Once again, it’s been a long while since I posted anything to this blog. I always feel a twinge of guilt over not keeping up with things the way I used to, but c’est la vie. Perhaps I will do better in 2013.
Today, I’m writing about some interesting odds and ends having to do with the old house that I’ve been working on at Round Hill, Nova Scotia. Over the past three summers, I’ve gradually pieced together some of its history, largely thanks to my neighbours, Kirk and June Whitman. They have been such a great source of information on Round Hill and the former inhabitants of my place. A couple of years ago, June loaned me her copy of the local Women’s Institute history, “About Round Hill” by Merle Gibson. Also, a loose leaf binder filled with pages of historic house surveys for the immediate area around Round Hill. Using the survey pages, I discovered that my house had been built around 1860 by John Henry Healy (born about 1836, died 7 Dec 1894). After Healy’s death, the house passed through the hands of a long list of owners. One of these, the Brown family, occupied the house some time around the mid-1930s to mid-1940s (I don’t have the survey sheet with me so can’t give an exact date). Sometime soon, I’ll write more about the Healys, but today’s post has to do with the Browns.
One day this summer, while I was in the garden playing my fiddle, Sage raced across the yard to bark at several women who had appeared at the front gate. I was a little mystified as out-of-the-blue visitors are extremely rare at my place. I recognized one face among them – a neighbour from across the brook. She explained that the group were descendants of the Brown family. They had been in the area for a family get together and decided to search for the old family home as their mother, Marion, had grown up on the property and wrote several short stories pertaining to her experiences. The daughters wished to see the setting for these stories so that they could better envision where their mother and the rest of the family had spent several years of their lives. I led them around while pointing out some of the remnants of former buildings. Before leaving, one of the daughters (Esther) mentioned that, at some time, her mother had sketched a map of the property. I expressed interest in seeing it. As it turned out, Esther obliged by bringing me a copy when she returned in August to see the property again with her husband, daughter and friends. With Esther’s permission, the map is reproduced above. Click on it for a larger view.
Of course, the map was of interest to me as it confirms some of what I know about the property. However, it is of even more interest for the personal notes which it contains. They helped me to connect to past occupants of the property. Making use of the map, some of what I have learned from conversations with Kirk and June, and a few of my own recent photos, I would like to comment on some what I know about my place.
I’ll start with two photos of the front lawn (see above and below). Marion has noted that there are several Acacia Trees (Very Noble) in the front garden. They are Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) which is also known as False Acacia. A few elderly trees remain along the fence line of my property providing nice shade in summer. Unfortunately, quite a few succumbed to old age and their large trunks may be seen among the perennials which I planted in the front garden. In the spot where my lawn chairs sit, Marion mentions “We played croquet here, but not on Sunday!”. My flower garden is approximately where “Meg’s first flower garden of California poppies” was located. It’s interesting that there are still poppies in that area – not California, but Oriental poppies that come up along that corner of the house. The original flower garden must have become lost in the lawn as there was no garden when I first came to the house three years ago, but to me, it seemed like a natural spot as it could be seen out the front windows of the house.
I got a bit of a laugh out of one of the diagrams on the map – the four stick men located on the other side of the Boundary Fence. They are noted as being “4 Whitman boys who jeered at us after dark.” I took a copy of the map next door to ask my neighbours about some of the notations and that got a chuckle from Kirk as he did recall that he and his brothers did tease the Brown kids when they played croquet in the front garden. Kirk also remembered the large apple tree with a hole in the trunk that used to stand close to the store building below my place – the tree that Marion describes as a “Message Tree” where the Brown children would leave messages to each other. Kirk tells me that the tree is long gone.
Moving to the back yard, Marion has noted where the current drilled well is located (Mr. Patrician’s well). Also, the Plum orchard. Unfortunately, there is just one remaining plum tree (see below). It has small red plums that are not much larger than a cherry — quite good tasting. I often pick a few to eat when I’m working in the yard. The Barn on the map is no longer standing, but I was aware of it as the rotting timbers are lying on the ground with a tangle of grasses and brush over top. Marion mentions that one cow named Buffy, and a calf named Plantagenet or “Guppie for short” lived in this barn which was “not used to capacity”. The strawberry and tomato patch is roughly where I made a strawberry patch after removing a pile of rotting wood and where I had been considering making a large vegetable garden.
Moving along down to the brook (see below), once again the map is quite accurate in depicting certain features. There is a small, treed, uninhabited island in the middle of the brook. The Brown children named it “Stepping Stone Island” as it was only accessed by a row of stones. The “Deep Place” is still a deep spot where Sage and I swim. There are two spots where one can cross the brook on stones when the water level is low in summer. One of those rows of stones can be seen in my photo. The place which Marion has noted as the “Very Peaceful Place” is a little terrace about six feet above the brook – it is to the left in my photo just past the tree on the shore. I cleaned up that area in summer 2011 and made it into a place to sit and enjoy the sound of rushing water as it tumbles a few inches over the stepping stones and turns a little bend. It was nice to discover that the spot was enjoyed by someone else almost a century ago, and perhaps others long before. Esther shared one of her mother’s essays about Stepping Stone Island in which the Brown children crossed over and were then trapped over there when the tide came up the river. This was in the days before the causeway at the tidal generating plant was built at Annapolis Royal. Kirk has told me that the brook used to reverse as far as the highway bridge just down from my place. So interesting to think of people playing on the little island, and about the days when the tide was unimpeded on the Annapolis River. There is still some tidal effect, but not so pronounced as it would have been when the Browns resided at Round Hill many decades ago.
There are more notes and stories contained on the map but they would deserve more photos and explanations.
Tonight is New Year’s Eve. I’m here in Bisbee for the winter. I’ve been playing a lot of music since arriving – fiddle and mandolin. Just last week, I purchased a 90 year old tenor banjo which should be arriving soon. Larry and I started up a small celtic music night and have met and been playing with a few musicians here in town. Sage and I are doing okay. I am beginning to think about work at the old place this coming summer.
I wish all of you the best in the coming year.