Ida May’s Jooney July

Regular readers of this blog know about Ida May and how she came here as a young bride of 16 (in the 1890s) to marry a bachelor who just had a rough log cabin (now our ground floor master bedroom, but which is meant to be a dining room). And her niece wrote that the summer kitchen (soon after made in to the primary kitchen space) was earth-floored and had a small loft above it for young relatives to sleep in when they would visit.  That changed about 100 years ago when a hardwood floor and a small part of the 2nd storey was added. Now, we didn’t KNOW there was a hardwood floor under all the 1950s and then 1970s linoleum (plus plywood floor!) that had been stuck (and I mean STUCK!) on there in the ensuing 100 years… but we have come to find this out after Richard’s very hard work with a crow-bar in the last few weeks.

If at any point in this posting you would like to remind yourself of how the kitchen looked when we moved in (ultra-1970s!) click on the first link and how I worked hard on my own in June of 2016 (when I lived here by myself) to change it back to an old-fashioned but bright farm kitchen.

If you also don’t remember how the hallway and pantry area looked when we bought the place, and how Richard and I worked a year and a half ago to make the pantry shelves look like old general store bins that are useful for all my cooking and baking SCOOP needs, check this link:

But for now, those will have to be just memories, because we’ve decided to go back even further to what Ida May would have enjoyed – seeing her old hardwood floor reincarnated, and a farmhouse/butler’s sink, some brick outer wall, and the wood cookstove will finally be hooked up! Thus, in my 4th June here, this kitchen has gone from 1970 back to 1930s, and now we’re really digging down and taking it right back to 1890s in some respects – though we’re not going as far as an earthen floor again!

But in the meantime, the place is a pigsty (click on any shot if you need to see more clearly) and it will truly be a mess like this for a while, I’m afraid. Luckily I hadn’t planned (because of the knees) to do much gardening/harvesting/preserving this year.  Mom/Joy did end up planting quite a bit, though, so I’m not sure what will happen…


Before taking apart our lovely old pine hutch  with my ‘art work’ of a display inside, Richard suggested I take a photo of the interior of it so it could look exactly the same again.  And we’d forgotten once we took it apart how much of 1970 I’d hidden behind it!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s also a bit of a nuisance to have furniture now in other parts of the house (like the top of the hutch in our bedroom) but it’s the only way for Richard to keep working away in such a small and still-crowded space.


Anyway, if any of you thought you might be coming over for dinner any time soon, think again! We’re BBQing where we can, and eating lettuce right out of the garden rather than trying to make salads, etc.  And if we have to we toss a frozen pizza in the oven and go eat it somewhere where we can ‘think’ and breathe without the toxic crap floating in the air from all those floor layers… We’re going to try and take off the ‘tar’ in as unchemically a method as we can – but it may not be wholly possible.

Anyway, the before and afters are going to be fabulous and I can’t wait ’til this gorgeous new-but-older-than-ever kitchen becomes a reality. I just have to be patient. VERY patient.

However, the outside of our world, despite the worst blackfly season we’ve experienced yet, is stunning, even though no flower gardening to speak of was done this year (not compared to last year preparing for Richard’s niece’s wedding!)  But frankly I’m happier with the sea of stunning wildflowers in the meadow that Chevy isn’t tramping into the ground this summer (Chevy, btw is content and working hard. Yesterday his owners reported that he happily pulled 18 logs from the bush, and he actually looks for the logs and goes and ‘parks’ himself in front of them on his own! I always said he was too smart and too energetic for us!)


These wildflower photos never show just how stunning they all are – but there’s daisies, buttercups, bloodwort, lupine, crown vetch, columbine and lots of clover, both white and purple-flowered. I love it more with the ‘wild’ look and just a few path-ways…

Still, there’s Ida May’s roses (well, we like to think they were hers – they might have come long after she died age 33):


And this has been the best year yet for columbine growing among the roses, which I’m fine with, I love them!  And in the background over Smitty’s head our lilacs JUST left us for another year – but they held on pretty well through 2 full weeks of June (last year they only stayed about 5 days!)


Mom always has some lovely pots on her little deck, and she was glad her clematis came back this year also (far right, starting to climb the yarn).


We were also pleased that cousin Linda’s holly hocks from her former farm in Ontario are going to try and make a come-back. They didn’t grow last year.  This summer they are growing, but may not flower. (the leaves in the very centre, at right of yellow iris) But next summer we are sure they’ll be what is called ‘established!’  And I planted some in the greenhouse in May, just to see if they’d do better:


The garden is going to be a lot of a surprise.  I was still on painkillers and mostly in bed when I occasionally went out, fought off blackflies and tossed some seeds in. And Mom/Joy has been really fighting off the swarms and planted more than I ever imagined for this year, but she may have planted where I already did, and vice versa… so we’re just looking at anything we get this year as something of a bonus, and not at all thinking of it as a ‘self-sufficient’ year.


We did use Chevy’s old electric fencing to help brace up the chicken wire around it, so it’s helped keep some animals out, at least!

Thus, while it’s going to be a rather unorthodox topsy-turvey summer at Blue Belldon Farm, I think things outside are pretty gorgeous without going to a lot of back-breaking effort AND inside… well, it’ll come.



Humming & Drumming, Piping, Striping and TYPING!

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

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

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

What I did get was THIS:

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

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

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

tartans, 3 of us

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


Another female event was the hammer throw:


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

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

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



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


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

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


and some delightful drum-thwackers:

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

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


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


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

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

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

May Days

The grass is finally green (with no snow up high on the tree line), the buds are JUST about ready to burst forth so even the hillsides are nearly all green now, the few seeds I in my disabled state, managed to plant in my seed table in the green house have sprouted, and a baby hummingbird sat on a grapevine branch yesterday bathing itself until its feathers were back in place and it was rested enough to have a go at Mom’s sugar-water. (Yeah, we tried for a photo, but the camera was in another room and – well, you know what happened!)

We were happy that finally because of the massive garden we had last year, we still had a fully Blue Belldon self-sufficient meal the other night (with meat supplied by the paper-wrapping farmer to whom we sold Chevy and traded his harness for 1/2 an oinker). My home-care worker Erin made a delightful parsnip soup with our veg and herbs and some of Cammie’s frozen goat’s milk.  I baked bread, and tried to show Erin how to make the chevre (goat’s milk cheese) as well. Warning – this really doesn’t work so well with frozen milk! But I added more lemon juice AND rennet (the latter which you don’t normally need just for the quick-make chevre) and after it sat for several hours – well, it didn’t ever actually curdle, but there was a big thick separated mass on the bottom, so I hung it to drain and we managed a sort of cheese, good enough to spread on toast anyway!

After this first course, we broke out Luke’s pork chops from their happily free-roaming, mud-bathing, sun-shine-basking piggies and added to it my homemade applesauce from last year as well:


And, for dessert, either our own-carrot carrot cake (which I had Erin make with the sour milk that had separated from the chevre cheese!) OR my favourite gingerbread cookies. And both of those used our own eggs!  So, it’s the end of May and we’re pretty proud that we’ve been able to accomplish this, although gotta say – that pretty much really IS the end of 2018 food. The chest freezer’s still full in the barn, but half is Luke’s and our other local butcher’s meat and half is spaghetti sauce, frozen cukes and beans. All of which we’re tired of, and besides Richard unplugged the freezer one day last autumn because he ‘needed the plug’ and I didn’t discover it until the next day (thank God I did then!) so most of the green beans went soggy and then refroze anyway. Blek. What a waste.  We aren’t planting beans at all this year. Sick of trying to make them ‘good’!

