Saturday, May 12, 2018

Getting into stride

If there is any ritual which distinguishes our summer sojourn in Almonte it is Saturday morning breakfast at the golf club.  Actually we go there more often than on Saturday mornings but for some reason I've always attached special significance to the mid-weekend outing.  Perhaps it's because Saturday customarily attracts the working stiffs for a game of golf and the clubhouse is as a result more energized with activity.  It is less of a tranquil rural retreat than is more common when going there during the week for example. Anyway ... all this is to say that when we leisurely began our morning ablutions today we abstractly queried whether the golf club was yet open for business.  We telephoned the club.  After hearing with the usual messages - Press 1 for Pro shop, Press 2 for Kitchen, Press 3 for Bar - we connected with a young voice who confirmed that things were in full swing.  Shortly thereafter we were cleansed and dressed, seated in the car and headed down the road in the brilliant morning sunshine to the rustic Village of Appleton.

Upon arriving at the golf club we were somewhat disquieted to discover the parking lot was jammed with vehicles.  Nonetheless we persisted in our mission and - after finding what appeared to be the last available parking space - proceeded into the clubhouse.  The place was bustling with women (whom we later learned were there for their first annual general meeting).  There were long tables throughout the dining room covered in linen and utensils.  At the far end of the room were banquet tables set up for the arrival of food preparations.  When we greeted the caterer she told us she was still serving breakfast at the few remaining perches overlooking the first tee and the rambling Mississippi River.  Recognizing that the staff were in full harness we proceeded immediately to place our standard order for breakfast - which in my case was two eggs-over-easy, 2 orders of bacon, sausage, sliced tomatoes, grilled cheese sandwich on brown and black coffee. When the food arrived it recalled what we have been missing for the past six months!  As always the meal was nonpareil!

Just as I munched upon the last morsel of crisp bacon the President at the head table of of the Ladies' Membership meeting began to call the congress to order. We gingerly withdrew from our roost and skirted out the front door of the clubhouse, mumbling our corporate satisfaction as we departed.

Our initial motive for this morning's activity was not in fact breakfast at the golf club but rather a visit to Rock-N-Horse farm on Rae Road in nearby Ramsay Township.  Arlee and Diane Sheets own the property. They are fourth generation farmers working the same land Diane's great-grandparents purchased in 1922. Their business offers year-round Farm Harvest Shares which for the uninitiated is the promise of wholesome, fresh food (produce, eggs, meat, preserves and baked goods - including maple syrup from their 80-acre sugar bush).  Our motive for going to the farm today was the intelligence received last evening that Saturdays between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm afford an opportunity to indulge in the makings of breakfast, which on this particular occasion were pancakes, sausage and maple syrup.  Mistakenly on our part we assumed that the opportunity was not to eat the breakfast but instead to collect the ingredients for its subsequent preparation.  It was therefore with no small regret that when we landed on the property to survey what was available we were told that we could have put on the nosebag while there!  Indeed two acquaintances of ours were already assembled for exactly that purpose. Naturally we had already extinguished at the golf club that invaluable sauce and quid pro quo for any meal - an appetite - so we were reduced to the comparatively less pleasant occupation of gathering items from the freezers and refrigerators for later consumption.  Judging by the extent of our purchases it would be difficult to persuade an innocent by-stander that we hadn't any interest in eating!  Part of the exuberance was the knowledge we already had from previous purchases. The bacon for example is unspeakably delicious!  And there are a variety of exotic concoctions for the improvement of any dish or metabolism.

Traveling along Rae Road reignited for me over four decades of memories. Diane Sheets is part of the Hazelwood clan which inspires countless associations among the farming community in this area.  Not far removed from Rock-N-Horse farm are Mount Blow farm which captures equally historic recollections of both the Paul and Rintoul families; the Thom family farm; and the nationally famous Young puppeteer.  Not far distant are many other celebrated personalities and commercial attractions.  But whatever the notoriety of the inhabitants the salient and unmistakeable drawing card is the bucolic delight of the venue.  It is part of the charm of living in Almonte that within mere steps of one's urban front door there awaits the magical appeal of endless countryside and sprawling farms.

We later reiterated this affection by going for an afternoon bicycle ride along Country Street, across the Highway onto Rae Road, along the 8th Line and down the hill past the new Town Hall to home. The distance doesn't amount to anything beyond 10 kms but the experience is unsurpassable. Whenever we return to our digs in Almonte after a winter's absence I never tire of saying how pleased I am to be back home.  This I can assure you is no casual comment.  We're delighted to be getting back into stride!

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