Rain, Reins, and Reigning – some ‘harrowing’ experiences!

When I was 21 I had several bad shocks in a row and a friend in Pittsburgh offered to let me come stay for a few weeks to try and come to grips.  But on the Greyhound bus on the way down, an incident took place at the border which has consistently made me get my back up with border officials and any type of what I call ‘jumped-up power-mongers’.  So often, border security (and this is long before 9/11, of course) have for some reason, seen little old  innocent me who has never broken the law or even had one full drink of an alcoholic beverage and promptly decide I look ‘suspicious’ . ( Why? Am I so plain Jane that I’m always resembling someone on the current WANTED lists ?  Or is it because of my NAME – there ARE an awful lot of Julie Ann Johnsons —all named after the hill-billy blues song? —and a number of those I’ve googled in the past DO have criminal records!)  Anyway, I was chosen out of the busload of at least 50 people to be dragged into the border office.  After being nearly suicidal for some weeks, and being a young and naive 21, this was more than my nerves could bear and I remember standing there, shaking and teary-eyed while the officious officials went through my pockets, my suitcase and my handbag.  In said bag they found a letter from my younger teen-age cousins who thought it would be funny to slip in a 3-page note ‘from my horse’ at the time: “Cupid” .  (I didn’t name him,  (she says defensively!) —they did.  He was born on Valentine’s Day and had an upside down heart for a star on his forehead).  This note was a straightforward well-wishing bon voyage kind of thing, and I expect they were trying to cheer me up at the time.  But they wrote it in a funny childish slanted style, emulating, I suppose, what they thought a young colt might ‘write’ like?


But the border guards thought this worthy of an HOUR of their attention, trying to ‘translate’ what they thought were double-meaning, cryptic messages, and asking me countless questions over and over.  Finally, after holding up the bus for this long, the bus driver came in and said I’d either have to be allowed to leave, or he’d have to drive on without me.  They let me go, (but kept the letter,) and oh! the embarrassment of getting back on that bus!

So traumatized was I by this experience that my kind mother and father (he was still alive in the beginning of 1985, but he died that November, making it one of the worst years of my life, all told!) sent money for me to FLY home, thinking this would be less complicated.  But the same thing happened!  As I disembarked from the plane in Toronto, I was taken into a small room, made to strip down to my underwear while they ‘patted me down’, and each and every embarrassing item from my suitcase was removed and examined.

I will never know what/who they were searching for, but this has always remained with me every time I travel, probably making me seem more nervous and suspicious than I normally would do!  The border patrol people, in my experience up until last year, are uneducated, power-hungry control freaks who LOOK for something to do when they are a bit bored – and I’m sorry if some nice person reading this is related to some equally nice person who HAPPENS to be a border official… They make it clear they are the ROYALTY of the borders, the King or Queen of their Land, and they see me coming and put out the DO NOT ENTER sign.

That is, at least, until recently.  Since moving here to N.B., and this quiet back-water rural area, we have had occasion to travel back and forth to Maine many times.  Both the Canadians and Americans have always been perfectly pleasant, and some even chatty!  They live right there, too, so they come to know everyone personally – and many are just youngsters, fresh out of college – all of which has given me a whole other outlook.  Yesterday we went to visit Harvey Miller, a Mennonite gentleman who has his own harness shop. We were told to go to him for a harness for Chevy, rather than bidding for one at auction, or trying to buy new or online.  Mr. Miller has been MOST helpful (more on this below) and the border people didn’t even mind our purchasing a brand new harrow, collar, pitchfork, whippletree, AND REINS as well as a used harness with matching bridle and bit.  ALL for under 1,000.00 ! Try to do that online or in a Co-op/Tack store!  The border folk just smiled and waved us through…

Here are the two ‘dolls-house’, river-front borders at which we regularly cross – Limestone and Bridgewater:

And the very mottoes used on the signs affirm our reasons for wanting to move here to ‘live the simpler life’…. Love them!   So life near a border is no longer like this:


But rather more like this:


The only other time in my LIFE where I felt this unencumbered at a border was the first time I went to live in England in 1997.  Having made sure ALL my paper work was in order and then in triplicate!, and already having a teaching job to go to, I was fairly confident.  It was late at night u.k. time and after I told him I was coming to LIVE and WORK there, the border guard glanced at my passport and paperwork and waved me on through.  I couldn’t believe it. I said “Is that ALL?”  (and thinking – “What, no handcuffs? Not even a blood test?”)   He shrugged tiredly and said “Ma’m – you’re coming here to live and if you choose to run amok with a meat cleaver there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it!”  So he wasn’t really King of the Castle in this instance, I guess – more like a world-weary Cinderella whose glass slipper didn’t fit quite right.

