Ontario, Eastern Ontario, June 21 to 24, 2008

29 07 2008
Rural Ontario

Rural Ontario

Step Relaxes by the Pool

Step Relaxes by the Pool

The next 3 days we visited a lot of Step’s extended family, who mostly live in Peterborough and the surrounding countryside. We were stationed at his cousins Jim and Richelle’s in Campbellford. They have a big house on the countryside that they’ve been adding on to and improving for the last 15 years, so it’s very deluxe. As I’ve mentioned, we were intent of getting there for Jim’s birthday party, and we made it around dusk time. It was a great kick-off to the visit as a lot of his family were there. To go with their monster house they have a monster lawn,  (a non-monster) pool and hot tub, overlooking the countryside, and tonight there was a monster bonfire which we enjoyed. We broke out the Wii and fun was had until the wee hours.

A Post Night Before Dip

A Post Night Before Dip

 

The next morning I think I was the only one not hungover, not because of virtue but because of my unfortunate circumstance of not being able to drink due to medical reasons. I was dismayed to discover that I had not been imagining that mosquitoes were biting my ankles all night, but that they had really been there. Campbellford Mosquito Massacre. (I have been bitten by mosquitoes many times in my life but this was the only time it constituted torment. All I was doing all day was not scratching and trying to get my mind off the burning that was my feet, or fantasising I was plunging my feet into ice water. My burning feet woke me up many times in the night. I went through a lot of After Bite and other home remedies, and it wasn’t until the 3rd day I finally figured out I needed to take a Benedryl. Oh, sweet relief. Plus, I had never taken Benedryl before and I really got a rather pleasant buzz from it—no wonder you can’t drive or operate machinery when on it. None of my bites since then, and there have been many, have been nearly as torturous as the ones the Campbellford mosquitoes delivered. So Campbellford obviously has the most competent mosquitoes).

Phil in FRont of the 100 Mile Diner

Phil in Front of the 100 Mile Diner

Phil is married to Step’s Aunt Marie’s second husband’s daughter, Pam, who live next door, and he runs a restaurant in Warkworth called The Hundred Mile Diner, the concept of course being all food is produced within 100 miles, with a few exceptions like coffee that just can’t be grown locally. As you can imagine Step and I were all over that. It is a concept so elementary to a farming community it seemed a bit redundant, but the people of Warkworth support it. It was a natural for The Morning After breakfast. The food was excellent and we were totally charmed by the small town of Warkworth. As well as the Hundred Mile Diner they had a local food product store and other progressive businesses, and this was where I first came across that thick deluxe organic kefir that is sold in Ontario and Quebec. Step and I checked out an old Masonic Temple that was for sale, but it didn’t have enough windows.

The Boogie Bus in Downtown Warkworth

The Boogie Bus in Downtown Warkworth

Luxury Kefir!

Luxury Kefir!

Phil told us we had missed the Donnybrook the day before, which is a big auction and rummage sale of mountains of stuffage from there and beyond that draws hundreds if not thousands of people annually, some of them having that be the one time they leave their homes in the bush. There’s a lot going on in some of those tiny communities.

Ontario Slots

Ontario Slots

Aunt Peggy and Uncle John who live in a farm house outside of Peterborough. I had been there several times before and felt drawn to a huge slots machine casino/race track on the corner of the road to their house (it’s kind of bizarre because there is nothing else around there). Kawartha Downs and Speedway: it has  this incredibly gaudy ‘80’s style sign. Usually we drive past in wonder but this time we went in. We each had a budget of 10 dollars. I was “winning” on I Dream of Jeannie but Step wasn’t having any luck and it actually wasn’t as fun as we had imagined so we left before all the budget was go

Buckhorn Lake at Sunset

Buckhorn Lake at Sunset

 

 

After visiting another aunt in Peterborough the next day we headed to Step’s cousin Carol’s “cottage” on Buckhorn Lake. People in Ontario call almost any house near the water a cottage for some reason, and Carol’s is rather large being two stories and a basement, as well as generous lakeside grounds. These cottages require a huge level of maintenance because besides the usual landscape and house stuff there is always wildlife tearing up the roof or hanging out on their “Aqua Patio”, which is a flat motor boat that is sort of like taking your deck out onto the water. Carol also has a really smart talking bird named Cocoa. I had been to this cottage before but not in the summertime.

Buckhorn Lake Locks

Carol and her partner Marc are really into sledding (they refer to themselves as “slednecks”) and they live for the winter. Summer is but a poor yet labour intensive seasonal sister that needs to be got through. Carol had gone to work in the morning but Marc took us out on the Aqua Patio all the way to the lock (Ontario has a lot of locks and some people will houseboat for weeks going from lake to lake through them).

Is it Robin, or is it Jackie O?

