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:


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!)


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:


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!


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


(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…


(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!


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!


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:



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:


(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:    See Jane’s artwork at:  )

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.



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!



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:

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:   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!


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!



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.

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’.


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!


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’.


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.


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!)


Pussy-willows, Skunk-tails

A lot has been in the air this week  – about spring smells and summer sounds.  Tonight was the first night I heard my beloved peepers down in the valley’s marshes.  The birds are tweeting at dawn and at dusk.  And some more exciting warblings will be emanating from Blue Belldon tomorrow. (keep reading…)

Mom/Joy teaches piano to Zeb, our neighbour down the road. Every Thursday he comes for lessons, and last week he brought Mom a handful of pussywillows, wrapped with a bow.  They are such a heavenly reminder of spring!


When I was a young teen I was the piano accompanist (along with my cousin Joan) for a children’s choir called Rainbow Chorus.  One of the most beautiful songs ever written about spring, in my opinion, was sung every year by that choir of angelic young voices. And it’s that much better because of it being written by our own Canadian, Gordon Lightfoot:

Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses
Rainbows in the woodland, water to my knees
Shivering, quivering, the warm breath of spring
Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses

Catbirds and cornfields, daydreams together
Riding on the roadside the dust gets in your eyes
Reveling, disheveling, the summer nights can bring
Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses

Slanted rays and colored days, stark blue horizons
Naked limbs and wheat bins, hazy afternoons
Voicing, rejoicing, the wine cups do bring
Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses

Harsh nights and candlelights, woodfires a-blazin’
Soft lips and fingertips resting in my soul
Treasuring, remembering, the promise of spring
Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses

And Canadian pop and folk songs have been very much on my mind this week, as I’ve been writing a medley of them to be sung in 3-part harmony by a new choir, the New Denmark Minstrels, led by yours truly (’cause no one else will do it).  We’re really just doing this for 150 Voices for the 150th Birthday on July 1st in near-by Perth/Andover., and then small ensemble choirs will break off and sing THEIR contributions:
We’ll be wearing red and white and singing all-Canadian content (both for Canada’s flag colours, and New Denmark’s!)  and I’m especially pleased that 14 have agreed to come out to rehearse and prepare to perform as the Minstrels. We’ve got bits of Johnny Cowell (Mom’s favourite as he’s from our home-town), Hagood Hardy, Joni Mitchell, Dan Hill, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Gene MacLellan (Anne Murray’s song-writer). So that, as well as now two-nights-a week rehearsing for the New Denmark Queen’s pageant is keeping me further from homesteading and moving on with self-sufficiency than I’d like to be… But, if you thrive on creative outlets, you grab ’em when you sees ’em!
Here’s the latest pageant collage, done by official photographer, Tiffany Christensen:
So Canadian music and hill-billy music are filling my days.  (It’s worth mentioning again, here, that while I was NOT named for this hill-billy song, I think I was fated to become an Appalachian gal from the start.  The spelling is even exact on all 3 words: )
 It’s filling my days so much that, on top of the seed-tending in basement, the bread-and-muffin baking, the 3:00 a.m. run to Fredericton (2 hours one way) to take Mom/Joy to the airport (gone to Nfld. again) and the visiting of lumber mills in all 3 neighbouring towns, to find the best deal on what we need to build a paddock and run-in shelter/stall for the horse we’re getting in a few weeks (more on all this before mid-May), I’m actually falling asleep writing this.
 So pussy-willows stand for all the positive things that happen in spring.  And so would cat-tails, if we’d seen them lately.  We haven’t seen MUCH in the way of cat-tails, BUT skunk-tails, I’m afraid, are plentiful. Mom and Pop are sleeping under our porch steps, and I imagine the arrival of babies to be anytime now. Richard bought a live skunk trap, and they can’t lift their tails in it, so no spraying.  When caught they’ll be taken down Lucy’s Gulch and let loose. And preferably BEFORE Smitty ‘gets wind’ of them – he was sprayed by them 4 times last year, and I still don’t think he learned!

Lastly, the thing Richard enjoys most about the snows melting is that he can start planning for more future self-sufficient living again.  Should he get a windmill, or build a mill in Rasmussen Brook? Or perhaps a water tower for storage? What about another bank of solar?  When we were in Fredericton on Monday to get Mom to fly out, Richard studied up on some options at the truck stop “The Blue Canoe”.

Then, because we haven’t done a single touristy thing since moving to this province (for me, nearly a year ago!) we just played at silly sight-seers for a bit:

And then, whaddya know?  In true Rustic Revivals’ style, we found a sculpture of Gordon Lightfoot’s rusty goose on the ‘soft winds’  – – – AND   his cat-tails!!