Summer memories made in Queensborough

Painting at QCC 3

Look at these amazing (and very intent) young artists! They were taking a lesson from local artist Linda Myrie at the Queensborough Community Centre‘s summer drop-in program. Read on to see a photo of their finished artworks.

As I write this post, the summer of 2018 is fading into memory. It is Labour Day evening, and all over Queensborough and everywhere else, children are being put to bed in good time so they can be awake early to catch the bus on the first day of school. I’m willing to bet that every single one of them has a little knot of nervousness in their stomach, perhaps enough to keep them awake for a bit. They’re wondering what the school year has in store for them. What will their teacher be like? Will the classes be hard? Will all their friends from last year still be around? By the time they jump off the bus tomorrow afternoon, at the end of Day 1, they’ll be happy and relaxed and feeling comfortable about it all. But this evening? This evening, they’re a little bit anxious about what lies ahead. And you know what? Their teachers are feeling exactly the same way. I can say that because I’m a teacher – and I’m already fretting about the close-to-sleepless night I’ll probably have, thinking about what tomorrow has in store.

Before the end of this last day of summer – not officially, but the start of school always makes you feel that summer’s over –  I’d like to tell you about a fantastic thing that happens every summer here in Queensborough. And it’s all about kids.

Summer drop-in schedule

The flyer that went out to Queensborough-area households in June, letting them know about the summer drop-in program. Pretty great lineup of activities for kids, isn’t it?

For more than 10 years, volunteers with the Queensborough Community Centre Committee have operated a children’s summer drop-in program. It takes place Tuesday and Thursday afternoons throughout July, and kids can attend a single session or the whole shebang at an extremely modest cost: $15 per child for all eight sessions, with a maximum of $30 per family no matter how many kids they have; or $5 per single session.

The drop-in program was the brainchild of tireless Queensborough volunteer Elaine Kapusta, who spent her professional life in education as a teacher and principal and thus brought a world of knowledge and ideas to the proceedings. But over the years more and more of the heavy lifting has been taken on by other volunteers from the community – including young people who started at the drop-in centre as wee kids!

Raymond and I are often travelling in July, and thus in the years since we moved to Queensborough I haven’t had much of a chance to check out the summer program. But our vacation schedule was a bit different this year, and so one bright afternoon in mid July, I headed up to the community centre to have a first-hand look.

The community centre – our hamlet’s historic former one-room school – was a happy blur of noise and bustle when I walked through the door. The activity that day was painting; a long table had been set up, and on both sides of it, kids were ranged in front of miniature easels, working away at their canvases. Some of the younger ones were at separate smaller tables, where their parents, other adult volunteers and the drop-in centre’s tween- and teenaged counsellors and counsellors in training were helping them. Leading the proceedings was Tweed artist Linda Myrie, one of an impressive array of visiting presenters for the program. Everybody was having a good time – and here are the results!

The kids with their paintings

Good work, guys! Queensborough drop-in program participants with their paintings. Photo courtesy of the Queensborough Community Centre Committee

I was impressed with a whole bunch of things during my visit:

  • How many kids there were. The place was full.
  • How focused they were on their painting activity.
  • How well-organized everything was – everything from painting materials to snacks was on hand as needed, and volunteers would appear whenever one of the young artists needed a bit of help or encouragement.
  • How much fun everyone was having!

This is just a wonderful setup for the kids in our community – and not just the littler ones who come for the fun. It also provides paid summer jobs to the counsellors – most of whom are “graduates” of the drop-in program – and, for the counsellors in training, experience that may well lead to that paid summer job in future years. Here are the 2018 crop:

Drop-in counsellors and counsellors in training

This year’s drop-in program counsellors and counsellors in training were (from left) Kira Davidson, Bradon Shaffer, Evelyn Stephens and Brook Gylytiuk. Photo courtesy of Elaine Kapusta

There was a day very early in the summer when I was out on the front porch of the Manse working on something or other, and I suddenly realized that there’d been a steady stream of early-teen kids going by on their bikes or on foot – about one every 20 minutes or so. What was up? I wondered. And then I realized: they were going to their interviews for counsellor positions at the drop-in program. What a terrific experience for these kids!

The budget for the drop-in program is not huge. The money to operate it comes from generous donations from community organizations – the Tweed Festival of Trees, the Madoc and Tweed Kiwanis Clubs, and the volunteer-run Madoc thrift shop, which raises money for a host of community causes – as well as from individuals. Meanwhile, it’s the hard work of dedicated volunteers – Joan Sims, Stephanie Flieler, Lisa Whalen and Jamie Gordon – that keeps it all running.

Thanks to the Queensborough Community Centre’s Facebook page, I can show you a few other photos of the fun that the kids had at this year’s drop-in program. There was first-aid-training day…

First aid at drop-in program First aid 2

… and a visit from some wild creatures that belong to Tyrannosaurus Pets in Belleville…

Giant snake at drop-in program

hedgehog at QCCJoanie with the giant snake
Meeting a varmint

And perhaps best of all, the traditional Water Day that concludes the summer drop-in program – a day for the kids to get outside in their swimsuits and, thanks to water balloons and water everywhere, get really, really wet:

water day 1

water day 2

Here’s what one parent posted on the QCC Facebook page the day Water Day was announced there:

Noah has been talking about it all morning!!! Woke up to his smile and “Is it camp day?” this morning. You have all been doing such a great job with this program! Thank you!

I’m sure that this mum was speaking for all parents of the kids who were able to enjoy the drop-in program this summer, and in summers past. It makes me so proud to know that, thanks to an inspired idea by Elaine and so much dedication by her and the other volunteers through the years, our tiny hamlet is able to offer this marvellous experience to our children.

As we bid farewell to summer 2018, I know that a whole bunch of Queensborough children and teenagers are eagerly awaiting the drop-in program of 2019. Way to go, Queensborough!

A very useful birthday present

Herb My friend and neighbour from just east of Queensborough, Herb Holgate – source of one of the most useful birthday gifts I have ever received.

