Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
Project Ecosphere a huge success in Brome
By Manfried Rieder Starhemberg
Note to editors: I am sending you the pictures first and the story will be at the bottom:
For about a third of the people attending "Project Ecosphere" at the Brome county fairgrounds, Tina Defoy, a professional dancer, was a star attraction this weekend. She gave a number of stunning performances which were enjoyed by people of all ages and it was really cute to see little girls trying to emulate her every move on the sidelines. Even CBC camera people were focussed on her instead of intervieweing the people pushing their "green" products. The show, in its fourth year actually was a huge success. 180 exhibitors were present and represented the new trend of organic farming, hand made and recyclable products, facial creams and soaps that are healthy and use no harmful chemicals and particularly interesting were some of the exhibits of clothing made from non synthetic materials.
A number of masso- therapists gave demonstrations about healthy massages, some of them looked so deliciously soothing that your's truly almost succumbed to the temptation,but of course one has to return to the belly dancing exhibition after dutifully examining the large Yurt.
The children had fun, there was a miniateure train to ride, games galore, and some of the food vendors gave out treats. La Cafetier of Sutton did a landslide business with their beautiful panninis, the beer was cold and reasonably priced and for the more serious visitors, there were lectures from the building of an ecology friendly house to making a home more energy efficient. Unfortunately, not many people at the event spoke English, all the press information was in French only, as were the lecture presentations. Andd sadly, of the 80+ businesses we spoke to and interviewed, not a single one had a bilingual pamphlet, business card or press kit.
Enter Ford: At a large tent, framed by an ancient Ford windstar turned into a moving greenhouse, Sebastian Boudreau of Capital Image in Montreal, representing the car maker, gave a superb presentation of Ford's new hybrid technology, demontrated Ford's use of recycled denim materials, now used to sound-proof Ford vehicles and had at hand samples of Ford's new seat cushion material, which is based on Soya fibres as are the foam particles of Ford's airbag systems, leading to way to Ford's new philosophy to gradually reduce petroleum based plastics from their vehicles.
Eric Ferland whi is in charge of the project was delighted with this year's turnout;. Over the past four years, nearly 36,000 people visited his event and this year's attendance almost ecliped that of the last two years combined. "Just wait for next year", he smiled. "We are going to be back bigger and better yet".
42 years of sheep farming - the Liebrechts of Sutton
By Manfried Rider. Starhemberg
42 years ago Frank Liebrecht got a stipend of $ 15.- for each sheep he purchased. The Quebec government paid for the other 50%. And so it started. Now he has 250 of the critters on 170 acres. It used to be an average of 400,but Frank and Susan cut it down to a manageable size. The little dude in the picture above was a "bottle baby" until yesterday explained Susan. When we entered the barn, the little sheep came running up, bleating sorrowfully and in desperate need of Susan.
"Do you ever fall in love with one of the lambs?", I asked. " "Of course we do, there are some real characters sometime and you hate to see them go, but this is our business and sentimentality does not pay the eletric biill"
For more than 30 years the Liebrechts had an average of 400 sheep, now, they are comfortable with 250. 50 ewes of which shall remain for breeding, the rest of the heard is pre-sold.
"We keep six rams to serve our ewes" explains Frank. "And after each breeding season is over, we replace the rams because I do not tolerate inbreeding. All of our sheep are of a singulat breed and we get new rams for the next season. There is a lot of inbreeding going on in the industry today, but I shall have nothing to do with it. We want the highest and best quality, because our sheep, our lambs, are sold to top consumers and they are expensive."
"I cannot afford a good rack of lamb anymore, I exclaimed":. Frank chuckled and told me to "get some pork, it's a lot cheaper". But, after seeing the incredible amount of work it takes to put a lamb to market, visiting the warm barn where the youngens are being brought up and often hand bottle fed by Susan, then being tranferred into another barn to harden the little guys up and then, seeing them in this incredible pasture, framed by the Sutton mountains on one side and rolling hills on the other, I get it. I am still not able to buy that rack of lamb, but I have just come to realize that it takes an almost superhuman effort for two peole to work every day to produce this delicate meat, the incredible effort that Frank expends weekly to mowe his acreage with his old International Harvester, and the great love that still shines between Frank and Susan,a retired Sutton school teacher.
To prevent the Coyotes menacing the herd, Frank and Susan have a couple of donkeys on the payroll and woe-be-gone to any critter which wants to interfere with the well being of the herd. The donkeys look serene and friendly, they let me pat them, but if need be, they will fight any intruder mercilessly.
