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This is the gate…

March 11, 2016

[Thus spoke the Lord:] “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”  So the Lord banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the garden of Eden cherubim and flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3: 21-22)


_DSC5392This is the gate that separates our house from the “the Farm”.

On one side of the fence lies a three-bedroom bungalow my father built, himself, back in ’78. It sits counter to the barn, surrounded by two acres of vegetable gardens,_DSC3861 flower beds, oaks and cedars, wild rhubarb, and porches, and green grass. In the summer the lawn gets cut about every three weeks (less depending on the rain).

_DSC3750There are 20 cord of firewood – next winter’s firewood – stacked against the back of the woodshed. (As long as there is next year’s firewood stacked against the wall, my mother is a happy and content woman.)


This is the western gate.

Beyond this gate lies a million acres of Ontario forest. (My family wrestles with a tiny 200 acres of it.)


_DSC3812There is a north-south creek that roughly divides the farm that comes from the 100 acre pond at the north-end of the property. The pond is fed by a much larger lake 2km from here – in the summer we often canoe up to the big lake and watch as young kids laugh and scream and dive from a low riding overhang of rocks.

_DSC4123A dozen horses now have reign over the fields, but when I was a kid there would have also been 30 head of cattle and a dozen or so wild turkeys.

The 100 year old barn – now empty (save for the horse’s hay and some old tools) – once had about 10 sows, 3-4 dairy cows, piglets and kittens, and a couple dozen chickens. Every night after school my brother and I were on chore duty – basically from the moment we got off the school-bus – until 6. By the time we were young teenagers we could clean the barn out, bring in all the cows, feed the animals and be out in about an hour. (Even faster on Friday or Saturday nights.)

_DSC3567But on regular nights, we could sometimes take so long our mother would have to come out and get us for dinner.

Young farm animals are a lot of fun to play with – especially when you yourself are only 14 and you are trying to clean out their pens – for they want to run around all giddy with delight – and so my brother and I would often waste away time playing with the little chicks, calves, colts, kittens, or, most especially with the 6-week-old piglets (imagine playing with a couple of dozen puppies, all at once!)

Sure, there were nights, when, as young boys, we hated our parents and the world for having to go down (or go home) and “do chores”. That one mid-summer day – when everyone was at the lake swimming, and drinking, when my girlfriend-of-the-time – while a total horny-toad 16-year-old, was also a little ADD, and so, if you left her alone for too long, you never knew who she’d end up fucking – those sunny teenaged kind of days – and having to come home to do chores. Life was outrageously unfair!)



_DSC3842This is the eastern gate:

Beyond this gate lies 1,000,000 acres of Ontario forest. A few house scattered here and there. A highway – a couple of miles from here – clear-cuts the forest – like a sharp knife through meat.

On a bedroom wall we have one of those quintessential pictures of the farm, taken from the air. (Almost every farm in Ontario has one.) In the picture you are sitting in a Cessna and you are looking down upon our farm – as if you were God – and you see the fields, carved and green. A few horses are scattered about. You see the red roof of the barn. The house. The green grass. But it’s the forest that takes your breath away. It just fades off into the horizon – as if it had no end – unendingly. It just goes and goes and goes…

Deer, foxes, rabbits, coyotes, wolves, bears, moose, elk, all pass this way on occasion. Not as regular as they once did – there is hardly a firefly anymore, nor a snake. My mom says she hasn’t heard a whip-o-will in more than three decades.

(There’s not even half the wildlife now as there was when I was a boy. And even then, my grandparents said the forest had already turned into a ghost from the time they were children growing up around Maynooth and L’amble.)

_DSC4255The forest and its wildlife was once so plentiful it was all considered to be little more than lumber surrounded by pests. Early explorers wrote of seeing bears and moose and deer multiple times a day. They would drop a pail in a creek and scoop out enough fish for dinner. Carrier Pigeon flocks were so large that it would take 20 minutes for a single flock to fly over any given point. But everything was based on agriculture in those days, and so the great forest was cut into a billion billions board-feet of lumber and the everything was hunted to near extinction.

Now it’s a real treat to see four young deer out grazing along the edge of the field as we did early one evening last fall. My mom is usually up before daylight. One such early morning she awoke to find a moose asleep on the lawn. She said she made coffee and just sat and watched it from the living room window. Twice I’ve had a wolf cross my path. Once while I was driving. The other while hiking the old railway tracks north of Bird’s Creek. It takes your breath away.

The creek that divides the farm, runs year round, down through this little valley as far as the Crowe River; and at our location, it usually supports two families of beavers. Every couple of years my mom has a trapper come in over the winter months and cull some of them lest they back up enough water to wash away all the valley homes. The Trapper’s name is Dale. He’s about 60 years old, and he walks through our front door like a man straight out of that movie The Revenant. There’s not a stitch of irony about him. He has never had a dental plan.

My wife, born and raised in a secular Jewish west-end Corso Italia Toronto home – with her childhood ballet lessons, her acting classes, her black belt – her joint honors degree in Classical and Religious Studies – her love of Borges, Benjamin, Nin – her academic overachiever medallions – her father a photographer – and her mother a former soldier of the pro-abortion movement – is forever picking her jaw up off the floor after Dale leaves.

He exists. He’s real. It blows her mind.

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