To The Far Side Of The World And Back Again

This week I will be making three trips to see the Mennonites. I have already gone on Tuesday and again yesterday. Today, after I finish this blog and some other admin duties, and the guys unload yesterday’s contents and load some finished product, I will head back out to Clifford to pick-up yet more product and continue to Toronto to deliver. When that is finished I can drive home to Huntsville and relax for the Super Bowl weekend. It’s been a very busy week. The good news is lots of orders and tons of stock is now in the shop and will be getting delivered really soon. The store should be overflowing with everyone’s favourite furniture, which is what I like to see.

Many people ask what it’s like going to the Mennonites, so I have put together a travel journal of Thursday’s trip.

KJ Log February 3, 2011

5:30 am, -24 or -40 with wind chill, odometer 78,922 kms
Leave the house. Unplug the rig and pray it starts. Beautiful starry sky but insanely cold.
Turn on the satelite Sirius radio (LED screen frozen) to “Boneyard”
First song: Van Halen “Little Dreamer”. Love the harmonies.

Stop for coffee and pick-up some moving blankets at shop. Leave love notes for the guys with the days instructions. Southbound Hwy 11 is snow packed and slippery.

7:42 am. Sun is up, odometer 79,084 kms
Pull into the Hwy 89 MacDonald’s truck stop. I park alongside the big rigs because it’s cool.
It’s a small dream of mine to someday own a Tracter Trailor and drive a long haul just stopping to buy cool stuff to put in the store. Of course I’d take the tools in case a salvaging opportunity comes up. Call the shop. No water. Main building feed is frozen. Now westbound on Hwy 89
Iron Maiden: Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

8:30 am. Sunny, roads still sketchy, odometer 79,132 kms
Stop at corner of 10/89 at Primrose.
Grab BLT and coffee from Pete’s. Go pee.
Guns and Roses: My Michelle

10:04 am. Odometer 79,227 kms
First stop is Orvie to pick-up blankets boxes.
One of the first Mennonites I ever dealt with. His son made cabinets and boxes for me until he was killed when he was kicked by a horse. Still makes my heart heavy whenever I stop here. I love his cool little shop, but I don’t like his big long lane. He is not there, so I pay his wife and load myself. Close the truck back door and all the snow slop crashes down on me… Great. The new Red Cedar boxes look awesome though.
Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe

10:45 am. Odometer 79241 kms.
Stop in Wingham at bank. As much as possible I like to pay for the loads with Money Orders. It makes the administration of the bank account easier and I know everything is paid for when I drive away. They like it too. The Wingham TD bank chicks are always in good spirits and treat me really well. I was going to get them to pose for a picture, but it was busy and there is probably a Bank policy forbidding it. Probably have to pay a fee!! I eat my sandwiches and drink cold coffee.
Aerosmith: Uncle Salty

11:35 am Odometer 79272 kms
Next stop is Ben (after small detour to take a picture of a gorgeous tree) Ben and his little brother are working away gluing up seats. I bought the sleigh from him on Tuesday so I took pictures today of it”As found” It’s the second one I have bought. I want a fleet. They are so amazing. Actually saw two in use on my travels today. It’s quite the sight. Ben makes saddle stools, farm benches, chairs, slabs, and other mixed smalls. We load the balance of Tuesday’s order and I place a new order for more. Ben is the oldest brother of seven and he helps me keep the rest organized.
Metallica: Dyers Eve

12:32 pm Odometer 79291 kms
Isaac number one. This man runs a small empire from his barns. All my raw reclaimed wood and other barn goodies come through this shop. A huge machine brushes all the dirt and loose paint from the surfaces. It is cleaned, cut to size, de-nailed and sorted in this operation. Lifts of wood roll down re-purposed railway track from end to end. Loaded onto trucks with a hand powered chain winches and shipped all over the province. I spend what I think is serious money on lumber but I am small potatoes compared to the big flooring and timber companies. I get one grainary door, one barn ladder, and four lifts of various lumber. I beg him to save me some very cool ship lapped grey barnboard planks and he agrees. We always spend too much time talking, but I love being there surrounded by the sweetest wood on the planet.
Motley Crue: Live wire


