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Spiritual Direction and the Ontario Jubilee Program

Spiritual Direction now offered at Crieff Hills

Contact the office if you are interested in receiving spiritual direction during your next visit to Crieff Hills.


Also, consider attending the Ontario Jubilee Program to deepen your spiritual practice.  Anyone is welcome to participate in this program, not only those interested in becoming spiritual directors.

Registration is due January 31, 2019 for the first year of the program which develops skills of listening, discernment and spiritual practice.  Phase One of the Jubilee Program begins with a residential retreat at Crieff Hill from May 26-May 31, 2019. 

For more information see




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Pre-Advent Retreat Special at the Pines

Leading others through the season of Advent requires careful preparation.


This year, Crieff is offering a reduced rate for church leaders, preachers and Sunday school teachers for nights between November 4th to 9th and November 11th to 16th.


Book an overnight stay for $80 (+HST) per night and receive:

  • overnight accommodation in a one-bedroom suite at the Pines
  • access to a special Advent resource center in the Pines Common Room      
  • opportunities for walking the labyrinth and hiking our extensive wooded trails
  • unhurried time to prepare Bible studies, write sermons and plan children’s program

Call 1-800-884-1525 to book your stay. Ask about discounts on shared rooms and multiple night stays!


Let us help you quiet your heart, wait on God and prepare for the upcoming holiday season.  


  snowy winter scene with peace sign on tree trunk  


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Open House and Welcome of New Director

This fall Crieff Hills welcomed a new director, the Rev. Dr. Kristine O’Brien.


Kristine officially began her work at the beginning of September, but she is no stranger to Crieff Hills.   As a past board member and event leader, she is already familiar with Crieff's mission. “As our world becomes busier and more complicated, everyone needs opportunities for rest and renewal,” she says. “One of the best things about Crieff is the beautiful, historic landscape where guests can catch their breath or reconnect with each other.”  


Kristine has a long history of leadership as a camp director and more than twenty years as a pastor.  Last year she completed a Doctor of Ministry degree with a focus on contemplative spirituality and has a well-established garden blog,


On Sunday October 21, Crieff Hills will host a public open house beginning at 2:00 pm when friends and neighbours will have an opportunity to tour the property.  A short formal program to welcome Kristine will take place at 4:00 pm, followed by refreshments. 


All are welcome to join us!



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Bird Banding Demonstration

The sun was shining Saturday September 29th for our fall Bird Banding Demonstration.  Thanks to bird bander, Brian Pomfret, for sharing his humour and wealth of knowledge about our feathered friends.

Brian, along with the help of his family set up 5 fine mist nets along different trails to capture the birds.  The first bird of the morning was a fiesty blue jay that Brian measured, weighed (upside down in a can), calmed and passed to a willing guest to hold and release.


During the morning there was a total of 17 birds banded:

1 Ovenbird

3 Black -capped Chickadees

9 Field Sparrows

4 Goldfinches


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Crieff Hills is on Instagram!

We invite you to follow Crieff Hills on Instagram to see some beautiful photos of the property!


If you are new to Instagram, all you need to do to view the photos is to click on the small black and white icon on the top right corner of our website that looks like a camera.  Enjoy!

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Bird Banding and Fall Hikes September 29

Join us on Saturday September 29 for our annual Bird Banding Morning and Fall Hikes at Crieff Hills from 8:30am to noon. 


Come and watch the birds as they are banded and enjoy a hike on our trails.  Drop by the picnic shelter anytime during the morning.  No charge, but donations are appreciated. Bring the whole family! 


What happens at a Bird Banding event?

Migrating birds are caught in fine mist nets by a professional bird bander who then weighs and measures the birds before fitting their leg with a thin metal band that has an identification number engraved on the band.  This information helps to gather information about how long birds live and where they travel in order to better focus conservation efforts.




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Three Sisters - Corn, Beans and Squash Plants

The raised bed kitchen gardens at Crieff Hills are full of a variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers thanks to our volunteer gardeners.  Tomatoes, peas, lettuce and zucchini are among the harvest our guests have enjoyed.


Here is a photo of our Three Sisters planting of Corn, Beans and Squash in respect of and reconciliation toward our indigenous sisters and brothers.

  corn, squash and bean plants in flower  


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Gardening Volunteer Opportunities at Crieff Hills

A group of volunteers gathers at Crieff every second week, from April to October, to tend to the gardens and supplement the work of the maintenance team.  We would be delighted to have you join us, whether as a one-time thing or whatever your schedule will allow! 


We meet every other Wednesday at MacLean Hall between 8:45 and 9 am.   Please call the office to verify which Wednesday we are meeting and to let us adjust our work plan for another set of hands. Bring your own hat, gloves and tools (kneelers, spade, snips, weeder, bug spray and/or sunscreen).   The kitchen provides a coffee break and lunch before we head home.


Come and work and laugh with us!



Our objectives are: 

- to add to the diversity of plants on-site for the benefit of pollinators, and birds;
- to replant areas where invasive species have been removed, with an emphasis on native plants;
- and to generally enhance the guest experience with beautiful areas for meditation and enjoyment.


Recent Projects include:

The Pollinator Garden by MacLean Hall (Fall 2017, with the support of TD Friends of the Environment Foundation )
The Native Shrub area between MacLean Hall and the Conference Center filling in where invasive European Buckthorn has been removed.  (Summer and Fall 2018, thanks also to TD FEF grant )
The Vegetable Garden including our Three Sisters planting of Corn, Beans and Squash in respect of and reconciliation toward our indigenous sisters and brothers
The ongoing multiyear renovation project in the hollow south of the House of the Dove, where the Dove sisters once had an English garden.  (2017-2022?)
And keep your eyes peeled for some further changes around the Conference Center once the eavestroughs and rainbarrels are in place (Fall 2018 with the support of TD FEF grant).

