This is dedicated to the one I love

Oban scotch on a cold, rainy day

Cheers to Raymond on his birthday! Here’s a very recent photo of him enjoying a small glass of Oban scotch whisky as a warmup on a cold, rainy day in Kennebunkport, Maine. It seemed appropriate because almost exactly a year ago, we had visited the whisky’s distillery in the beautiful coastal Scottish town of Oban.

Today we interrupt the regular goings-on here at Meanwhile, at the Manse to pay tribute to someone who plays a critical role in everything that goes on at the Manse. As it happens, today (July 30, 2018) is that person’s birthday, and quite a significant birthday at that. (I won’t say what it is, save that it is five years more significant than the last significant birthday.) You’ve probably guessed that the person I’m talking about is none other than my husband, Raymond. He’s feeling a little put out about having reached this landmark birthday. So let’s try to cheer him up a little by reminding ourselves – and him – of what a remarkable and wonderful guy he is.

As Raymond might well be the first to tell you, probably the single biggest proof that he loves me is this quote that crosses his lips fairly frequently: “I came to Queensborough!”

Queensborough, of course, being the location of the Manse, the house that I grew up in during the heady midcentury days of the 1960s and ’70s. As you know through almost countless (oh, okay: 1,334) posts here in this space, Queensborough is a beautiful and interesting place to be. But let’s just say it was not exactly where Raymond had envisioned spending his retirement years. In fact, until Raymond met me, he’d never heard of Queensborough. (I know, it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.) The places he dreamed of retiring to were, you know, a farmhouse in the south of France. Or a rambling cottage on the New England coast. (Raymond is a native of Lowell, Mass., so a born-and-bred New Englander.) Or a nice big flat in Paris. Or his beloved Eastern Townships of Quebec, a beautiful place where, during his long career as managing editor and then executive editor of the Montreal Gazette, he lived part-time for several years. Queensborough was not exactly on his radar.

Raymond in his Gazette office

Raymond in his days as executive editor of the Montreal Gazette – a life far, far removed from the one he now leads in Queensborough.

But you know that saying “Happy wife, happy life”? Raymond appears to be a subscriber to that philosophy. I wish I could capture the look that came over his face the day I told him back in late 2011 that I’d just discovered that the Manse, my beloved childhood home in Queensborough – a fixer-upper located an inconvenient 4½-hour drive from our home and work in Montreal – was for sale at the price I could afford, and that the die was cast; we had to buy it. The look certainly wasn’t one of horror; I’d describe it more as a mix of:

  1. Surprise;
  2. I’m bracing myself;
  3. Gulp; and
  4. Loving support.

And with that, our joint adventure in Queensborough began.

We bought the Manse in January 2012. For the first year and three-quarters, it was our house in the country, the place we’d get to for a weekend once or twice a month after a long work week at the Gazette, and for somewhat longer periods during the summer.

Those were the days of Raymond discovering, and me rediscovering, what life in Queensborough, a tiny village in very rural Eastern Ontario, was like. We learned about the importance of things like:

  • Vacuuming ladybugs and cluster flies and wasps and other seasonal winged visitors out of the windows (and everywhere else) in the Manse:

raymond bugs

  • Appreciating prizewinning giant watermelons at the Madoc Fair:

Raymond and the watermelons

Raymond and the newly painted oil tank

Red Truck Ray

  • Shovelling the driveway after every snowstorm:

Raymond shovelling

clothesline

  • Planting trees – this elm is the first of two (the other was a maple) we successfully planted in the Manse’s front yard:

Raymond elm tree

  • Doing yard work, when you have quite a large yard (and a lot of trees dropping leaves and needles):

Raymond yard work

Raymond helping the turtle

Raymond on carving duty

  • A hairdryer when the pipes under the kitchen sink freeze:

hairdryer on frozen pipes

Raymond tries our crokinole

To name just a few.

Among Raymond’s many adventures in living at the Manse these past six years have been:

  • Cooking in a kitchen that is ridiculously small, is serviced with ancient (midcentury Harvest Gold) appliances, and has essentially zero counter space. Oh! But it does have the washing machine. (Wait. What?) Here’s Raymond doing his best to produce a great dinner in that tiny space, as he does – very successfully – so many evenings:

Pantry December 2014

  • Cats: As regular readers will know, there are a thousand stories on that front, some happy, some heartbreakingly sad. All our cats (we have five currently) are rescues, and we love them very much. Here is Raymond with Teddy, who was born with a degenerative illness and did not live very long. But while she lived, she was very happy at the Manse, especially when she was in the lap of her beloved dad, “helping” him do his early-morning work:

