Lanark Museum – Our Visit to the Past

Lanark sign

Just a short drive from the pretty town of Perth, along the Lanark Road, lush, green, farmers fields welcome us into the Township of Lanark Highlands.  We follow the blue skies, and warm, summer winds, into the village of Lanark, and pull up near our destination –  the Lanark and District Museum.

Ann and Arlene in front of museum

Greeted warmly by Anne Graham, we make our way up the well-worn steps, into a very special place, where the caretakers and guardians of our history, preserve our memories, our stories, and our heritage.

 

Events board Lanark Museum

 

If you walk along George Street in Lanark, you will see a sign out front, greeting visitors,  listing upcoming events, and welcoming all, with no charge for admission, and donations accepted.  Anyone seeking knowledge, or in search of their history, is assured that they’ve come to the right place.

Not far from the front entrance, a plaque displays the names of those who went above and beyond, volunteering their time and expertise, throughout the decades, to keep the museum running smoothly.

 

volunteers Lanark Museum

 

A photo on the wall reminds us of those who played key roles in the earliest days of the museum.  Their foresight and dedication to preserving our local history leaves a lasting legacy, that will be enjoyed for many generations to come.

 

Key players Lanark Museum

 

Many of us have ancestors from the area who served in the military, and the Lanark Museum has many displays highlighting our local heroes.  Perhaps your ancestor is one of these soldiers who has been featured in the museum’s display cases.

War memorials Lanark Museum

 

The museum also features a number of Rolls of Honour, listing the names of soldiers from the area who fought bravely for our country.

 

Roll of Honour case

 

There are a tremendous number of local photographs.   It’s great fun to see the old cars, some of the buildings no longer with us, and even recognize some of the smiling faces in these photos.

 

Local photos

 

The museum is fortunate to have the help of two students for the summer.  Meagan was kind enough to document our visit using her photography skills.

 

Meghan Lanark County

 

There is a wonderful display of original telegrams, some sent, and some received, by the Lavant Station, many years ago.  These are real treasures, and give us some insight into the past and how different life was in those days!  There are lots of familiar surnames on these telegrams, and some even provide a window into our family histories!

 

Telegrams

 

Along with the countless documents displayed there are also some lovely artifacts.  The old wash bowl reminds us of the times before indoor plumbing was standard in our homes.  We can imagine how different our ancestor’s lives might have been, and how carrying water from an outside well into the home was a daily event for these pioneers.

 

wash bowl

 

If your ancestors lived in McDonald’s Corners there is a wonderful remembrance displayed, honoring those who served their country, so well, and so faithfully.

 

McDonald's Corners war memorial

 

There are also a number of displays listing those soldiers who attended specific area schools and the names of those who served.

 

SS8 War memorial

 

Another of the many area schools and their lists of those in service.

 

SS 12

 

The Lanark Museum has many, many of these displays, and this is only a small sampling of what is available to view.

 

SS13 Drummond

 

Being a history buff, it wasn’t easy to tear myself away from all of the exhibits in the museum, and get down to business, and read a couple of stories from my books.  I chose two stories from “Lanark County Kid – My Travels Up and Down the Third Line”.  I read one about a childhood visit to Lanark, and shopping for back-to-school clothing at the Kitten Mill.

My second story was “Balderson Cheese – Craving the Curd”.  Our family often went on Sunday drives, and a visit to Balderson for a bag of soft squeaky curd, was something not to be missed!  In the story, we go behind the counter, and watch the Master Cheesemaker, Omar Matte, and the others, while they stir the vats of heated milk, and then press the curds into big wooden circular presses.  Considering that the factory is no longer there, it is a precious memory to have witnessed this process.

 

book table Lanark Museum

 

There are some really wonderful displays highlighting the Kitten Mill, and those who worked there over the years.

 

Kitten Mill 1

 

The Museum has done a wonderful job of preserving the artifacts and documents from the days of the Glenayr Kitten mills, and reminding us of the impact to employment and the economic influence to the village.

Kitten Mill 2

I think that many of us remember visiting the factory outlets, and all of the wonderful knitted clothing produced locally.

