There's a surprising lot of interesting stuff going on around here, and this space is devoted to discovering and sharing it. We'll post regular updates on merchants, activities and events. Look in often and soon you'll see why Meaford calls itself "The other Big Apple".

posted September 29th, 2011
28th annual Apple Harvest Craft Show kicks off

For more than a quarter of a century, craft lovers have flocked to Meaford during Apple Season to take in the huge assortment of quality handcrafted at the Apple Harvest Craft Show, which kicks off its 28th annual show on Saturday.

In the early 80s, the Chamber of Commerce added a craft show to the Apple Festival, which had been running since 1969. But after a couple of years, the Chamber decided it wasn’t worth the effort to continue managing it. The original organizers, along with Rod and Betty Jane Brebner, disagreed. They decided to take it on themselves.

Bringing some of the previous vendors on board, including Betty Jane, who made silk and dry floral arrangements and wreaths, the first Apple Harvest Craft Show was held in 1984 in the Meaford Arena auditorium. The second year, they moved to the arena floor (the rink), and filled it up about half with booths. It’s grown steadily ever since, and the show is now maxed out at 200 booths, filling the auditorium, the arena, and the Meaford Curling Club, across the street.

The show has about 20 percent turnover each year, which keeps things fresh, says Rod Brebner, who’s still involved with the craft show. “And we’ve become very selective. The committee goes through the applications and photos and picks the best. We try not to have duplication, and everything has to be handcrafted.” The organizers actually monitor that last restriction, and have actually asked people to remove non-handcrafted items.

To Rod, the biggest thing about the craft show is the contribution to the community. Over the years, the Craft Show has put back around $700,000 into Meaford projects, including the breakwall look-out and pavers, other harbour improvements, and a recent $50,000 contribution to the community health centre project. “I think that’s our biggest achievement, that we can contribute so strongly to the community,” says Rob.

Head down this weekend to find hand-thrown pottery, wooden games and toys, photography, candles, quilting, folk art, stained glass, woodworking, knitting and sewing, baking leather work, stuffed animals, painting, spinning and weaving and handmade jewellery, to mention just a few.

posted September 26th, 2011
Early apple varieties on the stands

Grandma Lambe’s has a couple of early fall apple varieties on the shelf. The Ginger Gold has a mild flavour with a tart finish and is great for pies. According to one U.S. evalution, the Ginger Gold was “the best apple that we have evaluated that ripens before Gala.”

The Silken, according to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, “is an early fall selection that was noted for its unique white gold porcelain colour and for its outstanding texture and flavour. It is a multiple-pick apple usually harvested over two weeks just ahead of and into the McIntosh season… It is firm, crisp and juicy. It is high in aromatic intensity and sweetness and moderate in acidity.”



posted September 26th, 2011
Local Ontario cider just down the road

Local apple cider comes in a variety of delicious forms. There’s the thick, smooth cider that does double duty. It tastes great cool on a sunny autumn day, and it can warm away the winter when it’s mulled with cinnamon, allspice and cloves and served hot – preferably by a crackling fire.

And then there’s hard cider. You can enjoy this refreshing, sparkling alcoholic beverage any time during the year, but it somehow seems to taste even better as the days grow shorter and the afternoon shadows grow longer

Our area has its own homegrown hard cider, made just down the road in Thornbury. Thornbury Premium Cider has quickly become both a local favourite and a popular choice throughout the province.

A few years back, in 2007, Andre Corbeil was looking to come out of his early retirement, and he happened upon a group of mainly British investors interested in the market for cider in Ontario. Before long Thornbury Village Cidery had been established as only the second cidery in Ontario. (It has since been followed by other cider startups.) Corbeil decided to craft something different from the traditional British ciders, and he turned to Doug Johnson to create it.

The result was Peeler Premium Light Cider, a refreshingly light, champagne-style apple cider that made for perfect refreshment on a summer’s day. It quickly appeared at local restaurants, bars and ski resorts, followed by other restaurants and LCBO outlets throughout Ontario, putting Thornbury Village Cidery on the map. The success caught the attention of Beer Barons, a Toronto-based craft beer importer looking to get into brewing, and this past summer the company bought the cidery.

Doug Johnson remains on board as cider master (and director of operations), and he has tweaked the original recipe. The new Thornbury Premium Cider is now a more traditional 5.3 percent, dry cider, which the cidery describes as: “Fresh apple aroma and flavour. A light body with a refreshing balance of sweetness and slight acidity. The flavour remains bright and distinct throughout a long sparkling finish.”

Mmmmm, think it’s time to take a refreshment break.

Thornbury Premium Apple Cider

The company has indicated it would like to export our homegrown cider to other countries. “We’re very excited that we’ll be using local apples,” Troy Taylor, Beer Baron’s national director of sales and marketing, told the Collingwood Enterprise Bulletin. “That’s a strong selling point.”

posted September 23rd, 2011
Look out for the scarecrows!

