Thrice the Ice, Not As Nice!

In the last few weeks there've been
Several storms of freezing rain
Then the temps do plummet
'Til we're at minus 20 once again.

Thus, the ice will crystalize
And, by moonlight, looks unique.
On distant hills it sparkles...
But by day, it's not for meek.


No, the meek shall perish, certainly!
As down they go to break their bones
(This is why St. Peter's church
Has a pianist with different tones-

For Sonja, the organist there most oft
Fell and broke her wrist
And now ole Julie's called to play
All the hymns on Pastor's list!) 


Which would be fine, except Julie
Doesn't know one Lutheran song
Nor any of the liturgies
Tho' all TRY to sing along...

For, though Pastor favors Jesus Loves Me
He won't let her play just THAT
So she has to practice endlessly
With hymns that go too sharp, too flat

Although in Offering, and Communion too
There is room to play some Bach...
(And Rich has got some pop music
So Julie's Easter songs will ROCK!)


This piano fiasco's not the first
Of all the problems caused by ice
We've had layer after layer freeze-
Not once or twice but THRICE.

And thus, even where there's snow
(As deep as 3 feet here and there!)
We cannot ski, or take horse out-
Legs must be treated with more care!

No one wants bloodied ankles 
By falling through the ice
But likewise, even on the lanes-
Walking up and down ain't nice!


And every walkway, drive and road
Or parking lot in town
Is just as much an ice rink
And will quickly drop you DOWN.

You can't sand or salt or ash it
Or spread kitty litter 'round
You can't even CHIP it, though some try
As it's far too thick on ground!


The roads are just so slick
As we fishtail side to side
We often skid into the banks
Down Lucy's Gulch - a HORROR ride!

Cars in ditches EVERYWHERE
And this has been 3 weeks...
Never has a winter had 
So many sideways dekes!


Richard's fallen down four times
But Joy and Julie, with bad knees
And pins as well in Julie's back
Make sure they strap on THESE:


Useful but by no means sure
To get one A to B
Without a nasty fall or two
Housebound it's best to be

It's nasty for the critters too
And Smitty's had so many falls
(While we haven't grabbed HIS photo
This dog's got the same-type SPRAWLS:


Poor Chevy's got the worst of it
He's imprisoned through and through
He WANTS to work, or at least play
But a fall might break him true

A horse's legs are fragile
And he isn't shod with spikes
But Richard did snowblow a path
Where he could roll and buck and - YIKES!



They can of course go in or out
Into their wee paddock
But it isn't fun to stand around
For weeks on end. Joints LOCK!


So really now, we feel it's time
For spring to come and melt
This nasty ice and deepest snow
And sun warmth can be felt.

And Richard can drive Chevy 
To cut wood and tap the trees
And we can walk around the farm
With much more calm and ease

Instead of all this tension
Wond'ring where next should we step?
We WANT to move and exercise!
(Though we may not have Chev's pep!)



Bards: on Beards and Beams

First, today – it is imperative to explain something – especially to those who perhaps haven’t been used to reading others’ blogs (or even documents from other sites, etc).  It has come to my attention, though I’m apparently not allowed to mention names, that some more senior folk who read The Bluebellmountainblog from our Blue Belldon Farm HAVE NOT BEEN READIN’ IT RIGHT.  That’s correct.  Not readin’ it right at all.  Those who are regular followers receive an email from WordPress, the management system that hosts many of the bloggers’ chapters from around the world.  These do NOT come from me, folks, it’s an automatic send from WORDPRESS.  Now, I thought WordPress just sent a blue LINK to the latest blog posting.  But I now find out that they send a COMPRESSED email of the entire post, sometimes including photos, but often with lines/words missing, and the photos can’t be viewed properly (yes, that’s right – those of you who’ve complained that though I keep saying ‘click on any of the smaller photos to read the captions and blow them up’ ) and the words are very small and faint … well, guess what?  YOU  AREN’T  MEANT  TO BE  READING THE BLOG  FROM YOUR EMAILS!    No wonder you click on the photos and nothing happens,  no wonder  it sometimes appears to disappear off into the left margin, no wonder there’s often words missing,  yet when you tell me this and I check them, they are ALL IN ORDER.  Please click the BLUE TITLE of this blog in your email.  Surprise!  That takes you to a lovely place  – THE ACTUAL BLOG!   Untitled2

All right, enough tongue-in-cheek sarcasm. To be fair, WordPress SHOULD, when emailing their notifications TELL followers to click on any blue (such as the title I’ve given the blog posting, for instance, which is the first blue you likely see).  I guess they assume most people are aware that BLUE, whether it’s underlined or not, is usually a link to something else on the world wide web.  Oh, and when I think about the long days I take to write these, proof-reading and centering all the text and photos (as much as allowed by wordpress) captioning many of said photos,  picking background colours and making sure links within the article are ‘live’, ONLY TO FIND OUT SOME OF YOU POOR SOULS are suffering through gobbledegook that looks like this:


Right!  Onwards and upwards, and again – thanks to all who read, whether regular followers (who get the emails) or for those who follow from links in social media or elsewhere.  Today’s fun?  All about New Beards and Old Beams.

In the usual fashion of this blog, making Much Ado About Nothing, I shall quote the famous Bard, from his play of the same name:

“He that hath a beard 
is more than a youth, 
and he that hath no beard 
is less than a man."

You will know by now that Cammie, our goat (Richard named her for a Camaro, his first car) and Chevy (named for his beloved ’73 Nova, and because the horse is like his ‘new car’, which he’s meant to be spending MORE time on than said Nova…) are here to be help-mates in the work of living self-sufficiently.  Cammie was very young, and not particularly healthy when we got her last spring, but we have now found friends down the road who are living far more self-sufficiently than we’ve managed to be yet.  These folks just acquired a billy goat and after breeding their own herd of nannies (called ‘freshening’) so that they will have kids and then be subsequently milked, we are now part of their ‘rent-a-goat’ program and have been keeping  Bearded Billy to try to get Cammie pregnant as well.

