No Time for Banana Bread

Little did we know we would slowly discover that “country folk” are the hardest working people on the face of the Earth.

November 6, 2013 | | Blogs | Community | Leisure | Two Blue Boots

“A farm is a manipulative creature. There is no such thing as finished. Work comes in a stream and has no end. There are only the things that must be done now and things that can be done later. The threat the farm has got on you, the one that keeps you running from can until can’t, is this: do it now or some living thing will wilt or suffer or die. It’s blackmail, really.
Kristen Kimball

I am imagining many summers sitting on a big comfy wicker chair on her back porch, a glass of cold Chardonnay in hand.

I am imagining many summers sitting on a big comfy wicker chair on her back porch, a glass of cold Chardonnay in hand.

My sister Diane and her family recently purchased a beautiful century farm. This idyllic homestead is located just west of Orangeville. I am thrilled for her and – I have to admit – I’m also quite excited for myself.

I am imagining many summers sitting on a big comfy wicker chair on her back porch, a glass of cold Chardonnay in hand. I also foresee many winters, curled up in front of the massive fireplace, devouring a good book. I can’t wait to assume a pose in the Tricia Romance painting of her life.

Moving day is quickly approaching. The contents of her Toronto home are being packed for the move up to the North Country and the air is filled with anticipation. In the last few days, however, Diane has been voicing some misgivings about her life-altering decision.

“What will I do when nosy, busybody neighbours show up at my door?  What if they arrive with banana bread and expect me to sit and chat?” she wonders aloud.

I can certainly understand how this would be a concern for Diane, because she is a lawyer, working in the field of labour arbitration. She works mainly from home and spends countless hours going over evidence so t she can make informed decisions about employee/union disputes. She certainly can’t afford to spend time chatting with the neighbours. Her time is valuable.

Husband Darrel and I made the move to “the country” in 1992. We packed up our young family and fled the banality of suburbia. Our first rural property was a semi-renovated farmhouse located on 17 acres, just north of Mansfield. It was in this rustic home that we raised our two sons and discovered the trials and tribulations of country life. So I feel qualified to dole out some sisterly advice, and here it is, in the form of a letter:

Dearest Diane,

I have to admit that I had similar misgivings when Darrel and I made the decision to switch to a rural lifestyle.

I worried that I’d miss the anonymity of our former neighbourhood. I certainly didn’t want to be forced into socializing with the local homemakers, joining quilting bees, canning preserves, or baking pies for the Neighbourhood Picnic.

And I could not imagine Darrel partaking in long games of checkers with the local men (decked out in plaid shirts and overalls) on slow, lazy Sunday afternoons. Our time was valuable.

Little did we know we would slowly discover that “country folk” are the hardest working people on the face of the Earth.

The very first night in our heritage home, Eldest Son Ryan and Youngest Son Codey discovered, to their amusement, “something with tentacles” living under our fridge. The beam of the flashlight did in fact reveal two octopus tentacles wriggling and writhing and scratching against the wall.

Darrel was in Vancouver on a business trip, and so it was just me – and two small boys. Who do you call?

I called Mr. Farmer down the road and introduced myself as the new neighbour and explained (in my city-girl voice) that I had an octopus living under my fridge.

Within minutes, Mr. Farmer arrived brandishing a baseball bat. After some quick introductions, he checked out the resident creature and declared that we actually had “two snakes involved in some mating activity.”  

Apparently the snakes slithered into our kitchen through a small hole in the exterior wall and decided the warm, dark area under the fridge would be a cozy spot to “carry on.”

Mr. Farmer bravely managed to grab one snake and carry it outside. The mating partner, however, escaped through the passageway from whence it came. Mr. Farmer proceeded to move the fridge and patch the Reptile Portal.  We sighed with relief and thanked him profusely.  

I offered him a cup of coffee –but he declined. He told me he had lots of work to do – and with a tip of his straw hat, he was disappeared into the dark night.

But the octopus incident was just the beginning. As the years went by, our family suffered through many rural emergencies.

The first time I attempted to make a fire in the woodstove, I filled the entire house with a blanket of thick smoke. I ran to the phone and my coughing, gasping plea for help was immediately answered by a rural rescue team of neighbours.  I have since learned the importance of using that damper thingy.

 When our water supply was suddenly cut off, Mr. Farmer and friends crawled down the well to replace the foot valve. I didn’t even know that there was a foot valve in a well.  

An elusive red squirrel lived with us for three weeks, defying capture and defiantly pooping on every surface in the house. Mr. Red Rodent finally decided to make a grand entrance at a bridal shower that I was hosting! Once again, kindly neighbours arrived to save the day!

