains) indicate that the Algonkians were the primary territorial organization defending the waterways.  They set out in groups, each having their own captain or "Okima" meaning Chief.    Many of them traveled by canoe for 150 miles or more from Lake of Two Mountains (where they spent a few months each summer) to Kijicho Manitou (or Long Lake, later to be named Baptiste Lake).  Archaeological evidence has revealed this was an ancient gathering place and spiritual area for the Algonquins. 

Church records as far back as the late 16th century note a settlement of "Algonkians" at the shore of Kijicho Manitou near where the Village of Baptiste now stands.  Much has to be considered when we speak of our early history- information was frequently recorded into church records weeks and months after the event and may not be entirely reliable.   Genealogy is, at best, a jigsaw puzzle but the native peoples had an oral tradition and many of the earliest expeditions included French missionaries their interpreters whose cultural differences may have further complicated the understanding. The phonetic spelling of native names, poorly written in early French documents that are barely legible is yet another challenge- as are dit names and baptismal names that were also used as early means of identification.  Other issues arise from the custom of plural marriages and country wives, rampant adoption and the friendly tradition of acknowledging dear friends and loved ones, although not related via bloodline, as brother or sister.

Several books on the area, mention a settlement of Algonquins and Nippissing living in the vicinity of Baptiste Lake in the late 19th century, under the direction of Nippissing Grand Chief  "Jean Baptiste Kijicho Manitou" (Kijicho Manitou meaning "gentle spirit").  In 1853, Surveyor/Geologist Alexander Murray described an encounter he had on the York River, near the hamlet of Purdy, with an Algonquin leader by the name of "Kaijick Manitou" who explained that his people lived around a lake that they had named after him. 

Some believe this might have been George Cowan, known to his French Canadian employees as Jean Baptiste Constant and by others as  Pierre-Louis Pinesi dit Constant (son of Chief Bernard Wambolak) who was born in 1768 at Lake of Two Mountains.  Known to travel extensively, Constant established posts and settlements throughout the region while spending summers at Lake of Two Mountains.  It is curious to note that one of his settlements was established on Lake of Bays- which in 1826 was known as Baptiste Lake. Baptismal records show that Jean Baptiste, son of Pierre-Louis Constant and Marguerite Nipa8ik8e was born about the 27th of December, prior to his baptism on the 18th of June 1793.   Constant was, by 1830, Grand Chief of the Algonquins Anishinaabe Baptiste Band (Ignace John Baptiste)- he died in 1834.  Constant is said to have had many sons.  One, Jean Baptiste Constant, was later known as Chief Jean Baptiste Kikons or Kiconse.  Some records suggest there was a second son also called Jean Baptiste Constant (Kekandjkapawitch) born in 1793 and died in 1879, although some believe this was Kikons.

There are records that indicate Constant Pinesi (which means Partridge in Algonquian) was married in 1783 to Marguerite Nipawikwe daughter of Pandikeassunk at the Oka mission.  Another record shows him married to Marie Joseph Pinessiikwe and still others refer to Marguerite Onipaik8e.  It is obvious that records relating to our indigenous people are sketchy, at best.  Many rely on an entry made  in 1842 that indicates that Jean Baptiste Dufond, a son of Kijicho Manitou (or Manito), was born at the hunting grounds on Baptiste Lake   He was leader of the Bear Clan and spent most of his life in the Bancroft area.   

In September of 1890, A.F. Chamberlain visited Baptiste Lake and noted that some twenty "Indians, of Algonkian stock" were living on the islands and shores of the lake.  He spent time with a family, headed by a man known as Pana'sawa Ekwo'satsh (aka Francois) and his wife.  Chamberlain also mentions a son, John aged approximately 25 and another boy, about 7.  He also noted that Ekwo'satsh was very skilled in the art of birch-bark canoe making.  Ekwo'satsh spoke of his grandfather, Mishito'gon (from Oka or Lac des Deux-Montagnes) and explained that the lake was called Assi'ntow'ningk which means "the lake where they hunt with a long pole for fish, at night."