They’re here… Everywhere you turn, another one appears in front of you, grinning, leering… well, actually, offering a friendly smile. After all, the theme of this year’s Meaford Scarecrow Invasion is “Nursery Rhymes”, so the straw-stuffed invaders are less likely to scare than to charm.

Mother Goose Scarecrows

Mother Goose Scarecrows

But as next Friday’s Scarecrow Parade draws nearer, the scarecrows have truly taken over the town. Begun as a small downtown promotional event back in 1996, the Scarecrow Invasion now attracts an estimated 5,000 visitors each year. Last year, CityTV’s Breakfast Television showed up, and earlier this year, the Scarecrow Invasion and Family Festival Volunteers were honoured with the June Callwood Outstanding Achievement Award for Volunteerism.

Meaford scarecrows parade through town

Meaford scarecrows parade through town

In 2002, Meaford actually made a bid for the Guinness Book of World Records, more than doubling the previous record – held by a town in Portugal – for largest number of scarecrows in one community. But believe it or not, a small town near Ottawa squeaked by to beat us out.

Anyway, you’ve got time still to see this year’s “scare-crew” in all its glory, before it takes to the streets for the Parade, and then heads off to wherever it is scarecrows go in the winter. (For one scarecrow, it was Meaford, as you’ll learn from this student-produced mockumentary presented at MIFF a few years back.)

Of course, the first weekend in October is also Apple Harvest Craft Show weekend, so we’ll find out some more about that next week.

posted September 22nd, 2011
Plan your fall foliage tour from Meaford

The first flares of fall have caught our eyes in the last few days, as a few eager maples show their autumn colours early. While the Beaver Valley drive, just a few minutes south of Meaford, is great at any time of year, an autumn tour of this grand, scenic vale should be in your plans for the coming weeks.

To whet your appetite, check out the video.

Stock up in town for a picnic lunch at Eggcitement Bistro, McGinty’s, the Earth Harvest Café or The Kitchen, or plan a stop in Eugenia, up the far side of the valley, for a quick bite at the Eugenia Falls Emporium or a delicious meal at the Flying Chestnut.

posted September 21st, 2011
Perfect location for a retirement community for all stages

Maybe there’s something in the breeze off Georgian Bay, or there’s some kind of subterranean energy in the property lying between the water and the Meaford Golf Club. But after a recent encounter, it’s beginning to seem as if the Meaford Haven property was destined to become a retirement community that will enrich all the stages of your retired life, from active retirement to the days when you need more care and attention.

Last week, we bumped into Gunter Neumann on the street and got to chatting about the concept behind Meaford Haven. Now, Gunter has been involved in Meaford politics, business and civic efforts for years. In addition to his artistic and organizational work for various causes, he spearheaded a strategic plan process some years ago, which concluded that Meaford’s location, amenities, and natural beauty gave it great potential to be a wellness destination.

More recently, during a time when the Municipality was going through an Economic Development process, he had an inspiration. When the large property between the golf course and Highway 26 came up for sale, Gunter hiked the property and had visions of it becoming a “retirement, apartment, condominium and nursing home” community, recommending that a committee be struck to attempt to attract interest in such a venture.

Gunter Neumann

Gunter Neumann

“I have inspected the property and would like to invite you to do the same,” Gunter wrote at the time. “It is absolutely fabulous with an extensive beautiful hardwood forest at the back, leading all the way to the golf course. It even has a bit of a stream…”

Well, Gunter’s suggestion didn’t raise a lot of interest at the time from the players involved. But as it turned out, his vision was shared. Today, a few years down the road, Meaford Haven is poised to become Ontario’s first Three Seasons Community™.

posted September 17th, 2011
Your guide to Georgian Bay apple varieties

Time for an apple lesson. With the harvest upon us, you’ll discover more varieties of apples for sale in Meaford than you might have even known existed.

Here are some popular local favourites.

McIntosh – The popular “Mac” is celebrating its 200th birthday this year. Back in 1811, a Scottish immigrant named John McIntosh was clearing his Eastern Ontario farm when he discovered a number of seedling apple trees. He tranplanted them, but only one survived. Carefully nurtured, that single tree spawned one of the most popular apple varieties in the world. Macs make up about 40 percent of the local harvest.

Northern Spy – Next most predominant in the Georgian Bay area, the Spy is first choice for pie fillings and apple sauce.

Empire – A cross between the McIntosh and Red Delicious, this slightly tart variety is juicy, firm and crisp, and makes great applesauce.

Gala – The yellow-orange fruit set off by a red blush is a great picking and eating apple.

Cortland – Wonderful for fresh eating, pies and salads. Cortland slices resist browning and stay white in salads. Mildly sweet with white flesh.

Ida red – A tart tasting white flesh; best stored until Christmas. Delicious baked, makes a super apple pie, and great fresh eating.

Honeycrisp – Released in 1991, the Honey Crisp is quickly gaining vast favour. Exceptionally crisp, pale, yellow flesh with just a hint of tartness. Amazing eating, but also excellent for cooking.

