Sorry not to have written recently, folks. I had hoped my next blog post would be about the design and building of our new-to-look-old t.v. and equipment cabinet, which we are building to look like an old and much ‘distressed’ pie safe for the corner of our living room where Richard has just also completed the other library shelves (other side of the fireplace.) However, this cabinet is taking much longer than was first thought, due to all manner of diversions, distractions, mismeasurements and general procrastinations. Not to mention the FOURTH major nor’easter that is blowing through here in the last 18 days, which makes it cold for Richard to be in the garage making intricate cuts with his icy fingertips and freezing toes (one which he claims he broke changing his pants and sticking his foot into an empty paint can – ah, the dangers of renovations!)
I am, however, a slightly superstitious believer in ‘signs’. While wondering what to write about instead this week, I considered featuring Mom’s weaving again, as she has been hard at work on a small mat for a friend and another small one for beside our claw-foot tub, as my original one is getting firmly pasted to the lino, and is another reason I want to return to the original old floorboards in there at some point. So I’ve taken a few photos of Mom on the loom, and we talked about Aunt Ila and Cousin Linda, both of whom have been weavers in the family as well. Then I thought perhaps I would explain some of my barnboard designs (Rustic Revivals) which I’ve had some motivation to work on since we are having a July wedding here in the orchard (Richard’s niece) and I’m busy making signs and decor for that. And as always, the barn board we brought from Ontario came from cousin Pete and Linda Baxter’s farm. (the same wood we used to make over the beam in our kitchen — see the bottom half of:
Or, perhaps I should write, for the second March in a row, about the ordering of our organic seeds in the wonderful brown paper packets, from Hawthorne Farm in Ontario? Because we ordered a lot more this year, including about $100.00 worth of flowers and ornamentals to help decorate for the wedding (mostly in BLUES, for Blue Belldon, and purples and greens, as those are the wedding colours). But then those flowers reminded me that Linda (formerly, and rather freakishly, of Hawthorn VALLEY Farm!) had brought me out some honeysuckle seeds from her own plants when she was here in September, which I have now put with the other packets to remind me not to forget them. We also ordered two packets of ground cherries, which Linda introduced us to, and which we now LOVE! Then, yesterday, as well as some painting for the wedding, the work on which I want to be mostly finished by mid-April, as that’s when we’ll be busy in the bush and with planting the seed tables in the basement, I was also painting plastic milk containers with dressage letters. In May I have two competitive eventing riders coming for private training, and I’ll need to line the ‘ring’ ( the only slightly flat bit of land we have, out near the poplar line which slopes down to the brook). One of the easiest ways to make a dressage ring is to paint the letters on white milk jugs. Of course we ALSO use these for taking water to the livestock all winter, AND to collect maple syrup, but we still have some left over that are in fairly pristine condition. So I painted 8 of them, after peeling off the labels with hot water. The labels that of course say : “Baxter”.
And lastly, I just finished my murder mystery yesterday and picked up my next library book (mentioned in the last blog for International Women’s Week). This is The Stillmeadow Road, by Gladys Taber. AS RECOMMENDED BY LINDA BAXTER IN SEPTEMBER! Right, so that’s it! Too many signs! Everything I seem to be doing this week, or considering for blogging, seems to suggest Cousin Linda. I don’t know why. These signs are rarely explained to us on this plane of existence, but I don’t like to ignore too many of them. Thus, I feel that I should include a bit about one of her favourite, most prolific “living off the land” authors here.
Gladys Taber wrote over 50 books about the simple life in New England, having moved from NYC to a derelict 1690s farmhouse just prior to the Great Depression. These books all possessed homespun wisdom dolled out with earthy humor and an appreciation for the small things. I see why Linda loves them now, being already half way through Stillmeadow Road. Linda is very similar, and would write exactly the same were she to sit down and start typing! (Linda?) And many of the same things that happened to Gladys and her family and friends are still happening here at Blue Belldon Farm, nearly a century later. The very same issues that bother Gladys then are those that make me indignant and enraged now – rural development, clear-cutting of land, pollution, food waste, and mistreatment of wildlife and other animals. While Gladys writes of these things with gentle Christian humility, I post my fury and passion re: these planetary problems daily, on Facebook. Well, I mean, obviously Gladys’ tactics were too genteel – they haven’t seemed to have had impact on ‘the greedy powers’ 80 years on, so maybe it’s time to GET MAD.
