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!

This spring it’s a social whirl in Queensborough

A social whirl indeed! This video shows Elaine and Betty of the Queeensborough Community Centre Committee reminding themselves of some square-dancing moves at a recent planning meeting for the Black Fly Shuffle in Queensborough. Why are they doing this, you ask? Because we are going to be square dancing next month – and you’ll be wanting to join us!

People, there is so much happening in Queensborough in the next three months that I’m having trouble keeping track of it all. And I have an advantage over many of you, in that I’m involved in planning most of these events. So if I can hardly keep track, gracious, you must be all at sixes and sevens in planning your Queensborough social calendar. Which is why this blog post is here: to fill you in on all the social events of the season. Get out those planning agendas and let’s go.

Kayakers going over the dam, Queensborough

Unfortunately we probably won’t be seeing this amazing sight in Queensborough this spring, but there are a lot of other events happening. (Photo by Charlene McKeown)

My first bit of news is that one of the highlights of early spring in Queensborough probably won’t be happening this year. The annual Marmora Area Canoe and Kayak Festival, which had been scheduled for this coming weekend (Saturday, April 7, and Sunday, April 8) has been postponed and may well be cancelled altogether because of low water levels in the local rivers that the daring paddlers go down – including the Black River, which is where the most popular run of the festival concludes in “downtown” Queensborough. This means that we won’t be able to enjoy the colourful spectacle of kayakers going over the dam, and the social time and good food that happen as volunteers with the Queensborough Community Centre Committee barbecue hamburgers and hot dogs and serve up slices of homemade Queensborough pie to chilly participants and interested spectators. There is a tentative new date of Saturday, April 21, and Sunday, April 22, but that’s only if there’s enough rainfall to increase water levels sufficiently.

Welcome kayakers

We probably won’t be able to welcome the paddlers and kayakers this year; low-water conditions (seriously?) mean their annual voyage down the Black River to Queensborough won’t happen.

(Now, if you’re like me, you’re scratching your head and wondering, “How the heck can water levels be low when we got so much snow this past winter?” I sure wish I had the answer to that question. It makes no sense to me.)

But on to all the great events that are happening! Here they are, in chronological order:

Wednesday, April 25: It’s the annual, ever-popular Ham Supper at St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough. You know about this one, people; I’ve written many times before (like here, for instance) about our fantastic old-fashioned church suppers (ham in the spring and turkey in the fall) at St. Andrew’s, so you know the drill. It’s a great meal, complete with our famous homemade pie; it’s a chance to socialize with old friends and meet new ones; it’s a delightful rural tradition; and it’s all in aid of a good cause: the ongoing work of St. Andrew’s in the Queensborough community and beyond. Here’s a poster with everything you need to know:

Ham Supper poster 2018Sunday, May 6: Speaking of annual and ever-popular events: it’s the Pancake Breakfast at the Queensborough Community Centre. People come from near and far to enjoy pancakes with fresh local maple syrup, sausages, bacon, eggs, toast and of course good conversation. The food is made and served up by the men of the community, and they do a great job. The place is always packed, and the breakfast and conviviality are second to none. The essentials: 8 a.m. to noon, 1853 Queensborough Rd. For more information, like and follow the QCC’s Facebook page (Queensborough Community Centre) or call chief organizer Ann at 613-473-4550.

QCC pancake breakfast

The men of our community do the heavy lifting at the hugely popular Pancake Breakfast – though the women do lots in the background!

Wine, Cheese and ChatSaturday, May 12: This one is the direct opposite of the previous tried-and-true favourites. It’s something brand new! Wine, Cheese and Chat is a chance for Queensborough and area residents to gather and talk about what we’d like to see happen in our community, and how we can make those things happen. (All the while enjoying wine and cheese, of course.) When you think about it, the people who live in our tiny hamlet and immediate area have achieved an amazing number of things in the past half-dozen or so years: beautification projects, a walking-tour booklet, an increasingly popular Summer Drop-In program for kids, plaques in front of historic buildings, new made-in-Queensborough street signs and a new welcome sign, family events including barbecues, corn roasts, skating parties, potluck suppers, Christmas parties and Halloween parties, a sold-out master class in pie-making, and two extraordinarily successful Historic Queensborough Days. Wow! So: what’s next? What does our community need in the way of services, or events, or attractions, or businesses? Bring your ideas, big and small, and join in friendly discussion and planning with the other people who are fortunate enough to call this beautiful little place home. It’s at the Queensborough Community Centre (1453 Queensborough Rd.), starting at 4 p.m.

