Founders’ Days Festivities, Farmers’ Feats, and the ‘Famous Foot Folly’.

DUE TO THE POWER OUTAGE ACROSS NORTH EASTERN N.B., THIS BLOG HAS BEEN DELAYED. My apologies to those who were expecting photos before bed-time!


I am an entertainer, an educator, an environmentalist and an equestrian.  Most of my blog postings have a few of the 4 ‘E’s’.  This one has them all. If you don’t like one of the ELEMENTS, skip ahead.  But I suggest you open your mind to further learning and DON’T skip the educational bits.  Because if you do – that other ‘e’ word – ‘EARTH’  – will soon be lost.


I am somewhat amazed, looking back,  that in the last month we have pulled off what I think of as “Farmer’s Feats”. ‘Cause there’s no one tougher and in some ways, more miracle-making, than a farmer, right?   In 4 weeks, we have had two new and sick animals finally settled and growing healthier each day, AND managed to cut and harrow our top hayfield, plant a timothy mixture, AND  put in over a 1/4 acre of vegetable/herb and berry garden for our self-sufficient aspirations for the next year.  And among all this, those of us at Blue Belldon Farm have also managed to take part in the special (only every 5 years) 145th Founder’s Day of this lovely rural community of New Denmark. Richard, Mom/Joy and I have even managed to volunteer to help out a bit with all the festivities, although we were constantly having to run back to the farm to feed and do chores, water the massive garden, etc.

As a Musical Theatre/English teacher for 15 years and as a full-time riding instructor in 3 countries for 20 years before that, you gotta know I’m gonna love the chance to WEAR A  COSTUME and RIDE THROUGH GORGEOUS COUNTRYSIDE simultaneously!  Thus, disregarding two bad knees and my 3 former back surgeries, (not to mention the fact that Chevy came to us with a viral infection!) I was determined to ride in this year’s 4.5 km parade- as by the 150th one (ie: the next one!) I might have to submit to being shoved along in a wheelchair.  I find it a sad state of affairs that I was once able to mount a 16:3 hh  jiggling thoroughbred stallion from the ground (and dismount by dropping both stirrups and springing down!) and am now reduced to THIS:

mounting block

This is the mounting block area from which Richard and I now always mount, not just for decrepit old me, but for poor Chevy’s muscular atrophy in his back.  (It is really no longer considered good for a horse’s spine to mount from the ground anyway).  This is Richard’s niece Carriann, who, as part of our parade preparations, helped us put some miles on Chevy to get him in better condition.  The New Denmark parade goes 4.5 k straight up two giant hills from the museum to the recreation centre.  To top it all off, we are 2 k from the museum, AND, at one point, we were afraid we’d have to ride him all the way home again as well! (more on this later!)

Another part of Chevy’s conditioning plan has been to get ‘beefed-up’ with both beet pulp (you MUST expand this in water or it could kill a horse with colic!) and alfalfa pellets, as well as various vitamin boosts the vet recommended.  So, at 5:30 every morning one of us trails to the barn to bring Chevy in from his night-time grazing (out of the sun and the blackflies). We call this the Bathrobe and Bucket Brigade.  Sometimes Richard even has to wear his fly-hat, because as per last week’s blog, the blackflies are at their VERY worst at dawn and dusk!

Bucket and Bathrobe Brigade

Mom/Joy captured both the above photos from her upstairs windows, and she has contributed to many of the shots incl. in this blog as I was WAY too busy this past weekend to be snapping away…  Other photo contributors are listed below.

Besides mine and poor Chevy’s physical discomfort at most minutes of the day, (anti-inflammatories go a long way to easing us both!) the other fear we had for his being away for the better part of a full day was Cammie the goat’s co-dependency.  As described in previous blog articles, if you can’t have a horse companion for your equine, a goat is the next best thing,  (we plan to start milking her next year anyway, so a goat was the definitive  ‘must-be-useful’ answer!) You’ll often see highly strung race horses and show-jumpers with a goat in their stall.  However, Cammie has taken her love to a whole other level.  When left alone, she bleats for hours until exhaustion forces her to lie down and snooze! The other day after I brought Chevy in from just an hour’s ride, I saw Cammie stand on her hind legs and attempt to put her front legs around his neck in an embrace.  No word of a lie.  Of course I didn’t have my trusty camera along at that point!  When she’s loose around the farm and she sees him coming back from a ride, she tears across the grass to be close to him:

cammie, chevy and carriann

With an hour-long ‘logistics’ meeting and armed with the ‘best-laid plans’ (you know where THAT’S going, right Robbie Burns?) Richard and I spent Friday taking care of the ‘polishing and decorating’ for the parade.  That is, he was responsible for cleaning his ’73 Nova (after which Chevy is of course named) and I was responsible for bathing and braiding said horse.  And, with the exception of Richard  (and sometimes Mom, but she has age as an excuse) forgetting nearly every single POINT on the Logistics List the next day, (ie: unloading a whole car full of packed items that were meant for the other end of the parade!)  as well as Richard ripping part of my carefully-sewn costume, pulling out several of Chevy’s meticulously-braided plaits, squashing his own cowboy hat (the same worn by Miss New Denmark in the hill-billy dance of their pageant, incidentally!) being late back to meet neighbour Zeb who was travelling in the Nova with him, and then – my Dear Dork’s piece-de-resistance! – proceeding to get stepped on by Chevy’s gi-normous soup plate hooves so that everyone in hearing distance of him for the next 12 hours had to hear (and SEE) all about it, WE PULLED OFF AN AMAZING FEAT by, ‘gettin’ ‘er done’.  We DID, sadly, miss the Friday night dance, as we were just plumb tuckered out (do I sound like an Appalachian gal yet?) but let me share the REST of the 145th Founders’ Day experience with you all:

If you haven’t been following the history of New Denmark’s farm and forest folk on this blog, and esp. if you’re from Ontario, Montana, West Yorkshire, Scotland, South Africa, or any of the other places my friends and former students are following from, I’ll give you a quick summary:

Many of the original Danes came in June of 1872 aboard the Empress, arriving in Saint John.  They were then paddle-wheeled up the Salmon River (just below us at the bottom of Lucy’s Gulch, the history of which I wrote about last spring here, if you use the ‘gulch’ as a search word within this blog) arriving at the gravel bank on the opposite side of Drummond , N.B.  This all concurred with the redrafting of the Free Grants Act and redistribution of land parcels.  However, as Pastor Ralph Weigold of our St. Peter’s church reminded us in our outdoor service yesterday, most of the Danes likely thought they were getting already-cleared and even established farm land, when in fact all of their 100 acre tracts were nothing but thick forest!  Determined, nonetheless, these Danes with their stoic Viking blood officially climbed Lucy’s Gulch to this flatter land up top, on June 19th of 1872,  settling in to help each other begin clearing for the next many years, all sharing  “Immigrant House” until their log cabins (such as what is still our downstairs master bedroom—- see also former posts with tag word “Ida May”) Eventually, these founding families formed the largest and what would become the oldest Danish community in Canada! And so a very happy June 19th today!

145 parade1

Richard kindly saved my butt (and I do mean literally) by riding the 2km from Blue Belldon Farm to the museum.  I set Chevy up behind the back buildings in his temporary electric ‘holding area’ and began the last of his preparations and decor (as seen above) while we waited for the one and only other rider I was able to secure with ties to the ‘local’ (based over 45 min. away, but that’s ‘local’ in N.B.!)   Valley Horse and Saddle Club (for whom I am teaching a clinic next weekend – spots still available!) And here I want to thank the indomitable spirit of Mrs. Kim Tompkins. She was the only one to volunteer to help me (for I’d have never taken a 5 year-old youngster in this by myself, no matter how “bomb-proof” his previous owners claimed him to be!) .  And what’s a parade without at least a FEW horses? Not only did Kim trailer all the way up here from AN HOUR AND 15 MINUTES SOUTH, but so did a supportive car-load of her family who were a great help to both of us as well!  And not only did Kim arrange all this, she REMADE over an old prom dress she had worn previously, to be in New Denmark’s red and white colours, AND she crocheted her 24 year old “Champ” his own fly cap AND her own feathery/flowery creation to cover her riding helmet.  Here’s a few of the two of us, taken in front of New Denmark’s big ‘flag’ and in front of the museum before we left. (They should enlarge if you click on them.)

Despite my Drama background, my ‘costume’ paled next to Kim’s.  It IS, however, in true eco-friendly style, as is Kim’s (either recycle it or home-make it!) The coat is from a huntsman’s uniform from a theatre I worked at in Yorkshire in the late 1990s.  The lace at my throat was the petticoat of a dress my mother ‘made’ me wear when I was a toddler.  The polo wraps and breastplate were articles of clothing I bought at Value Village and ‘revised’. The bows and flowers were all left-overs from the beauty pageant last month.  And the boots, on which I painted the New Denmark flag, were actually taken out of a pile of junk to cut-up for pieces to use for Rustic Revivals’ work!  But, while Kim was talented enough to crochet HER horse’s ear and eye protector, I made poor Chevy go about with a cut-up old rag-rug (also a Value Village purchase) on his head!  Never mind how it looked.  I stitched in his ear cones and made the fringe to protect his eyes from those nasty-biting black flies and horse/deer flies and he was happy.

horses, parade, 2017

The above photo and many below were taken by Kim’s daughter, the very helpful Natasha (following us with her family in the van, to make sure the rest of the ‘followers’ didn’t come too close to us!  While the fire department held up most of the ‘traffic’ (if 3 cars which is a ‘jam’ in N.D. can be so-called)  at the few rural intersections, we DID have a long stream of cars behind us that were all apparently parade followers going to the rec. centre for festivities!) I had asked Parade Marshall Hansen if we could please be at the very back of the parade to avoid the many tooting horns, air brakes, popping balloons, and bag-pipers that I thought might spook the young Chevy, but as soon as he ‘met’ (didn’t allow them to touch as per rules for horses that have been virally infected) old Champ he was calm.  In fact, I ALMOST suspect he’s done a parade previously – he really didn’t even raise a hair when the pipers started up!