Regular readers will doubtless recall that last week’s instalment of Meanwhile, at the Manse, had a birthday theme: it was marking the significant birthday of my very patient husband, Raymond. And thank you so much (from both of us) to all of you who responded with cheery birthday wishes for Raymond! Now, before we get away from birthdays entirely, I want to tell you about something that happened a few weeks earlier in July – on my birthday, as it happened.

I’ll preface the story by telling you that Raymond and I have taken to starting our days with a brisk hour-long walk. It’s not the ultimate fitness regimen, but it’s significantly better than nothing on the good-for-you scale. And it’s a pleasant way to take in the sights and sounds – a hawk diving for its prey, a marshland tree looking like something out of a Group of Seven painting – on the outskirts of Queensborough.

I’ll add a second preface by also mentioning that this summer has been a particularly bad one on the deer-fly front. If you’re an urban person and not too sure what a deer fly is, you can find a good explanation of it (along with its larger relative, the horse fly) here; but this summary from the Friends of Algonquin Park is as useful and to the point as any:

Deer flies and horse flies appear similar to large house flies, but they pack a strong bite. Unlike the sucking mouth parts of a mosquito, these insects have biting mouth parts that occasionally feel like they are “taking a chunk of skin” as a meal. Horse flies are relatively larger and darkly coloured, while deer flies are smaller and have colourful eyes and dark-patterned wings. Deer and horse flies are most abundant during the summer months and fly only during the day. Being visual feeders attracted to motion, these insects circle humans waiting for a good time to land and obtain a meal. Insect repellent is less effective against deer and horse flies than compared to other biting insect species.

If you’re a rural person like us here in Queensborough, you of course already knew all this. And you also know that the deer flies have been brutal in the summer of 2018.

deer fly

ttps://atthemanse.wordpress.com/2018/08/07/a-very-useful-birthday-present/deer-fly/” rel=”attachment wp-att-17872″> The deer fly – a major hindrance to enjoying a summer walk in the country. (Photo from the website of Hammerhead Kayak Supply)

[/caption]Now, if you noted the Algonquin Park people’s description of deer flies being “visual feeders attracted to motion,” you can doubtless imagine what happens when a person goes out for a walk on a midsummer day. It doesn’t take the deer flies any time at all to spot your motion and start circling your head and body, looking for a tasty spot to land and take a bite. Soon all its friends and relatives have showed up too. And the more your healthy exercise makes you sweat with the exertion, the more the deer flies are attracted to you. So you find yourself getting additional exercise by flailing your arms around in the hopeless effort to make them go away.

Okay, now for my story proper.

On the afternoon of my birthday in earlyish July, I was out for a walk on my own. I’d chosen the route that runs east from Queensborough, past the pretty and peaceful Greenwood Cemetery and Moore’s Corners, turning to return home when I’d reached the 2.5-kilometre mark at the intersection of Queensborough and DeClair roads. It was a hot day, and as I laboured up Holgate Hill – an informal name that comes from the family that for many years has lived at the top of it – the deer flies were buzzing all around me.

tthemanse.wordpress.com/2018/08/07/a-very-useful-birthday-present/walking-up-holgate-hill/” rel=”attachment wp-att-17869″> Here’s Raymond walking up Holgate Hill on Queensborough Road east of Queensborough.[/caption]At the

At the crest of the hill, my friend and neighbour Herb Holgate pulled out in his pickup truck, heading in the same direction I was. He recognized that my walk was a purposeful one and knew I couldn’t stop to chat, so he drove very slowly alongside me for a few minutes and we had an excellent catchup on each other’s news. Toward the end, he remarked on how my head was looking like the control tower for a deer-fly airport, and suggested a solution: clear plastic sticky strips that you attach to the back of a baseball cap. They work, he said, like those rolls of sticky tape you’d sometimes see suspended from farmhouse ceilings in my childhood, use to nab houseflies: the bugs are attracted to the tape, fly to it, get stuck, and die there. And possibly live specimens, seeing their immobilized friends and relatives dead or at least well on the way, will steer clear of you.

It might sound gruesome, but let me tell you, if you’ve ever been plagued by deer flies, you really wouldn’t mind being the death knell for some of them. Herb assured me that these sticky strips work, and told me I could get some at the farm-supply shop in Madoc (which is “town” for us). “Tell them I sent you,” he said genially. I was thrilled to learn of this new-to-me product, and told Herb that it was my birthday and the information he’d just given me was an excellent present. With a grin and a wave and a foot on the accelerator, he was on his way.

The next day I headed to Madoc and the farm-supply store. Now, as it happens there are two farm-supply stores in Madoc. I had leaped to the conclusion that the one Herb was referring to was the more rustic of the two; don’t ask me why. I told the friendly chap at the counter what I was looking for, and he told me that while the store had once stocked them, they unfortunately no longer do. Disappointing!

Why on earth I didn’t stop at the second farm-supply place to check I cannot explain. I just had it in my head that Herb had meant the first store, and that was that. Oh well.

But a little later that same day, when I was out working in the garden, Herb’s truck pulled up at the Manse. “Did you find those fly strips?” he asked me. I explained what had happened – and you can guess what comes next. He had meant the other farm-supply place. He also reinforced his story of the efficacy of the sticky strips by showing me the back of his own baseball cap. It was shocking in a thrilling way: stuck to the strip pinned to the cap were a good 20 or 30 dead deer flies. Wow!

Herb wasn’t going to leave it there. He hopped back into his truck, roared up the road to his house, and was back in just a few minutes with four of the sticky strips, two each for me and for Raymond. (Raymond is very popular with biting insects of all sorts, which means he has a lot more issues with the deer flies than even I do.)

What a great gift!

