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…

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(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!

 

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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’ :

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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/ )

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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!

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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…)

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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

Taken at the Flood

Taken at the Flood is one of my beloved Agatha Christie’s novels.  Published in March 1948 under the title of There is a Tide,  it is one of her ‘Poirot’ stories.   Both these titles are, of course, taken from Brutus’ famous and most wonderfully provocative AND symbolic speech:

Brutus:
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

 William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 4, sc 3, lines 218-224

So, in other words, a mix of taking the right road at the fork, seizing the moment (at the ‘right’ time) Carpe Diem stuff and all that.  With just a light pinch of Frost’s ‘taking the road LESS travelled’ thrown in for good luck.  But in Christie’s Taken At the Flood novel, Mrs Lionel Cloade retorts to Poirot  “Doctors, I find, have a very materialistic outlook. The spiritual seems to be strangely hidden from them. They pin their faith on Science – but what I say is… what is Science – what can it do?”

I always thought myself a much more spiritual and artistic person than a science person.  Nonetheless, since the controversy about climate change has really spiked upwards (ie: the first 100 days of Humpty Dumbty’s presidency) I have discovered that I now actually find myself on the SIDE of SCIENCE.  Despite what some scientists have PREVIOUSLY stated, most now seem to agree (probably since Hawking’s latest conversations on the subject) that we are indeed in the midst of violent global warming which is causing unprecedented weather patterns and natural disasters.  And yes, this is all because we continue to pollute the earth and mistreat it in every way possible.

Ontario friends complain about the heat and humidity they are already experiencing in March and in April.  Out here our winter has gone on well into the 2nd week of April, and then we’ve had so much rain that of course heavy flooding is now happening, partly due to the skies continually dumping on us, but also partly because IDIOTS seem to think it’s o.k. to clear-cut the steep sides of slopes RIGHT beside the rivers (not to mention our short cut into town through Lucy’s Gulch).  uh – HELLO?   Even a kindergartner knows that’s going to cause erosion, but nope, they do it anyway.  As long as there’s a buck to be had, who cares about the land, the rivers, the roads, or the people who try to live around them?

When I moved here nearly a year ago,  93-year-old  closest neighbour Greta (the Danes pronounce it  with a long ‘e’, so GREETA, just as “Gavin” down by the rec centre is “Gay-vin”) said something that will always stick with me.  Though she has no memory of who we are, despite having been ‘introduced’ to her at least 12 times, ( her brain can no longer take in any new information but she is still very lucid when it comes to everything she’s known from the past) Greta looked sadly out her window one day at Bluebell Mountain and said “Oh, I WISH they wouldn’t clear-cut that mountain; it DOES upset me”.  Dementia or no, I’m with ya there, Greta.

Here’s what they are doing to beautiful Bluebell.

bluebell

And here is Lucy’s Gulch, taken from the road below.  Imagine what’s going to HAPPEN to said road when everything starts to slide.  Oh, no big deal – they’ll just close it off…

l.g.

This is what happens when foresters and loggers IGNORE the warnings of proven science, and clear cut a steep slope, leaving disturbed topsoil and total destruction of the complex soil ecology and almost all plant and wildlife.  And right below this catastrophe is the  fork of the Salmonhurst River joining into the Saint John River.  This is where Richard was fishing last year (see the lovely shots at the blog post  https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/pippis-first-fishin-fable-lores-lures/  –  the first pic. shows this bridge, which now has water nearing the road level)

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As soon as you turn to look at the other side of this bridge – DEVASTATION!

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This entire parkland was where Richard sat to fish while I walked the dog, and where we skiied and snow-shoed one day in January.  It is indicative of what many of the lower crop fields are presently experiencing and the potato farmers are already saying there will be a potato rot this year.  The WWF states much more succinctly than I can, how devastating all of this is :

“Half of the topsoil on the planet has been lost in the last 150 years. In addition to erosion, soil quality is affected by other aspects of agriculture. These impacts include compaction, loss of soil structure, nutrient degradation, and soil salinity. These are very real and severe issues.

The effects of soil erosion go beyond the loss of fertile land. It has led to increased pollution and sedimentation in streams and rivers, clogging these waterways and causing declines in fish and other species. And degraded lands are also often less able to hold onto water, which can worsen flooding. Sustainable land use can help to reduce the impacts of agriculture and livestock, preventing soil degradation and erosion and the loss of valuable land to desertification.

