Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bergerie, a lovely B&B in Sutton

Sleep like a lamb at La Bergerie in Sutton

.By M. Helmuth Starhemberg
Lovely Maxime Walther , a Swiss national, came to the town of Sutton nine years ago and built one of the finest Bed and Breakfast places on Sutton Mountain. She adores sheep, thus, every single room (she only rents out four) has a different motive with wooly lambs everywhere. But the great thing about her enjoyable place is, that it is completely secluded on Morgan, road on the west side of Sutton massiv, she has a great spring fed pond, the grounds are impeccably landscaped with seasonal flowers everywhere and her "Co-pilot" Brian makes a great breakfast. Brian actually spent his life as a co-pilot for the Canadian Forces and is an amazing teller of aviation related stories, lore   and anecdotes.

The "Bergerie" is beautifully appointed, with every room different and tastefully decorated. Each room also has it's own bath and shower and the spacing of the rooms throughout the house is designed to give total privacy to the visitors. Right now, the small inn is experiencing the great summer rush and is well booked though Thanksgiving. Then comes the lean time until the ski season starts again after the first good snowfall, but Maxime takes that in stride because she herself likes a little down-time inbetween the daily rush of changing linens, cleaning and maintaining her wonderful flower beds.

 The "Reading room"

Dunham festival 2011

A fun filled weekend for a good cause in Dunham

By Nancy Helmuth
People in the Townships are kind of "festivaled out". Every weekend some town has one and a week ago, the great "Folk and Arts Festival" in Dunham, sponsored by the local advertising paper "Le Guide" and the Caisse Populaire, expected to bring 4,000 people to Dunham, attracted exacely 70 paying spectators. The newsapaper "Le Guide" called it a "catastophy and will not continue to sponsor this ill conceived event.
This weekend however, the JAMM festival at the site of the "Oasis of Dunham" farm saw great crowds of happy people with their children and friends. There was music, dancing, animals to pet, artists showing their work and painting in front of the hundreds of onlokers who got a first hand look at the technique of working in oil and acrylic.
The "Boss" of this farm which takes in people "otherwise hard to place" and teaches them simple living in one of the most beautiful serene settings in the Western Townships. Eric Lafontaine, dressed as a clown and did a credible job entertaining his guests. On Friday, a young Sutton trio called"Les Nitrates de Madame Mimieux" had a spectacular performance of their genre which goes from ballad to pop to superb improvisation where the three artists switch instruments and generate a funky new atmosphere enjoyed everywhere they have performed lately.

Eric Lafontaine, director of the Oasis, Nancy and famous Montreal artist Armand Villancourt check the crop
The farm delivers fresh vegetables to 30 families every week throughout the summer. Everything is organically grown right on the premises, which now encompasses 100 acres. "Oasis" is self supporting. It started with a modest goverment grant but through the benevolence of neighboring farms which lease them land for almost nothing, they have helped hundreds of young people to regain pride and value of their lifes. Many former apprentice farmers were at the festival and we had the opportunity to speak with some of them. The overwhelming answer to our question about " What did this experience do to you ?", was:  "I am a new person, I have no anger problems, I do not see any need to get back to drugs, I want to be just like 'them' (referring to the teachers and helpers at the farm).
My husband and I know  four young people who have been through this farm life experience and we joyfully have embraced them into out lifes for the past two years. So - the program works.
However, this is about a festival. On Sunday, there was a huge free brunch with croissants and baguettes donated by Pascal Picarda, a Sutton baker, there was music by a variety of groups, imprompty performances by people like the gentleman below (who was grea,t but I forgot to get his name)

And throughout the weekend, there was the presence of Armand Villancourt who is not only a famous painter, whom the Montreal Gazette in a recent article called "Montreal's own Picasso". He gave painting demonstrations, played with children, told stories (he is an incredible raconteur) and helped with the dishes. With his long white mane flowing, he was one of the beacons of this event and when asked why he took time out of an international schedule of shows and openings, he simply stated that "What they do here is more important than anything I can possibly put on canvas. They are painting the life of people, they are allowing young people to emerge from the grey gesso of a canvas into a vivid and colorful and hopefully satisfying future. If I can just inspire one single person in my 82nd year, this is more important to me  than a vernissage in Paris".

