I meant to add to yesterday’s story, that when Grandpa mentioned that he and his mom (Claire) travelled back home to Ontario after his dad left, that the home that they travelled from was in North Battleford SK- not a short distance.
I turned over the framed photo of Braeside and found Grandpa had written a little blurb about it. I am so grateful for those people who know enough to write the significance of an item for those of us who won’t remember all the details. Reading “lawyer scrawl” is a challenge. Often as a child when my parents would send in notes to the teacher I would be called up to the front to read them the note because they “couldn’t quite make out the handwriting”. So, if anyone sees where I’ve misread something in Grandpa’s note please tell me!
“This is a coloured photograph of the George Taylor family residence, built about 1903-04 by John Clarke and probably Len Hill. I have a picture of it under construction. It was named “Braeside” after Grandpa’s beloved Scotland (“hillside”). Grandpa had his own letterhead = Braeside, New Liskeard, Ontario on the best linen paper. I was here with my mother until I was 18 and left for college and again until I married. Grandpa Taylor died on the 19 August 1919. Grandma was the life tenant and mother the housekeeper. This picture was owned by mum.”
As soon as little Ralph was old enough, about 4 or 5 years of age, his grandparents would take him with them when they worked in their garden. They showed him how they planted the vegetables and the many beautiful flowers that were throughout the garden. So Ralph spent much time in the garden and became interested in all the life he found there. Birds were always to be found in the garden. There were many English Sparrows, Robins, Chickadees, Wrens and Blue Jays in the summer. Grossbeaks came in the winter to eat the cranberries. When Ralph was about 7 years of age, he was given a little plot of land all his own and he was shown how to get it ready for planting in the spring. He learned to spade it and rake it to get the ground all even. He learned the various ways of planting seeds like carrots, beets, and pumpkin. Potatoes were cut up and planted with their eyes still on. He also planted flowers in his garden. Snapdragons, pansies, asters, daisies, lupen and dalphiniums.
Ralph worked in his garden with his own little rake and his own little hoe. His grandparents showed him how to stretch a string across the length of his little garden and attach it to two cedar sticks, one on each end. Ralph took a third stick to draw a straight line in the soil, the depth required for the seeds. Usually about an inch or so deep. The seeds would all be dropped in at the right distances apart so they would grow up without being too crowded together. Many such lines were drawn for the different kinds of seeds to be planted.
Later he was taught how to remove all the weeds from around his plants and to water them very carefully. He diligently watched the potato plants. When potato bugs were spotted eating the new green leaves, he was taught to pick the bugs off the leaves and dispose of them in a can.
Ralph’s mother, Claire was out of the hospital and completely well by now. She worked as a housekeeper at Braeside for her father and her mother. Working in the garden was one of her favioute pass times. It was also under her supervision that the many beautiful flowers were planted around Braeside. At one time there would be as many as 500 gladioli blooming on the front lawn in every shade of red, peach, choral, yellow, and white. Cars would line up in front of the house to see the sight. The work of the large garden was getting to much for Grandpa Taylor and Claire to handle all by themselves. Grandpa Taylor was getting old and was often sick, and there was so much work to do. So he hired a man named Mr. Scott who lived just across the street from him. Mr. Scott was an Englishman who was about 60 years of age, and his job was to come and act as gardener. Mr. Scott would come over regularly to do work in the big garden and Ralph was frequently with him.
Mr. Scott had difficulty walking because his joints were very stiff. His work was very hard, digging up the soil in the spring, getting it ready for planting, and then helping with the harvest in the fall. So there were times when Mr. Scott was not smiling. He was very grouchy and not very pleasant to a little boy who was full of questions. Mr. Scott was probably suffering from a lot of pain, and it was only in much later years that Ralph understood the stiffness in his knees and hands as being what older people called arthritis, or rheumatism. Arthritis could be very painful at times, particularly when the weather was cold and damp.
But Ralph got used to Mr Scott and followed him around, and particularly watched when he was digging up the garden soil. The robins would be busy coming around looking for earthworms exposed by the digging. Ralph would often laugh when the worms resisted very hard at being pulled out of the ground. The robin with one end of the worm tight between its beak would start to pull the worm out of its hole and would have to lean way back. The worm in turn pulled back the other way to try and return to the safety of the ground. The result was a tug of war with the robin and the earthworm teetering back and forth in the struggle. Sometimes the robin would fall over backwards, almost backwards, after winning it’s prized catch. And sometimes the earthworm would escape right back into its hole again. The robin would cock it’s head and look at Ralph as if to say “the rascal got away on me”.
There were many birds nests around the garden and Ralph was interested to watch the robins gather up the worms to take to their babies in the nest. He would watch the little baby robins stretch their necks and open up their beaks as they were being fed. And Mr Scott would often stop a moment or two to watch the robins too. And occasionally he would laugh at the robins as they were fooled by the earthworms.
Everywhere that Ralph went, his dog “Doc” would follow him. Doc was a water spaniel with long, floppy ears, and he was the same age as Ralph. Sometimes Doc would get in Mr. Scott’s way, and Mr. Scott would be cross at him. But both Ralph and Doc accepted Mr. Scott and were anxious to be friends with him. They would follow him about when he was hauling different things in his wheelbarrow, and they would run little errands for him when he asked them to.