A Canada Post puzzle, or: torn between two places

queensborough-on-the-map

Queensborough (starred in this Google map) is within a 15-minute drive of two larger centres: Madoc (centre left) and Tweed (lower right). Officially we are part of the Municipality of Tweed (or the Greater Tweed Area, the GTA, as some wags like to call it), but our connections – schools, shopping, and most especially postal service – are historically closer to Madoc. Click here to read an earlier post about whether “going to town” means Madoc or Tweed for us.

“You don’t need to use the RR number in your addresses any more,” the friendly clerk at the post office in Madoc told me a few months ago. Or actually – my memory for word-perfect conversations being wobbly at best, plus did I mention that this was several months ago? – what she might have said was, “You shouldn’t use the RR number in your addresses any more.”

Are you wondering what I’m talking about? If so, you surely don’t live in rural Canada, where RRs – the number of the rural route that your particular postal-delivery person follows – have been entrenched pretty much since there’s been postal delivery. For probably all of the past century, and more than the first decade of this one, rural addresses were “Katherine Sedgwick, RR#2 (or RR2 if you were feeling too rushed to include the number sign) Madoc, Ont.” And then in the early 1970s they added newfangled postal codes, which made lots of traditionalists hopping mad; you can read all about that here. So my mailing address back in the days when I was growing up here at the Manse in Queensborough was

Katherine Sedgwick
RR#2
Madoc, Ont.
K0K 2K0

RR#2 was the route based out of the Madoc post office that covered Queensborough and surrounding areas. RR#1 was the section of Madoc Township more or less due north of the village of Madoc, while RR#3 was the hamlet of Cooper and environs. I think there were a couple of other RRs for the areas south of Madoc as well.

When Raymond and I bought the Manse five years ago – Five years already! Wow! – and my focus returned to Queensborough after an absence of almost 40 years, I was vaguely aware that the RR number alone wouldn’t cut it any more, address-wise. Sometime during the 15 years I’d lived in Montreal, Ontario had decided that every address needed a street number, even if the street in question was a dusty country road. The main reason for this, as I understand it, was so that emergency responders could more easily find where they were going – and so were born what rural Ontarians call “911 numbers,” as opposed to “addresses.” This initiative also resulted in rural roads that had never before had names suddenly getting them. The road that the Manse was on, nameless back in my 1960s and ’70s childhood here, is now Bosley Road, named for one of the families that once lived on it. And the Manse’s number on Bosley Road – its 911 number – is 847.

Our mailbox

Our brand-new (in 2012) mailbox at 847 Bosley Rd., RR#2 Madoc.

So ever since Raymond and I got our mailbox in operation, the address I had been using for us was

Katherine Sedgwick
847 Bosley Rd.
RR#2
Madoc, Ont.
K0K 2K0

But then the post-office clerk made that comment about not using RR numbers. Clearly this required further investigation.

It turns out that, just in the period when Raymond and I were still living and working in Montreal and visiting the Manse on weekends when we could, Canada Post was beginning the process of eliminating rural routes. You can read about that here and here, in pieces out of the Grande Prairie (Alta.) Daily Herald-Tribune and the more local Peterborough Examiner from late summer and fall 2012, a few months after we bought the Manse.

Now, I like to think I’m reasonably plugged into the news – being a journalist and all – but somehow or other I remained utterly oblivious to this development at Canada Post. I am pretty sure it’s because during the main period of its implementation I was still living in Montreal, where RRs are unknown and have zero impact on daily life.

But let’s move on to the present day – a few months after the clerk at the post office basically told me (in the nicest possible way) to get with the program. Here’s what I have done in response to that comment:

One: Most of the time, kept using RR#2 in my address. Because it’s the old-fashioned way, and I like old-fashioned things.

Two: When I’m rushed – like, when I’m trying to write many dozens of Christmas cards, as I was last month – dropped the RR#2 from my return address, knowing that not only would it still be correct, but Canada Post would probably like me better.

Three, and this is the big one (not to mention the point of this post): Begun to wonder and worry a bit about where Queensborough falls in this brave new RR-less world. Let me explain.

Ever since the mid-1960s, when the hamlet of Queensborough lost its own small post office – which had been very ably managed in my early childhood years here by the late Blanche McMurray at the general store that she and her husband, Clayton, ran – Queensborough has been served by mail deliverers based at the post office in Madoc. We were always, as I mentioned above, Madoc Rural Route No. 2. (And of course in my mind, if possibly nowhere else, we still are.)

But here’s the thing: in the late 1990s, when the Ontario government in its wisdom decided that many small Ontario municipalities needed to merge into each other and become larger (and theoretically more efficient) municipalities, Queensborough became a part of the newly created Municipality of Tweed. Until then we had been one of the two (or was it three?) hamlets in the extremely rural municipality known as Elzevir Township; but Elzevir, while it still exists in name, is now part of the much larger Municipality of Tweed, which also swallowed up the former Hungerford Township south of the village of Tweed. At the same time, the former village of Madoc and township of Huntingdon merged to become the Municipality of Centre Hastings. Many other such mergers happened all over the province, with the resultant sad loss of many historical names and geographical designations: goodbye, for instance, Victoria County, and hello “City of Kawartha Lakes.” Don’t get me started.

tweed-logo

The Municipality of Tweed includes us here in Queensborough.

