Energy on the Christian B. Snyder and Joseph Snyder Farm and the Waterloo North CSD, North Waterloo, Ontario

Figure 1a. Joseph B. Snyder and two oxen pulling stumps on Lot 63, CA MAO Digital 94, Mennonite Archives of Ontario. Used with permission. Joseph B. was given the easternmost section of Lot 63 (217 acres) by his father Christian B. Note: the oxen appear to be hauling cordwood or lumber, not pulling stumps, in this photo.

The Snyder farm in Ontario’s Waterloo North region is an example of a large and highly productive Mixed Animal Husbandry Agroecosystem with Extensive Family Labour Supplies. In 1871, Christian B. Snyder (b. 1824/d.1897) was head of the Snyder farm on Lot 63, German Company Tract.[1] Christian B. was married to Barbara Bauman (b. 1825/d.1914), and the couple had 10 children.[2] Christian B.’s grandfather and grandmother (“Old” Christian Schneider and Elizabeth Erb), both born in Pennsylvania, had immigrated with other Mennonite settlers to Waterloo Township, Ontario, in 1806. “Old” Christian acquired Lots 42, 63, and 83 in the northern part of the German Company Tract; however, his first homesteading was done on land in the southern part of the Tract near Doon.[3] By 1807, “Old” Christian had erected a two-story log house in the Doon area.[4] “Old” Christian’s son Joseph (b. 1796/d. 1874), who was Christian B.’s father, built a two-story log house on Lot 63, in 1839.[5] It was 40 feet by 44 feet, two stories, and made of logs 8 inches by 24 inches, all hand hewn.[6] This is the same land subsequently occupied by Christian B. Snyder and his family in 1871, which the census enumerator reported to be 440 acres (178 ha).[7] Schedule 3 of the 1871 census shows that Christian B.’s total land in the Dominion, however, was 659 acres (267 ha).[8] This additional 219 acre (88 ha) parcel or parcels would not have been located in the same census division as the 440 acres he occupied, but they were probably close by.

At the time of the 1871 census, Christian B.’s father Joseph still lived on Lot 63, but in a separate house with his second wife, Catherine Snyder (nee Weicker). Joseph also reported a few livestock in the census: therefore, for the purposes of this farm energy analysis Christian B.’s livestock numbers are rolled together with his father’s smaller herds. Christian B. eventually divided his land into three farms. In 1872, the eastern section (217 acres or 88 ha) was given to his son Joseph B. (who appears in Figure 1a). Joseph B. (b.1854/ d.1938) drew elm, basswood, oak, cherry, and pine from the woods of his farm, fully cleared 100 acres of woodland, and sold many hundreds of cords of wood to local mills. Sixteen years later, in 1888, Christian B. gave the central section of his farm (80 acres or 32 ha) to his son Franklin. That same year, 1888, he gave the western section with the old buildings (148 acres or 60 ha) to his daughter Lovina and her husband Israel B. Gingrich.[9] This is the same year that Lovina and Israel were married.[10] Christian, Barbara, and their youngest son Jared lived with Lovina and Israel, and by 1890 it was a three generation household again with the arrival of baby Helinda.[11] Thus, over the course of 82 years since the arrival of “Old” Christian and his wife Elizabeth from Pennsylvania, Lot 63 had changed hands between family members three times and had been divided into three farms.

Figure 1b. Christian B. Snyder and Barbara Snyder (nee Bauman). The couple were married in 1848. Photograph credit: Gingrich family, Waterloo. Used with permission.
Figure 1c. Location of Lot 63, German Company Tract. Credit: County Atlas Project, McGill Digital Library.

Figure 1d. Google Map of Waterloo North with red pin marking Lot 63.

