Sunday, August 28, 2011

Morden Corn & Apple Festival

Yesterday, I joined many others as Corn and Apple Nation descended on Morden for the 45th annual Corn and Apple Festival. I had not been there in over 30 years and, at the last minute, I decided that it was time to check it out again.

On the way there, we went through Carman, home of Eddie “The Eagle” Belfour, a key member of the 1999 Stanley Cup Champion Dallas Stars.


The memory of that championship season still brings a smile to my face and likely always will. For those that don’t know, since the “real” Jets left Winnipeg, I have two favorite NHL teams: the Dallas Stars and whoever will be playing Mark Chipman’s personal hockey team.

I was relieved that we did not stop at the Roland Golf Club.


I’m sure it’s a fine place to golf, for those who are so inclined, but we didn’t need to stop there on the way to the Peace Gardens earlier this month and we didn’t need to stop there yesterday either.

Traffic was quite bad as we took a less conventional route to Morden, turning west on PTH 23, then south on PR 432. Traffic was even worse when we got there.


Not only was there a Tim Hortons location at the light ahead, which can bring about a traffic jam in the middle of a farmer’s field, but we were moments away from the start of the parade. Apparently, it’s a really big deal in this part of the S.P.R.M. and we were in the thick of it all.

After de-bussing, I chose to go off the beaten path and I probably got some strange looks as I passed by so many people with lawn chairs in hand headed in the opposite direction. I’m surprised someone didn’t ask if I was lost.


I stopped to take a picture of this overhead sign draped across PTH 3/Thornhill Street on my way to Morden Park.


This is a scenic park nestled along Dead Horse Creek that was comparatively free of the hustle and bustle several blocks away.






On my way back to the center of town, I saw some other interesting sights.


I know that at least one reader will appreciate this picture. First, he gets a disease named after him, now he has a furniture store all his own.


Leftovers from the parade that could be heard all over town.





Nice homes in this growing community.



There was not a parking spot to be had anywhere in town. I’m sure the locals appreciate the money the festival brings in every year, but the streets were literally jam-packed with parked cars.


Hockey Night in Morden.


The old court house.

Not that I enjoy crowds, but I did want to check out Stephen Street, where all the commotion was taking place.




The midway on the east side of town.


The line for ride tickets.


$9 for a bag of cotton candy?


More rides as you move west.



This was the line for Bessie’s Famous Shish-Ka-Bobs.


And this was the shish-ka-bob outdoor kitchen.

Rest assured I was not ever part of this line.

Moving on, I came across the line for the free corn that attracts crowds from near and far.


This was just the front of the line. It stretched another block long. I would have appreciated the corn, but I wasn’t inclined to spend my day in line waiting for it.


There were plenty of public washrooms available in trailers such as these. It’s an excellent idea and I only wish other festivals in Manitoba made similar provisions for their guests, such as the Lily Festival in Neepawa, for example.

  
Clowns entertaining passers-by.

As I predicted, I ran out of energy before I ran out of time, so I strolled back to Morden Park to put up my feet and relax before our bus ride home.

On the way back, we took a very different and circuitous route home. I had not known that there were so many ways to get from Winnipeg to Morden, but I learned a couple of new ones on this trip. The bus driver told us that there was construction work on PTH 75 and presumably, that’s why he was avoiding it.


We went through KANE, as opposed to Kane. It didn’t dawn on me until I got home, but Kane is the surname of a player on the last squad of the Atlanta Thrashers. The young man is about to go from one badly-run team to another.


After passing through KANE, we went through LOWE FARM.


A short time later, we made it to Rosenort. The distance was barely noticeable due to the fact that we were travelling at 120 km/h for most of the way since leaving Winkler. All I can say is that I was glad that this driver, unlike the driver we had last week, wasn’t balancing his meal on the steering wheel. For those that are not aware, the speed limit on most Manitoba highways is 100 km/h. Sadly, far too many motorists feel that this posted speed limit is a minimum, not a maximum.


Rosenort has their own arena.


On the right is the Rosenort Subway.

Eventually, we reached PTH 75 and we found out why the driver had been avoiding it as best he could. The condition of one of Manitoba’s most well-travelled and important highways was worse than most of the side roads we had used to get there.


This is a shot taken just north of Ste. Agathe. They were doing road work south of Ste. Agathe and it was obviously needed.

In any event, it was an interesting day out in Morden, but the town would likely have been better experienced at any other time besides when the popular Corn and Apple Festival is taking place. I hope to get that opportunity at some point.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Farm Tour


On Sunday, I ventured out on a farm tour that took me to Blue Lagoon Organics near St. Fran├žois Xavier and Littlepath Farm north of Minnedosa.

Bright and early, I boarded the bus with 13 other tour participants, two organizerettes from Manitoba Farm Mentorship, a tray full of cinnamon buns, and, of course, the bus driver, and we headed west for our first stop, Blue Lagoon Organics, located just south of the village of St. Fran├žois Xavier off PTH 26.

Apparently, I was the only one on the tour who wasn’t a farmer(ette) or prospective farmer(ette). Everyone else on the bus seemed to know each other and I admit to being a little concerned about what kind of group I was travelling with when one of them got on the bus singing the words to the popular chart-topping hit, “I got to pee so bad, pee so bad.” However, the group was quiet and most everyone left me to collect my writing fodder and highway pictures in peace, though I’m sure many of them, if not all, were asking, “Who is this guy and why is he here?”