LOL by Jamie

One of the many gorgeous images of the Queensborough Orange Hall that its new owner, Jamie Grant (a graphic designer by profession) has made and shared. The hall is going to host a humdinger of an event on Saturday, May 26.

Saturday, May 26: Oh man, this is a good one! A few years back, the Queensborough Community Centre Committee hosted springtime dances, called – appropriately for what happens in Queensborough in springtime – the Black Fly Shuffle. They were always filled to capacity and then some. But for one reason or another, the annual dance is one Queensborough event that fell by the wayside. Well, people, the Black Fly Shuffle is back – in spades!

Jamie and Tory at LOL by Gary Pattison

Jamie Grant and Tory Byers, new owners of the Historic former Orange Hall, are turning it into a great arts space that can be used for community events, such as the Black Fly Shuffle next month. (Photo courtesy of Gary Pattison)

First: It’s going to be held at the former Orange Lodge, one of the oldest and most important buildings in Queensborough’s history. The hall has served over the years as church and Sunday School (before any of Queensborough’s four churches were built), entertainment venue, dance hall, voting place, and maybe even hospital during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic, in addition to being home to the Loyal Orange Lodge Branch 437. Every longtime Queensborough resident (or former Queensborough resident) over a certain age can remember going to dances there, and judging by the tales, there were some lively times – and also some wild and woolly ones. (Let’s just say that some of the attendees may have brought along liquid sustenance in brown paper bags.) Now, our Black Fly Shuffle is going to be family friendly – no alcohol served – but that’s not going to stop it being lively! And I’ll get to that in a second. First I want to say that Queensborough is so fortunate that husband-and-wife team Jamie Grant and Tory Byers have bought the Orange Hall, which had been long unused and was falling into deep disrepair, and are not only restoring it but happily opening it up to the community for special events. Last Halloween, for instance, Jamie and Tory put on a spooktacular multimedia musical extravaganza for local kids (and their parents) at the hall. Thanks to them, we’re going to have our first Orange Hall dance in Queensborough for nigh on half a century.

Next: We’re going to do old-fashioned square dancing. Square dancing, people! Remember flouncy gingham skirts and do-si-do and allemande left and allemande right and swing your partner and all that stuff? Okay, I admit my own memory of this phenomenon – which I viewed through a little kid’s eyes when I was growing up here in Queensborough – is a bit hazy, but judging by the near-ecstatic reaction we’ve had from local folks who fondly recall the days of square dances, this is going to be quite the thing – and a night to remember. We have a caller from the Canadian Olde Tyme Square Dance Callers’ Association, music by the local band The Country Travellers, who know the deal when it comes to square dancing, and some square-dance veterans who are happy to help us rookies learn the steps. And speaking of learning the steps, here’s another video from our recent planning meeting in which Elaine Kapusta and Betty Sexsmith, both of whom were part of the square-dance era in Queensborough, explain the moves to fellow QCC volunteers Joan and Stephanie Sims (while other QCC volunteers, including my husband, Raymond, watch, learn and smile):

But: that’s only Part 1 of the Black Fly Shuffle! The first half of the evening will end with a lunch served at 10 p.m., just the way it used to be back in the day. The food – sandwiches (the church-basement type that I’m so fond of), cheese, pickles, coffee and tea – will be provided by the attendees; it’s basically a “Ladies Please Bring Lunch” (read about that old tradition here) event, but with the understanding that anyone in the family – not just the “ladies” – can (and should) put together those yummy egg-salad or salmon sandwiches, or slice up that extra-old local cheddar. And then after lunch, it’s Part 2 of the dance, this time with a band playing more recent music that should appeal to both the younger set (though we hope they’ll be square-dancing in Part 1 like these kids) and the older crowd too. And I am thrilled to report that the band will be The ToneKats from Kingston, whose bassist and lead singer is none other than my brother, John Sedgwick. Who is delighted at the prospect of performing at the Orange Hall around the corner from the Manse where he, like me, grew up. The ToneKats’ repertoire is very dance-friendly: CCR, Tom Petty, Blue Rodeo, Elvis, Foo Fighters, the Hip. People, we are going to be rocking (as well as square dancing) at the LOL in Queensborough that night!

