Posts Tagged With: Galt

House For Sale…Ours

Please spread widely and wildly.

We’re for sale. Will you be the next caretaker of history?

Suggestion: pour a potent cup of coffee (add cream and sugar as desired) or fill a glass with your favourite South African red. Get into the West Galt groove and imagine life untethered. Why be mortgage broke? Why believe that a backyard the size of a cat’s litter box is acceptable?

In West Galt you can find balance, restorative perennial gardens and a non-intrusive urban lifestyle in the historical downtown Galt. In a 15 minute walking radius there’s a farmer’s market (one of the oldest in Canada), a chocolatier, cheese boutique, Monigrams Coffee Roasters (best Americanos going), Crumb + Bean (tops for ginger molasses cookies as big as frisbees), Dee’s Bakery (gooey butter tarts just like your favourite Aunt made), Tiny Cakes (Elvis peanut butter and banana cupcakes!), Bricks + Mortar (like a micro Whole Foods), Thai food and a serious line-up of Ontario craft beers at the notorious Cafe 13 pub.

You’ll find the city pleasures you’re familiar with in the TIFF Cineseries sponsored by the local library, the Idea Exchange, just a few blocks away. In 2017, the former Galt post office will open its doors as the nation’s first all-digital library with a resto on the terrace, tablets, podcast recording studio and 3D printers in the maker’s lab.

The Trans Canada Trail cuts through Cambridge and the old electric rail line winds its way through Glen Morris, Paris and onward to Brantford. Hop on a bike and ride for miles in either direction in the company of willow trees, indigo buntings and monarchs. The Grand Trunk Trail will gently guide you to five diamond dining and the sweetest suites around at Langdon Hall Country Hotel and Spa (a Relais and Chateaux property). The 900-acre urban land trust that the adjoining RARE conservation group owns is popular for its community programming. Join naturalists at the Slit Barn for a tromp in the wetlands to find salamanders, sign up for an owl prowl, or snowshoeing, or check out their off-grid sustainable North House project where writers and artists can apply for residency programs.

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In Cambridge, you are in the epicentre of day tripping: St. Jacobs, Stratford, the Kissing Bridge at West Montrose, Elora Gorge and the lavender farms of North Dumfries are all less than an hour away. Be in downtown Toronto in an hour–or at YYZ in 45.

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We have bragging rights to Canada’s Heritage River–the Grand which makes its way from Elora to Lake Erie in Dunnville (299km). Drop in a canoe or kayak and see the underbelly of the river up close and personal. Did you know we have our own independent brewery here too? The Grand River Brewing Company offers tasting classes through the winter so you can earn a self-proclaimed PhD in Stouts.

Interior design mavens will be pulled in many directions. Southworks Antique Mall is one of the largest in Canada with a 30,000 square foot warehouse. At Cornerstone, the former Woolco offers two floors of contemporary finds (danger danger!). At The Art of Home, Blair House Gifts and Chair, Table, Lamp you’ll find whimsy, artwork, pillows and the unexpected.

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If you’re looking for a career jump, the University of Waterloo’s Architecture School is a 10 minute walk away. Want hand-pressed juices? Galt Juice Co. sells shelves of it and it’s like drinking a garden in a glass. Need a massage? The therapists at PUR Balance on Water Street will turn you into fondue.

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If you need an oyster fix, there’s buck-a-shuck nights at the historic Cambridge Mill (cocktails have never been lovelier–the cantilevered glass dining room leaves you perched right above the river at the Parkhill dam).

Here’s what you don’t know: Orioles do fly-bys in our backyard. You can pick strawberries nearby and buy local maple syrup from Diane just up the road.We grow lemon balm–you could make your own teas! Our house and gardens have been featured in Grand magazine, on the Galt Horticultural Tour and the annual Holly Jolly Christmas Tour (a local fundraising effort that supports women and children). You can hear church bells–on a still wintry night, there’s nothing as remarkable as that.

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It’s the bewildering kindness of this town that will amaze you. If you are looking for a home that is a sanctuary, a private backyard to reintroduce yourself to nature (and a few paperbacks), access to trails, exquisite dining, fun shops and something a little less hectic than the 416, this is it. This house isn’t generic, it’s oozing personality through its mortar and heart pine shake roof.

