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!

So did we take the plunge and buy that turquoise marvel?

Beautiful turquoise bench

The astoundingly turquoise vintage booth that my brother John discovered in the Lambs and Ivy antique barn in tiny Gelert, Ont. Was it right for the Manse? Read on… (Photo by John Sedgwick)

I suppose it is within the realm of possibility that a few among you nice Meanwhile, at the Manse readers might have found yourselves idly wondering whether Raymond and I took the plunge and bought the marvellous piece of vintage turquoise-upholstered furniture that you see in this photo. As you might recall if you read the post in which I revealed this wonder to the world – and ruminated on whether we had to have it for the Manse – it was spotted by my eagle-eyed brother John in an antiques barn. Knowing my love for things vintage and turquoise, John had wondered whether it would be just the thing for Raymond and me.

And you know, we wondered the same thing. We wondered pretty hard, in fact. So hard that we got as far as planning out how the Manse kitchen could be organized with that turquoise marvel as its focus and centrepiece. We knew we couldn’t afford its asking price, but we thought that if we could get it for, say, something under three-quarters of that price, it might be worth the dent in the bank account to acquire such a great-looking piece.

And so one recent Sunday we set out for – it can now be revealed – Gelert, Ont., where this fine piece of furniture was the first thing customers would spot when they walked into the antique barn called Lambs and Ivy Collectibles. (I didn’t want to tell the world where it was in that first post, for fear some canny collector of great midcentury furniture would get there before we did.) On top of our interest in the smashing turquoise dining booth, it was a good excuse for a drive up through Bancroft, an interesting and historic town with a very active arts community that’s the capital, so to speak, of northern Hastings County. After Bancroft, we stopped for lunch at another Hastings County hot spot, the venerable and funky Craftsman Restaurant in tiny Paudash.

And then on to Gelert, a hamlet in Haliburton County that also happens to be where my family’s ancestral farm is located. (Which explains why my brother John had been poking around an antique barn in the area.)

And we saw the amazing turquoise settee. It truly was eye-catching and, you know, one of a kind. The upholstery was in great shape. The whole thing was in great shape.

But we decided we didn’t need it. Somehow, despite its midcentury beauty, is wasn’t quite right for the Manse. The shade of turquoise was a tiny bit on the garish side, for one thing. But more importantly, it just didn’t seem to either of us to be what we needed to build a kitchen around.

We climbed back into Raymond’s red truck, satisfied with ourselves at having made the trek, seen the object of interest first-hand, and saved ourselves a whole bunch of money by not buying it. Have I had non-buyer’s remorse in the days since? Not a whit, I am happy to say.

All of which means that if you would like to be the proud owner of this amazing piece of vintage furniture – well, assuming the Lambs and Ivy folks haven’t sold it yet – it might just be worth the drive to Gelert!

Possibly the most beautiful turquoise thing I have ever seen

Beautiful turquoise bench

Would you not agree that this turquoise bench (with accompanying table) is pretty much the most amazing thing ever? The question is, however: does it belong at the Manse?

So there I was the other evening, minding my own business and watching The Good Wife, when a text from my brother John burbled into my phone.

“I thought of you,” John wrote next to the photo that you see atop this post. “Absolutely amazing.”

Actually, he also told me at what antiques emporium he had found that incredible piece of furniture being offered for sale. But you know what? I am not going to share that information with the world, for fear that someone might buy it before I make up my mind whether I should.

People, is it not the most gorgeous thing ever?

Especially for a person such as myself who loves turquoise? And also loves midcentury modern style?

The asking price is well beyond my budget. And even though prices on stuff in antique emporiums are often negotiable, I am fairly sure the final offer would still be beyond my budget.

But never have I feared suffering non-buyer’s remorse as much as I do with this piece. I have this awful feeling that if I don’t dip into the cash reserves (pitiful though they are) and scoop it up, I will regret it for the rest of my life.

What would you do, my friends?