The farm of the Liebrecht's is on the corner of Alderbrooke and Jordon roads in Sutton and it is possibly the most beautiful spot in the Sutton area. From the front porch of their log cabin you cansee the whole of the Sutton mountain range, and gazing down, there are all those incredibly beautiful sheep. This is truly what the name"bucolic" symbolizes.
"At 250 head", I am semi retired". muses Frank, to which his wife instantly replied:"You are not, we are not. We got a lot of years left to do this". Good for the Liebrechts. They embody all that is good and wholesome in this farming community of ours and are among the nicest and most welcoming people we have met since moving to Sutton in 1999. A friend of ours owns "La Bergerie", a sweet Bed and Breakfast place that is built around the theme of sheep and lambs. There are wooly creatures everywhere in the house, beautiful paintings of sheep and lamb, and when we called Susan Liebrecht up and asked if your friend Maxime would be able to vitit the farm she immediately affirmed that it would give her and Frank a great pleasure to show our friend around!
Antique car show in Sutton draws a huge crowd
By M. H. Starhemberg
A great crowd of vintage and specialty car lovers congregated to Sutton on Sunday afternoon to experience a superb display of vehicles, from vintage, classic, modified to modern exotic. A numberof vintage motorcycles were also on display, topped by the incomprable Ariel of Chris Shearwood who has possibly the finest collection of this rare breed in Quebec.
This is going to be an annual event, stated Mr. Dwayne McKenney, the organizer of this first presentation of vintage vehicles in downtown Sutton in a decade. There had been a higly successful antique cars show in town, annually organized by Lyndon Gilker, but since he moved to Virginia, the event had lapsed. From the joy people derived at Sunday's event, this will be a huge success. The retaurant terraces were full, there was not a parking space to be had but people did not mind. The whold town gathered at Sutton's public square to embrace the lovely cars, their friendly owners and the great spirit of meeting with friends and neighbors.
Copyright 2011 Maple Leaf Press Agency.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
The death of a newspaper, a comedy in three acts
By Manfried Rieder Starhemberg
The above could have been one of the frontispieces in my old friend's early editions. At age 82, he finally (or temporarily, the jury is still out on this) closed his small newspaper in Colorado and to honor his request, I shall not give his name or the town in which he published. Actually, when the strikers returned to work, his father owned the paper. My friend only took it over on September 20, 1951.
The paper had its heyday when mining was Colorado's biggest industry and the early editions were full of exuberance, advertisements of new mines, want ads, announcements of operatic events in Golden, Colorado, editorials about huge ore finds, a claims register and hundreds of assayers and banks begging for business.
Then the mines started to close and the ads dwindled. Then came the great depression. "We could not get newsprint, not that it was not available, but my father's bank was bankrupt and the paper company did not honor our drafts. We had to drive our old truck clear to Denver and pay cash to the big dailies to buy a couple of rolls of paper. The same with ink. You do that in an unheated vehicle in Colorado in those days was quite a challenge and the ink was frozen solid by the time we got to the unheated printing room".
But they prevailed and after the "old man" died, my friend assumed control. "This is one large war and fairly prosperous years later, with all the war bond advertisements, recruitment posters to be printed and then the great golden years of the survivors coming home, industry picking up and houses to be built and :'a chicken in every pot and a road to every house', the Eisenhower years fed everyone for a while, including our little paper which then had a circulation (paid) of about 8,000".
Business went down from there. When I first met this gentleman, I was in the air force academy in Colorado in 1973, and, as a newspaper man, I asked for part time work everywhere, from Longmont to Boulder, Denver and Aspen, Larchmont and Creely. My friend gave me work. I was to write, do my own typesetting and then help run the press. But, oh joy, he put me on the impressum as "associate editor". At that time we were down to 750 copies of eight pages every week while the local shopper, the Boulder Grapevine had a circulation of 12,000, the Boulder Daily Camera about 40,000 and I don't even wish to remember the number of papers the Denver papers put out. But we stodgily put out our little labor of love every week.