Anyway. Long story short, Queensborough is and has been for nearly two decades a part of the Municipality of Tweed. We pay our taxes to Tweed, we take our trash and recycling to the dump in Tweed, we vote for Tweed councillors (and are quite ably represented by them); in pretty much every reckoning, including geographically, we are part of Tweed.

But our post office is in Madoc! And thus our mailing addresses have Madoc in them. And without that RR in those addresses, they look like this:

Katherine Sedgwick
847 Bosley Rd.
Madoc, Ont.
K0K 2K0

Which makes it look like Bosley Road is in Madoc! Which it isn’t! Yikes! Wrong town! While we had that RR in place, the Madoc part of our address made sense; without it, it doesn’t. Bosley Road is, for better or worse, in Tweed.

Madoc Post Office

The post office in Madoc, whence comes the mail that arrives at the Manse and in the rest of Queensborough. But is Madoc our address? It’s a bit of a puzzle.

I fear that the disappearance of RRs from our addresses is going to lead to future confusion. Already Google and other online location services are befuddled. When, for instance, I post a photo on the social-media app Instagram and try to add my location to it, things go quite haywire. The suggestions that come up include “Queensborough Community Centre, 1853 Queensborough Rd., Madoc” (which, again, makes it sound like the community centre is in Madoc when in fact it too is in Tweed); “Tweed, Ontario”; “Madoc Fair Grounds, Madoc”; “Eldorado, Ontario”; and so on. Not the one designation I do want, which is, of course, “Queensborough, Ont.” When I do a search for that, I get no results.

(Though for a brief shining moment – actually a couple of weeks – last fall I found that Instagram would allow me to find and use Queensborough as a location. Then it stopped. Weird.)

So yeah: this disappearing RR thing is leaving us in Queensborough in a bit of location limbo, We know where we are; but will people trying to find us?

Then again: what better way to keep our little jewel of a village our own special secret?

Welcome to Blue Sky Country

Black River early September

The Black River in “downtown” Queensborough on a recent sunny September day.

I’ve started noticing something about the photos I take here in the Queensborough area. It’s that despite what the ostensible subject of my photo is, there’s very often a surprise guest star – to wit, the sky. We have great sky around here.

In some ways I’ve kind of recognized that ever since Raymond and I bought the Manse. I well remember the 4½-hour drive we’d make from our then-home in Montreal on a Friday night, and the awe I would feel when first stepping out of the car here in Queensborough and looking up to see a dark, clear sky – far from the bright lights of the city – absolutely sparkling with a universe-sized blanket of stars. It was awe-inducing then; it still is.

Another time, shortly after we moved here permanently, I did a little post (it’s here) specifically about the great big skies that you notice as you’re driving past the farms and fields around us. This is the photo I used in that post, which celebrated the gorgeous clouds as well as the huge blue sky:

McKinnon barn

The McKinnon barn (Queensborough Road just west of Queensborough) under a glorious late-afternoon sky.

But I got thinking more about our clear blue skies toward the end of this past spring, sparked by a comment from a friend and former Montreal Gazette colleague. I’d done a post about moving the very last of our stuff out of the Montreal house, which we’d finally sold, and in it had used some photos of scenes that greeted us at the Manse when we arrived here with the last truck- and carload. They included a few along the lines of this one, featuring the elm tree we planted a while back…

The Manse's elm tree, spring 2016

… and this one, featuring the clothesline that I love so much:

Laundry on the clothesline, 2016

In response, Charles (who is a science buff), commented:

“Look at that clear sky. If you and Ray haven’t at least thought about getting a good-size telescope, you aren’t doing the Manse site justice. If I lived there full time, I’d build a massive Dobsonian.”

In the months since then, I’ve been paying more and more attention to the beautiful clear skies here. I especially notice them when we visit, or drive through, Toronto; I am unfailingly astounded by the smog and haze that one encounters in the air even when you’re almost an hour out from the city. It makes me appreciate the fresh clear air of my Queensborough home that much more.

Anyway, let me show you a few photos I took recently that weren’t supposed to be about the sky at all, but in which the blueness and clearness made the surprise guest appearance that I mentioned at the start of this post. I should mention that no filters have been used on any of these photos; what you see is the real thing.

Sign over Hazzards Cemetery

This photo was intended to be about the attractive metal sign over the historic cemetery at Hazzards Church, which I am pleased and proud to say was made right here in Queensborough by master craftsman Jos Pronk at Pronk Canada Inc. Queensborough Machine Shop. But when I looked at the photo afterward – man, that is about as blue as ever a sky could be!

Skies over the Plowing Match

The skies over the parking area at the recent Hastings County Plowing Match at the McKinnon Farm just west of Queensborough.

Great trees and blue sky at Feast from Farm

The most beautiful of blue skies over the scene of the recent Feast From Farm local-food event beside Stoco Lake in the village of Tweed.

