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Archive for the ‘Farming’ Category

Clyde River history committee member Joanne Turner recommended to us that we view this series that she had enjoyed, Tales from the Green Valley, on YouTube. I had a chance to view it over the past week and thoroughly enjoyed it. Did you ever want to know what it would be like to live in 1620? Here’s your chance. Five history scholars agreed to live for one year on a farm in a valley near the Wales border. Did they work hard? Yes, it mentions that they burned over 4000 calories a day – equivalent to a high-performing athlete of today. Nothing, and I mean nothing, was wasted. A thatched roof takes a lot of material, patience and skill. Some of their chores would still be similar to those in the 1800s when our ancestors moved to Prince Edward Island e.g. clearing the land, churning butter and making soap. Click on the screen below to link to the YouTube series and enjoy. Please feel free to share your comments and insights below after viewing the series.

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Whole haskap berries along with crushed juice on ice-cream

Have you had a chance to see and taste Haskap berries? This Saturday, you try them on ice cream at Don Northcott’s farm, 43 MacNevin Drive in Clyde River. You will also learn about this burgeoning berry industry where Don’s company Phytocultures is taking a lead to support its commercial success for growers. Phytocultures has spent the past 10 years focusing on production and berry variety development and also mechanized harvesting methods to make it a viable commercial venture.

The event begins at 11:00 a.m. and includes the following activities and displays:

  • Berry variation display – varieties include Indigo Treat, Indigo Gem and Borealis
  • Pruning results – poster
  • Easy Harvester poster/video operation
  • Berry cleaning equipment
  • Deep Roots Distillery – Haskap liquor
  • Noronha Elaterid Light Trap – Insect trap demo
  • Koppert bumble bee hive demo

11:30 a.m. – Welcome Remarks

12:00 noon – Tour of Haskap Berry Plots

  • Breeding and selecting a plot
  • Objectives and future developments
  • High density planting – rationale for this configuration
  • 2008 plot – 10 years of observation – trial and error

12:30 p.m. – Harvest Demonstration

  • 2008 plot with pruned and un-pruned bushes
  • Reciprocating bush shaker – Easy Harvester demo
  • Berry cleaning demonstration

1:00 p.m. – Haskap Berries over Ice Cream!

Easy to pick; they have a delicate, velvety skin

The unique advantage of Haskaps is they are a berry that can be grown in cooler regions. For many years, they have grown successfully in Japan and Russia. The Haskap bush flowers can survive -3 to -5 degrees Celsius. Haskap berries ripen in June, so they offer the first delicious taste of the summer. They exceed blueberries in antioxidants and are very high in Vitamin C along with potassium, Vitamin A and dietary fibre.

Take some time on Saturday to learn about farming innovation happening right here in Clyde River.

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Montrose Farm – original Ward Farm (Google street view photo)

I was out touring around the original Ward family property on the “upper” Bannockburn Road in Hampshire this weekend with James and Carol Ward from Arizona who were on PEI for the first time on a genealogical quest.

There are two Ward houses still there at the jog in the road, one was the home of Benjamin and Hattie (Beer) Ward and across the road, the farm owned up until 13 years ago by Milton Ward. After friendly visits with the new owners, they suggested we should make sure to visit with Milton who now lives in North River.

James and Milton are 4th cousins and their first meeting was a great homecoming. James is a descendant of Alex Spurgeon Ward, one of the boys who moved to Boston around 1900. He asked Milton if he had any good stories to tell about the farm, and Milton pulled out a newspaper clipping for him to read. Always on the trail for a good story myself, I asked Milton if I could share it on the Clyde River website. Apparently, the story made The Guardian and CBC-TV news back in March, 1987.

Steer escapes from tight spot, only pride hurt

Hampshire – One of Milton Ward’s steers might think twice before he tries to escape again.

The 1000-pound steer pulled a chain over its head in the barn stall sometime Monday night and while wandering around the barn fell into Mr. Ward’s well, where it was trapped until discovered early Tuesday morning.

When Elizabeth [Lizzie] Ward got up Tuesday, she couldn’t get any water out of the kitchen tap. She couldn’t figure out what was wrong until Mr. Ward checked the barn.