The 1891 Canadian Census for the Monteagle & Herschel in Hastings County shows a family of Baptiste headed by widow Madeline aged 75 and including a single male, Denis Baptiste, aged 28 and a widowed female, Louise Baptiste, aged 30.  It aslo indicates the family of farmer John Baptiste (1842-1920) and his wife Madeline nee Benoit (born 1861) together with their children: Susan 14, Mary 13, Ceclilia 12, Maggie 6 and Samuel 5.  The Baptistes lived in a small log cabin, on the north shore of the lake. This John is most likely the fellow mentioned in Chamberlain's writings.  Neighbouring families  included the Yateman, Bernard, Lavallee and Hunter families- most of whom also had ties to Lac des Deux-Montagnes.

On April 20th 1900, a Mrs. John Baptiste's death was recorded at Monteagle & Herschel.  She was listed as the wife of a farmer and 88 years of age.  On April 7th 1920,  widowed farmer John Baptiste aged 78 died in Herschel Township.  The record shows the informant as his daughter- May L. Lavalley.  This John Baptiste is said to have paddled to the Bancroft area, from Lake of Two Mountains, in the early 1800s.  These three records may lend credence to the possibility that George Cowan was the Baptiste for whom the lake is named, making him the great grandfather of the John Baptiste listed in the 1891 census.

Regardless of the details of their ancestry, Samuel and Mary Baptiste were well-known and well-loved members of the community.  There are many stories about Samuel who was a hunting and fishing guide, friendly with all of the early cottagers, the builder of birch bark canoes, a musician and captain of the steamboat The Beaver.

Mary, was beloved by the community.  She is known for crafting moccasins from deer hide and birch bark containers that she decorated with porcupine quills.  Some of her work is on display at the Bancroft Pioneer Museum.  Mary was famous for her berry pies and she would often be seen out on the lake, in her canoe, delivering them to eager cottagers.

In Bancroft, on June 15th 1904, Mary Baptiste married Xavier (Frank) Lavallee.  He was the son of Louis Lavallee and Madeline Dafoe.  Mary and Frank adopted a son, Bill.  They farmed on their property on Baptiste Lake.  Frank is said to have harvested the marsh grasses out of Grassy Bay to feed his livestock.  Mary passed away on July 6, 1948 and Frank perished in a fire, on June 28th, 1954-  having fallen down the stairs, while carrying a lantern- he was 94 years old.  

Gearing Up for Cottage Time

April 22nd, 2015
  1. Check your car’s lights, signals, tire pressure and fluids before the trip to the cottage.
  2. Check your first-aid kit and replace any missing supplies.
  3. Check and maintain cottage smoke detectors and CO detectors.
  4. Check the condition of boat(s), including fuel lines and tanks. Check that all required safety equipment is on board and in good repair.
  5. Remove dry leaves and debris from the cottage roof and/or eavestroughs to reduce fire risk.
  6. Prepare for extreme weather events – create a family emergency preparedness plan for the cottage.
  7. Assemble a disaster safety kit for your cottage and car.
  8. Talk to your neighbours – plan ahead for emergencies by identifying vulnerable people and potential community volunteers.

In the event of an emergency, it is critical to be able to quickly and accurately relay the required information to emergency service providers. Prepare a handy list of emergency phone numbers and post it prominently in your home or cottage, near a telephone if possible.  Having accurate information at hand will aid in directing first responders to your location – critical information that may save a life, and that (in a panic) may be hard to translate or describe  – especially if a guest or others less familiar with your location are making the call.

Here's a sample of the sort of information you want to have on hand:

Bancroft's Curling Club

April 11th, 2015

The Bancroft Curling Club has been active in the community since 1957.   Started by the mining crews, the first curlers met at a quonset hut where there were four sheets of ice.  In the 1990's, the new curling arena and club house were built.  The club welcomes curlers of all ages and they're happy to teach the basics.  Aside from bonspiels, the club is always arranging great activities, they're a friendly bunch and joining the club is an excellent way to meet people.

Located at 63 Newkirk Blvd, the curling club is just a stone's throw from the centre of town. 

