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


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


Days Of Horse And Buggy Had Niceties, Drawbacks

“… in the good old horse and buggy days,” a radio-voice sang to us in the kitchen this evening. The work of day was ended. James had come to the old armchair and his reading. Granddaughter, curled up on one end of the couch, where we sat darning the heel of one of James’ work-socks was lost in the pages of a book… Since a small one, reading has been a love of this one girl of the name. And even though she had expressed the thought that “I suppose by rights I should be studying.” we could appreciate the relaxation and rest after her days at classes, and the sheer delight she was enjoying then.

James smiled. “It’s all very well for them to sing about the good old horse and buggy days, Ellen,” he offered, lowering his newspaper, “but they had their drawbacks too. I was thinking that when I was tending to the chores in the piggery this evening. I couldn’t help comparing the easy method of feeding now with the toil of days gone by. Now there’s nothing to it- you put some meal and its balanced ration into the troughs, and you reach for the water to a tap. And its done But in the olden times what work there was to dragging up baskets of small potatoes from the cellar to cook in the farmers’ broiler: bringing in kindling and wood there… and water.”

“But the sight of the fire, the sound of the water bubbling as the potatoes cooked, and the mingled scent of it was good.” we remembered.

He sighed. “Pail after pail of water was carried from the pump in the yard — and wasn’t it good to have it to carry, instead of having to haul it in casks from the stream!”

“There was poetry in pumping a pail of water in the out of doors there was so much to see and hear in the world about. And sometimes you’d catch sight of a bit of blue sky, or a leafy branch in the pail, as well as the choice drink to be had”

A woman with a horse and covered buggy (with fringe) on the sand dunes on the North Shore, Prince Edward Island, ca. 1920-1930s.

“Poetry!” Granddaughter murmured smiling absently.

“There wasn’t too much poetry to it in winter,” James said. “The sleigh-bells- remember hearing them on a market-day on the teams off to town?”

James nodded, smiled. “Now I’m not saying. Ellen, the old days hadn’t their niceties…

They did. Many a one comes to mind. And often. But there was more toil to the living of then. The machinery of now…”

“And the coming of electricity,” we said.

“Have given us a new way of life.”

Today with Alex, we counted tulips reaching up to the sun and sky from the lawn-border.

“When they bloom…” he began

“The hummingbirds will be here,” we said

“And the swallows!” He smiled to think of it.

“There’ll be lilacs then.”

Lilac clouds, like islets floated away from the sunset this evening. And there was scarlet flame behind the firry treetops, great ribbons of it against the blue. The rich colors lingered before fading to a rose-hue which glowed and spread away from the gates of the west. And east? The Lady Moon came smiling down serenely on this valley, on the houses and barns sitting so content in their fields.

-Ellen’s Diary, April 26th, 1962


Kindness And Care Is Given To These Animals

This Monday was radiant with sunlight. And the morning had a ribbon of robin’s trill about it, to call us back from our dreams. James smiled across his pillow.

“Listen to that, Ellen!” he said. Another run of notes flooded the air-waves of the sunny blue day. “It’s what I’ve been waiting for all winter” he offered. And here over every wind of chimney and snowstorm, past every white drift and as well every delight of the season, the time of the singing birds was here. The words of Solomon’s Springsong came to mind: “My beloved spoke and said to me… come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come and the voice of the turtle is head in our land; the fig tree putteth forth her green figs and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell…”

“This is no time to be lying in bed” James said, presently throwing off the covers.

“With the sun burning a hole in our backs” we giggled finishing the quote.

The small terrier which is Gages pet and delight is to Granddaughter’s mind “the cutest thing” now. Mack was careful to close the door against his pup this morning when he lifted and carried a lamb the length of the sheep-shed. “Just to see the ewe follow me.”

“It’s as though she is marching” he smiled over shoulder. “She’s keeping time to my steps…There now” he said putting the youngster down gently before her, “you were afraid I was going to harm your baby, weren’t you? You should know me better than that. He liked being in my arms. Why, he was so happy he didn’t even bleat… They’re something like little pigs” he nodded soberly to us “it’s all in the way you pick them up.”

In 1959: 4-year-old Sharon Stewart hugs a yearling Cheviot at her father’s farm near Charlottetown.

“See this, Mrs. Ellen!” our friend sparrow called resting something on the rosebush beyond the window today.

“Now, what is it?” we asked perring out. “Cord perhaps? Ravellings from feed-sacks the farmers open?”

“It’s better than that— look again!”

