How do you pack a church? With a worthy project – and music!

Packed church for music night

We’ve had some popular events, notably special anniversary services, at St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough in recent years – but never have I seen the sanctuary as full as it was for Music Night last night.

You don’t see packed churches all that often anymore. But last night at St. Andrew’s United right here in Queensborough, every seat (including some extras in the aisles) was filled. What drew so many people to our little country church? An evening of crowd-pleasing music by some well-known local performers, and a good cause to support.

Music at the Church poster

The poster on the church doors that welcomed the crowd to Music Night.

Our small but spirited congregation organized Music at the Church night to raise money to send two Queensborough children to Camp Quin-Mo-Lac this summer. As you can see me explaining at the start of this video of the event made by Terry and Eileen Pigden of Centre Hastings TV, we wanted to undertake a new community outreach project, and sponsoring two children to attend Quin-Mo-Lac – a highly regarded United Church camp on the shores of Moira Lake just a few miles south of us – seemed like a good idea. It seemed like an even better idea when the idea of raising the money by holding a music night came up.

While you see me standing at the front of the church talking at the start of that video that the Pigdens were kind enough to come and make, I can take very little credit for the evening. It was very much an effort of the entire congregation; various people who’ll be embarrassed if I name them took on the jobs of lining up the entertainers, planning the program, handling seat reservations, setting up the church, and of course baking and serving the cookies that were served afterward.

And what a success it was!

Every seat in the church was filled, and some people watched from our overflow space in the church hall. The musicians – all of whom had donated their time and talent, and more on them in just a second – were absolutely wonderful. Throughout the evening the sanctuary resounded with appreciative applause, and at the end the organizers were peppered with a comment repeated over and over: “Do it again!”

Which I think we’ll have to! Because not only did everyone have a splendid time, but we met and slightly surpassed our fundraising goal. In one night, with this one event, our little church raised just a hair under $1,100, and some donations are still expected to arrive. This not only covers the full $990 cost of sending two kids to camp, but will help pay for any camping equipment they might need – and if not, will go into the send-kids-to-camp fund for next year. How do you like that?

We owe a huge, huge thanks to the musicians who were the “draw” for the night. In order of appearance, they were:

  • Katherine Fleming and Don Bailey (accompanied by Bob Watson), who sang haunting ballads, meaningful gospel, and an old-time crowd-pleaser that got the crowd singing and clapping (and broadly smiling) early in the evening. Here’s a taste of that wonderful moment:

  • Elementary-school students and ukelele superstars-in-the-making Morgan Beaton, Brooklyn Gylyktiuk and Fiona Fountain, along with their teacher, Deb Chatreau. What fun it was to hear them play (and in most cases sing) everything from pop standards to classical music. They too got the crowd singing along enthusiastically, with a rousing version of Harry Belafonte’s Jamaica Farewell. You can watch them (and the other musicians) perform on the video the Pigdens shot, Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
Deb, Fiona, Brook and Morgan

From left, teacher Deb Chatreau, Fiona Fountain, Brooklyn Gylyktiuk and Morgan Beaton delight the crowd with their music and youthful energy.

  • Finally, there was a group that had just that day had decided to tongue-in-cheek christen themselves The Extended Teenagers: six performers with deep roots and a long musical history in this area. They are Betty McMurray, Jack McMurray, Betty Brinson, Danny Brinson, Doug Mumford and Joe Saunders – and boy, do they know how to please a crowd that loves country and gospel standards! They even included a haunting new song written by Joe Saunders during which, as one person said, you could have heard a pin drop. Here they are in action; please check out the CHTV videos to hear their songs.
The Extended Teenagers at St. Andrew's

The newly named Extended Teenagers: from left, Joe Saunders on lead guitar, Betty Brinson on keyboards, Danny Brinson on guitar, Betty McMurray on dobro, Jack McMurray on bass, and Doug Mumford on guitar. These performers know how to please a crowd!

I think the performers, the organizers at St. Andrew’s, and all the people who came out to enjoy the music and support the cause deserve a round of applause. What a wonderful, encouraging night for the life and work of our small rural church. Thank you, everyone!

