Weed, or not? People, I need your help

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This healthy plant, and many like it, are growing in various parts of the flower garden at the front of the Manse. I believe I have mentioned many times before how I am a useless (or, to put it kindly, neophyte) gardener. Which means that I do not know whether this healthy plant is a weed to be pulled or something useful to keep.

Can anyone help me?

I am particularly interested because this one I photographed is encroaching on the space of the one phlox plant that we have, and I adore phlox. And do not want it to be threatened by anything.

So, gardening folks out there, please tell me: do I pull this, or not?

Happy Dominion Day from the Manse

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When Raymond and I became the proprietors of the Manse, a bracket-type thing on one of the front-porch pillars came with it. I paid it no mind. But Raymond recently informed me that it was for a flagpole. And then we started talking about having a flag there (which was a little odd for me, because I’ve never been big on flags). But I kind of came around, and since they had flagpoles and Canadian flags on sale at the Madoc and Tweed Home Hardwares this weekend (for obvious reasons), we went for it. So Lester Pearson’s beautiful Canadian flag now flies proudly at the Manse, and this photo is Raymond putting it up. But be prepared, passersby! On July 14 (Bastille Day) it may well be the Tricouleur; and on June 24 (St. Jean Baptiste, Quebec’s “national” holiday), the fleur-de-lys; and on the Fourth of July – well, Raymond’s from Massachusetts, where the American Revolution was born (“One if by land and two if by sea” and all that) – so be prepared for a brief but proud showing of the Stars and Stripes.

But meanwhile – a happy Dominion Day to all!

The Manse’s mushroom crop is flourishing.

I would say those mushrooms are thriving, wouldn't you? They adorn the front yard of our Manse. I think you probably should not eat them. (Photo courtesy of Sally Gale)

I would say those mushrooms are thriving, wouldn’t you? They adorn the front yard of our Manse. I think you probably should not eat them. (Photo courtesy of Sally Gale)

Thanks to Sally Gale of Queensborough for sending us this rather startling photo of the Manse mushrooms! It made me laugh out loud.

Raymond and I first discovered our inadvertent new crop on our last visit to the Manse, and I did a post about it here. It seems the rotting remains of the old maple-tree stump below the surface are encouraging the growth of fungi. And boy, are they ever growing! To the point when friends passing by on a walk to the playground at the Queensborough Community Centre are moved to take photos!

Do you suppose there’s a category in the produce competition at the Madoc Fair for front-yard mushrooms? Maybe we could win a first-place ribbon!

I have a whole new respect for the art and craft of sermon-writing.

Dad's desk in the Manse study

The desk in the Manse’s study – my father’s desk, and my father’s study, back in the 1960s and ’70s, though this photo was taken only a few months ago – where he wrote his sermons for 11 years, late into the night every Saturday night. As I wrote in a post here, it was comforting when I was a little kid to snuggle into bed after the requisite Saturday-night bath knowing that Dad was at work in the study down the hall. The world was as it should have been.

A little while ago, The Rev. Caroline Giesbrecht – the minister at St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough – asked me if I would be the guest speaker at the 123rd anniversary service of St. Andrew’s, to be held this coming Sunday (June 30). She had read and liked one of my posts here at Meanwhile, at the Manse, and thought it might serve as the basis of a sermon that people at the church would find of interest. (I’m not going to tell you which post it was, in case you’re planning to be at church on Sunday. You don’t want to hear about it twice!)

I was honoured to be asked, especially given that guest speakers at church anniversary services are generally ministers and I of course am not; but I was extremely hesitant and almost said no. And then I suddenly found myself saying yes.

Which meant, of course, that I had to write a sermon.

And let me tell you, that process has given me a whole new respect for ministers who write sermons every week – especially good sermons, like Caroline writes. (These days there’s not as much good sermon-writing about as one might wish.) It is hard work.

And the one I’ve written – I’m very pleased to say this evening that it is written, and has been revised, and revised some more, and is finally done – was nowhere near as much work as the sermons that Caroline writes, or that my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, wrote during his many years as a United Church of Canada minister. (Including 11 years as minister at St. Andrew’s.) For one thing, I had that already-written blog post to base it on, so I wasn’t starting from scratch. And for another, I didn’t even try to insert any scholarly analysis, whether my own (since I didn’t actually have any scholarly analysis to impart) or from one of those thousands of Christian thinkers, writers and philosophers whose work ministers are expected to read and keep up on. And I certainly didn’t study the scripture lessons in their original Greek and Hebrew (as ministers often do) to consider the nuances of the text and the translation.

No, I took the comparatively easy route, just writing the words that came. And it was still really hard work.

