Winter Warriors

winter fence
Eastern Ontario winters are not for the faint of heart. They are bitterly cold. They are relentless…and, they are long. They are not for the casual skier wanting a fashionable romp down a pretty hill only to return to the safety and warmth of their faraway homes. They are not for the frivolous winter vacationer staying at a rustic lodge to photograph a deer or a moose, from the comforts of their cozy cabin windows.

These winter days are for hardy souls only; all others need not apply. These are for people prepared to use a heavy shovel and an ever-present snow brush on a daily basis. These are for people possessing the knowledge and necessary techniques for walking on different types of ice…without falling. Some ice is flat and smooth like a hockey arena. Some ice is snow-covered, just enough to make the hidden surface even more perilous. Some days the ice is black, unseen, undetectable, rendering the walker completely unaware of their vulnerability.

This is where you’ll find the stalwart souls who soldier on, through ice and snow, from October through April each year, month after long winter month. These are the people who listen to reports of schools closing, and distant cities shut down because of the ‘bad’ winter weather, as they trudge through the snow on their way to work because it’s ‘just another day’. These are the people, young and old who wade through snow, stroll on the ice, and drive on slick roads in freezing rain, for months each year. Before their school day or work day has even begun, they have shoveled their sidewalks, brushed off their cars, stepped gingerly on ice, trudged through resistant snow drifts, all of this while bitter cold winds sting any skin unprotected by cumbersome layers of clothing and boots.

These are the enduring rank and file, possessing rare perseverance, stamina and patience. They are dreamers and unflinching optimists. In the final unbending weeks of the coldest season they will study seed catalogues, plan gardens, visit boat shows, and envision themselves under clear, blue skies on calm, warm, July afternoons. They conjure endless images of cottages, muskoka chairs, hammocks, beer and barbecues. They dream of tulips and trilliums, green grass, and sunny days.

As the late winter unwinds its final few weeks in Eastern Ontario, perhaps the most anticipated signal to herald the new season for these enduring folks, will be the time-honoured, and always sublime, first taste of their beloved maple syrup. It spells the defeat, the finish, the finale, the wind-up, and the end-of-the-line for winter. It marks the beginning of spring, of brighter longer days, and the sweet, golden taste of victory for the hardy souls who have survived yet another long, cold Canadian winter.


Discover the history of maple syrup production in Lanark County, Eastern Ontario in ‘Taffy on the Tay’, an excerpt from Lanark County Chronicle – ISBN978-0-9877026-23

Visit the Perth Festival of the Maples Saturday April 25th:



“Hearts glowed in friendship, forged over decades,

and the Spirit of Christmas entered the house, and walked among us.”

Christmas House Tour 2014 neighbourhood gals0001

For some people it’s the music of the season, the smell of the turkey, or the glittering gifts sitting under the tree; but for me it was a special visit to the house where I grew up, a homecoming, after a long absence of twenty-two years.

It doesn’t really seem that long ago since our father passed away in 1992, and our mother moved to town. I almost half expected to see him coming from the garage, carrying a tangled mess of Christmas lights, asking me if I’d hold the ladder steady, while he fastened the wire clamps onto the big spruce tree at the front of the house.

When I first heard from Wendy Parker, the current owner of our former home, that it was to be part of a Christmas House Tour, my thoughts turned back to days gone by, of the heavenly smells of Mother’s baking, bright cards in the mailbox at the end of the lane, and special concerts and plays at Calvin Church. There would be eight houses in total on the Christmas House Tour, and the event was sponsored by the Canadian Federation of University Women, and the money raised would help support education in the community.

Kevin and I arrived early that afternoon, with ample time to visit some of my old, familiar haunts. We drove first to Christie Lake, a place I knew well, the bridge at Jordan’s, where I’d jumped many times into the cool, clear waters. Hot days spent riding bikes with friends on the Third Line, and when that bridge was finally in sight it was like seeing an oasis in the middle of the desert. What a welcome sight it was! And even on this cold, December day, the lake appeared as serene and as lovely as it always did, calm and blue, waiting patiently for cottage season, and the laughter of little ones, the parties and music of the older ones, and a place of peace and serenity for the eldest ones.   We drove along the shore, and then headed back up the Third Line.