Back to Blue Lagoon Organics, I’ve been past this farm frequently, but I’ve never seen their actual operation before. We were met by the “brains of the operation”, who gave us a nice tour of the family farm and told us of her many trials and tribulations from her years of experience. I was particularly surprised by how many hoops they have to jump through to be “certified organic”.


Two of their more significant problems are deer and coyotes and they’ve come up with some ingenious ways of fending them off. They have red lights on top of posts to ward off deer, who confuse them with the eyes of a coyote, in addition to the electrified fencing around their chicken yard.


They do sell “tomatoe” plants, though I didn’t ask what they were.


An elaborate irrigation system.


Their worm farm.


The greenhouse.





Chickens, chickens, and more chickens. If you’re wondering what that big black pile is off in the background of the second chicken picture, it’s all horse manure.

  
No, this isn’t their house, but it was a, ahem, collector’s paradise.

  
Need a used car?


They have some chickens out on one of their berms fertilizing the ground and they regularly move the chickens from berm to berm.

While there, they were good enough to let us use their outhouse and my decision to bring hand sanitizer with me paid off for the first and not final time on this day.

Two hours later, we were back on the bus heading west towards Littlepath Farm somewhere in the general vicinity of Minnedosa. Once we got on the Yellowhead past Macdonald, the bus driver pulled out a Swiss army knife and began to cut up some mini squash that he bought at Blue Lagoon. The problem here is that he was driving at the time. Many of you may be aware of the new cell phone law in the S.P.R.M. that bans the use of cell phones without a handsfree device while driving, but let me be the first to call for a similar law that bans the cutting of squash while driving.

Once we got past Gladstone, I used the washroom on the bus. For those that have never tried to answer the call of nature in a washroom in a vehicle being driven at a speed likely exceeding 110 km/h on a neglected and typically rough Manitoba highway, that is one of life’s experiences that need not be repeated.

Around 1:30 in the afternoon, we ended up at Minnedosa. From there, we proceeded north through the pretty town, past Minnedosa Beach, and found our way to a deserted country road officially known as Road 90N in the RM of Minto, where we stopped at a small house, not sure of where we were or where we were going. After one of the tour directors asked for directions from the people at the house, who must have been shocked by the sight of this big tour bus in their midst, we headed back down Road 90N and turned down a different unnamed road, where we arrived at Littlepath Farm.



We were met by an enthusiastic farmer named Wes, who took us around his scenic workplace. The first thing we saw was their collection of “chicken tractors”:





The first of their “tractors” was empty on account of the fact that the chickens had already been taken to market, but the second set still had the chickens inside, though they only had days to live. I was able to touch one of them, as did a few others.

We then walked down to see his expansive vegetable garden, complete with a much-needed irrigation system, then it was on to his pig pen.


  
Don’t worry. I won’t eat you.

Wes then took us up a hill to where his turkeys are penned up.



Just outside the cage is his kitchen:



It’s not something you’re likely to see on HGTV, but it works for him and that’s all that counts. Nearby is the tent he calls home during the summer months. He has no power or running water and he has to truck the water he has from nearby Bethany. He does, however, have a solar panel that he uses to get a small amount of power to charge the battery on his BlackBerry. I remain convinced, now more than ever, that I am the last person in the Western world without a cell phone.

After the tour of his farm, Wes led us back into Minnedosa, where we saw his makeshift retail outlet in the north end of town. While there, Wes told us about the farmer’s markets he goes to and how he tries to get some local bands to be playing while the market is open. He mentioned this topic while at his farm as well and I was puzzled as to why he deemed it necessary to have loud music blasting near his stand. Personally, hearing bands playing next to a farmer’s stand would make me buy my food elsewhere.

As he continued talking, I listened as a few of my fellow travellers discussed the best methods for slaughtering chickens. That wasn’t something I really needed to hear, so I returned to the bus and waited for the rest of the group.

Though the farm tour was over, the ride back to the degenerate capital of the S.P.R.M. was not without adventure. Our bus driver picked up a dish of chipped beef and fries at the burger stand next to Wes’s retail outlet and was balancing the Styrofoam container on the steering wheel while trying to eat the contents and control the bus travelling at a speed of somewhere in the neighbourhood of 110 km/h.

As he ate, the bus weaved back and forth slightly, nearly running onto the rumble strips past the white line a couple of times, and no one was more relieved when the driver finished his meal. Only then was his full attention focused on the road in front of him.

I would like to be the first to call for a “the steering wheel is not a dinner table” law.

By accident it seemed, we arrived back in Winnipeg safely and I nearly kissed the ground when I got off the bus. We left Minnedosa at 4:30, and after slowing down for Neepawa and Gladstone, then having to go through Portage on account of the construction on the bypass, we were in Headingley at 6:20. You can do the math to find out how fast we were travelling.

Overall, it was an enjoyable tour, though I’m not sure I’d do it again, regardless of the issue with the bus driver. I used the tour evaluation form to indicate my comments regarding the driver and I hope that, in future, this driver will place a higher premium on paying attention to the road.