Happy Christmas from Blue Belldon!

All of us, both 2 and 4-legged, wish you and yours a very special Country Christmas wish, with the following seasonal photos. 

The snowglobe, below, is actually Richard driving Chevy yesterday for the first time with our new (much-too-small) sleigh.  It’s a great way to exercise him before taking him out to haul logs! (And thanks to Mom for taking super shots of the adventure FROM HER UPSTAIRS WINDOWS! when I was too busy outside helping! )

snowglobe, Chevy

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Chevy charging up through the fresh snow, just yesterday, as Richard hangs on – tight!
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Below, apron from Haworth, England, where the Brontes lived and wrote, and the recipe book on the table was my great-grandmother’s, who was apparently a big fan of the Brontes!

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High on a Hill was a lonely Goat-herd, yo-di-diddle, yodel-do all day!

24Last year there was too much snow; it looks like this year’s forecast is for less snow, but colder temperatures here around Blue Bell Mountain, N.B.

richard, snow (2017_03_14 21_04_25 UTC)

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joy

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x-mas

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AND A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU AND YOURS…

 

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Cast of Thousands, Post One Hundred!

In this blog's 100th post
In a year of celebrations
We've marked 2 churches, a village, the birth of Christ -
And our entire nation!

"What's the best of country life?"
Many ask us daily
"Is it the scenery, quiet, nature, veg?"
Nope    - it's celebrating gaily

With our small communities,
Like Perth or New Den-Mark
It's singing, acting, being part
Last week - we're angels! HARK!

You've heard about the mass choir
To mark 150 years
You've read about the nursing home,
And Pastor Ralph's 'old dears'

You know about the pageant
And the summer's Founder's Days
You've heard bits about Still Standing...
(But in spring, to coin a phrase

You'll hear lots more, for 'teasing'
Is how telly's publicized-
And as we're in the 'teaser'
I'll be keeping you apprised.)

teaser screen shot for Season 4 of Still Standing, Julie, Leanne (visiting from Scotland) and Mom/Joy, beside the CBC logo. Ironically, Richard, who insisted we take these reserved seats for ‘Founders Day Organizers’, is out of shot to my right!   To see the full trailer/teaser, look at the Still Standing FB page, 2nd video, or try this link https://www.facebook.com/stillstandingtv/videos/692295784304421
I'd like to speak in detail
About our church's 100th year
And the celebration for it
That many came to hear.

And then I'll show you fun
From the last two weeks of song
With the Perth-Andover choir
And the concerts we've put on!

Back in the mid-summer, 
I was asked to c'ordinate
The entertainment portion
Of St. Peter's-at-the-Gate,

Our little church up on the hill
That I've shown you before
(But will remind you once again
With these photos I've in store:)
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The Danish herring-bone wood designs covering every inch of the interior of St. Peter’s Lutheran on top of the hill just next to us
tiff's churches at night
You’ve met her before in several blog postings. This is an amazing shot taken just after St. Peter’s 100th celebrations this fall, by our local professional photographer, Tiffany Christensen. St. Peter’s is on the right, just across the road from the slightly-older Anglican church called St. Ansgar’s.
To make up the fun night
After a catered Danish meal
We all put in our off'rings
Of creative zest and zeal!

It started with the Danish band
That played some peppy tunes
Then the "Minstrels" (or a handful of...)
Sang a hymn with their soft croons,

Then added another song
I'd written for the night
As a tribute to St. Peter's
And its builders' strength and might.
minstrels, 100th
Then Richard, in his debut
Stepped up alone to sing
Another piece I'd written
Called "Where the Bells do Ring"
richard's solo
Thanks to Mom/Joy for taking most of these photos. To hear “Where the Bells Ring”, Richard’s first full solo (I add some background harmonies as well as the piano accompaniment), go to this link, which we recorded at home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KStOMmr8WYs
After this bit of song,
The pastor had a word
About the history of the church
-Then, something quite unheard!

We came out to do a sketch
As if from 100 years from now!
(So, the 200th anniversary-
It gave the crowd a WOW!

