Perhaps the best part of my special Saturday evening was not knowing I was going to the wonderful country church supper and suddenly finding myself there. Invited along by my sister-in-law and her friends I was included at the last minute. Unfortunately another,who held the ticket for the annual event had taken ill. Fortunately for me I was the one generously called as a stand in. With the most perfect late summer weather, a beautiful family farm setting, no mosquitoes, excellent food, great music and friendly company it was an unexpected treat.
The event at the McGugan Farm was a Pork and Corn Roast sponsored by North Caradoc St. Andrews Presbyterian Church. The setting (Strathroy, Ontario) was like something from a picture on a Canadian Country Calendar. Beautiful countryside, country road, huge shady trees, towering cornfields, lovely well kept heritage family farm, wide expanse of lush green lawn and a big drive shed set up for a feast. An estimated gathering of almost three hundred people gathered together to enjoy this home-style supper. Very good music filled the air. It was the right kind of music, the kind that told a story and made you think back. One or two of the songs really got to me and that is why I think I was inspired to write this post on my blog. However, it was more likely the combination of all the elements I’ve mentioned that just seemed to be special and when I am moved this way, I write.
While thoroughly enjoying the tasty food, people watching, listening to music I constantly had the feeling that this was indeed something to share on my blog. After all, someone had shared with me so I could be there. Just being in the moment. Pies and butter tarts, homemade, ice cream on the side stretched out on a long table. Little kids, adorable, with families gathered. A hay wagon, tempting platform for the little ones to climb on. Lawn chairs in the shade. Tables set up in the drive shed. Food in bowls, platters, some nestled in icy buckets. Hot food, baked potatoes, beans, pork roast and corn on the cob and cold chilled salads.
Help yourself style with many helping their elders and their youngsters. The farm host, mingling and carrying a basket of raffle tickets, listening to my request to write about the supper. Buttertarts, like the wonderful buttertarts I shared with some folks there may have spurred me on as well. A wonderful country church supper all around and it was just what I needed. (Oh, and the peach pie… I can’t forget the peach pie. Yes, I had both.)
Filed under family relationships, food, friends, health and wellness, history, inspiration, motivation, retirement, storytelling, weather, writing
At about 9am yesterday morning I bought some wild black raspberries at our tiny farmer’s market. Gladly I paid three dollars for the large container. I know the young person selling the berries and I know she found them growing wild in this immediate area. As soon as I saw the berries I immediately thought of my mom and her berry picking excursions that usually included me very much against my will. At this point I started telling the group of neighbours gathered at the teeny market about some of the very close to the surface memories of my mom. They suggested I write about these preserved thoughts and as I have had a patch of dried up and fruitless writing lately I turned on the computer .I picked my usual late hours to produce this mixture of plucked recollections, revised a few words here and there and went by my old recipe of writing from the heart.
Throughout her youth, maturity and old age my mom was in tune with the seasons and made the very most of every available harvest. Berry picking was one of the most tedious things I could think of doing as I was not as motivated as she was by the hard work, strain, heat, exhaustion and endless boxes of berries from our own patch or from other commercial sources. I would rather read, act out stories, play with our puppies and daydream.
Despite this attitude I continued as the many years went by to suggest to mom that if she would like to go berry picking I would go along or drive her to a local “upick” place as I knew it would be fun for her. Once we were driven by a farmer to the very back of a huge field and dropped off for the day so she could pick to her heart’s content. She was well over ninety years old, decked out in shorts and long sleeved shirt with a berry pail attached to her waist with a belt and jauntily wearing a sun hat and her favourite white nurse’s shoes and ankle socks. She was pretty impressive and caught the attention of several younger pickers working their way down the enormous patch. When she saw student pickers taking a break and resting she gave them a piece of her mind and told them they better get busy picking berries if they wanted to make any money. My job was to run the boxes of berries she picked to the end of the rows so they could be gathered up at the end of the day’s pickathon.That day my legs ached and I sweltered in the heat in total sympathy with the student pickers but she seemed content and very proud indeed of her huge harvest. We drove around later to show the relatives what she had picked like it was some kind of athletic achievement to have the entire car full of stacked flats of berries !
Another time at another upick farm and she was in awe of the size of the operation. It was almost impossible to get her to leave the place. She seemed to feel it was her responsibility to pick over the already picked rows to glean the berries missed by others. I pointed out that other rows were untouched and just hanging with ripe fruit but she was determined to give these so called picked rows another going over just for the challenge of finding berries other people, unskilled in extreme berrypicking missed entirely. She stood by our car finally with all the berries we picked and was a bit miffed at having to pay the required full price by the owner.She had a point. These berries were the ones left by others, under the leaves and close to the ground. They had been picked and salvaged, saved from waste by her expertise. These berries had been given the treatment her own berry patch was used to, a thorough going over, a picked patch, a job well done.
Again I was glad to finally get her out of there and home for supper. After eating a warmed up dinner of leftovers and several cups of strong tea and a soup bowl of fresh berries with sugar and milk we would face the cleaning and snuffing of the berries. I would sometimes help for a short time and then beg off to go home with excuses of lesson planning or childcare responsibilities. Mom would spend hours cleaning, snuffing, preserving and freezing the fruit, well into the night and totally pleased with her product. These berries made their way into pies and jam for the family and anyone else who would drop in for a visit.
