DUE TO THE POWER OUTAGE ACROSS NORTH EASTERN N.B., THIS BLOG HAS BEEN DELAYED. My apologies to those who were expecting photos before bed-time!
NOTE: IF YOU KNOW ME, YOU KNOW I AM THE 4 ‘E’s that are NEVER at EASE.
I am an entertainer, an educator, an environmentalist and an equestrian. Most of my blog postings have a few of the 4 ‘E’s’. This one has them all. If you don’t like one of the ELEMENTS, skip ahead. But I suggest you open your mind to further learning and DON’T skip the educational bits. Because if you do – that other ‘e’ word – ‘EARTH’ – will soon be lost.
I am somewhat amazed, looking back, that in the last month we have pulled off what I think of as “Farmer’s Feats”. ‘Cause there’s no one tougher and in some ways, more miracle-making, than a farmer, right? In 4 weeks, we have had two new and sick animals finally settled and growing healthier each day, AND managed to cut and harrow our top hayfield, plant a timothy mixture, AND put in over a 1/4 acre of vegetable/herb and berry garden for our self-sufficient aspirations for the next year. And among all this, those of us at Blue Belldon Farm have also managed to take part in the special (only every 5 years) 145th Founder’s Day of this lovely rural community of New Denmark. Richard, Mom/Joy and I have even managed to volunteer to help out a bit with all the festivities, although we were constantly having to run back to the farm to feed and do chores, water the massive garden, etc.
As a Musical Theatre/English teacher for 15 years and as a full-time riding instructor in 3 countries for 20 years before that, you gotta know I’m gonna love the chance to WEAR A COSTUME and RIDE THROUGH GORGEOUS COUNTRYSIDE simultaneously! Thus, disregarding two bad knees and my 3 former back surgeries, (not to mention the fact that Chevy came to us with a viral infection!) I was determined to ride in this year’s 4.5 km parade- as by the 150th one (ie: the next one!) I might have to submit to being shoved along in a wheelchair. I find it a sad state of affairs that I was once able to mount a 16:3 hh jiggling thoroughbred stallion from the ground (and dismount by dropping both stirrups and springing down!) and am now reduced to THIS:
This is the mounting block area from which Richard and I now always mount, not just for decrepit old me, but for poor Chevy’s muscular atrophy in his back. (It is really no longer considered good for a horse’s spine to mount from the ground anyway). This is Richard’s niece Carriann, who, as part of our parade preparations, helped us put some miles on Chevy to get him in better condition. The New Denmark parade goes 4.5 k straight up two giant hills from the museum to the recreation centre. To top it all off, we are 2 k from the museum, AND, at one point, we were afraid we’d have to ride him all the way home again as well! (more on this later!)
Another part of Chevy’s conditioning plan has been to get ‘beefed-up’ with both beet pulp (you MUST expand this in water or it could kill a horse with colic!) and alfalfa pellets, as well as various vitamin boosts the vet recommended. So, at 5:30 every morning one of us trails to the barn to bring Chevy in from his night-time grazing (out of the sun and the blackflies). We call this the Bathrobe and Bucket Brigade. Sometimes Richard even has to wear his fly-hat, because as per last week’s blog, the blackflies are at their VERY worst at dawn and dusk!
Mom/Joy captured both the above photos from her upstairs windows, and she has contributed to many of the shots incl. in this blog as I was WAY too busy this past weekend to be snapping away… Other photo contributors are listed below.
