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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Spring work parties, Summer events at the Purdy A-frame

Eurithe and architect Duncan 
Although she is a determined woman, and accustomed to getting things done, Eurithe Purdy may well be pinching herself. For the desperate hope that the dilapidated A-frame cottage on Roblin Lake - where she and husband Al Purdy lived some of their worst and best years together and where Al's legendary career as a great Canadian poet took hold - might be saved from demolition has been realized.

 Years of grassroots work by area volunteers, coordinated by local educator Michele Lintern-Mole, helped to maintain the cottage  and raise funds and awareness. Clean-up work parties by local high school students from Centennial Secondary School, the restoration of the Purdy privy by Trenton High School students, and the famous auction of household effects (who wouldn't want an ash-tray where Margaret Laurence might have stubbed a literary cigarette?) are part of the local A-frame legend.
Michele on the Picnic stage
On the other side of the country, Jean Baird, editor, literary activist, and founder of the non-profit Al Purdy A-frame Association, spearheaded ambitious awareness-building and fund-raising. High profile fund-raising events in Toronto and Ottawa, successful grant applications and generous donations by individuals and foundations have moved the dream closer to reality. The Al Purdy A-frame Association, with  national and local representation on its board, orchestrated the purchase of the A-frame in 2012.

Not only has the A-frame been saved, but it is being restored, and will be welcoming writers in residence starting this July. The long-held goal of the APAFA has been to renovate the A-frame so that it can serve as a residence for developing Canadian writers. The first call for writer in residence applications went out in the spring of 2013; the 2014/15 writers have been selected. On July 1, 2014 the A-frame will welcome Toronto based poet Katherine Leyton, and in August, writers Nick Thran and Sue Sinclair will take up residence for the fall months. Here's a  link to Katherine's 'howpedestrian' project, coming to Ameliasburgh this summer.
a rare moment of leisure - Matti

The A-frame has been saved, but the ongoing support of the local and national community is critical to its success.

So much work has been done. Over the past year, contractor Matti Kopamees has orchestrated the installation of a new power pole and connection to the cottage, completely new wiring in the A-frame, and replacement of all the plumbing. Water in the crawlspace which threatened the structure has been eliminated by perimeter weeping tile and a hard-working sump pump. A collapsed foundation wall (discovered when the deck was temporarily moved)  has been rebuilt. Rotted barn-board has been renewed, windows have been replaced or rebuilt. A new water tank and heater have been installed, and a ceiling fan has appeared in the A-frame ceiling.

But there is lots still to do: finish carpentry inside the A-frame, trim painting outside. Deck-moving. If funds permit, deck building and roofing. Lawn work. Cleaning. All to create a comfortable and welcoming home at the A-frame.

To that end, two working weekends are planned at the Purdy A-frame, Saturday May 24 and Sunday May 25, Saturday June 7 and Sunday June 8. Invitations have been sent to folks already signed up with the Friends of the A-frame. If you don't get an email, come anyway, and bring a friend.

 To join the network, contact Lindi at For more information visit, the Al Purdy A-frame Association Facebook page,  or the 'In Search of Al Purdy' blog at

The summer of 2014 will see a list of events planned to celebrate the A-frame, its history, and the writers who will now find inspiration inside its slanted walls:

July 5 - Purdy Library Ameliasburgh. Welcome reception for Katherine Leyton
July 26 - Second Annual Purdy Picnic at the Purdy A-frame
August 30 - Active Arts Studio, Rednersville. Richard Turtle's performance of David Carley's play 'Al Purdy at the Quinte Hotel' and Katherine Leyton's video of her summer's work ( at the A-frame. (Tentative: 'When I Sat Down to Play the Piano' - Pianist-composer Gerry Shatford and his jazz trio performing original jazz compositions inspired by the poetry of Al Purdy.
early September - welcome event for Nick Thran and Sue Sinclair
October - guided literary walking tour of Ameliasburgh

You are invited. Be part of the ongoing story being written at the Al and Eurithe Purdy A-frame. Step into the A-frame.

Ongoing financial support is critical to the mission of the APAFA and the Purdy A-frame writer in residence program. Visit the website ( to make a donation, or sponsor a fixture. Consider how you will feel to have your donation of a baseboard heater or writing cabin ceiling plaqued at the A-frame.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A-frame Renovation - progress report

After a winter which cancelled many plans, and kept a lot of us indoors, it is encouraging to see the willow stump displaying its promising green aura.

