Happy Birthday to My Blog

By Jim Hagarty

One year ago today, lifetimesentences.com was sprung on an unsuspecting world. After months of being urged by my daughter and a friend who has been blogging for more than 10 years, I gave in and took the plunge. I found a good video on YouTube from a blogger who blogs about how to set up blogs. He was actually pretty helpful and at minimal cost, I was up and running about 24 hours later.

I started off with a bang and ignored my blogging friend’s caution to take it easy or I might burn out. Me? Ha! Nonsense. I was heading for the moon Alice. Pow, right in the kisser!

After about six months of contributing several stories, poems, photos and songs every day, I walked over onto the dark side of the moon and burned out. So there was a lull. This fall, my productivity slowed down and I began letting things slide. First I missed a day or two where I didn’t post at all and soon I was comfortable with letting a whole week slide without contributing anything. Amazingly, it seems, I didn’t lose the number of viewers I thought I might.

But I began to find my footing again around Christmas time and by mid-winter I was back to a pretty good rate of production, though not matching my outburst during the first six months.

So I have settled into a bit of a routine and while I am trying my best at the moment, I would like to step it up a bit as time goes by. I have learned a few things along the way, with still lots to learn. It is a pretty great pastime and though my stats counter quit for a month a while back before I noticed it and got it going again, I believe I have had about 50,000 page views over the past 12 months. I am pleased with that. I am not sure how many individual readers that represents but I am guessing the blog is attracting almost 100 people a day. More from the United States than Canada where I live and some from several other countries around the world including Great Britain, Australia and even Russia.

Thanks for tagging along these past 365 days. I appreciate your interest. The endeavour is evolving and this next year I might experiment with a few changes to the design and content. I am going to have to call a meeting with myself and sit down to decide where I want to take this.

I hope good things only lie ahead.

All Mixed Up

By Jim Hagarty

I grew up on what was called a “mixed farm” although almost all of the varied things that were raised and grown were gone by the time I came along as my parents had switched to beef cattle solely. But even though they were gone, we would play in the empty henhouse where the chickens had been. There were unused beehives sitting beside the garage. I know we used to have geese as my Dad was attacked by one when he was five years old. We had once had pigs, cows, and beef cattle along with the geese and the chickens. No goats or sheep that I know of. Workhorses, of course, were a feature and very important part of the operation.

And in a 10-acre field west of the house there was a large orchard, all the trees in neat rows, though the fruit was never taken care of in my day and was often scabby. There were lots of apple trees of many varieties from red apples (maybe macs?) to yellow harvest apples and these huge “cooking” apples that were terrible to eat – very pulpy – but good for making pies and cider. The darned things were half way between a very large apple and a small pumpkin.

There were also some plum and pear trees in the orchard though the season was usually too short for the fruit on those trees to ripen. The branches of the trees hung low and when a friend brought his pony around one day and I got on it to ride a horse for the first time, the little dickens headed straight for the fruit trees at a fair clip knowing the branches would scrape me off its back, which they did.

My favourite fruit tree of all was a cherry tree located near the road. I remember the red cherries would be ripe by the last day of school in June and I would climb up there and fight the birds – and sometimes my siblings – for them. The birds were easier to chase away than the siblings. Even when the cherries were gone I would sit up in the tree and watch people come and go on the road. I always thought they couldn’t see me so that was kind of thrilling and mysterious.

All of these things were features of the way my grandparents farmed and they gradually went out of use when their day passed along with the mixed farm. One thing that did remain was a massive vegetable garden. That was a great place to go with a salt shaker. I’d pick tomatoes, wet them with my tongue, cover them with salt and eat them. Heaven.

The mixed farm is long gone almost everywhere now (I assume so, anyway, though I might be out of touch) but can still be found in Mennonite Country north of Stratford. It isn’t just their clothing and horses and buggies that harken back to a much earlier, simpler, quieter time.

Not easier, but slower.

The Brits Knew How To Build ‘Em

When I was a kid in the sixties in Canada, it was not uncommon to see a Vauxhall drive by. They always seemed to be an odd little car, by American standards in any case. It was an English car, built for the North American market as well as the British Isles. In fact, there were a number of English cars that were popular in Canada at that time. Maybe that had something to do with the fact that Canada was (and still is) tied to Britain. Today, as I was driving by a parking lot in Stratford, my eye caught this unique vehicle and I had to pull over and take photos of it. It is a 1961 Vauxhall Cresta and it is in perfect shape.

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Old Farmyard Decor

As I mentioned last week, farms in my part of southwestern Ontario near Toronto in Canada have taken to making statements with front yard lawn art, often made up of stylish rocks, even boulders, but also old bicycles, cars and trucks and even tractors. In the case of the farm shown above, an old wagon with two rusty milk cans aboard are situated on the lawn in front of an old stone farmhouse. There are dozens of stone farmhouses in the Stratford area. – JH

Caution: Ditch Diggers At Work

By Jim Hagarty

My best friend and I were well familiar with the ditches along the almost two miles or so from our farms to the crossroads of Bornholm northwest of Stratford when we were growing up. On a warm summer’s day, he would walk on one side of the road, I on the other, and we’d scour the ditches for bottles that we could cash in at the store or the nearby gas station for pop and potato chips. A regular-sized eight-ounce or 10-ounce pop bottle would net us two cents while a large 28-ounce bottle would put five cents in our pockets.

Because motorists in those days would throw everything but the kitchen sink in the ditches as they drove along, we hardly ever ran out of a supply of refillable glass bottles to turn in. It didn’t take many to pay for our booty. I remember small bags of chips that cost a nickel, and pop that you could buy for seven or eight cents for a small bottle to 10 cents for a bigger one.

Our treasure trove took a little bit of a hit one summer, however, when a man in the village started walking the ditches too. We weren’t too happy with this trespasser but we couldn’t do much about him. Our hauls began to dwindle and eventually, so did our interest in fishing the ditches for funds to pay for our habits.

I believe it was a short time after our ditch-digging days ended that we discovered the miracle of girls. We soon found that they were the only worthwhile subject of discussion and would be that for many years to follow.