OK Friday Barn Fair: Top 6 Reasons to Visit!

OK Friday Barn Fair_Betty's(4)_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling PicturesWe all revel in a good farmer’s market, and OK Friday Barn Fair, launched by Burl’s Creek Event Grounds, has just taken things up a notch (or four). This weekly arts and market space, located in Oro-Medonte and conveniently en route to cottage country, showcases a wide range of goods from local farmers and vendors, selected Toronto imports, and live musical performances.  I recently had a chance to visit OK Friday Barn Fair and loved it, and am here to report to you my top six reasons for visiting.

1. There’s an amazing and thoughtful array of local goods.  You’ll find wonderful local produce, cheese, meats, maple syrup, honey, as well as jewelry and other crafted goodness at OK Friday Barn Fair. When you meet the farmers and craftspeople doing the growing and the making, you’ll also know that they’ve been selected with care and in collaboration with The Karma Project, a non-profit cooperative dedicated to promoting sustainable and accessible local food.

2. Cottage-goers never had it so good. So it’s Friday and you’re desperate to leave the city and you didn’t quite find the time to buy what you need to make your weekend the culinary delight you were hoping for.  Never fear! You now have delicious local options that are moons away from the jaded produce from Foodland in Barrie or the IGA in Wherever. Stretch your legs, score some great food, and support local farmers and businesses while you’re at it.

OK Friday Barn Fair_fresh produce(2)_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling Pictures OK Friday Barn Fair_baked goods_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling PicturesOK Friday Barn Fair_Nocturna Jewellery(3)_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling Pictures OK Friday Barn Fair_Maddington Farms_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling Pictures

Or, if cooking after the commute feels too much, grab dinner from the eateries at OK Friday. Rodney’s Oyster House offers up its famous oysters, mussels, and lobster rolls. Fans of Toronto’s restaurant trinity Fat Pasha, Rose and Sons, and Big Crow will be pleased to know that Anthony Rose also presents a range of his wares for sale.  Enjoy tastings of award-winning VQA Norman Hardie wines, and take a bottle home with you.  And for those of us lucky enough to be guests for a weekend away, it goes without saying that OK Friday Barn Fair is a treasure trove of lovely gifts for host or hostess.

OK Friday Barn Fair_Rodney's Oysters(3)_Image by Daniel WilliamsDowling Pictures
3.  The locals never had it so good.  One of the magical things about OK Friday Barn Fair and Burl’s Creek Event Grounds generally is the boost its giving to its community of Oro-Medonte. The market and grounds provide business development, cultural programming, and visibility to a beautiful region of Ontario. Restoration work on a 1930’s landmark barn with soaring 40 foot ceilings has been undertaken with assistance from the Mennonite community, and will serve as a destination event space, including weddings. During my visit to OK Friday Barn Fair, we enjoyed not just performances by Reuben and the Dark, but also by a local school who treated us to singing and their ukeleles, which were received through a musical grant. The presence of the local community of Oro-Medonte is infused throughout the market and the grounds.

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4.  Drop by or spend the day.  If you only have time for a quick stop, the amazing vendors will help you make the most of every minute.  But if you have the luxury of a day to spend, it’s worth the trip to go. Time moves easily as you check out the grounds, browse the stalls, or just take in the glorious natural setting.  The eating is great (of course), and the music is an ever-changing series of local Canadian talent – this week is Dan Mangan. You can even heighten your peace of mind with an outdoor mid-day yoga practice at 3pm with Shanti Vira Yoga Studio and Green River Yoga Company.

5.  The music festivals!  OK Friday Barn Fair runs every Friday from 2 to 8 pm except for July 24, when Burl’s Creek hosts WayHome Music and Arts Festival (Neil Young headlines days of jam-packed talent) and August 7, when the huge Boots and Hearts Music Festival comes to town.  With over 700 acres of pristine land, Burl’s Creek is Canada’s largest outdoor event venue, with space for 60,000 people and 45,000 campers.

