Crows & Scarecrows, Pumps & Pumpkins

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  NOTE: Trying a rhyme scheme I’ve never attempted: abaca.  Very odd!

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I, as the Oz-man said, 
I am the one
With straw in my head
I, the unusual,
Not the autumn leaf dead.

So many scarecrows I've made
The couple with flowers
There in the shade
Of the autumn leaf dying
Though memories shan't fade:
This year at Blue Belldon, see-
The Skinny Scarecrow 
And partner made three
(the third on the porch)
As students jump the melee!

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And though they aren't crows
But rather are starlings
The blackbirds in rows
Along in our garden
Don't seem in much fearful throes.


 

And for Thanksgiving week-end
The primitive crows
Made by a rustic shop friend
Filled out the basket
And fit in to the blend

Of autumnal decor
Of a long season done
Of harvest now o'er
When family has joined
And request always "More"?

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Not "Nevermore" as says the raven
But just one word: 'more?', 
As 'tis our food they're cravin' !
(And for a week, Mom and I
In the kitchens were slavin' ! )

That weekend was bright
And ever so mild
There were lads to play-fight
And scamp through the trees-
A heart-warming sight!

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And back in on the hutch
More primitive stuff
Some pumpkins and such
With white poppies in bloom
-Oh the bounty was much!

 

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And from garden's top
In the pumpkin patch
We chose all the crop
Placed on display
Like a proper farm shop.

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Except for just two
That were lovely and ripe.
Mom made crust new
And the pie-fill from scratch
Organically true~

 

 

And any pumpkins past prime
(Or the bits dug out)
The hens got, in time
When the guests had all left,
And the rest of the rhyme...

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...is instead about pumps
With no suffix of 'kin'
Because the sunset humps
O'er the mountains like fire
Then the auburn light jumps:

 

 

 

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And a rainbow finds gold
As sure as the luck
Will ne'er run old
As sure as the season
Was ne'er seen so bold.

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For though Richard eats pie
Til there's no pumpkin left
To cast All Hallow's die
And the autumn is done...
"Give Thanks!", we reply!

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For though the bright is in fade
And there's bleak days ahead
We find that in trade
Is a time of sweet rest
"Give Thanks!" is re-played.

The garden is bare,
The leaves have all fallen-
But we mustn't show care
As the harvest had bounty!
"Brave Winter" we dare!

 

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So, with just one more glance
At the bright orange sea
With no photo-enhance
Farewell we all wave
---NOW bring on Winter's TRANCE!

chevy, autumn, richard, cammie

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The Biggest Blue Belldon Day… of 2018

Well, you’ve been treated to tidbits, both here and on Facebook, but Tiffany Christensen, our local New Denmark born-and-raised young photographer (see her work in other blog posts using tag words such as the pageant, founders day, etc.) has processed and published her huge album of Richard’s niece Carriann’s and groom Matthieu LeBlanc’s big day here on the farm on July 28th. So, as promised, that’s mostly what this posting is about.  If you aren’t interested in the family connections or the homemade decor or the Tolkien tid-bits,  skip to the bottom to see more of Tiffany’s work – but seasonal this time! She takes great autumnal shots, some from right here at the farm and some OF the farm from a distance! Lovely! And, as mentioned previously, the next post will be Crows and Scarecrows, and the one after that will be all about Richard’s new greenhouse by the garden – all made with recycled windows and old tin from my cabin. He’s almost finished it, just in time for the cold weather… But for now, enjoy the beauty of this special day when our farm was shared by many.

DECOR 

As early as mid-2017, Carriann and Matthieu, from 3 hours south of us in Saint John, approached us about a farm wedding. They wanted a beautiful vista, just as her Aunt Kim had had at her wedding in Quebec the year prior.  Carriann, ever tactful, posed the question something like this:  “We were wondering if you guys know of any place up your way that has some gorgeous views where we might get married in 2018? ”  So, of course, we offered to help in any way we could and offered the farm as a base if they wanted it.  We agreed, wisely I believe, that having tents and the reception here as well would have been too much, so the reception was up the road at the New Denmark Rec. Centre (which has been pictured for you in other blog postings – a real country venue with original stage and hardwood floors, with a gorgeous vista of its own!)

Since Rustic Revivals and Rural Revivals (my two artistic and consulting businesses) have done a number of farm weddings, I offered, as far back as March 2018, to begin making Carriann and Matt’s (heretofore referred to as C and M) choices of items mostly made with their colours: lilac to dark purple and lime green.  (a note: while the couple would have preferred to have had the wedding in June, when our lilacs would have been out in matching splendor as well as the white apple blossoms on the trees under which we walked, we knew the blackflies would have been just too horrendous in that month to have had people sitting out in the orchard (the worst spot on the farm for them). So a year ago it was decided that the wedding should take place in July, near the end, when all the planting would be done and to have given flowers a chance to be blooming. Sadly, as it turned out, it was such a hot, dry summer that not much HAD bloomed (and didn’t until Sept! See last post, Purple Haze!)  And the only day in 3 months that it DID threaten to rain (90 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms all day!) WAS the day of the wedding, but due to a lot of praying and pleading, it was a lovely temperate day with just the right amount of breeze blowing across the valley to keep the insects and heat to a minimum and yet not to topple anything precarious…  Click on any photo to enlarge and read caption:

Tiffany took some much better photos of some of the decor around the farm. Comments regarding each are underneath:

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At the last minute, I threw some lime green paint on this old frame I had as part of my Rustic Revivals’ hoard. So glad I did, as I LOVE this photo!

 

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You have followed in an earlier blog the many long hours Richard put in, in hot sun, tearing off the metal from the cabin that will soon become my shop. I varnished the trim and painted some purple and green accessories on just for the wedding, as well as planting the flower boxes with some overhanging purple thyme and white baby’s breath from the garden. We knew it would make a great feature for the professional shots and Tiffany used it brilliantly!
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the Hobbit Holee door and window fit so well into the grassy knoll, and this tilted brilliance on Tiffany’s part really made it seem more surreal and magical. The shot below is just an impulsive one of the 4 of us.

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While Mom wasn’t at this wedding, having gone to Ontario to give up her upstairs suite for the wedding visitors who were with us for nearly a week to help get the farm looking ship-shape, her presence was felt in the flowers she’d bought and helped plant and water and weed, and in, for example, this purple woven mat of hers that we used to cover the chair
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My great-grandmother Lipsit’s tablecloths were on a number of accessory tables for this wedding, but I had some other paperweights laid aside for use on the outdoor tables. Not until Tiffany’s photos came out ten days ago did I realize that Richard had grabbed a crowbar when Pastor Ralph asked for a weight!
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Carriann’s brother, Richard’s nephew, Chris has been physically and mentally challenged his whole life, but is an accomplished musician and now can add being Lord of the Rings (ringbearer) to his sister’s slightly Tolkien-themed wedding!
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as seen in earlier blogs, we set up a water fountain with some wild animal representation to add some more purple in case all the purple flowers weren’t yet in bloom (which they weren’t). It was meant to collect some loose change for the couple, with people making wishes for them, but as so many of the guests were French I don’t think anyone bothered to read my signs! Still, the purple accents helped with the colour!
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Love this photo of Tiffany’s, just showing a close-up glimpse of the couple’s colour choices. Richard actually picked this floral arrangement himself, based on the lime green leaves in the centre. We had to keep it carefully watered for over a month to keep it looking like that in the dry heat! Those are bed sheets on barrels for snacks in the background. ALWAYS upcycling!
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another shot I personally appreciate from Tiffany, since I planned hard to offer healthy farm-type snacks but still keep them in the colour theme! Love the wagon wheel in the background, too – Tiff has such a great eye!

Some more of the purple and green recycled, upcycled, homemade or all-natural decor – remember to click on any photo you want to read the caption/make the photo bigger!

REHEARSAL, and REICH DINNER — FRIDAY -CANDID SHOTS:

remember to click on any photo you want to read the caption/make the photo bigger!

Saturday Morning -The Big Day – Thunderstorms in the Forecast, but …

the decorating and tidying work continues! ALL the bridal party and parents pitching in…remember to click on any photo you want to read the caption/make the photo bigger!

AND FINALLY – THE WEDDING ITSELF 

These are now mostly Tiffany Christensen’s gorgeous photos, which I’ll let mostly speak for themselves. A few others (not marked with Tiff’s fun logo in the left corner) were taken by the two aunts -either myself or Carriann’s mother’s sister, her Aunt Kim, whose dress she was also wearing – so even more along the upcycle/recycle theme I always love here at Blue Belldon!!   Most of these have captions to explain, and are primarily in the order in which they took place:

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Step-Mom Patti-Lynne at work on hair and make-up for the bride
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a final touch-up
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Father of the Bride, Jean-Marc (Richard’s brother) ties the rings to Chris’s recycled pillow
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professional photographer Tiffany Christensen prepares for the work ahead with a quiet chat with bride Carriann on our side porch
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for those that know our orchard, this is the arm of the white bench overlooking the rock garden and the lovely view (between the two apple trees) where Tiffany wisely thought to place the rings for a neat shot
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Carriann’s Aunt Kim, who took many of these shots not marked with Tiff’s logo, helps her niece with her shoes
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bridesmaids get ready, in front of our big bedroom mirror put in front of the fireplace
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bridesmaids ready!
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Pastor Ralph is ready – trying to calm the wind?
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The groom had his own special walk down the aisle – to a Lord of the Rings orchestral piece, of course!
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Carriann’s brother, Richard’s nephew, Chris has been physically and mentally challenged his whole life, but is an accomplished musician and now can add being Lord of the Rings (ringbearer) to his sister’s slightly Tolkien-themed wedding!
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The groomsmen make their decent through the two natural arches of the apple tree
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adore this shot of Tiffany’s – very artsy!
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Tia the flower girl begins to throw the rose petals
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Father and Daughter begin their journey
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This is a shot by Aunt Kim – love how you can see the natural arch that the bride and father are just about to go through
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da-da-da-dum~~

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parking and guests

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C and M wanted the scenery, the birch arch, the rose petals strewn and the bubbles being blown behind – here are all 4 desires shown together!