Not because I'd written
Such a finely-honed & gifted script,
But rather, 'cause our costumes
Were wild, and long - Zeb tripped!)

As 'teased' before, back in Sept.,
We all wore togas white
With sashes of sparkly colour
And dyed sheep wigs delight!

Richard, Zeb and myself at the meeting of the 200th Anniversary committee (sketch)
200 yrs skit
Curtain call for the 200th anniversary of St. Peter’s sketch, Pastor announcing. L to R Richard, Zeb Godbout (playing my son, Ned Kram, which is Den Mark backward) Peter Jensen, and seated, myself and Barb Christensen.
We’d had many rehearsals in our living room/meeting room at the farm and while we didn’t actually have all our lines memorized, the oddness of the skit got quite a few laughs, and the pretended ‘frustration and violence’ between us as our sketch showed that meetings don’t change much from century to century, really hit home for those in the community who sit on several boards and committees!
While we changed back out of costume
The band once more would play
The fiddler, 93, was sick
-  Had been in ER all that day!
fiddle
But like the true-blue Danes
He would not back down, be weak
There he was at suppertime
To fiddle in an up-beat streak!

And then some poetry I'd gathered
About the early N.D. times
Were read by Miss New Denmark
With good old-fashioned rhymes:
poetry

But for the big finale
Of this 100th year divine
I asked some pastors, two from past
And our current Ralph, to SHINE.

Miss N.D. Megan spun the wheel
That Richard made that day
And the crowd laughed hard as at
"Pastors' Trivia" we would play

I'd written 70 questions
From categories galore
Like Church History, Pete the Saint,
 "1917", and more...

The pastors, how they struggled
To come up with answers right
But in the meantime, they were FUNNY
And the crowd enjoyed their fright
Pastor Ralph appears to ‘give up’ on the question, as the others have a giggle…
They rang in on their buzzers
(One was Smitty's squeaky toy!)
But often they'd not get it,
And that was JUST my ploy!

pastors triviapastors trivia full
  
The crowd would hoot and holler,
And eventually THEY won
By answering the questions
That the pastors hadn't done.

One of the questions I best liked
"1917" was the 'try'...
This painting of a church was done
So like our own, up high:
This painting by Georgia O’Keefe was done the same year our church was built, in 1917, and is very representative of how St. Peter’s towers over rivers and valley and nestled Appalachian homes.

 

 

So, it's my belief that all had fun,
That sweet September night
When St. Peter's turned 100
With audience delight:
At this table, Megan Bach, Miss New Denmark, her grandparents,  as well as Richard sitting beside Leanne (in gold top), and across from them, Mom/Joy. Being too busy and too nervous of everything to come, I am standing in the background having some punch. Behind me is the old piano, on top of which I had made a 1917 lady’s church-going display.
The 1917 Lady's Church-Going Display:
hat display
a variety of hats from my drama trunk, along with gloves, a fan, a lace hankie, a turn-of-the-century scarf and matching hand-bag, and a special contribution from Pastor Ralph – a hymnal actually FROM 1918!
There I sit, 200 years in the future, wearing a toga and some of Mom’s sheep’s wool on my head, with the full program for the Entertainment Portion of the night written out on the wall behind me.

summary of 100th

And so, that last event was done
And while the harvest kept us crazed
We still went to Perth each week
To practice for our concert days.

The first series, in fall, was with
The Youth Orch-EST-ra grand!
A full 80-piece symphony
Where we were "150 Expand"

