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From time to time we send out via email Crieff News and Updates.  If you would like to receive these, we welcome you to sign up.


How to do it?   On the first page of our web site, click on the box.

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We value you and thank you for your continued interest in the ministry at Crieff Hills Retreat & Conference Centre. 


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Pinning up the Spicebush - Naturally Speaking with Marion Robertson

Thanks to two of our amazing volunteers, Marion Robertson and her daughter Sara for this article and the photos.  So interesting!


Sometimes female butterflies find the ' perfect ' site on which to lay their precious eggs.  She is quite capable of depositing 100 eggs.  This can be quite overwhelming for the host plant and in order to avoid starvation of all the caterpillars, transplanting of the eggs is required.


We simply pin the leaves on which the eggs are on to a new area.  Pinning causes little damage to the host plant and the eggs continue to develop, uninterrupted, on the underside of the plant away from the rain and eyes of predators.


These are spicebush swallowtail eggs and caterpillars being transferred to fresh spicebush host plants.


 Marion Robertson is co owner of Bee Sweet Honey Nature Company and Puslinch Naturally Native Trees


Spicebush egg that has been pinned on a leaf
Spice bush caterpillar feasting on a Spicebush leaf
Spicebush butterfly


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Day Camp, Church Picnics and other Crieff memories

Crieff Hills continues to grow in its ministry and as we look to the future, we know the importance of acknowleging and celebrating our past.

Memories, stories (no matter how small or large) and pictures to add to our history files are much appreciated for all aspects of Crieff Hills Community. 


Mail to - Crieff Hills Retreat & Conference Centre   7098 Concession 1   Puslinch ON   N0B 2J0

                 attention Marylu Pentelow

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Family Camp in the early years
Getting over the fence by the Stile  ... beware of the cattle!
Winter campfire
Discussion groups behind Maclean Hall
Parking along Concession 1




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Changes in the Crieff Kitchen

The Crieff Hills chefs are amazing in the meals they create and in making sure special diets are met.  Over the summer the old stove was replaced with a younger yet previously loved stove.  As well, the kitchen office has had a facelift. 


Out with the old  - In with the new


The old stove was bought in December of 1976.  What a lot of amazing meals have been prepared with it since then.

The 'New Stove' installed and in full service.
A new look for the Kitchen Office.


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Northern Catalpa Trees at Crieff Hills and Beyond


Northern Catalpa Tree

 These beautiful trees line the pathway going down into the Amphetheatre at Crieff Hills. 



Thanks to Marion Robertson for writing this blog that tells us so much more about these trees.    Marion is co-owner of  B Sweet Honey Nature Company and Puslinch Naturally Native Trees.  Along with her family Marion volunteers, educates and supports staff and guests at Crieff Hills.

Trees invoke feelings deep inside us.  Have you ever felt how quiet a forest feels; almost like standing in an empty, quiet church.  Or sometimes we feel sad when we plant a tree for a deceased one in an arboretum. We have memorial trees, here, but they make us smile and relive fun moments with loved ones.  One such tree is our beautiful Northern Catalpa.  Every summer when she blooms we remember Grandpa Bill and smile and recount the story as we have coffee admiring the blooms.


Twenty years ago, Grandpa Bill, had an oddly shaped Catalpa in the backyard.  Every year his wife would shout at him to chainsaw down that misshapen tree but Bill would say, ' Look how beautiful it is blooming.  Let's wait till it has finished flowering before we saw it down. '  Of course, it got hot then and maybe we should wait till the Fall to chop it down.


This went on for many years and the tree still remains in the backyard – misshapen.  Bill passed away and before the house and property were sold we dug up some baby Catalpa and transferred them to our house.  Four are placed all around the house and when they bloom his grandchildren remember Grandpa and his Catalpa.  There are no tears, just smiles, as we retell the story.  The story never seems to get old.  So you see, memorial trees need not be a sad affair.  I think they remind us of loved ones; it is up to us what feelings the tree will invoke.


The Northern Catalpa is a fascinating tree in so many ways that I am surprised at its lack of fame.  Even its scientific name is unique – Catalpa speciosa.  Usually these scientific names are Latin and identify key points of uniqueness.  Catalpa is not Latin, in origin, but Cherokee.  It simply means ‘tree’.  Speciosa is Latin meaning, showy, in reference to its showy flowering.


Historically, this tree was considered to be native to a relatively small area of the central Mississippi valley.  By the 1750's, farmers were cultivating this tree up into northern Ohio and Illinois in order to produce large amounts of relatively lightweight timber.  This timber was highly prized for fence posts because of its very resistant nature to rotting.  Medicinally, the seed pods of the tree were used by pioneer doctors to make remedies for bronchial infections and labored breathing.  Modern pharmaceutical companies are looking at researching Catalpa for diuretic properties.