 

Kitten 3

 

One of the special highlights for me was a visit with the Shamrock Quilt.  While we can’t be sure of the date of its origin, I recall seeing it displayed at the museum many, many years ago, and was delighted to see it once again.  This quilt is embroidered with the names of local families.  If your family lived in the area it would be worth the trip to see this marvelous quilt, and discover your ancestor’s name embroidered in green.

 

Shamrock quilt 1

 

The Shamrock Quilt holds a special connection for Doris Quinn and myself.   My Dad’s Aunt, Julia Stafford, married William Quinn, and both the Quinn and Stafford families are among the many, many, names on this precious artifact.  It was a wonderful moment to be able to stand beside Doris, and see those names from the past, those who are no longer with us, but remain forever in our hearts.

 

Shamrock 2

Photo below:   Julia Stafford and Bill Quinn, on their wedding day, Sept. 14, 1909.

Julia Stafford Bill Quinn

 

The following, are just a few squares, a small sample from the quilt, to show how the names have been stitched and displayed.

 

Shamrock 3

There are many other squares that were not photographed.  Anyone with ancestors from this area may want to visit the quilt themselves for a more in depth look.

 

Shamrock 4

 

Another square of the quilt, but the quilt is enormous, and would be best viewed in person.

 

Shamrock 5

 

A final square from this historic piece.  Hopefully the museum will photograph and digitize the entire quilt.  That might be an interesting and very worthwhile project for the summer students!

 

Shamrock 6

 

The late afternoon held a wonderful surprise – a visit from an old friend Susan Newberry Sarsfield.  It was a real delight to visit with Susan, her Mom, and her daughter!

Susan at the Museum

 

Like all good things, our visit to the Lanark Museum came to an end, and our host Anne Graham, kindly walked us out and into the sunny July afternoon.

It was a day filled with history, and the importance of preserving our past.  There are few tasks more essential than being the caretakers of our heritage.  The Lanark Museum is the proud custodian of our region’s artifacts, memories, stories, and treasures.

 

street in front of museum

Many thanks to the kind folks at the Lanark and District Museum for hosting us, and sharing their collection of priceless treasures.  Thanks also to the visitors who stopped by to share some stories and recollections.   Anne, Norma, Gene, Doris – it was so nice to spend time with you – thanks for helping to make our day special.

 

As we said goodbye, and headed down the highway,  we are struck by the pristine beauty of the Lanark Highlands, the clear waters, the fresh air, and the greenery as far as the eye can see, on this beautiful summer day.

 

Until we meet again…..

 

 

Country road summer

 

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com
Stories for the Lanark Museum readings from:
“Lanark County Kid:  My Travels Up and Down the Third Line”
‘Lanark Sweaters – Soft as a Kitten’
‘Balderson Cheese – Craving the Curd’
ISBN 978-0-9877026-16

Groundhog Blues in Lanark County

mr-groundhog

January always seemed like the longest month on the calendar. It was still cold and dark when February arrived, and there were so many months ahead before we could ride our bikes to DeWitt’s Corners, or Christie Lake.

Each year, we  waited patiently for Groundhog Day.  Would he see his shadow? Would there be an early spring, or would there be another two months at least of these cold, grey days?

Punxsutawney Phil had predicted the onset of spring since 1890 in Pennsylvania, and his Canadian counterpart Wiarton Willie began his annual forecast in the 1950s. At our house we listened closely to both forecasts, hoping that at least one of these rodents would offer some hope of an early spring.

So, we had two possible groundhog predictions, and two different radio stations. There was CJET in Smiths Falls, and Mother would often tune in and listen to Hal Botham after we’d left for school, while she did her ironing. CFRA was her usual early morning station and we’d often hear Ken ‘General’ Grant shouting, “Forward Ho!” as we ate our puffed wheat, before walking down the lane to wait for the school bus.

I could tell that Mother was also growing weary of the long, cold days of winter and if the ‘General’ didn’t report the prediction she wanted to hear then she’d likely turn the dial to CJET hoping that Hal Botham would have another version of the groundhog’s forecast. If it was cloudy, and the groundhog didn’t see his shadow, we’d have an early spring – just six more weeks of winter. By the first week of February we didn’t want to hear any other forecast. Six more weeks of winter would be enough to bear, without the possibility of the season being any longer!