Come take a look inside our 155-year-old stone home and fall in love with it all, just as we did on the most miserable day in November, four years ago. Happiness lives here.

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Fine Print:

$439,900

2 bed/2 bath (carriage house had Murphy bed for possible 3rd bedroom)

Lot size: 82.04 x 133.58
Property taxes: $3,100
Square footage: 1556
Kitchen highlights reel: Black Fire Clay farm sink, Perrin & Rowe faucet, Cosmos black leather-finished granite counter, cathedral and tray ceilings in kitchen and carriage house (with exposed stone), frosted sycamore glass between rooms, built-in pantry, maple cabinets, dishwasher (all LG appliances included), custom 2″ black walnut breadboard table with custom fabricated metal legs
Main floor laundry (stackables in main bathroom), original stained glass window in main bath, hickory flooring (kitchen), original pine and oak floors 
Hot water gas boiler and radiators
Carriage house could be used as 3rd bedroom (has murphy bed) or office/studio space with exposed stone and Venetian plaster walls.
Crown moulding throughout, 10″ ceilings, 12″ baseboards, updated lighting, electrical and plumbing
Heart pine shake roof, cedar deck, outdoor stone table, storage shed
Aggregate stone driveway (2 parking spaces)
Rented equipment: hot water heater, Culligan water softener
Contact us at jtorti7@yahoo.ca

 

 

 

 

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Our Love Affair With Galt, Ontario

“Why are you two moving anyway?”

The question is posed often. Why would we want to leave our sweet little stone cottage now that we’ve groomed the grounds and painted the entire square footage to our earthy palette specs?

‘Here’ was always temporary. We had to stay within a radius that was commuting-friendly for Kim—not some banging-head-on-steering-wheel drive that sucked up three hours of her day (*factoring in 12 hour shifts to boot). With retirement on the shiny horizon, we will be untethered. With friends and family scattered across the map with equal density, we’re truly free range chickens.

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In three years, we’ve taken full advantage of this area. Like small town Lonely Planet writers, we’ve been in and out of every curry house, bake shop and pub, scribbling our own notes (mental, and on tripadvisor). To live somewhere, anywhere—there’s a responsibility to deepen the relationship. And we have.

It’s the familiarity that we will miss—but, we also know that it can be created so easily with time, networking, serendipity and on-foot wandering. It’s reassuring to have that Norm (of Cheers fame) rapport, and connect. Whether it’s the bubbly as Prosecco staff at the liquor store, the smiley guys at the Diva gas pumps, the Home Hardware paint department or plugged-in librarians, we have built our own custom community framework. Each person has been like an essential Lego block in our construction.

Sure, there are many that we only know on a first name basis, but Franco (who is doing woodwork in the century home beside us—like clockwork…no, really. His station wagon rolls into the drive at 10:00am, departs at 12 for a 30 minute lunch and leaves again with precision at 4pm), Cheezy (not his real name—but he owns Cheezy’s Variety across the street), Dee (of Dee’s butter tart empire) and Nonna (not her real name either, but she’s the perennially kerchiefed Polish woman in the stone house across from us) are quintessential Galt. There’s John who lumbers down the sidewalk with his makeshift cart to collect beer bottles on recycling night, Heather the chatty pilot, the Quaker girls and our now departed favourite neighbours who went west by three blocks—Dawn and Eric.

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I’ve previously showcased Dawn as the baked good angel who actually smells like wedding cake and routinely drops off a dozen chocolate chip cookies—stuffed with Oreos. Or coconut lime loaves iced in heavenly confectionary. Then there’s a whole crew of dogs that make this neighbourhood distinctly ours. Meet Penny the Beagle, Porkchop the English bulldog, lanky Scout and two husky pups, still with little razor puppy teeth. They are pure Galt too.

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Even the squirrels are familiar here (I feel like Dian Fossey, recognizing and charting the squirrel family tree)—one of the grey brood has ears that are seemingly dyed Billy Idol blonde. Chipper the bachelor chipmunk, runs along the foundation of our house like a streetcar line. Margaret, the toad as big as a Whopper hamburger patty, spent most of the summer with us until she hopped somewhere new.