The ToneKats

The ToneKats, the band from Kingston, Ont., that will be rocking the LOL in the second half of the Black Fly Shuffle on Saturday, May 26. That’s my little brother John on the right, playing bass. (Photo from The ToneKats’ Facebook page)

Details such as where and how to buy tickets for the Black Fly Shuffle – there will be a limited number based on the hall’s capacity, and we expect them to go very quickly – will be posted on the QCC Facebook page (and here at Meanwhile, at the Manse) as soon as they’re available. Stay tuned, and get ready for a night to remember.

And finally: on Sunday, June 10, St. Andrew’s United Church will hold its second annual Music Night to raise money to send two Queensborough kids to Camp Quin-Mo-Lac this summer. Regular readers may recall that our first such effort, last May, was a huge success, with the church packed, some great musical entertainment, and the money to send two kids to camp easily raised. We’re looking forward to a similar success this year, and we’ll feature a fresh array of local musical talent. The music will start at 7 p.m. and will last for exactly an hour and a half, and then there’ll be a time of fellowship (complete with excellent snacks) in the church hall afterward.

Packed church for music night

The sanctuary at St. Andrew’s United was overflowing for our first Music Night last year. We have high hopes that the same will be true this June 10, as we bring you some great local musical entertainment to raise money to send two children to Camp Quin-Mo-Lac.

So I think you’re getting the picture here. And I should add that I’ve only included the confirmed events; there are a couple of other exciting possibilities in the pipeline that I’ll share with you if details are firmed up.

All in all, I think I’m safe in saying that when it comes to good things going on, the hamlet of Queensborough (population approximately 75, though we go up to a mighty 300 or so when the Greater Queensborough Area is – as it should be – included) punches way, way above its weight. And also: knows how to have a good time!

Does a blue dot mean these trees are in danger?

Blue dot on the tree of life

The spray-painted blue dot that I discovered this morning on the beautiful red pine across the road from the Manse. What does it mean?

A blue dot is innocuous enough, right? Well, people, I hope so. But this morning I got a start that got me wondering. Let me explain – and in the process ask you if you know what that blue dot means.

Over the last couple of weeks, crews with Hydro One – provider of electricity throughout rural Ontario – have been out and about in the Queensborough area, cutting down tree branches and, in some cases, whole trees. I have to assume this is because there is concern that these trees and branches are too close to hydro wires and pose a risk to both safety and electrical delivery if high winds, or the weight of snow or ice, cause them to fall onto the lines.

I don’t think it’s any skin off anyone’s back to see a few branches cut and cleared – and indeed, the crews have been dutiful about taking away the brush piles they create. But I find it sad when whole trees are completely, or almost completely, taken down. Here’s the remains of one recent casualty on Queensborough Road a little west of our hamlet:

Tree cut by Hydro One, Queensborough Road

And here’s an even sadder spectacle, a little further west on the same road:

Second tree cut by Hydro One, Queensborough Road

Here’s how you know it was Hydro that cut the tree – an orange H spray-painted onto the trunk before the cutting begins:

H marks the spot

Here are some small trees just south of the Manse on Bosley Road that, as of this morning, were still standing, but maybe not for long thanks to those orange Hs:

Orange Hs on Bosley Road trees

Or maybe in this case, as in most others I’ve seen, these trees will just lose some of their branches. At any rate, I assume this is work that needs to be done, but as I said, the loss of whole trees makes me sad.

Which leads me back to the scare I got this morning.

I looked out the front window of the Manse onto a sunny and almost springlike morning, and there were two Hydro One vehicles – a pickup truck and a tractor-y affair with a cherry picker on it – heading slowly south past the house. I figured they were headed down the road to do some cutting at the spot I showed you just now in my photo. But when they stopped at the end of our driveway, and stayed stopped for several minutes, I started to worry.

