The Land: About three and a half acres, mostly cleared.
The House: Two rooms down, two rooms up. Kitchen bigger than the living room. Good-sized entrance room, big enough for a workroom. A combined bath and laundry room off the living room, very typical here in the Maritimes. A small bath upstairs (a luxury), a wide hall that has a closet and linen storage, our bookshelf, and room for a baby’s cot. Two bedrooms withone window each, tiny closets. A dry cellar.
The “Barn”: A wide garage with a separate room at the back, adaptable for animals.
Back to the Land: About thirty feet up a steep, almost sheer bank covered with white birch and cedar, above the St. John River. The River is not to be taken lightly. It is not a meandering, charming river, but a wild Northern river. The current is swift, the depth treacherous. It has taken many lives, including that of my grandmother’s young brother.
The soil looks played out, in need of amendments of manure and lime. It seems to have been supporting crops of goldenrod and rudbeckia. The cornus we call redbush hasn’t made a run through it yet, but it is only a couple of seasons away. The owners, also country people, know it is time to get some sheep on it, time to get it mowed and fertilized the natural way, or lose it to the forest. We are on the southern verge of the great boreal forest, dominated by birch and spruce. The most common hardwood here is maple.
The Weather: variable, often dangerous. We arrived here after sunset, in a drizzle turning to snow. We approached from the north, and I couldn’t make the sharp turn down to our road. I drove on for several miles in the dark rain, turned at an intersection, and came back from the better approach. A few days later, I hit black ice on the Trans-Canada just above Fredericton, swerved three times across two lanes, and took a chunk out of the front bumper, losing that argument with a guardrail. We weren’t injured, but some concerned passerby, unable to stop, had called 911, and an ambulance showed up. I suppose they were alarmed to see two innocent Plain people stranded by the side of the road. We had the new experience of sitting in the back of an ambulance, being asked cognition and coordination questions. Since then – sleet, rain, snow, below freezing, above freezing. The road north of us washed out, which meant a circuitous route for a couple of days. The recreational trail next to us has washouts as well, which means that we don’t expect to see much snowmobile traffic this winter, if there is ever enough snow.
Compared to the fertile domestic landscape of southern Ontario, the view from our front window is wild and nordic. It is my ancestral land.