The work she loved on the farm was like this every single day. Involved, committed, determined it was like an industrial project yet fuelled by her love of nature, gardening, farming and family. There were many such excursions and many similar experiences with home-grown fruit and vegetables . All of them are ripe memories just bursting forth at the moment, poised and ready to be simply touched, held and admired for what they are worth. They are inspired by the one box of wild black raspberries gleaned in the bushes and brambles by my young neighbour, undaunted by mosquitoes and the heat. I think I got a deal.
Filed under books, cooking, family relationships, food, friends, gardening, health and wellness, history, humour, inspiration, motivation, pets, retirement, routines, storytelling
In the week before Christmas,the morning routine was to wait for mom to get into her green wool tartan housecoat and go downstairs to flip the switch on the furnace shaft to send some warm heat upstairs while I stayed in bed warming up my clothes for the day that were rolled up at the foot of the bed.With breakfast started on the stove and the tea made,mom would come back up stairs and supervise the dressing preparations for the day . It was a noteworthy day if the old quilt cover was covered a bit with some drifted snow from the shaky window sill. Outside the evergreen trees in the lane were draped with snow and the path to the road was filled in until the tractor made it’s way through it.
On such a day, by nightfall, the back shed door would thump and bang while the top part of an evergreen tree from our bush was squeezed through the entrance into the farmhouse kitchen. The tree was freshly cut, covered in snow and ice and still holding abandoned bird nests in it’s top branches. Pushed by the table, it would knock off any dishes or food placed there for supper. With a tighter squeeze it was brought into the ‘parlour’, set into a galvanized pail with water, tied with twine and attached to a nail on the wall.
Decorations were some very old twisted strings of large coloured lights with aluminum star like and pointsetta style reflectors. Some of the lights bubbled with coloured water effect. A few surviving glass baubles and recycled tinsel and silver garland completed the whole thing. Nothing fancy and hardly ever a new ornament purchased, but the remembered tree with the snow, ice and bird nests in it’s branches is a beautiful part of my Christmas heritage.
I think of that tree and I can see my big brother bringing it into the house. It isn’t a memory from a pin and post décor article or a scene from an urban chic lifestyle television program. It is the moment,captured. The back shed door, the cold fresh tree, the snow, ice and bird nests,the cups and plates and food knocked over by the huge branches, my mom standing there dealing with it all and the memory of my big brother, full of fun and bringing some to me.
Inspiration can come along in many ways and today it was in the country library. It was a combination of several things such as the neat and orderly setting, the book lined walls and the familiar folk gathered there . The author we all celebrated there today is a gentle speaking, delightful senior that held our interest and also charmed our hearts with her book launch.
This writer has been writing a variety of articles and material for many years. She is published and has been nominated for awards. Today, she read from her most recent book which just happens to be historical fiction. It is rich with material from her own heritage as well as her knowledge of farming in the pioneer days.
The energy in the library, as she lead us through the chosen excerpt from her book was the kind of sensation you feel when something meaningful happens on a very good day and all seems for the moment peaceful, calm and positive. Being part of the group there today and enjoying the overall experience I came to the realization that she had given me a boost as a writer but I think there were connections with everyone gathered there.
Respectful admiration, community and family support, good humour, down to earth conversation and practical discussion were the artistic vibrations resonating in the small but packed to the gills rural library today. Chairs had to be brought in from the nearby hall to accommodate the crowd, all of her books were purchased, signed and her own son gave up his own copy to a delighted fan and it was all topped off with a delicious cake ( made by her daughter, no doubt) and glasses of cider. We were all there to celebrate the love of writing that this author shared with us.
That is what I felt in the room and I can best describe it as inspiration. A young person in attendance today shared her appreciation of this author with me and it was glowing, enthusiastic and appreciative. Now, that’s energy!
Orange pumpkins by the door set off by bins of Christmas lights and wreaths ready to go make this time of year quite festive. A village Hallowe’en recently celebrated must rapidly make way for our night time Christmas parade next weekend. Everyone tries to get a few lights up and hang a wreath or two. There will be pots of chili and hot cider on the stove ready for drop in guests. Families visit together and local service groups provide entertainment for the little ones. The parade route volunteers gather food from the sidelines for the foodbank and donated clothing such as children’s snowsuits . A couple of senior citizens are designated as parade royalty and marshal everyone in their antique cars to the park to visit with Santa in a charming restored pioneer log cabin. Hot chocolate and hotdogs are part of the scene at the beautiful heritage park as everyone gathers for a fun evening.
A few days later, we gather again at the park for Remembrance. There will be several there who know first hand what Remembrance is all about and these are the faces that I can’t help but study. The stories of these people are powerful . I can only try to appreciate the depth of each one and seek some personal reflection on the intensity, grief and sensitivity of those who first hand have experienced things I can’t even imagine. Many of us attending can only contribute our quiet respect and do our best to live honourably.
There is a fine monument in our park and names are engraved there. That is what I know. I will silently stand there in a few days and be part of the gathering.