Mom/Joy took great pride in telling these folks that her father was from Aberdeen and that EVERYONE in this community wasn’t Danish.  She says they seemed excited to meet someone else from a ‘kilted’ background.  She took the two photos above, and some of the below parade shots.  Most, however, were taken by the excellent photographer, Shelly Snow, who says these are just ‘highlights’ of all she did take.  Thanks to all three ladies, Natasha, Joy and Shelly for the attention to detail. Kim and I didn’t even get to SEE most of these parade entries, as there were two big gaps in the parade itself, not to mention the 4.5 km we had to spread out over.  If you click on each photo, it will expand, and there may be a caption I’ve written under each explaining something as well:

As planned on our Logistics List, my back and knees did not hold up for the full 4.5 k.  So Richard met me where Mom had parked, at the last intersection (Salmonhurst) and used her little step-ladder to clamber aboard. Thus it was he who rode the last mile or so while I followed in Mom’s reclined leather seats!

parade, richard up

What an old fogey I’ve become !But thanks, Richard, for saving me here, as well! Hard to believe I used to 3-day event, covering many miles at a gallop and jumping big FIXED fences over which one could topple at any second.  And now I’m afraid to ride behind a tractor at a WALK!  Ah, those were the days…


parade, 145

After the parade, way up the road at the rec. centre, folk dancing and children’s face-painting and games were organized, but Chevy and Champ mostly just wanted to relax and graze: (click on each to read captions).  And then, SOOOOO grateful to Kim and family for helping us load Chevy on their trailer and having him brought home! Saved either Richard or myself having to be dead sore by riding all the 6.5 km back! And then – hurrah!  Cammie had survived her day alone without any visible health issues!

More Danish festivities took place through the afternoon here:

That night, after a cold plate supper was served at the Anglican church (right across from St. Peter’s, as you’ll have witnessed above in the parade shot with the tractor), Mom and I helped sell ‘candles’ (please refer to my attempts to keep my mouth shut about New Brunswick rural areas NOT being at all eco-friendly later in this post!) and much like my former walk down the Bronte’s Haworth Main Street hill exactly 20 years ago, I enjoyed watching others (including Joy/Mom) do the same. The Historical Society was also selling memorial luminary bags which were spread in a circle around the museum grounds where hot dogs were being sold by “The Tiara Club”.  Richard was across the road with former and present Founders’ Day presidents, Peter and Chris, helping prepare the fireworks spectacular.  I think if Peter and Chris had any IDEA of the sort of accidental mania all Reich men are drawn to, they would NOT have let Richard sit over there.  As it was, only one car almost blew up with a firecracker going through its open windows (this is an exaggeration and other comments about this are considered humour-rumour only!)  and Chris did a dance like a leotarded ballerina when a mass of sparks ignited sideways and he went home to check for holes in his legs.  However, gents – may I suggest NOT inviting Richard to your cosy corner for the 150th celebrations?  I mean, wasn’t the half-hour you endured looking at his ever-blackening and swelling foot enough to warn you that he isn’t a chap who should be allowed near anything more dangerous than a sleepy Clydesdale?

I very much enjoyed driving after Pastor Ralph’s end-car flashing hazards to slow down the (non-existent) New Denmark ‘traffic’.  I was there just in case Mom didn’t feel up to walking the 2 km, but well done on her. She did it! So I unrolled the windows and enjoyed the spring peepers and fireflies along the lovely quiet rural route.  However, when arriving at the museum I discovered to my dismay that SO many people had been asking to use the museum bathrooms, that they’d closed them off.  Not to be an ‘I told you so’, but I DO remember asking at one of the organizing meetings if we couldn’t have a ‘porta-potty’ dropped off at the museum grounds as well as the two at the rec. centre.  Just something to keep in mind for the 150th, as there were also MANY parade entrants asking to use the museum facilities that afternoon, prior to the long parade!  Instead, desperate, I went in search of a bush behind some trees behind the parking area.  Just as I yanked down my leggings and squatted my aching back and knees, didn’t the men set off their fireworks right behind me, illuminating my bare buttocks in a spasm of disco-revival ‘mooning’.  And then of course, two cars decided to pull over on to the shoulder right then to watch.  Here’s hoping their eyes were entranced upwards, because if they glanced sideways I was only about 15 ft. from their passenger side window.  And if you WERE treated to that sneak-peek, folks – well, I can only say you just had an authentic taste of what the Founding Families had to endure when crowded together in Immigrant House 145 years ago! But without the exciting light and sound show!

The next day, Sunday (yesterday) we were up early to feed and do barn chores, then off to the museum grounds to help clean up and prepare for the big Danish lunch that was being served after the church service.   Now, while I WAS assured that all the empty pop cans I gathered up the night before were being recycled (N.B. has a redemption plan, so why would you throw money away? And yet, every day I see at least 3 new cans lying in the lovely wild-flower-filled ditches along our rural roads! What the hell is WRONG with people? It’s not just distressing to see from an aesthetic point, it is disastrous for wildlife that can get cut or stuck with it, and it NEVER breaks down so will be part of the ‘earth’ from which I’m trying to FEED MY FAMILY!  And if you aren’t used to reading/listening to my environmental rants, this is part of why I started this blog, so prepare yourself! This next bit is the important EDUCATIONAL part. Take the high ground before it erodes !  READ IT!)

These issues that are very close to my heart because of my love of nature, and the countryside are something I’ve fought for since I was 8 years old holding up a banner saying “Please Don’t Pollute” along our busy Ontario highway.  But Ontario HAS (out of necessity for better education on the issues) ‘cleaned itself up’.  Quebec is also much better with its recycling programs. However, as soon as you cross the border into New Brunswick, and as the scenery gets MORE beautiful in the mountains, that’s when the littering gets worse.  And thus, as we began food prep. for the day, I was flabbergasted at the amount of stryofoam plates vs. paper.  FACT: Styrofoam manufacturers are continually in the top five of the largest producers of toxic waste. FACT: Styrene, the material in Styrofoam,  leaks out large amounts of ozone, and this causes irritation of the skin, eyes and respiratory tract and gastrointestinal problems. In humans AND wildlife/livestock. Chronic exposure affects the nervous system, causing symptoms like depression, headache, fatigue and weakness, and minor effects on kidney function and blood. And people, this is LEAKING INTO OUR EARTH AND OUR WATER SUPPLIES!   FACT: Styrofoam is non-biodegradable and non-recyclable. Styrofoam takes 500 years to decompose; it cannot be recycled, so the Styrofoam cups and plates and packing materials dumped in landfills are there to STAY. Forever.  With enough Styrofoam cups produced each DAY – each DAY, folks —- to CIRCLE THE EARTH if lined up end to end, the potential for major ecological impact is staggering.  What’s wrong with paper plates? Even doubled?  They can be recycled, and, though it isn’t the BEST, can be burned.

Now, I’m already shocked at , and have written about, the amount of plastic bags used by New Brunswick as a whole.  How can one province be so far behind the others in simply taking their own fabric shopping bags to the grocery stores? It is the government of New Brunswick’s fault for not educating its citizens, OR  in offering better recycling plans.  I wonder if my new New Brunswick friends and neighbours even KNOW that most of the other provinces are at 70 percent fabric grocery bag usage? Because most of the check-out staff here stare at you uncomprehendingly when you stop them from whipping out a plastic bag by saying “No thanks – I have my own”.  They truly don’t seem to know what you’re talking about!  And I wonder if the good folk of New Brunswick know that most other provinces, (and even the cities here) have curb-side blue-bins for putting your aluminum and plastics  – yes, even in rural areas?  And I’ve been putting my recycling in a blue bin at my rural abode for 35 YEARS.   So how can N.B. be so far behind?

N.B. has in my opinion, among the most beautiful scenery of any in North America (and yes, I’ve seen and even lived in most states and provinces incl. right in the Rockies).  But OH!    They have to catch up in learning to RECYCLE, REDUCE AND REUSE so that this beautiful landscape is preserved to the fullest!   To see the garbage bags at the museum and rec. centre FULL TO OVER-FLOWING with plastic tablecloths used to decorate the floats and to cover tables (not to mention the balloons from which even a pin-prick of its surface can kill a lovely song-bird!  COME ON, EVERYONE!   LET’S USE FABRIC TO DECORATE,  LIKE OUR ANCESTORS… isn’t that what we’re celebrating?  And don’t buy your fabric new, use old clothes, etc. like Kim and I did for our costumes!   JUST RE-USE, RE-USE!!!!  Stop being a disposable society like the ‘powers that be’ want us to be (’cause we spend more money and give it to them!) . See my former postings on the horrific effects of plastic in our world here:   posts within this blog entitled “Taken at the Flood” and “Blue Belldon Basement Grow Op” have some truly shocking facts and photographs that you won’t BELIEVE )  Plastic flowers, plastic glasses (incl. those we sold for people to hold in the DISPOSABLE battery-operated CANDLES for the ‘torchlights’ which made me CRINGE in SORROW !!! Two types of plastic going into landfills because we have no regular recycling program here AND the amount of battery acid which will now permeate into the soil, groundwater and surface water through landfills and also release toxins into the air when they are burnt in municipal waste combustors.  Also, the cadmium in even those wee batteries is easily taken up by plant roots and it accumulates in fruits, vegetables and grass. The impure water and plants in turn are consumed by animals and human beings, who then fall prey to a host of ill-effects.  And you wonder why we all have   cancer?????)

Now, don’t get me started on the environmental ill-effects of the exhaust fumes and noise pollution of Richard’s Nova, because I’ve fought and fought, and it’s a losing battle, just as my rants about all the rest of this misuse probably are, but lastly, there’s a delicious Danish dish called Ableskivers which are wee warm doughnuts.  But when I asked for another task yesterday, I was delegated the duty of rolling up over 60 tin foil balls to put in the bottom of crock pots for these doughnuts to stay warm without getting soggy.  I did it.  And was silent for about the first 20 minutes.  And then I just HAD to open my mouth.

