You know what I miss in summer? Inner tubes.

Swimming in an inner tube

No, this is not me. But you get the general nostalgic idea. (Photo from a cool shop at Etsy.com)

With summer continuing to trickle through our fingers, and the end-of-season hot weather that we suddenly experienced early this week now almost completely dissipated, I thought I’d better seize possibly my last opportunity (for this year, at least) to offer up a seasonal thought. It is about: inner tubes.

Do you miss inner tubes? I miss inner tubes.

Not in my ordinary day-to-day life, of course; and it is within the realm of possibility that, had a couple of things not crossed my path recently, I would never have thought of inner tubes again. (Not being a cyclist. Am I right in thinking that only bikes have inner tubes any more?)

The first of the two inner-tube-related things to cross my path was two kids heading for the beach when Raymond and I were vacationing at the seaside in Maine early this month. As the kids walked happily along, they rolled in front of them modern plastic versions of what we kids used to use when we went swimming at the Sand Bar in Queensborough: rubber inner tubes from car tires. Nothing could beat those inner tubes as flotation devices, and what pleasanter way to spend a hot summer day than lollygagging in the river, floating around on one of them? Man, that was a good memory. While I’m sure the modern plastic ones are great, I don’t think anything can beat the larger size and the pleasant mild rubbery smell of the inner tubes. And remember how hot they’d get in the sun, and how good that felt against some parts of your skin even as other parts of your body (feet, butt, hands) were trailing in the nice cool water? That is good vintage summertime stuff, that is.

The other inner-tube-related thing that caught my eye was part of Evan Morton’s weekly column in the Tweed News. Evan is the tireless and irreplaceable curator of the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre, and an avid collector and cataloguer of all manner of local history, lore and artifacts. People are forever dropping off treasures they’ve come across in their attics and garages at the heritage centre, and it’s fun to read about the new (old) arrivals and Evan’s research on them in his column.

This bit was about such a treasure, a kit for patching inner tubes. I’ll let Evan tell it:

“One item was an ‘Ezy Seal’ vulcanizing tire patches tin, filled with the patches (and) manufactured in Kansas City, Mo. … ‘Clean and buff a space larger than patch around injury. Fill large holes with rubber from another patch. Remove backing and center patch over injury. Do not touch rubber with fingers. Clamp patch tightly and light fuel unit. After fuel has burned at least five minutes, remove clamp. NOTE: Use of cement is not necessary but will insure permanency on synthetic tubes.’ (Aren’t you thankful that you don’t have to do such patch work yourself any more?)”

Well, I never actually did do such patch work, but that paragraph in Evan’s column conjured up such a familiar and happy image for me. It is of my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, patiently patching inner tubes right here in the Manse kitchen. All of our family’s vehicles back in my Manse childhood – cars, half-ton truck, tractors – were old verging on ancient, so of course their tires were too. Which meant a lot of patching.

I am pretty sure Dad didn’t use the Ezy Seal system, though. Remember how the directions that Evan quoted said you didn’t need “cement”? Well, LePage‘s contact cement was an absolutely critical item in my dad’s tire-repair repertoire.

You know, here and now in 2014 I could be anywhere in the world and still “close my eyes and dream (me) up a kitchen” – the Manse’s kitchen, that is, and I’ve borrowed that line from the legendary Guy Clark‘s wondrous song Desperados Waiting for a Train – and I would instantly be able, in my mind, to smell the contact cement as Dad patched tires. As it is, however, I am not just anywhere in the world. I am right here at the Manse, and so I don’t have to dream up that kitchen; it is right here, and so am I. Again.

And thanks to a jog to the memory from some faraway beach-bound kids, and our treasured local historian, I am imagining once again that happy old contact-cement smell. And wishing inner tubes were still here.

Along with Dad to patch them.

Here is a downright poetic thing to do this long weekend

Purdy - Active Arts August Ah, the last days of summer. They are upon us, people. It is hard to believe how quickly July and August have passed. And now we have shorter days and cooler nights – and, looking on the bright side, the glories of autumn in North-of-7 Ontario soon to come.