Our backyard has been a pure recalibration zone after being sequestered in a basement apartment in Toronto, and a suburban peekaboo in Oakville (where all surrounding eyes are upon you in a tiny no-trees-yet just-sodded backyard).

But the best part? Exploring and exposing. Moving is like opening a blank journal and running your palm down the seam. (*Here’s your preliminary homework: Visit Maclennan & Baetz Publishing House and purchase a hand-sewn journal online. As the founder insists: “Making notebooks in a garage in Waterloo, Ontario is our life’s work. You can fill them with yours.”)

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Start with a to-do list like ours, searching for the best tiny cupcakes and Jamaican patties in town. Sketch your favourite places like Joe Forte has done in Key West, Greenwich Village and Cambridge. (He took it a step further by living out of his van for six months at a time, all ink, passion and pro bono vino nightcaps from the neighbouring Italian restaurant). Go for a walk without destination.

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Certainly, moving out of this area is a swan song of sorts, but, it’s a dance that starts all over again. And, I’m no dancer, so that’s as far as that metaphor is going to go. A few weeks ago, Kim and I sat around our black walnut harvest table (that will come with us as a reminder of the mighty walnut trees rooted a century deep in our yard) and randomly started rhyming off all that we had done in this area. With the enthusiasm of Girl Guides trying to attain fifty badges in a summer, I think we’re close. And, it doesn’t matter where you live—stuff is there. You don’t need the neon lights, Michelin stars or trendy cafes or roadside attractions. Poke around like we did. This is what we did and found….and I challenge you to do the same.

Bat-tagging (yes, tagging bats to track their migration patterns) at Shade’s Mills Conservation Area. The Grand River Conservation Authority offer public programs that run the gamut from star gazing to crash courses on salamanders to snowshoeing. Or, owl prowls…see below.

Owl Prowls at Pinehurst Conservation Area—armed with flashlights and a throaty whistle, you can tromp into the woods and try to attract screech and great horned owls, responding to calls in defense of their territory or, hoping to find a sexy mate.

A Bee Symposium. At city hall, local honey producers and all-around bee enthusiasts and activists shared the skinny on how to attract bees to your garden and create orchard mason bee “houses” out of scrap wood or PVC pipes.

BEER classes! We attended every class (high achievers, I know) at the Grand River Brewing Company. Each night featured a theme from pilsners to spring beers to stouts and porters. For $20 a class, it was a near PhD dose of beer intel —paired with cheese from a local shop or catered by Kiwi.

Monigrams Coffee Roasters Backlot Sessions: Coordinated by local guitar hero Eric Bolton, the Backlot Sessions are an intimate experience, just upstairs from the hive of Monigrams coffee shop. Featuring local and travelling musicians like Glass Face, it’s the perfect venue to take in the acoustics and feel-good coffee sourced from a women’s farming collective in Burundi, Africa.

The Cineseries: My greatest trepidation in moving from Toronto was leaving the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, Queen Street Video and matinees at the Carlton. Lucky dogs that we are, the Idea Exchange (our local library), brings celluloid to Cambridge. We’ve been able to catch the TIFF film circuit just blocks from home.

The Grand River Film Fest: The venues this year expanded to include the U of W School of Architecture. Sponsored by Langdon Hall, the film For Grace (about Curtis Duffy, a Michelin-star ranked Chicago chef and restauranteur) was upgraded with the likes of caramel pumpkin-seed studded popcorn and Pellegrino from the Langdon kitchen.

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The Library: I have a serious love affair with this place. We’ve attended a dozen events—pop-up Christmas marketplaces, printmaking demonstrations, live music, poetry slams, live painting competitions—all part of their carefully curated Friday Night Art Live series—because who doesn’t love the idea of drinking beer, in the library?

The Lavender Farm: as part of a “Road Trip to Wellness” article I wrote for Grand magazine, Kim and I went to visit a nearby lavender farm—that was once a pig farm! The owners are in their sixties and, you can tell, are in their groove and happy to share their genesis story.