When I came downstairs for breakfast that Groundhog Day morning so long ago, Mother had already set up the old ironing board and was busy ironing a linen tea-towel. I asked her if she’d heard the groundhog’s prediction yet, and she didn’t look up, but continued to iron. “It’s just a myth, just folklore”, she said, and she folded the tea towel neatly, and started on the next one.

ironing

“So, he saw his shadow?” I asked. “Yes they both did.” she responded somberly, still not looking up from her work, and folded the next tea-towel.

I sat quietly at the old kitchen table, ate my bowl of puffed wheat, drank my orange juice, and took my cod liver oil capsule without even being asked. Six more weeks would have spring starting sometime in the middle of March, but now it would be even longer.

I finished my breakfast, put my dishes in the old porcelain sink, pulled on my boots and coat, grabbed my wool hat, mitts and lunch pail, and headed out the door.

little-girl

As I trudged down the long, snowy lane-way to the Third Line, I felt defeated. It was sad how a couple of groundhogs that we didn’t even know could make Mother and I feel so depressed. I didn’t even understand how they could have seen their shadows that morning, because it wasn’t sunny outside at all. I couldn’t see my own shadow, and that meant that our local groundhogs wouldn’t be able to see theirs either.

school-bus

I didn’t really know where Wiarton was located in Ontario, and didn’t have a clue about Pennsylvania, but I was sure that none of the groundhogs in Lanark County saw their shadows on that cloudy, grey morning in February. Maybe the other groundhogs were wrong! Maybe there would be an early spring after all! Maybe the snow would be gone soon, and I could ride my bike up to Christie Lake again. I had to stay positive. I had to keep hoping. I had to………………

 

 

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

 

 

 

 

(an excerpt from ‘Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third Line
ISBN 978-0-9877026-3-0)

l-c-calendar

http://www.staffordwilson.com

“Lanark County Calendar” Book Launch

Arlene &  Leslie Nov 2 20130001

One of the best things about visiting Perth is seeing old friends, and yesterday was no different during the launch of ‘Lanark County Calendar’.

Many thanks once again to Leslie Wallack, owner of The Book Nook for hosting the book launch. The Book Nook is a bright, cheery store filled to the rafters with books of all kinds and features a broad selection of titles by local authors. It was a perfect setting to introduce ‘Lanark County Calendar’ to local readers.

We had barely finished setting up the books at the ‘feature table’ when Tom, an avid reader of local history, stopped by for a visit, and was the very first to pick up his signed copy of ‘Lanark County Calendar’. Despite the cool November weather, traffic into the store was steady throughout the day and brought many visitors and friends from days gone by and some new readers as well.

Maxine Jordan, an old friend from Calvin United Church as well as former neighbour from the Third Line in Bathurst Township stopped by for a chat and a copy of the new book. We also had the pleasure of spending some time with Elaine Morrow and her husband Dave, also long-time residents of the Third Line and we had a chance to catch up on some of the goings on in the old neighbourhood.

A couple of former classmates stopped by and it was wonderful to have the chance to chat and find out how they were doing. Dianne Tysick Pinder-Moss, a classmate who goes back to the one-room schoolhouse near Christie Lake, as well as being a former fellow 4H Club member, came by for her copy of the new book and we shared a few laughs and a quick chat. Another school chum from days gone by Marie Kerr stopped by the store and was great to see her as well. I hadn’t seen Marie for many years so was an unexpected treat to spend a few minutes with her again.

Another friend, who is in the process of building her dream home near beautiful Rideau Ferry, Carol-Ann McDougall stopped by. Carol-Ann surprised me with a lovely bouquet of red carnations with congratulations on the new book. Many thanks for this thoughtful gesture Carol-Ann and for taking the time to stop by.

Thanks also to Sean and Meaghan Christie for joining us on this special day and helping to make the launch a success.

The day breezed by quickly with so many visitors to The Book Nook and we are grateful for a successful launch of the new book and look forward to visiting Perth again in the near future.

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Book Launch – Lanark County Calendar

LC Cal Book Launch Ad

Join us on Saturday, November 2nd from 1 – 3 p.m. at The Book Nook – 60 Gore St. E. in Perth, Ontario for the launch of ‘Lanark County Calendar – Four Seasons on the Third Line’.

There is a waiting list, so to reserve your copy for the launch, please call 613-267-2350.

Just in time for Christmas – a signed copy makes a great gift.

For out of town – Order online at http://www.staffordwilson.com

In her fourth book, author Arlene Stafford-Wilson invites us to spend the year with her and watch the seasons change on the family farm in Bathurst Township in the 1960s and 70s. Join her in the magical weeks leading up to Christmas in the country. Spend the days of early spring with her as she collects the sap for maple syrup season. Share the lazy days of childhood and the long walks down country lanes picking wildflowers on hot summer days. Come along as she goes to the Perth Fair and be there as the Lanark County maple trees show off their spectacular fall colours. Experience the change of seasons in Eastern Ontario from winter, spring, summer and fall in this Lanark County Calendar.

Arlene Stafford-Wilson, author of ‘Lanark County Chronicle’, ‘Lanark County Kid’, and ‘Recipes and Recollections’ grew up in Lanark County, on the Third Line of Bathurst Township. She began writing stories and poetry while attending one room schools at Christie Lake and the Scotch Line. By the age of eight several of her poems had been published in children’s magazines and by age 11 she entered and won a writing competition in a national publication. Former Newsletter Editor for the Lanark County Genealogical Society, she has authored articles for both Canadian and Irish Genealogical publications.
Her first three books continue their popularity and sell out time and again in local book stores.

Merry Month of May

trilliums

If the fall in Lanark County was big, bold and colourful, then spring was just the opposite.  The autumn was in-your-face, unavoidable, brilliant hues in every direction; yellows, oranges, reds and greens. The soundtrack for this colourful season consisted of hunters’ rifles echoing in the distance, Canada geese honking and cottagers speeding up and down the Third Line, making their last few trips to Christie Lake before the cold weather set in for the season.

Spring was the exact opposite.  Sometimes Old Man Winter just didn’t want to let go and spring came quietly, hesitating, like a shy young lady, not quite sure if it was her time to come up on the stage for the show.  Sometimes we’d see a sneak preview of spring and she’d enter ever so softly into the yard, drifting along on a warm south wind, only to be turned back at the gate as winter stubbornly hung on, refusing to leave.

The yard dried up a bit more each day, and the sun stayed up in the sky a little longer.  We’d clean off our boots for the season, and store them up in the attic; only to find snow on the ground the very next day, as though winter had been spying on us through the window, and wanted to make his presence known once again.  Up the back-stairs we’d march, retrieve our boots reluctantly, and set them back down on the rubber mat by the kitchen door, all the while feeling discouraged and beaten.

rubber boots

With the snow finally gone, the plants began to poke their heads timidly out of the ground.  First, the flowering bulbs along the sidewalk, then thin, frail strands of grass began to stand up straight and green again and next the bashful buds on the trees slowly unfurled their pale green leaves.  There was a soft green glow all through the yard as the plants cautiously came back to life.

budding trees 2

Just like the budding leaves around us, the earliest flowers sensed that the frost was past, and it was safe to inch their way out of the chilly ground, and show their colours. The very first flowers to bloom were always the crocuses, tulips and daffodils, and we monitored their growth like hawks.  No other flowers of the summer or fall would get as much attention as those first few bulbs that bravely made their way through the cold earth each spring.  Mother’s bulbs were planted right along the sidewalk leading up to the old house, so there was no way we could miss their progress.

crocus

iris

The sun began to feel stronger and hotter on our faces, the purple and yellow Irises sprang up along the creek beside Perkins’ field.  With the snow melted, moisture soaked the ground, and the water drained from the fields, rushed along through the culverts, and into the lowlands.  Yellow Cowslips appeared at the edge of the woods, and tiny black tadpoles darted back and forth, searching for food in the cold, clear water that rushed along in the creek.

cowslips  tadpoles

Early in May, the ditches along the side road were painted bright with Trilliums – mostly white, but also pink and some even burgundy coloured.  Past the ditches and at the edges of the fields there were tiny purple Violets and fragile, white, Lilies of the Valley bobbing their heads in the breeze.  Taller and bolder, stood the Jack-in-the-Pulpits, and nearby were the rounded silhouettes of the showy Lady Slippers.

purple trillium  violets  jack in the pulpit  lady slipper

Closer to the railroad tracks, we saw the comically shaped Dutchman’s Breeches waving in the warm spring winds.  Not really a flower, but a much-loved bloom of our spring nonetheless, were the Pussy Willows and we would often take a branch or two back for Mother to put in her glass vase on the dining room table.

dutchman's breeches  pussy willow

As the days and weeks of spring passed by, the lilac bushes filled our yard with their unmistakable fragrance. If spring had a signature scent in Lanark County surely it was born in these heavy clumps of flowers that graced almost every yard in the region.

lilacs

There was no escaping the heady perfume and even as we opened the car doors outside of Calvin Church on Sunday mornings we’d be greeted by that sweet smell as it drifted across the road from Cameron’s farm and from up near the manse where the minister lived. The bumble bees had awakened from their dormant state in the hives and they buzzed around the white and lavender lilacs, gliding from flower to flower, and just like us, were drawn to their rich, sweet scent.

bees

Along with the rebirth of the flowers and trees in our yard, some of our familiar birds re-appeared as the weeks grew warmer and days grew longer. Everyone wanted to be the first to spot one of the Robins that returned each year to the nest in the spruce tree near the house, but long before that the skies were filled with geese flying in their familiar ‘v’ formation.

geese

In the weeks that followed we saw the return of the Red-winged Blackbirds, the Barn Swallows, and the bright orange and black Orioles. The Wrens were a common sight in our yard, and the Killdeers had by far the most distinctive cries as they soared high in the branches of the maple trees. Less common, were the tall, regal Blue Herons that appeared in the lowlands near the train tracks. The mallard ducks paraded their young along the duck-pond, near the Fourth Line.

ducks

The bees were not the only ones with a taste for something sweet, and the earliest treats from our spring gardens were the strawberries and the rhubarb. The rhubarb grew wild in a clump beside Perkins’ fence, at the edge of Mother’s flower bed, and although it was tart on its own, it was a perfect complement mixed with the sweet juicy strawberries. The rhubarb was picked, cleaned, chopped into pieces, and simmered gently on top of the old stove. Sugar was added to sweeten the taste, and Mother served the stewed rhubarb in little melamine dishes for a spring dessert.

rhubarb (1)   stewed rhubarb

The strawberries and rhubarb were often combined with sugar in a saucepan on top of the stove, simmered slowly, then cooled and spooned into one of Mother’s rich pie crusts. She would cut long strips of pastry, lay them criss-crossed on the top of the sweet combination of strawberry-rhubarb and bake to a golden brown in the old oven.

strawberry-rhubarb-pie-4-550

When the local strawberries were at their peak, Calvin Church would hold their annual Strawberry Social. The ladies’ auxiliary, the Calvinettes, would be bustling about in the church hall preparing for the crowds that flocked to sample the sweet, rich, strawberry shortcake. Frances Dixon and Audrey Jordan, Betty Miller, Ona Closs, Eleanor Conboy, Merle Korry, Jean Jordan, Wilma Munro, Doris Popplewell, Phyllis Korry, Agnes Stiller, Shirley Tysick, Carmel Jordan, Wilma Scott, Laura Milne, Marge Cook, Betty Johnston, Maxine Jordan, and of course Mother would all be busy in the tiny church kitchen. These ladies had worked together on so many occasions that they moved about in harmony like a symphony orchestra, each one performing their parts to perfection.

There were kettles to boil, and pots of tea to prepare. Coffee was made in the tall metal percolator, and the china cups and saucers were all arranged on the plastic table cloth, at the center of the kitchen. The long, wooden tables were set up in the hall, and the wooden chairs placed along each side. Cheery vases of spring blooms graced the tables, and of course the stars of the show, the dozens of plates of strawberry shortcake were displayed on a wooden table beside the door, as if to entice the visitors to come and enjoy our first social outing of the season.

strawberry shortcake  Calvin United Church brightened.jpg  church social

The Strawberry Social was our sign that the nice weather was officially here. The boots and coats were finally packed away for the season, and it was time to reconnect with neighbours and friends along the Third Line.