Blue sky and clouds over the millpond

I took this photo to show low water levels (caused by the ongoing drought in Eastern Ontario) at Queensborough’s popular swimming spot, the millpond on the Black River. But when I looked again – that’s a pretty nice skyscape. Not to mention its reflection.

From the front porch of the Manse

The view from the Manse’s front porch – where I’m writing this post – on any given summer day.

This one was intended to show the just-starting-to-wane Harvest Moon that shone brightly over the Manse this morning as I left for work, about 7:30 a.m. But it also shows the brilliant blue of the sky that the moon is in:

Morning moon over the Manse

Here, just in case you’re interested, is a closer look at that morning moon:

Morning moon closeup

Last but not least, here is some late-summer, late-day sun on the monumental red pine that’s across the way from us. Raymond and I adore that tree; we call it the Tree of Life.

Late-summer sun on the Tree of Life

I think the perfect clear blue of the sky makes the colour of the sunlight in the upper branches that much more glorious.

So I hope I’ve made my case about the beauty of the skies around this magical place that Raymond and I have chosen to live. Now: a little Willie Nelson, anyone?

Power, water: you don’t know what you’ve got till they’re gone

Power outage at the Manse

This was the scene in the Manse’s dining room a week ago this evening, when, by candelight and kerosene lamps, I was desperately trying to finish a presentation for the next morning on two computers that were quickly running out of battery power. The hydro outage lasted six hours.

Ah, country life. The silence of the mornings, save for gentle birdsong. The absence of traffic jams. The wide open spaces. Neighbours helping neighbours.

The power outages. The water shortages.

Of course I fully realize that power outages and water shortages can happen when you live in a town or city. But let’s just say that my recent experiences – or in the case of the water, close encounters – have reminded me that, as with so many other things, it’s different when you’re in the country. That said, the experiences have also been a healthy reminder of how fortunate we are to have ready access to those luxuries – electricity and water, I mean – almost all the time.

The power outage happened a week ago this evening, and is the reason why regular readers did not get their usual Monday instalment of Meanwhile, at the Manse last week. “Severe thunderstorms predicted for tonight,” said the text Raymond sent me while I was driving to work that morning. “Oh great,” I thought, knowing how I absolutely had to spend several hours on my laptop that evening finishing up a big presentation to be delivered at a municipal conference the following morning.

But then again: the weather forecasts are so often wrong. And we often get thunderstorms without there being a power loss. What were the chances it would happen this particular evening?

The chances were excellent.

When the power went out a little before 6:30 p.m., I still had a long way to go to finish getting the text of my talk into digital form and putting together the slideshow that must accompany a presentation if you want to keep the audience awake. (Plus a slideshow is always a great chance to show off how pretty Queensborough is, which was one of the themes of my talk.) Stupidly, I’d been working out on the Manse’s front porch until that point – that is, working on battery power rather than with my laptop plugged in. Which meant the battery was already low when the lights (and Raymond’s Red Sox game on TV) suddenly went out.

Raymond by candlelight

Raymond by candlelight on a power-free night at the Manse.

I can laugh about it now, but at the time it wasn’t very amusing: trying to get as much done as I could while battery power remained on my laptop and Raymond’s, awkwardly transferring files back and forth between them on a USB stick and knowing that even in a best-case scenario (like, say, the power coming back at a reasonable hour), it was going to be a late night and a stressful next day. (I had to be at the scene of the talk, a drive of almost an hour and a half, early in the morning.) We lit all the candles in the house and our two kerosene lamps, and it was all very quaint and cheerful-looking, as you can maybe tell from my photos. But looks can be deceiving. It was hot (and made hotter by all those flames); I was stressed; and we were hungry and tired.

Did I mention hungry? The last time the power went out at our former home in Montreal at dinnertime, we walked up the street to a very nice restaurant that was fully lit and operational, and used the outage as an excuse to treat ourselves to sushi. Obviously that wasn’t an option in Queensborough, so Raymond tried for the next best thing: pizza. But after several attempts at calling a place we like in Madoc (which is “town” for us, most of the time), we realized that it was without power too, along with everyone and everything else in Madoc. Ah, but there was the pizza place in Tweed! (Which is also “town.”) We called. It was a little before 8 p.m. They were closed.

Ah, life in the country.

Anyway, to end that story, the power did come on again, though not till 12:30 a.m. I’d given up trying to work and, after a cold supper of prosciutto and melon (we don’t live that badly), gone to bed and failed utterly to sleep in the all-pervasive heat. Got up at 5 a.m., did my best to whip the presentation into shape, and survived. With another tale to tell.

But the power outage leads me to something else: being without water. As most of you doubtless know, probably the single biggest inconvenience about power outages is that your water pump won’t run (unless it’s powered by something other than electricity). So: Taking a shower? Flushing the toilet? Forget it. And that’s no fun. Fortunately we have a rain barrel and were able to get toilet-flushing (and hand-washing) water from it. But let’s just say thank goodness the outage didn’t last any longer than it did.

