Pussy-willows, Skunk-tails

A lot has been in the air this week  – about spring smells and summer sounds.  Tonight was the first night I heard my beloved peepers down in the valley’s marshes.  The birds are tweeting at dawn and at dusk.  And some more exciting warblings will be emanating from Blue Belldon tomorrow. (keep reading…)

Mom/Joy teaches piano to Zeb, our neighbour down the road. Every Thursday he comes for lessons, and last week he brought Mom a handful of pussywillows, wrapped with a bow.  They are such a heavenly reminder of spring!

pussywillows

When I was a young teen I was the piano accompanist (along with my cousin Joan) for a children’s choir called Rainbow Chorus.  One of the most beautiful songs ever written about spring, in my opinion, was sung every year by that choir of angelic young voices. And it’s that much better because of it being written by our own Canadian, Gordon Lightfoot:

Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses
Rainbows in the woodland, water to my knees
Shivering, quivering, the warm breath of spring
Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses

Catbirds and cornfields, daydreams together
Riding on the roadside the dust gets in your eyes
Reveling, disheveling, the summer nights can bring
Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses

Slanted rays and colored days, stark blue horizons
Naked limbs and wheat bins, hazy afternoons
Voicing, rejoicing, the wine cups do bring
Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses

Harsh nights and candlelights, woodfires a-blazin’
Soft lips and fingertips resting in my soul
Treasuring, remembering, the promise of spring
Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses

And Canadian pop and folk songs have been very much on my mind this week, as I’ve been writing a medley of them to be sung in 3-part harmony by a new choir, the New Denmark Minstrels, led by yours truly (’cause no one else will do it).  We’re really just doing this for 150 Voices for the 150th Birthday on July 1st in near-by Perth/Andover., and then small ensemble choirs will break off and sing THEIR contributions:
We’ll be wearing red and white and singing all-Canadian content (both for Canada’s flag colours, and New Denmark’s!)  and I’m especially pleased that 14 have agreed to come out to rehearse and prepare to perform as the Minstrels. We’ve got bits of Johnny Cowell (Mom’s favourite as he’s from our home-town), Hagood Hardy, Joni Mitchell, Dan Hill, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Gene MacLellan (Anne Murray’s song-writer). So that, as well as now two-nights-a week rehearsing for the New Denmark Queen’s pageant is keeping me further from homesteading and moving on with self-sufficiency than I’d like to be… But, if you thrive on creative outlets, you grab ’em when you sees ’em!
Here’s the latest pageant collage, done by official photographer, Tiffany Christensen:
pageant1
So Canadian music and hill-billy music are filling my days.  (It’s worth mentioning again, here, that while I was NOT named for this hill-billy song, I think I was fated to become an Appalachian gal from the start.  The spelling is even exact on all 3 words: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFMI9ApJNU0 )
 It’s filling my days so much that, on top of the seed-tending in basement, the bread-and-muffin baking, the 3:00 a.m. run to Fredericton (2 hours one way) to take Mom/Joy to the airport (gone to Nfld. again) and the visiting of lumber mills in all 3 neighbouring towns, to find the best deal on what we need to build a paddock and run-in shelter/stall for the horse we’re getting in a few weeks (more on all this before mid-May), I’m actually falling asleep writing this.
 So pussy-willows stand for all the positive things that happen in spring.  And so would cat-tails, if we’d seen them lately.  We haven’t seen MUCH in the way of cat-tails, BUT skunk-tails, I’m afraid, are plentiful. Mom and Pop are sleeping under our porch steps, and I imagine the arrival of babies to be anytime now. Richard bought a live skunk trap, and they can’t lift their tails in it, so no spraying.  When caught they’ll be taken down Lucy’s Gulch and let loose. And preferably BEFORE Smitty ‘gets wind’ of them – he was sprayed by them 4 times last year, and I still don’t think he learned!

Lastly, the thing Richard enjoys most about the snows melting is that he can start planning for more future self-sufficient living again.  Should he get a windmill, or build a mill in Rasmussen Brook? Or perhaps a water tower for storage? What about another bank of solar?  When we were in Fredericton on Monday to get Mom to fly out, Richard studied up on some options at the truck stop “The Blue Canoe”.

Then, because we haven’t done a single touristy thing since moving to this province (for me, nearly a year ago!) we just played at silly sight-seers for a bit:

And then, whaddya know?  In true Rustic Revivals’ style, we found a sculpture of Gordon Lightfoot’s rusty goose on the ‘soft winds’  – – – AND   his cat-tails!!

 

 

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A Twist of the Fist : Making the Grade on Your Braid

‘Old Braided Rug’ – Poem by Linda Winchell
I found an old hand-made braided rug
At a thrift store the other day.
It was quite a dirty sight to see
With some of its edges frayed.

