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A final visit to Black Creek Pioneer Village at the week’s end.


The colours are desaturated and warmed up a bit — gives the pics a nostalgic feel.

And I don’t know what comes first — faded pictures or faded memories.

Occasionally thoughts of my own childhood or my father’s family farm are dim as they’re replaced by more immediate and pressing and ultimately inconsequential challenges of the every day.


This little fellow’s grandfather remembers the very day the Germans invaded his family’s hometown in northern Italy.


My father always gives thanks for living in a country where freedom — religious, cultural, racial — is taken for granted.


Where we watch our children romp without fear.


Where women’s clothing is a personal choice.


Where evidence of our past has not been destroyed by deadly ordnance.


Where the rain falls and the sun shines in balance.


Where a child can be a child.

Amen, Dad.

When are you coming for a visit?


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Sign of a mother’s love

imagesWe have a new addition to our home.

Fully acoustic, non-digital, reverberating, pulsing, beating, thumping banging.


It’s called a junior kit — oooooh, spe-shul as the offspring say — and I suppose I should be thankful for that.



Because the future, dear reader, could resemble this.

Every morning, from 07h00 until 07h10 I hear

tap (rest) tap (rest) tap (rest) tap (rest)

tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap

tap (rest) tap (rest) tap (rest) tap (rest)

tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap.

Every morning.


On Tuesday mornings, after the tap (rest) tap (rest) tap — oh never mind.

On Tuesdays mornings we hop in the car at 08h00 and arrive at school for a drum lesson with Mr. P.


Mr. P is a fun guy and throws in a few tap tukka tap tukka tap tukka to liven things up.

And that’s just great because now I know I’ll have something new to look forward to each morning.


Tap tukka tap tukka tap tukka tap tukka.

Gets the arms and legs moving early in the day.

Helps the princess rise from her slumber.

So far our abilities are confined to the snare and bass drums. Lawd a mercy when he starts on the cymbals!


But Mr. P has big plans for our lad.

Today we hauled home an electric bass and an amp.

Mercy. That’s all I’m looking for. Mercy.

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As part of their unit on the pioneers, the Grade 3 students of our school spend a week going to school and experiencing, as much as possible, life as a child of the 1860s.

After being dropped off in an empty parking lot by a big yellow school bus, the children scuffed their way down wooden sidewalks and dusty paths, passing a brewery, tinsmith shop, inn and general store.

Arriving at the century-old school house, they lined up — boys on one side, girls on the other, each with their own entrance.


It was a cool autumn day but inside the school was warm, thanks to a cast-iron stove in the middle of the room.


Inside, boys on one side, girls on the other.

The teacher, our own Ms. K,  handed out slates and chalk for the day’s lessons, which she’d already written up on the chalk board.

Interestingly, our school has phased out its chalk boards — too many dust issues and sensitivities. White boards and erasable markers are now the norm.


Any questions posed by the teacher had to be answered by first standing up and then speaking. Not sure what Missy is doing here away from her desk!


Some clear benefits to being able to wipe away mistakes with your apron!


On this day the classroom is quite bright and the light streams in through the large windows. One forgets how we maintain constant brightness in our offices and houses.


After a tough morning of arithmetic and spelling the children are allowed a recess to burn off some of the bread and butter they made yesterday and ate today. The gals head over to see the horses, big draft animals, not like the racing breeds we see in the fields near our home.


Back inside it’s time for grammar. In a startling contrast with what they’re experiencing this week, next week for three days the Grade 3 students will take a CAT (Canadian Aptitude Test) test, a somewhat stressful regimen that’s a tad controversial ’round these parts.

But that’s for another time.


Shortly before lunch a bona fide exemplar of pioneer times clarifies terms such as artefact and museum for the children.


She sports a nifty little body warmer called a Hug Me Tight. Kinda cute.


It’s the non-stop smiles that tell you this is learning that’s going to last a lifetime. Every one of these students will have a vibrant memory of the week they lived like children of a century ago


Heading back to the school bus and the 21st century.

And while it pains me to do so, I have to be honest to the whole experience.

Everybody had to dress up.


In the spring, for another school pioneer field trip, I wore my great-grandmother’s 1890s-era silk dress. That day was balmy and warm.

It’s now October. Somewhat cooler.

So I decided to be a little truer to my *other* family’s roots — not the one with the china, upright grand piano and good posture.


I decided I would honour those family members who arrived in Canada by steamship carrying with them not much more than hope, faith, and a love for the land.

The similarity is striking.

All I’m missing is my immigration card.

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Every year the Ontario Grade 3 curriculum features an extended unit on Canadian pioneers.

Children learn about the various challenges and physical hardships faced by early settlers — food, shelter, climate, predators, disease and isolation. The children learn that clothes fastened sans zippers and velcro, that late-night lighting was a pleasure reserved for the long days of summer and that pioneer children laboured long and hard for the rare luxury that might cross their paths.

