August Aromas

It’s the first of August.  Richard and Joy/Mom have been at Blue Belldon Farm for exactly 3 full years. (For me, 3 years, 2 months and 10 days!) Due to the high heat and humidity everyone everywhere is experiencing thanks to climate change and our atrocious abuse of the planet, August ‘smells’ different.  It’s hard to explain, but sometimes there are just scents that waft through the air that I’ve never before experienced. I’m sure the humidity  plus all the thunderstorms bring these nose-tickles. Although today is a little more ‘seasonable’ for N.B., so I chose to do some hoeing and photography (haven’t bothered doing much in the garden for nearly a week, though Mom is diligent and weeds every day –  she planted most of the garden herself this year, because I really wasn’t up to it, and was going to ‘give it a miss’!)

The kitchen is still nowhere near being finished, although Richard has certainly completed some exciting developments. But readers will have to wait and see all the before and afters in one blog, hopefully in a month or so!

Thus, today, enjoy the ‘smells’:

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Butternut whiffs the clover as she grazes close to the many bees buzzing about. She says she doesn’t like it when they get caught in her beard.

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We have to wrap ugly chicken wire around all the flowers at the house because those naughty Buff Orpingtons like to dig up the dirt (and seeds and bulbs!) and sleep/dirt-bathe there.  So not much growing at the house, but there are some pretty little blue forget-me-nots that transplanted themselves from the orchard garden.  On the other hand, the veggie garden is FULL of floral blooms:

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These stunning blooms are mostly thanks to the previous owners; however, we did plant borage everywhere (that’s a borage, bottom left of the above that hasn’t flowered yet, though most of them have) and are letting it take over in some spots, as the bees seem to like it better than any other flower.  It smells great (esp. with humidity!) and is also lovely in iced tea or lemonade, as is the mint  that grows in a massive patch outside the garden gate. Also going great guns this year are Cousin Linda’s hollyhocks planted last year as seeds, which she collected and dried when she moved from their lovely Ontario farm. They didn’t do much last year, but have really taken off this year! (see below). Linda also introduced me to ground cherries which I adore. I planted a row of them this year just to make sure we got a lot – but they’ve been sprouting up everywhere in the garden, from last year’s birds and breezes, I guess. That’s a ground cherry plant right there in the bottom right of the above photo. Yum! They are delicious and so easy!

Although we’d love to have the hollyhocks around the house as well, the chickens and dog just wouldn’t let them ‘take’ there last year. They sure seem to love the garden, though!

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above, I attempt a smell of Linda’ Lovelies through my black-fly net (needed at all times of day or night here). Hollyhocks don’t really have a scent, but boy are they tall and gorgeous!  (P.S. the quilted long cotton skirt I enjoy most on summer days is also courtesy of Linda).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The hollyhocks got really high this year as well! We’re very pleased. (Note hot black dog in the shade of the house in above and below photos)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m aware this was short and sweet (-smelling.) Hope everyone is managing the massive heat waves and fires and floods that go along with our summers nowadays (oh, and tornadoes, let’s not forget those).  I feel very sorry for future generations. And afraid they will never experience the out-of-doors as I have been lucky enough to do. My generation may well have been the last to know the Gentle Mother Nature as she was.  I won’t rant here. If you want to see my daily rants, postings and links about all this, you’ll have to follow my Facebook page.  I make good use of my loud voice there:

https://www.facebook.com/julie.a.johnson.5851

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Ida May’s Jooney July

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

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

https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/recent-reno-country-kitchen/

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

https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2018/01/13/the-pedantic-in-the-pantry/

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Humming & Drumming, Piping, Striping and TYPING!

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

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

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

What I did get was THIS:

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

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

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

tartans, 3 of us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Another female event was the hammer throw:

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And then some REAL excitement as two caber champs (Dirk is local) set out to break the Guiness World Record for most tosses in 3 minutes. Here’s an article: https://www.cumberlandnewsnow.com/sports/other-sports/danny-frame-dirk-bishop-after-tandem-caber-toss-guinness-world-record-june-1-312005/and a local post: https://gatheringofthescots.com/2019/04/21/worlds-record-at-the-gathering/

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

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

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

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

The excitement of seeing this marching down your local street in the Appalachian highlands along a river is truly soul-stirring! You should be able to view it live in this video, although you may need a Facebook account, not sure: https://www.facebook.com/ScotchColony/videos/410428222880377/UzpfSTEwMDAwMTA0NzEyOTgyOToyNTg2OTg3Mjg0Njc5NDg0/

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and some delightful drum-thwackers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

May Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

chip hair

Over and out for today.

