Trailer envy

Just look at these fine trailers that two of our Queensborough neighbours have. How practical! I am deeply envious.

Just look at these fine trailers that two of our Queensborough neighbours have. I am envious.

Good internet acces (with wi-fi) is pretty high on the list of things that would make our stays at the Manse easier and more enjoyable. Also up there: a permanent end to wasp sightings, and a wood stove to cut down on the oil bills. But do you know what Raymond and I really, really want?

A trailer.

Raked-up dead leaves and one of the fallen branches (thanks to the ice storm) in the back yard last weekend. A trailer would make hauling it away so much easier!

Raked-up dead leaves and one of the fallen branches (thanks to the ice storm) in the back yard last weekend. A trailer would make hauling it away so much easier!

When we bought the Manse and started spending weekends in Queensborough, we felt a little out of place as one of the only households for miles around without a pickup truck. Since then, of course, Raymond has rectified the situation with the purchase of a far-from-new (but bright-red) truck. But lately we’ve realized that we are also ill-equipped in that we don’t have a two-wheeled trailer to hitch up to that truck. Everybody else seems to have one, and it makes perfect sense that they should: what could be more practical for hauling all the stuff you rake up from your yard this time of year (including fallen branches from the recent ice storm) to the dump? After our raking marathon at the Manse last week we have 20 big bags full of debris stashed in the garage, and that means two or more trips in the little truck to get rid of it all. If we just had a trailer like everyone else, we could do it in a single run.

(A trailer would also, of course, make it much easier to bring home nice old pieces of furniture that might catch one’s eye at the auction sale.)

If you had told me a couple of years ago that one of things I would be wanting most in life was a trailer, I would have thought it was crazy talk. But rural life just – well, it changes one’s perspective on what’s important.

In a whole lot of ways.

A little history for a rainy day

Grey skies over the Manse early this morning – which meant it would have been a great day for staying inside and doing some historical research on Queensborough.

Grey skies over the Manse early this morning – which meant it would have been a great day for staying inside and doing some historical research on Queensborough.

As you can see from my photo, it was an overcast (with gusts to drizzly) morning at the Manse today. And with more rain in the forecast, it would have been a perfect day to curl up in front of our cranberry-red electric fireplace with my treasured copy of the history book Times to Remember in Elzevir Township and do some research for a project I have volunteered to help with: the creation of a flyer outlining a walking tour that will give visitors to Queensborough information about its history and some of its buildings.

Instead, more than a little regretful that our week’s vacation at the Manse had come to an end, Raymond and I loaded up the car and headed back to Montreal, work, and non-Manse life. (But at least there were two cats at the end of the road! As I have mentioned before, the one thing the Manse is sorely in need of – aside from a large renovation, that is – is cats.)

Anyway, back to the historical research and the flyer, a project that I am quite excited about. So many people come through our pretty little hamlet – whether by car, bicycle, kayak, motorcycle, ATV or snowmobile – and stop and admire it, but at the moment there is no source of printed information for them to get answers to questions they surely have, like: How old is this place? Why do I see so many church steeples? What are those two big rambling buildings in the centre of town? (They are the former general stores, one of them also a former tavern and hostelry.) What’s the story on the old wooden building practically overhanging the river and waterfall? (It was a grist mill, and there used to be a very busy sawmill right beside it, both once owned by the man considered to be the founder of Queensborough.) Am I the first person to be struck by what great material there is around here for paintings and photographs? (Far from it. Queensborough has long been an inspiration for artists.)

It could also answer questions that people would never think of, such as: Did Sir John A. Macdonald (Canada’s first prime minister) once own several pieces of land in Queensborough? (Why, yes! Yes he did. Glad you asked.)

A related project that I also think is a splendid idea, and for which I have also volunteered to help with the text, is a marker at the centre of town, down by the picturesque Black River, outlining a little bit of Queensborough’s history. That way all those who stop to admire (and often photograph) the village will get some sense of the past and present of what they are seeing. The need for something like this was reinforced in my mind this past week, when Raymond and I did some touring around rural Hastings County. There are many interesting-looking little hamlets and villages (though none, in my very biased opinion, as pretty as Queensborough), but by and large there is nothing in them to tell the visitor a single thing about them. What’s the story on Thomasburg? Moira? Millbridge? Gilmour? Sulphide? Cooper? Stoco? Bannockburn? You go through them and you’d never know, and I think that’s too bad.

So I hope we will get these projects off the ground. And if I can just get some rainy-day time at the Manse to do my part, well – I will be very glad to do so.

Incite art. Create community.