The deer flies are starting to tail off now so I’m holding my powder till next summer, but Raymond attached his sticky strip right away. And guess what? It works! Here, let me show you the evidence. The sticky strip is attached to Raymond’s walking cap of choice (you can tell by the sweat stains):

Queensborough cap front

Now take a look at the back of that cap:

Cap with deerflies

(I realize you’ve probably had to have experienced deer-fly misery at least once in your life to appreciate the wonderfulness of this photo.)

We can’t thank Herb enough for sharing his knowledge about the deer-fly strips, and especially for being kind enough to give us some to get us started. Here’s Raymond’s in action on a recent morning walk:

Deerfly catcher in action

I gotta tell you: to me that is a beautiful sight. Thank you, Herb!

Rain barrels are my new favourite thing

Rain barrel north side

I consider this new rain barrel and the spiffy way it’s set up at the northeast corner of the Manse a thing of absolute beauty. Now, if we could just get some rain to fill it up…

It seems that we in Queensborough are having yet another summer when one wonders if it is ever going to rain again.

Parched lawn

The parched lawn at the front of the Manse, July 2018. Which is exactly how it looked in July 2016. And in July 2012. This is getting worrisome.

The lawns are fried to a crisp, the vegetables and flowers in garden beds are looking haggard, and people are worrying about how long their wells will hold out. It’s been weeks since we had a decent rain, and most days throughout those weeks the temperatures have been close to or above – sometimes well above – 30C. (For my American readers, that’s high 80s/low 90s Fahrenheit.)

Honey Bunny and Sadie up close

How things looked during the Great Drought of 2016. Manse kitties Sadie (left) and Honey Bunny like to go outdoors on their leashes, but even they don’t look amused by the crackly grass.

This does not do much for my peace of mind. Every now and again you hear urban types blithering on about what a great summer we’re having. Yeah, great for them, because it’s all about lounging on the dock and splashing in the lake when they get to their cottages. To those of us who live in the country, however, regular rainfall is critical – for our crops, our wells and our quality of life generally. Having yet another drought so soon after the Great Droughts of 2012 (which I told you about here) and of 2016 (the story of which is here) – well, this is getting scary.

Here’s a brief aural respite, however. Seeing as how we’re dealing with our third drought in six years, I thought I’d try to cheer up my fellow sufferers. I recorded this audio clip on the Manse porch the evening the magical sound of rain finally came again, after many weeks of drought, in 2016. It was Saturday, Aug. 13.  I think you’ll agree it sounds wonderful.

All right, back to my tale. One thing these repeated droughts have brought squarely to my attention is the importance of rain barrels. Now, if you had told me back in the days when I was an urbanite, living in Montreal, that before too long I would be the owner of three rain barrels, with hopes for more to come, I would have thought you were nuts. When we bought the Manse and saw the extremely low-tech rain barrel that was parked on a back step, I toyed with getting rid of it as an eyesore.

Bare-bones rain barrel

The rain barrel that came with the Manse – a bare-bones specimen.

That would have been a really stupid move, and fortunately, I didn’t make it. Low-tech as it is – just a big plastic barrel, no top, no bug and leaf screen, no spigots for emptying out the water – that rain barrel has done wonderful service through these recent droughts in providing water for the Manse’s gardens and hanging baskets. I submerge my watering can in its contents, fill it to the brim, and the herbs, tomato plants, perennials and geraniums get a lovely drink of just-the-right-temperature rainwater. And because I’m recycling what comes from the sky, not a drop has to come out of the well.

This realization about the usefulness of rain barrels prompted me to get a second one a while back when the local conservation authority had them on sale. This barrel was considerably fancier than the one that came with the Manse: it had a top, a net to prevent debris getting into the water, and a spigot so you could get the water out easily or attach a hose.

Former rain-barrel position

This is not the way our second rain barrel should have been set up.

However, in the way we set it up, Raymond and I showed our naïveté when it comes to rain barrels. We parked it beside another back step on a raised platform – that second part we got right – but it didn’t dawn on us that a covered rain barrel with just a smallish (maybe five inches in diameter) net-covered hole in the top is not going to collect very much rainwater. What had we not figured out? Well (as I’m sure most of you have figured out), the rain barrel is supposed to be set up under the downspout of an eavestrough, so the rainwater that would otherwise cascade down onto the ground would instead be directed right into that hole in the barrel’s cover. Doh!

Because we had a pretty wet summer last year, this non-functional setup wasn’t an issue. The lawns and gardens were green, and lots of rainwater collected in our low-tech barrel. But with this year’s drought, and with the amount of water in our old rain barrel dwindling to practically nothing, I became mildly obsessed with setting up the new rain barrel properly. I had been twigged to the way it should be done by noting a setup at The Unconventional Moose, a fabulous gift shop that’s just a bit to the southeast of Queensborough on Highway 7 near Actinolite. Here’s what caught my attention there one recent day:

Rain barrel at the Moose

“Aha!” said I to myself. “That’s how we need to do it! With the eavestrough downspout running right to it!”

But not only did I want the setup rectified; I wanted more rain barrels.

Why? Well, the more rain barrels you have, the more rain you can collect, obviously. But also, the flow from the Manse’s various downspouts – there are six in total – has for years been making a mess of the sections of lawn they spill into. And to boot, that surplus water was going to waste. In the photo at the top of this post, you can see how messed-up the lawn at the northeast corner of the house looks thanks to downspout water – this soon to be rectified, of course, by the installation of the gorgeous new rain barrel you see in that photo.

Damage to lawn from downspouts

This shows the spots in the back yard that have been adversely affected by sometimes-torrential flow from the downspouts. Of course, it hasn’t been torrential recently.

My first thought, in considering investing in still more rain barrels, was how nice it would be to have real wooden ones. I spotted these beauties at a restaurant in Huntsville, Ont., last month, and was quite inspired:

Wooden rain barrels

When I saw these wooden barrels outside a Huntsville, Ont., restaurant, I decided that this was what I wanted for the Manse’s rain barrels. Sadly, it has not yet come to pass.

But a fair bit of research on my part determined that wooden rain barrels are well-nigh impossible to acquire in Canada. (If any reader has a source, I am still looking.)