But that’s not the only low-water story I’ve got. As everyone in my part of the world knows, we’re suffering through an extreme lack of rain, and water is becoming a big issue. Here – I’ll show you what I mean. This is how the Black River usually looks as it flows over the dam in the heart of “downtown” Queensborough:

Dam when there's water

And this is how it looked late this afternoon:

Dam without water

You will notice there is precisely zero water going over the dam, and the river is very, very low. Here are some photos that I took today of the millpond above the dam, normally a popular swimming spot:

Low water at the millpond No water going over the dam

It’s been a good many years since anyone in Queensborough has seen so much rock and dry land where normally there’s lots of water. Everyone is worried for the farmers; while most of the local ones have managed to get off their first cut of hay (thanks to the heat making the season early), unless we get some rain soon that hoped-for second cut may not materialize at all. As for those who grow vegetables – yikes! Our fingers are crossed for them.

To show you one small impact of the lack of rain, here are a couple of photos of the Manse’s dried-up brown lawn right now:

Dry lawn with Honey Bunny

Let’s call this one “Dry Lawn With Cat.” That’s Honey Bunny, the tortoiseshell cat who enjoys her outdoor sojourns (tethered for her own protection) on the Manse’s front lawn.

It's always greener over the spetic tank

And this one is called “The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank.” Hey – wasn’t that the name of a book by Erma Bombeck? But it’s totally true. And septic tanks (as opposed to a municipal sewer system) are yet another sometimes-challenging aspect of only-in-the-country life.

We had a period of summer drought here in Queensborough in 2012, the first year that Raymond and I owned the Manse; I wrote about it here, and here’s a photo from that July:

Drought of 2012

Our poor tortured plants during the drought of July 2012.

Mercifully, the rains did finally come that summer. But what I’m realizing this time around is that there’s a big difference between spending the odd weekend in a house in the country when the water levels are low (as Raymond and I were then, still living and working full-time as we were in Montreal), and having that water-challenged house in the country be your one and only full-time residence.

Suddenly you start thinking seriously about how often and how long your showers are, and whether you really have to flush the toilet, and whether you’re willing to risk combining whites and lights in the laundry to make a single load where normally there would be two. Because what you desperately want not to happen is your precious well running dry. I understand there is a remedy if it does – you pay for a big tanker truck to come and fill it up – but that brings with it expense and the hassle of priming the pump and so on.

The sand bar

Looking across from the millpond to the sand bar on the Black River where the water was shallower and where my sister and brothers and I swam when we were small children in Queensborough.

As a result of this arid state of affairs, I have started to better appreciate why we did some of the things we did when I was a kid growing up at this same Manse. Things like going swimming often in the river, and taking a bar of soap and shampoo with us, to avoid taxing the well with baths or showers. Or filling a cup with water for toothbrushing at the bathroom sink, rather than running water from the tap for a minute or two. Or washing your car at the river rather than with the garden hose. It all makes sense now.

Having plentiful water, and power that doesn’t go off for long periods – or, if it does, having ready access to places with heat and light – are things that urban folk take for granted. But as Joni Mitchell so wisely reminded us (speaking of paradise, as opposed to power and water – but really, when you think about it, they have a lot in common), you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

But us rural folks know.

And I wouldn’t change it for the world.

“Pack up all your dishes; make note of all good wishes”

Red truck, Kincaid House and mock orange

A happy photo taken this morning, showing Raymond’s bright-red truck, the historic Kincaid House next to the Manse that Raymond and I are now the proud owners of, and the mock-orange shrub that is sprouting its way to a return from what we thought last year was dead – all under brilliant sunshine and a beautiful blue Queensborough sky – pretty much epitomizes the happiness I feel about being home for good.

Two things happened in this past week that were a big deal for Raymond and me here at the Manse. And as it happens, they kind of connected with each other. In chronological order, they were:

One: Guy Clark, a matchless American/Americana songwriter and performer, died, and you can read a well-done obituary and appreciation here. The year 2016 has been one of tough losses in the music world, what with David Bowie and Glenn Frey and Prince all moving on from this particular plane; and though Guy had been in poor health for some time and his death was not unexpected, his departure leaves yet another big gap.

Two: We said a final goodbye to our life in Outremont, Montreal, Quebec. This past Friday we packed up the very last of the stuff that was kicking around the condo we had owned there for the past 11 years, signed the papers that will turn ownership of it over to another family as of Tuesday, May 24 (when you’re probably reading this), and – with both red Ford Ranger truck and grey Toyota Corolla loaded to the gills – headed west on Highways 401 and then 7 one last time, to permanent full-time residence at the Manse in Queensborough. I have irrevocably returned to the house and community I grew up in. My dear Raymond has, uncomplainingly and endlessly supportively, come along for the ride.

Bill and Raymond packing up the red truck

Our dear friend and upstairs neighbour Bill (left) helping Raymond pack the red truck with the last of our Montreal belongings.

As we packed the red truck in Montreal under a hot sun on Friday morning, with the help of our upstairs neighbours and dear friends (and fantastic musicians) Bill and Sue, I couldn’t help thinking of one of Guy Clark’s best-known songs, the first track on his first album (Old No. 1) released way back in 1975. (The very year, as it happens, that my family moved away from Queensborough after my happy childhood there.) It’s called L.A. Freeway, and it’s about moving from huge Los Angeles to a very much smaller and more rural place.