But hey, we still have the long Labour Day weekend to look forward to! And this evening I am here to tell you about an event that you should attend, should you be of a literary bent, or of a local-cultural-events bent, or of a Prince Edward County bent, or really if you’re just interested in something cool and different to do, on the Saturday of this Labour Day weekend.

It is an event celebrating Al Purdy, perhaps Canada’s greatest poet and a local Hastings County boy (by way of Wooler – which, yes, is probably actually in neighbouring Northumberland County, but only just – and Trenton). Longtime readers will know that I am a huge fan of Purdy, in part because his famous poem The Country North of Belleville so perfectly describes the landscape where our beloved Queensborough and Manse are located. In fact, I’ve made so many references to Purdy and his work, and to Purdy-connected events, since this blog started that tonight I’ve gone and got myself organized and created a new Al Purdy category right here at Meanwhile, at the Manse. If you click on that category on the home page you’ll find all kinds of stuff by me connected to Al.

Anyway: the event I’m going on about is a fundraiser for the Al Purdy A-Frame Association, a non-profit group that has done a miraculous job of preserving and restoring the very rustic A-frame cottage that Al and his wife, Eurithe, built on Roblin Lake at Ameliasburgh. That cottage, as I’ve written here, was the place not only where Al wrote many wonderful poems, but where he and Eurithe welcomed generations of Canadian writers, both established and famous and unknown but up-and-coming. It is a very important place in Canadian literary history – and for those of us in Hastings and Prince Edward counties (and Northumberland County and Lennox and Addington too) it’s right here in the back yard.

While the cottage has been purchased and mostly fixed up, there’s still lots to be done – not only on the property, but to ensure the continuance of a new writer-in-residence program whereby young Canadian poets stay for a few months at a time at the A-frame, pursuing their literary work but also keeping the flame burning for Al and his legacy, and for the magic of poetry in general.

Now, I could tell you all the detaila about Saturday’s event – which takes place at Rednersville, on the shores of the beautiful Bay of Quinte – but you can get a lot of it from the poster that you see at the top of this post. And what you really should do is check out the entertaining and enticing stuff in posts here and here and here and here at the marvellous Purdy-themed blog In Search of Al Purdy, written by our brilliant friend Lindi Pierce. I urge you to go enjoy those posts  – and, if you’d like a good laugh, Al’s poem When I Sat Down to Play the Piano, which Lindi makes reference to in this one.

Raymond and I will certainly be on hand for the event, having been involved to a greater or lesser extent (greater for Raymond, considerably lesser for me) in the A-frame project for the past few years. We’d love to see you there – and to raise with you a glass of a new beer being made by Prince Edward County’s Barley Days brewery in honour of Al, and to financially support the A-frame. Its unusual name, A Sensitive Man, is taken from Al’s legendary poem At the Quinte Hotel, wherein he proclaims himself (even as he is drinking rather large quantities of beer at that classic old tavern) just such a man. As I’m sure he was.

Anyway, an afternoon of music, poetry, theatrical readings, food, celebration of Al Purdy, support of a good cause, and beer called A Sensitive Man – what more could you ask for on the last weekend of summer?

All it took was a Spirograph to make my day

Super SpirographOh boy, dear readers, did I ever make a yard-sale find this past weekend. The yard sale in question was on Cooper Road, just a few miles northwest of Queensborough, and I popped in on a whim. It was fairly late on in the day (in yard-sale terms) and I figured there wouldn’t be much left. But I struck pure gold! For just $1, I purchased a vintage Spirograph set!

Oh, and not just any Spirograph set. This is Super Spirograph. Which means it has more plastic circles and wheels and rectangles and whatnot than the regular edition does, with which to draw those wacky psychedelic patterns.

Now granted, a few of the parts are missing:

Inside the Spirograph box

As is the collection of coloured pens one needs to create the designs – though I suppose one could rustle up some replacements.