We did have a good advertising to cost ratio, since I earned $ 50.- per week and my friend paid himself $ 175.- as publisher, this was well offset by the Twin Light Inn's $ 40.-/week advertisement of the Friday night specials, we had Burt from the used car store take a $ 150.- ad every week for his great offerings (I purchased a mint 1962 Mercury from him for $ 200.- and my wife got a 1956 Cadillac Sedan de-Ville for $ 300.-)
The local golf course also advertised, as did the pharmacy and the feed store, because most of our loyal readers were the elderly farmers of the area. In the early sixties my friend had replaced the old sheet fed press with a used 60 year old Heidelberg rotary. This was a bitch of a piece of equipment because we had an unheated printing room and so, we had to take a kerosene heater to it about five hours before start up and then we literally used torches to heat up bearings and the rollers, while a couple of volunteers were climbing all over the thing with hair dryers to warm up the rubber rollers. When it ran however, the old girl sang and we hardly ever had a paper rip or problems with ink flow. Of course we were only black ink, which eliminated all the color density problems.
I forgot: Our print was set by an old Linotype typesetting machine, was hand mounted on steel trays, proofed upside down (we old masters of the black art cherish this and the associated smell...) and then the maten was pressed into a plastic matrix which was affixed to the rollers. Rotogravure was used for pictures, plastic sheets, etched by an expensive machine which created the moire, glued on wooden blocks etc. There are probably less than 100 people left who have experienced this form of printing. I loved it all, I used the big Ludlow headline maker to cast a slug of lead into one negative bar of headline.
Sadly, the Air Force decided that I was more useful elsewhere and my wife and I and our first child began our diaspora which carried us from bases in Texas, Nevada, California to New York and eventually, as an instructor, to Canada. But all these years and about 30 newspapers I have worked for part time later, I have kept in touch with my old friend in Colorado.He kept on publishing and lately he was down to 80 copies every week. The old Heidelberg press had been sold for scrap, he kept operating out of his barn, sheet feeding single sheets of newsprint and hand inking them. The local advertising was long gone and all the last issues he hand delivered in his 1954 Studebaker station wagon to his old friends, to the local library, to the museum and the town hall. He would however put in advertisements for his friend, the gas station owner who would give him a bit of extra gas, and the diner where he had his breakfast ("take an extra coffee honey, you look tired"), or the grocery store, where the owner would tell him "No, you can't pay for this, it's just about at the due date and I don't want to throw it out".
"I am just taking a break right now" my friend explained. "This cold weather is not doing me any good but watch out, in spring I am good as new and I am going to open up again. I have a lot of stories I have not written yet and this is just a temporary suspension of the paper". To prove it, he faxed me the payment of his business registration for the next year.
Good luck old friend - continue "all the news that's fit to print"
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Tranquility reigns in Sutton on Saturday night
By Nancy Helmuth
The theme was "Tranquility". Suttonites were invited to walk Depot street on Saturday night at sundown and do so extremely slowly. Every gesture, every foot movement had to be in extreme slow motion to express the theme of the walk, "tranquility". About 200 people came and had a blast as five local artists painted the street, kids of course jumped in between the painted surfaces, projectors were used to beam images of the artwork and the slow walkers onto the walls of surrounding buildings and "a good time was had by all" , in cameradery with family and friends, in reflection of the coming of the colder part of the year, or just in good neighborly harmony. Some people tried to outdo each other in how slowly they could move a leg up and down, inch forward a small step and begin this again.
Meanwhile the artists created octopy and flying fish, snails, balloons and portraits of people on the pavement. (One of them did my husband Manfried):
Altogether a fun filled evening at the first day of Sutton's wonderful Jazz festival and a demonstration that even simple inexpensive events can bring neighbors and townspeople together to do something fun and entertaining.
Project Ecosphere coming to Brome this weekend
By M. H. Starhemberg
On September 24 and 25, the by now internationally known "Project Ecosphere" will have its fourth's annual exhibition at the Brome County Fairgrounds in Lac Brome. 40 guest speakers will lead discussion groups about environmental issues, more than 180 exhibitors will be in place to show their environmentally friendly products, teach about biodiversity, international cooperation or simply to promote their "green" products which range from whole houses to soaps, clothing and cosmetics, energy plants for the home or industry or food products of Quebec that are grownin a sustainable environment.
There are also tons of artists and artisans, some of them displaying beautifully crafted pieces made of native materials. Some companies will showcase clothing manufactured in Quebec from locally available materials and spun or woven by hand or made in a manner leaving only the smallest possible carbon imprint.
One such company is Eco 3R designs, it manufactures and distributes eco-bags made of natural fibers (jute) bags the first CarbonZero certified in Canada. Natural, strong and durable, the burlap sack is the ideal solution to combine ecology and ethics.
Many other companies focus on international cooperation such as the "Fair Trade" organization. And of course political parties, Hydro Quebec and other government agencies will have their representatives at hand to promote their eco-friendly policies. There will be exhibitions of naturally grown Quebec foods and demonstrations of how to prepare it, numerous health spas will be present to explain their individual goals of creating a health regimen for individuals and many artists have also begun to focus ecology in their paintings and sculptures and are well represented.
