Does Molson the Kitten belong at the Manse?

Molson the Kitten

Here’s the ad that caught my eye, featuring Molson. Don’t you thinks he’s adorable? (Photo from the Central Hastings News)

Most weeks in the Central Hastings News, one of the three local weekly papers we get here at the Manse (the other two being the Tweed News and the Community Press) there is an ad from the local branch of a volunteer organization called the Cat Care Spay/Neuter Initiative. The ad features a photo and the story of one of the cats available for adoption (or, as they like to put it, for moving to a “forever home,” which I confess I find a tad saccharine).

Most weeks I, inveterate cat lover that I am, examine the ad with great interest. And sometimes I even point out that week’s candidate to Raymond, in a not-so-subtle suggestion that we might want to adopt a companion for our Sieste. (Whose adventures you’ve probably read about before here at Meanwhile, at the Manse; but should you require more information, you can find it here and here and here.)

Most times when I show him the Cat of the Week Raymond chuckles and immediately returns to his book, magazine or newspaper. The wordless message of the chuckle is, of course, “Why would we want another cat?”

Sieste at the doorway

Do you think Sieste would welcome the sight of Molson (and maybe his brother Turbo too) arriving at the front door of the Manse?

But I have to tell you that the photo of Molson, the kitten featured in last week’s issue, seemed to get to him. (As well as to me, of course.) Molson is a “tuxedo cat,” black and white like Sieste; and I think you’ll have to agree that he is cute as a button. And, according to his promotional writeup, “He will follow you around and loves to hide and jump out at you to surprise you. His playfulness is only surpassed by his cute and loving personality.” Now that’s pretty appealing! Even to Raymond.

No, I haven’t yet prevailed on him to give the good people (and cat rescuers) at the Cat Care Spay/Neuter Initiative a call. But here’s the thing that might really win him over: last week’s ad promised that this week we’d see a photo of Molson’s brother! Whose name is apparently Turbo.

Maybe Raymond is just holding out for a pair.

And on an important (though utterly unrelated) note: Don’t forget about the world-famous Turkey Supper at St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough tomorrow (Wednesday, Oct. 1) evening. It runs from 4:30 to 7 p.m., and you will enjoy a terrific old-fashioned church supper in the historic surroundings of St. Andrew’s. I hope to see you there!

Colours and clouds

Scarlet tree and contrail, Queensborough Road

This is not the first time I’ve shown you a photo of this gorgeous-in-autumn maple tree on Queensborough Road at Moore’s Corners – the previous post is here – but I thought it looked especially interesting late Sunday morning, with the clouds and jet contrails behind it.

As you’ve probably heard already, the fall colours in our part of Ontario this year are absolutely spectacular. On a sunny day, something as simple as a drive from Queensborough to Madoc or – in the case of the topic of this post – Tweed can take your breath away.

Yesterday as Raymond and I made the abovementioned jaunt to Tweed – for an event that I’ll tell you more about in another post – we were doubly blessed: not only were there great colours, but there were amazing clouds. And so we stopped a few times and took a few pictures:

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Really, it just makes you glad to be alive to see and appreciate it.

Rabbit-foot keychains: why did that seem like a good idea?

Tiny bunny at the fair

This adorable baby bunny was there for the stroking and picking up at the Madoc Fair‘s petting zoo. (Which was aimed at kids, but I loved it too.) It is so lovely to feel a bunny’s soft fur. But why would you ever want to separate its soft foot from its soft body?

If you read my post last night, about some of the simple but charming things that I enjoyed seeing at last weekend’s Madoc Fair, you might remember that one such thing was the soft and cuddly baby bunnies who were among the pettees at the fair’s petting zoo. (I didn’t share my photo of the little white one because I was saving it for tonight’s post. And now you have it. Isn’t he/she adorable?)

A day or two after our visit to the fair I was reminiscing aloud about petting and holding the bunnies. “They were so soft!” I told Raymond.

Whereupon he took it upon himself to remind me of a phenomenon from both of our childhoods that I had utterly, utterly forgotten:

“Well of course they’re soft,” Raymond replied. “Why do you think people used to always carry around rabbits’ feet?”

Remember these? Yikes!

Remember these? Yikes!

Wow – it all came back to me with a bang. Rabbits’ feet! On keychains! Everybody seemed to have them, didn’t they? Or was it just the kids? But wait a minute; my memory must be faulty on that front. Those 1960s days of my childhood in Queensborough were days when kids had absolutely no need for keys, or keychains. No house was ever locked, and besides, mum was always home. So why did all the kids have rabbits’ feet? Were they just a loose thing they kept in their pockets and purses?