The best way to have good parsnips, however, is absolutely LEAVE THEM IN THE GROUND all winter, then pull them up (poor Mom did this without help from me) and make up your favourite dishes in the spring.  In the autumn they were stringy and had nasty stems at their core, but not now! Yum!

Other farm news? The chickens are laying well, and are happy to be back on their free range-food-finding missions. The two goats, Cammie and Buttercup/nut (we don’t like either name, and Richard can’t actually remember which she was called when he got her, so she gets called by both) are SUPPOSED to be tied up on the dogwood in our back ditch, and to the edge of the forest where there are lots of twiggy weeds to nibble but Richard thinks they’d ‘rather roam free’ and while they drag their long ropes behind them, that’s what they mostly seem to do. So of course I’ve already had one rose bush stripped of its bark while Richard ‘keeps an eye on them to make sure they don’t get in to mischief.’  ALMOST lost my black currant bushes today (the same ones Richard plowed under two years ago, but which luckily came back) but I just happened to be outside leaning on my ski poles and giving Richard hell for letting the goats get so close to the garden (broken fence) when they decided to demonstrate my point by leaning over to nibble anyway, so thank God that disaster was averted.

We have a bit of rhubarb and asparagus showing, but it will be another year or two before those spring delights can be enjoyed.

And we’ve had rain. A LOT of rain. All of May has given us only 4.5 days of sunshine and warmth, in fact.  But that’s o.k., because it doesn’t make me feel so bad to be in bed half the day writing on this laptop. Also, the wet makes the greens greener, keeps the blackflies away longer (they are out now, though!),  we actually have some song birds around this year staying in the trees, the peepers have been putting on quite a show at night and lastly, you get THIS:


And even some strange clouds over the mountains which are fun:


Wanting to give a ‘shout-out’ to Shirley Robinson, a regular reader, who is moving back to her (and Mom’s and my) hometown of Tillsonburg, ON. Good luck with all that moving, Shirley, and have fun being back where you know so many! Shirley was the lady who used to give me – “Chip”- the tomboy haircut I used to beg for (and whom no other hairdresser would deign to give me).

chip hair

Over and out for today.

Last blog for the month of May!

Dung Pong and Spring Song

Mostly photos this week.  There have been a great number of submission and proofing deadlines I’ve had to meet lately, and I’m just pooped with thinking of how one more sentence can be strung together creatively or even informatively.  Admit it, though. You’d rather just look at pictures anyway than read what I write!

The animals have all been very humorous as we’ve moved into spring-like weather. The chickens follow Richard around as he does yard work, expecting treats because of course he spoils them rotten – (click on each pic to make larger)

And I’ve had a stool put in the greenhouse so I can do a bit of ‘gardening’ which doesn’t involve my knees or back.  And here come the chickens running up to me to see if I’ll give them some of the seeds in my precious packets! (There’s a lot of manure added to that seed table earth, the pong of which may be why my nose is upturned)

Richard also discovered one of the Buffs having a difficult time laying her egg one morning, squawking and carrying on… We soon found out why. AND it was a double yolker! Richard was as proud of this egg as if he’d laid it himself and has told every family member on the phone, and every neighbour on the porch about it! I believe even the UPS man heard about it the other day, as he drove away even more quickly than he usually does.


Smitty (for reasons only he can understand – and even then, I doubt it) sits outside the greenhouse and tears more fuzz off his tennis balls as he prefers them to be bald. And greyish black. So a person with bad knees and back may not notice them as easily when he leaves them on the greyish-black tarmac!

Smitty will often accompany nephew Chris and/or Richard on their rounds of the yard, as well as Cammie and Buttercup, who of course must get in to the action.

Simba FatCat has started wanting to go out for his 3 minute “I’ll listen to the birdies, but wait – it’s still too cold!” ventures each day. Then he comes in and lounges about for the rest of the day except when he decides Smitty’s face needs a bath and he wishes some cozy head scratching in return:

Richard went to visit his family in Saint John this past weekend and took Chris back home. He also had to go and visit Chevy and pick up some pork they’d promised us in return for Chevy’s harness. Bartering is another self-sufficient way of living rurally and we still use it a lot.  We love the way Chevy’s new family packages – nice and eco-friendly and Richard saw that all the animals there have a happy good life, so we didn’t feel so bad about eating these ham steaks and making some meatloaf from the ground pork!  Look up Belding Hill Farm (Chevy went from a Blue Belldon to a Belding Hill !) on FB if you want to see more or to order pork – or beef -if you’re in N.B.  But if you’re not, we’ve still discovered that if you ask nicely and give your local butcher a bit of a guilt complex, they WILL wrap in paper and stop this rampant use of styrofoam and plastic!


There’s still a bit of snow in hollows and, as in photo, up high along the tree line. But it’s mostly gone, thank goodness and we did have one day (just one!) that was above 12 degrees AND sunny at the same time!  And the potato barns above and below us (and all around us!) have transports hauling off potatoes to MacCains and for your McDonald’s fries.  This is always an early sign of spring. Next will be the tractors out in the fields!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And lastly (and completely unrelated to living self-sufficiently on a farm in N.B., but if Richard’s nephew’s been mentioned the last two weeks, it’s time for MY nephew Sydney to get a horn-toot: ) The Atlantic Boychoir just returned from an incredibly successful European tour again, this time to Paris and the U.K. As well as having fun doing all the sites (incl. Euro-Disney!) they sang in two Canadian embassies, one cathedral (not Notre Dame, as was planned!) and in 5 more concerts for the Cornwall Male Choral Festival where they were REAL pirates of Penzance and lords of Land’s End!  Sydney has several solos, like in Edelweiss (below) and also does a lovely quartet feature.

Though they were just 10 days away from singing two masses in Notre Dame when it burned, I think the Truro Cathedral where they sang two concerts was pretty close to being as magnificent:

And they even had a formal rehearsal at an amphi-theatre in Land’s End where the BBC was also recording and interviewing them!

open air concert, cornwall

So, I’ll leave you with some concert links, those of you who are music lovers or fans of wee Sydney. I suggest listening to all the choirs as they are amazing and from all over the world, but if you wish to just hear our only national touring boychoir, they are introduced at  the 2:21:20 mark here: and sing ’til right near the end:

NOTE : If for the first two videos you aren’t taken there directly, don’t worry, just click on the underlined “play on Youtube” or “view on Youtube” and that’ll get you there!  ALSO, if you’re only going to watch one of these concerts, go to the 2nd one – the Truro cathedral looks much more beautiful and awe-inspiring at night as it is in that one. (just this past Sat. night)


This was their stunning evening concert in the cathedral, starting at 2:11:14.  There are lovely close-up shots of all the boys (watch for Sydney!) as well as the cathedral. And if you aren’t fussed about hearing the whole repertoire, or Sydney per se, for God’s sake listen to the amazing last song (Cohen’s Hallelujah) with their top soloist (can’t remember his name at the moment, but he’ll be a famous opera star in his own right someday). I dare you not to need the box of tissues for it!

This last one is in Paris, a more informal affair, although still in an amazing setting – the Canadian Ambassador’s private residence. It is in this one that you’ll hear Sydney’s one line in the French folk song, his two verses in Edelweiss and his Latin in the quartet!  And you’ll note in all these how truly much he adores both singing and drama (I can’t imagine from whom he might have inherited that!)  Enjoy, and Happy Spring.