On a lighter side:
"Dare to Laugh" from Sutton will hold quoting them): "A Mini-Workshop of Laughter - Emotional Ecology. Come and release your stress through movement and games fun ... laughter galore. Make the discovery of this anti-stress natural to incorporate into your daily life".
In the last three exhibitions in Brome, more than 36,000 visitors enjoyed this event which is now becoming a perennial favorite for many townshippers as it is not only educational but entertaining in its scope, visually stimulating and a great weekend getaway for people who are tired of seeing the same old cows and chicken at the townships fairs all summer long.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Township's Shriners feed Sutton at successful fundraiser
By Manfried H. Starhemberg
On Saturday, September 10,the local Shriners invited Sutton to a festive fund raiser at the Royal Canadian Legion hall and Sutton responded: 245 tickets had been sold for $ 15.- each when we arrived at 6"20 pm, and people were still coming in in droves. Dozens of volunteers (and their wifes) manned the kitchen, the outdoors grill and of course the dishwashers. A superb steak, done to individual taste, golden baked potatoes and fresh butter, numerous other dishes for non steak eaters and a fabulous array of deserts was gobbled up by a thankful crowd. Great door prizes were also on display, the best of which was a $ 500.- 36" state-of-the-art TV set.
Kids of all ages had fun watching a little Shriner locomotive touring the grounds, emitting huge plumes of harmless.smoke. This machine was also built by the local members and embodies a 14 hp White Tractor as its powerbase. The Shriners have rolling stock for this little engine but did not bring it to this event.
As always, the funds generated by this event will go to the Shriner's Childrens Hospital foundation which dates back to 1920, when the Shriners first adopted the policy to fund hospitals and support them through yearly contributions by each member. The different Shriners groups then took it upon themselfes to create fundraisers, and when people see them in parades in their red Fez hats and their tiny cars or locomotives, they should be aware that those members of an order which originated in 1872, are all volunteers, they are philanthropists and they have helped hundreds of thousands of children to regain healthy or at least sustainable lifes.
Currently the Shriners operate 22 children's hospitals in Canada, the United States and Mexico and in Montreal the decision is still up in the air if the newest facility will be located in Montreal or in London, Ontario. Nevertheless, funds that are collected through all the Shriner events get used at the existing facilities and last year alone, more than 200,000 children under the age of 18 were treated at no cost to them or their parents.
All Shriners are Freemasons, the basic requirement to enter the order, but they do not preach any specific religious sects, rites or tenets, the members simply state that they believe in a "Greater Beeing". This simple coda embraces the spirit of the Freemasonry as well as the Shriners, as the tenor of both organizations is to "do good for mankind". As such, members work tirelessly as members of hospital boards, event organizers, guest speakers and lowly dishwashers. All are volunteers, nobody ever receives a nickel for their work, but when speaking to them at the Sutton event, one saw the real enthusiasm, the drive to make a difference, to excel within their respective communities. And the steak was fabulous!
Quacking it up in Knowlton at the annual Duck Festival
By Nancy Helmuth
Knowlton, one of Québec's most beautiful villages, will present its annual Duck Festiva from September 17 to 25.. Highlights of the festival include culinary demonstrations, where one can sample the world renowned Brome Lake duck, a farmer's market, musicians, artists and artisans, and games for children. It's a perfect excuse for a delicious week-end in Knowlton to enjoy the charm and ambience of this historic village on the shores of Brome Lake.
During four days, around 40 exhibitors reputed for the quality and the authenticity of their products will demonstrate their know-how and will give visitors the unique opportunity to taste their specialities. For this edition, this festival offers a vast selection of activities, captivating workshops, conferences, contests and the possibility to taste regional products, including, of course, duck meat!
The main events will take place at Coldbrook park in Knolwlton but many restaurants have special events planned as well. The Brome Lake Duck Farm is actually one of the largest emploers in the area and is of course the main sponsor of this event. To quote from their website:
The Brome Lake Duck farm is built on
long-standing tradition. Established in 1912
on the western shore of the lake, the farm
is the oldest duck-breeding farm in Canada.
The company’s founder was an American
from New York who chose to breed Peking duck
—a large white duck with a yellow bill and feet,
as well as delicious meat—which had been
imported from China to the United States
Later on, his son and heir carried out the rather
odd yet very ambitious plan of moving the farm
and its buildings to the other side of the lake
during winter. Horses and sleighs were the only
means of transportation at the time. The farm
was set up on a sandy strip of land where
the ducks could swim freely in the summer heat
according to the young owner’s plan.
