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Lessons from the Bees...

Five things we can learn from the Hive

as shared by Rev. Linda Patton-Cowie at Crieff Hills Manna Day :

1. Do your own job well

2. Remember it’s not all up to you

3. Bee Nourished

4. Communicate with others

5. And… Know what is most important!



1. A hive needs each of its members to perform their job well – the Queen, the workers and the drones. We all have a job to do as well. We are the body of Christ and we all have our own role to fill. It works best if we let everyone live into their own strengths. And we can’t do it all – we all have limits and we need other people. Do what you can, do it well, and then leave the rest up to others.


2. When a Queen Bee is no longer able to do her job she is replaced. The new queen is dependent on the constant care of her attendants. There is a time for all of us to welcome new leadership into our colonies and we all have a role in attending to those in leadership. For most of us, we know that there is a queen bee and I’m not it! We’re not the one in charge of the whole show – it’s not all up to us. It can be helpful to remember that.


3. Sometimes we all need to be fed. Beekeepers will feed their bees in the spring and fall. The bees know how much they need and they’re not afraid to accept it. We need to acknowledge our need to be fed too. An empty vessel can’t offer sustenance to anyone else, so don’t forget to refill your resources. Take time to enjoy creation. Take time to nourish yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Worker bees live only a 5-6 weeks in the summer so the bees that live in the winter are fed by the honey the bees made in the summer. We are often fed and sustained by those who have gone before us. As we too, by offering our love to others, may find that love outlives us and strengthens others, even after we ourselves are gone.


4. Bees are master communicators, as is shown by the intricate waggle dance. They are not afraid to share with others when they have found something good that can benefit them all; they don’t hoard this new found treasure for themselves. Communication is important to us too so keep talking and guiding others. We are bound together on this journey.


5. Know what is most important to you and protect it. Do what is most important first, especially when you feel overwhelmed. Bees protect their honey when they feel threatened as the beekeeper uses the smoker while opening the hive. Always be ready to protect what is most important to you in your life!


"The creation of honey is truly a miracle" writes Marion Robertson, Crieff Hills volunteer and explains the process of how honey is made on her website.…/




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Lent is a tree without blossom...


The historic beech tree at Dove House is a perfect illustration for this poem about Lent:


Lent is a tree without blossom, without leaf,

Barer than blackthorn in its winter sleep,

All unadorned.  Unlike Christmas which decrees

The setting-up, the dressing-up of trees,

Lent is a taking down, a stripping bare,

A starkness after all has been withdrawn

Of surplus and superfluous,

Leaving no hiding place, only an emptiness

Between black branches, a most precious space

Before the leaf, before the time of flowers;

Lest we should see only the leaf, the flower,

Lest we should miss the stars.

Jean M. Watt



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Godly Play ...




There should always be time for Godly play ...

even at Crieff Hills.


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Bluebirds in January!

A Guest Post from Marion Robertson....


Yes, this in nothing new. For years, there have been bluebirds nesting here – in the summer.
But this frigid January we have a family of 4 bluebirds surviving on the abundant juniper berries. We accidentally encountered them as we were cleaning out nesting boxes and prepping them for spring use. It is quite the sight to see that indigo blue against the stark white snow. Very vivid.

2018 was a good year for birds here. Our nesting boxes fledged 90 TreeSwallows, 11 Bluebirds and 4 Chickadees. It was a first, in that, we had no baby bird losses. In all my years watching over the bluebird trail, I have never had a year with no mortalities. Myguess is that there was
abundant food, insect food, because of the rainy weather. It was also another first where a very ambitious pair of Tree Swallows hatched and raised 7 healthy babies.  A record for Crieff.

Now all we can do is to wait for the migratory arrivals in April.

Marion Robertson

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Looking for Peace and Quiet?


Happy New Year!

Looking for some peace and quiet after the busy holidays?
The Hermitage and Pines Suites are open all winter at Crieff.


The re-furnished Hermitage has already been enjoyed by several guests this winter.  Check out the photos below to see the new look of this cosy personal retreat house.