“Pack up all your dishes,” Guy counsels his beautiful artist/songwriter wife Susanna at the start of the song. “Make note of all good wishes … Throw out them LA papers, and that mouldy box of vanilla wafers.
Adios to all this concrete.
Gonna get me some dirt road back street – ”

And then he goes into the well-known chorus, which also resonated with me, given that Montreal, for all its wonderful attributes, has (as I learned on the very first day I drove in to live there, way back in summer 1997), horribly designed and downright terrifying highways. I couldn’t get the words out of my head as I drove the packed-up, non-air-conditioned red truck west out of the city one last time:

If I can just get off of this L.A. [Montreal] freeway without getting killed or caught
I’ll be down the road in a cloud of smoke to some land that I ain’t bought…

Well, Raymond and I in 2016 weren’t quite like Guy and Susanna in 1975; we had bought land, or at least a house – our Manse – on “some dirt road back street,” and we had already built a life there, and we were on that day bringing the last remnants of our old city life to it. And here are the kinds of things we saw and appreciated once we were home on this gorgeous holiday weekend:

Phlox, spring 2016

The phlox that I planted very successfully are returning for another year.

Day lilies soon, spring 2016

The day lilies that will soon be a sea of orange loveliness behind the Manse’s old garage.

Wildflowers and dandelions on the lawn, spring 2016

Purple wildflowers (who knows what they are?) and bright-yellow happy dandelions on Victoria Day 2016 at the Manse.

Laundry on the clothesline, 2016

Laundry on the clothesline on a great drying day!

The maple tree and the Tree of Life, Spring 2016

The maple tree that we planted a few years ago, doing very well; and the Tree of Life in the background.

The Manse's elm tree, spring 2016

Our happy little elm tree, getting a whole lot bigger.

As you can probably guess, I am happy to be in Queensborough.

But let’s close off by listening to Guy Clark’s gorgeous song about leaving the city behind for a better, simpler life. This video shows the cover of that great first album, Old No. 1, and the painting on it of Guy’s denim shirt by Susanna. Those two were a wondrous creative pair. Guy’s words to her in the song ring so true: “Oh Susanna, don’t you cry, babe; love’s a gift that’s surely handmade. We’ve got something to believe in. Don’t you think it’s time we’re leaving…” Adiós, Guy, and thanks for everything – including the inspiration.

Rural cathedrals: the beautiful old barns of Hastings County

"Local Barn in Black and White," Dave deLang

“Local Barn in Black and White” is what Queensborough-area photographer Dave deLang – whose amazing work I’ve praised before, notably here and here and here – calls this gorgeous photo. The barn in question is near the corner of Declair and Rockies roads northeast of Queensborough. You can see more of Dave’s work, and contact him about it, through his posts on Flickr, which are here. (Photo courtesy of Dave deLang)

“Nobody builds barns anymore,” the chap at the rustic antiques place between Madoc and Belleville said to Raymond and me.

I can’t remember how we’d got onto the topic of barns – this conversation took place quite a few months ago – but I do recall how startled I was by his statement. The man went on to explain what he meant, and I realized I had noticed the phenomenon he was talking about without really noticing it, if you know what I mean. That phenomenon being: these days farmers who need new structures for storing crops or equipment, or the other things that barns are used for, are installing the semi-circular fabric structures – are they maybe called “coveralls”? – that now dot the rural landscape. Here’s an example:

Modern barn, Highway 62

And here’s another:

Modern barn, Ridge Road

I’d seen these structures without realizing that they are the modern-day equivalent of – and actually, I guess, replacement for – the beautiful 19th-century wooden barns that one can still find throughout Hastings County, and especially in our North-of-7 area. The photo by our friend Dave deLang that’s at the top of this post (and that Dave very kindly gave me permission to use) is easily the most beautiful example I have to show you, but here are a few others in photos by yours truly:

Tokley barn

The Tokley barn, Declair Road, Queensborough.

Cassidy barn

The Cassidy barn, Queensborough Road east of Queensborough.

Shaw barn

The Shaw barn, Keller’s Bridge Road north of Eldorado.

Queensborough Road barn

Another Queensborough Road barn, east of Queensbororough.

With the exception of my sojourn of a little over 15 years in Montreal, barns have been a part of the landscape of my life since childhood. Now that Raymond and I have moved permanently from Montreal to Queensborough, barns are once again something I see every day, passing by them on my way to and from town, and work, and so on. You see them without seeing them, most of the time; but every now and then – like when the antiques guy made that stark announcement – you realize what an important part of our history and landscape they really are.

It takes a lot of work to build a big wooden barn. We’ve all heard of old-time barn-raisings, when all the neighbours in a rural area would get together to get the job done in one or two sweat-soaked days, the men and boys working in teams to get that huge building up and the women and girls working in teams to produce the giant joints of roasted meat and gallons of mashed potatoes and endless pies needed to fuel that hard manual labour. Whether that’s how the barns that I see every day were built, or whether it was more commonly done by just the family members and a smaller group of helpers over a longer building period, I don’t know – and I’d love to learn more about that, if any of my readers have some knowledge or even experience on that front.

