And the Story of Dunrobin Lake
According to Russian folklore, wearing a Siberian Cedar medallion around your neck is good for your health, both physical and mental. The oils from the wood and its aroma are part of its magic. The other part is, well, magic.
Ontario’s Pine Nut trees are similar to Siberian Cedar and are native to Ontario. Years ago, I planted 3,000 saplings (actually my two boys and my friend, Barry Lett did most of the work) at Dunrobin Lake.
Gone Fishing at Dunrobin Lake
Dunrobin Lake is a kind of sacred place for my family. My oldest son, Andrew, and I ‘discovered’ the Lake in the 1980s. We went exploring the adjacent wetlands in early spring and found a colossal artesian well bubbling ferociously and noisily to the surface about 1,000 metres in from the road.
Later, looking at aerial photographs, we realized that this part of the wetlands never seemed to freeze over– the action of the well being too vigorous. We also realized that the well was the source for what was an elevated water table in the area– it never drains.
The lands in that area have significant sand deposits, left there at the end of the last ice age, about 10,000 to 11,000 years ago. We conjectured that the whole area had been a lake at one time and that if we dug out the sand, we might uncover it.
Bill Karson (Founder of Karson Kartage) kindly loaned us one of his shovels (the diesel-electric kind) and, sure enough, 25 feet down through the sand was this incredible, soft, green spring water, purer, it turns out, than any bottled water you can buy in a store.
The Girls Having Fun
Over the next 17-years, Karson removed about 1.1 million tons of washed sand. The water comes through about 7 kilometres of sandstone (from the Carp Ridge we believe) and then around another 1,000 metres of sand before filling what is now Dunrobin Lake.
Pine Nut trees love sandy soil and there is plenty of that there. So last year, after reading the first book in ‘Anastasia, The Ringing Cedars’ series and getting a nice gift of a Siberian Cedar medallion from one of my friends, Jennifer Clark, I decided to go looking for a local source of Pine Nut trees– I didn’t have to go very far with 3,000 of them now 25+ years old growing nicely in Dunrobin.
We harvested four branches from our trees without damaging any of them. Each branch varies in diameter from 3/4 of an inch to two inches and we can cut up to 120 medallions from a single branch.
Prof Bruce and his Pine Nut Medallions
These medallions should be worn around the neck allowing the surface of the pine nut to rest against the skin for good health and good fortune. (I made the last part up.)
They make great crafts for kids and adults but you should only adorn one side. The other remains in its natural state and rests against your skin.
We used them last summer at family camp (Red Pine Camp on Golden Lake, Ontario) as a craft. It’s folk art but it’s fun.
Happy Campers at Golden Lake with their Pine Nut Medallions
I pre-drill them so it’s easy for the kids to string them around their necks. We only use natural fibres for that. I try to bring something for the kids (and adults) to do each year at RPC so I am going to have to come up with something else for 2011.
ps. If you would like a few medallions, we put them on our IP Store: http://ipstore.myshopify.com/products/pine-nut-medallion. In return, you have to make a donation of 5 bucks plus postage to our Not-For-Profit organization, Exploriem.org BTW.
Postscript 1: More Background and History of Dunrobin Lake
The original purchase of this property dates to 1956. The property purchased included frontage on Dunrobin Road and on an unopened road allowance to the east.
At one point, we offered to gift the adjacent wetlands area to the Province of Ontario for safekeeping by the responsible authority (MOEE, Ministry of Environment and Energy).
The proposed gift mandated that there would be no change in land use, no hunting allowed and the Province would not change the level of the water table.
The then Cabinet Minister responsible for MOEE rejected the gift based on the cockamamie idea that somehow the Ministry might be held responsible for fixing the adjacent road, Thomas A. Dolan Parkway, which, at the time, was the responsibility of the (former) City of Kanata and the (former) Township of West Carleton. Instead, these Provincially significant wetlands are now owned by a group of investors (mainly dentists).
We retained the lands that are now known as Dunrobin Lake.
The artesian well was discovered in 1984. The sand layer is anywhere from 20 to 40 feet deep. The Karson firm began excavating the sand in 1989 after the Ministry of Natural Resources permitted the firm to go down instead of out.
The MNR is within its rights to insist that mineral resources in Ontario be exhausted before allowing the lands to be used for anything else. If they had insisted that the estimated remaining capacity of 1.1 million tons of sand be reached by surface mining (above the water table) then the entire parcel of land would have looked like the Moon and no possible after-use would have been practical. Instead, Dunrobin Lake and its follow-on sub-division of Dunrobin Springs provide a wonderful backdrop for more than 45 homes.
