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Page Index of Forest to Field Volume One
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good for the table, as they generally have a fishy flavour. But the teal, of which there are two varieties, the blue and green-winged, though the smallest of the ducks, seldom weighing more than a pound or a pound and a half, are the best of all the varieties for quality, their flavour being simply delicious.
The soil of Manitoba is fertile in the extreme, and in the early summer the luxuriant growth of the various grasses, with innumerable wild flowers and beds of the strawberries, conduce to make the landscape very beautiful. We have quite a variety of excellent wild fruits of which large quantities are preserved for winter use. There are the .strawberry, saskatoons, cherry, currants, gooseberry, raspberry, cranberry and thimbleberry. Also large copses of the hazelnut. Among the wild animals I may mention moose, elk, rabbit, wapiti, wolf, fox, badger, skunk, muskrat, mink, marten, gopher, squirrel, chipmunk, and weasel. And of wild birds we have the turkey, goose, prairie chicken, (a variety of grouse), partridge, ducks, water hen, snipe, plover, loon, crane, hawk, owl, blackbird, soldier-bird, sloe (show or slow) bird, woodpecker butcher bird, chick-a-dee, and several other kinds of small birds.
The butterflies are very numerous and very beautiful.
We have our old friend the house-fly, identical with the English variety and dreadful to narrate, we have that insatiable little pest, the mosquito. He is a veritable plague on new settlers for about six weeks, should the summer be wet, but during a dry season they are always scarce; and whether those long resident get used to them I don't know, but certainly the old settlers and the Canadian born don't appear to mind them a bit. We have some beautifully marked and quite harmless snakes; also newts and frogs; but the earthworm so common in England, is quite unknown.
As regards to the climate, I have already said it is very healthy. It is an extreme climate. In summer the ther mometer will often be away up to the 90° and 95° in the shade, but it is not nearly so oppressive as that in England. The air is nearly always dry, and however high the temperature maybe through the middle of the day, we invariably have a cool and refreshing breeze in the evening. Once or twice last winter we had the ther mometer down to 56° below zero, this is 88° of frost, a temperature which I suppose would be simply intolerable in England. But here if we have our extremities protected with cap, mitts, and socks we experience no in convenience however low the temperature may be. I have slept soundly and comfortably at night, having somewhat less than a dozen blankets on the bed, although in the morning my beard has been fastened to the pillow, the moisture from my breath having frozen and fixed them together. The only time we really feel the cold is when the temperature is 10° or 20° below zero and a wind is blowing. When it is below 20° it is invariably calm and the sun shining brightly and we say to one another "what a beautiful day!"
Meat requires no salting to keep it in the winter, we simply hang it up in an outbuilding and it freezes into a solid block so that a knife is useless to cut it, but an axe and saw have been used. Bread frequently freezes during the night and we put a loaf in the oven to thaw out while
the kettle is boiling. We use ice or snow water in winter for washing, cooking and tea water.
Now a word as to the people, The Canadian is straight forward, but "cute", fond of trading, industrious, hospitable, bold and law-abiding. He evidently considers himself as generally superior to the Englishman. He wields a Canadian axe with consummate skill, and his felling a tree and chopping it up into cord wood is a marvel of dexterity, and worth the emulating of even a late prime minister of the British Empire.
We find the Indians a very quiet and inoffensive people. We see very little of them near us in the winter, but in summer, we frequently have parties of them along our trail, hunting ducks, or gathering wild fruit. They belong to the Blackfoot tribe and come from the Rolling River Reservation. They are clad in native costume, moccasins, blankets, feathered head-gear, etc. They walk in without ceremony, asking usually for bread.
The whole of this part of the country was a forest. The handling of the heavy timbers in some cases prematurely aged the men, but others were apparently none the worse for the hardships they had endured. Their fathers had been weavers or factory workers or tailors. When they reached the new settlement, the immigrant house or later the hotel operated by Mr. Hemmingson was the only place where the immigrants could be housed. There they stayed until they went to live in the forest, the men at once felled a few trees and put up a rough shanty or lived in earth houses, not made of sod, but dug into a bank. There they lived and for two or three years their privations must have been very great.
Frequently they had to walk to Minnedosa twenty miles or more for a bag of flour, coal oil and the inevitable snuff, and carry it back on their shoulders. We heard their stories of shanty life, when the wife stayed at the farm with the children to take care of the cattle, probably only one cow. The husbands and older sons went out to help during harvest then later into the bush camps until spring. The woods sheltered them from the wind so they never knew how extreme the weather in the open could be.
A walk through willow bunches, wild peas and vetches intermixed with flowers which were growing most luxuriantly is delightful.
Log houses, were whitewashed inside, with the upstairs having to be reached by a ladder and the flooring was very imperfect. Some of the men put up bachelor's shanties and in these the families had to live. Salt pork was the only attainable meat during the summer.
August 19 we had our house-raising. It was a lovely day and eight of the neighbours arrived about nine o'clock, two of them bringing their wives, who had kindly promised us their help in the domestic arrangements, it all being so new to us.
The men were all good axemen. Four took the corners while the others raised the logs as they were wanted and when the building was several feet high, I could not help admiring the clever way in which they stood on the logs and chopped with as much ease as when on the ground. Each log is let onto the one below it, dovetail is the term used to describe this particular type. The houses are made with a gable at each end, and a ridge pole across. They