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Carriann, with Richard’s Mom (her Grandmere) Helene
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this is Richard’s favourite photo – he is in the background talking to his two sons, whilst his brother looks like he’d rather be talking about cars back with them!
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the whole gang
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Richard’s father, Hans, and his wife Betty with the happy couple
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with the parents, Vince, Yvonne, and their son Matthieu, Carriann and her father Jean-Marc and her step-mom Patti-Lynn (also the official make-up artist, and videographer!
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the couple with Richard’s two very-much Torontonian sons!
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Tiffany tries to organize the shot she took prior to this one!

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robin in wedding

The photo below needs some explanation – the groomsmen, the happy couple and myself all jumped on our truck for Richard to drive us down to the grassy knoll for photos of the Hobbit Hole.  As I was on the tail gate, Richard seemed to forget that I had had 3 back surgeries and was on the waiting list for knee surgery and thought it very funny to drive like a maniac all over our field and track. So I had to lean back to try and keep balance. Tiffany, who was behind me, thought this very amusing, apparently!

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And a few from the reception at the New Denmark Rec Centre: (photo credits to all and sundry, but the really exceptional ones are by Kim Mageau and Patti-Lynne Reich)

 

 

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Richard’s son Erich and his girlfriend Fran, from Toronto on left, Carriann’s other grandmere from Quebec in centre, and Richard’s son Nigel, with girlfriend Deeanna on right
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Richard’s dad Hans, brother (father-of-the-bride) Jean Marc, Richard, his step-mom Betty (she and Hans drove from Kingston, ON!) and mom Helene (also from Saint John)
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Richard dancing with his Mom in an almost empty hall – the two tables behind them weren’t used as SOMEONE miscounted the number of guests on the groom’s side… either that or my big scary Tolkien giant hanging from the door scared everyone away!)  But the dancing got sillier and much more popular later. I won’t post any of those!
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the head table and C and M’s special table above on the stage
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Some who have followed the renovations here at Blue Belldon may remember this wicker arch (which normally has shelves!) which is in our bedroom and which I picked up by the side of the road in Ontario because someone was just sick of it! We have certainly had a great deal of use from this freebie as it was once in our Rural Creators’ Collective shop in Carlisle ON too!
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Nigel and Deanna – though they have NO PLANS to marry, Nigel caught the garter and Deanna caught the bouquet. Hmmm.
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The gents lining up to catch the flying garter
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Richard, Carriann trying to get her cousin Erich to dance

 

specialsA close up of the lime-green mint jelly of which I put ONE  on each table for sampling with the meal, along with the entertaining cards about old-fashioned marriages (just happened to be purple and green cards, so why not?) Jean-Marc and Patti-Lynne followed the eco-friendly theme of the farm and had organic seeds done up as table favours – highly suggest to all!

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Love this shot of Richard and his nephew Chris (Lord of the Rings!)  in deep conversation
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Photo of Dad and Daughter – lovely shot!

And now, as promised – or in case you didn’t want to look at the beautiful photos of the wedding previously, here’s some seasonal and autumnal shots from lens-master Tiffany, to get you back in a fall mood…

blue belldon farm and views
The red tree to right is the only non-birch tree in our birch grove on Blue Belldon. This is our view every day – aren’t we lucky?
going down Lucy's Gulch
Going down the steep Lucy’s Gulch, with the Saint John River below and Grand Falls, and Limestone Maine beyond in distance
our farm from Blue Bell mountain
Tiffany took this of our farm from the top of Blue Bell Mountain, across the valley. That’s us right in the middle!
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a New Denmark tractor preparing the harvest of potatoes and other crops
train tracks
the lush colours of New Denmark
two churches by night
Tiffany grabbed this one night of our two churches on the hill – I think she needs to enter it in a contest or have it made into a poster for some religious event, don’t you?
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The two churches from closer to our farm

 

See you next time, for “Crows and Scarecrows”…

August – Farm Foto-Fest!

If you didn’t see last week’s posting Straight From The Horse’s Mouth, it’s in a different section of this blog as it’s primarily for interested equestrians here: bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/straight-from-the-horses-mouth/

In this particular posting, you’ll find the goings on ‘down home on the farm’ OTHER than the busy time with the Straights (chronicled above)  since the beginning of August.  Such as Smitty gets to spend a lot more time off his chain because he mostly sticks around now AND doesn’t bite the first people that might drive in the driveway (like the carload of Jehovah’s Witnesses that rolled in today) AND he doesn’t chase the other animals anymore.  Thus he has become something of a Pied Piper!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For most of the latter part of this summer, since the first rains came at the end of July and our garden became a veritable JUNGLE, my kitchen has looked like this and worse most days: baking out, some form of dairy being made from Cammie’s milk (2 quarts a day now!) The below is my Chevre cheese which is quick and I’m getting better at it now – it’s much less crumbly and stays in a mold now than when this was taken. PLUS at least 3 or 4 types of vegetables sitting about waiting for “processing” of some stage or other.

 

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Though we’re always exhausted this time of year, it IS so rewarding to partake in meals or snacks (if we ever find the time to sit down for one!) that are completely and totally from our own garden or animals. The following photo shows me drinking my made-from-scratch iced tea with mint and borage, and eating my homemade bread slathered with Cammie’s butter and chevre (made with herbs from my herb garden like fennel which we are LOVING this year!) , and homemade raspberry jam (we picked these as last year down in the valley on a logging road neighbour Pierrette discovered. I wish we had time to pick more than we do, but we’re just so crazy busy getting the garden in and processed! )

 

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One of the young hens (still not laying!) we got in June came to my kitchen window, looked in and crowed loudly at me – so back HE went to the chicken farm and instead Richard brought home “Lucy the Layer”, who IS giving us an egg a day at least. Hopefully those other 3 will get the idea from her soon!

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Lucy:

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And while I’ve been making chevre cheese and yogurt – even frozen yogurt once – regularly from all Cammie’s delicious thick milk, I’ve been slowly collecting the tiny bit of fat that rises to the top of the jars if you let them sit a few days.  Then I freeze it. So after more than a month, we took the jar out and thawed it, then shook the jar for 10 minutes and voila – Cammie-butter too! Now to find some Rennet tablets to make other kinds of cheeses – but not until the garden is all in, methinks!

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Mom helped so much early on with keeping the weeds down, but she won’t always partake of enough of the ‘fruits of our labours’, so I try to make her some dishes to enjoy before I freeze things like the soups and stews.  Have a great parsnip and fennel soup with the whey from the cheese and yogurt-making that I invented myself – delish!  Every single thing on this tray incl. the herbs and spices comes from Blue Belldon Farm!

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May, June and July were serious drought months, but since the wedding July 28th we’ve had some regular storms and other types of crazy weather.  Very photo-worthy:

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And of course all this rain has turned our garden into such mass-producing veg – and flowers and herbs too, for us and for the bees! – that we actually had to give some cucumbers to the local Food Bank this week – Mom and I have both made varying sorts of pickles ’til we can’t stand it anymore, plus I’ve pureed and frozen so much cucumber soup (delightful with Cammie-yogurt when served cold!) not to mention all the peas, beans, tomatoes, zucchini and squash we have in abundance right now!  Let’s not even talk about the carrots, edamame, parsnips and corn that I’m hoping will wait for me to catch up …

 

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My oven can handle 6 spaghetti squash (split in two) for cooking, then I drag all the ‘noodles’ out and freeze so that whenever we don’t want some heavy pasta dish, but do feel like something like it – we pull those containers out, thaw and melt some cheese or pour butter/salt or a sauce over.

 

 

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If you haven’t tried spaghetti squash, do so! It’s delicious, not fattening like noodles and actually quite fun to handle and “play” with!

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Now, also in August, SOME of the wedding photos from official photographer Tiffany Christensen have been ‘released’ as a teaser. So Richard’s niece Carriann gave me permission to share some of these, and there will likely be more forthcoming later on. Here’s the lovely bride and her father, Richard’s younger brother Jean-Marc (John), coming off our side porch and through our temporary arch (from a piece of wood Richard and I found in the woods in early spring and set up and painted white for just this purpose.  It looked much better all decorated than it does on a day-to-day basis!)

bride and father

Groom Matthieu and Bride Carriann exchange vows in front of the beautiful vista of which they had long envisioned and dreamed…bride and groom, cl-up

Tiffany was good enough to use as a backdrop for several shots, my Rustic Revivals’ cabin which Richard worked so hard on all through June and early July. I had purposely added some purple accents just for this big moment!

bride, bridesmaids

Tiffany has a great sense of humour with her photos, and was happy to have “crime boss” Matt and his mob do some godfather-esque poses:

crime boss groom

One of the surprises we’d wanted to offer Carriann and Matt was using our knoll in the bottom pasture as a “Hobbit Hole”. The couple are Tolkien fans in a big way, and if they could have afforded it, they’d have been off to New Zealand for their honeymoon to visit a lot of the Lord of the Ring sites, etc. But I painted a door and window and Richard artistically arranged them, then Tiffany REALLY went creative-crazy and got a really neat angle:

bride, groom, hobbit hole

We haven’t seen TOO many of the service yet, but Tiffany did share one of the Halpines – 3 boys and their Dad, who played some lovely classical and pop music throughout the ceremony. They also live self-sufficiently on a farm down the road from us, but are doing it in a much bigger way – besides their 5 young children, they have several goats to milk, a number of cows and pigs, ponies, donkeys, horses, many fowl and a fish pond!

halpines at wed

Thought this was a nice shot of Tiffany and Carriann together discussing some shots to take just after the service ended, back on our side porch.

for Tiffany

And here’s one of the entire guest-list. Richard and I are the 2nd couple from the left; I’m just raising my cowboy hat in the air.

full group, wedding

Though they didn’t want to actually touch the animals and get their clothes smelly and dirty before their reception, Carriann DID want some of the animals in their shots.  Tiffany is amazing at photo-shopping, too, apparently – because Richard was actually HOLDING Robin on a rope in this one, hiding behind Carriann’s skirt as best he could – and Tiff managed to make it all look free and natural!

robin in wedding

Speaking of dear Robin, we had some sad partings with the twins in the beginning of August as well. Kids should be weaned at about two months, and as we had found good homes for both, it was time to let them go, and get on with serious milking twice a day for our own larder (since this was the whole purpose of having to breed Cammie in the first place!) As Robin was the most friendly and out-going because of the early-on bonding with me (remember, he’s the twin who nearly died in the first few hours when I was alone with them and had to syringe some milk into him because he wouldn’t take to the teat right away) he was the first to go, and thus had a little photo journal taken of him as he learned to be weaned and to explore and eat various things on his own. As the wedding was over, I even let him experiment with nibbling flowers – anything to get him off milk!