“I haven’t touched tin foil in at least 2 years, ladies.  I never use it at home.  There’s always an alternative…”  and then I bit my lip, but was thinking that there must be ways – like crushed pop cans in the bottom instead, which are then recycled/redeemed?  Or even little metal racks?  I’m sure there are loads of other ways to do this without all this nasty tin foil!  LAST FACT :  The amount of aluminum foil thrown away by North Americans EACH YEAR could build an entire fleet of aircraft!  And yet again, those balls will end up in landfills, and possibly stuck in a rabbit’s or gentle doe’s throat so that it dies slowly of starvation or chokes…  And yet recycling just ONE aluminum can could save the power needed to light up your entire house for 3 hours! Anyway, I walked away from the aluminum balls issue.  Very brave of me. Lots of fortitude.  Another ‘farmer’s feat’. But I did NOT want to know where they ended up! (Oh, who’m I kidding? I KNOW!)

So, back to the more pleasant topics of the 3rd day of the Founders’ Day weekend (because we are all anxious to behave like the ostrich and simply bury our heads in the plastic-encrusted beach sands. You all complain there’s no more fish in our rivers and ocean? Or that it’s so expensive to purchase?  This is why)…plastic on beach

First we had the wonderful outdoor church service, joined by both of our community’s Lutheran churches as well as the congregation of St. Ansgar’s, the Anglican one.  Our Pastor Ralph did a wonderful job on the sermon which included imagining what the pioneers went through when they arrived and had to clear the land and live together in one building, as well as sprinkling his message with words of HOPE for a community where many of the Danish traditions are thought to be ‘dwindling’ and where many of the younger generations are leaving the beautiful countryside for the technology of the cities and towns.  Pastor is singing with the New Denmark Minstrels at the Perth/Andover  July 1st celebrations, as is organist/guitarist and soprano Sonja (in red).  I do hope many New Denmarkers will bring a lawn chair and come listen to all the choirs (incl. 150 voices for the 150th!) and instrumentalists from 4 to 7 on that day in Veteran’s Field.  Bliss MacDonald (son of Phyllis who was born in this house as per many former blog entries/history of Blue Belldon Farm – just tag search with her name within this blog) did some lovely readings for this service in his calm and soothing “Mr. Rogers” voice.  The music by these local musicians was uplifting as were the melodies answered in return by the many birds in the surrounding woods chirping through the delicate mist.

pastor ralph

phyllis, Bliss

The above is a great shot that means a lot to us at Blue Belldon Farm, and taken by my mother, Joy.  It’s of former teacher and Avon-calling! Phyllis Macdonald, with two of her children.  As regular readers of this blog will know, we welcomed Bliss (left) and his mother to our home just after Christmas because Phyllis’ mother, Ida May (older sister of local historian/author Carrie Albert) came here to the log cabin that is now our master bedroom when she was a 16-year-old bride. Ida grew up one road over, then came here, had 5 children, planted many flowers and fruit trees, (some of which we still reap the blossoming benefits) then died age 33, in 1931.  My tribute song to her, “Ida May”, is to be sung by the aforementioned Minstrels, at the July 1st Perth concert as well, with Bliss and Phyllis’ blessing.

on stageThe mural on the stage wall shows the land-clearing the pioneers (Danish Founding Fathers) had to do when they first arrived. In the foreground is the stunning  Miss N.B. from 2016 ,  Marielle Ouellette  and our present (and for the next 5 years!) reigning Queen of New Denmark, Megan Bach, who did a lovely speech.

Finally, below, Anna and Sonja , both sopranoes, had a little entertainment to add to the Memorial Service line-up.  Also seen in the mural to the right is the replica of Immigration House where so many ancestors of this community struggled to survive in their first few years here before their own homesteads were habitable.

anna and sonja

Thus ends our first Founder’s Day experiences, and the Danish-inspired open-faced liver pate sandwich I had yesterday for lunch is still very much remaining with me, as will all the memories made by this community’s endeavours to celebrate the nearly unbelievable efforts of the generations past…

In closing, I leave you with this.  (Horse people and those that know any of the Reichs well will be unimpressed, but he’s hoping to garner some sympathy from the rest of you…)


If you’re coming to New Brunswick this summer to tour, the New Denmark museum is a must-see (as is the surrounding area with its amazing views from up here  – above Lucy’s Gulch, that is) .  The following is some info. that might intrigue you further. And we’re JUST off the Trans Canada, so really – right along your way to All Points Atlantic!

18 June – 27 Aug.
6 Main New Denmark Rd.
New Denmark






Fish, Flies and FIELDing Problems

Fish, Flies and FIELDing Problems – the Farmer in Armor

The problems started a week ago
When Rich and Zeb went fishing
To try and start our winter's hoard
- But that was hopeful wishing!

Richard snagged just a few
And Zeb gave us one he caught.
And in all the things we've learned here:
Cleaning fish in my kitchen - N O T !!!!!


The smell that night started making me sick
And all next day I was struggling
But opening the top half of the Dutch door,
Then closing it, freezing, took juggling

Between that fresh air method and
The burning beeswax - what else was used?
Oh, vinegar!  So then our house stank  
 Of fish AND the latter-- and I was NOT amused.


Three days later, chilly and cold
'Cause the door was open for air
But the houseflies, blackflies and horseflies too
Were now inside and - we hadn't a prayer!

The second the snows melt away in N.B.
The blackflies are on us in swarms
And these aren't like Ontario ones -
They are smaller, and multiply as the air warms...

Only the females bite, they say -
But boy there are plenty of THOSE!
And though we're up high with lots of breeze
And with open land - ANYTHING goes

They are so small, and NOT very black
But the damage they cause is great
While trying to mow and harrow the fields
Richard's temples and neck were well-ate!

And while Mom plants the flowers, and I the veg,
We all three must bundle in armor
And poor Chevy, too, or he can't go to graze!
Ye GADS -  the life of a farmer!
So while we MUST be outside during the day,
With planting and sowing of seed
Mostly Chevy, and Smitty and Cammie too
Are INSIDE, where it's more black-fly-freed.

But with feeling sick from bug bites and flu,
Chevy doesn't want to eat much at all
He's on antibiotics, and pain-killers, too
SO... he's not happy out OR in stall!

And Cammie's twice gotten loose and run out
And eaten tomato plants started downstairs
Then nurtured along by yours truly...
Oh, the problems and woes and cares!!!

When they graze in the daylight, they are eaten alive
You can see their tails try, but in vain
(Especially since draft horse guys cut them SHORT
Which gives Chevy MORE of a strain!) 


So Chevy goes out at night to eat 
When it's chilly and damp and cold
And Cammie bleats from the barn for her pal
So there's all kinds of unrest in the fold!

And though their summer food is a problem,
Their winter food is now our main thought.
The field's been prepared with that new harrow 
And now here we become MUCH over-wrought.

For in the long grass the blackflies rest
Awaiting the approach of fresh protein
That comes with our blood, those bastard swarms!
(If only they sucked FAT and made us lean!)

So we take turns on the back of the pickup truck
Which overheats constantly and stops
And we leave it and go on to something else
Then come back for more broadcasting crops.

We toss out the timothy into the wind
And pray that many seeds 'take'
We may only get one hay-cutting this year:
But FINE QUALITY, thanks to harrow and rake?

However, yesterday, on the tailgate alone,
Broadcasting and enjoying the heat
('Twas the first hot day we've had
And -  less blackflies ? Oh, Gosh- what a treat!)

I let my left leg dangle down
With pant-leg tucked into sock
And my right leg straddled the sack of seed...
I was ready with bug-spray, sun-block!

(All natural, of course, and may not work as well
As the chemical ones from the store,
Because, unbeknownst to me, 
The blackflies were.  .  .   EVENING THE SCORE).

Mom and Richard have both had bites
All over their bodies and hair
But so far, I've had better luck,
As I take garlic and dress with great care!

But here's my left ankle yesterday:
I was oblivious to all this going on
As the blackflies anaesthetize first 
And THEN it's their major blood drawn.
You can see where my sock was tight
Because my pant leg was tucked in,
But apparently this doesn't much help
As my hairy legs are bitten heel to shin!

And today they are swollen and infected
And of course itchy as hell!
I reapply soda paste 3 times an hour
And curse the Mount of Blue Bell!

Yes the view is amazing and lovely
And the lilacs and tree blossoms too
But this week has been nightmarish for all who live
At the farm aptly named as "blue"....

 And now Chevy's form of black-fly fever
May well be setting in to me too
But at least MY antibiotics are 'covered'
And won't break the bank as HIS do!

vet bills






Rain, Reins, and Reigning – some ‘harrowing’ experiences!

When I was 21 I had several bad shocks in a row and a friend in Pittsburgh offered to let me come stay for a few weeks to try and come to grips.  But on the Greyhound bus on the way down, an incident took place at the border which has consistently made me get my back up with border officials and any type of what I call ‘jumped-up power-mongers’.  So often, border security (and this is long before 9/11, of course) have for some reason, seen little old  innocent me who has never broken the law or even had one full drink of an alcoholic beverage and promptly decide I look ‘suspicious’ . ( Why? Am I so plain Jane that I’m always resembling someone on the current WANTED lists ?  Or is it because of my NAME – there ARE an awful lot of Julie Ann Johnsons —all named after the hill-billy blues song? —and a number of those I’ve googled in the past DO have criminal records!)  Anyway, I was chosen out of the busload of at least 50 people to be dragged into the border office.  After being nearly suicidal for some weeks, and being a young and naive 21, this was more than my nerves could bear and I remember standing there, shaking and teary-eyed while the officious officials went through my pockets, my suitcase and my handbag.  In said bag they found a letter from my younger teen-age cousins who thought it would be funny to slip in a 3-page note ‘from my horse’ at the time: “Cupid” .  (I didn’t name him,  (she says defensively!) —they did.  He was born on Valentine’s Day and had an upside down heart for a star on his forehead).  This note was a straightforward well-wishing bon voyage kind of thing, and I expect they were trying to cheer me up at the time.  But they wrote it in a funny childish slanted style, emulating, I suppose, what they thought a young colt might ‘write’ like?


But the border guards thought this worthy of an HOUR of their attention, trying to ‘translate’ what they thought were double-meaning, cryptic messages, and asking me countless questions over and over.  Finally, after holding up the bus for this long, the bus driver came in and said I’d either have to be allowed to leave, or he’d have to drive on without me.  They let me go, (but kept the letter,) and oh! the embarrassment of getting back on that bus!