So what do you do when you can’t find the perfect rain barrel? You check out what the usual retail suspects have to offer. On Canadian Tire’s website I found the one you see at the top of this post, and before many more days had passed, it was in my possession. And thanks to some fine installation work from a smart and talented young man from Queensborough, Tyler Walker, both the brand-new rain barrel and Rain Barrel No. 2 are now properly set up and ready to do their thing.

Old and new rain-barrel setups

Now all we need is some rain.

Blue dots on trees? I am now an expert

Tree of Life July 9, 2018

The beautiful red pine – the Tree of Life, as Raymond and I call it – across the road from the Manse this afternoon. Yes, it has been quite markedly trimmed by Hydro One crews – a move that was telegraphed by the blue dot you can see on its trunk, which appeared late this past winter. Fortunately for all in Queensborough, it’s still standing and it still looks glorious.

Call it coincidence – or maybe just another example of how easily we find and connect with each other in the Age of the Internet. At any rate, here’s a story about learning the meaning of blue dots on trees, and about how I was able to share what I’d learned.

Regular readers might recall that this past March I threw out a question in a post about blue dots on trees; that post is here. The question was: should I be worried about the spray-painted blue dots that had suddenly appeared on two Queensborough trees that are near and dear to me? Did they mean that the trees were at risk of being cut down?

The first tree was the magnificent Tree of Life (as Raymond and I call it), a red pine that is located on the property immediately across Bosley Road from ours. As we enjoy summer afternoons and evenings on the Manse’s front porch reading, writing and watching the world (or at least Queensborough) go by, we are always full of love and appreciation for this tree that is front and centre in our view.

The other tree was one that we own, on the Kincaid House property immediately adjacent to the Manse. I am still not sure what kind of tree it is, but when the blue dot sprayed on by Hydro One crews appeared last spring, I was worried what it might mean for this tall, stately tree.

Readers were quick and helpful with their responses to my question, several of them informing me that the tree-marking code is this: orange marking = cut it down; blue dot = trim the branches. For Hydro One, the tree marking and subsequent trimming or cutting are a way to protect power lines from being downed by falling branches or trunks in wind or ice storms.

But I was reminded just yesterday – in the example I mentioned at the outset, via those internet connections – that I never did tell you what happened with our beautiful trees and their blue dots.

The reminder came in a Facebook post from my friend Brenda Weirdsma Ibey, proprietor of a fantastic store in Peterborough called the Avant-Garden Shop and also the wife of Clayton Ibey, a friend of mine since high-school days at Campbellford District High School. Here’s Brenda’s post, which I was alerted to because she tagged me in it:

Brenda's Facebook post about the blue dots

Like me, Brenda had spotted blue dots on trees in the neighbourhood where she and Clayton live; like me, she had searched for information about what they might mean; and lo and behold she found my Meanwhile, at the Manse post from last March! You can see what I mean about coincidences and connections.

It’s Brenda’s last line – “I wonder if she ever discovered what it meant” – that’s given me the push I needed to write this followup post. So: thank you, Brenda!

Here’s the story of what I learned and what happened.

As already mentioned, readers correctly informed me that blue dots mean trim the tree and orange markings mean cut it down. However, I still didn’t know what that would look like in real life. How severe would the trimming be? Would Raymond and I, as owners of the Kincaid House tree, have any say in what happened to it? Would Hydro One ever notify us of its intentions? And most of all: would the Tree of Life be ruined? We were very worried.

But nothing happened for quite a long time after that post in March. We saw Hydro One crews busily working on other trees in our area, but for weeks and weeks there was no activity around the Tree of Life or our tree. Meanwhile, I was observing with some interest the felling of orange-marked trees. Here’s one of them, on Queensborough Road west of Queensborough. I am no expert on tree health, so perhaps one or more readers with some knowledge of the subject can tell me whether this old tree really should have been cut down:

Tree cut down by hydro

Ah. But then one afternoon in – what? late May? early June? – I wheeled onto Bosley Road from Queensborough Road after a long day at work, to discover to my horror a lot of large branches that had formerly belonged to the Tree of Life lying on the ground. My first reaction was shock and anger, but once I’d calmed down I basically just got very thankful that the magnificent red pine was still standing.

The next morning, I looked out a north-facing window at the Manse and saw two Hydro One trucks, one with a cherrypicker on the back, idling just to the east of the Kincaid House tree. As I hurried out the door and toward the trucks, they were already moving closer to our tree – and the cherrypicker, containing a man with a chainsaw, was being raised into the air.

“Excuse me,” I politely said to the first Hydro One chap I came across. “Are you guys about to trim that tree? Because I own that tree.” He directed me to the person in charge, to whom I explained that I completely understood the need to trim branches that are threatening hydro lines, but really and truly, shouldn’t someone have let Raymond and me, as the owners of the tree, know that a trim was being planned? He was very nice, expressed surprise that we had received no official notice, asked if I’d like to speak to his boss, and when I said yes, motioned the other guys to lower the cherrypicker. The truck moved off to another corner of Queensborough.

About 10 minutes later, a pleasant man wearing Hydro One gear knocked on the Manse door. He explained what we already knew about the need to protect wires, regular maintenance, yadayada. He told us we should have received a written notice from Hydro One, and was apologetic that we hadn’t. Basically we told him that, while we were annoyed at not having received the proper notification, we were okay with the crew doing what it had to do – but could they please cut the least amount possible?

And that polite and co-operative approach worked. The trimming didn’t start until after I’d left for work, but when I drove home again in the afternoon I couldn’t even tell that there’d been a trim. The crew had cleared away what it had cut down, and the tree looked great. (It turned out that the reason I saw all those branches from the Tree of Life on the ground the previous afternoon is that our neighbour had asked the crew to leave them behind rather than take them away.)