Besides mine and poor Chevy’s physical discomfort at most minutes of the day, (anti-inflammatories go a long way to easing us both!) the other fear we had for his being away for the better part of a full day was Cammie the goat’s co-dependency. As described in previous blog articles, if you can’t have a horse companion for your equine, a goat is the next best thing, (we plan to start milking her next year anyway, so a goat was the definitive ‘must-be-useful’ answer!) You’ll often see highly strung race horses and show-jumpers with a goat in their stall. However, Cammie has taken her love to a whole other level. When left alone, she bleats for hours until exhaustion forces her to lie down and snooze! The other day after I brought Chevy in from just an hour’s ride, I saw Cammie stand on her hind legs and attempt to put her front legs around his neck in an embrace. No word of a lie. Of course I didn’t have my trusty camera along at that point! When she’s loose around the farm and she sees him coming back from a ride, she tears across the grass to be close to him:
With an hour-long ‘logistics’ meeting and armed with the ‘best-laid plans’ (you know where THAT’S going, right Robbie Burns?) Richard and I spent Friday taking care of the ‘polishing and decorating’ for the parade. That is, he was responsible for cleaning his ’73 Nova (after which Chevy is of course named) and I was responsible for bathing and braiding said horse. And, with the exception of Richard (and sometimes Mom, but she has age as an excuse) forgetting nearly every single POINT on the Logistics List the next day, (ie: unloading a whole car full of packed items that were meant for the other end of the parade!) as well as Richard ripping part of my carefully-sewn costume, pulling out several of Chevy’s meticulously-braided plaits, squashing his own cowboy hat (the same worn by Miss New Denmark in the hill-billy dance of their pageant, incidentally!) being late back to meet neighbour Zeb who was travelling in the Nova with him, and then – my Dear Dork’s piece-de-resistance! – proceeding to get stepped on by Chevy’s gi-normous soup plate hooves so that everyone in hearing distance of him for the next 12 hours had to hear (and SEE) all about it, WE PULLED OFF AN AMAZING FEAT by, ‘gettin’ ‘er done’. We DID, sadly, miss the Friday night dance, as we were just plumb tuckered out (do I sound like an Appalachian gal yet?) but let me share the REST of the 145th Founders’ Day experience with you all:
If you haven’t been following the history of New Denmark’s farm and forest folk on this blog, and esp. if you’re from Ontario, Montana, West Yorkshire, Scotland, South Africa, or any of the other places my friends and former students are following from, I’ll give you a quick summary:
Many of the original Danes came in June of 1872 aboard the Empress, arriving in Saint John. They were then paddle-wheeled up the Salmon River (just below us at the bottom of Lucy’s Gulch, the history of which I wrote about last spring here, if you use the ‘gulch’ as a search word within this blog) arriving at the gravel bank on the opposite side of Drummond , N.B. This all concurred with the redrafting of the Free Grants Act and redistribution of land parcels. However, as Pastor Ralph Weigold of our St. Peter’s church reminded us in our outdoor service yesterday, most of the Danes likely thought they were getting already-cleared and even established farm land, when in fact all of their 100 acre tracts were nothing but thick forest! Determined, nonetheless, these Danes with their stoic Viking blood officially climbed Lucy’s Gulch to this flatter land up top, on June 19th of 1872, settling in to help each other begin clearing for the next many years, all sharing “Immigrant House” until their log cabins (such as what is still our downstairs master bedroom—- see also former posts with tag word “Ida May”) Eventually, these founding families formed the largest and what would become the oldest Danish community in Canada! And so a very happy June 19th today!
Richard kindly saved my butt (and I do mean literally) by riding the 2km from Blue Belldon Farm to the museum. I set Chevy up behind the back buildings in his temporary electric ‘holding area’ and began the last of his preparations and decor (as seen above) while we waited for the one and only other rider I was able to secure with ties to the ‘local’ (based over 45 min. away, but that’s ‘local’ in N.B.!) Valley Horse and Saddle Club (for whom I am teaching a clinic next weekend – spots still available!) And here I want to thank the indomitable spirit of Mrs. Kim Tompkins. She was the only one to volunteer to help me (for I’d have never taken a 5 year-old youngster in this by myself, no matter how “bomb-proof” his previous owners claimed him to be!) . And what’s a parade without at least a FEW horses? Not only did Kim trailer all the way up here from AN HOUR AND 15 MINUTES SOUTH, but so did a supportive car-load of her family who were a great help to both of us as well! And not only did Kim arrange all this, she REMADE over an old prom dress she had worn previously, to be in New Denmark’s red and white colours, AND she crocheted her 24 year old “Champ” his own fly cap AND her own feathery/flowery creation to cover her riding helmet. Here’s a few of the two of us, taken in front of New Denmark’s big ‘flag’ and in front of the museum before we left. (They should enlarge if you click on them.)