McKinnon barn

The McKinnon barn (Queensborough Road west of Queensborough) under a glorious late-afternoon sky.

What I do know is that we should not take these huge and wonderful buildings, these monuments to the agricultural life and to the people who lived and worked it in the earlier days of this region, for granted. I am happy to say that many of the old barns in the Queensborough area are well-kept-up and still used. Some others have started to crumble, and they can be magnificent even as they fall into ruin.

Either way, they are a lot more interesting to look at than their modern-day equivalents.

With autumn closing in, time to say so long to sweet summertime

Going fishing

Looking a bit Norman Rockwell-esque, two young Queensborough people head “down’t street,” fishing poles in hand, to go fishing on a perfect summer day. That would be summer in Queensborough at its best.

Happy almost fall, readers!

Did you know that fall officially begins this coming Wednesday, Sept. 23? No? Well, neither did I – until CJBQ radio host Jim Wright dropped that fact during this past Saturday’s broadcast of ’60s and ’70s oldies, a show that (as you can imagine, knowing as you do my feelings for that era) I love.

In fact, one of the things I love about the era of the ’60s and the ’70s is that those were the days when fall started on Sept. 21 – every year. Just as summer started on June 21, winter on Dec. 21, and spring on March 21. There was a kind of reassuring certainty about those unchanging seasonal start dates, despite the fact that blizzards were known to dump several feet of snow on the first day of “spring,” and we’d often been suffering through a weeks-long heat wave by the time summer “started” on June 21. Now that science and technology and whatnot have got us all fancy about precision when it comes to the start of the seasons (as with everything else) – well, you just never know (unless Jim Wright tells you) when autumn might officially begin. And where’s the usefulness of that? Thank goodness for Jim.

Anyway. I’ve ranted about that topic before here at Meanwhile, at the Manse, and I probably will again. Had to get it out of my system. But let’s go back to where we started: Happy almost fall!

Boxes of books

Some of the many, many boxes of books that had to be moved from Montreal to Queensborough.

I hope your summer has been long and languorous and happy, filled with family times, and perhaps with travel to new places, and with some seriously good gardening. I am painfully aware that one thing your summer has not been filled with is reading posts from yours truly here at Meanwhile at the Manse. Raymond and I have spent our summer truly, finally and completely getting our stuff  – primarily books – moved from our former home in Montreal to our new home in Queensborough. This has involved many, many long trips between the two places, much packing, much stress, much expense. I’ll spare you the details, but I hope you’ll be understanding and excuse my absence from your internet space.

And hey, here I am again! I don’t think my busy schedule will allow a return to daily posting, but I think once a week is highly doable. What do you think: does “Monday at the Manse” have a bit of a ring to it? I shall aim for a post for you every Monday (with perhaps some occasional extra posts when I can manage it or feel particularly inspired) for the foreseeable future. And hey, this is the first one!

And so now, as the air turns crisp and cool, the leaves on the trees turn to scarlet and gold – autumn closing in, as Bob Seger once sang – I’d like to show you lots of pictures of what summer 2015 has been like for Raymond and for me and for Queensborough. It was great! If you weren’t here, you missed a lovely quiet rural old-fashioned summertime. Sweet, sweet summertime, to quote Bob Seger once more. Here it is – or at least, was:

Welcome to Queensborough planter

Welcome to Queensborough! The beautiful flowers and plants at one of the entrances to our hamlet, courtesy of the Queensborough Beautification Committee. Note the Canadian flags in honour of Dominion Day.

Helping a turtle on Barry Road

Summer isn’t summer without turtles crossing the road – something we all should try to help them with, to save their lives. Here’s Raymond helping a tiny one cross Barry Road between Queensborough and Cooper.

Bee balm

Beautiful bee balm in the Manse garden. Good for the bees and pretty to boot!

Wild parsnip

Wild parsnip – a problematic, invasive plant that is, unfortunately, taking over the roadsides in our area. Watch for a future post specifically on the subject. And in the meantime, avoid touching the wild parsnip!

Johnston's before move

The interior of Johnston’s Drugstore in Madoc just before the old store on the main street that’s been there for so many years finally closed and moved to a new, larger location. Johnston’s is a truly great local family business of many decades’ standing.

New Johnston's

An employee cleaning the windows of the new Johnston’s location, just before the opening. It’s a nice big store! But it’s still sad to lose the old one.

Historic sign planter

Another beautiful planter in Queensborough, this one around the sign by the Black River telling a bit of the history of our hamlet.

Bob Hudson Queensborough painting

A lovely painting of the bridge over the Black River in Queensborough by Bob Hudson, a talented artist with strong ties to the Madoc area. This original painting is now in the Sedgwick-Brassard collection: it was my gift to Raymond on his birthday this past July 30.