Why?

Because the Tree of Life – a red pine that is easily one of the most beautiful trees I have ever seen – is located immediately across the road from our driveway:

The tree of life this winter morning

The Tree of Life (as Raymond and I call it) on this bright late-winter morning.

Surely, I thought with horror, it couldn’t be a target for the cut-down crew! There’d been no orange Hs painted on it; you can be sure I would have reacted before this if there had been. Not that the tree stands on my property, you understand; it’s at the corner of the expansive yard of our neighbours Steve and Dana and their family. But because it’s front and centre in our field of vision from the Manse, and because it is so, so beautiful, it looms large in our lives. I wrote a whole post about it here, in our early days at the Manse (when I hadn’t yet figured out what kind of tree it is); and here are two more photos of it, showing how glorious it is in the morning of an early-summer day or the late-afternoon sun of late summer:

Tree of Life July 2014

Late-summer sun on the Tree of Life

Alarmed that this beautiful tree might be at risk, I hastily changed from my bathrobe to my clothes and prepared to grab coat, jump into boots and head out the door if necessary to speak to the crew. Mercifully, at just that point they started up again, turned the corner onto King Street and drove out of sight. What a relief!

But once they’d gone, I took a closer look at the Tree of Life and saw, for the first time, that while it doesn’t bear any orange Hs, its trunk does have a blue dot spray-painted on it.

What does that mean?

I ask this not just out of concern for the Tree of Life, but because a little while ago I noticed that an identical blue dot had been spray-painted onto a tree we do own. It’s a tall, happy tree (whose species I am embarrassed to admit I do not yet know) that stands in front of the historic Kincaid House next to the Manse; Raymond and I bought that house a few years ago. Here’s a photo that shows the blue dot:

A blue dot on the Kincaid House tree

And here’s one that shows how tall and stately our tree is:

Stately tree at the Kincaid House

So what’s this all about? I assume that it’s Hydro One crews who have sprayed the blue dot, since they’re busy spraying those orange Hs all over the place. But a translation would certainly be helpful. Is it shorthand for “Owner of tree, we’re coming for your tree”? Or for “You’ll be hearing from us about the need to cut some branches”? I am mystified, especially since the blue dot’s been there on the Kincaid House tree for a while, and we’ve had nary a communication from Hydro One. If there’s cutting to be done, will Hydro One do it, or will we be expected to arrange it ourselves? And do I get a chance to appeal any tree- or branch-cutting determination that has been made by Hydro One?

Since Raymond and I bought the Manse a little more than six years ago, and moved from Montreal to Queensborough full-time 4½ years ago, I’ve learned – or re-learned – quite a bit about living in rural Ontario. I’ve learned about “911 numbers,” and bitterns, and the usefulness of long underwear on cold early-spring days. I’ve been reminded of a lesson learned in my childhood about the importance of keeping the mailbox shovelled out in winter. I’ve even made some progress on my tree-identification skills. And I’ve learned how to make pie crust!

But one piece of rural wisdom that I have not yet picked up is what a blue dot spray-painted on my tree, and on the beautiful tree of my neighbours, might mean. Can anyone help me out?

Have we found a clue to the barn mystery?

Diamond cross on Vermilyea Road barn

Look up and left: an example – from Vermilyea Road, just north of Belleville, Ont., where I work – of the mysterious diamond crosses carved into some barns in our area. Why, people, why?

You know, I love solving mysteries, or at least seeing mysteries solved. As a rule the most mysterious mysteries in my day-to-day life are where I might have left my reading glasses, or my phone, or my keys – not super-exciting stuff, but one does get a nice surge of satisfaction when the mystery is solved and the missing object located. (My reading glasses, by the way, are quite frequently discovered perched atop my head.)

The most recent mystery I shared here at Meanwhile, at the Manse was one brought to my attention by reader Greg Polan. As you may recall, the mystery in question – which you can read all about here – is the phenomenon of diamond-cross cutouts on the upper levels of quite a few barns in Hastings County and some other parts of Ontario (as well as some places in the United States). As Greg put it, these barn crosses are “enigmatic in terms of original purpose and meaning.” People, enigma = mystery!