Teddy loves her dad

  • Considering whether we could justify (or afford) the purchase of a gorgeous small Massey-Ferguson tractor for snowplowing and snowblowing and, you know, whatever else you need a multipurpose tractor for. (We decided we could neither justify nor afford it, but it was fun to dream):

Raymond and the red Massey Ferguson

Raymond at the A-frame

Raymond introducing Paul Wells, Tweed Library

  • Taking on the demanding volunteer job of treasurer of St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough; Raymond spends hours every week staying on top of the finances and the books. He also does many other volunteer jobs at St. Andrew’s, the only one of Queensborough’s four original churches that’s still open. Here he is (in checked shirt) doing one of those jobs – pouring coffee and tea at our famous annual Turkey Supper:

Turkey Supper 2016 2

The gang at the QCC booth

The Queensborough Community Centre booth at the Hastings County Plowing Match in 2016. The QCC volunteers are (standing, from left): Raymond Brassard, Dave DeLang, Ludwik Kapusta, Ann Brooks, Barb Ramsay, Joanie Harrison Sims, Elaine Kapusta and Frank Brooks; (seated, from left) Stephanie Sims, Susanna Sims and Tyler Walker.

Raymond and the chipmunk

Those are some excellent adventures!

So today I’d like to invite you all to join me in wishing a very happy significant birthday to Raymond, who is…

  • The keeper of the flag rotation at the Manse, keeping passersby guessing what special day it might be in some country or other based on the flag out front (in this case, the Scottish saltire):

Scottish flag at the Manse

Raymond on Campobello Island

And here he is at the statue of Greyfriars Bobby (a very good wee dog) in Edinburgh:

Raymond and Greyfriars Bobby

  • A willing participant each Christmas season in making the Manse the most Christmassy house of all. Here, for instance, is Raymond gamely installing the Yoda Christmas-light set I had decided I had to have as a decoration for the Manse’s front door:

Raymond putting up the Yoda lights

And here is the fabulous finished product:

Yoda lights at the Manse

Red Sox Ray

  • An avid cribbage player (in the rare junctures, like vacation, that he has time for it); here he is just a few days ago with his sister, Jeannie, and her partner, Bob, considering strategy as he thinks about which card to play next:

Raymond, Jeannie and Bob playing cribbage

  • A newbie chainsaw owner! (Hey, if you live in Queensborough, you kind of have to own a chainsaw.) This is kind of a starter version (and yes, he knows you have to take the blade protector off to actually saw something):

Raymond, chainsaw owner

  • The best cat dad ever. Here is handsome Raymond with handsome Roscoe the kitty:

Raymond and Roscoe

  • Finally, and most importantly, a proud and kind father and grandfather. Here he is with his children (clockwise from top left), Justine, Mathieu and Dominique, and grandson Henry…

Raymond and Roscoe

… and here he is with the newest grandchild, Frédérique (who is very interested in her Pépère’s beard):

Raymond and Fred

Raymond, you are the best. I (along with many, many others) wish you a very happy birthday. And to return to the song referenced in the title of this post, and in keeping with the midcentury vibe that I try keep going at the Manse, I’m dedicating this next number (from 1967 – a very good year) to you: the one I love.

“Lovely as a tree.”

Manse looking southwest 16 Oct 2017

Here at the Manse, we are so fortunate to be surrounded by a variety of trees, both on our own and our immediate neighbours’ properties.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree…

You all know that one, I’m sure – or at least some version of the first two lines. It came into my head this evening as I was downloading photos of the trees here at the Manse. The autumn foliage in the Queensborough area has in general been less than spectacular this year – probably due to the cool, wet summer and then the sudden burst of extreme heat just around the time the leaves had started to turn – but in the closing days of the foliage season some trees are looking pretty great. And one of these, I am happy to report, is the maple tree that Raymond and I proudly planted a few months after we bought the Manse 5½ years ago.

It’s funny to go back and look at the photos of that planting day in November 2012, to see how scrawny our maple was then – even though we’d taken the advice of my brother, John, and bought the biggest and fastest-growing one we could afford because, you know, none of us is getting any younger and it would be nice to see it turn into a tree of some size in our lifetimes. Here’s the view of our tree from the front porch of the Manse that grey late-fall day:

The maple on the day it was planted

Day 1 of our newly planted maple tree. It didn’t look like much then!

And here’s the same view (a little zoomed in on the tree) from this bright fall afternoon:

Autumn Blaze maple with the Tree of Life in background

Our beautiful maple tree (with the equally beautiful Tree of Life behind it to the right, across the street).

