Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Opportunity of a Lifetime

dirt sifter, like at the farm
Imagine the emotion of an early homesteader taking the long trek into unbroken bush, looking for a metal post that marked their property. It makes me shudder. Imagine hauling all your personal belongings, your life-mate and perhaps some progeny into this "opportunity of a lifetime"! Determined to make a go of things, they lifted their faces into the challenge. Build a shelter, dump the important luggage and set to work!

I was a very adventuresome snooper when I visited Baba and Dido's farm as a child, especially the bush behind the granaries. The delight of discovering little crockery dishes, a metal ring from some machine, and a wooden frame with a net of metal wires strung along the bottom (which my dad said was a sifter) gave me a thrill. Of course I thought it was strange that the flour sifter was left out near the garden edge in the bush, and instantly went about my playtime.

A couple of decades ago, the city planted quick growing poplars on our boulevard.  Over the years its greedy roots had found comfort around the warm sewer drain on the corner. That tree was the largest in the neighbourhood, and unfortunately the very last to dump its autumn leaves, a vexing habit. When it finally met its maker, the huge network of pencil or thicker strands of roots tunnelling horizontally 3-5 inches beneath the soil waited for me. Greedily sucking nutrients in the black soil, they intruded in my flower gardens. Dirt stained hands, and delighting in the smells, I took huge satisfaction from my small task of root pulling. 

I recall reading about the trembling aspen that is native to Alberta. With a tremendous amount of seeds, and regenerating by root suckering, each tree is a clone, identical to its densely situated brothers, and quickly replaced when chopped down. Any attempt to clear cut would simply maximize regeneration! How would have these acres and acres of aspen poplar bush become Pra-Baba and Pra-Dido's farm, much less a garden? 

Pulling trees, stumps and woody root strands from the damp, dark, soil would be exhausting work, and the warm season was short. Problem solving help-mates and ambitious dreamers, over the years they would eventually push the eager intruders back, negotiate a truce while filtering the soil free of offending, noxious seeds and weeds. Though some stands of trees would prevail over any human effort to clear them, people like my other grandfather had castles on the mind.  He put the stone boat to use and hauled the stones that grew up in the field to the perimeter, building an impressive stone wall around the yard. Castles indeed! An opportunity of a lifetime!

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