Speaking of royalty – and high-heeled shoes – this past week has been the New Denmark Queen’s Pageant, on which committee I’ve been heavily involved the last 3 months (see previous blog ” ….Hootenanny”).  This is the main reason I didn’t post a blog last week! … But, meanwhile,  exhausted and stressed, I stupidly went in this condition to a court in Edmunston on Thursday (the day of the final dress rehearsal for the pageant!) to support one of our neighbours in an ongoing trial that started more than 12 years ago!  Her supporters have gradually been dwindling away and she needed some ‘new blood’! Although it’s not really at a court-house, just a couple of rooms above a shopping mall which is adjoined to the Sheraton, we (Mom, Richard and two other neighbours) were still expected to go through all the security.  Richard and I started to put our bags (his full of books, mine both books and sewing materials as well as my regular patchworked fabric hand-bag) onto the conveyor belt at the same time. One woman screamed at me – “Stand Back, you – get away from the belt! Only one at a time, haven’t you been here before?”  Well, NO.  What about my personage makes you think I HAVE been here before?  So Richard went through with little disruption to his body or character.  Of course.

Then I start.  And a man gets really rough and obnoxious, snapping “Behind the line – not until I tell you!”  (Now keep in mind, this is a couple of rooms above the shopping mall for a little civil suit, folks…)  I step through and all the bells go off.   Yes, Your Royal Highness, I do have pins in my back, but they aren’t supposed to set those things off anymore.  Yes, mister, I AM wearing a knee brace, but it’s just made of plastic.  But still, he wants me to take it all off, and this is a painful process when I’ve already been made to stand for any length of time, and then it’s even more difficult to put it back on OVER my pant length (it is a tube with a lot of velcro and then plastic hinges).  So I said “PLEASE don’t make me take it off” (I promise you, I said “please!”)  And just as he’s debating this, the woman who is going through BOTH my bags (even though they’ve already been X-rayed!)  pulls out my container of mint tooth-picks and says “Oh-oh, what about this?” to her superior, yet ANOTHER guy (there were 4 security people in total, and only 5 of us going in to court at this time, so again, my proof that they have ‘nothing better to do”…)  The ‘chief’ J-U P-M (refer to first paragraph above) starts tut-tutting over this and I just LOST it. They hadn’t even got to my little sewing kit and nail scissors for snipping thread yet!.  Here was the only culprit:

I said “You have GOT to be kidding me!  I don’t need to be here, you know – I just came to support a friend” and I gesticulate to the other ladies, incl. my mother, behind me who’ve just come out of the rest-room.   Then I grabbed my bags, AND my toothpicks from the woman J-U P-M’s hand and marched myself RIGHT out of that ‘holding area’, calling ‘good-luck’ to my friend as I went.   I’m not a naive little 21 year old anymore, and I’ve been stepped on TOO many times, (incl. just in the last few months by some bullying stage moms!)   So,  who reigned supreme in this instance?  ME!  ‘Cause I got to sit in this splendorous lobby of the Sheraton, with its cozy Rustic Revivals’ type decor of barnboard, stone and rusty steampunk cogs, and read, and sip a beverage and do my sewing while the others were harassed and hassled through into a court room of stressful French repartee for over an hour:



Have I shared with you about the similar on-going tug-of-war struggle between Smitty the dog and Cammie the goat?  They are both co-dependent little things, from neglectful backgrounds, and both are constantly vying for their ‘parents’ attention’ whenever we’re outdoors.  Smitty chases Cammie away when he’s not tied up and she runs to the barn or over to Chevy for protection.  But when Smitty is tied up, Cammie comes up on ‘his’ porch and REIGNS supreme over him. It’s hilarious. She ‘stomps’ him, stamping her foot and gurgling ferociously at him, and he does usually jump or slink away. She’s even been known to stand on his sleeping bag bed and do this, so that he can’t lie down!  I love how she looks all innocent and doe-eyed until she thinks I’ve turned my back. Then, WHAMMY CAMMIE!!!!

So, Princesses, Patrols, and Porch Pooches aside, let’s talk about Aroostook County, Maine and its delightful charms, including the Mennonites from whom we made our over-the-border purchases so necessary for self-sufficient living.

On this side of the border we have a village called Aroostook as the river of that name flows through it. But on the American side, the whole COUNTY is Aroostook (named for a tribe of Micmacs primarily in Maine).   In fact, I was reading for the 2nd time a favourite suspense/thriller book of mine called Winter’s End when I moved here from Ontario.  It jolted me right out of the U-Haul seat when I read the author, John Rickard’s mention of Houlton, Presqu’ile (our nearest university town) and Aroostook County, seeing as that was all a 1/2 hour from our new home in New Brunswick!  What I DIDN’T realize until I wrote to him to tell him of this happy coincidence was that he lives in ENGLAND and has never set foot in North America, never mind seeing Aroostook County for himself.  Because he got it exactly right!  (Read it – it’s a highly entertaining story!)



This beautiful county also has many Mennonites, both old order and new, much like Waterloo/Elmira environs in Ontario.  Chevy’s farrier mentioned that Harvey Miller’s harness shop was a great place to find some cheap nylon or Biothane (plastic over nylon webbing) harness, rather than buying all leather, so we went and were not disappointed!  Two Belgians were helping plough the field for spring planting and two more were tied to a hitching post outside the harness shop.