In 1939, the farm was acquired by a lawyer
and businessman who feared that the farm
would not survive. They wanted to maintain
the rural economy in the area, and employment
levels on the farm with the possibility of
increasing staff in the future. Since then,
the Brome Lake Ducks farm has remained
one of the largest employers in the area.
The annual output of the company has increased
five fold in the past 15 years to meet growing
market demand, rising from 25,000 ducks
at first to more than 2,000,000 in 2010.
Brome Lake ducks are raised under good
conditions and are not force-fed. Their daily menu
consists of a mash of cereals and soya, enriched
with vitamins and minerals. Brome Lake ducks
fatten naturally, which produces a more
flavourful and less fatty meat.
The street festival will see agricultural producers and artisans showing and selling their wares along the sidewalks of Knowlton and Lakeside Roads. The center point of the festival will be Coldbrook Park where visitors can visit the Brome Lake Duck Farm bistro and savour a “hot duck” or brochette, hot off the grill. Hours for the festivities are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.
For the fifth year, well-known artist Marie-Andrée Leblond has designed and painted the poster that will represent the festival. Once again, the painting is wonderfully eye-catching, full of colour and charm.
All the restaurants in the village, as well as those in all of Brome Lake, are participating in the festival by offering new and different ways to use local and regional products while focusing on the duck and the regional wines.
Major sponsors of the festival are the Town of Brome Lake, the Caisse Desjardins of Waterloo, BFL Canada Insurance, McAuslan Brewery, IGA Gazaille and Knowlton Packaging Inc.
For complete event information go to:
Friday, September 9, 2011
The Railroad to Sutton and Newport - a historical review
By Manfred Rieder
Note: I wrote this two years ago and now that I once again live next to this railroad's track, I thought it would be fun to re-write it some for my friends:
Note: Some quoted text and all the pictures are courtesy of the Sutton Museum.
In November of 1871, the South Eastern Counties Junction Railway's first passenger train pulled into the Sutton station. Having left Richford, VT, 20 minutes earlier (6:10a.m), it was on its way to Montreal where it would arrive at 9:50 a.m. This train would stop in several small villages such as Sutton Junction, West Brome and Cowansville. Travelers could now travel into Montreal and catch the same train in the early afternoon and be back in Sutton in time for dinner. This flash visit to Montreal would have previously been impossible, considering that getting to Montreal would have taken anywhere from 12 to 14 hours at that time.
It had taken two years of surveys and almost a full year of construction to erect this new line that now connected this southern area of the Townships with "the rest of the world" and until the last passenger train arrived in Sutton in 1969, the railway drastically changed life in Sutton. Suddenly, jobs in Cowansville and Abercorn beckoned, jobs not accessible before, as there was only horse and buggy transportation and the distances and weather as well as road conditions made such a commute unthinkable.
It is interesting to see that Sutton was then called "Sutton Flats" and a short time after the railroad began its regular service to the region, the main station, repair shops and freight forwarding, was actually done in Sutton Junction, now a mere hamlet, but at the beginning of the 19th century, home to hundreds of people who directly or indirectly worked for or benefited from the "Junction Railway".
Another novelty of this train was daily mail delivery. A special postal wagon was attached to the train and was described by a Montreal journalist of "The Gazette" who was traveling on the inaugural trip, as being: "… well furnished with pigeon holes and with other equipment for facilitating Post Office work ". Not only did this service accelerate the delivery of mail between Montreal and the different small towns, but also between the towns themselves.
The local merchants had, for the first time, access to wares unheard off in town, farming equipment could rapidly be delivered or sent out for repairs and a whole travel industry sprang up belivering Sutton and Abercorn residents to the Winter Carnival in Montreal or special picnics and events throughout the region. On those occasions the railroad would print pamphlets and lay on a special train to accomodate the events.
The railway also allowed Sutton producers to export excess produce such as milk, vegetables, maple sirop and wood. Mr. Naaman O'Brien, for instance, sold his maple products all over Canada and beyond. In this leaflet Mr. O'Brien informs potential buyers that with the train transportation, a shipment of 90lbs of maple products going from Sutton to Winnipeg would cost an extra $2.80, which would be billed to the buyer.