So it was a happy end to the story of the blue dot on the Kincaid House tree. Here’s a photo of it I took today:

Kincaid House tree post-trimming

Meanwhile, despite significant loss of limb, the Tree of Life still looks pretty great, as you can see from the photo at the top of this post, which I took just this afternoon. Mind you, when you view it from the side (i.e. from north or south), you can see that it most definitely took a hit. Here, have a look; this is the view looking north:

Tree of Life post-trimming looking north

And here’s the view looking south. Man, that tree is now really cut back at an angle:

Tree of Life post-trim looking south

But the happy news is that it’s still there. And I believe the lesson learned from this whole blue-dot process is that it’s important to have a conversation with Hydro One – head office perhaps, but most definitely the people on the ground who have the power and the potential to make some important landscape-altering decisions about the trees in your neighbourhood.

In our case, the story has a (mostly) happy outcome – and once again I thank Brenda for reminding me that I should share it with you. But had I not spoken to the crew before they started cutting, things could have been unpleasant.

So bottom line when you see blue dots on trees: stay vigilant, talk to the Hydro people – and stand up for your trees.

We wined, cheesed and Black Fly Shuffled – and we’re not done yet

Square dancing at the Orange Hall by Jamie

Old-time square dancing at the Orange Hall in Queensborough! After half a century, it came back. The Black Fly Shuffle, a couple of Saturdays ago, was truly a historic night in our little hamlet. (Photo by Jamie Grant)

Hello, everyone, from almost the far side of all the social activities that have been happening in Queensborough this spring. If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard from me in a while, the answer is simple: I’m pooped!

Kayakers 2018 by Lloyd Holmes 5

The kayakers doing their thing over the dam on the Black River in Queensborough in April. Freshly barbecued hamburgers and homemade pie awaited when they got out of the water. (Photo by Lloyd Holmes)

Way back in early April, I gave you a rundown of everything that was lined up for our tiny hamlet in the coming weeks. (Man, early April now seems like centuries ago.) First there was the annual visit of the intrepid kayakers ending their spring-runoff run down the Black River with hamburgers, hot dogs, homemade pie and a very warm welcome in Queensborough. I’d told you in that early-April post that the event probably wouldn’t happen because of low water conditions; but it did come off in the end, and was a great weekend, as you can read here. In that same post, I also told you about the successful Ham Supper that we held for approximately the 4,728th time (okay, I exaggerate a bit, but it’s probably been close to a century) at Queensborough’s St. Andrew’s United Church. And I telegraphed the annual Pancake Breakfast at the Queensborough Community Centre, which once again packed them in. (Sadly, I had to be in Toronto that weekend so don’t have photos of it.)

So what happened next?

Well, first it was the Wine, Cheese and Chat About Queensborough event at the Queensborough Community Centre on Saturday, May 12. It was the first time the Queensborough Community Centre Committee had tried anything like this, and it went even better than we’d hoped. Everyone circulated through the tables labelled for the four themes established for Queensborough by community members at a similar event five or six years ago: Develop, Beautify, Heritage and Enjoy. As we enjoyed a glass (or two) of wine (or a cup of coffee), the ideas flowed. All was helped along immensely by Karen Fischer of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, who has worked closely with Queensborough in recent years to develop a vision for our community and to try to make it a reality – and who took these photos of us at work:

Heritage Table at Wine, Cheese and Chat

The Heritage table at the Wine, Cheese and Chat, with Elaine Kapusta as facilitator. (Photo by Karen Fischer)

The Enjoy table (the fun one!) at the Wine, Cheese and Chat, with Raymond Brassard as facilitator. (Photo by Karen Fischer)

Beautify table at Wine, Cheese and Chat

The Beautify table at the Wine, Cheese and Chat, with Shane Cox as facilitator. (Photo by Karen Fischer)

Develop table at Wine, Cheese and Chat

The Develop table at Wine, Cheese and Chat, with me as facilitator. (Photo by Karen Fischer)

The community members who gathered came up with some fantastic ideas for our hamlet, including (but certainly not limited to):

  • Special Christmas activities, including seasonal lighting of the falls on the Black River.
  • A co-op neighbourhood store.
  • A farmers’ market featuring locally grown and raised foods.
  • A bandshell for community entertainment events.
  • A Queensborough archives.
  • Historical street signs for DeClair and Rockies roads.
  • More plaques for historic buildings.
  • A street dance.
  • More play areas for kids.
  • Bread-making classes. (Along the lines of our recent master class in pie-making, a monster hit.)
  • Restoration of Queensborough’s baseball diamond so that we could host softball tournaments featuring teams from all the local hamlets.

Is that not a great list? Next week the QCC Committee will be following up and talking about next steps, which ideas to proceed with, and so on. If you’re interesting in joining the committee and taking part in those discussions and plans for the future, you are welcome! We’re meeting at the community centre (the village’s former one-room schoolhouse), 1853 Queensborough Rd., at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 11.

* * *

So there was all that. And then there was – drum roll, please – the Black Fly Shuffle!

Orange Hall: It was worth the wait

Half a century – it was worth the wait! This is the sign put up at the Orange Hall – the former Loyal Orange Lodge Branch 437 – by Jamie Grant (a talented graphic designer) to welcome Queensborough back inside one of its most important buildings for the Black Fly Shuffle.

Dancing at the Shuffle, by Jamie

Dancing to the country tunes of the Country Travellers in the freshly painted and gussied-up Orange Hall. (Photo by Jamie Grant)

It was the first community event held in Queensborough’s historic former Orange Hall for close on half a century. And what an evening it was!

The hall, looking terrific (and funky), even in its mid-renovation state, was filled with people of all ages enjoying old-time square dancing and also “round dancing” (by which I mean regular dancing; I’d never heard that term prior to the Shuffle, and perhaps you haven’t either, but now you know. You’re welcome) to two bands, Doug Pack and the Country Travellers and John Sedgwick (my brother!) and the ToneKats.