Inside the shop there was a wonderful array of used and new harness, as well as some beautiful draft horse collars that Harvey makes himself:

With the measurements we had for Chevy, we purchased a used harness, including bit and bridle (I’ll likely use a much simpler, gentler bit as the one it came with is pretty heavy-duty and unnecessary!) .  However, no reins were with this harness, and Richard, green-horn that he is, was the first to notice this. Even Harvey hadn’t caught that yet!  So he went and cut us some reins immediately on his machine and threw that in for the original price he’d quoted us on the harness – 375.00!  Amazing price!  We then picked out a collar and a pitchfork that was brand new but about half the price of what they are in the Co-op.  And then we went around the corner of his shop and there to our delight was a harrow, brand new, which we’d just been discussing needing for both the garden AND the pasture where we hope to take off hay.  It’s had years of cutting, but no baling, so all the old dead stuff is lying there preventing the ‘good’ from coming up! We may have to spread some timothy seed…

Thus, we came home pretty happy with our purchases (and again, only a few questions at the border, then a smile and a “have a good day”!  Miraculous!) .

Richard is posed here to show he doesn’t care to be ‘harnessed’ or ‘shackled’ (actually, he LOVES it!)   Note the “Chevy” on his cap…



We’ll have to wait to see how Chevy looks in his new gear, but Richard got RIGHT on with  trying out the new harrow in our garden, which he’s already rototilled (incl. the 6 black currant bushes I planted last fall, thank you, dear! ) .   I did manage to convince him to leave the two “Y” strips of wildflowers that go diagonally through our garden – gotta have something to convince the bees to pollinate for us!   Smitty felt the need to help out so we’re going to have to remind him constantly (as I did all LAST spring!) that he isn’t allowed in there.   How we’ll ‘remind’ Cammie the Goat, I’m not sure!



After finishing the garden, just like all men with new toys, Richard immediately then went to the mowing and harrowing of the pastures, both upper and lower:


On top of all the brouhaha of the hill-billy hootenanny (I’ll post a few photos below for you to have a smile over – remember,  Queen’s Pageants are BIG in this rural area, and the girls even wore their sashes and tiaras to school this past Monday!) I’ve been trying to transplant a lot of our plants from the seeding tables downstairs out into planters to ‘harden them off’, prior to then planting them in the garden.  However, the weather has been VERY cold (back in the one-digits!) and very rainy, and it’s been tough to find the right time to get this moving. It does remind me, though, of why I wanted to plant indoors this winter – when I planted started May 24th here last year, I lost the first 5 rows of veg. due to the extreme cold, rain and wind.  So hopefully this will work better.  If not, I’m just going to wait longer to plant, and we’ll just have to plant that much more each year for back-breaking harvests and loads of canning and freezing all at once!  RAIN, RAIN go away – can’t wait to plant e’en ONE MORE DAY!

Here are the REIGNING QUEEN AND PRINCESS with official photographer, Tiffany Christensen:

Those are Rustic Revivals’ burlap bags hanging on all the windows in the hall, too~!

Here’s all 5 girls just before the – ugh – Royal Crowning and handing out of all the TITLES! (Rustic Revivals managed to get some burlap bows in there, too, above the audience!)

stage, 145 b.page.

But the shot I really love the best, by Tiffany, is from their photo-day, when they are wearing what REAL Appalachian Royalty should be proud to wear:

flannel girls

Rain, reign, rein,
 English is a pain.
 Although the words
 Sound just alike,
 The spelling's not the same!


This DELIGHTFUL D.I.Y. is completely a how-to.  So, loyal readers, if you aren’t interested in even the before and after pictures, close-it-up now, and I’ll ‘see’ you next week…. Since before we moved here, we knew we wanted to change the upstairs hall floor in the ‘newer’ wing (1970s).  (For the work we did on the hallway and stairs in the old (1920’s) wing, see the middle section of this post:  https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/06/log-cabin-legends-part-ii-phyllis/  )

Mom has had to deal with the remains of others’ ‘ideas’; that is the GOOD idea to rip out the old and dirty 1970s carpeting that was in the hallway outside her bedroom/livingroom area, BUT the BAD idea to just leave the mish-mash of plywood sub-flooring and to STAIN IT DARK AND URETHANE WITH MEGA-SHINE ! This is not only far too dark for this hallway with no windows of its own, BUT it enhances the cracks and bits and bobs of boards cut and angled every which way.

Many options were discussed, but we didn’t want to spend a lot of money NOR did any of us really want to do the non-eco-friendly laminate or vinyl thing. Ugh.  But Mom did see some laminate flooring boards she thought would work well – and to my surprise they were a light grey and rather rustic-looking!  I said “Mom, I can paint this same effect and it’ll cost under 100.00”.  Which I did.

Now, while there’s a soft-wood tongue and groove floor under the sub-flooring we didn’t know what state it was in, nor did we have the time/money/ or inclination to have our lives disrupted while all the plywood was ripped out and yet more decisions made on what to do with IT.  (Plus it wouldn’t have been level with the other floors in her bedroom and living room!)