6.  It’s a labour of love. During my visit to OK Friday Barn Fair, I had the unexpected pleasure of sitting next to Burl’s Creek owner Stan Dunford during lunch (by Anthony Rose!). His goal was unwavering and simple from its inception: to create a world class facility. When asked what motivated Stan to take on this project, he points to his nephew, a fellow lover of music and the person who helped inspire the expansive vision behind Burl’s Creek. Stan talked about how the heart of an endeavour like this was never clearer to him than when a music festival was cancelled, but 40,000 people showed up anyway. They weren’t there for the music (there was none), he explained, but the chance to be together.  The core of Burl’s Creek is not just food and fun, but family and friendship.  It’s a good place to be.

OK Friday Barn Fair_Northwinds planters(3)_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling Pictures

The OK Friday Barn Fair operates every Friday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. until October 9, excluding July 24 and August 7 when Burl’s Creek has planned festival events.

Photo credits: Daniel Williams/Dowling Pictures

On Selfies and Motherhood

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Until Nathalie brought it up, I had never given much thought to the selfie. Largely because I don’t see very many, with my kids too young to selfie and me too old to know people who do. In theory, I don’t see much wrong with a selfie, or even a load of them, although in practice wouldn’t it get dull fairly fast?

As for me? No, I don’t selfie. It hadn’t occurred to me to, but because I gave it some thought because of this blog, I can now illustrate more reasons why not.

Remember the foster kittens I mentioned?  Well, the last one was finally released from the vet yesterday and he returned to my house. I assumed the reunion with his siblings would be a happy one.  Then, as I was about to sit down to dinner with the kids (husband works nights), I heard myself say, “I smell cat poo.”

Frozen, I sniffed again. “I think it’s on you.”  I pointed to middle son, seated at the table.

“I don’t have cat poo on me,” he said, as if I were ridiculous.

My eyes scanned down until I saw the blobs and smears on his shirt. I helped him take it off and went upstairs to the toilet to scrape, wash, soak (and silently cuss).  I was drying my hands when middle son walked up the stairs, swinging his pants.

“What are you doing?”

“My pants smell like poo, so I took them off.”

“Stop swinging them then! You could be flinging the poo everywhere.”

“They just smell like poo,” he said patiently, “they don’t have poo on them.”

But of course they did, all across the middle section. I scraped, washed and soaked that up too, then searched for the cats. I caught the culprit, and cleaned her up. What could cause such strange behaviour? Perhaps her brother’s return stressed her?

I finally return to stiff risotto and soggy salad but before I sit, the boys point to the couch: “There’s poo there too.” What? I walk tentatively over. It’s everywhere! All over my iPad case, the floor and who knows where else? Stop moving! I cry. The two youngest have stepped in it and trekking it around.

One is sent hobbling on his heels to the bathroom; I carry the other. I run the bath, and quarantine all the kittens in the bathroom. I go back to the kitchen and start cleaning all the disgustingness. My youngest is three; I thought I was done with this nonsense.  By now, to avert contamination, my eldest is basically standing on his chair.

The doorbell rings. Seriously?  I hate solicitations anyway, but never more than now. I am so going to send the person away, or maybe we can just pretend we’re not here.  Except all the lights are on and she can see me through the window in the door.

Arg! It’s the Toronto Environmental Alliance, and I actually want to support them and have done for years. I tell her that I have to clean up cat poo and it’s everywhere and can she please come back in 10 minutes. I go back to cleaning up the cat crap in the kitchen and then notice I am getting dripped on. I look up.  O.M.G.

I run upstairs and my youngest is bailing water out of the bathtub onto the floor and the flood is leaking through to the kitchen below.  I freak out, just as effectively as I have every other time he’s done it. Only his size prevents me from flushing him down the toilet.

Cut! I could continue, but why bother. You get the picture.  There’s not a word of a lie, and it’s only a bit more outrageous than many a night around here.