Last blog for the month of May!

Dung Pong and Spring Song

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

open air concert, cornwall

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

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

 

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

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

Books, Brooks and Back to Bed!

Today is World Book Day, and I just told the wonderful watercolour illustrator of this little gem (which I received from Mom/Joy for Christmas but as I haven’t really posted since then due to being bed-ridden  – and busy with other writings-  I ‘m going to share about now!)

 

Here’s a little review of it, with the bios of author and illustrator.  Although our time in Brampton was only a year’s transition before we could move out here, we feel it’s a nice bit of trivia in common with the whimsical illustrator, Kit! http://miramichireader.ca/2019/04/old-house-east-coast-giftbook/

In fact, my cousin Linda Baxter (no relation to the author) has contributed much to our farm, both physically (lovely seeds we’ve planted all over and are anxiously waiting to see if they pop up this year as well !) and literally, as in literature to read re: farm living through history.  Most especially memorable is Linda’s getting me hooked on Gladys Taber’s books. And look what the first page is here:

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I really must buy Cousin Linda this book too. Everyone knows I make my own bread, but since becoming disabled it’s been hard to stay standing and pounding the dough. But here’s another favourite page from this sweetheart, along with my first attempt at ‘braiding’ a loaf – my home helper that I’ve had since the surgery did the hard part of this; I just stepped in and braided and baked it!

And look how nearly Kit got this particular illustration compared to Blue Belldon Farm’s house!

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You’ll see there in the text that Wanda mentions the meandering brook. Well, ours is rushing, not meandering right now. How do I know, since I’ve been bed-ridden since last October?  Well, I actually walked there yesterday! All the way to the back of our farm, using two ski poles and trudging along very slowly. How nice it was to finally get out in the sunshine, fresh air and chattering bird song.  I saw the first coyote I’ve seen since coming here to N.B. as well (put the chickens away, Richard!)  Yes, Rasmussen Brook is a bubbling rushing mass at the moment, but given that half of the province is flooding, this isn’t a surprise. We feel badly for our neighbours and glad we are up so high in the mountains!  This little brook, practically dried up in summer, is a rushing torrent right now as it cavorts over the rocks to find its way over the ravine behind Richard’s largest tapped maple. What a sight!  I really did enjoy sitting on my log and basking after a long LONG winter in bed (since the end of October, which is about the time we got our first snowfall that stayed on the ground as well!)

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We do still have some snow across the valley on the top of the mountain that is just a bit higher than we are, and also a big dump of snow near the Dew Drop Down cross-country jump, where Richard piled a lot of it all season, but other than that it’s finally almost gone and I’m finally ALMOST walking without pain. (The other knee, the one not replaced in January, is still causing problems, and the ‘new’ knee isn’t bending right yet, but there is an end in sight I hope…)

Now I know regular readers of this Blue Belldon Blog (like Mary Walker and Shirley Robinson who’ve been lapping it up since I started exactly 3 years ago!) may be glad I’m ‘back’ writing and posting photos of our farm life. But just because I haven’t been writing much here since my other knee gave out just before Halloween doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy writing elsewhere!  In fact, over 546 hours between Oct. 27 and Jan. 17th (the day before my surgery) I completed an entire musical called Rough Notes.  Book (script) and Music (incl. lyrics) really kept me from going insane during that time period when I could barely limp down the hall to the bathroom. More can be read on this at http://www.rnmusical.wordpress.com and Ursula Buchan’s (grand-daughter of two of the lead characters) new book just came out last week about her famous grandfather, with lots of terrific reviews, accolades and interviews.  For any of those links, see my author FB page: https://www.facebook.com/jivanel.johnson.5

I’ve been busy finishing Canto One of an epic poem called Ismertine and preparing it for submissions. I’ve asked illustrator Giana Hicks to do a few fantastical sketches for it, before I start sending it out. Her whimsical work can be seen here: https://www.deviantart.com/fluffans

Lastly, I’ve been chosen by editors Cait Gordon and Talia Johnson (also no relation) in Ottawa and Toronto to have my short story “Iron Bone” included in their anthology NOTHING WITHOUT US, which will be coming out this September and which would make a great Christmas gift, esp. for anyone who considers themself ‘diverse’.  More on this can be seen here: https://nothingwithoutusanthology.wordpress.com/  The publisher is Renaissance Press of Ottawa and the book will be for sale through their website in the autumn. This is the graphic promo for my story “Iron Bone”, just to ‘tease’ you with a ‘what the heck’?… (That’s Princess Anne to the right, in case you didn’t recognize her.)

