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Come first,  Sit next to me,  Then ask again,   I'll tell you then.  

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Note:  Although located on my photography site,  the intent of this blog, in addition to providing details about my photography, is to provide a place for sharing stories and musings.   As such, it will occasionally contain entries that are not directly related to my photography and also photographs that have not been taken by me.  


Binder Twine

February 27, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

The image below was taken in an old, no longer used barn.  At some time, someone had tied a couple of pieces of binder (or baler) twine to a ring for a purpose now forgotten.  A light summer wind was blowing though the big open doors of the threshing floor between the haymows.   The twine gently swung back and forth in the breeze.

Binder Twine BreezeBinder Twine Breeze

The name, "binder" twine,  is left over from the days of binding sheaves I suppose.  There were parts of a binder sitting in one of our barns.  Most notably, the binder tarps, that we discovered were great for making tepees using poplar tree poles that we cut down at our gravel pit.

For me, dealing with hay and straw was always in the form of small bales held together with "binder" twine.  (It appears that I was not much help.)

The days of loading loose hay and straw into the high haymows were over long before my time.  I only saw the Hay fork that hung at the top of the barn used once.  I don't know what the arrangement was but one of our neighbors arrived with a baler and proceeded to clear the remaining loose hay and straw from the haymow.  They hooked a tractor to the long ropes and dropped the fork into the file of loose hay.  The fork was locked into the load and the tractor drove ahead raising the load to the top of the barn and then moving the fork above to the threshing floor.  The fork was released and the pile fell to the ground where is was hand forked into the baler.  

Once the mow was cleared, the fork was moved to the end of the barn, where it was left.  I remember climbing to the top of the barn, watching carefully for loose boards on the ladder, and investigating how the various catches and releases worked.  Luckily, it had been secured to the rail with some fence wire so I didn't have to deal with it releasing and crashing into the floor of the haymow.  

I imagine that it hung there until the barn was taken down or rot finally released it from it's wooden rail.


Corn Cribs and Spring

January 26, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

The days in early spring when the ground stays partially frozen always reminds me of the corn cribs.  It was just grass in front of the cribs where the wagons were loaded and so the corn was mostly hauled out before the ground got too soft from thawing and spring rains.   I imagine it may have had something to do with the price of corn as well.  I remember filling wagons and driving to the co-op in the mornings while the ground was still frozen and the stopping in the early afternoon when the ground thawed and the wagons started to make ruts.

Percy Frith Sr.Percy Frith Sr. (Photo by Percy Frith Jr.)

 (Photo by Percy Frith Jr.)

We had two big cribs for drying corn and occasionally made a couple of temporary round cribs using snow fence to hold the surplus.  The cribs were quite high and it made a great place for climbing.  The top was generally covered with corn shocks, to keep the rain and the snow out, and it made a great place for sitting and viewing the barn yard and the fields.

Our neighbor's cribs were made from posts and old boards.  I remember helping him with harvest.  We would shovel the corn from his wooden wheeled wagons into the crib.  As the crib filled, another board would be nailed onto the posts and we'd just have to throw the corn a little higher.  

Our cribs were too high for that, so an elevator was used to move the corn, shoveled out of the wagons, up into the crib.  It had a motor with a belt rather that using the power take-off on a tractor.  One of my memories is of grandfather rushing me to the house to put butter on a burn that I got.  I managed to brush my arm on the exhaust while pushing the ground plate on the spark plug to shut the motor off.

 If you look closely at the photo below you can see the elevator in front of the cribs. 

Frith Farm, Oldcastle, Sandwich South, Essex County, Ontario, Canada

 (Photo by Percy Frith Jr.)

What you can't see, is the bend marks in the sides of the elevator that were left over from grandpa and dad trying to straighten it after a treasure hunt gone wrong.   We had put together a treasure hunt for our sisters and I had placed one of the clues 3/4 of the way up the elevator.  My sister, and I think it was, my cousin climbed up the elevator far enough to complain that it was too high and yell that the clue was not there.  I decided that I would have to go up and show them.  Unfortunately, our combined weight was more than that of the motor and the elevator tilted like a teeter totter giving us a ride down. 

The ground was soft enough that the top of the elevator got stuck and without thinking about it, we all disembarked.  Luckily, the elevator remained fixed in the muddy ground.  It seemed to me that it was not a good thing to have the motor way up in the air and so I gave a tug on the end of the elevator, freeing it from the ground.  The motor descended, gaining speed before coming to an abrupt halt as it hit the ground.  Unfortunately, the top of the elevator continued travelling through the air.  When it eventually stopped, rather than being a straight line, the elevator had an elongated "V" shape. 

My dad told me, in retrospect ,that  I should have remained on the elevator after the girls got off and ridden it back up as a counterweight for the motor.  I still have thoughts of magnificently flying over the barn roof as if I had been thrown from a catapult. 

Grandpa and dad, with a tractor hooked to each end of the elevator,  did their best to return it to it's original form.  The bend marks remained to remind me of a great adventure.  

By the way, we did eventually find the clue lying on the ground next to the barn foundation where the wind had blown it.

The corn cribs are pretty much gone from Essex county now.  I wonder if it has anything to do with farm safety?  