I especially became so when I found out that nearly 20 years ago there was talk of tearing down the beautiful old 1690s farmhouse in which she’d lived and about which she’d written so many in the “Stillmeadow” series TO BUILD A STUPID TREELESS SUBURB! Luckily, her granddaughter Anne Colby was living at Stillmeadow at the time, and rallied enough national and even international interest to STOP this development and instead to put the local farms into a Land Trust and Historic site. Thank GOD!~ (This wasn’t, however, finalized until just a few years ago!)
Alan Bisbort, of the New York Times, in 2001: Constance Taber Colby, who is a writer and a professor of English in New York, said of her famous mother: ”Gladys was one of the first to write about the dangers of uncontrolled development in Connecticut. If she were alive today, she would undoubtedly be finishing a book on land conservation.
”Her books clearly depict Stillmeadow and its world as symbolic of something larger than one family, one town: a way of life very precious and inevitably endangered.”
Somewhat prophetically, Gladys Taber wrote late in life about a zoning meeting she attended in Southbury. In it she concluded: ”It was a grim picture. Business was bound to come; light industries were already shopping for land. The quiet country farms were already going and developments would take over. . . . Eventually, of course, we will have to have some sort of plan to guide future development. Somehow we must protect the wooded hills, the greening meadows, the clean, sweet-running brooks and the historic white houses — are a precious heritage.”
Anne Colby said: ”I grew up running around over there. I was very lucky to have this place to come to when I was a kid. We want this to be an incentive for other landowners to look for creative options for saving their land. Tools are available now that weren’t there five years ago. Ten years ago, we could not compete with the developers. For me, Connecticut’s remaining wild places are our sanctuaries, and we need sanctuaries now more than ever.”
Earlier this week Richard inadvertently put his foot in ‘it’, as he is often wont to do. We were at choir practice in Perth-Andover, led by its beloved mayor, Marianne Tiessen Bell (of the Leamington, ON Tiessens, incidentally). Richard said to Marianne “Getting ready for some flooding are you?” This is NOT something you say to ANYONE who lives in and loves Perth-Andover. But CERTAINLY NOT THE POOR MAYOR!
I wrote about this issue LAST spring, and about Marianne and editor Stephanie Kelly’s efforts to help battle both the fight for keeping historic buildings from damage or demolition AND their concern for the environment, especially as it so affects those living ‘down in the valley’ from us.
Despite predictions of the Farmer’s Almanac, we seem to have had nearly the same amount of snowfall this year, and it seems to be lingering just as long through what others elsewhere are already calling ‘spring’. This of course means danger of flooding. It is sad, not just to see people’s businesses and homes destroyed, BUT to see some of the delightful old buildings that make one truly feel the history – almost as far back as Taber’s New England! Tell me that these wonderful buildings don’t deserve to be saved, for instance:
But their close proximity to the river means that flooding doesn’t just happen once in a lifetime to them – but rather, many times. And the government isn’t as willing as they ought to be to step forward to assist! (what else is new?) Having lived in the U.K. , it never fails to amaze me that we aren’t more keen to ‘list’ and maintain buildings of historic value and interest, as they do there, and with SO many more to do as well! Isn’t it enough that the greed and mistreatment of our land is CAUSING so much of Mother Nature’s need to aggressively ‘fight back’? But then, not to be able to step forward and say ‘This must be offered assistance?’ It’s just shameful.
Taber says (in numerous places) “I hate to think of the forests that have been laid waste down the years by ruthless cutting. It takes years to grow a tall lovely tree and not long to chop it down…a tree is a symbol of life and a gift of nature.” Why do we not respect this gift?
And, about preserving historic buildings, she quotes the anonymous poem that I also ‘discovered’ in Concord, Mass., found inside a wall of a seventeenth-century home:
"He who loves an old house Will never love in vain- For how can any old house, Used to sun and rain, To larkspur and to lilac, To arching trees above, Fail to give its answer To the heart that gives its love?"
But, really, if the object of this particular blog posting is not to lecture to those who rape the land, pave over the countryside, demolish old buildings and landmarks, but instead to introduce you to the simple cherished writings of a woman who loved nature, history and her small self-sufficient New England farm, then I should leave you with one of her more poetic quotations: