This blog post is about my thoughts on new life, lurgies & Canada
It seems we left Europe in the ‘nick of time’ as they say.
Our flights home to Australia from Europe took us way north and over the Arctic Ocean, then to Toronto and home via Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada. This homeward leg has been booked since early November 2019, to coincide with the birth of my youngest daughter Laura’s first child, and my first grandchild. Little did we know that by then, the world would be in turmoil.
Laura and Nick’s well-timed baby girl wasn’t due until at least the middle of March, so leaving France March 9th we thought that it would be a good opportunity to stop off on-route in Toronto, Ontario for a few days, to catch up with old friends, and show Brian a little of the place I had spent a fair portion of my life.
We stayed at our good friend’s Rose and John’s lovely new home on their farm in rural Mapleton, Ontario with John kindly taking us out on lots of day trips just so Brian could get an idea of what Southern Ontario is like.
Thanks to these drives Brian did get to see three of the Great Lakes, Huron, Erie and Ontario, and the ski hills at Blue Mountain that overlook Georgian Bay, Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake, and loads of the lovely small towns like St Jacob’s, Elmira, Drayton and one we certainly can’t forget to mention, Dorking. All from the warmth and comfort of inside Rose’s car.
Many of you may not know that Brian grew up on an Otway region dairy farm in Beech Forest, not far from The Great Ocean Road in south-western Victoria, so when John mentioned an organic farm near-by that you can visit and also see the new robotic milking system they have implemented, that was a place he definitely wanted to see.
The Mapleton Organic Farm farm consists of 400 acres of certified organic land and a herd of 70 milking cows.
The robotic milking system at Mapleton’s was amazing to see, The system plays a key role in monitoring nutrition by measuring how much milk each cow produces throughout the day. If milk production falls, this is one of the first indicators of a nutrition issue.
Cows receive a snack each time they are milked so that gives them the incentive to get up and walk to the machines. The quantity of feed each cow receives during milking correlates with how much milk they produce. For example, a cow such as Ramona who tends to produce more than 40 litres of milk each day will be fed a larger quantity of feed by the system.
Not only does this mean each cow’s nutrition is individually monitored and catered to, but it’s a great incentive for the cows to enter the milking area and be milked.
I actually have a video or two of cows being milked that I won’t add to the blog, but if anyone is interested just let me know and I will share.
MENNONITES of SOUTHERN ONTARIO
This part of Southern Ontario has a large Mennonite population whose Dutch, Swiss and German ancestors started arriving here in the late 18th century. They are hard-working, thrifty and industrious, and live a rural agricultural lifestyle, with the women often selling their home-baked pies, fresh eggs and home-grown vegetables at the markets.
In John and Rose’s area, pure Maple Syrup is one on their specialities.
Mennonites and their congregations differ in their attitudes towards innovation in religious and cultural life. Old Order Mennonites reject modern technology and most live with no electricity and as drivers licenses are forbidden, no cars. Many use horse and buggy for transportation, but if longer distances need to be travelled, they may hire ‘motorized transportation’ sort of a ‘Mennonite Uber’, John has occasionally volunteered his time with those drives.
Others insist that adaptation and involvement in the world are essential, but you would likely not see their kids hanging out at the mall. They can join local youth organizations, choirs and play sport, with most local Mennonite schools having baseball fields and hockey rinks in the winter, and their Dad would likely drive a tractor, but it wouldn’t have a cabin, so they would be working out in the weather.
Plain simple clothing is worn, women wear plain long dresses or long skirts and small white prayer caps over long hair that they don’t cut, and the men wear long trousers, jackets and either a felt or straw hat.
It’s a wonderous sight to see the families out and about in their buggy’s heading to the market or all dressed in their finest heading to church on Sunday, and then driving past their churches with fifty or so beautiful shiny black horse and buggy’s tied up to hitching rails waiting to take their family back home.
Our 10 day’s at the Warren Farm passed incredibly fast, and we are so thankful to have such wonderful friends that took us into their home whilst this terrible Covid 19 had just started to rage in Canada.
NEW LIFE– Lilah Mae arrived into this world at 6am on March 17th, St Patrick’s Day, 2020. The day before we arrived into British Columbia.
By this time flights were being cancelled and people told not to travel unless necessary, but nothing was going to keep us away from seeing this beautiful new baby girl.
We arrived at Laura and Nick’s Shawinigan Lake home on Vancouver Island, on Wednesday 18th March, and have settled into the 30ft caravan/trailer parked next to their home for our two weeks of self-isolation.
It’s really no hardship at all, it’s far more spacious than Hermione, it’s warm and cosy, we have an oven, microwave, large fridge and freezer, a queen-sized bed and even a bathtub, which is a good thing as by the looks of how this lurgy is progressing, we may be here for a while.
Most days we either go for a walk along the trail up behind Laura and Nick’s house or at least visit with them on their sun deck, still making sure we are keeping a good 2-3m apart. So even though to date I still haven’t been able to cuddle Lilah or even give Laura and Nick a hug, we see them, and I’m counting down the days until I can.
I’m not going to waffle on about the Covid 19, I’m sure we all know what’s going on, so let’s talk about resilience.
We have all seen the photos of people stockpiling toilet paper and fighting over canned goods, all the while our medical workers are worried about whether they will have enough ventilators to keep people alive.
We need to recognize that our collective good, is in our collective humanity. We don’t thrive in a vacuum, we thrive when we work in concert with each other.
Social distancing doesn’t necessarily mean social isolation, you can still chat with a neighbour over the fence or the internet. When self-isolating pick up the phone to call a friend or do a Skype chat and ask how they are doing. Think of those that are older and maybe living alone that not so long ago relied on a weekly meet up group, they must be lonely. Share what you can with others that can’t get what they need.
Sadly on the human face of this crisis, many businesses will fail, so now it’s more important than ever to support our local business’, spending money close to home recycles that money in the community. Buying locally gives our neighbours, our town, our community purpose. And when we give ourselves purpose, we give ourselves hope.
It may feel like the end of days, it’s not. It’s a time to reassess what is important, who is important. We know that at the end of this lies a new place, a different phase, there is just a little tough time to get through in between.