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He was so cute as he had to learn to drink water, too – he tried the chicken’s shallow water pan outside…

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And finally he took some tentative sips from the ‘big-boy’ pail!

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But he took to leaf-eating VERY easily and loved trying all new things and even standing on his hind legs to eat the apple tree leaves like his Mom!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Such a personable little guy, so unlike his twin “Mo” ! Robin was always following us around, fairly unperturbed that his brother and mother were shut up in the barn calling to him!

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We were a bit sad to see him go, but “Grace” is the type of gal that brings all her animals into her house for play-time, so we knew he’d be well-loved. (Mo took a lot longer to wean, and was with us for a very trying and noisy 10 more days before we could give him to the fellow who lives just 2 houses down the valley from us. But Mo is happy now too, with some other fowl and goat pals, and Richard says he’s even had some climbing apparatus and an upper level bunk to climb into at night!)

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And Grace sends us regular photos of Robin with her goat Rammi and matching pony, so we know he’s also very content and having lots of fun!

 

Also – this just in – Our New Denmark episode of Still Standing (Chevy and me in the parade shots) .  https://watch.cbc.ca/media/%E2%80%A6/s%E2%80%A6/new-denmark-nb/38e815a-00f0c4c14f4       Here’s a photo of Jonny Harris shaking hands with Trampis, our local ‘hippi’, who took Mo and lives just a few houses downhill…

jonny and trampis

 

 

But, Robin – you were very DEERE to us:

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And “Owl” Always Remember You!!!!

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Bug Spray, Biscuits, Barnboard…

This one will be quick and painless, promises the dentist.  But no, it will, because I MUST do some basic housework and get back outside to major weeding.  I am only in for a mid-morning break for about an hour, which I am sure our minister would say I ought to be spending in church.  We just keep slogging away here, though, rarely knowing what day of the week it actually is!

Mom/Joy and I are the ones weeding. Mom does about 2 hours per day on the veg garden and it’s looking pretty great right now – something showing in all 52 rows!  I do about 20 min. weeding per day in the veg garden and 30 minutes every 3rd day or so on the flowers for the wedding.  In addition, I water for an hour and a half every 2nd or 3rd day when there is no rain called for. But still, it’s mostly thanks to Mom that the vegetables are coming along (Ontario and the u.k. won’t think this is ‘coming along’ in the first week of July, but considering the dry and cold spring and the HEAT WAVE of the last week, we think this isn’t too bad).

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Since Richard has been working hard on the Rustic Revivals cabin/shop, expecting it will be used as a backdrop for some wedding photos, I’ve been mostly trying to keep the animals organized all day and into the long evenings.  They are spoiled, because we cater to them – it started last year when Cammie and Chevy both came to us very ill and it took most of last summer for Chevy at least to fully recover.  Thus we are always letting them out, letting them in, changing their pastures, giving them fresh water and soaked beet pulp, scattering scratch or compost for the chickens despite them being ‘free range’,

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and in last week’s heat wave, giving Chevy several hose-pipe baths. We even bought them a fan for the long afternoons when they are standing around inside because the type of barn we unfortunately have (quonset) is not at all like the old bank barns I’m used to having, where half of it is under a hill and there’s always a hay loft above for insulating, thus keeping the animals cool in summer. So the chickens stay outside all day, finding shade where they can, and even recently learning to fly a bit and to land in unexpected places. Mom just saw this one ‘experimenting’ in the orchard:

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Meanwhile, the kids spend the nights and the early morning hours with their mother, and then we separate them for the rest of the day so I can milk Cammie in the evenings:

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The twins are getting big and very curious, happily leaving their frantic mother for long periods of time, which drives her nuts. (We have had to tie her again because she was caught eating wedding flowers earlier this week and I was furious. The floral situation isn’t doing as well as I’d hoped in the first place, but I certainly didn’t need a big stubborn goat to come along an top the blossoms off 11 plants in one foul swoop!)  We’ve also had a number of neighbours come to visit the animals.  Greta, (age93) just up the hill from us, was wheeled down just a few days out of hospital to spend some time with the cuddliest:

Greta and twogreta and Robin kissing chick

When the weather is very hot, Chevy leads the livestock parade back to the barn where he likes to lie down in the stall (he does this more in summer than he did all winter!) Meanwhile Cammie takes the twins on a tour of other places she isn’t allowed!

The milking hasn’t been going terribly well. First Cammie kicked and hollered and carried on, so we read up on different methods of preventing or at least decreasing this (ie: more food, soft-hobbling, letting one kid out in view, etc).  She’s finally stopped the ‘freaking out’ and putting her foot into my sterile bucket of milk, but she only allows us to have so much milk and then she ‘closes up’ and ‘keeps back’ the rest for her twins for later.  The milking in the morning was stopped because no one (incl. Chevy and the chickens) were getting any rest in the night hours of separation. But the evening milking means they aren’t ‘off her’ for as long, so the milk situation is minimal at the moment. I did, however, manage to make cheese one morning this week.  Here are the various stages of “Quick Goat’s Milk Cheese” – just bring to 180 degrees, add lemon juice to make it curdle, strain in cheese cloth for an hour and VOILA!  Delicious, but it only lasted the one meal on our spinach salad (from our garden. Sad to say, though – even those eggs aren’t from our own chickens yet!) Click to enlarge if desired:

I also tried to make mint jelly again this week, as we have such a large mint patch. Two years ago when I made it it turned out beautifully, but for some reason – perhaps the heat wave? Perhaps my Certo was too old? – it hasn’t set properly.  I was experimenting with little jars which, as ‘lime green’ is one of the two colours for Carriann and Matt’s wedding, might end up on the reception tables for people to help themselves to little spoonfuls of, on the side of their meatballs (delicious!)  (To make it less bright green, I just added some yellow food colouring to the regular green). I bought new Certo and will try this all again on a cooler day:

Also these last few weeks, besides the regular bread and cookie-baking, iced-tea and lemonade-making (and just regular meal-making which I’m getting sick of doing – why can’t I just be a genie and blink my eyes and have those done?),  I did more dog biscuits and some purple and green mints for the wedding. I’ve mentioned how to do the homemade dog biscuits before – just put a lot of meat and egg-based leftovers on a big tray with some oil and lots of flour sprinkled over it and bake the heck out of it until it’s crisp!  (If you’re really interested in how I do this because you want to make your own and save a LOT of money, just contact me and I’ll give you my step-by-step ‘recipe’).

The buttercream mints turned out quite well, I think – I made enough for the wedding guests to have about 10 each, if they so wish!  There are lots of recipes and Youtube directions on these online, so no need for me to say more other than:

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Something else I have to ‘brew up’ quite regularly is bug spray – both for we mammals, and for the veg plants in the garden.  The latter one is Dawn dishsoap ( a spoonful) with vinegar and baking soda and has seemed to work fairly well. I use my own homemade apple cider vinegar – what’s left from last year, anyway (And believe me, I HATE all this plastic, but at least all the jugs are recycled from something else – or WILL be recycled into something else!)

Our bug spray for us and Chevy (and Cammie when she’s willing, which isn’t often. Besides, I don’t want her milk to taste like vinegar!) is veg oil, Dawn and the ACV. So, the same as for the garden but without the baking soda. It and our masks/facenets keep the blackflies at bay a little better, but Chevy is eaten alive by horseflies and deerflies also, so I had to break down this week and buy some chemically-enhanced equine spray which has helped him not come in with great bloody sores, poor guy! So much for being purely organic around here, then!  (Also, I’m going to have to ‘dust’ the broccoli, I’m afraid! And there’s some weird bugs on one of our crabapple trees…grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr….)

Richard was hard at work on the cabin at the back of the barn these past weeks, but he also finally got a garden gate on the chicken wire fence we erected around the vegetables. Nice and rustic, this:

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But most rustic and lovely of all is the fabulous work he’s done re-siding the Rustic Revivals new shop (opening – ? maybe in the autumn! The inside needs a lot of work done on it still…) We used the strapping that was under the metal siding to make trim, which I protected with urethane yesterday so it will hopefully stay the contrasting colour. Here’s the ‘before’:

rustic revivals shop, cabin, before

And here are the lovely ‘afters’.  Sooooo in love with this, and there’s lots more trim and decorating I’ll be playing with on the front, you can bet! The door is so wonderfully ‘shabby chic’ with chippy-paint that I’m leaving it as is for now. I just need to get some really white birch sticks for in the barrels, rather than the less-white poplar that are in there at the moment, and it will tie the white from the door in so much more!

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The two sides had lovely cedar shakes under the metal, so we didn’t even have to do much to them. Look carefully and EWE may even see I’m not ‘kidding’ around!

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Your Five Minute Morning

This posting is more about the photos than the writing- or the update of the last 10 days (although there are additional photos and updates below the ‘prize’ photos.) These special shots were all taken over the course of about 5 minutes just this morning, walking around our farm on a lovely sunny, breezy June day. First day of summer, too!  It is a special time to celebrate, not only because of the weather – and very few blackflies because there was a frost down in the valley last night- but also because Blue Belldon Farm now has exactly TEN animals.

We’ll start with the newest additions, because that’s what you’re all waiting for.  Introducing twin boys – Robin and Mo.  They aren’t as harmonious as their namesakes (Gibb twins/Bee Gees) but they have similar characteristics, and it was their voices together that I heard first, before laying eyes on them (more on this below the good set of today’s photos).  Robin is thin, gangly and buck-toothed and likes to hide in his monastery (the old doghouse). Mo is much more social, playful and enjoys a lot of drinking. He even has a little beard, bless him.

This morning was their very first time outside since they were born Tuesday.  Cammie has been out herself several times to graze when they are asleep, but we’re encouraging them to get ‘out and about’ now…

Cammie, Mo, Robin

Now, if that isn’t cuteness itself, see them trying to go up and down the corral hill.  Richard says this one is to be captioned: “You go first, Mo.  If you like it, I’ll try it too!”

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Robin had to be very persistent, though.  “Go!  Go!”quit helping me

They did finally both get to the bottom, though, and then had a little play with Cammie standing watch at the top.

first outdoor play

 

Then, because Mo is much more strong and confident, their first time climbing back up, poor little Robin fell down. “Come on, Rob!” calls twin Mo, and Cammie adds “Teat for tat!”

