ON THE FARM: Shifting sands of the farmstead

Glenn Ells
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By Glenn Ells

Ever since I can remember, there has been a spot just north of our farmstead that has always been called “the sandhill.” North of there is an area of sandy, loam soil that Grandfather, and his descendants, always referred to as “the mowing field.” Then comes a steeper hill with lots of clay soil that we call, strangely enough, “the clay hill.”

The “sand hill” was formed away back, according to the geology course I was once was exposed to at NSAC, when a river flowed through this valley and deposited fine particles near it’s banks and coarser stuff on the river bottom, including sandbars.

I can imagine that before the “mowing field” was cleared for arming, the sandbar had to be fitted with a road to open up the area for travel by the oxen, horses and men who changed the land from forestry to farming. I’d never thought much about what a job that must have been using the hand tools until yesterday when a bulldozer was working on the site! Over the years, much of the sand has been removed, leaving a ridge along the edge of the mowing field farmland and a depression we now call  “the sandpit.”

The dozer was pushing the ridge into the pit to improve air drainage on the field, which we are preparing for the planting of grapevines. The tile drainage system will,  hopefully - if this great, warm weather continues – be installed next week and the outlets will be into the pit.

One hundred years ago next spring, when the sandpit was still a sandbar, Dad’s brother planted an orchard there before enlisting to fight in the First World War. He was killed – cannon fodder – in France in 1916 and never got to see those apple trees produce. Yesterday, I was thinking about all these things as I watched the last traces of Uncle Glenn’s orchard site disappear as we prepare for the establishment of another fruit growing enterprise. I hope he would approve.

Geographic location: France

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