A Good Home

SHE HAS TWIGS IN HER HAIR

I simply love this review by Toronto writer Lionel Gayle:

Blog Photo - Lionel Gayle and Bookcase - Header Image

 

SHE HAS TWIGS IN HER HAIR

Plants flourishing in the garden—such a colourful scene.  Perhaps it stirred up envy or stoked admiration in a few visitors and passers-by.  Everything seemed hunky-dory, they probably said.  And the gardener just had to sow the seeds, or plant the seedlings, or stick the cuttings in fertile soil. Plus, adding water if it didn’t rain. A few months later, jackpot! Pretty flowers ready for the vase, and fresh vegetables for the steamer.

Growing a garden from roots to shoots—or by any method—is not so simple.

Ask Cynthia Reyes.  The “passionate gardener” shares a piece of her horticultural world in her latest gardening memoir, “Twigs in my Hair” (2019).

She’ll tell you, “Gardening is much more than growing pretty flowers and nutritious vegetables.”

And, let’s say you decided to garden outside of Toronto as she does, prepare yourselves to wage a helluva war—or wars—with wild creatures, including rabbits and squirrels.

People will say gardening is hard work. But you don’t have to be interested in gardening per se to appreciate this book—157 pages of fun reading, and colourful photographs. Take the chance to snoop into Cynthia’s family life, and find out which member prefers to grow vegetables than flowers.

Just promise you won’t whine because the pictures have no captions. And, don’t liken the images to children without names

“Twigs in my Hair” is a synopsis of Cynthia Reyes’ life journey. A journey that includes her dream of becoming a gardener when she became an adult and acquired her own home. From rural Jamaica, where the failure of her first childhood garden broke her heart, she’s managed to forge a symbiosis with nature, on the outskirts of Toronto.

This little book has lots of real-life gems. As you hide indoors from Covid-19, just use the gardening landscape as a backdrop to some of Cynthia’s lifetime activities. And hide your surprise when she talks frankly about her “days and nights of sin” that turned her into “a dirty old woman.”

What she describes as the “conflict of horticultural proportions” resulted in a bangarang with her husband Hamlin Grange (who supplied the photos in this book). But what was the fight all about? And did they ever learn to garden together?

Did Cynthia ever find out why her gardening teacher refused to see her in his last days? And what was she doing in South Africa when the said tall, white-haired gardener died?

And while you hunt for those juicy bits, find out how the mother and wife, who styled herself as “a fierce gardener” reacted when her gardener friend, Les, pulled a prank on her. And see who saved her from the gigantic humiliation.

Twigs in my Hair: A Gardening Memoir

 

 

 

 

A Good Home, First snowfall

An Early Winter

Nobody I know was ready for this year’s first snowfall.

Yes, we are Canadians, but recent years have spoiled us: we got used to first snowfall in December — even late December. 

Blog Photo - autumn - trees on N Road

So we were cruising along, still high on the beautiful late autumn weather when – wham! Last Monday, we got several inches of the white stuff.

Pretty, unless you have to drive in it.  And therein lay the rub: most drivers I know had not replaced summer tires with winter ones. I plead guilty.

Blog Photo - Garden in winter - snowy walls and trees

These are wintry garden scenes from much of last week. 

Blog Photo - Garden in Winter - Snowy branch

Blog Photo - Garden in Winter - snowy tree and walls

It’s not that I hate winter. I know we need it. It’s just that I don’t like driving or walking on snow and ice. 

And that sounds unCanadian, I know.

 

A Good Home, Architectural Conservancy, Author Cynthia Reyes, Barns, Canadian Families, Country Homes, Doors Open, Family Moments, Farms, Home Decor

Home at The Grange – Part 4

The house that the Elliott family built back in the late 1850’s fell into the right hands nearly 130 years later.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick photo of Apples and Wendy

It’s a good thing it did.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick early photo of family and chickens

In 1986, the place was so dilapidated that another buyer might have either demolished the house and barn, or renovated the character out of them.

