The Farm in Beaver Cove

How would you describe a magical place in the countryside where you spent your summers and everything was perfect. Could you call it your paradise on earth?

This photo was taken pre 1935. Back row L-R Sadie Lynch, Joe Ts. sister and his aunt Ann. Middle row L-R  his uncle John, Will Lynch and a Rev. Lynch possibly his brother. Front row Derrick MacDonald and the Lynch Family children. This is the front veranda of THE FARM

Beaver Cove was a magical place for us when we were children. During the 1940s dad and mom would announce we were going to “The Farm in Beaver Cove” and the excitement began. Mom would pile in the groceries and goodies and we would pile into the car and take off. At the turn off for Boisdale we would enter the gravel road and drive for almost an hour as the road was not the greatest.

The MacMillan family would have traveled to the store at Boisdale in a carriage similar to this during the period from 1860 to 1935.

Once we passed the village of Boisdale we began to watch for familiar terrain. We had a contest  to see who would see the farm first. Just past MacDonald’s brook all eyes would be focused. “I see it” would be heard and sure enough we would soon turn into the driveway, crest the first hill, cross the little bridge that crossed the small brook on the flats and get to the gate. Once opened, dad would gun the engine with our little voices helping, and up the driveway we would go. If it had rained recently a little skidding would take place but we would get there eventually.

This was the store in Boisdale where the MacMillans would travel to to shop for their necessities on their wagon. This photo must have been taken around 1920.

Spectacular Setting  

The house at the farm in Beaver Cove was situated on the hill about 700 yards from the highway, with a fantastic view of St. Andrews Channel of the Bras D’or Lakes. Four miles across the beautiful water lay the Island of Boulandrie. Down on the lower hill to the left was the home of Roddy Nicholson with his forge to the right of the house. Further to the west was the farm of Little Mick MacLean. To the east on our right was the home of Angus MacPhee. It was near the highway. Running from east to west just the other side of the highway was the CNR railway.

The fields below were still free of bushes but were starting to show the results of about 15 years of neglect. Our grand uncle John and grand aunt Anne had passed away in the 1930’s and the FARM had been in name only since then.

The orchard in front of the house had huge apple trees that produced wonderful eating and baking fruit. A water well lay just below the orchard.

Not much remains of the old barn now. The round thing shown here in the rubble is the cover of the container that was used to insert into the dry well to keep the food cool during the summer.

A few yards to the west of the house stood the barn. Opposite the barn on the upper side of the driveway nestled amid the huge poplar trees was the biffy or outdoor toilet. Up a few yards behind the house were a few very large poplar trees and behind those stood an old barn that was in it’s dying days. To the east of the house there was a dry well.

The Farmhouse

Lying in the center of all of this stood the farm house. It was painted white with blue trim. At the back door was a slab of sandstone for a step. On the right stood a rain barrel that gathered the run off from the roof.

Entering the house you were in the kitchen. It was painted gloss white with red trim. A large stove (not the one pictured here but similar)  dominated the kitchen and there were cabinets everywhere. A large table with chairs was near the wall. The stove had a warming oven above it. It was round and had two doors, one on either side to allow access for baking breads and cakes. There were kerosene lamps sitting on small shelves here and there around the house.

The Living Room Was Warm and Friendly

Enter the large living room at the farm in Beaver Cove and the first thing you saw was a beautiful old gramophone cabinet complete with a well worn “Pop Goes The Weasel” record sitting on the turntable. No electricity here, just turn the crank on the side and you create magic. Do you want to hear it faster? Turn the crank more. To the right of the machine was a little box holding a well worn softball and packs of playing cards. We played with that ball so often that the stuffing came out of it in a cloud of dust. Eventually the cover fell to pieces. 

A big table and some easy chairs sat in the centre of the room but on the far side of the room lay a stunning couch. It was unique. The couch itself was upholstered with black horsehide. Rising from the left were a frame of cow horns and they diminished at the right end. It was a striking antique. Where this piece of furniture came from is unknown at this time. It was old in the 1940 era.

In the center of the room to the left was a stairway to the upstairs bedrooms. Under the stairs was an alcove with a battery operated radio sitting on a shelf.

The boards of the steps to the upstairs creaked as a person headed upstairs. The floors were made of wide boards. So were the walls and ceilings. There was almost no space between the boards. That was amazing. The boards must have been extremely well dried before the craftsman cut and planed them by hand and fitted them together. If not they would have dried in place and shrunken.

 

Another door on the front of the room led into a small room that exited both to the front veranda seen here in the photo on the left. The other door led back to the kitchen.

The Upstairs Layout

Upstairs there were 3 bedrooms.  Actually at the head of the stairs was an open room with two beds. To the right on the front was a closed bedroom. On the west end was another bedroom but this room was not as well finished as the rest of the rooms. Each room had a chamber pot similar to the one in the photo here.  These were needed if a person needed to use the bathroom overnight.