So traumatized was I by this experience that my kind mother and father (he was still alive in the beginning of 1985, but he died that November, making it one of the worst years of my life, all told!) sent money for me to FLY home, thinking this would be less complicated.  But the same thing happened!  As I disembarked from the plane in Toronto, I was taken into a small room, made to strip down to my underwear while they ‘patted me down’, and each and every embarrassing item from my suitcase was removed and examined.

I will never know what/who they were searching for, but this has always remained with me every time I travel, probably making me seem more nervous and suspicious than I normally would do!  The border patrol people, in my experience up until last year, are uneducated, power-hungry control freaks who LOOK for something to do when they are a bit bored – and I’m sorry if some nice person reading this is related to some equally nice person who HAPPENS to be a border official… They make it clear they are the ROYALTY of the borders, the King or Queen of their Land, and they see me coming and put out the DO NOT ENTER sign.

That is, at least, until recently.  Since moving here to N.B., and this quiet back-water rural area, we have had occasion to travel back and forth to Maine many times.  Both the Canadians and Americans have always been perfectly pleasant, and some even chatty!  They live right there, too, so they come to know everyone personally – and many are just youngsters, fresh out of college – all of which has given me a whole other outlook.  Yesterday we went to visit Harvey Miller, a Mennonite gentleman who has his own harness shop. We were told to go to him for a harness for Chevy, rather than bidding for one at auction, or trying to buy new or online.  Mr. Miller has been MOST helpful (more on this below) and the border people didn’t even mind our purchasing a brand new harrow, collar, pitchfork, whippletree, AND REINS as well as a used harness with matching bridle and bit.  ALL for under 1,000.00 ! Try to do that online or in a Co-op/Tack store!  The border folk just smiled and waved us through…

Here are the two ‘dolls-house’, river-front borders at which we regularly cross – Limestone and Bridgewater:

And the very mottoes used on the signs affirm our reasons for wanting to move here to ‘live the simpler life’…. Love them!   So life near a border is no longer like this:


But rather more like this:


The only other time in my LIFE where I felt this unencumbered at a border was the first time I went to live in England in 1997.  Having made sure ALL my paper work was in order and then in triplicate!, and already having a teaching job to go to, I was fairly confident.  It was late at night u.k. time and after I told him I was coming to LIVE and WORK there, the border guard glanced at my passport and paperwork and waved me on through.  I couldn’t believe it. I said “Is that ALL?”  (and thinking – “What, no handcuffs? Not even a blood test?”)   He shrugged tiredly and said “Ma’m – you’re coming here to live and if you choose to run amok with a meat cleaver there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it!”  So he wasn’t really King of the Castle in this instance, I guess – more like a world-weary Cinderella whose glass slipper didn’t fit quite right.

Speaking of royalty – and high-heeled shoes – this past week has been the New Denmark Queen’s Pageant, on which committee I’ve been heavily involved the last 3 months (see previous blog ” ….Hootenanny”).  This is the main reason I didn’t post a blog last week! … But, meanwhile,  exhausted and stressed, I stupidly went in this condition to a court in Edmunston on Thursday (the day of the final dress rehearsal for the pageant!) to support one of our neighbours in an ongoing trial that started more than 12 years ago!  Her supporters have gradually been dwindling away and she needed some ‘new blood’! Although it’s not really at a court-house, just a couple of rooms above a shopping mall which is adjoined to the Sheraton, we (Mom, Richard and two other neighbours) were still expected to go through all the security.  Richard and I started to put our bags (his full of books, mine both books and sewing materials as well as my regular patchworked fabric hand-bag) onto the conveyor belt at the same time. One woman screamed at me – “Stand Back, you – get away from the belt! Only one at a time, haven’t you been here before?”  Well, NO.  What about my personage makes you think I HAVE been here before?  So Richard went through with little disruption to his body or character.  Of course.

Then I start.  And a man gets really rough and obnoxious, snapping “Behind the line – not until I tell you!”  (Now keep in mind, this is a couple of rooms above the shopping mall for a little civil suit, folks…)  I step through and all the bells go off.   Yes, Your Royal Highness, I do have pins in my back, but they aren’t supposed to set those things off anymore.  Yes, mister, I AM wearing a knee brace, but it’s just made of plastic.  But still, he wants me to take it all off, and this is a painful process when I’ve already been made to stand for any length of time, and then it’s even more difficult to put it back on OVER my pant length (it is a tube with a lot of velcro and then plastic hinges).  So I said “PLEASE don’t make me take it off” (I promise you, I said “please!”)  And just as he’s debating this, the woman who is going through BOTH my bags (even though they’ve already been X-rayed!)  pulls out my container of mint tooth-picks and says “Oh-oh, what about this?” to her superior, yet ANOTHER guy (there were 4 security people in total, and only 5 of us going in to court at this time, so again, my proof that they have ‘nothing better to do”…)  The ‘chief’ J-U P-M (refer to first paragraph above) starts tut-tutting over this and I just LOST it. They hadn’t even got to my little sewing kit and nail scissors for snipping thread yet!.  Here was the only culprit:

I said “You have GOT to be kidding me!  I don’t need to be here, you know – I just came to support a friend” and I gesticulate to the other ladies, incl. my mother, behind me who’ve just come out of the rest-room.   Then I grabbed my bags, AND my toothpicks from the woman J-U P-M’s hand and marched myself RIGHT out of that ‘holding area’, calling ‘good-luck’ to my friend as I went.   I’m not a naive little 21 year old anymore, and I’ve been stepped on TOO many times, (incl. just in the last few months by some bullying stage moms!)   So,  who reigned supreme in this instance?  ME!  ‘Cause I got to sit in this splendorous lobby of the Sheraton, with its cozy Rustic Revivals’ type decor of barnboard, stone and rusty steampunk cogs, and read, and sip a beverage and do my sewing while the others were harassed and hassled through into a court room of stressful French repartee for over an hour:



Have I shared with you about the similar on-going tug-of-war struggle between Smitty the dog and Cammie the goat?  They are both co-dependent little things, from neglectful backgrounds, and both are constantly vying for their ‘parents’ attention’ whenever we’re outdoors.  Smitty chases Cammie away when he’s not tied up and she runs to the barn or over to Chevy for protection.  But when Smitty is tied up, Cammie comes up on ‘his’ porch and REIGNS supreme over him. It’s hilarious. She ‘stomps’ him, stamping her foot and gurgling ferociously at him, and he does usually jump or slink away. She’s even been known to stand on his sleeping bag bed and do this, so that he can’t lie down!  I love how she looks all innocent and doe-eyed until she thinks I’ve turned my back. Then, WHAMMY CAMMIE!!!!

So, Princesses, Patrols, and Porch Pooches aside, let’s talk about Aroostook County, Maine and its delightful charms, including the Mennonites from whom we made our over-the-border purchases so necessary for self-sufficient living.

On this side of the border we have a village called Aroostook as the river of that name flows through it. But on the American side, the whole COUNTY is Aroostook (named for a tribe of Micmacs primarily in Maine).   In fact, I was reading for the 2nd time a favourite suspense/thriller book of mine called Winter’s End when I moved here from Ontario.  It jolted me right out of the U-Haul seat when I read the author, John Rickard’s mention of Houlton, Presqu’ile (our nearest university town) and Aroostook County, seeing as that was all a 1/2 hour from our new home in New Brunswick!  What I DIDN’T realize until I wrote to him to tell him of this happy coincidence was that he lives in ENGLAND and has never set foot in North America, never mind seeing Aroostook County for himself.  Because he got it exactly right!  (Read it – it’s a highly entertaining story!)



This beautiful county also has many Mennonites, both old order and new, much like Waterloo/Elmira environs in Ontario.  Chevy’s farrier mentioned that Harvey Miller’s harness shop was a great place to find some cheap nylon or Biothane (plastic over nylon webbing) harness, rather than buying all leather, so we went and were not disappointed!  Two Belgians were helping plough the field for spring planting and two more were tied to a hitching post outside the harness shop.


Inside the shop there was a wonderful array of used and new harness, as well as some beautiful draft horse collars that Harvey makes himself:

With the measurements we had for Chevy, we purchased a used harness, including bit and bridle (I’ll likely use a much simpler, gentler bit as the one it came with is pretty heavy-duty and unnecessary!) .  However, no reins were with this harness, and Richard, green-horn that he is, was the first to notice this. Even Harvey hadn’t caught that yet!  So he went and cut us some reins immediately on his machine and threw that in for the original price he’d quoted us on the harness – 375.00!  Amazing price!  We then picked out a collar and a pitchfork that was brand new but about half the price of what they are in the Co-op.  And then we went around the corner of his shop and there to our delight was a harrow, brand new, which we’d just been discussing needing for both the garden AND the pasture where we hope to take off hay.  It’s had years of cutting, but no baling, so all the old dead stuff is lying there preventing the ‘good’ from coming up! We may have to spread some timothy seed…

Thus, we came home pretty happy with our purchases (and again, only a few questions at the border, then a smile and a “have a good day”!  Miraculous!) .

Richard is posed here to show he doesn’t care to be ‘harnessed’ or ‘shackled’ (actually, he LOVES it!)   Note the “Chevy” on his cap…



We’ll have to wait to see how Chevy looks in his new gear, but Richard got RIGHT on with  trying out the new harrow in our garden, which he’s already rototilled (incl. the 6 black currant bushes I planted last fall, thank you, dear! ) .   I did manage to convince him to leave the two “Y” strips of wildflowers that go diagonally through our garden – gotta have something to convince the bees to pollinate for us!   Smitty felt the need to help out so we’re going to have to remind him constantly (as I did all LAST spring!) that he isn’t allowed in there.   How we’ll ‘remind’ Cammie the Goat, I’m not sure!



After finishing the garden, just like all men with new toys, Richard immediately then went to the mowing and harrowing of the pastures, both upper and lower:


On top of all the brouhaha of the hill-billy hootenanny (I’ll post a few photos below for you to have a smile over – remember,  Queen’s Pageants are BIG in this rural area, and the girls even wore their sashes and tiaras to school this past Monday!) I’ve been trying to transplant a lot of our plants from the seeding tables downstairs out into planters to ‘harden them off’, prior to then planting them in the garden.  However, the weather has been VERY cold (back in the one-digits!) and very rainy, and it’s been tough to find the right time to get this moving. It does remind me, though, of why I wanted to plant indoors this winter – when I planted started May 24th here last year, I lost the first 5 rows of veg. due to the extreme cold, rain and wind.  So hopefully this will work better.  If not, I’m just going to wait longer to plant, and we’ll just have to plant that much more each year for back-breaking harvests and loads of canning and freezing all at once!  RAIN, RAIN go away – can’t wait to plant e’en ONE MORE DAY!