As was explained (more or less) in that earlier post, cutouts on barn walls are not uncommon, and probably have something to do with a combination of letting birds (owls, swallows) in or out of the barn, and providing ventilation and light inside the barn. But the diamond crosses that Greg drew to my attention are unusual, in that the pattern is a complex one to make, and has no apparent practical advantage over a plain old four-sided square or diamond. Whoever built the barns that have these unusual features went to a lot of trouble over them. Why?

Well, that’s the mystery.

I was pleased that when I uploaded that post and then shared it on Facebook, several readers indicated that they are now intrigued by the mystery too, and have already started looking closer at barns they pass in their travels to see if they bear the mysterious diamond crosses. Personally, I always look for them now, having been alerted to their existence by Greg, and I’ve spotted several.

The comments that came in (some from people having consulted their parents or other elders) also contained some suggestions about the purpose of the diamond-cross cutouts: ventilation, again (though why so decorative?); a tradition carried over from early Dutch builders in the U.S.; a symbol of Freemasonry or other such organizations; a church symbol of some sort; a Celtic cross; a Mennonite connection; a symbol to ward off witches – or the taxman! All god suggestions, in my view.

But something that two different readers dug up really intrigued me, and I think it might hold a clue to the mystery. Because many readers don’t see all the comments on my posts (whether here or on Facebook – the link showed up in both places), I thought I would share it here. It’s definitely food for thought.

The clue comes in an article published online in 2013 and (according to the online posting), written in 2008 as part of college project on research writing. The author is M. Custer, and I’m afraid I don’t know any more about M. Custer (including his or her first name, or geographical location) than that.

The full article is here, and I encourage anyone interested in this topic to read the whole thing; it’s fascinating! (Though the type is awfully small. Where are my reading glasses?)

But here’s the main gist of M. Custer’s piece: it’s possible that the crosses are a symbol intended to invoke protection against fire, whether caused by lightning strike or something else. The writer cites a couple of saints who are supposed to be able to intervene against the threat of fire, and who also happen to have interesting-looking crosses connected with them.

One of these is St. Florian, whose cross resembles a Maltese cross and is used as a symbol by fire departments pretty much everywhere; it looks like this:

Saint-Florian-Cross

And here’s what it looks like when worked into a fire-department logo:

St. Florian cross fire department

The other saint that M. Custer dug up is St. Brigid of Kildare, one of Ireland’s patron saints, who is sometimes thought to protect against fire. Her cross is quite an unusual one and, with a bit of imagination, one might be able to see it as a model for our Ontario barn crosses. Here are a couple of variations:

St. Brigid's cross

St. Brigid's cross 2

But after all this business about saints who are supposed to offer protection from fire, Custer also sensibly notes that Lutherans (associated with these barn cutouts in the U.S.) and many other Protestants do not adhere to a belief in protection by saints – so maybe this theory too flies out the window.

However: to quote M. Custer once again (and as someone who grew up in a rural area, I absolutely know this to be true): “Barns were the largest building and investment on a farmstead. It was considered normal and sensible to pay more for the barn than the farmhouse since a barn protected a farm family’s grain, tools, livestock, machinery, food and means for survival through winter.”

Back when these old barns were built, and in fact still today, a barn fire can be, and often is, a disaster, the destruction taking a farm family’s livestock and machinery and thus posing a very serious and immediate threat to the family’s livelihood.

Custer goes on: “Because barns represented success and survival, a cross-shaped [cutout] may have been a traditional symbol of protection and good luck.” And, I might add, if this diamond cross was seen as a good-luck symbol to ward off fires, I suspect the owners of the barn, Lutheran or whatever form of Protestant though they might have been, wouldn’t have cared a whit that the symbol had its origins in traditions surrounding Roman Catholic saints. Hey, if it protects your barn and thus your family from a disastrous fire – or even if it might protect them – who’s to question it? Whatever it takes…

ermilyea Road barn with diamond cross

Can you imagine a barn-builder carving that diamond cross as superstitious protection against fire? I believe I can.

Anyway, I think it’s an intriguing, and credible, theory, and I thank M. Custer for the research and for sharing the article, and my readers for finding it.

And now I shall sit back and await more clues and theories. Please feel free to share them, and let’s try to solve this mystery!