In what is news to precisely no one: women’s work is never done

Peeling potatoes for the Turkey Supper

Me in the midst of peeling 20 pounds of potatoes late at night, after a long day’s work, in the cramped Manse kitchen. (Photo by Raymond Brassard)

More than once here at Meanwhile, at the Manse I’ve paid tribute to my mum, Lorna Sedgwick, for somehow surviving the Manse years of my childhood. Now that I am living through the Manse years of my adulthood (having moved back to this great old house in Queensborough a while back), I think I have a much better appreciation of what was involved in raising four small children, working full-time as a high-school teacher, keeping a big old house in reasonable order, preparing three meals a day for an ungrateful lot (and this when she hated cooking), and last but certainly not least, fulfilling all the demands that were placed on a midcentury minister’s wife – including having company to dinner pretty much every single Sunday.

And all this without a dishwasher! Or many other of the conveniences we all take for granted today. (Mind you, Raymond and I still don’t have a dishwasher at the Manse.)

My mother told me not long ago that quite often on Friday afternoons, when she would arrive home at the Manse after a week of teaching, she would just sit in the car in the driveway for a while, too exhausted to immediately face the job of cooking supper for the family. Too exhausted to even face the family.

Now, my workload is not nearly as heavy as my mum’s was. For one thing, there are zero small children to raise, though there are three cats. For another, my husband does an immense amount of work around the house, including cooking meals more than half the time. That said, my paid job (co-ordinating and teaching in the journalism program at Loyalist College in Belleville) is probably more demanding and time-consuming than my mum’s job was. And I have a daily commute of almost an hour each way, whereas Mum only had the less-than-15-minute drive to Madoc and back, to teach at Centre Hastings Secondary School. And even though I don’t have minister’s wife duties, I do have quite a bit of work in my role as secretary at St. Andrew’s United Church. And then there is Meanwhile, at the Manse to produce!

Let’s just say that I sometimes feel, as I’m sure my mother felt a hundred thousand or so times back in those Manse days of my childhood, that I am really tired of being tired.

But who doesn’t feel that way these days? Every working person I know is putting in more hours than workers did even a generation ago. Nine to five? What the heck is that? And we’ve all got so much going on outside of work as well. The other day I was talking to a businesswoman in Madoc who works full time six, and often seven, days a week. How does she do it?

While I fully realize that many, many men (like my husband) work every bit as hard as their wives do, I’ve been thinking a lot about “women’s work” over the past two or three weeks. You won’t be surprised to know that these thoughts have been prompted by being at the Manse, and by thinking about my mum and the women of her generation, and the generations before that.

These reflections kind of got started on a recent Friday night, when, after a very long and trying week at work, I had to spend several hours in the Manse’s ridiculously small and poorly laid out kitchen/pantry doing prep work for a meal to be served to guests the next day. They are guests whom we always enjoy having over, and the meal was not at all a fancy one; but because Raymond and I had out-of-the-house stuff to do most of the following day, I had to get things ready Friday night – when, let me tell you, I was ready to drop from exhaustion. Here I am whipping the cream for the world’s greatest retro dessert at about 10 o’clock at night, feeling more than a little sorry for myself:

late-night-whipping-cream-in-the-manse-kitchen

As I whipped, I kept thinking about my mum, and all those long-ago evenings in that very same kitchen when she, as exhausted as I was, would be using the hand-held mixer to prepare some dessert or jellied salad or other so as to lighten the load of same-day preparations for company. “How did she do it?” I kept wondering.

(But you know, it paid off: the next day when dinner was a snap to get on the table because of all the advance work that I’d done, I felt pretty pleased with myself. That, however, was after a good night’s sleep.)

I got thinking along the same lines last week, on the night before the Turkey Supper at St. Andrew’s United Church that I told you all about in last week’s post. My assigned task, because I am utterly incapable of baking one of those homemade pies that St. Andrew’s and Queensborough are so famous for, was to peel and cut up (into small pieces, so they’d cook quickly) 20 pounds of potatoes. People, do you know how long it takes to peel and cut up 20 pounds of potatoes? I’ll tell you. It takes exactly an hour and a half – 45 minutes per 10-pound bag of potatoes. There was a time when leaning over the kitchen sink for an hour and a half would have caused my back no problems whatsoever. But as a woman of a certain age, I can definitively say: this is not that time. And this hour-and-a-half mission happened, of course, after another very long day at work and another long commute home. You can see me hard at work on the potato front in the photo at the top of this post, and here’s another view where my peeling hands are just a blur!

