Thanks for joining us as we celebrate Rural Life in Midwestern Ontario!
The County Life is intended to inspire readers to explore and discover rural Ontario and to tell the stories of those who have left city life to start anew in the country.
It's all true (mostly)...and sometimes funny.
LET'S START AT THE BEGINNING...
Before The County Life, there was Hello Country Magazine. Before that, the Etobicoke Lakeshore Press.
That's a pretty good snapshot of what our lives have been like over the past few years. We're one of the families who've given up the city life for a new, simpler one in the country.
I know we're not alone in this pursuit.
The pandemic kicked into high-gear people's desire for a more simple life - one with more space and further away from other people. We can attest.
We made the move in 2019; pre-pandemic. #blessed
We sold our bungalow in the quiet, lakeside neighbourhood of Long Branch in South Etobicoke and bought a farm just outside Flesherton.
Flesherton? Yes, exactly.
We wanted to live outside of a very small town not too, too far from Toronto. At the time, we thought I'd be commuting more since I still had an office in the city. A max, two-hour drive from home to office wasn't too crazy. I can deal with that. Or so I thought.
Just as I was starting to loath the twice and often thrice-weekly trips to and from the city, the pandemic hit. I still remember where I was when Doug Ford announced the first province-wide lockdown. I was on my way to drop our eldest off at March Break camp when the Premier took to the radio.
Immediately after the announcement, I turned the truck around, dropped our son off at home, and drove solo to the Foodland in Markdale. I envisioned some apocalyptic scene unfolding as I pulled into the grocery store parking lot. Looting? Fires? Zombies? Nah! Just a bunch of unmasked people (remember those days), doing the same thing I was doing - well, not quite. I was the only one who needed two grocery carts to transport his first lockdown grocery shop from the checkout aisle to the truck. Yep, it's kind of embarrassing now, but at the time it totally made sense. Two growing boys. A bag of milk a day just for the two-year-old. You get the picture.
My cart overfloweth.
Then all of a sudden, a woman walked up to me - as if to intervene on what surely looked looting - and said: "I'm a Farmer's wife. I've been a Farmer's wife for 60 years. We're prepared." And then she stood there and looked at me and then looked at my cart and then looked back at me.
Oh, snap (I grew up in Scarborough). What do I do now?
"I'm totally not prepared," I said as I lowered my head and shook it slightly. "We're new here. We just moved up from the city and we've got two young boys...yada yada yada...and so, yeah..." I gestured with my hands so as to imply innocence. To which she replied...
And then she smiled at me as she walked away carrying her tiny shopping basket.
"A SLICE OF HUMANITY"...
Fast forward two years...
Here we are, twenty-something months into the pandemic and life is still moving along. Different, but the same. One thing that was different this year, though, was the Christkindl Market in West Grey; a 2-day European Christmas Market inspired by the kind they have throughout the month of December in places like Austria and Germany (or so I was told by a lady from Austria while attending the event as a vendor selling Grey County Apparel Company Hoodies and Toques).
The event was cancelled last year due to Covid but was resurrected this year thanks to Michael Schmidt and the folks at Glencolton Farms. We featured the event on the cover of Hello Country Magazine and in the Etobicoke Lakeshore Press.
I figured we'd be able to generate some interest locally across Grey Highlands, but I was pleased to hear that a number of families also made the trek up to Grey County from South Etobicoke.
If you've never been to the Christkindl Market, you really should make a point to experience it next year. Coming from a place like Toronto where manufactured cool is the norm (and no one knows any different), I absolutely appreciated the authenticity of the Market.
It wasn't a haven for selfie-takers. It wasn't a fashion show. It wasn't a place to be seen. It was simply a beautiful experience.
Set against the backdrop of a pandemic and after we've endured so many social distancing measures, the outdoor festive vibe was a more than welcome change. The Christkindl Market was "a slice of humanity," as one woman put it. And I couldn't have agreed more.
If you're reading this before December 25th, I hope you and your family enjoy a safe and happy holiday.
The fellow formerly known as Museum Rob is the subject of this next chapter.
Rob doesn't know I've written this. So, Rob, if you're reading this now kindly brace yourself. Everyone else, I give you fair warning - the Bromance is real.
Rob, like me, most likely grew up with plastic on the couches. That's a reference most Italian-Canadians can relate to. My Nonna had plastic on her couches and it always stood out to me as kind of odd, yet perfectly practical. I still remember when she decided it was time to remove the plastic. It was a big deal for her. Well...almost all the plastic. If memory serves, she kept the plastic on the arm rests - but the rest was gone.