Despite my Drama background, my ‘costume’ paled next to Kim’s. It IS, however, in true eco-friendly style, as is Kim’s (either recycle it or home-make it!) The coat is from a huntsman’s uniform from a theatre I worked at in Yorkshire in the late 1990s. The lace at my throat was the petticoat of a dress my mother ‘made’ me wear when I was a toddler. The polo wraps and breastplate were articles of clothing I bought at Value Village and ‘revised’. The bows and flowers were all left-overs from the beauty pageant last month. And the boots, on which I painted the New Denmark flag, were actually taken out of a pile of junk to cut-up for pieces to use for Rustic Revivals’ work! But, while Kim was talented enough to crochet HER horse’s ear and eye protector, I made poor Chevy go about with a cut-up old rag-rug (also a Value Village purchase) on his head! Never mind how it looked. I stitched in his ear cones and made the fringe to protect his eyes from those nasty-biting black flies and horse/deer flies and he was happy.
The above photo and many below were taken by Kim’s daughter, the very helpful Natasha (following us with her family in the van, to make sure the rest of the ‘followers’ didn’t come too close to us! While the fire department held up most of the ‘traffic’ (if 3 cars which is a ‘jam’ in N.D. can be so-called) at the few rural intersections, we DID have a long stream of cars behind us that were all apparently parade followers going to the rec. centre for festivities!) I had asked Parade Marshall Hansen if we could please be at the very back of the parade to avoid the many tooting horns, air brakes, popping balloons, and bag-pipers that I thought might spook the young Chevy, but as soon as he ‘met’ (didn’t allow them to touch as per rules for horses that have been virally infected) old Champ he was calm. In fact, I ALMOST suspect he’s done a parade previously – he really didn’t even raise a hair when the pipers started up!
Mom/Joy took great pride in telling these folks that her father was from Aberdeen and that EVERYONE in this community wasn’t Danish. She says they seemed excited to meet someone else from a ‘kilted’ background. She took the two photos above, and some of the below parade shots. Most, however, were taken by the excellent photographer, Shelly Snow, who says these are just ‘highlights’ of all she did take. Thanks to all three ladies, Natasha, Joy and Shelly for the attention to detail. Kim and I didn’t even get to SEE most of these parade entries, as there were two big gaps in the parade itself, not to mention the 4.5 km we had to spread out over. If you click on each photo, it will expand, and there may be a caption I’ve written under each explaining something as well:
As planned on our Logistics List, my back and knees did not hold up for the full 4.5 k. So Richard met me where Mom had parked, at the last intersection (Salmonhurst) and used her little step-ladder to clamber aboard. Thus it was he who rode the last mile or so while I followed in Mom’s reclined leather seats!
What an old fogey I’ve become !But thanks, Richard, for saving me here, as well! Hard to believe I used to 3-day event, covering many miles at a gallop and jumping big FIXED fences over which one could topple at any second. And now I’m afraid to ride behind a tractor at a WALK! Ah, those were the days…
After the parade, way up the road at the rec. centre, folk dancing and children’s face-painting and games were organized, but Chevy and Champ mostly just wanted to relax and graze: (click on each to read captions). And then, SOOOOO grateful to Kim and family for helping us load Chevy on their trailer and having him brought home! Saved either Richard or myself having to be dead sore by riding all the 6.5 km back! And then – hurrah! Cammie had survived her day alone without any visible health issues!