Billy is not a particularly personable goat.  He doesn’t run around and ram things like I was afraid he might, with his wee backward horns (esp. afraid of fragile tendons on Chevy’s legs, and sciatic nerves in husband’s hips).  But neither is he interested in all and sundry like Cammie has always been.  In fact, he’s usually hiding out in Cammie’s insulated dog-house.  At night the two are in there together, and it’s toasty-warm.  But during the day, Cammie’s always out ‘sight-seeing’, and Billy stays indoors:

cammie and billy

He WILL, of course come out for FOOD!  They (incl. Chevy) are given hay 3 X a day, and beet-pulp once a day, sometimes on bitterly-cold days, mixed with a bran mash and some bits and bobs like apple or veg. slices and a sprinkling of molasses.  The past few days have once again been down in the minus 28C region, and thus Chevy, who likes to spend most of his time outside, has a fine ‘beard’ of ice on his whiskers.  This does NOT mean he’s cold – horses are MEANT to live out, and by far prefer it.  (Goats, as Billy has clearly shown, are NOT).

Thus, we have a livestock cocktail of one bearded male with ice and one bearded male ‘neat’.

that bit of fuzz in the top right?  That’s Chevy’s iced-up beard!

Having owned horses for more than 40 years, I feel that every winter I have to defend the fact that horses ENJOY being outside in even the coldest/stormiest/snowiest-or-rainiest days and nights.  The best and healthiest way to keep horses is to let them have a small fenced area (like our wee corral or paddock) with a run-in shelter IF they desire to be inside.  Obviously, once having a riding stable in the freezing Ottawa Valley with more than 20 horses on the property, many of them with fussy owners, I HAVE had fresh-bedded stalls each night and blanketed animals who only went outside a few hours at a time during the day.  But this is NOT what horses most enjoy, nor does it keep them as healthy as they should be – it leaves them more vulnerable to colds and other illnesses because their natural immune systems aren’t being allowed to work properly. And horses have OILS in their coats that are like the oilskins fishermen wear – precipitation is repelled. And if there are icicles on them, it just means their insulation is working – their double coats.  (A horse’s coat is like insulation in the roof of your home; if there isn’t any insulation all the heat escapes through the roof and you won’t see snow on the roof.  Same with le cheval.  If they are healthy, and have ample winter fur, you will see snow and ice on them meaning their body heat is not escaping. )

So here’s Chevy and his full beard:


When they DO go in or out, I have for the winter months at least, strung up 4 sleeping bags across the doorway, with weights in the bottoms to keep them from blowing too much in gales. That way they are slightly more protected inside, but can still come and go freely.  A doggie-door for livestock, if you like.  Cammie is generally the leader, in and out, when the 3 go out in sunshine to eat as they did for lunch today.  Chevy is usually the middle, and the bottom of the pecking order is poor Billy.  This is mostly due to the fact that he was ‘the last one’ on the property, so any animal thus  is typically relegated to the bottom in that case. But as Billy is the most shy, this is another reason he’s usually last:


Like all herds, the pecking order takes some time to be sorted each time they are fed as well.  Cammie and Chevy usually DIVE into the hay pile,  but Chevy isn’t particularly happy about Billy having the first bites (just in case we hid some treats in there and they were meant for CHEVY – which we never do, but hope springs eternal in the heart of a horse!) As always, click on each to enlarge and read:


By the way, to illustrate how much snow we have, there are FOUR rails, a foot apart each, on that corral fence. So the animals are standing on more than two feet of HIGHLY compressed snow, and yes, Chevy could step over it except a) we have two lines of electric wire going around it and b) he’s not an idiot, and he senses that the snow on the OTHER side isn’t compacted, and he’d fall through up to his belly!

Anyway, after the first few bites, Billy is always allowed into the ‘pack’ to begin eating:


And then everything settles down while they munch and enjoy:

To the point where Chevy, his belly full, often takes a break and dozes off in the sunshine:


Chevy didn’t like being awakened by me for this photo op!  Note the frost on his belly and flanks – see above re: insulation. Note also that whilst Cammie is unbothered by my proximity, Billy has become wary…

Not to be outdone in the iced-up beard department, Smitty is constantly chasing balls and bones thrown into snowbanks. He thinks it’s great fun to come up looking like this…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


and then he generally looks very put-upon, as if he’s freezing and deserves to be allowed back in IMMEDIATELY (even if he’s only been out for 5 minutes!)

Also, another male likes to get his beard icicled up when out snow-blowing, and then gives the same sad face as Smitty, begging to be allowed back in:


But Richard DID spend the last 3 days mostly inside, because he got a special job that now has nostalgic appeal added to it as well.  All my favourite old places have had ceiling beams, and one of the reasons we loved this place (via the online site that had all the photos when it was listed for sale) was that there were beams in the living room.  But my 3 cottages in the U.K., and my log cabin in Montana all had beams in the KITCHEN, and no self-respecting farm kitchen, especially with that part of the house being here since the 1880s, should be without!  When we moved here, of course (see prior before and after blogs for renos on the kitchen:  )

the kitchen was stuck in the 1970s.  But I knew that the header that was there between the main kitchen and the pantry area would eventually make a great ‘beam’.  I covered it only temporarily for the last 20 months, mostly trying to hide the ‘pink’ paint-job:



This ‘cover up’ of the 1970s header was meant to be a temporary stop-gap until such time as Richard could properly cut some barnboard for a real-looking OLD BEAM.  It’s taken until this week, however, to get it!

When my cousins left their farm in Ontario several years ago, they offered me some barnboard to do my Rustic Revivals art projects with.  I have used a number of these old much-weathered boards for just such a use, but when Richard suggested that we use the last few of the ones we brought out here with us, I knew right away that that was a more permanent idea, and as a tribute to Cousin Pete, who passed away just a few months ago.  I just wish his wife Linda had been able to see the completed beam when she visited this summer, but she’ll just have a great reason to return now!  Look at the character in the lovely old wood, and Richard designed it so that it truly does look like one big thick beam, unless you look very very carefully! And traditionally, of course, dried herbs, pots and pans, and beeswax candles must hang from its graceful arc!