This is to say that Rob and I come from similar backgrounds. Both of us are of Italian descent. We both grew up in Toronto. We both paid our dues in the fast-paced, competitive culture of the big city; and we both gave it all up and moved to Grey Highlands in beautiful Grey County.
You can imagine my delight when all of these similarities slowly revealed themselves on our first phone call in 2020 - a year or so after my family and I moved to our farm in Flesherton.
Rob and his wife, Maria, started new lives in the country a few years before we made the big move. In that short time, Rob had made such an impressive and positive impact on the community that just about everyone I spoke to as I began to birth a second publication, Hello Country Magazine, went out of their way to ask me if I've met Museum Rob yet.
It didn't take me long before I picked up the phone and called him.
I still recall our first conversation. I was in one of our paddocks happily filling a wheelbarrow with horse poop. At the time, this was one of my favourite jobs on the farm. The novelty has since waned.
"Who were you on the phone with for so long?" My wonderful wife asked.
"Museum Rob," I replied. "He's just like us!" I remember saying; or something along those lines.
In that moment, I felt at home.
The transition from city living to country life wasn't exactly smooth for us. We knew we had made the right move for our family and felt so blessed to be living our dream life especially given that the pandemic started shortly after we had made the leap. But our first winter was hard and the subsequent lockdown proved to be challenging for our family. Some of our interactions with the Locals (of which I hope to be considered one day), weren't as we had expected. So when I made a connection with Rob - a younger guy from West Toronto who was super friendly and smart - I felt that old, yet familiar feeling; like a child who had just made a new friend.
And so the bromance began.
Now, I shouldn't compare myself too closely to Rob. He is by far more congenial and intelligent than I. I'm talking genius-level smart with the ability to be Prime Minister one day if he wanted. Wouldn't that be nice?!
So intrigued and impressed was I with Rob that he was featured on the first edition of Hello Country Magazine. His story has changed some since. He is no longer referred to as Museum Rob, as he left his post as Community and Heritage Curator at the South Grey Museum in Flesherton this past year - a loss to the Grey Highlands community, of which I am certain.
Robert Iantorno and his wife, Maria Arcuri (sorry, Maria - this one's all about Rob; although you have a great story, too!) are wonderful examples of the types of folks I'd like to feature here in The County Life. Brave souls who have consciously walked away from successful city lives to pursue their passions in the country.
I SUCK AT DRAWING...
I've always wanted to write children's books. I'm not sure why. Maybe because kids see the world differently than adults and their innocence is appealing - something I'd like to foster and encourage and somehow tap into. The problem is, I suck at drawing. Reference the 3 children's books I wrote and 'illustrated' last June when I must have had a lot more energy. I called it the "Sleepy Time Shapes" series. With clever titles like The Black Rectangle, The Blue Square, and The Yellow Circle, I thought I was sure to blow the doors off Amazon's Kindle sales :)
I was wrong.
Although, I think the books are cute and reading them to kids is a fun and sneaky way for parents to get their littles to sleep, their downfall was most likely the cover art (see above re: sucking at drawing). Unfortunately, the 'look inside' sample option allows you to flip through a few pages but, for some reason, leaves out some key words, making it seem like I don't know how to rite :)
So when I decided I'd like to leap into the world of editorial cartoons, I enlisted the help of a professional, Jeff Wilson - a cartoonist from Priceville who most definitely does not suck at drawing!
I had an idea to publish a politically savvy cartoon about the Omicron variant, entitled Herd Immunity. I sketched out my idea on a scrap piece of paper I found in my shirt pocket, took a photo of it and sent it to Jeff with a few words of direction.
He graciously replied with some constructive ideas to improve the nature of the toon. That is to say my original idea was less than sensitive. The result was, in my opinion, a clever, well-drawn take on whether we should head back to school and work after a brief 'lockdown' or lay low a little while longer.
You can see it here or here :)
Thank you to Jeff and I look forward to creating more thought-provoking cartoons with his help....
FATHER OF THE YEAR...
As we navigate yet another Covid closure, this time for the Omicron variant, the allure of homeschooling has already begun to wear off - and it's only been three days.
Granted, we're a bit better prepared than we were the fist time our schools shut down, both emotionally and spiritually, but it's still a struggle to say the least.
