Cast of Thousands, Post One Hundred!

In this blog's 100th post
In a year of celebrations
We've marked 2 churches, a village, the birth of Christ -
And our entire nation!

"What's the best of country life?"
Many ask us daily
"Is it the scenery, quiet, nature, veg?"
Nope    - it's celebrating gaily

With our small communities,
Like Perth or New Den-Mark
It's singing, acting, being part
Last week - we're angels! HARK!

You've heard about the mass choir
To mark 150 years
You've read about the nursing home,
And Pastor Ralph's 'old dears'

You know about the pageant
And the summer's Founder's Days
You've heard bits about Still Standing...
(But in spring, to coin a phrase

You'll hear lots more, for 'teasing'
Is how telly's publicized-
And as we're in the 'teaser'
I'll be keeping you apprised.)

teaser screen shot for Season 4 of Still Standing, Julie, Leanne (visiting from Scotland) and Mom/Joy, beside the CBC logo. Ironically, Richard, who insisted we take these reserved seats for ‘Founders Day Organizers’, is out of shot to my right!   To see the full trailer/teaser, look at the Still Standing FB page, 2nd video, or try this link https://www.facebook.com/stillstandingtv/videos/692295784304421
I'd like to speak in detail
About our church's 100th year
And the celebration for it
That many came to hear.

And then I'll show you fun
From the last two weeks of song
With the Perth-Andover choir
And the concerts we've put on!

Back in the mid-summer, 
I was asked to c'ordinate
The entertainment portion
Of St. Peter's-at-the-Gate,

Our little church up on the hill
That I've shown you before
(But will remind you once again
With these photos I've in store:)
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The Danish herring-bone wood designs covering every inch of the interior of St. Peter’s Lutheran on top of the hill just next to us
tiff's churches at night
You’ve met her before in several blog postings. This is an amazing shot taken just after St. Peter’s 100th celebrations this fall, by our local professional photographer, Tiffany Christensen. St. Peter’s is on the right, just across the road from the slightly-older Anglican church called St. Ansgar’s.
To make up the fun night
After a catered Danish meal
We all put in our off'rings
Of creative zest and zeal!

It started with the Danish band
That played some peppy tunes
Then the "Minstrels" (or a handful of...)
Sang a hymn with their soft croons,

Then added another song
I'd written for the night
As a tribute to St. Peter's
And its builders' strength and might.
minstrels, 100th
Then Richard, in his debut
Stepped up alone to sing
Another piece I'd written
Called "Where the Bells do Ring"
richard's solo
Thanks to Mom/Joy for taking most of these photos. To hear “Where the Bells Ring”, Richard’s first full solo (I add some background harmonies as well as the piano accompaniment), go to this link, which we recorded at home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KStOMmr8WYs
After this bit of song,
The pastor had a word
About the history of the church
-Then, something quite unheard!

We came out to do a sketch
As if from 100 years from now!
(So, the 200th anniversary-
It gave the crowd a WOW!

Not because I'd written
Such a finely-honed & gifted script,
But rather, 'cause our costumes
Were wild, and long - Zeb tripped!)

As 'teased' before, back in Sept.,
We all wore togas white
With sashes of sparkly colour
And dyed sheep wigs delight!

Richard, Zeb and myself at the meeting of the 200th Anniversary committee (sketch)
200 yrs skit
Curtain call for the 200th anniversary of St. Peter’s sketch, Pastor announcing. L to R Richard, Zeb Godbout (playing my son, Ned Kram, which is Den Mark backward) Peter Jensen, and seated, myself and Barb Christensen.
We’d had many rehearsals in our living room/meeting room at the farm and while we didn’t actually have all our lines memorized, the oddness of the skit got quite a few laughs, and the pretended ‘frustration and violence’ between us as our sketch showed that meetings don’t change much from century to century, really hit home for those in the community who sit on several boards and committees!
While we changed back out of costume
The band once more would play
The fiddler, 93, was sick
-  Had been in ER all that day!
fiddle
But like the true-blue Danes
He would not back down, be weak
There he was at suppertime
To fiddle in an up-beat streak!

And then some poetry I'd gathered
About the early N.D. times
Were read by Miss New Denmark
With good old-fashioned rhymes:
poetry

But for the big finale
Of this 100th year divine
I asked some pastors, two from past
And our current Ralph, to SHINE.

Miss N.D. Megan spun the wheel
That Richard made that day
And the crowd laughed hard as at
"Pastors' Trivia" we would play

I'd written 70 questions
From categories galore
Like Church History, Pete the Saint,
 "1917", and more...

The pastors, how they struggled
To come up with answers right
But in the meantime, they were FUNNY
And the crowd enjoyed their fright
Pastor Ralph appears to ‘give up’ on the question, as the others have a giggle…
They rang in on their buzzers
(One was Smitty's squeaky toy!)
But often they'd not get it,
And that was JUST my ploy!

pastors triviapastors trivia full
  
The crowd would hoot and holler,
And eventually THEY won
By answering the questions
That the pastors hadn't done.

One of the questions I best liked
"1917" was the 'try'...
This painting of a church was done
So like our own, up high:
This painting by Georgia O’Keefe was done the same year our church was built, in 1917, and is very representative of how St. Peter’s towers over rivers and valley and nestled Appalachian homes.

 

 

So, it's my belief that all had fun,
That sweet September night
When St. Peter's turned 100
With audience delight:
At this table, Megan Bach, Miss New Denmark, her grandparents,  as well as Richard sitting beside Leanne (in gold top), and across from them, Mom/Joy. Being too busy and too nervous of everything to come, I am standing in the background having some punch. Behind me is the old piano, on top of which I had made a 1917 lady’s church-going display.
The 1917 Lady's Church-Going Display:
hat display
a variety of hats from my drama trunk, along with gloves, a fan, a lace hankie, a turn-of-the-century scarf and matching hand-bag, and a special contribution from Pastor Ralph – a hymnal actually FROM 1918!
There I sit, 200 years in the future, wearing a toga and some of Mom’s sheep’s wool on my head, with the full program for the Entertainment Portion of the night written out on the wall behind me.

summary of 100th

And so, that last event was done
And while the harvest kept us crazed
We still went to Perth each week
To practice for our concert days.

The first series, in fall, was with
The Youth Orch-EST-ra grand!
A full 80-piece symphony
Where we were "150 Expand"

(The same voices with which we sang
For July 1st's big event. 
They come from towns all o'er the vale
And it's Glorious, Heaven-Sent!)
Richard’s bald head 4 in at back, and I’m far left, hiding behind the curtain. We sang the Howard Shore piece Sea to Sea, which was WRITTEN for this New Brunswick Youth Orchestra for the 150th, as well as our old favourite We Rise Again (also sung July 1st for the big celebrations). We sang for school groups with a chamber orchestra, on the day before, then had this enormous concert over the weekend. You can hear a small part of We Rise Again at this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEezCOAVgXE     An interesting bit of trivia, and to prove how small the Atlantic provinces are, when the conductor moves aside at 0:44, you’ll see a dark, curly-haired lad playing in the first row of the 2nd violin section. My sister started him in violin in St. John’s, Nfld 15 years ago! A neat connector!
The choir in quaint Perth-Andover
Is directed by the mayor
A lovely lass from Leamington;
There's many here from there!
Our Perth-Andover choir director (and mayor, and Book Club Organizer, and…) Marianne Tiessen Bell, from Ontario, warms us up before a performance.
Our Christmas series started 
Just at November's end.
The hospital in Perth
Has become our new best friend

As both Mom and Richard twice a month
Have teleconference talks
And oncological care, so -
We sang for Womens Aux.!

Then just last week-end,
'Angels' sang 6 hours in the snow
To raise some funds for Food Bank.
"Bethlehem"'s winds did blow

For this interactive nativity
That's now a big crowd-thrill
We entertained the masses
Lined up for miles on the hill

While I’ve been in all kinds of performances in my life, I’ve never actually been able to witness my audience approaching from this far away! Police, firemen, traffic controllers and a radio station were all involved in keeping an orderly pathway to Bethlehem!

To get a really great feel for what this whole night was about, see:
LIVE DRIVE-THRU – just tap the arrow on the pic below and it should work! turn up the sound in the bottom right corner of the screen! It’ll likely be ‘off’, so click on it!

or, slightly less exciting – the slide show:  https://www.facebook.com/perthandoverbaptist/videos/1682963368441021/

These productions were both done by the hard-working and energetic Rev. Michael Fredericks of the Perth-Andover Baptist Church.  WHAT A SHOW IT WAS !

We sang as angels in the heavens
Pointing to the stable, close
While Richard posed beside the inn
And I got my daily livestock dose:

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I'm not sure even Bethlehem
Had as many farm-yard critters
Some were small, like geese and hens
And some were really heavy hitters!
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tony and kim

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That's right, a choir of angels sang
Beside Alpaca's Paddock
And beside THAT were market stalls
Of bread, and tools, and haddock!
choir, alpacas
Marianne Bell front row, far, I’m right behind her. We are both ‘gettin’ down’ kinds of angels. Richard and Marianne’s husband are a little more unbendy in near back row. Notice all the alpacas are staring up at the star over the stable. Just as they should do.
We know not where she finds the time
But Mayor M.B. also made that bread!
And still remains relaxed and calm
As she chats with King Herrod!
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snowy angel choir
On the Sunday night’s performance at the nativity, the snow was falling beautifully and romantically and it wasn’t even that cold! I’m crouching because we’re dancing about, not freezing – plus we had a lovely barrel of fire beside us both nights!
On Tuesday night, in Johnville,
We hooked up with a choir
That came from just 'downriver'
In a church that did aspire

To give us but a chance to sing
From choir lofts above
As we sang in echo'd refrain
To Vivaldi's Gloria of love
johnville2
more amazing totally-wood-panelled church work (like St. Peter’s) in the Johnville St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic church, where we sang opposite Peter McLaughlin’s Tuesday Night Singers from the lovely choir loft. (Vivaldi’s Antiphonal Gloria)
Finally, our last big gig
Was filmed upon a Woodstock pew-
(How strange that in Ontario
I lived near Perth & Woodstock too!)

My camera propped on hymnals
On the first of many pews
'Neath Saint Gertrude's glor'ous arches
Marianne led our cues:
         (the following video/pic should be in place, 
             just tap on it and turn up the sound!)



Youtube wasn't working
But we hope you'll link up-- though
It's hard for some not on FB-
Still, we think it's 'quite a show'!

st. gertrudes
Saint Gertrudes is the lovely big church in which we sang last night, in Woodstock, along the Saint John river.

 

 

me with hat, far left, Richard with men, far right

 

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stunning choir loft arches of St. Gertrude’s
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the sanctuary of St. Gerts
Like our concert Tuesday night in Johnville, we sang again with/opposite The Tuesday Night Singers, Peter McLaughlin’s choir. You may remember from reading back in July that it was he who directed us all in the mass choir (150 voices)  on July 1st in Perth-Andover.
part of our choir warming up last night. We had a strong men’s section (4 is STRONG for small town N.B.!) and 3 of the 4 are all spending a lot of their spare time with horses out in the bush! What is the connection, you ask, between men singing and horsemen? Have you an answer?
And so, this Christmas season,
But actually all year long
We owe a debt of gratitude
To those who led in song.