So yes, my understanding and appreciation of what it takes to put together a good sermon – not to mention the rest of a church service – have increased exponentially in recent days. I always knew that Dad was working hard as he burned the midnight oil on Saturday nights, and sometimes early Sunday mornings, in his study at the Manse, getting the sermon ready for the next day’s services. But until now, I never realized quite how challenging, even draining, that work must have been. And to do it week after week after week!

You know what? Ministry is not for the faint of heart. Or those without an unflinching work ethic.

A bit of whimsy: the egghead monks

The Monks

A quick post tonight, folks: I can’t resist showing you a funny thing that Raymond and I recently picked up at The Curious Caretaker, a wonderful antique store (with a strong emphasis on mid-20th-century stuff) in Madoc, which is “town” for most people in Queensborough. It is a holder for boiled eggs, because apparently once upon a  time – oh, who am I trying to kid? In my own childhood – soft-boiled eggs were a staple of breakfast, and you’d need a bunch of them for a crowd, or a family. (And here, if you’re determined to re-create those days, is none other than Martha Stewart‘s soft-boiled-egg recipe.) But is this not the most hilarious boiled-egg holder of all? Note how the bald egg finishes off every monk‘s head. And how each monk has a different expression on his face. This odd thing was produced in Brazil (of all places), lord knows when, but I’m guessing the 1950s or so. It makes us laugh every time we look at it. We tried to pass it up but – we couldn’t. Another bit of whimsy for the Manse.

Sheet music, auctions, and a musical trip back in time

Just look at this stuff, people! And this is just a tiny portion of what was in my sheet-music box from the auction. But: Gordon Lightfoot, Summer Side of Life! And MacArthur Park, complete with the late Richard Harris (no singer, he) in headband. Does it get any better than that?

Just look at this stuff, people! And this is just a tiny portion of what was in my sheet-music box from the auction. But: Gordon Lightfoot, Summer Side of Life! And MacArthur Park, complete with the late Richard Harris (no singer, he) in headband. Does it get any better than that?

One of the things Raymond and I absolutely love about the Queensborough area is that there are still lots of old-fashioned auction sales there. In truth I shouldn’t even be telling you this, because the more people there are who know about the auctions of Hastings County, the more people there are who will come and bid against Raymond and me when we are hoping to get good stuff at a good price. But it is just so much fun to spend a lazy sunny Saturday at an auction, and with any luck at all come away with some treasures and/or bargains, that I can’t help going on about it. (As I have in the past, here and here for instance.)

I’m not sure if I would classify my most recent auction purchase as a treasure or a bargain, but I think I’ll say it falls into both categories.

It was – wait for it – a box of sheet music. Sheet music! Good lord, does anyone use sheet music any more? Does anyone publish it? Who knows? But back in the day, any popular song would show up on sheet music, so that amateur musicians could learn to play (and perhaps sing) it themselves on piano or guitar. I was never musical, but my sister, Melanie, was, and back in the days when we were growing up at the Manse I remember her buying sheet music (and books of collected songs) at music stores – and I remember they were always kind of expensive.

But not my box of sheet music! No sirree; I got a big overflowing box of everything from classic opera to Beethoven sonatas to the good stuff, the hits of the 1970s – all for the humble price of one dollar. Not that I had much time to rifle through it to see what might be in the box before making the quick decision to give up a dollar for it (oddly enough, no one else wanted it); but when we got home and I had a chance to go through it – wow! My musical past was all right there. Here are some highlights, and try not to be too jealous:

Okay, the woodwork needs a cleaning and an overhaul (this photo was taken very early in our tenure at the Manse), but this corner of the living room is where the as-yet theoretical piano must go – because it's where the piano did go back in my Manse childhood.

Okay, the woodwork needs a cleaning and an overhaul (this photo was taken very early in our tenure at the Manse), but this corner of the living room is where the as-yet theoretical piano must go – because it’s where the piano did go back in my Manse childhood.

Okay, so we have this awesome vintage sheet music. Now what to do with it? We could frame it, I suppose; a bunch of these in a cluster would look seriously funky on some wall or other. But Raymond (who is going to be retiring at the end of this summer, and so can be thinking about new pursuits) has ventured of late that he’s always been sorry that he never had piano lessons, and wouldn’t mind starting now. And when I was growing up at the Manse, we always had a piano. And there might be a spare piano kicking around among the various members of my family. And I would know right where to put that piano in the Manse living room, for Raymond to practise on. And so that sheet music could then be put to very good use. All for one dollar!

Meanwhile, if you are at all familiar with the execrable yet strangely compelling MacArthur Park, I offer you this pretty funny commentary on it. Enjoy!

In a tiny outpost, shopping, dining, and a warm welcome

Raymond on the front porch of the Old Hastings Mercantile. It was a grey and rainy day, but inside we received the warmest of welcomes and discovered a treasure trove of wonderful goods for sale.

Raymond on the front porch of the Old Hastings Mercantile. It was a grey and rainy day, but inside we received the warmest of welcomes and discovered a treasure trove of goods for sale.

