Humming & Drumming, Piping, Striping and TYPING!

Not making this up, folks. That title is perfect for the last 10 days!

First of all, the humming : Mom’s been trying for two summers to attract birds. As in song birds. This lack of them each spring has improved due to winter feedings, but Mom doesn’t think they have because a) her hearing aids aren’t in her ears or b) they aren’t working properly.  (The aids, not the birds). But she’s also managed to finally attract more humming birds. This has taken some t&e to figure out the best place for the red glass feeder so that they’ll both feel safe and where she can see them. Where she put it this year, R and I can enjoy them from our kitchen table, but Mom can only see them if kneeling on her toilet seat! However, this is better for her than never seeing them at all! And at dusk I sit on the front porch and they just BUZZ around me! (Remember to click on the photos to expand them)

I’m surprised how much they like to perch on branches (like the wee grapevine branch I was going to cut off, but now won’t!), but I’m disappointed not to catch them just coming in for a landing, or hovering in the air as those I think are the best shots. I also didn’t really get the red band around the neck and the gorgeous glossy turquoise on their backs!

What I did get was THIS:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADon’t know what you’re looking at? Well, in the bottom right of the red glass, magnified by the water and glass but otherwise hidden perfectly behind it is a humming bird! See his long beak looking like it’s 3 inches?

By the way, don’t put red food colouring in for the h.b.’s It’s actually bad for them! And your feeder doesn’t HAVE to be red; that’s a bit of a myth, apparently – A clear container with a bit of sugar water is supposed to work just as well.  Also, as we discovered: they are afraid of chickens!

So that’s it for the humming. Now what’s with the drumming and the piping? Well, Mom and I having McKenzie blood in us (and me living for 9 months in the Highlands) we finally traipsed off to the Gathering of the Scots in our local Perth.  This is the 4th June I’ve been here and finally got there! (Mom’s only been here 3 Junes, but she finally felt up to it). We even dressed up in the McKenzie tartan for the occasion!

tartans, 3 of us

Mom/Joy is wearing her McKenzie kilt from high school, Richard’s got on my beret and the McKenzie tartan blanket given us by my Scottish ‘daughter’ Leanne (worked for me when I was stable manager over there) and I’ve got a McKenzie-sort-of-tartan in the middle of my hat.  We look pretty good, except Mom’s got 5 cavities she needs filled, and I have 3 teeth missing that need a partial soon! Richard is smart; he just keeps his lips shut! (There’s a first!)


It always does our hearts good to hear the pipes, and some good whacks on the big drums. I was pleased with this photo, (above) though I had to take a lot to get everything in I wanted to show!

I couldn’t walk much and Richard just wanted to watch the sporting events, so we sat on the McKenzie blanket on the bleachers whilst Mom toured the tents. She said that while there was haggis being served and kilt pins and socks, no one was selling a sporran! She was disappointed as she’d wanted to pick one up for Sydney who is apparently to inherit her kilt.

First we watched a lot of strong muscley gals through the shot, all in the kilts of their clan and wearing Gathering of the Scots t-shirts. Apparently most felt it necessary to immediately cut the sleeves off so as to further present their muscles to us.

My favourite of the gals was this next one. Don’t care for the Jaded Jewel (my cross-country competing colours) socks, but love her twirling kilt. She ended up being the winner of this discipline, by the way.


Next, some big lads came to throw it backwards over the high pole, which kept getting raised to about 20 ft.

My favourite photo of this particular event is this, with the two Scottish flags, the bright sky and the shot JUST about to make it…


Another female event was the hammer throw:


And then some REAL excitement as two caber champs (Dirk is local) set out to break the Guiness World Record for most tosses in 3 minutes. Here’s an article: a local post:

Here’s a video if you aren’t sure what a caber toss is:

Here’s the lads in Perth trying for the world record; they’d need, between the two of them (and a lot of volunteers to grab the caber and get it into position for each of them) to pitch it end over end 16 times in 3 minutes:



And they did it!  A Guiness World Record set in front of our eyes right in l’il ole Perth-Andover, N.B.! Here’s the whole ‘team’ – the throwers are the two in the middle:


Next – what a wondrous sight/sound.  ALL the piping/drumming bands got together and marched down the street to come into the grounds and perform!

The excitement of seeing this marching down your local street in the Appalachian highlands along a river is truly soul-stirring! You should be able to view it live in this video, although you may need a Facebook account, not sure:


and some delightful drum-thwackers:

Every year they do a March of the Clans, with each clan carrying a cloth banner with their crest and name. Sadly, no McKenzies – but I have asked for one for next year.

One of the characters in the musical I’ve written (1st table reading in Perth-Andover next Thursday night!) is called McLaughlin, as there are a LOT from that clan. He’s a bit of a curmudgeonly old bagpiper, so Richard fittingly posed beside their banner for a publicity shot for me. I was quite impressed when I got home and found I’d even managed to capture a blowing Canadian flag in the photo! Perfect to promo an all-Canadian musical!


Next, what’s with ‘striping’? Well, folks, Richard is away in Ontario visiting family this week and that means I can do the grass-cutting on the riding mower the way I like. Which this week is saving huge patches of wild strawberries – with the flowers bigger than I’ve ever seen them~! I want to eat some this year, so I’m not going to buzz all over them. The other reason I cut stripes is to save some dandelions for the bees, although our meadows are now covered in them, so that likely isn’t so necessary:


And lastly, the typing.  Since I started feeling better in April I’ve done nothing but read manuscripts and retype, rewrite, revise. My fingers ache and my eyes are blurry most nights, but I am having some success with publications for this year, and I’m excited to get this musical read and see how much more REVISING I’ll want to do from that first time hearing the voices to my dialogue!

And by the way, I haven’t proof-read this blog post as I usually try to do. So forgive mistakes, I’m just too tired and frankly fed up with re-reading everything I’ve ever written   —-for the moment!

And really, as a grumpy ole Scots would say:   “A nod’s as guid as a wink tae a blind horse”. So what difference does it make, anyway?


Crabby and Creepy

Remember what I said in last week’s posting, about a challenge for writers being one of making points or issues relevant to each other with relevant and perhaps even seamless segues?  Obviously, I need to stick to the main theme of this blog – what we do here on the farm to live as self-sufficiently as possible… but one should still recognize special events or holidays, visitors, and make the postings personal at the same time.

This week is the last blog before Halloween is once more upon us.  (If you didn’t read last year’s Halloween posting, have a look – I’m still rather proud of that one, the mix of ‘haunted’ photos of the farm, its residents, and valley, the ‘ghostly’ tales of the Danish settlers, and the silly verses !  Search my blog with the words “All Hallowed” or try the link: ) .

While last week’s theme encompassed all things “long” and “green”, this week will be RED – for blood, for crabapples, for smashed grapes and scarlet runner beans whose vines creep everywhere, and for the amazing red peat bogs out near the ocean iteself…There’ll be mention of your favourite crabby and creepy characters in fiction as well, so hunker down for a S P O O K Y as well as informative  read!


When our guest, Leanne Goodfellow (an ironic surname, as this blog will mostly be about Badfellows!) from Aberdeenshire was here during September, she helped us pick and prepare many crabapples.  Last year you read about some of the many things I did with these hardy and prolific little jewels, such as crabapple juice, sauce, and best of all – what turned out to be everyone’s favourite JELLY.  But this year, besides those items,  I remembered that as a child we always had pickled crabapples to brighten up our Christmas table, and I LOVED them.

Picking the crabapples didn’t take too long, once we finally decided to ‘get at it’…

spooky crabs“With all hands available”… we managed it in about two hours, using the pick-up box and some ladders.

The tree was full this year, and although we still had to be wearing blackfly nets/hats, we didn’t have any serious injuries.  Above, Leanne demonstrates the huge bin we filled of them, stripping all the leaves first.  Cammie and Chevy also helped strip the leaves and finish the tree off for the season.  While Chevy stands grazing, Cammie now uses his flanks to ‘mount’ herself… and by mid-Sept.  the bottom of the tree looked like this:

picking crabapples

However, it’s the brambly branches of the crab apple tree that make it such an interesting and spooky enigma.  I just took this photo of the VERY last crabapple I could see on it – less than a half-hour ago. Blue Bell Mountain in the distance, of course.  Isn’t this a great Halloween shot?  And did you know…There is an old custom of offering the last crab apple of the season to a mythical figure… The fruit is given as an offering to ensure a good crop next year.  I guess I’d better go take this apple down and find me some mythical guy – FAST!

to use, tree

Crab apple trees have slightly thorny-looking branches and while they aren’t particularly sharp, we still advise wearing gloves when harvesting.  Because of their appearance, the trees also fit well into All Hallow’s Eve folklore with a great spooky novella, and many paintings of witches and worlocks gathering around their base:


Here are some REALLY great folklore beliefs about crabapples themselves – perfect for this time of year:

Witches reportedly concealed their poisons in the fruits.                                                      Crabs appear in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in which the roasted fruits were included in the wassail drink.

Because we live in a Danish community, I thought this next one was especially interesting: Crabs have been cultivated since the Neolithic Age. Signs of crab apple fruits were found in Danish coffins dating from the Early Bronze Age!  Here is the famous Danish Edtved girl discovered some years ago:Egtvedpigen, Oltidsfund, Gravfund

Cultivated crab apple trees were brought to the American colony of Massachusetts  in the 1600’s where they were grafted onto native crab rootstock.  There are several from this time period in Salem, home of the famous witch trials.  I actually, and by complete accident of timing, spent one Hallowe’en there in 1995.  You couldn’t MOVE in that little village due to the busloads of people pouring in for Oct. 31st celebrations.

The term ‘crab’ is actually Norse/Scandinavian/Danish as well . There are two possible origins for the small apples being called ‘crab’.  “Scrab” or “Scrabbe” meant  crooked, knotted, complex, twisted, very much like the tree used to be. The other possibility is that it derives from  “crabbed” which itself means, etymologically, “crooked or wayward/sideways (thus the name for the crustacean) — and then the several figurative senses that follow from that, ie: disagreeable, contrary, ill-tempered, or crooked, as in criminal.

And throughout spooky literature history, and the century of classic horror movies, who have been the ‘crabbiest characters’, voted in 3 different surveys? Number One, and long-time favourites of mine are the two theatre critics, Waldorf and Statler from Jim Henson’s Muppets.  They were both  hilarious AND crabby!


Two and Three on the list are also favourites of mine from literature: Eeyore and Scrooge.  Talk about Grumpy and Crabby!  Eeyore has long been a choice role model for me, as he’s also a cynical pessimist.  Friends used to call me Eeyore, not just because I was grumpy and moody, but also, I suppose a stubborn ass… but speaking of, there are SOME grumpy old men who can really write the book on being ‘ornery’ :

reich book, crab

And here’s another crabby old fart holding up a photo of a grumpy me, having to de-stem, cut in half and de-pit  thousands of crabapples to prepare them for the sauce, juice and jelly…  (see last year’s posting if you like: )


In fact, one of the reasons I remembered the pickled crabapples I so loved in my youth was that I was trying to think of a way to prepare the little buggers and NOT have to cut them in half and take the pits out!  So, this is most delicious:

Like the witches of old who used to mix their herbs into poisons, and then put their poisons into their jars of pickled crabapples, here’s one of my attempts:

to use, witch

My mother will be glad to know that my degree in Theatre Arts and Literature isn’t COMPLETELY going to waste.  Nor is my degree in Education, ’cause what am I doing here on this blog, after all?

Now…. ….  that’s it for the ‘Crabby’ section, let’s do the ‘Creepy’ chapter, shall we?


I’ve mentioned several times that we LOVE the way Hawthorne Farm Organics (our seed company that’s in Ontario) offers the Scarlet Runner Bean, both for eating and for wonderful, quick vines.  Being an Anglophile, any type of ivy or vine that crawls UP, or creeps OUT (Mom/Joy despises ‘Creeping Charlie’, but if it didn’t kill the other plants, I’d leave it be as well…. I don’t like BROWN spaces, I love GREEN!)  Here’s Mom/Joy, waging her usual battle against all things that CREEP TOO MUCH:


As we tried planting the scarlet runner beans to EAT last year, and didn’t care for how huge they got, we DID discover that they are easy to dry and replant.  We planted them everywhere around the house, for their quick ‘creeping’ as well as, later, their blood-red flowers which the bees love! (for this reason, because of encouraging cross-pollination, we did put a row of them in with our other peas and beans this year as well.)

There are two examples, above, of how they climb up the pillars, onto the front porch, and up the trellis and wagon wheel, all within about 3 weeks of their first planting.  The red flowers come out later in August and stayed right through ’til mid-October this year!

The other creepy-crawlie I’ve always loved, though it isn’t so quick of course, is grapes.  Our neighbour Pierrette (Zeb’s ‘witch-like’ mom) gave us some grape vine roots early in March, and they ‘came up like gangbusters’ (despite Cammie having a go at the ones on the side of the house).  We even got a few bunches of grapes already!

We plan to let them grow right up the pillar and then put lattice work on the roof of the front porch and let the grapes be readily available (it’s just outside the kitchen’s Dutch door that Richard made).  The grapes ARE red, and surprisingly sweet already but when we harvested them at the end of Sept., they were still pretty tiny – really only the size of a dime, or smaller. We ate them in one luncheon sitting!


Did you know there’s another kind of red grape called the Witch’s Fingers?  I may have to try this variety!

witch finger grapes

And did you know that “Grapes that Grow as Eyeballs, be the BEST for Hallow’s Eve, Whilst their Vines that Wrap around Your Neck, As a Scarf they Do Deceive?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Funnily enough, although they were just planted this spring, our grapevines are the only thing still green enough to attract Cammie to nibble on this past week – we still have to guard the leaves from her wandering lips!


Linda, my cousin who visited with her fun sister Pat in September, introduced us to ‘ground cherries’, another creepy-crawly we will never be doing without again, now that we’ve discovered how great they taste!  It is their little paper-thin pods that many crafters use for autumnal decor and I’ve already begun experimenting to see if I can do lampshades with them for Rustic Revivals’ oil-can lamps (using them like decoupage, but so they will be more natural, and throwing in some leaves as well…)

aunt molly

And while the most creepiest vines of all are in the squash/pumpkin patch, we didn’t score very well out there this year.  The harvest of these vines was tiny, in both number and size (see the pumpkins in the  creepy scarecrow pic below? Richard doesn’t think we’ll have Halloween trick or treaters this year, because he thinks “Blue” looks like a paedophile! ) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But this doesn’t stop one having a bit of fun in the ole pumpkin patch anyway!