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The book cover will look like this:nwu book cover

(Ivanel Johnson, my paternal grandmother was a frustrated novel writer and I always promised her that her unusual name would be spread in literary circles somehow. Since “Julie Johnson” is a VERY common author/actress/musician name – not to mention a song name and a film title!, I now write as J.Ivanel Johnson)  Grandma J. would be proud.  And I’m proud that both grandmothers as well as my mother made sure I was reading at an early age. Photos below, Ivanel Johnson, elocution teacher at Alma College, St. Thomas, ON and frustrated novelist and right, Dorothy McKenzie, career-long schoolteacher and painter, reading to me in 1966. Below them is Mom/Joy reading aloud to my sister’s son Sydney (named for my father) when he was about 4. And that’s it for books and writing for World Book Day. Now on to some farm photos!

mom reading to Sydney
Incidentally, and completely unrelated: Sydney is 12 now and was meant to be singing with the Atlantic Boychoir this week in France. Two masses.  At Notre Dame.  Needless to say, that won’t be happening, but they are flying out on their 2nd European tour anyway… Their music is absolutely stunning. Samples of their most recent/mature performances can be heard on Amazon, where their 2018 Christmas c.d. is for sale: https://www.amazon.com/Gloria-Celebration-Christmas-Atlantic-Boychoir/dp/B07HT8P2TC (Not trying to sell it to you, just saying it’s the best place to really listen to a few samples of classical and orchestrated works sung by these talented young men!)

All right, on to the farm stuff, which is what this blog is SUPPOSED to be all about! Sorry for all that literary hootin’ an’ hollerin’:

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As most of you know, we sold Chevy just before Christmas (too much for Richard to handle on his own, and I’ve been too laid up to help much) and got Cammie (not pictured here) two friends who stayed with her all winter. Last week we gave away the one with the horns and now just have Cammie and Buttercup, the one standing. (p.s. we didn’t name her. I don’t like ‘cutsie’ names!)

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As the snow has melted this week (that was taken just 5 days ago!) the chickens have had a great time scratching in the compost, manure pile, and garden – the latter of which we’ll have to re-fence, although I don’t plan a big garden this year despite Richard building those great basement seed tables and the greenhouse! I should be planting inside already, and I’m just not up to it! However, what Richard is really striding angrily here to do is:

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… chase away the skunk (slightly to right of dead centre of shot) who keeps returning to the top of the garden. Smitty has already had 4 exchanges other springs with these black and white furries. We don’t want another!

For the next two weeks, (while Mom/Joy is visiting Sydney in Newfoundland) we have Richard’s nephew Chris (seated on his walker) visiting us.  Standing is R.’s brother Jean-Marc. You’ll remember these two from all the wedding photos from last July. Chris was the “Lord of the Rings” in the subtly Tolkien-themed nuptials for his older sister Carriann.

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Chris has enjoyed feeding the chickens in the sunshine, (around the remains of the wedding arch, which I’ll tear down when I’m more mobile) and making friends with Smitty:

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Jean-Marc (John) and Richard took some time to enjoy the sun too (we only had one full day of it, and we’re back to rain now!) and walked out to see the roaring Rasmussen!

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And of course when the brothers get together there’s always time to tinker with tractors and ….

Until next time, I’m back to bed now…

Springing Up Update

I am no where near ‘springing’. BUT… Spring is NEARLY here (lots and lots of snow and ice, still, but warmer days) and the recovery from my surgery is finally getting to the point where I can be sitting upright for longer periods AND utilizing my brain better (less pain meds) so…. SOON I may be writing regularly again, if not about my own farm activities (nil since end of October) then at least I can write about what Richard and Joy are doing.  Like right now, they are out breaking up ice in the yard so the chickens don’t slide around when they are free-ranging in the sun during the day….God forbid a chicken should slide and go tail-feathers up, as I witnessed yesterday outside the kitchen Dutch door when I threw her out some edamame pods…

As I know more of you probably like photos rather than reading my text, here’s Chevy and his many new friends: (taken last week –  his new owners live 3 hours south and near the coast so they have much less dramatic winters than up north here).

chevy, new friends, sussex

 

Pell’s Hell’s Bells, Sin, and a Cardinal Christmas?

When Richard and I first lived together in ‘cardinal sin’  we called our little house “Cardinal’s Inn”. It was overflowing with his grown children and we never had much time or space to ourselves.  But now at Blue Belldon Farm we are lucky enough to have plenty of it… And in both places there was always at least one red cardinal who fluttered past our windows on a regular basis, (although I have to say we saw rather more of him before the snow fell than we have since – AND we have food in the feeder an’ all!)