(The same voices with which we sang
For July 1st's big event. 
They come from towns all o'er the vale
And it's Glorious, Heaven-Sent!)
Richard’s bald head 4 in at back, and I’m far left, hiding behind the curtain. We sang the Howard Shore piece Sea to Sea, which was WRITTEN for this New Brunswick Youth Orchestra for the 150th, as well as our old favourite We Rise Again (also sung July 1st for the big celebrations). We sang for school groups with a chamber orchestra, on the day before, then had this enormous concert over the weekend. You can hear a small part of We Rise Again at this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEezCOAVgXE     An interesting bit of trivia, and to prove how small the Atlantic provinces are, when the conductor moves aside at 0:44, you’ll see a dark, curly-haired lad playing in the first row of the 2nd violin section. My sister started him in violin in St. John’s, Nfld 15 years ago! A neat connector!
The choir in quaint Perth-Andover
Is directed by the mayor
A lovely lass from Leamington;
There's many here from there!
Our Perth-Andover choir director (and mayor, and Book Club Organizer, and…) Marianne Tiessen Bell, from Ontario, warms us up before a performance.
Our Christmas series started 
Just at November's end.
The hospital in Perth
Has become our new best friend

As both Mom and Richard twice a month
Have teleconference talks
And oncological care, so -
We sang for Womens Aux.!

Then just last week-end,
'Angels' sang 6 hours in the snow
To raise some funds for Food Bank.
"Bethlehem"'s winds did blow

For this interactive nativity
That's now a big crowd-thrill
We entertained the masses
Lined up for miles on the hill

While I’ve been in all kinds of performances in my life, I’ve never actually been able to witness my audience approaching from this far away! Police, firemen, traffic controllers and a radio station were all involved in keeping an orderly pathway to Bethlehem!

To get a really great feel for what this whole night was about, see:
LIVE DRIVE-THRU – just tap the arrow on the pic below and it should work! turn up the sound in the bottom right corner of the screen! It’ll likely be ‘off’, so click on it!

or, slightly less exciting – the slide show:  https://www.facebook.com/perthandoverbaptist/videos/1682963368441021/

These productions were both done by the hard-working and energetic Rev. Michael Fredericks of the Perth-Andover Baptist Church.  WHAT A SHOW IT WAS !

We sang as angels in the heavens
Pointing to the stable, close
While Richard posed beside the inn
And I got my daily livestock dose:

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERApony, nativity, julie, angel

I'm not sure even Bethlehem
Had as many farm-yard critters
Some were small, like geese and hens
And some were really heavy hitters!
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tony and kim

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That's right, a choir of angels sang
Beside Alpaca's Paddock
And beside THAT were market stalls
Of bread, and tools, and haddock!
choir, alpacas
Marianne Bell front row, far, I’m right behind her. We are both ‘gettin’ down’ kinds of angels. Richard and Marianne’s husband are a little more unbendy in near back row. Notice all the alpacas are staring up at the star over the stable. Just as they should do.
We know not where she finds the time
But Mayor M.B. also made that bread!
And still remains relaxed and calm
As she chats with King Herrod!
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snowy angel choir
On the Sunday night’s performance at the nativity, the snow was falling beautifully and romantically and it wasn’t even that cold! I’m crouching because we’re dancing about, not freezing – plus we had a lovely barrel of fire beside us both nights!
On Tuesday night, in Johnville,
We hooked up with a choir
That came from just 'downriver'
In a church that did aspire

To give us but a chance to sing
From choir lofts above
As we sang in echo'd refrain
To Vivaldi's Gloria of love
johnville2
more amazing totally-wood-panelled church work (like St. Peter’s) in the Johnville St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic church, where we sang opposite Peter McLaughlin’s Tuesday Night Singers from the lovely choir loft. (Vivaldi’s Antiphonal Gloria)
Finally, our last big gig
Was filmed upon a Woodstock pew-
(How strange that in Ontario
I lived near Perth & Woodstock too!)

My camera propped on hymnals
On the first of many pews
'Neath Saint Gertrude's glor'ous arches
Marianne led our cues:
         (the following video/pic should be in place, 
             just tap on it and turn up the sound!)



Youtube wasn't working
But we hope you'll link up-- though
It's hard for some not on FB-
Still, we think it's 'quite a show'!

st. gertrudes
Saint Gertrudes is the lovely big church in which we sang last night, in Woodstock, along the Saint John river.