It wasn’t very long at all after Raymond and I bought the Manse in Queensborough that people in the area starting telling us we had to go visit Ormsby. My first reaction: where and what is Ormsby? Despite having grown up in Hastings County, I’d never heard of it. But these folks were eager to tell us about the fantastic gallery/general store there, the Old Hastings Mercantile. And the restaurant/tearoom, the Old Ormsby Schoolhouse. And the tiny historic church, the Old Ormsby Heritage Church, where, we were told, an unforgettable evening Christmas service is held by the light of oil lamps and with wonderful music. All this in tiny Ormsby, population 20!

We learned that Ormsby is in the north part of Hastings County, about a 20-minute drive southwest of Bancroft and something less than 10 minutes east of Coe Hill. And then we learned a lot more about the cool things going on there thanks to an article about the general stores of Hastings County in the excellent Country Roads magazine by our friend Lindi Pierce (the Belleville-based writer and literary/heritage enthusiast behind the wonderful blogs Ancestral Roofs and In Search of Al Purdy).

But for more than a year – despite people constantly telling us “You have to go visit Ormsby!” – we weren’t able to find the time, on our all-too-brief visits to Queensborough, to actually make the trek. Last weekend, however, we finally did – and what a wonderful discovery it was, and what a great day we had!

The Old Ormsby Heritage Church – and, in the rear, its church-styled outhouse! (A delightful touch by the Pattinsons.)

The Old Ormsby Heritage Church – and, in the rear at right, its church-styled outhouse. (A delightful touch by the Pattisons.)

I am pretty sure that one of the reasons so many people urged us to make the visit was that they sensed that in the proprietors of the Ormsby operation we had kindred spirits. Twin brothers Gary and Ernie Pattison, both top-flight professional orchestral musicians, have family roots in the area of Ormsby, specifically the nearby farming community called The Ridge. Despite busy musical careers in Toronto (and sometimes other cities, including Montreal), they were drawn back to the place, and together with Gary’s wife, Lillian, and Ernie’s wife, Debbie (both of them also musicians, which is very cool), they have created a remarkable, welcoming “destination” in a tiny place that some would say is close to being in the middle of nowhere.

The Mercantile has room after themed room, but this one, the tiniest, is a jewel: the room under the stairs, filled with beautiful little things. Delightful!

The Mercantile has room after themed room, but this one, the tiniest, is a jewel: the room under the stairs, filled with beautiful little things. Delightful! (To see pictures of all the other rooms at the Mercantile, all packed with great stuff, check out the Theme Rooms link on its website, here.)

Gary and Lillian are the proprietors of the Old Hastings Mercantile, a general store and gallery that you really have to see to believe. It is packed to the rafters with amazing stuff: jewelry, pottery, kitchenware, soaps, candles, clothing, books, Christmas items, music, greeting cards, games and toys, gardening items – and really, that’s just a start! Oh, and did I mention vintage candy? Which is displayed in an old-fashioned candy counter that, if you’re lucky like me and grew up in a tiny place with a general store (or two) will take you right straight back to that childhood. Blackballs, anyone?

The Old Ormsby Schoolhouse restaurant and tearoom, looking inviting on a damp, misty day in Ormsby.

The Old Ormsby Schoolhouse restaurant and tearoom, looking inviting on a damp, misty day in Ormsby.

Meanwhile, just over the hill from the Mercantile, Ernie runs the Old Ormsby Schoolhouse (“Educated Dining” is its slogan) and Tearoom. As you can guess, it is located in a former one-room schoolhouse, which Ernie and Debbie have beautifully restored: there is gorgeous wooden wainscotting, and patterned tin walls and ceilings, and a warming pot-bellied stove, and the original blackboards, and some of those old display maps made by candy-bar companies – remember those from the classrooms of your childhood, people of a certain age? The wooden tables and chairs are all vintage, the tables are set with tablecloths, and beautiful real (vintage) china cups and saucers adorn them. You feel like you have stepped back in time.

Even though it was our first visit to the Mercantile and the Schoolhouse, Raymond and I felt like we already knew the place thanks to all we’d heard and read about it – and also because both Gary and Ernie read and sometimes comment on my ramblings here at Meanwhile, at the Manse. Thanks to those communications, it has felt even more like they in Ormsby and Raymond and I in Queensborough really are kindred spirits, with a lot of shared interests.

Our haul of retro candy from the Old Hastings Mercantile. Remember that tri-coloured taffy? And snowballs? And Thrills gum? (Which, as it proudly says on the box, still taste like soap!)

Our haul of retro candy from the Old Hastings Mercantile. Remember that tri-coloured taffy? And snowballs? And Thrills gum? (Which, as it proudly says on the box, still tastes like soap!) And there’s lots more to choose from at the Mercantile – including good old blackballs.