Nogs, Noggins, Song’n’s and Toboggans

Richard’s been a very busy dude this last month or so.  Since the end of October my ‘good’ knee has steadily become worse than my ‘bad’ one (the one scheduled for surgery on Jan. 18).  So I’ve mostly been lying on couch or bed due to pain AND just trying to save wear and tear on them as they are both now ‘bone on bone’.  Meanwhile poor Richard has to pick up all the extra chores I can no longer manage as I’m mostly on my walker (kept, thank goodness, since my back surgeries). So he’s doing ALL the barn chores, PLUS milking Cammie and running up and down the basement stairs attending the furnace fires, and even some meal prep -with shouted instructions from the adjoining bedroom, of course!

Yes, I know some of you do not have snow, but we had our first big snow storm at the end of October and have had several more storms since then – and big winds as well!  So, there’s a lot to do outside as well as in! Richard IS very much enjoying his new ‘toy’, though:4b

He decided his hip couldn’t handle pushing our snow blower up and down the laneway again this year.  Personally, I’ve always thought that in winter our entire laneway and parking lot/barnyard doesn’t need to be plowed, – we could just park near the front of the house and leave the rest –   but R. still is a bit of a  suburban Yuppie in some of his thinking. He feels ALL areas should be cleared – and by cleared I mean RIGHT to the pavement (which of course only causes more potential for dangerous falls on ice in my opinion, but we have this argument several times every year and I never win).  Thus, we got the attachment to the John Deere this year and his brother once again came to the rescue with help in this big endeavor:

I can’t seem to get Richard to protect his head (and mustache) properly though, and he always comes in with icicles hanging from his eyebrows and upper lip.  I looked at getting him a plastic ‘tent’ for around the top of the mower as a Christmas gift but a) they are pretty expensive considering how much we already spent on this contraption, b) we try not to BUY gifts for our family, just make them and c)  you all know how I feel about adding ANY plastic – even a piece of Saran Wrap – to my carbon footprint, so I didn’t feel that was a good choice.  Of all the hats and toques Richard’s been given over the years JUST since moving here, including  a balaclava which would help the stache-icicle problem, and including the red one with the pom-pom which his mother bought specially for all of us to MATCH, in Christmas 2016 and which he REFUSES to wear…

(The last hat is from the CBC show Still Standing – one of the producers gave it to me for doing some admin. for them getting the still photos they used, and getting waivers signed,  etc. and I passed it on to Richard last Christmas as it’s a lovely green!  If you still haven’t seen the episode in which we/New Denmark appear, the link is here:  )

…the one he seems to now be preferring is one that isn’t MEANT to be his!  His brother gave him a slightly used winter coat for ‘good’ and inside the sleeve was tucked his BROTHER’S favourite toque.  Which Richard has now taken a Finders Keepers motto about and decided it was MEANT to be his own!

We thought it would be nice if we gave our old snowblower to neighbour Pierrette and her son Zeb who have helped us out so much since moving here, and who live like hermits WAY back off a tertiary road in the middle of the woods. So hubby just went past my window again making sure everything is working properly before we turn it over to  them. And yes, that IS his brother’s toque covering most of his noggin. Again. Plus he’s wearing the big black parka Mom gave him last year to  – ‘cover what little bum you have whilst snow-blowing!’


Another snow-job is to get food out to Chevy who, until he leaves to go to his wonderful new owner Dec. 13, has been allowed to have his summer pasture area still open to him.  When the snows get heavier this isn’t possible as they cover the electric fence, but for now he’s usually found WAY up at the top of the hill, and Richard likes to feed both him and Cammie up there sometimes as it keeps the stall and corral area cleaner.  So, out comes the toboggan and away goes the food:


Sometimes, though, when R. thinks he’ll have the luxury of dragging back an EMPTY toboggan, others have a different idea!


In the meantime I haven’t been out of the house in a month.  One month yesterday, to be exact (more on that in a moment).  I am most comfortable in bed, as it has the best view, is supportive in the right places, allows my legs to spread out away from each other so the knees don’t touch,  and has enough space to spread my various projects out around me. The couch offers none of these, but once in a while I go into the living room for a change of scenery and to have a fire in the fireplace.  If my poor over-worked hubby (don’t feel too sorry for him, he’s spending MOST of his days cuddled up reading or napping!) is willing to make us a cozy fire, that is, since I can’t go fetch in wood myself or even stoop down!  I am primarily involved in writing a stage musical, one that’s been hatching slowly on the back burner (talk about mixing metaphors!) for some years now.  And I needed to do some research first, so since I can’t go to the library these days (getting in and out of the house is painful, and even more so is getting in and out of the vehicles!) one of the things I LOVE about the province of N.B. is that you can mail-order your books!  A big black pouch arrives in your mailbox, and you just put the return label on and send them back when you’re ready – for FREE! So, without giving too much away about my musical, you can get a glimmer of some of the subject content from these:  (I know any cousins or extended family will know where I’m likely going with this subject matter…) :

The next problem I faced, however, was that while most of the script (‘BOOK’, in correct musical theatre lingo ) and the lyrics to more than 20 songs have been written in the last month I could NOT sit at the piano to compose.  Sitting with my legs bent, as an upright piano necessitates is painful. So I asked for a melodica for Christmas and my mother very kindly arranged to get it here well in advance and allow me to have it right away. So, most of my days are spent like this:

Which the cat just HATES because a) until the last 30 days,  he’s used to having the bed uninterrupted all day long with plenty of room to spread out and b) neither he nor Smitty can STAND the sound of the melodica. Smitty comes up to the bed and whines, and the cat tends to run down to the basement yowling in anger.  I also am having hot flashes again (thought I was done with those a year ago, so I can only guess it’s thanks to complete lack of exercise now) and I frequently have to throw the blankets off my legs- which in and of itself is cause for a hefty scowl:1

As many of you will know, especially if you follow my FB pages, I come from a shortish line of theatrical as well as musical and literary personages. “Song’n’Dance” men as well as women! And by that I mean we can tell a good fictional tale as WELL as literally treading the boards. Grandma Johnson wrote many novel manuscripts which were never published because she only tried once, was told she needed more ‘boudoir’ scenes and never approached another publisher… I have a trunk still full of most of these manuscripts which I always promised her I would try to do something with one day – not that SHE cared, it was wholly my own idea to not let those years of writing be completely wasted (possibly, because I feel like all my own years of writing are being wasted in the same way!) “Like Grandmother, Like Granddaughter” in more ways than one, then.  This first pic was Grandma J (Ivanel) circa early 1930s, and the bottom, from one of my newspaper clippings, is me in similar pose (although you can’t see the red blinking lights on my nipples —- I was playing one of the prostitutes in “No Sex, Please – We’re British”. Which really should have been Grandma’s motto considering the reason she stopped approaching publishers! )


Since writing, music and drama have all been such an important part of my life (and in fact my degree was a combination of all 3, as Queen’s allowed for an Artist in Community Education B.Ed. if you had experience in at least 3 facets of artistic life and a previous degree in 2 of them!  Eek! ) I decided to also base my musical on an important-to-Canada family who have all 3 as an integral part of ITS life.  And who also, as I do daily, fought to keep the environment protected.  (AND who, incidentally, have several towns of Perth cropping up in their various lives, as I have had 4 of them be important to me!  There’s a LOT of Perths out there! )  I didn’t think this musical would ever actually get written until, on October 26th Assistant Perth-Andover Choir Director Sandi Tattersall and I did a ‘ditty’ (“What Baking Can Do” from the musical Waitress by Sarah Bareilles)  for a charity show:

