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!

Queensborough will never have a better friend than Johnny Barry

Johnny mowing along Bosley Road, September 2013

This is how I will always think of Johnny: on his second-best ride-on mower, giving his own time, labour and lawn-mower-gas money to keep the public spaces of Queensborough – in this case the grass alongside Bosley Road, a little south of the Manse – looking their best.


Sheriff Johnny 1

A couple of years ago, some of Johnny’s Queensborough friends decided they should make “official” what everybody knew anyway: that he was our village’s sheriff, always on patrol to make sure everything was as it should be. (Photo courtesy of Johnny’s wife, Anne Barry)

“You need somebody to cut that grass!” the man behind the wheel of the pickup truck shouted out through his open window one spring morning in the first year Raymond and I owned the Manse. We had travelled from our then-home in Montreal to spend the weekend in Queensborough, and I was doing an inspection of the grounds to see what needed doing.

“I sure do!” I responded as I approached the truck idling in front of the Manse. (This even though the question of who was going to cut the grass had not once occurred to me until that moment. It wasn’t going to be us, because a) we weren’t at the Manse very often in those days, and grass grows quickly; and b) we didn’t have a lawn mower.)

Sheriff Johnny 2

Johnny’s sheriff’s badge on the back of his hat. (Photo courtesy of Anne Barry)

“Could you do it? I’m Katherine, by the way.”

And he was Johnny. And Johnny totally knew who I was, even though I don’t think we’d ever met until that early-spring morning. When I was a kid growing up in Queensborough at the Manse, I knew the Barrys, Johnny’s family; but I believe in those years he was off working in other places. Johnny knew who I was because he was Queensborough’s unofficial sheriff, keeping an eye on everything that was going on and making sure that things were going on as they should be going on. And the fact that the daughter of a former minister here had bought the former United Church Manse and was spending the occasional weekend in it would most certainly not have been something Johnny didn’t know all about.

That day five years ago began our friendship with Johnny, who not only cut our grass for those five years but helped us out in a hundred different ways.

When we needed someone to make a gravel driveway, he rustled up Charlie Murphy, who did a superlative job. When we needed someone to repair an elderly whipper-snipper weed-whacker, he directed us to Frank Brooks, who specializes in such repairs. When I asked him how I could get rid of an ancient clothesline wheel that was permanently stuck into a tree in the back yard, he disappeared it for me. When we needed a new porch on the neighbouring Kincaid House that we bought a couple of years ago, he and his good friend and ours, Chuck Steele, built one for us. When underbrush on the Manse property needed clearing, he cleared it. And so on and so on and so on.

Johnny supervising the driveway project

Johnny in his dark-blue Ford 150 keeping an eye on the creation of our new driveway at the Manse – which he had organized.

But even though we were, and are, grateful for all this work he did for us and all the helpful advice he gave us, it’s more for his friendship and his example that I treasure his memory.

Johnny’s family, friends and community said goodbye to him this past weekend. After an up-and-down battle with cancer, Johnny died on Wednesday, April 19, 2017.

“Queensborough will never have a better friend,” I said in my headline for this post. And that is true. It is also true that Queensborough will never be the same.

Johnny liked a tidy village, and that was that. It made him happy when people kept their properties, lawns and gardens looking neat – and it made him grumpy when they didn’t. Those sentiments extended to public property, and Johnny could regularly be seen on one of his two trusty riding mowers cutting the grass alongside of all the roads in the village, down by the river, and in other public places. Keeping Queensborough looking good.

Johnny and others spreading topsoil

Johnny (in purple T-shirt) and other volunteers – Tom Sims in the back of Johnny’s truck, and Ed and Jen Couperus – spreading donated topsoil on a problem corner in Queensborough. (Photo courtesy of Queensborough Beautification)


Johnny weedwhacking

Johnny weedwhacking near one of the entrances to Queensborough. (Photo courtesy of Queensborough Beautification)


Johnny's truck loaded with cleared brush

Johnny’s truck loaded with cleared-out brush. (Photo courtesy of Queensborough Beautification)


Johnny and Chuck 2, August 2016

A Queensborough moment: Johnny (right) and his good friend and fellow fan of grass-mowing, Chuck Steele, take a break from their labours and chew the fat one day late last summer.