As you can see, our maple tree has grown and flourished. And the fact that it’s a variety called Autumn Blaze means that it looks spectacular come September and October – more so, I think, this year than in any of its autumns past.

So yes, poems may be lovely – but can they ever be as beautiful as a tree? That’s the question American poet Joyce Kilmer (“Joyce” in his case being a male name) asked (and answered in the negative) in his poem published in 1913 and memorized by countless schoolchildren since.

In reading here about the history of the poem – which is simply called Trees – I learned that Kilmer was inspired by the view from the window of his writing room in his family’s home in rural New Jersey. His son, Kenton, recalled many years later that their “well-wooded lawn” contained “trees of many kinds, from mature trees to thin saplings: oaks, maples, black and white birches, and I do not know what else.” Kenton Kilmer also said: “Dad never meant his poem to apply to one particular tree, or to the trees of any special region. Just any trees or all trees that might be rained on or snowed on, and that would be suitable nesting places for robins. I guess they’d have to have upward-reaching branches, too, for the line about ‘lifting leafy arms to pray.’ Rule out weeping willows.”

That description of the Kilmers’ “well-wooded lawn” reminded me of what Raymond and I are fortunate enough to enjoy here at the Manse. As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, which I also took this afternoon, not only do we have our maple but also the elm tree that we planted post-Manse purchase (it’s in the right foreground of the photo; it’s lost almost all its leaves now, but has also grown and flourished beautifully in the five years since it was planted), as well as huge yet-to-be-identified (by me, at least) evergreens at the rear of the property (actually in our neighbour-to-the-west Julie’s yard, but we can enjoy their beauty too) and a beautiful birch (behind Raymond’s red truck) and quite a few colourful deciduous trees on the property of our neighbours to the south, Brian and Sylvia.

And on the right of my photo you can just catch a glimpse of the branches of the two huge evergreen trees that fill out the northeastern section of the Manse property, and that tower over the house. Here’s a summertime photo I took of them when I wrote a few years ago about my (probably needless) worry about their proximity to the Manse:

Very large trees very close to the Manse

The two huge spruce trees – Norway spruce, I believe – that tower over the northeast corner of the Manse.

These two trees – which I once identified as red spruce, but which I believe are actually Norway spruce – are making their presence felt in a very different way than our Autumn Blaze maple this season. Like every other coniferous tree in our area this year, they have produced cones like it was nobody’s business. (Rather like the apple trees – another kind we’re lucky enough to have on our property – were drooping with their bumper apple crop last year.) The spruce trees are absolutely loaded with cones, as you can see in this photo:

Lots of cones on those trees

And better still in this closeup:

Cones closeup

And you can probably figure out what this means for us down below:

Cones on the ground

Yes indeed: a lot of cone-picking. This is how our lawn looks after two clean sweeps of the cones have already been made this season. And there are still hundreds left to fall!

But despite our trees sometimes being work – as in picking up many lawn bags’ worth of cones, not to mention fallen leaves – I have to say I am always appreciative of their beauty, and of how much they contribute to our lives and landscape. Like Joyce Kilmer, I love living in the midst of a “well-wooded lawn.” Would I swap poems for trees? Let’s just say I’m happy I don’t have to. Here’s Joyce Kilmer’s sweet little poem in full.

Trees

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

– Joyce Kilmer

Out of the blue, vintage fencing for the Manse

Fenceless Manse 2

Does this Manse need a vintage fence along the front of the property? I think it most certainly does! I have nothing against the front yard being open to the street, but a gorgeous fence from the first half of the last century would be a lovely touch. And it’s coming soon!

A very long time ago – less than a month after I began this blog, way back at the start of 2012 – I asked readers a question: Has anybody seen this fence? It was a plea for information on how a person (i.e. me) could track down vintage fencing of the type that I remember from my childhood here at the Manse in Queensborough: traditional page wire gussied up with decorative small metal maple leaves. To illustrate what I was talking about, I used a photo I’d found of a painting by Robert Bateman. That lovely painting will surely evoke nostalgia in anyone who, like me, grew up in rural Ontario in the middle of the last century. Here it is again:

Robert Bateman Maple Leaf Fence painting

Maple Leaf Fence, by superstar Canadian artist Robert Bateman.