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The next time they tried the big climb, things were much more successful. We think this is Cammie practicing the twins for their audition for the final scene of The Sound of Music:

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The twins are very proud of their accomplishments and Cammie is now thinking “Go back to the monastery and sleep, boys – Mama wants to graze with Chevy now!”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Robin says “bye for now! You’ll be seeing a lot more of my cute mug in future!”

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Chevy has been a bit depressed since the Tuesday Twins blew into town (more on his hilarious pouting near end of this blog post) but he’s being privileged with time in his old stompin’ grounds in the birch grove (where we used to let him graze when he was ill last year).  The grass is very rich there, there’s a lot more clover and he loves being able to rub the bugs off and scratch himself on the bigger trees.  He’s shown above in the 5 minutes I limped around taking shots.  Next to, I might add, my FIFTY-TWO ROWS of garden all planted! So he was happy this morning, esp. when Cammie finally wandered out to join him after tucking the new-borns in for a long nap!

Round the other side of the farmhouse we have ‘the girls’.  They are free-ranging happily now, but primarily stay near the septic system under the apple trees,  an area which is moist, earthy and wormy. The view ain’t bad either! (Thus, despite the proximity to said septic/weeping tiles, is the direct path which Carriann will be walking down next month to get married under that birch arch!)

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While the hens look too much alike to name (except for the little one we think of as ‘sicky’, although she’s feeling much better now than when she came!), hours of entertainment can be gained by watching their characteristics emerge, as each one if totally different and they are surprisingly intelligent despite all the centuries of jokes.  I do have one hen I think of as Triple C (Curious and Cuddly Chicken). She’s always coming to see what we’re up to, and is happy to be picked up and stroked.

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Here she is sneaking up on Mom as she is pruning the rose bushes at the corner of the house. Not sure Mom even knew she was being stealthily stalked:

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And of course we can’t leave out our other two animals from the 5 Minute Morning photo session.  Smitty heard his name and INSTANTLY, there’s that tennis ball (and some ubiquitous drool):

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And Simba, who has no front claws (not our doing), is 40 pounds overweight (not our fault either) and would really prefer to go on as he started life – being a purely indoor cat, is always tossed out on nice days to sniff some grass and then lie on the porch furniture all day admiring the view (o.k., it’s no real difference than what he does inside but we like to think that just the grass-slurping and the march from front porch to side porch to whine about NOT BEING INSIDE is more exercise than he would be getting otherwise.  Plus, it takes energy to whine and yowl, right? And to be fair, last August, with no claws and barely the ability to jog-trot, he caught a mouse outside. So ya never know!

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There, that was my tranquil and lovely morning outside today. Gorgeous. And memorable. Cause they aren’t all like that, believe me! To find out more on that subject, read on and see some blurry, darker –ie. NOT prize-winning photos— of the twins’ first hours/days and our visitors from Ontario and the trials and tribulations of the last week that we made them endure!  Or, if you just want to imagine us sitting here with stunning scenery, sunshine, mild bug tormenting and peaceful, cute animals—— stop scrolling down NOW!    *****************************

Last week saw us with our third visitors in as many weekends.  We have waited since coming here for Jane and Peter Wright to visit us though.  My former Grade 6 art and social studies teachers, they became family when they realized how much they had in common with my parents and how much I needed someone in my life who could tease/take teasing and understand sarcasm.   We’ve had many trips together and they still travel a great deal, so we are so glad they finally made it here to Blue Belldon.

However, after driving from near Montreal to here – about a nine-hour drive, plus some stop-offs for sight-seeing which Peter blamed on Jane and Jane swore was all Peter’s doing, they were pretty tired.  Certainly they needed a quiet day the next day wandering about the farm, pottering in the gardens or reading a book in the shade.

Sadly, for Peter, that didn’t happen.  Richard whisked him off the next morning to go look at some barn board from a barn some folks are tearing down.  We are finally getting my Rustic Revivals shop prepped for going back to its original state and we need some barnboard to finish it off on the front.  (Here’s how it looks so far–Richard’s had fun tearing off all the ugly tin siding!)

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Sadly, Richard and Peter never made it to the barn.  They got a flat tire, couldn’t get the spare on properly (despite several hours of struggling in the hot sun to do so!), had to spend the cash we’d put aside for the barnboard on getting towed to a tire shop, then more hours of waiting in a stuffy waiting room once Jane and I drove into town with a different spare from our own barn. So poor Peter was even more exhausted by the end of his first day here.  That was a bad morning that stretched into the hot afternoon hours!

Then the NEXT morning, I had to go to Maine to mail one of my Rustic Revivals custom orders off (much cheaper to drive and mail from the U.S. to all my American customers, which are of course 98 percent of them!) Peter wanted to go over with his car and fill it up with gas as everyone is doing in this area these days.  Jane wanted to go along and when we got there she remembered a surplus store my Mom had mentioned to her in a neighbouring town. Poor Peter – was just going to have a 40 minute trip there and back for gas and ended up with two nattering women who wanted to shop for fabric and cheap tools!  Many hours later, we finally returned home and THEN he got to nap!

As in the days of old when my Dad was alive, gin and tonics were flowing freely from my mother’s liquor cabinet (half a closet due to her homemade wine!) We had some lovely more formal dinner parties in the living room/dining room, mostly cooked and catered by Mom as I’ve still been busy with final plantings.

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But on their final night with us, we were all too tired to ‘do up the dining table’, so Jane bought us pizzas and we stayed in the kitchen. They all got tipsy and Richard taught them our choir’s hit-of-the-season, the body-percussioned Rain Song.   (part of our choir performing it here: https://www.facebook.com/mfredrx/videos/10100452782763234/    still photos from that performance in my last blog)

I did video-tape the mangled version of three tipsy slightly tone-deaf folk trying to do just the melody of the song, plus the percussion, but I wouldn’t embarrass them (well, Richard I might, but not the Wrights!) by posting the most-entertaining-for-ME video here.  However, there are some jolly good stills from the video which I consider fair game and a decent compromise on my part.  I mean, if you’re gonna swig beer AND gin and tonics…  You can see why Jane was always a much-beloved, fun-loving art teacher!  You can see that, though Peter did sing along, he was still thinking about a nap. And you can certainly make out that Richard likely SHOULD have been a teacher, as he sure likes to impart his (often new-found) knowledge of most subjects:

jane and peter, rain songjane, percussion, rain song

Jane brought us some of her amazing artworks –  Her perfect-blue recycled glass plate is in the window above my sink above. Here’s a close-up.

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She knows how much I love upcycled items, so she also did me a cheese and dip tray from an old wine bottle and a mason jar.  Love this, and it matches my dusty greens in the dining room, too. Here it is with my homemade bread as French toast – the only way to eat it when it gets old and crusty!

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Jane also did both Mom and myself some gorgeous glass pendants.  I took several shots of mine, but none do it justice. See some of these and her more ‘modern’ designs- made with new glass  here: http://www.janewright.ca/glass.html

Jane’s daughter Lindsay also works in glass and when she’s visiting Quebec from Boston she and her Mom share the kiln and work space in Jane’s lovely little studio.  However, Jane is also an amazing watercolour artist and also uses alcohol ink to get glorious colours and designs.  See those here: http://www.janewright.ca/alcohol-ink.html

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Anyway, all this just to really say that if Jane Wright doesn’t always get the exact note or beat when singing a crazy-ass choir exercise – who cares!?  Look where her talents DO lie! And Peter, despite sun, fatigue and a little more gin than tonic DID manage to sing his Rain Song part in tune.  For most of it.

As soon as Jane and Peter headed back, we had another crazy morning here on the farm. The chickens found a little dip I’d dug in one of the flower gardens, planted esp. for the wedding with specially-ordered purple and blue seeds.  I found them laying in it, but prior to that they’d obviously scratched the heck out of it and no doubt no single seed would find germination. I herded the ladies back to the orchard and went in to finish in the kitchen. 10 minutes later I looked out again, and all 4 were IN THE SAME HOLE!  This time Richard helped me put chicken wire around it, as we’ve done in many other spots already for Cammie and to keep Smitty from lifting his leg on all the flower seeds/seedings and shrubs. Later in the day I replanted the area, but as most of the special seeds were gone, I just planted some scarlet-runner beans instead.  Not the ‘right’ colour, but all I’ve left.

There followed several more frantic mornings of doctors’ appointments for either Mom or Richard. One morning I was in the bath preparing for a 10:30 leaving time with Mom and I heard her calling to Richard to ask if I was ready at 9:00!  Apparently her app’t was for 9:45!  And then Tuesday morning Richard and Mom were both gone to appointments.  I was out moving Chevy’s pasture with the electric fence and about 11:00 I put fresh water in the stall for him and Cammie and went into the house for an early lunch (or late breakfast as it generally is in my instance).  20 minutes later I went back into the barn and saw Chevy leaning his great monster head into the goat pen and heard all kinds of out-of-tune bleatings from a surprise trio.  Reminiscent, in fact of Richard and the Wrights. But whilst that may be a great name for a 60s band, it doesn’t contain twins, so Robin and Mo wobbled around ‘singing’ for an hour or so while trying to figure out where they were and what had just happened.  Poor Chevy, he couldn’t take the noise anymore or the fact that his best friend in the world was now suddenly ignoring him. He took himself off outside and I didn’t see him again for 3 hours.

The twins were pink.  All white, of course, but so much blood on their coats they were a shade of strawberry Kool Aid.  I wiped them off, as Cammie’s tongue could only do so much. Mo was drinking milk right away and for ages and ages, but Robin had two tugs on the teat, decided he had enough collostrum  and lay down. This is the very first photo I took of them, with them both drinking.  It was the last time we’d see that for a full 24 hours!

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I struggled to get wee Robin  to stand – he was so thin!- and take the teat. Cammie also tried to convince him. She’s a great Mom for only being two herself. She didn’t want to give up on him.  Between periodically easing out the afterbirth, the sac, and etc. (into which detail I shall not go – it was messy and icky and I never did want to be a vet) I spent the next hour trying to get Robin to eat.  Finally I went to the place on the work table where we’d been keeping the bottles and nipples for the last month, all ready for this precise eventuality.  They were gone!  Remember, Richard and I don’t have cell phones now, so I had to do the old- fashioned thing.  That is, get into a man’s head and try to figure out where (logically?) he might have put something important, newly-purchased and potentially much-needed as in a case of life or death.  I searched everywhere in that garage and barn. They were NOWHERE, and though we didn’t really even WANT the goat kids – just needed Cammie to be producing milk!-  I had tears in my eyes at the thought of being all alone and seeing the little guy fade away in front of my eyes.