I bought it up and rushed it home
To give it a much-needed bath.
And when it was cleaned, there t'was seen
Braided memories of someone's past.

One braided rope weaved into another:
A child's pajamas, or perhaps a robe? 
Then an old flour bag, 'Velvet Flour', 
Was the logo in this rug twas sewed.

Then what looked to be a small center piece 
Remnants of someone's wedding gown?
I think they placed it there on purpose
Sort of like this rug's jeweled crown.

Memories of someone's life
Braided into this useful little rug.
To place in front of a sink or bed
Giving where ever placed, a hug.

Does anyone still make them?
These puzzles of someone else's past...
This braided rug's now mine to treasure
To be enjoyed as long as it will last.

Well, yes, Linda – someone DOES still make them.  I’ve made a few smallish ones myself, years ago, and the easy way – from strips of old woolen rugs, and just one-sided.  But my mother, not only a spinner and weaver of rugs, etc. has now turned her hand(s) to braiding rugs.

Joy is a terrific braider.  When she was young, her own hair was in ‘pigtails’, which we still have in a box from when she finally got them cut off, pre-teens.  And until I was old enough to become “Chip”  ( early teens – see post from two weeks ago: “Hill-billy Hootenanny”) with my hair boyishly cut by the one and only Shirley Robinson (no one else dared do it EXACTLY as I asked – which was essentially like all the boys my age in the early 1970s) I, too, had a pair of two long braids, expertly twisted up each morning by my mother. She would French braid the part near my scalp, then quickly do regular braiding until near the ends.  These went along with my grandfather’s nick-name for me, “Annie Oakley”, esp. when I mounted my steed ‘Sugar’.  (Gail Davis, as Annie, DID wear pigtails, although the real Annie Oakley seemed to prefer to wear her long, thick tresses DOWN.)

tomboy on sugar

Once I gave up both rocking horses and hobby horses, (age about 14 – yes, seriously) and gave up riding Western (had my first pony from age 10-13, but Western horses are rarely braided) I then had to become an expert braider, as show and “3-day event” horses (the dressage portion at least and sometimes the stadium jumping portion) are always braided neatly, and often the braids are SEWN or rug-hooked in with yarn, and sometimes, if they are dark manes, wrapped with white medical tape to make them ‘pop’ out and show the line of the horse’s neck better. Here I am with some of my darker-maned geldings, with the white tape wrapped around the braided knot.  For the forelock, like my mother Joy had to do on my own ‘plaits’, you must first FRENCH braid before braiding regularly to keep it tightly pulled:

My sister Jennifer’s husband, Boyd, is from the west side of Newfoundland, and he inherited an old family farm there, (in whose orchard he proposed over a decade ago).  They, like us, are turning the farm into a renovated cozy home – for them, their summer home only- and Jennifer asked Mom to please BRAID her a rug with her bright ‘newfie’ colours.  Jen and I are lucky enough to both have a number of Mom’s beautifully-designed and custom-requested-coloured loom-woven rugs scattered about our homes, but Jennifer wanted a good braided one.    I had one of my great-grandmother’s making for years, until after all my travels with it, it essentially dilapidated beyond repair.  But Jennifer had never had a hand-made one.  If you have been faithfully reading this blog since before Christmas, you’ll have seen Mom/Joy at work on this particular rug, which she finished a few weeks ago:

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She and Jennifer chose most of those fabrics from 2nd hand stores in St. John’s when Mom was last out there in the fall, so none of them are sentimental or familial, as described in the poem above.  But they DO match the colour scheme Jennifer requested, and they are of various textures and material, so it was quite a challenge for Mom.  Jennifer ALSO requested that it be neither circular NOR oval – ??? so THAT was another challenge with which Mom had to try and contend, cutting out the middle part several times in order to shape it to those specifications.  Here is the lovely, cozy result, and I’m sure Jennifer and Boyd will enjoy it, as well as son Sydney, for many decades to come, as it is equally the same on one side as the other (the real trick in making a braided rug from rags!).  I ‘made’ Joy get in her jammies and ‘sleep’ on the rug, as a special photo for Sydney to show him that we want to think of him enjoying it the same way in his cozy farmhouse.  We did NOT specifically plan for the model to ‘match’ the colours of the rug, but she does indeed!