“I figured it was a fuse,” he said. But when he discovered the steer stuck in the well it wasn’t hard to figure out the problem. While the animal was attempting to get out of the well, it broke a pipe connecting the tank to the pump, so no water could be pumped out.

After recovered from his surprise, Mr. Ward phoned a neighbour who had a hydraulic hoist.

Getting ropes around the steer was no easy task since the opening only measured six feet by four feet. It was accomplished by putting a rope around the steers head and pulling it to one side so the rope could be pushed down the side. Then the steer could be pulled to the other side so the rope could be brought up again.

Although the whole operation took about three hours from the time the steer was discovered, the actual lift only took about half an hour, Mr. Ward said.

“It wasn’t easy, but we managed.”

Although the steer has a few bruises it probably sustained in attempts to get out of the well, it appears none the worse for wear.

The well had been covered with two-by-five boards and a half-inch sheet of plywood “but it was made for man, not beast,” Mr. Ward said. He thought there was no need to put a heavier cover on it since it wasn’t near where the steers were kept. But now he admits he’ll have to put a heavier cover on it.

I asked Milton what the price of beef was back then and he said around 70 cents a pound, so on top of it being a prized Holstein, it was $700 they pulled out of the well that day.

Editor’s note:

  • The farm is now owned by Peter Cairns.
  • The Wards named the farm “Montrose” after the beautiful varieties of rose bushes at the front of the house.
  • Hattie (Beer) and Benjamin Ward were Davis Ward’s parents. Davis sang in the Clyde River Presbyterian Church Choir for many years. Their house is across the road from the farm.

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Guest speaker: Teresa Mellish, Farmers Helping Farmers

The Clyde River United Baptist Women’s Missionary Society is hosting their Annual Thank Offering Service on Sunday, September 18 at 7:00 pm. Special speaker Teresa Mellish will talk about her involvement with Farmers Helping Farmers in PEI Schools and in Kenya. Special music will be provided by Vans and Emily Bryant. The Church is located at 726 Clyde River Rd. All are welcome. The offering will go towards our missionary work. A light lunch will follow the service. For more information, you can contact Jo-Ann at 902-675-4335.

Teresa’s Bio:

Teresa is a founding member and coordinator of Farmers Helping Farmers. She is a farm partner in Kings County where they breed sport horses and has worked in PEI in small-farm development. Teresa has a M.Sc. Degree in Adult Education focused on soil conservation practices in potato production.

Farmers Helping Farmers, a small non-government organization based in Prince Edward Island, has helped groups of farm women in rural Kenya to grow food for their families. They have improved the lives of over 100,000 Kenyans through their work with groups of Kenyan dairy farmers and Kenyan women who grow crops.

Link to Farmers Helping Farmers website, click here.

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Editor’s Introduction: We are pleased to feature an article from guest writer Peter Rukavina. Many will know Peter from his very popular blog www.ruk.ca. He was also recently our guest along with his son Oliver and Oliver’s dog Ethan at the presentation, The History of Clow’s Store. You may not be as aware of his work with Yankee Publishing’s The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

In Clyde River, the “Farmer’s Almanac” as we call it has shared an important place in our farming history and continues to across Prince Edward Island. Many times around a kitchen table as a child, I would hear farmers talking about what the Farmer’s Almanac was predicting in terms of weather for the coming season with almost as much reverence as to the gospel the minister had preached on the past Sunday. Inevitably, there would be some reference to the behaviour of animals in weather predictions. I thought there must be some very wise people living in New England, because other sources could not seem to achieve the same level of accuracy in their predictions or fully garner these farmers’ respect.

I am pleased to find out that we have an Island contribution to this highly respected publication. Thank you, Peter, for sharing your story with us and for offering a glimpse into the history of this fine publication and the dedicated team behind it. On behalf of our community, our farmers and gardeners, we thank you all for your great work.

My Time with The Old Farmer’s Almanac

I’ve spent every workday for the past 20 years deep inside the heart of a publication that was founded during George Washington’s first term as U.S. President.

That publication is The Old Farmer’s Almanac, first published in 1792 and every single year since, without exception – making it North America’s oldest continuously published periodical.