Spring may have come slowly and timidly at first, but now she confidently took her rightful place on center stage. Over the weeks she gained determination and brought forth a sense of optimism along with her soft greens and her fragrant flowers. Her bright sun warmed our bones and lingered on after supper, making our days longer and our spirits brighter. It was a time for rebirth in the barns, woods and meadows, and for planting the crops in the fields.

calf in meadow  tractor

We stepped a little lighter, laughed a little louder, and chatted over the fences a little longer. We gathered bouquets of wildflowers, dined on fresh strawberries and began to ride our bikes up and down the Third Line again. We ran up grassy hills and rolled back down again through the young clover, feeling light and giddy, free from our boots and coats. There were trilliums to pick for Mother, and tadpoles to catch and keep in a jar. Spring had come at last to Bathurst Township, and was it ever worth the wait!

 

….

 

Enjoy a taste of spring from Lanark County!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Pastry – for double-crust pie, sufficient for top and bottom 9 inch crust.

Filling:

3 c chopped rhubarb
3 c sliced strawberries
¼ c Lanark County maple syrup
1 ½ c white sugar
3 Tbsp tapioca
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tsp lemon zest
½ tsp lemon juice
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp butter cut in small cubes
1 egg white beaten with 1 tsp water

Filling Preparation:

Mix rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, maple syrup, tapioca, flour, lemon zest and lemon juice, cinnamon, and vanilla. Mix and pour onto chilled pie crust. Dot the top of the mixture with butter. Brush edges of pie crust with egg white wash. Roll out the other piece of dough slice into long strips and place half of the strips across pie, then overlap remaining strips on the diagonal. Crimp with fork to seal edges. Lightly brush with egg white – water mixture. Cover edges with foil and bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. Lower temperature to 375 degrees F and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the filling begins to bubble.

 

 

“Merry Month of May”

-an excerpt from “Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third Line”

….

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

January Feast at Mother’s Birdfeeder

Blue Jay

There was nothing fancy about the rickety old wooden bird feeder in the orchard behind the house. Our father was not going to win any awards for his design, that’s for sure. The bird feeder was constructed of five short pieces of wood, cut from an old weathered plank, and consisted of a floor, a roof, and three side walls. The pieces were nailed together, and mounted on a two by four, hammered into the ground, about twenty feet from the back kitchen window.

It was Mother who requested that the feeder be built one winter. It had been a brutally cold January, and snowy too. The winds from the north seemed particularly harsh that year, and it had been weeks since I’d ventured up the Third Line to visit my friends at DeWitt’s Corners. I’d been outside a few times helping with the shoveling, and even slid down our neighbour Chris Perkins’ hill on my toboggan a couple of times, but it was just too cold to stay outside for very long.

Because of the heavy snow and frigid temperatures, Mother had been very concerned that the birds wouldn’t be able to find food and would perish. Once Dad had finished putting up the bird feeder, Mother went to straight to work preparing something she thought would be hearty and filling for her feathered friends.

She brought out the heavy, well-worn, cast iron frying pan from under the sink, went straight to the old refrigerator, and picked up her bowl of bacon drippings. Every time Mother cooked bacon she poured the leftover drippings into a melamine bowl, and stored it in the fridge. She used the drippings to add flavour whenever she fried eggs, and for frying onions to have as a side dish with supper.

bacon-drippings

While the bacon drippings were heating up in the pan, Mother brought out a heavy plastic bag where she stored old crusts of bread, and she began to break them into crumbs. She rubbed them against the palm of her hand over a mixing bowl, until they were in fine pieces, like the crumbs for Christmas stuffing. Next, she brought the bowl of crumbs over to the frying pan and poured them in, a bit at a time, and stirred them with a wooden spoon, until they were coated in bacon drippings.

cast-iron-pan

She scraped the crumbs back into the mixing bowl, and set it on the kitchen table to cool, while she put on her boots and coat. She grabbed the bowl and headed out the door into the back porch, and out to the new feeder in the orchard. Dad might not have built a fancy-looking feeder, but he had placed it at just the right height so that Mother could easily lay her bacon-coated crumbs inside.

