Thursday, August 07, 2003

Canadian homestead

Yes, I'm taking a break, but I couldn't resist a final (?) post from dervala dot net (via Reading and Writing). Dervala writes about a wealthy, well-educated family who came to live in the Canadian wilderness in the 1920s. She begins her post with a quote:
'Few men had so rational a grip on life as he; few women knew its circle of vicissitudes as she. For three days I lived with Adam toiling and Eve spinning, talking of the poetry of Meredith and getting their reactions on Robert Frost. Enthusiasm, joy, ambition, suffused the hours. Whatever of high things their breeding had begotten, their life had accentuated, and the bush had not broken them to laziness or low ends. They, who enjoyed music, who kept posted on politics, and were determined to see their sons wisely educated, were no malingerers of society. They had decided to know life first-hand, that is all; not to enjoy it vicariously as from a grandstand but to live it wholly, and the fundamentals first.'

From The Lake Superior Country by T. Morris Longstreth (1924) [emphasis mine—jbb]
Dervala then describes in detail the life of a frontier woman:
Catherine was more stout-hearted pioneer than simpering debutante. She quickly learned to feed eight hungry men from a lean-to kitchen with shelves made from wooden packing cases. Her reminiscences still carry the tang of a city girl's shock. She had to knead 36 loaves of bread a week, and split the wood to bake it in the oven too small to hold more than two loaves at a time. She lists with wonder the breakfasts these woodsmen required every single day: eggs, bacon, pancakes, porridge, as much toast as she could feed them, syrup, and fruit. Then there was butter to be churned, water to be fetched from the lake, and boys to be schooled. Sometimes she was so tired she would set her alarm clock for a twenty-minute nap while the bread rose. Eventually Fanny the Finnish cook was hired, and was so indispensable that Catherine chose to overlook her tendency to get very drunk on beer and run off with strange men on the Algoma Central Railway.

No comments: