Summer in Summary

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And here’s a few more teases:

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

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

Summer is over

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RISE: the Risings of Yeast, and Yeats and Yeshua

I love the verb “to rise”.  It harbours such an Easter, springlike connotation.  Unless it’s used in the context of Richard trying to get a rise out of me, (which he likes to do multiple times in a day) this is also a beautiful NOUN, especially when used in conjunction with words like “Sunrise” or “Moonrise”.  Aren’t those lovely and romantic words?

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When I stepped into the mysterious gloaming Monday night, after yet another dance rehearsal at the little New Denmark rec centre with ‘the tiara club’ (see last week’s post), the moon was just poking out over the tree line. As I drove the three miles home, the so-called “Pink Moon” (named after pink flowers called wild ground phlox, which bloom in early spring, the ‘pink moon’ is the first full moon of springtime in the Northern Hemisphere) rose very quickly in the sky, and I couldn’t take my eyes off it the whole way home. Good thing our road is so quiet there wasn’t another car on it!

We are down to less than 40 percent of the snow we’ve had all winter, now, thanks to a few good rainfalls and one day of actual double digits -with sun!  We now hear some songbirds, not just crows.  And, this morning, as I sat eating my homemade pancakes with our own fresh maple syrup from weeks of Richard’s toil’n’boil, I had to open the top of the Dutch door that Richard made last fall (see posting from Sept. 16th entitled The Dutch Door Diva, if you missed the construction of this beloved kitchen feature)  and listen to the ‘rise’ and swell of jubilant bird song in the air.

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my breakfast this morning, with top of door open to hear birds

As I bake bread, nearly every 2nd day, the word “Rise” is especially important to me. I’ve discovered that, as I’d once thought in my 20s when I used to regularly bake bread, the amount of rise is NOT as important, especially if you like to eat toast and sandwiches as we do.  You don’t have to ‘cater’ to the yeast as much as you might think, although it SHOULD be warm water it dissolves in, and a sprinkling of sugar will help excite it further! But if the bread rises TOO much over the loaf pans, you’ll not be able to cut it as easily, nor to fit it into the toaster!  Thus, I try for a good ‘first’ rise, and just a quick one after the initial punch-down.  (Of course this also depends on the amount of white/vs.wholewheat flour I’m using. This past week I ran out of white, and as Richard and I hate JUST plain whole wheat, I zested the bread up with some cardamon, parsley, thyme and oregano. I didn’t put it in a loaf pan, either, just made it in a circle on the baking sheet and let it rise a bit there. Try it, it was fabulous!)  As the sale at the rec centre last Saturday morning was my (Rustic Revivals’) first one in this province, I made a lot of Easter-oriented and spring items. And one of the ones of which I’m most proud is the following cushion which I stitched by hand from a flour sack. I  then stencilled a double meaning on to the thick linen, so that it could be for general use, or as a special Easter gift.  It didn’t sell at the sale, so I can enjoy it further, I guess.

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For readers in Ontario, there is a wonderful group around the Toronto area called “R.I.S.E.” which a few theatre-grad friends of mine have volunteered with in the past:  “Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere (RISE) is a community led by youth, comprised of artists, activists, free-thinkers and revolutionaries. Together, they help to create a safe and welcoming platform for self-expression and healing through the performance arts.” This is, of course, ‘right up my alley’ – but since I’m now living out here in ‘boonesville’, where my heart is, I am trying to do what I can.  As discussed last week when revealing the small amount of young people’s performance art (ie: “The Tiara Club”) that I’m working with here in this small rural community, the sense of being close to nature and the “rustique” of our agricultural history is important here, and that’s one of the things I love about being in the mountains.  Local photographer Tiffany Christensen blends my two passions frequently in her work.  Nature and Rustic. Love it!

As presented in last week’s blog …”Purty Pals and Gingham Gals”, Tiffany will ‘rise’ to any occasion and is being especially helpful as we move forward to the Founder’s Day celebrations this year here in this peaceful valley.  And her last name, while being both indicative of the many Danish names in the community AND the true meaning of Easter is a happy circumstance at the time of this writing.  “Risen” is even there in her name!

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The above is the 3rd tobacco slat cross I’ve made from the weathered sticks I was offered from my Ontario cousins, Pete and Linda Baxter, when they were moving from their own farm.  I am so pleased Richard agreed to let me bring so much of this wood with us out here, and two of these crosses have now fittingly, I think, gone to Reverend Diane of Carlisle, ON and Pastor Ralph, of New Denmark, N.B.

