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New Year's greetings 2007
from High Trails Farm

After living exactly half of my life in the Chateauguay Valley of Southwest Quebec, Canada, our family is relocating 4 hours west. We’ll be living in the “ROC” (the Rest of Canada, as they call anywhere outside of our distinct province). Lynne will be the minister of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church and we will live in the manse.

Our new address in Prince Edward County:

Phil Norton & Rev. Lynne Donovan
51 Bowery Street
Picton, ON
K0K 2T0

See some photos that I have already taken of the region at www.countyphotographer.com.

In some ways this move is a repeat of history. Family research indicates that my mother’s ancestors were French Canadians named Girouard or Girard who moved to Ontario in the 1800s and had their name anglicized to Jeroy. Her great-grandfather ran a pool hall in Napanee. A story is told that he once offered a donation to the church but they wouldn’t accept his money that was associated with gambling. How ironic now that Lynne will be the minister of a church just a few miles away. Maybe we can get some redemption for Grandpa’s pool hall!

Luke, 6, and Cole, 9, have said goodbye to friends and teachers at the Franklin School where they have had a marvelous 4 years.

The little school with 53 children in grades K-6 has been at risk of closure, thus our past year has been a lesson in democracy, lobbying the school board to find a way to keep this precious English language institution in our rural community. www.franklincentre.com.

Meanwhile, Gabrielle, 19 (after a vacation in the Dominican Republic with Grandma and Grandpa!) will begin her final term of Cegep, a two-year preparatory college in Lennoxville, just north of the Vermont border. She worked last summer as a bank teller, keeping up the five-generation tradition that I, the fourth generation, skipped.

With her horse Candee, she has retrained from jumping to dressage competition. Next will be off to university in Ontario? in Montreal? in the US?

Lynne completed a remarkable 8-year personal project this fall. She had a quilt made in memory of her mother using squares and quilted pieces submitted from all over the world by family and friends of Gaye, a native of New Zealand.

Click here to see larger image

Remembrance has become important at our midlife perspective as we recognize those we have lost as well as those who influenced and inspired us during our lifetime. Teachers, preachers, coaches, neighbors, parents, relatives, and friends, we carry something from each of them and we strive to pass some of it along.

I have had an opportunity to pass along my passion for photography and journalism in the rural community through our CV Magazine project begun at the Ormstown high school (2004). Grade 11 English students follow me on assignment to produce a monthly supplement for The Gleaner newspaper. This project is a spin-off of the community newspaper Vision that Lynne started in the Chateauguay high school (2001). www.visionchateauguay.com. Although I could not see myself working daily in the classroom, I love this out-in-the-real-world tutoring.

Another application of my photography has been the publication of a regional calendar for 2007. Encouraged by sales and sponsorships it’s a project that could expand into other parts of Quebec and Ontario next year. And it goes hand-in-hand with my goals for website development that creeps along between parenting and farming chores.

As for the farm on Covey Hill, 4 years of blood, sweat and tears (literally) has resulted in great improvements of house, barns and landscape. I have the scars to prove it . . . but no regrets. The learning curve in farming and surviving on the land has been nearly vertical. And becoming a part of the Franklin community has been a blessing that can never be taken away. However, with our move comes the realization that many dreams for the property will not come true. Our 110-acre forest and orchards with a view of the whole Valley leading 50 miles to the Montreal skyline will go up for sale in the New Year. www.hightrails.net

With a cutback in apple trees from 6,000 to a more-manageable 1,500, we did get off the farm this year, starting with another New Year’s 2006 trip to the Mexican Riviera Maya with Mom & Dad. We drove home to Mars for the 4th of July (and even joined the Mars Pool) and for Thanksgiving as usual. We all flew west to visit Lynne’s family in Regina, Saskatchewan and, from there, drove north for a week at a summer cottage in the Qu’Appelle Valley.

Lynne took a trip to New York City to see famous preachers at the Riverside Church and I took a solo tour of Western Pennsylvania in October to begin a personal documentary project about “Penn’s Woods West”. Coming soon: www.pennswoodswest.com. Looking forward to more exploring if we sell the farm!

Another hope for the coming years is to rekindle the fire of my latent environmentalism that has been fairly inactive for the past 10 years. I will gladly admit (for the great pleasure of my Democratic California cousins and my Liberal in-laws) that I was slapped back to reality by Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” about global warming and our wasteful lifestyles.

When it comes to crises such as nuclear threat, war and terrorism, AIDS and poverty, and environmental destruction, we want our family to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Therefore, as a New Year’s resolution, I hope that through the local and national church, and within our new community in English Canada, we can play leadership roles in making a difference.

Please plan a visit to Prince Edward County next summer!


Phil, Lynne, Gabrielle, Cole & Luke