On our way to Moncton last week (for my one end-of-harvest treat, a Roger Hogdson (Supertramp) concert) we passed a gorgeous peat bog.  I’ve never seen one at this time of year before,  in all my travels, and I’ve always thought of peat bogs to be a Halloweenish type of spooky affair, but this is STUNNING, isn’t it?


Back to those Danes, though – this man was found in a Danish bog. Hanged with a leather cord and cast into the peat 2,300 years ago, Tollund Man was probably a sacrifice.  This was meant to be another spooky photo for your Halloween enjoyment, but it’s so sad, and he looks so peaceful, it’s not really frightening at all, is it?


One of the shortest visits we had all year (in our season of 19 overnight guests) was a one-night stay from Richard’s eldest son Erich.  (By the way, if you think I like word-play, what about naming your kid with exactly the same letters, first and last names both? (Erich Reich) )

Erich brought along a drone.  I find them very frightening.  They look like creepy spiders, but in a very freakish sci-fi way of Big Brother invasiveness…


Cammie and Chevy didn’t like it either.  They kept HEARING something, but could never figure out where the sound was coming from!


At one point, the shadow of the drone fell over Cammie, and she launched an attack.  I’ve seen dressage horses that didn’t have as nice an extended trot!



However, Erich and his dad did have a nice time on a beautiful autumnal day, playing with the ‘toy’, no matter HOW creepy the animals and I felt it to be…


Are you ready for the list, as voted on by readers of literature, of the CREEPIEST CLASSIC CHARACTERS? (of course most of these have been movies, and these characters were always well-portrayed by fine actors or actresses who managed to make them seem even MORE creepy!)

Miss Havisham, from Dickens’ “Great Expectations” is in the top ten: “She was jilted at the altar, and now she insists on wearing her rotting wedding dress for the rest of her life. The uneaten wedding cake is still sitting on the table, and all the clocks in her house have been set to the exact moment she was dumped, making her one of the creepiest characters ever. According to Dickens, she looks like a cross between a skeleton and a waxwork with sunken, moving eyes.”  Here’s a Miss Havisham doll I particularly like – HOW CREEPY!


Alex, in A Clockwork Orange, Boo Radley in To Kill A Mockingbird and Dracula, in Dracula also made the top ten from classic literature.  Now, to be fair, Boo was actually a bit of a hero, but apparently it didn’t stop him being considered classically ‘creepy’.

Another cousin of mine, who has shared both musical and theatrical stage performances with me throughout our youth played Wilhemina in our town’s musical version of Dracula. (I was one of the brides who came out of a coffin, then later, hilariously wiped off the ‘death’ make-up and danced the Can-Can in the intermission’s entertainment! Incidentally, this was the first, but not the ONLY time I emerged from a coffin, or was put INTO a coffin in my stage career. No wonder I decided not to continue as a professional!) Here’s cousin Joan in 1980:


Richard, Remy and I had 3 weeks of hard labour during harvest this year, but there was another autumn when the 3 of us left Remy’s house in West Yorkshire and traveled over to Whitby, in North Yorkshire, which is where Bram Stoker got much of his inspiration for the setting of the book.  On another note, Jasper, the dog in the below photo- taken on the Whitby Wharf- is a Weimaraner, commonly called “Ghost Dog” for their spooky eyes. Remy had to put Jasper down a few months ago, so this is a little tribute to the good companion that kept him company for 13 years.

Remy and Julie in Whitby (2017_03_14 21_04_25 UTC)

I lived near the Bronte’s Haworth for several years, and Remy and I took Richard to see the moors and the site on which they think Emily based her spooky “Wuthering Heights”.  While we were walking on the moors, Richard went over to relieve himself behind a rock, and Jasper was off in the distance sniffing around.  When Richard finished, he apparently felt frisky (or maybe the ghost of Cathy was chasing him?) and he started to run back toward us.   Suddenly, as Remy and I watched, Jasper decided no one was going to run away from HIM.  And so, unbeknownst to Richard, the Ghost Dog started to chase Richard, and when he reached him, he hurled his front legs around his waist and brought him down into the moorland grasses.  It was nearly a decade ago, but I can still see this as vividly (and hilariously) as if it were yesterday.  Here’s what we saw:

The first is Top Withens, the possible inspiration for Wuthering Heights (the house, not the novel).  And while Jasper the Ghost Dog did appear rather hilarious with his floppy ears and goofy tongue lolling out the side of his jaws, had Richard turned around he would have seen another creepy dog – the Hound of the Baskervilles- tearing after him with enthusiastic determination.

jasper, halloween

And that, good readers, is the end to my mostly-red-themed, CRABBY AND CREEPY Halloween blog for this year.  “How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears, no dreads; to whom sleep is a blessing that comes nightly, and brings nothing but sweet dreams.”
― Bram Stoker, DRACULA

Fiddleheads and Pitchforks

My mother does not approve of swearing. Of even the most mild sort.  My sister and I were not even allowed to say ‘shut up’ to each other without being sharply reprimanded.  When my father used to say “what the hell?” in absent-minded consternation over some project he was attempting to repair, she would quickly remind him with his name or an exclamation of shock, that our young, innocent ears were in the vicinity. One of my very earliest memories when I was about 6 and my sister 4, was when we collected our first trial instruments from the London Suzuki Institute, Jennifer’s being the instrument she still plays hours daily as her profession and passion, and mine being the instrument I finally sold to help fund my own profession and passion.4


As my mother, who had had to take a few lessons on each instrument first just so that she could help us at home, was attempting to make a sound from Jennifer’s strings (in front of both sets of grandparents, I might add, who were most interested in these new additions to the family) she became exasperated because no sound was emanating, and in her frustration she said her “F-word”:  “Oh, FIDDLESTICKS!”  without realizing how incredibly apt and timely this choice of ‘swear word’ actually was.  (Although we laughed at her, it became even MORE apt when we realized the problem was in fact to do with the bow, or ‘fiddlestick’  – she had forgotten to resin it!)

Richard’s sons both took violin lessons for a while too, and we still have each of their instruments at Blue Belldon Farm, for some reason, but of course I’ve never owned another ‘cello  (“violincello” is its proper name; thus the apostrophe in front of it each time is technically correct) since I was 18 and sold it to buy my first proper showjumper.  Our father always got a kick out of saying that Jennifer was busy ‘FIDDLIN’ AROUND’ whilst I was outside just “HORSIN’ AROUND’.   But the daily reminders of ‘fiddling’ are everywhere around us.  As mentioned last week, the New Denmark ‘Music Ranch’ has a country band every Saturday night with Atlantic-based expert ‘fiddlers’ (although having been brought up on ‘proper classical music’ and the term ‘violin’,  Mom and I don’t quite have the appreciation that we should have for the fast ‘fiddling’ that is a tradition in these Eastern provinces.)