More Danish festivities took place through the afternoon here:
That night, after a cold plate supper was served at the Anglican church (right across from St. Peter’s, as you’ll have witnessed above in the parade shot with the tractor), Mom and I helped sell ‘candles’ (please refer to my attempts to keep my mouth shut about New Brunswick rural areas NOT being at all eco-friendly later in this post!) and much like my former walk down the Bronte’s Haworth Main Street hill exactly 20 years ago, I enjoyed watching others (including Joy/Mom) do the same. The Historical Society was also selling memorial luminary bags which were spread in a circle around the museum grounds where hot dogs were being sold by “The Tiara Club”. Richard was across the road with former and present Founders’ Day presidents, Peter and Chris, helping prepare the fireworks spectacular. I think if Peter and Chris had any IDEA of the sort of accidental mania all Reich men are drawn to, they would NOT have let Richard sit over there. As it was, only one car almost blew up with a firecracker going through its open windows (this is an exaggeration and other comments about this are considered humour-rumour only!) and Chris did a dance like a leotarded ballerina when a mass of sparks ignited sideways and he went home to check for holes in his legs. However, gents – may I suggest NOT inviting Richard to your cosy corner for the 150th celebrations? I mean, wasn’t the half-hour you endured looking at his ever-blackening and swelling foot enough to warn you that he isn’t a chap who should be allowed near anything more dangerous than a sleepy Clydesdale?
I very much enjoyed driving after Pastor Ralph’s end-car flashing hazards to slow down the (non-existent) New Denmark ‘traffic’. I was there just in case Mom didn’t feel up to walking the 2 km, but well done on her. She did it! So I unrolled the windows and enjoyed the spring peepers and fireflies along the lovely quiet rural route. However, when arriving at the museum I discovered to my dismay that SO many people had been asking to use the museum bathrooms, that they’d closed them off. Not to be an ‘I told you so’, but I DO remember asking at one of the organizing meetings if we couldn’t have a ‘porta-potty’ dropped off at the museum grounds as well as the two at the rec. centre. Just something to keep in mind for the 150th, as there were also MANY parade entrants asking to use the museum facilities that afternoon, prior to the long parade! Instead, desperate, I went in search of a bush behind some trees behind the parking area. Just as I yanked down my leggings and squatted my aching back and knees, didn’t the men set off their fireworks right behind me, illuminating my bare buttocks in a spasm of disco-revival ‘mooning’. And then of course, two cars decided to pull over on to the shoulder right then to watch. Here’s hoping their eyes were entranced upwards, because if they glanced sideways I was only about 15 ft. from their passenger side window. And if you WERE treated to that sneak-peek, folks – well, I can only say you just had an authentic taste of what the Founding Families had to endure when crowded together in Immigrant House 145 years ago! But without the exciting light and sound show!
The next day, Sunday (yesterday) we were up early to feed and do barn chores, then off to the museum grounds to help clean up and prepare for the big Danish lunch that was being served after the church service. Now, while I WAS assured that all the empty pop cans I gathered up the night before were being recycled (N.B. has a redemption plan, so why would you throw money away? And yet, every day I see at least 3 new cans lying in the lovely wild-flower-filled ditches along our rural roads! What the hell is WRONG with people? It’s not just distressing to see from an aesthetic point, it is disastrous for wildlife that can get cut or stuck with it, and it NEVER breaks down so will be part of the ‘earth’ from which I’m trying to FEED MY FAMILY! And if you aren’t used to reading/listening to my environmental rants, this is part of why I started this blog, so prepare yourself! This next bit is the important EDUCATIONAL part. Take the high ground before it erodes ! READ IT!)
These issues that are very close to my heart because of my love of nature, and the countryside are something I’ve fought for since I was 8 years old holding up a banner saying “Please Don’t Pollute” along our busy Ontario highway. But Ontario HAS (out of necessity for better education on the issues) ‘cleaned itself up’. Quebec is also much better with its recycling programs. However, as soon as you cross the border into New Brunswick, and as the scenery gets MORE beautiful in the mountains, that’s when the littering gets worse. And thus, as we began food prep. for the day, I was flabbergasted at the amount of stryofoam plates vs. paper. FACT: Styrofoam manufacturers are continually in the top five of the largest producers of toxic waste. FACT: Styrene, the material in Styrofoam, leaks out large amounts of ozone, and this causes irritation of the skin, eyes and respiratory tract and gastrointestinal problems. In humans AND wildlife/livestock. Chronic exposure affects the nervous system, causing symptoms like depression, headache, fatigue and weakness, and minor effects on kidney function and blood. And people, this is LEAKING INTO OUR EARTH AND OUR WATER SUPPLIES! FACT: Styrofoam is non-biodegradable and non-recyclable. Styrofoam takes 500 years to decompose; it cannot be recycled, so the Styrofoam cups and plates and packing materials dumped in landfills are there to STAY. Forever. With enough Styrofoam cups produced each DAY – each DAY, folks —- to CIRCLE THE EARTH if lined up end to end, the potential for major ecological impact is staggering. What’s wrong with paper plates? Even doubled? They can be recycled, and, though it isn’t the BEST, can be burned.