Of course when you mention “Easter” and “Rise” in the same sentence, it isn’t always a positive thing. Christ died for our sins, true, and then rose to live forever in us, for us.  But sometimes, sadly, it is just about death. Period.  As we do not have television here, we enjoy a wonderful BBC feed through various online sources, which we then project to Richard’s large screen.   One of my favourite British serials is Lark RISE to Candleford.  If you haven’t seen it, but are a fan of period costume drama, find a way to view the whole series.  (available at many libraries, and also, in part, online – or you could buy the box set!) However, I have recently become enamored with the u.k. version (original one!) of “Who Do You Think You Are”?  I do NOT consider this a ‘reality show’, so please don’t suggest it is! I find it a stimulating way to learn history.  Watching it  led to the revealing of several of our favourite Irish performers’ ancestors such as Brendan O’Carroll (the hilarious Mrs. Brown of ‘Mrs. Brown’s Boys) being involved in the Easter Risings of 1916, and I was thus motivated to read and study more about that particular unrest.  Yeats’ poem “Easter: 1916” ends so solemnly, despite the green of  the Emerald Isle and the new spring:  “Now and in time to be, Wherever green is worn, Are changed, changed utterly:  A terrible beauty is born”.

Then, this week of course was yet another 100th anniversary – that of Vimy Ridge, which also took place originally over Easter weekend.  Mom/Joy was especially interested in this as her great-uncle died there, and I was pleased that CBC did a live stream which she could also enjoy from her laptop computer.  So, Easter is about rising, but also about the fallen.   However,  just as the Canadians were important ‘rising’ to the top of Vimy Ridge a century ago, so are our Canadians poignant in their passion for standing up for what is right in all things crucial to the survival of man-kind:

(Rise up, Rise up) Oh rise and show your power,
(Rise up, Rise up) We're dancing into the sun
(Rise up, Rise up) It's time for celebration
(Rise up, Rise up) Spirits' time has come...
...Talkin 'bout the right time to be workin' for peace,
Wantin' all the tension in the world to ease.
                            - by Canadian band, Parachute Club

 I love those lyrics, and while I’ve hardly been considered a pop-music fan, the late 1970s and early 1980s WERE about the only time when I listened to such music. Those words have always stayed with me (as well as the ‘catchy’ tune to which they were sung).  And now that Trumpty Dumbty is tumbling from his wall, I believe we must indeed work harder than ever for peace.  And, as spring is here, we must ‘dance into the sun’, as it’s ‘time for celebration’.  I tried hard, at my Rustic Revivals’ booth last week, to make a ‘new’ and ‘springlike’ impression:
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I put more colour (light pastels) into my pieces than ever before, and tried to think of inspirational/springlike words for salvaged pieces of wood (‘dream’ is painted on an old dove-tailed drawer-piece, and the rusty flower on the ‘bloom’ sign is an old car part I found along the side of the road and banged into that shape).

As for the Easter wreath (bottom left of the ‘booth’ pic above), as well as having a barnboard cross on it, I also added some pastel colour with some recycled craft pieces (ie: bird’s nest with ‘eggs’, sign with ‘hope’ and some baby chicks, etc) .  Furthermore, I also did several pieces in actual COLOUR (totally new to the Rustic Revivals’ precedent!)

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The only colour I could say I’ve really put on to any project before now was my salvage art LOVE sign, which I’ve always thought was fun:

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And I’m especially proud of the ‘new’ spindle and finial ornaments (candle holders glued together from pieces given me by former choir mate, Ron, so thus ‘salvaged’, though he bought them new for his own projects and never used them).  They again make me think of ‘rise’, as I’ve had to glue both the ornaments and the candleholders into twos and threes to make them higher, before painting them with the two colours necessary for ‘crackling’ and distressing. (You need an acrylic undercoat, usually darker, then the ‘crackle’ mix, which you CAN make yourself, before adding the final coat.) These add that pastel colour to the spring line, pastels of course replicating the colours of spring flowers and birds’ eggs in nests.

Did any Rustic Revivals’ followers ever think they’d see so much colour mixed in to my shabby chic and primitive concepts?  (The rusty hearts were cut from old rusty paint can lids found on this very farm!)  But it IS spring!

And speaking of birds, bird song, and bird houses/nests, I did several of them as well, and the primitive ‘willow’ tree did sell, though not the others, I was sorry to say. Especially since Richard put so much effort into the design and building of these two wonderful houses, also made from my Baxter cousins’ barnboard.