But as soon as I came here last spring I began seeing and hearing the word ‘fiddle’ in another sense.  Fiddleheads are everywhere!   Plaster Rock, one of our nearest towns, is the Fiddlehead Capital of Canada, and being that our goal is to live self-sufficiently here, Mom/Joy gave us a book called Edible Plants of Atlantic Canada.  The chapter that takes up the most pages is all about the picking and cooking of fiddleheads.  They are highly celebrated here and other than the World Pond Hockey which was mentioned in last week’s blog, they are a main attraction to the area:

Fiddleheads are one of the first signs of spring, and since we had a bit of a thaw last week, and actually see some grass blades emerging in the Birch Grove and under the apple trees where the ground is slightly warmer because of the tree roots, we are perhaps prematurely, already getting excited about harvesting these delightful delicacies. Fiddleheads are essentially ferns before they become ferns. They are the furled up stage of a fern when they just start to shoot through the ground in early spring.  As they emerge through the fertile, wet April soil, they grow and unfurl quickly, sometimes lasting just a few days in their furled-up stage.

Though all ferns have a fiddlehead stage, it’s the Ostrich fern that is most commonly eaten, and it tastes, when boiled and then sauteed in butter, very much like a combination between broccoli and asparagus. In the farmers’ markets, where they will only be sold for about 10 days, they can be quite pricey, so we definitely will be hunting the marshes and swamps for them ourselves!

Fiddleheads grow prolifically throughout the damp areas of the Eastern Seaboard. Though they are not hard to find, people tend to keep their locations secret so they will not be over -harvested.  Scary thing, though.   Some fiddleheads look like the Ostrich fern varieties and are not only not edible but can be toxic. So, just as I didn’t attempt to harvest the multitude of wonderful-looking mushrooms that sprouted all over our lawn last autumn, I am tentative about this process also.


In the book Mom gave us as a Christmas present, it mentions an interesting bit of folk lore: it was once believed that to eat fiddleheads would make one invisible! (Kind of ironic, given that the old Polaroid above DOES make us look nearly so!)  Shakespeare even refers to this in Henry IV, Part 1  when he writes “We have the receipt of fern-seed; we walk invisible”. The “fern-seed” superstition pops up again in “The Fair Maid of the Inn,” a  17th century comedy by John Fletcher, et al., as well as in Ben Jonson’s “The New Inn.”  A wonderfully-named fiddlehead cookbook ,  “Fiddleheads and Fairies”, by Nannette Richford, includes many references to the mysticism behind these succulent tasties.

A neighbour recently gave us a frozen bag of them to try. (Herein is a humourous example of rural life, especially among the proud Danish community.  This lady’s husband was ill, so I made some extra chicken and vegetable soup for them, and sent it over in a thermos with Richard. He came back with home-baked coffeecake, a bar of marzipan and the aforementioned bag of frozen greens!)  We ate them immediately for lunch, boiling for about 6 minutes as directed (just in case there are any dangerous toxins left in them!) and then frying with some butter and a touch of salt.  Absolutely delicious!

I put a walnut in the one photo, to show you the size of them before cooking (although they don’t actually shrink in size as do so many vegetables, as you can see when put out on the plate at right.

That day must have had violins and decorative scrolls in the vibrational airways, because in the afternoon, in our Scrabble game, I could have TWICE put down variations of the word ‘violin’ (although nothing on the board ever did lend itself to my doing so!) And once while I was waiting the half-hour or so that is standard for Richard to take his bloody turn, I looked over to where one of his boys’ old violins (out of their cases to get humidity from our humidifier) was laid out near my beautiful hand-made butter dish by Ontario potter Natalie (from Remembrances Pottery , a friend who worked hard to make the Carlisle Country Craft and Old-fashioned Market Mercantile a success : )  How beautiful these ‘scrolls’ look side-by-side!  And you can certainly see where the “Fiddlehead” delicacy gets its name!


Richard went to meet his brother where he lives in Saint John this past week, and they had a flying trip down to Cape Cod to look at some car parts his brother wanted.  Richard noticed that the fiddlehead is a symbol of beauty throughout the province, as this sculpture in the city centre is a popular photo for tourists year-round as well .  (That’s right, neither Saint John nor Boston/Cape Cod have snow anymore!)


So yes, while we’ve enjoyed the respite of the winter months to recuperate from the struggles of the big move out here, on top of the arduous efforts to plant, tend, harvest  and preserve both garden and orchard, we ARE looking forward to spring! Mom/Joy is even more anxious than we are for it, as she just returned from her two weeks in Florida with her Aunt Jane, and was none-too-pleased to see those 8 foot banks of snow still along our back roads and caked on the cliff walls as we climbed up Lucy’s Gulch!    She had brought back for us a T-shirt each with a happy stick figure on a lawn tractor, and this has definitely got Richard chomping the bit in anticipation of the first time he can fire up the ole John Deere.


It was his idea to wear the shirts with the snow outside the window in the background.  The irony is actually a bit sad at this point, however!  We harken back to last spring, the week before I moved out here, when my friend Leanne was visiting from Scotland.   She’s coming again this summer, and Richard has promised her another try on the lawn tractor. (Although she’s a good ole country girl as well, who grew up on the 25,000 acre estate on which I worked with her in Aberdeenshire, in 2009, she had never had the opportunity to cut grass on a tractor, as all the bigger jobs on the estate were naturally done by the team of maintenance staff and groundskeepers! So she put up with the long-winded professorial lectures from my dear counterpart, and endured his shouting when her ‘track’ wasn’t perfectly aligned, or when she didn’t raise the mower at the right moment, and apparently she’s coming back for more of the same – only on the sides of mountainous hillsides this time!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI look back now on this dreadful Ontario ‘flatness’, and just think how blissfully happy we are to be here,  with our stellar and breath-taking views, away from the busy roads, (I remember waiting to snap the above shot so I  could catch the moment with no cars whizzing by on the highway!) the pollution, the noise…  But I DO miss being able to be out in the garden already, as I know some of you in Ontario are doing!  My friend Anne in Carlisle thought it hilarious to send me the following. The chick is even wearing my hat and peasant skirt here!


That’s about the size of it here, too. We are desperate to get turning over some ground with the pitchfork and rototiller!  Remember last spring, when I posted this cartoon, where Richard thought he was made to look old but I thought I looked JUST like the female graphic?


Well, I told him I wouldn’t do anymore ‘devilish’ comics with pitchforks in hand this year.  So instead, I have done an artists’ rendering of the Canadian Gothic, complete with live-in mother:


And I even have the artist, in fields of gorgeous green, painting it on his canvas!


Surely Pippi can’t complain about this, as it’s his actual FACE?  Anyway, the pitchfork is representative, not just of the devil and devilish qualities, but is of course exactly what it stands for – the act of ‘pitching something to the side’.  So, although my mother detests  swearing of any kind, and although my old  co-“Katima-victim” Dave Landry taught me that “Fiddlesticks” is not the REAL “F-word”, I have taken it upon myself to tell winter to go




And stay tuned for next week, when we WILL begin planting, whether or not there is still snow out there (and there will be!).   We ordered all our seeds yesterday (organic, with biodegradable packaging, from the same company as last year – Hawthorne Farm in Ontario), and Richard has made most of the seeding tables for our basement greenhouse.  All that remains is to drive over the ‘wall’to Trumpty Dumbty-land, where we can buy flourescent lights much more cheaply than here, sadly, get them hung, get the earth into the tables, and voila!  Seeds will be going in for our whole next year’s quality smorgasbording ! It’s nearly time!  Dirt under the (non-existent) fingernails again! Wahoooooooooo!