Farm Energy Funds

Christian B. Snyder’s 178 hectare parcel was 46 percent cleared in 1871 which was 20 percent less than the amount of land cleared by other farmers in Waterloo North (66 percent cleared). Perhaps this was because Lot 63 was in the northern reaches of the German Company Tract which was developed later than the southern region. This means Snyder had a greater percentage of woodland (54 percent) available on his 178 ha than did the Waterloo North CSD (33 percent), and it reinforces the narrative that Christian B.’s son Joseph began to clear 100 acres (40 ha) after receiving his 217 acre share of the farm in 1872. In 1871, Christian B. divided his cleared or improved portion of his 178 acres (80.9 ha), into the following four divisions and proportions: 59 percent crops, 20 percent pasture, 17 percent hay land, and four percent gardens or orchards. For the Waterloo North CSD, however, land use was 64 percent in crops, 13 percent pasture, 19 percent hay, and 4 percent gardens or orchards. The Waterloo North CSD also had a very small amount (.2 percent) in dyked marshland, most likely along the Grand River. Therefore, proportionately, Snyder’s 178 hectare farm had more woodland and pastureland, but less hayland and cropland, than their neighbours in Waterloo North. The average-sized farm in the district was 36.5 ha, or only about 20.5 percent of Snyder’s 178 ha farm.[12] Therefore, we assume that Christian B. Snyder’s farm was one of the largest farms in the Waterloo North CSD in 1871. It may be that because the patriarch “Old” Christian had purchased three lots in the northern part of the German Company Tract but had left them for future development while he lived in the southern region of Doon, Lot 63 was not as developed, nor had it yet been divided amongst the first Mennonite settlers’ descendants, as were other farms in the CSD.

Figure 2a. Area Visualization of Christian B. Snyder’s farm in 1871 showing his two parcels of land (266 ha) combined. The 88 ha parcel that was outside his specific division (but was probably in one of North Waterloo’s other three divisions) is in light grey, and the 178 ha that was part of his division is represented by the coloured polygons. Fifty-four percent of the farm’s 178 ha parcel was unimproved, meaning it was in woodland. The remaining 46 percent was in pasture, hay, crops, and orchards or gardens. Given that the 178 ha farm was five times the size of the average farm in the Waterloo North CSD, and despite his large woodlot, Snyder had ample cleared land for his livestock and crops.
Figure 2b. Area Visualization of all 425 farms in the Waterloo North CSD, North Waterloo, Ontario. Proportionately, Waterloo North had significantly less woodland available (20 percent less) of its agroecosystem than did the Christian B. Snyder farm. Moreover, 64 percent of the CSD’s improved land was in crops, with the remaining 36 percent in pasture, hay, garden and orchard. A very small amount (.2 percent) was dyked marshland.

The Snyder farm’s livestock intensity was 15.2 livestock units per km2 (LU/km2) on their 178 ha parcel, and the grazing intensity was 2.04 ruminant units per ha of pasture. This was lower than the Waterloo North CSD which had a very high livestock density of 28.2 LU/km2 and 2.19 ruminants per ha of pasture. The Snyders had 100 cords of firewood on hand in 1871 (50 per household), compared to the 7,530 cords of firewood produced in the Waterloo North CSD, which averaged to 17.71 cords of firewood per farm. One can assume that when Christian B.’s son Joseph cleared 40 ha of woodland and sold hundreds of cords of wood to local mills (after he received his 217 acre share of the farm in 1872), he was following in his father’s footsteps (Figure 1a). Perhaps, Christian B. had sold large quantities of cordwood to local mills before his son Joseph took up the wood business.

Farm Energy Flows

The Snyder farm is one of the few in the Farm Energy Profile project that produced more energy from a human edible crop (wheat) than from feed crops. In 1871, the Snyders produced 250 bushels (bu) of spring wheat, 100 bu of fall wheat, 170 bu of barley, 600 bu of oats, 280 bu of peas, 360 bu of potatoes, 2,500 bu of turnips, 3 bu of mangel-wurtzel, 1,500 bu of carrots, 90 bu apples, 4 bu plums, pears, or other fruit, 4 bu of grass or clover seed, and 800 pounds of maple sugar. The Waterloo North CSD grew the same crops, plus rye, corn, grapes, and small quantities of rye, beans, buckwheat, hops, and tobacco. Waterloo North farmers produced 56,621 pounds of maple sugar, or 133 pounds per farm. Snyder’s 800 pounds of maple sugar indicates that he was using his woodland in more ways than drawing out wood to be sold to local mills. He also benefited greatly from the annual flow of maple sugar coming from his woodland.