Georgian Bay Honeycrisps

Georgian Bay Honeycrisps

posted September 16th, 2011
Grandma Lambe’s a delicious Meaford attraction

She’s been a fixture of Meaford as long as we’ve been here, but it turns out that Grace Lambe (fondly referred to as Grandma Lambe) only took over the business named after her mother-in-law the year before we arrived. And it was only a few years before that that an excess of peaches prompted Grace to whip up a bunch of peach pies. “I didn’t want to waste them,” she told Adrian Brijbassi a few weeks back, “so I made the pies and put them out on a stand and they sold. To think, from that came this business.” To begin with, Grace baked the pies and Mabel oversaw the apple sales, and the business quickly grew. Today the family business serves locals and hungry tourists (busloads, sometimes!) drawn by its wares.

Brijbassi’s story taught me a couple of things about the popular (and oft-visited by us) fruit, vegetable, fresh-baking, and more-stand just down the road.

And this video will give you another “taste” of what’s to offer.

posted September 14th, 2011
Apple season a great time for a country drive

Apple season’s here in the “other Big Apple”. The orchards lining the roads around Meaford that were white with blossoms a few short months ago are now heavy with apples, and the farmers’ markets and fruit stands are displaying their ripe, red wares. We picked up our first half-peck of Jersey Macs the other day to bake up some apple crisp, but there’ll be many more varieties available in the days to come.

Meaford apples

Take a country drive around the area, and visit one of these country markets to get your apples (and much more).

Almond’s Fruit Stand
Home baking, jams, birdseed and gifts.
Highway 26 between Lora Bay and Meaford | 519-538-2281

Appletop Farm
Picked organic apples and more.
416476 10th Line, The Blue Mountains 519-599-6177

Barbetta Orchards
On-farm market June through November. Apples, pears, plums, pumpkin squash and more.
Highway 26 just west of Meaford | 519-538-2206

Bay Ridge Orchards Limited
Eight varieties of apples stored in a controlled atmosphere.
7th Line South of Highway 26 | 519-538-1405

Bev Murray Farms
Pick your own apples.
145816 Grey Road 12 west of Meaford | 519-538-3592

Dykstra Farms
Ready picked apples and more.
301 Clark St, Clarksburg | 519-599-9938

The Farmers Pantry
Minutes south of Clarksburg, pick-your-own or ready-picked apples, fresh-grown in season vegetables, baked goods and crafts.
788030 Grey Rd 13, The Blue Mountains | 519-599-3691

Finch Haven Orchards
Apples, fresh pressed cider, non-alcoholic sparkling apple ciders, jams, jellies and preserves, maple syrup, honey, and apple gift boxes.
416241 10th Line, The Blue Mountains | 519-599-7775

Goldsmith Orchards
On-farm market open July to December 9.
Highway 26 between Lora Bay and Thornbury | 519-599-3246

Grandma Lambe’s Fruit Market
Fruits and vegetables, baked goods, honey, maple syrup, gift baskets, candles, and more.
Highway 26 between Lora Bay and Meaford | 519-538-2757

Jones Willow Grove Orchard
496818 Grey Rd 2, The Blue Mountains | 519-599-3668

Oaklane Orchards Ltd
Apples, including pick-your-own.
496445 Grey Rd 2, The Blue Mountains | 519-599-5841

Vail’s Orchards
Cider, apples, jams, maple syrup and fresh produce, September to December Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
 Two locations: Highway 26 west of Meaford and South on Grey Road 7 at west end of Meaford | 519-538-4928

posted September 10th, 2011
Coaches and courses help retirees organize and right-size their lives

In her career in the pharmaceutical industry, Renée Blanchette was responsible for scaling up processes and designing labs and offices to be productive, in order to validate university research in a private laboratory. Her organizational expertise has now launched her in a new career as a personal organizer, and she has discovered that retiring baby boomers are looking for the kind of help she can offer. “There’s a transition,” she told Canada Business Plans. “Part of it is helping them go through and get organized to be able to move into the condominium. That’s a process that’s very challenging. It requires some coaching along the line, because it can be quite traumatic if you’re not prepared. You can have difficulty getting started.”

Her company, Sweet City Lifestyle, operates in Montreal and Toronto and offers a service she calls “lifestyle editing”. “To edit is to change,” she writes on her website. “[And] we tend to resist it and go back to our comfort zone. Sweet City Lifestyle starts with a conversation… We’ll take something that seems overwhelming and break it into manageable and attainable step-by-step tasks.”

Renee Blanchette - Sweet City Lifestyle

Renee Blanchette's service helps retirees organize their lives and belongings as they downsize.

Courses for retirees looking to right-size their belongings are cropping up, too. Last weekend, the Toronto Star described how Elizabeth Flavelle and David Windeyer are enjoying their retirement more now that they’ve downsized from their long-time house. In the article, called “Downsized and free of all that stuff that cluttered their lives”, Ellen Moorhouse writes that their “journey started with a Toronto District School Board course on downsizing, offered by real estate agent Lynn Tribbling… Downsizing Strategies for Success (course number 46336)” Learn more at

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