Here’s the 1970s before, and as it appears today:

kitchen beam, before and after

Finally, from two more Bards:  Ellis Peters (the Cadfael collection) ” Hugh sat down with him under the dangling bunches of drying herbs, stirring fragrantly along the old beams in the draught from the open door…”

and from D.H. Lawrence in Sons and Lovers :  “Then he got his breakfast, made the tea… piled a big fire, and sat down to an hour of joy. …… He had hanging there great bunches of dried herbs: wormwood, rue, horehound, elder flowers, parsley-purt, dandelion…”


Shacking Up with Brother-in-Law

Regular Readers may remember the story of the “Lucy” of Lucy’s Gulch, the admirable mid-wife who climbed a mountain path straight up into New Denmark every time a woman needed help with her birthing.  Nonetheless, as explained previously, Lucy was considered the ‘2nd wife’ of her sister’s husband.  Each of the two sisters had their own house within 20 ft of each other, and the husband/brother-in-law travelled back and forth between the two, having had children by both women.  Pictures and story here:

I got that out in the first paragraph, right away, because I don’t want anyone thinking I am now being ‘kept’ by my own sister’s husband.  Boyd did, however, invite me to tea in some of the many ‘shacks’ he’s built himself out of reclaimed materials, and as he is as adamantly eco-friendly as we are trying to be here (though Newfoundland is MUCH more ahead of the game in the recycling/reusing/ and making less of a carbon footprint than New Brunswick!) I thought it important to feature Boyd and his work/thoughts/ideas in this particular posting.

Mom/Joy and I spent the last week in St. John’s, Newfoundland. For those of you not familiar with our Maritime provinces, my sister has lived out there ‘on the Rock’, for about 25 years, while Richard’s BROTHER and mother live three hours away in Saint John (no ‘s’ on the end is the only difference when pronouncing).  They’ve been there for about 20 years, and are one of the reasons we moved to THIS province.  We went to St. John’s for a superlative concert put on by the Atlantic Boychoir, in which my nephew sings, and they were joined by the Grammy-and-Emmy-award-winning King’s Singers, from Cambridge, England.  On top of which my eleven-year-old nephew Sydney also played a ‘cello solo during this concert in the 2500-capacity, 160-year-old cathedral. So it was well worth burning up the air-miles and two days of travel time (even though they are so close geographically, it takes LONGER to get there from here, than from Toronto!) to hear the boy bring the house down at the end of his astonishingly professional instrumental debut with his choir. The calls of “Brava! Brava!” weren’t ALL from his relatives scattered higgledy-piggledy throughout the massive cathedral!

This entire blog, however, is primarily supposed to be about trying to live self-sufficiently off the land, and about other rural goings-on in a community still clinging to the traditions of old. So I’m not about to expound further upon the particular virtues of that most-amazing event, but will simply get on with how I ‘shacked up with my brother-in-law’.

First of all, my brother-in-law Harold Boyd, is not what you’d expect from an accountant of many years, nor a staunch supporter of environmental issues.  He IS possibly, what some might expect of a native Newfoundlander, with the exception that he and my sister were the first to own an electric car (Toyota Prius) on the island.  Here he is about to drive it silently into the night:


Boyd has previously been mentioned in this blog when he and Richard spent some time this summer here at Blue Belldon, fending off bees as they moved the compost containers closer to the garden.  Having a family farm on the other side of the island (8 hours drive) but being happily ensconced in suburbanville in St. John’s has not deterred dear brother-in-law from setting up his back-yard like a scene from BBC’s The Good Life (also previously mentioned – and worth watching for anyone dreaming of that ‘off-the-grid’ life, but having no land to speak of) :

First of all, Boyd and Jennifer have taken down the stereotypical suburban fencing that one finds surrounding most homes in ‘The Burbs’, and encourage all the neighbourhood children and pets to make a walking path, much like one would find in England and Europe.  Behind their house is a ‘green space’, which then leads to various community buildings (school, hall, churches, etc).  Boyd is adamant that Sydney walk to school most days even through deep snow, and tries by example to instigate others to do the same, thus taking a little journey through their farm-like back-yard and into the green space, which certainly cuts off at least 10 minutes of what it would be to walk via the roadways, not to mention opening up an entire ‘nature walk’ along the way.

For Boyd feeds the birds:

Above, Boyd putting out two different suet blocks in his yard, one being ‘high energy’ to attract the bigger birds.  He climbs a ladder to put one of these up, to detract cats (esp. his own naughty-clawed Dewey) from climbing.  And here he is filling all his bird-feeders with seed – he even puts perches out for the little beasts – ‘so they can queue up and wait their turn’!

Boyd has built all the sheds, greenhouses, and raised gardens thus far in their yard, and has plans to continue expanding the garden portion (as well as tending garden in the summer months out on the ‘west coast’ of the island near Cartyville, where his mother still resides).

Above, Boyd even has a burn pile, like we do here on the farm, although admittedly he can’t burn in the city limits.  See also, the fence he’s removed so that the green space behind it is open to everyone from the front.


Next, we go into Boyd’s favourite ‘shack’.  This is his self-made observatory (for the birds as well as the nature-enjoying neighbours).  Of course, ALL Boyd’s shacks are made from recycled/reclaimed materials.  The windows that make up most of this one were partly garnered from being found at the end of someone’s drive, and partly by patio doors for which his brother no longer had a use:


In this ‘observatory’, Boyd can enjoy the peace of his own mini-farm, watch the birds he is feeding and enjoy a cup of tea with the Kelly Kettle my sister bought for him, which he’s set up on an unused stainless steel garbage can. It doesn’t heat the room, but it DOES keep one busy and warms the hands whilst doing so.  And of course, Boyd does have plans for a larger stove in this shack’s future.

Boyd also enjoyed putting out these large “Christmas lights” so that he could stand in the house and enjoy looking at them all season, knowing they are being run  by the solar panel he has on top of his sheds.  (When solar panels are no longer quite so expensive, he and Jennifer hope to run their Prius completely from the sun’s rays – we should ALL be looking to doing this, and thus neither electric vehicles NOR solar panels should be so ridiculously inflated in price… but don’t get me started on that right now!)

Boyd then pulls out his ‘survival kit’ (a pouch of dryer lint, shredded paper and an assortment of wood bits for small kindling).  He also proudly shows me a Lee Valley Swedish Firesteel which is impervious to all weather conditions and offers long-lasting sparks to start any fire:

So, after crumpling in the bits of paper and lint into the bottom of the Kelly Kettle, and after having moved the ‘stovepipe’, he fills the kettle with water (which surrounds the inner heating section) and then keeps feeding the stove constantly, now with twigs from his burn pile in the back corner, a heap of which he is letting dry in a corner of the shed.


And after only about 7 minutes – voila!  He pours us each a cup of lovely hot tea!

Next, we wait to see what neighbourhood children and wildlife will begin to discover the joys of Boyd’s Ebullient Acres. To help the process along a little, Boyd pulls out his bird-caller:

and we are ready with a full chart of Maritime birds posted on the shack’s wall.

