Women of the Woods and Wilds

On this, International Women’s Day, I thought I would briefly feature strong women who have helped influence my love of nature, farming, the environment, the outdoors, and the challenges I have made goals in my lifetime.  Any quotes not otherwise credited are from Wikipedia.

As an English Lit. major, I have studied many of the works of two sisters who are (still) widely-read for struggling to eke out an existence as early pioneer women in Canada. “Catharine Parr Traill described her new life in letters and journals, and collected these into The Backwoods of Canada (1836). She described everyday life in her community, the relationship between Canadians, and the natives,  the climate, and local flora and fauna. More observations were included in a novel, Canadian Crusoe (1851). She also collected information concerning the skills necessary for a new settler, published in The Female Emigrant’s Guide (1854), later retitled The Canadian Settler’s Guide.”


In 1852, her sister Susanna Moodie, living a few hours away, published one of my favourites – “Roughing it in The Bush”, which “detailed her experiences on the farm in the 1830s. In 1853, she published , “Life in the Clearings”, about her time in the (then-village) of Belleville.  The inspiration for the memoir “…Bush” came from a suggestion by her editor that she write an “emigrant’s guide” for British people looking to move to Canada. Moodie wrote of the trials and tribulations she found as a “New Canadian”, rather than the advantages to be had in the colony. She claimed that her intention was not to discourage immigrants but to prepare people like herself and her sister, raised in relative wealth and with no prior experience as farmers, for what life in Canada would be like.  Moodie taught her daughter how to paint flowers and Agnes later illustrated  the much-used Canadian Wild Flowers, published in 1868. ”    Because of my degree,  I had to do several courses just in Canadian Literature and found it interesting that Moodie’s books and poetry inspired our famous Margaret Atwood to write her collection of poetry, The Journals of Susannah Moodie, published in 1970.   Moodie was also the inspiration for one of Atwood’s later novels, Alias Grace” and it was at this time that I was getting my B.Ed. in Kingston, and was thus able to meet Atwood as she gave talks there about the Kingston ‘Pen’, where murder convict Grace Marks was held.  Grace was mentioned numerous times in Life in the Clearings, and thus, as a direct result of Susanna Moodie’s writings, there have now been both a television film, a t.v. series (produced by Sarah Polley of Road to Avonlea fame) and a stage play. Sadly, as we have no television, I was unable to watch Alias Grace, but no doubt we shall look it up online at some point.  Interestingly, Moodie was also  a source of inspiration for Carol Shields, who published a critical analysis of her work, Susanna Moodie, Voice and Vision.”  Shields also mentions Moodie in her novel, Small Ceremonies.  So those two sisters were certainly inspiring to many more than just myself!

(I’d like to give a shout-out here to my cousin Linda Baxter, for recommending I read Gladys Taber’s farming chronicles as well – I’ve one of her books waiting for me at the library right now! More on her in another blog…)

Having lived and taught in and around Haworth, West Yorkshire for several years, I have walked the same pathways as the Brontes, heading out from my stone cottage to traipse miles of haunting moors, so well depicted in this other set of sisters’ works.  Especially Emily and Charlotte have always been very inspirational in my love of the wilds, as well as one of the reasons I’m such an Anglophile at heart.  I could write volumes about my experiences of and around the Brontes, and their Haworth village, but I’m sure most of you have read Wuthering Heights, and/or Jane Eyre, both novels which are highly descriptive in capturing their  beloved, untamed ‘wilderness’.



While most people are familiar with the only other portrait of the Brontes (painted by their ne-er-do-well brother Branwell, and which originally included him standing behind them , then angrily painted out in a telling psychological statement) the above is a newly-discovered portrait of them, found just a few years ago and not shown until last year, after much research had been done to authenticate it. It is believed to be by E. Landseer, a frequent visitor to Yorkshire at the time the three sisters were still alive.   

Haworth main2 (2017_03_14 21_04_25 UTC).jpg

above, Richard and me when I lived there last, in 2009, outside Haworth’s Black Bull (Branwell’s favourite pub) and just across the street from the Bronte parsonage where the family lived most of their lives.  A quick two minute walk and you’re out on the wild and windswept moors that inspired so much classic writing.

Three women who are inspirational horsewomen were very significant in my outdoor and competitive career. Marie Hearn was a ‘take-no-prisoners’ toughie who let me work for her in her small stables through my late teen years, and it was she who put me on to the (new at that time) National Coaching Certification Program, which for equestrians could take years to fulfill the requirements.  Luckily for me, I was able to take a ‘crash’ course (and for me, that was literal in several instances) and do it all in an intensive 3-month live-in course.  Victoria Andrew, who was responsible for seeing the manuals written for the national course at that time, and who is now considered one of the few top National Master Learning Facilitator/Evaluators of the country was my primary coach.  No one could have whipped me (NOT literally, but she did have me in tears once insisting I CARRY a whip) into being less of a suck, and more someone who could stand the pressures offered by The Great Outdoors and the world of dedicated horsepeople everywhere.  Vicki is truly an inspirational woman to so many in all aspects of education and higher learning, not just in the equestrian field.  Her constant challenges made me a better person as well as coach, and she instilled in me more bravery than I could have imagined I would ever possess.


above (Vicki, to left) coaching me at my first jumper show on Pal O’Mine, in the Ottawa Valley, 1986. She had raised the rail to 3 ft. 3″, higher than we’d jumped previously, because we were about to go into the ring for the jump-off (final round) of the 3 ft. class, and she wanted us to be ‘sharp’.  We were 4th in that class, and a few weeks later I went on to become nationally certified to coach others, which would only ever have happened by being under her stern yet motivating and encouraging tutelage!  Truly a strong woman to remember on this, International Women’s Day!

The third horsewoman I mentioned above is one whom I have written of many times before here in this blog and on social media. This is Kim Walnes. Many of you will know that she and her amazing life are so inspiring that I have gathered a group of filmmakers together to produce a documentary about her, and run the first stage of a group fund-raising to ‘kickstart’ the process.  To read more about Kim and the film project, have a look at the following article, where I am quoted a number of times (in fact, every paragraph in quotes is my own writing, though I don’t get credit for a byline, of course!)


Lastly, while many of you may not think of my mother as a rough-and-tumble outdoorswoman, it may surprise you to learn that she has taken a log-house building course, helped fell and strip many logs to build a cabin (until my father died, aged 47, and those plans were sadly put aside), hiked up into the Alps, lived and worked on a building site in the ‘wilds’ of Sierra Leone, Africa and was the person responsible for my very first love of nature, by both reading (A.A. Milne’s stories of The Hundred Acre Woods and Thorton Burgess’ “Adventures of”… series) AND by introducing us to “Country Walks”.  This was always capitalized when spoken, because they were a big deal.  She would drive myself and my sister (and sometimes Brenda and Lesa Floyd if they were visiting us for that weekend) to a “Back Road” (also, always capitalized as such).  We would hike and explore for hours, and always found new places and sights to talk about for days.  It was also Mom who encouraged me to go into nine months of Katimavik immediately following high school, as it was another experience that would make me strong and show me how much I loved the wilderness (and being a hermit!).  Because of Katimavik I was able to live for three months along the Cabot Trail, on cliffs right above the ocean, see the Northern Lights at their strongest in my three months in the dark winter of Dawson City, Yukon (where I also got to eat caribou and moosemeat, dog-sled and help the museum catalogue in the Robert Service cabin there!) and help a farming family on the prairies of Manitoba!

Now, while Joy and I both STRONGLY despise guns, and I have had a running campaign on FB for years about better gun laws in the States, I do find the following photo amusing, as it is of  “Wild” (albeit horn-rimed-glasses-wearing) Mom in her days of dating my father. (She was trying to impress him by target-practicing with his “pea-shooter”.)  It was taken by Dad, with the house his parents built in the early 1950s  and in which we all lived together later in the 1970s and ’80s,  behind her).  Actually, Joy is standing only 30 or 40 yards from the site of the log house  on which she and my father had chosen to build, which at that time in the mid 1980s had become a lovely pine forest, as planted just after this photo was taken, by my grandfather.

joy, gun

So, here’s to all the strong WOMEN OF THE WOODS AND WILDS who have inspired me to live on two farms in Canada, in a log cabin in the Rocky Mountains of Montana, and in a stone cottage on the windswept Yorkshire moors….  Happy International Womens Day! 

And to ‘celebrate’ the first of 3 Nor’easter winter blizzards we are having right now, here’s me ice-fishing during my ‘wild days’ of Katimavik – in Portage La Prairie, MB:

icefish (2017_03_14 21_04_25 UTC)


Ever Wonder?

This is just a quick mini-post to say I have another blog up and running as of today.

Ever wonder what we self-sufficient farmers do in the deep freeze of January?

Well, we produce films, write the outline scripts for them, and fund-raise for them.  I’ve mentioned the extraordinary woman about whom this documentary is being made several times in my bluebellmountainblog.  As well as her work with Hollywood/Melissa Gilbert (Laura/Half-pint on Little House, if you want a pioneering connection to make you happy!) and Richard Farnsworth of Anne of Green Gables fame (there’s another one!).  But until you go have a look at my shiny new blog about this idol of mine, and inspiration to thousands, you won’t truly understand what she’s managed to pull off in her lifetime… so, good readers and friends of Bluebellmountainblog – PLEASE GO HAVE A QUICK LOOK NOW:


And then go to the Kickstarter link that’s there and contribute if you can – whatever you can!  And if you’d be so kind, share that link with your own social media or email addresses.

Because women like this don’t just come through our lives every day.  And her story needs to be told.

Thank you.


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

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


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


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

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

mounting block

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

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

Bucket and Bathrobe Brigade

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

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

cammie, chevy and carriann

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

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

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

145 parade1

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

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

horses, parade, 2017

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

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

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

parade, richard up

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


parade, 145

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

More Danish festivities took place through the afternoon here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pastor ralph

phyllis, Bliss

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

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

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

anna and sonja

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

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


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


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






Happy Homestead-y Holidays

As promised, here’s my Dec. 24th last-minutes postings.  Some of you, if you’ve missed this past month’s postings, may not appreciate some of the jokes/limericks/verses, but you can always refer back because I know so many of you have TIME!

Dec. 24th  – The first book I ‘read’, when I was 3 (mostly memorized and pretending to read, I expect!) was ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, which tonight is – so it’s fitting I write in verse as follows:


Early in the morning, Looking ‘slightly worse for wear’, The old farts traipse downstairs, To heat the house with care .  That same fire’s been a-burnin’, For many weeks on end, Should we toss in notes to Santa, As that’s the best way for them to ‘send’?


How sweet that this poinsetta, Is wrapped in burlap sack, As that’s what Julie’s business is, “Rustic Revivals” kept on track… For Christmas eve deliveries, we received this full of charm, from the realtor in Grand Falls, Who sold us our dream farm!


The reds go with our kitchen blues, and tie in with all fabric checked. They sit proudly on the old scales; the halls are all now firmly ‘decked’!


The gingerbread made weeks ago, then frozen so they’d keep, Have now been thawed and frosted, The benefits now to reap:


And who’s the first to reap them? Richard’s caught stealing a bright pink star, These pink ones dyed with beetroot juice,  “All Natural” as we now are…  That chair in which the old fart sits, bald head ne’er cold in cap? That was just completely fixed as a gift- but it doesn’t ‘wrap’?  Richard worked so hard on it, and sourced out spindles, e’en, to match, And now it’s strong for company, and on the floor it doesn’t scratch!

Other deckings we have done, To bring Ma Nature in, We’ve added brush and berries to a mug, and cut some tin, to hold the branches sturdy, and on the cookstove cold, we’ve added sumach also, as it’s red and ‘berry bold’!


Richard’s helped to clean the house, as it’s his family that are coming.  While upstairs, Mother/Joy cleans too, we can hear her vacuum drumming!



While Richard goes for one last ski, with his second-hand pole and boot, Julie runs through carols she once played with cousins’ flute.



We aren’t getting dressed today, As for midnight ‘mass’ tonight, We have to dress up prettily, and sing in church – it’s RIGHT.  Because the reason for the season, is what it’s all about, but first we’ll go to neighbours’, and eat more food, no doubt!

The table’s ready for tomorrow,  with birchbark name cards matched-up, with the Victorian mantelpiece you saw before, ready for our Christmas sup.  The lovely ‘antique’ centrepiece, as I have posted prior, Is Grandma Johnson’s NOEL set, for candles, and hung higher:

the angel food cake tin, all hole-punched, to make an o’erhead light, with added wire wound about, posted last fall at our Thanksgiving lunch.  This is a Rustic Revivals original, made for several different tables, and I always decorate per season, this one with nativity’s stables!

Stables are important, because of Christ’s birth, not the least. They’re also personal to me, as I’m often found in one, with beasts:


Horses became my life, one Christmas when I was two, “Mommie, Mommie Horsey Cold” was my first sentence, see – it’s true!  And since I became a young adult, when graduating high school, I’ve collected all many of ornaments , equine donkey, horse, or mule:


The first one I collected, Hallmark-dated ’83, Matched my first pony Silver, so ’twas like I’d put him on my tree!  To the right is the little guy, trained to pull red sleigh, with Christmas gifts for family, one 1978 winter’s day…



Strangely enough, the year I passed my Riding Instructor’s exam, I rode my Palomino for it- he made me what I am!  And that very year, ole Hallmark, puts a palomino out for sale! How fabulous for me – just look at that white mane and tale!


Such a great way for memories, to go with my dated ‘rides’ ; whatever colour horse I rode, Hallmark’s horses coincides!  In 1991, my buckskin took me provincially, to championships so high, and now there he hangs upon my tree!

Other horse ornaments are special, too – I love to see them once a year. I have some from ’round the world, brought by my mother and friends so dear.  Here’s a nesting doll from Russia, and another from Ukraine – but it isn’t just the horses that on our tree are lain.

As Mom is a musician, and so is sister Jen, pianos, harps and trumpets combine with violin, and while some homesteaders simplify with strings of berry and popcorn, my Mother’s made decor from, strips of fabric that she’s torn – the red and green are circles starched together and then glued, the ivory trim at back is from a neighbour’s stash, accrued.

Yes, as you see below – music and fabric were Joy’s life. Like any good homesteader, she sewed and cooked as a housewife. But also, there was music, and every Christmas eve, we’d put on her homemade garments that she would sew or weave, and Jen would play or we would sing, and puppet play for family fun, then we’d fondue and enjoy the magic. Twas indeed a Christmas – Home-spun!

Jennifer bows after violin hymn, Julie accompanies Jen on piano as they sing Christmas carols, then on to the fondue with the  Johnson grandparents – Joy is top left, Julie below her.  (in pantsuit- ‘don’t sew me a dress- I won’t wear it!)

And Richard’s not forgotten – his German Dad would be so proud – we always like homemade, so these are perfectly allowed: a wooden nutcracker stands before a wasteland that is frozen – and this natural corn-husk doll displays his lederhosen!

Richard and his brother John, were both so cute when young – here they are as little Germans, on which their outfits closely hung!

Richard’s in the red, the freaky ‘ghost’ you saw at Halloween. Jean-Marc’s the sweet and shy one, in the lederhosen green.

There’s also quite a few to tell the story of “Rich-with-Jewels”.  The corn-husk angel sports a hat that makes her look a fool! She wasn’t really wearing it, it’s just hung above her hair, and represents when Richard came to my tack store on a dare.  The other is of cardinals, and this one makes us GRIN. It represents how we’ve lived together in what’s called “Cardinal Sin!”


So, there’s the tree in all its glory. We cut it from the side, of a New Brunswick wintry back-road, and I never even cried!  I usually do, because I never like to cut a tree. But this one was crowding out two others, so in a way, we set THEM free!

And one last thing to keep life simple – besides the mason jars of homemade goods, and all the sewing, weaving, woodcraft, that are our gifts, here in the woods – a neighbour boy who’s grateful for the friendship we have given, cut up a bunch of kindling and tied it with a ribbon. And that’s the greatest gift of all, so make yourselves quite merried, by enjoying HOMEMADE, SPECIAL THINGS – they are as precious as they are varied!


We’ll let Smitty have the last word, ’cause Christmas is for JOY – And this dog always has a ball, E’en when he’s been a naughty boy!




Because-Why #4- Joy’s Door

joy's door

Mom used to read Maggie Muggins to us when we were growing up , and now my sister has read all the stories to my nephew as well. So, the Because-Why and How-To re: Joy’s Door (access to the upstairs, where she will live)… to follow upon contractors’ quotes! So she will live separately from us, as we all prefer, and her own guests can come and go as they please as well…  Thus, we’re putting in a door for her where this window is, and even her entrance will be private, as there’s a downstairs door that shuts her off from our kitchen.  And it’s much better that SHE be the one living upstairs, as we’ve tried it a few times the other way ’round – and believe me, NO ONE wants to be subjected to either Richard or myself pounding about on our heels above them!

joy's door cut in

Because-Why # 3: Blue Bell Name Game

All around us in the lovely Victoria County is the beauty of this fascinating flower that has so many other names as well: the Scottish hare-bell, the fairy flower, etc. When I lived in England, its whispering woodland springtime appearances were among the most awe-inspiring of my walks.
And all around us, here in New Brunswick are the names: Blue Bell Brook, Bell Grove, Blue Bell Mountain, Blue Bell Corner, Blue Bell, Blue Belle, etc.  Yet, the history of the village of Blue Bell itself (NOT Blue Bell Corner), up “yon side” from our farm, originates from the mountain peak situated at Bell Grove, whose summit is blue. The moment the sun rays shine on it, it takes on the form of a bell resting on the ground. The name Blue Bell was also used for the main street, the post office and the train station not far from where the Catholic church is situated.  I wasn’t even alive then, but I miss those things there now!