I guess she felt badly for us, or just enjoyed making this one so much, that she has then offered to do one for Richard’s and my own ‘meeting room’, as we call our livingroom-cum-diningroom-cum- musicroom-cum-communitymeeting room! (It’s held 18 people around the fireplace at one meeting!)  This one has fabrics she and I picked out to go with the earthenware dishes (my ‘good’ set) I so love -the Nut-tree Franciscan.

nut-tree-franciscan

She’s already got a good start on this, although I hope it doesn’t keep her indoors too much as the warmer weather begins to settle upon us!  Here are the beginnings, and I did ask for an oval shape, so hopefully it won’t be such a challenge for her:

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Here are just a fraction of the various fabrics we’ve chosen, from which she may then apply her artistic skills in co-ordinating each long braid:

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All but one of these were purchased by the bagful, or at least armful, at 2nd hand stores and charity shops.  The one piece that WASN’T, Mom picked out herself and I thought it had too much white in it, so she promptly went and tea-dyed it and now it’s much less ‘flashy’.  Good old primitive technique I use all the time for my prim-dollies and stuffed animals, (and even my mother’s bridal veil when I also wore it in 1988)  but I didn’t expect Mom to just run to the sink and do this on the only brand-NEW piece of material! Yay, Joy!

When I braided my small rugs with the wool blankets, I used the good old homesteader’s bible that’s been in our home since the  1970s when it was first published – the Reader’s Digest’s BACK TO BASICS “A Practical Guide to Old-fashioned Self-Sufficiency”.

However, Mom was guided more by several online sites, and then just trial and error experimentation.  Here are a few links if you’re interested in doing this fairly simple technique for having a rug that could incorporate either your chosen room/accent colours OR some sentimental pieces of clothing from loved ones – OR both…

http://pioneerthinking.com/learning-how-to-make-braided-rugs

http://www.littlehouseliving.com/how-to-make-rag-rugs

http://inhabitat.com/diy-learn-how-to-make-a-beautiful-braided-rug-from-old-fabric/

Life is always spiraling around us.  Why not boldly say so with something you see each day, and have it add comfort and cheer to your room as well?

sprial poem

And P.S. – watch for an upcoming link to all of Joy’s fibre artwork, with photos of her in situ,  in the spring/summer edition of Created Here, a New Brunswick online magazine!

RISE: the Risings of Yeast, and Yeats and Yeshua

I love the verb “to rise”.  It harbours such an Easter, springlike connotation.  Unless it’s used in the context of Richard trying to get a rise out of me, (which he likes to do multiple times in a day) this is also a beautiful NOUN, especially when used in conjunction with words like “Sunrise” or “Moonrise”.  Aren’t those lovely and romantic words?

sun, moon

When I stepped into the mysterious gloaming Monday night, after yet another dance rehearsal at the little New Denmark rec centre with ‘the tiara club’ (see last week’s post), the moon was just poking out over the tree line. As I drove the three miles home, the so-called “Pink Moon” (named after pink flowers called wild ground phlox, which bloom in early spring, the ‘pink moon’ is the first full moon of springtime in the Northern Hemisphere) rose very quickly in the sky, and I couldn’t take my eyes off it the whole way home. Good thing our road is so quiet there wasn’t another car on it!

We are down to less than 40 percent of the snow we’ve had all winter, now, thanks to a few good rainfalls and one day of actual double digits -with sun!  We now hear some songbirds, not just crows.  And, this morning, as I sat eating my homemade pancakes with our own fresh maple syrup from weeks of Richard’s toil’n’boil, I had to open the top of the Dutch door that Richard made last fall (see posting from Sept. 16th entitled The Dutch Door Diva, if you missed the construction of this beloved kitchen feature)  and listen to the ‘rise’ and swell of jubilant bird song in the air.

pancakes, syrup
my breakfast this morning, with top of door open to hear birds

As I bake bread, nearly every 2nd day, the word “Rise” is especially important to me. I’ve discovered that, as I’d once thought in my 20s when I used to regularly bake bread, the amount of rise is NOT as important, especially if you like to eat toast and sandwiches as we do.  You don’t have to ‘cater’ to the yeast as much as you might think, although it SHOULD be warm water it dissolves in, and a sprinkling of sugar will help excite it further! But if the bread rises TOO much over the loaf pans, you’ll not be able to cut it as easily, nor to fit it into the toaster!  Thus, I try for a good ‘first’ rise, and just a quick one after the initial punch-down.  (Of course this also depends on the amount of white/vs.wholewheat flour I’m using. This past week I ran out of white, and as Richard and I hate JUST plain whole wheat, I zested the bread up with some cardamon, parsley, thyme and oregano. I didn’t put it in a loaf pan, either, just made it in a circle on the baking sheet and let it rise a bit there. Try it, it was fabulous!)  As the sale at the rec centre last Saturday morning was my (Rustic Revivals’) first one in this province, I made a lot of Easter-oriented and spring items. And one of the ones of which I’m most proud is the following cushion which I stitched by hand from a flour sack. I  then stencilled a double meaning on to the thick linen, so that it could be for general use, or as a special Easter gift.  It didn’t sell at the sale, so I can enjoy it further, I guess.

rise1

For readers in Ontario, there is a wonderful group around the Toronto area called “R.I.S.E.” which a few theatre-grad friends of mine have volunteered with in the past:  “Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere (RISE) is a community led by youth, comprised of artists, activists, free-thinkers and revolutionaries. Together, they help to create a safe and welcoming platform for self-expression and healing through the performance arts.” This is, of course, ‘right up my alley’ – but since I’m now living out here in ‘boonesville’, where my heart is, I am trying to do what I can.  As discussed last week when revealing the small amount of young people’s performance art (ie: “The Tiara Club”) that I’m working with here in this small rural community, the sense of being close to nature and the “rustique” of our agricultural history is important here, and that’s one of the things I love about being in the mountains.  Local photographer Tiffany Christensen blends my two passions frequently in her work.  Nature and Rustic. Love it!