The health of soil is a primary concern to farmers and the global community whose livelihoods depend on well managed agriculture that starts with the dirt beneath our feet. ”

Did you think New Brunswick was one of the best places in the world to fish?  So did we – until we moved here and found out what all this clear-cutting has caused. Richard was looking forward to many mornings in a canoe catching fish so that we could freeze it and have it on a winter’s evening.  But there is very little left to catch in the three rivers that surround us (the Tobique, Saint John and Salmonhurst).  We were bitterly disappointed to find out that part of our strategy for living self-sufficiently has been yanked away by those who do not care about Mother Nature, or by those who do not want to live in harmony with her.  Remember this commercial in the 1970s?

iron eyes cody

I cried every single time it aired.  I remember going out to the side of the road and holding up anti-pollution signs with my sister and our friend Lesa for entire WEEKENDS.  (Two of us would hold the banner between us, while the 3rd would go along picking up litter and putting it in garbage bags for the passers-by to witness).

But this litter (see recent post about the plastic water bottles we should be doing away with!)  is NOTHING like the kind of damage being done by huge-scale industries such as forestry and oil.

I was most disappointed to read on a Homesteading page on FB that a huge number of those so-called homesteaders aren’t all that concerned about the ENVIRONMENT.  I don’t know how you can have one without the other, frankly, but it seems many homesteaders are more concerned about just saving money or NOT living in a city – but they still run to the dollar store for tupperware and other plastic containers, operate generators off various petroleum products and empty them back into the land,  put out chemical weed-killers and bee-killers, etc.  And then when I (God Forbid!) comment that that doesn’t seem the best way to receive ‘gifts’ back from Mother Nature, I got a huge backlash, with ignorant comments such as this one  ”  I didn’t realize that being a homesteader meant we had to be also following eco-friendly trends! “.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  (And there were some a lot nastier and more personal, but why bother quoting them – I tried to quickly forget those ones, in fact!)

Richard and I plan on heating as much as we can in winter with what our own small forest can supply. But we will be burning as much deadfall as we can, cutting only trees that are fighting out other good solid trees for sunlight, AND – most importantly – we will be on a REPLANTING regime as well.

Why can mankind not look after our natural resources better?  Why are we so greedy that we are killing off humanity and wildlife at an alarming rate?  Is there to be NOTHING left for future generations?

Going back to Shakespeare’s “Taken at the Flood” quote, if we do not take responsibility NOW, before it is too late, our chance is lost, and:

“Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.”

We must RISE WITH THE SWELL OF THE TIDE, and take the last few opportunities left to us to clean up this earth, to prevent the damage that is continually being done.  We, homo sapiens, can NOT control these tides, just as we cannot control anything Mother Nature offers. But if we do not learn to go WITH her, rather than against her, we will indeed suffer these miseries for the remainder of human existence on this planet.

pa flood

A few years ago, in the oft-written-of town of Perth-Andover,  this was the scene of the main street which we drive down a few times a month for supplies.  It is very nearly at this level again, www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/news/public_alerts/public_alert.2017.04.0513   thanks to erosion of the mountainsides and over-polluting of our waterways.   Stephanie Kelly, editor of the local paper, the Blackfly Gazette, (previously mentioned in former postings in regard to that wonderful publication) and Marianne Bell, mayor (and also choir-conductor and book-club leader , mentioned in this blog just last week) have many things to say about this devastating flooding in the lowlands surrounding us ‘mountain-folk’.  All you need do is google their names and some flood-related tag words to read or hear interviews.

And my dear, much-admired Agatha comes up again in this scientific (not literary, as one might expect from my regular reading habits!) book jacket description:

Environmental Forensics Fundamentals:  A Practical Guide

“Over 400 pages of essential information in an easy-to-read practical guide to environmental forensics, a discipline that brings together Agatha Christie-style mysteries, scientific information, and environmental policies. This is a well-structured, cutting-edge investigation of contemporary environmental crimes and potential solutions from Ioana Petrisor, Ph.D”

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I just wish a few more corporate CEOs, and yes, even Humpty Dumbty himself would read it as well!  And note: for the latter, it DOES specifiy “easy-to-read”!

 

NOTE:  While this post may leave you feeling down, prepare yourselves,
loyal readers, for the next 4 weeks of high excitement in our blog.  We will 
have your favourite -  BEFORE/AFTERS of a painted plywood floor in Mom's
upstairs hall, as well as a visit to a Maine dairy goat farm for some lessons,
 the building of the paddock and run-in-shelter for the goat and horse, 
- (THEY ARE ARRIVING within the fortnight) and the long-awaited shots from the New Denmark
Queen's Pageant, complete with the hill-billy choreography and dramatic monologue coaching
done by yours truly.   SO DON'T MISS ALL THE EXCITEMENT!

Why “Blue Belldon” Farm ?

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

sheldon chadwick poem

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

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

mm&mm