Log Cabin Legends, Part II: Phyllis

Many of you may have read with interest the history (as much as we had found out so far) of Blue Belldon Farm, a few months ago. If you didn’t, you may want to look at it first, before reading this continuing saga of the family who was 50 % responsible for making it into the farm and farmhouse it is today. The link is here:

This past week we finally got to meet 92 year old Phyllis, the last remaining of the first family whose children were born here when it was a log cabin.  By the time she was born (1925) her father had built the 3 original bedrooms upstairs (where Mom/Joy lives, before and afters of those at end of this posting) so she was born upstairs. However, as she can no longer do stairs, I asked to take a photo of her in the threshold of what was her father and mother’s original cabin (behind her, in what is now our bedroom) and the summer kitchen, (now the main kitchen) or what her Aunt Carrie ,who wrote the book with most of our information, called simply ‘the back shed’.

Phyllis  (Jensen) Macdonald, age 92

Phyllis’ mother, Ida-May (Rasmussen) married Johannes Jensen, age 16, in 1918. A few years prior to this Johannes (John C. as he became known in the community) bought the little cabin from the original Danish settlers, ANOTHER family of Rasmussens, with 2 grown sons, who all moved to Maine. Johannes’ sisters (and Phyllis says he had MANY) came one at a time and kept house for him until he married young and beautiful Ida.  Sadly, Phyllis didn’t offer up any photos of her mother in her teen years or older, but according to the photo we have of her as a six year old (in Part I), and by all other accounts, she was lovely.

By the time they married, Johannes had added a summer kitchen, or shed, which went right up to the rafters.  He and Ida lived winters in just the one divided room (now our long bedroom). In the front was a small kitchen and sitting area by the stove, and in the back, under the loft, was their bedroom. Carrie remembers herself and her brother Hartman coming over to visit and going up the ladder to sleep on the floor of the loft, above her sister’s and brother-in-law’s heads.  The summer kitchen, which is now OUR kitchen, was used in good weather for eating, as the family could gather around a big table, and for cooking so the main part of the log cabin stayed cooler.  It was, of course, also the room for doing laundry and taking baths!



Perhaps a better example of what their summer kitchen was probably like was this:


as they apparently had a stove and not a fireplace for cooking out there.

The outside of the house at the time of Ida-May and Johanne’s marriage looked much like this:


Phyllis doesn’t remember the tunnel to the barn, though she remembers it was mentioned “once or twice”. Apparently the first Rasmussens dug it, then Johanne decided he could walk the short distance to the barn, even in winter, and thus had it filled in?  As the first 2 children began to grow, Johanne raised the roof on the cabin and summer kitchen, made the summer kitchen a more permanent structure and all-year kitchen, with their bedroom above it, and the children’s bedrooms above the main log cabin (one room in what would have been the loft and the other beside it.  Phyllis remembers the ‘alcove’ or hall/landing having the big closet that is still there today, and she talks about the lovely hardwood floors there and in the bedrooms.  Luckily for us, no one ever put nasty carpeting in the 3 original bedrooms, and the floors were in excellent shape there. Also, happily, no one had ever painted the wainscoting or doorframes or original closet doors, as in so many old homes.  However, the stairs, which her father built, and the ‘alcove’ as she calls it (nearly a room in itself) had had 1960s indoor/outdoor carpeting put down and it was a hellacious job to get it all up, because of course the underpadding had cemented itself to the hardwood after all these decades!


Mom/Joy did most of the tough work herself on the indoor/outdoor carpet, pitching in with just a scraper at first, and then Richard bought a heat gun which made the job a little faster, but not much.  While Mom was in Newfoundland visiting my sister and nephew (her only grandchild) in October, Richard and I stripped and then refinished the alcove and stairs so it is finally finished as close to possible as what Phyllis says is the original. (Although she lives just down the road, up the valley on the other side of us, Phyllis never visited this house in all the decades since she left, and I’m grateful that when she did peek at the stairs and wainscoting, it was exactly as she remembers it being when her father and mother had their renovations finished.  I expect she would have hated to see the carpeting!  Here are some before and afters, as always click on each to enlarge and read caption:

and the afters:

Phyllis remembers when she was about 3 or 4, her father putting in some more windows. When the two childrens’ bedrooms (one for the boys, one for the girls) at top each got their own window, it was a big deal for them, and at that time, what was the main part of the original log cabin (the winterized part), also got a new window, and it became the living room, or parlor. (Later, when the Pedersens  were here for many decades, through the 60s to the 2000s, it was the perfect spot for the dining room, once they’d made the addition to the whole house all out the back. Where our fireplace is now in our living room, Phyllis reckons is about where the original barn was, and under the living room, then, and along our hallway, was where the mysterious tunnel was!) Phyllis doesn’t remember having indoor plumbing here, so the dormer that is the upstairs’ bathroom (Mom’s) was added MUCH later, probably when Phyllis’s brother Lester took over the farm for his father.  And our bay window in what is now our bedroom was added in the late 1970s. It has by far the best view, and is a lovely place for a window seat and to sit in the morning sun.  Hard to believe there was NO window on that wall originally, until Johanne and Ida put the small one in. But then, windows let in bad cold in winter, and also there were still so many thick forests they might NOT have had a view! This is as close a facsimile as I can come up with of the family and the house when Ida had just had her last child and Phyllis was about 3 or 4. As there are apparently no real photos (Phyllis certainly doesn’t seem to have any that she remembers!) I’ve had to do some creative photoshopping!


Anyway, poor Ida!  She lost her own mother only a few months after she was married (Georgine was 41).  Then, after she had 5 children, she got very ill, when she was in her late 20s.  Neither her sister Carrie nor her own daughter Phyllis have really said with WHAT. Carrie doesn’t mention it, and Phyllis doesn’t remember it ever being spoken of, although her son Bliss mentioned that in her ‘better memory years’ she’d mentioned that her mother had very painful neuralgia.  As neither Georgine (Phyllis’s grandmother) nor Ida lived very long, but neither died in the no. 1 cause – childbirth! – I got wondering… One cause of neuralgia is M.S.  Phyllis had mentioned that one of her own daughters, just in her late 50s now, has very bad M.S., and I have wondered if perhaps all three generations of these women didn’t have it!  They did try hard to get treatment.  In Carrie’s book she remembers walking the long miles home from the schoolhouse, and being picked up in the wagon by the doctor, who’d driven all the way from Grand Falls. He knew her well, but didn’t say much on the ride home, and when she got there, hers and Ida’s mother (Phyllis’s grandmother) was already dying. Carrie CLAIMS she doesn’t remember her being sick at all prior to this, though, but she was taken to hospital and died there, in 1919, right after Ida-May had married Johannes and moved out!  Then Ida, ten years later, starting feeling unwell and sore all the time.  About 1929 or 1930, Phyllis thinks, she went by train to Montreal for treatments.  And here is why Phyllis is really struggling to remember as much as we’d hoped… At this point Phyllis and little Max were ‘farmed out’ to various relatives – mostly aunts- in the community. So, the older children were left in the care of Johannes, but the two youngest weren’t here much for the next several years.  We’re not sure which hospital in Montreal Ida was in for many weeks, but Phyllis said several times that she did have surgery – apparently she wrote some poetry before and after the surgery… ( I have some of hers written about her own mother, Georgine, and would someday like to see these others that Phyllis has. I love that her mother was a writer, and would sign her work with her initals, I.J., which are the same initials as my own grandmother, also a writer!)  The hospital was likely either the Royal Victoria ( aerial photo below in 1928, right at the time Ida might have been there!) or the oldest hospital in Montreal (started in the 1600s!) the Hotel Dieu.