peeling-potatoes-2

But I hasten to add that I wasn’t really feeling sorry for myself on potato-peeling night. Instead I was thinking about all the other women of St. Andrew’s United Church and the wider Queensborough community who, that night and over the past several days, had worked way more than my measly hour and a half to prepare food and make everything ready for the Turkey Supper. And then there was the day to come, when many of the same women would be working all day long doing prep work and setup, then serving up the food at a furious pace during the 2½ hours of the supper, and then working late into the night to clean everything up. And people, I hope I’m not giving away any secrets if I say that most of those women are older than I am – some by quite a bit.

They are amazing. Absolutely amazing.

Every year I vow that I will take lots of photos of our Turkey Supper, and every year I fail to fulfill that mission. Why? Because I’m so busy running around helping out! There’s just no time to stop and take photos. And most especially not this year, when – thanks in part to you excellent people – we had what was probably the biggest crowd in the long, long history of St. Andrew’s Turkey Suppers.

Cars parked all through Queensborough for the Turkey Supper

“The cars were parked all over Queensborough!” one visitor to our Turkey Supper told me, completely accurately. I am pretty sure it was the biggest turnout in the history of the St. Andrew’s Turkey Supper.


Turkey Supper 2016

A view of the newly renovated hall at St. Andrew’s packed with people who were there for our famous Turkey Supper.


Turkey Supper 2016 2

Another shot of the Turkey Supper diners, featuring Raymond (in the checked shirt) who, with our minister, Norm Long, never stopped pouring coffee and tea.

I hope my photos give you some sense of how busy we were. Thanks to ticket sales and donations, our church has received a wonderful financial boost that will help its work a lot in the coming year. But oh, how I wish I had photos or video of Lorraine mashing the potatoes and keeping a steady stream of warm and delicious food coming out of the oven; of Ann Lee making sure all the trays on the buffet table were always filled; of Joan and Stephanie and Barb and Wanda and Lorna and Doris tirelessly washing and drying the plates, cutlery and glasses over and over and over as they kept being used over and over and over; of Netta and Debbie and Susanna racing to clear tables and install new place settings in time for the next round of diners! How I wish I could show you Eilene, making pot after pot of coffee and tea; of Joan, filling bowl after bowl of salads; of Lois, cutting and serving up dozens and dozens of pies; of Sandra, keeping track of when there were spaces at the table and summoning expectant diners to fill them; and especially of Betty, overseeing the whole shebang, as she has done for so many years, and doing a fantastic job. And how I wish I could show you the bustle – exhausted bustle, but bustle nonetheless – as everyone worked to clean everything up afterwards – on empty stomachs, because the crowds were so huge that there was no turkey dinner left to feed these hard-working volunteers!

Pictures failed me. And really, so do words.

Except this: thanks to the work of these women, of women like my mother, who have spent the majority of the days of their lives working until they were ready to drop – we have been fed, and cared for. The world is a much better place for “women’s work.”

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

Everyone loves a good apple. But what kind is it?

First apple from our tree

The first apple I picked from the apple tree that Raymond and I acquired when we bought the property next door to the Manse. This photo of it proved ever so popular on social media. Now comes the important question: what kind of apple is it?

The goldenrod is yellow,
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
with fruit are bending down.

Did you learn that little poem in your school days? I certainly did, sometime early in my elementary-school career at Madoc Township Public School, when I was growing up right here at the Manse. It was one of the poems we students were required to memorize and recite out loud, back in the time when such things actually happened in elementary schools. Longtime readers might recall a post I did some time ago about my younger brother John and his youthful recitation of this poem, hampered by a missing baby tooth or two: “The goldenwod is wullow…”

Anyway: despite the terrible drought that has gripped Eastern Ontario this summer, the trees in apple orchards really are bending down with fruit this September. Or actually – I can’t speak for the orchards, because I don’t know of any cultivated apple orchards around Queensborough. But the apple trees in people’s yards, and at the edges of farm fields and fence lines, and along the roadsides, are most certainly bending down with a bumper crop of fruit. Maybe drought is good for apple crops? Hard to imagine, but there sure are a lot of apples.

Apples on the tree

The branches of our very own apple tree are laden with fruit.

