Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Monday, April 6, 2015

Hope or Heartbreak?

As we explore the back roads of Hastings and L&A counties, it's impossible not to think constantly of the folks who arrived so optimistically in this hard land, and worked to establish a home and a farm to sustain their families and their hope.

Today folks cynically refer to them as 'rock farms'.

Just thinking of the building of these fences can break your heart, as they may well have broken the spirit of some of the first settlers.

On Easter Sunday we grabbed our road atlas, and struck out on a rural route which led us up the Old Hungerford Road. We got lost finding Lost Channel, squinted through the underbrush at the 1890 cement company ruins at Marlbank, but found an open coffee bar to compensate (thanks Trudeaus.) We teetered along Hog's Back road to circumnavigate Lime Lake, enjoyed the open countryside and the cement block church at Westplain, missed Pinegrove on our way through (so many former communities are just crossroads on a map now), and made our way to Forest Mills to enjoy the magnificent Buttermilk Falls.

 But all along the route, we viewed in dismay the small fields carved out from unyielding forest, their borders formed by piles of stones carryed or dragged there, to open the poor soil for cultivation. And each spring, as even our farmer father who was blessed with a good farm and deep soil would do (with our without our less than enthusiastic support), they would pick even more stones which the winter frost had heaved to the surface.

I wonder when the satisfaction of building a sturdy fence to contain cattle, or protect crops - that hope for the future - gave way to despair.

Imagine these fields! This endless work. The poor results for all that. Yet this farmer built a fine barn, and a brick house across the road.

 And few hundred yards down the road, the community built a school house in 1870. My guess is, it's built of logs.

More hope for the future.

My heart is full of admiration for these settlers, whose road we travelled yesterday.

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