At one point I was to go behind Sandi as she sang a lovely and upbeat solo verse (she’s got an amazing voice and has had proper singing lessons for years, so it would have been MORE fitting if I’d just stayed behind her through the whole thing!)  and duck from one side to the other of her.  As my ‘good’ knee had already gone fairly ‘bad’ at this point, this ducking/deeking was pretty much the end of it. CR-A-A-CK !

sandi, julie, ducking

I tried one time after that (on Oct. 30) to make it to the choir rehearsals for our Christmas concerts and knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep going.  Richard, incidentally, IS still going and they had a very successful first concert  on Thursday night with a few more to go.  I missed the concert season in the spring from having that 5-week virus, and now I am missing this whole season as well. Very frustrating!  HOWEVER, as the love of the performing arts has CLEARLY been passed on to my 12-year-old nephew, who at this time last year was on European tour with the Atlantic Boychoir, I am NOT missing out on his first-ever singing solo. AND it’s in a professional cast of over 130 with his mother accompanying the show as part of the small band/orchestra they’ve hired.  This is a BIG deal!  Sydney is even mentioned in the Arts & Culture Centre’s flyer as a featured performer, which is pretty amazing for a kid, I think:


There are 5 performances (one’s a matinee) next week with sold-out crowds of over 1,000 people at each performance —- and Mom has already flown to St. John’s to help with all the extra craziness going on in a musicians’ household at the run-up to Christmas. Of course my sister always plays, as part of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, for the annual Nutcracker concert, the annual Messiah concert, and has numerous other gigs right now, as does Sydney with his school concerts, his ‘cello, his viol-de-gamba, his choral singing with the Boychoir and now soloing in the big Diva’s show.  That’s “big Diva’s show”, NOT ” Big Divas’ show “. Please note difference!  He’s singing the gorgeous melody from The Greatest Showman, called A Million Dreams. If you haven’t heard it, you MUST; it’s luscious.  Here’s the young lad , Ziv Zaifman, that sang it for the soundtrack. No doubt there will be no recording done of poor Sydney’s efforts, as seems the case with most of his performances, and of course we lowly family members (even those who have to province-hop and go doped up on painkillers and in a wheelchair!) can’t take recording devices into theatres, so this is the closest we’ll likely have:

I DID, however, do up a little ‘gif’ of my sister playing for the Divas show last year (they had an Irish/Celtic theme then) and of Sydney on CBC radio last month for the Boychoir.

gif with snow, for Our Divas, 2018

As you’ll have noticed in the above, like me, my sister is very dramatic, facially – especially when playing.  Some of you may remember that she has always been this expressive since our early days playing as children.  However, as you can see by this video of a gorgeous piece by Franck, which SHE just did this year for a charity concert, her playing is unrecognizable compared to what it was when we were children!

Anyway, I leave for St. John’s on Friday, being pushed through the airports and to the theatre two nights in a row (thanks for the ticket gifts, Jennifer!) by the good folk at Air Canada, and my poor brother-in-law!  Wheelchairs courtesy of Air Canada and the Red Cross. Thanks very much!

While I’m plugging Atlantic Canada professional stage shows here, I should also mention that my singing partner from above, Sandi Tattersall, has an equally talented sibling and nephew, the former who is appearing in the professional cast of Beauty and the Beast in Moncton in a few months  (Curtis Sullivan is often seen in a lot of Drayton Productions in Ontario, and I’m sure many of the Ontarioites reading this blog will have seen him in those.  My theatre-loving compatriots from the Stratford teaching days will surely recognize him as the Drayton company has expanded so much recently, hasn’t it?)   Sadly, I don’t THINK my knees will be rehabbed enough to make it to the Moncton production, as I’d planned when it was originally announced, but if you’re in that area (which, in N.B. means – ANY OF THE ATLANTIC PROVINCES!)  here’s the link for tickets and a cast summary. Click on the Nov. 14, 2018 part of the blue, as it seems to split:

Posted by Théâtre Capitol Theatre on Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Sandi’s nephew is a phenom. in his own right, and I pray/hope/expect my own nephew may be following along these lines – for the purely selfish reason that I can have years of exciting and proud theatre to see!  His name is Jeremy Leo Curtis and he just finished a run in downtown Toronto as Joseph, in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Jeremy got stellar reviews, one of which – by the Gaisins for the Ontario Arts Review -says: “The title character is portrayed by Jeremy Leo Curtis and methinks this young man has a promising potential theatre career. He can sing up a storm; utilizes his face & posture to advantage; is obviously charismatic…and in addition – movie-star handsome.” 

MORE photos and reviews here:

So, Ontario theatre-goers of whom I know many are reading this blog (despite it supposedly being about how to live self-sufficiently on a homestead in the Maritimes!) – keep your eyes open for Curtis Sullivan and/or Jeremy Leo Sullivan!  Now THAT’S a musical theatre family! (but still not the ones I’m writing my own musical about. You’ll have to wait for another non-homesteading-themed blog posting to find out more about that!)

Also in Perth, and if you’re in the Maritimes you might have heard about this on CBC Radio Noon yesterday,     our Choir Director (and esteemed mayor) suggested to her young and massively creative Baptist minister that they do what is apparently a ‘first’ – possibly in the world.  (Remember we sang as ‘angels’ last December for the same church’s drive-thru Nativity? if you don’t remember and want a peek, and yes – one of Richard wearing yet a DIFFERENT toque on his noggin,  see this blog posting:    ) .  Marianne Bell and  the Rev. Michael Fredericks with another cast of ‘manymany; have filmed a series called ‘Online Advent’. Each day, starting today, they will have a little clip of their ‘show’ telling the Christmas story and yesterday on air Rick Mercer said, (even if it MAY have been tongue-in-cheek) that’d he’d consider being in their production another year as it ‘has all the production quality of Murdoch Mysteries’!

Here’s Jessica Theriault , and Sheila Cummings, who sings with us in choir and went to Moncton to Choralfest with 6 of us in October. Sheila’s lovely grand-daughter Kelsie also went with us and helped us out with our “Baking” ditty also!  More examples of grandmothers passing the performing arts down the generations!   This is taken from the ‘trailer’ to which I’ve also given the link below:


Now, whilst musical theatre season (and in England also silly ‘panto’ season!) is very HOT in December, this blog posting isn’t particularly Christmassy OR Homesteady as yet – so as a build-up to your festive season, and to not get off track TOO much (too late!) re: living self-sufficiently, here is what to do when you have lots of fresh goat’s milk and eggs:

HOMEMADE EGG NOG – take 3 or 4 day-old goat’s milk (want it to have sat in fridge for a few days for best thickness and richer taste), fill up half a blender, throw in up to 6 fresh eggs from your chickies, add 2 tsp. of vanilla, 1/2 a cup of sugar or Stevia, 1/2 cup of vanilla frozen yogurt (your own if you’ve some made up!) and some cinnamon and nutmeg.  Blend it up – if your eggs were very fresh it should be yellowish in colour, but not to worry if it isn’t — and when it’s finished put only a very SMALL amount of rum in, if you wish.  I find more than a dollop ruins the whole lovely beverage, though I know many who will disagree!

Cardinal card by our wonderful artist friend (and my former art teacher!) Jane Wright.  Richard has been inspired by Anne Schultz to suddenly enjoy cardinals again, as he once did… so I might make the next blog posting a Christmassy-red-snowy-Cardinal-based posting!