Including, I am pleased to say, on the apple tree that graces the property next to the Manse – a property that Raymond and I bought about a year ago. It’s from that tree that the apple you can see me holding in the photo at the top of this post was picked about five seconds before the photo was taken. I posted the photo on Instagram and Facebook a couple of days ago, with a few words to the effect that it was the first time I’d ever picked an apple from our own tree, and that it tasted really good. (Which it did. Super-crisp and perfectly sweet-tart.)

Gracious, the number of likes and comments that came in! From old friends and new, from all over Canada and the U.S. Perhaps it’s the season: late summer turning to fall, when apples are at their best and people are thinking about them. Perhaps it was a reminder for some of the childhood treat of picking and eating a just-ripe apple from your family’s tree, or that of a neighbour. Whatever the reason, I was inspired to carry on with the apple-tree theme for today’s instalment of Meanwhile, at the Manse.

One of the nicest responses I had to posting the photo on social media was a reminiscence shared in person yesterday morning at church (St. Andrew’s United in Queensborough). A neighbour and friend said to me: “That apple tree – I remember walking under it on the way to school.” The tree stands on the edge of the property, alongside Queensborough Road and the narrow sidewalk along which generations of children once walked every day to and from classes at Queensborough’s one-room schoolhouse, which stands maybe a hundred yards west of the tree.

Queensborough Community Centre

The old one-room schoolhouse in Queensborough, now the Queensborough Community Centre.

I will always regret missing – by just one year – the chance to attend that one-room schoolhouse; it was closed the summer before six-year-old me was to start school, which is why I ended up at much bigger and fancier (for those days) Madoc Township P.S. But regrets aside, I love the image of schoolchildren decades ago stopping to pick apples from the very tree that Raymond and I can now call ours.

The apple tree coming home from school

A view of the apple tree as a kid would see it walking home at the end of an early-fall schoolday. I would think those easy-to-reach apples would be pretty tempting.

And I love the idea that our apple tree is an old one. Because – well, you folks know me. I’m a sucker for history, and for stuff that’s been around a long time. Like the Manse. And the apple tree. And the house on the property next door, the property where the apple tree grows:

Kincaid House by Dave deLang

The house on the property next to the Manse, commonly called the Kincaid House after the family that lived there for many, many years. This beautiful picture is by Queensborough photographer Dave deLang.

At the moment we use the house for storage, primarily of our large (to put it mildly) book collection. But someday, someday… a bookshop, maybe?

But back to the apples. One question I got as a result of my apple-photo post on social media was what kind of apples they are. Wealthy was one suggestion, and I have to say I had never heard of that variety before. (I have since learned a bit more, thanks to various websites including this one from Maine, which says that the Wealthy “is considered to be a standout among pie apples.” Sadly, as my friends know, pie-making is not my forte.) Another suggestion was Northern Spy. My own first guess was McIntosh, since those are common around here, but my friend who remembered the tree from her Queensborough school days was doubtful about that. As this site (from an apple-growing outfit a bit southwest of Toronto) indicates, all three varieties are to be found in Ontario.

But if you’ve ever looked through the criteria for discerning apple varieties (as Raymond did, when I posed the question to him of what our apples might be), you’ll find that the variables are many, and coming up with the right answer is pretty darn hard. So, readers, it’s your turn.

Does anyone familiar with our Queensborough apple tree know what kind it is? Or are there any apple experts out there who can identify it from my photo?

And hey, if you need a taste in order to come up with the answer: stop by and pick one yourself! You just have to reach over the fence – like many a schoolkid before you.

A field of dreams – and tractors, plows, farm talk and food

Skies over the plowing-match site

A sunbeam shines down through the fluffy clouds on the ever-growing tent city at the site of the Hastings County Plowing Match and Farm Show at Cornervue Farms on Queensborough Road.

Remember how a few months ago I told you that the agricultural event of the year was coming to Queensborough? And explained that the agricultural event in question was the Hastings County Plowing Match and Farm Show? Well, guess what, people? The Plowing Match is upon us! And here in Queensborough and environs, we are braced for a huge influx of people and lots of excitement. Why, it’s almost certainly the biggest thing to hit our corner of the world since the Rock Acres Peace Festival way back in 1971!