The furnace conked out on cold winter nights – several times.  The pipes froze and burst, flooding our cellar with gallons of water. Our cars slid into the icy ditch at the edge of our driveway – time after time. Our pond became skanky and green. Do you know you have to oxygenate pond water?

Our animals got sick. Our animals ran away. Our animals had encounters with skunks and porcupines.

Our animals got sick. Our animals ran away. Our animals had encounters with skunks and porcupines.

 I hit the mailbox with my car on three different occasions.  Our laneway completely washed away in a torrential rainstorm.  

Our animals got sick. Our animals ran away. Our animals had encounters with skunks and porcupines. Our roof leaked.

We cried a lot.

We grew weary and weak but we carried on, holding our heads high and proudly refusing to allow country life to defeat us. We lived through all of these disasters. We survived with the help and guidance from our country neighbours – our friends!

And so, Diane,  I hope you will grow to love your new neighbours and more importantly, I hope that they will love you too.

They will become your best allies and friends. They will come to your aid at all times of the day and night. They will arrive with buckets and mops and wrenches. They will bring tow trucks and hitches and sand for the driveway.

If you need a barn cat, you’ll receive one. If you need good advice, you’ll get that too. You will be presented with corn (fresh from the field), jars of pickled beets, brown eggs, and, yes, even banana bread.

So, if  you are lucky enough to open your door to find the gift of a new Farm Friend – invite them in.

But don’t be surprised if they don’t have time to visit. There is much work to be done – and their time is valuable.

Love, Laurie

About the Author More by Laurie May

Laurie teaches Grade 4 at Island Lake Public School in Orangeville and writes in her spare time. She lives in Mono and looks for the humour in everyday country life. Check out her blog “Two Blue Boots”.

Comments

23 Comments

  1. Laurie………your Mom and Dad were born on Farms and lived/worked there until High School…..and yes we had lots and lots of work to do, almost 24/7. We socialized with all our neighbours, as we went to the same school, the same church and the same general store. Harvest time, too, was an annual work/social with everybody pitching in to get the crops off and stored away. Soooo, now you and Diane are having your Farm journeys…..it will enrich your lives….enjoy. Dad

    Larry Gee on Nov 6, 2013 at 7:20 pm | Reply

    • Yes Mom and Dad. I have heard all of those stories. Mom worked all day in the corn fields for ten cents an hour. It’s interesting that you left “country life” to head to Toronto–and your daughters left Toronto to head to the country-side. Everything comes full circle.

      Laurie May from Mono on Nov 6, 2013 at 11:20 pm | Reply

  2. Another interesting story. Keep them coming!

    Norma Gee from Collingwood on Nov 6, 2013 at 7:22 pm | Reply

  3. Dear Laurie:
    You have always been my wise older sister. We have already discovered the bats that live in the barn (I say with a quivering voice hoping it isn’t really our house they live in) and the mice that live in the kitchen. The dogs have discovered burs and that they can jump into the closed swimming pool but can’t get back out. I am not yet afraid. I figure, if I can handle Toronto traffic, I can handle a few bats in the barn. Please, just don’t let them get into the house.

    You are welcome to sit on my porch anytime at all. I will join you after the farm chores are done.

    Love me.

    Diane from Toronto but soon to be "The Farm" on Nov 6, 2013 at 9:06 pm | Reply

    • Dear Diane:

      It sounds like you are already discovering how adventurous and unpredictable rural life can be.

      By the way, you never lose an opportunity to sneak in the fact that I am the “older” sister, do you?

      Laurie May on Nov 6, 2013 at 11:25 pm | Reply

  4. I loved growing up in the hills. Sure we only got 1.5 television channels and the walk down the driveway could take 20 minutes on a cold day, but I would not have wanted it any other way. I am so thankful my parents took the chance moving to the area when I was young. Congratsulations and enjoy Dianne and family!

    Ryan on Nov 6, 2013 at 11:20 pm | Reply

    • Rye Guy: I’m glad you enjoyed growing up in the country. I bet you are relieved that I didn’t tell too many embarrassing stories…..like the time that you ran down the hallway in your underwear, screaming like a girl – a black squirrel in hot pursuit. That squirrel was the same critter that your brother had reported seeing around the house on a many occasions and nobody believed him.

      Laurie May from Mono on Nov 8, 2013 at 12:15 am | Reply

  5. I don’t know about anyone else….but I can hardly wait for the next family get-together….someplace with lots of room to roam, cozy atmosphere, a few creatures here and there…. 🙂

    Congratulations! …and how do you like your banana bread; with or without chocolate chips?