I made up the milk supplement and tried getting him to suck it off my fingers while I held him in a blanket on my lap.  He refused, made faces and bleated for Mama, who glared at me.  I went to the house and got a syringe and tried to pour it in that way, but it was too hard without someone else helping me hold him, hold his mouth open, fill the syringe, etc.  Just as I was about to give up, Richard and Mom returned, and I told Richard he’d better remember where he’d put the bottles because we needed them STAT.  He went immediately to the canoe on the floor at the front of the barn and got the brown paper bag with the purchases.  You know, bottles and nipples in a bag in a canoe.  As you do.  Silly me!

As it turned out, Robin kept refusing the nipple so we went back to the syringe (from reading up on similar circumstances, I think he had about a half-hour left to live) and FORCED the milk supplement into him.  Here’s Richard holding him, with Uncle Chevy looking on (we couldn’t take Robin right out of the stall as it was creating too much trauma for everyone, so we just sat there in the stall and Chevy decided to come check up on things again).

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We decided to leave them all alone for a few hours, and when we came back to the barn, Mo was asleep in the straw and Robin was drinking happily from his mother!  For the next 24 hours, they wouldn’t share (it wasn’t Cammie’s fault, although I did blame her at first. Mo was a hog, and Robin wasn’t confident enough to get in there on his own teat, so would wait until Mo went to lie down).  But at least he WAS standing and drinking periodically and must have done so through the night, as the next morning, he was fatter and both were standing more confidently.  And each of the 3 days since then they’ve eaten and slept and had a bit of time exploring new surroundings too. Tomorrow they will be in sunshine for the first time, as despite being out in the corral today, they were in complete shade.  This is me yesterday and my little baby Robin.  We REALLY need to give both these billy goats away.  We MUST.  But this little guy…

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Now, for the promised hilarity resulting around Chevy’s depression at having to go down in the ranks of Cammie’s esteem.  At first I thought he was colicky.  (A very dangerous condition for horses as they can’t regurgitate to get rid of gas or upset stomach). He was hot, looking at his flanks, wanting to lie down, and hanging his head with a trembling lip.  But I did all the checks and we kept our eye on him – he didn’t have colic, because it was only happening when we were there watching (the goats!) and the rest of the time he was out grazing!  The pouting and trembling lower lip lasted until Wednesday night, at which time Cammie got herself outside to graze a bit beside him, and he seemed to cheer up a bit.

But Wednesday morning he was outside and REALLY mad at me because I was apparently ignoring that the bugs were bad and he wanted to come in.  (I’d moved the fence so he couldn’t just do this of his own choice).  He saw me on the porch. He whinnied. I ignored him, because spoiled animals don’t get what they want immediately upon asking for it. He stomped his front foot twice.  No, Mr. Ed. Go graze.  Then, as I watched in disbelief, he picked up the electric fence in his teeth to see if it was on. (It wasn’t).  This horse is suicidal!  It’s not on, so he pushes it forward with his chest far enough so that he can reach his lead shank on the ground.  HE PICKS IT UP IN HIS TEETH, LOOKS RIGHT AT ME AND FLINGS IT HIGH IN THE AIR.  O.K.  I admit it.  His demands were then met.  That was WAY too good a trick to ignore.

It wasn’t a fluke either, because he did it again the next day.  Of course NOW we’ve taught him a bad trick, so we have to turn the electric fence on, and also move the lead rope right out of the way altogether.  Chevy is a much smarter animal than I gave him credit for being, and I think the fact that he is the only one who saw the entire process of the twins being born does mean he was probably a bit traumatized.  I’m trying to cut him some slack.

I moved his fence back so he can go in and out again as he pleases.  And he IS really careful around the twins on the odd occasion when Cammie’s pen door is open and they come sticking their nose out into the ‘big stall’ to see Uncle Chev.

And of course, on a peaceful morning like today when he REALLY has things going his way – lots of bug spray, his mask on, shady trees and lush grass in the birch grove AND his best friend grazing for a time at his side — life seems so idyllic you’d never guess all the backstage drama that exists! But pull aside the curtains and whaddya see?  The TRUTH about farming!

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SHABBY CHIC SHENANIGANS

Ten years in the making (in my mind), two years waiting (since we’ve moved to Blue Belldon Farm) and two months of physically working on this project – but it’s finally DONE!  Although we don’t have any sort of television programs, we do enjoy BBC and PBS-type broadcasting from our computer, which we project on to Richard’s large screen,  (Mom/Joy just watches her lap-top upstairs, mostly CBC).  We especially do this in the dark evenings of winter when we are so much less busy outside on the farm.  Reading, writing and Scrabble are also favourite off-season evening past times, of course. I also periodically still do some coaching and theory lessons, and for that a screen is needed to show playbacks of the students’ riding as well as any of my massive collection of equine educational video.  But I have always despised the look of a television in any room, (ESPECIALLY OVER ONE’S BEAUTIFUL FIREPLACE, FOLKS – A T.V. SCREEN IS NOT A WORK OF ART!) and as a dedicated and long-time decorator of farmhouses, I have always tried to hide the t.v. wherever and however possible.

Thus, despite both sets of my grandparents being collectors of fine antiques, and the one grandfather actually spending years scraping generations of thick lead paint from furniture and then refinishing these pieces to their natural wooden sheens, Richard and I have done the UNTHINKABLE.  Well, unthinkable to my four grandparents, no doubt, and despite her compliments, rather shocking to my mother as well, I suspect.  But shabby chic is ‘IN’, and has been for nearly the decade that I’ve had my Rustic Revivals business. So, we’ve MADE – from scratch- the bespoke pie-safe-like cabinet of which I’ve always dreamt.

Now, of course, if we could have found a wonderful chippy-painted primitive hutch that would have held our television screen and all its accessories (V.H.S., D.V.D. players, stereo, etc) we’d have bought it, but we knew we had too many requirements for anything to ever fit ‘just right’.  Also, there are NO antique auctions of any type in the whole of northern New Brunswick anyway, and getting old wood across the border from Maine is often tricky.

To build something similar yourself, read paragraphs UNDER each related photo for the explanations as to how we did this D.I.Y. project, finishing just in the nick of time as the weather (finally) warms and the snow is (slowly) melting!

(as always, click on each photo in a grouping, to make bigger).

The first part of tidying up the last-to-finish corner of our living room was for Richard to design and build the bookshelves (to left) we wanted, to match the other side that he built LAST winter. (those, on right, are mentioned and seen in the post entitled “…That Time Has Tried”:

https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/that-time-has-tried/ ).

The finished book shelves, sharing the corner where our new shabby chic T.V. cabinet resides, look lovely with my ancient trophies, and our pottery and books.  I stained them with 4 different shades of dark stain (which we just had around – I never go buy new!) to make them look older and bring out the various colours in the grains. The shelves look grand, yet homey, in both daylight and lamp-lit, don’t they?

My friend Ron from Carlisle (prayers are with him as he is in and out of hospital of recent weeks) gave me two big boxes of wood-turned finials a few years ago.  I have used these for a plethora of decor, but they are especially perfect for stacking into various heights and painting as candle holders. If you look on the lamp-lit bookshelf, you’ll see two used as such, and I’ve just painted 16 in the lime green and purple wedding colours for Richard’s niece’s wedding here on the farm in July as well – thank you AGAIN, Ron!

We needed legs on this project, not just for it to look like an authentic pie-safe, but to raise it above our water-circulating radiator on the wall.  So 4 of Ron’s finials were perfect for this, with Richard adding pieces of pine on top and bottom of them to raise them and make them sturdier.

The above also shows the use of just regular white glue for the crackle effect.  You CAN spend the money on “Crack It”, and sometimes it does seem to work a little more magically, but in general and for a large surface area, just regular Elmer’s or Bondfast is fine. Paint your wood with a dark colour first. Apply the glue liberally and start painting your outer chosen colour after about 15 or 20 minutes, when the glue is still ‘tacky’.  As it dries, it will expand and ‘crackle/chip’ your paint.  DON’T GO OVER IT AND TRY AND RE-DO A SPOT.  (more on this below) But I also, as seen in all the photos below, do other things to distress and age with paint effects.  (And for more on this see my blog post on our other great project this winter – our pantry bins! https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2018/01/13/the-pedantic-in-the-pantry/ )

Other ways of distressing and aging besides just crackling:

  • dry-brush streaks
  • apply paint, let partially dry, then wipe off HARD with cloth
  • beat, chip, gouge with various tools as seen in “The Pedantic in the Pantry”
  • use knives to scrape paint off edges where natural wear and tear would occur
  • apply a brownish or ‘rust’ coloured paint and or light STAIN over some parts to ‘age’
  • and as you’ll see near the end, attach tiny bits of masking tape for ‘chips’ and paint them, so that rather than just crackling you have actual ‘peeling’ bits of paint!

For the sides of the cabinet/pie-safe, Richard cut two pieces of pine left over from the library shelves.  As with the legs, I first painted black and left to dry completely. Then slathered on the glue, left for 20 minutes, and then put on the 2nd coat.

Some extra tips: Don’t take your brush over the glue more than the one time!     Do slather the glue on horizontally and then paint VERTICALLY to follow the grain.  The crackle works its magic best this way.

I didn’t ‘beat these up’ as much as I did the pantry bin fronts but I did gouge a few spots out with the claws of the hammer and then painted over again.  (The colour wasn’t quite right on these sides, either – it was too ‘minty’, so I later mixed some more paint to match the legs better and lightly went over it again, but the crackle isn’t nearly as effective of course).

Neighbour and Richard’s helpmate Zeb came over to help assemble the legs and the sides, then put on the shelves and attach to the wall with all the heavy equipment lifted in after two years of them perched on an upturned plastic bin.  Richard always glues first with wood-glue, then nails with his air gun so the nails are barely seen – just tiny indented specks.

Next came the design of (and arguments over) the cabinet’s top decor. To start (the designing, not the arguing- you can figure that part out for yourselves!)- draw your outline on HALF the paper, then flip it so it’s exactly the same on the other side, but mirror image- and trace it out in full.  We didn’t like the first design (above) – there was too much wood and not enough decorative ‘cut-out’ (or too much positive, not enough negative).  So we tried again and ended with perfection, thanks to my eye and Richard’s hand with a jig-saw!