Now, I’m already shocked at , and have written about, the amount of plastic bags used by New Brunswick as a whole. How can one province be so far behind the others in simply taking their own fabric shopping bags to the grocery stores? It is the government of New Brunswick’s fault for not educating its citizens, OR in offering better recycling plans. I wonder if my new New Brunswick friends and neighbours even KNOW that most of the other provinces are at 70 percent fabric grocery bag usage? Because most of the check-out staff here stare at you uncomprehendingly when you stop them from whipping out a plastic bag by saying “No thanks – I have my own”. They truly don’t seem to know what you’re talking about! And I wonder if the good folk of New Brunswick know that most other provinces, (and even the cities here) have curb-side blue-bins for putting your aluminum and plastics – yes, even in rural areas? And I’ve been putting my recycling in a blue bin at my rural abode for 35 YEARS. So how can N.B. be so far behind?
N.B. has in my opinion, among the most beautiful scenery of any in North America (and yes, I’ve seen and even lived in most states and provinces incl. right in the Rockies). But OH! They have to catch up in learning to RECYCLE, REDUCE AND REUSE so that this beautiful landscape is preserved to the fullest! To see the garbage bags at the museum and rec. centre FULL TO OVER-FLOWING with plastic tablecloths used to decorate the floats and to cover tables (not to mention the balloons from which even a pin-prick of its surface can kill a lovely song-bird! COME ON, EVERYONE! LET’S USE FABRIC TO DECORATE, LIKE OUR ANCESTORS… isn’t that what we’re celebrating? And don’t buy your fabric new, use old clothes, etc. like Kim and I did for our costumes! JUST RE-USE, RE-USE!!!! Stop being a disposable society like the ‘powers that be’ want us to be (’cause we spend more money and give it to them!) . See my former postings on the horrific effects of plastic in our world here: posts within this blog entitled “Taken at the Flood” and “Blue Belldon Basement Grow Op” have some truly shocking facts and photographs that you won’t BELIEVE ) Plastic flowers, plastic glasses (incl. those we sold for people to hold in the DISPOSABLE battery-operated CANDLES for the ‘torchlights’ which made me CRINGE in SORROW !!! Two types of plastic going into landfills because we have no regular recycling program here AND the amount of battery acid which will now permeate into the soil, groundwater and surface water through landfills and also release toxins into the air when they are burnt in municipal waste combustors. Also, the cadmium in even those wee batteries is easily taken up by plant roots and it accumulates in fruits, vegetables and grass. The impure water and plants in turn are consumed by animals and human beings, who then fall prey to a host of ill-effects. And you wonder why we all have cancer?????)
Now, don’t get me started on the environmental ill-effects of the exhaust fumes and noise pollution of Richard’s Nova, because I’ve fought and fought, and it’s a losing battle, just as my rants about all the rest of this misuse probably are, but lastly, there’s a delicious Danish dish called Ableskivers which are wee warm doughnuts. But when I asked for another task yesterday, I was delegated the duty of rolling up over 60 tin foil balls to put in the bottom of crock pots for these doughnuts to stay warm without getting soggy. I did it. And was silent for about the first 20 minutes. And then I just HAD to open my mouth.