For what a year it's been
Full of music, drama, prayer
To get us off the farm,
And join pastor, teacher, mayor!



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Slicing Through

“The powerful wind swept his hair away from his face; he leaned his chest into the wind, as if he stood on the deck of a ship heading into the wind, slicing through the waves of an ocean he’d not yet seen.” 
― John Irving, The Cider House Rules

One of my favourite books, that.  The Cider House Rules.  Not really about apples or cider.  Not too much, even, about our neighbouring state of Maine.  But very deep, very philosophical and very beautiful.  If you haven’t read or seen it, do so. The parts that DO take place in the orchards are both romantic and dramatic.

Apple orchards ARE a place of romance for many. Through the ages they have been lovely settings – L.M. Montgomery’s Anne was ALWAYS mentioning “The White Way of Delight”, even when it wasn’t June and the blossoms weren’t  exploding on tree limbs.  Vintage postcards and greeting cards romanticize the entire system of keeping up an orchard.

 

While my brother-in-law proposed to my sister in his grandparents’ old-farm orchard on the west coast of Newfoundland and although Richard’s niece is to get married here next summer under our own lovely apple trees with the Appalachians as the backdrop,

we are actually finding our little orchard of apple trees to be a primary source of frustration (2nd to the constant blackfly problem for me, I’d say).

Our apple trees seem to be a focal point for our amazing views, no matter what the season.  They are dainty and pretty in spring, laden with  big red apples in late summer, dramatically ‘spiky’ in fall as they lose their leaves, and always holding sparkling layers of clean snow in winter.  Even more so, they are often ‘at the end of the rainbow’, or part of the footlights of the setting sun’s reflections:

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And both last year and this we had a heavy crop of apples.  Here’s just a branch from one, taken at the wildflower garden we are slowly working on (and beside which the bride will glide next July!)

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I’ve long been a fan of apple fests, apples-for-the-teacher, apple-blossom themes, and my work as Rustic Revivals proves this:

In fact, for their Christmas gift last year I made my sister and brother-in-law a hat hook for their summer cottage/old farm’s entranceway, romanticizing their engagement and reminding them of other things in their lives they love to share:

However, it is not the quantity of apples here that is a worry, NOR even the quality, though 80 percent do have some kind of wormhole.  But I’ve taught Richard not to worry so much about those, as I just cut them out and go on with whatever I planned to do that particular day with that harvest.  The problem is, for two years in a row, and trying all the recommended options, we have been unable to KEEP our apples for longer than 2 weeks!  We divide them into three categories when we pick – “kitchen”, “animal treats” and “compost”.  I do try to get as many into some kind of production in the kitchen that day or the next, but with so much else to be harvested at the same time, it would make life easier if the apples could be put off say, until after Thanksgiving (Can. one, in early Oct., not the American one near end of Nov.).  But no such luck!

Part of the problem with having an Olde Homestead is that the pioneers didn’t have the selection of various apples we have today, and thus many didn’t plant some of the more rugged thick-skinned apples that were made for winter storage.  Although we learned last year that one is supposed to wrap each apple separately in paper BEFORE putting into cold storage, that didn’t work any better this year than NOT wrapping them did last year.  So there went about 6 hours of my time wasted, over the course of several days of wrapping! (Those ones were primarily the ones we’d deemed for the animals, so admittedly they had more bruises, but according to all my reading they still should have kept better/longer!)

 
The other part of the problem of Olde Homestead-owning is that there are usually, for many years, people not tending to the orchard’s needs, not pruning the trees, for instance, and not keeping the apples raked up from under the limbs every year (and this must be done immediately, as soon as a few apples have fallen or the next year’s harvest will be ‘buggier’ and less plentiful, we’ve learned!)  My brother-in-law, Boyd, has run into the same problem of years of neglect, on his grandparents’ farm – and he has chosen what I consider a frightening option. He’s cut down many of the old trees, and planted new ones, essentially starting from scratch.  For reasons of time, expense and yes, romanticism (I don’t want to start chopping down Ida May’s trees that she planted just before she died at age 33 in 1931!) we will have to find another solution.  And I couldn’t even convince Richard to purchase a pear tree for this year, to plant, so we’re one season further from having our own delectable yellow fruit as well!

Here’s my brother-in-law and sister standing in front of our apple trees in July:

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If you’ve seen 3 more goofier-looking adults, it could only be with the addition of Richard in the frame.  We weren’t even TRYING to look silly, we were just smiling! (my skirt courtesy of cousin Linda’s family, some of our visitors this summer)

After completing losing about two bushels of apples we’d picked and I’d wrapped and put in the coldest part of our basement (they went to compost, but it still hurts!) we were invited to our Honey Man’s farm.  He allowed us to pick a plethora of his own apples, less blighted than ours.  But he still warned us they wouldn’t last long, even if wrapped.  Stubbornly, and as I was so busy preparing beans, peas, tomatoes, etc. I wrapped all of them late one night and had them put in the basement.  Within a few days, thanks to blackflies and fruitflies, we noticed they were starting to get mushy, so Richard went to buy a solid metal apple-peeler, and he went to work on them!

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Mom and I did what we could by hand to keep up:

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(Mom’s apron – and ours hanging in background just above her head – courtesy of Shirley Robinson, yet another of our many guests this past year).

The nice thing about the apple-slicer was that I was at least able to freeze several buckets of just slices, so at least in a way we have preserved ‘apples’ that we could eat ‘fresh’ or also feed as treats to the animals when it gets cold and they are very bored.  However, a bit of lemon juice or my homemade apple cider vinegar on them before they start to thaw is necessary so they don’t turn brown, which Richard hates.  The slices are also great to put into pies or loaves, but I also, as last year, immediately made apple sauce, juice, cider and apple cider vinegar.  (The many health, baking and cleaning uses for this latter were mentioned in my blog post on our apple harvest last year).  Here are the many processes we had to do over the course of only about 5 days:

The apple sauce isn’t just eaten as apple sauce, but we reheat to pour over ice-cream, frozen yogurt (hopefully next year made with goats’ milk!), we CAN use it in my soda-cracker quick-pies, and a few table spoons can be put in bran mash for Chevy or Cammie on really cold days. (One thing I didn’t make this year, and we shall miss, is the delectable apple BUTTER!) The last photo is all the scraps we save from the peelings, which is then corked and allowed to sit for a month before we pour and strain to get the proper type of  ACV, with the all-important ‘mother’.  I try and drink a spoonful of this in water every day (sweetened with honey or Stevia).

So, while the apple harvest WAS a bit disappointing again this year, and there are no big red globes in our basement for easy access, there’s nothing like knowing that, thanks to our neighbour’s offer of a 2nd harvest of HIS apples, our freezer and pantry are at least full of pails and jars of the innerds! And there’s nothing like heating up that applesauce to have with a bit of custard, either! Hmmmm…

cookstove

(that apron is courtesy of my grandmother McKenzie, from the old Sparta Mercantile circa about 1982, and the bonnet is from an etsy seller.  I have to put on this “Little House on the Prairie” get-up because many of our u.k. visitors seem to think we’re a cross between the Ingalls and the Waltons!)

Sadly, however, Richard came home from town yesterday with something that upset me, and I mean to fix this issue once and for all next year.  There HAS to be a way!  He wanted us to have a few fresh apple slices in our salads, and he wanted to feed Chevy ‘treats’ because he spoils him rotten.  Like a rotten apple!

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Everything about this upsets me, the plastic bag, the unnecessary money spent, the fact that these apples aren’t local and certainly have been chemically sprayed, and the fact that we don’t seem one step closer to living self-sufficiently with these on our table, and two huge apple trees outside our bedroom window!

One thing we didn’t do was wrap them AND put them on single layers on racks downstairs.  We do have these racks built into the basement, so I shall try a few of them next year.  But anyone that’s found any other ideas for making them last at least to November, I’d very much like to hear your experiences!

Of course around here, the old farm orchards are being terribly wasted.  Although this is a pretty sight this week – I still HATE seeing it, as there’s so much we could have done with all of those if I could but learn how!

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I even saw someone with spotlights on their apple trees like this, lit up for Christmas!  While it was lovely – I STILL wanted to go pick those apples!

When we first moved here Jane Hansen gave me a Victoria County recipe book from the local ladies of 60 or 70 years ago.  There are many ideas for baking with apples, so the slices in our freezer WILL come in handy for these, and it’s nice to know I’m using recipes handed down by our neighbours:

Still, to add insult to injury (in my head at least) is the fact that I’ve been looking for more blue stoneware plates and bowls to replace the ones Richard breaks on a regular basis.  I once had a collection of 6 of each, with red hearts, and I’ve looked everywhere to find the red hearts again. They aren’t on etsy,ebay, or anywhere that I can find, but I did luck out and find these a few weeks ago in Value Village in Fredericton:

 

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Would you BELIEVE I have to look at apples now at every meal, just to remind me there’s no whole ones for us OR the livestock?  Ah, well — I bet you thought this whole blog was going to be about apples, though, didn’t you?

But we spend our days slicing through life in other ways.  Whether the bread I make every 2nd or 3rd day is in a traditional loaf pan, or like this one, we get better and better at slicing just the right thickness for toast, sandwiches or chunky warm delights with stews or soups:

And Richard always has to have a ‘sweet loaf’ to slice up, in addition to the cookies/scones in the cookie jar:

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(Fingerless mitts: an early Christmas gift  knitted by our dear friend, the lovely Hudson, Quebec artist Jane Wright, and made with the alpaca wool purchased at the last pioneer show the Wrights helped me organize in Ontario,  from Alpaca Avenue near Toronto: http://www.alpacaavenue.com/    See Jane’s artwork at:

http://www.janewright.ca/  )

And we don’t have much snow yet. Jennifer Clarvoe writes, in “Invisible Tender” that while  they had been slicing through the snow, it can’t have been very thick because greeny grass tufted through it and it was gravelly, dimpled, pocked.”  But nonetheless, Richard and Chevy have already been hard at the “Slicing Through” process, bringing in logs from our own woods for next years heat source.

 

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Not bad for a guy who’d never really handled a horse prior to May of this year, is it?

The next few weeks’ blogs will not be about harvesting/processing food anymore, you’ll likely be happy to read.  I promised I’d write about the big 100th anniversary of our church, the entertainment for which I was asked to organize, as well as more details about the New Denmark filming with t.v. star Jonny Harris and the crew from CBC’s Still Standing. Those 2 events encompassed just 10 days at the beginning of September of which I’ve only hinted at in a prior ‘tease’.   And all this past week and next Richard and I are involved again with the Perth/Andover Community Choir and the 2nd Wind Music Centre Choir from Bristol. Not only have we teamed up with them for the big July 1st 150 Voices concert, but we’ve sung with them for the fall concerts with the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra and are now joining them for the Christmas season. In fact, this weekend we are dressing as angels (I know, imagine Richard as an angel – it’s nearly impossible, isn’t it?) and going to “Bethlehem”  to sing for two rustic days, as Victoria County is invited to walk or drive-thru to see the merchants and travellers, nasty inn-keeper and new-born babe from 2000 years ago.  And then on two big days following we sing a tricky Vivaldi, bellowing from two different church choir lofts, down upon the Bristol choristers who answer us from below.  Glor-i-a, Glor-i-a Forevermore!  Just another Slice of Rural Life here at Blue Belldon Farm!