But truth be told I don’t have all that much interest in actually using the set. I am just thrilled to have this classic boxed pastime from the era of my childhood at the Manse, to add to our growing collection of vintage toys and games. It makes me happy just looking at it.

But you know what makes me happiest? Why, this – the original price tag:

Beamish price tag

And why does it makes me happy? Ah, I know longtime Madoc residents will know. Because it’s a price tag from the Beamish, the long-ago store on Madoc’s main street that sold all manner of wonders, from toys and games to candy and nail polish and clothes and whatever. (The building where it was located now houses a large dollar store, which I suppose is kind of the same idea as the Beamish – but the Beamish’s goods were, while not fancy by any means, considerably more mainstream and upscale than is dollar-store merchandise.)

I am just tickled to death to be reminded of that wonderful long-ago store. Where once upon a time (early ’70s, I’d guess) someone purchased a Super Spirograph set that was, many years later, to end up in my delighted possession. And bless that person’s heart for leaving the price tag on!

Take my hostas. Please.

Manse hostas

Isn’t this just the most luxuriant spread of hostas? I know it makes me sound ungrateful (to the people who created this garden at the Manse), but it is a little too luxuriant for me. Time to unload some hostas!

I’ve mentioned many times how appreciative I am of the fact that people from St. Andrew’s United Church, Queensborough, planted and maintained a perennial garden for years before Raymond and I bought this old house. The result of that planting and maintenance being, of course, that we have a garden that looks pretty respectable despite my dire lack of knowledge about horticulture and my equally dire lack of time (this summer, at least) to do weeding and maintenance.

However.

People, I will admit it: I am tired of hostas. I mean, I get how they are great because they will grow and flourish no matter what the weather or sun/shade conditions are, and no matter what you do (or don’t do) to them. I totally get how people (St. Andrew’s church members) who planted a perennial garden at a Manse where the inhabitant (i.e. the minister) might or might not have the wherewithal to deal with it would install things (hello, hostas) that require zero attention.

But hostas do spread, it seems. And while I very much appreciate the green they bring to the northern portion of our perennial garden (where there are several planted, and flourishing), I feel the time has come – well, will have come by the time of next year’s gardening season – to put different things in that garden. Like maybe more phlox, such as I planted this year. And peonies. People, I want peonies!

But the hostas are taking up all the space.

So what do I do with them? I gather real gardeners (that is, people unlike myself) know how to divide and transplant hostas and other such things. I, on the other hand, haven’t got a clue. And on top of that, I don’t actually want to transplant half an existing hosta plant anywhere on the Manse property. I have enough hostas!

So, good gardening friends, please tell me what to do. If any of you who live in the area would like some or all of these hosta plants, you are more than welcome to them. They are very healthy, believe me. And if you don’t – that is, if you yourself have more hostas than you need or want, and I expect that includes pretty much anyone who has a garden – will you give me dispensation to yank them out and toss them?

Or – is that gardening sacrilege?

Oh dear. I have so much to learn about gardening. And also: so many hostas to get out of my life.

It is Monkees Night at the Manse

Okay, so you know how my post yesterday was all about the great, funky vintage things that I did not buy when I found them at an excellent antiques emporium a few weeks ago? Well, people, tonight I want to tell you about one find that I made at that same Maine antiques warehouse that I do now have, thanks to my wonderful husband, Raymond.

Not to put too fine a point on it, it is: the first four Monkees albums. On vinyl. In terrific condition. I am not making this up.

I had spotted, and coveted, those albums – The Monkees, More of The Monkees, The Monkees Headquarters, and the kookily named (hey, it was the ’60s, or should I say the Age of Aquarius) Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. – on our first visit to the antiques warehouse. But the price tag ($49) held me back. Nevertheless, I did take a photo:

Monkees albums for sale

And I did mention them to Raymond. And I kept thinking about them. And lo and behold, when Raymond made a return visit to the emporium to purchase something he had spotted and had been thinking about (a giant clam steamer, if you must know), he came back with a lovely gift for me: those Monkees albums!

