Glen Property Visit, July 2019

Featured

An area of Bill Glen’s woodlot. The nut orchard is slightly visible in the background.

On Wednesday 18 July, some of the GeoREACH Lab team members took a trip into the field (literally) to visit Bill and Elizabeth Glen’s land in the Bonshaw area of Lot 30, Prince Edward Island. Bill and Elizabeth are well known in PEI genealogical and historical circles, and Bill was formerly a forester with the PEI Provincial Government. He now serves as a forest and woodland consultant, and he co-authored a chapter with Josh MacFadyen in the University of Calgary Press collection on Historical GIS Research in Canada. The Glens have been on their property since the early 1980s, and they were able to provide some real insight into how the land has changed over the last forty years, including how they managed the forest, fields, and hedgerows!

Bill Glen, GeoREACH Lab Director Dr. Josh MacFadyen, and research assistants Nolan Kressin and Abby Craswell.

The team has studied Lot 30 extensively using aerial photos and historical maps on GIS. We were excited to explore the real area that we have been examining from above for the last several months. It reminded us that our research is much bigger than just a computer screen! We could see the changes that have occurred in the land since the aerial photos that we are currently studying were taken in 1968, before the implementation of the Comprehensive Development Plan (for more on that see this post). Some of these changes include hedgerow planting, the appearance of new homes, and a new nut orchard on the property.

Research assistants Nolan Kressin, Nick Scott, and Abby Craswell (L-R) in the field.

While on this excursion, we learned about hedgerow and woodlot composition, as well as the importance of biodiversity and climate change adaptability in wooded areas. White spruce (what we use to plant most of our hedgerows) is incredibly vulnerable to slight shifts in climate! Bill also showed us a hydraulic pump that dates back to 1890, which he still uses to pump water to the tank for his nut orchard. The GeoREACH team would like to thank Bill and Elizabeth Glen for having us to their home and sharing their knowledge of land-use change on Prince Edward Island.

The PEI Comprehensive Development Plan: A Timeline

Featured

The signing of the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) in 1969 was one of the most influential events in the modernization of Prince Edward Island. The developmental plan offered wide-sweeping changes to the island’s economy, infrastructure, and education that still affect the province to this day.

Here at the GeoREACH laboratory, it is one of our goals to help others understand how exactly the CDP affected life on the Island, both in the past and today. For this reason, we have created a full, comprehensive timeline of the CDP, from the events leading to the CDP’s formation to its eventual conclusion in 1984. We hope that it is helpful in understanding this significant time period. Enjoy!

Welcome to the GeoREACH Lab Website

Featured

Land Use in Wheatley River, PEI (1935)

Welcome! The GeoREACH Lab supports Geospatial Research in Atlantic Canadian History and other projects of the Applied, Communications, Leadership & Culture program in the Faculty of Arts at University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI). The lab is directed by Dr. Josh MacFadyen, an environmental historian and Canada Research Chair in Geospatial Humanities at UPEI.

The Lab’s current projects focus on the history of food and agriculture in Canada, and we study the ways that the modern food system has shaped our relationships with animals and the land. Prince Edward Island was a relative late adapter of modern industrial agriculture, and in many ways it is still going through this profound social-ecological transition. This presents an opportunity to interview, map, and otherwise study the causes and impacts of agro-ecosystem transformation in one place over time.

We hope you will check out the About page keep watching this site for ongoing information on the research we are doing at UPEI.

June 13th, 1957


PEI’s soil is very acidic; too acidic for many common crops. In order to neutralize the soil’s pH, early pioneers found that mussel mud (clay from the shore with a high concentration of mussel and oyster shells) had an alkaline effect on the soil and made it viable for planting.

Later, as technology and trade improved, farmers made the transition from the laborious process of harvesting mussel mud to purchasing lime to be spread by tractor on the fields for the same effect.

In Ellen’s Diary entry from June 13th, 1957, she mentions spreading lime by tractor. Interestingly enough, she also mentions seeding with a horse-drawn seeder, illustrating how the mid-20th century was a true transition period in agricultural technology.

What a busy field it was there by the roadside at that other farm this morning! The younger farmer was spreading lime with tractor and spreader, Jamie following was harrowing it in, in nice sweeps of the machine. Rob was sowing with the horse-drawn seeder, James chore to keep him supplied with the ‘straight oats’ and the ‘grass seed, which went today to ‘seed it down.’’

