Current Events Are Lost Topics During Seeding.

What demanding days these are on Island farms. And excitingly new. At Aiderlea there is now little time left to repine. And it would be, to say the least, considered a digression. if one of the housewives were to be discovered now seated at some piece of idle sewing, like making herself a dress, or reading a magazine or book! Not that words would spill. Expressions on faces would be beyond that. They would register a sadness. a dejection near to despair. to think that their chosen ones were showing so little interest. in the affairs of the cropping without.

 “See!” we exclaimed to James at breakfast when we noticed Papa Starling alight on a branch of the white birch by the gateway. There was a shrill call – an SOS. And Papa – to – be Robin flew in instantly to assert his claim to this neighborhood. where his spouse instinctively had crouched low on the warm blue eggs in the nest. 

 “What is it. Ellen?” James  inquired starting up from his chair. 

 “it’s that starling” we said

 “He’s bent on making trouble with the robins. It‘s no use, we‘ll have to let the boys do some shooting.” 

“Oh” he said, sinking back relieved. “The starling. Well, don‘t start anything at present, Ellen.

Wait until the cropping is done. We’ve got about all that we can handle now as it is!” 

 A load of fertilizer comes in the yard, goes up the farm-lane to a field. We know it is being presently spread. Grain comes from the name, for the cropping is a family endeavor. And somewhere, sowing is being done with the horse and old seeder, but as well as by tractor and machine. With a happy sound, a tractor come to the yard to re-fuel. Its sound ceases for a few minutes while the gas pump takes up the refrain. Then in no time, that quiet prevails which tells us that machine and operator are off again to some field.

Mealtimes are more exact now, the time spent over them brief. No time to chat now of current events – of pleasant “frivolities” such as June birthdays, of babes’ arrivals, of showers and approaching weddings, subjects all so dear to the heart of womenkind. In the broader field, bi- culturalism, bi-lingualism, or which flag or flag design is being chosen are for the time lost topics, while the farm puts its own first things first, and in the main gets on with the seeding.

Yet what an interesting and exciting time it actually is! The same we waited for though early springtime days: very heart of the one seedtime of all the year. 

Pretty mornings we get. Brilliant sunsets. Quiet evenings. Sun shower. And will we wondered to James today, get the usual sheep – storm with cold winds and rain in the June-time now here? 

“On my rounds, I never saw a better promise of hay that of this spring”, was the inspiring news the genial fisherman brought us along with his toothsome wares this afternoon. “Yes, there are certainly some fine catches of clover this year.”

“Jump, Ellen!” James grins hanging up his cap. “Indoors you may not suspect it he says, “but a man gets mighty hungry when he works in the fields. Get me a bite of lunch now.”   

– Ellen’s Diary, June 9, 1964


Canada’s Newest Railway

The Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway will be opened shortly to transport ore from the great ungava iron development to seven Islands on the St. Lawrence, where docks and facilities have been constructed to load it on great ore carriers. These freighters will carry it in an endless stream to the steel mills of Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. The Ungava iron development has already created two very rapidly growing towns and a great hydro plant to supply electric current for the towns and the mining of the iron ore.

The construction of this 358 mile railway began in 1949. When completed, it will be the first large railway project undertaken in North America during the century. It is to operate six trains of 100 cars powered by fours diesel engines each, to move 80,000 tons of ore per day from the iron mines near Burnt Creek to the docks on the St. Lawrence at seven Islands. Sidings for the passing of these immense trains have been built at intervals of twenty miles along the route to provide for future requirements.

Canadian national train at no. 6 mine yard. (Source: Cumberland Museum and Archives Flickr)

It has been said that: Without oil, this project would be impossible.” The diesels will continue to use great quantities of oil in moving the ore to the coast, however, the Hollinger Ungava Transport Company that up to the present have been that means of transportation used to move men and equipment, by planes to and from this Ungava projects, have used a million gallons of aviation gasoline a year. The project as a whole used oil products amounting, in 1953, to 13,000,000 gallons. Oil and oil products have been used in the flame throwers to cut ice jams, drive power machinery in drilling rock, creosoting railway ties, spraying vicious northland insects and in every possible way, even for cooking food. Two aircraft tankers, carrying 1,000 gallon loads each, have been used solely to ferry oil to the construction crews.