A couple of years after that first mention of the maple-leaf fencing that I longed for, I did another post on the theme, having come upon a 19th-century farmhouse in Hungerford Township (the rural area south of nearby Tweed) that has that exact fencing along its front:

Maple Leaf fence, rural Hastings County

Many’s the time since I wrote the post that I’ve thought about dropping a note into the mailbox at that house, telling the owners that if ever they decided to do away with or replace their fence, to please give me a call and I’d gladly take it off their hands. I never followed through – mainly because the fence is so well-cared-for that I strongly suspect the owners love it as much as I do, and would, sensibly, not want to part with this nice piece of vintage Canadiana.

Maple leaf fence 2

A gate at a farm outside Queensborough that has some of the coveted maple leaves.

My desire for the maple-leaf fence has come up in a few other posts over the years, like here and here. But I was being realistic when I said this in one maple-leaf-fence-themed post:

“Truth be told, vintage fencing is pretty far down the list of priorities for the Manse. (A renovated kitchen to replace the tiny pantry being pretty close to the top. Followed by approximately 38,212 other things.) But as an eternal optimist, I hold out hope that it might happen someday.”

People, “someday” has arrived! I am thrilled to tell you that five-plus years and well over 1,000 blog posts since my first plea for help on finding vintage maple-leaf fencing, I have found my fencing.

Out of the blue a couple of weeks ago I received a brief note via Facebook Messenger:

“Hi Katherine – my name is Debbie and searching for maple leaf fencing on the internet led me to your blog. I have a roll (approx 40-50 ft) for sale. It is very old and I bought it as a project for my house (1832 log cabin) but I changed my mind and decided on cedar rail fencing instead. Would you be interested in purchasing it?”

Wow!

Would I be interested in purchasing it? I most certainly would! Forty to fifty feet is just about exactly the length we need for a fence along the front of the Manse property. Clearly this was meant to be.

Debbie was kind enough to send photos, which only made my heart beat faster:

Debbie's fence 2 Debbie's fence 1

So as you can probably guess, one day very soon Raymond and I are going to climb into his little red truck and take a drive that will end with us bringing home 40 or 50 feet of just the fence I’ve been wanting for the Manse. Life is good!

But I have to confess something. More than five years after I wrote that first plaintive plea for help in finding the fence that would match the one I remember being in front of the Manse in my childhood. I have come to the realization that – wait for it – my memory is almost certainly faulty. Here; you can judge for yourself:

Melanie and me at the Manse, 1965

That’s a photo of me (at right) and my sister, Melanie, in the gateway that once stood at the end of the flagstone path to the Manse’s front door. On either side of the gate is the fence. Which … does not have maple leaves on it. It is a plain page-wire fence.

So that fence memory that I treasure from my childhood must be from somewhere other than the Manse. I feel certain that the maple-leaf fence was somewhere in Queensborough or its immediate area – but I guess it wasn’t at the house I grew up in.

But who cares? The Manse may not have actually had that classic vintage fence once upon a time, but it should have. And now, I am delighted to say, it will.

Better late than never.

All yours: a great meal plus a piece of rural-church history

Giant potato masher at the Turkey Supper

This is one of my favourite images from past Turkey Suppers at St. Andrew’s United Church: the giant-sized potato masher (wielded by a strong woman) getting the job done to feed the crowds.

Readers, I can’t imagine a better way for you to spend the latter part of this coming Wednesday than to come to beautiful little Queensborough and to head up to St. Andrew’s United Church (812 Bosley Rd., just up the way from the Manse) for its ever so famous annual Turkey Supper.

Cars lined up for Turkey Supper

Cars lined up all the way from St. Andrew’s down to the Manse for a previous Turkey Supper.

Now, many’s the time I’ve sung the praises of the wonderful old-fashioned suppers (the Ham Supper around Easter, the Turkey Supper just before Thanksgiving) at historic little St. Andrew’s. You probably don’t need me to tell you all over again how great the turkey dinner with all the trimmings will be, not to mention the stupendous selection of homemade pies for dessert.

Pies at the church supper

For many people, the selection of homemade pies is the highlight of the community suppers at St. Andrew’s United Church.

But, you know, I just did anyway.

However: we have two special added features to the Turkey Supper this time around! And that’s kind of exciting.

St. Andrew's by Dave deLang

A historic rural church: St. Andrew’s United, opened in 1890. (Photo by Dave deLang)

The first is that diners will get a chance to see the recent renovations our congregation has done in the church kitchen and hall (where the supper takes place). A worn-out vinyl floor has been replaced with a sturdy and attractive wood-look laminate; and the walls have been painted an elegant and attractive soft green colour. It was a big undertaking, and quite something for a small rural church; we’re proud and excited about the results. Here, have a sneak preview:

St. Andrew's hall, newly renovated

The new look at the St. Andrew’s Church hall, just waiting for you to come see it.

