The night that farewells October

Witches garbed darkly and riding sprightly broomsticks, awesome black cats with arched backs and glaring green eyes, and fearful, furtive goblins one knew were about but could not quite catch, were abroad, we are almost certain in tonight’s inky darkness. Indeed since our earliest recollection of this last and most intriguing of October’s nights, we find that it has been no trouble at all for us, to hear and almost catch sight of these fabled creatures in the strange spell that has been, and we confess is still wrapped about Hallowe’en. When out of doors in the usual expectant silence and clam of its dark, we are aware of its mystic charm nor indoors with the dark closed out does it lose any of its fascinating. Dimly lit rooms are prevaded [sic] by a strange air which makes the pleasantly eerie, and if we chance to come to a mirror to tuck in a straying lock, we find our eyes searching for a sight of James’ face at a shoulder even though we know that at the very moment he is on some detaining mission away from the house.

Yes, mysterious and always fascinating we find this night which farewells October, and even in the midst of the happiness that is ours at Alderlea – surrounded as we are by our children and children’s children – somewhat nostalgic for the Hallowe’ens of childhood, now left far behind in the years. We find the in verity that spirits walk-shades of those we once knew come back from those olden days clothed again the flesh, young and eager and gay as they were then, those whose wakings now are only names on our lips, or faces in memory. They that we regarded as good or perhaps not so good and yet blessed with many an endearing trait and loyalty, as we recall them, when with us they ran happily and carefree with the pack that were wont[sic] to roam “the hills of home” on bygone and well remembered Hallowe’ens.

                                                   -Ellen’s Diary, November 7, 1949


Night Drifts into Silence As Wind And Rain Quiets

“There’s so much to be said in favour of a fall-night like this” the orange Curiosity-cat offers now from the couch… The night hangs dim without though not without [sic] some promise of moon-light.

“Yes” he continues, “it’s not that I don’t enjoy the warm summery ones, but for pure coziness indoors, you can’t beat a night like this! The fire burns cheerly, the kettle sings. And the folks gathered about, glad  to be in to the warmth.” The old clock on the shelf ticks away the minutes solemnly. James in his armchair turns the sheets of his newspaper, the sound a rustle in the silence. At the table, Granddaughter is lost in a textbook.

With the doors closed against the chill, we think with some longing of the springtime with its new beginnings: of bright warming days and a fresh blue in the heavens of the songbirds’ trills, of the red fields of the cropping, and the first flowerings we so love.

Silently, extremely quiet this night is: the calm after storm [sic]. The peace of silence after a spell of tossing boughs and rain. “There is likely to be frost in the low-lying places by dawn” a weather forecast observes. If so, it will be bound to take a toll of our [sic] flowers in passin this place “Down by the old millstream.” the profusion of bloom which was the gift of this strangely mixed up summer.

“There!” Granddaughter says closing her bok [sic] smartly. “That’s the end of that!… What will we have to finish off our day? She appeals with a chuckle to her grandfather.

“An apple perhaps?” she suggests.

He shakes his head.

“No. That’s ‘lead at night’. “Oh let’s have a piece of toast and…” “…apple jelly and tea? So be it!” she nods.”

                                                                                      –  Ellen’s diary, October 16th, 1962.


Molasses for Mixing with the Feed

Every now and then molasses as a feed for dairy cows gets a great boost in certain districts. Usually a “full-of-pep” salesman starts the ball a⋅rolling in order that he may roll in orders. When this is the origin, the molasses is usually combined with other feeds. In not a few cases these other feeds have consisted very largely of oat hulls the molasses is usually combined with other feeds. In not a few cases these other feeds have consisted very largely of oat hulls the molasses being added merely to  make the feed palatable enough that the cattle will eat it with avidity. There have also been a goodly number of splendid feed mixtures that have contained molasses but it necessary [sic] to examine very carefully any molasses feed offered for sale. The value of such feed is more easily determined now than a few years ago, as Federal legislation now requires that all feeds be sold under a guaranteed analysis. Cane sugar molasses, which, by the way, is the only kind of molasses that can be fed safely in large quantities, may be purchased in its pure form by the barrel. It contains 50 per cent of sugar and 12 per cent of gum. The sugar is equivalent in feeding value to the scratch of corn, and the gums are protein substances. From the standpoint of chemical analysis, molasses is about the equal ton for ton of corn. It has additional value however, in that, being very palatable, it can be used to make a dry ration tasty. It has a special value, therefore, on dairy farms where there is no silo and few roots.

We have frequently used it in feeding timothy hay and oat straw, diluting it to twice its bulk with water and sprinkling over the roughage. It has a disadvantage that the whole stable gets sticky and stable work may even become disagreeable.

Another disadvantage is that, when the molasses is removed or runs down, it takes the cows some time to get back to eating dry roughage without the molasses and in the meantime, there will be a decided shrinkage in the milk flow. Molasses is held in high favor by some showmen for preparing animals for the ring or sale. This is probably because of it palatability [sic] inducing large consumption of the feeding substances with which it is mingled. We would advise however, against feeding too large quantities to breeding animals as it is apt to lead steridity.

– Molasses for Mixing with the Feed, Guardian. February 24, 1923, p13.


The Chilling Breath of Fall

“Fall or the chilling breath of it, came to Alderiea this morning. Not in any blackened pumpkin vines nor in frosted stortions. On the contrary each seasonal plant and flower was enjoying the sunlight, that cast entrancing shadows across the kitchen. ‘Strange” James remarked “that we don’t get a nip of frost one of these nights”. “Remarkable, I call it considering the time of the year” I replied I placed the two chairs nearer the table, fetched the tea pot so there would be no need of rising to get it, and we were ready then for breakfast.

It was not however in any of these usual “outward and visible signs” that I found the approach of Fall. But hunters came this morning. Two of them, shortly after the twilight of daybreak with guns, the sight of which made Pard protest so loudly that James came down-stairs to investigate, his socks in his hand. The hunting season had come to succeed the fishing one recently closed.”

– Ellen’s Diary, October 2, 1946.


The Fir Trade in Canada: Mapping Commodity Flows on Railways

By Joshua MacFadyen and Nolan Kressin*, University of Prince Edward Island

For the full lesson on the historical GIS methods and tools described in this post, see the new tutorial in the Geospatial Historian Methods of Visualizing Temporal Data, by Nolan Kressin and Joshua MacFadyen.

The movement of commodities has been an important study within Canadian scholarship since Harold Innis wrote The Fur Trade in Canada (1930), but many forget that in his earlier thesis on the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) Innis also focused on the goods that these lines carried to market each year. By examining the records of the CPR, Innis painstakingly summarized the freight capacity and the market conditions that shaped this chapter in Canadian environmental history. Innis was well-known as a “dirt” researcher, digging into archival collections and often cutting-and-pasting his notes across manuscripts (literally, with scissors) to organize the enormous amounts of information he collected. As historians turn to more focused studies of individual commodities, we can parse large historical datasets with tools beyond scissors and glue. In this piece we discuss new ways to take some of the same historical railway data and focus on resources like firewood and lumber in their natural environments. In theory, we could even use the railway locations to focus on forest types (softwood) or even species. Perhaps if he had these digital tools, Innis’s first book after the CPR study might have been called the “Fir Trade in Canada.”

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