Country Travellers

The Country Travellers perform traditional country music, much to the delight of the crowd and the dancers at the Black Fly Shuffle. (Photo by Jamie Grant)

The ToneKats at the Shuffle, by Jamie

The Kingston-based ToneKats, featuring my brother John (at right on stage, playing bass), livened things up with songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Buddy Holly, Elvis, and Bryan Adams among many others. (Photo by Jamie Grant)

It was just fantastic to watch the square dancers – both the veterans, who were amazing, and the rookies, who did their best to learn the moves – in action. And I don’t think it’s just sisterly pride when I say that my little brother’s band was terrific. Also, this being Queensborough, of course there was great food involved: halfway through the evening, at 10 p.m., there was the traditional (for old-time Queensborough dances) break of 15 or 20 minutes when everyone was able to load up their plates with sandwiches, cheese, cookies and other goodies that had been brought by all who came to the dance. It was delicious, and it was just the fuel we all needed for another round of energetic dancing, putting to the test the floor joists in the 146-year-old hall.

Stephanie at the ticket booth

Stephanie Sims, one of the volunteers with the Queensborough Community Centre Committee, was on ticket-selling duty in the old ticket booth at the Orange Hall. (Photo by Jamie Grant)

We Stand for King and Constitution

“We Stand for King and Constitution”: this is the Loyal Orange Lodge flag that was in the Orange Hall when Jamie and Tory bought it. (I believe the king in question is a young Edward VII, after whom the Edwardian Age is named.) It was on display at the Black Fly Shuffle, and lots of visitors found it fascinating. (Photo by Jamie Grant)

Perhaps the best part of the evening was the stories.

“We had our wedding dance here,” one person told me.

“I met my husband at a dance in this hall,” said another; she and her husband recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.

A third told me that a community bridal shower had been held for her in the hall prior to her wedding, which was 60 years ago this past fall.

Others spoke fondly about attending – or performing at – dances in the old Orange Hall back in the day, and reminisced about some of the shenanigans that were known to take place outside, in the darkness of a spring or summer evening. Hot times in little midcentury Queensborough!

jamie-and-tory-at-lol-by-gary-pattison

Jamie Grant and Tory Byers, who have brought Queensborough’s Orange Hall back to life. (Photo by Gary Pattison)

I cannot say enough about the husband-and-wife team of Jamie Grant and Tory Byers, who took a huge chance in buying the Orange Hall a year or so ago, have done an immense amount of work on cleaning it out and cleaning it up, have built a full stage and added a ton of whimsical touches, have lots more plans ahead – and basically threw open the doors and welcomed a whole community inside their building at the Black Fly Shuffle.

It was a lovely, lovely night. A night to remember.

Here are some words that kind of say it all, posted by Tory on the Queensborough Community Centre’s Facebook page the day after the Shuffle:

Tory's words after the Shuffle

And here’s a terrific video that Jamie made of the big night. The woman who gives the camera (with Jamie behind it) a huge smile at about 1:47 is, of course, Tory:

* * *

Okay, well – have you caught your breath yet from all that activity? (And I haven’t even mentioned the 128th anniversary celebration at St. Andrew’s United Church, which happened this past Sunday, and was absolutely wonderful.) Now: guess what’s next!

It’s happening this coming Sunday, June 10, and it’s the second annual Music Night at St. Andrew’s, an evening when you get to sit back and enjoy great music by local performers for an hour and a half, followed by a social time over coffee, tea and lemonade with friends and neighbours – and all in aid (thanks to a freewill offering) of sending two Queensborough kids to camp. Yesterday I did the camp registration for those kids, brothers aged 9 and 11 who are fairly new arrivals in our hamlet and have already made friends with pretty much everyone in town. They are smart, friendly, polite and full of beans. I’m certain they will love their week at Camp Quin-Mo-Lac in early July – and I thank you in advance for helping make it happen by coming out to Music Night! (And if you can’t come but would still like to support the cause, let me know.)

Music at the Church 2018

I think I can safely say, as I have many times before, that Queensborough is a happening place. To see all those people come together a couple of weekends ago for an old-fashioned community dance – that was really something. As is seeing all the people who come and enjoy events like our Pancake Breakfast, church suppers, the kayakers’ weekend, and so on. And then to know in advance (thanks to the success of last year) that so many people will come out and support Music Night to send two local kids to camp this summer…

Really, you know, Queensborough is not just a happening community; it’s a caring community.

And we know how to kick up our heels and have a good time.

I cannot imagine a better place in all the world to be.

Hey, Queensborough: Let’s talk about Queensborough!

Which direction for Queensborough?

What direction for Queensborough? Please come and have your say, and enjoy some wine and cheese, this coming Saturday (May 12, 2018) at the Queensborough Community Centre.

You know, I love the fact that people from all over the world – and I mean all over the world; in the past couple of days alone, we’re talking Germany, India, Saudi Arabia, the U.K., the Philippines, Australia, France, Ireland and Russia, in addition to Canada and the U.S. – check into and read Meanwhile, at the Manse. People out there in the wider world: Thank you! I love you! But my most important audience will always be the people who live right here in our North of 7 neck of the woods, because – well, because you are my people. And because we are doing things together. Good things.

This post is aimed at that local audience. It’s about an interesting experiment we’re undertaking this coming Saturday (May 12) for the people who live in and care about Queensborough and the Greater Queensborough Area.

(What is the GQA, you ask? Well, I define it by the roads that lead into or are close to our hamlet. If you live anywhere on Bosley, Barry, DeClair, Rockies, Hunt Club or Queensborough roads – as well as the smaller roads that lead off them, like Hass, Carson, Hart’s and Cromwell; and then there’s Cooper Road and surrounding offshoots – then feel free to consider yourself a citizen of the Greater Queensborough Area.)