And, we couldn’t really have an Easter show without SOME semblance of bunnies, chicks and lambs, so here they are:

While all of the above are made entirely from salvage items, scraps or from nature itself, I AM proud that they are newly-made or upcycled for this year’s ‘spring’, despite having many other spring items (even MADE from rusty springs from a sleigh’s old seat, for instance!) and including fishing and canoeing-themed items, gardening items, etc.  All ‘springy’.  But, when examining again the true meaning of Easter, I was happy to put a little folk-art New Denmark scene with the two landmark churches on top of the next hill-top.  Both churches have crosses on top of them in real life, and both have them painted on as well. This was done on a small cutting board of Mom/Joy’s that she wanted to dispose of.  This is only half the board:

close-up, n.d. folk art

This scene depicts the ploughing, planting and cheerful green-growth that happens around the farms in the early spring.  As you  may have read in my post “Blue Belldon Basement Grow Op.” several weeks ago, things were planted down there that are now beginning to ‘rise’ as well!

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And also, chosen to add cheeriness to my kitchen window, and almost perpetually NOT blooming, even my red geranium has decided to ‘rise’ to the occasion of SPRING!

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Thus, as my father used to joyously quote (in an Ogden Nash burst of silliness, though it is NOT written by that poet) :

"Spring is Sprung,
The grass is RIZ -
I wonder where 
The birdies is? "             

or, of a less silly subject matter, is George Herbert's "Easter".

Easter –

Rise heart: thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delayes,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or since all music is but three parts vied
And multiplied;
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

I got me flowers to straw thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The sunne arising in the East,
Though he give light, & th’East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.

A coffee can I decorated for Spring, with neighbours’ hydrangea flowers dried inside. To left are two of the tobacco slat crosses and two right, another popular cross around here – the New Denmark flag painted on a light switch plate.  Both left and right sold, the coffee can remains as 1 in a set of Primitive Three.  HAPPY EASTER!

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One of six shabby chic frames I distressed and crackled for the Easter show. Some are peg-boards with chicken wire, but sold two of these blackboards.  Happy Easter!  R I S E  !!!!

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A Country Christmas Contest

Just a quick note from my Rustic Revivals – a little promotion in which some of you might be interested …

It’s here! Have fun with this one! If you’re a regular fan/follower of the salvage and folk art of Rustic Revivals, play this and have your name put in a draw for a FREE house/door/stalldoor/wall sign made from barnboard and worth $55.00! (you pay shipping only, between $10 and $20.00 depending where you live – we can ship inexpensively to both the USA and Canada). They are one of our more popular items because they are SOOOO personalized for YOU and YOURS! This is a weekend contest only, so the name will be drawn and put on Facebook, etc. by Monday, arrangements for the sign made by Monday night, and by the end of the week the sign could be on its way to you! You have to have ALL the answers right to have your name put in the draw, so chances of you winning are GOOD! Simply pm (private message) the TWELVE numbers that correspond to a Rustic Revivals’ item in this photo of Blue Christmas warehouse goods that didn’t make it to the shop floor this year! On Monday morning I’ll list the runners-up whose names are going in the draw, and then I’ll have two of my neighbours (one to pull, one to witness) perform the deed and VOILA ! YOU may be the lucky one! (Hint: there are several ways you can check your ‘guess’ if you’re unsure… but I’m not telling you how; that’s for you to figure out! 😉 )

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For those that aren’t familiar  with what the prize might be like, here are a few samples we’ve done in the past. Click on anything you want to increase in size:

 

If you’d like a clearer picture of the contest “warehouse” space, it is below, without the numbers, or you can see it on my 3 FB pages :  Rustic Revivals, Rural Revivals or Julie A. Johnson:

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Have fun with the contest.  Hope you win!

