Tag Archives: Kemptville

Invitation: ELEMENTAL Photographic Exhibition

After more than 30 years of shooting and nearly 125,000 images, I’m pleased to announce the opening of my first solo exhibition. The invitation is below; I hope you have the opportunity to stop by.

For complete information on the exhibit, visit www.elementalphotographic.com 
Andrea Cordonier
Continue reading Invitation: ELEMENTAL Photographic Exhibition

Roundabout Paradise

I knew it couldn’t last. A profusion of gorgeous wildflowers in a roundabout is just too attractive to a municipal weed whacker.

I’ve lately been savouring the benign neglect of two roundabouts in Kemptville.  The one adjacent to the Tim Hortons had grown particularly fat and happy with the generous rainfall these past few months.  Bladder Campions, Black Eyed Susans, Viper’s Bugloss, Milkweed, Cow Vetch, Mulleins and a plethora of other species sprouted uninvited amidst the most depressing, ubiquitous mono-planting possible: the dreaded spreading juniper.

I easily forgot the junipers as the wildflowers grew up and out, parading their striking forms and colours to the thousands of cars passing daily. Entirely unassisted by human hands, the plants naturally filled the low, medium and high planes and boasted a colourful, harmonious palette and variance of textures that is the holy grail of every gardener. I never drove by without the urge to photograph it. But I never did.

Last week, someone tampered with Eden.

A four-by-four patch was hand-stripped, its gentle denizens ripped from the soil and left to shrivel in a mangled mess.  Somebody somewhere had decided to put an end to this weed nonsense. I wanted to put up angry/clever/persuasive signs to garner support for the wild garden and convince whoever was touching such beauty to bloody well stop. But I never did.

Yesterday, I found complete decimation.

Five weedy, browning heaps of perfectly beautiful wildflowers and grasses lay amongst the newly-emergent junipers. These plants, which cost neither one dime to purchase nor required one hour of labour to maintain, were gone, and the roundabout returned to its sullen, unimaginative, strip mall ugliness.

And so it goes.

Gardens are an attempt to mirror Eden. But what if you already lived there?…What if walking in the woods was like wandering through a vast and beloved place of abundance? Why clear the earth of all these life-giving plants in order to have…grass?

Theresa KishkanMnemonic: A Book of Trees

What is
Roundabout Plantings
What could be

There are real options to ugly and unnatural: some interesting examples of creative and natural roundabout plantings are found here and here.

According to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, there are more than 2,700 uncultivated (wild) plants – including woody trees and shrubs – that grow across Ontario.  Click here to find out more.


The Farmer By the Side of the Road

It was clear by the tire impressions left in the tall grass that others had stopped at that same place by the side of the road.  I’m guessing they stopped for the same reason we did: to ogle the dozen or so brand-spanking new lambs in the farmer’s field.

Located just west of Kemptville on Highway 43, I pass the property regularly and admire it for the cherry red metal roofs and charcoal stain of its tidy outbuildings.  I have watched the hard work of its owners pay off in beauty, charm and animal husbandry.  The place is obviously loved.

Even though I didn’t know the inhabitants, I recognize my regular drive-bys and looky-loos weave subtle connections into the story of my own experience.  I hear it in the comments of people who pass by my old house, a work in progress, by foot, on bicycle, by bus and car.  If I’m working out front, they’ll often stop to ask questions, offer historical information, or comment on how much they enjoy watching the changes.

I think we all have certain homes and properties that we keep tabs on, whether we consciously realize it or not.  We observe, discuss changes, and imagine and construct our own stories when we lack hard facts.  Once we recognize where someone lives (“Oh yeah!  You live in the house on the main street, on the river, the two-story one that’s been under renovation for a few years.  I know it.”), we move subtly closer to being friends and farther from being strangers.  Our homes act as calling cards, as letters of introduction.

Yesterday, I roared past the field, then slammed on the brakes and pulled a u-turn. My animal-mad youngest in tow, we hopped out and were surprised by the docile nature of the mothers and their young.  A few minutes later a man came walking down the fence line towards us, coffee in hand.  He introduced himself as Sam, the guy who, along with his wife and kids, owns the place.

Sam always knew he wanted to live on a large rural property.  Two and a half years ago he made the leap from suburban to country living, first leaving a subdivision in Barrhaven (nine backyards touched his), then finally Greely, when the adjoining greenbelt was slated for development.  Here his ample acreage borders a couple of properties, but now they’re much farther than a stone’s throw away.  He has room to breathe and to raise Scottish Blackface sheep, laying hens, and muscovy ducks and plant and tend a modest apple orchard.  He opened the gate and invited us in for a tour.

Like many other ranchers and farmers, Sam has a day job.  He owns two locations of Broadway Bar and Grill (Kemptville and Stittsville), and spends the rest of his time with his family and his animals.  He says he’s not one to lounge around, he needs something to do, and would rather look after the sheep than veg in front of the television.

His affection for his animals is plain and reciprocated.  He calls them and they come running.  He brings out food and they stampede.  While the breeding sheep have names, the younger ones do not.  “I don’t want to bond with them too much,” he says.  They are, after all, raised to be sold as meat.  The bulk of the lambing for the season is complete, just one last mamma awaits her turn.  And how can you tell when they’re ready to birth?  “The way they move.  They’re restless,” he says.  I empathize with the poor thing. “I thought she was going to go last night, but no.”

In another month Sam will pay a hired man $5 a head to shear the sheep.  That man will, in turn, sell the wool to the co-op for $7 per pound.  You have to be good and fast to make money at that business.

Sam’s wife was due back at any moment with a rooster, the newest addition to the farm.  In a couple of weeks he expects to have a sign out on the road offering eggs for sale, using the age-old honour box system.  In the summer, along the same stretch of road, a number of growers offer fresh fruits and vegetables from self-serve roadside stands.  Stopping to check out the vendors is a highly pleasurable and personal part of rural living.  Plus it takes the guesswork out of seasonality.  If it’s in season, it’s on the stand.

Sam leaves for a moment and returns with a dozen fresh eggs.  He hands them to me, refusing payment, hoping I’ll become a regular client when the sign goes up.

I am glad to have met the man who paints the buildings, builds the fences, raises the animals and stewards this land.  I will happily buy eggs because it will give me an excuse to stop by and see what else he’s been up to.

And maybe next time, I’ll bring my work boots and gloves and make myself useful.