Thoughts, quirky insights and experiences in my meandering life.

Owen Sound: A city built on a human scale

Yes, I have find my iphone, ipad, laptop and imac turned on.

There are very few building taller than three stories in the old downtown area of Owen Sound. I live on the south end of main street, 2nd Ave E, the main business district is north of me, and as you can tell from the above picture it is largely buildings that are not very big. The streets and sidewalks are wide so there is a feeling of spaciousness when I walk downtown. A bit like Bloor Street West in Toronto. And it is easy to feel connected to the activities taking place in the town. Not long ago a subcontractor was tasked with stripping the old paint from all of the fire hydrants. (I would have wanted a really good mask for that job given how often my dog throws up his leg and pees on them.) Then they painted them grey and then back to yellow. I watched then do it over a series of weeks as I walked Tucker. When they were yellow again along came city workers and re-numbered them, and did something else that I had no previous knowledge of, they put a coloured disk on the side. One close to my house is blue. Of course I asked about it, and apparently it tells the fire department how strong the water flow is at that hydrant. Blue is strong flow. Amazing the coded messages we live beside and have no clue!

In Toronto all of that activity would have gone un-noticed by me, or largely so, lost in all of the other things happening on the streets. Noisy road repairs, pressure of traffic, house renovations, endless on Hastings Ave. Not that we don’t have those things here, but less so. Although I have been surprised by the number of sirens, maybe I am noticing them more because Tucker reacts and will howl along with them. But there is a Tim Hortons downtown that is known for drug dealing, and there have been an increase in overdoses during this plague. So if there is an ambulance in the Timmies parking lot it is likely that. Human sorrows are everywhere.

Close by my house is the Mill Dam, and alongside the dam is the fish ladder. Salmon returning from the ocean climb the ladder to spawn in the upper Sydenham River. During the height of the fish migration you can see the massed dark shape of the fish under the water and the fins breaking the surface. Quite a sight. Some of them attempted to try and get up the dammed area and wriggled ferociously to try and get to the top, but always to no avail. It was hard to watch them attempting it and being rebuffed by the force of the water, they tried so hard. A local group, I don’t know exactly who, yet, catch some of the fish and milk them for their eggs, and I guess sperm as well. Ok, I don’t know if the eggs are pre-fertilised. Another thing I have to learn.

Catching the fish for milking
Milking the fish
Waiting to be returned to the water, or for milking.
Captured salmon eggs

The eggs are taken to a fish hatchery and released in the spring below the Mill Dam. The men identified the fish that they were catching as fish that they had released four years ago. They mark them in some way. You could tell how happy they were to see them returning. These pictures were taken on a sunny day, one day they were there in the pouring rain, we have had A LOT of rain. Dedicated men. The Mill Dam is to the left of my house on the bend of the river, as seen on the first picture above.

Most of the fish were able to go up the ladder un-molested, and it lasts for weeks, it is just beginning to taper off now. Then they will lower the level of the river above the Mill Dam for the winter. Not sure why, yet.

If I was surprised at the number of businesses that clear snow in the winter from people’s driveways here, it is nothing in comparison to my surprise at how many people here pay someone to look after their lawn in the summer. Never mind the broadleaf weed killer that produce immaculate lawns, but also the lawn cutting. I am sure it is a lot of the same people doing both things, snow and lawns, but there are a lot of property maintenance companies here.

Large cities, and Toronto is no exception, have huge numbers of cultural events, music venues of all kinds, art exhibits, theaters by the oodles. It is easy to feel that you are missing so much, and to feel overwhelmed by it all. What to do, what to do, how to choose. Here it easier to get the measure of what is going on. Of course all the choirs are on hold until this plague is more under control, and Summerfolk went online, pretty successfully, but there is live music outside the market from Wednesday to Friday for a few more weeks. We are pretty spoiled for choice here, but not too much that we feel like we are missing out if we choose A over B. As I like it, a city on a human scale, at least to my way of thinking.

Fall is in full swing here in Owen Sound, and I can’t resist including some pictures. These are my favourite colours in nature. Sad that they portend winter. Winter would be fine if it wasn’t so darn long.

Who can believe the intensity of this red?

I love getting to know the neighbourhood, the cafe’s, the library, the Tom Thompson Museum, The Roxy Theatre, the Saturday Farmers Market, now reopened. The Bruce Trail, kayaking (next summer), cross country skiing, snowshoeing. And it is all manageable.

I loved all the responses to my last post, many talking about creativity. It may look as though I am ranging wide and deep into various new mediums, but it is made very easy by attending organized workshops. The three hour (or so) workshops at the Georgian Bay Centre for the Arts are structured so that you follow their general directions based on the art or craft. It is structured so that you get a taste of the art or craft but do not have to commit to learning it in detail. That would be a much longer process as I am attempting with silversmithing. I feel as though I can dip my toes into many different things without committing. But always end up with a finished product has a selection of great fall workshops, and I may just take:


But there are many others that are tempting. Almost too much choice! Even for a town built on a human scale!


Dreams really do come true


It’s all coming together.


  1. Marnie

    Watching the fish at the Mill Dam was one of my favourite activities as a child. I’m glad you get to enjoy it too!

    • Maggie

      It is amazing to see them, and to know they are returning to a place they left years ago. It is a popular destination to watch them!

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