Since 1939 The Old Farmer’s Almanac has been owned by Yankee Publishing, based in the tiny village of Dublin, New Hampshire. While Dublin is, technically, my “workplace,” I do my work from a desk in downtown Charlottetown, collaborating remotely with a team of designers and editors in New Hampshire to make Almanac.com, the web version of the publication. While I missed the founding of the Almanac by 174 years, I was there for the birth of Almanac.com, and have helped nurture it along ever since.

As you might imagine, it takes an interesting cast of characters to make a publication as storied as The Old Farmer’s Almanac, and beyond the technical challenges of keeping one of the continent’s busiest websites humming (with almost 50 million visitors in 2015), my work remains interesting because of those people and the ramshackle collection of buildings they call their working home.

Yankee Publishig - 4Yankee Publishing is right in the middle of Dublin, population 1,597. You can see Yankee yourself, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on the Almanac Webcam, online at almanac.com/webcam. Right across the road is Dublin Town Hall; up the hill in the other direction is the Dublin School, a private prep school founded in 1935, the same year as Yankee. Down the road a bit is the Dublin General Store – an excellent place to pick up a sandwich for lunch – and up the road and around a bend or two is Dublin Lake, surrounded by the homes of summer residents from across New England.

Yankee’s headquarters have evolved over the years as the company has grown, and as you walk the hallways you pass through various buildings that have been joined together, from an old house at the front – I’ve been in the basement and seen its ancient foundation – through more modern additions as you walk back through the company’s offices.

Yankee Publishig - 1On the northeast corner of the main building – named the Sagendorph Building for Robb Sagendorph, the company’s founder – is a chalk board inscribed “This Bulletin Board is owned and maintained by YANKEE for the benefit of the citizens of DUBLIN.” On the board you’ll find notices about deaths in the village, about church suppers, and about the annual community gathering down the hill at Yankee Field.

While I’ve been a “telecommuter” to Yankee for 20 years, an important part of my relationship with the company has been travel to Dublin three or four times a year, something I’ve been doing since the very beginning. Telecommuting is great, and with tools like email and Skype, it’s almost like “being there.” But you can’t have lunch over Skype, and it’s hard to get to know people by email. So my regular visits are an important way of connecting us.

Yankee Publishig - 2One of the characteristics of the company is the strong “Yankee” sense of self-reliance: if there’s a need for a desk or table in an office, the Yankee sensibility is to find someone to build a desk or a table. The idea of simply ordering one from a catalogue isn’t in the Yankee DNA. That makes for a lot of wonderful desks and tables that will last lifetimes. True to form, my part-time office, in the “crow’s nest” on the third floor, has a hand-built table that’s built like a tank. And contrasting the modern computer and monitor on the table is a room filled with everything from a decades-old barometer to a wreath of unknown origin that’s been hanging on the wall for as long as I’ve been there.

One of the highlights of my early days working on the Almanac was the chance to work with the late John Pierce, the Almanac’s Group Publisher. John died suddenly and unexpectedly eight years ago; his death was a huge loss for his family, for me, and for the enterprise. In a blog post about John at the time, titled My Friend the Poet Biologist, I wrote, in part:

More than anyone else John understood how important the sheer improbability of Yankee is to the success of the enterprise. He was able to simultaneously understand that it made no sense at all to run a national publication with a circulation of 4 million from a rambling campus of cobbled-together old buildings in rural New Hampshire and also to celebrate that very fact as being integral to the spirit of the place.

While more a polymath than an eccentric himself, John certainly appreciated the eccentricities of others (a good quality to have working at Yankee, of necessity a company made up almost entirely of eccentrics — how else do you find staff equally skilled in begonia planting schedules and the position of the Moon in the astrological zodiac?).

That spirit of eccentric improbability, one that John understood so well, oozes from the walls of Yankee: the editors and designers that toil diligently over each year’s edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac take the charge of its founder, Robert B. Thomas, to be “useful with a pleasant degree of humour” very seriously. And they are the perfect lot for this task: the editors know more about the sun, the Moon and the stars, about the weather and how to predict it, about cooking and gardening, about the best time to wean a calf and the best day to cut your hair, than you can possibly imagine; the designers are well-versed in using modern technology while, at the same time, preserving the visual spirit of the Almanac. They are a fascinating group of people to work with.