 So we come to the first fascinating point of this tree.  If the Catalpa was native to only a small area in the Mississippi valley, how did this tree genetically develop to withstand -30F temperatures?  What scientists discovered is that the Catalpa may be similar to the black Locust where the black Locust was in the northern region prior to the Ice Age.  So, really, these trees are just simply reclaiming their original, lost territory.


Nowadays, this tree is slowly starting to gain a reputation for its truly adaptive traits.  The Catalpa tolerates both dry conditions and even some standing water.  It is considered drought resistant and makes an excellent choice for a moisture conserving landscape.  It is not particular to soil pH and is able to handle environmental salt.  In the United States, this tree is used in reclamation projects for mined lands and shelter belts.


In late spring or early summer there is a very showy flower display.  The tree is covered in orchid like white flowers with purple and yellow spotting.  Actually, these internal flower spots act as runway markers for the many pollinators that visit the flowers.  Everything from hummingbirds, native bees, honeybees, bumblebees, ants and moths visit this tree for the abundant nectar crop.  As a beekeeper, this is a highly prized honey tree.


So maybe it is time to reconsider this tree.  The city of Toronto has – they are actively planting it.  This beautiful, adaptive tree deserves a second look.  Maybe other city forestry departments will give the Northern Catalpa a second chance.


Yours in conservation -  Marion Robertson,  Co-owner of  B Sweet Honey Nature Company and Puslinch Naturally Native Trees










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Retirement Planning Retreat

Living with a Spirit of Adventure

A retreat for those who are nearing or  in retirement.

Stop - Reflect - Listen


Oct. 29-31, 2017

Download brochure


Retirement is part of our lives that we approach with two sets of emotions.

There is a great sense of anticipation coupled with ideas of freedom, enjoyment of things that we have been too busy to do and expectation that downtime has finally arrived.  There is, however, a set of emotions that reflect a different dynamic.  Our occupation and work has been a great part of our identity.  With retirement we leave much of that behind to establish a new identity that has a sense of meaning and purpose in our new reality.

The recreational dimension of retirement lasts for a short while and we begin to ask questions about our meaning and purpose in life and how we now contribute to the world.


We will explore:

  • How we can enjoy all the freedom of retirement while still having a sense of purpose in our lives.
  • How does this transition in life differ from other moments of change that make this period of life so challenging?
  • How can these days really be 'ther best days of our lives"?

Join us as we enter these golden times!


Speaker:         Rev. Dr. Andrew Irvine

Andrew has been ordained to ministry for over 30 years following a career in social work.  He has served churches in Nova Scotia and Scotland.  For over 25 years he has taught in theological education at Acadia University, McMaster and now at Knox College, Toronto. 

Andrew has been involved in conferences and has served as a consultant with clergy, churches and denominations across Canada, the USA and Scotland.  Andrew and his wife Suzanne live in Caledonia Ontario.  They have three adult children and eight grandchildren all living in Southwestern Ontario.


Cost:  $250.00 per person ($450.00 per couple)


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Giant Swallowtail Butterfly at Crieff Hills

Our planting of polliator plants is paying off!  Over the last couple of years, under the guidance of Marion Robertson, Crieff Hills has planted Prickly Ash and Hop.  These plants are larvae plants for the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly. Today, this picture was captured just outside Maclean Hall.

For more information about the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly, read Marion Robertson's article.


Naturally Speaking - the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly


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Volunteer Gardening Wednesday

Even with the hot and humid day, July 12th saw our volunteers along with staff put in a  morning of planting.  The garden at House of Dove has been planned, a grid is in place and now the plantings are well on their way.  Thank you to all for you work on such a hot day! 


Anyone who is interested in volunteering at Crieff Hills, please call the Crieff office.  There are ongoing projects and extra hands are always welcome.




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Monarch garden at Crieff Hills

Check out these July blooms in the Monarch pollinator garden, located by the stairs between Luke Lodge and the Conference Hall. The pink swamp milk weed is blooming with Monarch butterflies in attendance. Also, the orange butterfly weed is putting on a display. Recently, more flowers were added as larval plant food and also for producing heavy nectar flows during the crucial fall months to feed all migrating and resident pollinators.  Thanks to Marion Robertson for this update and all her hard work in the garden!



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Summer Newsletter from Crieff Hills

We invite you to find a quiet spot and read through the latest newsletter from Crieff Hills - Happy Summer!


Summer Newsletter from Crieff Hills

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Marylu Pentelow
August 14, 2017
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Fiona van Wissen
June 13, 2017
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Guest Blog
June 23, 2016
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