The event, organized by the Queensborough Community Centre committee, of which Raymond and I are proud members, is called Wine, Cheese and Chat About Queensborough. Here’s the deal: you show up at the Queensborough Community Centre (our hamlet’s historic and well-preserved former one-room school, at 1853 Queensborough Rd.) at 4 p.m. Saturday; you are warmly welcomed and offered a glass of red or white wine (donated by volunteers with the committee) – or, if you prefer, a cup of coffee or tea – plus some first-rate local cheese from the Ivanhoe Cheese Factory; and after half an hour or so, when everyone’s met everyone and we’re all feeling comfortable, we’ll sit down and talk among ourselves about our little community.

The background is this:

Six years ago, a whole bunch of people from the Greater Queensborough Area gathered in the same place (though without the wine and cheese, more’s the pity) and tossed around ideas for what they’d like to see happen in Queensborough: their vision for the community, if you like. The event was, like this coming Saturday’s, organized by the Queensborough Community Centre Committee; and, like this coming Saturday’s will be, it was brilliantly helped along (I can’t bear the bureaucratic word “facilitated”) by Karen Fischer, an agriculture and rural economic development advisor (in the old days they called them “ag reps”) for our region with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Karen has been a staunch – and I mean staunch – friend to Queensborough over the years. She has attended so many meetings, responded to so many emails, offered up so many ideas: I think – in fact I know – that she likes us here in Queensborough! She really likes us! And so I know she’ll do a great job once again this coming Saturday, helping us corral and organize our ideas and maybe turn them into one or more plans of action.

The upshot of that gathering six years ago was a vision statement and four goals for our community. This vision statement says:

The Queensborough Community vision is to maintain a quality rural lifestyle through building community pride and preserving its heritage, and supporting and developing a vibrant commercial, residential, recreational and cultural setting.

And the four goals we set were:

  • Develop community pride
  • Preserve our heritage
  • Develop economically
  • Enjoy.

But now, prodded by Karen and ourselves, we’re wondering: do the vision and the goals need to be updated? A lot of people – including, wonderfully, a lot of young families – have moved into our community since 2012. What do these new Queensborough residents – you new Queensborough residents – need, want, expect and hope for from our community? And how can we all work together to make this happen?

Those are the questions we’ll be asking, and hopefully answering, this coming Saturday.

And here’s what I have to say about all this: you should come!

Because there’s so much we can talk about!

Like, for instance (to throw out some of my own pet beefs/ideas/projects):

  • Why in the HECK can’t we get trash and recycling pickup in Queensborough? Having to emit ridiculous amounts of fossil-fuel pollution into the environment as we drive all the way to the Tweed dump at Stoco is just ridiculous, especially when the trash and recycling pickup trucks from neighbouring Madoc Township drive right through our hamlet on the way from pickup in the Cooper area to their next stop on Queensborough Road to the west. Can we not persuade our municipal council to help us find a way to piggyback onto that service?
  • Would games nights at the Queensborough Community Centre be a good idea? Back in the day (that would be my long-ago childhood here in Queensborough), crowds of people would show up every week for euchre parties at the QCC, and everyone had a whale of a time. Some local hamlets – notably Actinolite, which along with Queensborough is the only other population centre (if you count “population” as being 50 or so people) in Elzevir Township, now part of the Municipality of Tweed – still have euchre parties, and they are still popular. Meanwhile, local libraries hold games afternoons at which people young and old gather to enjoy playing all kinds of board games. I’ve already spoken with one fairly new Queensborough resident who would love to attend regular games nights; should we try it?

But what else? What do we need in Queensborough? I’m voting for a store, but you all knew that, given my many posts on the topic and my nostalgia for the general stores that once upon a time were pretty much the heart of our community. What else? More in the way of kids’ playgrounds and activities? More heritage stuff? (Don’t even get me started on my cunning but still secret plan to turn a historic but decrepit and neglected building into the official Queensborough archives … )

What are your ideas for our community?

People, we need you. It’ll be a fun and fulsome exchange of ideas. Do you have kids? Bring them along! We’ll have juice boxes and lots of people with lots of kid experience to help entertain them while you’re engaged in visionary discussions.

Here’s the official poster for the event that went out to the community via Canada Post. If you live in the GQA, I hope and expect you’ve seen it. If you’re further afield but are a friend of Queensborough, and would like to join in the discussion, you are so welcome.

Queensborough wine, cheese and chat

Your community really does need you. Even if you’re one of the quiet households on Barry, Bosley, Queensborough, DeClair, Rockies, etc. roads who keep to yourselves – this is a fantastic chance to come out to a friendly gathering, meet some neighbours, and participate in a great discussion for a future that will affect all of us.

As I finish this post lateish into the evening, the peepers are singing their hearts out in “downtown” Queensborough. Their music is making its way into the Manse through the screened doors and windows. This lovely spring that has finally arrived has brought new life everywhere, and our hamlet is looking so beautiful. As I weeded the flower garden for the first time of the season today, I waved to so many cars and trucks passing by, and everyone waved back.

We live in a wonderful place; we are so fortunate. Especially when it comes to our friends and neighbours.

So: let’s channel all of that good stuff about living in this lovely, quiet place, look to the future – and make that future a good one for us, and for the generations that follow us, in the GQA.

Oh, and P.S.: Whether you can come on Saturday or not, please visit the Queensborough Community Centre’s Facebook page or click here and respond to a quick and easy survey we’ve posted there (with much help from our friend Karen Fischer); your answers (and by the way, the survey is completely anonymous) will be SO helpful as we chart our community’s course.

Dull moments are few and far between in Queensborough

Kayakers 2018 by Lloyd Holmes 6

What an amazing image! Lloyd Holmes of Marmora (though originally of Cooper) took some incredible photos as kayakers from all over Ontario, Quebec and beyond descended on Queensborough for the Marmora Area Canoe and Kayak Festival last month. It was just one of the many special events that have been going on, with more to come. Photo courtesy of Lloyd Holmes

Oh my goodness, people, I am just breathless trying to keep up my reportage on all that’s been going on in Queensborough, and all that’s about to go on. If you’ve been wondering why you haven’t heard from me in a while, it’s simply this: there is too much happening, and thus never a spare moment! Which is a pretty great thing to say about a hamlet as tiny as ours, but still: one gets dizzy after a while.