Now, you must realize that this is especially meaningful because Raymond has never had much use for the Monkees, considering them an artificial made-for-TV band. Of course I keep telling him he is wrong – this is not the Partridge Family we’re talking about here, for crying out loud – and, given the way his toe taps when I put on Monkees songs, I think he is kind of coming around. Which might explain why he bought those albums.

And here they are, right here at the Manse (with the top of Sieste the cat‘s head in the photo for good measure):

Monkees albums with Sieste

Anyway, tonight for the first time I unbundled the four of them and have been listening to them. (Because we do have a record player!) And you know what? They only reconfirm my notion that the Monkees were pretty great. There are some fantastic songs in there that are way off the well-worn I’m A Believer path, such as Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow), the video that’s at the top of this post and that I hope you’ve already enjoyed to get yourself into the Monkees groove. And also (as another example, among many), She Hangs Out:

And: What Am I Doing Hangin’ Round:

And also The Door Into Summer, which is kind of a masterpiece:

Of course there are also some oddities like, say, Your Auntie Grizelda and Zilch. But overall there is good songwriting (albeit largely not by the Monkees, I realize), good musicianship, and good singing. And catchiness. And a nice general sense of happiness.

Hey hey, what’s not to love about the Monkees? And speaking of which, how about that great song (on the album The Monkees Headquarters) called For Pete’s Sake, which closed each episode? Here, let me take you back. And: you’re welcome.

The things I left behind, 2014 edition

Oscar Mayer Weiner bank

I had to restrain myself from buying this classic coin bank, a reminder of one of the great advertising jingles of my youth. Sing along with me now: “Oh I wish I were an Oscar Mayer weiner…”

Perhaps longtime readers will recall that after our annual vacation in Maine last summer, I wrote about all the wonderful vintage stuff I found at a great antique warehouse that I did not buy (much to Raymond’s relief). At the time I wrote that post (which is here) I was feeling very proud of my restraint, let me tell you. Though as I read through it again just now, a year later, my main thought was, “Wow, what great stuff! I should have bought it!”

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to show you some of the finds I held back on this year during a visit to the same antique place. Will you come wallow with me in a bit of non-buyer’s remorse?

First, of course, there is the Oscar Mayer weiner bank at the top of this post. I would have loved to have had it, because I know it would have brought a smile to anyone who saw it on display at the Manse. But at $35, I decided: Maybe not.

Next, another bit of whimsy:

Man From Uncle gam

As I’ve written before, I loved The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (and its short-lived spinoff The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.) when I was growing up at the Manse. So you can imagine how excited I was to find this game based on the TV show, despite the rough shape it was in. Sadly, the game had no price tag attached, and when I inquired about it at the store’s front desk, they were unable to figure out which of their sellers it belonged to in order to find the price. So it remained behind. Perhaps I will be lucky enough to find The Man From U.N.C.L.E. game at a Queensborough-area yard sale one of these times.

All right, on to plumbing fixtures:

Pink sink

I loved the 1950s shade of this sink! I would like to have a pink sink. And besides, the Harvest Gold sink in the Manse’s only bathroom is in disastrous shape thanks to corrosion and whatnot, and badly needs replacing. And this pink sink was only $19. But Raymond said no. Very firmly. And since he is the one who would have had to install it, that was that.

Okay, let’s think about midcentury travel. Next/suivant, as we say in Montreal:

Train case

Remember the days of train cases like this one ? It made me think of my mum as a young single high-school teacher, travelling on weekends between Haliburton, Ont., where she worked, and her parents’ home in Toronto. When I was a kid at the Manse, she still had that light-blue train case. With the pockets and pouches for makeup and hairbrushes and whatnot. Lovely retro cool.