 

 

me with hat, far left, Richard with men, far right

 

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stunning choir loft arches of St. Gertrude’s
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the sanctuary of St. Gerts
Like our concert Tuesday night in Johnville, we sang again with/opposite The Tuesday Night Singers, Peter McLaughlin’s choir. You may remember from reading back in July that it was he who directed us all in the mass choir (150 voices)  on July 1st in Perth-Andover.
part of our choir warming up last night. We had a strong men’s section (4 is STRONG for small town N.B.!) and 3 of the 4 are all spending a lot of their spare time with horses out in the bush! What is the connection, you ask, between men singing and horsemen? Have you an answer?
And so, this Christmas season,
But actually all year long
We owe a debt of gratitude
To those who led in song.

For what a year it's been
Full of music, drama, prayer
To get us off the farm,
And join pastor, teacher, mayor!



Slicing Through

“The powerful wind swept his hair away from his face; he leaned his chest into the wind, as if he stood on the deck of a ship heading into the wind, slicing through the waves of an ocean he’d not yet seen.” 
― John Irving, The Cider House Rules

One of my favourite books, that.  The Cider House Rules.  Not really about apples or cider.  Not too much, even, about our neighbouring state of Maine.  But very deep, very philosophical and very beautiful.  If you haven’t read or seen it, do so. The parts that DO take place in the orchards are both romantic and dramatic.

Apple orchards ARE a place of romance for many. Through the ages they have been lovely settings – L.M. Montgomery’s Anne was ALWAYS mentioning “The White Way of Delight”, even when it wasn’t June and the blossoms weren’t  exploding on tree limbs.  Vintage postcards and greeting cards romanticize the entire system of keeping up an orchard.

 

While my brother-in-law proposed to my sister in his grandparents’ old-farm orchard on the west coast of Newfoundland and although Richard’s niece is to get married here next summer under our own lovely apple trees with the Appalachians as the backdrop,

we are actually finding our little orchard of apple trees to be a primary source of frustration (2nd to the constant blackfly problem for me, I’d say).

Our apple trees seem to be a focal point for our amazing views, no matter what the season.  They are dainty and pretty in spring, laden with  big red apples in late summer, dramatically ‘spiky’ in fall as they lose their leaves, and always holding sparkling layers of clean snow in winter.  Even more so, they are often ‘at the end of the rainbow’, or part of the footlights of the setting sun’s reflections:

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And both last year and this we had a heavy crop of apples.  Here’s just a branch from one, taken at the wildflower garden we are slowly working on (and beside which the bride will glide next July!)

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I’ve long been a fan of apple fests, apples-for-the-teacher, apple-blossom themes, and my work as Rustic Revivals proves this:

In fact, for their Christmas gift last year I made my sister and brother-in-law a hat hook for their summer cottage/old farm’s entranceway, romanticizing their engagement and reminding them of other things in their lives they love to share:

However, it is not the quantity of apples here that is a worry, NOR even the quality, though 80 percent do have some kind of wormhole.  But I’ve taught Richard not to worry so much about those, as I just cut them out and go on with whatever I planned to do that particular day with that harvest.  The problem is, for two years in a row, and trying all the recommended options, we have been unable to KEEP our apples for longer than 2 weeks!  We divide them into three categories when we pick – “kitchen”, “animal treats” and “compost”.  I do try to get as many into some kind of production in the kitchen that day or the next, but with so much else to be harvested at the same time, it would make life easier if the apples could be put off say, until after Thanksgiving (Can. one, in early Oct., not the American one near end of Nov.).  But no such luck!

Part of the problem with having an Olde Homestead is that the pioneers didn’t have the selection of various apples we have today, and thus many didn’t plant some of the more rugged thick-skinned apples that were made for winter storage.  Although we learned last year that one is supposed to wrap each apple separately in paper BEFORE putting into cold storage, that didn’t work any better this year than NOT wrapping them did last year.  So there went about 6 hours of my time wasted, over the course of several days of wrapping! (Those ones were primarily the ones we’d deemed for the animals, so admittedly they had more bruises, but according to all my reading they still should have kept better/longer!)