So, painting a plywood floor to look like old, worn planks – here we go!

While Mom was away for 3 weeks in Nfld. visiting my sister and her only grandchild, I thought the time was ideal. We’re expecting a LOT of visitors this spring/summer/fall (why doesn’t anyone want to come in winter when we’re bored and LONELY?????)  But, though she was gone, I still wasn’t about to make a huge mess or an unhealthy environment by sanding the plywood first. Soooo, since a grey under-coat is essential for the right ‘look’, I simply bought a Rustcoat Primer to go right over the shiny varnished existing floor.  But first, I filled in all those cracks that go every-which-way, leaving only the cracks that went lengthwise, which I would be replicating anyway (adding to the realism!)


Then I started painting, always with a dry brush to make it ‘streaky’ and sometimes with a rag to ‘wipe’, as the whole look was to be ‘distressed’, emulating the worn-through grain – that is, wherever the plywood’s grain might actually be going the ‘right’ way!


In the good ‘grainy’ parts, I even wanted a bit of the brown to show through, to add even more texture, as you’ll see below. So, it was a bit of artistic working as I went along to decide what parts would look good coming through, and what needed to be wholly covered because it was too obviously plywood …



After letting all the grey dry, I streaked some lower areas with a peach colour, as we didn’t want the white to be too white and drastic (also, I had the white I bought also lightly tinted with peach). We chose peach because it’s in Mom’s Turkish rug that she likes in the hall, in the old floral wallpaper throughout BOTH hallways, and also peach is a bit in her bedroom and in the quilt in the landing… but you could choose a tint of whatever colour you’re trying to bring out).  So, here’s the blotches of peach I slapped thickly on!


After all that was dry (several days later!) I started the really tricky bit. Trying to keep a stiff, mostly dry brush and streaking the white paint on all in long brush strokes to try and give the impression of grain in big,wide old pine planks that most farmhouses would have had originally if they couldn’t afford hardwood floors!


I tried to leave the grainy spots I’d already decided on and wiped showing through, and then had to add more white to the spots where I’d painted peach, so that it wasn’t too obvious that the PEACH was showing through.  Quite a balancing act, and a lot of standing back, looking and musing…

The tricky thing is to never have a paint brush line like so:


You’ve got to be very careful to blend your strokes so that it will look like a uniformed ‘streak’ to give the effect of big long boards…

Then, before the white dried in areas, I would use what I call the ‘rake comb’ to drag more lines on going the same way as the grain. This would make it look MORE like the grain of big boards, and less like the plywood it is.  But then you have to ‘soften’ those lines with the brush again, to make it seem more subtle! So that’s MORE with the artistic eye plugged in and not the sleepy-head farmer I sometimes was up there!

When all the white was dry, I took pleasure in several of my favourite ‘well-worn-with time’ spots.  This is one of them:


I  streaky-painted the one little step transitioning into this hallway from the landing as well, but it was too drastic a colour switch from the blond floor to the white, so I’ll show you how I solved this later…


Here is the floor painted all white, with some areas rubbed gently off to let even more grey show through.


The second-last step, then is to use a yardstick and start painting on lines with a very thin little artist’s brush. I wanted to do it like it was narrow plank, then wide plank, alternating (as the cracks in some of the plywood that I’d left were thinner, but I didn’t want the whole floor to be that ‘narrow-plank’ look.  So, paint these black lines to replicate the cracks.  But you don’t want to use thick black lines all along, as that would be too drastic as well, and very zebra-like!  So I painted lightly, then strong, lightly, then strong.  And after some of the lines dried, I’d even smudge a bit with some more white.  Here’s the final effect with lines:


And here’s how I solved the step transition problem. I wanted colours brought in from the blond of the hardwood on the landing, and some dark browns from the furniture and wainscotting and quilt, as well as some of the golds and peaches in the quilt. ta-dah!


Actually, I added even darker peachy-orange streaks to the flower and sponge-paint after this photo was taken, but I don’t seem to have the photos I took of THAT anymore! Anyway, letting some of the streaked white-grey of the upper floor show through, whilst segueing the colours of the blond floor and the quilt seems to have done the trick:


After this, I put on two coats of poly-urethane (just satin/matte – you don’t want it shiny if the effect is meant to be old plank boards!). Obviously, I don’t LIKE polyurethane, as it’s not friendly to the environment, but it IS  a necessary evil if you don’t want to be painting your floor every 6 months!

And here are the final two shots, with Mom’s rug from Turkey and her antique desks put back in place. When she and Richard saw it, they couldn’t BELIEVE it wasn’t actually old white-washed pine planks.  I think we could say, in fact, they were FLOORED!