Armand Villancourt
We have covered so many "events" and "festivals" in the past 40 years, they all kind of blend into each other but I can state that our visit to this beautiful farm, whose outreach program we embrace, made this a lovely weekend for us and, because it was totally non commercial, it was a joyful change in pace of the artificiality of other merchant -driven events which dot our summer calendar.

Swiss festival in Sutton

Bring your alpenhorn - the swiss are coming to Sutton

By Manfried
For the 35th year, the Swiss are invading Sutton next week. Billed as the largest Swiss Festival outside of Switzerland, every year the town of Sutton goes all out to make this a great week for tourists and locals. Swiss flags will fly all week from telephone poles, Swiss music will be played on the public pa. system and the whole town gets into the swing of alpenhorns and jodlers.
 Festivities begin on the 29th, with an exhibition of works of Swiss artists living in Canada.  Four of these artists live in Sutton.  The exhibition will take place at Galerie Farfelu from11:00 a.m. to9:00 p.m.   Sixteen Swiss musicians will entertain residents and tourists alike onMain Street from3:00 p.m. to9:00 p.m.  A great sidewalk sale will take place on Main Street throughout the week-end.  Restaurants have added a Swiss breakfast to their menu and the Sutton Museum will be open to the public Saturday and Sunday from noon to4:00 p.m.  Admission is free to visit the current exhibition:  "The Great Fire of 1898".
There will be concerts on the mountain, a shooting competition, an ecomenical service and a free shuttle service from downtown as well as music in the park on main street and numerous smaller events in restaurants and galleries throughout the town. The ski lift will also operate to afford visitors the spectacular views from Mt. Sutton. Plus, there is a Swiss wrestiling competition.
 Last year the Federation of Swiss Societies in Eastern Canada recognized the contribution of Swiss families established in Sutton for many years.  Heritage Sutton is pleased to present, in its 14th History Sketchbook, published in May 2011, an article written by Catherine Canzani entitled Sutton, the Little SwitzerlandThese sketchbooks may be purchased at the Museum at the cost of 5$.
A Swiss lampion procession and traditional bonfire with alphorns, Swiss folk music and dancing is slated for Saturday as well    Lots of fun to be had until1:00 a.m.  This year’s tombola 1st and second prizes are 2 plane tickets Montreal-Zurich and an original painting from Jean-Daniel Rohrer.

Sea Hawthorn in the Townships

Sea Hawthorn - a growing success in the townships


Pres. Andre Nicole of th Grower's Association (left) Martin Trepanier, Univ. of Laval and Sutton grower Bernard Lussier
By Manfried H. Starhemberg
Called the new superfood, the Sea Hawthorn is becoming a valueble Quebec crop and the berries are now cultivated at 48 farms, some of the prominent ones here in the Eastern Townships. Last Saturday, Mont Echo Naturels, a grower and processor of the berries hosted an event to showcase the products, growing procedures and health benefits of Sea Hawthorn  at their new boutique in Knowlton.
Many officers of the Grower's Association were present, but so were a number of growers who took delight in mingling with the public to tell them about the berries. There was also a buffet with delicious Sea Hawthorn tarts and other delicacies.
The plant has been culticated in China, Russia, Finland and other northern European countries and it's roots and medicinal use have been documented in ancient Greek writings, Tibetan medical scrolls from the 8th century, and have even been mentioned by Genghis Khan as a method to nourish and protect his armies.