As presented in last week’s blog …”Purty Pals and Gingham Gals”, Tiffany will ‘rise’ to any occasion and is being especially helpful as we move forward to the Founder’s Day celebrations this year here in this peaceful valley.  And her last name, while being both indicative of the many Danish names in the community AND the true meaning of Easter is a happy circumstance at the time of this writing.  “Risen” is even there in her name!

risen

The above is the 3rd tobacco slat cross I’ve made from the weathered sticks I was offered from my Ontario cousins, Pete and Linda Baxter, when they were moving from their own farm.  I am so pleased Richard agreed to let me bring so much of this wood with us out here, and two of these crosses have now fittingly, I think, gone to Reverend Diane of Carlisle, ON and Pastor Ralph, of New Denmark, N.B.

Of course when you mention “Easter” and “Rise” in the same sentence, it isn’t always a positive thing. Christ died for our sins, true, and then rose to live forever in us, for us.  But sometimes, sadly, it is just about death. Period.  As we do not have television here, we enjoy a wonderful BBC feed through various online sources, which we then project to Richard’s large screen.   One of my favourite British serials is Lark RISE to Candleford.  If you haven’t seen it, but are a fan of period costume drama, find a way to view the whole series.  (available at many libraries, and also, in part, online – or you could buy the box set!) However, I have recently become enamored with the u.k. version (original one!) of “Who Do You Think You Are”?  I do NOT consider this a ‘reality show’, so please don’t suggest it is! I find it a stimulating way to learn history.  Watching it  led to the revealing of several of our favourite Irish performers’ ancestors such as Brendan O’Carroll (the hilarious Mrs. Brown of ‘Mrs. Brown’s Boys) being involved in the Easter Risings of 1916, and I was thus motivated to read and study more about that particular unrest.  Yeats’ poem “Easter: 1916” ends so solemnly, despite the green of  the Emerald Isle and the new spring:  “Now and in time to be, Wherever green is worn, Are changed, changed utterly:  A terrible beauty is born”.

Then, this week of course was yet another 100th anniversary – that of Vimy Ridge, which also took place originally over Easter weekend.  Mom/Joy was especially interested in this as her great-uncle died there, and I was pleased that CBC did a live stream which she could also enjoy from her laptop computer.  So, Easter is about rising, but also about the fallen.   However,  just as the Canadians were important ‘rising’ to the top of Vimy Ridge a century ago, so are our Canadians poignant in their passion for standing up for what is right in all things crucial to the survival of man-kind:

(Rise up, Rise up) Oh rise and show your power,
(Rise up, Rise up) We're dancing into the sun
(Rise up, Rise up) It's time for celebration
(Rise up, Rise up) Spirits' time has come...
...Talkin 'bout the right time to be workin' for peace,
Wantin' all the tension in the world to ease.
                            - by Canadian band, Parachute Club

 I love those lyrics, and while I’ve hardly been considered a pop-music fan, the late 1970s and early 1980s WERE about the only time when I listened to such music. Those words have always stayed with me (as well as the ‘catchy’ tune to which they were sung).  And now that Trumpty Dumbty is tumbling from his wall, I believe we must indeed work harder than ever for peace.  And, as spring is here, we must ‘dance into the sun’, as it’s ‘time for celebration’.  I tried hard, at my Rustic Revivals’ booth last week, to make a ‘new’ and ‘springlike’ impression:
booth,table, 2017, n.b.

I put more colour (light pastels) into my pieces than ever before, and tried to think of inspirational/springlike words for salvaged pieces of wood (‘dream’ is painted on an old dove-tailed drawer-piece, and the rusty flower on the ‘bloom’ sign is an old car part I found along the side of the road and banged into that shape).

As for the Easter wreath (bottom left of the ‘booth’ pic above), as well as having a barnboard cross on it, I also added some pastel colour with some recycled craft pieces (ie: bird’s nest with ‘eggs’, sign with ‘hope’ and some baby chicks, etc) .  Furthermore, I also did several pieces in actual COLOUR (totally new to the Rustic Revivals’ precedent!)

colour signs

The only colour I could say I’ve really put on to any project before now was my salvage art LOVE sign, which I’ve always thought was fun:

LOVE turq.