The honest truth is, one of our boys is crying incessantly as I write this because his little brother just smashed one of his beloved Christmas presents. The younger of the two seems to be developing a Mob Boss personality. All I can do is pray that peace prevails. But it's gonna be one of those Hail Mary kinda prayers (as in a 'long shot' - not the actual prayer).
No word of a lie, the other day our hulkish, mafioso of a three-year-old threw a chair against the wall in his room. I muttered a few choice words under my breath before telling him to stop - his reply:
"NO! YOU F*CKING STOP!!!"
And with that went all hope of me winning Father of the Year for 2022.
Thankfully, my wife is a saint. There's hope for us yet.
CANTER CULTURE (Part 1)...
I've been waiting a long time to write Canter Culture - my take on life as a Horse Husband.
Let me set the stage for you...
My wife used to ride horses when she was younger (she's still young), but stopped 10 years ago and never thought she'd get back into it. Now that we live in the country, she's able to fulfill her lifelong dream of riding again. But not just riding - Eventing!
If you're not familiar with the sport of Eventing, it's basically like an equestrian triathlon. Horse and Rider compete in three distinct disciplines in a single day. First, you have Dressage (which is like ballet on horseback). Then you have the Jumper round, followed by the Cross Country component where Horse and Rider fly across fields, up and down hills, through water, and over jumps made of hard things that don't fall when you hit them. Eventers are a different breed. They're like the rugby players of the horse world - tough as nails - and my wife is one of them!
We have a new horse that my wife recently purchased. He's a 5-year-old Off-the-Track Thoroughbred (OTTB). He's a big fella, too. 16.2hh. That means he stands 16 hands tall (a hand is 4 inches), plus another 2 inches. That's a decent height compared to the other horses we have. His name is Kingo.
My wife dotes over him day and night. She spends more time outside than any of us. I commend her commitment to caring for Kingo. He's more than a horse to her...he's family.
So, when our 3-year-old son noticed that Mommy was looking out the window at her horse while he was trying to play with her, he asked her if she loved Kingo more than him.
Shocked at the question (and a little embarrassed at being caught gazing at her horse), she replied simply so as to re-assure our little one:
"Of course not, sweetie. I love you both the same."
I've never owned a snowmobile. But I do now.
We bought one last winter and I enjoyed booting around the property and along the trail system with our boys. I have to say, the local snowmobile culture here in Grey County is quite, well...exuberant.
We could drive for miles without seeing another sled. The quiet solitude and beautiful scenery were intoxicating. I could see how people get hooked on sledding.
Finally, a group of three snowmobiles approached. As we passed the first sled, the driver raised his left hand and flipped me the peace sign. I thought: wow, what a chill dude...and super-friendly, too!
As the second sled passed, the driver raised his left hand and extended his index finger as if to signal that I was #1. I waived and nodded happily in response. This is great! He must approve of me exposing my sons to the wonderful world of snowmobiling.
Next, the third and final sled passed us, but this time the driver raised his left fist in the air. He must be so happy, I thought. So, in response, I pumped my fist in the air and yelled with glee: OH, YEAH!!!
We continued on our adventure and, to my delight, this kept happening. Every time we passed another sled or group of snowmobilers, they all told me I was #1, flipped me the peace sign, or (and this one is my favourite) pumped their fist in the air like the crew from Jersey Shore!
It got to the point where I preemptively pumped my fist every time we passed another sled. What an awesome culture.
Snowmobilers Rock! Or at least that's what I thought.
I told this story to my new friend, Duane Bryan from DB Powersports in Markdale, while he was fixing up my sled. I could tell by the look on his face while he was replacing my spark plugs that I wasn't reading the situation correctly. He politely chuckled and said...
"The first sled is telling you that there are two more sleds in his group behind him. The second driver is telling you that there's one more in their group and the third sled is telling you that he's the last one.
And here I was thinking that the number one rule of snowmobiling in Ontario was Fun, when in fact, it's actually Safety.
All the more reason why Snowmobilers Rock!
When I first met my wife, she wore a shirt that said 'WILD CHILD' on it. In fact, she still wears it. I didn't think much of it at the time other than it looked nice on her :)
Fast forward a few years and now I get it.
Not only is she starting a very green, Off-the-Track Thoroughbred (see chapter 6) and doing very well at it, I might add, but she produces Wild Children!
We sometimes joke that our Boys are not like your average, run-of-the mill kids. They seem to have little regard for authority (me) and can often be found running shirt-free around our property yelling slogans like: "Heck no, we won't go...to BED!" and "I scream, you scream, we all scream for JOLLEY'S ICE CREAM!!!"
