Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pioneering: Part 3

When Saturday dawned grey and rainy, my sister and I were tempted beyond all reason to create a queue of kids' movies for the day so we could sit in the sunroom with novels and coffee in hand. Instead, we decided to go adventuring. We chose Upper Canada Village as our destination. It took about an hour to pack up a lunch, clothes for sun, rain, and cold (it was one of those days), and the kids, and we were off.

Upper Canada Village is an historically accurate village set on 60 acres beside the St. Lawrence River. There are over 40 historic buildings, populated by interpreters in period costume living as if it was the 1860s: dressmakers, blacksmiths, farmers, musicians, cabinetmakers, a schoolmarm, and so on. The beauty is in the details; prescription glasses are made in the style of the time, baskets are handwoven, and the costumes are hand-sewn. Interpreters stroll the streets and inhabit the homes, and we are the time-travellers.

I absolutely LOVE anything to do with the pioneers: their stories, music, crafts, arts, and skills. I often say, "Imagine the pioneers!" when turning on my washing machine or using any of the appliances that today's mothers take for granted. I do wonder about past lives, because when I stepped into this tenant's farmhouse

I felt a chill of recognition; my throat closed with emotion and I had to breathe deeply to stop the tears from spilling from my eyes. It just felt like a place I knew, a familiar place...home. There was a custard pie cooling on the hearth (baked in a pot surrounded by coals); every item in the little dwelling was both beautiful and useful, with no need for superfluous decor.
Outside, her husband worked the fields; notice the lack of power lines.

If anyone out there is familiar with Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series (I tried to link it and couldn't settle on just one...there are fan sites galore, youtube videos of who people think should play the roles if a movie is made, and groups on Ravelry that attempt to recreate the patterns from the novels), you can imagine the feeling of finding oneself out of time, out of place. All else disappears: iphones, digital cameras, the internet, and current fashions mean nothing. It was so peaceful, quiet, and beautiful.
(If you HAVEN'T read the Outlander books, get thee to a library or bookstore!)

For the mamas of girls about age 11-12 or so, I HIGHLY recommend the book The Root Cellar by Janet Lunn; this is the one that sparked my passion for time-travel and historical fiction. My niece read it recently and we discussed it as we strolled around Upper Canada Village...that looks just like the Morrisey house! There's Will! Sarah was so excited to see this story come to life right before our eyes (the book is set in Upper Canada). That was a complete tangent; my passion for literature and history shines through...

What struck me most was the realisation that no matter the year, we humans all crave and need the same things: nourishing food, serviceable clothes, a safe dwelling, community, and the love of those around us. Our adventure gave this nouveau pioneer mama lots to reflect upon as we embark on a year of reduced income, continue to sort and purge our home, and raise our small children.
(having a snack in the pioneer schoolyard)

PS: A funny thing happened on our way into one of the pioneer dwellings: a woman who was coming out said "Hello!"; in the spirit of this traditional community, we replied, "Hello!"...then we realised that she was talking on a cell phone. Sigh.


  1. I've been wanting to take Ruby there for awhile now...I think your post is going to do it!! What a magical place, and pretty much right in our backyard!! I know when I think of our pioneer ancestors, grandmothers, great grandmothers, it evokes such emotion...we "ache" for simplicity, and to spend our time farming, tending, mending, nurturing...oh, if we could only go back in time! (and yes, I know it wasn't all good, but just the pure simplicity...that is what I pine for)!
    xo maureen

  2. Yup, we've been itchin' to do a similar trip. I sense a field trip on the horizon. Thank you, Homestead Girl!

  3. I love your photos, I haven't been to Upper Canada Village since I was a very young girl. I think it's time to gather the family and head out to explore! Your photos have motivated me to go :)
    My ggreat grandparents are from Dickinson's Landing, so I imagine that's pretty close to how they would have lived.

  4. looks like fun. you guys are so cute in that last photo!

  5. Wow! What a brilliant description. I also find it a moving thing to think about how life was.
    It is so true how everything is so purposeful and beautiful. Interesting the difference between a dollar store then and now.
    Maybe a trip is in order this summer.

  6. Oh! Stephanie, sometimes I think you are reading my mind when you make these posts? But, I guess that is why we all keep coming back - we are drawn to such simplicities of life and a time and way of life forgotten by TOO MANY. I am having to teach myself many things, that I wish my mother and grandmother were able to teach me.

    My DH and I lived without electricity for about a month when we first moved in together. It was a GREAT way to get to know each other intimately, and it was a truly humbling experience to live the way that we did. I only recently got a dishwasher, which has freed about a half hour of my daily time. I can't imagine being without my modern washing machine. I am betting there would be much less time for crafty goodness which enriches our lives and the lives of our children very much. (Although, I think much crafting was done during the winter months. No?)

    I was in the area a month ago and it wasn't open yet. I *SO* wanted to go. If there is a field trip in the horizon, please invite us!! Puuuleaazzeee! ;o) I have been to Renaissance Festivals when living further south and though these speak of an earlier time and a different place, I love them JUST as much. *squee*

  7. Thank you for the book recommendations--I am always looking for something to read, and I meant to read the Outlander books ages ago but completely forgot...I'll be adding them to my reading list now. My daughter also is 11 and reads books like no tomorrow--I'll check if the library has The Root Cellar for her.

    And, thank you so much for posting such lovely photos. I'm sure that if I had the opportunity to step into that beautiful farm house, I would have tears in my eyes as well.

  8. I love going to such places. My nearest favourite is Fort Steele and each time we go we get there at opening and don't leave until closing because I Just Want To Move In And Stay There Forever.

    What a beautiful realisation about our simple human needs, I often think that the sense of connection the pioneers shared in those sorts of villages/communities must be what got them through some of the very tough times.

  9. Stephanie,
    How I have enjoyed reading this post! What a wonderful place to visit!


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