    Troy from Leamington on Nov 7, 2013 at 8:04 am | Reply

    • Diane and I both like chocolate chips in our banana bread—lots of them!

      Laurie May from Mono on Nov 8, 2013 at 12:21 am | Reply

  6. A great letter of adventure and advice.

    Rosaleen Egan from Alliston, ON on Nov 7, 2013 at 8:45 am | Reply

  7. Dear Diane we lived in a small community for eight great years when our children were young and have many great memories and have made very good friends from that experience. You reminded me of the time a bird flew into the house and destroyed the living room curtains and yes we had a snake also in the house. Our next door neighbour’s barn caught on fire and I saw how helpful the community was within minutes to help. The box lunch socials along with many other gatherings (the Terra Cotta Stomp )that took place in the little community hall that was a century old structure. We met many people from the area at this little hall. This was a great part of our lives. Good luck with your new ventures.

    Mary Buchanan November 7th 2013

    Mary Buchanan from Collingwood Ontario on Nov 7, 2013 at 9:49 am | Reply

    • Hi Mary: Thanks for sharing your stories. I know Diane will love Country Living too!

      Laurie May from Mono on Nov 8, 2013 at 12:18 am | Reply

  8. Wow! I LOVE this article!! I actually got all teary reading this because we have been through very similar things. Living in the country, particularly in the beginning, is very overwhelming. But, like you, neighbours helped us along the way. Now our country home has turned into a small farm and we are now the “farmer”. I wouldn’t have it any other way! I love the bats in my attic, the mice in my walls and the chickens on my door step (well ok maybe not the bats and mice) Thank you for the article!

    Cathy from Erin on Nov 7, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Reply

    • Hi Cathy: I would say that Heritage Hollow Farm is a very special “labour of love”. Your farm is beautiful. Have you thought of offering workshops for farmer-wanna-be’s?

      Laurie May from Mono on Nov 8, 2013 at 12:30 am | Reply

  9. Hi Rosie: Thanks. You must enjoy being a “country girl”. I love reading your blog Rosiewrites.com.
    Your writing and photographs portray the peace and solitude of rural life.

    Laurie May from Mono on Nov 8, 2013 at 12:46 am | Reply

  10. Hi Diane, can’t wait to come and see your farm, I hope you bake me some apple pie.
    While you and Laurie are doing farm chores, I will take pictures.
    Enjoy!!!

    Love Moe

    Maureen on Nov 12, 2013 at 9:10 pm | Reply

    • Moe, I think you better pick up the pie at Metro on your way over. Get some ice-cream too.

      Laurie

      Laurie May from Mono on Nov 13, 2013 at 10:45 pm | Reply

  11. Laurie, I absolutely love your blogs and am so delighted that you’re sharing your gift of writing and absolutely crazy sense of keen observation with others… My mouth watered for warm, yummy, banana bread the entire time I read your letter and reflections of country living! Keep them coming 🙂

    Denise Heaslip from Hornings Mills on Nov 14, 2013 at 9:01 pm | Reply

    • Thanks Denise. I’m glad that people enjoy reading about my “crazy sense of keen observation”. I’ve been told that the most ridiculous things always seem to happen to me–and it’s true. But–life is never dull.

      Laurie

      Laurie May from Mono on Nov 15, 2013 at 6:43 pm | Reply

  12. No need to fear the banana bread baker, Diane! Being one myself I can assure we have the best intentions. Laurie, I can’t believe I had not heard some of those Mansfield stories – you are holding out on some of us! A lovely, humourous blog once again! Looking forward to your next posting. (Note it has taken me a while to respond — busy mashing banana to stock up on banana bread for the long winter ahead.)
    Ann

    Ann from Orangeville on Nov 26, 2013 at 8:33 am | Reply

  13. Ann–thanks for your comment. You have to understand that I couldn’t tell people too many of those crazy stories. We wanted people to think we were a “nice normal family”. Now that the boys have grown up, I’m free to blog about those unbelievable incidents. Stay tuned for more.
    Hee Hee!

    Laurie May from Mono on Nov 27, 2013 at 10:03 pm | Reply

  14. Awsome stories Mrs. May! I cant wait for the next one. you now I was driving one day and I sware I saw that barn! I think its an old farm house or something. keep it up

    RACHEL.M YOUR GR. 4

    rachel.m your student! from calodon on Sep 23, 2014 at 4:42 pm | Reply

    • Hi Rachel: I was thrilled to read your message. You are the first student to post a comment on one of my blog posts. Do you think you did see that barn? Maybe you did! Love, Mrs. May

      Laurie May on Sep 25, 2014 at 9:31 pm | Reply

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