poetry and prose about place

on my grandfather’s farm

with 4 comments

a haybarn and its out-buildings

When August arrives, I always remember the summers of my childhood.  One of my favourite places to visit was my grandfather’s farm in Nova Scotia.  It was a place of rambles, exploration and discovery.  I looked forward to returning there each August, to reconnect with the farm and my extended family, especially my cousins.  I was a city kid and loved the country life, picking berries, tramping hay, playing in the hay mow, and going for picnics at the lake. 

My grandfather’s farm was part of a small community that included my aunts and uncles, and, of course, the cousins.  These were families that depended on the forests, fields and lakes for their livelihood.  Food was mostly local, grown on the farm or gathered from the fields and woods.   

The farm was like a community itself, a miniature village of buildings.  They included the main house, the big barn and various out-buildings.  In my memory, there were about eight buildings in all, each with its own purpose, and its own sights, sounds, smells, tastes and stories. 

The best was the big barn, built by my great-grandfather, with a high pitched roof, two lofts for hay, a central alley between, and back stalls for the cows and horses.   The chicken coop was under the hay loft of the barn, sheathed in chicken wire and stuffed with new hay.  Across the yard, closer to the house, was another bird coop, a loft for the more exotic birds my grandfather liked to keep:  ring necked pheasants, a golden pheasant, and fantail doves.   Another out-building, the noisy mink pen, was kept apart from the house, in the pasture, to hush the noise and keep the rank smell at bay.    

The other buildings hover just at the edge of my recall.  I think there was a lean-to beside the barn, cool and dark, housing the hay wagon, its big wooden wheels as large in diameter as I was tall.  I also remember a machine shed, smelling of grease and oil, its doors always open.

a machine shed with the remains of a garden and its old fashioned day lilies

The farm included a large acreage of pastures, fields and woods.  These were also spaces to explore.  My favourite was the apple orchard, and one particularly crooked tree, made for climbing.  There was the farm yard with the chickens tottering about, squawking and annoying one another.   Beyond the farm were the pastures, blue with berries, and the fields, edged with Black-eyed Susans, sturdy Rugosa roses, and other wild flowers.  Our wandering usually followed the road, a winding way through mossy woods, leading to the lakes.  Past the farm, it was a mere cart-track.  Bordering the track was a fence with a swinging gate, perfect for sitting and dreaming.  At one of the lakes was a favourite place for swimming, with a wooden diving board and a mythically deep pool, so clear you could see to the sandy bottom.    

Farming can be a hard life, but viewed from the point of view of a child, my grandfather’s farm was a place of magic and wonder.  I have tried to spend my life in surroundings that remind me of the farm.  The experience of the small family farm is disappearing, but each day I try to recapture something of the feeling.  I keep my garden wild, growing day lilies and Creeping Jenny at the edge of the lawn.  I look forward to picking blueberries in the early days of August.  And I roll down the car windows to catch the smell of new mown hay.    

I wonder if your childhood included a farm and if you remember it well.  Is the farm you knew still standing, or has it been abandoned with the years?

an old hay barn

Written by jane tims

August 1, 2011 at 9:23 am

4 Responses

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  1. I too, as a child had a similar “grandfather’s farm” to go to in the summer…. what I remember the most was my uncle yelling at us to get out of the haymow as it was “full of snakes”.



    August 2, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    • Hi Heather. Perhaps your uncle was worried about the quality of the hay after it was burrowed through and compacted? Jane


      jane tims

      August 2, 2011 at 5:29 pm

  2. Nice photography Jane 🙂 Especially like the “Machine Shed” shot. I spent every summer at a farm from the age of 7 to 11 years old. From what I can remember it was simply an excuse to get cheap child labour off my back. Unaware parents handed a great deal to the farmer for putting up with me for 6 weeks. But I do remember eating my fill from the vegetable garden while “picking” the crop and being covered in cow poop after running through the fields.



    August 1, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    • Hi JD. I’m glad you like the photos. I think they call those summer jobs on the farm ‘building character’!!! Jane


      jane tims

      August 2, 2011 at 5:26 pm

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