 
The other part of the problem of Olde Homestead-owning is that there are usually, for many years, people not tending to the orchard’s needs, not pruning the trees, for instance, and not keeping the apples raked up from under the limbs every year (and this must be done immediately, as soon as a few apples have fallen or the next year’s harvest will be ‘buggier’ and less plentiful, we’ve learned!)  My brother-in-law, Boyd, has run into the same problem of years of neglect, on his grandparents’ farm – and he has chosen what I consider a frightening option. He’s cut down many of the old trees, and planted new ones, essentially starting from scratch.  For reasons of time, expense and yes, romanticism (I don’t want to start chopping down Ida May’s trees that she planted just before she died at age 33 in 1931!) we will have to find another solution.  And I couldn’t even convince Richard to purchase a pear tree for this year, to plant, so we’re one season further from having our own delectable yellow fruit as well!

Here’s my brother-in-law and sister standing in front of our apple trees in July:

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If you’ve seen 3 more goofier-looking adults, it could only be with the addition of Richard in the frame.  We weren’t even TRYING to look silly, we were just smiling! (my skirt courtesy of cousin Linda’s family, some of our visitors this summer)

After completing losing about two bushels of apples we’d picked and I’d wrapped and put in the coldest part of our basement (they went to compost, but it still hurts!) we were invited to our Honey Man’s farm.  He allowed us to pick a plethora of his own apples, less blighted than ours.  But he still warned us they wouldn’t last long, even if wrapped.  Stubbornly, and as I was so busy preparing beans, peas, tomatoes, etc. I wrapped all of them late one night and had them put in the basement.  Within a few days, thanks to blackflies and fruitflies, we noticed they were starting to get mushy, so Richard went to buy a solid metal apple-peeler, and he went to work on them!

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Mom and I did what we could by hand to keep up:

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(Mom’s apron – and ours hanging in background just above her head – courtesy of Shirley Robinson, yet another of our many guests this past year).

The nice thing about the apple-slicer was that I was at least able to freeze several buckets of just slices, so at least in a way we have preserved ‘apples’ that we could eat ‘fresh’ or also feed as treats to the animals when it gets cold and they are very bored.  However, a bit of lemon juice or my homemade apple cider vinegar on them before they start to thaw is necessary so they don’t turn brown, which Richard hates.  The slices are also great to put into pies or loaves, but I also, as last year, immediately made apple sauce, juice, cider and apple cider vinegar.  (The many health, baking and cleaning uses for this latter were mentioned in my blog post on our apple harvest last year).  Here are the many processes we had to do over the course of only about 5 days:

The apple sauce isn’t just eaten as apple sauce, but we reheat to pour over ice-cream, frozen yogurt (hopefully next year made with goats’ milk!), we CAN use it in my soda-cracker quick-pies, and a few table spoons can be put in bran mash for Chevy or Cammie on really cold days. (One thing I didn’t make this year, and we shall miss, is the delectable apple BUTTER!) The last photo is all the scraps we save from the peelings, which is then corked and allowed to sit for a month before we pour and strain to get the proper type of  ACV, with the all-important ‘mother’.  I try and drink a spoonful of this in water every day (sweetened with honey or Stevia).

So, while the apple harvest WAS a bit disappointing again this year, and there are no big red globes in our basement for easy access, there’s nothing like knowing that, thanks to our neighbour’s offer of a 2nd harvest of HIS apples, our freezer and pantry are at least full of pails and jars of the innerds! And there’s nothing like heating up that applesauce to have with a bit of custard, either! Hmmmm…

cookstove

(that apron is courtesy of my grandmother McKenzie, from the old Sparta Mercantile circa about 1982, and the bonnet is from an etsy seller.  I have to put on this “Little House on the Prairie” get-up because many of our u.k. visitors seem to think we’re a cross between the Ingalls and the Waltons!)

Sadly, however, Richard came home from town yesterday with something that upset me, and I mean to fix this issue once and for all next year.  There HAS to be a way!  He wanted us to have a few fresh apple slices in our salads, and he wanted to feed Chevy ‘treats’ because he spoils him rotten.  Like a rotten apple!