(above) Hospital ward of the Hotel Dieu in Montreal, early 1930s, when Ida would have been visiting.  My heart goes out to this young woman, who’d had to painfully go by train – with whom? Not Johannes, surely, as he’d have had the farm and the children… a sister? But Carrie never mentions going with her… Surely she didn’t go alone! And the lonely nights on that ward- is that when she wrote her poetry when she was so scared, and worried about her surgery, but perhaps hopeful it would ‘work’ for her???… So sad!


Obviously, whatever the surgery was for (and I’m determined to find this out someday, somehow – perhaps the little country community museum just up the road from us will cough up more info when it opens in the summer!) it didn’t work.  Poor Ida came back here to the farm, and after another year or so, a bed had to be set up for her back downstairs again (in what was originally hers and Johannes’ original corner of the log cabin, but had been changed to their living room! This is, of course, now OUR bedroom! So it’s had the most changes of any room in the house, though it’s got the original log walls from the 1880s sandwiched between the siding and the plastering.  It’s been: kitchen/bedroom with loft, then living room, then bedroom for Ida again, then living room, then dining room, and now our bedroom! Whew!)

So, Ida was in so much pain and was so weak (why?  MUST try and find this out somehow!  Seems crazy that her own sister didn’t write of it, despite many books, and that her own daughter doesn’t remember, but there it is!)  she could no longer make the stairs at night.  Phyllis remembers when she was 8, being brought to see her mother. She remembers standing at the side of her mother’s bed and her mother hugging her (must have been painful, physically and emotionally for Ida!) and her mother saying “Phyllis, do you want to stay over here with me tonight?” And Phyllis says she remembers very clearly not wanting to cry, and not understanding… and she just shook her head and went back home with her aunt.  She feels such guilt now, because she THINKS, though she isn’t positive, that her mother died the next day. Regardless, it was the last time 8 year old Phyllis SAW her mother. Obviously she feels guilty that she didn’t stay over with Ida-May that night, because it’s one of the very few really detailed memories she has of being here at all!

Ida’s and Johannes’ gravestone, just up the hill at our two churches’ cemeteries.


Thus, Phyllis stayed with more aunts in and around this close-knit Danish community until she was about 10, it seems. Then she came back here to the farm “off and on” she says for a few years, but it sounds like she wasn’t really getting along with her older siblings who lived here permanently, NOR her father, and in her early teens she ‘ran away from home’. Her words, and that’s all she said about it, as she was getting upset.  Sometime I’ll ask her son more of what he remembers being told of this, originally, as I believe he knows more than he wanted to say in front of his Mom! Anyway, Phyllis went on to finish high school, and started teaching in the area right away (as they did back then – after a few years over in “California Settlement”, she did go to her one year of teachers’ college).  I’ve spoken to and read of MANY students who remember her as the best teacher they ever had. Her own son Bliss had her as teacher in Grades 1, 4,5 and 6 and he didn’t even mind!  Right below us, down in the valley (we can see it from here) is a little corner school that then became the Women’s Institute and is now Martha’s Place Antiques and Collectibles (in the good weather, and on weekends only).  This was one of the schools in which Phyllis taught, ironically just a stone’s throw from where she was born, and where her mother died.  But she never set foot back in this house again, apparently, until last Tuesday to come and visit us! (click on below photos to read captions)

Phyllis’ father, Johannes, raised the three older kids here at Blue Belldon and then his son Lester, who most liked farming, took over from him and raised HIS children here.  Then, in the 1950s, the Pedersens bought it, and just like Ida-May and Johannes – THEY had 5 children. But this time all girls!  We’ll be having dinner with a few of  them and their mother in the next month or so, and hope to have another whole era of history and building renovations to share here after we get some more facts. So exciting to have this kind of background, although we WERE disappointed that Phyllis couldn’t remember more. But she was such a little girl, and then essentially left her birthplace for good about age 6, becoming a foster child and tossed from household to household. So she’s got good reason not to remember as much about her early years as we’d hoped!

Here are some before and afters of the 3 original bedrooms upstairs, likely built between 1920 and 1922 by Johannes and Ida-May.  Click to enlarge and read captions.  Mom has left the wallpaper up in all 3 rooms from the Pedersen’s daughters’ choices, circa 1970s and 1980s, as it’s ‘farmhousie’ and, she thought, still bright and cheery.  The ‘yellow room’ was the room above the original summer kitchen which became Ida and Johannes’ room (it’s the only one with a closet, and is slightly longer than the others. It’s also likely the room in which Phyllis and her siblings were born.  )  The one bedroom that’s attached to the bathroom (which is in the dormer, an addition long after Phyllis’ time) is Mom’s kitchenette now, and the other is her Loom Room.

Before of yellow room, with the furniture that was in it before we purchased the house
After: The ‘yellow room’, which was the parents’ room, Johannes and Ida’s. This is Mom’s guest room now. We travelled 4 hours to go and get this furniture from a resort that was remodelling.
One of the two original ‘children’s rooms’. Either the boys or the girls’ room – with furniture in it from prior to us purchasing the house.
This is now Mom’s Loom Room, and she has her drop leaf dining room table in there too and is braiding a rug on it for my sister (see postings from December)


This, Phyllis thinks, was the girls’ room when she had her first 6 or 7 years of life here. The people we bought if from just had it as an exercise room.
after: it is now Mom’s lovely kitchenette. She has great views out both this room, and out the Loom Room windows, looking across the valley, down to the school that Phyllis once taught in, and over to Blue Bell Mountain. She didn’t like the antiques Martha’s Place had to offer for shelves and an island, though, so she got these ‘flat packs’ and put them together herself! Although, the kitchen counter and cupboards to the right on the wall are our recycled laundry room cabinets that were hung way up on the wall. (See posting of our bathroom renovation for the befores of those!)


To finish this posting, I’d like to add Ida’s own writing,  and all I have are these two tributes to her own mother (and Carrie’s, who saved and published them). She wrote these a few months after Georgine Rasmussen, their mother, died age 41 , which was just a few months after Ida married and came here to live (and die, age 33) . These were written, thusly, IN THIS VERY HOUSE,  in 1919, very nearly 100 years ago:

A Mother:

A mother is the dearest friend, God ever gave to man, For others often do forget, But mothers never can.    I.M.J.

We have so many friends we love,And they may love us too, But mother dear, there never was, A better friend than you.       I.M.J.



























How To Decorate with Days of Yore Drugs/Diseases ????

Well, that title sounds crazy, right? Why would anyone want THAT sort of thing decorating their home?

