Photo- Linda Seccaspina-Log House just outside Smiths Falls
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Home and Garden Before Home and Garden Magazine
When the first settlers landed on our Canadian shores, the difficulties in finding or making shelter must have seemed impossible as well as almost unbearable. Can you imagine eating and sleeping with 9 or 10 people in a one room log cabin? Everything happened in the same space, which was called “a single-pen” log cabin. It wasn’t a time where you went out and bought things for your home as everything had to be kept to a minimum. If you were fortunate enough to have your husband build “a two-pen” home, one side served as a living area and family and visiting folks might sleep in the other.
It took a lot of trees to build a cabin and sometimes they didn’t fit very tightly because trees just seem to come in different sizes.The winters were the worst, because a blazing fire in the hearth was not enough to keep the house warm while the winter winds whistled through the cracks of the logs.
Photo-Linda Seccaspina-Log Building- Bill Dobson’s farm just outside of Smiths Falls
As years went by families began to earn enough cash to purchase milled lumber from their local sawmills. By the beginning of the 20th century, many of the log homes had been remodeled and buried deep within the walls of their up-to-date house. When families finally built themselves a new home sometimes their previous old log homes were used as a part of the farm buildings for storage or to house animals.
You have to remember everything about life was extreme, with the land rocky and full of swamps. Building a home and establishing a farm was a challenge for even the most experienced farmers. Home is home, though it be homely, but the definition of the family home sure was a stretch in those days.
Photo of Stone House-Linda Seccaspina– Bill Dobson’s farm just outside of Smiths Falls
Some of the wealthier settlers from Scotland decided log homes were not good enough for them so they built their homes from stone. Sometimes it was large stones, cleared from the land, along with trees and brush during the early years of settlement. It provided a ready source of building materials, which were later quarried from bedrock outcrops.
Builders preferred to select stones, but some settlers were less discriminating in using stones for basements or barns. The imaginative use of fieldstone, however, was not taught to them in Scotland, but was developed in Ontario by Scottish masons as a response to the resources locally available. Scottish stonemasons didn’t learn to use fieldstone for homes in Scotland as most buildings were built in sandstone. What the Scottish masons did bring with them to Canada were the skills needed to fashion even the hardest stones, such as granites, into regular blocks. After all these years you have to admit they did leave some handsome buildings behind.
Of course you couldn’t have a home without a garden. With no supermarkets in sight the settlers grew most of their own food. Of course it was the duty of the woman of the house to tend to the vegetable garden and a typical settlers vegetable garden would include basic root plants such as: beets, carrots, turnips, and radishes, and leafy vegetables such as lettuce, chard, cress, and legumes. Whatever was grown in the summer was hopefully enough to preserve for winter.
Flowers were occasionally found in vegetable gardens, but most often they were grown in separate beds. These women were into edible flowers before the current food trends and varieties like nasturtium had a dual role of being edible and decorative.
I always think about the hardships and issues the settlers who immigrated to Canada had. They hadn’t even been to this country before. They just packed their bags and boarded crowded ships knowing they’d never see their family again. They made their houses of walls and beams but they also built them with love and dreams. Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts. The way we live now may be different that years ago but one thing remains the same: “there’s no place like home.”
Photos by Linda Seccaspina
Log House just outside Smiths Falls
Log Building- Bill Dobson’s farm just outside of Smiths Falls
Stone House- Bill Dobson’s farm just outside of Smiths Falls