Manse kitchen

Can you picture the turquoise bench in this (as-yet very unrenovated) kitchen? I’m not sure if I can or not. It might set off the Harvest Gold colour of the clothes dryer, though…

Of course there is the question of where Raymond and I would actually put the beautiful turquoise bench and its table. I can’t quite decide whether it’s a suitable piece for the Manse kitchen. Really I had pictured a more traditional table and chairs in that kitchen, if there was to be an eating area at all. (Since we also have a dining room, there’s no pressing need for an eating area in the kitchen.) If we had the world’s biggest breakfast nook (John tells me the piece is a little over six feet long with the L sticking out about three feet) it would be perfect there, but sadly, much as I think the world of breakfast nooks, I don’t think one is in our renovation plans.

Maybe the future conservatory? It would be a funky choice for a conservatory, would it not?

Ah, it’s fun to dream. I’ll keep you posted. It’s possible Raymond’s little red truck has a mission ahead of it.

A flagstone walkway? A sensible (and nice) driveway? Help!

Driveway situationThe photo above explains better than my words ever could a couple of situations that Raymond and I are facing with the front yard of the Manse. People, I won’t hide the fact that we could use your suggestions for resolving those situations. In other words: Help!

First situation: the driveway. (Where Raymond’s red truck is parked in the photo.) I am fairly sure that for some years prior to our purchase of the Manse two and a half years ago, residents and visitors here had just parked their cars on the side of the road. (That would be Bosley Road, one of precisely four streets in “downtown” Queensborough that are now proudly marked with beautiful new street signs made here in the community.)

But of course because I tend to look so happily and longingly back at the days when I was growing up in this house, I started to park – whenever I had the chance; Raymond generally likes to be the one doing the driving – on the section of the lawn that was, back in my childhood, the driveway. That long-ago driveway really was a driveway, and not a piece of lawn taken over for the purpose; thanks to my hard-working minister/woodlot manager/farmer father‘s constant use of several vehicles – the family’s elderly used car, an even older half-ton truck, a tractor and a front-end loader, plus various wagons and trailers often attached to the latter two – the driveway was clearly delineated apart from the lawn, and that was that.

But sometime in the decades that followed our family’s tenure in the Manse (that would be 1964 to 1975), the grassy lawn was allowed to return across the driveway, very possibly because no subsequent minister had need of a half-ton truck, a tractor or a front-end loader. Or any trailers attached to same. So my parking of our vehicles there was a bit of a disturbance to the lawn.

Then this past winter came, and as we all know, it was a brute. And the driveway required tons of plowing and tons of anti-slip material – we tried to avoid salt, opting for something marketed as more environmentally friendly – and the result was, come this spring, a large earthy yellow-brown patch where once there had been green grass. That’s what you see under and around Raymond’s truck in the photo.

The other situation is the yellow-brown diagonal patch where, during that blasted winter, we shovelled and plowed and snowblowed and salted (using the supposedly environmentally friendly stuff, of course) so that we could get between our parked vehicles and the house. This makeshift walkway does not, you will notice, coincide with the square concrete pads that were put down some years ago; and why would it? The yellow-brown walkway is where any sensible person actually would walk; the concrete slabs are where someone with too much time on his or her hands would take the long way, walking straight out from the house, turning a sharp right at a 90-degree angle, and then to his or her vehicle.

So while I coax and water and encourage some green grass to come up from the large yellow-brown patches in the Manse’s lawn that resulted from this past winter’s vehicular and foot traffic, I ponder these things:

One: What should we do about the driveway? This makeshift thing that we have going now probably isn’t a great idea. Is laying down gravel the only option? Is there such a thing as an environmentally friendly driveway? Does anybody out there know?

Nice flagstone walkway

Wouldn’t something like this be nicer than the square concrete slabs? Especially with low-growing thyme among the flagstones?

Two: Wouldn’t it be lovely to pull up those square concrete 90-degree-angle slabs and replace them with some big flat flagstones on the diagonal path that people actually walk? With thyme planted among the flagstones, since whenever you brush a thyme plant with your hand or foot it smells so lovely?

And finally: Are my dreams of an environmentally friendly driveway (whatever that might be) and a beautiful thyme-scented flagstone walkway going to cost a fortune to make into reality?

I think I already know the answer to that.