Husbands and Husbandry

You can’t really completely live self-sufficiently and in an eco-friendly manner unless you have an animal to help you in the bush with your wood to heat the home, to help you plough the garden and even the driveway in winter, and an animal to offer you milk for all your dairy products.  And of course chickens, for eggs and meat!  But the latter will have to wait a while because the former have already taken up a LOT of time and energy!  Mostly the energy of Richard, his brother, and his niece’s fiance.  That is to say, the ‘menfolk’. ( But I’ve been leaving off baking bread and basement gardening and spending most days wielding a hammer lately as well….)

Back in February we bought the Clydesdale/Belgian cross on recommendation alone (that is that he was only 5 and that he was BOMBPROOF quiet, which Richard needs as he’s not used to horses, and after 3 back surgeries and some busted-up knees, I ALSO now NEED!) He came from more than 3 hours away, and as I knew we couldn’t justify a trip that far just to have a  look at him, I asked for a video clip of him hauling logs, and was more than satisfied that he was excellent at this chore.

The hunt for a dairy goat has been going on since last October, but they are even more rare in this province than a good draft horse, so that has been a problem indeed.  It’s also one of the reasons I’d scheduled Richard and me for a 3 or 4 hour lesson at the goat farm in Maine; I wanted us to feel confident with all the extra skills and knowledge needed to have a few dairy animals. (I owned a goat in my 20s, but just having one around and being responsible for breeding, raising and selling its kids, and sanitarily milking it are very different circumstances indeed!)  We were scheduled to attend the farm in Maine on Sunday, but sadly our truck decided to have over-heating and thermostat problems and we had to cancel. THAT is what today’s blog was supposed to be on, so I’ve had to do some hustling to get ready for this special feature – the preparation for and arrival of our livestock.

The potato quonset that we call part Richard’s workshop/garage, and part ‘barn’ is a big ole piece of tin with a massive cement floor and an echo in it that could stave off the advent of Satan.  While I do enjoy going out at night sometimes and bellowing out some Bee Gees tunes to hear the reverb., it’s not a great environment for spooky animals, and besides, Richard in NO WAY wanted the animals being walked past his precious ’73 Chevy Nova. So we needed a run-in shelter with attached paddock (horses are much happier if they can come in and go outside as they please in all weathers), as well as a separate goat stall, although we were really hoping that whatever goat we had would be mostly in WITH the horse as they are compatible critters to each other.  In fact, many race horse owners will have a goat actually living in the stall with a hot-tempered equine to calm them.

I designed the lay-out of the ‘stall’/run-in, and since Smitty refused to use the kennel/dog-house I built for him last fall (he tore it apart in under 2 hours on 2 different occasions.  It’s what ya call radical co-dependency!) I decided the goat could have the ‘kennel run’ and massive insulated dog-house.  To start with, then, Richard and I took bolts out of the tin on two sides of the furthest end of the barn, one for a large 8.5 foot tall door for the Clyde cross, and one man-door for us to run in and out without worrying about going through the paddock area and gates, etc.  After he and I took out all the bolts, he started cutting the metal, which really impressed me as I thought that was too scary a job for an accident-prone fella like him:


Next, we had our neighbours’ relatives come in with an excavator and cut the adjoining cement from the foundation, as well as make a slope out into what would be the paddock or corral for both horse and goat.  This took a lot less time than I would have thought! Only a few hours and  it was finished!

So, ta-da!  Great to have all this light in the other end now!




The next step, of course, was to buy the rough lumber, which we got at two different mills in two local towns.  Our favourite mill owner lets us have HUGE discounts on 4 by 4s and even the wood-chips/sawdust mix I’m using for  footing over the cement. A whole trailer-load for 15.00!  (I’m BEDDING the horse on straw, as no one likes to lie on CHUNKS of wood, and sawdust doesn’t drain well when urinated on, BUT there are no proper wood-shavings  – peeled pieces –  sold in this part of the province, so we’re making do with a combo.!)

Once Richard did all the mathematical figuring (about 8 times over!) we laid in a good supply and asked the family for help.  Richard’s niece from Saint John is getting married here at the farm next year, so Carriann came up to work on wedding plans with me, while the 3 men, Richard, his brother Jean-Marc, and Matthieu got hard to work digging post holes. Richard already knew from experimenting that the manual post-hole digger I had him buy wasn’t going to work in this very rocky soil, so he’d even arranged to rent an auger for the weekend.  Those hubbies sure worked hard for 2 days straight getting those holes dug and the posts (which we tarred first for protection on the underground portion) set into the hilly terrain.  Note:  although I’m told that pressure-treated wood is no longer poisonous for livestock with a tendency to chew, I don’t trust it, and besides it’s MILES more expensive per foot! (Slideshow can be clicked through to make it faster, if you prefer).

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We didn’t get the posts as deep as I’d hoped – it is suggested that in this part of N.B., the frostline is at 3.5 to 4 feet, so I wanted the posts deeper than that, but there were so many rocks in the ground and poor Matt seemed to have the dirtiest job of trying to heave them all out, so we compromised with just a little over 3 ft down.  We may have to do the paddock over in a few years; we’ll just have to wait and see what the winters bring!  (also note: the tar shouldn’t be exposed where animals might chew at it either, but they painted the posts thinking they’d be in deeper. However, the goat fence I knew we’d have to install would protect greedy mouths and bored little brains from taking a chomp on this black stuff.)