Fun Facts about Curling:

* Curling traces its roots back to Scotland in 1541

* Curling was introduced to Canada by our Scottish immigrants in the 1700s

* Canada is the leader in international curling

* Before a match, the teams shake hands and wish each other "Good Curling"

* Sportsmanship is an important element of the game and the winners customarily buy the losers refreshments after a match

* Until the 20th century, most curling was played outdoors

* George Clooney became an avid curler, whilst filming "The Perfect Storm"

* In 1912, bodies recovered from the Titanic wreck were taken to the Mayflower Curling Club, in Halifax, which served as a temporary morgue

* Curling became an Olympic sport in 1998, in Nagano

* Curling stones are made of Scottish granite, although there are some accounts of iron stones being used in Canada

* The maximum weight of a curling stone is 44 pounds or just under 20 kilograms, most stone are about 42 pounds or 19 kilograms

* There are 4 players to a team:  the lead, the second, the vice and the skip and each delivers 2 stones per "end"

*There are usually 8 "ends" per game

* A team can sweep their own stone once it's been released and they can sweep their opposition's stone, once it reaches the far tee line

Tonight there's a fun event happening at the Bancroft Curling Club, I hope some of you will consider going:



Wet Monday or Lany Poniedzialek aka Smigus-Dyngus

April 5th, 2015

As you may already know, Wilno, Ontario,  is recognized as the oldest Polish settlement in Canada.  Some argue that Barry's Bay is the oldest Polish settlement, but that isn't the topic of today's blog.  In honour of Fabian's Polish heritage (on his father's side), I thought I'd do a little research on Polish customs related to Easter.

Preparation for Easter begins with a six-week period of Lent.  Easter observances begin with the gathering of pussywillows on Ash Wednesday.  Called "bazie" or "Kotki", the pussywhillows are cut and placed in water, ready to take to church, to be blessed, on Palm Sunday.  The Poles use pussywillows because palms are not found in Poland.  In some villages,  branches of other other trees, including box, yew and olive are used to symbolize the palm.  Some people believe that eating one of the pussywillow buds will bless them with good health throughout the coming year.  Once blessed, the pussywillow branches are taken home to decorate the family crucifix or some other type of holy image.  They are kept until the celebration, in the following year. 

At mass, the priest marks the parishoners with the mark of the cross and says:  "Remember, man though art dust to dust thou shall return."   For Polish Catholics, Lent is a most spiritually reflective season.   On Holy Saturday, the people bring Swieconka (a decorated basket of traditional foods) to church, which will be blessed and held until Easter Sunday.  Foods included int the Swieconka include hard-boiled shelled eggs, ham, sausage, salt, horseradish, fruits, bread and cake. The food that is most prominently displayed is an Easter lamb, usually molded from butter or sugar and colorful pisanki.   Each food item bears symbolic meaning, for example: bread is the symbol of Jesus, the lamb represents Christ, salt represents purification, ham is the symbol of great joy and abundance, horseradish is a symbol of Christ's bitter sacrifice and eggs symbolize life and Christ's resurrection.  


Eggs are not only part of the Easter meal, they are decorated by children, with paints, crayons, stickers and tissues paper.  Traditional Polish easter eggs are not as fancy as the pysanka (the Ukrainian Easter egg) which is decorated using a sort of batik, in which beeswax is used to write on the eggs.   In Poland, Holy Week (Wielki Tydzien) begins on Palm Sunday, with a High Mass, that includes the reading of Christ's Passion.  Throughout the fast, other ceremonies include observing the Stations of the Cross, Bitter Lamentations and a 3-day retreat that closes with the reception of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist.  

On Easter morning, a special Resurrection Mass is celebrated.  During this Mass, the priests, altar boys and people form a procession and circle the church three times while the bells ring and the organ is played, for the first time since Good Friday. After Mass, people return home to eat the food that was blessed the day before.  

The Easter table is always covered by a white tablecloth, symoblizing the white swaddling cloth in which the Lord was wrapped when placed in the Holy Sepulcher. This is a time for happy family celebration.

Easter Monday is called Lany Poniedzialek or Smigus-Dyngus... and it's celebrated by sprinkling people with water.  Traditionally, the boys would drench the girls and it was thought that wetter a girl got, the more likely her chances for marriage... but these days gentlemen will spritz their wives with water to wish them good health and it's considered a friendly, joyous gesture to splash your friends and family.