Why would I selfie this??

And yet…

Anyone who’s into it could tell you that parenthood is equal parts gore and glory, and they trade places with schizophrenic alacrity.

For today I took my youngest to the beach, in search for his brothers who were spending the day there with their school.  It should come as a surprise to no one that I could not find them, but all was not lost, not at all. My baby has been asking me for days to go to the beach, and we were finally here. Just us two. Instead of trailing along for his brothers’ events, my youngest took centre stage. We played at the beach, and I gave him the best that I have: my full attention.

It was gorgeous outside and in, and I took quite a few pics of him with my phone to record it.

And then: I took a selfie.

IMG_20150623_142133Lopsided pony tail, wisps of hair flying with the wild wind, sporting gold rimmed sunglasses found in the car and almost certainly bought by my husband from the thrift store along with 15 others as a joke three Christmas dinners ago.  Retro is in again, and I think I could actually look pretty cool in those shades if only my face were 40% bigger.

I had a sense of what I looked like, but I took the selfie (and some selfies with my little son) anyway.  I took it because on that beach I had survived the day before and was still standing there in the sand, in the present – truly, madly, deeply. I took it because there was no one else to take it, and that wasn’t good enough. I took it because when my son looks at pictures of this stunning day, I want him to know that I was there too, that I looked at all the rocks he showed me, that we dug for pirate treasure together, and that I gave him my sweater when the windblown sand stung his skin.

I took the selfie because I was satisfied, and I wanted to remember it.

How to Transfer a Photograph Onto Wood: Easy DIY Tutorial

Sorry for the glitch this morning where the post was published without photographs (in a post about photography!).  I think I have chased the ghost in the computer away. 

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Ever since catching a few photo transfer craft projects online, it’s been on my to do list.  I love natural materials so I focused on transfers to wood blocks. In the spirit of discovery for photography month here at 4 Mothers, I’ve just my first batch delighted to report that I think this is a keeper!  It’s easy (easy enough to do with patient children), takes few materials (fewer than I saw listed in other online tutorials), and makes a memorable and inexpensive keepsake or gift. You do know that Father’s Day is around the corner, right?

 

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What you’ll need:

– a block of unfinished wood (from the dollar store, or scrap from the hardware store)

– a photograph printed from a laser printer onto regular copy paper (note: the photo will end up being a mirror image unless you flip it on your computer before you print it.)

– Mod Podge or gel medium

– a sponge brush (or paint brush, which I used)

That’s it!  I went to the art store because I couldn’t find my jar of Mod Podge, and was all ready to buy that and a gel medium. The beautiful thing about art and craft stores is that the people there actually practice these things, and the young salesperson told me that Mod Podge and gel medium basically do the same thing. This fellow earned instant credibility as he had done transferred lots of photos in his time, including onto wood. Loved walking out of the store with just one product and more cash in my wallet.

What You’ll Do

1.  Cut the printed photograph to fit the wood to your liking.

2.  Paint a layer of Mod Podge onto the picture side of the printed photograph.  Be gentle here, especially if using a paintbrush rather than a sponge brush. I thought I was but my brush took off a corner of the picture.

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3.  Paint a layer of Mod Podge onto the wood’s surface where you want the photo displayed.

4.  Place the photograph picture side down onto the Mod Podged wood, so that the two Mod Podged surfaces meet.

5.  Smooth out the photograph with a flat sided tool (I used my rewards card from the art store, naturally).

6.  Let dry completely (2 to 3 hours).  (The art guy dries his for 24 hours “to be safe” but I like to walk wild, and just a few hours worked out over here.)

7.  Cover photo paper with a wet rag for a few minutes.

8.  Rub the white of the paper off the wooden block.  You’ll do this with a rag or your fingers by gently massaging the paper in different directions. The key word here is gentle; if you’re even a bit rigorous, you will rub the photograph off too and expose the wood underneath.  The goal is to remove the white surface of the paper while leaving the printed surface intact.  I think a bit of exposure of the wood is okay since the overall look is pretty rustic (I left mine alone), but you could also fill in the spaces with a grey marker as needed.