And I’m especially proud of the ‘new’ spindle and finial ornaments (candle holders glued together from pieces given me by former choir mate, Ron, so thus ‘salvaged’, though he bought them new for his own projects and never used them).  They again make me think of ‘rise’, as I’ve had to glue both the ornaments and the candleholders into twos and threes to make them higher, before painting them with the two colours necessary for ‘crackling’ and distressing. (You need an acrylic undercoat, usually darker, then the ‘crackle’ mix, which you CAN make yourself, before adding the final coat.) These add that pastel colour to the spring line, pastels of course replicating the colours of spring flowers and birds’ eggs in nests.

Did any Rustic Revivals’ followers ever think they’d see so much colour mixed in to my shabby chic and primitive concepts?  (The rusty hearts were cut from old rusty paint can lids found on this very farm!)  But it IS spring!

And speaking of birds, bird song, and bird houses/nests, I did several of them as well, and the primitive ‘willow’ tree did sell, though not the others, I was sorry to say. Especially since Richard put so much effort into the design and building of these two wonderful houses, also made from my Baxter cousins’ barnboard.

And, we couldn’t really have an Easter show without SOME semblance of bunnies, chicks and lambs, so here they are:

While all of the above are made entirely from salvage items, scraps or from nature itself, I AM proud that they are newly-made or upcycled for this year’s ‘spring’, despite having many other spring items (even MADE from rusty springs from a sleigh’s old seat, for instance!) and including fishing and canoeing-themed items, gardening items, etc.  All ‘springy’.  But, when examining again the true meaning of Easter, I was happy to put a little folk-art New Denmark scene with the two landmark churches on top of the next hill-top.  Both churches have crosses on top of them in real life, and both have them painted on as well. This was done on a small cutting board of Mom/Joy’s that she wanted to dispose of.  This is only half the board:

close-up, n.d. folk art

This scene depicts the ploughing, planting and cheerful green-growth that happens around the farms in the early spring.  As you  may have read in my post “Blue Belldon Basement Grow Op.” several weeks ago, things were planted down there that are now beginning to ‘rise’ as well!

sprouts, 2017

And also, chosen to add cheeriness to my kitchen window, and almost perpetually NOT blooming, even my red geranium has decided to ‘rise’ to the occasion of SPRING!

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Thus, as my father used to joyously quote (in an Ogden Nash burst of silliness, though it is NOT written by that poet) :

"Spring is Sprung,
The grass is RIZ -
I wonder where 
The birdies is? "             

or, of a less silly subject matter, is George Herbert's "Easter".

Easter –

Rise heart: thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delayes,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or since all music is but three parts vied
And multiplied;
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

I got me flowers to straw thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The sunne arising in the East,
Though he give light, & th’East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.

A coffee can I decorated for Spring, with neighbours’ hydrangea flowers dried inside. To left are two of the tobacco slat crosses and two right, another popular cross around here – the New Denmark flag painted on a light switch plate.  Both left and right sold, the coffee can remains as 1 in a set of Primitive Three.  HAPPY EASTER!

coffeeecan

One of six shabby chic frames I distressed and crackled for the Easter show. Some are peg-boards with chicken wire, but sold two of these blackboards.  Happy Easter!  R I S E  !!!!

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Hill-billy Hootenanny: Purty Pals & Gingham Gals

Take Dorothy out of Kansas, stick her in a fantasy world where she meets fairy god-mothers with crowns and magic wands and high-heeled slippers… and whaddaya got?  You’ve still got ginghamized Dorothy, bless her, headin’ back to Kansas- just a little older and wiser.  “There’s NO PLACE LIKE HOME”…

 

Here in the Appalachians, you send a tomboy, “Chip”, (me, see below, age 10 and 14)  to a new place, and she’s confronted with crowns and high heels and told she’s expected to help organize a bunch of princesses, and she’s in a tail spin… but guess what? The mail lady (Glinda the Good Witch?) knows everybody, waves her magic wand, steps in with her ruby shoes and all is well… turns out those princesses are just good ole country girls like Chip herself!  The tricky bit’s gonna be getting them OUT of Kansas!

tomboy Julie

Apparently Queens’ Pageants (formerly ‘beauty pageants’ but no longer quite so exploitative of women) are popular in every single town in New Brunswick.  The crowned gals are even EXPECTED to wear their tiaras and sashes to school the following day, and actually aren’t laughed out of the building, either! (Having taught in 4 rather rough schools in 3 different countries, I find this VERY difficult to come to terms with, but apparently it’s common practice and just as accepted as one of my 12-year-old students carrying an ankle knife to school in inner city Leeds, U.K. or my 15-year-old pupil breast-feeding her baby in my English class ‘on the rez’ in Browning, Montana!)

