Tuesday, May 30, 2023


Hattie McBinkey is a nickname I bestowed on the 8 year old daughter of my very close cousin, Marian, about 20 years ago, when they were visiting us from Scotland. Her name's not Hattie, it's Heather. And McBinkey was the surname of our dear old cat Pinky. But Heather became Hattie McBinkey that summer and to be honest I still think of her by that name. Hattie has a brother, Jamie, who I'd nicknamed James Corbett Junior, but honestly there's not much creativity in that, seeing as his name is, actually, James Corbett Junior. There's been a lot of water flowing under the bridge since that happy holiday at our house on Portland Street. It was a pretty terrific house to have visitors, because it was small but stretched over three storeys. So you were crammed together but spread out at the same time. And we were family, so being together was the main thing. We had a concert during their stay, and James Corbett Junior was the Master of Ceremonies. Hattie McBinkey sang a song. She has a lovely singing voice, as does her Mum, but she was nervous all the same. James Corbett Junior was a superb and encouraging MC and the audience enjoyed the concert immensely. Time passes. In the intervening years, Hattie met Kieran at school and they really clicked. She and Kieran went off to university and before too long they were engaged. Hattie graduated in Social Work, and she quickly secured professional employment in Elgin, our family's home town. Meanwhile, James Corbett Junior has been pretty busy. He met Karina, they fell in love, and I barely had time to blink my eyes before our Master of Ceremonies became a Dad - three times over! And Hattie and Kieran haven't exactly been letting the grass grow under their feet. They've been planning their May 27th wedding. I've already told Marian that even if her married name is Heather Anthony (it is), she'll always be Hattie McBinkey to me. She was a lovely, radiant bride. Here she is with her parents, Marian and Jim:
And here's James Corbett Junior, with Karina, and their three beautiful children, David, Alexander, and Klara:
Did I happen to mention we're a good looking family? Here down below is the bridegroom, Kieran Anthony, with his new father-in-law, the original, James Corbett Senior, more commonly known and loved by all as Jim.
Warmest congratulations to our lovely family on this spectacular day.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023


One home improvement I've really been looking forward to is having a green metal roof installed on Moss Bank, my little boathouse. That work was completed this morning, and I'm pretty thrilled. A minor disaster was averted, as insufficient metal had been ordered to cover the entire roof. Fortunately, the excellent Trevor, who works at McKinnon Timbermart, had used the exact same profile and colour of metal on the roof of one of his outbuildings (he and his wife own and operate a bed and breakfast in a neighbouring village). Trevor had some metal left over from his roofing job - just enough to finish up Moss Bank - and he kindly contributed it to my job. So here's Moss Bank, looking like she needs a quick paint touch-up but otherwise ready for a hot, sunny summer ahead. All I want now is a tiny metal mailbox to hang outside.

Sunday, May 7, 2023


Last week, two exciting events occurred: I got the loft and foyer painted, and I got my kitchen backsplash installed. Due to the height of the ceilings in the loft and foyer, neither had been painted for a really long time. The rest of the house is now painted a soothing white, with the smaller bedrooms and the bathrooms painted Cambridge Blue. I decided to go with the same soothing white for the loft and foyer, and it looks fantastic. It's hard to photograph because the ceilings are angular and high, but here's a couple of shots.
And here's the kitchen backsplash.
All in all, a satisfying week. I still need a new enclosure for the washer and dryer, but that can wait. Tomorrow, a new green metal roof is being installed on the boathouse. Stand by.

Thursday, March 9, 2023


I'm sure winter isn't helping, dragging on the way it has been doing. At the start of every winter, I assign myself a wide range of indoor tasks that are (a) necessary; and (b) guaranteed to make me glad they're done once spring arrives. This winter, I've upped the choreography by choosing tasks that can be done by other people. Honestly, it's been going great. The farm gates at the south entrance, the metal roof on the well shed, the new windows, the new sliding doors, the attic insulation, the painting of the living room, dining room, kitchen, hallways, and one more bedroom, plus the furnishing of three guest rooms...it's used up most of the winter and quite a bit of money as well. One thing I've never been completely happy with is the kitchen. It's spacious, quite well laid out with lots of drawers for storage. But the colour, the counters, the sinks, the faucets didn't give me any pleasure, especially since I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Impulsively, I decided that I should have a better kitchen. There's a local business on the outskirts of town that specializes in higher-end kitchen cabinetry. I didn't need those. I could live with the existing cabinets. I needed new counters, a new sink, a new faucet, and a new backsplash. Today, three out of four of my needs were met. The crew from the higher-end company arrived at 9:15 a.m. and in eight hours the place was transformed. We went from beat-up butcher block counters to navy blue Corian. We went from a double bowl black granite sink, also beat up by my incessant scrubbing, to a massive single bowl white granite farmhouse sink. You could use it as a baptismal font. We went from a brushed nickel faucet to a black architectural-looking high quality faucet.
I'll be waiting for the installation of the backsplash for a while (got the tiles, just need the installer) but this was a satisfying day.