A veneer mill and a huge casket factory operated in Sutton at that time and almost all of their products were shipped out via train. Another company, which benefited greatly from the train, was the "Darrah Brothers Company" of Sutton established in 1922. This company built tool shafts for American and Canadian companies and transformed the walnut needed by the Australian Company called Slazenger, which made tennis raquets. Later, around 1950, the "Darrah Brothers Company" provided South-African companies with several shafts. All of these products were shipped by train either to their final destination or toward ports for goods going overseas.
And then came the tourists!
In the early part of the 19th century Sutton began to declare itself as a tourist town and actively advertised itself as such and, slowly at first, but steadily growing, a whole new industry sprang up. Hotels were built, at one time (especially during the Prohibition) the neighboring hamlet of Abercorn, had five large hotels, resplendant with big dance halls, bars and restaurants, which could accomodate thousands. And in Sutton visitors had the opportunity to shop in well stocked shops, dine in good restaurants and get horse and buggy and later of course, bus rides up the mountain.
Last year marked the 52nd anniversary of the Belanger family's "Sutton Mountain Ski Center". Lifts were operating and special trains brought the skiers by the carloads and suddenly Sutton had become a real winter destination for thousands. Livery stables were built near the Sutton depot,later bus transport arrived and the rest is history. The ski area was constantly enlarged, walking and hiking trails were groomed everywhere and now there are approximately 300 kilometers of them available in the Sutton area alone.
Skiers arrive in Sutton in 1940
Before Real Boulanger created the current ski mountain, there already existed a simple form of ski center, operated by CP-rail and the town of Sutton. The mode of transport was by a simple rope lift and while there was a steady skiing industry, it was not a great success as it was not substantially improved until the Belangers took the mountain in hand. But at least, they had many years of experience to fall back on and did not have to start an industry from scratch. Also, CP started to lure people to skiing destinations in the Laurentians and it is pretty funny to see Montrealers come to Sutton to ski and Suttonites travel to the Laurentians to do so...
From the day of the inaugural trip in 1871 to the demolition of the station in 1969, the railway changed the lived of the people living in Sutton. Every time the train rolled into town the entire place was buzzing. As Mrs. Drouin, wife of the last station master, put it : "When the railway decided to tear down the station it was as if death itself had come through town".
This stately building in the center of town still stands in its original glory and now houses "La Rumeur Affamee", a long established specialty food store. The building is one of the few old structures which survived the great fire of 1898.Interestingly enough, some of the old-timers in town still call it the "Safford Block".
Today, the railroad continues to run through Sutton twice every night, to the anguish of the population who has to listen to the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic locomotive's screeching horns every night, but the railroad states that the aural warning signals are the law and by operating its freight trains after midnight, they actually assist in staying out of motorists way during the busy daytime hours, where long stops at every road-rail intersection would probably inconvenience more people than the noise created at night. In any case, they own the track, pay the local; taxes on it, it is the law, and both sides of the argument will continue until there is no more trains going through town. For now however, this still is a tread to the past, a reminder what the railroad did for Sutton and, as a railroad enthusiast who lived for 18 years approximately 200 meters from the track, I personally didn't mind the rumble and the slight shaking of the house. Its still out there, as vibrant as it was in 1871 and, for me at least, a joy to see and hear now that I live on the "other end of the line" in Newport, where I can see the train every day again as it crosses the South Bay bridge visible from my porch. I don't seem to be able to escape this railway and even know the numbers of all their engines still operating.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Stained glass and quilts - the incredible world of Irma and Roger Cote'
Where to start and what to do next....Irma and Roger Cote'
By Manfried H. Starhemberg
"I have to finish this piece today" explains Roger Cote' as he is cutting the last pieces of stained glass to complete a huge panel designed by his wife Irma."What's the hurry? Going on vacation?" "No", he chuckles, "Tomorrow I am having heart surgery and I do not want work to lie around unfinished". Is he worried about the surgery? "No, not really, it is just a bother with so much to do here". And he and Irma are not kidding, There is work in progress everywhere and the large house in Knowlton is a personal museum for Irma who has been at the variuous stages of her art for decades. There are her monoprints, bas relief work and hundreds of fascinating and stunningly beautiful quilts, there are dozens of Tiffany-style lamps, some of which, Roger explains, have up to 2,400 pieces.
Irma came from Bavaria in 1956 and still speaks German with that lovely Bavarian lilt. "There was nothing for me in Bavaria at the time, it was hard after the war and so I came here as a maid". This did not last because even in Germany she had studied art, has painted "since I was five years old" and soon became a full time artist. "I do everything for a few years, from bas-relief to stitchery, then came the monoprints and my quilts and then of course I combined all of this into my stained glass work, which I have been doing for about 20 years now".