Jordan's Christie Lake0001

A visit home would not be complete without making a stop at the church where our Mother brought us every Sunday. This was where we celebrated baptisms, witnessed weddings, and met for comfort after funerals. This was the setting for the Strawberry Socials, Easter Sunday white gloves and hats, the lighting of the advent candles and Christmas Eve. The church stands proudly on Cameron Side Road, looking solid as ever, a place for meeting neighbours, friends, a place for worship, a place for solitude, and a shelter from the storms and turmoil of the outside world.

Calvin United Church December 20140001

We headed back to the Fourth Line and rounded the curve, up to the railroad tracks. There were many strolls along these tracks to the duck pond, watching the beavers at play, seeing the ducks return year after year, raise their babies, and leave at the end of the season.   Memories of sitting under the big tree along the tracks with my brother Roger as we patiently placed a penny each on the rails, sit back and wait for the train to go by, then retrieve our flattened pennies. Many hours in my youth were spent waiting for trains, listening to the sounds of the lonely whistles, and hearing the rumbling and chugging down the tracks as it headed for Perth.

Tracks back the side road0001


This way to the duck pond0001

Tree near the tracks0001

We continued up the side road to the little creek and as soon as I spotted it, I remembered scooping up the tadpoles in my sand pail, and then pouring them into a big glass pickle jar to set on the window ledge in my bedroom. Every spring it was a ritual to catch some of these quick, black tadpoles, or pollywogs, as we called them, and watch them for hours, swimming contentedly in the jar, until we dumped them back into the creek.

Creek behind the house0001

Lowlands behind the house0001

The lowlands, across from the creek were still flooded, and ice was already beginning to form. It was back on these lowlands that we all learned how to skate; not on a flat, pristine ice surface in an arena, but through the weeds, and over the bumps, and up and down the imperfections of a farmer’s field. The fact that our skates were old hand-me-downs was the least of our worries!

Field back the side road0001

We drove up the side road to the laneway and parked the car. As we walked up the lane, the slopes and curves of the land were as familiar to me as if I’d never left, and we made our way to the door and knocked.

Kevin at the Christmas House Tour0001

Christmas House Tour sign0001

Garage - Christmas House Tour0001




Stafford House 20001



Stafford House0001

When the door opened and we stepped inside, the home was beautifully decorated for the season. Wendy’s elaborate table was laid out with her mother’s china and cutlery with festive accents fit for a holiday gathering. The whole house in fact, was lovely and bright, adorned with reds and greens and touches of gold and shimmer. As we walked through the rooms, one by one, they were warm and inviting, and almost made me forget that something was missing – the smell of fresh baked bread, a permanent aroma in our house as Mother baked daily for a family of seven.

There was a lovely display arranged on a table in the den, an album of our Stafford family photos and copies of ‘Lanark County Kid’ and ‘Lanark County Chronicles’. I thought that they looked very much at home in this well cared-for house, so lovingly maintained and obviously cherished.

Perkins' house from window0001

Stafford family photos0001

Sunset from kitchen window0001

Perhaps what made the house seem so much like home, after so many years away, were the familiar faces, friends and neighbours, who came to share the memories, of the things that once were; and to celebrate a new Christmas season, content and happy in each other’s company. Though Wendy’s is the newest face among us, it’s as if she’d been with us all along. Wendy is a gracious hostess, and we all had a wonderful time chatting about the house, and catching up on the news in the neighbourhood.

Many thanks to Wendy and to the members of the Canadian Federation of University Women, for making our visit possible, and thanks also to old friends and neighbours Margery Conboy, Beverly Ferlatte, Betty Miller, Eleanor Paul and her lovely daughter Heather for joining us on our trip down memory lane!

As I continue to bask in the glow of our visit to the old house, I will leave you with this quote from Thomas Wolfe:


“But why had he always felt so strongly the magnetic pull of home, why had he thought so much about it and remembered it with such blazing accuracy, if it did not matter, and if this little town, and the immortal hills around it, was not the only home he had on earth? He did not know. All that he knew was that the years flow by like water, and that one day men come home again.”