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You’ll probably need to repeat steps 7 and 8, going through the rubbing process more than once.  I thought I was done the first time and was surprised at how cloudy the photo was after it dried, so I had to get back to it.  Do it as many times as you need to until you’re satisfied with the image.

9. Once you’re finished removing all the white paper and the photo is dry, apply a layer or two of Mod Podge to the surface to seal the deal.  (It’s a sealant as well as a glue.)

That’s it!  This is one of those rare craft tutorials that is actually easier than it looks.  Hands on time was much less than an hour, and it’s pretty satisfying work. My son watched with pleasure as I transferred a photo of his first sleepover – this would be an easy sell for crafting with patient kids, and I think it would make a lovely gift from a child to anyone.

You can use any type of wood you like, as long as it’s unfinished so the photograph will stick (some people use sandpaper for extra grit; I didn’t need it), but I used a nice thick block that can easily stand up on its own.

Finally, the glory of this DIY project is that it’s both fun and forgiving. The goal of paper on wood is not to reflect perfection (for the birds, as they say) but beauty, through the people and images you find it in.

When There’s No Photo Opp

Exactly one week ago, I arrived home one night to find my three kids buzzing and awake way past bedtime and my husband busying himself in and around the bathroom. I immediately looked inside the clawfoot tub for the prize: three tiny kittens in a furry heap. Ooo, they were cute!  Instinctively I turned to get my camera: what a photo opp!

My husband gently took my arm before I left the bathroom.  “Carol,” he said quietly, “they warned us that the kittens may not survive.”

I didn’t get the camera. Instead, I returned to the tub and took closer look. The orphaned kittens were only 3 or 4 weeks old, far too young to be on their own. With no mother to care for and teach them, they were thin and vulnerable. They were also sick – my husband had discovered worms in their diarrhea. This was our first inkling that as newbie foster parents, perhaps we were unprepared.

Six days later, I had been to veterinary hospitals across the city as many times. The rescue organization has relationships with certain clinics and to keep costs down, these are the ones I was asked to go to.  The three kittens had: roundworm, upper respiratory infections, Calicivirus, and Giardia. At different times, two became hypoglycemic to the point of collapse and required emergency runs to the vet hospital.

In the meantime, I could not great a straight or consistent answer about the risk of contagion of the parasitic worms to my children, and continue to worry about it. I also had to explain to them that the kittens may not make it. In an attempt to contextualize the situation, I explained that sometimes orphaned animals are so sick or their lives so difficult that they can be put down. This was,how shall I say, not as helpful as I hoped it would be.

I did not decide to foster kittens on a whim. My husband and I discussed it at length, and we thought for various reasons it was a good idea. It’s humbling, I find, to make missteps even when trying to tread carefully.

I was trying my best for these little kittens, but it’s no exaggeration that yesterday when I was told to take all three to a clinic where they would stay for treatment until Saturday, I felt pretty much nothing but relief. I had devoted every moment of spare time and many moments of stolen time to these kittens for a week, and I both wanted and needed the time back. I hope when they return to us that they will be reasonably healthy.

I’ll follow this project to the end, but I don’t want to foster rescued kittens again, not now anyway. I’m not sure I even want to have a pet now, although I’ve certainly gone and put the idea more concretely than ever in my children’s minds. And I’m sure it will be a barrel of laughs when my boys watch me hand over the kittens to their permanent adoptive parents in a few weeks.

I like my camera. I love a beautiful photo. But at the moment I have no shots of the kittens, because they’d look adorable in the snap, and that’s not what this experience has been.  The little things are struggling to get off death’s doorstep, and I’ve been struggling to help them, my kids are struggling to understand, and the rescue organization is overwhelmed. Sometimes life isn’t a photo opp.

