A Farm Memoir

There were many good farms around the perimeter of Orangeville that have become subdivisions.

June 21, 2005 | | Environment

The writer, Isabelle Lightle, who now lives in Orangeville, was born in Dufferin County in 1916. She has been a member of The Maples Women’s Institute for 70 years.

Dufferin County’s landscape is surely changing as old-fashioned ways turn to technological ways.

My father, Griffith Simpson, farmed for 40 years at Robin Hill Farm on B-Line at the edge of Orangeville. Then the farm was sold to Harvey Bryan & Sons. There was a fine bank barn and white house. It made me very sad when a developer bought it and demolished the buildings. Now the water tower looms skyward above it all.

My grandfather, Rev. Joseph Simpson (1823-1907), came to The Maples, west of Orangeville, in about 1854. He was one of the longest-serving Methodist church ministers – 57 years. He instigated having the Methodist church built on the corner of the farm at The Maples.

There were many good farms around the perimeter of Orangeville that have become subdivisions. One of them was S.C.W. Hughson’s model farm on B-Line. It was there that, in 1928, the agricultural lads went to judge Shorthorn cattle. The winners were sent to help judge at The Royal Winter Fair and stayed at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto.

In spring, the first robin, harbinger of the new season, came to Robin Hill Farm and later the swallows returned to build nests in the shed and under the eaves of the buggy house. The geese strutted around as if they owned the place. Memories are made of little kittens, and baby lambs and calves splashing in the mud puddles after a rainstorm.

I remember the hay being drawn up the old gangway with a horse and big rope. Lots of crickets and grasshoppers, too. I still smell the turnips as the pulper sliced or shredded them into a big pile. I laugh when I remember my dad, milking a cow on one side, her calf nursing on the other. Today, that would be taboo.

We were always excited when Denny’s steam engine and threshing machine came chugging up the hill from Fergus Road. And when mother was baking pies in a wood stove in the hot kitchen. Most farms had a good apple orchard, made cider, grew raspberries, straw-berries and currants, and mother was the boss of the garden doings.

Men worked really hard in those days, without much fancy equipment. We farmers have come a long way. There were difficult times in the thirties and forties when butter was 19 cents a pound, eggs 15 cents a dozen, and an eviscerated goose was a dollar. They were lean years and it was difficult to pay the taxes. Then came the war and things improved, except that we lost a lot of good young men. Help was scarce, but you could always count on your neighbours, no matter what the occasion.

I must have thought farming was okay, because I married ‘Farmer Ed’ and we farmed from 1936 until 1988 when we retired to Orangeville. I still think a farm is a great place to raise a family, as the children have chores to do and are not running the streets.

We should give thanks to those pioneers who showed us the way. If you have a good meal today, thank a farmer.

To My Old House

Old broken and abandoned house,

windows gaping in the summer sun.

Where have all the people gone

who sheltered there?

Be silent! Let the memories come

bittersweet, like cobwebs,

breaking in the dew.

Remembering, small children,

lovers, parents,

sharing in the heart of you.

It’s a lifetime of happy days, sad days,

busy and sunlit hours.

And death and the blackness of night.

Old broken and forsaken house,

sleep gently.

Let the wandering spirits

slip by your doorstep

And be at rest.

 ~

Isabelle Lightle

 

About the Author More by Isabelle Lightle

Isabelle Lightle, who now lives in Orangeville, was born in Dufferin County in 1916. She has been a member of The Maples Women’s Institute for 70 years.

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