And more to the point: were they real? Did a bunny really give up a foot for each of those soft little pocket and purse treasures?

And even more to the point: what the heck was that all about? I mean, I vaguely know that there’s an old tradition of a rabbit’s foot bringing good luck, but was that why people had them? Or was it just a midcentury fad of some sort? (Clearly it wasn’t just a Queensborough fad, if Raymond, who grew up in Lowell, Mass., also remembers it.)

Much as I treasure Raymond, I really wish he hadn’t reminded me of the rabbit-foot phenomenon. I have a ghastly feeling that, if those furry little feet were real, an awful lot of rabbits were raised just so they could be killed and their feet chopped off and marketed. And that’s just awful.

Which makes me very happy to say that I personally never had a rabbit’s foot. And neither did anyone in my family. Poor little bunnies! Far better they should be kept intact, four feet and all, to be picked up and petted at the Madoc Fair.

Stuff that won prizes, and won me over, at the Madoc Fair

Madoc Fair 2014, Ann's prizewinning drawing

I am so proud to say that this is my old friend (and, truth be told, former babysitter!) Ann Roushorn Sexsmith with her prizewinning drawing of St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough. The highlight of this year’s Madoc Fair for me was when Ann, out of the blue, offered me that lovely first-place picture. Wow!

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a week since this year’s edition of the Madoc Fair. I figured that tonight I’d better say what I have to say – or more to the point, show what I have to show – from the fair, or it will all recede into distant memory.

So first things first! The absolute highlight of the fair for me this year was running into Ann (Roushorn) Sexsmith, who once upon a time was a regular babysitter of my siblings and me here at the Manse. Now, it’s always nice to see Ann, but this time was special, because she was beaming with pride at having (very deservedly) won a first-place ribbon at the fair for her black-and-white drawing of St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough. (Ann has been a fine artist ever since I’ve known her, which is quite a considerable time.) She knew that, as a dedicated member of St. Andrew’s, I’d be tickled about the subject of her winning picture, and very kindly agreed to pose for a photo with it in the exhibition hall at the fairgrounds.

And then came the best part of all: Ann promised me the picture!

I was so touched by her kind and deeply meaningful gesture that I had tears in my eyes as I answered a heartfelt “Yes, oh yes!” to her question, “Would you like to have it?”

So before too long Ann’s picture will hang in a special place at the Manse. You know, I’ve said this before and I will say it again: Queensborough-connected people are just the best and most generous kind of of people.

As for the rest of the fair, well, Raymond and I had a delightful time perusing the exhibits and watching the horse pulls and chowing down on the kind of food that you only get at the fair. (Burgers cooked up by the volunteer fire department, and Grandpa Ellis taffy, and candy floss and whatnot). Fortunately for us we were there on Saturday, late morning and early afternoon, when the weather was terrific; later in the day Saturday and for most of Sunday the rain just teemed down and made things miserable.

Anyway, most of my photos from this year’s fair were from the aforementioned exhibition hall where Ann’s picture had taken first place. There were vegetables and flower arrangements and art and quilts and photographs and sewing and knitting and maple syrup and jams and jellies and so on and so on and so on. And I just loved it all.

I also was quite taken with this year’s edition of the petting zoo, something that of course is aimed mainly at the kids but that I always drag Raymond to because I love it. There were lots of animals in it this year, and they were so great! So yeah, I dragged Raymond in and he pretty much had to drag me out, because I could have spent hours laughing at the duck with the beehive hairdo, and cuddling the super-soft baby bunnies, and chatting with the friendly pig, and admiring the pretty baby goats and the miniature horses.

But: it’s goodbye to the fair until next year. Here’s a little memento, a showcase of the simple and good things that win prizes and make people happy on that very special weekend:

 

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Could there finally be hope for the internet in Queensborough?

New Xplornet tower

This notice in one of the local weekly papers, hot off the presses today, contains what I believe is the best news I’ve heard for a while. It brings internet hope to the Manse!

Oh, big news today, people. Big news! What news, you ask? This: that there might be a glimmer of hope that Queensborough will get out of internet purgatory – or is it hell? – and be able to enjoy the same access to the proverbial information superhighway that most of the rest of the world (and I include in this remotest Africa) already has.

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about this.