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Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick early photo of Verandah etc

But the Boothmans had the vision, patience — and resources needed — to bring the property to new life, without destroying its character.

Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange House CU Hamlin

~~

Allow me to digress a little at this point, please…

Remember that the Boothman kids refused at first to to move with their parents into the family’s farmhouse? It was Hallowe’en 1986, and with a cemetery for a neighbour, the children were afraid the ghosts would come next door to their home. (See Part 2)

Blog Photo - Doors Open Clarington Photo Cemetery

That historic cemetery is also on the Doors Open tour this year.  

It was the Elliott family who donated the land for this cemetery and the church that once stood there  — Kendal’s first church, New Connexion Methodist.  It was later named for the Elliotts and their neighbours, the McLeans.  

Of the two neighbouring families, the McLeans achieved greater fame.

A McLean grandson, (James Stanley McLean), became founder and president of the well-known Canada Packers company.  Wealthy and influential, James and his wife built a stately Georgian-style house on 50 acres in Toronto.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Estates of Sunnybrook photo of McLean House front

They called it “Bay View” — which later inspired the name of one of Canada’s wealthiest neighborhoods, Bayview Avenue.

Today their former home belongs to world-famous Sunnybrook Hospital.  Renamed “McLean House” in their honour, the house is used for events — a fundraiser for Sunnybrook’s medical research.

~~

But let’s return to the main story of how the Boothmans saved the Elliott house and created a beloved home for their own family.  

In restoring and renovating the property as they did, Nick and Wendy preserved its history, and went far beyond.

They gave it a new life, deserving of a new name: “The Grange”.  The Boothmans have therefore created a legacy of their own.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick Panorama of House

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Three generations of the Boothman family — and their friends — have enjoyed The Grange.

Wendy remembers that “one of the children’s friends called and asked if he could get married here, saying: ‘The Grange is top of our list because of the memories and the setting. Is it doable?’ “

“Yes”, she replied.

In all, five weddings have been held here. Son Thomas, and 4 of the children’s friends, all held their weddings at The Grange.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick photo of wedding

Much has changed in 31 years.

 

Blog Photo - Doors Open Bernice Photo The Grange2

Wendy has launched a variety of ground-breaking projects. She’s assisted on some long-distance projects too. Born in S. Africa, she’s proud of helping her brother-in-law Mike with a project, led by Nelson Mandela, to develop effective volunteerism in S. Africa.

Blog Photo - Doors open MikeandMandela

More recently, she won, on behalf of Durham Region, the Guinness world record for the longest picnic table in the world.

Nick, meanwhile, has become a well-known author of several books.

Blog Photo - Nicholas Boothman Book 2

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The Boothman children have grown up. Wendy and Nick now have 5 grandchildren.

It’s the grandchildren’s time to explore and enjoy The Grange — this home settled by the Elliotts and transformed by the Boothmans, more than a hundred years apart.

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick photo of Grandkids and kites.JPG

It doesn’t snow as heavily as it used to, and Wendy misses the snow. But she and Nick cherish their home, with its “peace and quiet, the gardens and the views”.

On June 10th, 2017, as part of Doors Open Clarington, The Grange hosts its biggest audience: hundreds of people from the area and far beyond will explore this storied home. 

Blog Photo - Doors Open Nick photo of Grandkids at mailbox

Wendy and Nick will warmly welcome everyone, happy that they took the risk, 31 years ago, of restoring a property that many would have rejected.

What an achievement.

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Photo Credits:

McLean House photo from The Estates of Sunnybrook

Photo 5 by Hamlin Grange

3rd, 6th & 11th  photos by Bernice Norton

9th, 10th and 12th photos by C. McSorley

14th photo by Marilyn Morawecz

Other photos provided by Nicholas Boothman

~~

To contact Doors Open Clarington:

Co- Chairperson Bernice Norton

905-623-9982

bernice_norton@hotmail.com

~~

Thanks to Doors Open Clarington and the Boothmans for research assistance.