I’ve often been surrounded by lovely young women while teaching in Canada and abroad.  Some of the girls I’ve had the pleasure of working with onstage have even gone on to become actresses/models/singers and strong professionals who use some of the public-speaking and debate skills I helped them work on in their high-school days. However, this pageant thing is a very new concept to me.

with grads

(above, some of the lovely young ladies to whom I taught Drama and coached in a variety of musicals, ‘on the rez’ in Browning, Montana – please note, the above were NOT the same students who breast-fed their babes in class!)

For those girls, and some of the others I’m so proud of, I made a banner last year on International Girls’ Day, (although they are no longer ‘girls’, but very strong and talented  women now, and can all be seen or heard in public forums in one way or another).

girls' day

above, some of my beautiful former students – from the USA, the U.K., and yes, Canada, too!

However, none of those girls are really the tiara-wearing types, either.  Up until a month or so ago I was feeling very much ‘out of my element’!

New Denmark is a wonderfully-close-knit community, as you’ll know from reading some of my previous blog postings.  It’s not just a mountain area where everyone pitches in and helps each other and attends church, dances, games’ nights, luncheons, etc. on a weekly basis – it’s got the additional distinction of being the largest AND oldest Danish community in Canada, and is thus rooted in tradition.  Founder’s Day in New Denmark has always been an important celebration, and until recent years was an annual event.  The little rural museum just up the road from us is a Provincial Historical Site, as “Immigrant House”, where the majority of settlers stayed in 1872 before being granted their land, was on that corner. There’s a great video posted online about the Centennial Parade from 1972, which I just love watching! It’s so dear and even, now, familiar! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAvS-3M78rQ

This year, by accident (I was meant to be going to a meeting of the historical committee and ended up at the 145th planning committee meeting instead!) I am helping organize the Founder’s Day activities, and thus you’ll see lots more photos from this fun event later in June. It’s held around the 19th of that month every 5 years now, because that’s when the first ship with the majority of Danes landed here.  One of the events is a big parade from near our farm, at the rural museum corner, up the hill past the church and on to the little rural ‘rec centre’.  And what’s a parade without a bevy of beautiful young ladies waving their delicate hands and straightening their tiaras on a floral-decorated float?    Here’s a screen shot  with their centennial year’s Queen and Princess, 1972:

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About the only thing I’m familiar with in that picture is the TRUCK.  But I digress… Having heard rumours (I guess) that I was a former Drama teacher – and NOT having heard rumours that I was a tomboy who despised cutesy, demure women, frivolous ball-gowns, high heels, and anything superficial or commercialized, a former director of the Founder’s Day planning committee pointed his over-large finger at me at the very first meeting and delegated me in charge of the pageant.  Luckily for me, Mary Beth the Mail-lady (secretary of no less than FOUR committees in this small “happenin’ ” place!) immediately stepped in and organized a bunch of people who knew a lot more about pageants than I EVER will, to help!  Mary Beth has ordered the tiaras, too, so thank God that’s out of my hands, as they’d have ended up with Stetsons or dressage top hats!  (We suspect M.B. ordered the extra one so she can be seen driving about the hills and dales delivering her letters and feeling “special” ).

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Another lucky thing: ’twas Mary Beth herself who said “why don’t we just make the theme ‘COUNTRY’ this year?  Well, ole Chip of Rustic Revivals can do THAT!  And it ties right in with our enormously talented photographer, a former New Denmark pageant gal herself, Miss Tiffany Christensen.  As I’ve organized and decorated so many rustic weddings and events in my rural-based businesses, so has Tiffany taken plenty of rustic and rural-based photography, because it’s not only what we see and live out here, it’s ALSO become a world-wide fad even for those who’ve never set foot in a barn or old klunker of a pick-up truck before!  (On Saturday, my Rustic Revivals was at our first N.B. craft sale, right at the little rec centre where the pageant will take place, and had some of the best attention ever, because folks in the mountains ‘get’ primitives, and several custom orders are coming in also for yet more ‘Burlap Bags’, ((as Richard calls me)) creations.  I’ll be doing a special Easter blog with my latest line next week.)

Thus, Tiffany and I have both been involved in promoting the beauty and history of the rural landscapes around us.  Here’s a lovely photo she took recently, and she’ll be doing a number like this for the pageant girls, as they are to have a ‘spa and photography day’ together in May.

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You can see the rural and rustic trend that is so popular now for both weddings AND grads/proms, etc, so why not in our own rural pageant?   (Excuse the blurriness of the following – this is obviously not in Tiffany’s originals, but my ad program isn’t always in love with the wordpress one!  Isn’t her logo neat?  Look how the camera is subtly wrapped into her initials!  And the natural leaves/sheaves represent the countryside we love!)