Property-owners who don’t even live here and who let their properties deteriorate drove him crazy. After a while he could only take so much, and then he’d be on his riding mower again, cutting their grass too and then clearing out brush or whatever needed to be done. Doubtless he never received a word of thanks (or a dime) from the negligent property-owners, but those of us who live here loved him for it.

Johnny watering the flowers

This is classic Johnny Barry, volunteering his time and labour to water the flower baskets in Queensborough every single day. Johnny wanted Queensborough to look tidy and beautiful, and he worked tirelessly to make that happen. If you go to the Facebook page of the Queensborough Beautification Committee (the volunteer group that puts up the flower baskets every year), you can watch the video of Johnny in action from which this screen shot was taken. “Tomorrow morning I’m going to be up by Ralph Underhill’s cutting brush,” Johnny tells Jos Pronk as Jos shoots the video. That’s Johnny: always another project in mind to make Queensborough look better. (Photo courtesy of Queensborough Beautification)

In recent years Queensborough has been adorned from spring to early fall with hanging baskets of flowers throughout the village. Johnny and Anne did an enormous amount of work to make sure those flowers were kept looking good. Like clockwork every early evening last summer, Johnny and Anne would go around the village watering the flowers. Johnny had done it himself the previous year, but last year he was already battling the effects of the cancer that had struck, and the treatment, and the aftermath. But as Johnny often said to me: “You’ve got to keep going.”

Hanging basket, Queensborough, June 2016

One of the beautiful hanging baskets that Johnny and Anne watered every day last summer.

And keep going he did, pretty much until he died. Only 10 days before that happened, he was out and about in Queensborough, raking up winter sand along the roadsides so that the municipal crews would cart it off. I had a good chat with him and Anne that morning, in which I got a tiny bit of a well-deserved (though good-humoured) lecture from him for being tardy in raking up last fall’s leaves from the Manse yard. Later that day he stopped by when doing his rounds in his pickup, telling me that when I did rake up the leaves, to leave them in piles and he’d come and take them away. He knew, and I knew, that he was very ill. “No way!” I said. “You can’t do that!” He assured me that he could and he would.

I raked up the last of those leaves this past Saturday afternoon, after returning home from Johnny’s funeral. Both it and the visitation the previous day were packed with friends; Johnny was a friend to everyone. I was happy, though not surprised, that as people spoke to Anne and to Amanda and Maryanne, Anne and Johnny’s beautiful daughters, there was a great deal of laughter mixed in with the tears. There isn’t a soul who knew him who doesn’t have a funny memory about something Johnny said or did. He was a good-humoured person to the core. He said what he thought and he didn’t hold back, and sometimes what came out (like when he was talking about people who let their properties get messy) could take you aback – but it was the plain-spoken truth, and underneath it were his good-heartedness, good intentions, and sense of humour. Johnny had an absolute heart of gold, and everyone knew it. He loved a good laugh, and I know he would be happy that his friends were laughing even as they mourned his death.

Here is a video that makes me laugh. Our neighbour Chuck had an old shed on his property that he wanted to get rid of. It turned out that the shed, though small, was amazingly heavy, and it became problematic as to how it was going to get taken away. Of course Johnny had a plan. It involved a big truck owned by Smokey’s Towing of Queensborough (Smokey’s owner, Chris Moak, being a dear friend of Johnny); and it was quite the production, involving several neighbours who came to watch (me) and to help (others). As I filmed it, I thought, “This is classic ‘How we roll in Queensborough.’ ” Here’s the triumphant moment when they finally got the shed to load onto the big truck:

And here is what happened next! The shed was so heavy that the loaded-down big truck got stuck in the soft earth of Chuck’s yard. But – Johnny to the rescue! He and his hard-working Ford pickup pulled the whole shebang, and off went the shed for good.

Moving the shed 8

Big truck stuck? No problem! Johnny’s Ford pickup to the rescue, Johnny (of course) behind the wheel and directing the operation.

