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Friday, February 15, 2013

who was the boy on the bike?

“I was born in Ontario, Where the black fly bites and the green grass grows
That's where I learned most of what I know, ‘cause you don't learn much
When you start to get old.” ~ Neil Young and Crazy Horse.
This column comes out on Valentine’s Day, so I feel it only appropriate that I pass along a little gift to you, dear reader. If you’re reading this in Arnprior, Carleton Place, Manotick or anywhere else The Farmwife is printed, bear with us. We in North Grenville are very proud of our little community.
Last week Mike McNaughton of Spencerville Home Hardware posted a video on the STAR 97.5fm Facebook page. The caption on the post was “pay close attention!”
It’s a Neil Young video, to his 2012 song “Born in Ontario”. Wikipedia tells us that Mr. Young was born in Toronto but spent his formative years in the sleepy little town of Omemee in the Kawarthas. The video depicts Neil as a young man, sporting a hairstyle that is reminiscent of Glen Campbell.  I’ve never been a huge Neil Young fan but I appreciate the music and lyrics. And after watching this video a dozen times, it’s growing on me.
It’s a black-and-white video, like an old home movie. It starts with views of forests and highways, mainly the 17 North and the Transcanadian. Cut to a vintage clip of young men playing hockey, then a shot of a teacher at an old one-room schoolhouse. There are a bunch of teenagers dancing…I think it’s the reel? Swimming in a lake, the sign for Blind River, and another highway sign, for the #1 to Manitoba.
Mr. Young seems to be reliving some of his favourite memories as a young man growing up, which really makes you wonder about the last clip, cutting in at about the 3:13 marker in the 4-minute video. The perspective is from the driver’s seat of a car, following a boy on a bike down a tree-lined street that looks a bit like Spencerville. Monument on the left, trees forming a canopy of shade over the street…it’s obviously a scene from the mid 1950s or close to it, according to the cars parked on the street.
Music fades out now, car overtakes boy on bike, and film seems to speed up a bit. Wait a minute. That is the unmistakable fa├žade of the old Advance Printing building on the left, followed by the old Red and White, and – oh yeah! I forgot the old Scotiabank sits on the site of the old Johnson’s service station. End of video. No! We’re not done driving down memory lane yet! Aaaargh!
We got about 42 seconds of what is a very meaningful slice of history to local life-long residents, and of course The North Grenville Historical Society (NGHS). I’m currently trying to source the rest of the film. If it’s personal property, of course, we may be out of luck. But if we are welcome to a copy of the Kemptville scene in its entirety, wouldn’t that be nice?
We need to take a closer look. We have questions. Who is the boy on the bike? And the lone man walking toward the camera? I’ll bet some of our young seniors would know, if given the opportunity to slow the film down and study the images up close.
Why, you ask? Because it’s so cool! It’s a wee chunk of living, breathing, Kemptville history replayed before your eyes. I was born here in 1968. My young parents lived in that apartment above the shops on the left, and I do remember the trees so thick in front of the high school, where senior students stood in the shade and smoked their cigarettes in the ‘70s, in their wide-legged four-star Howick jeans.
Does anyone else have home videos like this one, in their storage? If so, consider bringing them to the NGHS for preservation. North Grenville is one of the fastest growing communities in Eastern Ontario, and our landscape is changing all the time. It’s so nice to see a glimpse of Kemptville in her younger years. To watch Neil Young’s video, go to and search “Born in Ontario”. Enjoy.
Happy Valentine’s Day, for the love of Kemptville! If you have the technology, take a bit of video of your neighbourhood and file it away somewhere for someone to discover in the future. What a great gift.
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Cataloguing the cows