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As Rustic Revivals  has also now debuted locally (after 7 years of ‘touring’ the back roads of Montana, Yorkshire, Aberdeenshire and Ontario!), we realize the mountains here in Appalachia are just the right spot for us!  Although online selling isn’t to be ruled out :

http://www.etsy.com/shop/rusticrevivals

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And RURAL Revivals, (its sister company), as special rural events organizer and country-themed decorator/interior designer (  http://www.facebook.com/rural.revivals

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http://www.rusticrevivals.wixsite.com/ruralrevivals  ) will also be comfortably-based and definitely using Miss Christensen for all events photography and official before-and-after shots of our specialty rooms with shabby chic/’country’/French Provincial/ ‘cabin’  make-overs (if you haven’t yet viewed my own crappy before and after photos, see previous posts on renos).  Former campaigns which have included us in newspapers and on television have resulted in less attention than in just having the good readers of this blog spread the word…

…so I’m hoping that those of you who are in New Brunswick or who have the money to fly her out to you, will consider using Tiffany Christensen as YOUR official photographer as well!

Of course she doesn’t just take portraits in rural settings; have a look at all her lovely work on her FB page:

http://www.facebook.com/TiffanyChristensenPhotography

I tried 3 times to catch the magic of the hoar frost on the mountainsides, for instance, this winter, and failed spectacularly, but Tiffany has a real talent:

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She was also able to capture the stunning autumnal colours here better than I!

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Having said that, I’m not a COMPLETE amateur when it comes to pretty country girls posing for the camera.  Last spring, nearly a year ago, in fact, a gorgeous former riding student from Scotland came for a visit to Ontario and wanted the ‘typical’ Dukes of Hazzard/’Western’-and hill-billy-style pics. So, I introduced her to my native friend and her teepee,another former riding student and her horse, Richard’s ’73 Nova for that Dukes of Hazzard effect and also, of course -his moonshine jug. Then I got my camera out. Here’s a slideshow for fun:

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I also loaded up all my rustic decor and we spent an all-afternoon photo-shoot with some work that I’m pretty proud of, and she SHOULD be as well:

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The ‘other type of riding’…

While I wouldn’t suppose to be as good as Tiffany, and while it DID take us about 50 photos just to get one good one, I am rather proud of the above.  Now, someday, especially with the gorgeous gals we have in this year’s pageant as models, Tiffany might even have a front cover for some real fashion mags.  I do like to think that ours could have just as easily been on a Vogue special issue:

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And, funnily enough, here she is even posing as a MaryBeth !

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That’s right, I’ve worn many hats in my time, in many different places around the world… Off-stage, On-stage, Mounted, UnMounted, in various positions for the Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Education etc.  Mom/Joy even thinks that should be the title of my autobiography.  Either that, or she’s suggested “The Many Beds in Which I’ve Slept”?  I keep telling her that just makes me sound like a slut…

HOWEVER, AS MANY HATS AS I’VE WORN, I’VE NEVER WORN A TIARA!

julie's many hats

 

The pageant girls, and I won’t name them here, are all eager, however, to be dubbed “Queen”, or at least “Princess”, despite them being very much Appalachian Country girls in their own right.  One of them is line-dancing for her talent, and another even asked if she could ride her DIRT BIKE for her talent portion!  So I’m no longer worried about dealing with the demure, prissy type – these young ladies are up for anything!  Ironically, not only has the group dance which I’m choreographing morphed into a hill-billy dance in barefeet (and I was a chorus dancer in L’il Abner onstage in barefeet forty years ago!) but the other talents a few of the girls wish to show-case are Poetry Reading and doing a Monologue.  With NO suggestions even, by me, an English/Drama teacher, with published poetry and an award on her wall for doing Dramatic Monologues!  Well, really, since MaryBeth rounded up all this extra help for me to have the promenades, turns, waves and poise stuff looked after, I can do this! Who’d have thought this pageant gig would end up being so close to my own propensities  (ie: rustic decorating, slopping out verse, projecting loudly, and strutting about in patched clothes with a heavy emphasis on my heels… Yeeeee-haaaw!)

By the way, speaking of all-things-hill-billy:  In regard to this week’s title, did you know a ‘hootenanny’ is actually a SCOTTISH word, which should please Mom/Joy?  According to Wikipedia, it is simply “a Scottish word meaning ‘party’ or ‘celebration’. With the Scots being one of the biggest groups of settlers in the Appalachian region (bringing with them their whisky-making tradition and methods, leading to the area’s moon-shining tradition) it is not surprising that hootenanny became an Appalachian colloquialism. ”     Besides I like it better than ‘hoedown’, although that is an equally pleasant-sounding alliteration to match with ‘hill-billy’. It’s just that ‘hoe-down’ will likely be needed in future titles to represent our extensive gardening, which is a must when living self-sufficiently!

Every Monday night we are in rehearsal now with the girls.  Chantal, one of the moms, a MaryBeth recruit to our committee, and herself a participant in numerous provincial pageants (“but that was HOW many years ago?” her daughter piped up last night) is an invaluable wealth of info. for both me and the young ladies, as she is instructing them in poised walking with books on heads, and my old Tickle Trunk petticoats on their lower half to aid in twirls and turns.  Even with ‘cammo’ and baseball hats, Chantal can get these ladies to SPIN!