200 Years of History in Tay Valley

Scribes, Minstrels and Storytellers were the ‘keepers of the history’, going back as far as ancient Egypt and even beyond. The stories of tribes and communities were painted on cave walls, sculpted in stone, or painstakingly illustrated on animal skin or parchment. Stories were passed from generation to generation, some gathered in circles around blazing fires, many told from father to son and from mother to daughter. The culture and the history were preserved, and tales of bravery and acts of courage were interspersed with accounts of the daily lives of the ancestors.

As preparations for the 200th anniversary of Tay Valley Township gain momentum, the group producing the book ‘At Home in Tay Valley’ gathered together all of the contributors this past Saturday November 22nd 2014 at the Tay Valley Township office on Harper Road. Some of the those present had written chapters for the book, and some had been interviewed, and their oral accounts had been recorded and transcribed for posterity. Regardless of the nature of their contributions, everyone present understood the importance of documenting the history of Tay Valley, and preserving it for future generations.

Deputy Reeve of Tay Valley Township Susan Freeman welcomed all of the contributors to the gathering, and spoke briefly about the 200th anniversary and some of the events that would be held as part of the celebration in 2016. Kay Rogers, the Editor of ‘At Home in Tay Valley’ read the names of all of the contributors to the book, and gathered everyone together for a group photo that will appear in the book.

As Kay said, no gathering in Tay Valley would be complete without some tasty treats, and everyone had the opportunity to mix and mingle while enjoying coffee, hot apple cider and a delightful assortment of cookies and squares.

We chatted with many former neighbours and long-time friends from Calvin United Church – Maxine and Keith Jordan, Alan Jordan, and former 4-H Club fellow member Ruth Miller-Baker. We were especially delighted to have a chance to visit with another dear friend Betty Miller who lit up the room with her ever-present smile and unstoppable cheerful spirit.   Another old friend Keith Kerr stopped by to say hello, and it was nice to see many other friendly faces from Tay Valley, particularly those from the former Bathurst Township.

We look forward to the publishing of the book with great anticipation, and are thankful that these stories and memories will be preserved in this unique collection. The books are scheduled for printing late in 2015 and forms for pre-ordering are available now. To pre-order your copy, please contact Kristine Swaren at 613-267-5353 ext 129 or email your request to: planning assistant (at)


Contributors to book, ‘At Home in Tay Valley’


Susan Freeman, Deputy Reeve welcomes the contributors

Kay Rogers, Editor shows a sneak-peak of the book cover for ‘At Home in Tay Valley’













with Kay Rogers, Editor of ‘At Home in Tay Valley’

Tay Valley Contributors 50001

Some dear neighbours and friends from Calvin Church – far left Betty Miller, 4th from the left Alan Jordan, Keith Jordan, Maxine Jordan and former 4H member Ruth Miller-Baker.


Tour the Stafford House December 6th & 7th

Stafford House

When the book “Recipes and Recollections” was first published in 2011, most people could only dream of visiting its magical setting. As the book became more and more popular, it’s likely that many readers had no idea where such places as Glen Tay or DeWitt’s Corners were located. They may have even wondered, “Is it a real place?”

Perched on a gentle hill, a short drive west of Perth, Ontario, the ‘Stafford House’ has become known as one of the area’s most celebrated fictional houses. It is one of the best examples of a building associated with a Canadian author, Arlene Stafford-Wilson, who used the farmhouse as both the inspiration and the setting for her popular books.

Built in 1906, the two storey house, a warm and welcoming residence, was home to the Stafford family for almost 50 years. This traditional, rural home would become the backdrop for four well-loved books: “Lanark County Kid”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Calendar” and “Recipes and Recollections”.

The Stafford House is valued both for its good aesthetic and functional architecture. Its farmhouse design, places it firmly in Canadian vernacular building traditions of the earliest part of the 20th century. It is of an appealing, sturdy type, very common to many areas of eastern Canada. The interior of the house boasts a classic, traditional design, featuring good craftsmanship and materials. The interior plan finishes and details have been lovingly preserved, and its overall scale and materials, are enhanced by its setting in a park-like yard, surrounded by stately maple trees.

The author described the family home: “a big beautiful red brick house smothered in tall maples in the front and apple orchards at the back, was the magical home of my childhood”

You will be charmed by the beauty of the surrounding countryside, and the large and romantic woodland which drifts down the hillside towards the railroad tracks, and the beloved duck pond, mentioned many times in Stafford-Wilson’s books. Close by, you can take a walk or a drive down the side road and see the little creek where the Stafford children caught tadpoles in the spring, and then walk along the fields where they carefully chose their Christmas tree each year in December.