St. Andrew's hall, newly renovated 2

Another view of the renovated hall.

When you’re there for the Turkey Supper, take a few moments to examine some of the interesting pieces of history that adorn the walls of the hall. Here, for instance, is the collection of Sunday-School-related pictures and artifacts:

Sunday School artwork

And here are some closeups. This stuff is pretty cool.

Picture given to Sunday School by the Pattersons

This typewritten note, more than 70 years old, is on the back of the large print of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. John and Barbara Anne Patterson were the small children of The Rev. W.W. and Cora Patterson. Rev. Patterson and his family made a big mark on St. Andrew’s and Queensborough; they were here during the difficult years of the Second World War, and they have been fondly remembered ever since. If you click here you can see a great photo of the young family outside the very Manse where Raymond and I now live; other posts I’ve done that feature the Pattersons are here and here and here.

Cooper Sunday School 1932

I love this photo, which shows the members of the Sunday School at Cooper United Church in 1932. Cooper was one of the three historic churches in the United Church of Canada’s Queensborough Pastoral Charge when my dad, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, became its minister (and my family moved to the Manse) way back in 1964. Sadly, the Cooper church was closed by United Church Central in Toronto in 1967. I love this photo not just as a memento of that little church, but because of the astounding number of children and young people who were in that Sunday School. Wow! (If you click on the photo you’ll get a larger image that will allow you to read the names.)

War volunteers from Queensborough Sunday School

“For King and Country”: The names of young men and women who’d attended the Sunday School at St. Andrew’s United (in those days called Queensborough United) who signed up for service in the Second World War. A lot of familiar names here.

Here is another grouping of church artifacts on our newly painted walls, this one featuring photos and drawings of St. Andrew’s, churches with a connection to it, and other local churches:

Church images artwork

I also wanted to show you this, and before you say, “That looks like a piano in a closet,” let me explain: Yes, it is a piano in a closet, and here’s why it’s there. A member of our congregation, Terry, who does an enormous amount to ensure the church building is running as it should, realized that the piano’s normal spot in the church hall meant it was in the way for Turkey Supper visitors, particularly those who might use walkers or wheelchairs, and especially if they needed to visit the church washrooms. So get this: Terry (an engineer by profession) did a bunch of research and designed and built a little wheeled rig (at very low cost) to allow the piano to be easily moved into and out of that closet as need be. Talk about ingenuity and initiative in a good cause!

Piano in the closet

The church hall’s piano, moved out of the way to make extra space for diners at the Turkey Supper. In its temporary closet home it also serves as handy shelving for leftover pieces of new flooring.

But listen, just because I’ve given you a guided tour of the renovated church hall, don’t think you shouldn’t come see it for yourself. It’s a lot better in person!

Also: if you come, you have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to own a neat little piece of St. Andrew’s history. Here’s the scoop.

After some deliberation, our congregation has decided to clear out some vintage wooden folding chairs that have been in use in the St. Andrew’s church hall for many, many decades.

St. Andrew's folding chair

This vintage folding chair can be yours!

St. Andrew's chair folded

The folding chair, folded.

The chairs have a great midcentury design and are very sturdy, but they are a little too low for people sitting on them to be comfortable at one of the Turkey Supper or Ham Supper tables. So we’re going to replace them with newer chairs – and that means that if you’d like one or more of the old ones, you may have them for the low, low price of $5 each. (Bulk discounts available; and if you’d like to donate more for a chair – hey, all proceeds go to help the work of our church – we’ll accept it gratefully.)

I thought I’d do a little digging into the history of these chairs, and began by checking them for a manufacturer’s stamp. Sure enough, I found it:

Globe Furniture stamp

The stamp on the underside of the St. Andrew’s folding chairs. It tells us that they were made by the Globe Furniture Co. of Waterloo, Ont., and also that the chair’s model name was #7.

Then I poked around the internet to see what I could find out about the Globe Furniture Co., and came upon this very enlightening article from the Waterloo Region Record, headlined “Globe Furniture’s products went to churches around the world.” I learned that the company was founded way back in 1889 (a year before St. Andrew’s opened) and was in operation until 1968. I learned that Globe Furniture “was known for the ornate wooden pews, altars and pulpits it made for churches in Canada and as far away as Peru and South Africa” and that it “also made school desks and theatre seats.”

Now, “theatre seats” is close to how Globe Furniture marketed the chairs that have been in use at St. Andrew’s for all these years. Further internet digging (I searched for “Globe Furniture Co. No. 7 chairs”) located a wealth of information about the company made available by the Waterloo Public Library. (God love public libraries.) And more specifically, an article including this vintage advertisement which, in its lower half, features our very chairs!