Dunrobin Lake Sub-Division Plan
Water and well tests over the years have shown that the water deriving from the artesian well is comparable to Evian water and the experience of swimming in the (soft) water is marvelous.
The level of the lake remains largely unaffected by the amount of precipitation during the summer. Over the last decade and a half, we have found that the water level does not change by more than a foot from spring to fall.
The volume of water in the lake turns over frequently and one can actually feel the current by swimming to the bottom of the lake which, even in July, is cool; the water moves west to east and flows freely through the sand layer and the lake is constantly recharged.
There is a significant isocline in the Lake which means that small children or adults who are not strong swimmers should wear life jackets.
Local hunters do not use the property and, as a result, wild life is abundant. It includes: ducks, geese, seagulls, blue herons, all manner of other fishing birds, porcupines, deer, bears and wolves have been seen from time to time. Beavers have not settled in the lake.
The lake contains minnows, cat fish, Cray fish, turtles, frogs and toads.
We introduced, with MNR approval*, large mouth bass in the Spring of 1997. In fact, seeding the Lake was a sad day: we transported the large mouth the day Princess Diana died.
(* You need a permit to transport live fish in Ontario.)
Large mouth bass have prospered in this environment — the Lake now holds around 300 mature fish. There is a catch and release policy for fishing by residents. However, about 10% of the stock is fished out every year to keep a healthy and balanced demographic.
Years later, I noticed that the Lake, already an amazing body of spring-fed, sand-filtered, soft water, was getting clearer and clearer every year. Visibility was only getting better. Now how was that possible?
We discovered that mollusks (actually bivalves aka clams) had settled in the sandy-bottom of the lake. Clams (like oysters) are nature’s great filters, filtering as much as 50 US gallons of water per day each*. How did the clams get into Dunrobin Lake? They flew in! Small clams, using their single foot (a hatchet-shaped muscle protruding from its shell) get themselves caught up in the feathers of birds and hitchhike their way to the lake, et voila, become an essential part of their new ecosystem.
(* In the aftermath of 2012 super-storm Sandy, architect and landscape designer Kate Orff proposed protecting the Red Hook and Gowanus neighborhoods of Brooklyn using oyster-covered reefs which she calls ‘nature’s wave attenuators’. See: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/nyregion/protecting-new-york-city-before-next-time.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20121104#h[TaaBph,1].)
We also planted 3,250 seedlings from the Kemptville Forestry Nursery (now closed). Red pine, white pine, white spruce and cedar seedlings were planted and are thriving. These trees love sandy soils.
Mature coniferous trees exist on the property today.
The total area of the lands is 162 acres.
To fully appreciate the natural beauty of the property it is necessary to walk it.
To the north the lands are at a higher elevation and the geology changes from sandy soil with a 12 inch overburden to a slate at surface. From the north, a beautiful view of the Gatineau hills is afforded.
The original sub-division plan had 32 lots gently setting down around the Lake and along Constance Creek. All lots had access to the Lake and island (now called Windward Island) for swimming, canoeing, sailing, wind surfing, kayaking, beach volleyball and so on. No motor boats are permitted not even electric motors are used. Their propellers can damage fish and wildlife as well as damage healthy plant life that provide oxygen to the Lake’s ecosystem.
The subdivision was designed to protect natural areas; on a gross area basis, each of the lots represents around 5.5 acres. The smallest lot in terms of net land area is 2.0 acres and the largest is over 7 acres. Home sizes start from a small 1,200 square feet to monster-sized.
No landowner is permitted to use fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides or pesticides. Natural ground covers are used. This is to preserve the quality of the environment and, especially, the Lake.
Spot hand spraying of ‘Round Up’ is permitted for noxious weeds only such as poison ivy.
Residents are not permitted to fence their entire properties since this is a wildlife corridor and their free movement through is encouraged.
Windward Island is approximately three quarters of an acre. A peninsula to the island was constructed. The island is used for recreation, picnics, swimming, volley ball, croquet and so on. The northern part of the island has a gently sloping swimming beach and we use it to launch our windsurfer, Albacore sail boat and canoe.
To fully understand how the original Lake was formed, it is necessary to go back to the end of the last ice age. Glaciers melt from the bottom up as the earth is warmed and heat is radiated upwards into the glacier.
Under-the-ice rivers form and gravel, then sand then silt settle out in separate deposits. So if you go north-west from Dunrobin Lake to Galetta, you will find gravel deposits. Then, as the ancient river flowed from the north-west to the south-east (and towards what is now Ottawa and Orleans), you will find sand deposits and, ultimately, silt.