Toad before disappearance

This is a toad that showed up in the Manse garden one summer afternoon and commenced to doing something quite amazing: it disappeared into the ground! See next photo …

Toad after disappearance

Can you find the toad? Neither can I! it parked itself in a corner of the garden, and proceeded to bury itself and just … disappear! I looked into it on the internet and discovered that this is actually a thing with toads. Amazing!

New Queensborough sign front

The Queensborough Beautification Committee undertook an excellent project this summer: erection of a new sign at the northern entrance to town on Barry Road. The sign was designed and made right here in Queensborough at the Pronk Canada Queensborough Machine Shop.

New Queensborough sign back

Here’s the back side of the new sign. Beautiful! And – thank you for visiting!

Ray's Famous lobster and crab salad

Raymond and I did actually take a holiday this summer – two weeks in Maine, where we love to go. Here is one supper from that vacation, Ray’s Famous Lobster and Crab Salad (one scoop of each, on top of a bed of greens). It was inspired by a similar dish at the wonderful Kennebunkport restaurant Mabel’s Lobster Claw, and Raymond pulled it off smashingly.

Dominion Day planters

The lovely planters throughout the village (with Dominion Day windmills as of July 1), installed and tended to by hard-working volunteers with the Queensborough Beautification Committee.

Colourful carrots

Colourful (and delicious) carrots from the garden of our friends and neighbours Jen and Ed. Pretty as a picture!

Farm equipment at Jos's

Kind of a classic photo of summer in Queensborough: farm equipment in for repairs at the Pronk Canada Queensborough Machine Shop – the former Sager’s General Store. Jos Pronk’s work is much appreciated by local farmers for his ability to repair all manner of equipment.

Camaraderie at Hazzard's service

The wonderful local music group Camaraderie performing at the annual summer service at historic Hazzard’s Corners Church

War of 1812 ceremony at Hazzard's

… and a ceremony honouring a War of 1812 veteran buried in the Hazzard’s cemetery that was part of the same summer service.

QCC yard sale

The giant fundraising yard sale held by and at the Queensborough Community Centre (the village’s historic former one-room school).

Moving Chuck's shed

An exciting late-summer afternoon: loading a heavy old shed from the property of our friends and neighbours Chuck and Ruth onto a big truck owned by Smokey’s Towing of Queensborough. We all came out to watch this interesting (and eventually successful) operation. Good Queensborough entertainment!

Queensborough rainbow

Full-bow rainbow over Queensborough after a midsummer rainstorm.

Croissants on the back deck

A breakfast that, sadly, Raymond and I can’t get in Queensborough (until that patisserie – French bakery – eventually opens up here): croissants and pain au chocolat with morning coffee and reading on our back deck in Montreal. Probably for the very last time, given our move to Queensborough.

Red truck at 780 de l'Epee

Raymond’s red truck in front of our former home in Outremont (Montreal), during one of our many trips back there to move stuff this summer. That’s our place with the green door.

Not-quite-ripe tomatoes

The heirloom tomatoes in our garden at the Manse that didn’t quite turn ripe and red in time for Raymond to live his dream of entering them in the vegetables category at the Madoc Fair. Maybe next year!

Fair teacups

Hey, and speaking of the Madoc Fair – you know it’s coming when the teacup ride shows up in the parking lot at the Madoc arena in mid-September.

Honey Bunny

The big news for Raymond and me at the end of this summer was the arrival of our two new kittens. Here is Honey Bunny…

Teddy

… and here is her sister Teddy – who we initially thought was a male, and hence the name. Now Teddy is short for Theodora.

Tired kitties

And here are both Teddy and Honey Bunny, exhausted after a day of chasing each other around the Manse. They have brought much happiness to the Manse, which was a sad place after our beloved Sieste died at the start of the summer.

Unloading boxes of books

The end of the endless move! Just this past weekend, our books from Montreal were unloaded from the great big moving truck into our new acquisition: the historic Kincaid house next to the Manse.

Yes, people, the end of Summer 2015 for Raymond and me was the excitement of being able to become the new owners of the great old house next door, a funky place even older than our 1888 brick Manse. It is the new home of our many, many books. And one of these days we hope to restore its interior, along with that of the Manse – and maybe there’ll even be some sort of commercial enterprise there. Like, say… a bookstore? Bosley Road Books, Queensborough? What do you think?

Long time gone, or: after 40 years of wandering, a return home

The Manse on Dominion Day 2015

The first three-quarters of Dominion Day 2015 (don’t get me started on “Canada Day”) were cloudy and rainy here in Queensborough, but as I was taking this photo of the Manse the sun suddenly broke through. A good sign for a momentous (in my life, anyway) anniversary!

Happy Dominion Day, everybody! As you can see from the photo I took today, the “new” (well, new as of 1965, a mere half-century ago) Canadian flag has replaced our usual Ontario flag in adorning the Manse in celebration of July 1. As I’ve reported before, Raymond likes to use his ever-growing flag collection to mark special national and regional days. If you noticed Quebec’s fleurdelisé flying at the Manse a week ago today, that was in celebration of St. Jean Baptiste Day, Quebec’s “national” holiday; and you’d better brace yourself for the Stars and Stripes this coming Saturday, the Fourth of July.)

