The wonders of nature, right here in our collective back yard

John and Janet Foster, Hastings Stewardship CouncilRaymond and I were very pleased last night to join with a couple of hundred other people in taking in a presentation by legendary Canadian nature photographers and videographers John and Janet Foster.

John and Janet Foster

Legendary wildlife photographers and cinematographers John and Janet Foster. (Photo via Northumberland Photo, northumberlandphoto.ca)

Best part of all? It was right in our back yard. (Figuratively speaking; it was at the community hall in the central Hastings County hamlet of Ivanhoe.)

Coolest part of all? The Fosters live (figuratively speaking) right in our back yard too! After travelling to every corner of this country to seek out landscapes and wildlife to preserve visually, the Fosters chose central Hastings to call home. Now isn’t that something? And doesn’t it say something about this beautiful and unusual part of the world? I sure think it does.

The event was organized by an outfit called the Hastings Stewardship Council, which does splendid work in getting local citizens aware of, and interested in, the diversity and beauty in our local back yards, woodlots, marshes and wilderness areas – and also in the important job of preserving and protecting those natural resources. “Caring for the land together,” as the council’s motto says; “To live with respect in creation,” as the New Creed of the United Church of Canada elegantly puts it.

The council organizes a speakers series each year, and this year’s has been a particularly successful one. Last night’s was the first Raymond and I have attended, but I understand from the reports in the local press that all the instalments have drawn full houses. John and Janet Foster, however, are superstars, and last night people were turned away at the door because the hall was packed well before the scheduled starting time. (I was glad that for once I had overcome my bad habit of arriving for appointments at the very last second, if not later.)

Now, I first heard the names of John and Janet Foster when I was a little kid living right here at the Manse, where now I live again. They provided the amazing visuals for specials that aired occasionally on CBC-TV (Channel 11, CKWS out of KIngston, one of the only channels we could get on the Manse’s old black-and-white set) called To the Wild Country, hosted by none other than Lorne (Pa Cartwright) Greene. I have just learned (thanks to good old Wikipedia; the entry is here) that To the Wild County aired between 1972 and 1975, prime Manse years for me. (My family lived here between 1964 and 1975, when I was between the ages of four and 15.)

After To the Wild Country, the Fosters went on to do many, many other television and documentary and literary and photographic pursuits. They truly are legends. And how wonderful for our area when they decided on a bit of a whim, 30ish years ago, that an old farm in central Hastings County, just a little south of 7 between Madoc and Tweed, was where they wanted to hang their hats – and cameras.

Like I said, last night’s event was a sellout and then some. Raymond and I saw many familiar faces. And the crowd was so appreciative as the Fosters showed photos and videos, and talked about, the wildlife and plant life and natural phenomena they experience right there on their central Hastings County farm.

The visuals that accompanied the Fosters’ talk were, as you can imagine, breathtaking. There was a barred owl trying to outwit and outwait a red squirrel, and finally making the squirrel into lunch, photographed each step of the way; an assembly of monarch butterflies in a high branch, making a stop in their migration to Mexico; a huge wild turkey deciding to chase John around his tripod and then Janet into the house; beautiful bluebirds and frisky raccoons; a gorgeous short-tailed weasel, all white except for the black tip of its tail; a northern shrike (that’s a bird, for you non-birders out there); giant swallowtail and black swallowtail butterflies; and really the list went on and on, and all of us in the audience were spellbound.

This is our back yard, people! Or at least, it is if you are lucky enough to live in Hastings County.

And I am not entirely sure that it gets any better than that.

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