I couldn't make this stuff up.
Well, maybe I could.
As the spring weather FINALLY comes 'round here in Grey County, my wife and I look forward to further insurrections.
Such is life bringing up two Boys in the Country!
CANTER CULTURE (Part 2)...
Recently, I jumped out of the paddock and did a number on my legs, especially my shins. It was a glorious leap, though. Nobody thought I could do it.
When my wife found me jogging around the farm in a daze, she just shook her head and gave me that look. You know, the one that says: "Are you serious! What on earth were you thinking?!"
But when my wife's horse, Kingo, jumped out of his paddock the other day, her reaction was altogether different.
"Holy @#$%!" She exclaimed, loud enough for all of Flesherton to hear. "Kingo just jumped the fence!"
When she finally corralled him in the stable and safely placed him in his stall, she noticed that he, too, had cut his legs. Blood was dripping down to his feet. He was calm. She was not.
"Oh, my goodness. This is terrible," she said while reaching for her phone. She snapped a few pics of the injuries and called the vet immediately. I'm pretty sure she has Markdale Veterinary Services on speed dial.*
I'm like: "No one took photographs of my cut-up legs after I hopped the paddock fence."
Is it possible my wife cares more for her horse than, dare I say it...me?
If you're thinking yes...you're correct.
Thanks to Dr. Fox's advice and some magic cream, Kingo's legs healed up right quick.
Mine, however, are still waiting on the same special attention Kingo's got. But I'm not holding my breath.
* For those reading this under the age of 40, "Speed Dial" used to be a feature humans had consisting of a series of buttons on their phones - not the ones that fit in their pockets, but the ones that were fixed to their walls. I know that's hard to imagine, but it was a thing. You could program your most frequently dialled phone numbers into said device and simply push one of the speed dial buttons to call that person without having to push 7 numbers on the phone's key pad. It was technology at its finest.
Hello again! It's October 18th, two days before my 46th birthday and 6 days before the Municipal Election in which I'm running for Council in Grey Highlands.
If you're reading this and the election has already taken place (which is likely), you should know that running for public office is completely new for me but the experience has taught me a lot.
It's taught me that local politics matters.
It's taught me that the people of Grey Highlands care a lot about our Municipality.
And it's taught me that my wife is even more awesome than I thought.
Thank you to everyone who came out to attend our All Candidate Meetings and who tuned into the live streams. Thank you to all the volunteers who put time and energy into this election; and thank you to everyone who voted.
Of course, a super-big thank you to my wife and our boys for enduring our first ever campaign. Thank you all for your support. I love you!
A NEW BEGINNING...
Ok...so I didn't win a seat on Council, but the experience of running (and losing) for public office in Grey Highlands has taught me a lot about myself.
I learned to place more value on my familial relationships, especially my marriage, and to manage my ego. Yeah, real stuff.
I also learned that if I try to be more environmentally conscious with my business, which was an important election campaign issue, I would naturally reduce costs and increase profitability. As a result, I've decided to kill fewer trees in an effort to do better for our environment. I'm going to shift to an all-retail distribution model which will allow me to reach more readers with fewer copies printed. I'm also shifting more toward digital publishing with a re-vamped www.fiatluxmedia.com site that now houses content from all of my publications:
www.hellocountry.ca / www.etobiocokelakeshorepress.com / www.thecountylife.ca / www.supportlocalmagazine.com ...
a win-win-win scenario for my clients, readers, and the environment!
Our boys' school held their annual Christmas concert today. We wanted to arrive early to get a front-row seat. Apparently, so did every other parent. We ended up parking a kilometre away :)
We sat down (not in the front row) beside the father of one of our Little Guy's friends. My wife and I greeted him and introduced ourselves as his son's friend's parents. We got talking in between performances and it turns out he works for a company that makes cheese. Yes...cheese! Ironically, my wife is lactose intolerant but LOVES cheese.
We spoke some more (my wife must have been giving off the 'I love cheese' vibes) and then he offered to give us the gift box his company had given him for Christmas. He waiting until our eldest son's performance was over which was well after his son's performance was done, went out to his car and brought back the box, gave it to us, wished us a happy holiday and left. We were so grateful for his kindness and I was inspired to share this story.
The spirit of Christmas is strong in Grey Highlands!
Thanks for reading,
Roger Tumminieri, Owner
Check back for more stories from The County Life.