It’s not very moments before one tree is full of juncos and a large flicker is tapping away at the suet block (oh, yes, and two children went by on mountain bikes through the two feet of snow, and one was pulling a sled – I was too flabbergasted to get a photo!)

Without the snow on the roof, Boyd even can enjoy looking out through the ceiling, as he’s added a long window above for bird or moon/star-gazing:


Although he didn’t set it up this winter, Boyd has experimented with hydroponic growing systems, which Richard hopes to do soon as well (right now we just have some lettuce growing in earth in the seed tables in the basement – set up for this was detailed here:  and had the 2nd-largest reading of any of my blog postings, so there must be an interest for inside growing techniques during long winter months!)

For more on Boyd’s type of hydroponics using PVC, see this:

Boyd has this sitting in his shed, so it made me curious to investigate more:

While I enjoyed watching the birds with Boyd, using camera, binoculars and my distance specs,  my vision was frequently impaired by the Coke-bottle eyeglasses my nephew caused me to wear several times – once when we were playing ‘spy’ and deciphering codes, and another time when I threatened to dress up as crazy “Eco-Aunt” and go to his aikido classes if he didn’t behave.   Eco-Aunt doesn’t waste water on hair-washing or bathing, applies makeup only using natural products, and wears only natural hair ornaments (feathers and wooden clothespins, etc). Once he saw me like this, Sydney decided to behave extraordinarily well, but I am thinking of offering Eco-Aunt as a main character to all marches for environmental issues. What do you think – is she memorable?


The Pedantic in the Pantry

From the first time I laid eyes on the video Richard took of our soon-to-be log cabin-cum-farmhouse, in March of 2016, when he flew out to video-tape every inch for us, I knew that one of the VERY first things I’d be getting rid of was the 1970s kitchen, especially the ‘peninsula’ counter that stuck out into the room, and the ugly pantry closet.


When I was alone here for the June and July of 2016, I immediately sledge-hammered the peninsula out, and at least took the folding door right off the shelf area.  (Those renovations to the kitchen can be seen here, with the before and afters that everyone seems to love: )

I then  painted the inside of the shelves, put up some gingham on the ugly paneling on the back wall, put a low-energy light in there that stays on all the time (adds light to the beginning of the dark hallway and is a good night light at night as we fumble our way down to the bathroom – at least 3 times each!) .  Finally, I stuck as many canisters in there on the newly brightened shelves as I could fit, and hid the cans and store-boughts behind them so it looked semi-attractive to the eye:


But we always planned to do something more permanent, and as the daily baking and cooking has progressed, the shelves got more and more disorganized, and as we have only the one phone (in the spirit of keeping life so-much-more-simple!), this little nook was becoming problematic to the point where I couldn’t stand it any longer! I needed a better place to hide/store the store-bought cans and packages, and I needed big bins to take ALL the bulk baking goods we buy.  So, after not TOO much nagging (for once!) Richard got to work with his perfectionist measuring, designing, discussing, re-measuring, cutting and re-cutting.   Sadly, we have yet to find a good source in this province for reclaiming lumber.  I have a sad inkling that many N.B. farmers and home-owners just burn everything they don’t want.  Thus, though we wanted an old mercantile look, Richard had to start out with fresh new pine boards.  The good thing about this is that no kind of liners would be needed for inside the bins!  Which is just as I like it because neither do I wish any form of plastic for the environment, nor would I want to be messing with tin…

So…. first Richard built me some little shelves in a space that was essentially wasted.  These would hide all the cans and packages in and behind some baskets.


Next came the big bin for baking ingredients that are too small to go in canisters, that I don’t use that often, or things like cracker boxes (btw, in the interests of living simply and more self-sufficiently, I only allow SODA crackers in the house anymore – not the realms of assorted boxes of crackers, and NO cereals! Soda biscuits are still good for days when the bread I make has run out, OR for upset tummies, OR as I’m now doing – making quick pie crusts for things like our many frozen apple slices!)

Here’s the bin.  Richard put it on 4 big casters so it just rolls in and out:


Next we have the kaffuffling with the actual bins. Though I’d given two examples to Richard, there is inevitably this time period in any of his projects where we have to go back and forth, back and forth over advantages/disadvantages of cuts/sizes.  This one was originally cut square, but we finally agreed that while it would hold a bit more that way, it would never tip outwards in the desired (by me) fashion!


So I asked him to round off the sharp corners and we got this:

Then Richard went on to make me four lovely, smoothly sanded, rounded edged (this is the pedantic bit from the title!) fold-out bins.

It was also necessary for him to extend the shelves by some inches, so that the tops of the bins would be covered, and they’d have more room to ‘tip out’ toward me, free of the back of the doorframe:


Now, here’s the thing about Richard and his woodworking.  He is so persistent and particular, that everything actually ends up way TOO perfect (and generally late for deadlines as well!)  I don’t like perfect.  And I hate anything to look like it came out of an Ikea flat-pack.  We BOTH love our old pine hutch (rescued for only $250. at an auction) and as it’s right beside the pantry cupboards, it HAD to match!  The hutch is pretty old and  beaten up. That’s what gives it such lovely character:

So, how do you make new pine wood with rounded edges and perfectly pedantically sanded faces look like its 150 years old?  Well, this isn’t the first time I’VE done this, but Richard had to be convinced.  You use what he calls ‘Medieval Torture Tools’ and you have at it!


So, here’s Richard contemplating if he could ‘allow’ it to be done to his finely sanded drawer fronts and cupboard:


Yes, he decided.  It made quite a neat effect.  And when I explained how the stain would darken in the grooves and really age/distress it, he was sold!  So we started hitting the faces (not yet attached to the drawers) with chains, tapping with the horse hoof rasp, plucking and prodding with other heavy objects. Smitty thought we were right nuts.



We experimented on cut-offs for several effects, like these:

Richard especially liked the effect of the rasp, but I didn’t want to use it too much, or it would have looked contrived (which of course it was!) Here’s what those 2 effects looked like:


Finally, it was important to chisel a bit off the rounded edges, to make them appear well-worn over the years, esp. at the tops of the drawers, where hands might have pulled them:

Here’s what the front faces looked like after we’d beaten on them (and by the way, ole Mr. Perfect Pedantic decided it was rather fun to do this!)

