August – Farm Foto-Fest!

If you didn’t see last week’s posting Straight From The Horse’s Mouth, it’s in a different section of this blog as it’s primarily for interested equestrians here: bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/straight-from-the-horses-mouth/

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

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

 

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

 

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

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Lucy:

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Also – this just in – Our New Denmark episode of Still Standing (Chevy and me in the parade shots) .  https://watch.cbc.ca/media/%E2%80%A6/s%E2%80%A6/new-denmark-nb/38e815a-00f0c4c14f4       Here’s a photo of Jonny Harris shaking hands with Trampis, our local ‘hippi’, who took Mo and lives just a few houses downhill…

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But, Robin – you were very DEERE to us:

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And “Owl” Always Remember You!!!!

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Finally!

But if you wonder why we’ve been so busy (never mind the milking, the garden, the canning/preserving) see Part One of the special post elsewhere on this blog and keep tuned because in a few days some farm-life and wedding-time photos will be up as well!    https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/straight-from-the-horses-mouth/

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

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

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

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6859588/deadly-wildfires-and-killer-heatwaves-are-ripping-through-the-planet-from-athens-and-sweden-to-los-angles-and-japan/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Bug Spray, Biscuits, Barnboard…

This one will be quick and painless, promises the dentist.  But no, it will, because I MUST do some basic housework and get back outside to major weeding.  I am only in for a mid-morning break for about an hour, which I am sure our minister would say I ought to be spending in church.  We just keep slogging away here, though, rarely knowing what day of the week it actually is!

Mom/Joy and I are the ones weeding. Mom does about 2 hours per day on the veg garden and it’s looking pretty great right now – something showing in all 52 rows!  I do about 20 min. weeding per day in the veg garden and 30 minutes every 3rd day or so on the flowers for the wedding.  In addition, I water for an hour and a half every 2nd or 3rd day when there is no rain called for. But still, it’s mostly thanks to Mom that the vegetables are coming along (Ontario and the u.k. won’t think this is ‘coming along’ in the first week of July, but considering the dry and cold spring and the HEAT WAVE of the last week, we think this isn’t too bad).

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Since Richard has been working hard on the Rustic Revivals cabin/shop, expecting it will be used as a backdrop for some wedding photos, I’ve been mostly trying to keep the animals organized all day and into the long evenings.  They are spoiled, because we cater to them – it started last year when Cammie and Chevy both came to us very ill and it took most of last summer for Chevy at least to fully recover.  Thus we are always letting them out, letting them in, changing their pastures, giving them fresh water and soaked beet pulp, scattering scratch or compost for the chickens despite them being ‘free range’,

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and in last week’s heat wave, giving Chevy several hose-pipe baths. We even bought them a fan for the long afternoons when they are standing around inside because the type of barn we unfortunately have (quonset) is not at all like the old bank barns I’m used to having, where half of it is under a hill and there’s always a hay loft above for insulating, thus keeping the animals cool in summer. So the chickens stay outside all day, finding shade where they can, and even recently learning to fly a bit and to land in unexpected places. Mom just saw this one ‘experimenting’ in the orchard:

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Meanwhile, the kids spend the nights and the early morning hours with their mother, and then we separate them for the rest of the day so I can milk Cammie in the evenings:

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The twins are getting big and very curious, happily leaving their frantic mother for long periods of time, which drives her nuts. (We have had to tie her again because she was caught eating wedding flowers earlier this week and I was furious. The floral situation isn’t doing as well as I’d hoped in the first place, but I certainly didn’t need a big stubborn goat to come along an top the blossoms off 11 plants in one foul swoop!)  We’ve also had a number of neighbours come to visit the animals.  Greta, (age93) just up the hill from us, was wheeled down just a few days out of hospital to spend some time with the cuddliest:

Greta and twogreta and Robin kissing chick

When the weather is very hot, Chevy leads the livestock parade back to the barn where he likes to lie down in the stall (he does this more in summer than he did all winter!) Meanwhile Cammie takes the twins on a tour of other places she isn’t allowed!

The milking hasn’t been going terribly well. First Cammie kicked and hollered and carried on, so we read up on different methods of preventing or at least decreasing this (ie: more food, soft-hobbling, letting one kid out in view, etc).  She’s finally stopped the ‘freaking out’ and putting her foot into my sterile bucket of milk, but she only allows us to have so much milk and then she ‘closes up’ and ‘keeps back’ the rest for her twins for later.  The milking in the morning was stopped because no one (incl. Chevy and the chickens) were getting any rest in the night hours of separation. But the evening milking means they aren’t ‘off her’ for as long, so the milk situation is minimal at the moment. I did, however, manage to make cheese one morning this week.  Here are the various stages of “Quick Goat’s Milk Cheese” – just bring to 180 degrees, add lemon juice to make it curdle, strain in cheese cloth for an hour and VOILA!  Delicious, but it only lasted the one meal on our spinach salad (from our garden. Sad to say, though – even those eggs aren’t from our own chickens yet!) Click to enlarge if desired:

I also tried to make mint jelly again this week, as we have such a large mint patch. Two years ago when I made it it turned out beautifully, but for some reason – perhaps the heat wave? Perhaps my Certo was too old? – it hasn’t set properly.  I was experimenting with little jars which, as ‘lime green’ is one of the two colours for Carriann and Matt’s wedding, might end up on the reception tables for people to help themselves to little spoonfuls of, on the side of their meatballs (delicious!)  (To make it less bright green, I just added some yellow food colouring to the regular green). I bought new Certo and will try this all again on a cooler day:

Also these last few weeks, besides the regular bread and cookie-baking, iced-tea and lemonade-making (and just regular meal-making which I’m getting sick of doing – why can’t I just be a genie and blink my eyes and have those done?),  I did more dog biscuits and some purple and green mints for the wedding. I’ve mentioned how to do the homemade dog biscuits before – just put a lot of meat and egg-based leftovers on a big tray with some oil and lots of flour sprinkled over it and bake the heck out of it until it’s crisp!  (If you’re really interested in how I do this because you want to make your own and save a LOT of money, just contact me and I’ll give you my step-by-step ‘recipe’).

The buttercream mints turned out quite well, I think – I made enough for the wedding guests to have about 10 each, if they so wish!  There are lots of recipes and Youtube directions on these online, so no need for me to say more other than:

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Something else I have to ‘brew up’ quite regularly is bug spray – both for we mammals, and for the veg plants in the garden.  The latter one is Dawn dishsoap ( a spoonful) with vinegar and baking soda and has seemed to work fairly well. I use my own homemade apple cider vinegar – what’s left from last year, anyway (And believe me, I HATE all this plastic, but at least all the jugs are recycled from something else – or WILL be recycled into something else!)

Our bug spray for us and Chevy (and Cammie when she’s willing, which isn’t often. Besides, I don’t want her milk to taste like vinegar!) is veg oil, Dawn and the ACV. So, the same as for the garden but without the baking soda. It and our masks/facenets keep the blackflies at bay a little better, but Chevy is eaten alive by horseflies and deerflies also, so I had to break down this week and buy some chemically-enhanced equine spray which has helped him not come in with great bloody sores, poor guy! So much for being purely organic around here, then!  (Also, I’m going to have to ‘dust’ the broccoli, I’m afraid! And there’s some weird bugs on one of our crabapple trees…grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr….)

