Local science and nature
Rich Bishop displays one of the hand-braided rugs he donated to the Regan House. (BOB BOWLES, Special to The Packet & Times)
REGAN HOUSE COULD USE A HAND
I was raised in a two-storey, wood-frame farmhouse built in 1890 on the Niagara Escarpment at the top of Bowles Hill in Grey County. Thanks to a couple with a love of old homes, it has been completely restored and an old-fashioned veranda added to the front.
My mother decorated that house with a more modern design for that time, adding new kitchen cupboards, painting the wainscoting white, wallpapering the lath and plaster walls and covering the floor with linoleum. My grandmother lived down in the valley below us in a smaller bungalow.
This house was built to replace the original Bowles homestead that was built in 1860 and burned down in 1930. The replacement house was built in the same location and was a copy of the original house with a large kitchen, a small pantry at the back, a large parlour or sitting room with a fireplace and a narrow hall leading to two small bedrooms in the back. It had hardwood floors throughout and a large wood-burning stove in the kitchen.
This house had much less square footage than our house, but I remember as a boy visiting my grandmother’s house and thinking how big it appeared compared to our house. The reason was the large kitchen with high ceilings, wooden wainscoting and a large wooden table in the centre. The floors always felt cold to me, but I remember two items that impressed me about the house.
There was a large oval floor mat in the centre of the parlour in front of the fireplace I liked to sit on. There was also a smaller oval mat in front of the stove in the kitchen. These colourful rugs had been made by my grandmother out of old cloths, used household linens and fabric ends she had left over when she made a quilt. Nothing was ever thrown out. She would use the braided strips of fabric remnants as coils sewn together to make a colourful oval rag rug. They were also called braided rugs, and the early settlers used them to warm the floors from drafts coming through the floorboards or through the cracks at the bottom of doors. My grandmother used them for another purpose, too — to catch the hot coals that may have fallen from the fireplace or firebox of the stove so they would not burn a hole into the hardwood flooring. These multicoloured, old-fashioned, hand-braided rugs were very much a part of my grandmother’s house, which she had decorated the way houses would have looked when she first settled in the valley in 1860.
In the winter of 2011, I appealed to residents for donations to decorate the inside of the recently reconstructed Regan House. I was contacted by my friend, Rich Bishop, who I knew through the Probus Club at that time, who informed me he had eight hand-braided rugs made by his grandfather that he was willing to donate to the Regan House. These rugs were well made and perfect to reflect the era of the Regan House. I finally connected with Rich this fall and he delivered the rugs to the Regan House, where we tried them in different locations inside the house. We were able to use all eight rugs with one under the table, two under the old spinning wheel and yarn winder, two at each end of the house and, of course, one in front of the old wood-burning stove.
This donation from Rich and his wife was perfect since it added a sense of colour and warmth to the Regan House and similar rugs would have been used by the Regans in the 1860s, when they were raising their family in this house.
The decorations inside the Regan House now, with the rugs, crosscut saw and scythe that have been recently added, make me feel that the Regan House museum is nearly complete. I just have one more dream. The summer beams high overhead at each end of the house are only about six feet from the end walls. It would be very easy to make a platform between the end wall and summer beam at each end of the house out of the original pine boards that were once used for the upstairs flooring. At one end, we could lift the old Harvey walking spinning wheel up on this platform, freeing up room on the main floor for events. This would put it in good view of the pubic just overhead, yet out of harm’s way. What could be displayed on the platform at the other end of the house?
My dream is to get a donation of an old small cutter that would have been used by the family at that time to travel in the winter. Some people know the cutter as a one-horse open sleigh.
There were several designs in the early years, but the most popular were the McLaughlin cutter and the Portland cutter. If only I could find one of these small cutters, even if not in working shape, that could be used for a display of travel in that era. Then, I feel, the Regan House museum would be complete. Please let me know if you know someone with an old cutter they might be interested in donating to this wonderful old log home to complete my dream.
SANDY BRINGS IN THE BIRDS
Hurricane Sandy brought many seabirds into Lake Ontario two weeks ago with reports of 100 black-legged kittiwakes, lesser black-backed gulls, pomarine jaegers, parasitic jaegers, Wilson’s storm-petrel and even a Leach’s storm-petrel.
Evening grosbeaks, pine grosbeaks, bohemian waxwings, common redpolls, Brant geese, great grey owls, northern hawk owls, snowy owls and American tree sparrows are now arriving from the north. New birds are arriving daily at this time of year, so make sure you report any new observations.