The last time I went over to the cows’ side of the barnyard I didn’t recognize half of them. With three calves born in the last month, I thought I should make a point of writing down who belongs to whom and what sex they are, what colouring they have, etc.  The Farmer is pretty good at writing everything down in his log book but he does leave a few important items out. For example, he doesn’t name them. And he doesn’t note their specific personality traits. These are points that are good to know if you plan to handle one of them, or attempt to retrieve them when they jump the fence.
In the fall of 2007, when we were just a few months married, we bought our first pair of cows. We had gone to Leo’s livestock auction in Greely with our hearts set on a couple of Black Angus but those went through the ring so fast, for such a high price, our heads were spinning. A pair of Herefords was more our speed. Ginger, the older and wiser of the two, is a very suspicious girl, always peering at us from around barn beams and round bales. She once got in between the hay and the tractor, and the fork pierced her side. The week she spent in the paddock, being repeatedly treated until her wound healed, did not endear her to us. If you try to get between Ginger and her calf, you might get yourself killed. The Farmer found that out the hard way, when he tried to help Ginger’s new calf to suckle last year. My husband dodged out of the way of the aggressive mama as she tried to toss him out of the pen. That calf never did learn how to nurse. He was bottle fed until he was old enough to get out on the pasture.
Big Betty arrived along with Ginger, but she was a heifer. She had never had a calf before. Both girls were pregnant when we got them. When their time came, we were somewhat prepared but also a little scared to death in case something went wrong. We had our neighbour, a more experienced cattleman, on standby. On a sunny April weekend, Betty gave birth to a little bull calf. She seemed a little flustered and almost embarrassed by the experience, or maybe it was the spectators. Anyway, she went easy on us. No problems. Ginger had Mocha the heifer the same week.
Mocha has turned out to be a very pleasant animal. She succumbed to hands-on attention from the beginning and although she occasionally protests by tossing her head, she doesn’t seem to mind a pat on her flank from time to time. And she loves apples.  More than once, Mocha has travelled all the way down the pasture, through a gap in the fence, up through the forest and into the front field where she feasted on the source of the heavenly smell. That year I had to actually fill a wheel barrow with the fallen fruit and dump it into the barnyard to keep her inside.
Our first attempt at breeding the cows involved artificial insemination. I showed the girls the brochure and we chose a strapping young mate together. It worked, the first time, so we tried it again. That second year, Betty didn’t catch. She actually looked ashamed and disappointed. Betty’s eyes give away her emotions. And when she is excited about the sound of sweet feed hitting the inside of a bucket, she comes running across the pasture like a pup, often kicking her legs up and swinging her head from side to side. I told her not to worry; she would be pregnant next time. We got a real live bull, who was quite tame and shy at first, but evidently very good at his job. 
So far this year we are doing very well. Ginger, Mocha , Oreo and Betty all had their calves and although the Farmer helped get them started a bit by stealing colostrum from the mom and feeding it to the babe, they are now feeding and thriving. Oreo had her calf and left him in the snow but the Farmer found him before he froze to death. Now it’s Julie’s turn to add to our herd. Hopefully before we leave on vacation and the kids take over farming duties.

The cat came back, and so did the pheasant.

I pulled into the laneway one day and saw something that I thought was a wild turkey. It just stood there, looking at me. I slowly approached and it turned and ran into the cedars, its long red tail pulling a trail through the snow behind it. Henry!
We raised pheasants this year, and one of them got away. In fact it escaped a couple of times. I’m convinced it’s the same one. I don’t know how he lasted through those two heavy snowfalls, but he did. Maybe he joined a herd of wild turkeys and ate what they ate. They probably accepted him, thinking he was a skinnier, more colourful version of themselves. The European version.
In any case, he was back, and he was hungry. The Farmer put an ice cream container full of feed on the ground near the cedars, where he seemed to hang out. The next day the feed had obviously been eaten, hopefully by Henry and not a marauding squirrel. But we didn’t see the colourful bird again for a while.
In the meantime, I was busy adopting out my barn kitten, Junior. I had forgotten about the photos posted on the Village Kitten Rescue website so I was a bit surprised when Ashley called for an appointment. The Farmer, however, was thrilled. With the nastier weather we have been getting lately, the adolescent kittens are constantly darting through the door and into the house to warm up. They sleep in the barn with the animals where they are quite warm, but they do enjoy a nap in a sunbeam in the TV room. And they love to tear down the hallway upstairs, through the bedroom and bathroom and back into the hall, like a Monte Carlo race route. You can hear their claws ripping at the carpet as they gain traction and speed, only to crash headlong into walls and each other. Drives the Farmer nuts.
“Why do we have four cats in this house?” he asked me, disgusted. He is more of a dog person.
I promised to try again to find homes for these semi-outdoors, semi-indoors animals. And I thought I had found at least one, when Ashley called.
On the night of the appointment, I made sure all of the cats were in the house. Ashley and I sat on the basement carpet and tried to lure Junior out of his hiding place in the dollhouse. Since his trip to the vet last fall, however, he has become wary of cages and strangers. So he was having nothing of our attempts to trap him. I kept thinking to myself…if he is resisting being caught I’m not sure he will make a very good pet…but she really liked his colouring and wanted to try.
Finally the Farmer came downstairs with a huge net and a live trap. He was ever so helpful. I caught Junior, stuffed him in Ashley’s carrier, and off they went, Junior’s plaintive wail trailing behind them.
The next day I got the first of a string of reports by email. Junior was hiding in Ashley’s spare room, unwilling to come out and explore. The next day, he met and made friends with the other house cat, but he still resisted being touched by his new human and the slightest noise from the puppy sent him darting under the furniture. Finally he gave in and allowed Ashley to pet him while he ate bribes of cat treats, but he just wasn’t settling in. I thought to myself, well, that’s the way he is here. He lets you get close, but that’s it. No picking up, no cuddling. He’s just not that kind of cat.
The next day, the cat came back. He immediately went downstairs to his dollhouse, sniffed all the corners, then darted upstairs to the patio door. I slid it open and he ran out into the darkness. Five minutes later he was back, crying at the door to be let in. I let him in and he ran upstairs, his brother and sister on his tail. The Farmer just looked at me and shook his head.
Oh well. It will be springtime soon. Then we will open the patio door, the cats will run out and we won’t see them again until fall. Henry the pheasant, however, has been spotted again, standing guard at the driveway.

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