Crofting: First Day

It was a warm and sunny day. I decided to let goats lounge in the barn today rather than shift them around to shady spots every couple of hours. I went to church. Nicholas was still exhausted from a long trip to Fredericton yesterday to see Matthew, Sarah and Ava. They have a new kitten, and Nicholas either had the baby or the cat in his lap most of the time, and sometimes both. Ava is a little bit afraid of the big white beard, but she is amused by his hat, so she got over the pouty face pretty quickly. I had made little jumpers for her, and although they are bit big, she is tall and plump for her ten months. If I didn’t know better, I would say she looks to be fourteen months or so. She can take a few steps, but can chase the kitten a lot faster on her hands and knees.

I love living here in northern New Brunswick, on the banks of the St. John River. The winters can be long and harsh, but we rarely have unbearable summer weather. The drive to and from church, up and down the mountain, and across the river, was fantastic today.

The St. John River, from Brooks Bridge

The potato fields are in blossom. Potatoes have interesting little blossoms, a bit like miniature morning glories. Some varieties are white, some a light pink and my favourites are these lavender ones. If you weren’t told that this is a potato field, you might think it is a field of lavender.

Jensen farm, New Denmark

Three weeks ago, most of the potato fields looked like African violets had been planted. Then we had good rain and warm days, and they remembered what they are supposed to do.

I know some people, especially if they live in true alpine zones, must find it amusing that I call this area mountainous. But this is what I see when I cross the St. John River, and turn toward New Denmark.

east of the St. John River

That is a field is an alluvial plain, with the sharp slope of the rising land into New Denmark behind it. The bishop calls it “the parish at the top of the world.” There is a narrow road along the base of that hill, with a cliff on the other side for most of the stretch between Brooks Bridge and the Salmon River. The shoulders wash out, and shale washes down the mountain side in heavy rains. The quickest route up to New Denmark is a paved mountain goat path called “Lucy’s Gulch Road.” There is a gulch that crosses under the road. It is deep. One of the priests who had the parish down river said that when he first covered services at St. Ansgar’s in New Denmark, he usually came up Lucy’s Gulch in the winter and wondered why it was called that. Then the snow melted and he realized that one bad icy patch, and a whole car could easily disappear into Lucy’s Gulch. A few decades ago, a ministry student did put a parishioner’s new pickup truck in the gulch. He survived, but the truck was totalled. Lucy’s is not the only dangerous mountain road here. There is also Klokkledahl Hill, which is a toboggan run of a road in the winter – I ploughed the left ditch with the corresponding wheels of my old truck for a good fifty feet one horrible winter night – and Cote Mill, or Mill Hill. A retired priest was fatally injured in a car accident there a number of years ago, when he skidded into the gully beside the road.

An artist friend of mine once defined art as “the horror of the sublime.” Living in a wild hilly part of Canada is like that, too.

But we appreciate the work the great Artist has created.


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