You just never know what you’re going to find in Hastings County, people. Like, maybe: donkeys. While you’re sipping tea.
One day a while back Raymond and I were out for an exploratory drive (as we often are) in the Queensborough area and found ourselves on the portion of a small gravel road called Black River Road that is south of Highway 7. The road follows along the scenic Black River and there are several tidy, mostly modern houses there. All quite pretty, but nothing too strange or startling. Until – “Wait a minute!” I exclaimed to Raymond. “I think I just saw a donkey! In the door of that barn back there!” (To appreciate my excitement you must understand that I had never actually seen a donkey before. Let alone a donkey on tiny Black River Road in one of the ruralest parts of rural Hastings County. Where donkeys are not exactly common.) Anyway, we drove on rather than turning back, and until this weekend I’d been wondering whether I was hallucinating when I saw (or thought I saw) that donkey.
But I was not! As we discovered when we took part in this past weekend’s Heart of Hastings Studio Tour. We spent most of the tour – which covered a large part of central and southern Hastings County – in the pretty village of Stirling, where we visited half a dozen shops filled with the kinds of antiques and collectibles that we love. But before heading home to the Manse, we decided to visit another tour stop, which was “Black River Farm and Green Donkey Tea Room” – incorrectly described in the tour literature as being on Black River Road north of Highway 7. When we figured out that this place at which we’d planned to have lunch was in reality south of Highway 7, and in fact was on the road that Raymond and I had visited a few months earlier, the “donkey” in its name suddenly made sense to me.
And sure enough: at the Green Donkey Tea Room at the Black River Farm, owners Al and Elsie Lafreniere house donkeys rescued from bad situations. They use the profits from their lovely little tearoom, and their business selling fine teas, homemade jams and jellies and other fine foods (including tourtière, yum), as well as handmade soaps and whatnot, to pay the costs of looking after these gentle creatures.
It is a lovely setting, and a neat little business. And quietly successful: this year Canadian Living magazine named the Green Donkey Tea Room one of the best places for afternoon tea in the whole country! (Al and Elsie have the feature article framed on the wall of the tearoom, but unfortunately Canadian Living doesn’t have it on its website so I can’t steer you there. You will have to take my word for it, which I trust you will do.)
So anyway, we had a delicious lunch (with great tea), and afterward went down to have a look at the donkeys, who are utterly charming.
And I have two things to say about all of this.
One: you just never know what you’ll find off in the remote corners of Hastings County. As I believe I have mentioned before.
And two: if you’re in the area, you should check out the Green Donkey Tea Room! It’s not open all that often, but events coming up include a Harvest Soup Lunch Weekend Nov. 23 and 24 (reservations suggested) and Christmas High Tea Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 7, 8, 14 and 15 (reservations required). The number to call is (613) 478-2852.
And I don’t think Al and Elsie will mind a bit if you stop by and say hey to the Black River Farm donkeys.