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I gave all of this front-facing (built right over the t.v. which has always been mounted on the wall) the same distressed-paint treatment as the rest.  Black, glue-crackle, turquoise.  Paint some with dry-brush streaking as above, wipe off hard in places too.  A word about the paint – you don’t HAVE to use chalk paint as it’s expensive. You can buy a chalky dust and make your own from regular acrylic/latex.  The chalk paint WILL make your piece look older than just regular acrylic.  But in order to crackle and distress, you DO need acrylic/water-based paints.  It won’t work at all with oil-based (bad for the environment anyway). AND it won’t look authentically ‘primitive’ either.

I asked Richard to make this piece round-edged as I thought it would look ‘softer’ and more authentic than square edges.  Thus, I could also do a ‘wipe-off’ for a lot of the black to show, which replicates the ‘worn’ look in a natural spot – where it would be most often handled/touched over the centuries!  The above 3 photos were taken as the glue is still drying so you can see how it’s slathered on in some spots, but thin in others (those bits already crackled).

Pie-safes, in case you don’t know, have chicken wire, screens, punched tin or drilled holes to let air circulate and allow pastries, breads etc. to cool off and be stored.  I wanted MY pie-safe to have the chicken wire on the bottom to cover the equipment, but with thin cloth behind it so that the remote controls could still function with the V.C.R., etc.)  Richard made the light-weight frames and I first painted and distressed them.  Then I painted the chicken wire (just some pieces left over in the barn from outdoor projects – again, we didn’t buy anything if we could help it)  to make them look a bit rusty in spots.  Next, I cut them to size and stapled them in.  As I do on Rustic Revivals projects, to avoid any sharp edges from the wire, I caulked a lot of ‘gunk’ from my caulking gun where there were sharp pieces sticking out.  This, when dry, also helped hold the chicken wire in place.  Lastly, I cut some of the fabric from extra curtains I’ve had in the last 3 places we’ve lived – pleated it a bit and stapled it in. The turquoise and the olive-green go with all my pottery, esp. my good Franciscan earthenware dishes, so these are the ‘pop’ colours of our otherwise dark brown living/dining room. Plus turquoise is a very common vintage paint colour.

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(Note: I ended up having to paint more of the chicken wire than I’d first intended, as it simply didn’t show up well enough.  So parts are white, parts ‘rusty’ red, and parts aluminum/unpainted. And by the way, I did add some turquoise dabs to those too-shiny hinge spines. Didn’t want THEM looking new!).

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The last main part of the project for Richard was the bead-board ‘cupboard doors’ I wanted replicated for the top.  We did NOT go buy more bead-board, either, I’m glad to say. Part of the bathroom wall I tore out when I first came here two years ago was salvaged for this, although Richard had to hot-gun some old wallpaper and glue off the backs to make it weigh less (important for its function as you’ll soon see).

The white part is how it was in the bathroom. Richard made pine frames for it, although I believe the same effect could have been done without the frame if you’d prefer and it would be lighter in weight to ‘slide’ as we’re doing with ours.  This is the part that will cover the screen itself.  Thus, I painted everything black for the undercoat that would show through. Except for two roughed-up bits of olive paint I mixed myself. Using my old faithful ‘visualization’ technique, I had decided that there’d be far too much turquoise on the top, so I wanted some olive colour to match the fabric below. But we didn’t want it to look ‘contrived’ and all matchy-matchy. So it needed to look like it was old scraped off layers:

This is where I also used the masking tape effect to look like truly scraped-off, chipped paint.  Plus, underneath on the olive, before lightly going over with some of the turquoise and a dry brush, I’d ‘thrown’ and dribbled some black paint and intentionally dolloped some blobs that I could later scrape off, showing the olive underneath.  If you want something truly old and primitive-looking, from a new piece of sanded pine board, you really have to be artistic and WORK HARD~!

Also, as this was the biggest painted piece that would be always seen, I wanted the crackle to be really defined. So instead of the big jug of Elmer’s, I used the expensive ‘Crack It’ from Home Hardware . (Remember to go horizontally with the glue or crackle product, if you then are going to paint VERTICALLY down!)  And it REALLY worked! Almost more than I might have wanted!

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Then, as all the turquoise was a little TOO bright still, I dulled parts of it down with a light stain.  I almost always, when distressing paint furniture, use a bit of stain to ‘age’ the colour in places, as paint is prone to do if over a century old!  (See what I did with our kitchen cupboards and bake table here: https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/recent-reno-country-kitchen/  )

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Lastly, I debated spending SOME money on some true antique ceramic matching door knobs.  But why do that, really, when your husband has cheap plastic dollar-store knobs in his worktable in the barn, left over from a reno. he did over 20 years ago?  Exactly.  So we didn’t spend a penny on these either.  I lightly sanded them so paint would stick, painted the olive colour, and decorated vintage-style.  There’s a calligraphied “R” and “J” for the top knobs, and some little twirlies which Richard calls ‘bugs’ for the bottom.  I gave them a coat of urethane as well, to protect the paint and to make them look shiny as they would have done if they’d BEEN the $24.00 per knob I was looking at online!~

I also wanted the bottom doors to open just like the old way (and as I did in the kitchen) by simply swiveling a wooden ‘bar’, which is from a tobacco slat from the famous cousins Pete and Linda Baxter that I cut and painted.  Richard, once nick-named “Mistah Particulah”, has SOOOO caught on to distressing and replicating primitives, that he even pounded a rusty old nail into the centre to create the ‘swivel’. Yay!

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You know from previous posts that we often traipse back and forth to the barn in our pajamas of a morning.  Sometimes, we work on projects wearing them as well.  Here, Richard is drilling the holes for my doorknobs.

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Above, Richard has put on the knobs and the swivel (on which his old rusty nail is barely noticeable against my little black dot decor with the tops of my paintbrush!) As well as staining to age some of the painted effect, I also dry-brush-streaked some olive paint on (seen faintly above on the middle strip) to tie in the other olive accessories and effects.  Here is the difference:

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The top ‘cupboard doors’ are one piece that simply slide back to reveal the television screen when we want to watch something.  We will eventually have a blacksmith make a big black iron hook to hang from above that will hold this, but for now the adjustable piano stool and trunk work fine.  Richard’s so happy to have our equipment and storage for video tapes and DVDs finished!

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So that’s it!  The finished masterpiece!  We figure, not counting the designing and arguing at various stages over the last two years as we visualized and discussed and disagreed, there was about 20 hours of physical work EACH in this.  Still much less than a Da Vinci, but we sit and enjoy it all every bit as much! That is, of course, my Franciscan Nut Tree plate upon which this whole room has been based with the few bits of colour here and there on shelves, in pictures, and in fabrics… And let’s not forget how well it matches Mom’s huge effort from last winter – our beautiful hand-braided rag rug!

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above, Mom/Joy’s project from last year, the braided rag rug that ties in all the colours of this room and our dishes and pottery. On my grandmother’s chaise longue, see also a blanket woven by Mom, and a cushion hand-dyed, spun and woven by Aunt Ila, the aunt who passed on her skills to her niece.  To see the posts on Mom’s weaving and braiding of rugs and other household ‘needfuls’, click here:

https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/5338/

and near the bottom of this one:

https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/07/secluded-habits-not-about-monks/

I know many of you wanted to know when my humourous verse dedicated to Joy’s textile work would appear in the N.B. mag Created Here. It was supposed to be in the online version, but I’ve yet to see it online. I’ll let you all know.  I am also planning to devote all of next week’s blog to Mom/Joy’s weaving, spinning and braiding as she’s just finished three delightful projects for us as well as helping the pastor’s wife a bit to take on this new and rewarding hobby.

To finish, here’s the masterpiece, alongside Richard’s other recently-completed project of beauty and comfort in our Blue Belldon farmhouse:

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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! )

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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.

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AND A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU AND YOURS…

 

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Summer in Summary

Getting back to blogging slowly, as we are still frantically busy with garden, guests and special events (this time fun ones, NOT ones I’m responsible for organizing!)  We’ve had someone staying with us here at Blue Belldon every 2nd week since the beginning of May, and this is going on until just after Thanksgiving… We love having guests, though – especially when they pitch in and help with the garden and animals, as many have been doing!

Here’s a summary in photos (the caption for each photo is directly below it) of some of the goin’s-on since July 1st.  I will be touching on many of these things in more detail, in postings of their own, AND offering some gardening and preserving ideas I’ve come up with this year in the next 4 or 5 blog postings, but for today, just relax and enjoy:

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Starting from July 1st, (written about previously) when we sang with the mass choir and also The (New) New Denmark Minstrels (the little group I’ve been trying to keep together and train to sing in three part harmony!), this is how the summer  has gone.  Above, finishing “Ida May”, which has become a well-complimented ditty that I wrote with guitar accompaniment about the lady who settled our farm. That’s Mom directly to my left, and Richard’s the only man wearing a white shirt.

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Richard and I have spent a lot of time in the early summer harrowing our pastures and planting timothy in the top meadow.

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We then had neighbours come to cut and rake the hay, and friend Zeb behind us and ‘down the marsh’ helped get the bales in. Chevy, as always, seems unconcerned by any goings-on.

 

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Chevy’s big head and body will be taking in a lot of hay this year, as well as the beet pulp we’ve discovered we need to feed him to keep weight on!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADespite rain, cold and constant black flies, Mom/Joy has worked hard getting the garden weeded and was also in charge of all the flowers. Zeb’s Mom, Pierrette has also helped us plant more wildflowers around the farm, and we hope next year might be even more beautiful in various spots!

Just a few of the wildflowers and also the scarlet runner beans I plant for quick and dependable climbers (around the wagon wheel).  Also, this summer I let the cilantro and borage grow in the garden to their full heights and flowering as the bees LOVE this and help cross-pollinate our veg.  The wonderful weeding job has been primarily done by Mom, as I was down with strep for most of July. Her friend Shirley Robinson helped quite a lot as well in July, and Richard did go through the paths with the rototiller also… (taking out a freshly planted row of carrots as he went, of course).

 

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Here’s the wildflowers we’ve cut for various vases recently, as well as some lunch veg.  Spinach had to be replanted a 3 rd time as we love it so much, and the first two didn’t ‘take’  due to heavy rains in June.  Ontario readers may be surprised to learn we are JUST NOW, in Sept., getting some ripened tomatoes!