View the rolling farmlands, stunning landscapes, and nearby tiny villages of Glen Tay and DeWitts Corners. Take a short drive up Cameron Side Road, and you will see the charming red brick Calvin Church where the Stafford family attended, another landmark which is mentioned many times in Stafford-Wilson’s books.

This year, for the first time, you can visit the Stafford House in Eastern Ontario, Canada, the setting which was the influence for Arlene Stafford-Wilson to create her beloved tales of Lanark County in days gone by.

Special exhibits include photos from the private collections of the Stafford family showing the exterior and interior of the house as it was, when they lived there from 1946 – 1992. Admire some of the author’s Mother’s original hand-written recipes that were preserved, then later published in ‘Recipes and Recollections’.

Take this extraordinary glimpse into this beloved home of author Arlene Stafford-Wilson and her family, decorated for the holidays.

A visit to this historic home will be sure to put you in the Christmas spirit.

Organized by the Perth and District Canadian Federation of University Women, the Heritage Perth Christmas House Tour will feature 8 local homes including the Stafford House, transformed for the holiday season by gifted local decorators.

This ninth annual Christmas House Tour is scheduled for December 6 and 7, 2014 from 10:30am to 3:30pm daily and is sure to delight.

To see the historic Stafford House and an additional 7 unique and lovely homes featured in the Tour:

Tickets for $30 are now on sale at the following vendors:

Almonte  Crush Marketplace 14 Mill Street 613-461-2211
Kingston Oderin Kitchen Supplies 57 Brock Street 613-531-4544

Merrickville Unravelled 108 St. Lawrence Street 613-655-1902

Ottawa Tivoli Florist 282 Richmond Road 613-729-6911
Perth  Home Furniture 18 Gore Street East 613-264-9876
Smiths Falls Elizabeth Interiors 8 Chambers Street 613-283-7581

Ticket enquiries 613-267-2270

A Flag on Her Coffin

Cpl Audry Rutherford

She told us many times over the years, that she wanted a Canadian flag draped on her coffin. She was proud to have served her country, and so, when our Mother died in 2007, we contacted the Legion in Perth, and they were quick to deliver a flag to the visitation room and place it solemnly over her casket at Blair and Son Funeral Home.

When a dozen Legion members arrived at the funeral home before the visitation began, they handed each of us a poppy and requested that we lay them on top of the flag at the close of their ceremony.

They marched into the room to the melancholy strains of the bagpipes, fittingly, as our Mother’s ancestors hailed from Roxburghshire, Scotland. The Legion members, all in uniform, proudly wearing their medals, filed by, and paused to greet each one of our family. These were not young soldiers, but many were in the later stages of their lives, and most were veterans of WWII, like our Mother. They were the survivors, who had witnessed many fallen comrades, but through the grace of God had been spared, and had lived, some burdened with dark memories of the war.

Often, at this time of year I recall Mother’s quiet patriotism. She was, after all, a first generation Canadian. Her father, an American, born along the shores of the St. Lawrence River in New York State, and her mother hailed from Huddersfield, England, but Mother, born at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, was all Canadian.

She never missed an opportunity to vote in an election, and would remind us that battles were fought and lives were lost so that we could have this privilege. She embraced freedom of speech and the freedom to choose one’s religion.

After her funeral, the five of us went through her things and picked a few precious items to bring home as keepsakes. I spotted her journal sitting on top of a pile of books, picked it up, and began to flip through the pages. A small tattered piece of paper fell onto the floor. It was an old news clipping, brown and brittle with age, that she had cut out and saved, many years ago. As I began to read it, I realized how much the words summed up our Mother’s beliefs:

IT IS THE SOLDIER – by – Charles M. Province

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

This blog in memory of Cpl. Audry Rutherford (Stafford) R.C.A.F.   W.D.

Autumn Passages

“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!”

Humbert Wolfe

Harry Stafford cover


October began with a kaleidoscope of colour stretching from ground to sky, as far as you could see, and it ended with grey horizons, bare trees and cold winds, sometimes even snow.

