August 2, 2010
Colonel By Day

It was free admission at the Bytown Museum in honour of Colonel By Day, and shockingly the museum hasn't suddenly become any more Elizabeth friendly since last year.  Okay, so that's probably a bit harsh.  I do think it would be pretty interesting to get a chance to listen to the audio tours and/or have a guided tour without children - I kept seeing snatches of information that I would have liked to read more about.  For instance, Bytown became Ottawa in part because the old name was so disreputable; the most violent place in all of civilized North America.  Or something like that!  Elizabeth wasn't interested in the children's station at all this year, but there's a Victorian curio cabinet on the top floor and she loved opening the various doors and drawers to see what was inside.  I was thinking that maybe we should make our own curio cabinet, although perhaps I'll skip the toy coffin!


The outdoor activities were a little less hands-on than last year, but since Elizabeth slept through most of our visit this didn't matter too much.  Once she woke up, she was rather solemn and wide-eyed because it poured rain and everyone was all crammed together trying to stay dry.  She was pretty interested by the musketeers; last year the kids all cried when the muskets fired, but I warned her about the loud noise in advance and it didn't seem to bother her at all.  "Kaboom" she said, pointing to the smoke in wonder. 


The shoes were an art exhibit created by one thousand area children with the help of the Bytown's artist-in-residence (Monique from Saskatoon).


My favourite booth this year was the woman who was demonstrating how to make linen from flax.  First you grow flax very closely together so that the stalks don't branch.  Stalks around the edges of the fields will branch no matter what, so those are traditionally used for reseeding the next year.  Once you harvest the flax, you break the stalk to release the fibres.  Then you comb it (like wool!) using progressively smaller combs made of nails.  Then you spin it into thread, using copious amounts of water.  Watching her demonstrate each step was very eye-opening.  It's no wonder that people only had a couple of outfits, given the amount of labour involved.  We think we are so "busy" but really there is no comparison. 

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