Fringe-Bottoms, Dakota-Black

Mom/Joy has come up with a superior project to a) give her some variety from her crosswords, yoga, reading and listening to CBC radio on these winter days and b) offer New Brunswick a solution (and raise awareness) of what each person can do to reduce their carbon footprint in this environment that is in dire straits.  As I keep complaining, having lived in two countries in the U.K., and two in North America, both east and west- New Brunswick is by far the most ‘behind’ when it comes to reducing waste, re-using, and recycling!

The mater of the upper suite of Blue Belldon is making shopping bags from old T-shirts we have around and others she’s buying for peanuts from 2nd hand shops. She looked online and, while she found many options, she chose the “No-Sew, Fringe-Bottom” .  She got a lot of red ones, and those will be used to ‘wrap’ Christmas gifts, and then serve AS the Christmas gift when recipients realize they can reuse them for their groceries, etc.

Just as the now-famous Banksy artwork that got shredded as soon as it was sold last month, Mom is shredding the bottoms of shirts as quickly as she can get her hands on them, and also like Banksy, made her own artwork (sign) on the back of a split-in-half canvas bag she had lying around, and thus (like Banksy) plans to bring attention to her items in this fashion:

mom, banksy

The link to make your own simple bags is here:   and even if you aren’t as responsible for your part in  keeping our planet from dying, at least it saves you from buying plastic bags, which is what HOPEFULLY all grocery stores, at least, will soon be doing.  Remember, though – take your bags into EVERY shop, not just grocery stores.  If I ever forget and leave the bags in the vehicle, I both educate the check-out people of drug stores, gift shops, etc. and punish myself by saying “darn, I forgot my bags in the truck, but don’t give me any plastic please” and then I make myself carry everything out via my purse, pockets and hands.  Mom hopes to be going to some grocery stores and handing her great bags out for free, just to help educate, if nothing more.



We have GOT to stop polluting the earth (and yes, allowing plastic in your house IS polluting, because it still ends up in a land-fill and/or the ocean.)  If you’ve forgotten or missed earlier rants, see this:

Plastic bags don’t just bung up the works and disallow animal and plant growth, they also release toxins into the earth and water AND wildlife can get caught up in them, often killing them:

It also means the greedy oil companies continue more and more mining, fracking, pipelines and tree-chopping, because of course it takes petroleum to make plastic!

One of my favourite  modern composers, musicians (pianist phenom!), actors, comedians, satirists, humanitarians and environmentalists is Aussie/Brit Tim Minchin. That’s right, he’s in his early 40s and is ALL of those things! (Most recently composer of the lyrics and music for Broadway/West End smash hits Matilda and Groundhog Day, and soon opening in his first big-screen role as Friar Tuck in Robin Hood). Tim has a great little catchy tune entitled “Canvas Bags” – a bit more rock’n’roll than most of his songs, but he wanted people to sing it in their heads all the time, and it WORKS. (This is hardly indicative of most of his enormous body of work, and doesn’t show his incredible piano skills, so please google his name and look for other amazing stuff!)  But here’s Canvas Bags:

And if you can’t make out all his spoken words they go as follows:

Just think about the world
And how the world would be fantastic
If we could get rid of all the plastic
We just need to get enthusiastic
Organise a competition, gymnastic
Or a bag-making comp at your school
Fuck it, make it interscholastic
Canvas is for everyone
Whether you be rebellious and iconoclastic
Or conservative or ecclesiastic
I don't care if you're loud and bombastic
Or quiet or virtually monastic
Sober or on the floor spastic
A yoga master or completely inelastic
I'm not trying to be ironic or sarcastic
Do something drastic
To rid the world of plastic

Of course Canvas and Cotton (Mom’s upcycled T-shirts) are also natural fabrics, so this is even better than if you use something with Polyester or other man-made materials! See what you can do to “rid the world of plastic” . Every little bit helps!

The very last of the garden was processed last week, and yesterday the snow flew all day and looks like it’s here to stay. I brought the last of the onions in from the porch. They have to dry out in a shady but windy spot for a few weeks before you can rope them together:

Then I finished the arduous task of finishing off our Dakota Black popcorn, of which we had a very successful long row in the garden all year. First,Richard and I scraped the corn off the cobs after it had already sat inside for a few weeks drying. That was about a month ago:

Then I put all the kernels in the lids of my great-aunt’s cheeseboxes and set them on a high shelf in a closet to thoroughly dry:


After some weeks, it was ready to winnow, which I did a few days back.  This involves a fan and a lot of sifting through colanders, hands, etc. to get all the dried husky stuff to fly away.  (Richard then had to go do some sweeping and dusting to immediately clean up all those flying dried shell-bits, so maybe if we’d let them dry less time and done the winnowing outside it might have been better…)

Once all the winnowing was complete (takes a long time!) we had a winter’s worth of snacks, and as popcorn is the only snack-food we allow ourselves (partly because it’s all we can grow to be self-sufficient, partly because it’s better for you than most snacks!) this made us happy!


I put it in our glass canister, and then we tried popping it a few nights ago.  Doesn’t it look fluffy? You just need to get used to the insides being black, which traditionally makes us thing it’s burned… but of course it isn’t in this case! And Richard does make great popcorn.  His one real ‘kitchen’ speciality (although he’s getting better at making toast!)

And thus, that’s it for the garden-processing blogposts from this year, and if you aren’t on Facebook to see my postings there, this was Richard and Chevy about an hour ago – he’s reminding him how to drive in the snow, as we have a possible buyer coming to try him tomorrow. We’ll be sad to see him go, but between Richard’s hip and my knees, we can’t keep up… maybe after some surgeries and replacement body parts are made. So, this might be the last photo blog-readers see of dear Chev!        Cammie will be devastated!


Greenhouses and Gables, Farmhouses and Fables

 on STARTING with PANES (recycled windows):”Pain”(Pane?) has its own Noble Joy; when it starts a strong consciousness of life, from a stagnant one.     -John Sterling

I toyed with many titles for this one.  I first wanted to use the homophones “Pane” and “Pain”, thus the above quote. I liked that Joy was in this quote, and all 3 of us are suffering a certain amount of pain right now, at the end of a very long, if productive season outdoors and in kitchens! Not good enough.  Then there was the possibility of the old standby about People with Glasshouses, quoted more properly at the end of this posting. That was weak.  However, as I turned the article into something I didn’t expect in the latter quarter, I decided to settle once more for a title with my favourite Alliterative Rhymes!

There’s a pub in Japan that frequently gets shown on social media, especially the types of self-sustaining and eco-friendly pages to which we subscribe.  The front is made entirely of recycled windows that would have ended up in a landfill somewhere, and inside (see below) they recycle as much as possible also – the chandelier is made from old soda bottles!