The airlift has taken to Burnt Creek and other points during the six years, everything that was needed, from furniture and food to bulldozers. They have carried as much as 300 tons of material a day, and from the Seven Islands airfield the planes have taken off at and average rate of twelve planes per hour, which exceeds in number the take-off per day of any of the large airports in Canada.

The manager of the Hollinger Ungava Transport Company has his headquarters at Mont Joli on the C.N.R., on the south side of the St. Lawrence River. He has from 70 to 75 crack pilots to service the airlift of the mining area. There are 13 airfields and strips linking Ungava with the outside world. These are continuously lighted and serviced. The airport at Menihek, some months ago, was the means of saving the life of an Arabian pilot, flying from Europe to the United States, who overshot the Goose Bay airport, and became lost in Ungava with only half an hour’s gasoline in his tanks. It was then that he saw the lights of a modern airport, and landed safely at Menihek.

The building of this railroad has been quite unusual, in that four contracting firms are joined together to complete the job. They operate under the title of Cartier McNamara-Mannix-Morrison-Knudesen, which they have simplified to CMMK. They have overcome obstacles that have presented baffling problems to the manger and his experienced crews. Within eleven miles of Seven Islands, and before they had reached the “Noisy Moisie” River, they had to drive a tunnel half a mile long through a mountain of solid rock, and as the railway emerges from the mountain, it crosses a gorge on a steel 708 ft. trestle. From there the tracks follow along the face of cliffs where dynamite cyr notches for them 100 to 150 feet above the roaring river, and with sheer rocks overhead from 40 to 60 feet above the right of way. From there for 140 miles the railroad climbs steadily until it reaches an elevation of 2056 feet above sea level.

Montague PEI, First Train (Source: PEI MHF Flickr)

The greater part of the 358 miles of right of way had to be stripped of muskeg, that almost impassable barrier of the northland of land travel, it varied in depth, but for 180 miles there was under the muskeg a granite hard layer of frost that had to be broken through, and under that an old lake bottom of shifting sand was found. Before they finish, they will have laid 100,000 tons of steel rails.

Seven Islands for several hundred years had just been a fishing village. It was named by Jacques Cartier, because of the seven Islands that guard its natural harbour. One of these was used during World War II to satisfactorily develop a protective serum against the dread Rinderpest disease of cattle, which it was feared the enemy might spread on this continent.

The population of Seven Islands did  not exceed 600 for three centuries, and many of these were Indians from a nearby reserve. It has probably over 5,000 people today, and is being rapidly built up. It has all the earmarks of a frontier boom town. Real estate prices have climbed on a single lot in one year from $2000 to $13000. A modern hotel of 24 rooms with a bath has been built at a cost of half a million dollars. The great docks at Seven Islands can accommodate at one time two 35-foot draft, 32,000 ton, oil fired ore-carriers. Imperial Oil has docks for its own oil tankers. The town is run on oil, the homes are heated with oil. Uncut wood is priced at $20.00 per ton.

Stationary locomotive. Date: 1940 (Source: Cumberland Museum and Archives Flickr)

Burnt Creek has the reputation of being on of the busiest towns of its size. Construction men, geologists and miners often work 98 hours a week. It is said to have: “The richest Main Street in the world.” Some workmen, in testing a drill, discovered that Burnt Creek, whose main thoroughfare was a rutted, muddy road, with makeshift bunkhouses and Quonset hut offices, set in uneven lines on either side, was right on top of the most valuable iron ore deposit in Ungava. The entire town is to be moved to a new site of Knob Lake, near an airfield and a seaplane base, and will be called Schefferville, after Bishop Scheffer.

Burnt Creek is as far north as Edmonton and Copenhagen. It has had temperatures down to 50 degrees below zero each winter, and usually has more than one snowstorm in July, It has central heat, electricity and running water. The country to the north and southeast has enormous potential water power, estimated at two million horse power. Thirty miles south of Knob Lake, at Menihek Rapids, a great power plant is being constructed, and the 12000 horse power hydro station is nearing completion. There seems to be no doubt but that will be shipping “iron ore in ‘54”

– Newsy Notes, May 15th, 1954.


April Has Been Lovely Now Summer On The Way

“No, I don’t ever remember seeing a better April week than this” James commented today at dinner… An ordinary dinner it was: roast beef, potato, turnip, a relish and for dessert (thawed) strawberries. Ordinary, it  came to mind but eaten in that peace and quiet of surroundings that older folks appreciate. Though at the time James’ mind was not as serene as ours, because of an event of some moment already shaping up in a piggery across the yard.