Anyway, back to me raking up the leaves from my yard. As you can imagine, my mind was filled with thoughts and memories of Johnny as I was doing it. Every time I do any property-maintenance work at the Manse, I think of Johnny, because I know he would approve. I am pretty sure he was happy that Raymond and I did a lot of cleanup around the Manse right after we bought it, turning a place that had been a tad neglected into a pretty attractive sight (if I do say so myself). That approval showed itself in his never-failing willingness to help us get the work done, whether that meant finding workers for a project, carting off rotting logs in his truck – or offering, just the other day, to pick up my piles of leaves. Basically, when it comes to doing work around the property, we ask ourselves: “WWJD”? (What would Johnny do?) And then we do it.

I mentioned Anne and Johnny’s daughters, but I haven’t yet mentioned Amanda and Maryanne’s children, Max, Owen and Will. Johnny was so proud of those little boys – as well he should have been. They are handsome and smart and well-spoken and friendly – a tribute to their parents and grandparents. Owen read one of the scripture passages at the funeral, and though he is only in Grade 2, he read it astoundingly well. His Poppy would have been bursting with pride. In fact, from somewhere high above us, I’m sure he was.

Here is one final video, shot by my friend Elaine in 2012, the first year we owned the Manse, on a day when Raymond and I weren’t here to see the action that we’d commissioned at our Queensborough house. Elaine was filming the stump grinder whom she’d found to come in and remove the remains of a big lovely maple tree that adorned the front yard of the Manse when I was a kid here but that had been cut down several years before. The stump-grinding is quite interesting to see, but what’s the best is when Johnny comes riding into the picture on his mower and gives a huge wave:

That’s our Johnny. The absolute best.

All of us in Queensborough will miss his hard work, his leadership, his example, and his sense of humour as he offered commentary on the passing scene from his favourite chair on the front porch of the lovely home that was one of many he built.

But his legacy will live on. Those same qualities – his hard work, leadership, example and sense of humour – will, I believe, continue to inspire us all to ask ourselves, “What would Johnny do?” and then do it. And in the process keep Queensborough looking as beautiful and as tidy as it does now – as Johnny would want.

If a little bit of Johnny stays with all of us in Queensborough – as I’m sure it will – then we’re good to go.

Thanks, Johnny.

With spring come the street sweepers, we hope

Bunny on street signs

Classic Queensborough in springtime: blue skies, high water on the Black River by the historic Thompson mill – and happy little Easter bunnies added to our made-in-Queensborough street signs by the beautification committee!

Peter's sap bucket

An old-fashioned (though brand-new) sap bucket for one of the small maple-syrup operations in the Queensborough neighbourhood.

There are so many things to love about the arrival of spring in pretty little Queensborough. The goldfinches and woodpeckers that appear at your bird feeders. The peepers who will soon be singing their little hearts out in every watery place (including a marshy area kitty-corner from the Manse.) The roaring high water of the Black River, and the colourful kayakers who come with it. The sight of buckets on the maple trees, signifying that someone’s making maple syrup. The brightly coloured Easter bunnies that our village’s beautification committee has placed on all the street signs.

On the other hand, there is the sand.

Let me explain. Our municipal snowplowing guy is absolutely outstanding when it comes to keeping the streets in our village and the surrounding roads safe to travel in wintertime. On snowy and icy days, he’s out there plowing and sanding at all hours of the day and night, and I know I speak for everyone when I say his efforts are very, very much appreciated.

But come springtime, we get the downside of all that sand that kept us from slip-sliding away in December, January and February. As the snow melts, what’s left behind are big piles of sand on the sides of the streets, the sidewalks – and the fronts of our yards. Every year the municipality sends around sidewalk sweepers and street sweepers (machines, I mean, not people with brooms). That’s all well and good for cleaning the streets and sidewalks (though not so much if they send them before the snow even melts, which has been known to happen). But it doesn’t help us property-owners with all the sand piled up streetside in our front yards.

Jos shovelling sand

How much sand is there? you ask. This photo (taken from a video by my friend and neighbour Marykay York-Pronk) gives you a pretty good idea. That’s her husband, Jos, chair of the beautification committee and the craftsman who made our Queensborough street signs, shovelling this past Sunday in front of their building at the heart of the village. (Photo courtesy of Marykay York-Pronk)

The good news is that this year some forward-thinking people in the community have been in communication with the municipal works department, and have wrested from the works folks an agreement that, if we’ll get the sand from our lawns onto the street, the sweepers will take it away. There’s also been some newfound communication that has resulted in us getting a heads-up as to when the sweepers will arrive, rather than it being an unannounced surprise as has generally been the case in the past. For all this good co-ordination work, I’d like to say to my friend and neighbour Anne Barry: please stand up and take a bow! We all thank you.

So if you’ve happened to drive through Queensborough over the past few days and noticed long rows of piled sand in front of several properties – well, now you know what it was all about. I did my bit today, having received notice from Anne this morning that the arrival of the sweeping machines was imminent. What? You’d like to see the fruits of my labours? Oh, I’m so glad you asked! I’m quite proud of them.

Here’s one “before” photo, showing the sand in front of the historic Kincaid house adjacent to the Manse:

Kincaid house before

And here’s the “after” shot, with the sand raked up and ready to be carted off.

Kincaid House after

And here’s a picture of what I achieved in front of the Manse itself:

Manse after raking

I have to tell you that my cleanup was accomplished thanks to good old-fashioned Queensborough neighbourliness. Research done right here in our hamlet (take a bow, Lud Kapusta) has determined that the absolute best tool for raking winter sand off the front of your lawn is this gizmo:

Best rake for sand

The best sand rake of all time, even though I believe it’s technically called a thatching/dandelion rake. Also: the boots of my friend and neighbour Ed, as he holds it up for the photo.

That photo shows Lud’s own sand rake, which I went to inspect a few days ago in the interest of knowing what I was looking for when I went shopping for one of my own. The problem, Raymond and I found out after visits to every single hardware and farm-supply store and lumber yard in the Madoc-Tweed area, is that such rakes are not easy to come by. Even online searches have proved fruitless.

So when I learned this morning that the sweepers were coming and that I’d better get my cleanup done today, I first panicked, and then did what anyone in Queensborough would do: I called my neighbours. Lud and Elaine Kapusta kindly lent me their rake for the morning, and then, when they needed it back to get their own sand cleaned up, I was able to borrow another one from Joanie Harrison. Thank you, folks!

And hey: if anyone can tell me where I can pick up one of those rakes, I would be very much obliged.

Because, you know – I’ll have to do it again next year. Hey, you live in Queensborough, it’s part of the deal.

I’m good with that.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Queensborough!

Valentines in Queensborough, 2017Thought I’d share with you nice people the delightful Valentine’s Day-themed touch that the volunteers with the Queensborough Beautification Committee have added to our made-in-Queensborough street signs.

Really, Queensborough is just the best. Isn’t it?

Bosley Road valentine

A Christmas card from Queensborough

Christmas card from Queensborough

The historic little wooden church (formerly St. Peter’s Anglican, our village’s first church, now a private residence), the river that runs through our “downtown,” a light dusting of snow and a pretty ornament to celebrate the season: it’s a Queensborough Christmas!

I went for a quick tour of our perfect little Christmas village yesterday with the intent of photographing the work that our hamlet’s beautification committee has done once again this year to make Queensborough look like – well, like the perfect little Christmas village. Once I got home and looked at the photos, it struck me that they would make a nice Christmas card from Queensborough. So to all of you lovely readers who live in Queensborough, or who once lived in Queensborough, or who wish you could live in Queensborough; to all of you who visit us here in Queensborough; and to all of you who live too far away to visit but have sent your interesting stories and good wishes and kind thoughts Queensborough’s way – well, Merry Christmas!

I’d been thinking about taking some photos of the beautification committee’s work because of the pretty wreaths the beautification volunteers had put on a “Welcome to Queensborough” sign that I see every day on my drive home from work. Here in these shortest days of the year that drive is always in the dark, and so I’d been saying to myself, “Self, get out there and get a daylight photo on the weekend!” And yesterday I finally did:

Christmas sign, west entrance to Queensborough

Welcome to Queensborough! The seasonally decorated sign at the western entrance to our village. Over the little hill that you can see in the near distance, you drive into a pretty little dip past historic buildings (the old one-room schoolhouse, the former Roman Catholic Church) and beautifully decorated homes. Did I mention that we live in a perfect little Christmas village?

I also checked out the signs at two of the three other entrances to the village (yes, all roads – north, south, east and west – lead to Queensborough), and was delighted to find that each had been decorated in a different style. Here’s the sign at the eastern entrance, with its gold wreaths and ribbons:

Christmas sign, east entrance to QueensboroughAnd here’s the one at the northern entrance. I have a particular fondness for this sign because a) it’s the newest one, designed and made right here in Queensborough by our own brilliant metalsmith Jos Pronk (also the new chair of the beautification committee); and b) it has the backstop from Queensborough’s old ball diamond in the background. Bring back village ball teams, I say!:

Christmas sign, north entrance to QueensboroughHere’s a photo from the heart of “downtown” Queensborough, showing the dam over the Black River (thankfully, in this year of terrible drought, with water going over it) and our seasonally decorated made-in-Queensborough street signs:

Christmas in downtown Queensborough

And here is the corner of Queensborough that Raymond and I call home, the intersection of Bosley Road and King Street where you’ll find the Manse:

Christmas at Bosley and King, Queensborough

I like this photo because it’s so Queensborough. An old fence. Trees. Attractive made-in-Queensborough signs. And pretty seasonal ornaments, put up by people who just want to make our beautiful village that much more beautiful.

Queensborough and Christmas: they just go together. Don’t you think?

Death, beauty, nature, gardening: a Queensborough miscellany

tomato plants

I am just delighted about the heirloom tomato plants that Raymond and I put into our garden early this evening. Don’t they look nice beside the soon-to-blossom peonies (a gift from our Montreal friends Johannah and Tracy) and our bright-red oil tank?

It has been another in a string of sunny, hot days here in Queensborough, though today the heat was moderated by a lovely soft wind that had the added bonus of steering the bugs away. As I drove home from work along Queensborough Road late in the afternoon, I was luxuriating in the beauty of the rural countryside.

And then I saw the turtle.

Regular readers will know that Raymond and I are among the many local residents who do everything they can to make sure the various species of turtles that inhabit our region get safely to the other side of the roads that they are bound and determined to cross during the warm months. I’ve told you before (like here and here) about how Raymond in particular has taken on as a mission the business of helping out the turtles. But we both travel with shovels and gloves in our vehicles – the gloves for picking up the smaller turtles, the shovels for moving the big snappers – and I’ve done my share of this turtle crossing-guard work too.

So when I saw a smallish turtle-shaped object at a big curve on Queensborough Road, I of course slowed down – only to realize with horror that the turtle was on its back and probably dead. I pulled over, hoping that the poor thing only needed to be righted after a glancing blow from a vehicle, and that it would be okay. But it was not to be; there was the pool of blood trickling away from the body of that innocent little painted turtle with the gorgeous markings that you can see here:

Dead turtle, Queensborough Road

A sight you don’t want to see: a beautiful painted turtle, killed on the road.

Poor, poor turtle. I only hope that the driver who struck it did so accidentally and without deliberate intent to harm; I am told (though I hate to think it’s true) that some cruel people actually try to hit the turtles when they see them. I personally hope that those people burn in hell, though I suppose that’s not a very Christian thing to say.

I decided that one thing I could do for the little turtle was to get its body to the side of the road so it wouldn’t be struck again and again, and crushed and mangled. What I saw when I turned it over with my shovel wasn’t very pretty, but I gently carried it to the tall marshy grass where it had probably been hoping to lay its eggs, and bid it farewell. And carried on with the rest of my drive back to the Manse, feeling deeply sad.

But you know, there are things to make a person feel better. Like seeing the flower baskets that our friends at the Queensborough Beautification Committee have once again hung all over the village, and that look absolutely splendid:

Queensborough hanging baskets 2016

This past weekend, the volunteers with the Queensborough Beautification Committee once again installed hanging flower baskets on the made-in-Queensborough street signs. They are beautiful!

And then there were the irises that have bloomed in the Manse’s front garden:

Manse irises

And also, the 2016 crop of geraniums in hanging baskets that Raymond had bought this afternoon from our reliable supplier, the garden centre at Madoc Home Hardware, and put up on the front porch:

flower baskets 2016

Two of this year’s geranium baskets (along with a wasp trap to protect Raymond) on the Manse’s front porch.