Here are the REIGNING QUEEN AND PRINCESS with official photographer, Tiffany Christensen:

Those are Rustic Revivals’ burlap bags hanging on all the windows in the hall, too~!

Here’s all 5 girls just before the – ugh – Royal Crowning and handing out of all the TITLES! (Rustic Revivals managed to get some burlap bows in there, too, above the audience!)

stage, 145

But the shot I really love the best, by Tiffany, is from their photo-day, when they are wearing what REAL Appalachian Royalty should be proud to wear:

flannel girls

Rain, reign, rein,
 English is a pain.
 Although the words
 Sound just alike,
 The spelling's not the same!


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:  )

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!)


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!


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 …



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!


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!


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:


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:


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…


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


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:


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!


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:


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!

Husbands and Husbandry

You can’t really completely live self-sufficiently and in an eco-friendly manner unless you have an animal to help you in the bush with your wood to heat the home, to help you plough the garden and even the driveway in winter, and an animal to offer you milk for all your dairy products.  And of course chickens, for eggs and meat!  But the latter will have to wait a while because the former have already taken up a LOT of time and energy!  Mostly the energy of Richard, his brother, and his niece’s fiance.  That is to say, the ‘menfolk’. ( But I’ve been leaving off baking bread and basement gardening and spending most days wielding a hammer lately as well….)

Back in February we bought the Clydesdale/Belgian cross on recommendation alone (that is that he was only 5 and that he was BOMBPROOF quiet, which Richard needs as he’s not used to horses, and after 3 back surgeries and some busted-up knees, I ALSO now NEED!) He came from more than 3 hours away, and as I knew we couldn’t justify a trip that far just to have a  look at him, I asked for a video clip of him hauling logs, and was more than satisfied that he was excellent at this chore.

The hunt for a dairy goat has been going on since last October, but they are even more rare in this province than a good draft horse, so that has been a problem indeed.  It’s also one of the reasons I’d scheduled Richard and me for a 3 or 4 hour lesson at the goat farm in Maine; I wanted us to feel confident with all the extra skills and knowledge needed to have a few dairy animals. (I owned a goat in my 20s, but just having one around and being responsible for breeding, raising and selling its kids, and sanitarily milking it are very different circumstances indeed!)  We were scheduled to attend the farm in Maine on Sunday, but sadly our truck decided to have over-heating and thermostat problems and we had to cancel. THAT is what today’s blog was supposed to be on, so I’ve had to do some hustling to get ready for this special feature – the preparation for and arrival of our livestock.

The potato quonset that we call part Richard’s workshop/garage, and part ‘barn’ is a big ole piece of tin with a massive cement floor and an echo in it that could stave off the advent of Satan.  While I do enjoy going out at night sometimes and bellowing out some Bee Gees tunes to hear the reverb., it’s not a great environment for spooky animals, and besides, Richard in NO WAY wanted the animals being walked past his precious ’73 Chevy Nova. So we needed a run-in shelter with attached paddock (horses are much happier if they can come in and go outside as they please in all weathers), as well as a separate goat stall, although we were really hoping that whatever goat we had would be mostly in WITH the horse as they are compatible critters to each other.  In fact, many race horse owners will have a goat actually living in the stall with a hot-tempered equine to calm them.

I designed the lay-out of the ‘stall’/run-in, and since Smitty refused to use the kennel/dog-house I built for him last fall (he tore it apart in under 2 hours on 2 different occasions.  It’s what ya call radical co-dependency!) I decided the goat could have the ‘kennel run’ and massive insulated dog-house.  To start with, then, Richard and I took bolts out of the tin on two sides of the furthest end of the barn, one for a large 8.5 foot tall door for the Clyde cross, and one man-door for us to run in and out without worrying about going through the paddock area and gates, etc.  After he and I took out all the bolts, he started cutting the metal, which really impressed me as I thought that was too scary a job for an accident-prone fella like him:


Next, we had our neighbours’ relatives come in with an excavator and cut the adjoining cement from the foundation, as well as make a slope out into what would be the paddock or corral for both horse and goat.  This took a lot less time than I would have thought! Only a few hours and  it was finished!

So, ta-da!  Great to have all this light in the other end now!




The next step, of course, was to buy the rough lumber, which we got at two different mills in two local towns.  Our favourite mill owner lets us have HUGE discounts on 4 by 4s and even the wood-chips/sawdust mix I’m using for  footing over the cement. A whole trailer-load for 15.00!  (I’m BEDDING the horse on straw, as no one likes to lie on CHUNKS of wood, and sawdust doesn’t drain well when urinated on, BUT there are no proper wood-shavings  – peeled pieces –  sold in this part of the province, so we’re making do with a combo.!)

Once Richard did all the mathematical figuring (about 8 times over!) we laid in a good supply and asked the family for help.  Richard’s niece from Saint John is getting married here at the farm next year, so Carriann came up to work on wedding plans with me, while the 3 men, Richard, his brother Jean-Marc, and Matthieu got hard to work digging post holes. Richard already knew from experimenting that the manual post-hole digger I had him buy wasn’t going to work in this very rocky soil, so he’d even arranged to rent an auger for the weekend.  Those hubbies sure worked hard for 2 days straight getting those holes dug and the posts (which we tarred first for protection on the underground portion) set into the hilly terrain.  Note:  although I’m told that pressure-treated wood is no longer poisonous for livestock with a tendency to chew, I don’t trust it, and besides it’s MILES more expensive per foot! (Slideshow can be clicked through to make it faster, if you prefer).

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We didn’t get the posts as deep as I’d hoped – it is suggested that in this part of N.B., the frostline is at 3.5 to 4 feet, so I wanted the posts deeper than that, but there were so many rocks in the ground and poor Matt seemed to have the dirtiest job of trying to heave them all out, so we compromised with just a little over 3 ft down.  We may have to do the paddock over in a few years; we’ll just have to wait and see what the winters bring!  (also note: the tar shouldn’t be exposed where animals might chew at it either, but they painted the posts thinking they’d be in deeper. However, the goat fence I knew we’d have to install would protect greedy mouths and bored little brains from taking a chomp on this black stuff.)

TIP – When building a fence of this type, so many non-farmer folk think it looks ‘prettier’ to have the boards on the OUTSIDE; this is a common mistake. Livestock ALWAYS lean on the fence (ie: the grass is always greener) and can either split the boards more easily, OR pop the nails out if the boards are on the outside.  If you MUST do this for aesthetics, make sure you have an electric fence system strung ’round on the inside, to keep the livestock off your rails or panels.

After the rellies left that weekend, Richard and I spent two full days cutting and nailing up the boards, although we did frequently ‘cheat’ and use the massive nail gun, which shoots 4 inch nails deep into the posts!  I then continued -in rain, sleet, wind and, when sun was out so were the blackflies!,- to put the goat fence up by myself, whilst Richard worked on building the wall of the stall/run-in (attached in part to what was formerly Smitty’s kennel, built by myself out of old doors from the inside of the house, and a huge television stand Richard had made for us years ago – which will now also be part of the chicken coop!)  REMEMBER – REUSE, RECYCLE AND REDUCE!   (As always, you can click on any of the photos to enlarge for details).

Above, top two pics are of me nailing up not only the goat fence (so they can’t climb out or under) but also putting old 1970s mouldings from the house over the top edge of the wire so no one gets hurt on it. Not sure how the mouldings will hold up over the course of a winter, but it’s one quick, eco-friendly and inexpensive way of the protecting the animals’ skins without going to town for yet more supplies!  Another hope for the goat fence – it will help prevent predators from easily getting access into the barn which is where the chicken coop will eventually be.             Bottom 3 picks are of my drop-rail gate, with skinnier tree trunks below to keep the goat out, and heavier ones above in case the horse leans over.  This horse-shoe gate arrangement has always held me in good stead for a quick and easy solution, and the trees we cut were already being crowded out by larger trees, so needed to be thinned anyway…

BELOW, Richard not only worked on the wall and gate for the run-in shelter, but had to build a massive door frame for the loose and jagged tin, and fill in holes left by the cement foundation being removed:

We planned the wall 4 boards solid to a) help keep out predators again from the eventual chicken coop which will also be attached to this wall and b) so that the goat won’t jump up and get a leg caught, as goats are prone to do!                   Also, in the far corner of the stall, note the two beams on the floor that I’ve put to make a separate ‘bed’ -Richard calls it ‘the mattress area’.  So while there are rough chips in most of the interior for just standing up and off the cement, the straw is on top of this base foundation in case either animal wants to lie down.  Also, it may be hard to see in this photo (and I’ve since put on ripped bits of bright-coloured plastic bags that have triply served their purpose in the house for covering foods, etc.,) but each day the horse will be pastured in an electric fence enclosure for grazing, and the goat will be tethered nearby.


Thus, as you can see from the below two photos, both the outside and inside enclosures are now complete, and we are so happy and exhausted from making them so!


And now, for the fun part!  Introducing Chevy the horse (Richard decided he was about the same size as his beloved Nova, although I pointed out he’d be a lot more EFFICIENT AND USEFUL !  In my head, I think of “Chevy” as either short for “cheval” OR as a representation of Chevy Chase, who was the star of Funny Farm, mentioned in the blog posting from our move here last May…) and, along with him, his little friend, the female yearling “Cammie”  (Richard also chose this name – really, for Camero – show emoticon of my rolling my eyes here – but Cammie does seem to suit her…) We hope she may someday become our first dairy goat, but for now, she’s just along as a ‘friend’ for Chevy, and so that we can give her some special attention as she’s rail thin and as co-dependent on us as Smitty still is!