 

Poppies, Parsley and Profundity

How many soldiers carried photographs of their loved ones or their heroes on their person at all times? Or how many had an object or small picture that brought them delight, even in the muddy, cold, smelly trenches with explosions of lethal noise and chaos over their heads? On this Remembrance/Veterans’/Armistice weekend, I feel it’s important to ponder over how objects or images might have brought even the slightest happiness to the soldiers who fought throughout their short  -or even long- lives. (For the ones who died in war were perhaps in some ways the lucky ones.  The ones who had to come home crippled in body or mind, or both, who have struggled with alcoholism, drugs, homelessness and mental health issues due to what is now labeled “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”, these are the ones for whom I believe our sympathies and gratitude should really be expressed!)

Below is an example of photographs which LITERALLY saved a young private from being killed by shrapnel.  There were of course so many of these types of stories emerging from the battlefields of so many horrific wars.

(story here:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2629391/Photos-loved-ones-World-War-One-soldier-kept-wallet-pocket-saved-LIFE-stopping-shrapnel-entering-body.html )

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This past summer, Mom/Joy read one of my favourite books/films : “Fried Green Tomatoes (at the Whistlestop Cafe).  This is a wonderful book about Remembrance, and how an old warrior of a different sort learns to deal with her imprisonment in a nursing home where her young and humourous mind refuses to see herself.  She was only allowed a few mementos to help her through each day, just as the soldiers in the trenches or planes or ships could only have with them a few special tokens.

“I brought a picture with me that I had at home, of a girl in a swing with a castle and pretty blue bubbles in the background, to hang in my room, but that nurse here said the girl was naked from the waist up and not appropriate. You know, I’ve had that picture for fifty years and I never knew she was naked. If you ask me, I don’t think the old men they’ve got here can see well enough to notice that she’s bare-breasted. But, this is a Methodist home, so she’s in the closet with my gallstones.”
                                                                                             -Fannie Flagg, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Yesterday I read an article from CBS about the gardens in Chicago that are completely tended by veterans. My, if only there were gardens such as this in every city and town,  how much more purposeful and important our former protectors of our nations would feel, and how the peace of being close to nature each day, seeing seeds blossom, ripen, die would make them soulfully feel connected to the constant circles of life!  To perhaps help them make sense and come to terms with some of the travesties they’ve had to endure! https://www.cbsnews.com/news/veterans-find-peace-at-chicago-botanic-garden/

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This theme will continue throughout this blog posting, but – when you need food (living self-sufficiently) and items in your garden aren’t yet ripe, what are some ideas? We discovered that by July this year we still hadn’t had much ready to harvest and eat yet, due to the very poor growing season.  So, as Mom was reading Fried Green Tomatoes at the time, and as I remembered preparing these southern delectables once before (being curious after seeing the movie, I believe), I started frying up for breakfast some mornings (see below, and yes those are my pajamas.)

I simply mixed up a bowl of seasonings (from our herb garden – more on this below) with some milk and egg and a bit of chicken fat from the night before. In another bowl I put flour and cornmeal.  Then I sliced the green tomatoes, dunked them in the moist bowl, then flopped them about in the flour bowl and fried them up with a good bit of hot oil – delicious! (You can’t really do this with red tomatoes – they are already too ripe and will just fall apart).

  1. Whisk eggs and milk together in a medium-size bowl. Scoop flour onto a plate. Mix cornmeal, bread crumbs and salt and pepper on another plate. Dip tomatoes into flour to coat. Then dip the tomatoes into milk and egg mixture. Dredge in breadcrumbs to completely coat.
  2. In a large skillet, pour vegetable oil (enough so that there is 1/2 inch of oil in the pan) and heat over a medium heat. Place tomatoes into the frying pan in batches of 4 or 5, depending on the size of your skillet. Do not crowd the tomatoes, they should not touch each other. When the tomatoes are browned, flip and fry them on the other side. Drain them on towels (NOT paper towels – stop using so much of that stuff!)

In the photo of me frying you’ll note a lot of parsley stalks.  Like the photos, pictures or mementos tucked into many soldier’s uniforms, parsley was also considered, from as far back as Roman times, an aid to ‘protection’.  I use copious amounts of parsley each year, so am experimenting with just how much is enough to plant, and also the best way to preserve it.  Of course, the romantic way I’ve always dreamed of , is to just hang it, let it dry, and pull off a bit every time I need it. Same with dill.  But sadly, our house is SOOO inundated with fruit flies and house flies throughout the latter part of the summer and into autumn that there is no way I can deal with the thought of their excrement all over the food we will eat… I don’t know HOW our ancestors dealt with this, or maybe they just didn’t think about it… but the hanging bouquets also ATTRACT more fruit flies, which we certainly don’t need.  Many people suggest keeping parsley and dill fresh by simply freezing it in water in ice cube trays. Then, you just take out a cube or two, let it melt in your soups, stews, or over your roasts, etc and VOILA.  While this is a lovely idea as well, I need WAY too much for that kind of fiddling… and a) have no place in freezer for all those trays and b) REFUSE to add that much plastic to my own carbon footprint.  So:

From my little herb boxes on the front porch (off the kitchen, just out the Dutch door, where you may remember, I upcycled two cupboard doors and two drawers last year for this purpose) OR from a larger patch I planted in the main garden, I pick a lot of parsley, wash it all, put it to dry on towels (NOT paper towels – please stop using disposable EVERYTHING!) Then when it’s dry I run my fingers backwards over the leaves and spread them on to cookie sheets and put them on ‘Warm’ (or very low) in the oven to fully dry out.  Lastly, I put them in my little painted wooden boxes that I keep in the pigeon holes.  The ONLY problem with this is that you will get some stems a little bigger than you would find in a package from the store – but I have just been telling my guests it’s proof-positive that they are eating ONLY Blue Belldon Farm ingredients~!

As I’ve mentioned previously, we planted cilantro and borage this year PRIMARILY for the bees and the cross-pollination so important in any veg. garden! Although we will use a borage leaf for some tea or a pinch of the bitter cilantro once in a while, we decided to mostly just let these grow tall and flower, as the bees go for this more than anything I’ve ever seen!

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Our organic seed supplier, Hawthorne Farms in Ontario, encourages the use of borage for the bees, and they weren’t kidding!  (Plus, they are a lovely blue, so we plan to continue with more and more of this plant to beautify up other corners of Blue Belldon Farm!) Regular readers may remember that the previous owners here had planted two wonderful diagonal strips of wildflowers through the veg garden for the cross-pollination purpose. They were wonderful last year – an absolute profusion of colour, esp. the poppies! (“In Flanders Fields the poppies blow…”)  I hadn’t realized how much I would love poppies – they were especially wonderful in my jars of scented potpourri which were part of our Christmas gifts last year.

Sadly, though, I guess after a few years of blooming (one prior to us purchasing the farm, and then last summer) the wildflowers were overtaken by too much grass.  Many of our guests this year, led by Mom (in charge of all Blue Belldon flowers) had a turn at pulling up all the grass in the diagonal strips to make it easier for the rototiller. And, since I’ve discovered the borage/cilantro trick, and while I’ll miss the poppies terribly, we’ll have to find another few spots to plant them because we really need every inch of that garden for vegetables!  Here’s Mom/Joy at work on a COLD summer day in August, pulling up said grass, with barely a stem of wildflowers to be seen (the yellow is of course the squash patch).

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For Remembrance Day, my friend Anne found the below photo -a different look at a poppy, I think.  Because it is showing the fragile paper-thin, blood-red petals and its closed-up state, plus- the background fading away, it makes it poetically metaphorical in my opinion!  I’ll play English teacher now – what ELSE metaphorically does this photograph bring to mind with its content, or lack thereof? What other things can you think of that pertain to what the poppy has now come to stand for? (ie: the sunlight filtering in, the creases in the petals, the rough edges, the stem with a blossom not yet opened????)  Feel free to comment on the blog about this! You never know, I might reward you with a big gold star!

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Sadly, from the large bouquets of poppies I was able to pick to brighten the kitchen table last summer, this was the ONLY one I dared take away from the few plants remaining:

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Soldiers and Poppies are interchangeably considered now. But what about Soldiers and Gooseberries?  WHAT?

“Gooseberries” was a code name used by the Allies, for older ships used as a breakwater, to calm the areas around the Norman shore in the summer of ’44. These breakwaters had the effect of reducing currents to facilitate the landing of soldiers and material resources on the beaches. There were five gooseberries set up in the harbours around 5 different beaches, preparatory to the D-day landings starting June 6th.  Early that morning, the waters along the beaches, (code-named SwordJunoGoldOmaha and Utah,) were swarming with troops from the United States landing on Omaha and Utah, Great Britain landing on Gold and Sword and Canada landing on Juno.  These major assaults, of course were the beginning of the end.

Gooseberry bushes were also important to many soldiers – they have shielded and held many on different occasions, and a war series “Soldier, Soldier” even discussed this happenstance.  Here’s an example from the book The Eloquent Soldier by Lt. Crowe:

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I had my first experience with gooseberries this summer.  While I barely had time (as everything else was ripening at exactly the same moment, it seemed!) to pick raspberries, the jam of which we all adore in this family, I CERTAINLY didn’t have time to pick the gooseberries offered to us up the hill at our neighbours’.  But Charles was good enough to pick the berries himself for us, and I in turn (as he’s a diabetic) made him some honey-sweetened juice for his smoothies and some sugar-free jam (it was still pretty tart!) Here are the many Charles picked:

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Gooseberries, of course, are a close cousin to the currant, and the only experience I’ve had with currants is the knowledge that Anne Shirley invited Diana over for tea and, whilst thinking she was serving a light raspberry cordial, instead got her drunk on Marilla’s red currant wine.   A gooseberry’s shape may explain why the term ‘being a gooseberry’ means being a third party.  There’s that extra bit you have to cut off before you can start boiling them:

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Or the term may have come about simply because they are so sour that they are ‘unwanted’. My efforts for Charles (and us) to have healthy, sugar-free jam resulted in my using copious amounts of Boyd’s honey (I’ve mentioned Boyd in other postings, he’s also part of the New Denmark Minstrels I organized to sing for the 150th celebrations) and the very-expensive but all-natural Stevia.

I added vanilla and ginger to try to counter-act the tartness and taste as well, but the only way we really enjoyed the sugar-free type was to have the juice in some smoothies with yogurt and other fruits.  Later, I just followed regular old-fashioned recipes and poured in the  white sugar.  (too bad!) One mistake I made though – like  our crabapples, you aren’t supposed to need pectin for the jam to thicken, because they are full of the natural stuff.  However, it didn’t seem to be thickening and I finally DID add some – only to end up with jam into which a spoon couldn’t even be stuck! So now when I open a jar, I have to add a few dollops of boiling water and give it a stir!