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Beer Baths: Technically these are outside our hometown boundary, but, just a half hour drive away on at the Grand Wellness Centre in Brantford. For $50 you can soak your weary bones in a cedar tub filled with lava hot water, two pints of beer, hops and hop flowers—all while sipping on a glass of Ramblin’ Road from Simcoe.

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LPGA at Whistle Bear. If you’ve only watched golf on TV (yes, nap-inducing, right?), it’s way more engaging up close and personal with the players. Sit at a tee box and watch the big heavyweights discuss clubs and yards with their caddies and watch the grass blades take to the wind with a Big Bertha.

Sheave’s Tower: Built in 1876, this tower was the powerhouse for the nearby Blair Mill. Painted oxblood red, it’s a secret sitting in the woods. And if you are a fan of bacon lore, the Blair Mill generated power to grind corn for Schneider’s peameal bacon.

Comedy at the Gay Bar: Now shuttered, sigh. The Robin’s Nest was a landmark, even for big city gays. The old agricultural building on George street housed a rough dance floor that saw many a line-dance courtesy of the DJ who still spun records well into the 90s (and her nineties I think). It changed hands and names to Sizzle, and then it went fizzle. The Nest was like the very best gay reunion on a wintry Saturday night. The ladies that owned it sold hot roast beef sandwiches at midnight and there was always an urn of coffee and store-bought cookies for designated drivers. The new owner introduced live music, drag shows and a comedy night, but steep and climbing rent snuffed the legacy.

Canoeing the Grand: There are few outfitters based out of Paris, and the float from the old Cambridge GTO gas station on Highway 24 to Paris is the quickest way to channel Bill Mason. The nearly 300 km long heritage Grand River (on its way to Dunnville where it dumps into Lake Erie) is swift and gorgeous as it cuts through the Carolinian forest of the area. In Glen Morris there are some Class 1 rapids even, to give your adrenalin a stir. Don’t miss pulling over to check out the German Woolen Mills on the east bank of the Grand near Glen Morris.

German Woolen Mills: You can also check out the historical walls and foundation of the mills on foot or bike by taking the Trans Canada Trail on the east side of the river to Paris. Kim and I have walked to the mills and, on one day, all the way to Paris (19km). We’ve seen American redstarts, Green-backed herons, deer and even an indigo bunting.

Ghost Tour of Old Galt: McDougall Cottage offers various walks that focus on the heritage and history of this area. We’ve walked them all—from the Dickson Hill neighbourhood to industrial Galt to the Halloween ghost walk. It’s a fun way to hear about all the hangings, murders, love affairs gone astray and lingering spirits of the town. For Joleen, the affable guide—this is her ultimate Jeopardy category. You can’t stump her on Galt history. The cottage has a broad program of Scotch tastings, live fiddle, odes to a “love carrot” (long story), and demonstrations on baking all sorts of marvellous things for a small donation.

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Jane’s Walk: The citizen-led tours in honour of social mover and shaker Jane Jacob take place in cities all over the globe. The humble purpose is to remind you to connect with your city and communicate with your neighbour. You’ll learn neat trivia and often, it’s those joining the walk that have lived in the area for seventy years that chirp in with the most surprising gossip.

Preston Heritage House Tour: I rounded up my mom and bro to join us on this self-guided house tour that let us snoop inside a stone farmhouse, famed downtown hotel/watering hole and church conversion. A house tour is like getting permission to read someone’s diary. Go!

Christmas Eve Cocktails at Langdon Hall: Add a just-fallen blanket of snow, soft carols and a snapping fire. Order something fancy from the cocktail list or a hot spiked beverage and take in the opulence, history and postcard that the country house hotel is. It’s been our tradition for the last three years.

Little Louie’s Burgers and Soupery: On the complete flip side, this kitschy joint is a wonderland for those who like burgs with a twist. Our real estate agent Jane Gardner, had insisted we go when we first moved in. It took us three years and now we are kicking ourselves—they grill the best burgers possibly ever (though I have special attachment to a reindeer burger from Hofn, Iceland). Load it up with Hickory Sticks, volcanic mayo, grilled pineapple or pulled pork. There are no rules, and for sub $10 you get a gut-busting lunch with a side!

