#TBT – Yard Art, Swans and Mennonites in Southern Ontario

(Note: I was working at the Toyota Plant in Woodstock, Ontario as a Japanese interpreter at the time I wrote this post in 2008)

March 26, 2008: It was a beautiful day and I got off work at 4:00 and decided to head out on a small road trip around the region.  A couple of days ago I met with Cathy Bingham, Director of the Oxford County, Ontario Tourism Office in Woodstock. She had contacted  me about my Jakeman’s Syrup page and wanted to meet with me to give me more ideas.  We had a wonderful visit and she gave me some unique ideas, told me about the history of the area and focused me in on some different places to see, both in Oxford County as well as the surrounding counties.  One of the DEFINITE MUST VISITS was to see the Tundra Swans near Aylmer,  Ontario.  So, I decided to do that along with a couple of other side  trips.  Following is an overview map of the route I took…about 78 miles all together.

The first place I visited was just outside of Woodstock.  I left Toyota and headed down Highway 2 (Dundas St.) into town all the way to the Highway 59 turnoff heading north (Vansitart Rd.).  I crossed over the Thames River and up a couple of hills to see  another place that Cathy had recommended to me, based on my  yard art interests.  This particular place is the home of Cliff Bruce and his wife.  Cliff Bruce has an eclectic collection of Windmills, whirly-gigs and other oddities scattered throughout his yard. Following are just a few shots of the place:

Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill
Welcome sign over the main driveway tells you where you are.
Push button
Push button to Open Gate – Do I dare?
Bruce Windmill Hill
Fun entry sign. I am still alive, so I must have missed the double shot gun day!

He calls it Windmill Hill.  There is a gate that keeps visitors out and  the dogs in, but the sign in the driveway says to “Push the Button” to open the gate.  I did that, but the gate did not open.  Since I did not know if today was the two double shot gun day, I decided to just walk around the outside and get a few shots of his yard decorum.

The first thing I noticed from the driveway was the working walk/don’t walk lights and the railroad crossing lights…which came complete with the bell ringing.  I wondered if the neighbors got tired of hearing the railroad bell go off every two minutes…for yes, there  are neighbors.

Walk/Don’t Walk Lights inside Windmill Hill
Railroad lights
Functioning Railroad Crossing lights go off occasionally
I would have walked had I been able to get inside the gate.

Then came the front yard.  He not only has windmills, but lots of unusual statues, etc.  Fun fun fun.

Fred Flintstone
Fred Flintstone waves at a whirly-gig from Cliff Bruce’s front porch
Bruce Windmill doll
Rent a birthday mannequin complete with the lingerie!
This cowpoke guards the place from American photographers…I had to be sneaky

From there I had to trudge through the foot deep snow around the south side of his house.  I was walking through some kind of field.  As I walked along the fence, the Bruce’s dogs paid me a visit (from the other side of the fence).  But I kept shooting away.  So many things…in so little space.

Windmill Hill
Numerous whirly-gigs and an old Texaco sign adorn the south side of the Bruce Windmill Hill landscape.
Tired snowman
A homemade Michelin man? Or is it a “tired” snowman??
Fascinating whirly-gig contraption.

One could really spend a couple of hours looking around this place. So many little things everywhere.

A red metal butterfly adorns the snow covered yard
A Clydesdale whirly-gig atop a pole
Fred Flintstone in flight

Cliff seems to have a fascination with flying things and moving things. He had a few small amusement airplanes and helicopters in the yard, like Fred Flintstone (above) and the plane and helicopter below.

A large toy plane floats above the yard at Bruce Windmill Farm
Planes, helicopters and other flying things.
A large amusement park style helicopter flies around. Even has a live-in pilot!

The menagerie in his yard  goes on and on.

A LIVE dog protects the whirly-gigs
A colorful tire adorns the yard
A wide shot of a part of the Cliff Bruce Windmill Farm.

From Windmill Hill I headed back into Woodstock and then on to the 401 freeway to head west towards London.  I got off at exit 203 to head south on Highway 73 (Elgin Rd.) towards Aylmer, Ontario (which the locals pronounce as “Elmer,” so I was initially confused in trying to find the place).  Along the way I went through the small village of  Harrietsville.  I was surprised to run across more yard art…in fact, a  place that fabricates yard art out of sheet metal and scrap metal.  I just had to stop!!

TCM Metal Art in Harrietsville, Ontario
A metal flamingo…but not too pink
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida!! An iron butterfly!!
A steel heron…or is it an egret?

On my stop at TCM I met an older man who said that he was one of four who owned and worked the place.  He makes the items with the stones while others do some of the metal work.  He told me about how he had a heart attack and the doctor said he could only be saved if he stopped smoking.  I asked if I could get his photo, but he declined.  Nonetheless, he was quite the talker.

Metal and stone flock of birds at TCM Metal Works in Harrietsville, Ontario
Lovely metallic flowers
Look at that snapper!
Metallic sunflower

i got a kick out of the guitar playing metallic dragon below:

Guitar playing dragon looks like he’s singing his heart out.
Opposite view of the singing dragon
A metallo-raptor?
Front view of metallo-raptor
Metallo-raptor head

Time was flying and the sun was beginning to get lower in the sky, so I shuffled off to Aylmer to go see the swans…the main goal of this  little excursion.  In speaking to Cathy, she told me that from her experience, the best time to see the swans is in the afternoon as they are the most active.  So, I took her word for it and hoped that my afternoon visit would pay off.

I drove down 73 until I got to Glencolin Line and at that corner was a nice blue sign with a swan on it and an arrow pointing left.  I followed Glencolin about 5 km to Hacienda Dr., where there was another sign pointing to the left.  Just shortly up the road was another sign pointing to the right.  This was the place – the Aylmer Wildlife Management Area:

Aylmer Wildlife Management Area – Aylmer, Ontario
The Blue Swan sign pointing to the Aylmer Wildlife Management area

A small jaunt down the road led to some viewing stands.  One was open and a couple more were enclosed with open windows. As I got out of the car I could hear an assortment of honks, hums, whistles and various other noises emanating from the small pond (named  Tundra Pond) where there were literally thousands of Tundra Swans (in fact, there is a group of volunteers that feeds them and counts them daily — today’s count was 4268).  In fact, the Aylmer Museum sponsors a Tundra Swan Line which allows people to call in and get a daily migration report and count of the visiting swans.  I had never seen more than one or two swans at a time, so this pretty amazing to me to see thousands of them.  And mingled in with them were a number of Canadian Geese.

First view of swans at Aylmer
Swans mingle with geese
Lots of swans in the Tundra Pond
Another view of swans and geese at Aylmer

I learned that the swans are in different groups.  Since they mate for life, the “married couples” are in one place, the singles are in another and then the young ‘uns are just out playing in the water.  Watching them fly was also cool as these birds are so graceful and their huge size really adds emphasis.  It was really an amazing visit!!

My return trip took me through the booming town of Aylmer.  I went through Aylmer and then ventured back along the back roads of Elgin County, Norfolk County and Oxford County, before returning to Brant County and Paris. Along the road I encountered Mennonites in their horse-drawn buggies.  Aylmer actually has a Mennonite Furniture Store.  I think the photos speak for themselves.  All told, it was a wonderfully adventurous afternoon and a beautiful one at that with partly cloudy skies and 45 degree temperatures.

A lonely Mennonite buggy on a road in Elgin County, Ontario
Look carefully and you can see a head through the window
Doesn’t look like a Canada Goose to me!!
Another Mennonite scene

The back roads of southern Ontario always offer some wonderful scenes.  So glad to have visited in 2008 and to be able to look back at these great memories.