At a small but mighty gathering of Friends of the A-frame on May 6, volunteers and supporters heard what's left to do at the A-frame, before it can welcome the APAFA's first writer in residence, Katherine Leyton, on July 1.

The yard cleanup is progressing, although there will still be more branches to gather, as additional tree trimming is scheduled.

"There is also the matter of this deck", muses Fina, Matti's dog. Once Matti has replaced the rotted boards under the lakeside windows, the deck which is now sitting on the lawn can be strong-armed back into position. Eight strong backs needed, then evening poetry readings can commence.

And these water-filled ruts (in which robins were bathing yesterday - there's a prize if you can spot the bird in this photo) will eventually become a gentle depression capturing water expressed by the superbly functioning sump-pump. Some spade-work and grass seed required here.

The A-frame still needs some interior finish carpentry (and John is restoring the living room windows; they'll be back in place soon), and donated kitchen appliances will need to be moved into place. Some exterior trim painting needed.

Then...let the cleaning begin. Eurithe and I talked over the campaign yesterday. Once the construction dust settles, we'd love it if you joined us for dusting, hoovering, washing and arranging.

Work parties have been scheduled for two weekends, May 24 and 25, and June 7 and 8.

Hope we see you there. Reminders will go out to our Friends of the A-frame contact list.
Matti our contractor will be conductor. Join the orchestra. Be part of something Purdy.

Help wanted

Al Purdy's grandfather looms large in his poetry and prose. In Search of Owen Roblin takes us to the lumber camp world of the early 1850's in Upper Canada.

"And there's my grandfather
a personal family myth as real as hamburger
only 18 years old in 1858 when the roads were built
wearing home-made boots, looking for his first job
in lumber camps at Renfrew and Farrell's Landing
tramping the Opeongo line..."

Now admittedly, neither the work nor the world are quite that difficult now, but this spring as we clear up branches fallen during last winter's ice storm, and detritus from some tree-felling at the A-frame, we are channelling the aching bodies, the sweat, the insects...and the satisfaction that comes from making a difference.

Should you come by and spy some piles of branches or twigs still lying about, here's your recipe for satisfaction: grab a rake and a wheelbarrow, should you find one, and move a pile or two of twigs and leaves to the spot just east of the A-frame, to join the others. If you find some larger branches, they can be hauled up the hill to a spot beside the driveway, where they will wait for the chipper. Firewood is still waiting to know where it will go. Save your energy, don't move it.

And should you find our contactor Matti onsite, he can suggest a number of other needful tasks. Satisfaction guaranteed.

Friday, May 2, 2014

See you at the Hall - Sunday May 4, 1:00 - 3:00 PM

photo courtesy The Wellington Times
This Sunday, May 4 from 1:00 to 3:00, local Purdy A-framers will be holding the inaugural meeting of the Friends of the A-frame, which exists at this point as an email contact list. That list will be useful, of course, for updating interested folks on activities and events (and volunteer work parties) at the A-frame, as we move into this first amazing summer of writers in residence.

But as long-time volunteer Michele pointed out, this network of people who care for poetry, for the work of Al Purdy, the preservation of the A-frame, who know his wife Eurithe, or who want to be involved in activities to make this historic village grow and prosper need to meet face to face, and socialize, to work together.
after the town hall picnic lunch crowd left - D.Scott photo

The Ameliasburgh Town Hall, 13 Coleman Street,  is a fine place to meet. It represents community spirit, from the early days, built by Elijah Sprague c. 1874 on David Coleman property, to its recent make-over (wait 'til you see the kitchen) through the ongoing hard work of the Ameliasburgh Hall Working Group. Anyone who came to last year's Purdy Picnic will remember the place where they got their hand-made sandwiches.

We hope that this Sunday we will get to meet many of the folks who have volunteered over many years, or who have signed up at events, or who just want to be involved in something pretty important, to Ameliasburgh, to Prince Edward the country. Come. Bring friends.

And a meeting needs an agenda.

Friends of the A-frame Inaugural Meeting
1:00 - 3:00 PM, Sunday May 4,2014
Ameliasburgh Town Hall

1. Introductions - "what brings you here?" - Michele
2.  A-frame History - Michele
3.  A-frame Update - Matti
4.  A-frame Events 2014 - Lindi

5.  Volunteer Opportunities - Michele