Ad for No. 7 folding chair

There it is! The No. 7 Portable Folding Chair! The words in the blurb below the photo are partially cut off, but I think I’ve got it right in filling in the blanks: “This chair is especially well adapted for use in School Assembly Halls, Town Halls, Lodges and other places where the chairs are frequently to be stacked to clear the floor. Backs and seats are cross banded birch veneers. Legs and stretches are solid Birch.”

So there you go, people: you can own a piece of Ontario manufacturing history and of St. Andrew’s United history, and provide your home or cottage (or School Assembly Hall, if you happen to have one) with one or more sturdy birch folding chairs. At the bargain price of $5 each!

And hey, if you can’t make it to the Turkey Supper but would like a No. 7 chair or three, contact me (leave a comment on this post, or email me at sedgwick.katherine@gmail.com) to make arrangements. We’d prefer it if you could come get your chairs, but if that’s not possible and you’re not too far away from Queensborough, I’m fairly sure Raymond and his red truck can be pressed into service to deliver them to you.

But vintage chairs or no vintage chairs, you owe it to yourself to come for the St. Andrew’s Turkey Supper. All the details are below. And if you come, please say hi! I’ll be there helping out, as always, under the direction of the church women who (unlike me) know what they’re doing. A good time, and a great meal, will be had by all.

Turkey Supper poster

They came, they saw, they plowed, they ate

Vintage tractors at the Plowing Match

What a plowing match is all about: participants in the antique-tractor competition try to make the straightest and best furrow.

I expect it will be a long time before Queensborough again experiences the bustle and traffic that we had this past week. Thanks to the Hastings County Plowing Match and Farm Show being held on the McKinnon family’s farm a couple of miles west of us, there was just a constant stream of traffic through our little hamlet. Such excitement! I haven’t yet heard a final tally of visitors to the event, but it is safe to say that many thousands of people showed up to take in the plowing competitions and to visit the wide array of booths and displays, many of them featuring huge and impressive pieces of farm equipment.

In last week’s post I gave you an advance look at the Plowing Match; this week I thought I’d share some images of it, both to commemorate this big event in Queensborough’s history, and to give those of you who couldn’t visit a taste of what it was like. So here goes – your own personal tour of the 2016 Hastings County Plowing Match and Farm Show, guided by yours truly.

To the plowing match 2

On Wednesday, Aug. 24, and Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, all roads led to Queensborough.

Full parking lot at the plowing match

The visitor parking lot was full both days. On the morning of the first day, traffic was backed up half a mile or so as visitors waited to get through the gates.

Angus at the eastern entrance

Angus McKinnon – who, with his father, Don, was the host of the show – greets visitors coming in through the exhibitors’ gate. The all-terrain vehicle came in handy as Angus kept an eye on the proceedings all over the expansive site.

Big farm equipment

Giant-size farm machinery on display.

Big farm equipment

More giant-size equipment. Very impressive!

Vintage garden tractors

And then there was some considerably smaller equipment, like these cute vintage lawn tractors.

Guess the number of cans

A farm field transformed into rows and rows of displays. The one in the foreground, by Quinte Waste Solutions (the local recycling company), invited passersby to guess the number of recycled cans in the big compressed bale. I never did hear what the correct total was, though.

Shopping at the plowing match

There were opportunities for shopping, including for clothes…

Jewelry booth at the plowing match

… and jewelry …

Shiny red truck at plowing match

… and shiny red trucks! I think this one from Doug Hunter Ford in Madoc has Raymond’s name on it.

Harold Ramsay & Sons at the Plowing Match

There were displays by local companies providing farm-related services, like Queensborough’s Harold Ramsay & Sons Trucking and Excavating

Elaine talks about "Historic Queensboro"

… and talks by guest speakers in the Family Tent. Here, the Queensborough Community Centre’s Elaine Kapusta tells visitors about historic Queensborough.

The gang at the QCC booth

The Queensborough Community Centre booth, where we sold Queensborough-themed baseball caps, mugs and cutting boards, as well as Queensborough walking-tour booklets. (Still available if you contact me!) There was also a ton of historical information about our hamlet on display. The QCC volunteers (standing, from left): Raymond Brassard, Dave DeLang (unofficial official photographer of Queensborough events), Ludwik Kapusta, Ann Brooks, Barb Ramsay, Joanie Harrison Sims, Elaine Kapusta and Frank Brooks; (seated, from left) Stephanie Sims, Susanna Sims and Tyler Walker. Good job, guys!