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Everything about this upsets me, the plastic bag, the unnecessary money spent, the fact that these apples aren’t local and certainly have been chemically sprayed, and the fact that we don’t seem one step closer to living self-sufficiently with these on our table, and two huge apple trees outside our bedroom window!

One thing we didn’t do was wrap them AND put them on single layers on racks downstairs.  We do have these racks built into the basement, so I shall try a few of them next year.  But anyone that’s found any other ideas for making them last at least to November, I’d very much like to hear your experiences!

Of course around here, the old farm orchards are being terribly wasted.  Although this is a pretty sight this week – I still HATE seeing it, as there’s so much we could have done with all of those if I could but learn how!

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I even saw someone with spotlights on their apple trees like this, lit up for Christmas!  While it was lovely – I STILL wanted to go pick those apples!

When we first moved here Jane Hansen gave me a Victoria County recipe book from the local ladies of 60 or 70 years ago.  There are many ideas for baking with apples, so the slices in our freezer WILL come in handy for these, and it’s nice to know I’m using recipes handed down by our neighbours:

Still, to add insult to injury (in my head at least) is the fact that I’ve been looking for more blue stoneware plates and bowls to replace the ones Richard breaks on a regular basis.  I once had a collection of 6 of each, with red hearts, and I’ve looked everywhere to find the red hearts again. They aren’t on etsy,ebay, or anywhere that I can find, but I did luck out and find these a few weeks ago in Value Village in Fredericton:

 

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Would you BELIEVE I have to look at apples now at every meal, just to remind me there’s no whole ones for us OR the livestock?  Ah, well — I bet you thought this whole blog was going to be about apples, though, didn’t you?

But we spend our days slicing through life in other ways.  Whether the bread I make every 2nd or 3rd day is in a traditional loaf pan, or like this one, we get better and better at slicing just the right thickness for toast, sandwiches or chunky warm delights with stews or soups:

And Richard always has to have a ‘sweet loaf’ to slice up, in addition to the cookies/scones in the cookie jar:

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(Fingerless mitts: an early Christmas gift  knitted by our dear friend, the lovely Hudson, Quebec artist Jane Wright, and made with the alpaca wool purchased at the last pioneer show the Wrights helped me organize in Ontario,  from Alpaca Avenue near Toronto: http://www.alpacaavenue.com/    See Jane’s artwork at:

http://www.janewright.ca/  )

And we don’t have much snow yet. Jennifer Clarvoe writes, in “Invisible Tender” that while  they had been slicing through the snow, it can’t have been very thick because greeny grass tufted through it and it was gravelly, dimpled, pocked.”  But nonetheless, Richard and Chevy have already been hard at the “Slicing Through” process, bringing in logs from our own woods for next years heat source.

 

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Not bad for a guy who’d never really handled a horse prior to May of this year, is it?

The next few weeks’ blogs will not be about harvesting/processing food anymore, you’ll likely be happy to read.  I promised I’d write about the big 100th anniversary of our church, the entertainment for which I was asked to organize, as well as more details about the New Denmark filming with t.v. star Jonny Harris and the crew from CBC’s Still Standing. Those 2 events encompassed just 10 days at the beginning of September of which I’ve only hinted at in a prior ‘tease’.   And all this past week and next Richard and I are involved again with the Perth/Andover Community Choir and the 2nd Wind Music Centre Choir from Bristol. Not only have we teamed up with them for the big July 1st 150 Voices concert, but we’ve sung with them for the fall concerts with the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra and are now joining them for the Christmas season. In fact, this weekend we are dressing as angels (I know, imagine Richard as an angel – it’s nearly impossible, isn’t it?) and going to “Bethlehem”  to sing for two rustic days, as Victoria County is invited to walk or drive-thru to see the merchants and travellers, nasty inn-keeper and new-born babe from 2000 years ago.  And then on two big days following we sing a tricky Vivaldi, bellowing from two different church choir lofts, down upon the Bristol choristers who answer us from below.  Glor-i-a, Glor-i-a Forevermore!  Just another Slice of Rural Life here at Blue Belldon Farm!