nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘gardens

garden escapes: lost settlements

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During my project about garden escapes, I have discovered just how many settlements and properties have been lost from the New Brunswick countryside. The loss has been due to struggles which are largely rural at their roots: struggles due to economics, disease, the hardships of winter, the lure of the city.

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Loss of these communities and houses has an impact on us all. The value of rural community has been pointed out recently by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the reasons we have done relatively well in New Brunswick is our rural nature and the low population density.

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To me, the sad side of the loss of rural community is the loss of information about these places, what it was like to live there and who the people were. What did they think about. Who did they love? What were their struggles?

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The information can be knit together by a painstaking process of gathering the available puzzle bits and pulling the clues together. To illustrate, I will use the example of Kilmarnock, an abandoned community near Woodstock.

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Today, Kilmarnock is a long drive on a backwoods road. There are lots of camps along the road and the road itself is kept in good condition.

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the Kilmarnock Settlement Road

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First, there is no one place to go to for all of the information on a community. In New Brunswick, we do have a wonderful New Brunswick Archives website called Where is Home? https://archives.gnb.ca/Exhibits/Communities/Details.aspx?culture=en-CA&community=1963

The database for the settlement of Kilmarnock  is short, typical of many communities listed.

William Gibson, who immigrated from Kilmarnock, Scotland, settled here in 1843: in 1866 Kilmarnock was a small farming settlement with about 3 families.

Among other information is a cadastral map of land grants, a bit mind-numbing because it shows a map of all grants, regardless of date.

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kilmarnock grant map

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Another source of information is the Canada Census. In Canada, the Census is available for the first year of every decade.  I access the Census through my membership with Ancestry.ca and by knowing a name and the approximate birth year, I can usually find a lot of information on a community. In this case, I know the parish where the Census was taken (Northampton Parish, Carleton County) and I have the information from the Where is Home? site.

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Because the settlement was established in 1843, I looked at the Census for 1851, knowing that some changes will have occurred in the interim 8 years. I find William Gibson and his family right away.

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Name and Age

William Gibson 63

Robert Gibson 87

Jane Gibson 60

David Gibson 23

Wallace Gibson 21

Elizabeth Gibson 18

Bruce Gibson 15

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Some of the notes about the family tell me that Robert and Jane were the married couple, not William and Jane, even though they were of an age. The Census also says that Robert and Jane had been in Canada since 1820 and that Robert was William’s uncle. Other notes say that William, Robert and Jane were from Scotland and William was a millright.

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So, is this the William Gibson who founded the community? I think so. The ‘millright’ occupation is interesting since it explains the name of the stream, Gibson Millstream.

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Gibson Millstream, looking east

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Although the database says there were only three families in the settlement in 1866, the 1851 Census tells a different story. If you look for the names on the cadastral map, you can find most of them in 1851, on the pages before or after the notations for the Gibson family.  The Census shows there were at least nine families in Kilmarnock in 1851. Starting from the crossing of the stream and working southward:

  • Robert and Jane Gibson and family of 7, including uncle William Gibson, age 63
  • James and Marrion Rankin and family of 7
  • Robert and Mary Craig and family of 1
  • Thomas and Nancy McGinley and family of 7, including the grandfather Joel Young, age 82
  • John and Elizabeth Gibson and family of 4
  • John and Thankful Marsden and family of 6
  • Peter and Nancy Marsden and family of 5
  • William and Bathsheba Tompkins and family of 10
  • Joseph and Margaret Wolverton and family of 3

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If you look at the cadastral map above, these names match the surnames of property owners on the map, reading from north to south and then from west to east.

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A look at the Census for 1881 is also interesting. All of these families and others are represented, although some people have died in the thirty years, and some families have grown.

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With regard to the garden escapes project, my discoveries were few. We did not see the south part of Kilmarnock settlement because of a cable across the road. However, the Google Earth satellite map shows that fields have been used and there is a windrow of trees between two adjacent fields (probably between the McGinley and Young properties).

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The only other vegetation sign we saw was an old apple tree on the corner where the road crosses the Gibson Millstream (marked with an ‘x’) and a young apple tree along the road (also marked). Perhaps these trees are descendants of settlement times, perhaps they are apples from a wandering deer up for a visit from Woodstock.

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apple tree at Gibson Millstream crossing

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So much knowledge is lost from generation to generation. I find it a good argument for telling stories, keeping diaries, writing letters, keeping blogs, contributing to community endeavours.