 

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(above, note the Danish ‘welcome’ in our church basement:  “Velkommen” – it’s seen in every public building here in the community, and the Danish flag, on Mary Beth’s cartoon mailbox and picket fence, is seen flying on at least every other farm!  Also, please note that while I have permission to publicly post these photos of the pageant gals, I am not going to name them, as a respect to their underage privacy!)

I also asked Chantal to please choreograph the girls’ initial ‘promenade’ in their casual clothes (which they are piecing together with only $10.00 from second-hand and rummage sales, don’t you think that’s a wonderful tradition?) and also their ball-gown finale, when they will be escorted on to the stage by two little 7 year old boys dressed in flannel shirts and wearing cow-boy hats and boots to keep in line with our ‘Down-Home Country’ theme.  I can’t wait to see that!

Here are some photos I took last night of Chantal rehearsing the girls in high heels to prepare for their intro-dance, which will be to Shania Twain’s “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” (’cause I wanted to have only women singers, we needed country songs for the theme, and we DEFINITELY needed a Canadian!)  As always, please click on each photo to blow up and read the captions:

To give their poor tootsies a break from the high-heels they aren’t all used to wearing (and certainly not dancing in!) we next went to my ‘group dance’, a bit of a production into which I’ve of course introduced a touch of ‘drama’ (bit of business at the beginning).  Here’s another big irony:  those poor girls, who are country/mountain gals at heart, have to learn to walk gracefully and to show off their feminine wiles one minute, switch to being what many of them (like me) would rather walk like – a relaxed mountain-girl hill-billy in bare feet, and then throw on a ball-gown and go back to that poised, tall, no-slouching grace again.  It’s really going to be an amazing challenge for them!

Here are some of last night’s rehearsal for the group dance, which will be to Lisa McHugh’s ‘Hill-billy Girl’ – but I dislike her line-dance to the same, and as one of our girls is doing a line-dance for her ‘talent portion’ (she goes for lessons every week with her grandfather, but he declined doing it in the pageant with her!) I’m putting in my own choreography.  (Though my back has been much better since the 3rd surgery in 2008, the knees, since the last crashing somersault fall off Junior in 2004 are progressively worse with osteo-arthritis.  Since they won’t do knee surgeries now until we hit age 60, and because I refuse to let the pain take away ALL my activity levels, I ‘strap up’! ) Click on any of the below to enlarge and read the captions:

Within the Hillbilly Girl dance there are two instrumental bits and I’ve planned a ‘showcase’ of each girl’s gymnastic talent aka “hillbilly jumps and kicks” to add some excitement… Here’s one from last week’s rehearsal, with faithful Tiffany taking photo:

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Lastly, the girls put their high-heels back on to practice their more formal ball-gown finale. Chantal is playing the part of the little 7 year-old boys, as she escorts each to the stage and instructs them on their ‘turns’. They will then be asked a question on their thoughts or beliefs on a certain subject, by the M.C., prior to the judges making their final decisions.  Here’s each of the lovely girls as they come down the aisle to Jessica Andrews’ ‘Who I Am’ (Rosemary’s Grand-daughter).  And one of them actually IS a Rosemary’s grand-daughter, too!  I suggested that her grandmother would LOVE this song, then. However, we were informed that Rosemary was quote/unquote ‘unable to attend’.  We said ‘oh, that’s too bad, why not?’.    ‘Wal, ’cause she’s dead’ was the drawled response.

 

By the way, when you see very ripped jeans (above) please note that these are not being worn in preparation for the Hill-billy Girl dance with me.  For those of you not as ‘hip’ as I am to the modern fashion (the very use of the term ‘hip’ proves this is entirely tongue-in-cheek) these are the designer pants that cost so much nowadays, and another bit of irony is that the girls are going to be buying their ‘casual wear’ for the pageant at rummage sales for under $10.00, and likely (because their grandparents won’t approve) leaving these jeans at home!

Thus, the ironies of my life in the Appalachians continues.  Just when you think something is being introduced into your life which you just can’t come to grips with, you take off your shoes, your bare feet help you get sticky purchase, and there you are.  You’ve come to grips!

Kick off them ruby slippers, Dorothy.  You’re back on the farm, baby.

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Funnily enough, the above “Find Your Style” meme is at the top of our Rural Revivals’ website: http://www.rusticrevivals.wixsite.com/ruralrevivals   and is not only what the girls are considering wearing for their group dance, but the ‘find your style’ motto is how they are being told to go find their rummage sale casual outfits for both their Princess tea and their Introductory walk onstage the night of the pageant!  So maybe I DO know more about this than I at first thought!