So tonight, in the few spare moments I have managed to find, I want to quickly give you the scoop on the two big upcoming events in our hamlet that you absolutely have to know about  – and attend, if you possibly can. And then I’ll give you a glimpse of what we’ve been up to lately.

QCC pancake breakfast

The men of Queensborough, hard at work serving up a delicious pancake breakfast. They’ll be doing it again this Sunday.

Let’s get right to it. This Sunday (May 6, 2018), you owe it to yourself to come to our hugely popular Pancake Breakfast. The all-male volunteer crew from the Queensborough Community Centre (with substantial help from quite a few female volunteers) will serve you up a splendid breakfast of pancakes with fresh Queensborough-made maple syrup, sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs, toast, coffee and juice. It’s just the best, not only for the food but for the chance to catch up with the news from neighbours and from former Queensborough folks who come back for this event each year. Here’s the poster. Be there. The super-reasonable cost is $10 for adults and $5 for kids six to 12 years old; kids under six eat free. Wow!

Pancake Breakfast

Okay, next: The Black Fly Shuffle. Folks, I’ve previewed this already, but I really can’t begin to tell you how great this event is going to be. In a single evening we are going to:

  • See my musician brother John Sedgwick on stage with his excellent Kingston band, the ToneKats, in the community where he, like me, grew up;

AND… (drum roll please)

  • Have an old-time square dance! Complete with caller! People, are you ready to allemande left and allemande right and do-si-do and dip and dive once more? I am sure that you are. And if you don’t know those old-time square-dance moves, not to worry: we have some veterans of Queensborough square dancing who will show you how it’s done.

Black Fly Shuffle Flyer 2

We hope the blackflies after whom the dance is named won’t bother us too much as we whoop it up (in a family-friendly, alcohol-free way) in Queensborough. If you can imagine a better time than this, my friends, then you have a heck of a lot more imagination than I do.

Jamie and Tory at LOL by Gary Pattison

Jamie Grant and Tory Byers are having more fun than anything with the old Orange Hall. (Photo by Gary Pattison)

If you’re interested in attending – and who wouldn’t be? – you should nab your ticket(s) now, because they really will go quickly. (Remember our recent Master Class in Pie-Making, when we had to turn people away because it was so popular? Don’t let that be you when it comes to the Black Fly Shuffle!) It’s going to be an absolute hoot. The poster tells you everything you need to know about where to get tickets.

And: I would be very remiss if I didn’t give a huge shoutout to Jamie Grant and Tory Byers, who became the owners of the Orange Hall not very long ago and since then have done so much to return it to its old place as community centre, arts centre, dance hall and so on. In just a few months, Jamie and Tory have made a huge difference in Queensborough, and we are so appreciative!

Okay, now that I’ve got your social calendar filled for this coming Sunday and also for Saturday, May 26, my work here is pretty much done. But before I sign off and return to still more planning and publicity work for Queensborough events, let me share a few visuals of what we’ve been up to recently.

First comes the Ham Supper, an annual tradition at St. Andrew’s United Church. As always happens, I was too busy setting and clearing tables, pouring tea and generally being a gofer during the supper rush to get photos of people enjoying the great food, but I did get this one that I rather like of the cleanup crew:

Ham Supper 2018 cleanup

As I said when I posted this photo on the St. Andrew’s United Facebook page: If you think the food-serving operation at our church suppers is impressive, you should see what it’s like in the kitchen afterward! The busy and well-organized volunteers wash, dry and put away a mountain of dishes, and any leftover food is packed up and donated to a program that feeds hungry high-schoolers in nearby Madoc. We had another successful event thanks to all who showed up, and to all who helped. And we had a lot of fun!

Of course there was lots of pie:

Pies at the 2018 Ham Supper

A Queensborough Supper wouldn’t be a Queensborough Supper without a LOT of pie.

The other big event that’s happened recently is the one I telegraphed to you at the very top of this post: the annual visit by kayakers from all over the place during the Marmora Area Canoe and Kayak Festival, which was April 21 and 22. The weather was gorgeous, the water was high, and lots of spectators turned out to watch the fun as the kayakers jumped the dam over the Black River in “downtown” Queensborough.

One spectator kind of stood out:

Goose at the kayakers

A Canada Goose kept close watch on the proceedings for much of the day Saturday.

Here are spectators and kayakers enjoying the sunshine on the lawn of the historic home of Lud and Elaine Kapusta, where burgers were barbecued for all by volunteers with the Queensborough Community Centre:

The Kapusta lawn during MACKFest 2018

Things get colourful as the kayakers gather at the takeout spot below the dam:

Kayakers at the bottom, MACKFest 2018

Still wearing their wetsuits, the adventurers line up for burgers and hot dogs:

On the porch, MACKFest 2018

It’s a big job keeping up with the demand for burgers, as Chef Don discovered:

Don at the barbecue, MACKFest 2018

Of course, this being Queensborough, there was homemade pie for dessert:

MACKFest 2018 pies

But enough of my middling photos. Let’s turn it back over to the pro. Here are more of Lloyd Holmes’s amazing shots of the fun. Thank you so much for sharing them, Lloyd!

Kayakers 2018 by Lloyd Holmes 7

Photo courtesy of Lloyd Holmes

Kayakers 2018 by Lloyd Holmes 8

Photo courtesy of Lloyd Holmes

Kayakers 2018 by Lloyd Holmes 2

Photo courtesy of Lloyd Holmes

Kayakers 2018 by Lloyd Holmes 5

Photo courtesy of Lloyd Holmes

Kayakers 2018 by Lloyd Holmes 4

Photo courtesy of Lloyd Holmes

Kayakers 2018 by Lloyd Holmes 1

Photo courtesy of Lloyd Holmes

And with that, I believe I’ve made my case that we know how to have fun in Queensborough. See you at the Pancake Breakfast and the Black Fly Shuffle!