But neither was all dark and austere.

To show some of the brighter elements of life in early Canada, our school takes the Grade 3 students to a week of study at Black Creek Pioneer Village, a working farm and 1800’s-era village at Toronto’s northern edge.

The village is typical of those established in south central Ontario between the 1790s and the 1860s. In those days, moving water was the engine that turned the mill wheels of rural Canada, grinding grain and providing a focal point for young communities.

With the mill perched at the side of a stream it wasn’t long before stores, a tavern and a blacksmith shop were built nearby. Houses, churches and a school quickly followed.


On today’s field trip the children learned their maths arithmetic lesson using slates and chalk.

They churned butter, carded wool and patted some sheep.

Tomorrow to the blacksmith’s shop and preparation for a spelling bee.

No plastic allowed in the lunch basket,  no heating in the school house — the teacher had to start a fire, no Gore-Tex, no Thinsulate, no polypropylene fleece.

Missy here is wearing my brother’s 1967 woollen sweater, my mother’s shawl, alpaca mittens from South America, an undershirt, long stockings, socks and a mess of thrift store finds.

A new-wave kind of pioneer kid.

My girl.

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Flights into Winnipeg last night were cancelled from both east and west. The snow caught everyone off guard.

My brother’s flight from Calgary was beginning its descent when the pilot announced they were turning back.

The plane landed in Regina and Brent passed a couple of hours in one of the capital city’s drinking establishments.

Two flights out of Toronto got half way to Winnipeg and then turned back.

It’s not so much that there is a lot of snow (there isn’t) but rather that no one was prepared for it, especially the airports.


Snow. Children.


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2009 001

Coming in from the east, Manitoba’s flat expanse is a joy of similitude.

No rises or falls, hills or valleys, little beyond the straight, flat endless prairie.

It’s a sameness that’s hard on newcomers but for the prairie soul, it’s a study in minimalist beauty.

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Early this morning the sun rose from its usual post in the east, piercing through the heavy clouds that portend the weather to come.

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But who cares about the snow?

You can always find somewhere warm to curl up.

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Introducing new birds into the an existing flock requires understanding, patience and a strong constitution.

New members are, after all, outsiders and intruders and should be driven away to protect the integrity of the feathered unit.

So the first thing to do is lock everyone up together for a few days.

Nobody gets out.


It’s good for the new kids because they can ascertain their position on the roost. They can thumb their beaks at the original members and cackle, “Ha! You thought you owned the rung! Well it’s mine now, chickie!”


These Blue Cochins, survivors of an original group of five, are less than thrilled about the new kids and keep to themselves, watching, studying.


This Barred Rock is the last of an original group of seven. We had a large group in the spring which experienced some particularly bad luck from marauding mammals.

Barred Rocks are an old heritage breed — not hybrids — and are what’s called dual-purpose. Eggs and meat.

And she’s been queen of the flock for the last several months. *Not* happy about the intruders.

She’ll get over it because she’s outnumbered.

But it’s hard to watch the goings-on as they work out their family issues. It’s a feathered roller-derby in the there — peck, chase, challenge, gouge, claw… they don’t actually manage to peck out each other’s eyes but they give it a good effort.


So sometimes you just have to turn away, shut the door, take a deep breath and focus on something without sharp edges.



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The entertainment

A sunny afternoon outdoors.

Any chance for improvement?


Some resounding syncopation sounds like a good place to start.


Goatskin stretched across wooden cylinders — bam batta bam b-bam bam b-bam bam …


The Butterfly Drummers. They just makes you smile.

And then out comes the next wave of motion, moving, undulating, expressive arms, wrists, waists…


Completely absorbed in the moment, echoing the movement of the drum beats…


Swaying, jumping, cascading over the sound…


Taking us somewhere very long ago from here…

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Sticky Wicket: The game


The bowler winds up, ready to hurl the ball down to the other end of the field.

A comment on the picture quality — it’s Not Very Good At All.

That’s because the crowd sits on the outskirts of the field, very far away from an errant ball smacked hard by the cricket bat.

Consider a major league baseball game: How far out in left field would you sit?


And off the ball soars, destined to hit the ground right in front of the competitor’s bat, directly in front of the wicket — a three-spoked gate anchored into the earth.


The batsman connects with the ball, ideally hitting it into a space where no competing players wait.


With a successful hit he races to the other end of the playing area and back — if he can — counting up the number of times he can get home again.


It’s a game of power and speed.


A successful dash, passing his teammate who’s on his way to tag the ground in front of the opposite wicket.


The points accumulate and the yellow team wins!

Tomorrow: Half-time entertainment

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And he comes from away

Anyone recognize this fiddler?


He played at the Bindertwine Fall Fair in Kleinberg on Saturday.


He’s a lefty.


In 2006 he declared himself a candidate for the federal Liberal party.


He’s our own Canadian *bad boy*.


And used to high-kick on stage in a kilt.

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