The beating heart of the Almanac itself can be found on the second floor of the Sagendorph Building in the library around which the editors’ offices are arranged. On the shelves of that library are a complete set of editions of The Old Farmer’s Almanac back to 1792, there for both practical reference, for inspiration, and to reinforce the duty we all have to the publication’s history.

Yankee Publishig - 3

One summer night last July, after everyone else had gone home, I went down to the library and pulled the bound volumes off the shelf. What things to hold: hand set in metal type, printed on a letterpress, and, in 1792, yet to gain the “Old” in the title for another 56 years.

But yet at the same time as being relics of the past, these early editions bear many similarities to the Almanac that I spend my working life helping to craft: they are, indeed, “useful with a pleasant degree of humour”; and in their pages you’ll find the same guide to the rhythms that you’ll find in the pages – digital and printed – of today’s editions.

If you do the math you’ll realize that 2017 minus 1792 is 225 and so next year’s edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac will be the 225th. To mark this occasion there’s much work happening now to refresh the pages – on a visit to Dublin in February I saw some of this work, and it is stunning. When you see the 2017 Almanac on the newsstand this fall – it goes on sale in early September – it will look like the book you remember, yes, but with a renewed sense of its past. I’m looking forward to it.

It may seem an unusual thing to work for a centuries-old publication from 630 miles away and in another country. But you don’t get to be 225 years old without knowing how to evolve with the times, and, after two decades of working with The Old Farmer’s Almanac from here in Prince Edward Island, it seems like the most natural thing in the world to me.

One of the tools I built early-on in the development of Almanac.com was a tide predictions calculator – you can see it online at almanac.com/astronomy/tides. As part of testing the tool, I pulled a reproduction of a 100-year-old edition off my shelf – reproductions of the 100 and 200 year-old editions are issued each year – and compared the tides for Boston, MA listed there with the tides that the new online tool reported. They were accurate to within a minute of each other, reinforcing that while so much of life is unpredictable and topsy-turvy, the cycles of the natural world have an unceasing rhythm to them: making those rhythms more accessible and more obvious is a pleasant, fulfilling task, and one I hope to keep at for years to come.

If you happen to be passing through Dublin, NH – it’s on Route 101 between Nashua and Keene – be sure to stop in and say hello. Give a knock on the front door and Linda, the unceasingly helpful and pleasant receptionist, will welcome you in, and you’ll be able to pick up a copy of the latest Almanac, get updated on the weather, and get a sense, in a small way, of the joys I’ve experienced having Robert B. Thomas’s yearly guide at the centre of my work life. 

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Linwood Road (Photo taken in 2012 – Vivian Beer)

Here is a tribute written on May 11th, 1928, by Minnie M. (Fraser) Murray of Henniker, New Hampshire, to her parents. This piece of writing was given to me by Joanne Turner to share with our readers.

In the year 1863, my father and mother started on their life long journey. Their names were William Foster Fraser and his wife Mary Ann (Howard) Fraser. They purchased a tract of land from the Landlord Neal McCallum of Brackley Point.

The land was situated on the Linwood Road between Clyde River and Kingston, Lot 31, 81 acres of land covered with pine, spruce, white birch and maple. My father worked very hard and cleared the land, which took some time. He was a very good carpenter and he erected a very comfortable set of farm buildings, dwelling house, large barn and a number of smaller out buildings in the yard. He dug a well and the water was drawn with a windlass and the old oaken bucket.

He had a large fruit orchard, apples, plums and cherry trees. He also planted a lot of ornamental trees and shrubbery and an abundance of beautiful flowers. He had a market garden, small fruit, black currants, red currants, gooseberries and all kinds of vegetables.

The farm was almost square. He cleared it all except a three-acre spruce lumber lot in one corner of the farm. He reserved lumber to build fences. There were no wire fences in that day. He built a short piece of fence out of pine stumps (about 50 years ago). That fence is in quite good condition yet.

The farm is quite level with the exception of a small steep hill. It was called the Mount.

During father’s lifetime, he had two coats of fertilizer spread over his farm which consisted of mussel mud. The mud was taken from the river bed of North River. The work was done during the winter when the ice on the river was frozen hard. They cut holes in the ice, mud diggers placed in position, the mud taken up with large mud forks resembling scoops, put in sleds and drawn to the farm.

My father grew wonderful fine crops which consisted of wheat, barley, oats, buckwheat, potatoes, turnips and mangles.