TIP – When building a fence of this type, so many non-farmer folk think it looks ‘prettier’ to have the boards on the OUTSIDE; this is a common mistake. Livestock ALWAYS lean on the fence (ie: the grass is always greener) and can either split the boards more easily, OR pop the nails out if the boards are on the outside.  If you MUST do this for aesthetics, make sure you have an electric fence system strung ’round on the inside, to keep the livestock off your rails or panels.

After the rellies left that weekend, Richard and I spent two full days cutting and nailing up the boards, although we did frequently ‘cheat’ and use the massive nail gun, which shoots 4 inch nails deep into the posts!  I then continued -in rain, sleet, wind and, when sun was out so were the blackflies!,- to put the goat fence up by myself, whilst Richard worked on building the wall of the stall/run-in (attached in part to what was formerly Smitty’s kennel, built by myself out of old doors from the inside of the house, and a huge television stand Richard had made for us years ago – which will now also be part of the chicken coop!)  REMEMBER – REUSE, RECYCLE AND REDUCE!   (As always, you can click on any of the photos to enlarge for details).

Above, top two pics are of me nailing up not only the goat fence (so they can’t climb out or under) but also putting old 1970s mouldings from the house over the top edge of the wire so no one gets hurt on it. Not sure how the mouldings will hold up over the course of a winter, but it’s one quick, eco-friendly and inexpensive way of the protecting the animals’ skins without going to town for yet more supplies!  Another hope for the goat fence – it will help prevent predators from easily getting access into the barn which is where the chicken coop will eventually be.             Bottom 3 picks are of my drop-rail gate, with skinnier tree trunks below to keep the goat out, and heavier ones above in case the horse leans over.  This horse-shoe gate arrangement has always held me in good stead for a quick and easy solution, and the trees we cut were already being crowded out by larger trees, so needed to be thinned anyway…

BELOW, Richard not only worked on the wall and gate for the run-in shelter, but had to build a massive door frame for the loose and jagged tin, and fill in holes left by the cement foundation being removed:

We planned the wall 4 boards solid to a) help keep out predators again from the eventual chicken coop which will also be attached to this wall and b) so that the goat won’t jump up and get a leg caught, as goats are prone to do!                   Also, in the far corner of the stall, note the two beams on the floor that I’ve put to make a separate ‘bed’ -Richard calls it ‘the mattress area’.  So while there are rough chips in most of the interior for just standing up and off the cement, the straw is on top of this base foundation in case either animal wants to lie down.  Also, it may be hard to see in this photo (and I’ve since put on ripped bits of bright-coloured plastic bags that have triply served their purpose in the house for covering foods, etc.,) but each day the horse will be pastured in an electric fence enclosure for grazing, and the goat will be tethered nearby.


Thus, as you can see from the below two photos, both the outside and inside enclosures are now complete, and we are so happy and exhausted from making them so!


And now, for the fun part!  Introducing Chevy the horse (Richard decided he was about the same size as his beloved Nova, although I pointed out he’d be a lot more EFFICIENT AND USEFUL !  In my head, I think of “Chevy” as either short for “cheval” OR as a representation of Chevy Chase, who was the star of Funny Farm, mentioned in the blog posting from our move here last May…) and, along with him, his little friend, the female yearling “Cammie”  (Richard also chose this name – really, for Camero – show emoticon of my rolling my eyes here – but Cammie does seem to suit her…) We hope she may someday become our first dairy goat, but for now, she’s just along as a ‘friend’ for Chevy, and so that we can give her some special attention as she’s rail thin and as co-dependent on us as Smitty still is!

Here’s their arrival last night, in the god-awful, far-too-low-for-a-draft-horse cow trailer, on which they stood loaded for nearly 7 hours while cattle were taken on and off and they were driven all over the western part of the province before finally alighting here. I took a shot of my first view of Chevy and my first view of Cammie, also:

They were VERY glad to get into their run-in and paddock, and on terra firma!  The blue collar is for Blue Belldon Farm, of course!

Cammie enjoys the warm and dark feeling of protection from her doghouse (which Smitty hated!)  It’s thickly insulated and full of shag carpet and pillows, etc., so she’ll love it in the winter as well).  And very much LIKE Smitty, she thinks it’s fun to stand up and look over at us!



Richard had a few tender moments with Cammie, who is very sweet, and though I’ve told him we’re not making hand-feeding a rule (it leads to a nippy horse, and no one needs that!) I let him try feeding Chevy an apple.  FLAT PALM!!!!!


Both animals are underweight and in desperate need of some good grooming, but time on grass and elbow grease will solve those matters, and they are both very kind and quiet, as advertised by word of mouth through the ‘grapevine’.  I don’t recommend buying animals – esp. a horse! – sight unseen, but again, I’m experienced in what to look for, and who/what questions asked, and we purchased from one of the most reliable draft people in the province, apparently.   A certain amount of luck is always involved anyway, no matter how many times you may go try a horse, get him vetted, etc.! So in this case, we just clung on to faith and gave it a shot. NOT recommended for first-time homesteaders, though!


So, thanks to the husband for all the work and effort, thanks to the OTHER hubbies for their time that post-hole-digging weekend, and please enjoy this wonderful quote about “Animal Husbandry” by Tom Robbins:

“Hardly a pure science, history is closer to animal husbandry than it is to mathematics, in that it involves selective breeding. The principal difference between the husbandryman and the historian is that the former breeds sheep or cows or such, and the latter breeds (assumed) facts. The husbandryman uses his skills to enrich the future; the historian uses his to enrich the past. Both are usually up to their ankles in bullshit.”

Stay tuned for more from the Chevy/Cammie side of life at Blue Belldon Farm!

NEXT WEEK :   Before and afters of the upstairs hall-way floor (Mom’s suite). From darkly stained plywood to ‘weathered and worn old pine boards!’………. HOW?

Taken at the Flood

Taken at the Flood is one of my beloved Agatha Christie’s novels.  Published in March 1948 under the title of There is a Tide,  it is one of her ‘Poirot’ stories.   Both these titles are, of course, taken from Brutus’ famous and most wonderfully provocative AND symbolic speech:

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

 William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 4, sc 3, lines 218-224

So, in other words, a mix of taking the right road at the fork, seizing the moment (at the ‘right’ time) Carpe Diem stuff and all that.  With just a light pinch of Frost’s ‘taking the road LESS travelled’ thrown in for good luck.  But in Christie’s Taken At the Flood novel, Mrs Lionel Cloade retorts to Poirot  “Doctors, I find, have a very materialistic outlook. The spiritual seems to be strangely hidden from them. They pin their faith on Science – but what I say is… what is Science – what can it do?”

I always thought myself a much more spiritual and artistic person than a science person.  Nonetheless, since the controversy about climate change has really spiked upwards (ie: the first 100 days of Humpty Dumbty’s presidency) I have discovered that I now actually find myself on the SIDE of SCIENCE.  Despite what some scientists have PREVIOUSLY stated, most now seem to agree (probably since Hawking’s latest conversations on the subject) that we are indeed in the midst of violent global warming which is causing unprecedented weather patterns and natural disasters.  And yes, this is all because we continue to pollute the earth and mistreat it in every way possible.

Ontario friends complain about the heat and humidity they are already experiencing in March and in April.  Out here our winter has gone on well into the 2nd week of April, and then we’ve had so much rain that of course heavy flooding is now happening, partly due to the skies continually dumping on us, but also partly because IDIOTS seem to think it’s o.k. to clear-cut the steep sides of slopes RIGHT beside the rivers (not to mention our short cut into town through Lucy’s Gulch).  uh – HELLO?   Even a kindergartner knows that’s going to cause erosion, but nope, they do it anyway.  As long as there’s a buck to be had, who cares about the land, the rivers, the roads, or the people who try to live around them?

When I moved here nearly a year ago,  93-year-old  closest neighbour Greta (the Danes pronounce it  with a long ‘e’, so GREETA, just as “Gavin” down by the rec centre is “Gay-vin”) said something that will always stick with me.  Though she has no memory of who we are, despite having been ‘introduced’ to her at least 12 times, ( her brain can no longer take in any new information but she is still very lucid when it comes to everything she’s known from the past) Greta looked sadly out her window one day at Bluebell Mountain and said “Oh, I WISH they wouldn’t clear-cut that mountain; it DOES upset me”.  Dementia or no, I’m with ya there, Greta.

Here’s what they are doing to beautiful Bluebell.


And here is Lucy’s Gulch, taken from the road below.  Imagine what’s going to HAPPEN to said road when everything starts to slide.  Oh, no big deal – they’ll just close it off…


This is what happens when foresters and loggers IGNORE the warnings of proven science, and clear cut a steep slope, leaving disturbed topsoil and total destruction of the complex soil ecology and almost all plant and wildlife.  And right below this catastrophe is the  fork of the Salmonhurst River joining into the Saint John River.  This is where Richard was fishing last year (see the lovely shots at the blog post  https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/pippis-first-fishin-fable-lores-lures/  –  the first pic. shows this bridge, which now has water nearing the road level)


As soon as you turn to look at the other side of this bridge – DEVASTATION!


This entire parkland was where Richard sat to fish while I walked the dog, and where we skiied and snow-shoed one day in January.  It is indicative of what many of the lower crop fields are presently experiencing and the potato farmers are already saying there will be a potato rot this year.  The WWF states much more succinctly than I can, how devastating all of this is :

“Half of the topsoil on the planet has been lost in the last 150 years. In addition to erosion, soil quality is affected by other aspects of agriculture. These impacts include compaction, loss of soil structure, nutrient degradation, and soil salinity. These are very real and severe issues.