Next,  we had to match the staining to our pine hutch as closely as possible.  Oh, it’s just a pine stain, I hear you say?  But no!  There are 4 different types of stain called ‘Something Pine” now, AND an antique like the hutch changes colours through the decades, darker some places, lighter others and,most difficult to replicate – a sort of soft orange.  I ended up experimenting and testing like mad and finally ended up using layers and a total of 6 different stains (all already in our basement – we do NOT buy things just for the sake of spending more money!) to get the right colour and effect that best matched being beside the old hutch.  In addition, in some ‘strips’ (always with the grain) I’d put on up to 3 coats, and in others, only 1 coat which I’d even wipe off immediately so only a faint trace was left…

Fully stained, now, Richard began attaching the faces to the bins – See how the stain is darker in the grooves and scars?  Love that!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now it was time to experiment with some stencilling – but wait!  Richard burned my stencil set last year after I’d used it on some Rustic Revivals’ project and he thought that since they had paint on them they were ‘finished’… grrrrrrr…. so though he’d replaced them for me, they were too large – I had to use partly-stenciled on the ends of the letters, and then mostly free-hand but to LOOK like they’d been stenciled.  Also, I know from experience it’s better to put a base coat first, which I did in ivory, then painted over in the black.

Now, here’s the thing about old.  It’s ALWAYS faded and distressed – so while these letters were originally in dark black, that would never have looked antique/mercantile-ish.  So…

sanding with a fine grade was necessary to take off some of the newly-painted letters.  Make sure the letters are dry first – you don’t want smearing!

Here’s a number I tried first, and another example of Richard’s favourite – bashing with the horse hoof rasp:


And THEN, some artistic touch-ups on letters that just didn’t quite stand out enough was necessary. There’s a fine line between taking off too much, or not enough.  Now who’s being pedantic?



Richard got some antiqued bronze handles from Kent Lumber (but I don’t recommend them, as they are made in China, and the two he got for the bottom sliding drawer had stripped holes for the screws, so we’re still without on that section!)  I also added a few random numbers to simulate the old crate/mercantile storage effect further…And thus, the brilliant results, if we do say so ourselves:


And here’s what everyone loves – some before and afters, the 1970s kitchen before we bought it, and now. We HATE all those ’70s louvered doors, but they have worked beautifully for making them look like old shutters (painted and distressed, of course) for some of Rustic Revivals’ displays at shows – because of COURSE we don’t throw anything out! And don’t forget those doors down at the end of the hallway have been replaced by our prize ‘barn door’  (you can see that here- )


kitchen3 (2017_03_14 21_04_25 UTC)


And here’s  just the pantry area before and after:



Yes, that IS one of Mom’s hand-woven rugs in front of the hutch (helps cover up the ripped up bit of floor where I had to sledge hammer out that peninsula cupboard/counter that jutted so alarmingly into our hall/kitchen area!) As you see, I still liked the low-energy light in the one cupboard so much, I decided to leave it with some jars and canisters.  And see how our organic raw honey jars catch the light and make a mellow gold? Also a little pine mirror on the back of the wall adds some texture, makes the pantry area seem lighter and roomier as well:


Yes,sir, we love our new/old pantry area and telephone nook area now, and it’s such a pleasure to cook and bake with easy-to-scoop bulk dry goods, and easy-to-find organized cupboards and baskets and shelves….


Anyone want to come over for some oatmeal cookies?  I’m just whipping some up!


Power Preps.

“When things go awry, TRUST powers the generators until the problem is fixed ” 

                                                                                                      Max De Pree (1997). “Leading Without Power”

Usually, writers look for something deeper, more provocative, behind a statement or allusion.  In this case, I am taking the above quotation as MORE literal than it is even meant.

Everyone knows about the big ‘bomb cyclone’ (whatever that silly new term is meant to connote) that hit the Eastern Seaboard the last two days and carried us maniacally (like Chevy upturning Richard in the pony-sleigh when a snow plow rumbled past) into 2018.

However, we at Blue Belldon Farm felt we were prepared.  We are NOT even close to being off-grid as yet, but we have come to learn some valuable lessons.   Although we often lose electric power for a day or two after a distant summer thunderstorm, or a cluster of heavy autumn winds, for some reason, we rarely lose power in the depths of winter.  And thank goodness for that, as of course it can be deadly for both man and beast!  Thus, when we hear of an approaching storm, we fill up all the saved plastic milk and juice jugs with water, put water in the bathtub, get the fire burning hot,  put the animals and vehicles in the garage/barn, make sure the candles and matches are on hand, and the oil lamps filled, and put Richard’s long johns out with his jeans and battery-operated socks.

tip: if you don’t have a lot of candlesticks with handles, stick a short bottle into a mug like the one I’ve done far left, and wax the candle sturdily into the bottle. Then you’re free to walk about the house with it as needed!

But this year, the reason we truly felt prepared for a big blow-out storm, was that Richard and his brother from Saint John, Jean-Marc, spent a long weekend in early November purchasing and hooking up a massive generator to our most necessary electric appliances (ie: water pump, some of Mom’s upstairs heat, her toaster oven and hot plate,  the electronic large garage doors – also needed to get the animals out front – and our back-up oil furnace that is meant to come on if our wood furnace goes cold.)

This meant a great deal of time was spent with both brothers in the basement installing an additional panel and rearranging some of the old farmhouse’s fuses, wiring, etc.

2nd panel

It also meant a great deal of time was spent with one in the basement and one elsewhere in the house or barn, shouting back and forth on the two-way (the Reich boys never speak quietly together ; whether they are in the same room, speaking on the phone, or in this case, on walkie-talkies, shouting is imperative to add the needed drama. I suspect this habit began in early childhood).

j-m and rich

It was so kind of Jean-Marc to drive all the way up here WITH the massive generator in his wee car, and to spend all his time on this big project which theoretically, could save lives – or at least an awful lot of discomfort!  Making some good wholesome meals for the two of them was the least I could do.j-m at table

Cammie, on the other hand, felt that the least SHE could do was some ‘photo-bombing’, to use yet another new ‘bomb’ term.


With the exclusion of Mom and the cat, however, it seems that all the rest of the Blue Belldon residents were outside at this time!

Anyway, the generator is a complicated affair.  I was given some lessons on how to ‘fire it up’ in case it was ever my responsibility.  And of course, I no longer remember a single phrase… I believe I was promised some hand-written user-friendly instructions to follow but these have yet to materialise…


After Jean-Marc left that long weekend, Richard built a platform (old pallets) and a wooden box for the generator to rest near the side of the house.  This was then hooked up to a small solar panel that will keep its battery charged so it is ready and willing when we need it! When the snow first started near the end of Nov., he then put a tarp over it.