Sunday, February 5, 2023


About 18 months ago, I received an email from a one-time acquaintance of Ivaan's and mine named Tom. We'd engaged him as an eBay trader in 2005 to help us sell Ivaan's massive vintage camera collection. Once the camera equipment was sold, our contact with Tom ended. He was an entrepreneur, and he moved on to other activities. Following Ivaan's death, there were lots of changes in my life, and I was just glad that over 700 vintage cameras were not accompanying me on my journey. I continued with my university studies, continued Ivaan's jewellery work, bought and sold some real estate, and eventually found myself living in this rural paradise. That's when I heard from Tom. His wife was interested in learning jewellery making and he thought I might be willing to help her. That was a short conversation. I also don't teach people to drive, so....nope. A few months later, we were once again in touch, as Tom was interested in buying some of my jewellery making equipment for his wife. During the transaction, Tom asked if I would be willing to sell Ivaan's entire inventory to him. Initially I had no interest. How does one even do a valuation of an artist's life's work? What would Ivaan's family think? Tom persisted. He wanted to buy the rights to Ivaan's name, his website, this blog, all the inventory, the masters, the rubber moulds, the photographs, everything. 40 years of work. I consulted Ivaan's family; with some reservations, they agreed that it would in theory be a good idea to have someone continue his work. Tom and his wife came over, looked over all the inventory, photographed it, and went away to discuss it with their family. Eventually, we agreed that Tom would bring a monetary offer. He asked if he needed a lawyer. I equivocated: he didn't need a lawyer to make a without-prejudice verbal offer, but he was free to consult a lawyer before putting an offer in writing. Meanwhile, a longtime Toronto jewellery shop we'd worked happily with in the past expressed an interest in taking over Ivaan's work. I waited, not able to decide what to do. Time passed. Nothing from Tom. Eventually I emailed Tom and said if he planned to make an offer, he should do so. He did. He made an offer by email. I was so shocked, I couldn't even bring myself to respond. So I didn't. Weeks passed. Tom got in touch again. He reiterated the same offer. I felt as though I'd been spat on. A pair of wedding bands by Ivaan would cost more than he was offering for Ivaan's life's work. The jewellery shop's offer will have to wait. Several people have come wanting to buy jewellery by Ivaan since then. They'll have to wait too. It will be a long time till I'm able to look at Ivaan's art without feeling revulsion that I might have entrusted his life's work to the wrong hands.

Thursday, December 15, 2022


In my fever to get things done around the property, I hit upon the idea of putting in an orchard. Not a massive orchard, you understand, but a domestic sized orchard with a few apple trees, a pear tree or two, maybe a peach tree, and a specialty tree: I wanted to plant a crabapple tree in memory of my friend Natalka's mother, Daria Husar Struk, who died in 2020, at age 100. Daria was a marvel. She even picked her time to die very well: just before the advent of Covid-19, which she would have enjoyed even less than the rest of us. Daria loved the pink blossoms of a crabapple tree, and I discussed with Natalka my wish to plant a tree in her memory. The first summer I moved here, an excellent young guy named Mark built four raised vegetable beds for me. Mark has a business called Gourmet Greens Organics, and he's a wealth of knowledge about planting vegetables. I sent Mark an email, asking if he'd come and inspect a flat area on my south lawn for its suitability as the site of a dwarf orchard. This flat area had previously been a large gravel children's play area with swings and slides and a climbing apparatus. I'd removed most of the gravel, depositing in on my neighbours' driveway, whereupon goldenrod plants took over, rooting very lightly amidst the gravel. Mark agreed that we could plant a drawf orchard of about eleven trees, but first we'd have to cut down about a dozen old pines that were casting too much shadow on the lawn. (Notice I refer to "we". In truth, the only "we" part of this operation has been the sunny afternoon that I pulled up lots of dead goldenrod.) Mark chainsawed down the pines and a dead spruce or two, plus one maple which will make excellent firewood a few years from now. Yesterday he brought in a wood chipper and - you know how it is when you steam spinach? You put a mountain of spinach in the steamer and four minutes later you have one small helping of steamed spinach. That's what the wood chipper was like. There's maybe a few bushels of wood chips on the south lawn, but those chips will be like steamed spinach at the base of my fruit trees early this spring. However, I know very well that this will be a legacy orchard, for I might not be here by the time the first apple is picked. Stand by for photos.


Last year I decided I wanted to replace the heavy wooden gates at the south entrance to the property. Each gate was an impenetrable 8 feet by 8 feet and they weighed a ton. Because of their weight, they had started to drag on the ground, making them very hard to open when a service truck needed to drive onto the property. Also, they looked formidable, as though they should come with their own moat and drawbridge. I liked the more open, friendly look of a set of metal farm gates. Happily, steel farm gates come prepainted in green, and I'm a fan of colour, especially when I don't have to apply it. I ordered a set of farm gates and the corresponding bolts from a nearby farm supply business, and they promptly delivered them. I figured I'd install them myself....till I picked up one of the gates and found I could only move it about a foot at a time. In my nearby little village, finding a handyman would be harder than finding a hardware store and, believe me, there's no hardware store here. You want hardware? You're probably driving to Orangeville, whether you like it or not. Now, oddly enough, the Home Hardware store in Orangeville is well equipped, and it even has a notice board in the front entrance, with the services of several handymen advertised. I took some cards, and the first one to call me back was Casey. I asked if he could install farm gates. He could. He did, and very efficiently, too. Here's my farm gates. They sure look nice and level, just the way I'd hoped. Now I won't have to dig a moat and install a drawbridge. Thank you, Casey!