 It has been about a decade since Quebec farmers have been planting the trees which are greatly suited to our harsh climate and often rough soils. But it takes time explains Sutton grower Bernard Lussier, "I will have a small harvest this year but is is five years after I planted my farm and in the first year I lost half of my plants". But, having visited the orchard, the trees are now coming along beautifully. "This is a long-range investment and eventually will create a sustainable and ecologically friendy farm". Right now there are 48 growers and some farms have shown great yields and good profitability.
Mont Echo Naturels is one of them. They have been in businesss longer than otrhers and have cultivated a wide range of products based on the berries. There are teas made from the tree's leaves, there are jams and other culinary products and they have a big line of natural cosmetics based on the fruit's medicinal properties.

 Association members had a good time at the event
The biggest problem with the plant is the harvesting procedure. It is too time consuming to pick the berries by hand as they are deeply clustered and sit amidst some of the sharpest thorns encountered in the plant kingdom. A new technique had to be invented and now Quebec farmers cut the berry clusters out in one bunch, flash freeze them and then simply shake the frozen berries of the stalks. This actually prunes the tree as well. The association has purchased a $ 25,000.- machine for this work and it travels from association member to association member at harvest time, truly an ingenious bit of planning as harvest times vary at the different growing regions.
The unique therapeutic properties of Sea Buckthorn oil are explained by its almost unbelievable abundance in health-promoting bioactive components. The ripe berries of Sea Buckthorn contain more than 190 varieties of bioactive substances, of which 106 occur in the berry oil. This number includes six different fat-soluble vitamins and vitamin-like substances, 22 fatty acids, 42 kinds of lipids and 36 kinds of flavonoids and phenols [2]. So far, the pharmacological license for Sea Buckthorn oil has been renewed five times since the first time it was approved as a drug for production and utilization by the Ministry of Public Health of the former USSR [3]. In addition to the gastrointestinal inflammation- and ulceration-related problems, Sea Buckthorn oil is also used to treat burns, skin lesions and other skin problems, including rosacea and eczema, cervical erosions, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, etc.
These properties make the oil so valuable in the different skin care products and health aids offered now. But for the less serious part: Many upscale restaurants in the province have also discovered the delicare almost bitter orange flavor of this brightly orange fruit and have been using it in sauces, pastries, soups and as condiments.

Cheerful staff at Mont Echo Naturel's Boutique

My David Brown Tractor

Don't laugh - it is a research project

By Manfried H. Starhemberg
In 1956 I watched my aunt Ingrid single handedly rebuild her Steyr Daimler farm tractor at the family's pumpkin farm in lower Austria. Pumpkins there are a huge cash crop as the seeds are pressed into the most delightful salad oil, a staple in almost every Austrian kitchen. After that experience, I always wanted my own tractor, just like the kid that never got that red fire truck with the long ladder...
A few weeks back I interviewed Jean Thibeault, the king of tractors in Sutton who owns dozens of beautifully restored machines. Last week I saw him at the IGA, and foolishly told him:"if you can ever find me one for (amount deleted for marriage considerations) I would love to own one". Then I forgot about the conversation until Jean showed up two days later at my house and told me that my tractor was ready for pickup. (Whattagoddado at this junction...?) I obediently followed him to his place and there it sat" A big white elephant of unknown origin of which Jean only would tell me that it was make "sometime somewhere in England". As a collector of pure Canadian and American iron, this clearly was an intrusive species, acquired with others at a sale some decades ago.
Jean schlepped a battery to the machine, clamped it on and after the motor reluctantly turned over, pronounced it "ready to go". At this junction, I have to admit that I have less than one thrird of an acre of yard in the center of Sutton, at 63 years of age I am not going to begin farming and I have never sat on anything larger than my riding lawn mower. However, $ 60.- of flat-bed charges later, the monster arrived in my yard, and thankfully, "she who must be obeyed", had not yet returned from work. I realized that it was not likely that I could find a way to hide a 4,268 pound piece of equipment in the backyard. Needless to say, I had not conferred about this with Nancy, my secretary of finance for four decades, who had just made the last payment on the restoration bill of my lovely 1995 Range Rover.
Unfortunately, our Roman Catholic church in Sutton does not have a resident priest, because I suddenly felt the urgent need to go to confession, start marriage councelling or seek asylum, all not necessarily in that order.
Then Nancy arrived and the look I got was about the same as a woman, 40 years married, would give the old fart if she would have caught him in bed with a 26 year old bimbo. (Actually, I am always surprised that people can still come up with a mien of utter incredulity, after you have known them pretty much all your adult life....)
"It's just a research project", I mumbled. "You know I write about cars, airplanes, trains, all transportation related items interest me and I want to start researching farming equipment". At this point let the mists of time swallow the ensuing converstion which had as a tenor the subject: "Well,you write about trains but you don't buy one", or: "You spent twenty years writing about airplanes and (I got her there because we had owned two, one never flew, the other one did once - so there) etc.
However, here it is, a 1961 David Brown farm tractor, a bit seedy looking and in need of paint and bondo, but of sound machinery and a great roaring three cylinder 76hp motor, which can drown out Nancy even at her very best voice. And it goes! Six forward and two reverse speeds, power take offs, hydraulics to mow, tow, move houses, differential braking like a German Panzer and even power steering. This DB was the first machine in England to have this option because otherwise the beast would become an immovable object.
Now comes the research part (Would I lie to Nancy?): I have one thing in common with James Bond: we both own Aston Martin DB's. David Brown, the storied manufacturer who by royal warrant built those things since 1935 and equipped thousands of troups with them in WWII as movers, aircraft tugs, refueling rigs and trench  diggers, purchased Aston Martin in 1947 after which every Aston Martin motor car had a "DB" designation, Bond's was a "DB-5