These projects are especially fun as we build for Crieff’s future, while maintaining the existing beds around each of the buildings and special areas such as the “Lily” Garden.




Crieff's Volunteer Gardeners...


 We are a motley group of retired folks who enjoy being outdoors and giving God’s plants a helping hand.  We are not the hot house plant, lace handkerchief and fine china kind of gardeners.  We are the dusty muddy types who laugh a lot and respect the rightful place of a good chainsaw in a garden tool kit.  We call ourselves a “Gang” because we each have a favourite tool and gardening position (… and secretly, we’ve always wanted to be part of a gang!).  We have a secret handshake.  Our experience is diverse.  We have real agricultural types, plant identification gurus, tree people, flower folks, willing unskilled workers and medicinal plant trivia enthusiasts.  Between the bunch of us and with the help of books and the internet, we have fun playing in Crieff’s botanical and biological world.




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From the Crieff Bee Hives...


The hives at Crieff Hills are doing well this summer. Our bees have already produced 50 lbs. of honey! Jars of honey are available for sale in the dining room.


Thanks to our volunteer beekeepers Rick and Marion Robertson for all their hard work....and to our hardworking bees!


The process of making honey is fascinating! Did you know that bees fan the hive to help remove moisture and reduce the water content of the honey?


Marion Robertson explains how honey is made:

Probably, the most asked question, to beekeepers is, ‘How is honey made? ‘It is, actually, a very involved process between flower and bee. Once you understand this process, you really do appreciate what a miracle bees, honey and pollination are.

Honey is a natural product made from plant nectar by honey bees. The flavor and odor of honey is derived from the plant pigments and other materials in the nectar. Honey from each floral source is unique just as the flowers themselves. For example, sourwood honey from North Carolina has a slightly blue hue. California honey derived from morning glories has a slight green color. Of course, plants produce nectar for the sole purpose of attracting insects that become contaminated with pollen in the process of nectar collection. As insects fly from flower to flower, the pollen is transported and cross pollination occurs.

All nectar contains microscopic yeast cells. These are specialized yeast that can grow in rich sugar solutions containing 30 – 80 % sugar. These yeast cells may cause fermentation of diluted honey (green) but they are inactive in normal (ripened) honey containing less than 19% water. It is important that the bees ripen honey as quickly as possible in order to prevent this fermentation. There is commercial pasteurization that kills all yeast cells in honey when the product is brought to 160 degrees F for 1 minute. There is also the natural way, by the bees. We will be discussing this in detail.

In most nectars, the predominate sugar is sucrose. The other major component is water. The nectar is manipulated by the honey bee in many ways. The nectar undergoes 2 chemical changes induced by natural enzymes secreted by the honey bee into the nectar from glands in their bodies. There is also 1 physical change that occurs, again, by the bee.

The first chemical reaction occurs immediately out in the field with the forager bee. As the forager bee collects nectar from different flowers, she secretes an enzyme into the nectar and stores it in her honey stomach. This is of particular importance because the fresh nectar is being protected against microbial fermentation. The enzyme, glucose oxidase, converts a small amount of glucose to gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide. It is this gluconic acid that creates acidity in the honey. This is reflected in the pH of honey of 3.9. Most microbes like to have neutral conditions to reproduce, pH near 7. It is this creation of gluconic acid that has kept some honeys safe for thousands of years from bacterial activity. The remarkable adaptation of the enzyme, glucose oxidase, is that it is only functional and will only drive the chemical creation of gluconic acid when nectar or honey is dilute. Once honey reaches ripened levels, the enzyme becomes inactive.

The second chemical reaction to occur, out in the field in the honey stomach of the forager bee, is the conversion of the sugar, sucrose. As discussed previously, the main sugar in nectar is sucrose. The enzyme, invertase, is secreted into the nectar and powers the chemical reaction of reducing sucrose to its simple components. It reduces sucrose to fructose and glucose. Fructose is the sweetest of all sugars. This sugar conversion causes the osmotic pressure of honey to double.

Time to remember some biology. Osmosis in living things is the flow of materials across a cell membrane. High osmotic pressures reduce water availability. Therefore, the higher the osmotic pressure the more inhospitable the environment for bacterial or yeast growth. In honey, (high osmotic pressure), fluids from the yeast and bacterial cells are forced to pass through their cell membranes and into the honey. It is a fact that microbes cannot grow without sufficient water.

Now we are on the last conversion of nectar to honey. The physical conversion. When forager bees return to the hive, they surrender their nectar to the waiting house bees. These house bees physically remove water from honey by taking a small drop of nectar and sucking it up into their mouths and then back out to the end of their tongues. This eventually reduces the water content. At the same time, groups of house bees, over the course of several hours, fan the hive. They move large volumes of air through the hive and remove moisture, much like a giant fan.

The creation of honey is truly a miracle. So next time, when you want to enjoy some honey, ponder over nature’s truly remarkable story of honey.



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Summer Feasts

Crieff's Chefs are creating very colourful combinations for our guests this summer. Check out these Mediterranean Buddha Bowls and a vegan version of Eggs Benedict made with tomato and avocado!

The group here this week are enjoying the great weather and delicious meals garnished with some fresh herbs and vegetables from the Crieff gardens.

vegan buddha bowls with chick peas,onion, tomato, olives and cucumbers silver pan with english muffins topped with tomato, avocado and onion slices


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October 31, 2018
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