Baker Farms Charolais cattle

There was livestock, including these Charolais cattle from Baker Farms on Hunt Club Road just outside Queensborough.

Vintage tractors on parade

On both afternoons of the match there was a parade of vintage tractors, one of my favourite parts of the whole event.

Now, there were all kinds of things that I didn’t get to – like most of the plowing, including the competitions for horses and mules, and for young people, and for modern tractors (as opposed to the nifty antique ones that you saw in my photo at the top of the post). I didn’t get to see any of the Queen of the Furrow events (the plowing competition or the speeches). I missed out on most of the speakers at the Family Tent, and was particularly sorry not to hear Cheryl and Brad Freeman of the stupendously great Hidden Goldmine Bakery in Madoc talk about how they’d built their business. I didn’t have time to stop and estimate the number of recycled squashed cans in the giant cube at the Quinte Waste Solutions booth. I missed the fashion shows. Why did I miss out on all that good stuff? Because I was helping feed the masses!

Serving food at the Three United Churches tent

There was lots of bustle behind the counters at the Three United Churches (St. Andrew’s, Queensborough; Bethesda, White Lake; and St. John’s, Tweed) as we served up barbecued burgers and hot dogs, Amish doughnuts, and tons of homemade pie.

Pies at the church food tent

Did I mention tons of homemade pie? And we sold every last slice!

Lineup at the Three United Churches food tent

Lineups at our food tent were pretty steady, especially between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. But thanks to a well-organized ordering and cooking system (for which I can take no credit whatsoever), the line moved very quickly.

Enjoying the food at the Three United Churches tent

Diners enjoying the food at our tent’s seating area.

My condiment table

My assigned task for the two days at the food tent was the condiment table: keeping it stocked and tidy. You know how condiment tables are all too often – at food trucks and fall fairs and even Costco – a rather gross mess? I was determined this would not be the case at the Three United Churches tent. And hey – have you ever seen such a pristine condiment table?

Busy condiment table

My condiment table in full use.

I have to tell you: Queensborough has seemed pretty quiet in the three days since the Plowing Match ended. Raymond drove by the site late yesterday and reported that, with the exception of a few pieces of farm equipment, the tent city and displays (and banks of portapotties) had completely disappeared, and Cornervue Farms once again looked like a collection of quiet, tidy farm fields. It’s a little sad that it’s all over.

But I’m pretty sure everyone involved had a great time, and it will stand as a landmark event in our rural area’s history. The McKinnons proudly showed that a very successful agricultural event could be held North of 7.

So I have one more photo to show you, the last one I took at the close of the match on Thursday afternoon. I was aiming to show the sign and loudspeakers perched high atop the Headquarters Tent that was the nerve centre of the event. But as I’m sure you’ll notice right away, my camera (my phone, of course) caught something else in the sky too:

Clouds at the end of the show

That’s one unusual cloud formation, wouldn’t you say? Do you think it might be a sign, or a portent? I like to think so. It kind of looks like a heart in the process of being formed. Or two arms coming together to enclose someone in a hug. So maybe the message from the skies over Queensborough is: “We loved your visit – please come back soon!”

An arty Madoc mystery

Art signs in Madoc

One example of an intriguing thing that’s going on in the nearby village of Madoc. I think it’s arty, but that’s all I know. Who’s behind the eye-catching signs? What are they for? Is it art for art’s sake? I don’t know, but I like it. And I like the mystery.

I spotted this bright sign on a telephone pole in downtown Madoc this past Saturday, and did a double-take. At first I assumed it was a handmade advertisement for painting services. But of course it wasn’t: it just said PAINTING – no company name, no phone number, no website, no email. “Hmmm,” thought I. “Something’s up.”

Then this morning on my drive south through Madoc from the Manse in Queensborough, on my way to work in Belleville, I realized that a whole bunch of telephone poles had similar signs on them, all in very bright colours:

Art sign Culture sign

Something’s up in Madoc!

I checked the websites of the local high school and elementary school (Centre Hastings Secondary and Madoc Public School): nothing. There’s been nothing so far in the local press. (Does that mean that with this report I have a scoop?)

It’s all very intriguing. Clearly it’s got something to do with the arts scene. Why, maybe the signs themselves are an art installation! But who’s the artist? Why are the signs there? What’s the underlying message?

They remind me a bit of the bumper sticker Raymond has on his red truck, a message brought all the way from Stonington, Maine, a small town with a lively cultural scene:

Incite Art bumper sticker

Incite art. Create community: Is that what someone, or some group of people, is trying to do in Madoc?