Bond's car (or any other "DB" of that year, was capable of approximately 140mph, mine does exactly 8. according to the information available through the David Brown Tractor Club in Melham, England, of which I am the newest member. But as long as my very personal "Miss Moneypenney" will permit me the purchase of sandpaper, a bit of Bondo, a can or two of Duplicolor "White Lilac" and "Old Colony Red" for the wheels, I will hold my personal David Brown very dear as my personal link to James Bond. And if I should ever install a wet bar on it, I don't have to worry about "stirred, not shaken". With this truck, stirring is not an option!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bicycle Race a huge success in Sutton

America's Cup a huge success in sutton

By. M. Helmuth Starhemberg
People in Sutton embrace the annual America's Cup bicycle race for a number of reasons: The restaurants, because they are full, as are the local inns, B&B's, hotels and any other conceivable accomodation, as approximately 250 professional or gifted amateur bicyclists arrive in town, many accompanied by team sponsors, spouses, partners or family. The other reason to gloat is that the town on Sutton goes to great lenghts every year to eradicate every pothole, down to the smallest. The roads are cleared with such precision that  there is not a loose pebble to be found.
This year the event started on Friday with individual time trials, on Saturday was a road race, starting and ending in Sutton. The route was a challenging 18 kilometers of severe hills going toward Glen Sutton, a scary fast descent into Abercorn and then a flat sprint back to Sutton on Route 139. This had to be repeated three times!

The "big one" is always reserved for Sunday and this year it was an incredibly well planned 85 km stage that went from Sutton to Brome, from there to Knowlton, continuing to Mansonville, Glen Sutton and returning to Sutton. There are numerous severe prolonged climbs just between Sutton and Knowlton. Knowlton to Mansonville is a road racer's delight with moderate hillclimbing and very fast flat stretches. After Mansonville, the leaders and the Peleton are negotiating the undulating road through Missisquois vally and Glen Sutton, after which there is a tough set of hills just about at the time when most riders would like to rest their bones. The Scenic road into Sutton also has two fast descents followed by challenging uphill climbs.

The weather was perfect on Friday and Saturday and on Sunday the Peleton encountered two small thunderstorms but most riders said that they actually found it refreshing as it happened after the mid-point of the race and everyone goot cooled off. Other than some crashes with only minor injuries, the race was safely conducted by hundreds of volunteers, all clad in brighr red "Coup d Amerique" shirts