“Good beef” he offered, sampling a slice. “Plenty fat” he nodded. “Tender too, and of nice flavor. It’s a cut the butcher said from an animal raised by a farmer over at the shore. From a good stable you can tell.”

“No ‘yellow weeds’’ through it!” we chuckled.

“And I’d say from a good beef breed. Though” he considered the matter “when it’s crossed with some of the dairy breeds, it gives not a bad animal for beef. We have some fair- good crosses ourselves —yes, not bad ones” he offered. 

“The potato won’t taste quite so good today” we said passing him the quaint vegetable dish of ironware -china”, the market’s slipping.”

“But” he smiled, “turnip with the price they are, should taste delicious. Expensive feed, ours were, for the stock — but good” he said.

“We’ll soon have chives” we remembered.

“And before long there should be cress up the creek.”

“And dandelion greens. M-m!” we said.

Fields dried today – dreamed. The light happy wind whispered “Take your time now. There’s no great hurry!” to the little clovers in the new and older meadows about. For had not James said only this morning “If we get to the land in April, we’ll be mowing hay come june? And not too many years back there was some June-haying and no great harvest of it either. No it’s against Island farming to get too early to the cropping. It will come in good time.”

Our road “the best byroad of the Island” at present, a traveller commented today with it may have been more or less exaggeration, allows now nice passage for the children who cycle to school though our lane, deepened by years of traffic makes Granddaughter and Mack follow still the shortcut of field to get to lane’s end.

“I’m afraid Ellen” James says coming in now at peace with the day which so graciously kept us, and incidentally brought younglings of calves and potential bacon to the place “you’re apt to hear frogs piping in April. A few more days like we’ve had and a few mild nights — that will bring them to it. And it won’t be too good… When’s new moon?”

“Tomorrow” we say.

-Ellen’s Diary, April 24th, 1958


Soiling Versus Pasture For Swine

This is a point I would like to see the experimental farms take up. The fact that they would seem to strengthen the impressions now general among farmers that these farms are of doubtful utility. The soiling of dairy cows has been experimented with to some extent, but the system has not become popular. Those however, who reported the result, speak highly of the system. Soiling cows and sheep requires, of course, great attention, and the majority of dairymen prefer to pursue the less irksome system of pasturing or partial soiling at most. All admit that fully three times the number of cows can be kept by the soiling system as by ordinary pasturing.

But the soiling of swine would not seem so irksome, for pigs are soiled, as it were, in the majority of cases. When pigs ate feed in the pen, and not pastured, they are said in a measure  to be soiled. What I mean, however, by soiling is not feeding pigs in a pen with meal, milk, or boiled feed. Pigs on pasture to attain early maturity must not be allowed to depend on the grass alone, but require an addition of meal and grain. By soiling them, I mean cutting the grass and feeding it directly to the hogs in a large paddock contra-distinction to permitting the hogs to cut and feed on the grass at their own sweet will.

Pigs do very well, and probably attain greater weights by simple pen-feeding with milk, whey and meals than by either soiling or pasturage. But pen-feeding is expensive at the prevailing prices of hogs. We want to lower the cost of production to a paying point, and to this end endeavor to supplement the feeding with green feeding crops, to be fed either in the pen, or allow the pigs to harvest the crops for themselves The meal fed pig, in a close pen, does not make a good bacon pig, because exercise is precluded; the digestive organs become inactive, and there is a surplus of fat. Green feed then is apparently indispensable, either fed in the pen or allowed to be eaten on the field as it grows. Which is the more effective method? If heavy weights are to be attained in the shortest interval, I believe soiling the pigs in the pen will be found the most satisfactory. Pigs having the run of a pasture field waste a good deal of energy, and make too much muscle growth. It takes a hog, even in the best pasture, quite a while to graze the bulk of a bundle of grass that may be cut and thrown in the pen. 

 The object sought is another thing. If the pigs are intended as breeding stock, the exercise and fresh air obtained in a pasture field is quiet essential. If breeding stock are soiled, i.e., the green feed cut and carried to them, they will make greater weights in  a given time, but they will require very large yard and paddock I would not care for a breeding sow or boar that was fed all its life in a small pen and had gotten no soiling food during its growth. Good breeding stock can be produced without pasturing if the precaution is taken to have a large paddock connected with the pen, and green crops such as rye, clover, peas, corn, rape and turnips cut and thrown into these large yards, upon which there should be a generous feeding floor. Stock grown in this way should be very nearly as good as those kept i the Pasteur, and may be grown as cheaply. Grown in this manner, the pigs should make good breeding stock and excellent for the packer. This method of growing either breeding stock or bacon pigs will cost a little more, but maturity will be attained in a shorter time.