Hastings County Plowing Match 2016

More than 20,000 people – 20,000! – are expected for the Plowing Match, which takes place this coming Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 24 and 25, at the McKinnon family’s Cornervue Farms, 2431 Queensborough Rd., just west of Queensborough proper. (And just northeast of Hazzards Corners, which in turn is due north of Madoc. Consider yourself oriented.)

I’m pretty sure I speak for everyone in Queensborough when I say we’ve been watching with great interest over the past few days as tents and signs started going up, tractors and other farm machinery arrived at the site, and the first of what will doubtless be many portapotties was installed:

Plowing-match site 2

The first of the tents (and the first of the portapotties) set up toward the western edge of the large plowing-match site on Queensborough Road late last week. (Photo courtesy of Marykay York-Pronk)

Plowing-match poster from 1966The Hastings County Plowing Match in its current incarnation has been going on since 1989 – although similar events were held well before that, as you can tell from the photo at right, a picture of a picture that appeared in a Plowing Match special edition published by the folks behind one of our local weekly papers, the Central Hastings/Trent Hills News. It shows the event’s publicity chairman, Jim Haggerty, with a poster advertising a plowing match in central Hastings County back in 1966.

Hastings County

As you can see, there’s a lot more of Hastings County north of Highway 7 – the yellow line running east-west through Marmora and Madoc – than there is south of it. Not too much of that land is good for farming, however – with some happy exceptions.

While I tend to think of 1989 as yesterday, it was in fact a while back – 27 years, to be exact. And in all that time, people, the Plowing Match has never until now been held North of 7! (That’s Highway 7, for those uninitiated with the phrase, which I explain in detail here.) This might seem odd, given that there’s a lot more square miles of Hastings County north of 7 than there are south of it. But Highway 7 is the east-west dividing line between fertile farmland and rolling hills and fields (to the south) and the thin and rocky soil atop the Canadian Shield (to the north). North of 7 country is where pioneers’ dreams were dashed, when they tried and utterly failed to establish farms on soil that just wasn’t good enough. The whole story of the Old Hastings Road a bit north of Queensborough is about that.

However – and this is very important: that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas of good soil, and very successful farms, north of 7. The McKinnon operation just west of Queensborough is one excellent example. Angus McKinnon – my contemporary and former schoolmate at Madoc Township Public School and Centre Hastings Secondary School, back in the years when I was growing up in Queensborough – now operates the farm with his father, Don, a very active nonagenarian. As Angus said in an interview published in that Plowing Match publication I referred to earlier, Don “has been here all his life, and his father and his father.” The McKinnon family settled the farm back in the 19th century, and has operated it successfully in all the generations since.

We’re all so happy for the McKinnons’ operation to be in the agricultural spotlight in this way. And so excited about the week ahead!

So what goes on at a plowing match, anyway? Well, let’s have a gander at the schedule:

Plowing Match schedule

So there’s plowing, of course: competitions in many different classes in which, to quote the event’s website, participants “are judged or scored in five different areas, including the opening split, the crown and the finish. And covering any green matter is mandatory in all classes, whether it is plowing in grain stubble or sod.” (I confess I really do not know what any of this means, but I hope that after watching some live plowing this week I will.) The classes include tractors, horses, antique tractors, walking plows, young people, and Queen of the Furrow (more on that shortly) – as well as one for local politicians, and even one for the media. (Do reporters and heavy farm equipment mix? I guess we’ll find out!) And all of that’s a big deal.

Vintage tractor at the Plowing Match

A great old Allis-Chalmers, one of the many antique tractors that will be on display at the show.

But there’s also the farm-show part, which at least as big a deal. As the publicity materials say: “300 exhibitors of agricultural technology and services, woodlot info and demos, crafts, family program, antiques, Queen of the Furrow and entertainment.” Not bad! (Okay, what’s Queen of the Furrow? Not a beauty contest, organizers stress. It’s a competition to be named a young ambassador for Hastings County agriculture – and yes, you do have to demonstrate plowing skills, as well as public-speaking skills and whatnot. I do find it a bit retro that the title is “queen” of the furrow. Surely young men could be agriculture ambassadors too?)