The box Richard built is about 3 ft. 3″ square.  This is the box today:

The little solar panel and the big outlet for the generator’s plug into the basement is above our basement window, which of course has completely disappeared after this latest storm.  If we did lose power now, some more of this is in order:



That’s poor icicle-stached Richard in his brother’s old ‘stand-out-in-any-crowd’ snowmobile duds just a few minutes ago. It’s good to wear fluorescents in case you get lost in a large drift and need to be heli-vac’d out!  Actually, he already had a lot of this shovelling to do this morning, because he felt the 7ft. high windowed ‘man’ door beside where the animals go in and out to the corral should be shovelled out for them to allow more light into the barn.  With the drifting, it was almost completely covering the top of the door (window). This was kind of him – personally, I think because they can take themselves in and out to the corral when they please, they can get their ‘light’ that way, but now they can be inside and still have natural light (they do always have an energy efficient light bulb on back in there as well, so it’s never completely dark).

I took these during the storm – you’d never know there were big Appalachian mountains just the other side of those yard trees, would you? And you can’t even SEE the road out front. For 27 hours, not one single car went by on our road. Just the good old plow, about every 4 hours, all night and all day… bless those plow drivers!

And Mom/Joy took this one yesterday.  While both her car and our truck were in the garage (front of barn), the wind was so powerful it blew (just under the one tiny  .5cm crack between the big overhead door and the ground) all the standing-upright snow you see here, as Richard raises the big door.  So that was INSIDE the closed-up barn!


Many people’s houses were also affronted by the blown-in snow.  A friend of mine north-east of us had her entire closed-in porch full of snow:


But, there’s always gotta be irony – for all the extra N.B. Power employees that were put on call for this storm, we in the northern part of the province never lost power at all!  Instead,  poor Jean-Marc and those in Saint John and points south – they had ALL the snow and winds, then freezing rain and flooding – torrential flooding! Loss of power, loss of homes, businesses, etc… In the case of THIS storm, this was absolutely true:



By mid-week we should be experiencing warmer temps, so Richard hopes to get Chevy (perhaps having to ride him bareback with his harness on to get through the snow drifts?) out to the woods to drag in some more logs.  And he and I have been hard at work the last 2 weeks finally redoing the kitchen pantry to be better organized, cleaner, more accessible and to blend in better with our old pine hutch that stands beside it.  So next week’s blog has many popular ‘before and after’ shots (from right back when we first took over the house), plus tips and how-tos for you diy’ers and fans of Vintage Farmhouse renos.  Here’s a tease:



Cast of Thousands, Post One Hundred!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

summary of 100th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

or, slightly less exciting – the slide show:

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

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


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERApony, nativity, julie, angel

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



tony and kim


That's right, a choir of angels sang
Beside Alpaca's Paddock
And beside THAT were market stalls
Of bread, and tools, and haddock!
choir, alpacas
Marianne Bell front row, far, I’m right behind her. We are both ‘gettin’ down’ kinds of angels. Richard and Marianne’s husband are a little more unbendy in near back row. Notice all the alpacas are staring up at the star over the stable. Just as they should do.
We know not where she finds the time
But Mayor M.B. also made that bread!
And still remains relaxed and calm
As she chats with King Herrod!


snowy angel choir
On the Sunday night’s performance at the nativity, the snow was falling beautifully and romantically and it wasn’t even that cold! I’m crouching because we’re dancing about, not freezing – plus we had a lovely barrel of fire beside us both nights!
On Tuesday night, in Johnville,
We hooked up with a choir
That came from just 'downriver'
In a church that did aspire

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

Lorne Greene’s, Long Greens, and the U. of Queens


As promised, the plethora of guests, the hard haul of harvest, and the commitments of concerts and other carry-ons have all just been completed in this past week, and thus I feel I am perhaps able to begin writing regularly again.  What a year! What a season of busy-ness!  Never in my life do I remember having so many jottings on my calendar for such a long stretch of time – May through mid-October! Because of extra-special circumstances this year of 2017, many events were once-in-a-lifetime/not-to-be-missed, and thus we felt we HAD to participate or we’d always regret it. (ie: 150th CANADA concerts in which to perform, 145th New Denmark celebrations in which to take part,- as these only happen every 5 years to this extent, -100th year of our St. Peter’s church, plus the CBC’s Still Standing cast and crew spending a week in our little community as well.) Because we’ve just moved to such a beautiful farm with lots of room for guests, visitors have also abounded.  Our final one just flew back to England last week after a 3-week stay, and between Richard, Mom/Joy and myself we’ve counted that there were 19 STAYING guests since the end of May!   And all of those events or guests have occurred in the busiest of farming life — whilst trying to  begin living off the land in earnest, including work with the new animals, planting through spring and early summer, and of course all the work involved with harvest – the picking, peeling, plucking, pouring,  ‘putting up’ and preserving.

One of the most challenging, and thus, for me – most entertaining of all the writing exercises I’ve done in decades of writing courses has been to connect seemingly unrelated story-lines or facts into one cohesive work.  That is the challenge I have now given myself over the coming weeks of blog-writing.  Because there has been so much to cover over recent months in the way of recipes and techniques I’ve come up with in the kitchen, humourous tales of the variety of peoples and daily life here in the Appalachians, eco-friendly suggestions or ‘urgent urgings’ as I call my environmental lectures/postings on Facebook, my word-play category “Phonetics Phun and the Pharm”, and just our “Regular Rural Updates”, I have had to find a way to make the connections and still keep each blog with “a bit of everything’ so that readers won’t get bored! (ie: don’t want to inundate with boring tips for freezing corn, if most readers are looking to find out about Richard’s latest bruising episode, etc!)

So    H E R E      G O E S   ….