Here’s their arrival last night, in the god-awful, far-too-low-for-a-draft-horse cow trailer, on which they stood loaded for nearly 7 hours while cattle were taken on and off and they were driven all over the western part of the province before finally alighting here. I took a shot of my first view of Chevy and my first view of Cammie, also:

They were VERY glad to get into their run-in and paddock, and on terra firma!  The blue collar is for Blue Belldon Farm, of course!

Cammie enjoys the warm and dark feeling of protection from her doghouse (which Smitty hated!)  It’s thickly insulated and full of shag carpet and pillows, etc., so she’ll love it in the winter as well).  And very much LIKE Smitty, she thinks it’s fun to stand up and look over at us!



Richard had a few tender moments with Cammie, who is very sweet, and though I’ve told him we’re not making hand-feeding a rule (it leads to a nippy horse, and no one needs that!) I let him try feeding Chevy an apple.  FLAT PALM!!!!!


Both animals are underweight and in desperate need of some good grooming, but time on grass and elbow grease will solve those matters, and they are both very kind and quiet, as advertised by word of mouth through the ‘grapevine’.  I don’t recommend buying animals – esp. a horse! – sight unseen, but again, I’m experienced in what to look for, and who/what questions asked, and we purchased from one of the most reliable draft people in the province, apparently.   A certain amount of luck is always involved anyway, no matter how many times you may go try a horse, get him vetted, etc.! So in this case, we just clung on to faith and gave it a shot. NOT recommended for first-time homesteaders, though!


So, thanks to the husband for all the work and effort, thanks to the OTHER hubbies for their time that post-hole-digging weekend, and please enjoy this wonderful quote about “Animal Husbandry” by Tom Robbins:

“Hardly a pure science, history is closer to animal husbandry than it is to mathematics, in that it involves selective breeding. The principal difference between the husbandryman and the historian is that the former breeds sheep or cows or such, and the latter breeds (assumed) facts. The husbandryman uses his skills to enrich the future; the historian uses his to enrich the past. Both are usually up to their ankles in bullshit.”

Stay tuned for more from the Chevy/Cammie side of life at Blue Belldon Farm!

NEXT WEEK :   Before and afters of the upstairs hall-way floor (Mom’s suite). From darkly stained plywood to ‘weathered and worn old pine boards!’………. HOW?

Hill-billy Hootenanny: Purty Pals & Gingham Gals

Take Dorothy out of Kansas, stick her in a fantasy world where she meets fairy god-mothers with crowns and magic wands and high-heeled slippers… and whaddaya got?  You’ve still got ginghamized Dorothy, bless her, headin’ back to Kansas- just a little older and wiser.  “There’s NO PLACE LIKE HOME”…


Here in the Appalachians, you send a tomboy, “Chip”, (me, see below, age 10 and 14)  to a new place, and she’s confronted with crowns and high heels and told she’s expected to help organize a bunch of princesses, and she’s in a tail spin… but guess what? The mail lady (Glinda the Good Witch?) knows everybody, waves her magic wand, steps in with her ruby shoes and all is well… turns out those princesses are just good ole country girls like Chip herself!  The tricky bit’s gonna be getting them OUT of Kansas!

tomboy Julie

Apparently Queens’ Pageants (formerly ‘beauty pageants’ but no longer quite so exploitative of women) are popular in every single town in New Brunswick.  The crowned gals are even EXPECTED to wear their tiaras and sashes to school the following day, and actually aren’t laughed out of the building, either! (Having taught in 4 rather rough schools in 3 different countries, I find this VERY difficult to come to terms with, but apparently it’s common practice and just as accepted as one of my 12-year-old students carrying an ankle knife to school in inner city Leeds, U.K. or my 15-year-old pupil breast-feeding her baby in my English class ‘on the rez’ in Browning, Montana!)

I’ve often been surrounded by lovely young women while teaching in Canada and abroad.  Some of the girls I’ve had the pleasure of working with onstage have even gone on to become actresses/models/singers and strong professionals who use some of the public-speaking and debate skills I helped them work on in their high-school days. However, this pageant thing is a very new concept to me.

with grads

(above, some of the lovely young ladies to whom I taught Drama and coached in a variety of musicals, ‘on the rez’ in Browning, Montana – please note, the above were NOT the same students who breast-fed their babes in class!)

For those girls, and some of the others I’m so proud of, I made a banner last year on International Girls’ Day, (although they are no longer ‘girls’, but very strong and talented  women now, and can all be seen or heard in public forums in one way or another).

girls' day

above, some of my beautiful former students – from the USA, the U.K., and yes, Canada, too!

However, none of those girls are really the tiara-wearing types, either.  Up until a month or so ago I was feeling very much ‘out of my element’!

New Denmark is a wonderfully-close-knit community, as you’ll know from reading some of my previous blog postings.  It’s not just a mountain area where everyone pitches in and helps each other and attends church, dances, games’ nights, luncheons, etc. on a weekly basis – it’s got the additional distinction of being the largest AND oldest Danish community in Canada, and is thus rooted in tradition.  Founder’s Day in New Denmark has always been an important celebration, and until recent years was an annual event.  The little rural museum just up the road from us is a Provincial Historical Site, as “Immigrant House”, where the majority of settlers stayed in 1872 before being granted their land, was on that corner. There’s a great video posted online about the Centennial Parade from 1972, which I just love watching! It’s so dear and even, now, familiar!

This year, by accident (I was meant to be going to a meeting of the historical committee and ended up at the 145th planning committee meeting instead!) I am helping organize the Founder’s Day activities, and thus you’ll see lots more photos from this fun event later in June. It’s held around the 19th of that month every 5 years now, because that’s when the first ship with the majority of Danes landed here.  One of the events is a big parade from near our farm, at the rural museum corner, up the hill past the church and on to the little rural ‘rec centre’.  And what’s a parade without a bevy of beautiful young ladies waving their delicate hands and straightening their tiaras on a floral-decorated float?    Here’s a screen shot  with their centennial year’s Queen and Princess, 1972:


About the only thing I’m familiar with in that picture is the TRUCK.  But I digress… Having heard rumours (I guess) that I was a former Drama teacher – and NOT having heard rumours that I was a tomboy who despised cutesy, demure women, frivolous ball-gowns, high heels, and anything superficial or commercialized, a former director of the Founder’s Day planning committee pointed his over-large finger at me at the very first meeting and delegated me in charge of the pageant.  Luckily for me, Mary Beth the Mail-lady (secretary of no less than FOUR committees in this small “happenin’ ” place!) immediately stepped in and organized a bunch of people who knew a lot more about pageants than I EVER will, to help!  Mary Beth has ordered the tiaras, too, so thank God that’s out of my hands, as they’d have ended up with Stetsons or dressage top hats!  (We suspect M.B. ordered the extra one so she can be seen driving about the hills and dales delivering her letters and feeling “special” ).


Another lucky thing: ’twas Mary Beth herself who said “why don’t we just make the theme ‘COUNTRY’ this year?  Well, ole Chip of Rustic Revivals can do THAT!  And it ties right in with our enormously talented photographer, a former New Denmark pageant gal herself, Miss Tiffany Christensen.  As I’ve organized and decorated so many rustic weddings and events in my rural-based businesses, so has Tiffany taken plenty of rustic and rural-based photography, because it’s not only what we see and live out here, it’s ALSO become a world-wide fad even for those who’ve never set foot in a barn or old klunker of a pick-up truck before!  (On Saturday, my Rustic Revivals was at our first N.B. craft sale, right at the little rec centre where the pageant will take place, and had some of the best attention ever, because folks in the mountains ‘get’ primitives, and several custom orders are coming in also for yet more ‘Burlap Bags’, ((as Richard calls me)) creations.  I’ll be doing a special Easter blog with my latest line next week.)

Thus, Tiffany and I have both been involved in promoting the beauty and history of the rural landscapes around us.  Here’s a lovely photo she took recently, and she’ll be doing a number like this for the pageant girls, as they are to have a ‘spa and photography day’ together in May.


You can see the rural and rustic trend that is so popular now for both weddings AND grads/proms, etc, so why not in our own rural pageant?   (Excuse the blurriness of the following – this is obviously not in Tiffany’s originals, but my ad program isn’t always in love with the wordpress one!  Isn’t her logo neat?  Look how the camera is subtly wrapped into her initials!  And the natural leaves/sheaves represent the countryside we love!)


As Rustic Revivals  has also now debuted locally (after 7 years of ‘touring’ the back roads of Montana, Yorkshire, Aberdeenshire and Ontario!), we realize the mountains here in Appalachia are just the right spot for us!  Although online selling isn’t to be ruled out :


And RURAL Revivals, (its sister company), as special rural events organizer and country-themed decorator/interior designer (

and  ) will also be comfortably-based and definitely using Miss Christensen for all events photography and official before-and-after shots of our specialty rooms with shabby chic/’country’/French Provincial/ ‘cabin’  make-overs (if you haven’t yet viewed my own crappy before and after photos, see previous posts on renos).  Former campaigns which have included us in newspapers and on television have resulted in less attention than in just having the good readers of this blog spread the word…

…so I’m hoping that those of you who are in New Brunswick or who have the money to fly her out to you, will consider using Tiffany Christensen as YOUR official photographer as well!

Of course she doesn’t just take portraits in rural settings; have a look at all her lovely work on her FB page:

I tried 3 times to catch the magic of the hoar frost on the mountainsides, for instance, this winter, and failed spectacularly, but Tiffany has a real talent:


She was also able to capture the stunning autumnal colours here better than I!


Having said that, I’m not a COMPLETE amateur when it comes to pretty country girls posing for the camera.  Last spring, nearly a year ago, in fact, a gorgeous former riding student from Scotland came for a visit to Ontario and wanted the ‘typical’ Dukes of Hazzard/’Western’-and hill-billy-style pics. So, I introduced her to my native friend and her teepee,another former riding student and her horse, Richard’s ’73 Nova for that Dukes of Hazzard effect and also, of course -his moonshine jug. Then I got my camera out. Here’s a slideshow for fun:

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I also loaded up all my rustic decor and we spent an all-afternoon photo-shoot with some work that I’m pretty proud of, and she SHOULD be as well:


The ‘other type of riding’…

While I wouldn’t suppose to be as good as Tiffany, and while it DID take us about 50 photos just to get one good one, I am rather proud of the above.  Now, someday, especially with the gorgeous gals we have in this year’s pageant as models, Tiffany might even have a front cover for some real fashion mags.  I do like to think that ours could have just as easily been on a Vogue special issue:


And, funnily enough, here she is even posing as a MaryBeth !