In terms of energy flows from fodder, the Snyder farm consumed much larger amounts of feed than the average farm in Waterloo North. However, their mix of pasture, hay, and residues was quite similar to the township’s, proportionally. The Snyder farm’s residues were 4.26 times greater than the average farm in the Waterloo North CSD. However, when considering that Synder’s 178 ha farm was roughly five times the size of the average farm in the Waterloo North CSD, there is not a great difference in residues proportionally. The Snyder farm and the Waterloo North CSD also had very similar ratios of pastureland to hayland. Additionally, both reused 100 percent of their biomass (see figures 4a and 4b).

In 1871, Christian B. and his father Joseph Snyder reported having five horses over three years old, three colts or fillies, four working oxen, 14 milk cows, 19 horned cattle, 80 sheep, and three swine. They also produced 1,000 pounds of butter, 100 pounds of cheese, 300 pounds of wool, and 300 yards of homemade cloth or flannel. Given the 300 pounds of wool that was on hand, his homemade cloth was probably wool flannel. They slaughtered or sold for export two swine, six cattle and 20 sheep. The Snyder farm exceeded the average farm in Waterloo North in all of these categories, except swine. The average farm in the Waterloo North CSD had six or seven swine and slaughtered or sold for export five or six. Snyder’s most notable farm productions were, perhaps, his butter and cloth. Whereas Snyder had 1,000 pounds of butter, the average farm in the Waterloo North CSD had 270, and, whereas he had 300 yards of cloth, the average farm had 4.5. In fact, Snyder’s 300 yards of cloth represented 16 percent of the 1,886 yards of cloth reported for the Waterloo North CSD. It may be that he had a small enterprise on his farm for wool flannel production. Farms in Waterloo North also reported producing honey and linen, where Snyder did not.

Both the Snyder farm and the Waterloo North CSD had feed and litter deficits. In terms of total energy deficits, Snyder’s animals were short by 1,065,510 MJ of feed and 334,588 MJ of litter. Figures 3a and 3b do not include peas in the feed balance, so it is likely that a tenth of Snyder’s feed deficit was satisfied by the farm’s pea harvest. The average farm in the Waterloo North CSD had only about a 290,267 MJ feed deficit and an 86,299 MJ litter deficit. The feed and litter deficits on Snyder’s much larger farm were 3.67 and 3.88 times greater than the average-sized farm in the Waterloo North CSD. Given that his farm was roughly five times the size of the average farm in the Waterloo North CSD, his feed and litter deficit was proportionally not as large. Snyder’s butter, cheese, wheat, maple sugar, cordwood, meat products, and cloth must have brought him enough cash to pay for his shortfall in feed and litter.

Conclusion

Christian B. and his father Joseph Snyder’s farm was five times larger than the average farm in the Waterloo North CSD. Fifty-four percent of their 178 ha farm was unimproved, or in woodland. This gave him the opportunity to develop a farm energy strategy that diverged slightly from the Waterloo North CSD. He made good use of his sizable woodlands by supplying cordwood to local mills and by tapping the annual flow of maple sugar. He had moderate dairy production, producing milk, butter, and cheese. He also had wheat, cloth, and meat products to sell from his farm. Noticeably, although he had a much larger farm he had far less swine proportionally than the Waterloo North CSD in 1871. This helped to keep his livestock numbers low, resulting in a lower livestock intensity than the Waterloo North CSD. Because of his lower livestock numbers, proportionally his feed and litter deficit was not as great as the average farm in the Waterloo North CSD. Snyder’s approach and farming strategy made extensive use of his woodlands while at the same time keeping his livestock numbers low and focussing on ruminants that supported his dairy and cloth production.

Figure 6a.”Old” Christian Schneider’s home was built about 1807. The house was situated in Beihn’s Tract, Unnumbered Lots, Doon, Waterloo County, Ontario. The Kitchener Public Library has the original photo.
Figure 6b. This plaque honours “Old” Christian Snyder who immigrated to Waterloo, Ontario, from Pennsylvania in the first years of the nineteenth century and his son Joseph who built a two-storey home from hand-hewn logs drawn from the land of Lot 63 where the Snyder farm was situated. In 1972, the log house was taken down, log by log, and moved to St. Jacobs Farmers Market. Because many of the logs were rotten, the new structure is much smaller and only one-storey. The original house was over 3,500 square feet. The Gingrich connection comes from Israel B. Gingrich who married Joseph’s granddaughter Lovina. The couple lived in the house with Lovina’s parents, Christian B. Snyder, his wife Barbara Snyder (nee Bauman), and their youngest son, Lovina’s brother Jared, probably from 1888, the year that Lovina and Israel were married.

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[1] “Christian B. Snyder,” 1871 Census of Canada, RG31, C-9944, LAC.

[2] “Christian B. Snyder,” Christian Schneider, Waterloo Region Generation, The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding, https://generations.regionofwaterloo.ca/getperson.php?personID=I16900&tree=generations

The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding actually lists 12 children, but it appears that two of the children who are listed are repeated.

[3] Ellis Little, “Snyder’s Corner: The History of G.C.T. Lot 63,” Waterloo Historical Society, Vol. 90 (2002): 21.

[4] “Christian Schneider,” Waterloo Region Generations.

[5] “Joseph Schneider,” Joseph Schneider, Waterloo Region Generations, The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding,  https://generations.regionofwaterloo.ca/getperson.php?personID=I16900&tree=generations

The Waterloo Region Generations website notes that the plaque is erected on a one-story log structure located at St. Jacob’s Farmers Market but the logs were moved from a two-story log house built on German Company Tract Lot 63 by Joseph Schneider.

[6] Little, Snyder’s Corner, 24.

[7] Historians have concluded that his main farm was actually 448 acres. Little, Snyder’s Corner, 25. The German Company Tract, some 60,000 acres, was divided into sections of 448 acres each. Therefore, each of “Old” Christian’s Lots, 42, 63, and 83, were 448 acres. The 1871 Census of Canada indicates that Christian B.’s father Joseph, who the enumerator put down as a Gentleman, was living nearby his son when the census was taken. He was listed as a tenant living with his second wife Catherine Snyder (nee Weicker). Catherine was from Germany and was 57 years old.

[8] “Christian B. Snyder,” 1871, LAC. Schedule 3 also lists three dwelling houses, three barns or stables, four carriages and sleighs, eight cars, wagons, or sleds, five ploughs or cultivators, three fanning mills, and one each of reapers or mowers, horse rakes, and thrashing machines.

[9] “Christian B. Snyder,” Waterloo Region Generations. These numbers–217, 80, and 148–do not add up to either the 440 acres reported by the enumerator when the 1871 Census of Canada was taken, nor do they add up to the 448 acres that historians agree was the size of Lot 63.

[10] “Lancaster, Pennsylvania, U.S., Mennonite Vital Records, 1750-2014,” s.v “Israel B. Gingrich,” Ancestry.com.

[11] Helinda was one and a half years old in 1891. “Christian B. Snyder,” 1891 Census of Canada, RG31-C-1, T-6374, LAC.

[12] The average farm in Waterloo North was only 13.5 percent the size of Snyder’s much larger 266 hectares of land (including the additional 88 ha he had that was situated on a neighbouring division).

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

Source: Islandnewspapers.ca

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

Source: Islandnewspapers.ca

Care Of All Animals Is Exemplified At Alderlea

At Alderlea on a night like this, when a wind blows wildly in the treetops and blusters gustily about the eaves, it is good to come abroad to the barns with James, and follow as he settles away his last chores. These are of course, shared with the younger farmer and it is always interesting for us to see how perfectly the two work together to complete the set pattern.

The stables are never cozier than when high winds blow, warmed as they are by breaths and bodies of the animals, so comfortably sheltered within. And reflecting on this, we could heartily agree with James when shaking another flake of straw on the youngest’s calf’s bed, he offered “I often think Ellen that if a traveller were to be bewildered in a snowstorm, a stable would be a right good shelter to come to”

Outside the wind blew, not one seasonally edged with frost, nevertheless of Fall cool and gusty, making the indoors seem an oasis of safety and content.