“I haven’t touched tin foil in at least 2 years, ladies. I never use it at home. There’s always an alternative…” and then I bit my lip, but was thinking that there must be ways – like crushed pop cans in the bottom instead, which are then recycled/redeemed? Or even little metal racks? I’m sure there are loads of other ways to do this without all this nasty tin foil! LAST FACT : The amount of aluminum foil thrown away by North Americans EACH YEAR could build an entire fleet of aircraft! And yet again, those balls will end up in landfills, and possibly stuck in a rabbit’s or gentle doe’s throat so that it dies slowly of starvation or chokes… And yet recycling just ONE aluminum can could save the power needed to light up your entire house for 3 hours! Anyway, I walked away from the aluminum balls issue. Very brave of me. Lots of fortitude. Another ‘farmer’s feat’. But I did NOT want to know where they ended up! (Oh, who’m I kidding? I KNOW!)
So, back to the more pleasant topics of the 3rd day of the Founders’ Day weekend (because we are all anxious to behave like the ostrich and simply bury our heads in the plastic-encrusted beach sands. You all complain there’s no more fish in our rivers and ocean? Or that it’s so expensive to purchase? This is why)…
First we had the wonderful outdoor church service, joined by both of our community’s Lutheran churches as well as the congregation of St. Ansgar’s, the Anglican one. Our Pastor Ralph did a wonderful job on the sermon which included imagining what the pioneers went through when they arrived and had to clear the land and live together in one building, as well as sprinkling his message with words of HOPE for a community where many of the Danish traditions are thought to be ‘dwindling’ and where many of the younger generations are leaving the beautiful countryside for the technology of the cities and towns. Pastor is singing with the New Denmark Minstrels at the Perth/Andover July 1st celebrations, as is organist/guitarist and soprano Sonja (in red). I do hope many New Denmarkers will bring a lawn chair and come listen to all the choirs (incl. 150 voices for the 150th!) and instrumentalists from 4 to 7 on that day in Veteran’s Field. Bliss MacDonald (son of Phyllis who was born in this house as per many former blog entries/history of Blue Belldon Farm – just tag search with her name within this blog) did some lovely readings for this service in his calm and soothing “Mr. Rogers” voice. The music by these local musicians was uplifting as were the melodies answered in return by the many birds in the surrounding woods chirping through the delicate mist.
The above is a great shot that means a lot to us at Blue Belldon Farm, and taken by my mother, Joy. It’s of former teacher and Avon-calling! Phyllis Macdonald, with two of her children. As regular readers of this blog will know, we welcomed Bliss (left) and his mother to our home just after Christmas because Phyllis’ mother, Ida May (older sister of local historian/author Carrie Albert) came here to the log cabin that is now our master bedroom when she was a 16-year-old bride. Ida grew up one road over, then came here, had 5 children, planted many flowers and fruit trees, (some of which we still reap the blossoming benefits) then died age 33, in 1931. My tribute song to her, “Ida May”, is to be sung by the aforementioned Minstrels, at the July 1st Perth concert as well, with Bliss and Phyllis’ blessing.
The mural on the stage wall shows the land-clearing the pioneers (Danish Founding Fathers) had to do when they first arrived. In the foreground is the stunning Miss N.B. from 2016 , Marielle Ouellette and our present (and for the next 5 years!) reigning Queen of New Denmark, Megan Bach, who did a lovely speech.
Finally, below, Anna and Sonja , both sopranoes, had a little entertainment to add to the Memorial Service line-up. Also seen in the mural to the right is the replica of Immigration House where so many ancestors of this community struggled to survive in their first few years here before their own homesteads were habitable.
Thus ends our first Founder’s Day experiences, and the Danish-inspired open-faced liver pate sandwich I had yesterday for lunch is still very much remaining with me, as will all the memories made by this community’s endeavours to celebrate the nearly unbelievable efforts of the generations past…
In closing, I leave you with this. (Horse people and those that know any of the Reichs well will be unimpressed, but he’s hoping to garner some sympathy from the rest of you…)
If you’re coming to New Brunswick this summer to tour, the New Denmark museum is a must-see (as is the surrounding area with its amazing views from up here – above Lucy’s Gulch, that is) . The following is some info. that might intrigue you further. And we’re JUST off the Trans Canada, so really – right along your way to All Points Atlantic!
- 18 June – 27 Aug.