“Why, it’s a piece of yarn!” we said softly.


“Soft pink yarn!” we exclaimed intrigued at the sight.

“Call that pink! I’d say it was a pastel blue.”

“Well whichever… where did you get it?”
“Again I can’t say” he nodded with a mysterious grin. “But as the old lady in the fairytale said, “There’s something in the wind somewhere I’d say.”

“And you won’ tell?”

“Can’t— to be exact.”

“Oh dear” we sighed turning away to our work.

Today is going now— out on an amber sailboat of moon, over a silverblue sea. It came in on the warm thrill of a robin-to-be —all in all, a good day

-Ellen’s Diary, April 15th, 1957


Parting With The Farm Animals

Another fat hog went to market this morning; provision was made for pork for the home barrel and plans were laid — and sad I was to hear them! — to sell Kelly the cow. With her disposal, in one of the Springs months all of our old friends will have gone from the stable and a new generation we shall meet then at the milking. There is usually a warm spot in a farmwife’s heart for a favorite cow, though it may be only a memory. One hears them speak of it. There is a certain to be mention of an “old Brindle — as wise as any human” and linked with a past “i brought her from home with me.” There would be, of course a “Spotty she whom small lads learned to milk, a tiny pail- held between knees while seated on the edge of a milking stool, head against broad patient flank, Small hands tugging desperately when “this milk doesn’t seem to want to come.!”

1912 milking a cow by a fence Prince Edward Island

There would be “the jersey” small and dainty. She was the one that grew older along with you and the youngsters. Indeed by this they could “race you” at the milking and tears ran down your cheeks —and theirs the morning she was sold. “A good thing she went in a truck” you said, the parting was not so difficult and were you glad when the machine was gone out of sight beyond the hill through the vacancy in the stable was there for many days to come. So down the years one becomes attached to the likable dumb creatures that for the time are as familiar as the sun at morning. The Kelly cow with a crumpled and missing horn is the one of our milking herd whose fate was determined this morning.

Jamie was among those of his kin who hauled feed for some of the stock from trucks at the corner-store today. In the glory of this March afternoon, when it semed [sic] as if “all things that love the sun” were out of doors. Delightful then the day had become with brilliant sunlight and the wind moving in the branches of the old spruces in the orchard with soft breath and it full of honeyed promises. Icicles dripped and snow that had clung to nooks of roofs disappeared. At morning, Jamie had tried a new undertaking. He hitched Mutt, his faithful; companion and friend to his small hand-sled Not without considerable effort, I am led to believe , and drawn to it doubtless by the fact that on the opposite slope two neighbor lads were about the from meadow with “Biddy.” She is a versatile creature. She ceases playing with her young masters each Spring, long enough to present them with an adorable litter and is also evidently more reconciled to the feel of harness than is Mutt. ‘unless I led him” Jamie explained “he just sat there!”

Ice-hauling, which work of late, years seems to go hand in hand with the seasonal hooking or quilting indoors, commenced today. Though neither James nor I could place the spot in stream or pond from whence the loads of it we saw winding out along a field, had been harvested. Other hauling as well there was in today’s sunshine: grits to the mill and, heralding the return of the Spring sawing at the mill, first loads of lumber came then. A blue Jay called joyously from the orchard; a lone wild duck flew down to the river; Karolyn began to make a quilt and jeanie in moments of leisure continued knitting a sweater for grand-daughter, who made this the last port o’ call on her day’s outing. Mr. B. was off to town to visit the sick and small boys cleared a skating space on Kristy’s Pond.

Shipping cattle out of Charlottetown Harbour Prince Edward Island heading to Newfoundland

This evening in a ceremony which ended beautifully for those most concerned, the kitchen pump, idle of late, was set back in place after certain repairs had been made to the cylinder. And in spite of fears and conjectures that perhaps the never-failing stream had disappeared for “we dropped a pebble down and herald no sound” the machine works perfectly. There were moments of suspense after it was in place and we gathered round to see what would happen. Jmes pumping vigorously had that expression which shows no expectation of success. It was Jamie who heard sounds of rising water. He looked up at me and nodded and smiled. ‘She’s caught!’ he said “there’ll be no more bringing the hose from the other pump into this kitchen now! This method as always had proved most enetertatinign to Jmaie and me…

“Listen, Ellen!” James draws my attention to a weather forecast then adds since I have failed to hear it “snow tomorrow!” Well, we,all of us… young and older have had this lovely day

-Ellen’s Diary, March 9, 1943