There are dozens of quilts and Irma even has a separate studio for her stitchery work, with shelfes upon shelves of recycled material which she gets from church sales and friends. "I wash all the garments, then I separate the buttons and cut up the pieces into manageable sizes for the next quilting project".
Roger explained how the stained glass projects work: "Irma is the artist, I am the artisan", he chuckles. "Irma will make the drawing of the piece, segment it into it's individual pieces which get numbered and then it is my job to hand cut the glass and assemble it". "Just imagine how difficult it is to draw the pattern of a tulip shaped lamp", muses Irma. "You have to take the curvatures into consideration, it is really a three dimensional piece you have to draw".
The great artistry comes in when Roger has to match the texture of the tinted glass so that every piece is a continuation of the grain and the liniature of the next. "I work with one large piece of glass which may be dark green on the top, has grain almost like wood veneer and might be almost white on the bottom. So if I do a lamp or a window piece, every single piece has to correspond to the next. There is no room for error because if I miscut a piece, I have nothing to match it to the next ,as all comes off one large pane". The glass panes are expensive, mistakes can be huge but Roger seems to not have a problem whith it. "We have cooperated for 35 years" he smiles. "We are both in our seventies years of age and the experience helps".
"Picasso on the beach" - the newest quilting project
While Roger toils in his glass studio upstairs, which is backlit by a myriad of stained glass windows, Irma will sneak down into her quilting room and start the old sewing machine up. She does both the traditional blocked quilts, made famous in the United states by the Amish, she does not hesitate do go wild with her imagination as the newest piece in progress, "Picasso on the beach" amply demonstrates. Irma has an incredible way of blending colors into a harmonious whole which is almost visually sensuous. There is not one color out of place, not one uneven stitch, simply nothing that distracts from the composition of all her work, be it in prints or quilts or her artistry in designing the most elaborate stained glass pieces, many of which adorn homes in the Townships and in Montreal, as windows, door enclosures or simply as beautiful light catchers.
As for Roger, he is not too concerned about the surgery on Friday. "We are planning a huge open house event for October and I have a number of projects I wish to finish before then", he smiles. Good luck Roger and Irma and thank you for having us in your home.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Old cars, tractors and bratwurst - Bedford's winning show combination
By Nancy Helmuth
There are ground rules when taking a husband to an old car exhibition: Do not bring a checkbook, hide your credit cards in the place where the vacuum lives, or where the cleaning supplies in the house are kept, because you can be certain he won't look there. Then, remember how it was when you took your 14 year old son to an exhibition of model trains and you should be all set.
Mine gets so excited about old cars and the prospect of wolfing down some of Bedford's best bratwurst, that he forgot to close the sunroof of our Range Rover with the expected results after 30 minutes of deluge...
However, there were more than 150 beautiful examples of vintage automobiles, hot rods, rare European sports cars, antique farm machinery and early snowmobiles on display. This was the 14th rendition of the Auto-Fest and every year it seems to grow in scope and volume. The exhibitors are mostly local people, one family who owns an insurance company in town usually brings about a dozen of family owned vehicles. The Bedford fire department shows off their hardware and cheerfully explains all the gears, valves, switches and gadgets that make their life-size toy trucks work.
Memo: Manfried has an antique tractor, he does not need an antique fire engine to restore. A hypnotist might come in handy at times.....
One of our favorite sites is the exhibition of old lawn tractors, all lovingly kept in pristine working condition, or restored to like new status. Also, the great old snowmobiles of yesteryear, so utilitarian and far removed from the offerings of today. Simple, elegant machines, simple but rugged, and as one of their owners explained; "used on my farm every winter and it never once let me down". Good for Armand Bombardier, who would have loved to be at the show and have a bratwurst and a beer with my husband whom I intercepted just in time before he began earnest negotiations about an ancient Sno-Cat which we really do not need on less than 1/2 acre of property in the center of Sutton...
There is such joy to be had in speaking to the owners of old cars, they are a breed by themselfes, they know the difference between an L-head or a flat-head, a stove-bolt six Chevy truck motor and a Cleveland double bolt main bearing V-8. And their long suffering wifes bring the picnik baskets and smile and let every Tom, Dick or Harry gaze into the interiors of their prized posessions, answer inane questions all day, while the hubbies are out and about, trying to fing that perfect pair of fuzzy dice to hang on the rear view mirror. (Ours are white with black dots)
So, having survived another old car show without any unneccesary addition to our impoverished household, we look forward to next year's edition of this great fun event, a centrepiece of which is a huge platform, balanced on an axle ,where the old car nuts drive up one side and try to balance their car for a few seconds without falling off on either side. This is always hilarious as people will either applaud or boo the hapless drivers on top of this torture machine.