Blue Bell Corner itself was first called New Denmark South and then renamed Blue Bell Corner  with the creation of the first post office there: PO Blue Bell 1889-1930: in 1898 Blue Bell Corner was a farming settlement with just the 1 post office and a population of 75. New Denmark itself only has 1,000 people in it now, but Blue Bell Corner has lost its primary status as a ‘village’. However, the ties are strong!  On June 19 of every year, the community gathers on the historical grounds in N.D. to celebrate Founders Day. Through song, dance, prayer, and pure reminiscing, it is a very important day in New Denmark. Many Danish treats  are also served on this day of celebration, although there are 17 percent Danish people left in the area and nearly 13 percent Scottish – time to celebrate Hogmanay and serve some Haggis in the cold winters, to our neighbours?

I still prefer thinking of the names referring directly to the lovely and meaningful flower, nevertheless, for they have long been symbolic of humility and gratitude. They are associated with constancy, gratitude and everlasting love. I am SOOOOO grateful to be moving with my mother and husband, -to Blue Bell, specifically, and N.B. in general – for so many reasons too numerous to elaborate upon here.  And I am full of constancy and love for my Richard who has helped make the push for this to happen, through so many trials in his own life.  And I am happy that we can have Joy with us, to celebrate some of the Scottish background of which she is so proud, in our own “highlands”. Incidentally, the “BlueBells of Scotland” song was written in 1801 – by a WOMAN!   Her name was Dorothy Jordan (Dora) and Blue Bell Corner is in Victoria County.  My maternal grandmother was Dorothy, and my paternal was Victoria.  Is this an EVERLASTING LOVING sign that my two Grandmas are giving the old Dory/Tory sign of approval?  Both these grandmeres were my best friends growing up, and both inspired and motivated me to read, write, act, and be as creative and artistic as I liked… Here’s to the Tory and Dory movement as we come to Blue Belldon Farm!




Because-Why #2 – Cedar Closets/Chests

Blue Belldon Farm is lucky enough to have some beautiful old doors, even on the closets upstairs. And the insides are cedar!  Now, we all know there’s a more fragrant way to keep moths and insects from devouring your best Aran cardy. The natural aroma of cedar has kept garments hole-free and smelling fresh for centuries. And not only does it repel pests like moths and roaches, it also resists mildew that can ruin fabrics less bulky than wool.

To use cedar to its fullest, you should line a whole closet with it. Ours at the farm just have the backs of the doors done, and this isn’t ideal. The installation is simple when it’s done with tongue-and-groove boards, and the result is both practical and handsome, as This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers says.  And you’ll never mistake a mothball for a peppermint in your cardigan pocket again!



Why “Blue Belldon” Farm ?

We live at Blue Bell Corner, New Brunswick, with a glorious view of Blue Bell Mountain. Across the valley, among other streams, is the winding and babbling Blue Bell Brook.  Joy, my mother, has a Scottish background, and bluebells are one of the most common flowers there,featured in many poems and songs including the famous  “Blue Bells of Scotland” folk song, and the joyous Blue Bell Polka (Mom loves a good polka!) But most of all, is the following poem, by Sheldon (Belldon) Chadwick.  Not only does “don” at the end of a placename mean “hill”     – orig. ‘dun’, ‘doon’ or later, ‘downs’ –   but this poem has all three of our birthstones mentioned in it (Mom’s is Ruby, Richard’s is Opal, Mine is Amethyst). It also mentions our nick-names “Joy, Rich and Jewels”, as well as describing the very vistas which we see and breathe all around us every day – including, of course, the BLUEBELLS!  And finally, the Chadwick poem is tremendously timely because, after 10 years together living in and renovating other country and historic homes, Richard proposed to me with a diamond intertwined set –  I’ve never had a single diamond in my whole 50 years and now I’ve a cluster of ’em!  So, he is like the poet protagonist below, and I, the “adorned Bride of Love”.  All very romantic.  In the U.K., where I’ve also lived and worked, they would say “naff”.  But we all three find it most fitting, nonetheless.

sheldon chadwick poem

       *********The  “Because -Why” of this Category, “Because-Why”: 

A great Canadian character who really deserves to be as famous as Anne of Green Gables and her Matthew (and Marilla) is the indomitable Maggie Muggins.  (Oh, my middle name is Ann all right – WITHOUT-an-e.  But I sooooo wanted to be ‘Maggie’ most of my early life! )  Whenever Maggie had a perplexing puzzle that she wanted help solving, she would skip down the garden path to her good friend, Mr. McGarrity (och, another Scot!), who would lean on his hoe and try to help her figure out life.  These books were written by New Brunswick’s own Mary Grannan (orig., Fredericton)  who also wrote all the “Just Mary” stories and had her own children’s radio programmes in Toronto from just before WWII right up until the year I was born! So, if I ever think something needs explaining within (or without!) the confines of this blog, I’ll be sure to share the “Because-Why” with you, here in this category.