Richard was hard at work on the cabin at the back of the barn these past weeks, but he also finally got a garden gate on the chicken wire fence we erected around the vegetables. Nice and rustic, this:

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But most rustic and lovely of all is the fabulous work he’s done re-siding the Rustic Revivals new shop (opening – ? maybe in the autumn! The inside needs a lot of work done on it still…) We used the strapping that was under the metal siding to make trim, which I protected with urethane yesterday so it will hopefully stay the contrasting colour. Here’s the ‘before’:

rustic revivals shop, cabin, before

And here are the lovely ‘afters’.  Sooooo in love with this, and there’s lots more trim and decorating I’ll be playing with on the front, you can bet! The door is so wonderfully ‘shabby chic’ with chippy-paint that I’m leaving it as is for now. I just need to get some really white birch sticks for in the barrels, rather than the less-white poplar that are in there at the moment, and it will tie the white from the door in so much more!

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The two sides had lovely cedar shakes under the metal, so we didn’t even have to do much to them. Look carefully and EWE may even see I’m not ‘kidding’ around!

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Your Five Minute Morning

This posting is more about the photos than the writing- or the update of the last 10 days (although there are additional photos and updates below the ‘prize’ photos.) These special shots were all taken over the course of about 5 minutes just this morning, walking around our farm on a lovely sunny, breezy June day. First day of summer, too!  It is a special time to celebrate, not only because of the weather – and very few blackflies because there was a frost down in the valley last night- but also because Blue Belldon Farm now has exactly TEN animals.

We’ll start with the newest additions, because that’s what you’re all waiting for.  Introducing twin boys – Robin and Mo.  They aren’t as harmonious as their namesakes (Gibb twins/Bee Gees) but they have similar characteristics, and it was their voices together that I heard first, before laying eyes on them (more on this below the good set of today’s photos).  Robin is thin, gangly and buck-toothed and likes to hide in his monastery (the old doghouse). Mo is much more social, playful and enjoys a lot of drinking. He even has a little beard, bless him.

This morning was their very first time outside since they were born Tuesday.  Cammie has been out herself several times to graze when they are asleep, but we’re encouraging them to get ‘out and about’ now…

Cammie, Mo, Robin

Now, if that isn’t cuteness itself, see them trying to go up and down the corral hill.  Richard says this one is to be captioned: “You go first, Mo.  If you like it, I’ll try it too!”

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Robin had to be very persistent, though.  “Go!  Go!”quit helping me

They did finally both get to the bottom, though, and then had a little play with Cammie standing watch at the top.

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Then, because Mo is much more strong and confident, their first time climbing back up, poor little Robin fell down. “Come on, Rob!” calls twin Mo, and Cammie adds “Teat for tat!”

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The next time they tried the big climb, things were much more successful. We think this is Cammie practicing the twins for their audition for the final scene of The Sound of Music:

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The twins are very proud of their accomplishments and Cammie is now thinking “Go back to the monastery and sleep, boys – Mama wants to graze with Chevy now!”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Robin says “bye for now! You’ll be seeing a lot more of my cute mug in future!”

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Chevy has been a bit depressed since the Tuesday Twins blew into town (more on his hilarious pouting near end of this blog post) but he’s being privileged with time in his old stompin’ grounds in the birch grove (where we used to let him graze when he was ill last year).  The grass is very rich there, there’s a lot more clover and he loves being able to rub the bugs off and scratch himself on the bigger trees.  He’s shown above in the 5 minutes I limped around taking shots.  Next to, I might add, my FIFTY-TWO ROWS of garden all planted! So he was happy this morning, esp. when Cammie finally wandered out to join him after tucking the new-borns in for a long nap!

Round the other side of the farmhouse we have ‘the girls’.  They are free-ranging happily now, but primarily stay near the septic system under the apple trees,  an area which is moist, earthy and wormy. The view ain’t bad either! (Thus, despite the proximity to said septic/weeping tiles, is the direct path which Carriann will be walking down next month to get married under that birch arch!)

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While the hens look too much alike to name (except for the little one we think of as ‘sicky’, although she’s feeling much better now than when she came!), hours of entertainment can be gained by watching their characteristics emerge, as each one if totally different and they are surprisingly intelligent despite all the centuries of jokes.  I do have one hen I think of as Triple C (Curious and Cuddly Chicken). She’s always coming to see what we’re up to, and is happy to be picked up and stroked.

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Here she is sneaking up on Mom as she is pruning the rose bushes at the corner of the house. Not sure Mom even knew she was being stealthily stalked:

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And of course we can’t leave out our other two animals from the 5 Minute Morning photo session.  Smitty heard his name and INSTANTLY, there’s that tennis ball (and some ubiquitous drool):

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And Simba, who has no front claws (not our doing), is 40 pounds overweight (not our fault either) and would really prefer to go on as he started life – being a purely indoor cat, is always tossed out on nice days to sniff some grass and then lie on the porch furniture all day admiring the view (o.k., it’s no real difference than what he does inside but we like to think that just the grass-slurping and the march from front porch to side porch to whine about NOT BEING INSIDE is more exercise than he would be getting otherwise.  Plus, it takes energy to whine and yowl, right? And to be fair, last August, with no claws and barely the ability to jog-trot, he caught a mouse outside. So ya never know!

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There, that was my tranquil and lovely morning outside today. Gorgeous. And memorable. Cause they aren’t all like that, believe me! To find out more on that subject, read on and see some blurry, darker –ie. NOT prize-winning photos— of the twins’ first hours/days and our visitors from Ontario and the trials and tribulations of the last week that we made them endure!  Or, if you just want to imagine us sitting here with stunning scenery, sunshine, mild bug tormenting and peaceful, cute animals—— stop scrolling down NOW!    *****************************

Last week saw us with our third visitors in as many weekends.  We have waited since coming here for Jane and Peter Wright to visit us though.  My former Grade 6 art and social studies teachers, they became family when they realized how much they had in common with my parents and how much I needed someone in my life who could tease/take teasing and understand sarcasm.   We’ve had many trips together and they still travel a great deal, so we are so glad they finally made it here to Blue Belldon.

However, after driving from near Montreal to here – about a nine-hour drive, plus some stop-offs for sight-seeing which Peter blamed on Jane and Jane swore was all Peter’s doing, they were pretty tired.  Certainly they needed a quiet day the next day wandering about the farm, pottering in the gardens or reading a book in the shade.

Sadly, for Peter, that didn’t happen.  Richard whisked him off the next morning to go look at some barn board from a barn some folks are tearing down.  We are finally getting my Rustic Revivals shop prepped for going back to its original state and we need some barnboard to finish it off on the front.  (Here’s how it looks so far–Richard’s had fun tearing off all the ugly tin siding!)

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Sadly, Richard and Peter never made it to the barn.  They got a flat tire, couldn’t get the spare on properly (despite several hours of struggling in the hot sun to do so!), had to spend the cash we’d put aside for the barnboard on getting towed to a tire shop, then more hours of waiting in a stuffy waiting room once Jane and I drove into town with a different spare from our own barn. So poor Peter was even more exhausted by the end of his first day here.  That was a bad morning that stretched into the hot afternoon hours!

Then the NEXT morning, I had to go to Maine to mail one of my Rustic Revivals custom orders off (much cheaper to drive and mail from the U.S. to all my American customers, which are of course 98 percent of them!) Peter wanted to go over with his car and fill it up with gas as everyone is doing in this area these days.  Jane wanted to go along and when we got there she remembered a surplus store my Mom had mentioned to her in a neighbouring town. Poor Peter – was just going to have a 40 minute trip there and back for gas and ended up with two nattering women who wanted to shop for fabric and cheap tools!  Many hours later, we finally returned home and THEN he got to nap!