That’s right, I’ve worn many hats in my time, in many different places around the world… Off-stage, On-stage, Mounted, UnMounted, in various positions for the Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Education etc.  Mom/Joy even thinks that should be the title of my autobiography.  Either that, or she’s suggested “The Many Beds in Which I’ve Slept”?  I keep telling her that just makes me sound like a slut…


julie's many hats


The pageant girls, and I won’t name them here, are all eager, however, to be dubbed “Queen”, or at least “Princess”, despite them being very much Appalachian Country girls in their own right.  One of them is line-dancing for her talent, and another even asked if she could ride her DIRT BIKE for her talent portion!  So I’m no longer worried about dealing with the demure, prissy type – these young ladies are up for anything!  Ironically, not only has the group dance which I’m choreographing morphed into a hill-billy dance in barefeet (and I was a chorus dancer in L’il Abner onstage in barefeet forty years ago!) but the other talents a few of the girls wish to show-case are Poetry Reading and doing a Monologue.  With NO suggestions even, by me, an English/Drama teacher, with published poetry and an award on her wall for doing Dramatic Monologues!  Well, really, since MaryBeth rounded up all this extra help for me to have the promenades, turns, waves and poise stuff looked after, I can do this! Who’d have thought this pageant gig would end up being so close to my own propensities  (ie: rustic decorating, slopping out verse, projecting loudly, and strutting about in patched clothes with a heavy emphasis on my heels… Yeeeee-haaaw!)

By the way, speaking of all-things-hill-billy:  In regard to this week’s title, did you know a ‘hootenanny’ is actually a SCOTTISH word, which should please Mom/Joy?  According to Wikipedia, it is simply “a Scottish word meaning ‘party’ or ‘celebration’. With the Scots being one of the biggest groups of settlers in the Appalachian region (bringing with them their whisky-making tradition and methods, leading to the area’s moon-shining tradition) it is not surprising that hootenanny became an Appalachian colloquialism. ”     Besides I like it better than ‘hoedown’, although that is an equally pleasant-sounding alliteration to match with ‘hill-billy’. It’s just that ‘hoe-down’ will likely be needed in future titles to represent our extensive gardening, which is a must when living self-sufficiently!

Every Monday night we are in rehearsal now with the girls.  Chantal, one of the moms, a MaryBeth recruit to our committee, and herself a participant in numerous provincial pageants (“but that was HOW many years ago?” her daughter piped up last night) is an invaluable wealth of info. for both me and the young ladies, as she is instructing them in poised walking with books on heads, and my old Tickle Trunk petticoats on their lower half to aid in twirls and turns.  Even with ‘cammo’ and baseball hats, Chantal can get these ladies to SPIN!


chantal 1

(above, note the Danish ‘welcome’ in our church basement:  “Velkommen” – it’s seen in every public building here in the community, and the Danish flag, on Mary Beth’s cartoon mailbox and picket fence, is seen flying on at least every other farm!  Also, please note that while I have permission to publicly post these photos of the pageant gals, I am not going to name them, as a respect to their underage privacy!)

I also asked Chantal to please choreograph the girls’ initial ‘promenade’ in their casual clothes (which they are piecing together with only $10.00 from second-hand and rummage sales, don’t you think that’s a wonderful tradition?) and also their ball-gown finale, when they will be escorted on to the stage by two little 7 year old boys dressed in flannel shirts and wearing cow-boy hats and boots to keep in line with our ‘Down-Home Country’ theme.  I can’t wait to see that!

Here are some photos I took last night of Chantal rehearsing the girls in high heels to prepare for their intro-dance, which will be to Shania Twain’s “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” (’cause I wanted to have only women singers, we needed country songs for the theme, and we DEFINITELY needed a Canadian!)  As always, please click on each photo to blow up and read the captions:

To give their poor tootsies a break from the high-heels they aren’t all used to wearing (and certainly not dancing in!) we next went to my ‘group dance’, a bit of a production into which I’ve of course introduced a touch of ‘drama’ (bit of business at the beginning).  Here’s another big irony:  those poor girls, who are country/mountain gals at heart, have to learn to walk gracefully and to show off their feminine wiles one minute, switch to being what many of them (like me) would rather walk like – a relaxed mountain-girl hill-billy in bare feet, and then throw on a ball-gown and go back to that poised, tall, no-slouching grace again.  It’s really going to be an amazing challenge for them!

Here are some of last night’s rehearsal for the group dance, which will be to Lisa McHugh’s ‘Hill-billy Girl’ – but I dislike her line-dance to the same, and as one of our girls is doing a line-dance for her ‘talent portion’ (she goes for lessons every week with her grandfather, but he declined doing it in the pageant with her!) I’m putting in my own choreography.  (Though my back has been much better since the 3rd surgery in 2008, the knees, since the last crashing somersault fall off Junior in 2004 are progressively worse with osteo-arthritis.  Since they won’t do knee surgeries now until we hit age 60, and because I refuse to let the pain take away ALL my activity levels, I ‘strap up’! ) Click on any of the below to enlarge and read the captions:

Within the Hillbilly Girl dance there are two instrumental bits and I’ve planned a ‘showcase’ of each girl’s gymnastic talent aka “hillbilly jumps and kicks” to add some excitement… Here’s one from last week’s rehearsal, with faithful Tiffany taking photo:


Lastly, the girls put their high-heels back on to practice their more formal ball-gown finale. Chantal is playing the part of the little 7 year-old boys, as she escorts each to the stage and instructs them on their ‘turns’. They will then be asked a question on their thoughts or beliefs on a certain subject, by the M.C., prior to the judges making their final decisions.  Here’s each of the lovely girls as they come down the aisle to Jessica Andrews’ ‘Who I Am’ (Rosemary’s Grand-daughter).  And one of them actually IS a Rosemary’s grand-daughter, too!  I suggested that her grandmother would LOVE this song, then. However, we were informed that Rosemary was quote/unquote ‘unable to attend’.  We said ‘oh, that’s too bad, why not?’.    ‘Wal, ’cause she’s dead’ was the drawled response.


By the way, when you see very ripped jeans (above) please note that these are not being worn in preparation for the Hill-billy Girl dance with me.  For those of you not as ‘hip’ as I am to the modern fashion (the very use of the term ‘hip’ proves this is entirely tongue-in-cheek) these are the designer pants that cost so much nowadays, and another bit of irony is that the girls are going to be buying their ‘casual wear’ for the pageant at rummage sales for under $10.00, and likely (because their grandparents won’t approve) leaving these jeans at home!

Thus, the ironies of my life in the Appalachians continues.  Just when you think something is being introduced into your life which you just can’t come to grips with, you take off your shoes, your bare feet help you get sticky purchase, and there you are.  You’ve come to grips!

Kick off them ruby slippers, Dorothy.  You’re back on the farm, baby.

ruralrevivals pic

Funnily enough, the above “Find Your Style” meme is at the top of our Rural Revivals’ website:   and is not only what the girls are considering wearing for their group dance, but the ‘find your style’ motto is how they are being told to go find their rummage sale casual outfits for both their Princess tea and their Introductory walk onstage the night of the pageant!  So maybe I DO know more about this than I at first thought!





Blue Belldon Basement Grow Op.



Finally!  Had enough warmish days to not only get the maple trees tapped (next week’s blog, and Richard is excited!)  but to get enough earth moved in from the porch planters (permanent bricked-in wall) to mix with the  MINIMAL potting soil we purchased.

Now, lecture – time.  Earth day is in exactly one month, and there’s a world-wide campaign to BAN PLASTIC if you care about the land and forest, both of which, whether or not you homestead, SUPPLY US WITH OUR FOOD!   So, either you start being more conscious about every single thing you buy that’s just going to end up in a landfill (or worse yet – in a roadside ditch or waterway) OR you at least find multiple purposes for every shred of plastic in your possession. Because I’m bossy,  we do both.

The photos and stats below are just a few tiny examples of what plastic is doing to our world.  And it all makes me sick to my stomach.  But not as bad as that tortoise!

  • North Americans use more than 4 million plastic bottles every HOUR! Most of them are thrown away, not recycled.  Plastic doesn’t bio-degrade. It’s there to stay. Only around 27% of plastic bottles are recycled. Yet, when you DO recycle –  plastic can be then made into: clothing, fiberfill for sleeping bags, toys, stuffed animals, rulers and more.
  • Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures a year! Ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s twice the size of Texas and is floating somewhere between San Francisco and Hawaii. It’s also 80 percent plastic, and weighs in at 3.5 million tons.
  • When the small particles from photodegraded plastic bags get into the water, they are ingested by filter feeding marine animals. Biotoxins like PCBs that are in the particles are then passed up the food chain, including up to humans.
  •  Only  16 % of plastic packaging in North America (and much less on other continents!) was recycled in 2008.
  •  However, the total recycling rate of 32.5 percent overall in 2008 saved the carbon emission equivalent of taking 39.4 million cars off the road, and the energy equivalent of 6.8 million households’ annual energy consumption, or 222.1 million barrels of oil.  COME  O N !
  • 827,000 to 1.3 million tons of plastic  water bottles were produced in the U.S. in 2006, requiring the energy equivalent of 50 million barrels of oil. 76.5 percent of these bottles ended up in landfills.
  • Because plastic water bottles are shielded from sunlight in landfills, they will not decompose for thousands of years.
  • Recycling one ton of plastic saves the equivalent of 1,000–2,000 gallons of gasoline.
  • 66% of energy is saved when producing new plastic products from recycled materials instead of raw (virgin) materials.                                                                                                                     *****************                                                                                 T H E R E F O R E :  The reasons I didn’t want to buy more potting soil than was absolutely necessary are three-fold:

a) I wanted to make sure that enough of our own soil, which is very gravelly, was
introduced to the seeds right away.
b) We are very careful with our expenses. Anything deemed unnecessary, we DO NOT BUY.
and most importantly,
c) What to do with those darned thick plastic bags in which the potting soil is encased,
which, once in our possession is then OUR carbon footprint heavy-treading ??????