But many of you will know about the 3-year run of the Carlisle Country Craft and Old-fashioned Market Mercantile that I organized and ran each August, in Ontario.  One of the top-stops for our visitors was the Apothecary display I did, using old (and in some cases, new) bottles with labels I printed off from the internet and mod-podged on, then filled with coloured water  This is part of the overall display behind an old window so the public couldn’t ‘play’ with the many items and using, as well as the bottles, some pottery jugs and tiny tins and a cupboard system made by my Great Aunt Jessie on which I painted some herb names:


The bottles above don’t have the labels attached, yet – you’ll see how those look shortly, and how easy to do them…  But if you want an old-fashioned country kitchen or bathroom for no cost at all, one of the simplest ways is to hang your own herbs and dried flowers, immediately adding a cozy ‘Cadfael’ cottage kind of feel.

I have mine hanging from a wooden rack and the only beam in the kitchen.  Some of them are just decorative at the moment, but some, like the dill and the lavender, I use weekly.  I will be doing a post on how to make tinctures, and spices from these dried stems in a few weeks.  The next step for decorating both kitchen and bathrooms (and in a few cases, bedrooms, for a romantic feel!) is to do the bottles.  Being the grand-daughter of two men who were both collectors (one grandfather collected snuff boxes, cigarette cases and calling card cases, the other collected more primitive vessels like moonshine jugs, urns, and glass bottles) I have chosen some of the most interesting vignettes around Blue Belldon’s farmhouse to show here.

To the left, the hand-embroidered  ‘sampler’  is from my friend Anne.  It says, in tongue-in-cheek manner- “PLEASE Fuck Off”  When I need to, I hold it up to Richard’s face so he realizes I might be at my breaking point, stress-wise – usually when the cat is throwing up, the dog is whining, the bread is burning, and the husband WANTS something he can’t find, all at the same instance.   It’s a durn-handy tool! Thanks, Anne! 

Because, in true country fashion, I took off some kitchen doors and had them as open shelves (left, above)  and for the others, I personally (and yes, wonkily!) cut out the old cupboard doors for glass to be fitted, it is important to me that I have an interesting assortment of ‘displays’ to put BEHIND the glass! Never mind that crowds of people (or even 1 !) are not going through my kitchen weekly to view these displays, I ENJOY LOOKING AT THEM MYSELF!  So all the various bottles and vessels I put together for the big apothecary display at the shows are now divided up all over the kitchen – I gave a  little preview of this last week when I discussed my 9 days in bed, and how I kept passing the big pine hutch and looking at some of those vignettes of Days of Yore, designed to make folk feel better, in what today, is a completely unhealthy and illegal way!  Note: if you missed the whole kitchen make-over, with lots of before and afters, and some how-tos on paint techniques to make things look older than the icky 1970s, see the post here:

Brain Salt, Soda Pop and Pop-Corn!

Behind that particular glass, you’ll see the above, with jars from Christine Aiken (a Hamilton, ON artist who creates natural beauty with her Stones of Time). Her late husband Dave was also a collector of bottles and jars, and she kindly gave some to me before we moved to N.B.  I love the rusty tops, most especially!  I put the two labels on, from some I ran off ( again, the how-to is later).  Now, lets talk for a minute about the Days of Yore’s solution to what the brain needed – ie: stimulants. ie: Caffeine and COCAINE.

Of course, most people know that Cocoa-cola got its name because it was full of just that – caffeine from the cocoa plant and cocaine!  Here’s a delightful ad for the beverage, circa 1890:


Well, I don’t think it’s any wonder that it ‘relieves physical and mental exhaustion’!  Any stimulant is ‘great for the brain’ – for a few hours, at least.  And a few of those, and you’re addicted and needed another one anyway!  Coca-Cola contained an estimated 9 milligrams of cocaine per glass. After 1904, the company started using leftovers of the cocaine-extraction process, instead of fresh leaves.  It was generally advertised as “A valuable brain tonic, and a cure for all nervous affections — sick head-ache, neuralgia, hysteria, melancholy.”


Of course, one of the most common cures was to give it to children for toothache – they even gave it to teething babies!  And because the pharmaceutical companies didn’t understand the potency of cocaine, or the addictive qualities, the would proudly advertise their use of it!  Cocaine toothache drops (c. 1885) were popular for children.
Not only would the medicine numb the pain, but it could also put the user in a “better” mood. Sadly, many younger children died from this addiction, often with other conditions being misdiagnosed as the culprit.


The above ad is one of the most hilarious (and sad) of any I’ve seen. Essentially, if you have an alcoholic in the house, cure him/her by getting them addicted to cocaine instead!  “If any drunkard drinks copius amounts of this cocaine syrup (the ‘weak grapes’ it’s mixed with, being of course WINE), THEY WILL ALMOST INSTANTLY LOSE THEIR NEED AND WANT OF ALCOHOL AND WILL GAIN A NEW WANT FOR LIFE AND FUN”.   hmmm – well, for a while, anyway!  In 1865 Vin Mariani  was the leading Coca Wine of its time.
Pope Leo XIII purportedly carried a hip-flask of it with him, and awarded a Vatican gold medal to its creator, Angelo Mariani. And of course, Arthur Conan Doyle famously made his great detective addicted to the stuff, one of the reasons why his behaviour was often so erratic (yet possibly why he could think so very clearly at times?)

And, in one of the first instances of artists using drugs to enhance their performance (albeit unknowingly in most instances), cocaine-containing throat lozenges  were “indispensable for singers, teachers, and orators.” In addition to quieting a sore throat, these lozenges provided the “pick-me-up” to keep these professionals performing at their peak.

Here’s a couple of the labels I applied to old bottles.  Take too much cocaine, and you’re definitely going to need the other two pictured here!


Opium, was of course one of the primary and most popular of the ‘natural’ drugs from as far back as the 1400s up to the early 1900s.  From the poppy-seed pod, such famous people as Florence Nightingale, Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, Mary and Percy Shelley and no doubt their pal, Lord Byron, Ben Franklin, and John Keats are just a few of the imaginative minds who used the ‘medicine’. Paregoric and Laudanum (mixtures of opium and alcohol) were distributed much like the spices. Doses for infants, children, and adults are given on the bottles. It was freely prescribed by doctors and even available at grocery stores. Chinese laborers had brought the practice of opium smoking to the West during the mid-nineteenth century and opium was often given to women to treat menstrual cramps . “Smoking” opium  was done without benefit of the infamous opium dens and their paraphernalia.  It could simply be put in a pan and heated by a small kerosene lamp!

Here are two of the most humourous ads for opium:


Elixir of Opium became extremely popular in the United States once the A. B. & D. Sands drug company bought the recipe in 1841 and proudly pro-claimed that it was “non-habit forming.” McMunn’s Elixir of Opium was touted as a cure for “convulsions and spasmodic action,” as well as “pain and irritation, nervous excitement and morbid irritability of body and mind.” Morbid irritability? Just put me to SLEEP!  So many women who suffered from severe PMS (and who were once burned as witches due to their mood swings) were offered this as a ‘cure’.  It really just meant their hubbies could continue on with their fun while their poor wives were dead to the world.

And speaking of dead – it was also prescribed to children, like the cocaine was—“To a child a month old, or younger, give from half a drop to two drops; to a child 6 months old, from 3 to 10 drops…”—This naturally led to a rash of infant deaths. An infamous case from New York in 1875 described a young child who had worms being dosed with “15-20 drops every hour” in an effort to “cause the worms which were supposed to be in the child’s stomach, to have a good sleep.” Instead, as a local newspaper reported, “The little fellow was at play in the morning as ever and at 11 at night was a corpse.”