Better breeding stock, however, will result from pasturage, and it is quite essential that the brood sows have unlimited pasture from spring to fall. I do not think it well to have the pasture lot too large; an acre lot is large enough and is quite sufficient for 30 pigs. Pigs will not make much of pasture before they are three months of age. A good rule is to have an acre of pasture crops coming in in regular rotation to each three brood sows. If litters come in February, a field of rye will be right in month of May; when this is eaten down, a field of clover should be ready; after the clover peas, and alter the peas rape and the second growth of clover. The rape would be grown in the rye ground. Allowing an acre for the pigs of three brood sows, or 30 pigs, would mean three acres to carry them through the season, or, in other words, one acre of land to each brood sow on the farm. These three acres of land devoted to pasture crops, coming in regular rotation, as from the feeding of four tons of the best ground feed of a mixture of shorts and corn or barley, peas and bran.

At prices of ground feed in the older parts of our country, the growing of pasture crops makes quite a saving in cash laid out for purchased feed. Pigs grown on continuous pasture will not come to maturity, or be ripe for the  block, so quickly as if penned up all the time, or even as if soiled. Even fairly good herding stock may be produced by soiling, and maturity will be attained sooner. But this system does not give as good results and the cost of production is greater. It is a very good system, though, to produce bacon pigs. Pen-fed pigs I would not tolerate for breeders; but If I wanted to finish a batch of spring pigs for market in the shortest time, I should confine them in the pen all the time and feed as heavily as they would stand; and if these pigs were of the right breed, and from healthy, robust parents, and intelligently fed and managed up to weaning time, I would have no fears; but at five or six months of age they would be ripe for the block, and make good bacon pigs too. 

The points are: 1 To have the correct form and breed of brood sow. Never confine her. Let her roam the fields at will and the yards in winter; feed her intelligently while suckling, and wean at six weeks; then force the youngsters for all they are worth till five or six months of age ,and sell. 2. Breeding stock must not be confined in a pen. They must have unlimited pasture crops right through the season, or they may be confined in large paddock, and soiled. ― J. A. MacDonald, P. E. I., in Country Gentleman

– Pigs and Other Livestock, The Charlottetown Guardian. August 30, 1898


Experiment With Millet

In the fall of 1942 a reader who takes an interest in these notes sent me three small packets of millet seed which she received from the neighbourhood of Winnipeg. Two of the samples were yellow and unnamed; the seeds in the third sample were of a glossy brown and were labelled “Early Fortune ”’ There were all together about four tablespoonsful.

I put the seeds by, in a cool dark place for the winter, and the following spring (1943), when the soil was well warmed up I planted them in the garden, in several short rows, mixing the two kinds (illegible) I did so. The year, as you will remember, was anything but ideal for the experiment,  but the millet grew amain, and towards autumn branched into the loose spray of the true millets – not the spiky heads of what are called Italian millets. (The latter are related to the pernicious foxtail grassss [sic] of our potato fields)

As the grain commenced to ripen my troubles began. All the birds of the air came a-prying and a-robing; and a flock of late chickens which were small enough to squeeze through the picket fence, found out about the millet and made good use of the knowledge. However, at the end of the season I had two large sheaves, and when I threshed them out I had two and one-quarter pounds of good seed.

Had the season been normal this millet might have been cut and cured as hay, while in an earlier stage But the summer and fall were very wet, and as I wanted to see how it succeed when sown for grain. I did not try that part of the experiment.

Millet is used for human food in some eatern countries, the seed being simply parched. Some who are the epicures of these lands, pound the grain and make it into a light paste with melted fat. I have heard that it was imported into Britain as poultry feed – for which it seems well adapted – but I never saw it used in the North of England. There is little notice of it in books from the U.S.A., in my possession; yet it must be grown there, as they advise farmers to sow about 25 lbs. to the acre, Canadian seed lists say it is grown for hay or live-stock feed. It would be an added interest if the generous donor of the “Early Fortune” seed, could tell us how farmers in the neighborhood of Winnipeg make use of this millet.

-Newsy Notes by Agricola, April 8, 1950