Is it Robin, or is it Jackie O?

Marc has a lot of great stories about people getting stuck on rocks in the lake and shooting lawn-pooing geese with paintball guns, but our favourite story was about his drive home from work. He works in a blue rock mine about a 45 minute drive from where he lives, and often he will have to drive home at night, which freaks him out because he will see about 40 deer on the sides of the road as he drives. So he went to Canadian Tire and had the brightest lights available installed on his truck in order to see better, which he later regretted because he could then see 80 deer while driving home. One night he was driving home when he saw some deer on the side of the road and 3 standing right on the road, but he was able to stop before hitting anything.

So he was at a complete stop when suddenly a deer bolted across the road and ran right into the driver’s side door of his truck and konked out onto the ground! Marc got out of the truck and another car came from the other direction. The driver asked Marc if he ran into the deer and Marc said, “No, the deer ran into me! Look at my door”. Marc took out an utility knife and the driver asked what he was doing. Marc told him the deer probably had a broken neck and if it didn’t get up in 30 seconds he was going to slit it’s throat and drag it into the ditch. The other guy kept yelling at the stupid deer to get up and finally the deer did and staggered into the bush.

A Common Sight

Auction Ring

Auction Ring

After the boat ride we went to Hoard’s Station, where the largest sale barn in Eastern Ontario is located, and just happens to be owned by some other members of Step’s extended family, Dave and Kim. Step had often played in it as a child but had never attended on Tuesday, the day of the auctions. In case you don’t know, a sale barn is a facility where livestock is auctioned. Every week a different church runs the lunch counter. We got there too late for the full lunch, but we had some sausage on a bun and some Farm Lady Pie. It’s common knowledge that Farm Lady Pie is the best pie in the world. Mine didn’t have Farm Ladies in it: it was raspberry. (Actually, though, the best pie I ever had was the next day at Step’s Aunt Jean’s, and she lives in the City of Peterborough, so maybe Farm Ladies have the second best pie and Aunt Jean has the first best pie. I know you are dying to know; it was fresh strawberry pie).

Calves being Herded into the Auction Ring

Cows at Work

Cows at Work

The farmers at the sale barn are practical, hard working types, many who don’t welcome tourists with open arms, or even at all, especially ones like us who take 100s of pictures every day, so I was glad we had the VIP connection. (One farmer offered to break my camera if I took one more picture). The sale was really interesting. It must take years of practice to be able to understand what the Auctioneer is actually saying, but everyone seemed to know what was going on except for me and Step. I could make out bits and pieces like “a fine looking heifer” and “lot 673” but most of it was intelligible to my novice ears. Cows were sold in lots of single to dozens. The would come in one door, get sold, and leave by another door. The sale barn and it’s people weren’t overly concerned with safety (not because they are careless or uncaring, it’s just the nature of the work). We went up to a catwalk above the holding stalls and saw one working pushed down by a cow, and on the auction ring is a narrow metal free-standing wall the herder stands behind when things get hairy. One cow tried to jump into the stands. I guess they get really nervous about all the hubbub around them (no, I wasn’t using the flash, which is why the pictures have odd colour balance).

You could buy a cow at the auction and have it butchered at the butcher to freeze for winter, if you wanted to. When Mad Cow Disease was the scare of the week Jim bought one for 35 cents a pound! The only thing is if it is hunting season you might have a hard time getting in at the butchers.

The Young Hopeful

The Young Hopeful

Step’s cousin Brad has been at the sale barn since childhood, and he really likes the auctioneering part. He competes at the annual auctioneers convention, but he hasn’t won yet. You have to compete as a novice for the first 5 years. It’s almost like you need a PHD in it to do it well.

Outside of the sale barn are a bunch of people selling stuff like cowboy hats, candy, and used car parts. It’s an impromptu flea market.

Church Key Brewing

Church Key Brewing

 Those of you who know Step know of his deep and reverent love for beer, so we never visit a region without sampling the local microbrew, and visiting the brewery if possible. Eastern Ontario’s microbrewery is Church Key Brewery, and they do make some fine brews. It was funny to go to their brewery, because while everything was open to walk through, it took us about 20 minutes to find anyone who worked there. This is life in rural Ontario.

 Another thing about life in rural Ontario is super big lawns and swimming pools. It seems like everyone has one! Step’s Aunt Marie said it takes 4 hours to mow their lawn on the riding mower. I’m still unclear on what is the use of the big lawns, but they’re pretty. (This giant lawn theme is a national rural phenomenon, it turns out).

After 3 days we decided it was time to head to the big city, so we drove to some other relatives of Step’s and stayed overnight in Scarborough before visiting that Metropolitan Centre of the Canadian Universe known as Toronto.

Fields of Trent Hills

Fields of Trent Hills

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