Here, my rural friends, is a mystery for you to solve

Cooper Road - Madoc, ON

See the diamond-shaped opening not far below the roofline of this barn (which happens to be on Cooper Road not far from Queensborough)? What do you suppose it was put there for? Would you believe that apparently nobody knows for sure? And so we have a mystery for you to solve. (Photo courtesy of Greg Polan)

I’ve said it before and doubtless I will say it again: readers of Meanwhile, at the Manse come up with the most interesting things. This time, it’s a mystery that needs solving.

I’d like to say I’m putting on my Nancy Drew headscarf yet again, but actually I don’t think Nancy could solve this one. Not the Hardy Boys either. They’re all a little too urban for this one. This particular mystery has to do with an unusual design element in some 19th-century Hastings County barns, and why it might have been put there. The detectives we need are people knowledgeable about farming history and traditions in our part of the world. Detectives: I know who you are. And I want to hear from you!

As does reader Greg Polan, who got me going on this fascinating line of inquiry.

It began with a post I did earlier this year about the beautiful old barns that dot the landscape in the Queensborough area. A few months after it appeared, Greg posted a comment:

“Also very interesting are the diamond cross barn cutouts found on some barns in Hastings County. Are now enigmatic in terms of original purpose and meaning … seemingly forgotten over time.”

Well! The words “enigmatic” and “seemingly forgotten over time” are enough to grab my attention. Intrigued, I asked Greg to elaborate, and he steered me to a scholarly article on the barn mystery that was published back in 1981 by Thomas F. McIlwraith of the University of Toronto, who is now emeritus professor in U of T’s Department of Geography and Planning. I’ll tell you more about the interesting contents of that article in just a bit.

Greg also sent some more information of his own:

“This symbol is also found on barns in New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New York, and Ohio, to name a few U.S. states. Sometimes as singles, or in twos or threes. Likely a cultural transference element from early European settlers that some associate with a German influence (speculative). Characteristic of the earliest of barns in Ontario early- to mid-19th century until about 1900. Original meaning and purpose seemingly forgotten in our time but must have been more common than we realize now.”

And then he told me this:

“There are a couple of good examples along Cooper Road if you look for them.”

Wow – that’s close to home! Cooper Road is just a few miles west of Queensborough.

And then Greg was kind enough to email me some photos he’s taken of the diamond cutouts on barns in this area. The one at the top of this page is one of the Cooper Road barns he refers to; here are some more of his photos:

Sidney Township - Hastings (2) - April 2017

A barn in southwestern Hastings County’s Sidney Township that has three of the mysterious diamond cutouts. (Photo courtesy of Greg Polan)

Hastings County barn 2

Another Hastings County barn with the diamond cutouts. (Photo courtesy of Greg Polan)

Vermilyea Road - Sidney Twp - Hastings County - Nov 2017

A barn on Vermilyea Road, Sidney Township. (Photo courtesy of Greg Polan)

County Road 35 West of Campbellford - Nov 2017

A barn on Northumberland County Road 35 west of Campbellford. (Photo courtesy of Greg Polan)

Hastings County barn 1

It looks like the diamond cutouts have been filled in and painted on this Hastings County barn (Photo courtesy of Greg Polan)

Let me tell you a little bit about Greg – or actually, I’ll let him tell you a bit about himself – and then I’ll share some of the various theories that Thomas F. McIlwraith puts forward as to why these curious shapes were added to some 19th-century barns. I asked Greg if he had a connection to this area, and he sure does – one that goes way back:

“My connection to Hastings [County] goes back several generations as my mom was a Burris (as in “Burris School”) and my great-grandfather was Jackson Burris, who owned the 200 acres now bordered by Highway 62, Public School Road, Hazzards Road, and Cooper Road. [Note from Katherine: this is the site of our much-loved, and recently saved from closure, Madoc Township Public School!] I grew up in Belleville and now reside in Acton, Ont. I still have family in the Hastings area and I visit the area as often as I can.”

Pioneer America

Pioneer America, the journal in which the scholarly article on diamond crosses appeared.