The number of tents and displays set up – I got an advance look when I was out at the site this morning – is astounding. It seems like anything you could ever want to look at in the way of farm equipment will be there, all shiny and new for you to admire.There was a steady stream of big trucks like this bringing in equipment this morning:

Incoming equipment

I leafed through the ads in that Plowing Match publication to get a sense of other equipment and services that would be on display, and here’s just some of what I found: milking systems for tie stall, parlour and robotics (Greek to me, but dairy farmers will understand); generators; custom manure spreading; chainsaws; fuels; seeds; farm insurance; trailers; wood stoves; bush hogs; roofing; farm sheds; feed suppliers – and on and on and on.

But if farm equipment and services aren’t your thing, there’s always the Family Tent, with a variety of speakers and events. Its schedule was just published today on the farm show’s Facebook page, and here it is:

Family Tent Schedule

Freddy Vette, a hugely popular musician and DJ on good old CJBQ radio out of Belleville, should be a big draw. Fashion shows featuring ordinary humans from the local area as models are always fun. The Hidden Goldmine Bakery in Madoc is insanely great (as I’ve written before), and it will be interesting to hear from its proprietors, Cheryl and Brad Freeman. And I am delighted that Queensborough’s own Elaine Kapusta has been invited to speak about “Historic Queensboro” (love the vintage spelling)!

Queensborough stuff for sale

Queensborough caps, mugs and cutting boards will be for sale at the Queensborough Community Centre tent.

Hey, speaking of Elaine and “Historic Queensboro” – the organization that Elaine will be representing, and that Raymond and I are also volunteers with, will have a tent at the farm show. Please stop by the Queensborough Community Centre tent to say hello, learn more about Queensborough, and maybe buy one of our nifty items for sale: Queensborough walking/driving-tour booklets, and caps, mugs and locally made cutting boards all featuring the Queensborough logo. What a great memento of the farm show – and in buying them you’ll be contributing to the work that the QCC does in promoting our little hamlet, preserving its heritage, and providing community programs and events.

Three United Churches banner

The main focus for Raymond and me at the Plowing Match will be helping out at the food tent that volunteers from three local United churches – ours (St. Andrew’s in Queensborough), Bethesda in White Lake and St. John’s in Tweed – will be operating. About 25 of us were out at the Plowing Match site this morning getting things set up. I have a few photos of this very pleasant few hours:

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As is always the case, many hands made light work, and there was a lot of laughter along the way. We’re going to be working awfully hard on Wednesday and Thursday to feed those long lineups of hungry farm-show visitors, but we know the experience will also be a whole of fun.

So listen: your mission for this week is to come visit the Plowing Match! Enjoy the plowing, the equipment displays, the special events, and the food. (Ours will be the tent at the northwest corner of the site – and did I mention there’ll be homemade pie?) Enjoy the company of lots of good farm folk and their urban neighbours out for a day in the country. And most of all, enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the McKinnon Farm and Queensborough – which is, as we say around here, a little bit of heaven north of 7.

Meet the new bike – same (almost) as the old bike

us six at the Manse

I’ve showed you this photo before; I love it because it’s the only picture I have of my whole family (my dad, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick; my mum, Lorna; and, from left, me, Melanie, John and Ken) from the days when I was growing up at the Manse in Queensborough in the 1960s. However, I’m showing it to you today because it is ALSO the only known photo of my very first bike. It’s the sweet little blue CCM that you can see parked on the Manse’s front porch behind us. Dad always made me park it on the porch to keep it out of the sun that might fade its paint – and I haven’t forgotten the lesson. (Photo probably by my grandfather, J.A.S. Keay)

People, I have got myself a bike! It’s something I’ve been wanting pretty much since Raymond and I bought the Manse four years ago – a way to get around Queensborough (and a little beyond) when I want to go quicker than on foot but without burning fossil fuels.

My dream, much scoffed at by people who are more serious cyclists than I am (which is pretty much the entire world), was an old-fashioned bike with no gears to work, no cables running from handlebars to wheels, and brakes that you’d apply by cycling backwards. Also: a bike with a comfortable seat and that allowed you to sit up straight rather than hunkering down over the handlebars.

A bike, in short, very like my first one. Which was the best gift ever from my parents, The Rev. Wendell and Lorna Sedgwick, when I was perhaps eight years old and growing up right here at the Manse in Queensborough.