Thanks to Debbie Ellis for her painting of the Hermitage that captures the sense of tranquility so beautifully.


We look forward to your visit in 2018!










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Canadian Christmas Bird Count

Thank you to Marion Robertson for this blog post.


            According to Bird Studies Canada, the Christmas bird count started in 1900. This makes the count the longest running Citizen Science project.  In Canada, approximately 14,000 birders count over 3 million birds from December 14 to January 5.  Data is collected by Birds Studies Canada to help create strategies to protect birds and their habitats.  In conjunction with Audubon, a 'Birds and Climate Change Report' has evolved highlighting dangerous bird population trends and the need for conservation action.


            It is easy to participate.  Simply contact Bird Studies Canada to find a count near you.  Counts may be done from the warmth of your home while watching bird feeders or hiking in the crisp winter weather observing fields for bird activity.  Don't forget to take photos and submit them to the Christmas Bird Count Photo contest. 


            I'll be donning on my favorite warm socks and traveling the trails of Crieff Hills.  My assistant, Runabout, will keep me company on our walks.  It is a great way to enjoy the Christmas season.


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

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Looking to a New Year

Crieff Hills has been blessed with another busy year.


Thank you to our staff and volunteers for all their hard work, and to all of you

who have visited Crieff Hills in the past year.  Whether you were here at Crieff

for a day, a weekend or a week, we hope it was a time of rest and renewal.


May the New Year bring joy, peace, and happiness to you and your family.

(The Spool Clock below was hand made at Crieff as part of the

Retirement with Meaning Retreat in the fall.)





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Hello Winter!

We have been waiting ...

Overnight there has been a change in what I see out my window.  Winter with its snow has arrived to Crieff Hills.  I see a beautiful world.


As people arrive for today's Luncheon Buffet I hear laughter and stomping of feet to clear their boots.  There is also talk of snowy roads and the need to slow down.  We have been waiting for the Ontario winter weather - most are prepared for what it brings.


Let us also remember this season of Advent.  A time to slow down.  A time to prepare and be prepared.



'Advent: the time to listen to footsteps - you can't hear footsteps when you are running yourself.  Bill McKibben'


'Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present.  Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac'


'Let's approach Christmas with an expectant hush, rather than a last-minute rush!  Anonymous'




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The Red Cedars at Crieff Hills in November

Thanks to Marion Robertson for this blog -

Wow, what a seed collection year it has been!  Species of trees such as beech, black maple, ironwood and musclewood that create seeds every 5 to 7 years decided that this was their year.  Giant seed crops for some species but the wetter weather was not favorable for species, such as oak.  But, it is time to celebrate with the last species being collected this week – the red cedar.


Common names can be so confusing and it is no different for this tree.  Commonly known as red cedar, it is not actually a cedar but a juniper.  2 types of juniper grow in this region but the Juniperis virginiana is the juniper you see as you stroll the bluebird trail at Crieff Hills conference center.  The beautiful blue berries are not actually berries but scales tightly packed.  Reference books actually refer to the fruit as cones, not berries.  The cedar waxwing bird, named after this tree, do not really care.  For these winter residents the tree is essential as a food source through the long winter months. 


While you are walking the trails of Crieff Hills, don't forget to admire these hardy blue berry adorned trees. A reminder, the Christmas luncheons are coming up next week.  I understand there are some spaces still available.


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


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Are you ready?

Advent begins this weekend…are you ready for the journey?
Perhaps it is time for silent retreat, a hike in the woods, to walk the labyrinth, or to read a poem like this advent poem by Ruth Burgess:

In the strength of God the maker
we are going on a journey.
In the friendship of Jesus
we are going on a journey.
In the safeguarding of the Holy Spirit
we are going on a journey.
A star is shining.
Angels are busy.
Mary is pregnant.
Joseph is packing.
Advent is coming.
It’s time to go.
May God bless us with hope and wonder as we travel.

- Ruth Burgess, 'A sending'

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