Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The road allowance

Along the edge of a field the dogs and I often walk, is a line of trees. It is littered with huge boulders and rocks that have obviously been lifted from the farm field and set aside to avoid damaging machinery.

Then there is a sort of gap. It's slightly overgrown, and on its other side (the right in this photo) there is a much larger pile of boulders and stones going in a straight line parallel to the edge of the field. It has, in many places, remnants of a split rail and barbed wire fence atop it. The dogs often clamber or leap across it into the bush on its edge.

The gap is a road allowance. When this part of Ontario was first explored back in the early 1800s, a surveyor came in and laid out all the roads, or potential roads, and property boundaries. So this road allowance is very old. It may at one time have been used by the farmer who owned the bush on the one side and the field on the other, to get from one place to another. It's overgrown in spots and trees have fallen across it.

Limbs blown down from ancient trees that are now passing, litter it in spots and make me look up. This tree is a beech that has died. There is some sort of infection that has or is killing all the beech trees of a certain size, making walking in the bush dangerous when the wind is high. It makes me sort of sad that bugs and molds from other lands brought as the world grows smaller and we have greater contact, are able to affect some of North America's native species, trees, fish, animals, plants. The price I guess of ignorance of this potential. Dutch Elm afterall came to North America in the 1930s.

When the field is planted I don't like to walk on its edges. The dogs will go with me and leap through the growing crop destroying young plants. So when I really looked at what this was I decided this would be one of the paths I would take. The dogs then either go with me along it or into the bush lot, looking for raccoons, porcupines, the scents of deer and coyote. It's not a large bush lot, but it's very pretty at all seasons. Right now it's quite fragile with tiny flowers and plants growing - fawn or trout lily, trillium, hepatica, blood root, may apple, black cohosh, herb Robert to name a few. I could go on but I've run out of  names at the moment.

If you look closely in this photograph you can see the fallen fence posts along the boulder-remains of the original boundary of the road allowance. Pale beech leaves from last fall still cling to young trees. As the older ones have died, they have thrown  hundreds of beechnuts out which squirrels have panted for them... the woodlot will rebound slowly as the old fence deteriorates. The road allowance will grow in, unless others like me, use it to walk the edge of the field and bush. It's too full of road blocks for snow mobiles and ATVs to move along, and perhaps few know it exists, just the family that owns it and a few neighbours?

One of the things I often catch myself doing while I wander around, is wondering what it was like in this part of the world before Europeans discovered it, and then when they did the backbreaking work of clearing endless forest to try to create a small farm.

The countryside is changing. Old style apple farms are being bulldozed to make way for the vine apples - 7000 acres up here. There are still large beef farms and some dairy farms, and many small farmers find themselves now renting hundreds to thousands of acres to plant crops. But it's changing. And that of course is the only constant.

Something to think about on this rainy morning. Hope you have a great day.

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