THIS ENERGETIC FARMERETTE EVEN CLEARED STUMPED LAND
DOROTHY G. BELLJanuary151923
THIS ENERGETIC FARMERETTE EVEN CLEARED STUMPED LAND
WOMEN and THEIR WORK
DOROTHY G. BELL
I LED a wonderful life on my British Columbia farm. It was selfish but perfect. The absolute freedom is
what appealed to me most in living alone. And those B. C. mountains—how they grip one!”
Ruth Eden’s blue eyes, shapping with enthusiasm, seemed to reflect the indomitable spirit of the sparkling, snow-capped peaks of which she spoke. Then she plunged into the story of how she worked her way across Canada, acquired six and one-half acres of heavy timber land in British Columbia and for two years operated it successfully as a farm.
“Strapped to the world, I was, when I landed at Montreal three years ago,” she said. “It took every cent I had to make the crossing from England. There was nothing else for it. I had to have a job and I couldn’t afford to be particular. I took the first thing that offered, winch was a job as a general servant in a private house. I Hadn’t a notion about this sort of thing and it was a bit rough on my employer, but I managed.”
The pluck and determination with which she “managed” that about which she “hadn’t a notion,” perhaps was the secret of her successful march across the continent, which led her finally to victory over the standing army of trees and stumps she found on the farm in B. C.
“Every time I think of my charring experience now,” chuckled Miss Eden, “I get a good laugh out of it, for it was_ no fun while it lasted. I was ‘general’ without a doubt. I scrubbed and washed and dusted and cooked. I ‘did’ upstairs and downstairs and between times I put on a little lace cap and served tea. It was a means to an end, otherwise I should never have been able to stick it.”
In three months Miss Eden had earned enough money to leave Montreal. She went to Ottawa and found clerical work at the Experimental Farm. Before she had been there long she had set her heart upon the seemingly impossible goal of owning and operating a farm of her own. With this in view,” she gave all her spare time to the study of farm work and before long was able herself to engage in the actual work. Though she studied farming from every angle, she gave particular attention to poultry.
She is a Hired “Man”
AFTER months of experimental work Miss Eden finally left Ottawa and found a job on a small farm outside of Toronto, where she put her learning to practical use. Because she applied for the job of “hired man,” she did the ploughing, milked the cows and took charge of the poultry; because she had the misfortune (in this case) to be a woman, she was asked to do the cooking, wash the dishes and look after the farm house; because she had driven a tender for the R. F. C. overseas, during the war, she was expected to act as chauffeur for the farm truck and touring car. The keen sporting spirit which led Miss Eden to tackle this “three in one” job, as she termed it, is illustrated by an incident which she told while talking of her Flying Corps work.
“I was sent out with four men to pick up a wreck, which took us a great deal longer than we expected. In fact we were on the job two days. Being quite unprepared for such a long stay, of course we ran out of ‘smokes.’ There was just one cigarette left. I was the only girl, so I was allowed the privilege of lighting up
and having the first puff. After that we each took turns at the moist fragment!” _ After earning enough at the Ontario farm, Miss Eden went straight out to B.C. and arrived at the Coast with enough money left to make the first payment on a farm, near Sooke, B.C., on Vancouver Island. Out of six and one-half acres only two were cleared. The rest was in uncut timber and big stumps. This
energetic farmerette was wise enough not to worry about this part of it. Instead she concentrated on her poultry right from the start and assured herself of a living from them, while she tackled her bigger and more uncertain problems The hens carried the farm financially through its first struggles.
“It amazes me to think how green I was in those first days,” laughed Miss Eden. “For the first few weeks I nearly froze to death and lived on bread and jam, because I couldn’t light a fire. I had always been accustomed to coal. I didn’t have any and it just simply did not occur to me to go into the bush and cut. wood. I couldn’t have done it if it had, because I didn’t know how.
“Once that first winter—just once—I scrubbed my bedroom floor. I lathered it
beautifully all over with soap and before I could get it off it froze. I skated to bed for several days afterwards!