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One of the poems in the project will be the imagined walk along the Kilmarnock Road by Mary Craig and her son John, 2 years old.

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This work is accomplished as part of an artsnb Creations Grant.

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Get out your diary and write in it. Sort your photos.

So much to do.

If you don’t want a future poet making up stuff about you.

All my best.

Jane

Written by jane tims

August 7, 2020 at 7:00 am

abandoned gardens: rhubarb gone to seed

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When a vegetable garden is abandoned, not much will remain in a couple of years. Most of the plants are annuals and so will vanish; even though some may go to seed, most plants cannot compete with native vegetation. Perennial vegetable garden plants will struggle for a while, but few will survive. The exception is rhubarb.

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Rhubarb (Rheum spp.) is known to most of us as a component of the garden. The stalks are bitter, but cooked with sugar, the tart taste is a treat. My mom used to cook rhubarb with strawberry jello, if not real strawberries, to make a dessert. Rhubarb was grown in Europe both for food and for medicinal purposes. Rhubarb leaves are poisonous and one source says this contributes to the success of rhubarb since it is not likely to be eaten by rabbits, deer and other garden marauders.

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When rhubarb is used in a garden, the flowers are pulled and discarded, to allow harvesting of the stems for as long as possible. When a garden is abandoned, no one pulls the flower stalks and the flowers stand high above the plant to say, “once there was a garden here.”

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37 rhubarb Dorn Sett

old rhubarb plants at Dorn Ridge

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We have found rhubarb growing at abandoned house sites on Dugan Road west of Woodstock and at Dorn Ridge, near Burtt’s Corner.

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63 rhubard Dugan Road cropped

rhubarb plants on the Dugan Road near Woodstock

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Rhubarb, originally prized for its medicinal uses, is always welcome when it sprouts in early spring.  In days past, it meant the end of a long winter and a fresh source of nutrients and vitamin C.  To me, it is a tribute to the gardeners who have worked hard to cultivate a garden plot and make life more sustainable.

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This work was made possible by a Creations Grant from artsnb!

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All my best,

Jane

 

Written by jane tims

July 17, 2020 at 7:00 am

wild gardens

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As I look for ornamental plants that have escaped to other places in the landscape, I often find plants so lovely, it is hard to believe they have not been cultivated at one time.

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One of these is chicory (Cichorium intybus), a lovely blue flower. We found chicory growing on the Dugan Road west of Woodstock.

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22 flax Watson Settlement Rd

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Also known as blue sailors and, in French, chicoreé, chicory is a tall plant, seen along roadsides and in other waste places. Sometimes chicory is brought in loads of gravel (used for road maintenance) to locations where it is not usually found.

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27 chickory (2)

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Chicory has basal leaves resembling those of the dandelion.  When broken, the stem exudes a white milky fluid.

The bright blue flowers of chicory occur along the length of the almost leafless and somewhat zig-zag stem. Each flower is formed of a central involucre of tiny blue flowers and a disc of larger ray flowers.  The rays are square-cut and fringed.  The flowers follow the sun, closing by noon, or on overcast days.

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25 cropped chickory

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At least one gardener I know has successfully transplanted chicory to his garden.  I think I will keep a list of garden-worthy wildflowers during my treks this summer and perhaps write a poem to capture my virtual wildflower garden.

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This work was made possible by a Creations Grant from artsnb!

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All my best.

Jane 

 

 

 

Written by jane tims

July 15, 2020 at 7:00 am

New mystery novel – How Her Garden Grew

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Merry, Merry

Quite contrary

How does your garden grow?

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Announcement: My new mystery novel ‘How Her Garden Grew‘ is now available on Amazon in paperback. The Kindle version will be available in a few days.

How Her Garden Grew’ is the first in my series of Kaye Eliot mysteries. Kaye is a busy mother with a business to run, two active children and an accountant husband who can’t seem to get free of tax time! The books will take us back to the 1990’s, to a time before cell phones and computers were a key ingredient of family life.

‘How Her Garden Grew’ is a novel about coping with stress, the strength of family, the problems of community, a century-old garden and a strange character called the Grinning Tun.