I did, however, for winter eating with some warm custard or cream, flash-freeze a huge amount of the gooseberries as well. I’ve discussed flash-freezing before, esp. with the green and yellow beans.  The secret is to put the berries on cookie sheets and not have them touch in their first hour or two before you put them in a container to permanently keep in the freezer. (That way they don’t stick/attach to each other, which would ruin them and also not allow you to just take out certain amounts at a time from the container).  And, back to the tomatoes now – I got sick of canning, so decided to just flash-freeze both cherry AND larger tomatoes that had ripened.  And that’s when I invented a smart way to keep them separated for their first few hours of ‘flash’. (Whole tomatoes need about 3 hours before they are ready to place all together in bags):

Now, I have lots of ideas that I THINK are terribly original, only to discover that loads of people have come to it before me… but I haven’t found this done anywhere on the internet, and it sure worked well!

To close, we all know what the poppy represents at this time in November.  However, parsley not only can be tucked into ones clothing for protection and vitality/strength, but can also signify a removal of all things bitter – not just in taste, but in emotions.  Would that all veterans find a place of solace, close to nature,- “A Garden To Tend, Where Broken Souls Mend” – to remove the bitterness that must remain in their hearts . And may there, one day, just be peace.

“I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”  – Stephen Crane

Crabby and Creepy

Remember what I said in last week’s posting, about a challenge for writers being one of making points or issues relevant to each other with relevant and perhaps even seamless segues?  Obviously, I need to stick to the main theme of this blog – what we do here on the farm to live as self-sufficiently as possible… but one should still recognize special events or holidays, visitors, and make the postings personal at the same time.

This week is the last blog before Halloween is once more upon us.  (If you didn’t read last year’s Halloween posting, have a look – I’m still rather proud of that one, the mix of ‘haunted’ photos of the farm, its residents, and valley, the ‘ghostly’ tales of the Danish settlers, and the silly verses !  Search my blog with the words “All Hallowed” or try the link:  https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/29/all-hallowed-anec-pics/ ) .

While last week’s theme encompassed all things “long” and “green”, this week will be RED – for blood, for crabapples, for smashed grapes and scarlet runner beans whose vines creep everywhere, and for the amazing red peat bogs out near the ocean iteself…There’ll be mention of your favourite crabby and creepy characters in fiction as well, so hunker down for a S P O O K Y as well as informative  read!

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When our guest, Leanne Goodfellow (an ironic surname, as this blog will mostly be about Badfellows!) from Aberdeenshire was here during September, she helped us pick and prepare many crabapples.  Last year you read about some of the many things I did with these hardy and prolific little jewels, such as crabapple juice, sauce, and best of all – what turned out to be everyone’s favourite JELLY.  But this year, besides those items,  I remembered that as a child we always had pickled crabapples to brighten up our Christmas table, and I LOVED them.

Picking the crabapples didn’t take too long, once we finally decided to ‘get at it’…

spooky crabs“With all hands available”… we managed it in about two hours, using the pick-up box and some ladders.

The tree was full this year, and although we still had to be wearing blackfly nets/hats, we didn’t have any serious injuries.  Above, Leanne demonstrates the huge bin we filled of them, stripping all the leaves first.  Cammie and Chevy also helped strip the leaves and finish the tree off for the season.  While Chevy stands grazing, Cammie now uses his flanks to ‘mount’ herself… and by mid-Sept.  the bottom of the tree looked like this:

picking crabapples

However, it’s the brambly branches of the crab apple tree that make it such an interesting and spooky enigma.  I just took this photo of the VERY last crabapple I could see on it – less than a half-hour ago. Blue Bell Mountain in the distance, of course.  Isn’t this a great Halloween shot?  And did you know…There is an old custom of offering the last crab apple of the season to a mythical figure… The fruit is given as an offering to ensure a good crop next year.  I guess I’d better go take this apple down and find me some mythical guy – FAST!

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Crab apple trees have slightly thorny-looking branches and while they aren’t particularly sharp, we still advise wearing gloves when harvesting.  Because of their appearance, the trees also fit well into All Hallow’s Eve folklore with a great spooky novella, and many paintings of witches and worlocks gathering around their base:

 

Here are some REALLY great folklore beliefs about crabapples themselves – perfect for this time of year:

Witches reportedly concealed their poisons in the fruits.                                                      Crabs appear in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in which the roasted fruits were included in the wassail drink.

Because we live in a Danish community, I thought this next one was especially interesting: Crabs have been cultivated since the Neolithic Age. Signs of crab apple fruits were found in Danish coffins dating from the Early Bronze Age!  Here is the famous Danish Edtved girl discovered some years ago:Egtvedpigen, Oltidsfund, Gravfund

Cultivated crab apple trees were brought to the American colony of Massachusetts  in the 1600’s where they were grafted onto native crab rootstock.  There are several from this time period in Salem, home of the famous witch trials.  I actually, and by complete accident of timing, spent one Hallowe’en there in 1995.  You couldn’t MOVE in that little village due to the busloads of people pouring in for Oct. 31st celebrations.

The term ‘crab’ is actually Norse/Scandinavian/Danish as well . There are two possible origins for the small apples being called ‘crab’.  “Scrab” or “Scrabbe” meant  crooked, knotted, complex, twisted, very much like the tree used to be. The other possibility is that it derives from  “crabbed” which itself means, etymologically, “crooked or wayward/sideways (thus the name for the crustacean) — and then the several figurative senses that follow from that, ie: disagreeable, contrary, ill-tempered, or crooked, as in criminal.

And throughout spooky literature history, and the century of classic horror movies, who have been the ‘crabbiest characters’, voted in 3 different surveys? Number One, and long-time favourites of mine are the two theatre critics, Waldorf and Statler from Jim Henson’s Muppets.  They were both  hilarious AND crabby!

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Two and Three on the list are also favourites of mine from literature: Eeyore and Scrooge.  Talk about Grumpy and Crabby!  Eeyore has long been a choice role model for me, as he’s also a cynical pessimist.  Friends used to call me Eeyore, not just because I was grumpy and moody, but also, I suppose a stubborn ass… but speaking of, there are SOME grumpy old men who can really write the book on being ‘ornery’ :

reich book, crab

And here’s another crabby old fart holding up a photo of a grumpy me, having to de-stem, cut in half and de-pit  thousands of crabapples to prepare them for the sauce, juice and jelly…  (see last year’s posting if you like:  https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/28/orchard-organics-holistic-harvest/ )

cutting

In fact, one of the reasons I remembered the pickled crabapples I so loved in my youth was that I was trying to think of a way to prepare the little buggers and NOT have to cut them in half and take the pits out!  So, this is most delicious:

http://www.extension.umn.edu/food/food-safety/preserving/fruits/canning-spiced-crab-apples/

Like the witches of old who used to mix their herbs into poisons, and then put their poisons into their jars of pickled crabapples, here’s one of my attempts:

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My mother will be glad to know that my degree in Theatre Arts and Literature isn’t COMPLETELY going to waste.  Nor is my degree in Education, ’cause what am I doing here on this blog, after all?

Now…. ….  that’s it for the ‘Crabby’ section, let’s do the ‘Creepy’ chapter, shall we?

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I’ve mentioned several times that we LOVE the way Hawthorne Farm Organics (our seed company that’s in Ontario) offers the Scarlet Runner Bean, both for eating and for wonderful, quick vines.  Being an Anglophile, any type of ivy or vine that crawls UP, or creeps OUT (Mom/Joy despises ‘Creeping Charlie’, but if it didn’t kill the other plants, I’d leave it be as well…. I don’t like BROWN spaces, I love GREEN!)  Here’s Mom/Joy, waging her usual battle against all things that CREEP TOO MUCH:

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As we tried planting the scarlet runner beans to EAT last year, and didn’t care for how huge they got, we DID discover that they are easy to dry and replant.  We planted them everywhere around the house, for their quick ‘creeping’ as well as, later, their blood-red flowers which the bees love! (for this reason, because of encouraging cross-pollination, we did put a row of them in with our other peas and beans this year as well.)

There are two examples, above, of how they climb up the pillars, onto the front porch, and up the trellis and wagon wheel, all within about 3 weeks of their first planting.  The red flowers come out later in August and stayed right through ’til mid-October this year!

The other creepy-crawlie I’ve always loved, though it isn’t so quick of course, is grapes.  Our neighbour Pierrette (Zeb’s ‘witch-like’ mom) gave us some grape vine roots early in March, and they ‘came up like gangbusters’ (despite Cammie having a go at the ones on the side of the house).  We even got a few bunches of grapes already!

We plan to let them grow right up the pillar and then put lattice work on the roof of the front porch and let the grapes be readily available (it’s just outside the kitchen’s Dutch door that Richard made).  The grapes ARE red, and surprisingly sweet already but when we harvested them at the end of Sept., they were still pretty tiny – really only the size of a dime, or smaller. We ate them in one luncheon sitting!

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Did you know there’s another kind of red grape called the Witch’s Fingers?  I may have to try this variety!

witch finger grapes

And did you know that “Grapes that Grow as Eyeballs, be the BEST for Hallow’s Eve, Whilst their Vines that Wrap around Your Neck, As a Scarf they Do Deceive?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Funnily enough, although they were just planted this spring, our grapevines are the only thing still green enough to attract Cammie to nibble on this past week – we still have to guard the leaves from her wandering lips!

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Linda, my cousin who visited with her fun sister Pat in September, introduced us to ‘ground cherries’, another creepy-crawly we will never be doing without again, now that we’ve discovered how great they taste!  It is their little paper-thin pods that many crafters use for autumnal decor and I’ve already begun experimenting to see if I can do lampshades with them for Rustic Revivals’ oil-can lamps (using them like decoupage, but so they will be more natural, and throwing in some leaves as well…)

aunt molly

And while the most creepiest vines of all are in the squash/pumpkin patch, we didn’t score very well out there this year.  The harvest of these vines was tiny, in both number and size (see the pumpkins in the  creepy scarecrow pic below? Richard doesn’t think we’ll have Halloween trick or treaters this year, because he thinks “Blue” looks like a paedophile! ) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But this doesn’t stop one having a bit of fun in the ole pumpkin patch anyway!

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On our way to Moncton last week (for my one end-of-harvest treat, a Roger Hogdson (Supertramp) concert) we passed a gorgeous peat bog.  I’ve never seen one at this time of year before,  in all my travels, and I’ve always thought of peat bogs to be a Halloweenish type of spooky affair, but this is STUNNING, isn’t it?

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Back to those Danes, though – this man was found in a Danish bog. Hanged with a leather cord and cast into the peat 2,300 years ago, Tollund Man was probably a sacrifice.  This was meant to be another spooky photo for your Halloween enjoyment, but it’s so sad, and he looks so peaceful, it’s not really frightening at all, is it?