1:35 pm Odometer 79293 kms
Right around the corner is Aaron. A gentle giant. Aaron is responsible for planing and gluing all the reclaimed table tops we use. He also makes all the Timber Frame tables. It took me a year to convince him the T/F table was a good idea. His shop has undergone an expansion, adding a massive planer, and, my favourite, a new “Loading Dock”. I give him a huge list of orders and he gets a silly grin. “I like keeping busy” he says! We crack some homegrown walnuts on the bench vice. Sweet and fresh. No comparison to any walnut I’ve ever had. He has to get going. Parent/teacher meetings this afternoon. Did I mention baby making was a favorite pastime around here? What else do you do with no TV?
Motorhead: Limb from Limb

2:38 pm Odometer 79295 kms
Over to Isaac number two. This Isaac is also one of the first to make cabinets for me. He took over all the production that was the Aaron’s who passed away. Recently married with, his first son (of many to come I am sure), Isaac makes all the cabinets that have drawers. Even though I very rarely ever actually see him work, the orders somehow still manage to get done. I always  have long conversations with this Isaac as well. He’s a bigger talker than I am. He’s in the bush cutting firewood today so I have to load the truck myself. Of course it is all dressers and wardrobes. Some of the heaviest pieces we make. I get it done and close the truck. Yep. Slopped on again. Apparently I don’t learn well. His lane is covered in big drifts so I am careful leaving. I’ve been in the ditch here before. Thankfully, they have enormous mules that actually pulled me out and almost tore off the front end of the truck off. What a day that was!
Mercyful Fate: Black Funeral

4:15 pm Odometer 79307
Second last stop is Tobias.  I have to pick up seven extension tables and some slabs. The truck is already pretty full and these things are heavy and sanded ready for finish. Can’t scratch them or let water drip on them from the slop on the truck. The salt messes up the last stages of finish and makes Caleb, our painter, nuts. Luckily there are three guys to help. His father Sidney asks if I want more Tea Light holders. He turns them on a lathe from small pieces of wood left over from making tables and chairs. Each one is individually turned by eye to match all the rest. A simple shape but tough to repeat exactly the same each time. He probably has 50 years experience turning wood. These guys are amazing craftsmen. I respect their operation. They have it down to a fine art. Did I mention Tobias has eight children? He’s about 32.
Metallica (again): Whiplash

5:10 pm Odometer 79315
Back to Isaac Number one. The barn ladder I bought is actually attached to a big han hewn beam. They have run it through the sawmill to cut the beam down to make it a manageable size. I get the ladder and some cut off planks. We load it in the last bit of space I have saved on the truck. They are still working away in the shop. We end up almost talking too long again before I say OK, I have to get going. I back out all the way down his lane. What fun.
UFO: Mother Mary

These trips bring a mixed bag of emotions and also the inevitable aches and pains. I love the drive most days. Lots of hours thinking. Some things get cleared up in my head. Others just  get started. The different shops are all fun to see. The guys each have very different personalities. Just like everyone else, except a vastly different lifestyle. It gets frustrating when I want to buy more than the budget will allow. It also takes intense focus to make sure everything gets ordered properly, loaded correctly, and not end up in the ditch.

Todays trip (I’m leaving in a few minutes) should be quick and painless. I want to get home.

8:49 pm Odometer 79589 kms
I’m finally pulling into the driveway.
After leaving Isaac, I stop for another tank of fuel and then head to the L&M Market in Harriston. I pick up a box of Chester Fried Chicken. I’ve been dreaming about it all day. A little addiction some would say. The sunset was spectacular. It makes the snow on the fields glow.  We are extremely lucky to live in such a beautiful country. The rest of the drive is just long and boring. I change the station to Classic Vinyl. It’s dark and I’m in a mellower mood. Three and a half hours to home. Hopefully I can stay awake.
Elton John: Someone Saved My Life Tonight.

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