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In the 1990s, Kaye Eliot comes to Acadia Creek to spend a quiet summer with her two children. But instead of passing stress-free days of swimming and hiking, she finds herself embedded in mystery after mystery. A missing vagrant and a gang of thieves have the community worried. Neighbours seem determined to occupy all of Kaye’s time and energy in restoration of an old flower garden. To add to the mayhem, Kaye and her kids have stumbled on a century-old legend of a treasure buried on the property, a packet of forgotten letters from a woman named Maria Merriweather and an old map of the garden. And they dig up a sinister sea shell. A sea shell who looks like a grinning skull and will not stay where he is put. Can Kaye recover her calm or will she be the victim of neighbors, vagrants, thieves and a shell called the Grinning Tun? Restoring Maria’s garden seems a great idea, until Kaye discovers how Maria’s garden grew.

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So what or who is the Grinning Tun? The Grinning Tun is a sea shell, plucked from the sands of a faraway tropical shore. But this is a sea shell with a difference. It will not stay put! Shove it in the warming oven and, next morning, it sits on top of the stove. Bury it in the ground and it is found in the root cellar. And it grins. It thinks of the possibilities. And it links a mystery in the 1990’s with one in the 1870’s.

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To get your copy of ‘How Her Garden Grew’, go to Amazon here. If you are in the Fredericton area, I will be reading from the book and signing copies at the Authors Coffee House in Nasonworth later in May (more details soon)!

Hope you enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed writing it!

All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

April 27, 2019 at 7:13 pm

tweeting about writing

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Every day, I write. Today I worked on the story for Book Six in the Meniscus SeriesMeniscus:Encounter with the Emenpod. I also did some editing of an upcoming mystery novel I refer to as HHGG. Tomorrow I will be writing poetry for a series about abandoned communities and what happens to plants in abandoned gardens.

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Working back and forth like this between projects at various stages of completion is a great strategy for me. I never get bored, I never get writers’ block and I think shifting projects keeps my writing brain refreshed.

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Besides blogging, I participate in Twitter, sending a tweet almost every day to #amwriting … if you’d like to find out what my writing life is like, follow me at @TimsJane … I report on what I am doing and share a bit of writing wisdom. I’d love it if you would follow along!

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A little about the mystery novel since I tweet most often about it. HHGG is one I wrote in 1997. I have learned a lot since then, so editing makes me laugh. HHGG is about a woman and her two kids who seek summer solace at her old family home. She never dreams she is walking into a village rife with mysteries, some of them stretching back more than a century. I have a few human antagonists, but one who is anything but human!

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Hope you are enjoying your summer and your own writing life!

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All the best,

Jane.

early schools – school gardens

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It’s gardening time in New Brunswick. While I tend my little tomato plants, I wonder if one room schools in the early 1900s kept school gardens.

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Mill Road School, Gagetown 2

Was there once a school garden in the yard of this one room school near Gagetown, New Brunswick?

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In the province of Nova Scotia, some schools had gardens. My aunt, Dr. Jane Norman, in her history of Nova Scotia’s schools, tells about the Travelling Teachers program and the ‘Garden Score Card’ (Jane Norman, Loran Arthur DeWolfe and The Reform of Education in Nova Scotia 1891-1959. Truro, Nova Scotia: Atlantic Early Learning Productions, 1989). The Travelling Teachers operated from 1918-1920, bringing knowledge and help to schools in their districts about rural science, including home-making, healthy living and gardening.

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In 1918-19, to encourage gardening as part of the school program, the Rural Science Department of the Nova Scotia Normal College (where teachers were trained) donated $10.00 to each Travelling Teachers’ school district. School children and schools who obtained the highest scores on the ‘Garden Score Card’ shared the money as follows:

  • three school children with the highest scores won prizes of $2.50, $1.50 and $1.00
  • three schools with the highest scores won prizes of  $2.50, $1.50 and $1.00

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The ‘Garden Score Card’ rated the school gardens and the efforts of the children with the following criteria:

  1. Condition of Garden:
    1. Planting and arrangement of plants (5)
    2. Thinning, training, regularity in row (5)
    3. Cultivation and freedom from weeds (10)
    4. Freedom from diseases and insect pests (10)
    5. General neatness of paths, labels, stakes, etc. (5)
    6. Consideration of adverse conditions, if any (5)
  2. Range of variety in flowers and vegetables (10)
  3. Amount and quality of bloom (flowers) and crop (vegetables) (15)
  4. Amount and value of canning or sales (20)
  5. Showing made at exhibition (15) Total Points (100)

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The school children in my drawing are working hard, but based on the ‘Garden Score Card’, they would not have received a prize for their gardening! No stakes, no labels, no regularity in the row.

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June 2 2016 'useful knowledge' Jane Tims

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How would your gardening efforts be scored??? I would not make good marks on any criterion!

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Copyright Jane Tims 2016

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