Ice fishing with Greg

Ice Fishing with Greg

On occasion of my youngest brother, Greg, turning 52 I am posting this picture which is taken on the ice at Dickie Lake probably in 1970.  That would make me almost 8 years old and Greg almost 4 years old as we are both February birthdays.

If you look at our fishing rods, mine is straight and Greg’s is crooked like a stick, because, well… it is a stick.  Did someone tie some mono-filament or maybe the older black nylon fishing line on the end?  Maybe… but twouldn’t really be necessary as we weren’t going to be catching any fish that winter’s day.  I’m guessing that the bait was a small chunk of bacon as worms would have been scarce that time of year and we just always had dad’s bacon available.

Without any doubt we had a childhood that would be hard to duplicate in these days.  The monastic solitude of a winter day at the cottage would not be destroyed by access to the internet, by television or even a fish-finder that might tell us to save our bacon the fish were nowhere to be found.  These were the days that if you had a dad to chop a hole in the ice and some good wet packing snow to make snowmen with then you had everything you needed to keep you occupied, well at least until mom called us for lunch.

Greg, you’ve had the privilege and responsibility to be that dad to your four girls.  I’m quite sure you’ve done a good job in spite of all the distractions that the 21st century muddled our minds with.  We can’t go back to that simpler time, but if there was a time machine and we just had a day, I’d love to go back to the cottage in 1970 and go ice fishing with Greg.

Market and me

Pen & Ink sketch of Kitchener Farmers Market

This pen and ink print signed “Paquette 72” hung on the wall just above some Group of Seven prints in my parents dining room. It was well placed near the table where we celebrated special occasions as the meat business that the Dettweiler family has been associated with for several generations was founded on taking our meat to market and we still continue doing that.

My father remembers his earliest market experiences at the Preston market.  Sales began with the ringing of a bell at, I’m going to say, 6 am.  Seems early, but in that era the first sales would already be lined up for waiting purchasers and with the bell the money could change hands.  Farmer vendors like my grandfather had work to do at home and in the day of early morning markets they may have been back home by 9 am.  If you weren’t an early riser in that day, you did not get to buy the meat and produce brought to market by hard-working farmers.  At St. Catharines market, if you want Dettweiler’s sausage in the 21 century, you can come as late as 11 am – but no later, as at that hour I will already be packing up in order to get on with the work of my Niagara-on-the-Lake deliveries.

My father would make deliveries of meat after the brief market hours, perhaps to customers in the neighbouring town of Hespeler and certainly in the other direction from home to Breslau customers.  When he eventually built his own meat shop, maybe 1/4 mile down the road from the family farm, he called his business “Midway Meat Market”.  This name took advantage of the name of the Breslau telephone exchange.  When you picked up your telephone in those days you didn’t need to know any numbers.  You spoke to the operator and asked for the “Midway” exchange and then asked to be connected to the meat market there.  Presumably, picking up the handset and specifying “Midway Meat Market” was all it took to be connected to my dad in those days.  There you could order a pound of bacon, a nice chuck roast and 2 pounds of pork sausage and my father could arrange to deliver it to you at your home.

If you would like to order some of Mennonite smoked sausage these days you can contact us by emailing “info” followed by the domain name of the website you are presently looking at (which is our family name) and the “.ca” ending of Canadian domains.  We also have a store on Victoria Street, just across the Grand River from Kitchener and the phone number for this Breslau, Ontario location is the exact same one we have had since the day that they discontinued telephone operators for local calls.

Many things have changed over the years, but you can still get quality meat from the Dettweilers which will make your meal times to be special occasions.

I have a heritage

Harold Dettweiler, first-born son with (oldest to youngest) Margaret, Mary and Ruby. Year - 1925.
Harold Dettweiler, first-born son with (oldest to youngest) Margaret, Mary and Ruby. Year – 1925.


This photo of my father speaks volumes to me.  I love reading and contemplating history.  The best kind is the history that has shaped your own life.  My father is still with us in 2016, passing his 94th birthday!

In the midst of the “roaring twenties” my grandparents had the family put on their Sunday-best clothes and document themselves at a photographer’s studio.  Dad knew the Great Depression of the thirties. There’s a story of my grandfather going to market with piglets and coming home later with more than he took as someone else had slipped their own that they didn’t have the means to feed in with the Dettweiler stock.  The Christmas gift one of those lean years, shared among his sisters was a simple enamel or steel comb for their hair. Dad was finished his schooling at the Riverbank school, just down the road from home, in 1936.Harold, Clark, Ward and Glen Dettweiler in dad's teen years  The future, from that point was working on the farm.  My Mennonite heritage, through my father, is evangelical Christian.  His father’s barn impelled passers-by with the words of John the Baptist from Mark 1:15, “Repent, and believe the Gospel”.