Barnacle Bill’s Fish n’ Chips: Despite not having a religious bone in my framework, I’m all for the Catholic tradition of fish on Good Friday. Beware—this greasy landmark will leave you smelling like a piece of fried halibut—even if you take your order to go. There are picnic tables by the river—but we just walk the block home and let loose on the malt vinegar and double-dipping of the tartar.

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The Knox Church Christmas Bazaar: Again, one doesn’t have to be Catholic or Presbyterian to take advantage of all those sweet little church ladies selling their baked goods and preserves. Kim’s mom and aunts make divine mustard pickles and jams, but, visiting the east coast just once a year puts a damper on importing more as the rations run low. The Bazaar is our in-between for seedy raspberry jam, some imperfectly shaped shortbread and pickled beet jewels.

Music on the street: Whether it’s the Portuguese parade, Folk Fest or Galt on the Grand with Pauly and the Greaseballs cover band rocking it out, we’ve supported all the local fests, grabbed grilled cheese sandwiches and warm beers from the food trucks and mingled as one should.

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We’ve drank every craft beer on tap at our nearby pub, Café 13; picnicked at the lake at Shades, found 8 lost dogs, snagged hardware and corbels from Southworks Antique Market, pewter barn owl salt and pepper shakers from The Green Spot and kept our house chronically scented like a cedar cabin courtesy of Art of Home’s line of Whitewater poured candles. We’ve dragged out-of-town friends to our favourite shops: Blair House Gifts, Willow House and Cornerstone and the Farmer’s Market where they went home with an organic local turkey, a bundle of sunflowers, garlic dip and six chairs for their dining room table.

Gosh, we’ve earned our badges, haven’t we? I didn’t even mention hosting the Galt Horticultural Society tour (and 100 green thumbs—or, 200 I guess) in our backyard. Or, our participation in the Holly Jolly House Tour that saw over 1,200 people traipse through our house, tricked out for Christmas.

Have we done it all? Of course not. We still have to try the poutine at Stoli’s where they load the fries with stuffing and turkey gravy. And I would like to get to the drive-in theatre to kick it old school with a fountain root beer and butterball popcorn.

When we do move, it will be confidently, knowing we treated this little town like a new love interest: it had our undivided attention, curiosity and affection. It’s been a wonderful love affair.

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This Old House

Buying a house runs almost parallel to an online or blind date. At face value, from the carefully selected MLS listing pictures or deceiving match.com profiles, a potential house and date present the same. As the relationship evolves, the secrets are revealed. The skeletons in the closet get dragged out into broad daylight. Physical remnants of previous relationships are etched deep into the mortar and veins—sometimes we hear the story at full-length. Often we’re left to guess.

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This particular old house stands like a nomadic camel on a never-ending caravan. Loved and mistreated in equal parts by different owners over the century and a half, each floor joist, pine shake shingle, chunk of limestone and black walnut tree represents a historical milestone in the genesis of William Webster’s homestead, the stone mason who probably broke his back making this unruly riverfront plot a home.
It reminds me of Elspeth Huxley’s memoir, The Flame Trees of Thika. Readers are introduced to a bustling colonial Kenya, rich with promise built on a foundation of hope. The book opens with Huxley’s father’s desire to create a successful coffee plantation on a plot of land he bought “in the bar of the Norfolk Hotel from a man wearing an Old Etonian tie.
“Thika in those days—the year was 1913—was a favourite camp for big-game hunters and beyond it there was only bush and plain. If you went on long enough you would come to mountains and forests no one had mapped and tribes whose languages no one could understand.”
Huxley’s family didn’t traverse that far, though, they were two days’ journey in an ox-cart.
Those were the days of gumption! Imagine buying a parcel of land, sight unseen (no realtor.ca! No real estate agent to point out the waving red flags), all with the hopes that a river runs through it and that your steed and family can survive not only the elements, but, your vision of a dream. All with pennies in pockets. And, sometimes, a piano and Pekinese dogs to bring some semblance of home to a savannah laced with coiling pythons and hungry hidden leopards and lions.

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I feel a little bit Huxley in our move to Galt. Our steed was a Saab and surely, the 100km journey from Toronto is the 2013 equivalent of a two day ox-cart ride. Instead of a coffee plantation, I was content with finding a cozy coffee shop with Frisbee-sized ginger cookies and sunny tables for spreading out newspapers. And, I did find one—a three minute ox-cart (or donkey, our preferred mode in Egypt) ride away. The Grand Cafe.