Thus, Dunrobin Lake filled-in with sand deposits at the end of the last ice age. The removal of 1.1 million tones of sand over 17 years uncovered this wonderful resource for all residents to share. Interestingly, during the excavation period, some large boulders were uncovered from time to time, surrounded by 20 or more feet of sand. The crew wondered how these huge boulders came to be buried in an otherwise homogeneous layer.
The answer is that they literally fell from the sky—as glaciers move, they scoop up boulders which become embedded in the ice. As the ice melts from the bottom up (the ice could have been as thick as one kilometre in this area), the boulders are suddenly loosened and fall from a great height driving themselves deep into the sand deposit below only to be dug up 10,000 years later…
Some of these boulders remain at Dunrobin Lake as evidence of Nature’s power and form part of the natural environment.
Postscript 2: Dunrobin Lake– Part of a True, Mixed Use Village
“A village without employment is just another subdivision,” Kanata Councillor Sheila McKee, October, 1999.
Dunrobin is a village of long standing and my family’s involvement in the area goes back to 1956. We built the Dunrobin Village Plaza, a Barry Hobin-designed village focal point of 10,000 square feet. We contributed to the creation of the Trails of Dunrobin (76 home sites), Dunrobin Lake (32 home sites), Dunrobin Springs, Dunrobin Village and Kennedy Meadows (now Blue Moon Storage).
What makes a sound rural village is a mixing together of uses. In some old Ontario villages you will find uses such as: garage, welder, car repair, gas station, french fry trucks, cheese factory, corner store, restaurant, churches, veterinary clinic, kennels, post office, liquor store, community centre, gift shop, wine making, saw mill, sign shop, quarry, sand pit, video store, retirement residence, bed and breakfast, marina, cemetery, golf course, farm, horse ranch, hair cutting salon, boat builder, cartage company, car sales, vehicle and boat storage, general storage, antique sales, firewood sales, junk yard, car care, etc. All of these uses closely intermixed with homes provide the village with its dynamism, jobs for its residents and convenience for all.
Amazingly, the list of uses above have all been present at one time or another in Dunrobin Village, which was established in 1840 and, despite its tiny size, is shown on world maps of Ontario.
Dunrobin Lake is fortunate to be close to Kanata, one of the technology centres of the metro Ottawa region. It is a pleasant walk (1 km) away from the Village core. My kids used to walk up to the local store for a Popsicle on a hot summer’s day.
The Dunrobin area has persons from every income group living together about 30 minutes from downtown Ottawa. Homes from $240,000 to well over $1 million co-exist.
The (former) Township of West Carleton is one of the most beautiful geographic zones in the area with a rolling topography, streams (Constance Creek is a lovely canoe ride to the Ottawa River), lakes (Dunrobin Lake, Constance Lake), rivers, water courses, forests, wetlands, broad fields, country villages (Fitzroy Harbour, Galetta, Carp, Kinburn, Dunrobin), the Carp airport, golf courses (Eagle Creek, Edgewood, Irish Hills), beaches, boat launch, marina, sailing, ski doo trails, new schools (Stonecrest Public School), trans Canada Highway access, wildlife (deer, wolves, fox, moose, bear, etc.), fishing, snow shoeing, cross country skiing and so forth.
Dunrobin Lake is a mixture of the old and new– the Gatehouse (my old summertime office) and the Barn (built by moi from recycled lumber from a barn that was about to be demolished) reflect old English-style, land use concepts.
The Barn is an Amish type structure, relocated from its original location on March Road. The lot that it sits on is four acres with its own pond and it is zoned for the construction a new home alongside. It has over 3,500 square feet of storage space.
Barn with Pond
Home sites around the Lake were sold to families who appreciated nature and the environment and felt that Dunrobin Lake was a special place to live. They tend to respect the environmental covenants that we put in place, even poop-and-scoop rules. We did not want excrement flooding into the Lake every spring.
Higher-end homes over-look the Lake as you move northward and away from the road. This created a density gradient (from less expensive homes next to the road to more expensive ones to the north) so no home sites remain unused.
Ontario has wisely (in my view) stayed away from allowing the creation of gated communities. I believe the US will find out one day that you cannot have gated communities where you have good roads, schools and services surrounded by communities who have nothing. This won’t work. Dunrobin Lake was designed to be a mixed community that reflects Canada’s desire to live together in harmony with our neighbours and to learn from each other no matter what your beliefs are or socio-economic status.