And the satisfaction of planting (with Raymond’s help) the two heirloom tomato plants – Brandywine and Black Vernissage – and that we’d bought at the Whole Darn Town of Madoc Yard Sale a couple of weekends ago. You can see the results of our planting session in the photo at the top of this post.

Also, there was the interesting surprise, as we prepared the ground for those plantings, of a pair of recently shed snake skins!

snakeskins

Perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Garter Snake whose acquaintance I made a few years ago have not disappeared after all.

And finally, as Raymond and I sat on the front porch post-planting session, admiring our garden and our flowers and pretty little Queensborough generally, came the crowning touch: the first appearance of the year of a hummingbird at our feeder. These tiny things are so lovely, and they seem so friendly. I wish I had a picture of Mr. Hummingbird to show you, but you all know how fast and flitty hummingbirds are.

None of these good and happy and pretty things made me forget the sad end of the turtle; but they all – perhaps especially the snake skins, left behind as the snakes enter a new phase of life – reminded me of the wonder of the cycle of the seasons and of the natural world. Death is just a part of that cycle, isn’t it? But so is renewal, and new growth. And the return of the hummingbirds. Life is good.

But people, please please please be careful about the turtles when you drive!

News you need: more details on the cows’ visit to town!

Cows come to Queensborough

Not the most recent visit of wandering cattle to Queensborough – but proof (from a previous year) that it does happen every now and then. That’s Queensborough’s historic former one-room schoolhouse (now the Queensborough Community Centre) in the background – which is almost as “downtown” as it gets in Queensborough. (Photo courtesy of Anne Barry)

I hope you’ll be pleased to know that I have an update tonight on what had been a slightly mysterious (to me, anyway; but then I’m easily mystified) visit of some cattle to downtown Queensborough. I reported on that visit in a post here, noting that, while it seemed to be the consensus in the village that a broken gate and some hoofprints and other telltale signs did come from one or more roaming cows, the odd thing was that no one, least of all me, seemed to have actually seen the roaming cows. And I wondered how that could have happened, because, you know, a band of roaming cattle is not something you think you’d miss if the roaming happened right in front of your house – say, the Manse.

Now, if you happened to see the comments section of that post, you’ll know that our team of Queensborough reporters (I of course include myself in that team, but there are lots of others) was on the job and was able to provide both confirmation and more detail. But in case you didn’t see the comment from our friend Marykay, here’s the skinny: the cattle were indeed spotted, by her husband, Jos – early in the morning, I gather – clustered on the lawn of the pretty and historic former Anglican Church (now a private home) at the east end of town. I guess they were enjoying a little nosh there before making their way up the street to the place where they felt they just had to bust down a gate to get onto another patch of nice green grass. (Jos, by the way, was able to track down and notify the cattle’s owner.)

Marykay also reported (and our friend Anne has confirmed, by means of the great photo at the top of this post) that this is far from the first time that cattle have visited our village. Apparently they also showed up last year (maybe from a different farm?) and enjoyed a fine snack amongst the greenery and flowers in the planter boxes around the “Welcome to Queensborough” sign on the east end of town before continuing on. (As it happens, both Marykay and Anne are members of the Queensborough Beautification Committee, which is responsible for those nice planters. Which, I might add, I noticed today have been seasonally spruced up very prettily with some pumpkins and other autumn touches.)

So there you have it: an eyewitness account, a precedent from past years, and a photo of a previous visit. What more could you want? Well, how about another piece of sleuthing (just call me Nancy Drew) suggesting that at least one of the cows did make it onto the Manse property?

Possible cow pie

I discovered this in a corner of our soaked-from-the-rain yard. What do you think: cow pie, or not?

As I wrote in that first post, I have some plants that look like an animal of some size may have tromped through them, and that was my first clue. But later, on pacing our little Manse acreage this past weekend, I came across something off in a far corner of the yard that looked distinctly liked rain-sodden cow pie. Again, as I did in my first post, I must stress that I am not in the least bothered by any of this; I find the whole thing highly amusing. But have a look at my photo and tell me: do you think we had a real live cattle visit?