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Though we visited the house twice before we had possession (see, buying a house is really like dating! Especially if you’re talking about lesbians—you definitely have possession after two visits! And then, of course, you move in on the third).
We had drive-by’s (similar to online cruising of profile pics). We snooped via our agent for more dirt on the history and reassurance, just like serial daters. We Googled our stone mason and Galt and surmised that whatever magnetic pull Webster had in 1867 to this area, the attraction was identical to ours.
It’s a gentle conquering, to have an empire of dirt in Kenya or Galt. Despite the lack of a coffee plantation and pecking hens and Masai warrior ready with spear in hand. (or, cell phone in this case).

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There’s undeniable responsibility here, to sustain a 150-year-old home that has weathered more than just the angry floodwaters of the turbulent Grand river. To plant a tree deep in the soil here, we are contributing to the time capsule, a property that remembers each of its tenants—via crocus blooms, cobbled walkways and Japanese blood grasses and butterfly bushes.
A new massage client recently asked what prompted our radical move from Toronto. I explained our love-at-first-sight encounter with the stone cottage. I also said that a neat event had occurred with the purchase–because it was a heritage home, that we had also become caretakers of history.
“Oh, so you have a home cleaning business too?”
I laughed, but then realized, as caretakers, yes, we sort of adopted that part-time job too.
The black walnut trees, which I like to think William Webster planted, are the favoured hangout of Downy woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches and roosting grackles. The squirrels stake claim over the chipmunk, but in the end, it is a time share, with each bird and mammal taking turn amongst the branches throughout the day.

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Like us. It’s our turn in the branches. I imagine grand garden parties, theirs and ours. With soft fairy lights, and socialites tipsy on juleps or gimlets, a la Gatsby. I picture hot orange campfires licking at the night sky, pheasants golden on the grill, long-winded toasts and promises to do it all over again, sooner than later. Then and now.
We are learning a lot in this new relationship with our home. The now-predictable post-midnight clangs and pings of the old rads no longer give us a synchronized stroke. The lay of the bedrock in the basement is becoming familiar—I have all the potholes mapped out. (But, there will always be a token whack of the head every other time I go down into the far recesses of the basement—a reminder that I’m not 5’5).

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I love that we’ve become part of such a story. That we’re sharing turf with a stone mason and his steeds. We’re becoming quite intimate with our blind date of a house. It only took us one visit to want to make the commitment.
And, now we commit to the storied past and a remarkable future in tandem.

Categories: Home Sweet Home, Polyblogs in a Jar | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

The Good, Clean Country Life

I feel like I’ve been a participant in an experimental urban detox plan.

Trailed by our moving truck, Kim and I drove out of Toronto on the frosty morn of January 24th and haven’t been back since. A few weeks before the move I had drawn up an extensive list of necessities. I would definitely have to subscribe to Toronto Life and The Grid.  I doubled up on Jimmy’s Coffee beans with reassuring plots of how I could get city friends to visit and bring bean cartel. But, where would I rent my indie movies without Queen Video a block away? Where was my Bloor Hot Docs cinema equivalent to be found? Were there any Vietnamese Bahn Mi subs to be found in the 519 area code?

I knew I would miss elements of the city, because, it’s simply unnatural to not miss a place.  Despite all my whining about being rained on every day on the west coast, part of me misses the intensely heady smell of wet cedar that permeates the air. Oh, and that coconut curry stew at the Thai hole-in-the-wall on South Fraser Way that I can no longer remember the name of. Places should leave indelible marks.

I don’t miss Toronto in the proportions I thought I would though. In fact, I find myself living a more cohesive lifestyle in Galt. The list of what I don’t miss escalates. In an email to my friend Suzanne, I shared my quiet thrills—like watching the movement of the full moon through the silhouette of our black walnut trees in the backyard. Just months ago I had no moon view. From my basement apartment I had a clear knee-high view of pedestrians and the local bottle collectors rooting through the recycling bins parked outside my window.