While we have been following others’ blogs and pages, and reading magazine articles about the many ways to make a greenhouse, this concept has always been what has intrigued us the most.  Down the road another family lives self-sufficiently and they have one of the metal-arced/covered-in-plastic greenhouses – and they eat fresh greens nearly all year long! (just not Dec. and Jan. and part of Feb.)  This convinced Richard that our seed boxes and lighting system in the basement just wasn’t enough, and he was determined to  “keep up with the Joneses” : plastic green

HOWEVER, to all who know me, this is anathema to my soul!  Imagine me PURCHASING- NEW – well, anything! And on top of that, then having all that plastic on my carbon footprint, only lasting a few years and going right into the landfill after.  We live on a very windy mountaintop, so I can’t imagine that this plastic wouldn’t be ripped to shreds in under 5 years.  Besides, I LOVE the look of old windows, and Rustic Revivals uses lots of them for various projects, so why not have a bunch on hand?

old windows



Thus, all summer we collected them from various ads, and from people we heard just wanted to have us take them away. I think in total we spent about $40. for about 30 windows of varying sizes, and another $30. for an old sliding patio door.   Richard had to replace the windows in the Rustic Revivals shop/cabin anyway and I certainly didn’t want anything NEW in there! (before and after shots of that, if you haven’t read this blog for a while, though the windows weren’t yet put in, in the ‘after’ shot !) :


Richard being Richard we had to discuss this project at breakfast and lunch at our kitchen table for WEEKS before he was inspired to get started.  We had 3 different choices of where to actually PUT the greenhouse, taking into consideration not only the most south-facing spot for sun, but also how to access it in winter with massive snow drifts from snow-blowing and wind, and still keeping it very close to the garden for transplanting in June… Then he took measurements of each window and went on his computer for another week and made graphs, charts and diagrams.  Then I finally got cheesed off and said I’d have had the whole thing built by now if I’d just done it myself (which, if you know me, I WOULD have!  It might not have stood up through the winter, but I’d have had it standing, at least!)   This was late September, and I was still busy doing a lot of gardening and canning/freezing, etc., but I just started dragging windows out of the barn and that’s what finally got Richard to throw most of his paperwork aside and just deal hands-on with what he had to work with. Unfortunately, he didn’t stick to the HEIGHT we’d agreed on, and things got a little out of control…


Richard was trying to lift these heavy windows by himself out of the barn , and being a Reich, I knew there were bound to be too many breakages this way, incl. his own back.  I remembered that buried somewhere in the barn we had an industrial dolly… and things moved along a little better after that:


Thus, laying out the windows for each of the four sides took some puzzle-fitting and decision-making, but not nearly as long as all the ‘kafuffling’ around at the computer and the kitchen table!





Once Richard knew the ‘footprint’, he had to start digging and rototilling, which of course the chickens ADORED as they were finding plenty of worms.  He was constantly tripping over them and swearing at them, but when I suggested he leave them in the coop until such time as he was finished, he wouldn’t hear of it! Richard spoils all the animals.  Here he is with a most-attentive Lucy the Layer:


The hens ALSO loved the pile of earth he put aside for spreading in holes all over our ‘lawn’ , so they would run back and forth between the greenhouse space and this ever-growing pile.


By the time Richard was digging the corner post holes, I was back spending a lot of time in the kitchen again, and not really paying much attention… I assumed these corner beams would be cut down to the height we’d discussed originally, about 6 ft. on the front side, and slanting down to just 5 ft. on the back(garden) wall, which is mostly northwest.  And yes, the wood DID have to be bought new, whereas if we were still in Ontario I would have sourced out enough reclaimed wood.  ( I also wouldn’t have used so much wood if I were building this myself! Richard always likes to go overboard on projects, in my opinion, but I’ll grant him that the thing WILL stand the test of time as he’s done it!) But here in N.B. there are no wonderful Habitat for Humanity RE-STORE type places, nor are there many old wooden barns or homes being taken down or restored.  The few there are are just burned, or left to rot… so sad – what a waste of material for something like our project!

Richard installs the first window.  At this point, I was still assuming that this corner beam would be cut down to what we had discussed.  That’s what it LOOKS like, right?  By the way, in this next photo you can also see that just laying the windows on the ground to get the ‘puzzle’ figured out killed the grass over JUST ONE AFTERNOON!  So you know our little greenhouse is going to be a HOTHOUSE! Thus, Richard planned to keep a few of these windows (such as this first one installed) so that they can still be cranked open to let air in when needed.


Next came the studs. Far too many of them by my way of thinking. I had to keep reminding Richard that he wasn’t building an actual HOUSE:


Same with the roof, but he didn’t want the snow to cave it in, and I suppose he’s right.  It was at this time that I said “why the hell is this greenhouse so tall? I thought you were cutting the corner beams on the south/front down to 6 ft.?”  I never really got a satisfactory answer, either, just “the more sun that comes in the better” and “it’ll be nice and high, you can hang things from the top, and we can grow climbing vines a long way up!”


Then a good period of time elapsed where I kept forgetting to take photos of the progression (and also a lot of VERY bad weather, including 4 days of snow that stayed on the ground!)  But as Richard had gotten the framing done and MOST of the windows and roof up at this point, he was able to stay inside to work on keeping it waterproof .  The roof and the bits of sides that didn’t have total windows as their surface (mostly on the west and north sides)  we DID use recycled material for – the  tin/metal that Richard had ripped off the Rustic Revivals cabin earlier in June!  There are just two sections of roof that have (grit my teeth) corrugated plastic put on, to ensure that some sunlight comes in from above as well, and that some heat may escape (rather than just an all-tin roof!) I really wanted WINDOWS up on the roof, but Richard didn’t think he was up to the task of making that safe and sturdy.


Here, then, is the near-finished project (some holes and gaps still to be filled up) – taken today, before our 2nd snowstorm blows in tonight…  Keep in mind that pub in Japan – doesn’t it look like a mini-version?

The south side, or front:


The 2nd door, and more tin, on the side that faces north, and the shadow of our house:


The side that faces south-west, mostly west. Sadly, for poor Mom/Joy, those are her two living room windows on either side of the chimney, and she now has to look out at what some might consider a ‘monstrosity’.  Especially since it was built 14 ft. high instead of 6!


The south-west and west(back) of greenhouse:


I have always adored old painted doors, with their many textures, mouldings, colours, peelings and characters… Here’s another building made from just such old wooden doors in Seoul, Korea:

doors, seoul

This door was purchased for $5.00 at a yard sale and was intended to be a display for Rustic Revivals’ items in the new shop, but when Richard didn’t seem to know whether to put tin siding or “some kind of door” on the north side, I suggested he TEMPORARILY fit it with this lovely:


Incidentally, the garden has been nearly all spread with the dark, lush ‘black gold’ manure and compost that the chickens have spent all summer and fall ‘turning over’ almost daily so it’s in perfect condition.  The other spots in the garden where you see old hay and woodchips are protected spots for over-wintering leeks, parsnips and a garlic patch Mom/Joy just planted last week:



Wikipedia has an interesting history of greenhouses: “The first description of a heated greenhouse is from the Sanga Yoruk a treatise on husbandry compiled by a royal physician of the Joseon dynasty of Korea during the 1450s , in its chapter on cultivating vegetables during winter. The treatise contains detailed instructions on constructing a greenhouse that is capable of cultivating vegetables, forcing flowers, and ripening fruit”.  And other words for greenhouses that you may have run across, reading books from other countries, are “orangeries” (because the French botanists were trying to protect their orange trees in the 17oos) “hothouses, glasshouses, gardencastles” – like the Crystal Palace-, “conservatories, sunrooms and coldframes” (smaller versions on raised beds). The one I like the best, however, is a “pinerie” – because it’s not at all what you’d expect! These were for the wealthy landowners to grown PINEAPPLES in!

Next week’s blog posting will be about a new eco-project Mom/Joy has taken on for the winter and which will be an amazing eye-opener for many who don’t do their part to protect our environment, I believe. It will also include the full process we have just finished this week of getting our only snack food   – popcorn!- ready for a winter’s pleasurable treat that we have finally grown ourselves.  More work than you might think – but isn’t everything we’re doing?