I have bored you dear readers (most of whom probably enjoy limitless high-speed internet at reasonable cost without even thinking about what a luxury it seems to those of us who don’t have it) many times before with the problems that Raymond and I, and other Queensborough residents, experience on the online front. (Want specifics, or a reminder? Some of my past posts on the topic are here and here and here and here.) When it comes to internet access, Queensborough people are in essence penalized because of the beautiful setting of our village: in a valley, with rocks and trees all around us. Because, you see, the valley thing means that the signals from the existing regional internet-signal towers don’t get to most of us. And trees mean foliage; and as one of the many internet customer-service people whom I’ve called up to complain told me recently, “Foliage is like concrete for signals. They just don’t go through.”

So here’s what happened today. In the middle of my busy workday, while I was editing some really fine student-written news stories and feeling quite thrilled at how well our team of budding reporters at Loyalist College Journalism is doing, a text arrived from Raymond:

WOW! Good news (I hope). Xplornet wants to put a tower up at 371 Declair Rd.

Well! You would probably have had to be here at the Manse one night about this time a month ago to understand how thrilled I was to hear this. That was the night when tears of rage and frustration were running down my cheeks because the slow-to-impossible internet, for which we are paying an arm and a leg, meant that it took close to four hours for me to put up a straightforward post here at Meanwhile, at the Manse about the gardens that would be on display during Historic Queensborough Day. I started in the early evening and, because it took hours to upload the photos (which would have zipped through in less than a minute in any normal internet situation), finished after midnight, long past my work-week bedtime. I was exhausted, frustrated, and mad as hades.

So what’s so exciting about a plan to put up an Xplornet tower on Declair Road? Well, I’ll tell you. Declair Road is located (despite the rather misleading “Tweed” address in the notice that Raymond had seen in one of the local papers, which you can see in the photo atop this post; Queensborough is in fact part of what I like to call the GTA, the Greater Tweed Area) just a couple of miles northeast of Queensborough. If a tower for Xplornet – an internet provider set up by local governments in Eastern Ontario (though it has now expanded to other parts of Canada) to bring service to rural areas – goes up there, it seems a reasonable assumption that its signals might actually beam down into Queensborough! I even venture to hope that this tower is being proposed precisely because the Xplornet people are aware – I know this thanks to a very helpful engineer with the operation telling me so last fall – that Queensborough is what they call “an underserved area” when it comes to the internet.

Now, you can bet your bottom dollar that I am going to be making some calls and doing some research on this. I don’t want my heart to be broken. I want to find out if this Declair Road tower will in fact make my life better, internet-wise. If it won’t – if it will only mean better internet for people outside the Queensborough valley – I will first despair, and then buck up and fight on. (Though of course I’ll be happy for those who will benefit from it.)

But I know there are others in Queensborough who are in much the same boat as Raymond and I are. Some of them are still having to rely on brutally slow dial-up internet. Some of them use Xplornet’s satellite service, and lose contact with said internet when there is snow. (Or rain. Or clouds. Or a hint of fog.) For some of them, including us, a wireless “hub” is the only option, and they pay a fortune for the slowest, most bare-bones service you can imagine. Streaming audio or video? Watching Netflix? You must be joking. Working from home through internet linkups? Not possible. It all makes me want to stamp my feet – as if I were again six years old, as I was once upon a time here at the Manse – and say, “It’s not fair!”

Ah, but that Declair Road tower might bring some internet. And some fairness. And that, people, would make me a happy, happy woman.

I’ll keep you posted.

See you at the Turkey Supper, one week from tonight!

Turkey_Gravy_Cran_4

Photo from the blog Supper is Ready!

It’s only a week away! Exactly seven days from tonight, I will be revisiting an annual event that was a highlight of life at the Manse when I was growing up here, but that I have not attended for – well, come to think of it, it has been exactly 40 years. Wow!

It is, of course, the Queensborough Turkey Supper at St. Andrew’s United Church. And here’s the really great part: you can come too! And you should! Because a better turkey dinner, with mashed potatoes and gravy and all the trimmings and a vast selection of homemade pies for dessert, is not to be had anywhere.

I’ve reminisced before, many times (but notably here) about the fall Turkey Suppers and the spring Ham Suppers at St. Andrew’s, so I won’t go on here. You can go back and read that post from 2012 if you like (and if you’re in the mood for Queensborough nostalgia), and I warmly encourage you to do so.

St. Andrew's United Church

St. Andrew’s United Church, the place to be for the Oct. 1 Turkey Supper. Bring your appetite!

But all you really need to know for this year’s event – which of course will be the one that you are attending – is that it takes place Wednesday, Oct. 1, from 4:30 to 7 p.m., at St. Andrew’s, 812 Bosley Rd. in Queensborough. (Just up the hill from the Manse.) The cost is $12 for adults and $5 for children. Raymond and I are on duty for cooking one of the turkeys and peeling 20 pounds of potatoes, so we may well have a hand in the great food you’ll be eating. And we’ll also be helping with serving: clearing plates and refilling bowls and pouring coffee and tea. It is a fun and bustling night, a time when all of Queensborough and people from far beyond gather once again at warm and historic St. Andrew’s to exchange news, share stories, and have a great meal. (With all proceeds going to the ongoing good work of our church.)