“My house was not the log cabin I expected to find,” she continued, her tone inferring that she was disappointed at this. “Instead it turned out to be a low, rambling bungalow, with a cheerful living room and huge fire-place. It took rather a lot of cleaning up, but the inside was easy. I must admit though that the outside bothered me some.
“After I had my hens paying well, I got a cow and made butter for market. Then my strawberries and small fruits began to come along and by the time I got ready to clear up the rest of the land I was already busy. But there was ‘Bill.’ He was my horse. Without him I should never have been able to get anywhere. He was such a darling, and how he could pull stumps! I employed a man for two days to show me how to clear land and then I turned the problem over to “Bill”. My only part of the work was to hitch him to the stumps. Sometimes he would almost lie down in his efforts to pull out those stumps. If he couldn’t move them one way he would another, and they always yielded in the end.
“Everytime I got hard up I used to borrow a neighbor’s horse, put ‘Bill’ with him and go teaming for the municipality. And then ‘Bill’ was always so willing to be ridden into the village for things at night after he had worked all day He was a good sort!”
UNDOUBTEDLY “Bill” was, but the fact that Miss Eden is a horsewoman may have had something to do with his eagerness to please. Her natural sympathy, understanding and love of horses enabled her to make a success of the breaking of unmanageable army horses at a remount station in England during the war.
“The men never used to be able to give their mounts the time that was needed to gentle them. A horse will do anything, almost, that you want it to do, if you give it time.” Then as though to illustrate her point, she told about a horse she was given to “school,” who refused to jump. _ .
“The men said he could not jump, she said, “and I was beginning to believe it.
He simply could not be made to tackle the lowest hurdle. One day I was running him through the New Forest, when quite suddenly a big buck leaped out of the thicket right into our path. It seemed to me that a collision was inevitable and my feet were already free of the stirrups,for I was sure we would both be thrown. Instinctively , I ‘lifted’ my mount, as I had done vainly so many times before. To my amazement he rose gallantly and cleared the buck by several inches. I never had any trouble with him after that.”
In the middle of her stump-clearing process, ill-health came to impede Miss Edén’s progrëss and for several weeks she was an invalid with neuritis. After she came out of the hospital, she ploughed whole-heartedly into her work again, and in spite of the fact that she did not wholly recover from it during the whole of her stay on the farm, she carried on the heavy work.
As «though that were not enough to contend with, she twisted her back, which was still weak as a result of an accident in a munition factory, where this “Jill-ofall-trades” once held another war-time job. So badly incapacitated was she this time that the heavy farm work was impossible for her, and so at the zenith of her success she was forced to give up the farm.
“One can manage with a bit of neuritis,” she said, “but—well, having done in my back, I just had to give it up,” and Miss Eden would have you think that that iß all there was to “giving it up.” It was not possible, however, to have spent two years on the Vancouver Island farm, with “Bill,” the cows and the chickens,
without experiencing some pangs at having to leave it all,
She’ll Be Back
“T DO rather hate tó go,” Miss Eden A confessed. “Ireally did not know just how that country had me by the heartstrings, until I began to think of leaving it. When I first went to B. C. I thought ‘how can I live here?’, and then, quite gradually, I came to love it—and now I simply must go back to it, that’s all. My ranch is up for sale but I just couldn’t bear the thought of losing it, so just the day before I left, I dashed around to all the agents with whom I had listed it and tacked another thousand on to the price, it was a good price in the beginning and I don’t think it will sell now.”
Miss Eden refuses to acknowledge that she has made a success of farming.
“It’s not succeeding when you don’t stick, is it?” she asked, but I assured her that it was.
After her two years of farm work, Miss Eden is enthusiastic about farming for women. “The general farming such as I tackled,” she says, “is too heavyfor girls, but I believe that there is a great future for women who take up modified farming. For instance, bulb-growing, and beekeeping are a profitable business if properly handled, and I think that many girls are specially adapted to this sort ofwork.”
With a vast love in her heart for Canada, born of her experiences here, Miss Eden sailed a few days ago for England. Her plans include the study of bees and bulbs, so that on her return to B. C., which she declares will be as soon as possible, she will be able to specialize on this branch of farm life.
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