A Room With A View

 

 

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end result of 1/2 the bay window into which I made a window seat in our master bedroom (formerly dining room)

 

Coming from a background of antiques-lovers/collectors and refinishers, the concept of painting wood has been a bit hard to swallow.  But I do love the fad (ME?  Loving a fad while it’s actually IN FASHION ? IMPOSSIBLE!) of shabby chic, or French Country/Provincial styling. This style includes crackled painted furniture, and a LOT of white and sepia’d tones, so as our dining room was out of necessity becoming our big bedroom (due to Mom having all the upstairs rooms as her suite) I decided it should be made a historical replica of French country life, in order to lighten it.  The story and how-to’s are told in the photos’ and text that follows them, below.  I LOVE this room (and its amazing view).

jWhen we purchased the farm in March, the dining room (just off the kitchen, of which you have already seen its before and afters, done in an aged blue pioneer/checked theme with red and yellow accents and pine furniture) was a baby blue, with three different types of wood-stain, which I can’t stand.  Absolutely hate it when wood colours are mixed up in the same room!  So, as above, and disregarding the previous owners’ furniture, the floor was/is a light hardwood, the bay window and built in cupboard were that cheesy orange-stained wood from the 1970s and the moldings and other two windows were stained dark brown.  The entire room was a baby blue with a beige ceiling, and it was tinted with dirty hand prints and cigarette-smoke smudges.  So – a big overhaul was needed!

 

 

 

 

 

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The previous owners loved the 1960s/1970s, so left much of the décor that had been decorated back then, and ADDED such things as this faded sequined lamp shade to hang over their dining room table!
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Not able to stomach TWO different wood stains in the same room, having three of them was more than I could bear! The floor was blonde hardwood, the mouldings and two window frames were dark brown, and this built-in cabinet and the bay window were that orange stain so popular in the ’70s.
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When we moved our dark four poster bed in (a replica, and not even ‘real’ wood, so I didn’t feel so badly with the idea of painting it!) it was obvious we were going to want it as near the window as possible, in order to see the dawns over the Appalachians (previously posted shots!) and the  full moons and twinkling stars and fireflies of a summer’s night – right from the head on pillow!

old bedi

The bedroom furniture (bed and dresser) are both antique REPLICAS, and I’ve lived with them dark for about 10 years, so I felt a change was in order! It was time to make them both match my shabby chic vision for this new French Farmhouse theme, also being made popular by HGTV’s Fixer-Upper designer Joanna Gaines. Click on each photo to see it larger:

To begin the transformation, I decided to only ‘crackle’ (looks like chippy paint, very popular in today’s beloved ‘shabby chic’ style) the four-posters of the bed and the built-in cupboard.  Crackling looks best when there’s a light colour over a dark colour, so I painted these parts a dark royal blue – could just as easily have been black, as I knew the accents in the room would be black. However, it must be a latex paint for crackle to work, and the only black I had was an oil-based.  From experience, I knew that wouldn’t work! I lightly hand and electrically sanded the varnish off these pieces. I knew I didn’t want to do the headboard proper OR the replica ‘spool’ footboard, as a) the intricacies of the sanding and painting would be enormous and b) I’d probably want to go back to a ‘real’ wood look in another decade or so!  Once the blue paint was dried, I added a thick coat of the ‘crackle’ (I used store-bought this time, but there are recipes online to make your own – just didn’t want to risk it not working for such a big and important project!) The thicker and more runnier the crackle is, the better I’ve found, on past projects, it will turn out!  So I let it run and only let it dry about 20 min. (although the can usually advises it dry completely, I’ve often had it not work as well. So I just wait until it’s ‘sticky’ dry.)

I was very proud indeed, after I’d painted it with just one coat of white chalk paint (latex, but with the chalky look of the early pioneers’ paint) of the effect of the distressed crackling and ‘chippy’ old paint look!  I then applied two decorative decals to the cupboard and painted black the 1970s hardware and put it back on the drawers/doors.  If one wished, one could varnish/shellac over this to protect from dirty fingerprints, etc., but knowing I’ll likely change this again in a decade, I didn’t want to make my job more difficult, and shellac certainly isn’t ECO-FRIENDLY,  and I also hate the glossy shine of even a flat matte varnish. Crackled effect doesn’t NEED a ‘finish’ on it because it isn’t ACTUALLY chippy, though it looks that way.  So for me, for many reasons – NO to the varnish. The whole point of using chalk paint is to make it look old…

