The Homestead

Home is where thee hangs thy bonnet

 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.


19 thoughts on “The Homestead

  1. Magdalena,

    Your new home sounds fabulous! Would you be in bear, wolf and salmon country then? Please, please be careful when out on icy roads. That was more than a close call, friend…

    Your ackerage sounds fantastic – yup; get a few sheep onto the property and it’ll start coming back up again.

    • Bears, yes; wolves, maybe; salmon, long gone. Coyotes – lots! Moose, deer, raccoons. We must have a large coyote population, because I don’t see any squirrels.

      You wouldn’t believe what a close call that was! We were on abridge over, I think, the Nackawic stream. Some minor (but expensive damage to the truck, a little bruising of my shoulder fromt he seatbelt, and good deal of adrenlin. Nicholas was a trooper, though, and talked me through the skid.

      Now I need to look around for some used fence. It was how I got started in shepherding.

      • So glad you made it safe and sound. You sound so happy with your new home. Be careful of the coyotes. They have very little human fear any more. Do you own a rifle?? We have actually had a coyote on the front door step last month.

        Keep warm.

      • No firearms here; I’m not opposed, though. Our eastern coyotes are smaller than the western ones, but they can be menacing, and they are bold. I am not afraid of them, although I wouldn’t want to meet with a pack of them!

  2. Such a lovingly written description of your new home. The words “kitchen bigger than livingroom” warmed my heart.
    Glad your disagreement with the guardrail ended well, my partner had a similar icy encounter this month and our truck now had a pirate look about the eyes.
    It is a deep blessing to return after many years to your ancestral land. I did no myself and have no regret. The world is wide and amazing, but I am finding contentment in this simple place.
    I am happy all is well with both of you.

    • After years of travel and interesting places, I’m glad to be back in the Valley. My family has been here for more than two hundred years.

  3. I once had a disagreement with a guardrail, too, so I sympathize with you. There were no injuries, but the front end of the car was badly damaged. Thank the Lord, the insurance company paid to fix it up, and I figured out that the cost of the repairs just about equalled the amount of money I had spent in insurance premiums on that car.

    Not to make light of your accident, but you’ve mentioned before how you are often mistaken for Amish, and it must have been a bit confusing for the people around there seeing these “Amish people” involved in an automobile accident.

    • I suppose it was, although we have truck driving Mennonites nearby. My insurance is liability only, so I am out of pocket for the repairs, which would have just met the deductible on most policies, anyway.

  4. Oh so wonderful, dear friend! I am so happy for thee! How I look forward to visiting with you and your husband sometime after we settle in Maine. (Not that we would ever want to impose!) It sounds beautiful where you are!

    We are considering looking at northern Maine (Houlton area or north of that point) very near the Canadian border. Previously we were only considering going as north as Old Town or Orono. There seem to be a lot of properties where we could farmstead at good prices. (Yeah, I know, I’m going the opposite way of most folks, but I do feel compelled to follow the leadings!)

    What a wonderful opportunity thee has, I am so glad the ice encounter wasn’t too bad, and you both are safe. I am so happy to once again be hearing from you, it seemed such a long lapse in time, although I know it was short on your side, and there was much to do, still is, right? How I missed thee! Blessings to both of you and much success in the year to come, my friend!

    • thee will be welcome. We are going to maintain Quaker hospitality in the home. Please consider Houlton/Aroostook County! Houlton is just an hour away. I am from farther north in Caribou. There are Quaker, Amish and Mennonite groups in the area – cheap farmland and relatively wide acceptance.

      Blessings to thee and thine, praying that we will meet soon!

    • It’s not dangerous – I mean, it’s safer than being offshore in a sailboat, or camping in the mountains. I’m not afraid of wild animals, there are no poisonous snakes here, and as long as I keep out a weather eye, I can avoid trouble. I grew up near here. I know I am the most dangerous thing in the woods!

      And it’s a hundred times safer than the city neighborhood where I lived while at university.

  5. Glad you’re well and settled. Please post pictures! And your description of the area certainly is temping; I grew up in the Adirondack mountains and have been in exile in *ptooey* Florida for the last 25 years.

    • I think this is beautiful country, but many find it isolated. The nearest city is two hours away, and an actual American style supermarket is more than twenty minutes north. It’s good to have interests besides the television, of course, but if one of them is shopping or first-run movies, then you will be disappointed. We read a lot in the winter.

      • I prefer reading to almost anything else. This shows in the state of my house. If I had to guess, I’d say I watch less than 2 hours of TV a week. Shopping for anything other’n food is to be done at whirlwind speed after doing research ahead of time so I can get in, find whatever & get out.
        EXCEPT at planting time when I prevaricate endlessly over plants & seeds.
        Really I feel I was born in the wrong century. Or maybe not, if you follow the Peak Oil folks. Homey skills may come back in fashion rather suddenly.

      • Yes, we may be the next cultural heroes. I am like that about seeds and plants. I am already looking at garden stuff, and planting is months away here.

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