Lorne Greene went to my alma mater, Queen’s.  He switched his major to Drama and Languages, much the same as I did, and, also as I did – went on to work for and live around the National Parks, first, as a drama teacher at a camp in Algonquin  (like my dramas performed for the benefit of Murphy’s Point and Bon Echo Provincial Parks), doing radio voice-overs to help protect wildlife and the conservation areas, and even acting in a short film for the National Parks System.  Then, of course, his own multi-award-winning Canadian production of New Wilderness brought the plight of nature and our environment very much to the forefront, as it was number ONE in its time-slot for all 5 years that it aired. Thus, Mr. Greene was very much a man after my own heart in the ways of both the Performing Arts, and his work for the Environment. But what’s the first reason I felt a connection to him?  Because he rode “Buck” the Buckskin, on Bonanza of course, and everyone knows I always have loved my ‘golden animals’ – palominos and duns/buckskins especially.  Lorne even bought ‘Buck’ after the series ended and donated him to a therapeutic riding school, just as I have devoted time, training and yes, even golden horses  to the same.  (Buck is SAID to have lived to an unbelievable age of 45 with the disabled children… usually only ponies live to ever be this old, but we’ll go along with this bit of urban legend because it’s nice to believe it…)

(above,    Lorne and Me –  “We  Dun Good” ! )

One of the deep-voiced Greene’s only on-air bloopers was to once say on CBC radio news broadcast   “farmers are expecting their biggest craps in years”.

lorne greene on CBC 1942

In a neat segue, we too have little distinction between this years ‘crops’ and well – ‘crap’.  Due to the 5 weeks of solid rain early on, then 4 weeks of drought , many of our crops did not do well this year (more on this, and how we’re working to prevent this happening again in future blogs over the coming weeks…)  But one thing you can ALWAYS count on to grow, no matter the weather conditions or the soil:  BEANS AND PEAS.  The “Long Greens”.  (trivia: did you know ‘long green’ is actually a colloquial term for ‘money’, first used in the late 1880s?  Well, in a way, our beans and peas are ‘money’ – because they are the one thing we can ‘bank’ on to grow enough of to put in our fridge and freezer! )


So, while the other crops were somewhat ‘crap’, our peas, green beans and edamame (a type of soy bean that’s delicious!) bloomed in copious numbers.   Following are some of my favourite things to do with each:

GREEN BEANS – to eat fresh  (click on each photo for caption, explaining what I’ve come up with…. I know some of you have told me this doesn’t work on your computers, and for this I apologise. I think you are probably lacking a viewing program such as Adobe or Acrobat or some such… If you can’t view my concoctions, leave me a message and I’ll tell you all !)

How I’ve decided to ‘preserve’ green beans:

Last year I fussed with both ‘pickling’ the beans with carrots, and also blanching the beans first, before freezing.  After my aching back and knees were already becoming too much this August/Sept., I read up on some ‘lazier’ ways… here’s what I’ve found:


You don’t HAVE to ‘blanche’ first!  Just wash, snip off the ends and ‘flash freeze’ (like many of you might do with berries!) Make sure they are dry, first, from your washing of them. As we are organic, I often just gave them a wipe off with a dish towel, as having them at all wet will make freezer burn. Once dry,  separate them on trays as much as possible so they don’t end up sticking together, and pop them in your freezer (I did a few in the top of my fridge freezer, then started ‘going BIG’ and doing about 6 trays at a a time out in the chest freezer.  Freeze for about an hour – you don’t want to do too much longer, or freezer ‘burn’ will begin.  They should be hard, and snap in half easily with a crack!  When you bring them back to the counter to bag  (we use strong recycled bags from other things like oatmeal, or zip-lock bags from other veg. or fruit we were forced to buy mid-winter) DON’T WAIT !  Get right on this, or if they are open to room temp. for even a few minutes they will start to thaw, and that will cause them to stick together in the bag, OR to be subject to burn… I think we have close to 30 meal-sized packages of green beans in the freezer for the winter, now, and that’s more than I really want to eat in a winter, even just in soups.  Sooooo…… I decided to get inventive again with the remaining beans that were coming in late:

I steamed a bunch of beans at a time,
then put them in the blender/food processor
I had to add a bit of water to make the machine really mash them up… like baby food!
I sprinkled my own dried parsley on top. Then I froze the mash in a lot of plastic containers (recycled from other things, of course!)

This green bean mash will be used in such things as meatloaf or chili, where it will add extra protein and ‘bulk’ without ever really being seen or tasted. I’ve tried it once in a meatloaf already, and it was excellent, and really spreads our meat out to help save on that end of things!

PEAS:  We LOVE our peas! Richard was most happy with the perfect way some of our peas looked this year. One day when we were shelling them together, he found this one in his batch, and insisted I take a photo for our readers, so here it is:


What I frequently do with our fresh peas for a lovely lunch:


richard shelling peas

Of course, we also shelled copious amounts of peas and put them in containers like small Truvia canisters to freeze.  We always seem to over-do the bean-planting, though, and never have quite as many peas as I’d like, so next year I DEFINITELY must rectify this!

Lastly, edamame:  (pron.  ED – A – MAW -MAY ) This was introduced to us by my sister, who always seems to be the one of us in our family who is ‘up’ on the ‘trendy’ or exotic foods – it was she who first showed me an avocado, decades ago, and they are one of my favourite foods – wish I could grow THEM here!  Anyway, my little nephew enjoyed this special soy bean, shelled, and roasted lightly with oil and salt (like you might do pumpkin seeds), so we have prepared many of them like this.  However, the way they are prepared in Japanese restaurants is as follows:

Simply steam the edamame IN THEIR PODS for a few minutes. Don’t overdo!
They can then be served with the pods SALTED, right in their pods, and will split open with ease at your mouth as you squeeze the pods and slide the delicious beans right on to your tongue!

There are a few other “Long Greens” I’d like to ponder here.  Leanne, my friend from Scotland, stayed with us for 10 days mid-harvest and helped greatly with the animals and some of the picking and peeling processes.  There was no time to take her sight-seeing, but for one of Richard’s doctors’ appointments he DID take her to Plaster Rock to see some of the chain-saw sculptures commemorating activities of the area:

leanne, canoe, plaster rock

The above photo then reminded us that we STILL, after a year and a half, hadn’t purchased a canoe, (we want one for calm paddling, and for Richard to fish from) and that our friend from England, Remy,  (another Richard, actually) was coming just 10 days after Leanne, and wanted to immerse himself in the Ways of the Wilderness (he and his son, Joe are certified ‘Bushcraft’ instructors in the remote moorlands of Yorkshire —in fact they live so close to Haworth they often hear Heathcliff calling for Kathy across their Wuthering Heights —–   and they are always trying to hone their survival skills.  More on his activities here on the farm later, but if you’re interested in their website and perhaps taking a course from them if you’re travelling over there, see:     If the link doesn’t work, just google Brigantia Bushcraft ! ).

