A Little Sadness For Me: February 2021

In the 1940’s my grandparents Doris and Dr. J. Murray Speirs purchased a former chicken farm complete with outbuildings and a cobblestone house with extensive forest behind in Pickering. I photographed it as it looked in 2018.


When Murray died in 2001, the forest was designated as an ecological reserve:

The house remained in the family until recently with the understanding that the land would eventually be given to the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

When I visited this morning, I discovered that all of the buildings have been razed:

Next came a visit to the Altona Forest which contains the ecological reserve:

White Pines (Pinus strobus)
nearby playground

Some botany:

Virgin’s-bower (Clematis virginiana)
Panicled Aster (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum)
Cat-tail (Typha)
Pileated Woodpecker drilling
Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
Red-osier (Cornus sericea)
White Pine cone
Red Ash (Fraxinus pensylvanica)
Blue-beech (Carpinus caroliniana)
Blue-beech (Carpinus caroliniana)
Largetooth Aspen (Populus grandidentata)
Largetooth Aspen (Populus grandidentata)
Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)
Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
Witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
aged White Birch (Betula papyrifera)
White Elm (Ulmus americana)
Apple (Malus)
Elecampane (Inula helenium)
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)


The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.         – Robert Frost (1874–1963)

Miles Hearn

12 thoughts on “A Little Sadness For Me: February 2021

  1. Gloria James

    That is very sad about the loss of the farm buildings. We drove past a house that I had lived in the 1950’s and the whole structure has been renovated and looks rather like an office building. Maybe the city was worried about vandalism of the structures and therefore safety, legal issues. However the plaque honoring your grandparents is a deserved tribute.

  2. Lisa Volkov

    I’m sorry the place of your memories is gone, Miles. I know how that can feel. This plaque will ensure that the memory of your grandparents will endure, along with mention of their generous donation. The place itself is beautiful, and I can think of a no more wonderful tribute to anyone than one relating to the beauty of nature. People will come here and think of who your grandparents were and what they did, and they will thank them for it.
    I hope that is a consolation to you for the buildings that were lost. But I understand that it was sad for you, losing the place of your memories. Too bad it couldn’t have been turned into something related to this, but I guess the resources didn’t exist. I, too, thank your grandparents for their contribution to a place as beautiful as this one, and I hope to see it someday. Thanks, Miles. And Thank You to your grandparents, too!

  3. Trudy Rising

    I had no idea that your grandparents were the lovely Murray and Doris Speirs, Miles. How proud of them you must be (along with your mother who, from what you’ve said, must have been a very good naturalist, as well). As young people, new to Toronto, my husband got to know Murray pretty well and greatly respected him, and we admired Doris’s paintings. They are so loved for their contributions so, as a person above said, even without the buildings, this protected land will be a treasure for all who walk here and a tribute to them and their lives. That much, one can treasure.

  4. Cathy Leask

    I can well understand your nostalgia for the lovely cobblestone home Miles…looks a bit the stuff of fairy tales! Great that you have those photos to remember it by.
    As other have said, at least the lovely natural land remains for all to enjoy the flora & the fauna!
    Cathy Leask

  5. Pina

    A wonderful history and an amazing family.
    The 2018 post tells a wonderful story.
    I wonder why they took the buildings down. Something creative could have been made of them.
    Thank you for sharing

  6. Mary Rose Cowan

    You are the descendant of an inspiring lineage Miles. Thank you for continuing their work and for your own generosity of spirit. You bring a lot of joy to the world, most especially now as we head into our second year of the pandemic.

    Mary Rose

  7. Catherine Gautry

    Such a beautiful cobblestone house! I am wondering who took this very unfortunate initiative. With the Ford government leaving a free hand to developers and conservation authorities having diminished powers, i hope the land is well protected. Thank you, Miles!

    1. Ruth Calman

      So sad to hear about the taxing body hose historic buildings with so many memories for you. Such a shame but So lovely that they have ho outed your grandfather’s memory and contribution. Good that you have the photos to pass on to future generations.
      And you yourself are of course a tribute to your grandparents:). Stay safe. Love your pics.

      Best wishes



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