065Here, we have front row seats to unbridled nature. The path behind our house connects to the Grand Trunk Trail which winds along the river to my workplace, Langdon Hall Country Hotel & Spa. Though my commute has doubled to a 16 km route on foot, there is a delicious pleasure in walking along the Blair road and spotting eight deer and passing by wetlands vibrating with spring peepers and red winged blackbirds. The chatter of chickadees is the best noise pollution around.

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As of late, my morning commute has involved dodging nesting Canadian geese. Vocal and hissing, the male is not so pleased that my path crosses his. But, this is a far cry from downtown crackhead encounters, oblivious texting-obsessed pedestrians and dodging piles of post-nightclub barf on King street sidewalks.

Living on the Grand river brings such welcome intimacy with nature. My new reality show is the watching the drama unfold between the black, grey and red squirrels seeking backyard domination. I can bird-watch from our en suite toilet for crying out loud (which might be too much information to share). But, I am in my birding glory with all the white breasted nuthatch and cedar waxwing fly-bys. The machine gun-like chatter of kingfishers induces an immediate smile.With the returning migrations, our gardens are finally giving way to a greener palette. The snowdrop blossoms are holding their heads high despite the monsoon rains of late. Purple crocuses and irises are pushing the mulch aside to show off their spring pride.

There is such primal joy in getting grubby in the gardens with soiled denim knees. For those of you who are unaware, beer tastes even better outside, chugged with a dirty work glove on, with thorn and rose bush lacerations burning your forearms.

015The previous owners of this house apparently never raked. We thought we might uncover buried treasure (or buried bodies for that matter) under all the debris. A dozen stuffed yard bags later, we’re still trying to make headway.  I’m patiently waiting for warmer temps so I can finally pull out the hula hoop that is frozen inside the compost pile.

Having a yard is so paramount to happiness though. In the Annex, though there was a backyard per se, it was the home owner’s domain. I’d have to find my green a few blocks away at the local parkette—and, given the shadows of nearby buildings, the sunshine timeline was at a premium.

Now? Sunshine, no shadows. Green = ours. Coffee outside? Just a step away. Yes, small but hugely gratifying pleasures, indeed.

I routinely read the entire newspaper now—a miraculous feat. In fact, I read not only the local rag The Cambridge Times but The Waterloo Record, and courtesy of Kim’s sister, I also have The Ayr News delivered to my house. Even the news is better here! The Ayr News reports on all the ham suppers and spaghetti dinners in the area. And, there is amazing journalistic coverage of euchre tournaments and tundra swan sightings. Oh, and how ‘bout so-and-so’s daffodils! They’re up two inches already!

Somehow, we’ve found more time in Galt. Time to entertain, read, cook, take long walks without watches.  Time to be present. I’ve read more books in the last two months than I did in nearly a year in Toronto. The librarians know me by name…just like Cheers, but, different.

Not working until 9 or 10 o’clock at night has introduced me to a brand new world of eating at a respectable hour. Before,  I convinced myself that I was simply very European in my habits. Surely other people sat down for dinner at midnight.

Now I’m actually working my way through the pile of recipes I’ve clipped out. I’ve found my inner Julia Child in Galt and have wooed guests with stuffed lasagna rolls, turkey pot pie, jambalaya and French onion soup. And, while in the kitchen, I have a view and natural light to boot. Not to trash talk by previous digs, because, the place had its merits, but—one could have fried eggs atop the non-energy saver pot lights. The oven was the equivalent of cooking over an open fire with unreliable random broil-like temperatures. And, any cooking was always performed under the duress of the lead-foot tenant upstairs who made the above-mentioned pot lights flicker with her footsteps.

Ahh, yes, the good, clean country life.

013I work more reasonable hours now and don’t feel like I’m financially treading water. In Toronto, I worked more than I ever had, somehow earned less and forked out more just to live. I felt like I could have cut my paycheques into confetti and tossed them in the air. I’m not in that same fatigue fog that the city seemed to facilitate.

If this is urban detox, I would like to be the poster child. It’s so nourishing for the soul.

Please, come visit us and experience life as it should be. Though, we might hand you a rake upon your arrival.

Categories: Home Sweet Home, Polyblogs in a Jar | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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