By Lisa Boonstoppel-Pot
Traveling to Wellington County for a day trip from Huron County and through Perth County is like passing through the land of milk honey.
The Amish and Mennonite communities and other entrepreneurial spirits offered flowers, eggs, vegetables and other goods as we travelled to St. Jacobs to load up on beans and experience the hustle and bustle of a large market.
St. Jacob’s Market
We headed straight for the market, enjoying the revitalization of the crops from the recent rain up Huron 25 into Perth County on Line 55 before turning in Wellesley (a great pit stop if there was time) and reaching the market. The parking lots were packed full on a Tuesday and we headed into the first building to admire artisan’s work.
Behind the building was a busker, making the kids laugh with his charismatic personality. Simon Zenker was his name and he performs his balancing and juggling act three days a week, earning $1,000 a day to pay for college. “I earned $1,500 one day!” he says. Wow!
Wandering through the stalls, I found a bushel of beans from Henry Densa at Voisin’s Family Produce. He is retired from being a program manager for an electronic design company and likes to keep busy so he works here three days a week. “It’s great…I meet all sorts of new people while working in the sunshine. People are happy when they come here!” His smile made me happy so I put him on this month’s Rural Voice cover.
It’s a bustling place and we followed the laughter to the little zoo where Nick Jamieson believes he has the best summer job, ever. He gets to feed and guide children to see the pigs, cows and goats. Jamieson had just tossed a pail of discarded vegetables into the pen and the pigs were intensely focussed on their treats. Jamieson is from Toronto but a love of animals lured him to the University of Guelph where he is studying agriculture business. “There is a great vibe here,” he says. “I love it. It’s a lot of fun.”
To finish our time at the market, we enjoyed freshly made quesadillas from a food truck, chatted with a couple we shared a picnic table with (turns out her family was from Huron County), enjoyed a sample or two from the TWB Cooperative Brewing stall and sat in the massage chairs at another stall, fiercely debating whether we should buy one or not. In the end, we opted not but I can’t stop thinking about it so it might be a future purchase.
Woolwich Dam and Reservoir
We could have spent much more time at the St. Jacob’s market browsing and chatting to people but we had an itinerary to follow so off we drove to Reid Woods Drive to visit the Woolwich Dam and Reservoir. It was a peaceful stop after the busyness of the market, and we decided to come back another time with kayaks and explore the far-reaching lake within the Grand River Conservation Authority.
Block Three Brewing Company
It was a quick drive down 86 to stop in Elmira, a town you could spend the whole day in. We like to visit craft breweries and we chose the Block Three Brewing Company located right off the main street. Graham Spence is one of the owners who drew our beer and said they’ve been in operation for about nine years now.
I ordered a Hollinger Hellis and sat down to be visited by a very friendly golden retriever who laid his head in my lap, friendliness flowing from her yellow coat. She enjoyed her pat and when I was finished, used her limpid eyes to beg a pat from another customer.
The highlight of this visit was the Bimini Ring game. We read the directions but despite over 200 attempts, I could not get that darn ring on the hook! As I was leaving, another bartender gave me a tip. “Show me how,” I said. In six tries, he had hooked the ring. So I tried his technique and score!! I looked around for my partner but he was in the bathroom. Since he couldn’t get the ring on the hook either, he denied my achievement but the crowd stood by me and confirmed that of the two of us at least, I was the Bimini champ.
I’ve never been one to sit in a bar and brewery but this place was relaxed and fun, with games on the tables and I thought if I lived in Elmira, I might visit this place more than once.
We were getting hungry and my parents had raved about the Country Sisters restaurant near Dorking and Moorefield. This took us down Highway 86, a road I’ve traveled much and enjoy every time. I love seeing what is being sold on the roadside stands and August is such a bounteous month. There were ripe vegetables and beautiful flowers everywhere. Corn was in tassel and we admired the Mennonite gardens we passed.
One could stop at the Wallenstein General Store “Where Friendly Neighbours Meet” or admire the new steeple at St. Joseph’s Church in Macton. Conestogo Lake is near Dorking en route but hunger drove us closer to Moorefield to the new building housing Country Sisters. It’s rather unexpected, really, this new glassy build surrounded by pavement in a field. It could use some trees or shade but inside is cool and the older gentleman behind the counter was welcoming as could be as he took our order for sandwiches. He said the business is run by his two unmarried daughters, who politely declined to have their photos taken.
The dining room closes at four so we ate our sandwiches beside a table with flower arrangements for sale and I bought one filled with yellow sunflowers to take home.
We headed down Perth Road 121 towards Millbank. One could eat at Anna Mae’s Bakery and Restaurant but we were still full. I wanted to explore something old and something new.
Something new was the Millbank Hardware, once located downtown in two separate buildings and now encompassed in one, giant, modern building. It was actually their opening day! I’m not terribly handy with tools but one can admire progress, organization and good service and this store had all three. We helped ourselves to free coffee in the store and wandered the aisles, marveling at the choice.
The something old in Millbank was the Old Methodist Cemetery. Also known as: Millbank United Church Cemetery; Knox Wesley United Cemetery or the Millbank Methodist Church Cemetery. Tucked behind an abandoned church with trees and weeds growing where they should not be, it’s a place to be quiet. To wander. To contemplate and rest. To wonder why the church was abandoned because it’s really a beautiful old church. A quick search on the internet did not find much information.
The cemetary offered a sense of closure to the day, though there were so many other places we could have visited. The ride home was quiet as we admired all the productive farms and small towns. It was a good day. ◊