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One of the shortest visits we had all year (in our season of 19 overnight guests) was a one-night stay from Richard’s eldest son Erich.  (By the way, if you think I like word-play, what about naming your kid with exactly the same letters, first and last names both? (Erich Reich) )

Erich brought along a drone.  I find them very frightening.  They look like creepy spiders, but in a very freakish sci-fi way of Big Brother invasiveness…

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Cammie and Chevy didn’t like it either.  They kept HEARING something, but could never figure out where the sound was coming from!

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At one point, the shadow of the drone fell over Cammie, and she launched an attack.  I’ve seen dressage horses that didn’t have as nice an extended trot!

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However, Erich and his dad did have a nice time on a beautiful autumnal day, playing with the ‘toy’, no matter HOW creepy the animals and I felt it to be…

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Are you ready for the list, as voted on by readers of literature, of the CREEPIEST CLASSIC CHARACTERS? (of course most of these have been movies, and these characters were always well-portrayed by fine actors or actresses who managed to make them seem even MORE creepy!)

Miss Havisham, from Dickens’ “Great Expectations” is in the top ten: “She was jilted at the altar, and now she insists on wearing her rotting wedding dress for the rest of her life. The uneaten wedding cake is still sitting on the table, and all the clocks in her house have been set to the exact moment she was dumped, making her one of the creepiest characters ever. According to Dickens, she looks like a cross between a skeleton and a waxwork with sunken, moving eyes.”  Here’s a Miss Havisham doll I particularly like – HOW CREEPY!

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Alex, in A Clockwork Orange, Boo Radley in To Kill A Mockingbird and Dracula, in Dracula also made the top ten from classic literature.  Now, to be fair, Boo was actually a bit of a hero, but apparently it didn’t stop him being considered classically ‘creepy’.

Another cousin of mine, who has shared both musical and theatrical stage performances with me throughout our youth played Wilhemina in our town’s musical version of Dracula. (I was one of the brides who came out of a coffin, then later, hilariously wiped off the ‘death’ make-up and danced the Can-Can in the intermission’s entertainment! Incidentally, this was the first, but not the ONLY time I emerged from a coffin, or was put INTO a coffin in my stage career. No wonder I decided not to continue as a professional!) Here’s cousin Joan in 1980:

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Richard, Remy and I had 3 weeks of hard labour during harvest this year, but there was another autumn when the 3 of us left Remy’s house in West Yorkshire and traveled over to Whitby, in North Yorkshire, which is where Bram Stoker got much of his inspiration for the setting of the book.  On another note, Jasper, the dog in the below photo- taken on the Whitby Wharf- is a Weimaraner, commonly called “Ghost Dog” for their spooky eyes. Remy had to put Jasper down a few months ago, so this is a little tribute to the good companion that kept him company for 13 years.

Remy and Julie in Whitby (2017_03_14 21_04_25 UTC)

I lived near the Bronte’s Haworth for several years, and Remy and I took Richard to see the moors and the site on which they think Emily based her spooky “Wuthering Heights”.  While we were walking on the moors, Richard went over to relieve himself behind a rock, and Jasper was off in the distance sniffing around.  When Richard finished, he apparently felt frisky (or maybe the ghost of Cathy was chasing him?) and he started to run back toward us.   Suddenly, as Remy and I watched, Jasper decided no one was going to run away from HIM.  And so, unbeknownst to Richard, the Ghost Dog started to chase Richard, and when he reached him, he hurled his front legs around his waist and brought him down into the moorland grasses.  It was nearly a decade ago, but I can still see this as vividly (and hilariously) as if it were yesterday.  Here’s what we saw:

The first is Top Withens, the possible inspiration for Wuthering Heights (the house, not the novel).  And while Jasper the Ghost Dog did appear rather hilarious with his floppy ears and goofy tongue lolling out the side of his jaws, had Richard turned around he would have seen another creepy dog – the Hound of the Baskervilles- tearing after him with enthusiastic determination.

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And that, good readers, is the end to my mostly-red-themed, CRABBY AND CREEPY Halloween blog for this year.  “How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears, no dreads; to whom sleep is a blessing that comes nightly, and brings nothing but sweet dreams.”
― Bram Stoker, DRACULA

Lorne Greene’s, Long Greens, and the U. of Queens

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As promised, the plethora of guests, the hard haul of harvest, and the commitments of concerts and other carry-ons have all just been completed in this past week, and thus I feel I am perhaps able to begin writing regularly again.  What a year! What a season of busy-ness!  Never in my life do I remember having so many jottings on my calendar for such a long stretch of time – May through mid-October! Because of extra-special circumstances this year of 2017, many events were once-in-a-lifetime/not-to-be-missed, and thus we felt we HAD to participate or we’d always regret it. (ie: 150th CANADA concerts in which to perform, 145th New Denmark celebrations in which to take part,- as these only happen every 5 years to this extent, -100th year of our St. Peter’s church, plus the CBC’s Still Standing cast and crew spending a week in our little community as well.) Because we’ve just moved to such a beautiful farm with lots of room for guests, visitors have also abounded.  Our final one just flew back to England last week after a 3-week stay, and between Richard, Mom/Joy and myself we’ve counted that there were 19 STAYING guests since the end of May!   And all of those events or guests have occurred in the busiest of farming life — whilst trying to  begin living off the land in earnest, including work with the new animals, planting through spring and early summer, and of course all the work involved with harvest – the picking, peeling, plucking, pouring,  ‘putting up’ and preserving.

One of the most challenging, and thus, for me – most entertaining of all the writing exercises I’ve done in decades of writing courses has been to connect seemingly unrelated story-lines or facts into one cohesive work.  That is the challenge I have now given myself over the coming weeks of blog-writing.  Because there has been so much to cover over recent months in the way of recipes and techniques I’ve come up with in the kitchen, humourous tales of the variety of peoples and daily life here in the Appalachians, eco-friendly suggestions or ‘urgent urgings’ as I call my environmental lectures/postings on Facebook, my word-play category “Phonetics Phun and the Pharm”, and just our “Regular Rural Updates”, I have had to find a way to make the connections and still keep each blog with “a bit of everything’ so that readers won’t get bored! (ie: don’t want to inundate with boring tips for freezing corn, if most readers are looking to find out about Richard’s latest bruising episode, etc!)

So    H E R E      G O E S   ….

Lorne Greene went to my alma mater, Queen’s.  He switched his major to Drama and Languages, much the same as I did, and, also as I did – went on to work for and live around the National Parks, first, as a drama teacher at a camp in Algonquin  (like my dramas performed for the benefit of Murphy’s Point and Bon Echo Provincial Parks), doing radio voice-overs to help protect wildlife and the conservation areas, and even acting in a short film for the National Parks System.  Then, of course, his own multi-award-winning Canadian production of New Wilderness brought the plight of nature and our environment very much to the forefront, as it was number ONE in its time-slot for all 5 years that it aired. Thus, Mr. Greene was very much a man after my own heart in the ways of both the Performing Arts, and his work for the Environment. But what’s the first reason I felt a connection to him?  Because he rode “Buck” the Buckskin, on Bonanza of course, and everyone knows I always have loved my ‘golden animals’ – palominos and duns/buckskins especially.  Lorne even bought ‘Buck’ after the series ended and donated him to a therapeutic riding school, just as I have devoted time, training and yes, even golden horses  to the same.  (Buck is SAID to have lived to an unbelievable age of 45 with the disabled children… usually only ponies live to ever be this old, but we’ll go along with this bit of urban legend because it’s nice to believe it…)

(above,    Lorne and Me –  “We  Dun Good” ! )

One of the deep-voiced Greene’s only on-air bloopers was to once say on CBC radio news broadcast   “farmers are expecting their biggest craps in years”.

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In a neat segue, we too have little distinction between this years ‘crops’ and well – ‘crap’.  Due to the 5 weeks of solid rain early on, then 4 weeks of drought , many of our crops did not do well this year (more on this, and how we’re working to prevent this happening again in future blogs over the coming weeks…)  But one thing you can ALWAYS count on to grow, no matter the weather conditions or the soil:  BEANS AND PEAS.  The “Long Greens”.  (trivia: did you know ‘long green’ is actually a colloquial term for ‘money’, first used in the late 1880s?  Well, in a way, our beans and peas are ‘money’ – because they are the one thing we can ‘bank’ on to grow enough of to put in our fridge and freezer! )

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So, while the other crops were somewhat ‘crap’, our peas, green beans and edamame (a type of soy bean that’s delicious!) bloomed in copious numbers.   Following are some of my favourite things to do with each:

GREEN BEANS – to eat fresh  (click on each photo for caption, explaining what I’ve come up with…. I know some of you have told me this doesn’t work on your computers, and for this I apologise. I think you are probably lacking a viewing program such as Adobe or Acrobat or some such… If you can’t view my concoctions, leave me a message and I’ll tell you all !)

How I’ve decided to ‘preserve’ green beans:

Last year I fussed with both ‘pickling’ the beans with carrots, and also blanching the beans first, before freezing.  After my aching back and knees were already becoming too much this August/Sept., I read up on some ‘lazier’ ways… here’s what I’ve found:

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You don’t HAVE to ‘blanche’ first!  Just wash, snip off the ends and ‘flash freeze’ (like many of you might do with berries!) Make sure they are dry, first, from your washing of them. As we are organic, I often just gave them a wipe off with a dish towel, as having them at all wet will make freezer burn. Once dry,  separate them on trays as much as possible so they don’t end up sticking together, and pop them in your freezer (I did a few in the top of my fridge freezer, then started ‘going BIG’ and doing about 6 trays at a a time out in the chest freezer.  Freeze for about an hour – you don’t want to do too much longer, or freezer ‘burn’ will begin.  They should be hard, and snap in half easily with a crack!  When you bring them back to the counter to bag  (we use strong recycled bags from other things like oatmeal, or zip-lock bags from other veg. or fruit we were forced to buy mid-winter) DON’T WAIT !  Get right on this, or if they are open to room temp. for even a few minutes they will start to thaw, and that will cause them to stick together in the bag, OR to be subject to burn… I think we have close to 30 meal-sized packages of green beans in the freezer for the winter, now, and that’s more than I really want to eat in a winter, even just in soups.  Sooooo…… I decided to get inventive again with the remaining beans that were coming in late:

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I steamed a bunch of beans at a time,
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then put them in the blender/food processor
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I had to add a bit of water to make the machine really mash them up… like baby food!
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I sprinkled my own dried parsley on top. Then I froze the mash in a lot of plastic containers (recycled from other things, of course!)

This green bean mash will be used in such things as meatloaf or chili, where it will add extra protein and ‘bulk’ without ever really being seen or tasted. I’ve tried it once in a meatloaf already, and it was excellent, and really spreads our meat out to help save on that end of things!

PEAS:  We LOVE our peas! Richard was most happy with the perfect way some of our peas looked this year. One day when we were shelling them together, he found this one in his batch, and insisted I take a photo for our readers, so here it is:

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What I frequently do with our fresh peas for a lovely lunch:

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richard shelling peas

Of course, we also shelled copious amounts of peas and put them in containers like small Truvia canisters to freeze.  We always seem to over-do the bean-planting, though, and never have quite as many peas as I’d like, so next year I DEFINITELY must rectify this!