Mother came back in the kitchen, took off her coat and boots, and we waited patiently by the window. I pushed back the curtain, and pulled up a couple of kitchen chairs so we could watch. By this time Dad had put away his tools, had come in from the garage, and was making himself a cup of coffee. He warned me not to make any sudden movements in front of the window, or I would scare the birds away, so I sat there quietly and we waited.

Less than fifteen minutes passed when we saw our first ‘customer’. We were all excited, and even Dad, who hadn’t seemed particularly interested at first, was over by the window to watch the show. The first bird at the feeder was a blue jay. He had a little blue ‘hat’ and wings, and a big round white belly. There was a blue and white pattern on his back and he had a lovely, long tail with many different shades of blue all the way to the tip. His eyes and his beak were shiny and black, and he pecked away eagerly at the crumbs in the feeder for several minutes.

blue-jay-1 blue-jay-2

He continued to peck at the crumbs, looked around nervously, pecked again and then looked straight at us with his big black eyes as if to say ‘thank-you’, then he flew away through the orchard and over the back field, heading toward the train tracks.

blue-jay-3     snow-drifting

The bird feeder was a success! Dad was smiling, knowing that his efforts had been worthwhile. Mother was pleased that her very first ‘customer’ had enjoyed his meal, and hopefully would bring his friends back to dine as well, and keep in good health during the cold spell.

Mother’s birdfeeder would remain in the old orchard for many decades. The construction was basic, the feed was always the same – bacon grease and breadcrumbs, and over the years thousands of birds would dine at the feeder while we watched from the kitchen window. Blue Jays were always her favourites, although I saw a few handsome red Cardinals and many Black-Capped Chickadees over the years as well.

chickadee   winter-bird-cardinal

On these harsh, frigid, January days, when the winds are relentless, and the snow piles up around us, I think of our small feathered friends back on the Third Line. I wonder if the old feeder is still standing in the orchard, and if anyone thinks to put out a few crumbs and some drippings for our beautiful, hungry, winter birds. In the stark, white landscape they provided a welcome splash of colour, and their songs gave us hope through the long, silent winter.

 

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http://www.staffordwilson.com

……………

 

 

 

 

“January Feast at Mother’s Bird Feeder”

is an excerpt from  “Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third Line”

l-c-calendar

 

Summer Dusk on the Farm

summer dusk

 

It was usually around the second week of July each summer, when school was just a distant memory, and the days seemed to last forever.  The sky was still bright almost an hour past my eight o’ clock bedtime; and even after the nightly story was read, and the prayers were said, the birds continued to chirp outside my bedroom window.

 

Adventures of Johnny Chuck    little girl saying prayers

 

It would be another half hour at least before we’d hear the sounds of the bullfrogs’ chorus from the lowlands, and longer still before the bats began to swoop by, as they hunted for food, in the shadows along the side of the old house.

 

bats

 

The blue in the sky melted into grey, and finally to black, and the leaves on the branches moved progressively slower, as the wind died down for the night.

 

maples at night

 

All of the colours in the yard, the green grass, leaves and flowers, were all shrouded in their night-cloaks.  The squirrels and chipmunks that scampered across the yard, and up and down the trees all day, were resting quietly.

 

chipmunk resting

 

The crickets seemed to commence their songs all at once, and it was their steady soothing sounds that eventually made it impossible to stay awake.

 

summer swing

 

Tomorrow would be another long, carefree day of childhood.  There would be important decisions to make –  whether to ride my bike back to the Tay River for a swim, or stay in the yard, and soar high up, into the trees, on the rope-swing.  It’s no wonder the summer seemed to go on and on, just like the trains that passed by on the tracks, back the side-road.

 

train tracks night

 

There were so many cars zipping by on the tracks, and so many long, slow, days in summer, back in those years of childhood,……………………..when time stood still.

 

little girl rope swing

 

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

l-c-calendar

 

 

 

 

 

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http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

 

 

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