Now, for the ceiling and walls.  The ceiling was a nightmare – two coats of rolling white (latex, but NOT chalk) paint over it and it still wasn’t totally covering the old beige, but I had to let it go… too much pain in the old joints and too much left to do… I wanted the ‘fad’ (still can’t believe it!) colour that is seen with a lot of shabby chic/vintage ‘brightening’ techniques – a sort of frosted peppermint.  I had as close to it as possible mixed at the hardware store (little Mom and Pop store- I don’t buy ANYTHING at big box/corporate stores, and neither should any of us – they’ve put enough families out of business, not to mention entire historic downtown streets!). But when I tested it, it wasn’t QUITE right, so I added some more green I had on hand.  Then I experimented with dragging it, combing it and strie-ing it – all old techniques for texture on the walls, before the days of wall-paper. I still didn’t like the look, so I decided to fall back on one of my old favourites: Rag-rolling.  However, I didn’t have many rags, and I DID have a plethora of clear plastic (yuck!) garbage bags from our move. So, as many of them had holes in them and couldn’t be re-used for garbage/recycling, and as I NEVER just use something ONCE, for a one-time purpose, I decided to “plastic bag roll” my bedroom walls, and LOVED THE EFFECT. The old colour, the light blue, was just ‘off’ the frosted mint enough to give texture without being too obvious.  In fact, I also liked it coming through so much I decided to go one step further and make it look like REALLY old wall-paper all ’round. So I masked a line every few feet (wide, then narrower, then wide again) so that when I rolled on the first coat of frosted mint it wouldn’t cover those lines and the baby blue would show afterwards.  If you’re doing any paint effect, you can’t roll on an enormous amount, because you want the paint wettish when you do your effect (ie: sponging, strie, rolling, etc.) So about a 6 ft. radius patch at a time was all I did. Then I’d take the plastic bag, STICK it on the wet-but-drying paint, leave it about 30 seconds, scrumple it around with my hands, and then peel it off. Lovely!  After I’d done the entire room and pulled off the masking tape I was happy with the effect, but felt it was still not looking like old wallpaper enough. So I researched, and found that stencilling (not like we all did in the 1980s, with horizontal borders, but rather vertically) was quite common in Colonial times. So I made from a piece of packaging that something came in from a store (again, REUSE, RECYCLE!) my own primitive willow tree stencil (the willow means longevity and ‘home’).   I then had to decide on a subtle, historically accurate colour that would be contrasting to the colour of the wall, but also be subtle and not stick out like a you-know-what.  ALSO, I don’t run into town (40 min. away) for just any old thing. Once a week is the standard ‘rule’.  So it had to come from some paints I already had on hand.  I had some yellows left over from accenting the kitchen here and there, and I mixed this with some of the original frosty peppermint and  came up with a mustard gold. Photos of the whole wall process incl. making the stencils are here, just click on each photo to see it larger!

And the finished result of the texture and wall-paper effect:

The walls are obviously much lighter than they appear in the photos, I’ve darkened them a bit to show the contrast showing through with the rag-rolling.

This whole process, just the ceiling and walls took 3 and a half days with little or no rest  during the day.  By now I was exhausted, so decided to work on something for the bedroom, but which I could SIT DOWN and do.  I took one of the original 1880s doors form the upstairs (Mom’s now kitchen, where she didn’t WANT a door) and stripped it down and left it plain on one side, so it matches from the kitchen OR our room, or painted white on the other, so it looks good when shut (and because I simply didn’t have the energy to strip off 3 layers of very old shiny shellac and stain). Between sanding, stripping, scraping and then painting, I couldn’t really SIT too much, but at least I did it outside  on the porch and thus got the advantage of fresh air and the lovely views.

 

I wanted a dressing table to sit at and look at the views, and wanted the little white wicker chest I’ve had since I was about 3 years old to be my seat. I put castors on it, and gave it a lick more white chalk paint to brighten it up, then used one of the old wrought iron legs from an old sewing table that’s been in my mother’s house since the 1970s and a huge slab of an old outdoor step that I white-washed then distressed as the top.  I also re-did a few old picture frames I knew I wanted to hang in our room, and finally got to work on the last two projects: 1) sewing burlap/hemp fabrics for the head and footboard (I had to reshape the furniture by adding stuffing/quilt batting and old blankets first, then sewing on to the bed right in place, then finally stencilling with letters) and 2) re-doing the replicated antique bureau/dresser I’d tried to yard sale off in Ontario and couldn’t.  And now I’m so glad I didn’t!  Love how it looks with a chalk-painted, black-accented, sanded-edged distressed and stripped top surface! Here it is, before (to the far left in first photo), and after/now!:

And finally, after more than two weeks of work, 8-10 hours a day (remember, I had to do two coats on all the mouldings and windows as well!) Here are the photos of this lovely, light, breezy, ‘room with a view’. The fabrics (hemp, linen and cotton) are entirely all natural, and the two lace curtains are also from my mother’s living room – like the sewing machine table end- circa 1975! So everything is either  natural, or recycled or both. Historically accurate AND eco-friendly as much as possible. Love it! And when Richard finally got here, so did he!

