It’s Show Time!

We got the annual schedule for the Ellesmere A&P Show the other day. For those of you not familiar with the term, A&P means Agricultural and Pastoral–Farm Shows they’re called in the US.

I grew up enjoying the local Farm Shows, entering bad art projects into the competition, and admiring the rows of cattle on display. As an adult, I was lucky enough to live for several years mere blocks from the Minnesota State Fair–the Farm Show to end all Farm Shows. I even entered a quilt there–won second prize in a category in which I was the only entrant. A feat worthy of mention in the News from Lake Wobegon, if you ask me.

Farm Shows/A&P Shows are a defining cultural experience, but the truth is, you don’t even need to go to the show to have a cultural experience. Reading the show schedule is almost as good.

For example, in the little old Ellesmere show, there are 95 different sheep classes in which one could enter one’s woolly livestock. That doesn’t include the children’s pet classes or the wool classes. And then, of course, there are the shearing and sheep dog competitions. Sheep farming may be on the decline in New Zealand, but it’s still king in Ellesmere.

Dairy has boomed in recent years, and there are quite a large number of dairy classes in which aspiring farmers can enter their bovines. The lucky winners of many of the dairy classes will receive semen as their prize. Doesn’t that just make you want to enter?

Semen certainly beats the poor dairy goat farmers, who pay $5 to enter a goat, and can only hope for, at best, $5 for first prize.

If you’ve got a dairy animal, it might just win Best Udder (Judged both full and empty–I expect no saggy udders need apply). Now there’s something to aspire to.

One of my favourites is the calf fancy dress class. Nothing like a bunch of calves in tutus and tuxes to make you smile.

And I noticed a new category I never knew existed–Donkey Challenge, judged on ‘willingness, style and accuracy over four challenges’. Now, that’s a competition I may have to make sure I see this year.

But of course, like any rural event, the real excitement is simply the hustle and bustle on the day. The hot chips and mini-donuts, the carnival rides, running into neighbours and people you haven’t seen for months, and celebrating the importance of agriculture in our lives and culture.

Who’s Debbie?

We pulled a jar of chutney from the cabinet a few days ago, and it inspired hours of speculation.

Who is Debbie? My husband made the chutney, and he labeled it, but no one can remember why it’s called Debbie’s chutney. Did someone named Debbie give us some fruit that was used in the chutney? Is Debbie an acronym for something? Delicious black boy [peach] interesting experiment? Is it a description of what’s in it? December berries?

The truth is, no one remembers. Which is a shame—I’m sure it’s a good story.

Many of our preserves and homemade products have names that tell a story, or describe what went into them. Just a few memorable ones:

Strawgooberry Jam—strawberry and gooseberry jam

Brewcurgooberry Jam—black currant, strawberry, red currant, and gooseberry jam.

Windfall Chutney—made from not-quite-ripe apples that blew down in a storm.

Black Daze of May—a dark beer brewed during a May several years ago when it rained continuously.

Baby Butt Bitter—a beer brewed many years ago during the potty training phase of one of the children.

Non-Dillicious Pickles—a batch of dill pickles that I forgot to put dill into (they were actually quite good)

Ginpricot Jam—apricot and ginger jam

Taumutu Squeak—mozzarella cheese that hasn’t quite worked properly and can’t be stretched, but squeaks when you bite into it

And, of course, Summer Soup—soup made of all the late summer vegetables.


Who the hell is Debbie?

Lemon Meringue Pie

I had extra pie dough from making a quiche earlier in the week, a bunch of lemons that needed to be used, and tons of eggs. What could I do but make lemon meringue pie?

I don’t think I’ve ever actually made lemon meringue pie before. It seems a gross oversight on my part, though not entirely surprising—I’m not fond of meringue, so it wouldn’t be the first thing I’d ever think of doing with lemons.

But, hey there’s a first time for everything, and the rest of the family loves meringue. So lemon meringue pie it was.

And it was very good—a study in textures and colours, with wobbly bright yellow custard underneath and foamy egg whites on top, nestled in a crunchy crust.

Would I make it again? Maybe occasionally, but it will never be one of my regular desserts. Even with the pie dough already made, it was nearly an hour from the start of the process to putting the pie in the oven. I don’t mind spending that sort of time on a dessert now and again, but every week? I can get my sweet fix much more easily than that.

And so, now I’m dreaming of a nice, whip-it-together in-a-few-minutes pan of brownies…

Enrique’s Violin

Wrung from a life of want.

Wrought of
Cedro amargo,
But not bitter.

Wrought of
And Imagination,
Of sheer desire for beauty.

Your maker a poet,
A dreamer,

You made the people dance
And forget
The crops washed away,
The sick child,
The dead baby.
If only for an hour.

Sing and dance
With the discarded
Rubbish of life.

Sing and dance
With me.

Screen Time

Friday is National Poetry Day, so all of this week’s posts will be in verse. Happy Poetry Day to you. May all your couplets rhyme. 

Screen time
And TVs
And sports after school.

And YouTube
And try to be cool.

And shopping
It’s not hard to see
That no one has time
For the sky, for the sea.
No time to sit
No time to be free
And ponder a grass blade
Think of a bee.


You can take your
Damned cell phone
Toss it into a pond

Of mud
And of stargazing
I am more fond.

Your selfies
And shopping
Are just like a cage
For the mind and the spirit,
The words on this page.


Come out
Come out
Come into the sun

Learn to count raindrops
And barefoot we’ll run
Through meadows
And forests
And rivers and streams
We’ll find what we’ve lost
We’ll capture our dreams.