First off, let me say how happy I am that this week Cardinal George Pell was found GUILTY for the 1990s altar boy cases, and in February goes back to hopefully be found guilty of the 1970s cases in Ballarat, Australia.  His high levels of Catholic authoritarianism have been stripped and he is no longer ‘fluttering about in red on the Vatican high pedestal’.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qc1J7BLWH9I  Toodles, Georgie – and good riddance!

My favourite composer,pianist/actor Tim Minchin made many victims’ prayers get answered when he raised money with his Cardinal Pell song a year and a half ago (it reached no. 1 in Aussie-land!). All the money from it went to get the victims and their families flown to Rome to hear personally why “Georgie” couldn’t make the trip back to Australia to take his place in the courts at that time. (He claimed to be ‘unwell’).  If you haven’t heard this wonderful up-beat song about a dark time in Aussie history (that’s Tim’s magic!) do give it a toe-tapping listen and realize how many benefited from it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtHOmforqxk

And now – just a bunch of Christmassy Cardinal photos and card-art, starting with friend/artist Jane Wright’s wonderful card:

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I’ve tried to pick the most unique ones, or ones that remind me the most of Blue Belldon, and with this we wish you the very best of the season (there MAY be one more brief blog before Christmas, but for now, this is the modern way of sending out Christmas cards, I guess… not that I want to be doing anything ‘modern’!)  Enjoy these – you can almost curl up in some of them, they are so cozy! (I’ve left the artists’ names on wherever possible, but sadly, many of them are not shown).

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And finally, here’s a still from a short video we just received this evening.  It is of Chevy, working at his lovely new home, pulling in two Christmas trees for his new family, and being driven by their youngest daughter, who has all she can do to keep up with him! (which our old hips and knees couldn’t manage here – and we always had lots more snow to plow through than that as well! Down closer to the ocean, they don’t have nearly the same amount of snow as we get here in the mountains, of course!)  We know Chevy is very much enjoying his new home – there are more animals, more people and there’s more work, too – all things he loves!

chev, luke's daughter

 

 

 

Nogs, Noggins, Song’n’s and Toboggans

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

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

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

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

(The last hat is from the CBC show Still Standing – one of the producers gave it to me for doing some admin. for them getting the still photos they used, and getting waivers signed,  etc. and I passed it on to Richard last Christmas as it’s a lovely green!  If you still haven’t seen the episode in which we/New Denmark appear, the link is here:
https://watch.cbc.ca/media/still-standing/season-4/new-denmark-nb/38e815a-00f0c4c14f4  )

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sandi, julie, ducking

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

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

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

gif with snow, for Our Divas, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORE photos and reviews here: https://www.theatreunlimited.ca/joseph

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

Also in Perth, and if you’re in the Maritimes you might have heard about this on CBC Radio Noon yesterday,   https://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/maritime-noon     our Choir Director (and esteemed mayor) suggested to her young and massively creative Baptist minister that they do what is apparently a ‘first’ – possibly in the world.  (Remember we sang as ‘angels’ last December for the same church’s drive-thru Nativity? if you don’t remember and want a peek, and yes – one of Richard wearing yet a DIFFERENT toque on his noggin,  see this blog posting:  https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2017/12/09/cast-of-thousands/    ) .  Marianne Bell and  the Rev. Michael Fredericks with another cast of ‘manymany; have filmed a series called ‘Online Advent’. Each day, starting today, they will have a little clip of their ‘show’ telling the Christmas story and yesterday on air Rick Mercer said, (even if it MAY have been tongue-in-cheek) that’d he’d consider being in their production another year as it ‘has all the production quality of Murdoch Mysteries’!

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

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

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

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

Fringe-Bottoms, Dakota-Black

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

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

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

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The link to make your own simple bags is here: http://www.craftaholicsanonymous.net/no-sew-t-shirt-bag-tutorial   and even if you aren’t as responsible for your part in  keeping our planet from dying, at least it saves you from buying plastic bags, which is what HOPEFULLY all grocery stores, at least, will soon be doing.  Remember, though – take your bags into EVERY shop, not just grocery stores.  If I ever forget and leave the bags in the vehicle, I both educate the check-out people of drug stores, gift shops, etc. and punish myself by saying “darn, I forgot my bags in the truck, but don’t give me any plastic please” and then I make myself carry everything out via my purse, pockets and hands.  Mom hopes to be going to some grocery stores and handing her great bags out for free, just to help educate, if nothing more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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