Raymond and I began our Ormsby visit at the Mercantile, spending a long time poking through all the rooms full of wonderful stuff, and coming away with several books (gee, there’s a surprise), a lovely glass hummingbird feeder, some wild-rose seeds, and a few other items. Oh, and did I mention the vintage candy? (Yes, I know I did.) We could not resist a selection from the candy counter – which even included Necco wafers, candy Raymond grew up with (Necco stands for the New England Confectionary Company).

As we were paying and getting ready to head over to the Schoolhouse for lunch, Lillian pulled out a wonderful surprise that Gary (who was in Toronto, playing with the National Ballet of Canada Orchestra) had prepared for us: a frame that contains photos of the Manse, and of my family when I was growing up there – which I had posted right here on the blog – that show through cutouts in the matting that form the words “THE MANSE.” I was dumbfounded – and absolutely thrilled. What a nice thing to do!

Lillian Oakley Pattison, storekeeper extraordinaire, and Raymond with the gift that Lillian's husband, Gary, had made for us: It's THE MANSE with photos from my very own childhood. Lovely!

Lillian Oakley Pattison, storekeeper extraordinaire, and Raymond with the gift that Lillian’s husband, Gary, had made for us: It’s THE MANSE with photos from my very own childhood. Lovely! (And you can see from the surroundings just how much amazing stuff is for sale at the Old Hastings Mercantile. Every nook and cranny contains something interesting.)

At the Old Ormsby Schoolhouse, meanwhile, Ernie was there to greet us and answer our (many) questions about his and Debbie’s restoration of the building (it turns out it’s the third or fourth old schoolhouse that they have been involved in restoring in rural Hastings County!), and of their beautiful old farmhouse at The Ridge, and about the operation generally. And we had a wonderful lunch; mine was the amazing house special squash soup (for which Ernie kindly gave me the recipe) and tea sandwiches – you know, crustless ones cut into shapes, with cucumbers and egg salad and good stuff like that in them. Yum! All washed down with perfectly made tea served in a china teapot and the aformentioned china cups. If there is anything better than tea sandwiches and properly-made tea served in china teacups, I don’t know what it is. (Except maybe Ernie’s carrot cake for dessert.)

Ernie Pattison at the beautifully restored Old Ormsby Schoolhouse – a wonderful place for lunch or afternoon tea or (on weekends) supper.

Ernie Pattison at the beautifully restored Old Ormsby Schoolhouse – a wonderful place for lunch or afternoon tea or (on weekends) supper. I apologize for my slightly out-of-focus photo – I get nervous when I take pictures, because I’m so bad at it! But hey, note the slate on the table in the foreground – that’s what’s used to take your order. And also the authentic pot-bellied stove!

A lovely gift from Ernie Pattison: a miniature version of the funky TV trays that my grandparents once had, together with the recipe for his absolutely splendid squash soup.

A lovely gift from Ernie Pattison: a miniature version of the funky TV trays that my grandparents once had, together with the recipe for his absolutely splendid squash soup.

I came away from the Schoolhouse with yet another lovely gift (in addition to the squash soup recipe). Ernie had a twinkle in his eye as he showed me the little trays they use to deliver the check to the tables. They are tiny versions of the TV trays (a mid-20th-century staple, those of a certain age will know) that I remember from my childhood, and that I wrote about once here. In that post I lamented the fact that I have not yet been able to get my hands on a set of TV trays like the ones my maternal grandparents had, which featured big, brightly coloured flowers on a black background. Lo and behold, the little trays for the checks at the Schoolhouse are just like that. Adorable! (Ernie told us he had come across them in an antique store – now that is a find.) And he presented me with one to keep. I was thrilled!

Raymond and I already have plans to go back to Ormsby. In a couple of weeks, the anniversary service will be held at the Old Ormsby Heritage Church, a wee former Presbyterian church that Gary and Lillian own and that is used for weddings and special services. We’ll be there!

And while Christmas seems like a long time in the future, we are already looking forward to an annual special event at the Old Ormsby Schoolhouse. It is an evening when the electric lights are turned off and the whole place is lit by the oil lamps on the walls and tables. Dinner is served, after which the entertainment is a 1939 radio broadcast (on a vintage radio) of Charles Dickens‘s A Christmas Carol, featuring Orson Welles and Lionel Barrymore. I cannot imagine anything more magical.

In fact, magic might be the best word to describe the entirety of what Gary and Lillian and Ernie and Debbie have done at Ormsby. Restoring an old general store, schoolhouse and church; bringing new life to a former ghost town on the Old Hastings Road; and creating a true destination, a place that people travel from near and far to visit and enjoy themselves and eat and shop – all in tiny out-of-the-way Ormsby.

There is something to be learned for Queensborough in all of this!