‘Many hands,’ James smiled, obviously well-pleased with the progress of the cropping.”

Ellen’s Diary, June 13th 1957


“A man in 1930s with a team of horses hauling a manure spreader filled with Mussel Mud in Elmsdale Prince Edward Island” from Earles Picture Restoration Prince Edward Island. 

Flax

Below is another informative excerpt from the Newsy Farm Notes column, found in The Guardian PEI Newspaper. Flax and “all that the inventor claims”: In 1929, Agricola turned his regular farm column to flax, making him the latest in a chorus of boosters promoting flax to Canadian farmers. The most familiar refrain here was his suggestion that the main barrier to a Canadian flax industry was technical. “A new machine for processing hemp and flax is now being tested in Ontario, and should it prove all that the inventor claims,” he promised, a flax linen industry would surely boom.

Flax flowers have a vibrant and beautiful colour

“I note in a periodical that the revenue from flax production in Canada has increased by 206% in the last five years, and this led me to inquire into the industry. Flax is grown successfully in other parts of Canada, but I have not heard of its being grown commercially here. The chief drawback of the industry is the amount of hand-labour required in preparing the fibre, and that means money nowadays. The flax is spread in the field and “retted”- which means rotted- till the fibres separate easily. Then begins the tedious process of taking the fibre from the body of the plant. It is run through a “breaking machine” which gently breaks up the woody part, and makes it ready for the “scutchers” who hold it to blunt revolving knives which thresh out the wood and leave the fibre in the scutcher’s hands. The retting process is often speeded up by soaking the stems in a pool keeping them submerged by weights. 

Though flax is one of the oldest of cloth materials, no better method than the laborious hand preparation has been devised, if quality of fibre is required. All machines for scutching up to the present, have proved unsatisfactory, producing too much tow (broken stems, etc.) in proportion to the fibre. The “hackling” or combing of the machined fibre, previous to spinning, has not stood the test. 

Linen is made from flax fibres

There has of course been a long, patient and expensive effort to produce machinery without these defects, but without success. A new machine for processing hemp and flax is now being tested in Ontario, and should it prove all that the inventor claims, an impetus will be given to an industry which means much to Canada. Owing to this difficulty, flax has been grown principally for seed, and that it is productive is shown by the fact that in 1925 1,126,100 acres produced 9,297,100 bushels of flax seed valued at $18,462,500; and in 1926 when 733,065 acres were sown, the revenue was $9,613,000.”

Read Flax Americana by Josh MacFadyen to read why flax actually boomed in western Canada. Hint: it was more about paint than linen!


Sources: Agricola. “Newsy Farm Notes.” The Charlottetown Guardian. July 26 1929. Accessed July 4 2019.

June 20, 1949

Potato planting on PEI usually runs from April to May. Ellen’s Diary from June 20, 1949 talks about set-cutting, a process in which potatoes are cut into smaller pieces to be planted. It also refers to a change in variety of potato that year. Nowadays on PEI, the most common varieties of potato grown are russets, whites and reds.

“We commenced the set-cutting this morning, while a June wind blew about the eaves and tossed the branches of the old white birch playfully and carried to us in the garage the sunshine and bird-song and fragrance with which this day has been replete. This building was the scene of our work, which our husbands term ‘only a pleasant pastime- especially if one has time on her hands!’ There the farmers had carried the potatoes intended for our seed, untreated this year, a strange feature at Alderlea but having been first subjected to long spells out of doors in the sunlight.

We are using new seed, having discarded those of a pioneer strain we had grown with marked success and continuously for close to a quarter of a century. From a doorway James remarked sceptically: ‘We’ll see if these will be as good!’ as our sharp knives bit into these- also of ‘the four hundred.’ ‘Make good sets now’ he reminded us, and Jeanie and I laughed over his apparent lack of confidence in our ability after our years spent apprenticed to him.”

Ellen’s Diary, June 20, 1949


“Cultivating Potatoes on Lewis Farm. Earl Blanchard on tractor George Lewis on Cultivator at Freetown area of Prince Edward Island” from Earle’s Picture Restoration Prince Edward Island.