Now on to the big stuff, the furniture. Get a load of these classics:

Midcentury chairs

Gorgeous. But not only do we absolutely have no room for them at the Manse (oh, and of course had no room to transport them home from Maine in our overcrowded car) but…

Armchairs price tag

Right. Probably a fair price, but not a steal. For $349 you can have a lot of fried-clam platters and lobster rolls at oceanside restaurants during your Maine vacation. And probably have some cash left over for the outlets at Kittery. So again, I passed.

Okay, now for the clincher – proof that I can resist an awesome find not once but two years running. This classic piece of 1970s TV memorabilia, which I barely held back on last year when it was priced at $40-something, was still there, people!

Partridge Family paper dolls

Partridge Family paper dolls! And this year it was down to $30-something! How could I resist?

But you know what? I did.

I think I am beginning to figure out that having a photo of the desired funky midcentury object is almost as good as having the object itself. For one thing, it takes up a lot less room. And for another, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper.

Still – what female of my vintage wouldn’t want to dress Keith, Laurie and the rest in their red-velvet costumes? Regrets, I have a few…

A thrilling saga of man versus chipmunk

The culprit

Oh boy, people, have I got a yarn for you tonight! Thrills and spills, cloak and dagger, cat and mouse – oh, wait, no, make that last one “man and chipmunk.”

It all starts (as every good story should) with a mystery. It is, in fact, a mystery that I’ve written about before, back a few weeks ago when the mystery first appeared in our lives. The post is here, and the mystery was this:

The new hole in the lawn

By “this” I mean (as you will know if you read that post) a small pile of dirt and a hole in the ground that appeared out of nowhere on the Manse’s front lawn in mid-July. When I asked you good readers (and also some of my Queensborough neighbours) for ideas on what might have caused it, I got two totally sensible suggestions: red squirrels, and moles.

Much as Raymond and I didn’t particularly relish endangering a small creature, we also didn’t really much want animal tunnels and piles of dirt on the lawn. So we filled in the hole, and shortly thereafter proceeded to drive down to Maine for a seaside vacation.

Well! When we returned, the first thing we noticed as we pulled into the Manse’s driveway was that the pile of dirt had grown much, much bigger. What the dickens was going on?

Here is what it looked like:

Big pile of dirt

Raymond filled it in again. Next day, the hole was back. Raymond repeated the exercise. Same outcome. This animal, whatever it was, was evidently very determined to make its home beside our front walkway, and mess up our lawn in the process.

Now, I should add at this juncture that all the while we’d been watching the work of this persistent but invisible small creature, we – or at least I – had also been cooing at the cuteness of a chipmunk that kept dashing up onto the front porch to say hello when I sat out there on nice afternoons, reading a book or writing on my laptop. Such a sweet and friendly little visitor.

Well, you can probably see where this is going. A few mornings after our return from vacation, Raymond was watching the mouth of the tunnel, and for the first time he saw its industrious inhabitant emerge. It was, of course, Mr. Chipmunk.

I was quite astonished, not having had the slightest idea that chipmunks dig tunnels in the ground. I had laboured under the delusion – apparently quite common – that they live in trees, like squirrels. But according to no less an authority than National Geographic: “Some dig burrows to live in, complete with tunnels and chambers, while others make their homes in nests, bushes, or logs.” And here is Wikipedia’s listing on the Eastern Chipmunk, its habitat, and so on. But that all said, I was still quite amazed that such a small creature could make such a great big pile of dirt (and such a mess) on our lawn.

At this juncture Raymond went to work in earnest, filling up the hole, moving the excess dirt, and tamping the whole thing down hard. Here he is, labouring away:

Raymond filling in the hole

And then, the pièce de résistance:

Kitty covering the hole

He installed Kitty, the Friendly Lion (whom I previously wrote about here), right on top of where the hole had been. SInce Kitty is pretty darn heavy, we figured she was bound to stop Mr. Chipmunk from emerging again. That is, if he was down in the hole at the time of her installation. As it turned out, he wasn’t – or, if he was, he had an escape route. Because just a few minutes after Raymond had put away his shovel and washed his hands, who showed up on the front porch where I was watching the world go by but – well, you’ve guessed it. And boy, did he look ticked! Just look at the evil eye he was giving me:

Chipmunk comes to complain

Clearly he had come to complain to the management. He might not have realized at first that “the management” at that point also included Sieste the cat, who made a brief show of going after the chipmunk when he jumped off the porch and into the perennial garden:

Sieste goes after the chipmunk

But Sieste being less than the ferocious hunter that she likes to pretend she is, she got nowhere near him. Much to Raymond’s disgust, because by this time he was really getting fed up with the chipmunk and its antics.