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Earlier than last year (we also had a two-week drought in early August! Crazy year!) we had to start picking apples.  I’ll have another blog post on all the things we ‘ve done with ours and a neighbour’s apples this year, but Richard had fun experimenting with ‘toys’ to peel and core them!

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Smitty has had to go back on the chain for most of the summer, as he still bites through washing line cord and certainly through rope, and if not tied up, chases cars and people on the road (and still may possibly bite them and neighbours coming over to visit!)  He does have access to porch and lawn, shade and sun, and of course – those beautiful views, plus one of us is walking past him for a pat nearly every 20 minutes or so, so don’t feel TOO sorry for his pathetic-looking mug! (Thanks to Leanne for the photo!)

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On one of Mom’s doctors’ appointments in Fredericton (2 hours from here) we did stop in the lovely village of Hartland as a bit of sight-seeing and to see the world’s longest covered bridge…

Any other touristy-stuff was just done by Mom, as Richard and I can’t really get away:

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Mom and her only grandchild Sydney, named for my father whom he never met, on the beach in P.E.I. in July
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Sydney and Mom’s friend and avid blog-reader Shirley Robinson in Charlottetown. (I’m pretty sure she was holding the 2nd ice cream for my Mom; she wouldn’t like you all to think she was having TWO! )
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Sydney is taking after his aunt Julie with a love of Musical Theatre. They all went to see “Anne” on stage, and Syd had to have the hat and wig…  Aunt Julie’s very first role on stage was when SHE was in Grade 6 (same as Sydney this year) and SHE played Marilla! (under the direction of Mr. Peter Wright).

Richard did get away for several days in July to take his car down to the Atlantic Nationals in Moncton, a show he and his brother have often visited ( once with me, also, 10 years ago…)  Both the main street of the city as well as the largest park are FULL of over 2,000 old vehicles.  This is NOT a good way to help one live self-sufficiently and organically, helping nature to help you… but it IS a passion of Richard’s…

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Richard left the farm for 5 days to drive 3 hours to Moncton in his ’73 Chevy Nova to enter his dream-car-show, the Atlantic Nationals.  People drive their old vehicles from as far as the Yukon to enter this, so Richard and his brother Jean-Marc (who used to own the Nova) had a wonderful time.  Richard stands proudly by his beast (the reason our horse is also named “Chevy”  and the goat’s named “Cammie” because Richard USED to own a Camaro as well)

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Zeb also likes to help the Nova get polished, and Leanne, from Scotland, missed out getting taken for a car ride last year (the car was in pieces at that point) so last week Richard made sure both young folk had a tour of New Denmark in it:

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Chevy of course IS a beast, as Sydney’s visit shows… He likes to stand like a statue when small children are around, so he doesn’t accidentally trod their toes (no such consideration for adults, of course!)  Both Sydney and Leanne (now a professional horse trainer, an addition to the days we both took pony treks out in the highlands of Scotland together!) had a good time keeping Chev in shape for the winter months, when Richard will really be using him out in the bush!

Not to be outdone, of course, Cammie has to get in on all the action as well:

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above, Leanne from Scotland, (I’m her adopted ‘Mither’), me in a selfie that’s tricky to get with a squirming goat!, Sydney my nephew and Cammie showing off.

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Of course, it isn’t just about hard work and fun with the livestock.  While Leanne was here we picked an entire tree of crab-apples, and she and Richard both helped me prepare them (in various prep ways!) for the same things I did last year with them: crabapple sauce, crabapple juice (great in smoothies!), crabapple jelly and something new I tried because we got sick of quartering them and had some fairly big ones on the south-west side of the tree:  Spicy Pickled Crabapples. (mmmmmm….!!!)  Various food preserving methods will be written up later in the season for anyone interested. But of course we also have the usual peas and beans to work on gradually throughout August, so it’s all hands on deck for THAT!  (About 40 recycled bags and containers in the deep freeze with all of those at present).  Right now we are starting on the edamame,  (7 rows of it!) and because we all love those so much, we’re looking at various ways of preserving and eating them. FULL of protein!

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Richard had his car show, and I (Rustic Revivals) had a show in Plaster Rock at the end of August as well. It was fun to have a bigger booth space than ever before, and even be right beside the big log house that is the tourist information booth! (Yup, that’s right, there’s Richard in the background, heavily engrossed in a Steve Berry or Clive Cussler).

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While Chevy may be the Pot of Gold (I did own a pony named that once, we called her “Potsy” and she starred with my “Rainbow the Clown” when I did that professionally for a few years) at the end of this lovely rainbow, a dream really did come true for me right after this:

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Got to meet long-time hero of mine, Ron Turcotte (above). Ron is from the area, and not only had his first racetrack rides on the famous Canadian horse Northern Dancer, but rode to fame as the exclusive jockey for Secretariat, piloting him around to be the first winner of the Triple Crown (all 3 tough races!) in 25 years, AND winning the Belmont by an unprecedented (and un-dreamed-of, even!) 31 lengths!  Ron was part of the CBC documentary on New Denmark a few weeks ago, with Jonny Harris’ Still Standing:

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In the first photo, above, Mom seems to be the centre of attention of all the CBC cameras and mics, whilst she unconcernedly munches a Danish sausage from our local butcher, Ron Hansen.  However, they are really rushing to keep on top of Jonny himself, as seen in the second photo, and Mom keeps a close eye on the activities, as she’s been watching Still Standing on her laptop of an evening lately (remember, we have no television services).  Three out of the four ladies behind the Danish Delicacies table have all sung with Richard and myself at some point, showing you what a truly small community we are!

Leanne snapped this shot of the New Denmark museum’s barn a few weeks ago, ready for Jonny to come out and do his locally-based hilarity. And there’s Jonny with our own Megan Bach, Miss New Denmark (see my previous posts on the crazy times of the beauty pageant:  Hill-billy Hootenany: Purty Pals and Gingham Gals as well as Founder’s Day Festivities) .  The New Denmark episode will be airing on CBC next spring (Season 4). I’ll be sure to let you all know in advance!  If you hear Jonny singing  Frere Jacques in Danish, I was the one who got to write it out phonetically for him!

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T R E E S  were an important part of our summer, of course –  (above, my brother-in-law Boyd, with my sister Jennifer)  —-not just climbing them to pick fruit, but lying under them in the hammock, (not much time for that, but our guests enjoyed!)  BUILDING in them as well, swinging in them AND, for Richard and Leanne, zip-lining through them!

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I helped Sydney build a tree-house out in the birch grove, and will treasure this photo Mom took of us.  He didn’t get to enjoy the platform-sitting (with his book) for very long before he was whisked away, but we all hope he’ll be back to enjoy other Blue Belldon summers with us.  My sister Jennifer probably isn’t so keen on this next photo, as it’s no doubt reminiscent of me ordering her about throughout our childhoods and constantly explaining how to do things, whilst she actually DOES them. (Tree-climbing used to be one of my favourite things, but with my bad knees now, it’s simply out of the question, so Jen had to go up and fix a few things Sydney didn’t quite make strong enough!) :

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I love the above shot of a summer day at Blue Belldon Farm, with a tire swing we erected for Sydney, and Chevy and Cammie grazing in the distance… and alongside the house – here comes the nephew with a ladder to help with the tree-house-building!

And below is a shot of Richard and Leanne practicing to do their zip-line through the trees and across the gorge. I didn’t go to watch, as there were many beans to pick and crab-apples to can, so Mom didn’t get a shot of Richard actually on the line going across the Grand Falls gorge, a mistake about which she has yet to stop hearing!

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For the last month and a half, we’ve been rehearsing in our ‘meeting room’ for the skit I wrote for the 100th anniversary of our church this past Saturday night.  Here are neighbours, Peter Jensen, Barb Christensen, Richard, Zeb (played Ned Kram, which spells Denmark backwards) and myself.  I won’t show you the skit being performed until I do a whole blog post on the fun we had Saturday night, but to give you a tantalizing look, what is Mom doing in a toga? Helping me with costume-fittings!

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And here’s a few more teases:

above (clockwise) Me in the wings with Zeb, me with Miss New Denmark, spinning the wheel Richard made for the Pastors’ Trivia Challenge I ‘forced’ them to do (or so our Pastor Ralph will have you believe) me playing for the New Denmark Minstrels, and Richard singing a solo I wrote for him about the building of our church on the hill… Thanks to Mom for snapping these. Leanne was the official photographer for the night, so, as she’s just arrived back in Scotland, we’ll wait a few more days for her pics.

Most people think of the Maritime provinces as having lots of sun and sand involved in a summer. Obviously, when you live inland in the mountains, that isn’t the case!  But Mom and Shirley got to see some sand with Jennifer’s family in P.E.I., and Richard saw some on the coast over by Moncton at the car show.  We felt badly that we were too busy to get Leanne to see some (although being from Aberdeen area and working on an oil rig, she hardly needs to see more ocean!). However, yesterday a friend of Pierrette’s and Zeb’s, Yolanda, kindly drove her all the way to the Bay of Fundy so she could see the amazing tide-work and pad about in the sand.  Good-bye, Summer, ‘we hardly knew ya!’

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Flora and Fauna (or Posies and Pets- your choice!)

The lupine are growing wild in the ditches of N.B. right now, and this always attracts the wildlife.  But right here at Blue Belldon Farm, there are many things in lovely bloom, surrounded by wild animals.

 

Here’s an example of some of our hedge roses, fresh-cut, with one of the wild animals:

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The quilt, above, is a new/old one found at a 2nd hand church basement by Mom/Joy. Because it’s purple and green, and because those are the colours of Richard’s niece’s wedding to be held here NEXT end-of-June, we will be using the quilt for a table cloth for displays at the reception, and most of the wildflowers we are busy planting at present are blue (for Blue Bell and area) or purple, or variations thereof) to add to the correct colour theme.  I’ve also finally started painting those red wagon wheels we brought from Ontario, changing them to a blue-grey as well. The rose bushes actually make a lovely accent for other photos, too, such as my herb garden outside the kitchen Dutch door, which the cat likes to snooze beside as there is cat-nip growing in one of the boxes (more on the herbs later):

Inside, these roses add a lovely smell and an attractive bowl of fuscia delight, though they DO rather clash with the copper in the kitchen!  I love a single rose-bud SO much more than open flowers, though…is it the hope and expectation of the yet-unknown?

Outside, all manner of birds, bees and other fauna keep vigil over the stunning sensory offering. How many attentive animals do YOU see in this photo?