As in the days of old when my Dad was alive, gin and tonics were flowing freely from my mother’s liquor cabinet (half a closet due to her homemade wine!) We had some lovely more formal dinner parties in the living room/dining room, mostly cooked and catered by Mom as I’ve still been busy with final plantings.

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But on their final night with us, we were all too tired to ‘do up the dining table’, so Jane bought us pizzas and we stayed in the kitchen. They all got tipsy and Richard taught them our choir’s hit-of-the-season, the body-percussioned Rain Song.   (part of our choir performing it here: https://www.facebook.com/mfredrx/videos/10100452782763234/    still photos from that performance in my last blog)

I did video-tape the mangled version of three tipsy slightly tone-deaf folk trying to do just the melody of the song, plus the percussion, but I wouldn’t embarrass them (well, Richard I might, but not the Wrights!) by posting the most-entertaining-for-ME video here.  However, there are some jolly good stills from the video which I consider fair game and a decent compromise on my part.  I mean, if you’re gonna swig beer AND gin and tonics…  You can see why Jane was always a much-beloved, fun-loving art teacher!  You can see that, though Peter did sing along, he was still thinking about a nap. And you can certainly make out that Richard likely SHOULD have been a teacher, as he sure likes to impart his (often new-found) knowledge of most subjects:

jane and peter, rain songjane, percussion, rain song

Jane brought us some of her amazing artworks –  Her perfect-blue recycled glass plate is in the window above my sink above. Here’s a close-up.

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She knows how much I love upcycled items, so she also did me a cheese and dip tray from an old wine bottle and a mason jar.  Love this, and it matches my dusty greens in the dining room, too. Here it is with my homemade bread as French toast – the only way to eat it when it gets old and crusty!

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Jane also did both Mom and myself some gorgeous glass pendants.  I took several shots of mine, but none do it justice. See some of these and her more ‘modern’ designs- made with new glass  here: http://www.janewright.ca/glass.html

Jane’s daughter Lindsay also works in glass and when she’s visiting Quebec from Boston she and her Mom share the kiln and work space in Jane’s lovely little studio.  However, Jane is also an amazing watercolour artist and also uses alcohol ink to get glorious colours and designs.  See those here: http://www.janewright.ca/alcohol-ink.html

I haven’t done an Artist in the Attic feature for a long time on this blog, so I just sort of did that here, I guess –  The last photo of Jane’s stunning work is this lovely ornament she gave Mom:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Anyway, all this just to really say that if Jane Wright doesn’t always get the exact note or beat when singing a crazy-ass choir exercise – who cares!?  Look where her talents DO lie! And Peter, despite sun, fatigue and a little more gin than tonic DID manage to sing his Rain Song part in tune.  For most of it.

As soon as Jane and Peter headed back, we had another crazy morning here on the farm. The chickens found a little dip I’d dug in one of the flower gardens, planted esp. for the wedding with specially-ordered purple and blue seeds.  I found them laying in it, but prior to that they’d obviously scratched the heck out of it and no doubt no single seed would find germination. I herded the ladies back to the orchard and went in to finish in the kitchen. 10 minutes later I looked out again, and all 4 were IN THE SAME HOLE!  This time Richard helped me put chicken wire around it, as we’ve done in many other spots already for Cammie and to keep Smitty from lifting his leg on all the flower seeds/seedings and shrubs. Later in the day I replanted the area, but as most of the special seeds were gone, I just planted some scarlet-runner beans instead.  Not the ‘right’ colour, but all I’ve left.

There followed several more frantic mornings of doctors’ appointments for either Mom or Richard. One morning I was in the bath preparing for a 10:30 leaving time with Mom and I heard her calling to Richard to ask if I was ready at 9:00!  Apparently her app’t was for 9:45!  And then Tuesday morning Richard and Mom were both gone to appointments.  I was out moving Chevy’s pasture with the electric fence and about 11:00 I put fresh water in the stall for him and Cammie and went into the house for an early lunch (or late breakfast as it generally is in my instance).  20 minutes later I went back into the barn and saw Chevy leaning his great monster head into the goat pen and heard all kinds of out-of-tune bleatings from a surprise trio.  Reminiscent, in fact of Richard and the Wrights. But whilst that may be a great name for a 60s band, it doesn’t contain twins, so Robin and Mo wobbled around ‘singing’ for an hour or so while trying to figure out where they were and what had just happened.  Poor Chevy, he couldn’t take the noise anymore or the fact that his best friend in the world was now suddenly ignoring him. He took himself off outside and I didn’t see him again for 3 hours.

The twins were pink.  All white, of course, but so much blood on their coats they were a shade of strawberry Kool Aid.  I wiped them off, as Cammie’s tongue could only do so much. Mo was drinking milk right away and for ages and ages, but Robin had two tugs on the teat, decided he had enough collostrum  and lay down. This is the very first photo I took of them, with them both drinking.  It was the last time we’d see that for a full 24 hours!

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I struggled to get wee Robin  to stand – he was so thin!- and take the teat. Cammie also tried to convince him. She’s a great Mom for only being two herself. She didn’t want to give up on him.  Between periodically easing out the afterbirth, the sac, and etc. (into which detail I shall not go – it was messy and icky and I never did want to be a vet) I spent the next hour trying to get Robin to eat.  Finally I went to the place on the work table where we’d been keeping the bottles and nipples for the last month, all ready for this precise eventuality.  They were gone!  Remember, Richard and I don’t have cell phones now, so I had to do the old- fashioned thing.  That is, get into a man’s head and try to figure out where (logically?) he might have put something important, newly-purchased and potentially much-needed as in a case of life or death.  I searched everywhere in that garage and barn. They were NOWHERE, and though we didn’t really even WANT the goat kids – just needed Cammie to be producing milk!-  I had tears in my eyes at the thought of being all alone and seeing the little guy fade away in front of my eyes.

I made up the milk supplement and tried getting him to suck it off my fingers while I held him in a blanket on my lap.  He refused, made faces and bleated for Mama, who glared at me.  I went to the house and got a syringe and tried to pour it in that way, but it was too hard without someone else helping me hold him, hold his mouth open, fill the syringe, etc.  Just as I was about to give up, Richard and Mom returned, and I told Richard he’d better remember where he’d put the bottles because we needed them STAT.  He went immediately to the canoe on the floor at the front of the barn and got the brown paper bag with the purchases.  You know, bottles and nipples in a bag in a canoe.  As you do.  Silly me!

As it turned out, Robin kept refusing the nipple so we went back to the syringe (from reading up on similar circumstances, I think he had about a half-hour left to live) and FORCED the milk supplement into him.  Here’s Richard holding him, with Uncle Chevy looking on (we couldn’t take Robin right out of the stall as it was creating too much trauma for everyone, so we just sat there in the stall and Chevy decided to come check up on things again).