Maybe later, when the happen ending comes.  Fingers crossed.

On Researching Family Histories: Guest Post by Meg McInnis

We are so pleased to present Meg McInnis, friend and mother of two, as our guest poster this week for At Issue.  Here she shares her ongoing journey of discovering her family’s historical pathways.  Enjoy!

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Perhaps it was growing up fatherless.  Perhaps it was looking at my somewhat eccentric family and wondering, how did we get like this? Whatever the reason, my interest in family history began early on.  I was lucky enough in Grade 8 to have an elective course in genealogy offered at my school.  I wrote letters to my grandmother and my great aunt in Germany and I received a wealth of information in return.  I was excited to be able to fill in my family tree for a few generations.

I found out that the family had lived as farmers in Westphalia since sometime in the seventeenth century.  There are holes in the narrative due to records being lost over time.  These people were tied to the land and even now the original farm is owned by descendants of the same family.

Imagine my delight when I discovered family tree searches online!  One day, I entered my elusive father’s name into ancestry.ca and got a hit.  I felt the excitement physically rising within me until I realized I was holding my breath.  The link took me to the family tree of his cousin and I began a correspondence with this wonderful man in England.  We traded information and I have a whole new set of interesting people to get to know, some rural, some in service like a groom who moved with his family from Lincolnshire to London.  I even have a publican in my tree.

The imagination is a wonderful thing.  From a few facts we can get a glimmering of  the person’s life, like the sailor who is last mentioned at age 38, or the railroad worker who was beheaded by an engine, or the widows who somehow raised their children in a time when there were no pension plans.

I can happily spend hours looking up records to look for clues as to what might have happened to them.  It is a never-ending puzzle.  And when I find an answer, I can happily share it with my family.

Oral Personal Histories of Women I Love: A Winding Process

No less than three times with three different people have I tried to compile and compose a personal history based on oral interviews.  First with my mother, then an elderly friend, and finally an aunt who was like a grandmother to me.  With my mother I just took notes, but with the next two women, I sat down for some beautiful, unforgettable hours and recorded interviews about all aspects of their lives.

The goal was grand: I wanted to transcribe the interviews, and extract and recount a narrative that reflected the woman’s voice and subjectivity, and convey all the fascination I felt for their lives.

Dear Reader, I failed.

I have learned a few lessons about oral storytelling though. For one thing, it takes eons to transcribe interviews and gives me a sore neck. Also, people do not talk in linear pathways, but take rambling strolls through memory, criss-crossing back and forth through time and across anecdotes, and don’t always bother with consistency (not to be confused with truth).  The most intense and interesting and integral revelations are often exactly the ones she will ask you not to include.  And that trying to piece together the vagaries of anyone’s life into tidy chapters that flow one to the next, and doing so with some decent literary texture, is a grueling and massive work.

Which is why I have three incomplete personal histories under my belt.

As suggested above, I viewed this, for a long time, as an utter failure. Two of the women I worked with have long passed away, and I presented neither with the book of themselves I had so clearly envisioned and told them about.  Their stories, their amazing stories, lie tucked away in cabinets or the recesses of my computer and no one knows them except me.

And yet… I’m not sure what has shifted for me exactly… maybe a greater appreciation for grey areas?… but recently I am not experiencing my unfinished projects as the defeats they once were to me.  It’s true I haven’t accomplished my written goals of preserving their lives, but I did take enough steps to at least preserve the ability to to do so.  Their stories are not public, but neither are they lost. At the least, I have the interviews, the raw data and materials that they shared.  With a bit of editing out to honour their wishes of what should not be shared, the histories of these women can be passed on, imperfect but intact, as they are.  Maybe my one of my sons, or my great grand niece should I be so lucky, will come across the files one day and do with them what I couldn’t, or something else entirely that I can’t imagine.  The chance has been preserved.