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Do you see how Chevy likes to graze? Because of still undiagnosed problems with his muscular structure (we suspect possible PSSM, common in drafts, or maybe a form of Lyme, but we are awaiting test results) he is uncomfortable with his neck stretched all the way down and seems happier munching from a hillside, with him below the grass he is eating… we feed him chest high in a trough in the barn as well, even his hay, and he is much happier.  Meanwhile, Cammie enjoys just standing on her hind legs ‘grazing’ off the red maple tree!

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Cammie is loose a good part of the time, although now that the veggies AND the flowers are starting to grow and blossom, we have to keep an ever-vigilant eye upon her. These snow-ball bushes and irises were planted by the last owners to help the vegetable gardens with cross-pollination at all times of the growing season, but Cammie thinks they were put there expressly for her gastric enjoyment and often has to be physically removed from the area.  And the more she is eating, the more difficult this is!

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Did you know that the roots of irises are useful for so many ailments?The fresh root possesses diuretic, emetic and cathartic properties. It was actually formerly employed in the treatment of bronchitis and chronic diarrhea, and was considered a useful remedy in dropsy as well.  So, not just a pretty face! Wasn’t able to find any real uses for the Chinese snowball, however – as much as I can see it IS just a pretty face!  That and attracting the bees, which we certainly most desperately need.  I have a great fear that the human race may someday be lost simply because that one all-important insect is extinct.    Some facts from John Haltiwanger on Protecting our Planet are eye-opening:

At present, the honeybee population in the United States is less than half of what it was at the cessation of World War II.  This past winter, 23.2 percent of America’s managed honeybee colonies were lost. The figures were worse during the year prior, but bees are still dying at a disturbing rate, and something needs to change.  The US government has stated that bees are now dying at an economically unsustainable rate. Indeed, in the United States alone, bees contribute to $15 billion in crop value. Simply put, bees keep plants and crops alive. Without bees, humans wouldn’t have very much to eat.

To help the bees stay alive, we must stop using pesticides!  And PLEASE stop mowing the ditches – that is where a plentiful source of wildflowers and grasses grow.  Leave that for our pollinators!  And PLANT more flowering shrubs and wildflowers.  Mom/Joy made a special point to plant milkweed this year, as it is a special favourite of all bees, and also will help keep the monarch butterfly from becoming extinct.  It will take a few years (providing Cammie doesn’t eat them first!) for them to become like this the photos below, but the swamp milkweed – the best variety for both bee and butterfly- looks like this:

Several artist friends from Ontario visited the farm this week, and so I picked from that same garden spot and put on the kitchen table the irises, some late-blooming daffodils and the Queen Anne’s lace I so adore ( good for soothing the digestive tract, kidney and bladder diseases, stimulating the flow of urine and the removal of waste by the kidneys. The seeds can be used as a settling agent for the relief of flatulence and colic as well!)

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Besides using mint for jelly or to put in hot or iced tea or other summer beverages, did you know that a few stems of mint, gently crushed and placed near suspected entry points deters ants, and that some gardeners clip bits of mint over mulch beneath veggies of interest to insects, which may confuse pests in search of host plants. In aromatherapy, of course, mint is used to relieve stress and increase alertness.  Our patch seems to be mostly of the spearmint variety, as it spreads very fast and develops big, gnarly roots that are difficult to dig out.  Spearmint starts flowering in early summer, and if the old blossoms are trimmed off, the plants will rebloom again and again for the rest of the season. This is great for various pollinators including honeybees, which may derive health benefits from foraging in the mint patch. A 2006 study found that a spearmint spray killed 97 percent of  the mites collected from an infected honeybee colony. So in more ways than one our lovely spearmint patch is hard at work for the bees, as well as adding flavour and aroma for us!

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Mom found the above window box already blooming like this for only $25.00, so she bought it to put on her private stairs/deck.  Smitty enjoys sitting there watching us garden sometimes, as it gives him a break from the cement porch where he is usually tied (wish we could leave him loose to roam the farm at will, but he immediately heads up the road to our neighbours’ potato barns and corners the workers with his barking and growling.  He thinks that barn is part of HIS farm, and he gets angry that they are there. And with his track record for biting, we have to be very careful in summer that he only roams free after dark!)  Mom is also the resident feeder/protector of hummingbirds, the other great pollinator we must value at all costs.  Hummingbirds can’t smell, so are most attracted to the colour red, and thus this box (and the old red glass feeder full of sugar water hanging beside it) is a perfect offering.

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You’ll see there are also some trumpet flowers in Mom’s flower box mix, which the hummingbirds love because the shape of their beaks and tongues fit in so well.  In the left side of the box, I stuck in a scarlet runner bean seed which, I discovered last year, come up quickly, have a lovely red flower later in the season, but are a quick answer if you want some trailing vines.  I’ve also planted a few in our side porch brick planters, where Mom put other flower seeds such as nasturtiums.  These plants are fully edible and growing them can lure aphids away from other plants in the garden as well!  “Nasties” as I call them (because they AREN’T)  are easy to grow and may be climbing, cascading or bushy, so these permanent porch planters were a perfect spot for both those and my scarlet runner beans, which were planted a week AFTER, but are already inches above!

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Right now, the pastures and meadows are full of daisies, clover, smaller dandelion varieties and the bright orange hawkweed.  While Chevy doesn’t like eating any of those, he is not averse to having a sniff of the posies from time to time.

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Apparently it is called hawkweed because it originally only grew in higher altitudes, where only the hawk and eagle could access it.  An old saying advises that if it be given to any horse it ‘will cause that he shall not be hurt by the smith that shooeth him.’  Luckily for us, we don’t shoe Chevy, as he is only interested in giving these a passing sniff!    (Apparently, the powdered leaves of the hawkweed (called mouse-ear in other countries) is an excellent astringent in haemorrhaging).

The wild mixture of white, yellow and orange will be part of the backdrop for where the vows will be exchanged next June:

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where Richard’s niece and her fiance plan to stand to get wed by our own Pastor Ralph next June

But, again because of the name of our farm (really from Blue Bell Mountain, so called NOT because there are bluebells growing wild, but the colour and shape of the mountain’s shadow) AND the fact that Richard’s niece has chosen purple as her main wedding colour, we would like a lot of our own wildflower plantings to be in shades of blues, greys and purples as well.  And since I arrived here last May 24th, I’ve been trying to get some wildflower seeds to ‘take’.  Especially between the apple trees, which is the same view as the above photo, which is where the wedding guests will be seated on straw bales.  But the ground needs better working, I guess, so yesterday I had Richard do a light tilling and I threw down a bit fertilizer to try and entice the seeds. Some may be too old, but we are so far behind in sun/heat this summer, I feel sure we may still get some to poke up and blossom. As I also have wanted a little winding path and English garden here, especially since first seeing this view (below) from Google satellite last FEBRUARY, I decided to put in a bit of work on this yesterday, despite the fact that there was a light “English” rain coming down as there has been most days for a ‘fortnight’ !

painting of bluebelldon farm

Here’s Richard rototilling where we want to sprinkle wildflower seeds, and where we already have a few bulbs planted as well (and of course, a scarlet runner bean and a few morning glories… to do some climbing!)

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He made a few little paths that wound through the trees, and I then drove back to our Rasmussen Brook and picked up mostly flat stones for a bit of a ‘flagstone’ effect, that hopefully the flowers might grow around:

I then scattered AND poked little holes for the following:

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The above, then, is what I call “Bride’s Bough”, where Richard’s niece will walk, and, if anything goes according to plan, she’ll have some blue and purple wildflowers mixed in with daisies, etc. on both her right and left as she walks down the ‘aisle’…  More on this garden as it progresses…

If you’ve been regularly following this blog since last year, you’ll know that I ripped out many of the old 1970s cupboards and drawers, and, always re-using, I fashioned an ‘herb garden’ on the front porch for them.  While really only borage and a few morsels of parsley came up last year, they little gardens are looking much better this year, and a wee sign given us as a going-away present with a box of herbs, by the kind Olavesons of Carlisle tinkles away in the wind as the animals rest in the shade.

 

I love having a few herbs growing right to hand.  The kitchen is just inside that Dutch door, so it’ a simple thing to trot out and get whatever seasoning I need, nice and fresh!

 One of the sites I use regularly for help on various gardening and orchard matters is https://www.growveg.com/  by Barbara Pleasant and others.  There is a wealth of reliable (unlike so much supposition opined on the internet!) information here, and I enjoy reading various uses for herbs, especially. I also grow certain herbs  for a variety of reasons not so commonly known, such as borage, cat-nip, basil and parsley. These aren’t just for quick seasonings or garnishes! (ie: catnip has anti-bacterial qualities). So if you’re interested, have a look at the PLEASANT site!  One tip I especially want to try this year is, to keep my herbs fresh throughout the winter, making ice cubes with them rather than hanging them all.  Then you can just pop the ice cube in your stews or soups or teas!!!

Lastly, and from the end TO the end, rather, I want to talk about Chevy’s manure pile. You can’t have ANY fauna without a bit of that delightful ‘end result’, so why not discuss it?  Horse manure is easy to compost and takes about four to six weeks to turn from stable waste to garden gold if you do it properly. Composting does take some effort, however.  Constructing a pile about 3 to 4 feet high helps the process to go faster. (Any higher than that, and you can have spontaneous combustion – one stable I used to work for had to have the fire department out TWICE in the space of four months!) Turning the pile over frequently adds oxygen that speeds up the composting process.  When the pile no longer feels hot and the composted manure resembles dark brown garden soil, it is safe to use on your garden.  It doesn’t have to be a year old, as many say.

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There’s our pile, collected from both the stall and the pastures since Chevy arrived in the 2nd week of May.  Note we are keeping it right near the garden for easy access~!

Now, I’m sorry if after a lovely showing of blossoms and cute photos of animals, you are offended by this ‘end’ result , but life isn’t always about poetry and aromatic thoughts, you know.  Sometimes it takes excrement to CREATE that beauty and romanticism…”

“After dinner they met again, to speak not of Byron but of manure. The other people were so clever and so amusing that it relieved her to listen to a man who told her three times not to buy artificial manure ready made, but, if she would use it, to make it herself”
E.M. Forster, The Longest Journey

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Floored

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!)

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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!

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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 …

 

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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!

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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!

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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:

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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:

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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…

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

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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:

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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!

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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:

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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!