But look closely again at the photo of the chipmunk registering his complaint to me and perhaps you’ll notice something else about him. See how full his cheeks are? I didn’t really notice it at the time, but a day or so later we discovered what the little varmint was really up to at the Manse – and then everything became clear.

We were in the future conservatory – my fancy name for the back porch, or summer kitchen (as it would have been called at the time the Manse was built in the late 19th century) – clearing some stuff out, when Raymond suddenly noticed that there was a huge mess in the vicinity of an unopened giant bag of birdseed that he’d bought in preparation for next winter:

Birdseed mess

After moving a few things out of the way, we realized that something had made a great big hole in that brand-new bag, and the birdseed had spilled out all over the place. And I mean all over the place:

The hole in the birdseed bag

As I undertook to clean it up with a broom and dustpan, I spotted the culprit. Standing there at the back of the back porch, as brazen as you please, watching me do my cleanup and looking none too happy about it.

You guessed it. Mr. Chipmunk.

All at once we had the complete picture. The chipmunk – one of a plethora of them that seem to be around this year, as I’ve noted before – had found his way into the back porch, struck gold when his eye caught the birdseed bag, proceeded to gnaw his way through the thick plastic, and was busily spending his days (and nights too, for all I know; are chipmunks nocturnal?) transporting huge mouthfuls of it, stored in his cheeks, down into his tunnel and perhaps to other places for winter storage.

Man, that chipmunk must have thought he’d got it made! For this coming winter and perhaps for many winters to come. It was a big bag of birdseed.

Why he chose to dig his burrow right smack in the middle of the front lawn, rather than somewhere much closer to the back of the house where the birdseed was, is a puzzle to me. Perhaps he was hoping to deke us out. Which he pretty much did – until we finally caught on to him.

“So,” I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “what’s the current status of the Raymond-vs.-the-chipmunk battle?”

Well, I’ll tell you. The birdseed in the back porch is all cleaned up and long gone, so that once-hugely-promising food supply has disappeared from Mr. Chipmunk’s life. But Mr. Chipmunk hung around.

For one thing, he kept making new holes in the patch of earth on the front lawn. Raymond would just nicely fill up one (and move Kitty to cover it) when, the next day, a new one would appear. Here is Raymond going at it yet again:

The chipmunk battle continues

And for another thing, the peanut-butter-baited mousetraps in our basement, which had seen essentially no action at all since we caught a mouse or two not long after we first bought the house 2½ years ago, are suddenly snapping quite regularly. Without catching anything! But the peanut butter is gone. Same thing with a trap that Raymond set in the back porch after we learned of Chipmunk’s presence. Apparently, deprived of the promise of maybe a lifetime’s worth of birdseed, the chipmunk is going for whatever he can find on the property. And for the moment, a teaspoon of peanut butter in every mousetrap will have to do.

However: it is within the realm of possibility that I put an end to the chipmunk saga yesterday. Remember how I wrote about scrubbing down the parts of a musty chest of drawers with very hot water and Murphy’s Oil Soap? I used several buckets’ worth, and – upon consultation with Raymond, who readily approved the plan – poured the contents when I was finished with each one straight down the latest chipmunk hole, which was right beside where I was working. I felt rather badly about it, but you know, somebody has to win this battle. And I would rather it be us.

But given how wily Mr. Chipmunk has proven himself to be so far, I have every expectation that he will have survived this latest attempt on his life, or at least his quality of life. He may pop up on the front porch at any minute, to scold me yet again.

Stay tuned.