Lastly, edamame:  (pron.  ED – A – MAW -MAY ) This was introduced to us by my sister, who always seems to be the one of us in our family who is ‘up’ on the ‘trendy’ or exotic foods – it was she who first showed me an avocado, decades ago, and they are one of my favourite foods – wish I could grow THEM here!  Anyway, my little nephew enjoyed this special soy bean, shelled, and roasted lightly with oil and salt (like you might do pumpkin seeds), so we have prepared many of them like this.  However, the way they are prepared in Japanese restaurants is as follows:

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Simply steam the edamame IN THEIR PODS for a few minutes. Don’t overdo!
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They can then be served with the pods SALTED, right in their pods, and will split open with ease at your mouth as you squeeze the pods and slide the delicious beans right on to your tongue!

There are a few other “Long Greens” I’d like to ponder here.  Leanne, my friend from Scotland, stayed with us for 10 days mid-harvest and helped greatly with the animals and some of the picking and peeling processes.  There was no time to take her sight-seeing, but for one of Richard’s doctors’ appointments he DID take her to Plaster Rock to see some of the chain-saw sculptures commemorating activities of the area:

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The above photo then reminded us that we STILL, after a year and a half, hadn’t purchased a canoe, (we want one for calm paddling, and for Richard to fish from) and that our friend from England, Remy,  (another Richard, actually) was coming just 10 days after Leanne, and wanted to immerse himself in the Ways of the Wilderness (he and his son, Joe are certified ‘Bushcraft’ instructors in the remote moorlands of Yorkshire —in fact they live so close to Haworth they often hear Heathcliff calling for Kathy across their Wuthering Heights —–   and they are always trying to hone their survival skills.  More on his activities here on the farm later, but if you’re interested in their website and perhaps taking a course from them if you’re travelling over there, see:  http://www.brigantiabushcraft.com/     If the link doesn’t work, just google Brigantia Bushcraft ! ).

As soon as Remy came he motivated us to find and purchase a wonderful old green canoe from a neighbour:

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Then he and Richard immediately wanted to test the Saint John River, at its very lowest for decades, I was told by an old-timer as I waited on Brook’s Bridge downriver, in order to take photos.

 

And today, whilst trying to arrange connections and segues in my head preparatory to writing this blog post, I looked down at my cozy self, wrapped in Leanne’s generous gift to us: A McKenzie tartan wool blanket (because Mom was a McKenzie and that’s why I went to live in the Scottish Highlands in the first place!)  And it made me think  “Long and Green – and so SERENE”, now that all our heavy work is over, our commitments are over and our last overnight visitor gone…

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Remember how Lorne Greene went to Queens and studied Theatre Arts and Language as I did? Well, there’s another connection – a group of us ‘artsies’ who wanted to become teachers were chosen from across Canada to take part in Queen’s ACE program – only 20, in fact are chosen each year!  ACE stands for Artist in Community Education and we auditioned for not just Fine Arts and Writing, but the Performing Arts – Drama and Music.  One of this group, Jodi Essery, won the Lorne Green Award that year, and they said it was one of the more difficult choices they’d yet experienced due to the high level of talent among the ACE crowd.  And I guess everyone from my little group had some lofty ambitions!  One, James Libbey, is now the conductor and composer of the International Schools’ Music Program in Luxembourg (James visited me when I lived in my wee cottage in Yorkshire, and I still remember him taking his bagpipes with us when we went for a walk in the near-by beech woods and playing them standing on a stone hog’s back bridge over a trickling brook. Magical! )

His best friend, Evan Smith – another good Queen’s chum of ours who used to sit on the floor of my dorm room and read aloud to the rest of us,  has won accolades and awards – in fact has won the YMCA PEACE AWARD, for his work with teaching children in Venezuala, then taking Ontario students to Peru and Costa Rica to interest them further in global social justice issues.  He has started two programs throughout Ontario: Connexions, which is a 3 credit Grade 12 course for students who go to these countries and help, then come back and report, and SOLID (Student Organization for Learning about International Differences) Here’s the article on his Peace Medal/Prize:

http://www.flamboroughreview.com/news-story/5401006-teacher-earns-peace-medal/

My friend Tab DeBruyn has just had her first book published, is a life coach, and the Executive Vice-President of Arbonne of Canada.  She once did a silhouette dance to one of my poetry readings as part of our graduation ceremonies at Queen’s:

 

And many of you may have seen my old Drama class partner, Liz McEachern, either on stage in her one-woman shows at various Fringe Festivals throughout the GTA, OR in her humourous role on CBC’s Schitt’s Creek (her episodes now are apparently playing on Air Canada flights as well, so you may have ‘caught her’ there). Here she is with Dan Levy, Eugene Levy’s son, who will also be hosting The Great Canadian Baking Show starting Nov. 1st.

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Liz is starting to get recognized on the street now, so I’m very excited for her and for the accomplishments and visions of all my amazing class-mates from Queen’s.

And yet, here I sit – telling you how to mix parmesan in your fresh green beans and taking photos of canoeists instead of actually being IN the canoe as I once would have been…. Talk about MISSING THE BOAT!

However, none of the above has THIS view from their front porch, now do they?

tiffany's photo of our farm and valley

(The red maple to right is part of our birch grove.  I’ve introduced Tiffany to you a few times before re: the pageant photos, etc.  Watch for her interviews and photographer’s input with Jonny Harris on CBC’s Still Standing: New Denmark, in the spring of 2018).

 

 

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So many goings on, and lots to write about … but not ’til after October 18th… I can’t seem to manage the time/energy even, for posting some recipes for fresh garden produce like I thought I’d be able to…

But here’s some fun pics to tide you over :

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The above  is of Mom and me getting apples ready for freezing, canning and baking. Mom is wearing Shirley Robinson’s butterfly-denim apron,while mine and Richard’s hang just behind Mom’s head on the corner of the hutch. As the clothes I’ve been wearing the last few weeks are ancient, stained and full of holes, I haven’t felt the need to wear an apron – not to mention how hot it was in that kitchen until just yesterday! Whew!~

And the following photos all have a specific meaning or story to them related to the last few weeks – but to catch up with all the goin’s-on of Blue Belldon Farm, you’ll just have to wait until Oct. 18th, which, incidentally is also the birthday of the man in the last photo – a famous Canadian who has won 3 Academy Awards, and with whom we’ll be very close  in the next 10 days. Any guesses?  Hint on my FB page!

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Summer in Summary

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

nova ride with guests

Chevy of course IS a beast, as Sydney’s visit shows… He likes to stand like a statue when small children are around, so he doesn’t accidentally trod their toes (no such consideration for adults, of course!)  Both Sydney and Leanne (now a professional horse trainer, an addition to the days we both took pony treks out in the highlands of Scotland together!) had a good time keeping Chev in shape for the winter months, when Richard will really be using him out in the bush!

Not to be outdone, of course, Cammie has to get in on all the action as well:

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above, Leanne from Scotland, (I’m her adopted ‘Mither’), me in a selfie that’s tricky to get with a squirming goat!, Sydney my nephew and Cammie showing off.

leanne, crabapples

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And here’s a few more teases:

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

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

Summer is over

August Angst !

Busy days in the next 3 weeks as we not only harvest our massive garden for a winter’s eating, get 6 cords of firewood in, prepare for CBC’s Still Standing to be in our community, organize the entertainment for St. Peter’s Centennial Celebrations, have a guest from Scotland and two from Ontario, AND take Rustic Revivals to a show Aug. 26th in Plaster Rock. Whew! (Please don’t anyone ask why there aren’t more blog postings at the moment… )

different anglefrom roadI like this onewood While Richard’s mostly been doing the wood, and Mom’s been helping with that as well as massive weeding and picking in the garden, I’ve picked berries, made 3 jars of raspberry and 5 jars of gooseberry jam, and we’ve flash-frozen (instead of blanching this year! Try it!)  then frozen I-don’t-know-how-many bags of green and yellow beans.  And peas.  LOVE those peas!

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julie, mic, july 1st. peters centenary    I’ve organized all the above entertainment for the anniversary, incl. writing 2 songs (Richard will solo one), researching questions for the Pastors’ Trivia Challenge and a skit that we are rehearsing now…  Looking forward to having CBC in the area next week as well, and Jonny’s big comedy night should be lots of fun!still standing

At this point, I’d like someone to help LEVEL me out, and assist with some Rustic Revivals preparations as well (have also had some Etsy attention again, and am too busy to answer my queries!)

level1  While he might have missed getting his big lazy bum in the hammock, Chevy IS just doing a lot of lazing around this summer – but we’re too busy to get him working for us, just yet!  So he has a lot of leisure time…   What’s THAT?

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The regular blog postings should resume in September… or maybe October?

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Julie in July – Four Beddings, No Funeral

I am pleased to report that after being in bed for nearly 4 weeks with strep throat and what I can only believe is yet another bout of my old nemesis, ‘walking’ pneumonia, I am still alive.  It has been so difficult to get anything done in a day, however, for most of this entire month, that the blog has remained untouched.  I’ve only been able to manage about 3 or 4 tasks most days during the month of July, and writing and organizing photos certainly hasn’t been a high priority for my decreased energy!

Most of the following photos (with captions, so be sure to click on the photo to enlarge and read) have necessarily been taken through either my bedroom or bathroom windows, OR do not show my face as I’ve had to wear a mask when near visitors – and we’ve had quite a bunch of them, for which I was sadly not able to be a very ‘present’ hostess!

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The above were taken from bed at various times of the early morning or late evening – but those weren’t the only times I’ve been in that darn bed this past month!  Sometimes I could rally and go do a few minutes of weeding or watering, sometimes I’d HAVE to go look after animals (Richard has been away on and off quite a bit this month as well…), a few times with visitors coming I’d have to go clean, or do a bit of baking… but mostly with all the coughing and sore throat and feeling tired all the time, I’d just be in bed.  Just a few of the visitors through July:

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Shirley Robinson enjoyed her stay so much earlier in the month that she’s back visiting us now after a successful ‘tour’ of the Maritimes!  (Mom went with her for part of that tour, and then returned with my sister Jennifer, her husband Boyd and my nephew Sydney. ) All 4 visitors have been good enough to step in and do garden work, since I was out of action!  And thanks to Boyd we have a pretty good-looking compost system up and working now!

Richard and Mom have worked quite hard in the garden as well (neither Shirley nor Joy wished their ‘unbecoming’ photos of them weeding the garden to be made public!). Richard also had to do a morning’s worth of  cutting young and overgrown poplars as sticks for our beans and peas.  This year we have a LOT of beans and peas!

I did manage to go out and tie up some rows with jute twine.  I managed about 3 rows a day.  Big whoop!