As soon as Remy came he motivated us to find and purchase a wonderful old green canoe from a neighbour:


Then he and Richard immediately wanted to test the Saint John River, at its very lowest for decades, I was told by an old-timer as I waited on Brook’s Bridge downriver, in order to take photos.


And today, whilst trying to arrange connections and segues in my head preparatory to writing this blog post, I looked down at my cozy self, wrapped in Leanne’s generous gift to us: A McKenzie tartan wool blanket (because Mom was a McKenzie and that’s why I went to live in the Scottish Highlands in the first place!)  And it made me think  “Long and Green – and so SERENE”, now that all our heavy work is over, our commitments are over and our last overnight visitor gone…


Remember how Lorne Greene went to Queens and studied Theatre Arts and Language as I did? Well, there’s another connection – a group of us ‘artsies’ who wanted to become teachers were chosen from across Canada to take part in Queen’s ACE program – only 20, in fact are chosen each year!  ACE stands for Artist in Community Education and we auditioned for not just Fine Arts and Writing, but the Performing Arts – Drama and Music.  One of this group, Jodi Essery, won the Lorne Green Award that year, and they said it was one of the more difficult choices they’d yet experienced due to the high level of talent among the ACE crowd.  And I guess everyone from my little group had some lofty ambitions!  One, James Libbey, is now the conductor and composer of the International Schools’ Music Program in Luxembourg (James visited me when I lived in my wee cottage in Yorkshire, and I still remember him taking his bagpipes with us when we went for a walk in the near-by beech woods and playing them standing on a stone hog’s back bridge over a trickling brook. Magical! )

His best friend, Evan Smith – another good Queen’s chum of ours who used to sit on the floor of my dorm room and read aloud to the rest of us,  has won accolades and awards – in fact has won the YMCA PEACE AWARD, for his work with teaching children in Venezuala, then taking Ontario students to Peru and Costa Rica to interest them further in global social justice issues.  He has started two programs throughout Ontario: Connexions, which is a 3 credit Grade 12 course for students who go to these countries and help, then come back and report, and SOLID (Student Organization for Learning about International Differences) Here’s the article on his Peace Medal/Prize:

My friend Tab DeBruyn has just had her first book published, is a life coach, and the Executive Vice-President of Arbonne of Canada.  She once did a silhouette dance to one of my poetry readings as part of our graduation ceremonies at Queen’s:


And many of you may have seen my old Drama class partner, Liz McEachern, either on stage in her one-woman shows at various Fringe Festivals throughout the GTA, OR in her humourous role on CBC’s Schitt’s Creek (her episodes now are apparently playing on Air Canada flights as well, so you may have ‘caught her’ there). Here she is with Dan Levy, Eugene Levy’s son, who will also be hosting The Great Canadian Baking Show starting Nov. 1st.


Liz is starting to get recognized on the street now, so I’m very excited for her and for the accomplishments and visions of all my amazing class-mates from Queen’s.

And yet, here I sit – telling you how to mix parmesan in your fresh green beans and taking photos of canoeists instead of actually being IN the canoe as I once would have been…. Talk about MISSING THE BOAT!

However, none of the above has THIS view from their front porch, now do they?

tiffany's photo of our farm and valley

(The red maple to right is part of our birch grove.  I’ve introduced Tiffany to you a few times before re: the pageant photos, etc.  Watch for her interviews and photographer’s input with Jonny Harris on CBC’s Still Standing: New Denmark, in the spring of 2018).



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So many goings on, and lots to write about … but not ’til after October 18th… I can’t seem to manage the time/energy even, for posting some recipes for fresh garden produce like I thought I’d be able to…

But here’s some fun pics to tide you over :


The above  is of Mom and me getting apples ready for freezing, canning and baking. Mom is wearing Shirley Robinson’s butterfly-denim apron,while mine and Richard’s hang just behind Mom’s head on the corner of the hutch. As the clothes I’ve been wearing the last few weeks are ancient, stained and full of holes, I haven’t felt the need to wear an apron – not to mention how hot it was in that kitchen until just yesterday! Whew!~

And the following photos all have a specific meaning or story to them related to the last few weeks – but to catch up with all the goin’s-on of Blue Belldon Farm, you’ll just have to wait until Oct. 18th, which, incidentally is also the birthday of the man in the last photo – a famous Canadian who has won 3 Academy Awards, and with whom we’ll be very close  in the next 10 days. Any guesses?  Hint on my FB page!


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Summer in Summary

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

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

ida may, ndm

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


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


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



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

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

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



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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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

nova ride with guests

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

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

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

leanne, crabapples


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


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

rainbow, chevy

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

with ron turcotte

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

mom with jonny harris, cbc

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

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


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


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



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

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



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


And here’s a few more teases:

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

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

Summer is over

August Angst !

Busy days in the next 3 weeks as we not only harvest our massive garden for a winter’s eating, get 6 cords of firewood in, prepare for CBC’s Still Standing to be in our community, organize the entertainment for St. Peter’s Centennial Celebrations, have a guest from Scotland and two from Ontario, AND take Rustic Revivals to a show Aug. 26th in Plaster Rock. Whew! (Please don’t anyone ask why there aren’t more blog postings at the moment… )

different anglefrom roadI like this onewood While Richard’s mostly been doing the wood, and Mom’s been helping with that as well as massive weeding and picking in the garden, I’ve picked berries, made 3 jars of raspberry and 5 jars of gooseberry jam, and we’ve flash-frozen (instead of blanching this year! Try it!)  then frozen I-don’t-know-how-many bags of green and yellow beans.  And peas.  LOVE those peas!

plaster rock summerfest

julie, mic, july 1st. peters centenary    I’ve organized all the above entertainment for the anniversary, incl. writing 2 songs (Richard will solo one), researching questions for the Pastors’ Trivia Challenge and a skit that we are rehearsing now…  Looking forward to having CBC in the area next week as well, and Jonny’s big comedy night should be lots of fun!still standing

At this point, I’d like someone to help LEVEL me out, and assist with some Rustic Revivals preparations as well (have also had some Etsy attention again, and am too busy to answer my queries!)

level1  While he might have missed getting his big lazy bum in the hammock, Chevy IS just doing a lot of lazing around this summer – but we’re too busy to get him working for us, just yet!  So he has a lot of leisure time…   What’s THAT?


The regular blog postings should resume in September… or maybe October?