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I love this bumper sticker, which Raymond and I bought at the faraway – well, far away from Queensborough, anyway, and also, come to think of it, from Montreal – Stonington Opera House in beautiful Stonington, Maine. And now, as you can see in this photo, it is happily affixed to the tailgate of Raymond’s red truck at the Manse.

We spent yesterday evening with some Queensborough people who are artists and/or people interested in the arts, and from an evening’s worth of good conversation I can tell you most assuredly that the bumper sticker’s message is right: art makes – or at least helps make – community.

Queensborough is a place that has inspired, embraced, and interested artists for a long, long time. I think our famous quilt-maker, the late Goldie Holmes (who lived kitty-corner from the Manse) would be very pleased if she could have met the painters, photographers, sculptors and other artists who today make Queensborough their home and/or their inspiration.

So yes, people: Incite art. Create community!

A very sunny house.

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One of the many things I love about the Manse is how bright it is. On a sunny day, light streams in everywhere; there are windows on all sides of the house. The brightness makes a person feel glad to be alive.

This picture is nothing more exciting than sunlight coming through the windows of our dining room, this very afternoon. And I post it only because of this: it makes me happy.

Happy especially, I guess, that thanks to the fact that Raymond and I were able to buy the Manse, I can – both literally and figuratively – walk among the sunlit rooms of my childhood.

Who could ask for more?

Will someone PLEASE fix the spelling on this sign?

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This is the building in Madoc that houses the local office of the Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit, among other things. Raymond and I were in it yesterday to drop off a sample of our tap water for testing, something you’re supposed to do three times a year if you have a well, and that the health unit helpfully does free of charge. So that’s all to the good. What is NOT to the good is the spelling on the sign that graces the building, which has been bugging me for nigh on two years now, since Raymond and I first stopped in Madoc in June 2011 on our first visit to the on-the-market Manse. To whomever is in charge of this building: please please please look up the spelling of “resource” in the dictionary. Or, for that matter, right here on this blog. And then please consider bringing in a sign painter to change one letter and, as Mike Holmes would say, make it right.

Signed, your spelling buddy,

Katherine

An awesome way to spend a rainy day at the Manse

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If you can imagine a more entertaining way to spend a rainy day at the Manse in Queensborough, Ont., than cleaning up a 19th-century partially dirt-floored basement – well, clearly you have more imagination than I do. Because really, what could be more fun? It is SO satisfying to vacuum up those ancient cobwebs (and occasional spiders). Not to mention picking up bits of old insulation, cement, foundation stone – all amid a miasma of dust generated from the general activity, including several rounds of sweeping the dirt that was too much for the vacuum to handle. (I realized far too late into the operation that I really should have been wearing a mask.)

I’d been a little intimidated by what I might find when I first ventured down the basement stairs (which are very old, and so steep as to more nearly resemble a ladder than a staircase). Not that I was really afraid of the wolves that were probably there (an old Sedgwick family joke, and if I had real Internet access rather than just my phone I’d link you to it; you can search for “wolves” in the search box and doubtless find it if you care to, though I’ll warn you that it’s not the most side-splitting joke of all time), but in the end there was nothing worse than a couple of big spiders (I dislike spiders) that the vacuum made short work of, and a rather prehistoric-looking salamander-type creature that I called on Raymond to save me from, which he ably and bravely did.

I emerged absolutely filthy – clothes, hair and body – and very glad that I won’t have to tackle that job again for a while.

But since it was still raining, I couldn’t go out and do what now seems, by contrast, a much cleaner line of work: continuing the big annual spring job of raking up the Manse’s large lawn.

So I turned to the second most awesome thing to do on a rainy day at the Manse. I cleaned the oven.

You ask: maybe the Manse’s oven is self-cleaning, like most modern stoves?

Guess again.

The truck that did not make it to the dump

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Gracious, Raymond and I have had quite a day. A day that included the purchase and installation of a new battery for his red truck (needed to get it on the road again after a winter in the Manse’s garage), which seemed to go swimmingly until it turned out that the truck also needed a new alternator. And how did we find this out? Like this: on Raymond’s way to the dump (second run of the day), shortly after this photo of all the lawn debris (raked up by me) packed into it was taken, the truck just – died.

But thanks to a very prompt and efficient CAA-dispatched tow-truck operator and the good folks at Derry’s Dipsticks garage in Madoc, the truck is well on its way to being fully charged again (and will be all set come morning). Which can mean only one thing: more dump runs!

Fly away home, you stupid annoying ladybugs

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As a naturally look-on-the-bright-side-type gal, what I wanted to write about tonight was how lovely the Manse lawn is starting to look after Raymond (and to a lesser extent I) spent some time this bright sunny day raking up winter debris. But I kind of figure that no one is interested in reading about another person’s lawn, so I’ll stop right there. (This time, at least.) Instead let’s talk about The Ladybug Plague.