Okay, let’s move on to Prof. McIlwraith’s 1981 article in the journal Pioneer America. It’s entitled The Diamond Cross: An Enigmatic Sign in the Rural Ontario Landscape. You can read the article in its entirety if you click here and register (it’s easy and free) for an account with JSTOR, which is an online repository of scholarly articles. But since I’ve already done that, I’ll try to bring you what I think are the highlights. I’ll start, however, by quoting most of Prof. McIlwraith’s first paragraph:

High up in the gabled ends of hundreds of century-old barns throughout Ontario appear, one or more at a time, small diamond-shaped openings with triangles on the corners, sawn through the board siding. The diamond cross first registered with me during fieldwork in Simcoe County, Ont., in September 1971. Since then, it has been an enduring blossom in my rural Ontario landscape, long defying interpretation, yet offering a path to deeper awareness of the cultural landscape of the province.

And then he provides these observations and reflections based on his extensive research:

  • The barns with the crosses were built between 1858 and 1904.
  • More than half of all the diamond crosses are single ones, but they also show up in pairs and “less commonly in groups of three, four and very occasionally five.”
  • Southern Ontario – the Grand River area and “an arc extending from the Lake Huron shore south of Goderich eastward through to the Kingston area” – is “the heartland” for the phenomenon, but the diamond crosses also appear in several U.S. states, as Greg noted – though not, interestingly, in New England.
  • Theories about a functional use for the diamond-cross cutouts include:
    • Allowing access for pigeons. (Unlikely, Prof. McIlwraith notes, since farmers consider pigeons pests.)
    • Allowing access for swallows and owls, more acceptable barn birds – but Prof. McIlwraith says there is no evidence that this is the reason for them.
    • Allowing light and ventilation – though Prof. McIlwraith says that the diamond crosses “are not really very useful for either purpose,” mainly because they are so small.

Overall, on the theory that the diamond crosses were installed to be useful in some way, Prof. McIlwraith concludes: “As far as admitting birds, air, or light is concerned, the chance of functional explanation for the design seems to be virtually nil.”

He then looks into non-functional (i.e. decorative or symbolic) explanations, and tells us that the “diamond cross is a design of great antiquity,” citing examples from a Chinese bowl from the fifth millennium B.C. and artifacts from Africa where it is believed to be a fertility symbol. But what’s the link (if any) between that symbolism and Ontario barns? That’s the mystery. The professor notes that plain diamonds are easy to cut into planks, and thus many barns have diamond shapes (as well as, occasionally, stars or squares). But “it takes an extra effort to extend the diagonals, punch out the side triangles, and notch the other triangles top and bottom. This effort makes the ordinary diamonds distinctive, creating a shape not generally encountered. It simply is not reasonable to suggest that so many farmers cut these openings in their barns to apply a nonfunctional embellishment without some common external influence.”

But what was that “external influence”? A now-forgotten decorative or even spiritual tradition brought to the New World from the Old by early settlers?

Neither Prof. McIlwraith nor, as far as I know, anyone else has the answer to that question. The good professor concludes his study eloquently:

The diamond cross seems to be as old as Ontario settlement, although it was widespread only about the middle of the 19th century. There are secrets yet to be discovered regarding its diffusion and acceptance; they could tell us a good deal about the mixture of social backgrounds in Ontario, and the degree of local mobility. Today, rural residents talk knowledgeably about rail fences and stone piles, but the diamond cross has left barely a trace in the consciousness or study of life in rural Ontario. The modesty of the diamond cross is so very characteristic of the unostentatious nature of the old Ontario landscape. Its decline is a matter of forgetting rather than of rejection, an expression of the progressive adjustment of immigrants from the Old World to living in the New.

The notion of a rural tradition that has now been utterly forgotten fascinates me – and makes me hope that maybe it’s not forgotten after all; that maybe someone out there can shed some light on why there are diamond crosses in the barns of Hastings County and elsewhere.

I’ll let Greg Polan have the last word, and remind you, dear reader, of your mission to help solve this mystery:

“I’m just fascinated about how something that was once relatively common in old rural Ontario (and as it turns out in many U.S. states as well) has simply been forgotten about. I would be very curious if your readers can share some insight into their purpose and meaning.”

Okay, folks: the ball is in your court!