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A Room With a VIEW!

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people have asked how I did the 3-D look of the collage of pictures and clock on the wall – for frames you want to stick out more from the wall, simply use another frame for one corner, and cut a wine cork to the same size and nail it in for the back of the other corner!

 

 

 

 

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made the jewelry ‘bust’ out of a rag of black velvet, a spool and an upside down planter with some dowels… easy! Use your imagination and don’t spend so much money!

 

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VIGNETTE of corner of the room – blouse was given to me by a woman whose grandmother got married in it – 1878!

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VIGNETTE – tip – if you’re redecorating shabby chic, paint your collections of cheaper things to stay within a 4-colour scheme, with 2 of those being NEUTRAL colours like black, white, or beige. Great accents!

Click on each of the following ‘vignette’ photos of the room to enlarge and to read the corresponding caption.

Beloved Birch at Blue Belldon

birch, juliebirch at Blue Belldon, enhanced

The birch tree is a perfect symbol for our new start at Blue Belldon Farm.  Not only is it a significant part of my work with Rustic Revivals, (see photo at bottom of this post), but it symbolizes renewal and new beginnings, and represents caring for others and helping them “flourish” as best they can.

LESSON OF THE BIRCH

from The Wisdom of Trees by Jane Gifford

 The birch tree symbolizes a fresh start and can bring courage and determination to those of us who are treading the path of spiritual growth and development for the first time. Although the birch does appear fragile, it is in fact extremely hardy. This teaches us that in apparent weakness there is often to be found great strength. The birch also promises new life and love, and is a potent symbol of purification and renewal, which focuses our attention on our potential for the change and on the consideration of new directions and goals to be experienced in our lives. It teaches the lesson of unselfishness and of caring for the needs of others in ways that help them to flourish of their own accord. 

Medicinal properties: The oil from Birch bark is used for treating skin conditions, and insect repellant. The sap is a natural shampoo, and can be a remedy for dysentery and urinary infections. An infusion of Birch leaves is an antiseptic and diuretic.                                                                                   Magical properties:  Birch wood is believed to ward off evil, banish fears and build courage. Associated with beauty and tolerance, the Birch’s vibration heightens tolerance of oneself and others.  Use a Birch Broom to brush out the old year on the morning after Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year.  Add the cut bark to protection spells or drink birch beer if you feel you are under psychic attack.  Stripped of its bark, Birch is the traditional Yule Log. This latter is part of what my business, Rustic Revivals uses birch for (see bottom of this post).  Here is a most lovely original watercolour card painted by my Hudson Quebec friend, Jane Wright.

jane's birch card

The Birch

Rippling through thy branches goes the sunshine,
Among thy leaves that palpitate forever;
Ovid in thee a pining Nymph had prisoned,
The soul once of some tremulous inland river,
Quivering to tell her woe, but, ah! dumb, dumb forever!

While all the forest, witched with slumberous moonshine,
Holds up its leaves in happy, happy stillness,
Waiting the dew, with breath and pulse suspended,
I hear afar thy whispering, gleamy islands,
And track thee wakeful still amid the wide-hung silence.

On the brink of some wood-nestled lakelet,
Thy foliage, like the tresses of a Dryad,
Dripping round thy slim white stem, whose shadow
Slopes quivering down the water’s dusky quiet,
Thou shrink’st as on her bath’s edge would some startled Naiad.

Thou art the go-between of rustic lovers;
Thy white bark has their secrets in its keeping;
Reuben writes here the happy name of Patience,
And thy lithe boughs hang murmuring and weeping
Above her, as she steals the mystery from thy keeping.

Thou art to me like my beloved maiden,
So frankly coy, so full of trembly confidences;
Thy shadow scarce seems shade, thy pattering leaflets
Sprinkle their gathered sunshine o’er my senses,
And Nature gives me all her summer confidences.

Whether my heart with hope or sorrow tremble,
Thou sympathizest still; wild and unquiet,
I fling me down; thy ripple, like a river,
Flows valleyward, where calmness is, and by it
My heart is floated down into the land of quiet.  – James Russell Lowell

Below are some of the many items Rustic Revivals offers from the lovely birch tree resource, from fallen branches or peeled bark off already dead trees.  These items are made by custom order for weddings, etc. or for direct purchase here at the farm or on https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/67722662/tea-light-rustic-candle-holders-for-your?ref=shop_home_listings