The effects of soil erosion go beyond the loss of fertile land. It has led to increased pollution and sedimentation in streams and rivers, clogging these waterways and causing declines in fish and other species. And degraded lands are also often less able to hold onto water, which can worsen flooding. Sustainable land use can help to reduce the impacts of agriculture and livestock, preventing soil degradation and erosion and the loss of valuable land to desertification.

The health of soil is a primary concern to farmers and the global community whose livelihoods depend on well managed agriculture that starts with the dirt beneath our feet. ”

Did you think New Brunswick was one of the best places in the world to fish?  So did we – until we moved here and found out what all this clear-cutting has caused. Richard was looking forward to many mornings in a canoe catching fish so that we could freeze it and have it on a winter’s evening.  But there is very little left to catch in the three rivers that surround us (the Tobique, Saint John and Salmonhurst).  We were bitterly disappointed to find out that part of our strategy for living self-sufficiently has been yanked away by those who do not care about Mother Nature, or by those who do not want to live in harmony with her.  Remember this commercial in the 1970s?

iron eyes cody

I cried every single time it aired.  I remember going out to the side of the road and holding up anti-pollution signs with my sister and our friend Lesa for entire WEEKENDS.  (Two of us would hold the banner between us, while the 3rd would go along picking up litter and putting it in garbage bags for the passers-by to witness).

But this litter (see recent post about the plastic water bottles we should be doing away with!)  is NOTHING like the kind of damage being done by huge-scale industries such as forestry and oil.

I was most disappointed to read on a Homesteading page on FB that a huge number of those so-called homesteaders aren’t all that concerned about the ENVIRONMENT.  I don’t know how you can have one without the other, frankly, but it seems many homesteaders are more concerned about just saving money or NOT living in a city – but they still run to the dollar store for tupperware and other plastic containers, operate generators off various petroleum products and empty them back into the land,  put out chemical weed-killers and bee-killers, etc.  And then when I (God Forbid!) comment that that doesn’t seem the best way to receive ‘gifts’ back from Mother Nature, I got a huge backlash, with ignorant comments such as this one  ”  I didn’t realize that being a homesteader meant we had to be also following eco-friendly trends! “.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  (And there were some a lot nastier and more personal, but why bother quoting them – I tried to quickly forget those ones, in fact!)

Richard and I plan on heating as much as we can in winter with what our own small forest can supply. But we will be burning as much deadfall as we can, cutting only trees that are fighting out other good solid trees for sunlight, AND – most importantly – we will be on a REPLANTING regime as well.

Why can mankind not look after our natural resources better?  Why are we so greedy that we are killing off humanity and wildlife at an alarming rate?  Is there to be NOTHING left for future generations?

Going back to Shakespeare’s “Taken at the Flood” quote, if we do not take responsibility NOW, before it is too late, our chance is lost, and:

“Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.”

We must RISE WITH THE SWELL OF THE TIDE, and take the last few opportunities left to us to clean up this earth, to prevent the damage that is continually being done.  We, homo sapiens, can NOT control these tides, just as we cannot control anything Mother Nature offers. But if we do not learn to go WITH her, rather than against her, we will indeed suffer these miseries for the remainder of human existence on this planet.

pa flood

A few years ago, in the oft-written-of town of Perth-Andover,  this was the scene of the main street which we drive down a few times a month for supplies.  It is very nearly at this level again, www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/news/public_alerts/public_alert.2017.04.0513   thanks to erosion of the mountainsides and over-polluting of our waterways.   Stephanie Kelly, editor of the local paper, the Blackfly Gazette, (previously mentioned in former postings in regard to that wonderful publication) and Marianne Bell, mayor (and also choir-conductor and book-club leader , mentioned in this blog just last week) have many things to say about this devastating flooding in the lowlands surrounding us ‘mountain-folk’.  All you need do is google their names and some flood-related tag words to read or hear interviews.

And my dear, much-admired Agatha comes up again in this scientific (not literary, as one might expect from my regular reading habits!) book jacket description:

Environmental Forensics Fundamentals:  A Practical Guide

“Over 400 pages of essential information in an easy-to-read practical guide to environmental forensics, a discipline that brings together Agatha Christie-style mysteries, scientific information, and environmental policies. This is a well-structured, cutting-edge investigation of contemporary environmental crimes and potential solutions from Ioana Petrisor, Ph.D”


I just wish a few more corporate CEOs, and yes, even Humpty Dumbty himself would read it as well!  And note: for the latter, it DOES specifiy “easy-to-read”!


NOTE:  While this post may leave you feeling down, prepare yourselves,
loyal readers, for the next 4 weeks of high excitement in our blog.  We will 
have your favourite -  BEFORE/AFTERS of a painted plywood floor in Mom's
upstairs hall, as well as a visit to a Maine dairy goat farm for some lessons,
 the building of the paddock and run-in-shelter for the goat and horse, 
- (THEY ARE ARRIVING within the fortnight) and the long-awaited shots from the New Denmark
Queen's Pageant, complete with the hill-billy choreography and dramatic monologue coaching
done by yours truly.   SO DON'T MISS ALL THE EXCITEMENT!