His stock was what was generally kept on any up-to-date farm. He always kept good farm horses as he had to draw his produce to market in Charlottetown, eight miles away.

He paid for his farm with pounds, shillings and pence, that was the kind of money they used in his time. He made all his wheels as he was a wheelwright, also his wagons and carts. He kept a strict account of all raised on the farm, all he sold, and all he bought.

My father and mother had many privations and hardships that came to early settlers’ lives.

Of this union, there were born nine children, eight girls and one son. The son’s name was Charles Howard Fraser. When he was three years old, he took sick and passed away (1884). That was one of the great trials of their lives, the loss of their only son. One of his young sisters planted a peony rose on his grave. They tell me it has bloomed every year for 44 years.

My parents were very firm but also very kind to their family. The word “disobey” was never spoken in the home.

My father kept a beautiful-spirited driving horse named Jan. This horse was very kind and gentle. Any member of the family could drive it. This horse had all the kindness and affection bestowed on it that any animal deserved.

There was plenty of work for each member of the family and also plenty of time for pleasure and enjoyment.

My mother was very good to the poor and sick. Many are living today who have blessed her for she gave to the sick and destitute with a lavish hand. For a great number of years my mother would take children of deserving poor from the city and give them a home during the summer months, with fresh sunshine and good food. They returned to their home in the autumn with stronger bodies and rosy cheeks. Mother never received any pay. She enjoyed doing it for free. I think it meant something to mother with her one large growing family.

My father and mother entertained extensively in their home. Their hospitality was unbounded.

My father was a magistrate for a number of years and did a lot of legal business for several communities.

In the year 1908, my father and mother retired from active farming and made their home in the pretty little village of Clyde River. My father worked at the carpenter trade for a few years.

My parents did all in their power for the uplift and community betterment.

In the year 1912, my father passed away. A few years later, in 1920, my mother passed away. My father and mother being dead, yet they speak, all their family rose up to call them blessed.

My father is survived by two brothers, Daniel T. Fraser of Kingston and John Hamilton Grey Fraser, contractor and builder, Denver, Colorado.

Family genealogy notes:

Parents:

  • William Foster Fraser – February 1, 1941 in Seal River, PEI and died in Clyde River, April 1, 1912.
  • Mary Ann (Howard) Fraser – born December 24th, 1841 and died May 20th, 1920

Children:

  1. Hannah Fraser – born May 31st, 1865 and died February 14th, 1951
  2. Mary (Minnie) Fraser – born November 26th, 1866 and died 1940 – married name Murray
  3. Sarah Bessie Fraser – born April 9th, 1868, married 1st to J.D. Millett and 2nd to (last name) Allen
  4. Edith Rebecca Fraser – born October 2nd, 1869 and died on May 14th, 1956. Married to Charles David McLean, 1868-1932
  5. Annie Tyler Fraser – born April 15th, 1871 and died October 6th, 1953
  6. Harriet Crawford Fraser – born October 28th, 1873
  7. Ida Jane Fraser – born March 1st, 1876 and died April 29th, 1940
  8. Ethel Blanche Fraser – born May 1879 and died June 4th, 1953. Married to Dan Jenkins.
  9. Charles Howard Fraser – born March 1881 and died May 1884, buried in Kingston.

Early map showing William Fraser Farm

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October 16aTwo farms in the area will be participating in Open Farm Day on September 21st. Matos Winery and Distillery in St. Catherine’s along with Don Northcott’s farm in Clyde River, home of his company Phytocultures.

Matos award-winning wine was offered as speaker gifts at the Clyde River History Lecture Series, and Don Northcott’s farm provided apples for our Apple Pie Festival. Both of these operations are innovative businesses, so it will be interesting to see what’s new on the farm.

Phytocultures/Don Northcott’s Farm:

Open Farm Day hours: 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.
1017 Linwood Road, Clyde River
Taste new grape varieties and learn about their exciting new berry crop developments

Matos Winery & Distillery:

Open Farm Day hours: 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.
West River Road, St. Catherine’s
See their vineyards and visit their shop which features wines, spirits, pottery, and wine-related items. Wine samples will be available for free.

Visit the following link to see the list of PEI farms participating in this year’s Open Farm Day.

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