There is a saying that a farmer’s goodness, indeed his religion we have heard and old minister say, is reflected favorably or otherwise but most obviously in the appearance and attitude of his cats. A pair of ours, silken coated, black as ebon except for the white of their vests emerged softly from the shadows of the group and pressed against James’ overalled legs for a word of attention, during a moment’s halt there.

“You haven’t seen the summer calves lately, have you, Ellen?” he said, preceding us down steps and along a corridor to their stall, where in a company they were cleaning up their supper of hay.

“Why, they’re done well!” we said

“Not bad, are they” he smiled. “These are only cross-breds, but they’re fair-good in shape, and growthy I’d say. When they get  a spell on the grass” he nodded, thinking ahead to the June time.

We like to follow him to that last rite of his round, which takes him to open one after another the shutters in front of the horses and drop handfuls of grain to the mangers. Not hurriedly but taking time to smooth a forelock. Or pet a velvet muzzle and chat with each one in turn. And tonight, names of remembered horses came back to our lips- Old Cleveland… the old-mare-of-all… the young mare, a comely animal we lost, of whom all, like the years flown, have now vanished into the past.

We came then from a world of animals, none anywhere we may say better tended, to the quiet house that is ours. Back to the old clock’s tick and the scent of maple sticks’ burning, to the peace and serenity of a work-day’s close… when a wind blows wildly in the treetops and blusters gustily about the eaves it is good to come abroad to the barns with James and follow as he settles away his last chores.

                                                                                –  Ellen’s Diary, January 23, 1958

Source: Islandnewspapers.ca

Ellen Happily Relates The Joys Of Christmas

These days, it may be by way of radio or by the voices of the children, Christmas carols come into these old rooms, to be an exquisite part of the season—to be one with the fragrance of the Christmas bakings, to belong with the hushed snow-spread fields, with December sun and moon, and the distant sparkling stars, and all its mystery and charm. And we find we turn again to read precious tales of the long, long ago. We read-through do we not know the story by heart? “And it came to pass in those days…” to find again that Bethlehem road.

We take down too from its shelf, for this is the season, Dicken’s Christmas Stories—an ancient volume, cover faded, leaves yellowed, print quaint, to enjoy again the deep understanding of humans, the engaging humour caught in pages: A Christmas Carol with the characters as bright and likable, or as mean and unlikable as ever the author intended them to be.

There is too the story of “A Christmas Tree”, not so well known possibly as the former, but to us most enjoyable, inspired it would seem by the sight of children seated about their tree. It brings back to the author memorie[sic] of his young Christmas-tides. The toys, the gift-books… everything in those reflections which carry him back across the years.

…” But hark! The waits are playing”, he recalls “and they break my childish sleep. What images do I associate with the Christmas music, as I see them set forth on the Christmas Tree? Known before all the others, keeping far apart from all the others, they gather round my little bed. An angel speaking to a group of shepherds in a field; some travelers with eyes uplifted fllowing[sic] a Star: a Baby in a manager; a Child in a spacious temple, talking with grave men; a figured with a mild, beautiful face raising a dead girl by the hand. Still, on the lower and maturer branches of the Tree, Christmas associations cluster thick. School-books shut up; Ovid and Viril[sic] silenced; the Rule of Three, long disposed of…If I no more come home at Christmas time, there will be boys and girls (thank Heaven!) while the world lasts; and they do! Yonder they dance, and play upon the branches of my Tree God bless them, merrily, and my heart dances and plays too!”

“And I DO come home at Christmas. We all do, or we all should. We all come home, or ought to come home, for a short holiday- the longer the better – from the great boarding-school, where we are forever working at our arithmetic slates, to take and give a rest.”

Christmas gives so much delight to all. Not alone to the children, whose special season it is supposed to be, but also to those older-grown, who seeing their joy and happiness, again re-lived as did Charles Dickens in his immortal Christmas stories, their own of the years bygone  

                                                                              –  Ellen’s Diary, December 13, 1958

Source: Islandnewspapers.ca