In 1942, my dad was sent, along with other conscientious objectors to alternative service which began, for him, at the Montreal River camp in Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Superior.  An autograph book my father kept from those times makes me think that my father experienced an extended bit of camp-comradery as his co-workers there in the 6 or 8 months he spent there shared on those pages scripture verses or perhaps a witty poem.  His alternative service then continued near home as he worked for the local dairy right through the very end of the war in 1946.

After the war, life continued on the farm.  Dad travelled several times during those years between the war and the meeting-my-mom and marriage in 1952 to Alberta, at harvest-time to work on harvesting the grain.  In winter, when farm work was less intense he attended this Bible School held at First Mennonite in Kitchener.  The photo below is only half of a huge panorama shot of the students involved with him in learning from the Bible in January of 1948.  My dad is in the top row the second from the right hand side of the photo.My dad among other Bible School students at Kitchener in January 1948

From all this history of dad, I learn that I didn’t invent life out of nothing (ex nihilo?) I just continued it.  Like I would walk behind my dad as he tilled the soil of the garden in spring with the roto-tiller, I followed in the way that he had established.  If I like to dress well, I continue the lines established by father’s very non-plain ties.  I eat simple food and enjoy it; I love adventure that takes me from home and I love returning.  I can make my own way through life and I’ve been informed by God’s word.

Thanks, Dad for all of this.

Nature will succeed

…with or without my help.


    Much of my garden work (serenity therapy) in the spring season involves taking the life that is already happening and arranging it so that it might have a future.  So far in May / June 2015 I have moved around plenty of sweet pea and today I played God with a maple seedling which had established itself in the wrong neighbourhood.  My street is lined with maples and all the cars, sidewalks and fertile soil that happens to fall under those maple branches were littered with billions (my block alone must account for millions) of maple keys.  Some windy day brought keys into the in-ground planter in my back terrace that the wall-climbing vine happens to draw life from.  It’s not a spot that has resources to expend on anything other than said vine, but the maple sapling that sprang into life here had already 8 fully-developed leaves balanced above its crooked trunk before I took notice of it.  I imagined a future for it, but certainly not there – a mere 4 inches from the brick wall.   I called into service a rather large pail, cut some drainage holes in the bottom, got a spade under the still compact root ball and introduced the maple to its new interim home.

I don’t have a history of tree-sapling transplantation, but my father, while he owned his two acres of Waterloo Township (to become South Woolwich eventually) transplanted many maples, many pines, willows, fruit trees and a black walnut tree or two.  He loves elderberries and I believe he even imported a bush or two to grow at the edge of the backyard swamp, hoping that he would enjoy better access to his beloved pie-berries.  I seem to remember that the elderberry bush took in the damp soil there, but no person was fortunate enough to enjoy the wild fruits as the sometimes pond / swamp neighbourhood was the delight of many birds and one or more of those species enjoyed the elderberries while they were still green.  By the way, happy father’s day 2015, dad!  I’ll be calling you before supper tonight and comparing my elderberry memories with yours.

This spring I’ve been transplanting like never before.  It’s been 5 or 6 years since I planted my first dollar-store Life_from_a_crackpacket of sweet pea seeds.  Since then I’ve been reaping dividends on that investment as the vines which climb the fence bordering my planters hold their seed pods through the winter and then self-seed the following year. Last year McGill put up a huge trellised barrier between the driveway running past my garden and the little-used terrace area of the student residence.  My imagination soon populated the barrier with the surplus sweet pea plants that literally sprang up out of the cracks between paving stones, but the reality that I had to overcome was that, on the McGill side, there was 12 inches of concrete at the base of the trellis and on my side there was the driveway and then 30 inches of concrete before the trellis structure began.  I called into action some discarded corrugated plastic drainage pipe which I cut open and tucked one side between the top of the concrete and the bottom of the trellis.  This hanging planter could hold plenty of soil for the sweet pea vines that I foresaw taking over this huge trellised square footage.  The trellis panels, all greenish-yellow treated wood, were not entirely an eyesore, but the sweat peas, if they could wind their way up and eventually dominate the structure, would definitely improve upon my terrace view.  I succeeded in this plan to a small extent, but the drainage-pipe planters didn’t hold up so well and soon looked shabby so I’ve decided to take a different tack this second year.  It involves a bit of guerrilla gardening as I am placing small planters sitting on the 12 inches of concrete on the McGill side of the wall.  I see that the sprinkler hose has been set up by McGill (not in use yet due to almost daily rain this spring) so my vines, still crouched at the bottom of the trellis wall will enjoy consistent watering through the heat of the summer.  Some of the candidate sweet pea vines that I am using to conquer McGill’s wall sprang from seeds that took root between the paving stones on my garden terrace.  Left alone these vines would never get to the stage where they climb the adjacent fence as when the heat of summer comes the vines would be scorched off, having very little root to draw water from.  I’ve found that when I pull these plants from the cracks they have enough of a root structure that they can be transplanted into the planters which, once proven, will make their way to the base of the wall.  It takes a special kind of will-to-live to spring up in a crack and I’m counting on that same vitality that nature has in spades to be put to use to improve my neighbourhood.