And regular readers may have noticed I didn’t do my regular fun Hallowe’en post this year, allowing the crows and scarecrows from last week to take its place.  But is that enough?  I think with the use of all these old windows in our greenhouse, we should show a few ghostly faces peering out of the old panes:

This one’s from Birmingham, U.K. See the old lady?


A SPOOKY hooded figure was photographed in Queensland, Australia, in the window of a building where 18th century Catholic trainee priests tried to escape persecution.



And  perhaps the most frightening – this chimp-boy calling out from the window of a psychiatric hospital in Brecon, Wales that had been closed for 16 years!


And, a house I have visited (near Salem, Mass., where else for spookiness?) and an author I’ve studied and taught, Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables to name a few works) has left his etchings on the window of his old manse, along with those of his young bride’s. With her diamond engagement ring, they wrote the following on the pane, still visible to this day:

Man’s accidents are God’s purposes. Sophia A. Hawthorne 1843
The smallest twig leans clear against the sky
Composed by my wife and written with her diamond
Inscribed by my husband at sunset, April 3 1843. In the Gold light.

Here’s the Old Manse and it’s many wonderful old multi-paned windows:

old manse

A ghostly book I love with some amazing fables, especially the Legend of Seven Gables is  Jenn Carpenters book entitled Haunted Lansing.  You can read this chapter online as a sample; it’s unbelievable how many ghosts have appeared in the old windows of the 7-gabled farmhouse – and ELSEWHERE there!

Lastly, it may interest a few of you to know that the house my grandparents built in the early 1950s, and in which I spent most of my childhood (either living there or being baby-sat there) was referred to by teasing/curious neighbours as “The Greenhouse”.  Designed by the same architect, Ian J. Davidson, who built the great houses of wealthy folk like Canada’s E.P.Taylor, our place was an odd assortment of higgledy-piggledy experiments, and the part most people saw from the highway was just a long series of windows that stretched all along the upstairs hallway, bathroom and what became my bedroom (facing due north, though, so hardly a ‘greenhouse’). The photo below is taken recently – when my grandparents built it, there were of course NO trees around it, so it just looked like a long line of windows stretched together under the roof.  The tree to the left is a catalpa, planted by Grandpa Johnson in the early 1950s, and to the right, a red cedar planted by Mom/Joy in the late 1970s.  The catalpa is hiding 3 more window panes that were the bedroom windows of a) my father as a boy, b) my grandfather in middle-age, and then by c)  me throughout all of my teens!  So you can imagine how stark and strange all those windows (and no trees!) must have seemed to passers-by for the first 20 or 30 years of that house’s life.  I remember getting teased about it at school as well; kids suggested we were growing a lot of ‘pot’ in there, which idea could ONLY have come from their parents as they drove by!  So yes, I grew up in a greenhouse and got a lot of teasing – but “whose house is of glass must not throw stones at another”… (George Herbert)

the parcel, b&w

Purple Haze

Most people think of autumn in terms of oranges and yellows, but before that, and just after summer has dipped away, there is a time in September that is just ‘purple’. Now, of course purple has been very much at the forefront for much of this spring and summer as it was the primary colour chosen by Richard’s niece for her wedding, so we were planting and painting in a lot of those shades.  But the morning glories didn’t choose to bloom until this month (and before the frost last week they were in tremendous glory indeed, and not just in the morning!)  And the hills have had a purple haze on them most mornings and evenings, with much mist and fog and drifting smoke from those choosing to already start heating their homes (we haven’t).

But September is NOT a time to settle and relax yet, in fact it is THE busiest month of all months on the farm – even worse than late May-mid-June when all the planting and watering is being done. Harvest has always been a ‘crazy’ time, what with picking and pickling, processing, carrying, cooking and canning, foraging and freezing.  The only one who slows down a bit in September is Simba. Well, not that Simba (old and fat) EVER does anything in a hurry, but the cooler days means we don’t force him out the door at 7 a.m. now, or really at all. So he’s back in happy-mode (he doesn’t really like outside!)  Thus, for only one of us, there is time to stretch a dainty ballet-dancer’s paw and rest easy.

Simba in September

Considering the morning glories were all planted in early June for blooming by late July’s wedding, it is shocking that they took this long to show themselves. They are supposed to be one of the fastest-growing climbing plants – but here they are now, along with some scarlet runner beans which also grow quickly and were meant to cover all our birch arches in time for the ceremony.

purple everywhere!
sit a spell!
morning and the glories

Richard is excited because he FINALLY got to find the first egg laid by one of our original Buff Orpingtons. We THINK it’s C.C. (cuddly chick) but they are hard to tell apart anymore, and C.C. isn’t as friendly as she used to be… Of course, as in the last blog entry, Lucy was our substitute and she came laying for us already, but now we are finally getting 2 eggs a day and I can breathe a little easier knowing that baking time (which really slows down during harvest as there’s so much else to do in the kitchen)  through the winter will have a reliable supply without anyone having to make a trip to the chicken farm!

doesn’t take much to excite Richard these days!


Lucy the Layer (left) is joined by the two NON-laying Buff Orpingtons (the other one is on the nest in the barn doing her best to pop one out!)   But these two girls need to get going as well!

Speaking of chickens, Richard is building a greenhouse out of recycled windows from various neighbours, (next blog!) and he can’t MOVE for stumbling over a bird.  Boy, dig up a little earth and do they come running!  (That bluish-purple flower is the Borage – gone MAD this year, but it’s so great for attracting the bees; it’s their very favourite of anything on the property and it lasts from June through to even after the first frost or two!)


Lucy the Layer:  “Find me some WORMS, dude!”


Our egg-bowl on the table (you don’t have to refrigerate eggs if they haven’t been cleaned or refrigerated priorly) and our favourite snack, introduced to us last year by our cousin Linda – delicious lovely GROUND CHERRIES!

Our edamame didn’t get as big this year as the other two years ; the weather makes so much difference to everything and while most veg did BETTER this year, and we were over-flowing in squash and cucumber and tomatoes (and beans, always bloody BEANS!) the edamame which is one of our favourite snacks too, just didn’t do as well. But we still have enjoyed them AND frozen some (steamed a bit first, then dried!).  Best way to eat them though, is as the Japanese do it – steamed lightly, salted heavily, and popped into your mouth right from the pod! Highly suggest if you haven’t before that you try both ground cherries (you don’t do anything to them, just open the paper lantern and eat the sweet YELLOW fruit!)  and edamame.

steamed edamame ready for snacking

garden 2018

Above and below are photos taken of the garden in the mist one morning, by guest Mary Walker. She and Dave came by again this autumn on their way through the Maritimes with their big R.V.  The purply borage can be seen above on either side of the garden in a haze of blurred colour and below, among the corn, amarynth and herbs (which I’ve been both hanging and drying in the oven for use over the winter) A note on sunflowers – I thought I planted the right kind this year – the kind of seeds we can eat for snacking.  The chickens like them, but they aren’t the human kind, so trial 3 was a bust on those again!

garden 2018,mary

Another plant I’ve been introduced to this year is kohl rabi.  We aren’t really cabbage-eating people here, and it’s very hard to grow anyway, but Pierrette, who has lived here her whole life suggested the kohl rabi. Fist-sized when ready for picking, it’s cabbage-like, but a bit more parsnip-tasting and I invented (due to what was ripe at the time) a great pureed soup with fennel leaves, kohl rabi and whey from all the cheese-making I’ve been doing. The other pureed soups I have made up and frozen are zucchini and fennel and cucumber and whey.  Best served cold with dollops of Cammie’s yogurt in the centre like sour cream. Yum!

mary, milk, kohl rabi

Kohl Rabi (above in basket) ready for a batch of soup to be made up, with quarts of goat milk in the foreground ready for our favourite cheese – the herb-rolled chevre.  I’ve also had some success (in texture and quantity, but not TASTE yet) with feta and mozzarella. Thanks to Mary Walker for the photo!