But national holidays are not what this post is about. This post is about anniversaries, and the passing years, and the joys (and sometimes sorrows) that come with them.

Let me back up a tiny bit.

The weekend before last, we were thrilled to bits to have a visit from Raymond’s sisters Eloise and Jeannie, coming all the way from their homes in the Boston area, and his daughter Dominique, from Montreal. It was the first time that any immediate members of Raymond’s far-flung family have been able to come see us here in Queensborough, and it was just delightful to have them and to show them the Manse and the beautiful area in which we live. It was also a very lively time; normally the Manse is a pretty quiet place with just Raymond and me knocking about in it (and especially since we no longer have Sieste the Manse Cat to share her point of view with us). With four women and Raymond in the house, the place was full of chatter and laughter, and that was just great.

The gang on the front porch

A houseful of Brassards! Left to right, Dominique Brassard (Raymond’s daughter), Jeannie Brassard Tremblay (Raymond’s sister), Raymond, and Eloise Brassard Maddox (Raymond’s sister), all enjoying the view of Queensborough from the Manse’s front porch.

But at one point in the weekend, I had occasion to leave the hubbub behind for three-quarters of an hour and enjoy some quite reflections on this place in which we live. The occasion in question was Raymond having forgotten to buy a key ingredient of his Caesar salad – that would be the romaine lettuce, a rather important part of the whole operation – and I volunteered to drive in to town (Madoc, in this case) to pick some up. It was about 7 p.m. on a glorious summer day, the time when late afternoon is just turning into evening, when the shadows are ever so slightly beginning to lengthen and the slowly declining sun puts a golden evening glow on everything.

It’s only 10 or 12 minutes to drive to Madoc from Queensborough, but those 10 or 12 minutes there and back were so filled with the beauty of this place that my eyes were brimming with tears more than once. That golden glow that I mentioned made everything – the rolling farmland, the rocky outcrops, the silos, the old farmhouses, the split-rail fences, the pretty flower displays at the entrance to Queensborough, the gardens at some of the places along the way – look its absolute best. The quiet of the evening was broken only by birdsong. “We are blessed,” I thought.

us six at the Manse

My family – Dad and Mum and (left to right in front) me, my sister, Melanie, my brother John and my brother Ken – in about 1968. At the Manse, of course.

And then something struck me. It was this: that it was at this exact time of year – end of June/beginning of July, when everything is green and golden, and summer holds out its promise, and life is good – that I first came to Queensborough, as a child of four; and it was also the time when I left Queensborough (though not forever, as it later turned out), as a 15-year-old, having spent all of my formative years in this lovely and never-a-dull-moment little place. My dad, the newly ordained Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, arrived here to begin his career as a minister at the start of July 1964, with my mum and three little kids (we later became four) in tow; the only thing I remember about that first day in Queensborough was the shouted warning from our across-the-street neighbour Will Holmes not to drink the water that came out of the tap. (More on that story, and the years of carrying buckets of drinking water from one of the village’s communal wells, here.)

Actually, there is one other thing I remember about that first day in Queensborough, which could very well have been 51 years ago this very day: It was bright and sunny and warm and summery. Just that kind of day that this July 1 has turned into. Queensborough looked its best.

As it did on another sunny summer day 11 years later, on or about July 1, 1975, the day that my family left Queensborough as my dad took up a new pastoral charge in Seymour Township, outside Campbellford, Ont. So much had happened in those 11 years, in Queensborough and in the world. Humans walking on the moon. Vietnam. Trudeaumania. Watergate. Hippies. Woodstock. The Rock Acres Peace Festival!

Rock Acres Peace Festival, Queensborough, Ont., 1971

The Rock Acres Peace Festival, Queensborough’s answer to Woodstock.

And I had grown up. And watched and read about all those exciting things happening in the larger world from right here at the Manse in Queensborough. I remember how very sad I was as we drove away, to be leaving behind that golden past and that golden place, the place of my childhood. “I never dreamed you’d leave in summer,” a pretty song sung by one of my (and my dad’s) heroes, Joan Baez, goes. Well, I never dreamed that I’d leave in summer. But I did.

And was gone for a long time. And lots happened in the interim, both to me and to Queensborough.

But now … well, now I am home again. And you regular readers all know the story: how Raymond and I bought the Manse, on a whim and a prayer (i.e. not really knowing what on earth we were doing or getting into), back in January 2012. How we quickly began to love our connections with this beautiful and little-known part of the world as we visited when we could, on the occasional weekend away from home and work in Montreal. And how we ended up, counter to all expectations, actually moving here in October 2013, Sieste in tow to make it really official. And how life has never been the same since. In a good way. I am so, so happy to be home. To have returned. In summer.

Today, the rest of Canada celebrates our country’s 148th birthday, and that is an excellent thing. But I hope you will excuse me, as I sit here in one of the most beautiful parts of Canada, if I celebrate another sort of anniversary, a far more personal one: the one in which, 40 years from when I left, I am back from my wanderings – not quite in the wilderness, where some people famously spent 40 years, but wanderings nonetheless. It is summer; and I am home.

Life is good.