It’s spring, the list of things to do around the farm is beyond huge, school has about a thousand events happening (seems like it, anyway), and hubby’s business has been running at a level that means that any togetherness or family time has to be booked days in advance, in pen, or it won’t happen.
And then along came today. We had the opportunity to play hooky from our own church, and visited that of some friends. This small act of non-conformity was surprisingly energizing, though maybe the country twang rendition of an old childhood hymn helped. When an appointment hubby had booked for 1pm was cancelled, we rolled with it.
Fish and chips, wrapped in newspaper, finger lickin’ greasy and delicious (Fish on Fifth if you’re local – great stuff), was eaten on a huge log down on the rocky shore that is part of a newer park quite close to our home called Newman Farm Park, after the pioneering family who owned the 17 or so acres from up the hill all the way down to the shore. I find this farm quite interesting. It’s only a few acres larger than our farm (we have 14+ acres). I find the idea of a farm that runs down to the shore pretty idyllic – I have to admit, the Newman’s bit of shore is pretty rocky, but I’d take it. Beautiful view, gentle stretch of water, lots of fish and seafood to supplement the diet. A couple of the Newmans were keen rowers and they did some boat building as well, hence the boathouses. From the time they bought the land, till 1996, the family practiced mixed subsistence farming. That’s a century of farming. One of the reasons the farm is considered historically significant is because the family never acquired electricity or plumbing, and lived much as they had always done, right up till the last Newman living there died, in 2000. I realize that to all of you down East dwellers, this is not exactly ancient history, but the West coast was settled long after the rest of the continent. The first white people to settle in my area took up land in 1862. So the Newman place IS old by our standards.
When we’d finished exploring rock pools and watching tiny crabs scramble through the rocks, we started to head home, but made a detour after we’d crossed the highway, to go visit the Newman house. It’s down a quiet dead end lane, surrounded by fields. The peacefulness of the place was disrupted only by the singing of a nearby starling. We contemplated what it might have been like during the family’s heyday, according to the park’s webpage:
True to the pioneering spirit, the Newman family was self-reliant. They grew their own fruits and vegetables, ground their own cereal and raised prize-winning jersey cattle. Fresh cream and butter they produced provided extra income for the family. George, along with younger brothers, John and Henry, spent most of their lives on the family homestead, which was actively farmed up until 1996.
In addition to the original cabin and farmhouse, other structures on-site include a creamery, garage, chicken coop, barn, outhouse, a second cabin, milking barn, four sheds and two boathouses on the east portion of the property. (from the park webpage, linked above).
As we left, our older daughter said, “wouldn’t it be great to live somewhere like that?” Old house full of character, fields all around, wild rose scenting the air, glimpse of the sea just a few acres away…
“We DO live somewhere like that” I said, and it’s true – well, we don’t have glimpses of the sea, but we do have beautiful hills around us, and the sea is just a few minutes drive down the road. Our farm is only a few acres smaller, our buildings include house, barn, old dairy, outhouse, chicken coop, equipment shed and old chicken house. We even have starlings nesting in the century old apple trees in our orchard. We have pigs rooting around behind the barn, we have chickens fussing in the tall grass near my neighbour’s fence. Seeds in the veg garden are germinating so fast you can almost see it happening right now. The Newman farm must have been like that once – people coming and going, animals creating noise and work all over the place, someone needing to hoe between the potatoes, someone hanging laundry…on a warm, mild day like this, the farm wouldn’t have been a restful place at 2 in the afternoon, it would have been full of activity.
I know what she meant though, and that’s true too. After our morning and afternoon of escaping our normal routine, we turned into our driveway, all our minds clicking towards we’d be doing next. Back to cell phones and email, chores, homework, supper prep. Back into our regular lives.