Outside the back door at the rear of the house there was a huge field. Hanging in the trees near the house was a swing that received a lot of use.

The dry well at the farm was stone lined and reached a depth of about 25 feet. Suspended from a rope was a large galvanized bucket with a cover. This was the refrigerator of old. Butter, milk, meat and extra baked goods were placed here where the temperature was a constant +8 C

Scattered here and there in the field were rock piles. The stones were picked from the field over the years prior to planting. A couple of these piles were used as dumps for household cans and bottles. Once we were shown how to safely fire a gun we would set up these cans and bottles for target practice.

The Carriage House

This building was near the main house. It had a pair of doors to the south for ease of entry for the carriage wagon access. On the side facing the house there was a door which led to the root cellar where the winter supply of meat, fish and vegetables were stored.

Around the inside walls of the carriage house were workbenches and there was shelving fixed here and there on the walls. This area was used to fix things that needed it and there were parts of lamps, various spray cans for insect control and some tools for doing repairs.

A stairway led to an upstairs where there was a large hand operated loom. In its day it would have been used to create cloth for people to wear. The loom was framed heavily and possibly was created from a pattern or kit because it was too large to get it up to the room in one piece.

Arriving at the Farm in Beaver Cove

Once the house was open and the supplies were brought inside we would be required to go to the well for water for the stove water bin. Drinking water would be brought in from the rain barrel. This water was great for hair washing and drinking it was a treat for the taste buds. Perishables would be lowered down into the dry well.

Now we boys headed out to explore. First we played ball in the field. Isabel would sometimes out hit us and of course not to be outdone the game would go on forever until the boys won.

We would soon head for the shore of the lake. Once there we would swim for hours in the salt water. The lake was unpolluted and perfect for swimming.

Roddy Nicholson Forge

Roddy was a bachelor and had a forge on the next property where we loved to go and visit him. He was a very kind and generous man and a good blacksmith and carpenter. He always had time for us kids. One thing he loved to do was, once he would see or hear us coming for a visit, heat up a piece of steel red hot and spit on his anvil. As soon as we got to his door, which was always open, he would place the hot steel on the drop of spit and hit it with the heavy hammer. It would let out a terrific bang and give us a big scare. He would laugh his head off. This photo is from the book To The Hill of Boisdale by Fr.A J MacMillan 

Things I Also Remember  

Adam Boyd was a traveling salesman who sold Fleischman’s Yeast for a wholesale company in Sydney. The company also sold candy. Every weekend he and Hilda would arrive at the farm in Beaver Cove with their little dog Laddie, a Boston Bull Terrier. Adam would place a box of Caravan candy bars under the front veranda through a small hole. It was strange that the box would be empty every weekend. Of course he knew who was eating them and would replace the box with a new one. Those bars were really tasty. We also had plenty of candies around the house all courtesy of Adam.

As I mentioned earlier, this was the era before electricity was available. Lighting was by way of kerosene lanterns. Every evening before dark the lamps would be readied. We trimmed the wicks and cleaned the shades. The lamp for outside was heavier and strongly made and had a handle. These were needed if it was dark and someone had to use the biffy.

The apple trees in front of the house were great for climbing and the apples were amazing.

Electrical storms were beautiful, especially at night when the entire sky would erupt and the rain would pour down in heavy sheets. I loved to watch the storms as long as they were around.

I loved to walk the wagon trail that ran out to the rear of the property. Deer, rabbits and squirrels were everywhere and could be seen during every walk.

We loved to fish trout at MacDonald’s brook. After doing so many times we got to know exactly where small trout would be hiding.

The Front Veranda

It wasn’t huge, but the veranda was a magical place at the farm where the family spent many hours just hanging out on warm evenings. No radio or television or computers and certainly no IPODS. The view of the countryside and that glorious lake was all we needed. On weekends Adam and Hilda and Hec and Winnie MacMillan would arrive and they would tell jokes and stories while we kids listened attentively. The sun would go down to the west and the lanterns would be lit. A Cribbage game would be ongoing. Adam would try to get the battery radio going, usually without success. The veranda was the stage if you will. It was a wonderful era. Simple. Uncluttered.

Mike’s Special Memories

Mike reminded me of the great times we had by rolling down the hill in front of the house in a large rain barrel. The ground wasn’t exactly smooth and that when we hit the fence at the bottom we ended up in a wet swampy area. We did so many times until the barrel was a total wreck.

Further to this Dad offered our services to Angus MacPhee who lived on the farm to the east next door to us. Angus needed help bringing in the hay. Mike and I worked all afternoon in the heat and he kindly gave us each a nice cool glass of buttermilk as a “treat”. YUK. Angus was a disgruntled so and so who was not a nice person at all.

Probably around 1947 Dad and his friend Dave Bagnall decided that they wanted a place of their own and approached Roddy Nicholson and asked to buy the land at the shore. From that request grew the summer cottage appropriately named “Shadyvale“. From then on we went to Shadyvale instead of the farm in Beaver cove.