We let Elizabeth try her hand with watercolour paints for the first time. She's used to having to press her crayons into the paper in order to get a nice colour and tried to do the same with the paintbrush. I could practically hear it begging for mercy, especially when she drowned it repeatedly in the rinse water.
The rinse water was much more fun than the actual paint as it turned out, although she did enjoy painting for a few minutes before declaring her masterpiece finished and demanding a new piece of paper... and some pencil crayons, please.
We made it to Watson's Mill on the last day for the live wheat grinding demonstration by interpreters in period costume. Yes WHEAT. Oh.... That's complicated for a celiac. However, I'd met one of the mill's interpreters on Colonel By Day, and after talking to him about the setup we figured that we could safely visit as long as I wore a face mask and kept my distance from any really dusty areas.
We headed there immediately after church. As soon as we walked in the door we were impressed. Right away you are surrounded with the complete milling process. You've got grain moving up and down through a mechanical elevator system, the millstone spinning away grinding and the flour coming down through another elevator into the bags on the weigh scale. The miller was working away adjusting the millstone by adjusting the flow of water to the turbines below the building. Did you know they had turbines in 1860? Crazy! As we worked our way through the building we continued to be amazed by all the neat machinery, most of which was actually in operation. The use of wood was quite impressive for the time. Wooden gears, augers and contraptions to do all kinds of cleaning and separating of the grain. They don't have to clean and separate the grain anymore; it comes to the mill chaff and smut free! I was quite entertained to discover that smut is a type of fungus that can be mechanically removed with a smutter. I am easily amused...
We learned about the mill's ghost, felt the warmth and texture of the partially ground flour, and made friends with the local ducks. Okay, so Daddy and Auntie Janice felt the flour. Mommy declined and Elizabeth was too shy. We spoke at length to the chief miller who was extremely friendly and knowledgeable. He even stepped outside to talk to us in a "wheat-free environment"! It turns out that the wheat grain they use isn't currently local - there's apparently a big problem with a non-smut variety of fungus that has ruined wheat crops in Ottawa the last two years, so the mill has had to import their grain from the US.
We also learned that Manotick basically sprang up around the mill and the other local businesses that sprang up around it. Apparently the mill exported power via a steel cable across the river to the local bung factory. Bung - who knew?
There's no question that this is a somewhat questionable outing for celiacs - the flour was just pouring from the ceiling into bags. The bagging part of the mill had enough flour dust in the air that I wondered whether it wouldn't be a good idea for everyone to be wearing masks! (We didn't stay in that area long) But overall the mill is a wonderfully interesting place and Elizabeth enjoyed it. We had a great time, learned a lot and even made it out with some crazy cheap bread ($1.00 / loaf) baked locally using flour from the mill. If we'd discovered it earlier in the season I am sure we would have made several trips during the summer, especially since it is right around the corner from one of our regular berry picking farms. I'm sure we'll be back!
Unlike her mother, Elizabeth loves to shop. She's especially fond of running around the store pulling random items off the shelves.
Mom and Dad desperately wanted a rest before tackling the rest of their shopping list, and riding up and down and up and down the escalator didn't really count. So that probably explains how we ended up at the McDonald's in the Billings Bridge food court, ordering Elizabeth her first McFlurry.
I've tried to go to Billings Estate Museum two or three times already this year but they've been closed every time. So imagine my dismay when Auntie Janice, Elizabeth and I arrived at the museum with our free library pass only to find the "closed" sign hanging on the post.
The website claimed they were open so we went up to inquire. It turned out that the sign lied and not only was the museum open, but we could even have a guided tour as long as we were willing to listen in french.
The museum is about to close for the season except for special events, so I was quite pleased to be able to take a tour, especially since the guide told us that the exhibits are soon to be updated. We quite enjoyed the special voting exhibit upstairs, although I was distressed that a significant number of visitors to the museum apparently voted "no" to the idea of women having the vote. Hopefully in jest! Inside the museum Elizabeth probably enjoyed the upstairs exhibit the most. She got to colour on the back of a voting ballot (very nervewracking to let a small child have a pencil in such a location though!) and help Auntie Janice vote.
Auntie Janice and I were in awe of the fabulous quilt hanging in the main hallway. The tour guide didn't seem to know much about it unfortunately - she seemed rather bemused at how many pictures we took of the thing before commenting that we'd come back after the tour to photograph it "properly".
The house itself is the former home of one of the oldest and most important families in Ottawa (the Billings family), and the downstairs is divided into four rooms each decorated to represent the four different generations that lived there. The first room was representative of Braddish and Lamira's first home. They had nine children, seven of whom survived to adulthood, and all of whom slept in one room in the attic. As usual when visiting a historic home I'm always amazed by the difference between how much space was considered adequate then and now. When Braddish and Lamira passed on, the house went to daughters Sally and Sabra who had looked after them, because all of the sons had established their own households by then. Sally and Sabra split the house in two, with kitchens on each side. Sabra turned down at least fifteen offers of marriage, apparently because she valued her independence and voting ability (being a female unmarried property owner gave rights that she would lose if she married). No word on whether Sally ever had any marriage proposals.
When the time came for the house to pass to the next generation, Sally and Sabra left it to their nephew Charles. This was during the time of the Great Depression. Charles was known for his great generosity and desire to stimulate the local economy. In fact, he never had electricity put into the house because he was too busy spending money on improving life for his tenants. Charles scandously married his servant, so their children could not inherit the Billings estate. Instead Charles' nephew Charles inherited. As the tour guide commented, he's only important because he sold the estate to the city four months before he died because his children lived elsewhere (Toronto and England).
After our tour, we headed outside. I've actually been there before a couple of times in the evenings to see Uncle Mark perform in the young Shakespeare plays, but it looks quite different in the daytime. We took the self-guided tour of the grounds, minus the well which we just couldn't locate. We thought the icehouse was pretty interesting. In addition to housing ice prior to refrigeration and cooling butter, this tiny little room was also used as a dwelling although Janice didn't think much of that idea. They also had a smokehouse and their own graveyard (140 people are buried there!) It's hard to imagine how much that area has changed in the last hundred years or so. Apparently the living room even had windows designed to open outwards instead of inwards in order to accommodate a coffin because the dead would lie in state right in the home. Our house is much newer, but I confess I did wonder if anyone ever conducted a viewing in our house given that it seems to predate funeral homes in this area!
All in all, this is a nice little museum, although I'm sure Janice and I found it more interesting than Elizabeth did!
Unless you head to this museum in the next week, you'll have to wait until next season to go. I recommend a nice day so that you can take advantage of the beautiful grounds - I think it would be a wonderful place for a picnic.
Daddy took Elizabeth to visit the animals today. Our visit started out a little on the wrong foot as right by the entrance (where the horse, cow, sheep and pig barn is) there was an extremely loud and grumpy sounding cow mooing and mooing and mooing. Elizabeth for obvious reasons didn't like the sound of this and refused to go investigate. So instead of our usual first stop at the barn we had to head straight over to the chickens. After a couple of minutes visiting with the chickens one of the staff came out with the tiniest baby rabbit that Daddy (and Elizabeth) had ever seen and invited the kids to gather around and pet it. Daddy thought this was great and dearly wanted to get a shot of Elizabeth happily patting the cute little baby rabbit. Unfortunately Elizabeth was about as interested in the rabbit as she is in mustard. She backed up and tried to get away while saying "buck buck". Apparently she wasn't done visiting the chickens. Oh well maybe another time...