I take the bringing home of ANY plastic item very seriously, and am trying to retrain the brains of Richard and Joy to do the same.  NO plastic bags allowed unless it’s just one or two per shopping expedition  (which is only once every week or even two weeks) and then those MUST be used for multiple times’ garbage liners, or food wrappers.  I do NOT use such horrors as saran wrap or tin foil, EVER.  So everything in the fridge is either covered with a  plate over the bowl, OR wrapped in a plastic shopping bag- the very few allowed in the house at all.  Same with things in the freezer, and now that so many of the commercial items we all buy  are being packaged in zip-lock bags, these are even BETTER for keeping and re-using over and over.  They are thick, and so great for freezing! Simply put masking tape on the bag and label it!  PLEASE don’t throw all this plastic out!  If you MUST have it in your home, then KEEP it in your home for forever or until it’s worn right out. And then, RECYCLE when it’s tossed, of course! It saves you buying and using such nasty stuff as saran wrap or (gasp) tupperware – (there are MORE than enough plastic containers that you’re buying anyway with other things in them! Just reuse those containers!)    Your pocket-book AND the environment thank you!

Why would you EVER buy saran wrap, tin foil or tupperware, when you have to purchase these things anyway?  (or we will, until I start making all our own dairy!)

A 1970s BBC popular show I watched on repeats when I lived in the u.k. in the 1990s is called The Good Life.  Although it’s a sit-com, it’s inspiring, and motivates one to think more and more about how to reduce and more importantly re-USE.  They give up their city jobs in London in the first episode :

and after that we watch most of them on Dailymotion, which is better for a variety of reasons.  Homesteaders or Dreamersof – do WATCH!  You’ll truly enjoy! (Yes,  you will recognize all 4 stars from their other BBC shows since then: Monarch of the Glen, Rosemary and Thyme, Yes Minister and A Fine Romance with Judi Dench). Here’s the link to the 2nd episode and you’ll find the rest there too:

So, back to why I didn’t want to buy a lot of potting soil. We have only purchased three bags, and then we had a number of squabbles over how to ‘line’ the bottoms of the seeding tables so that the wood (unfortunately NOT reclaimed wood, as it will take us 5-10 years to get enough of THAT sitting around the farm…) will not rot in a year or two.  I wanted to re-use the plastic  (oh, shudder! ) that we had to put on some of our north-facing windows in the farmhouse for the winter but Richard felt that was too thin.  Richard wanted to buy a roll of big garbage bags, but that made me see red, as I just explained that I can’t ABIDE buying plastic ANYTHING.  However, we came to a good compromise. As long as we promise that the garbage bags will later be used for garbage, so they will have had two purposes (and we don’t generate a lot of garbage as things are either composted,  burned, taken over to some recycling depots (rural N.B. does NOT pick up recycling blue boxes – grrrrrrr) , re-used for containers, taken for exchange/remittance, AND, will soon be being also saved for goat and chicken feed… So the 20 garbage bags I did buy yesterday will have been around here for a couple of years.  And the best part is, that THOSE POTTING SOIL PLASTIC BAGS WILL ALSO BE PUT DOWN AS LINERS.    A  N   D   – wait for it… instead of  burning the long boxes that the full-spectrum flourescent lights (replicating sun) came in, I’m also putting THOSE in the seed tables to help align the planters and keep the bottoms of the tables protected.

So, there’s the boxes AND the potting soil bags all going for another necessary purpose!

So, there’s the boxes AND the potting soil bags all going for another necessary purpose!

Let’s start back at the beginning of the seed tables, though – here we are building them, putting the finishing touches on, and hanging the lights (must be full-spectrum).  That was all done a few weeks ago, and again, if only the wood could have been recycled/reclaimed I’d have been so much happier. But we haven’t saved/collected enough yet for building extras, and sadly, N.B. is sadly lacking in anything like a RE-STORE (Habitat for Humanity building reused building supplies -check them out!) or equivalents.  As always, if you wish to see any of these enlarged, simply click on the picture.


Here’s one of me putting the finishing touches into a corner of one of the seed tables and one of Richard hanging all the lights.  We have 2 long (double) boxes and 3 regular-sized.


finishing touches – corner build



Someday, all the electric plugs (see in the following) will be joined to our solar panel system, but that’s many years away.  Right now, we just have a few things on solar, as we can afford the panels/batteries…


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The next step, then, was to dig up as much of our own soil (reasons at beginning of blog if you somehow missed the lecture!) and I did this yesterday and Sunday (as well as helping with tree-tapping and trail-blazing/maintenance in the woods – a warm day without yet-mushy snow is best for the forest work, and Sunday was ideal! We skiied and snow-shoed ’round the trails we’ve laid out, and back and forth to the sugar bush.)

So, the earth I brought in from outside looks like this:


Quite a lot! That’s why I was waiting for a few warmer days of it in the sunshine.

Next, I started lining with the bags, both garbage and potting soil, and then laying in the boxes from the lights.



We have saved (and even hauled from Ontario!) many little containers for planting seeds. Last year, of course, I just planted directly into the garden, as I didn’t get out here until the May 24th weekend.  But we really need to extend our growing time by about 6 weeks to 2 months out here, esp. if you want enough to live on all year, so we were planning ahead! Some of these are bio-degradable that I bought SECOND HAND. Some were actually cardboard packing from some car parts that Richard bought in Ontario, and I first used them piled up and turned upside down as an end table, but now they will be pots! Some old muffin tins because the teflon is scratched off and Mom/Joy is worried about health issues with that… And some – yes, that’s right – Richard had the possibly great (we will experiment and see!) idea of using all our loo-rolls instead of just burning them.

Richard has used all the ashes from our wood furnace and fireplace to either put on the garden, OR to use on the icy walks this winter. So this morning I took some from the old coal scuttle  we use for this purpose, and then mixed a very small percentage into the bin mixed with potting soil and our own earth. That should give it a touch more potassium, plus a titch more phosphorous and magnesium.



Next I began filling all the little pots/tins/rolls with the mix.

The loo-rolls were a pain.  More earth falling in between them rather than IN them.  So I remembered on my workbench something that might work as a funnel, with a bit of the ole Rustic Revivals repurposing:

I duct-taped the holes on the sides, leaving only the larger one (the perfect size for the rolls, as it happens!) open.  However, this involved more shaking to get the earth directly down.  So I gave up on that and ended up just picking up each roll and scooping the earth in, quickly putting my hand over the bottom until it got placed back in the box!



Finally, all the containers were full and awaiting seeds.  Remember, the following section is just one REGULAR box-size (under one light).  I have  FIVE MORE TO GO like this space, and then one table will be left for transplanting some of the quicker-growing plants.



Next, I had to read each seed packet to decide which needed planting now, which could wait a month, and which could just go directly outside.  One of the reasons (besides their plain brown paper packaging!) I love the Hawthorne Farm Organics (same as I used last year, from Palmerston, ON) is that the front of the package explains what the plant will look like and what it can be used for, but the back is detailed and BIG PRINT re: how and when to plant! When I’m planting directly outside, I can’t be bothered with too much of these  details (could be another reason we didn’t have a ‘bumper crop’ last year!) but inside, sitting comfortably, there was plenty of time to go over the info. they so kindly lay out for us.


Once I had the piles of seeds sorted and organized, I began meticulously planting.   That took close to two hours, for all those containers, in case you are wondering!  What we do to avoid buying store-bought produce!  Then I labelled the cardboard boxes, and watered. Seeds should really only be spritzed with a spray bottle, but I had so many I just turned the dial on the watering can to ‘light mist’ and hoped that wasn’t over-watering!  After today, I’ll just spritz and only when they seem dry.


The  final step after watering was to put the plastic I cut from the windows over the seeds (stretching from sides of table at back, to front, so not touching containers) until the sprouts start to show, then I’ll leave it off. (but of course, save it for the next planting!) The seed tables are right behind our furnace, so as long as we keep the room warm for the next 6 weeks (have to keep reminding Richard of this, as he’d rather turn the furnace right off at night to ‘save’) we should be doing well.  They also don’t need much light at first (some don’t need any!) but once they sprout, we have a chain system that will lower the lights to just 4 inches or so above the plant.



If I need more earth, (I don’t think I will) I brought in some weeks ago all the other planters from the falls’ pots of chrysanthemums.  They’d sat all winter in minus 20.  I just carelessly broke off the stems because the roots were still frozen into the earth, threw the old plant on the compost heap, and took the pots inside where they sat in the dark of the basement until I noticed them today.  Those hardy little buggers are growing from the ripped off stubs!  They’ve been warm, near the wood furnace, but had no light or water at all – total darkness for 2 weeks and dry as a bone! But there they are growing.  If I’d TRIED to restart them as plants, I guarantee I wouldn’t have been able to do it!  I haven’t the heart, after their effort to grow, to discard them, so I’m going to try and nurture them along and see what happens …


I’ll be spending the next week planting down there, and then fingers and toes crossed and lots of praying that we get healthy little sprouts coming along, of  veg., herbs and flowers (gotta keep those birds and bees happy for cross-pollinating!). That’s our groceries for the entire next year!  Should you want a list of all the basics we ordered from Hawthorne Farm, it is here:

Next week, be sure to ‘tune in’ for all Richard’s maple syrup adventures as he learns the how-tos and how-not-tos!  He’s been boiling away all day today (again, wish that was wood or solar powered, but it will be next year!) whilst I’ve been planting and writing and we just tried our first syrup poured over some snow.  mmmmmmmm-mmmmm!

Despite my having to, last month, ‘ draw his attention’  (that’s putting it tactfully!)  away from watching uneco-friendly drag races on Youtube and ordering more car parts for his uneco-friendly ’73 Nova, and ‘encouraging’ him to instead research how to produce our own maple sugar and syrup, I gotta say, he’s done INCREDIBLY well. He’s hauling in quite a loot!  In fact, he was so giddy a few hours ago he actually crowed “Wooo-heeee! Self-sufficiency! This tastes WAY better than any I’ve ever bought!”  He’s really surpassed my expectations for this year’s tapping experience.

But don’t tell him I said so.