(Almost all the photos are my own)
Friday, August 3, 2012
THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER
CountyKate on High Summer in Prince Edward County, Ontario
The phrase, 'The Dog Days' stems from the ancient Roman period, when it was believed the Dog Days 'brewed evil, The Sea Boiled, Dogs Grew Mad, and made all others languid'. The Days begin on July 3rd and end on August 11th - 40 days without rain. Of course, with the Gregorian, or maybe the Julian calendars, its all screwed up , and poor Sirius gets the blame anyway, Sirius being the Dog Star.
When I first began composing this blog. about The County, in July we were suffering a severe drought.
If you remember, The County is an isthmus, or the 'Stickyout Bit' as my granddaughter says, into Lake Ontario. Situated as we are, much of the forecast precipitation bypasses us, drenching the mainland to the north. So we have not had significant rain for several weeks, and all those lush fields of maize and sweet corn I described last time, are shrivelled and brown.
The farmers have frantically harvested the cereal crops, two weeks early in fact, and baled the stalks to take to the local Mushroom Farm, that uses them for their growing beds. Dark, moist sheds, where the workers harvest on their knees, eight hours a day.
But the diligent farmers are providing us with seasonal produce, fruit and vegetables, for canning, freezing or jam making,. If it’s fruit, I’ve eaten most of the punnet before I get home!
Despite the heat and humidity, we can occupy ourselves with a variety of delights. On these endless, hot summer days, we can visit antique shops, enjoy the annual quilt show; garage, yard or barn sales; the wineries to visit, the cheese-making factories, small enterprises now compared to the industry of the 1800's, along with canneries and beer-making!
Paddling a canoe is fun and harks back to the old days.
canoes for rent
Then there is sailing, fishing, kayaking –
Or else we can stay at home, under the spreading maple trees in our shaded gardens and sip wine or beer, read, sew or daydream.
We might follow our forefather’s trails, to go Up North, to the cottage, boat or trailer, to live a more Spartan life for a while, experience the Great Outdoors.
Cooking in cramped conditions!
Who were these first settlers?
They started arriving in the early 18th century. Some were farmers, from England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales. Some were soldiers, pensioned off with an acreage of land, and enough supplies for two years - seed and livestock. Yet others were the sons of aristocratic families, shipped off with an allowance for various reasons. Few of them were prepared for the hardships. While some of them moved into established settlements, many of them literally had to hack a clearing out of the virgin forest and build a log or sod cabin.
There were many religions represented too - Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Quakers and others.
They would have built their churches probably at a crossroad of tracks, and later came settler’s cabins, a tavern, a store and businesses.
Not only farmers came; where they settled, they needed carpenters, millers, if near the Lake, shipwrights. The women brought their crafts too, cheese-making for instance. Once they had made cheese for the family needs, then it became a bartering agent, then grew into an industry. In the mid 1800's, there were 30 cheese-making factories on the County.
Winter for the pioneers must have seemed endless. No contact with neighbours, until Spring melted the rooftop high snow drifts.
Snowdrifts piled against the windows
Heavy horses, still bred here on the County, cleared a passage to the hamlet; going two abreast, the waggoner standing on the platform of his wagon, whistling and encouraging the amiable creatures.
A barn-raising - well, to be honest, a barn-razing, but you get the idea
But spring meant social gatherings. It might begin with a barn raising, all the neighbours and their wives and families would gather for this two day event, which led to Basket Lunches; Pie Sales, Church Sales; Quilting Bees , Swapmeets for clothes; but also these gatherings were for weddings, christenings and funerals. The harsh life took its toll, and folk were laid to rest, in family plots, village cemeteries or grander graveyards.
Old and young, infants and children put to rest in shaded places, sheltered by those same maple trees, often surrounded now by wild lilac hedges too.
So much lilac grows wild now, we have a Lilac Festival.
Many pioneer women brought with them on the sailing ships from England, 'slips' of lilac from their beloved homes, tended carefully on the voyage, they were then planted by the door of their cabin. Driving around, if you see a clump of lilac growing wild, look closer, there's probably the foundations of a settler’s home, maybe the barn nearby
So we arrive back to our modern pioneers. That part of the population that goes Up North, or maybe to my County, there to encounter aspects of the life their forefathers experienced.
Wildlife comes to mind! We have seen, at various rented cottages, coyotes, raccoons, skunk! There were deer one early morning, a family of three, grazing on our front lawn. Another time, a skunk family emerged from underneath the deck, in line abreast, mom, baby, baby, baby, pop. Don’t frighten them, or they WILL spray you!
Raccoons are charmers, cute little bandits faces and dinky little hands. But they are scavengers, as my daughter can tell you. They come at dusk, to root noisily through unsealed garbage; or as my daughter found out, alerted by the loud chomping noises from outside, to eat the dog’s supper, from her bowl, while dog slept peacefully inside!
The coyotes are rarely seen, but at night, an eerie 'yip, yip, yip', cuts the air, as the pups call for momma and food.
Then of course we have bears. Yes really. Hang your food in a bag in a tree. Dispose of human smelling waste in a pit in the ground! If it’s a brown bear, rear up and make big, if it's a black, crouch down and make small. Who is going to hang around long enough to find out? Anyway, my daughter would frighten them away with her screaming.
But the lucky modern visitor to our County has much to see and do whilst here.
There are Maritime Museums; Emu and Llama Farms. The soil is conducive to grape growing, from a few large, commercial enterprises, to many small, family owned and tended, and of course, imbibed!
There are Wine Tasting tours -better use a driver - or Honey and Lavender Farms for another taste of local products.
Local ice-cream shop
We have our own local ice-cream producer - Slickers - or try one of the many locally harvested Maple Syrup products.
You could take in an Art Tour and admire local artists’ paintings – and plantings!
Visit antique shops, like 'County Traders' where Trader John boasts secondhand furniture, with stock changing daily or 'Dead People’s Stuff' where Sue recycles collectables from the past.
But finally, after all this touring and tasting, and the activity is over till tomorrow, come back home, to sip local wine or beer, eat locally made treats; all under the shade of those maple trees, and doze into the dusk.
Prince Edward County 2nd August 2012
(Almost all the photos are my own)
(Almost all the photos are my own)