While we live in a tourist destination town, it’s not really the sort of place we would visit for leisure. Yes, it’s on the lake, but we are not beach people, not are we motorcycle people, nor are we boutique shopping or fine dining people. Our idea of a good day out is a farmer’s market, preferably with other Plain people.
It’s a town about two hours away, with a huge farmer’s market, outlet stores, a livestock exchange, and a large, well-stocked TSC. (TSC is mostly farming and barn equipment.) There are boutiques and fine dining in the town, but it was the market we wanted to see.
The drive wasn’t bad, despite rain and Ontario traffic through Kitchener-Waterloo. I like the countryside around there, with its rolling hills, neat farms and lush green everywhere. There are animals on many farms, cattle, horses and some sheep. It looks like our kind of place!
As we came into St. Jacobs, we passed an open buggy with four young men in it, getting wet in the shower. Some of the men there wear a plain navy blue flat cap for driving, the first time I’ve seen that, instead of the brimmed hat. It makes sense; the cap stays on your head in a breeze even when the driver has both hands occupied. As for the rain – I can tell real country people, because they don’t mind a little water. It dries off quickly enough when a person starts moving around. City people are always trying to get out of rain, or covering their heads with plastic bags, newspapers – anything – in the hopes it won’t soak in and do permanent damage.
(Note that I did not take photos. First, I was driving. Second, I don’t like people to photograph me, so I allow others the same courtesy. Next time, I will get some photos of the market buildings and the horses and buggies at the TSC.)
This is a big farmer’s market. Nicholas tells me it is bigger than the one in Kitchener. It’s the biggest one I’ve ever been to. There are a couple of buildings, one the traditional hall with an upper gallery, with food stalls along the side and back to back down the middle, and craft stalls on the upper gallery. We hadn’t brought the cooler, so we were limited in what we could buy, but the butchers’ stalls were so tempting. The bakers’ stalls had lots of temptation, but since I bake at home, I didn’t see much use in buying bread and goodies.
The craft stalls were disappointing. Maybe it’s because it’s early in the season, but they didn’t have much that was appealing. The sort of things I would buy, that I couldn’t make myself, just weren’t there. I need a good butcher’s block cutting board, a small teapot, a drying rack and baskets, but none of that was available. Bright children’s sweaters, hand-dyed yarn, transfer decorated pottery and a bunch of decorative stuff was on display, but really, none of it was plain nor practical. Maybe later in the season there will be more crafters.
A second buiding is the Peddlar’s Village, with cubbyhole stalls, and commerically made goods. We found a new cane for Nicholas, to replace the old four-pronged he’s been using. This is a mottled copper colour, and is segmented with shock cord inside so it can fold down. He is very pleased. I’m less concerned about scratches in the floor now.
We bought pork pies, garlic sausage, and in the produce stalls, lots of vegetables, much of it grown in greenhouses here. Spotting a huge basket of garlic heads, I asked the young Mennonite woman at the stall if it was local. “Argentina,” she said with a smile. “Not very local,” I commented. Produce is either labelled with its origin or the vendor will supply the answer. (I believe this is required by law.) I was impressed by the amount of local produce available because of greenhouse growing. I consider this a hopeful trend. I’d rather see the energy expended to heat and light the greenhouse here, with local jobs, rather than being used to truck food from thousands of miles away, not yet ripe, and gassed to colour it.
It was a good opportunity to see what Ontario Mennonite women are wearing right now. Most wear the three piece dress, but some of the young ones wear the dress with a large waist apron, and no cape. Their caps are black for girls, white for married women. Some wear black ties on their white caps. The caps were all soft and pleated. Some had an elaborate pleated back, which was very pretty, and allowed room for a large bun. Their dresses are often blue or purple, but I saw brown and grey as well. The front seems to be closed with a covered placket rather than a small neck opening with snaps. They wear small calico type prints as well as solid colours, but nothing bright or large patterned. I found their dress to be very attractive.
The most interesting part of observing their dress were the bonnets. Some wore the close fitting black Wenger bonnet, with pleats and other trim, but some had switched to a deep brimmed bonnet in calico, usually purple or lavender with a small dark sprig print on it. The bonnets are quite elaborate with pleats, ruffles and even bows at the back. At a distance, a group of women in purple and lavender cape dresses, with bonnets in the same shades, is quite distinctive. Most wore black aprons over their dresses when working.
The children are dressed much as their parents. Little girls don’t always wear a bonnet, although some had on hoods for the rain, or kerchiefs. I didn’t see a child with a cap. The girls wear a simple dress with a pinafore type apron buttoned up the back. Their hair is usually french-braided. The little boys wear dark blue pants, braces, and plain shirts, with round-crowned straw hats. One little fellow decided that he would make a break for it, having obtained a bottle of chocolate milk from the family picnic table. He dashed off on his tiny shoes, with Dad right behind, scooping him up. The boy couldn’t have been more than a year old, and looked like a miniature of his father, minus the beard.
There ae other Plain dressing groups in the area, possibly Reformed or Brethren. The men wore dark hats and clothes, and were clean-shaven. Some of the dark-bonneted women may have been their wives. It’s hard to tell, since we Plain people often borrow a suitable style across group lines.
Nicholas has been looking for months for a suitable summer hat. Most commercially available straw hats from chain stores don’t appeal to him, with bright headbands, cowboy hat crowns, or too much roll to the brim. I’ve bought a couple over the years we’ve been together, and he has found them uncomfortable or too flashy. He stopped a group of young men, who looked at him nervously, as if they were expecting a reprimand. But all he wanted to know was if there was a vendor at the market selling summer straw hats. No, they said, they got theirs at the TSC. So after we finished our market shopping, we went to the TSC, across the road, and found another group of young men gleefully trying on new hats. (I assume this a ritual antecendent to courting – their hair was also sleekly cut, rather than chopped off at nape and forehead as older married men wear theirs.) We found two suitable hats at a suitable sale price. Nicholas doesn’t need to go courting, but I think he was as pleased as the boys. I found a good corn broom, too – my heart’s desire! TSC also carries a selection of children’s farm-themed toys, and I am contemplating a full barn with fences, animals and bales of hay for Patience’s Christmas gift.
We ate Oktoberfest sausage and headed home. (Getting lost on the way – there’s a lot road construction through Kitchener-Waterloo.) We are planning a trip for next month, but we will be better equipped next time, with a cooler, ice packs, and my packbasket.