A Good Home, Country Homes, Country Living, Country roads, Faith, Family, Following your dreams, Frederick Farncomb, Fruit trees, Gardens, Heritage Homes, historic neighborhoods, Home, Home Decor, Homes, Life in canada

Joyful Times at Ebor House – Pt. 4 in the Ebor House series

You don’t really own an old house: you take care of it for the next generation.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Room over kitchen

That’s what Ron has done. And as we walked through the rooms of his home, I felt his deep connection to it.

Blog Photo - Ebor House curved staircase

Blog Photo - Ebor House Daughter's Bedroom

“I ‘get’ the house,” he said. “And I also feel a connection with the family who lived here.”

“What’s the spirit of this home like?” I asked.

Blog Photo - Ebor House ron sits on table

“The house is very nurturing. Not just for me, but also my friends who visit. It’s a very nurturing home.”

Blog Photo - Ebor House Ron pats Bebo

“But there were also tragedies”, I said. “Doesn’t that affect the house’s vibe?”

Ron replied: “Most old houses have seen tragedy. But this was also a very happy home. Over the years there were births, christenings, weddings, dinner parties, children playing, picnics on the lawns…  And I feel that joy here.”

**

Acres of land surrounded the Farncomb family home. Fruit, berries and vegetables grew in their garden in the early to mid-1900’s.

I imagine summer days at Ebor House. Children sent to pick cherries and having fun doing it….

Blog Photo - Bond Head Kids cherry-picking at Newcstle

Adults picking raspberries a bit more intently….

Blog Photo - Bond Head people Raspberry picking

A family member trying to teach the pet dog new tricks.

check credit for this photo
B & W Photos from the Jack Gordon and Cecil Carveth collections, Newcastle Village and District Historical Society

And I imagine wedding parties.

A newspaper story about a wedding at Ebor House in the 1890’s said:

Blog Photo - Ebor House Front 2

After the service, which was performed by the rector, the Rev. Canon Farncomb, the wedding party were entertained at a dejeuner given by the bride’s sister, Mrs. Alfred Farncomb, wife of Newcastle’s popular physician.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Living room reverse

“… The bride was a picture in her traveling costume of broadcloth, the chapeau stitched and trimmed with grey wings and tie to match. The wedding presents were costly and numerous. A great deal of silver came from friends in England.

“Among the gifts was a massive loving cup, lined with gold, upon which was engraved the family crest, it being an heirloom for many generations: a solid silver teapot, tables, dessert and tea spoons, a silver soup tureen from Dr. and Mrs. Tom Farncomb (Trenton) , a handsome china dinner set from Dr. and Mrs. Alfred Farncomb (Newcastle).”

Blog Photo - Ebor House dining Room4

And another story about another Farncomb wedding:

Blog Photo - Ebor House and Church Entrance

“….There were vases of pink and white carnations and antirrhinum on the altar and the coloured rays of the afternoon sun streaming through the stained glass windows of nave and chancel made the scene one of entrancing loveliness. ….

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…The bride, given in marriage by her uncle… wore a princess dress of white satin brocaded with lilies of the valley in velvet. She wore a long net veil and carried a bouquet of white lilies and carnations. She wore a gold locket, a gift of the groom….

A reception was held at Ebor House, ancestral home of the bride’s maternal forbears.”

Blog Photo - Ebor House Entrance lookign to lawn 3

Faith and family were important to the Farncombs. Church was a family-affair. Frederick and Jane’s son John was the rector at St. George’s,  Alfred taught Sunday school, and Alfred’s wife Hannah was the church organist.

But no family is immune to tragedy. Despite all the success and influence, all the joyful family events, all the involvement with their church,  the Farncombs also experienced heartbreaking sorrow.

**

Next: An event that tested even the strongest faith.