Here’s my collection of bottles with labels that had some form of opium.

The golf ball is a real cure, too – if your feet, ankles or knees are a problem, step on it hard and roll it around for a bit of drug-free shiatsu!

Mixed in among my own spices and dried herbs in my pigeon holes are the cannabis-based bottles. While morphine, heroin, chlorodyne, and a mixture of them called “Commotion Lotion”  were also popularly-prescribed drugs in our ancestors’ time, good old cannabis has always been one of the least harmful:


For decorating and display purposes, if not using a coloured water for a liquid, I would just colour baby powder or flour like in the corked bottles above.

I especially enjoy, for purposes of decorating and cheering myself up (esp. if that darned red geranium in my kitchen window isn’t in bloom!) putting a little bit of colour in the kitchen or bathroom window sills, either with empty coloured bottles,  or some lovely dried flower or herb stems in oils, that I make up myself:

See again how various forms of ‘medicine’ (really nothing more than high-proof alcohol) suggest OVERDOSING on the stuff, for full benefits! Yup, 4 small wineglasses of any alcohol 4 times a day will make the average person feel better able to ‘get on’ with life! (Me, I just use my embroidered sampler from Anne!)

Other vessel collections also add to the grace and authenticity of any country home.  Use the trendy ‘bowl-fillers’ to put in baskets or old bowls ( bathroom basket with twig handle hand-made by Rustic Revivals, with tobacco slats compliments of my cousins Pete and Linda Baxter, and available on etsy) :


Other vessels and filler ideas include: (click to enlarge and read caption if you wish ideas)

And other vessels that can be collected cheaply (now-a-days, those crocks USED to be worth a small fortune!) and used to decorate your country home, reminiscent of the days they were used for yet more “medicinal remedies”! ( Click on each circle to enlarge and to read caption if you wish more ideas for country decorating that costs nothing! )

Now, for those that really like the idea of putting a replicated apothecary on display somewhere in their house (you don’t need pigeon holes or multiple tiny drawers or shelves, although those are great for this purpose – you just need a window-sill or dark shelf you want to brighten!)  READ ON:


Once you have a collection of various size bottles, clean them up as best you can. I’ve had to leave some corks inside, and then use other corks (saved from wine-drinkers in the family) and whittle down one end so they fit!  Other ideas for bottles which work equally well are just sets of spice bottles, or even those at the dollar store (although I don’t buy from dollar stores directly, – (China and India don’t need a penny more from us)-  I AM often given this kind, as people know I will thus recycle them!)  Then go online and find any of the copius amount of old labels/ads found there.  I colour-copied them, even the black and white ones, to give them a proper authentic look, and not just a photo-copied appearance.

Decide which bottle you’d like for which label and cut the labels to fit.  BEFORE mod-podging/gluing into place, though, partly fill them with coloured water or coloured powders/flours, of a shade likely to be indicative of what the label says (ie: cough syrups were usually a nasty dark brown or cherry-red).  You can either use commercial food colourings, or if you try hard like me to all-natural, use dyes made from berries/beets, etc. (if the latter is the case, you may have to empty and do again every year or two). Coloured dish soap can work well also, if you can afford it!



Once the label is affixed by regular glue (small amount so it doesn’t wrinkle!) go ahead and mod-podge over it.  You can of course use your own homemade mod-podge:   but I did try it once and it didn’t make it as water-proof/washable over the labels as I’d have liked.

If you prefer not to have straight edges on your labels, you could rip them to age them. Other ways of distressing or to burn or tea-stain the edges (if you used thick copy-paper, I don’t advise if you used thinner) OR my new personal preference the last few years is to use a brown ink pad, take the paper and ‘stain’ it here and there and along edges, but pressing into the ink. I now do this with my Rustic Revivals tags to age them and it works a treat!   I’ll be doing a whole blog posting later on how to use paints, inks, tea and coffee to distress paper, natural fabrics and edges of wood. Watch for it! Edge of the seat stuff here!



Woodpile Weirdoes

Feeling like a bit of levity this week: For those who know Richard “Pippi” well, it is not a surprise that he occasionally launches into silly song-and-dances or his own dramatic performances, either to gain attention from a small crowd, to wake me up on a dark morning, or simply because he’s feeling good and glad to be ALIVE.  Some of you have been unable to find our funny youtube videos that we were preparing for an audition on a reno. t.v. show, and this includes two of Pippi with his pretend chain-saw. It is one of his more popular party-tricks, I must admit.  Sometimes he does it without any prop (eg. the priming version) but, like the photo below, he will sometimes hold a piece of wood or the like to give the impression of a chainsaw.


The youtube link for these weird ‘impressions’ of “manwithchainsaw” are at:    and   the priming demo at:

Our other humourous audition tapes are here:  and here: , in case you’re fans of Richard the Ridica-LOUSE.  The latter explains the reasons/plans for our move to New Brunswick.

One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen or heard re: a chainsaw was when I lived in England and one of my good friends, Mr McEvoy (not Mr. McGarrity in the garden, see Maggie Muggins BECAUSE-WHY category, but close !) told me he was going out to use the chainsaw in his yard.  It was really just a hedge-trimmer!  I laughed and laughed… the Brits always think everything in North America is so much bigger, but in this case – how TRUE!

cutting hedge

McEvoys, Maine, and the Mighty Miramichi…

McEvoy and McEvoy (father and son) also run a wilderness survival/bush craft course in the u.k., and we hope to perhaps become amalgamated with them as they help us with ideas for From Paddle to Saddle around Thanksgiving of 2016 when they are coming to be our first bunk-house B&B’ers to try their hand at paddling in the Mighty Miramichi.

Here’s a photo of them in the rugged Yorkshire Dales, geo-caching and navigating to hone their wilderness skills. New Brunswick’s Appalachians will seem easy after this, I’m sure! Stay tuned for their sharing of wilderness adventures in October!

remy nav.

A funny reference to wood-piles/woodsheds (besides the obvious tongue twister “how much wood could a wood-chuck chuck…”) is Stella Gibbon’s famous, if ambiguous quote “I saw something nasty in the woodshed!”. When I was getting my degree in English Lit, a room-mate and I went to see Cold Comfort Farm and laughed and laughed at this quote, and proceeded to say it to each other in relation to almost anything, for the rest of the year! Love its ambiguity, actually – because it can mean SO much!






Fact or Folk Lore ?: Lucy’s Gulch

lucy's gulchWonderful story of near-by Lucy’s Gulch. One of her ancestors says this name did not come about with the Danish, but prior to that – Lucy’s sister Jane married Daniel Watson,  and they  had several children together, then in time he built a house beside theirs for his sister-in-law and started having children with Lucy! Lucy Whitehead was a mid-wife in the area and had to slog up and down the steep ravine (the road is actually her footpath!) during many hard winters while trying to help local farm wives! Here’s a photo of the two houses Daniel built for his two women!  Joy, her mother (my grandmother) and I have all much-loved and read Catherine Marshall’s “Christy”, which is full of G U L C H names, so we love that Lucy’s Gulch is within walking distance of the farm…

Daniel, Jane and Lucy's houses