After five and a half weeks travelling across Canada – and back – we returned to our beautiful little farm. It was a wonderful trip – so much beauty, diversity and history to discover. We traveled east at the end of spring and watched the lilacs bloom across the country until we reached the Atlantic. On Fogo Island, off Newfoundland, the daffodils were just emerging. It was mid-June. The bay was full of ice floes. Icebergs loomed on the horizon. It felt like we had been yanked back into February.
As we traveled east, then west, south then north, the lupins followed us. In southern Ontario, they had reached the end of their season and were starting to fade. In northern Ontario they were still fresh and bright. When we returned home in early July, the lupins on the island were finished. However, the garden was overflowing with peas, fat cabbages, ripening blueberries, garlic ready to pull and potato plants in bloom. Another seasonal reset.
Across the country there were regional distinctions evident on farms and around homes that got me thinking about how we use our land. On southern Vancouver Island, where I have lived my whole life, most homes have some lawn, beds of shrubs and/or flowers around the house, and a welcoming front door. Many homes have a small vegetable garden, perhaps some berry bushes or a fruit tree. This is true of many cities and small communities in B.C. In the Fraser Valley, the farms are bigger. Some market gardens, but usually large tracts of corn or hay and lots of pasture. In the interior of B.C. are large ranches. We saw lots of cows and cattle on our trip, and plenty of horses. Sheep, though, were pretty uncommon.
As we traveled east across the prairies, the farms got bigger. Huge farms reaching out to the horizon. Mostly mono-cropping. Silos punctuate the skyline. In southeast Manitoba and northern Ontario, there are large tracts of forest and scrub. And lakes! Enormous lakes, tiny lakes, marshes and bogs. Water, water, everywhere. As we drove down to the Niagara region and along the St. Lawrence, the farms were back. They were smaller and more diverse than the prairies, and homes often had small gardens. Into New Brunswick; a mixture of forests and farms. This is where we started noticing a difference.
Throughout the maritime provinces, most homes were surrounded by very large lawns. Just lawns. Few houses had shrubs or flowers and there were very few vegetable gardens evident from the road. The lawns served no apparent purpose, but they were all green and mowed. A lot of time and water for unproductive land. We suspect the grass was kept short to avoid ticks. I don’t know why there weren’t home gardens. The road sides, though, were thick with wildflowers.
In rural Newfoundland and Cape Breton Island, as well as other areas in the Maritimes, we were amused by the “mother-in-law doors”. Building codes require a front door and back door, but no one uses the front door. The front door has no stairs to reach it, no porch, no pathway. Just a door on the front of the house serving no purpose but to satisfy a legal requirement. Some of the doors were ten feet above the ground. Below them, just that big lawn.
We are now back at work – pulling weeds, restocking the barns with hay, deadheading and harvesting crops. Grateful for the opportunity to see our beautiful country, and grateful to be home. You are welcome to use our front door when you visit.