Although some of our trees seemed to turn just one shade of orange or yellow, many of them were ablaze with every hue from the palest yellow, the brightest orange, three or four different shades of green, to the bright, clear reds all competing for attention as they fluttered in the cool winds of autumn. The colours were so beautiful that often we would try to preserve them by waxing the leaves and putting them between the pages of a book.

Walking through our yard I’d pick out the biggest and brightest leaves I could find. I’d seek out the perfect ones that hadn’t been torn by the winds or chewed by insects. I’d try to get a nice variety of bright green, lemony yellow and of course the stars of the show were the brilliant oranges and rich, shiny reds. I’d bring them into the house and Mother would get out her tube of waxed paper, the iron and the ancient, battered, ironing board. That old thing had seen better days! We’d place each leaf between folded sheets of waxed paper and sometimes cover them with a tea towel and press down with the hot iron. When we finished, I’d take my treasures and store them carefully between the pages of a thick book and place them on a shelf of the bookcase in the living room.

Pressing the brightest leaves and saving them in a book was my way of trying to hold onto the season and make it last. It was the brightest, most beautiful time of the year and I wanted it to stay with us as long as possible. Of course like most things in life, it didn’t last, and bit by bit the north winds came, and the nights grew colder and one by one the leaves blew off of the trees, and the cruel frost stole their colours away.

Overnight, it seemed that our yard changed from a bright, happy carnival of colour into a stark, eerie, cold and barren place, gloomy and silent, waiting for the onset of winter. It was during those last weeks of October that I’m sure we could have rented out our yard to a production company to film a spooky horror movie. The tall, imposing maple trees stood bare and dark against the evening skies. Most of the birds had gone south for the winter and so the yard was quiet; too quiet.

The sun slipped down behind Mitchell’s barn earlier each night and sometimes I’d be nervous walking up the laneway or back the side road. I rode my bike a little quicker back from Cavanagh’s store; not just because the air was cooler, but because it was deathly quiet and the leafless trees cast long, ominous shadows across the Third Line as I made my way back home. Why did the places and things that seemed so natural and so comfortable a few short weeks ago suddenly seem dark and ominous?

I think it all boiled down to three things: heat, light and colour. Over the course of the eight weeks beginning in early September to the last few days of October, we lost all three. It happened gradually of course; not all at once. The heat left first and although the first part of September was almost like summer, it was as if someone was turning down a giant thermostat a couple of degrees each day. The light left slowly as well, a minute at a time, over the days and weeks, then came the end of daylight savings time and the light was reduced to a brief eight hours or so each day. The colour was the last to go and hung on bravely until the frost came and the leaves turned a murky shade of lifeless orange and were so brittle that they could be crushed like egg shells.

The transition from summer to fall that we witnessed each year might have seemed daunting, even depressing to someone new to the area. Being Lanark County kids we just took it in our stride, knowing that this, like our other three seasons, was only temporary. Dealing with the changing seasons whether the change seemed like a positive or negative thing was a good lesson to carry with us in life. We learned to make the best of whatever was thrown at us.

So every fall as the winds grew cooler and the dusk came earlier, our thoughts would turn to Hallowe’en. Our stark, colourless yards looked spooky anyway, so we made the best of it! We didn’t fret because summer was gone; we made the most of the gloomy new season by making plans for the scariest night of the year! It was time to scrounge around, put together our best costumes and get our candy sacks ready for that annual trek up and down the Third Line!


(excerpt from:  “Lanark County Calendar – Four Seasons on the Third Line” )

ISBN 978-0-9877026-3-0

Lanark Museum – Genealogy Tips & Tricks Sunday, September 21st 2:00 p.m.

Join us on Sunday, September 21st at 2:00 p.m. for some Tips and Tricks on researching your Family History!

What are some common mistakes to avoid?  What is the best way to find that elusive ancestor?  Find out the easiest way to organize your genealogy.  Learn about some of the best records to aid in your search.  What are some common errors found in family bibles?   How to verify a family legend or family lore.  Tips on interviewing older relatives.  Why is it important to research collateral lines in a family?   How can we use historic maps to support our research?  Tips on the best ways to use census records.  How do we find our ancestor on a passenger list?  ……and much, much, more!

Light refreshments will be served.

Lanark Museum guest speaker Sept 2014