Cammie has been helping with some trimming around the farm, too.  We aren’t so crazy about this type of help, so she is mostly being tied up now (unless I can watch her from our bedroom window.)  I’m happy to report that the one bean plant and one grape vine plant (both put out as ornamentals to train for winding around a pillar) that Cammie stripped of leaves are still alive and still seem to be wishing to grow.  It’s rained so much here all month that I’m hardly surprised by this, but it does mean our veg. garden is WAY behind!

With all that precip. it was also hard to get in our first cutting of hay, but with neighbours equipment and Zeb’s help from down the road, we have managed it.  I was useless. Richard didn’t even like the way I was driving the truck and trailer around the fields to pick up bales, so – back to bed I went, after taking some of these shots .  (don’t forget to click on them to enlarge and read captions).

At the end of the haying day, however, we did have a good feeling of self-sufficiency as I managed to bake a pumpkin pie (crust from scratch, and pumpkin ours from last year’s frozen batches!) for the hungry guys as well as frying up some of the trout they’d caught earlier in the summer.  And of course, some gorgeous salad greens from the garden – about the only thing it’s yielding to us yet this summer!

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By last weekend I was finally able to rouse myself to build a small tree-house with nephew Sydney, put the finishing touches on a mud-room accessory I’d made for their Newfoundland summer home and judge a local horse show (me in skirt below).

Oh, and do a few loads of laundry.  After 4 weeks mostly in bed I was seriously behind on that!  And how fulfilling it felt to get it out on the line whilst enjoying the newly-weeded garden that OTHER people had done for us!

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not-quite-so- self-sufficient life – cut hay, clothes on line and – a weeded garden, done by guests!

And, because Mom never gets to see her hummingbird feeder in action (she’s too high up and it’s necessarily on the shadier side of the house), here’s proof that it HAS been used occasionally throughout July – very entertaining for someone who’s been mostly in the house looking out the windows!

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hummingbird at GLASS (not plastic, please!) feeder …

 

 

 

The Pastor and the Polo Wraps

Happy Canada Day!  Having lived and taught on ‘the rez’ for 4 years, I do understand how the indigenous people of our nation may feel about this 150th celebration. And having lived twice in England because I’m such an Anglophile at heart, I also don’t necessarily agree that having gained our ‘independence’ from Britain is such a perfect condition either, but I did try to throw myself totally into the spirit of the special holiday, and WITHOUT adding anything more to our carbon footprint than was necessary.  I don’t really believe in fireworks, anymore, as the damage it does to wildlife is shocking – but we did make some very loud noises of our own, and, as per psalms 98:4, we DID ‘make a joyful noise unto the Lord’, as the pastor was with us, and therefore I believe all God’s creatures, great and small, were undisturbed.  Oh, that’s not quite true –  our singing DID upset Cammie and Chevy a bit last week – more on this later!

Friday June 30th and Saturday July 1st were wonderful days for those of in New Denmark  and surrounding rural valleys, who love music.  But yesterday, July 2nd was probably the best blog-point my readers will most enjoy, since they can’t actually hear our music (unless it’s later posted on Youtube or we buy and upload the recording that was made…)  It has been said in the last week that one of the things the rest of the world likes the most about Canadians is that we don’t take ourselves too seriously.  And you can start with one of the leaders of our little community, Pastor Ralph Weigold, when you want to examine how to be self-deprecating whilst still making a firm point.  How did Chevy’s parade polo wraps from 2 week-ends ago, end up as a stole for the dear pastor yesterday?  Read on!

polos to pastor

After discovering that we were unable to feel fulfilled (we weren’t joyful enough for the Lord!)  with only a small choir singing in unison for just Christmas and Easter in our churches (there are two Lutheran ones here in New Denmark, for which Pastor Ralph is responsible), I went in search of a larger choir that sang in at least 3-part if not 4-part harmony. What fit the bill?  Perth/Andover’s Community Choir, led by their indomitable mayor, Marianne Tiessen Bell (who is also in several other musical groups as well as leading the town’s book club, as WELL as leading a campaign as mayor to help the victims of flooding  ((due in part to the massive clear-cutting this province gets up to – see my previous post “Taken At the Flood”)) and to put in place a plan to prevent further flooding from doing as much damage!)  see latest re: this campaign here:   http://globalnews.ca/news/3361542/province-to-review-perth-andover-flood-adaptation-plan/

Richard and I will be joining her choir in the fall, but in the meantime we were awestruck at the power and beauty and passion involved in singing with the 150 Voices Choral group that she was responsible for assembling, under the brilliant direction of Peter McLaughlin of Second Wind Music Centre in Bristol, to the south of Perth. (Peter is a retired music teacher, thus, I believe, the most excellent name of the group). I have known a number of Peters in my lifetime, and not one has ever failed to inspire me to better things, or to motivate me to present the best I have within me.  Mr. McLaughlin did not disappoint; I don’t believe I’ve ever sung as strongly, or read the music with such quick and sharp glances so that I could get back to watching him conduct.

While we couldn’t travel down to their regular rehearsals, an all-day workshop was being held for those of us that couldn’t make the other practices. This was on Friday, the day before our big scheduled performance, so Richard, myself and our church’s organist, Sonja Pedersen travelled down to take part in a completely exciting clinic for singers, led by Peter.  It was held at the St. Mary of the Angels Catholic church, which had stunning acoustics for us. These two shots were taken by a P/A C C member who was singing in the alto/tenor section.  While I’m too far away (in the many sopranos, both 1st and 2nd) to be seen, you will notice Richard, in white, sitting beside the gentleman named Don Kelly in the pale yellow:

We were both surprised to see rather a lot of women singing tenor in this grouping, in fact Richard thought there were more there than in the alto section!

We were introduced to, and practiced such an amazing variety of music, all with Canadian ties:  Oscar Peterson’s beautiful and uplifting Hymn to Freedom, Coco Love Alcorn’s (the daughter of jazz musician, Owen Sound’s John Alcorn) The River, which we were ‘allowed’ to ‘jazz/spiritualize’ by throwing in our own harmonies and descants, Klee Wyck, about Emily Carr and her importance to Canadian art (both the latter two had some wonderful drums, incl. native sounds I haven’t heard since ‘the rez’ !),  the incomparable Rankin classic “We Rise Again”, fitting as Peter went to uni. with the late Raylene Rankin – this song was also popularized by the also sadly-late Rita MacNeil), and my favourite – our country’s second anthem – “This Is Our Home”.  To hear it sung with orchestra, try this link:  https://youtube.com/watch?v=rdXGZ4vYKGg   although I hope our own recording may be available at some point soon. Having finished the afternoon session we were treated to a smorgasbord of fine dishes, both hot and cold,  hosted by the Perth/Andover Choir and the ladies of the St. M. of the A. church.  It was massive and delicious.  Here’s a shot of Richard and me (in cap) chowing down with a fellow who looked and sounded like Jimmy Stewart. Kinda spooky!

supper, workshop

Richard and I had despaired of ever finding anyone with a talent for choosing such amazing and inspiring choral music and of being led by anyone as excellent as Carlisle, Ontario’s own Heather Olaveson, but to our relief, Marianne and Peter have brought us happily back to that wonderful place once more.  Unfortunately, due to the month of constant rain we’ve had, the outdoor venue for all this music had to be set aside, and the tent and staging area set up in the arena instead.  Let’s just say that the acoustics were NOT what they were in the Catholic church the day before, but they certainly had a lot of microphones hanging from inside the tent to help us project out!

Before the choirs- including this mass choir of 150 voices-  were to perform Saturday, however (we had a dress rehearsal from 10-12, so were again in Perth all day July 1st!)  Marianne had organized several local instrumental groups to play, for a half-hour each.

First, and to Scottish Mom’s delight, were the Southern Victoria Pipe Band, who also marched in New Denmark’s parade, you may remember from the photos. Second on the program was “Wildwood”, a local band that plays a combination of folk/pop/ and rock-a-billy music.  Again, the theme was to be all Canadian connections, so our ears were opened to new pieces for many of us, as well as a taste of the old folk songs that used to resound throughout these northern Appalachians.

Third were the Wednesday Evening Fiddlers who ALSO graced the New Denmark parade a few weeks ago (on a float, rather than marching the 4.5 km as the poor pipers – and poor Chevy and Champ had to do!)  And fourthly was an utterly fabulous group from the Sistema program of offering orchestral music to ALL children.  Many of these kids playing were from the local ‘rez’, or from lower-income families, and for Mom and myself, having spent decades listening and watching those taught ‘the Suzuki method’, this was a heart-warming experience – to see AND to hear:

Both groups played a variety of Canadian music – the fiddlers some of the ‘good ole tunes’, but the group from Sistema really ‘brought it home’ with some movie connection titles, some rock connections, and adding in a sprinkling of classical and folk to boot!

Unlike Ontario, where people are much more, shall we say, – er- strung like a tightly-tuned fiddle? – here in the Maritimes, people just get up and dance in the aisles or at the base of the stage if they like the music.  Either in a male/female couple, or female/female, or in the case of the one lady, far left in fuscia, just clog-it  on your own!

Then came a very scary time:  the debut of my little group, the New Denmark Minstrels. As we were the smallest choir we were the first of the local groups to begin the Choral  Concert. Yikes! We’ve been rehearsing once a week for the last 10 weeks.  However, in that time we’ve gone from 14 who said ‘yes’, to 10 ‘committed and practicing’ to 8 when one soprano and one alto quit for a variety of reasons that change every time I hear them, then back up to 10 (now incl. me, though I was playing piano, guitar and trying to direct as well) when I persuaded Mom/Joy and pastor’s wife Ellen to join the alto section at the last hour (2 weeks prior)… All this upheaval for just 2 songs and in only a 10 week period for full commitment!  I heartily thank all those who stuck it out, remembered to show up (some on the correct days, and some not!)  practiced over and over, and even while most had to miss SOME of those 10 practices, and a few ‘section’ rehearsals had to be added, we did manage to sing the correct version for at least 65% of the required 3-part harmonies we were attempting! Not TERRIBLE for our first time out, and in a very large venue as well! Especially since only a few of the Minstrels can read music!  In our last full rehearsal on Wednesday, we performed both pieces (a Canadian pop-song medley I arranged and the “Ida May” folk song I wrote – about, if you’ve been following this blog, the pioneer gal who settled our farm and raised a family – see Log Cabin Legends posting) IN OUR BARN.  Because most barns around here are quonsets, constructed for ‘potato barns’, the echo in there is better than any shower/bathroom in which you’ve ever yodeled.  We enjoyed singing with that wonderful arc of tin over us, resonating our harmonies more deeply and sweetly than we could have imagined!  However, as stated above, Cammie and Chevy who were ‘in’ due to the weather/flies that afternoon, were NOT the appreciative audience for which we’d hoped. Cammie bleated throughout (trying to join in, said Pastor Ralph, but I think not) and Chevy was kicking madly at the stall wall.  I’d like to think it was a large horsefly, but when I went to check I saw nothing… and it started again when we began to sing again!