On one of our very first visits to the Manse, back in early 2012, we spotted a single ladybug in a window in the room that was once my dad’s study. “Oh, look!” I said to Raymond. “Isn’t it pretty? Aren’t ladybugs supposed to be good luck?”

Well, my good feelings toward ladybugs were shortlived. As we spent more time here in late winter and early spring last year, we experienced, and got thoroughly sick of, the phenomenon of the ladybugs appearing in droves as soon as we arrived at the Manse and turned the heat up. In ceiling lights, in windows, on floors. Bother bother bother!

We hoped that maybe 2012 was just a bad year for ladybugs and that this year would be better. So far, no such luck.

People, it is embarrassing when a ladybug drops from the ceiling into the hair of a dinner guest! (Even if the dinner guest deals with it with great equanimity, bless her heart.)

And it is tiresome to be constantly vacuuming them up and trapping and squishing them.

I no longer like ladybugs. They have worn away my patience, and don’t even get me started on how Raymond feels about all this.

I want them to fly away home, like the nursery rhyme says. Except I think our ladybugs are pretty convinced that the Manse IS home.

Stovepipes: the sensible home-heating solution

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What a wintry day it has been for the middle of April! Raymond and I passed through several squalls of snow and hail as we drove to Queensborough from Montreal, and it was freezing (as in 0 Celsius) when we got here. (Fortunately warmer weather is predicted for the rest of the week.)

But anyway, I mention the cold because of course the Manse needed warming up when we got here. The first thing I do when we arrive (in the cold months, anyway) is turn the thermostat up from its Raymond-and-Katherine-aren’t-here setting of about 11C, cranking it to 20 (that’s about 70 for you Fahrenheit-oriented readers). The good old furnace kicks in within seconds, and the Manse’s downstairs is toasty right quick – like, in less than 10 minutes.

Ah, but upstairs is another matter altogether. This house was built in 1888, before central heating. The heat came from wood-burning stoves (I assume; I suppose coal could have been used, but since we are surrounded by woodland I think that unlikely) whose heat was moved throughout the house thanks to a system of stovepipes. What you see in the photo with this post is a reminder of those days: the round pie-plate-type thing on the wall of our bedroom covers the place where once a stovepipe that ran across the top of the room connected to a chimney.

When I was growing up here at the Manse in the 1960s, we still had those stovepipes running through many of the rooms, and the wood stove to warm them. The system worked beautifully, if you don’t count the occasional small chimney fire. (No damage; don’t worry.)

Alas, I guess residential stovepipe systems are a thing of the past. (A fire hazard, you say? What the?!?!) The Manse’s is long gone.

The problem is this: because the stove and stovepipes could be counted on in former times to warm the whole house, not much thought was given to heating vents when things were modernized to allow for an oil furnace. There are several vents downstairs at the Manse, but in the whole rambly second floor there are only two, at opposite ends of the house (and, I might add, neither of them in or even particularly near the master bedroom).

So you see where I’m going with this: while our Manse very quickly turns from chilly to cozy on the ground floor when the furnace is turned up, the upstairs takes a LOT longer. It’s cold up there for at least a couple of hours after we arrive.

How I long for the days when one could walk in the door, kindle a fire in the old Findlay stove, and have the house – the WHOLE house – warm in no time.

Do you suppose there’s any hope for a Bring Back Stovepipes campaign?

The hustle-bustle of Queensborough

A relaxing evening for Raymond with his newspaper, his books and (in his lap) Sieste the cat. Can you guess which house – Queensborough or Montreal – this photo was taken in?

A relaxing evening for Raymond with his newspaper, his books and (in his lap) Sieste the cat. Can you guess in which house – Queensborough or Montreal – this photo was taken?

Raymond and I spent last weekend here in Montreal, and what a contrast it was to our recent visits to Queensborough! Whereas in one place we have many errands to run, people to see, chores to do and appointments to keep, in the other we can just quietly relax in our house, enjoy the blessed peace and quiet, and get rested up for the work week ahead.

What’s that? What do you mean, “Too bad you didn’t get away to the relaxing place last weekend?” We were in the relaxing place!

In Montreal we emerged from home for a quick grocery shop on Saturday and church on Sunday. The rest of the weekend we chilled with our cats, reading books and newspapers, making and enjoying nice meals, having lovely long naps, and watching a ball game or two and a movie or two. What could be more relaxing?

In Queensborough, well – it’s just go go go all the time! Why, the last weekend we were there we were so busy that we didn’t even get time to make a dump run!

Here’s what I have to say: it’s a good thing we have a house in the great big city of Montreal. Because we need a place to escape the non-stop hustle-bustle of Queensborough.