As soon as we were back home, Manfried had to mount his 60 year old David Brown (of Aston Martin fame) 4,640 lbs tractor, to make sure he also could make some noise. If I would have let him, he would have driven the old thing to Bedford...
Monday, September 5, 2011
Huge permanent outdoor paint exhibition unvailed in Sutton
By Nancy Helmuth
Called "Table 4 x 8", eight renowned Suton artists unvailed a new permanent outdoor exhibition on Sunday. Utilising a large empty wall adjoining Sutton's Bistro Beuxlieaux, the group has created eight panels of 4 by 8ft. each and the pieces will be kept there throughout one year, to add color to the center core of the town. The pieces are heavily varnished and their cxreators assured us that even the harsh winter weather will not harm these delicate creations. All the artists have exhibited many times and most are regular members of the Tour des Arts in July. They are Serge Normand, Marek Latzman, Stephane Lemardele,Isabelle Grenier, Brigitte Normandin, Louise-Andre Roberge, Marc Bilodeau and Francois Brisson.
"It is a gift to the town where we work" one of the painters said. "Many people do not visit shows or galleries and this allows us to bring some of our best work to the public. The pieces are not for sale,this is simply a thank-you note to the people of Sutton".
Getting ready to hang the paintings
Sutton's "Salad Days, a celebration of culinary and visual arts
"Ready set go" Chef Christian and his crew of "Bistro Beauxlieux"
By M. Helmuth Starhemberg
For the past three weeks,eight local artists and eight local chefs have turned Sutton into a "Caesar salad town". The event was to be a competition, judged finally on Sunday, September 4, by local foodies and art lovers. The goal: To creat the best Caesar salad or to make the best painting of a salad. Throughout the competition, the salads were available at the participating local restaurants, which also featured not only the salad pictures but a whole range of the eight artist's works. It ended up a smashing success. On Saturday, hundreds crowded the tents set up downtown to sample the salads and view hundreds of beautifully presented paintings
Many of the salads offered rivalled the visual effects of the paintings, some surpassed them in the expressed opinion of the happy samplers.
Called, "The Emperor of all salads", was the invention of Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant to Mexico, who first offered his famous creation in his restaurant "Caesar's Place" in Tijuana on July 4, 1924. He was a San Diego resident but bought the restaurant across the border to circumvent prohibition. Our readers may wish to get the original Cardini recipe for this fabulous dish and they can find it here:
Cardini continued to flourish and even marketed his own salad sauce which is still available today in the U.S.,55 years after his death. His grandchildren are still in the business of making sauce, teaching cooking classes and in the operation of restaurants which still heavily rely on the elder Cardini's reputation.
Why this competition? Why in Sutton? Well, someone had the great indea to misinterpret "Caesar" into the French "sixteen arts" and the idea was born to pit eight chefs against eight artists. The community group "Espace Sutton" jumped on it, as did the tourist office and numerous sponsors, and this weekend was living proof that even an obscure idea, if presented with great humor and a lot of free local participation, can generate a festive, cheerful event which has done the town a world of good and cost it almost nothing!
Sunday was judgment day: Phillipe Molle', food writer for the Montreal paper "Le Devoir" and columnist of culinary matters for Radio Canada (left rear) and Wayne Shanahan, owner of "La Rumeur Affame" in Sutton, and also the man who brought Boston Pizza to Quebec, were two of six judges and spent amost two hours sampling the salads while being entertained by the harmonica music of Marie Madore.
And the winner is: Chef Christian Beulieu of the Bistro Beauxlieux, with John Kostuik of the Auberge Appalaches in second place and third winner was chef Lionel Demontis of Restaurant A La Fontaine.
The judging of the salad paintings by the eight participating painters was done by ballot, where every visitor had the opportunity to vote and the awared went to Louise Poirier, representing the "Cafe Tarinizza". Her cheerful rendition of delicate leafes of the Romano salad was everone's favorite painting. Behind Louise is local painter Gerorge Constantin who is having a ball as always.
The organizers were so happy with this event that they vowed to make it an annual affair in town.
Most of the produce used at the Sutton restaurants come from Yannik Houle, Sutton's greengrocer, who had a fine stand of his produce near the show on Saturday
Eight different "salad paintings" were on display to be judged by the visitors