I fully expect to see you there, and I look forward to that. Hey, don’t disappoint me!

Those Country Roads lead to a going concern in Queensborough

Rebuilding a Community, Country Roads

The double-page-plus spread in Country Roads magazine, featuring the story of a thriving Queensborough business housed in a very historic (and lovingly preserved) building, one of our village’s two longtime general stores. At top right is the proprietor, Jos Pronk.

Longtime readers will know that I regularly sing the praises of the magazine Country Roads, which, as its slogan says, celebrates life in Hastings County. It is a beautifully designed, well-written, high-quality glossy magazine that pokes into all kinds of interesting things here in our beautiful, yet still in many ways undiscovered, part of the world.

But I am especially excited about the most recent issue, Fall 2014, because it features a splashy article about an interesting business in Queensborough and the people who run it.

(You may read the article itself by picking up a copy of the magazine – which I have not yet managed to do – or by clicking on the link here and scrolling to Page 28. You’ll probably need to enlarge it a bit to be able to read the text.)

New street signs

Queensborough’s new (this past summer) street signs, designed and made at Pronk Canada Inc. – Queensborough Machine Shop.

The business in question is Pronk Canada Inc. – Queensborough Machine Shop, and its name will be very familiar to readers of Meanwhile, at the Manse. Jos Pronk is a machinist and craftsman who can, it seems, build or fix anything made of metal. I wrote here, for instance, about the car – yes, a whole car! – that he built; other well-known local projects include the metal sign over the historic cemetery at Hazzard’s Corners Church, and Queensborough’s new street signs. Among many, many others.

Anyway, in the Country Roads profile the magazine’s co-publisher and co-editor, John Hopkins, reports on Jos’s background, his coming to Canada from his native Netherlands, and how he ended up buying the former general store owned for many years (including in my childhood here) by Bobbie (Sager) Ramsay and setting up his own business there. He also pays tribute to the careful work that Jos and his wife, Mary Kay, have done in restoring the old store (which is now their beautiful home) and notes that they have plans to one day open a bed and breakfast there. (Which, I will say right now, I think would be a wonderful thing.)

In my view Hopkins nails it with this description of Jos:

He is a difficult man to cubbyhole. Imposingly tall and slender, Pronk at first seems to fit the image of a rigidly severe and serious scientific mind, a quiet man who thinks in terms of numbers, equations and tolerances. But after only a little conversation that cloak disappears, and one is also aware of an artist’s appreciation of the natural world and a strong sense of community and history.

Standing contentedly in the recently restored living area of the general store, looking out a window that perfectly frames the Black River across the street, Pronk emphasizes the pretty scene.

“We [Mary Kay and I] love what nature has offered us here,” he reflects. “That view is like art, but you don’t have to pay for it. This village is like a secret place.”

Nicely said, Jos!

I also like how Hopkins captures something that I like to say about Queensborough to whomever will listen – about how great it is that, thanks to Jos and Mary Kay’s business, the old general store, for so many years the heart of the community (along with McMurray’s store, which was directly across from it), is once again a place of activity and gathering. I’ll let Hopkins paint the picture:

For all his creative and material contributions to the community of Queensborough, whether they be street signs or repaired farm equipment, Pronk’s greatest contributions may, in fact, be more spiritual. They are reflected in the warm wave of his hand extended to every car or motorcycle that passes the machine shop, the casual conversation about the weather with a farmer who has come to pick up a repaired piece of equipment, or the welcome given to a resident who has taken a seat just outside the shop to read the newspaper on a summer afternoon.

“This business is almost like a cornerstone of the community,” Jos points out, “which is what the building once was.”

I think we in Queensborough are awfully lucky to have a successful and widely respected small business like the Queensborough Machine Shop anchoring our “downtown” – not to mention the other businesses that one can find here in the village and in the surrounding area. There are more of them than you might think, and sometime when I have some spare time (yeah, right) I’d like to compile a listing of them so that the people of Queensborough, and visitors, can support our very local economy by patronizing these skilled craftspeople, artists, tradespeople and horticulturists.

But meantime, thanks to Jos and Mary Kay for making our community look so good and keeping things hopping in the core! And thanks to the folks at Country Roads magazine for making their way here and shining a spotlight on a much-deserving operation.