An August Afternoon on Amherst Island

Earlier this summer, my friend – my Knitting BFF – Victoria, moved away to a community about 2 hours east. I have had many fun knitting and non-knitting adventures with her – Knitter’s Frolics, COUNTLESS trips to local yarn shops where we both left with far less money in our wallets, and just random evenings spent knitting in her living room or on FaceTime in the height of the pandemic. I knew I was going to miss her well before the move. It really sunk in a few days after she left when I needed a certain needle size and I could no longer just drive around the corner to her house to borrow what I needed.

Well, it’s a good thing I like long drives and podcasts. In mid-August, while I was on holidays from work, I went for a day trip, and she and I spent the afternoon exploring Amherst Island.

Located about three kilometres offshore, in Lake Ontario, this island is noted for its dry stone walls, boasting what is believed to be the largest known concentration of historic Irish dry stone walls in Canada, many of which date to at least 160 years old.

Amherst Island is also home to Topsy Farms, the raison d’être for our trip. Established in 1972 by “free-thinking, peace-loving hippies,” their wool products are 100% Canadian, and the sheep in their care are “happy sheep.”

To get to Amherst Island, we hopped on the ferry and drove across the island, remarking on the dry stone walls and interesting houses we saw along the way. Victoria and I are both museum nerds (and proud of it), so when we arrived at the farm, our attention was equally captured by the farmlands and the ‘Wool-Shed’ shop, and also the cemetery we spied on the other side of the dry stone wall.

The shop was modest, but the product easily captured our interest! Victoria left with a few skeins of fingering weight yarn and a t-shirt, while three skeins of worsted weight yarn came home with me. I mean, look at this colour!

I also have to give a shout out to the person working the shop. She was incredibly knowledgeable about the island, happenings, the yarn, and the farm. We asked her opinion on what else we could do while on the island, and she gave us the recommended driving routes and a beach recommendation.

We finished off our afternoon by checking out the Neilson Store Museum (as aforementioned, we’re museum nerds), and, once we realized we missed the hourly ferry, grabbed some food at the Back Kitchen.

I have three skeins of that lovely teal Topsy yarn, and I also have a dilemma of what to make with it. Three isn’t quite enough to make a sweater with, but I’m sure I can find some contrast yarn, like Briggs and Little, which might make it work. Worst case, if I needed more and placed an online order, I’m sure I could bat my eyes at Victoria to pick it up for me! For now, these teal skeins will stay in my stash, waiting for the right project to come along.

Where did you go, Autumn?

Okay Mother Nature, make up your mind.

Last weekend was glorious in southern Ontario. We seemingly saw the arrival of autumn, which was a welcome change after a few unbearable days of heat and humidity.  We basically went from heat advisories to wind chills. Through all the hot days, I bore down, knowing that these days wouldn’t be lasting much longer for 2018. Last weekend, I happily broke out my cardigans and shawls, wrapping myself up in their warmth. I was wearing gloves! Gloves!

And then this weekend came along. More heat. More humidity. Less wonderful woollen wears. My lovely cardigans have taken their place back in my closet, waiting for the Mercury to fall again. Part of me is stubborn, and all I want to do is start wearing my cowls again, heat be damned! But the reasonable part of me realizes I don’t have A/C, and she laughed and laughed at the stubborn fool.  Needless to say, my favourite accessory stayed put.

This is Canada. The heat warnings will eventually come to an end. Until they do, I’ll be by my fan, knitting away, waiting to wear knits once again.

Friday Night at the Museum

Music, drinks, food, and dinosaurs.  Yup, dinosaurs.  Just a typical night at the Royal Ontario Museum for their popular Friday Night Live series.  This is how I spent last Friday night, with close friends and my sister, to celebrate her birthday.  This popular event runs every Friday night for a two month period, and it is amazing to see the hallowed halls of a museum being transformed into areas for bands, conversations, and good food.  The inner museum person in me has little panic attacks when I think about food/drinks in gallery space (eek! Think of the pest possibilities!!), but it really is great to see that a museum is THE place to be on a Friday night.

Drinks... in museum galleries... pl;ease pardon my panic attack!
Drinks… in museum galleries… please pardon my panic attack!

Growing up in Ontario, the ROM was one of the places that you visited with family and on school trips. I think my earliest memory of the Museum was the old dinosaur gallery, before the ROM Renaissance of the 2000s.  It was dark, and there were really big bones.  Child of the 80s, The Land Before Time was a staple, and I remember thinking how cool it was to see a ‘Sharp Tooth’ in real life.  We visited sporadically before I started high school, but then it was years before I returned, after the installation of the ever contentious Michael Lee Chin Crystal (side note: I like the Crystal).

Visiting the ROM, you can wander and see their paleontological collections, natural history collections, and galleries showcasing Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, China, Japan, Africa, Europe, along with their textiles and mineralogy collections, which is one of my favourites.  I’m such a girl: I like shiny things.  Off the main rotunda, you can find their Canada Gallery, showcasing art, furniture, and artifacts which are significant to our country.  This is my favourite gallery, and I’m always sure to visit my favourite artifact, their Rebellion Box.  I see it, geek out, then move along.

Hello Rebellion Box
Hello Rebellion Box

While it’s wonderful to view objects from cultures from around the world, the one area that I feel the ROM leaves me wanting is a gallery outlining more of our own history.  Yes, there is the Canada Gallery, but even that gallery leaves me wanting.  This past Fall, I visited Quebec City, and I fell in love.  The history, the architecture, the culture, the museums.  The Quebecois people know how to tell their story.  In the musée de la civilisation, one of their permanent galleries is Le Temps des Québécois, and it outlines the 400+ years of history that the Province of Quebec has.  I was fascinated.  I am a History and Canadian Studies major, so I’m familiar with the history, but museums give the opportunity to educate and showcase, and the musée de la civilisation did just this.

In my humble opinion, the provincial story in Ontario is not being adequately told.  The Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau tells the national story and city/municipal museums tell the story of their own communities, but the history of Ontario is somehow lost in the shuffle.  I would love to see an exhibition showcasing the history of the province, from the earliest First Nation inhabitants, to its creation, struggles, expansions, and how it has become the most populous province in the country.  How did Ontarians react to the World Wars? Why did they react this way? How about the Upper Canada Rebellion, what happened there?  From farms to cities, the north to our border with the US, there is a story waiting to be told.  This is what the musée de la civilisation did for the history of Quebec, and wouldn’t the Royal Ontario Museum be the ideal place to showcase the history of this province?

Until that day, I will continue to visit the ROM, look at cultural materials from around the world, wonder at pre-historic giants that roamed the earth, and visit my beloved Rebellion Box.

FNL at the ROM
FNL at the ROM