Troy Media publisher Doug Firby and travel editor Lisa Monforton are part of a group of Canadians who call themselves ConnecTour. Starting in May in British Columbia and ending in October in Newfoundland, they hope to make an 8,000-km bicycle journey across the country, discovering how the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped our lives and our sense of community. Watch for their reports on Troy Media. More information on the cycling tour is available at ConnecTour.ca. To help them meet their goal, click here.
Sheri Turner is ebullient and energetic as she welcomes strangers to the fascinating world she’s built for herself near the tiny community of Shebandowan, Ont., about a day’s bicycle ride – or an hour’s drive – west of Thunder Bay.
Her immaculate property, called The Settlement, is a house and panoply of outbuildings, mostly painted grey with bold accents of red everywhere. It’s part fantasyland, part museum and, one imagines, part window into her soul.
“Red’s my favourite colour,” she explains, to the surprise of no one.
When the ConnecTour crew dropped in to stay for the night, we found her providing a tour to a couple of curious naturalists who wanted to see the woodlot she maintains.
The floor of the woodlot is so clear of debris it feels like carpeting that you could lay down and spend the night on.
She explains that cleaning and straightening up is her obsession. It one of the reasons why, although she’s 60, she continues to clean rooms at the Timberline Motel, a few kilometres down the road.
It would be an insult to say Sheri is a packrat, because all of the hundreds of knickknacks she has in her house have a place and a history. She’s a collector with the ability to create meticulous order out of what could easily be chaos.
Above the bathroom mirror are a column of vintage tins that once held aspirin, salve and laxatives; in one bedroom is a collection of paraphernalia from relatives’ service during the Second World War; in another, an original Hudson’s Bay blanket and a tikinagan, a baby carrier Indigenous people used to hang their infant on a tree.
In other places, there’s grandma’s riding pants and books, a retro Coke bottle collection (although she doesn’t drink the pop), quilts, family photos, and scrapbooks full of clippings about family events or local history. Over her red (naturally) fridge, her cookbooks are sorted by recipes that match holiday events, like Christmas and Easter.
She often finds herself absorbed in books about her family history and explains she’ll often stay up late into the night reading them. “I can’t sleep because they’re too interesting,” she says.
Along with Sheri’s skills as a sewer, quilter and home decorator, she learned the skill of carpentry from her dad. After she bought the house in 2012, she added a dormer (yes, by herself), renovated the old garage and then created the other buildings that accent the site. That includes a greenhouse, a wistful doll house with star lights on the ceiling for her five grandchildren, a comical outhouse with his-and-her seating and a pergola that has a distinctly resort vacation feel.
Words to fully describe Sheri and her world are hard to come by. So we video recorded her as she showed off some of the delightful features she’s created and collected at The Settlement.
The ConnecTour crew is traversing across the top of Lake Superior, considered by many to be the most challenging segment of the cross-Canada ride. Watch for more adventures from the road.
Veteran political commentator Doug Firby is president of Troy Media Digital Solutions and publisher of Troy Media. For interview requests, click here.
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