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We decided to leave them all alone for a few hours, and when we came back to the barn, Mo was asleep in the straw and Robin was drinking happily from his mother!  For the next 24 hours, they wouldn’t share (it wasn’t Cammie’s fault, although I did blame her at first. Mo was a hog, and Robin wasn’t confident enough to get in there on his own teat, so would wait until Mo went to lie down).  But at least he WAS standing and drinking periodically and must have done so through the night, as the next morning, he was fatter and both were standing more confidently.  And each of the 3 days since then they’ve eaten and slept and had a bit of time exploring new surroundings too. Tomorrow they will be in sunshine for the first time, as despite being out in the corral today, they were in complete shade.  This is me yesterday and my little baby Robin.  We REALLY need to give both these billy goats away.  We MUST.  But this little guy…

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Now, for the promised hilarity resulting around Chevy’s depression at having to go down in the ranks of Cammie’s esteem.  At first I thought he was colicky.  (A very dangerous condition for horses as they can’t regurgitate to get rid of gas or upset stomach). He was hot, looking at his flanks, wanting to lie down, and hanging his head with a trembling lip.  But I did all the checks and we kept our eye on him – he didn’t have colic, because it was only happening when we were there watching (the goats!) and the rest of the time he was out grazing!  The pouting and trembling lower lip lasted until Wednesday night, at which time Cammie got herself outside to graze a bit beside him, and he seemed to cheer up a bit.

But Wednesday morning he was outside and REALLY mad at me because I was apparently ignoring that the bugs were bad and he wanted to come in.  (I’d moved the fence so he couldn’t just do this of his own choice).  He saw me on the porch. He whinnied. I ignored him, because spoiled animals don’t get what they want immediately upon asking for it. He stomped his front foot twice.  No, Mr. Ed. Go graze.  Then, as I watched in disbelief, he picked up the electric fence in his teeth to see if it was on. (It wasn’t).  This horse is suicidal!  It’s not on, so he pushes it forward with his chest far enough so that he can reach his lead shank on the ground.  HE PICKS IT UP IN HIS TEETH, LOOKS RIGHT AT ME AND FLINGS IT HIGH IN THE AIR.  O.K.  I admit it.  His demands were then met.  That was WAY too good a trick to ignore.

It wasn’t a fluke either, because he did it again the next day.  Of course NOW we’ve taught him a bad trick, so we have to turn the electric fence on, and also move the lead rope right out of the way altogether.  Chevy is a much smarter animal than I gave him credit for being, and I think the fact that he is the only one who saw the entire process of the twins being born does mean he was probably a bit traumatized.  I’m trying to cut him some slack.

I moved his fence back so he can go in and out again as he pleases.  And he IS really careful around the twins on the odd occasion when Cammie’s pen door is open and they come sticking their nose out into the ‘big stall’ to see Uncle Chev.

And of course, on a peaceful morning like today when he REALLY has things going his way – lots of bug spray, his mask on, shady trees and lush grass in the birch grove AND his best friend grazing for a time at his side — life seems so idyllic you’d never guess all the backstage drama that exists! But pull aside the curtains and whaddya see?  The TRUTH about farming!

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The Joy of the Loom Room, (it’s the “Mother of All” for a Spinster!)

Did you know that one of the parts of a spinning wheel is called the ‘mother of all’ ?  This is fitting since my mother Joy, living on the 2nd floor of our farmhouse, has the ‘mother of all’  loom rooms – decked out with her large loom (she used to own a table top loom as well, but has since sold it ) and two different types of spinning wheels.  And decorated in a jolly and charming fashion with her collection of sheep paintings and ornaments, and artwork of various spinners and weavers through the centuries.

Before we bought Blue Belldon, the room was ‘just another bedroom’:

loom room beforeWithout a bed in it, it seems so much bigger, despite the large loom at the window, where Mom/Joy has the best view of any window in the house:

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She liked the ‘original’ (1980s?) wallpaper in there, so we left it, and she put one of her more intricately-patterned rugs there on the floor, to match the navy on the walls.    While this would have been better suited as a blog posting whilst there was still lots of snow on the ground (ie: 5 weeks ago!) and prior to many, many new things being built and done outside, as I’ve been down with that bug for the better part of a month, I’m just going along with this as my next post, as promised.  Mom worked hard through the winter and early spring months to weave a rug for a friend of mine who contributed to the film I’m involved in making, as well as three new gold and grey rugs for our bathroom, to match the barnboard and claw-foot tub. Our store-bought gold ones were already pretty worn after just two years here.  In fact – two years ago exactly this weekend, for me!

mom's rug for Annette

Annette’s ‘slipper mat’ for beside her new guest room bed is in her cream, grey and green colours, and Mom/Joy was good enough to whip that up for her in some thick and cozy-to-the feet off-white wool.  Here she is at work on this first project for 2018:

Then, since she still had a fair bit of ‘warp’ on the loom, she asked if I needed anything downstairs and I noticed she had lots of greys and some gold as well – we don’t buy new wool, of course – just use what we have! Re-use, Re-cycle (she originally bought it all at garage sales anyway!) and UPCYCLE!   So here’s the lovelies she completed to cozy up our bathroom (The one at the base of the sink is just for guests, she’s made us another for everyday ‘farm’ footwear – ’cause Richard runs in there in his boots to wash his hands, mostly!) (as always, click on smaller photos to enlarge – providing you’re here in the proper WORDPRESS domain and not reading this from your email notices! 😉  )

Mom managed to find old wool that exactly matched our bathroom colour scheme, so we are thrilled to have these!  And it’s always great to have her woven AND braided rugs in our part of the house – they are not only of great sentimental value to me, but are farmhouse-cozy AND she can exactly match any colours of a room.  This one’s in my kitchen – but again, just for ‘good’, as it gets too filthy if I keep it down all the time.  I love the pattern in this one, it’s one of her more common ones now:

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Of course, our kitchen colours are blue and burgundy, with a ‘pop’ of yellow here and there, so where else could you ever find a rug so perfect in size AND colours?

Over the years Mom has woven a lot of rugs, placemats and table-runners as well as blankets/shawls for family, friends and even a few custom orders from strangers.  She has an over-stuffed scrapbook of every item, but here are a few of my favourites. (The bottom one is a common-design as she weaves from strips of blue jean material!  Both my sister and I have had several of these latter, because they do tend to wear out quickly due to over-use!)

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Of course, she has also made a copious amount of lap blankets which can also be used as shawls.  She has several of these upstairs, and both my sister and I have a few of these in various rooms, too.  Below is Mom/Joy with our friend Jane at my pioneer show in Ontario a few years ago. Jane is modelling one of Mom’s handmade works:jane and joy2 (2017_03_14 21_04_25 UTC)

You’ve seen photos of last year’s amazing projects – two BRAIDED rugs, one each for my sister and me.  These were in the shapes and colours we each requested as well, and made from 2nd-hand scraps.  On the lounge (which I keep on top of my own braided rug to prevent excess wear and tear from dirty socked feet!) you will see another of Mom’s woven blankets and a cushion her aunt (who taught her to spin and weave!) dyed, spun and wove many years ago:

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Another friend, Anne, may also notice her heirloom bedspread which I also use to cozy-up with on cold nights when I need ALL of me covered up!  Nothing is unused or wasted in this household! Here’s Mom (NOT intentionally dressed to match the rug!) with my sister Jennifer’s custom braided one for their summer house – an old farmhouse that’s been in her hubby’s family for several generations, on the west coast of Newfoundland. It will look well there, and help to brighten the place up, as these pieces made from scraps have been doing for centuries! Mom is so talented – and PATIENT!

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Mom’s favourite spinning wheel is called the ‘Wee Peggy’. She modeled as a pioneer for publicity for my pioneer arts and crafts show in Ontario with that little wheel. Note the ‘cotton’-like fuzz in her lap, which she is spinning into wool (manned by the pedal her foot is on).

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The hardest part about spinning is trying to get a consistent thickness throughout. It’s tricky, because it tends to be thick and ‘open’ in places, and tight and thinner in others. I know, because (also for publicity for my show, which had up to 40 completely different environmental/all-natural and/or pioneer-based artisans and ran 3 different years in Ontario) I’ve TRIED!  It’s very tricky:

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The parts of the more common type of spinning wheel are below. This is where you’ll see the amusing “mother of all” part!

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Mom hasn’t ever actually spun on her big wheel, below, which Richard and I gave her a few Christmases ago, though it IS the more traditional type.  We didn’t really expect her to, as she prefers her Wee Peggy and doesn’t do that much spinning any more. However, it is a lovely antique that many who appreciate our history just enjoy having as a show piece.  And in Mom’s Loom Room, it certainly is THAT!

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Mom also posed for the pioneer show with her big loom, and did great demonstrations most of both days each year explaining the entire process from sheep (or alpaca, dog, etc!) to finished product. Hanging from the front of her loom (below) is one of my favourite pieces – a wall-hung ‘pocket’ with my name threaded in, used for sticking all manner of items you want handy, but hidden!

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Here are the parts of a loom like Mom/Joy’s, just to show you how involved the process of weaving actually is!

parts of loom

Thus is the end of the winter blog postings, and definitely late, I admit!  But prepare to be inundated with all manner of outdoor topics now, starting hopefully next week, and hopefully on a more regular basis (shooting for at least every two weeks this year!)   Cammie’s kids are due soon, Richard’s using Chevy more in the woods now because the winter was just too hard even for the ‘pros’ to get their horses in and out, our basement grow-op did much better this year compared to last so I’ll be sharing some tips I discovered on that, AND the new composting system we’re working on as Richard went and took a course!  We have  some visitors coming mid-June who’ll be helping ’round the farm, the chickens are over-due, but Richard’s finished the coop and they should be coming soon, and we’ve done a lot of work on both the cross-country course for me to offer schooling sessions to eventers and the wedding site for Richard’s niece Carriann to marry her “Beast” Matt at the end of July – Rural Revivals bridal decor I’ve been updating with a lick of paint and a touch of new colour!

But to end the spinning/weaving theme about Mom/Joy, enjoy the following poem I wrote about her for a magazine article about Fibre Artists in New Brunswick. Though they said poetry was accepted, I’ve yet to SEE a poem in their hard copy of the mag, and whilst the editor told me my work would appear in the online version (with a variety of photos of Mom at work on her lovely pieces) it has been over a year, and no online versions have appeared, so I’m goin’ public with this now.  Sorry about the formatting, it was obviously done for submission.

The Joyful Spinster

A fibre artist who learned all

From an aunt whom she admired

(And it was from this aunt

That her talents were acquired,

 

For she always modestly proclaims

She really has no skill or art

Certainly none “come naturally”;

Though she’s dedicated in her heart!)

 

While many say to sell her work,

This artist, Joy, gives it away

Though she’s a widow in north N.B.

A  “Joyful Spinster”s  what we say

 

When we describe her fibre work

From wool her aunt helped dye

From natural things like nuts and veg

Right from the sheep, they’d try!

 

 

 

She’s often game to play dress-up

For shows, in full costume

And demonstrates her craft

Both on her wheel  and on her loom.

 

And though her aunt has passed on now,

Joy keeps her practice going

And especially likes to get involved

When New Brunswick skies are snowing!

 

Because she’s moved here just this year,

From Ontario, green and milder

The winters offer time for art

(And pursuits a wee bit wilder!)

 

 

 

From giving time to Africans

Where some orphans she has taught,

Joy now weaves for refugees.

Much warmth those Syrians sought!

 

She made them shawls and blankets

Weaving daily on her loom

Despite having just had surgery

She toiled in her “Loom Room”

 

 

 

She wove them many blankets

Like the two that you see here

She hopes they’ll keep them cozy

All throughout the seasons’ year.

 

 

 

She also weaves so many rugs

But just for fam-i-ly and friends

Some are patterned out of wool

The others – blue jean ends!

 

 

 

 

When asked at some occasional shows,

Joy HAS done custom work

But never charges near enough

For her, it’s just a perk

 

When someone well-appreciates

The time a weaver spends

Making such lovely items

For her fam-i-ly and friends!

Joy’s loom has been to many shows-

But she’s just there to ‘demonstrate’

“I don’t like to sell my work;

I’m not good enough!” she’ll state.

 

But whether she’s inside a tent

Or as a pioneer in village halls

The Joyful Spinster weaves away

Wherever her heart calls.

 

She makes displays for children

To show them ‘the old ways’

And brightens up her loom

With signs ‘bout  ‘olden days’.

 

With dedication foremost,

Joy will even weave in LOFTS

Because, she says, her ancestors

Came from lowly Scottish crofts:

 

And now, the Joyful Spinster

Tries her hand at rugs of braid

To recycle scraps and remnants

From clothing others made!

 

To pass those long cold winters

In New Brunswick’s mountain range

Joy’s adapting well to this,

As she adjusts to ‘winds of change’.

 

For here, at Blue Bell Corner

With views that go for miles

Whatever crafting Joy will do

Will be met with happy smiles!

 

O.O.A.

Even so the World’s grey Soul to the green World 
Perchance one hour must cry: “Woe’s me, for whom 
Inveteracy of ill portends the doom,

      —   Dante Gabriel Rossetti, after a long period of illness
                   in the springtime of  1873

Sorry to be not MISSING in Action, but OUT of Action – have been down with a respiratory ailment for more than a month (I was warned when I first got it by several people that I’d have it for up to six weeks. Flu symptoms, fever, hacking cough, sinus migraines, etc.  I absolutely refused to believe them, and did everything in my power to get better in the first 10 days.  Then I realized they were right and just gave up!)

WEAR MASKS AND WASH YOUR HANDS EVERY WHERE YOU GO WHEN IN PUBLIC!

Anyway, slowly getting back to some work outside and baked bread for the first time today since the week after Easter!  Richard’s been enjoying eating store-bought ka-ka, but that’s gotta stop!

Soon you can ‘look forward’ to the long-ago-promised blog posting re: Mom’s weaving and braiding, a more in-depth look at the how-tos, as some of the Homesteaders who follow this may be interested.  And after that, a posting on how well our basement grow-op did this year compared to last… and after that, some visitors who’ll be helping ’round the farm… and after that, some of the cross-country course and wedding site decor we’ve been adding to… oh, and the new chicken coop, and the…

as a tease to tide you over until I can get a bit ‘caught up’ around here and am able to write:  Here’s a high school friend of mine with one of Mom’s new bedside cozies, which will feature in the next posting coming SOON:

mom's rug for Annette

SHABBY CHIC SHENANIGANS

Ten years in the making (in my mind), two years waiting (since we’ve moved to Blue Belldon Farm) and two months of physically working on this project – but it’s finally DONE!  Although we don’t have any sort of television programs, we do enjoy BBC and PBS-type broadcasting from our computer, which we project on to Richard’s large screen,  (Mom/Joy just watches her lap-top upstairs, mostly CBC).  We especially do this in the dark evenings of winter when we are so much less busy outside on the farm.  Reading, writing and Scrabble are also favourite off-season evening past times, of course. I also periodically still do some coaching and theory lessons, and for that a screen is needed to show playbacks of the students’ riding as well as any of my massive collection of equine educational video.  But I have always despised the look of a television in any room, (ESPECIALLY OVER ONE’S BEAUTIFUL FIREPLACE, FOLKS – A T.V. SCREEN IS NOT A WORK OF ART!) and as a dedicated and long-time decorator of farmhouses, I have always tried to hide the t.v. wherever and however possible.

Thus, despite both sets of my grandparents being collectors of fine antiques, and the one grandfather actually spending years scraping generations of thick lead paint from furniture and then refinishing these pieces to their natural wooden sheens, Richard and I have done the UNTHINKABLE.  Well, unthinkable to my four grandparents, no doubt, and despite her compliments, rather shocking to my mother as well, I suspect.  But shabby chic is ‘IN’, and has been for nearly the decade that I’ve had my Rustic Revivals business. So, we’ve MADE – from scratch- the bespoke pie-safe-like cabinet of which I’ve always dreamt.

Now, of course, if we could have found a wonderful chippy-painted primitive hutch that would have held our television screen and all its accessories (V.H.S., D.V.D. players, stereo, etc) we’d have bought it, but we knew we had too many requirements for anything to ever fit ‘just right’.  Also, there are NO antique auctions of any type in the whole of northern New Brunswick anyway, and getting old wood across the border from Maine is often tricky.

To build something similar yourself, read paragraphs UNDER each related photo for the explanations as to how we did this D.I.Y. project, finishing just in the nick of time as the weather (finally) warms and the snow is (slowly) melting!

(as always, click on each photo in a grouping, to make bigger).

The first part of tidying up the last-to-finish corner of our living room was for Richard to design and build the bookshelves (to left) we wanted, to match the other side that he built LAST winter. (those, on right, are mentioned and seen in the post entitled “…That Time Has Tried”:

https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/that-time-has-tried/ ).

The finished book shelves, sharing the corner where our new shabby chic T.V. cabinet resides, look lovely with my ancient trophies, and our pottery and books.  I stained them with 4 different shades of dark stain (which we just had around – I never go buy new!) to make them look older and bring out the various colours in the grains. The shelves look grand, yet homey, in both daylight and lamp-lit, don’t they?

My friend Ron from Carlisle (prayers are with him as he is in and out of hospital of recent weeks) gave me two big boxes of wood-turned finials a few years ago.  I have used these for a plethora of decor, but they are especially perfect for stacking into various heights and painting as candle holders. If you look on the lamp-lit bookshelf, you’ll see two used as such, and I’ve just painted 16 in the lime green and purple wedding colours for Richard’s niece’s wedding here on the farm in July as well – thank you AGAIN, Ron!

We needed legs on this project, not just for it to look like an authentic pie-safe, but to raise it above our water-circulating radiator on the wall.  So 4 of Ron’s finials were perfect for this, with Richard adding pieces of pine on top and bottom of them to raise them and make them sturdier.

The above also shows the use of just regular white glue for the crackle effect.  You CAN spend the money on “Crack It”, and sometimes it does seem to work a little more magically, but in general and for a large surface area, just regular Elmer’s or Bondfast is fine. Paint your wood with a dark colour first. Apply the glue liberally and start painting your outer chosen colour after about 15 or 20 minutes, when the glue is still ‘tacky’.  As it dries, it will expand and ‘crackle/chip’ your paint.  DON’T GO OVER IT AND TRY AND RE-DO A SPOT.  (more on this below) But I also, as seen in all the photos below, do other things to distress and age with paint effects.  (And for more on this see my blog post on our other great project this winter – our pantry bins! https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2018/01/13/the-pedantic-in-the-pantry/ )

Other ways of distressing and aging besides just crackling:

  • dry-brush streaks
  • apply paint, let partially dry, then wipe off HARD with cloth
  • beat, chip, gouge with various tools as seen in “The Pedantic in the Pantry”
  • use knives to scrape paint off edges where natural wear and tear would occur
  • apply a brownish or ‘rust’ coloured paint and or light STAIN over some parts to ‘age’
  • and as you’ll see near the end, attach tiny bits of masking tape for ‘chips’ and paint them, so that rather than just crackling you have actual ‘peeling’ bits of paint!

For the sides of the cabinet/pie-safe, Richard cut two pieces of pine left over from the library shelves.  As with the legs, I first painted black and left to dry completely. Then slathered on the glue, left for 20 minutes, and then put on the 2nd coat.

Some extra tips: Don’t take your brush over the glue more than the one time!     Do slather the glue on horizontally and then paint VERTICALLY to follow the grain.  The crackle works its magic best this way.

I didn’t ‘beat these up’ as much as I did the pantry bin fronts but I did gouge a few spots out with the claws of the hammer and then painted over again.  (The colour wasn’t quite right on these sides, either – it was too ‘minty’, so I later mixed some more paint to match the legs better and lightly went over it again, but the crackle isn’t nearly as effective of course).

Neighbour and Richard’s helpmate Zeb came over to help assemble the legs and the sides, then put on the shelves and attach to the wall with all the heavy equipment lifted in after two years of them perched on an upturned plastic bin.  Richard always glues first with wood-glue, then nails with his air gun so the nails are barely seen – just tiny indented specks.

Next came the design of (and arguments over) the cabinet’s top decor. To start (the designing, not the arguing- you can figure that part out for yourselves!)- draw your outline on HALF the paper, then flip it so it’s exactly the same on the other side, but mirror image- and trace it out in full.  We didn’t like the first design (above) – there was too much wood and not enough decorative ‘cut-out’ (or too much positive, not enough negative).  So we tried again and ended with perfection, thanks to my eye and Richard’s hand with a jig-saw!

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I gave all of this front-facing (built right over the t.v. which has always been mounted on the wall) the same distressed-paint treatment as the rest.  Black, glue-crackle, turquoise.  Paint some with dry-brush streaking as above, wipe off hard in places too.  A word about the paint – you don’t HAVE to use chalk paint as it’s expensive. You can buy a chalky dust and make your own from regular acrylic/latex.  The chalk paint WILL make your piece look older than just regular acrylic.  But in order to crackle and distress, you DO need acrylic/water-based paints.  It won’t work at all with oil-based (bad for the environment anyway). AND it won’t look authentically ‘primitive’ either.

I asked Richard to make this piece round-edged as I thought it would look ‘softer’ and more authentic than square edges.  Thus, I could also do a ‘wipe-off’ for a lot of the black to show, which replicates the ‘worn’ look in a natural spot – where it would be most often handled/touched over the centuries!  The above 3 photos were taken as the glue is still drying so you can see how it’s slathered on in some spots, but thin in others (those bits already crackled).

Pie-safes, in case you don’t know, have chicken wire, screens, punched tin or drilled holes to let air circulate and allow pastries, breads etc. to cool off and be stored.  I wanted MY pie-safe to have the chicken wire on the bottom to cover the equipment, but with thin cloth behind it so that the remote controls could still function with the V.C.R., etc.)  Richard made the light-weight frames and I first painted and distressed them.  Then I painted the chicken wire (just some pieces left over in the barn from outdoor projects – again, we didn’t buy anything if we could help it)  to make them look a bit rusty in spots.  Next, I cut them to size and stapled them in.  As I do on Rustic Revivals projects, to avoid any sharp edges from the wire, I caulked a lot of ‘gunk’ from my caulking gun where there were sharp pieces sticking out.  This, when dry, also helped hold the chicken wire in place.  Lastly, I cut some of the fabric from extra curtains I’ve had in the last 3 places we’ve lived – pleated it a bit and stapled it in. The turquoise and the olive-green go with all my pottery, esp. my good Franciscan earthenware dishes, so these are the ‘pop’ colours of our otherwise dark brown living/dining room. Plus turquoise is a very common vintage paint colour.

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(Note: I ended up having to paint more of the chicken wire than I’d first intended, as it simply didn’t show up well enough.  So parts are white, parts ‘rusty’ red, and parts aluminum/unpainted. And by the way, I did add some turquoise dabs to those too-shiny hinge spines. Didn’t want THEM looking new!).

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The last main part of the project for Richard was the bead-board ‘cupboard doors’ I wanted replicated for the top.  We did NOT go buy more bead-board, either, I’m glad to say. Part of the bathroom wall I tore out when I first came here two years ago was salvaged for this, although Richard had to hot-gun some old wallpaper and glue off the backs to make it weigh less (important for its function as you’ll soon see).

The white part is how it was in the bathroom. Richard made pine frames for it, although I believe the same effect could have been done without the frame if you’d prefer and it would be lighter in weight to ‘slide’ as we’re doing with ours.  This is the part that will cover the screen itself.  Thus, I painted everything black for the undercoat that would show through. Except for two roughed-up bits of olive paint I mixed myself. Using my old faithful ‘visualization’ technique, I had decided that there’d be far too much turquoise on the top, so I wanted some olive colour to match the fabric below. But we didn’t want it to look ‘contrived’ and all matchy-matchy. So it needed to look like it was old scraped off layers:

This is where I also used the masking tape effect to look like truly scraped-off, chipped paint.  Plus, underneath on the olive, before lightly going over with some of the turquoise and a dry brush, I’d ‘thrown’ and dribbled some black paint and intentionally dolloped some blobs that I could later scrape off, showing the olive underneath.  If you want something truly old and primitive-looking, from a new piece of sanded pine board, you really have to be artistic and WORK HARD~!

Also, as this was the biggest painted piece that would be always seen, I wanted the crackle to be really defined. So instead of the big jug of Elmer’s, I used the expensive ‘Crack It’ from Home Hardware . (Remember to go horizontally with the glue or crackle product, if you then are going to paint VERTICALLY down!)  And it REALLY worked! Almost more than I might have wanted!

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Then, as all the turquoise was a little TOO bright still, I dulled parts of it down with a light stain.  I almost always, when distressing paint furniture, use a bit of stain to ‘age’ the colour in places, as paint is prone to do if over a century old!  (See what I did with our kitchen cupboards and bake table here: https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/recent-reno-country-kitchen/  )

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Lastly, I debated spending SOME money on some true antique ceramic matching door knobs.  But why do that, really, when your husband has cheap plastic dollar-store knobs in his worktable in the barn, left over from a reno. he did over 20 years ago?  Exactly.  So we didn’t spend a penny on these either.  I lightly sanded them so paint would stick, painted the olive colour, and decorated vintage-style.  There’s a calligraphied “R” and “J” for the top knobs, and some little twirlies which Richard calls ‘bugs’ for the bottom.  I gave them a coat of urethane as well, to protect the paint and to make them look shiny as they would have done if they’d BEEN the $24.00 per knob I was looking at online!~

I also wanted the bottom doors to open just like the old way (and as I did in the kitchen) by simply swiveling a wooden ‘bar’, which is from a tobacco slat from the famous cousins Pete and Linda Baxter that I cut and painted.  Richard, once nick-named “Mistah Particulah”, has SOOOO caught on to distressing and replicating primitives, that he even pounded a rusty old nail into the centre to create the ‘swivel’. Yay!

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You know from previous posts that we often traipse back and forth to the barn in our pajamas of a morning.  Sometimes, we work on projects wearing them as well.  Here, Richard is drilling the holes for my doorknobs.

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Above, Richard has put on the knobs and the swivel (on which his old rusty nail is barely noticeable against my little black dot decor with the tops of my paintbrush!) As well as staining to age some of the painted effect, I also dry-brush-streaked some olive paint on (seen faintly above on the middle strip) to tie in the other olive accessories and effects.  Here is the difference:

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The top ‘cupboard doors’ are one piece that simply slide back to reveal the television screen when we want to watch something.  We will eventually have a blacksmith make a big black iron hook to hang from above that will hold this, but for now the adjustable piano stool and trunk work fine.  Richard’s so happy to have our equipment and storage for video tapes and DVDs finished!

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So that’s it!  The finished masterpiece!  We figure, not counting the designing and arguing at various stages over the last two years as we visualized and discussed and disagreed, there was about 20 hours of physical work EACH in this.  Still much less than a Da Vinci, but we sit and enjoy it all every bit as much! That is, of course, my Franciscan Nut Tree plate upon which this whole room has been based with the few bits of colour here and there on shelves, in pictures, and in fabrics… And let’s not forget how well it matches Mom’s huge effort from last winter – our beautiful hand-braided rag rug!

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above, Mom/Joy’s project from last year, the braided rag rug that ties in all the colours of this room and our dishes and pottery. On my grandmother’s chaise longue, see also a blanket woven by Mom, and a cushion hand-dyed, spun and woven by Aunt Ila, the aunt who passed on her skills to her niece.  To see the posts on Mom’s weaving and braiding of rugs and other household ‘needfuls’, click here:

https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/5338/

and near the bottom of this one:

https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/07/secluded-habits-not-about-monks/

I know many of you wanted to know when my humourous verse dedicated to Joy’s textile work would appear in the N.B. mag Created Here. It was supposed to be in the online version, but I’ve yet to see it online. I’ll let you all know.  I am also planning to devote all of next week’s blog to Mom/Joy’s weaving, spinning and braiding as she’s just finished three delightful projects for us as well as helping the pastor’s wife a bit to take on this new and rewarding hobby.

To finish, here’s the masterpiece, alongside Richard’s other recently-completed project of beauty and comfort in our Blue Belldon farmhouse:

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Taber Talk

Sorry not to have written recently, folks. I had hoped my next blog post would be about the design and building of our new-to-look-old t.v. and equipment cabinet, which we are building to look like an old and much ‘distressed’ pie safe for the corner of our living room where Richard has just also completed the other library shelves (other side of the fireplace.)  However, this cabinet is taking much longer than was first thought, due to all manner of diversions, distractions, mismeasurements and general procrastinations. Not to mention the FOURTH major nor’easter that is blowing through here in the last 18 days, which makes it cold for Richard to be in the garage making intricate cuts with his icy fingertips and freezing toes (one which he claims he broke changing his pants and sticking his foot into an empty paint can – ah, the dangers of renovations!)

I am, however, a slightly superstitious believer in ‘signs’.  While wondering what to write about instead this week, I considered featuring Mom’s weaving again, as she has been hard at work on a small mat for a friend and another small one for beside our claw-foot tub, as my original one is getting firmly pasted to the lino, and is another reason I want to return to the original old floorboards in there at some point.  So I’ve taken a few photos of Mom on the loom, and we talked about Aunt Ila and Cousin Linda, both of whom have been weavers in the family as well.  Then I thought perhaps I would explain some of my barnboard designs (Rustic Revivals) which I’ve had some motivation to work on since we are having a July wedding here in the orchard (Richard’s niece) and I’m busy making signs and decor for that.  And as always, the barn board we brought from Ontario came from cousin Pete and Linda Baxter’s farm. (the same wood we used to make over the beam in our kitchen — see the bottom half of:

https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/03/bards-on-beards-and-beams/

Or, perhaps I should write, for the second March in a row, about the ordering of our organic seeds in the wonderful brown paper packets, from Hawthorne Farm in Ontario?  Because we ordered a lot more this year, including about $100.00 worth of flowers and ornamentals to help decorate for the wedding (mostly in BLUES, for Blue Belldon, and purples and greens, as those are the wedding colours).  But then those flowers reminded me that Linda (formerly, and rather freakishly, of Hawthorn VALLEY Farm!) had brought me out some honeysuckle seeds from her own plants when she was here in September, which I have now put with the other packets to remind me not to forget them.  We also ordered two packets of ground cherries, which Linda introduced us to, and which we now LOVE!  Then, yesterday, as well as some painting for the wedding, the work on which I want to be mostly finished by mid-April, as that’s when we’ll be busy in the bush and with planting the seed tables in the basement, I was also painting plastic milk containers with dressage letters.  In May I have two competitive eventing riders coming for private training, and I’ll need to line the ‘ring’ ( the only slightly flat bit of land we have, out near the poplar line which slopes down to the brook).  One of the easiest ways to make a dressage ring is to paint the letters on white milk jugs. Of course we ALSO use these for taking water to the livestock all winter, AND to collect maple syrup, but we still have some left over that are in fairly pristine condition. So I painted 8 of them, after peeling off the labels with hot water.  The labels that of course say : “Baxter”.

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And lastly, I just finished my murder mystery yesterday and picked up my next library book (mentioned in the last blog for International Women’s Week). This is The Stillmeadow Road, by Gladys Taber.  AS RECOMMENDED BY LINDA BAXTER IN SEPTEMBER!  Right, so that’s it!  Too many signs!  Everything I seem to be doing this week, or considering for blogging, seems to suggest Cousin Linda.  I don’t know why. These signs are rarely explained to us on this plane of existence, but I don’t like to ignore too many of them. Thus, I feel that I should include a bit about one of her favourite, most prolific “living off the land” authors here.

 

Gladys Taber wrote over 50 books about the simple life in New England, having moved from NYC to a derelict 1690s farmhouse just prior to the Great Depression.   These books all possessed homespun wisdom dolled out with earthy humor and an appreciation for the small things.  I see why Linda loves them now, being already half way through Stillmeadow Road.  Linda is very similar, and would write exactly the same were she to sit down and start typing! (Linda?)  And many of the same things that happened to Gladys and her family and friends are still happening here at Blue Belldon Farm, nearly a century later.  The very same issues that bother Gladys then are those that make me indignant and enraged now – rural development, clear-cutting of land, pollution, food waste, and mistreatment of wildlife and other animals.  While Gladys writes of these things with gentle Christian humility, I post my fury and passion re: these planetary problems daily, on Facebook.  Well, I mean, obviously Gladys’ tactics were too genteel – they haven’t seemed to have had impact on ‘the greedy powers’ 80 years on, so maybe it’s time to GET MAD.

I especially became so when I found out that nearly 20 years ago there was talk of tearing down the beautiful old 1690s farmhouse in which she’d lived and about which she’d written so many in the “Stillmeadow” series TO BUILD A STUPID TREELESS SUBURB!  Luckily, her granddaughter Anne Colby was living at Stillmeadow at the time, and rallied enough national and even international interest to STOP this development and instead to put the local farms into a Land Trust and Historic site. Thank GOD!~ (This wasn’t, however, finalized until just a few years ago!)

http://www.countytimes.com/news/stillmeadow-farm-preserved/article_2f6a2901-b40c-505f-ad4a-ebc5086185ee.html

Alan Bisbort, of the New York Times, in 2001: Constance Taber Colby, who is a writer and a professor of English in New York, said of her famous mother: ”Gladys was one of the first to write about the dangers of uncontrolled development in Connecticut. If she were alive today, she would undoubtedly be finishing a book on land conservation.

”Her books clearly depict Stillmeadow and its world as symbolic of something larger than one family, one town: a way of life very precious and inevitably endangered.”

Somewhat prophetically, Gladys Taber wrote late in life about a zoning meeting she attended in Southbury. In it she concluded: ”It was a grim picture. Business was bound to come; light industries were already shopping for land. The quiet country farms were already going and developments would take over. . . . Eventually, of course, we will have to have some sort of plan to guide future development. Somehow we must protect the wooded hills, the greening meadows, the clean, sweet-running brooks and the historic white houses — are a precious heritage.”

Anne Colby said: ”I grew up running around over there. I was very lucky to have this place to come to when I was a kid. We want this to be an incentive for other landowners to look for creative options for saving their land.  Tools are available now that weren’t there five years ago. Ten years ago, we could not compete with the developers. For me, Connecticut’s remaining wild places are our sanctuaries, and we need sanctuaries now more than ever.”

Earlier this week Richard inadvertently put his foot in ‘it’, as he is often wont to do.  We were at choir practice in Perth-Andover, led by its beloved mayor, Marianne Tiessen Bell (of the Leamington, ON Tiessens, incidentally).  Richard said to Marianne “Getting ready for some flooding are you?”  This is NOT something you say to ANYONE who lives in and loves Perth-Andover.  But CERTAINLY NOT THE POOR MAYOR!

I wrote about this issue LAST spring, and about Marianne and editor Stephanie Kelly’s efforts to help battle both the fight for keeping historic buildings from damage or demolition AND their concern for the environment, especially as it so affects those living ‘down in the valley’ from  us.

https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/taken-at-the-flood/

Despite predictions of the Farmer’s Almanac, we seem to have had nearly the same amount of snowfall this year, and it seems to be lingering just as long through what others elsewhere are already calling ‘spring’.  This of course means danger of flooding.  It is sad, not just to see people’s businesses and homes destroyed, BUT to see some of the delightful old buildings that make one truly feel the history – almost as far back as Taber’s New England!  Tell me that these wonderful buildings don’t deserve to be saved, for instance:

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But their close proximity to the river means that flooding doesn’t just happen once in a lifetime to them – but rather, many times. And the government isn’t as willing as they ought to be to step forward to assist! (what else is new?)  Having lived in the U.K. , it never fails to amaze me that we aren’t more keen to ‘list’ and maintain buildings of historic value and interest, as they do there, and with SO many more to do as well!  Isn’t it enough that the greed and mistreatment of our land is CAUSING so much of Mother Nature’s need to aggressively ‘fight back’?  But then, not to be able to step forward and say ‘This must be offered assistance?’  It’s just shameful.

Taber says (in numerous places) “I hate to think of the forests that have been laid waste down the years by ruthless cutting.  It takes years to grow a tall lovely tree and not long to chop it down…a tree is a symbol of life and a gift of nature.” Why do we not respect this gift?

And, about preserving historic buildings, she quotes the anonymous poem that I also ‘discovered’ in Concord, Mass., found inside a wall of a seventeenth-century home:

"He who loves an old house
Will never love in vain-
For how can any old house,
Used to sun and rain,
To larkspur and to lilac,
To arching trees above,
Fail to give its answer
To the heart that gives its love?"

 

But, really, if the object of this particular blog posting is not to lecture to those who rape the land, pave over the countryside, demolish old buildings and landmarks, but instead to introduce you to the simple cherished writings of a woman who loved nature, history and her small self-sufficient New England farm, then I should leave you with one of her more poetic quotations:

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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.”

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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’.

 

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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.   

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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.

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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!)

http://www.eventingnation.com/documentary-to-chronicle-extraordinary-story-of-kim-walnes-and-the-gray-goose/

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)