Mom and Mary off for a morning walk in the September sunshine

Cammie can be SOOOO naughty!  When she’s loose she isn’t just foraging the flowers and plants we don’t want her eating, BUT when we notice Smitty sitting really close to our kitchen door, it’s because that darn goat has come on the porch and virtually kicked Smitty off his sleeping bag bed so SHE can lie on it~!

Cammie on dog-bed

She doesn’t even act guilty when you go out and shout at her to get off!

“Bad Cammie !”

Purple Haze on the mountains close out most of our September days, although the oranges and yellows are starting now and will be featured in the next few posts, which will include the building of the greenhouse, plus a plethora of  scarecrows, and murders of crows, and Thanksgiving and pumpkins and straw-bales…


PURPLE HAZE, 7:00 p.m.

August – Farm Foto-Fest!

If you didn’t see last week’s posting Straight From The Horse’s Mouth, it’s in a different section of this blog as it’s primarily for interested equestrians here:

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

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



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



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




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


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



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







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



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




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


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

bride and father

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

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

bride, bridesmaids

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

crime boss groom

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

bride, groom, hobbit hole

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

halpines at wed

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

for Tiffany

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

full group, wedding

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

robin in wedding

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


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



He followed Richard around when water was being carried to the other animals:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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



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

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


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


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


Also – this just in – Our New Denmark episode of Still Standing (Chevy and me in the parade shots) .       Here’s a photo of Jonny Harris shaking hands with Trampis, our local ‘hippi’, who took Mo and lives just a few houses downhill…

jonny and trampis



But, Robin – you were very DEERE to us:


And “Owl” Always Remember You!!!!


Keepin’ Cool in the Kitchen (and a few other Capers)

Yes, we HAVE had the big day – that is, the wedding here at Blue Belldon Farm of Richard’s niece Carriann.  However, that’s not what this blog post is going to be about yet.   Sorry, y’all. I decided with the many heat waves and high humidity, though, to wait until official wedding photographer, Tiffany Christensen of New Denmark, posts her glorious shots.  I will put up a photo or two near the end to show some of the flowers and fountains, though…

In the meantime, how do you keep cool in a record-breaking summer in New Brunswick, with humidity the likes of which this province has never seen?  (Thanks, climate change and all our centuries of fooling with Mother Nature. She is NOT happy!)  Most people here, rurally at least, do NOT have nor wish to have air-conditioning.  btw, that’s the same in England and many European countries. We are the greedy ones who keep taking and taking and by doing so, actually making the environmental changes WORSE YET.  World-wide, this has been an eye-opener for some this summer (not everyone of course, or even the ones who matter, who can DO something about it!)

One way of keeping cool is making lemonade or iced tea – from scratch as I do for beverages – into frozen pops in the freezer.  I also do this on the rare occasions we buy blueberry or cranberry juice.  When I’m just making up a pitcher of the beverage, I always stick a few leaves of mint in and put it in the fridge for a few hours. Then I put the glasses in the freezer, and ALWAYS serve with ice cubes!  I now make all the iced tea or lemonade with Stevia which, while crazily expensive, is helping the bees a bit as this has been a difficult season for them and honey thus far!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Another favourite way of keeping cool is sucking back my grandmother’s “Florida Ice”. Admittedly, while this is a homemade sherbet-type dessert, it is hardly a ”living self-sufficiently” recipe as it calls for a banana and orange juice and lemons.  I can barely manage a full-size cucumber in N.B. Pretty sure I won’t be growing any citrus fruits!  We DID however use Cammie’s goat milk the last time we made it, though, and that was delicious and made it feel a bit more ‘our own’.  I wonder what Grandma would have thought fifty years ago if she knew I was yanking on a goat’s teat in order to determinedly produce her special treat.

Here’s Grandma J.’s recipe. My sister and I have been eating this since we were toddlers, so start your own tradition of it in YOUR family!


I usually collect and freeze old mushy bananas and instead of making banana bread or muffins in the summer, this is what I make with them.  Richard eats a banana every morning but refuses to touch it if it has more than 3.5 black spots on it. Here we are measuring Cammie’s milk – it’s exciting now that she’s FINALLY giving a bit more for us (not without a big fuss on the part of both her and the twins, mind you!).


Here I’m adding the sugar and putting it in the freezer to get semi-solid.  Grandma always used a bread pan, so that’s what we all do as well.  Keeps it deep, easier to cut, but hey – you find your own bowl or pan or container!

After an hour or so, I break in bits of the banana, do the lemon and orange juice and once in a while I’ve tried pineapple chunks too. A bit of coconut flavouring might really add to that!

Then I mush it all up (no big chunks!), freeze it solid for a few more hours, and, as Grandma did, cut it in slices which can then be cut up prior to serving, or just serve a ‘slab’ and let your happy taster break it up. Yum!

On the topic of Cammie and her milk, I have had successful attempts at making quick goat cheese with lemon juice. (see last blog post)  It was with great pleasure that I served this up for dinner last week:  Everything you see on the plate was from Blue Belldon but for the pasta, and I’ve no plans to start making THAT!

My attempt at yogurt – which I used to make in my early 20s in the oven overnight, did NOT work, but I’m sure it’s because my slow-cooker crock pot is too high, even on ‘LOW’. (We of course purchased the thing 2nd hand).  Thus tomorrow, I try it on the stove-top and see if THAT way works!  However, the crock-pot method, IF you want to make yogurt – esp. healthy goat’s milk  (if you have your own goat or can purchase it locally) is simple:

Use slightly older milk that’s been in the fridge for a few days (I’m also experimenting with making butter – you just take the cream from each jar and drizzle it into another one you’re freezing. Then, when you’ve enough, do the ‘shake-the-jar’ thing for ages, and apparently you’ll have made butter.  More on this when I’ve tried it!)

Warm it for several hours, add the ‘good bacteria’, usually from another batch of yoghurt.  Let it cool down VERY slowly – wrapped in blankets, etc. About 8 hours is necessary for this!  Then refrigerate and presto!  Only it wasn’t ‘presto’ for me because of it heating up too quickly.  There are lots of slow-cooker recipes online for this so find the one that works best for you. If you have a proper crock pot that works on LOW, this seems very easy and is also another way of keeping your Kitchen COOL in hot weather, as you’re using neither the stove-top nor the oven…

On a hotter note, we had sooooo much trouble getting the neighbours who cut and baled our hay for us last year to commit.  They wouldn’t just say ‘no’, but they also stopped answering our calls or returning messages left.  With the wedding coming up and a bit of rain in the forecast (finally!) we HAD to get it off the fields, so we begged another neighbour who really didn’t want to take the time, but he finally did bless him.  He baled it better than last year’s as well and Richard, Zeb and I brought it all into the barn on the Saturday exactly one week before the big day!

I love these shots – Richard surveying his land, with a chicken snoozing in the shade from the heavy heat even at 6:40 p.m.


Here’s some more shots of flowers (prepping for the wedding, and we FINALLY splurged and bought a proper fountain!) birds wanting in for a respite from the heat and Richard out for an evening hack or spending time with the livestock at dusk…