Saturday, March 22, 2008

Under a Spring Sun

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.
~Charles Dickens

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spring Swing

The Elgin St. Thomas Community Foundation is a wonderful organization that works to support local charities. In the past the Tyrconnell Heritage Society and the Backus-Page House Museum has benefited from the Foundation's assistance in purchasing our temperature loggers for the museum. The Elgin St. Thomas Community Foundation is holding a fundraiser to help support their operational expenses in order to continue in their mandate of community involvement.

In 2007 the Foundation granted over $21,600 to local charities in response to community need adding to a total of $76,000 of financial contributions to deserving candidates since the Foundation's inception. Join the Foundation APRIL 12th for a Spring Swing featuring the fabulous Sahara Swing Band. There will also be 10 extraordinary items for auction....all with a spring/gardening theme,......and you will NOT want to miss the opportunity to bid on these! Please help the Elgin St. Thomas Community Foundation to continue to support our local interests!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Fair Weather or Foul (Fowl)

Here in South Western Ontario there’s a saying, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes and it will change.” Those who love the mercurial nature of the climate along Lake Erie’s shoreline weren’t disappointed this week. Residents were treated to high winds, substantial snow falls, dense fogs, hoar frost mornings and bright sunny days all within the span of 3 or 4 days. To top it all off flights of tundra swans have been witnessed passing overhead. At least 7 or 8 flights have been seen noisily following the shoreline heading towards Rondeau. On a windless Monday afternoon a small flock stopping over at old Port Tyrconnell could be heard quite clearly up shore at the John E. Pearce Park outlook. It might be hard to believe that spring is on the way but the swans seem to think so.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Out of the Woods

If you’re going to be in the Simcoe area in the near future be sure to stop by the Norfolk Arts Center to take in their new exhibition “Out of the Woods” which begins on Friday March 28th and will run through until Friday June 27th. “Out of the Woods” features the work of Turkey Point folk artist Robert McCairns.
Robert McCairns was born in Scotland and came to Canada at the age of 18 in 1923. McCairns settled in the Turkey Point area and made his living on the land hunting, fishing, managing marsh lands and acting as a guide. It was during this time that he tried his hand at carving decoys and that was the start of his journey into the world of folk art. After a severe illness led to semiretirement, McCairns began to use his carving skills to recreate the likeness of the birds inhabiting the marshes of Long Point. It wasn’t long until he began to branch out and include other subject matters that included cats, dogs, pigs and fish.
Robert’s first major exhibition was in 1977 at the Lynnwood Art Center which was the predecessor of the Norfolk Art Center. In 2008, the Norfolk Art Center is pleased to exhibit a selection of these marvelous carvings once again.
The Norfolk Arts Centre is open Wednesdays to Fridays, 10am-4pm. For more information please contact 519-428-0540 or email .

Friday, March 7, 2008

Hare Stew

Small game was plentiful in the Talbot Settlement and would have been a welcome addition to the pioneer table any time of year. Hare or rabbit would have been a regular part of the fare that graced the 1800s menu. Today the rabbit is domestically bred for the table while its cousin, the hare, is considered the true game animal.
This recipe calls for hare but rabbit would work just as well. The domestically bred rabbit does not need to be hung but if you’re using wild hare remember it needs to hang for around a week before it’s ready to use in this recipe.


3 hares cut into pieces (disjointing a hare is very similar to cutting up a chicken)
1 cup flour
1 tsp of pepper
1 tsp of salt
½ tsp of thyme
3 or 4 cups stock
2 Carrots, sliced
Butter (or vegetable oil)
½ pound of salt pork, diced
2 carrots, sliced
4 large onions, each cut in six
1 pound of mushrooms
Hare liver, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Set the hare liver aside for later.
Mix flour, salt, pepper and thyme together in a good sized bowl. Dredge the pieces of hare in the flour mixture and let rest until needed. Save 4 tablespoons of flour mixture in a small bowl.
In a large cast iron or heavy bottom stewing pot brown salt pork and onions over a medium high heat until salt pork is crispy and onions are slightly translucent and caramelized. Remove mixture from pot. Reduce heat and brown hare pieces in the same pot. Add butter or oil as needed. When the hare is nice and brown add enough stock to cover, put the lid back on and simmer for about an hour. Sauté the mushrooms in a little bit of butter. When the meat is cooked through, add the mushrooms, carrots, onions and salt pork to the pot. Cook for around 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. If the stew seems a little thin make a beurre manié* with the leftover dredging flour. Just before serving, sauté the chopped hare liver in butter, add to the pot, season the stew to taste and plate.

*Beurre manié is a good way to thicken a sauce or stew at the end of the recipe. Take 4 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of butter. Knead them together to form a paste. Roll the paste into little balls or small pellets and add to your hot liquid, whisking continuously to dissolve the butter and disperse the flour. Simmer the sauce until it thickens and the flour has totally dissolved. Be sure not to let your liquid boil while adding the beurre manié or it might separate.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Golden Patina

It may be off season for the Backus-Page House Museum but the Tyrconnell Heritage Society continues to enforce its historically directed mandate. Accession is a year round activity as the committees and board members work to increase the scope of the museum collection.

One of the newest items to join our collection has only just arrived this past week. The piece, a cutlery tray, is so new that the Accessions Committee hasn’t even had a chance to catalogue the item or research its construction or history.

The tray was purchased in Barrie but should fit quite well into the Talbot Settlement 1800’s circa collection at the Backus-Page House Museum. Cutlery trays would have played a prominent role in the diningroom or kitchen of the settler household. In the 1800’s house the cutlery tray would have been left out on the table ensuring the utensils were always close at hand. This tray has a rich patina that can only be acquired through many years of dedicated service. The edges of the handle have been worn smooth with the caress of countless hands.

The THS is confident that this new piece will be a fine addition to our growing collection.