The pieces included in the medley, both sung and instrumentalized by me on piano as a segue between vocalized melodies were:

Dan Hill’s Sometimes When We Touch, Paul Anka’s My Way (made famous by Mr. Sinatra himself, of course – and the 4 men did a beautiful strong rendition of this one without the ladies adding!) Hagood Hardy’s The Homecoming, Joni Mitchell’s Clouds, Buffy Saint Marie’s Until It’s Time for You to Go, Gene MacClellan/Anne Murray’s Snowbird, and Mom suggested, as we’re from Tillsonburg, a couple of measures of Put Your Hand in the Hand…             For the lyrics to Ida May, which I accompanied on a VERY quiet guitar as I only know four or five chords, see below at the bottom of this post.

As the altos preferred to be away from the other groups (I know that feeling from singing alto in Carlisle for 3 years!) and as the sopranos (2 plus me where I could manage it) needed strength so as not to be drowned out by the uber-powerful men, I separated them up along the stage for the medley (3 parts) and had a mic on the sops.  It had some rocky moments, but we managed to complete without a break-down!  (click on each photo to see in full and enlarged).

The men think they should have their own quartet now, called the Bald Bass/Baritones. I think you can see why; no need to hear them!  I made the duo-tang books with our music to look like the Danish flag, with a few swift masking tape tear-offs.

As mentioned above, the average practice attendance out of 10 was 7, due to several funerals in the valley (of course Pastor was needed at those, but being a close-knit community, there were usually a few others who were related to the deceased as well.)  However, a good fishing day could also interfere, and of course Joy and Ellen didn’t agree to join us until we were just a few weeks away!  But the cutest story of a near-miss was down to Pastor Ralph himself.

funny, pastor ralph, news

Since Chevy and Cammie arrived here, both with illnesses and both losing weight at an alarming rate, our minister has taken as much interest in their respective healths as he does of his human parishioners.  So one Friday afternoon nearly all the choir was sitting in our living room-cum-meeting room waiting on two people to show. And one of them was Pastor.  After we did some voice warm-ups, we were about to start without them when the phone rang. I ran to answer it, and sure enough, it was the Good Reverend Ralph.  “Oh, dear, what’s happened?  Nothing too terrible I hope? ” I blurted in to the phone.  “No, nothing’s happened”, said Pastor, after a slightly odd and awkward pause. “I was just calling to see how Chevy’s feeling these last few days”.  Now it was my turn to pause.  Then a big grin came on my face as I realized the enormous coincidence in timing.  “Well, Pastor Ralph, I’d be glad to tell you how Chevy is when you arrive over here and get sat on our couch !”  I let that sink in and then he laughed.  “Oh, good heavens, I forgot what day it is! Be right there!”

Anyway, on Saturday, after the Minstrels had finished Ida May (which went better than the medley, though it’s had much less practice!) and we took a succinct joint bow and scurried down to our seats, the Scotch Colony Choir was up next.  They kindly mentioned that it was the Danes in New Denmark who first helped THEIR immigrants to keep from starving in the very ferocious winter of 1873 when they arrived.  They got this from the lyrics I wrote in Ida May (printed below), so, as Mom says, I guess the audience heard at least SOME of the words ENUNCIATED correctly. (If you don’t know my mother, she’s HUGE on proper enunciation!)

Marianne Bell also sang  (despite having lost most of her voice, bless her, after all the days of singing, organizing, socializing, etc!) with the Scotch Colony choir, pictured here. I’ve never seen people get up and dance to a CHOIR, but they sang so many ‘golden oldies’ that people’s feet were constantly tapping even in their seats!

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Then came Marianne’s own Perth/Andover Community Choir, which Richard and I hope to join in the fall.  For this Marianne (in white) conducted through some, but also, as in the last pic, played piano much better than I did, for them AND sang.  Look how much fun she’s having in that photo!

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Lastly came Peter’s own choir that he leads on a regular basis.  And of course everyone was sticking very well to the all-Canadian theme and telling some of the histories of the songs as well, which was very enjoyable. That’s Peter in the first photo, at the end of the line following his choir to the stage.  I said to many that he reminds me of the 1970s songwriter/singer/comedian/actor Paul Williams –  not just his appearance and stature, but his vivacious energy and humour as well.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Williams_(songwriter)

Finally, the great climax of so many months of planning, hours of rehearsing – the 150 Voices mass choir, also led by Peter.  Poor Marianne was way up back in the soprano section near me, and could hardly utter a sound by then, but it was so much her own brainchild that I know she still was thrilled. I told her after that she really needs to start planning to solve the peace problem in the world – I KNOW she could do it with just musical organizings such as this!  It was incredibly powerful to be singing those amazing anthems and compositions for 4 part harmonies with so many gifted singers!

Now, while I was way in the back, but happily positioned myself to be less squashed in than most, and also so that I could see Peter better, Richard, in his usual way, had somehow managed to wangle a spot RIGHT in front – and in front of Peter as well!

150 concert

That first photo is JUST the soprano section (both 1st and 2nds), so you can imagine the power of the voices rising and falling, crescendoing and decresendoing as per the music and Peter’s very busy hands.  If you look carefully, you can see the big grin on my face, whenever my mouth wasn’t shaped in the appropriate ‘O’.

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One of the tenors behind Richard captured him in this shot as well:

richard in dress rehearsal

This was actually taken at the dress rehearsal that morning, though – which explains the empty seats in ‘the House’!

It was such an honour to sing with this large and strong group. Upon ending with the passionately patriotic “This Is My Home”, there were several pairs of eyes with tears in them, including Peter’s when he talked about his enjoyment in leading such a large and enthusiastic choir.  Also, I know that the next day at church, several others in our New Denmark community who also sang with the 150 Voices said it was an experience-of-a-lifetime, and that they were so glad not to have missed out on it!

150

Too, it was a special event for Mom/Joy, because, though she didn’t sing with the mass choir, her alto contribution to the New Denmark Minstrels meant that she’s had TWO of those once-in-a-lifetime performances on very special days.  When she was just in public school in Tillsonburg her school choir sang for the Queen!  (HRH’s train simply pulled into the station and the choir sang from the platform, but still, that was a big choral day in Canada for Mom, and now in her senior years she can claim another first and only!)

The last story I must share with you is, of course, the reason for this post’s title.   You may have noticed that, to tie us more ‘formally’ together, I gave each of the Minstrels a ‘stole’ to wear of red, with a white-painted New Denmark flag on its right side, and a musical note or two on each.  I thought, even if we weren’t always singing together and at the same tempo (the Minstrels need to learn to ‘watch’ and to ‘listen’ to each other!) at least we’d LOOK like we were ‘tied-in together’.

newspaper1

Now, the only red fabric I had around the house when I got this last-minute brain-wave was left over from what I cut Chevy’s red polo wraps from, for the Founders’ Day parade.  And the cat had been sitting on THAT for a few weeks, all day long!  So it was full of cat hair, and Chevy’s two bandages had manure stains and horse hair and dried sweat all over them.  And when I cut up the remainder of the fabric, there just wasn’t enough for all of us, so I did have to use the polo wraps as well.  (I cut the ends of the other strips on the diagonal for a ‘finished look’, but didn’t want to cut the two polos because I might need them on Chevy again! So that meant that Richard and our minister, the tallest two, would have the dubious honour of wearing those as they were standing in the back and theirs could hang longer and not have the diagonal cut!)   Well, of course I washed all the strips, and hung them on the line to dry.  But as we all know, that isn’t enough to get rid of animal hair! So, on Friday morning before we left for all-day rehearsal, I meticulously vacuumed and Scotch-taped each strip, front and back.  Then painted them with the flag and notes.

polo

On Saturday, no one complained about wearing them, which rather shocked me – they were all very compliant!  And I DID chuckle with them over their stoles’ origins, and the amount of work it took to get them acceptable, but I’m not sure Pastor Ralph Weigold heard me…

Because – yesterday morning in church he appeared coming down the aisle at a PARISH SUNDAY GATHERING (both N.D. congregations combined) wearing Chevy’s bandages AROUND HIS NECK on top of his lovely vestments and his green silk stole!  Now, I know he likes our horse, and considers him worthy of his prayers and concern, etc.  But I really just made those strips for a 7-minute performance at an outdoor event with most people in shorts and T-shirts! Yikes!  I was squirming in my pew, which of course got my hand wrapped by Mother Dearest.  But Pastor wore Chevy’s leg wrap through the entire formal service, communion and all, saying that he was proud of how well the New Denmark Minstrels had done on their debut performance, AND that he was proud to be a Canadian, still celebrating that on July 2nd as well.  Good for him.  God bless him!

 

pastor ralph clip art

And now, as promised, here’s the lyrics to “Ida May”, dedicated to her daughter, Phyllis MacDonald (which I announced to the crowd on Saturday, but apparently she and her son, Bliss didn’t make it, so Richard and I may go over there and sing the 2-part harmony duet to her one day) .  In the last verse, the word “Bliss” is mentioned as a tip-of-the-hat to Ida’s grandson.  And the last spoken words, which Pastor Ralph himself read aloud, refer to “Feel Us” (the ghosts) which was as close to “Phyllis” as I could get within the context of the poetry/rhyme. (for the same reason I used 1870, although most N.D.ers came here in 1872 – it fit the meter/rhythm of the line much better!) .

"Ida May" - lyrics to original folk-song by J. Johnson, 
music written 1989,
originally performed as "Katherine Fields" 
at Murphys Point Provincial Park

My Danish name is Rasmussen
But they call me Ida May
My family came to Canada
Which is where they now will stay.

In 18 hundred and seventy
We settled all the land
In mountains high and valleys low
Where the dark blue forests spanned

                         spoken- man: Ida May, you'll marry me?
                                      I've cleared the land for you.
                                woman: Oh, dear man, I'll marry you!
                            Tho' I'm but 16, 'tis true!

In a little cabin on Bluebell Road
I moved in with my John
5 children came, we built more rooms
And the years were quickly gone.

I planted lilacs and apple trees
We lived for fam-i-ly
And then came the time I got too sick
I was only thirty-three.
                              spoken- girl: Mommy, Mommy -don't
                            send me away! I don't WANT to live with Aunt!
                                 woman: child, go now, be at peace.
                              to keep you all - I can't!

But I gave my children all my love
Before I passed away
So young was I, so old a soul
For my name was Ida May!
***************************
refrain:  Ida May! Ida May!
          Haunt me on a summer's day
In the orchard where I play...
Haunt my memory, Ida May!
***************************
A hundred years have passed us by
Since I left my girlhood thrills
And went to start my home and farm
In New Denmark's rolling hills.

My life was short upon the earth
But I float up here in BLISS
I look down on my legacies
And my breeze blows them a kiss.

                          spoken-You are here, the ghosts of all 
                              we loved.  Forevermore...
                              FEEL US, children; feel us sing,
                             The ghosts of those before...
******************************************************************
Here are Bliss and Phyllis.  (Remember Ida May's story is
 at the Log Cabin Legends post, and another entitled
 Log Cabin Legends, Part II: Phyllis.  
Just type those tag words or titles into this blog's
 search engine and 
both posts should come up for you to read and enjoy!)
 HAPPY CANADA DAY!
bliss,phyllis2