I remember that bike well. It was a little CCM, just the right size for a small girl of eight or so, and it was a lovely light blue, with a white seat and handlebars and fenders. I didn’t yet know how to ride a bike when I received it, but I remember my dad patiently holding me steady and upright as I wobbled a few times around the Manse’s front yard – and how then, suddenly, magically (as always happens when people figure out bike-riding), I got the hang of it and took off to ride on my own around the block that is “downtown” Queensborough. And from there, I could go anywhere on my bike! The best was riding up to the top of the hill at the western edge of our village, past the former one-room school and the former St. Henry’s Roman Catholic church, and just whizzing down it at what felt like the speed of sound, whistling down the wind. (When I came back to Queensborough many years later, I was startled at how un-steep that hill, so challenging and fun in my childhood, turned out to be; but I have decided that it must have been levelled down a bit in the interim. Either that or it’s yet one more case of things being so much larger and more impressive when seen through a kid’s eyes.)

Anyway: my dream of having a bike in my Manse adulthood that’s like the bike I had in my Manse childhood has come true! And here it is:

Me with my new bike

Same house, same porch, and a delightfully similar bike! Me smiling about my new wheels as Raymond and our friend Lauraine look on from the porch. (Photo by Paul Woods)

I gasped when I saw this bike in the bike section of the Target store in Biddeford, Maine, during the recent seacoast vacation that Raymond and I took. It was perfect! Retro styling, no gears, brake by pedalling backwards, a comfortable seat – and it was turquoise! (Which is a very resonant colour for me here at the Manse, as longtime readers will know from posts like this and this and this.)

It is a Schwinn Cruiser, and while it looks (in my opinion) like a million bucks, the price was stunningly low. People, this gorgeous bike cost only $139! Now, granted, that’s $139 U.S., which at the current horrible exchange rate is about $3,500 Canadian – no, no, I’m kidding. The exchange rate is horrible, but still, I got this great-looking bike for considerably less than $200 Cdn. You can’t beat that with a stick.

I had to laugh at myself as I wobbled around the Manse’s front yard a few times when I first got on it – just like the first time I got on that little CCM back in about 1968. (And don’t think I wasn’t missing my dad being there to keep me upright.) It had, I realized, been a long time since I’d been on a bike. But I got the hang of it once again, and have zipped around the block a few times since. I need to get a basket so that I can cart stuff – like a dozen farm-fresh eggs from Debbie the Queensborough egg lady, or bulletins to be delivered for the Sunday service at St. Andrew’s United Church – while I’m riding around on my retro turquoise two-wheeled wonder. But aside from that, I’m thrilled about my bike and the possibilities.

Now I just have to work up the nerve to climb up that hill on the western edge of the village – and whip down it once again, after all these years. I hope the wind still whistles.

Surrounded by beauty

Sparkling morning on Queensborough Road

Winter has come late to the Queensborough area this year, but come it finally has. This past couple of weeks we’ve seen buckets of snow mixed with several bouts of freezing rain. It’s been kind of miserable, especially given day upon day of cloudy greyness. But then, a few mornings ago, we woke up to a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant sunshiny day.

It was the morning after yet another round of freezing rain had coated roads, fields and, notably, tree branches. But instead of my drive to work in the morning being a slippery endurance test under grim skies, it was a study in, and a reminder of, the beauty that surrounds us here in North of 7 country.

The roads had been well-sanded by the time I set out around 8 a.m., so I didn’t even have to think about (to use a phrase from my misspent late-teen years) keeping ‘er between the ditches. Instead, I drove west along Queensborough Road absolutely stunned at how beautiful the icy-branched trees and the snowy landscape looked underneath a sparkling blue sky and a radiant morning sun. “I should stop and take a picture!” I kept saying to myself. And finally, after rounding the huge curve in the road by the old Sager Brothers farm (everyone from Queensborough knows the one I mean), I had the sense to actually do it.

And so, people, you have just a brief post from me this Monday here at Meanwhile, at the Manse. It’s partly because I’ve been really busy with non-blog activities, notably some volunteer work for St. Andrew’s United Church here in Queensborough. And partly because I’m saving up for what I am reasonably confident will be some humdinger posts based on excellent and surprising comments that have been coming in from readers near and far, on posts old and new.

But mainly it’s because I think the photo speaks for itself. Don’t you wish you lived here?