Hurricane Igor

Gotta keep em cool!

All that remains

All that remains (courtesy Eric Cooper)

Growing up back home, nearly everyone had a vegetable garden. It wasn’t always large enough to get enough, and some people had no luck growing certain things (I remember we could not get carrots to grow (not that that bothered me a whole lot!)), but nearly everyone tried to grow some potatoes at least to supplement the store bought.

But of course growing them meant having somewhere to keep them, and vegetables need to be kept cool. We had a pound made in the back of the basement, nice and cool and dark, and while the potatoes would get some sprouts, they generally kept all winter and were still good in spring.  Some people also kept things in cool sheds, or as they were more commonly known stores.

But others had the more traditional method of storing them, and a common site to see growing back home was a door in the side of a hill, whether natural or artificial.  People would dig out the hills, and wall them up inside, or make a walled shell and cover it with dirt that then became a hill, but whichever method you used, what you got was a root cellar.  I guess the name came from the fact that they were used to store root vegetables, but who really knows!

All I know was as a kid, they seemed kinda spooky, dark, earthy, almost like something you’d read in a book about Merlin and Arthur, and I was fascinated by them!  The picture on the left is the remains of the old cellar Uncle Hay had out on the garden.  Time and Hurricane Igor has taken its toll it seems.

They aren’t as prevalent as they once were, but still lots have them, and I even remember an article I read recently about Elliston being the root cellar capital!

Going nuts!

Beaked Hazelnut

Near Andy Marshall’s house, by Apsey Brook before Hurricane Igor pretty much wiped out the brook area, there were a few beaked hazelnut trees. We didn’t really gather them for anything, but come late summer, when their spiny husk started to dry and the brown of the shell started to show through the husk, we’d always like to go get a few for a treat.

Across the road from Random Island Academy there was also a field that we used for sports and activities, at least until the brook shifted and washed a lot of the field away.  There were many many of these trees there near the brook as well, and early in the school year we’d often go across at recess and lunch to get some.  But to be fair we mostly threw them at each other then rather than eating them.

They were much more abundant before the great squirrel invasion.  For those that don’t know, or are too young to remember, squirrels aren’t native to Newfoundland, and are only a recent comer.  I don’t think I ever saw one before my teens, maybe later.  Wikipedia says they were introduced in 1963, but if so it took a while before they became the overpopulated nuisance they are now.  In any event, most of these wild nuts seem to be consumed by them before we ever got a chance to get any.

Would make ya go nuts wouldn’t it?

Cabins in the Woods

As adults we all know the lure of the cabin in the woods, to be able to relax, no electricity, no phones, nothing but birds and relaxation.  But as boys we too seemed to have a fascination with cabins, or at least we did back home.  I can’t even begin to count how many were made over the years.

The most elaborate I remember was mainly built by my brother Keith and Lorne Patey in by the brook in Apsey Brook.  They picked a flat piece of land, that was near the woods path that went in across Uncle Ingham Smith’s garden, we just had to scramble up and down over the bank.  I really don’t remember how old we were, but I remember they knocked down logs and used as a base, and built a floor upon it.  We had a 45 gallon drum with a stove pipe coming out for a stove, and they at least ( I don’t think I ever slept there, or was allowed, or something) had hammocks hung to sleep in.  Yet my biggest memory somehow seems to be looking at our old collections of hockey cards in there.  We had many a full set all kept in special cardboard lockers that were issued for each season. I’m not sure what became of it, maybe the cabin is still there, but more likely it washed away at some point.  And if it hadn’t before, I’m sure hurricane Igor did the job on it.

The last I remember was built up in the woods behind our house, not far in, but not on any path either.  It was basically a shack with a sloped roof, but was always a fun place to go and sit and chat with friends.  I’d say that one has tumbled down long ago as it wasn’t nearly as sturdy, but it was fun, made of planks likely from Dad’s old mill, a door made for it, using pieces of rubber nailed to it for hinges, and a wooden knob pivoting on a nail to keep the door shut on the inside, and a bar and slot to keep it closed when we left.  Not that snow didn’t blow in underneath anyway!

And then of course as we got older, Barry Cooper had a great couple of cabins in Snook’s Harbour down by the water.  I can’t comment on the building of those, but they were much better built than those we built as boys. He had a big wooden table and a couple of bench seats pulled from an old car somewhere.  We’d head there and play cards, have a few beer, and generally use them as our party location.

Another fond memory of growing up.  Do kids back home still make cabins anymore? Of course there aren’t 2 or 3 sawmills in every community now either, so supplies aren’t as easy to come by.