Landscapes and Visual Noise

January 20, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

I don't shoot as many landscapes in Essex County, (Ontario, Canada)  as I used to.   Part of the problem is that I tended to make photographs that reminded me of what it was like at our farm when I was growing up.   Just houses, barns and woodlots surrounded by fields with the neighbors homesteads in the distance. 


The views here are more cluttered now with what I call visual noise.  When something catches my eye, the first thought seems to be "How much work in Photoshop is it going to take to remove all of the unwanted objects?".  I suppose it is too much to ask people to put things like piles of dirt, vehicles, and trailers behind the barn so that it leaves a more picturesque scene for wandering photographers.   Another problem is the encroaching industrialization.  Our farm is now an ethnic club with rental halls, parking lots, and sports areas.  It fared better than the neighbor farms where the only growth is factory buildings.  As well, solar and wind energy have compromised what were previously natural views.


The problem I am sure is me.  It has to do with trying to photograph what was, rather than what is.  I guess for landscapes I'll just have to consider travelling out of the flatness of Essex County and head for some rolling hills that will help hide the so called progress.  

High on a HillHigh on a Hill

Why is it that old windmills are scenic while new ones are so obtrusive?  



Blowing Snow and Horses

January 13, 2018  •  Leave a Comment


The blowing snow today reminded me of a photograph that I took a few years ago of horses out in the snow.


The horses were gone at our farm by the time that my memories start.  I've only heard the occasional mention of them from my dad and his sisters.  Stories of how my great uncle wore out the seats of his pants while my grandfather wore out the knees in his;  The implication being that my great uncle drove the horses more often.  Another memory, of my dad's, was of riding through the snow on a sled taking milk cans out to be picked up.  Perhaps there would be more if I had taken the time to ask.

Remnants of those days could still be found in my childhood.  In the barn, well used horse collars and harness pieces hung on pegs.  In the machine shed, shafts and pieces of machinery left over from conversion for use with the tractors could be found in the upstairs loft.


Although that era ended before my time, my photography provided an opportunity to learn from some friends a bit about what working with horses may have been like. Tim and Kevin Shanahan of Woodslee were showing Belgian horses and occasionally needed  photographs to post on their web page or send to interested buyers.  In addition to taking individual horse photos, over the years I was able to photograph farrier work, harnessing, and also travel to competitions and shows with them.

Being around these huge, strong animals provided me with a small insight into the hard work farming and clearing land was.  At the same time, how quiet it must have been and how close to the land one must have felt.  I like to think that my great grandfather's living on the farm was more by choice than by necessity.  Considering that he came from London England, I think that was likely the case. 

Looking back over the assessment notices I found that in 1878 there were two horses on our farm.  That number increased to three in 1895 and subsequently to four in 1903.  It's also interesting to see the number of cleared acres change from twenty acres to forty five acres as the years went by.  I wonder if the timing of that increase in cleared land is tied the ages of my grandfather and his brothers. 

I wish that there were more photographs, journals, and stories of that time.  I find it hard to imagine that there was more acreage in forest than there was in cultivation when my great grandfather purchased the farm one hundred and forty years ago.




Be Ye Glad

December 31, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Each morning, when I get dressed, I put on a pendant with the words "Be Ye Glad" on it.  It's a reminder of the past two years of dealing with cancer and of how fortunate I am to be where I am today. 

Be Ye GladBe Ye Glad

The pendant, with a tree of life symbol, actually comes with the text "I'm Still Standing".  I had the pendant customized with the title words of a song recently covered by Chris Rupp.  Although the song's context was not intended for my situation, (Michael Kelly Blanchard's inspiration was global events in the late 1970's. The Iranian hostage crisis; the Cambodian genocide;), I found a few of the lines, combined with Chris Rupp's harmonies spoke to me. 

I frequently extract lines out of context from lyrics, poetry, books, and scenes from movies when something in that instant touches me.  Perhaps it's the still photographer coming out in me.  The frames of life move by quickly.  Sometimes we need to pause the story, or stop the moving images for a closer look.  I must say though,  that it results in people questioning my taste in literature, music, and movies where they see the whole and I am only looking at a moment. 

There are a few lines in this song, (totally out of context), that I connect with in addition of course to the main theme, "Be Ye Glad"

From the 2nd verse:

... outside there are faces of friends.
And though your body lay weary from wasting,
and your eyes show the sorrow they've had.
Oh the love that your heart is now tasting
has opened the gate, Be Ye Glad.

And from the last verse:

And there is no disease or no struggle,
that can pull you from God, Be Ye Glad

So, as 2017 draws to a close and we look forward to a new year I hope that everyone can join with me in remembering "Be Ye Glad"



Chris Rupp's version can be found on YouTube here Be Ye Glad  or on iTunes.(Incidentally, Chris sings all of the harmonies himself.)

I was pleased that Pearl at PearlTwinkle.etsy.com was so accommodating in customizing the pendant for me. 


One further anecdote,  when I reviewed the opening sentence of this entry "Each morning, when I get dressed ...", I noticed that I had mistakenly typed "Be Ye Clad" rather than "Be Ye Glad".  :)   I suppose it is just as relevant though, so, a wish for the new year.  "Be Ye Clad"  :)