Or maybe it will be me who comes back to it.  It’s possible that the chance that has been preserved has been preserved for me, and the thought of this is as warming as the spring.  Maybe I will revisit these projects at a more right time and have better success pulling the pieces together, and the talk of failure will have even less hold than it does. I feel reassured by this possibility, how it brings me just that much closer to the lives of the women I love. They are remembered, and somehow with that, the process of preserving their history feels yet alive and well.

The Many Faces of Preserving Family History

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We’ve devoted this month to family histories because we are, quite simply, captivated by them. They feature in Beth-Anne’s, Nathalie’s and my life in various forms, not least of which our efforts to capture what is happening in our lives with our families now, which we know will become historical soon enough.

I love to listen, and have listened, for hours to my elders telling me stories of their lives.  I’m most struck by content of these family stories, but form can also be mesmerizing. There was the breath-taking quilt hand felted and stitched by a older friend who wanted a way to commemorate the pile of sweaters her mother left when she died.  Or the one I saw online that salvaged the favourite pieces of clothing of her children. Or a handmade item, like the sweater my mother-in-law knit for my husband bearing his name across the chest, that all three of my children have worn in turn.

Then there are photo books, photo walls and even birthday cards that depict the highlights of the year. The video footage, the journals, the personalized children’s stories or songs or paintings created by the people who love them most. The carefully saved letter stacks, the elaborate family trees, the sepia images captured on slides or cracked photo paper.  I’m greedy for all of it.

Here on the blog, over the last few weeks, we’ve given some windows into preserving our own histories, and this week, we’re delving into this domain a bit more. To share what we’ve done to document and capture what it is that makes up who we are and the ones we hold most dear.  Maybe talk a bit about what efforts we’ve undertaken and what has worked, and maybe also about what has stalled or been let alone altogether. Trying to preserve memories reflects a bit of the scope and depth of the histories themselves, and we hope you’ll find it as interesting as we do.

Image credit

My Grandmother’s Teacups

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When Nathalie first proposed the topic for this week – how a single object recounts some part of our family history – I knew this was a simplified project for me.  This is because there are only two older objects in my possession to choose from.  One is a batik sarong from my mother’s eldest sister; the other is a set of teacups from my maternal grandmother, who I saw for the last time as a four year old, and who I don’t remember.

I’ve opted to tell you about the teacups. A few years after my mother immigrated to Canada with me and my two siblings, she received word that my grandmother was dying.  My mother got on a plane for a final goodbye, too late in the end, and these teacups eventually came back with her.

There are five of them, blue and white.  I think they are made of porcelain. I don’t know whether they were once accompanied by a teapot; neither does my mother remember.

I don’t know if they were used for drinking, either for everyday or for special tea ceremonies, or whether they were ornamental items.  I don’t know whether they were treasures handed down to my grandmother or whether she bought them at the corner stall.  I don’t know where they were made, or the meaning behind the images on them, and have never tried to learn.  I have no idea if they are valuable or not, and couldn’t be less interested.

I do know that my mother has let me have them.  They sit atop a high ledge that surrounds my dining room, about a foot away from each other, and high enough that they are as secure as they can be from my three playful boys. Even so, it’s possible that a ball or plane or other projectile could shatter one (but hopefully not the others as they are interspersed). While the children are young, the only truly safe alternative is to put them away, out of view, and this I will not do.

When my mother came to Canada with her three kids and little else, she left quite a lot in Malaysia:  a large, close-knit family, a career as a nurse/midwife, a good standard of living, a life she built with her husband before he suddenly died.  For reasons only she will really know, she doesn’t, or can’t, talk much about the things she left behind.  I used to wonder about this, question it, evaluate it, because I so much wanted to know something, anything, more.

I don’t do this much anymore. I have my grandmother’s teacups, and I will be careful with them.  And if I’m not mistaken, it gave my mother some pleasure when I put them up on my dining room ledge.