If so, I say “Bravo!” A thriving arts and cultural scene is a proven way to make a community interesting and lively.

Also: there’s nothing better than a good mystery.

The occasional downside of living far from the hustle-bustle

Inherited Manse couch

Okay, people, picture this couch…

Hudson couch in teal

… replaced with this one. Don’t you love the midcentury style? More to the point, don’t you think the teal colour would go splendidly with our real-life midcentury curtains? (The same ones that hung in our living room when I was a kid here?)

“The world could end and you wouldn’t know it,” our Queensborough friend Marykay once said, describing what it’s like to live in our pretty little village. I think of that often when I come home to Queensborough, drive over the hill that’s on the edge of town and down into our little valley with a river running through it. When you come over the crest of that hill, and our life-size Christmas village (at least in wintertime) unfolds before you, you really do feel like the world outside could end and you wouldn’t know it. I like that feeling.

But every now and again that splendid away-from-it-all-ness of Queensborough proves problematic. Like today, for instance. When a nifty midcentury-style couch that Raymond and I had made up our minds to splurge on for the Manse proved to be unattainable. Why? Because: “We don’t deliver there.”

If you’re a regular reader you might have seen my post last night, a little celebration of the happy and cozy living room here at the Manse where Raymond, Sieste the cat and I spend our winter evenings. (It was also a celebration of the third anniversary of Raymond and me buying this house that I grew up in. A happy post all round!)

I wonder if, in reading that post and looking at my photos there, you remarked on the sofa (or chesterfield, as we used to call that particular piece of furniture when I was a kid). It came with the Manse when we bought it, and is a kind of puffy white affair made of faux leather. It’s old and greyed and the first time I saw it I thought it would have to be replaced immediately; but it turned out to have the great redeeming quality of being thoroughly comfortable to sit in. And so for these past three years we’ve kind of closed our eyes to the couch’s less thrilling features and just gone ahead and used it. Every now and again, though, I see it as a visitor to the Manse might, and think, “Good lord – that couch has got to be replaced!”

Gramercy couch

My first choice for a new couch for the Manse, since rejected.

I wrote about one possible replacement, which I found at The Bay in downtown Montreal, in a post here from last March. But I’ve since decided against that great-looking lime-green chesterfield; online reviews have suggested it’s not all that sturdy, which may be why it seems to be permanently on sale at The Bay. (Still, it is a great midcentury colour!)

But a backup sofa that I mentioned in that same post, and that I’d also seen at The Bay, has now become my first choice. It is called the Hudson (appropriately enough), it also features great midcentury style, and it too is on sale at The Bay at the moment. You can see one photo of it at the top of this post. Since Raymond and I were in Toronto this morning, two blocks away from the flagship Bay store at Queen and Yonge, we popped in to have a look, and here’s a photo that I took there:

Hudson sofa

The Hudson sofa, as displayed at the downtown Toronto Bay store. For some reason the colour, called pumpkin, is always used when this couch is displayed; it’s not my cup of tea, but I hope you can appreciate the funky midcentury style of this made-in-Canada “chesterfield.”

We saw, we sat, we liked it. We chose the colour: teal, to match our vintage curtains – the same curtains that hung in our living room back in the 1960s and ’70s when I was a kid in this house. Those curtains have totally grown on us – even Raymond can sometimes be heard to say favourable things about them. And now here we were buying a couch to match!

Or wait – not so much. When we made inquiries about how to obtain our new chosen chesterfield, the “we don’t deliver there” situation arose. Good lord, you’d think we lived at the end of the world!

Oh, wait a minute…

I was determined to win this. “There has to be a way,” I told the salesman, a very affable chap who clearly was trying his best to get that couch into our possession. He’d run out of ideas, but I had not run out of determination: “There has to be a way.” The salesman thought some more, and then allowed as how deliveries do go out from the Bay’s central warehouse in Toronto to its various stores – and that therefore our couch could be delivered to a regional store. And there is a store in Kingston, which is a little less than an hour away.

Okay, so – now all we need is a way to get a very large box containing our new teal curtain-matching chesterfield from Kingston to Queensborough. It’s going to be too big for Raymond’s little red truck; suddenly that plan to get a trailer – or a bigger truck – is looking very sensible.

Anyway, if you’re still with me, stay tuned. I think we’ll figure out a way to get that couch to the Manse, and I think it will look splendid. I’ll show you photos if and when it gets here. I am operating on the following principle: When you’re in a place where the world could end and you wouldn’t know it, you need a comfortable and stylish chesterfield to sit on!