Ken is pouring canola seed into the back of the seeder.

La Seigneurie

In the 1600s, when Quebec was known as La Nouvelle France, land was divided into seigneuries, properties under the control of a seigneur, or lord of the manor. Fields farmed by habitants were arranged in long narrow strips fronting onto the St. Lawrence River, making it easy to transport goods by water at a time when roads were few.

This drawing from Wikipedia shows the layout of a typical seigneurie. The St. Lawrence River is shown in blue at the bottom.
This drawing from Wikipedia shows the layout of a typical seigneurie. Established in 1627, the seigneurial system was officially abolished in 1854.



















Remembering this history, we planted one of the fields at Glen Villa, my garden in Quebec, in similar long narrow strips. We seeded the field two weeks ago. much later than we wanted but as early as we could due to the weather.


It's easy to see the lines of seeding.
It’s easy to distinguish the lines of seeding from the marks left by the tractor wheels and the blades of the seeder.


The field is part of Timelines, the 1.7 km/1 mile trail that explores questions about memory, identity and our relationship to the land. To create contrasting strips we used three different crops, flax, canola and barley.  To create an interesting pattern, I designed the rows in different widths.


The largest strip in the centre of the field is flax. Moving out from the centre point, the two sides are mirror images.
This photo shows only part of the design. The 30-foot wide strip shown on the fold is actually the centre of the field. It is planted with flax. Moving out from the centre, the two sides are mirror images. The numbers show my calculation of the square footage which determined how much seed of each type we needed.



We measured the field to find the mid-point and started planting there, first sowing the 30-foot strip of flax, then the 12-foot wide strips of barley on either side.


From the back of the seeder, Ken makes sure that seeds fall through as they should.
From the back of the seeder, Ken makes sure that seeds fall through as they should.



Planting the field this way is an experiment and we’ll see if the flax and canola bloom at the same time. If they do, the contrast between blue and yellow, with the tall straight tawny lines of barley separating them, should look amazing. If not, there still should be enough contrast in the size, colour and texture of the leaves to distinguish one strip from another.


We couldn't seed all the flax, canola or barley at one time because of the pattern of strips. So after sowing one seed, the seeder had to be cleaned before another seed could be added.
After sowing one seed, the seeder had to be thoroughly cleaned before the next seed was added. We had to repeat this process a dozen times or so.


Seeding the three crops in lines that didn’t overlap took careful execution. Jacques Gosselin and Ken Kelso, the two men who make everything at Glen Villa work the way it should, were more than up to the job. With Ken on the back of the tractor as a guide, Jacques kept the wheels on the right track.


Jacques and Ken seed each strip with either flax, canola or barley.
It took a few hours for Jacques and Ken to seed the field using the seeder we borrowed from a good neighbour.


I was surprised to see that canola which has yellow blooms starts with bright blue seeds.

Ken is pouring canola seed into the back of the seeder.
Ken is pouring canola seed into the back of the seeder. The compartments ensure that the seed falls in neat rows.


Flax seed which I thought should be blue is similar to the colour of barley seed, but up close the two look very different.


Flax or barley? Which is it?
Flax or barley? Which is it?


Barley or flax?
Barley or flax?  (This is barley, of course!)


We seeded the field on June 5. On June 11, only six days later, the rows were starting to show.


Thanks to several days of temperatures in the high 20sC, the seeds germinated quickly.
Thanks to several days of temperatures in the high 20sC, the seeds germinated quickly.


Next week we’ll erect the handsome wrought-iron sign, made by the local blacksmith Justine Southam, that announces La Seigneurie. And once the seedlings are well established, we’ll cut a walking path through the field. I can only imagine how splendid it will be to pass through these colourful rows and to remember the history that inspired them.

Would you like to walk through the rows as well?

La Seigneurie is part of the Timelines trail. The trail will be open to the public for the first time this year on July 20, from 9-4. When I measured it yesterday, I found to my surprise that it is not 3 kms as I had thought but only 1.7 kms, or slightly more than a mile. Walking the trail at a leisurely pace will take about 45 minutes; adding in stops along the way may double the time.

This Open Garden Day is a fund-raiser for our local community foundation and conservation trust.  Please consider making a donation even if you can’t visit the garden on July 20. To buy tickets for a morning (9-12:30) or afternoon (12:30 – 4) visit, or to contribute to this important community cause, click on this link.

  • Breed History
    In April of 2002, the Parliament of Canada passed a bill establishing the Canadian Horse as Canada’s National Horse, recognizing the breed’s fine attributes and contribution to Canadian history. The bill received Royal Assent, officially becoming law, on April 30, 2002.

    In the mid 1600’s, the “habitants” were finding life in Lower Canada quite different from what they were used to in France. Many of the landowners were nobility and knights accustomed to traveling in fine carriages. But in New France, the few roads were impassable with mud for much of the year and the only transportation was the lowly ox-cart. To ease the unrest, Louis XIV selected horses from his own stables and sent them to Lower Canada between 1665 and 1670. The King of France took great pride in the quality of horses he had in his stables which included Andalusian, Normandy and Brittany bloodlines.

    Canadian Horse: flag
    Life in Lower Canada was no easier for these horses than it was for the settlers. Not enough hay was cured for all the livestock, so horses were often turned loose to fend for themselves in the bush, only being brought in when needed for work. Over the years, the heavy work and poor conditions, along with the harsh Canadian winters, led to a natural selection in favor of the hardiest animals. The Canadian Horse became smaller and tougher, until they became known as “The Little Iron Horse”.
    The Canadian Horse bred in isolation for the next 150 years. Whatever the job was – the Canadians did it. Whether it was supplementing the oxen in front of the plows, moving goods, taking the family to church or racing afterwards, the Canadian Horse performed his duties with eagerness and stamina. Trade between the French settlements in Canada and the English settlements further south were almost non existent during this time because England and France were often at war.

    By the 1800’s, the Canadian had a reputation for their pluck and vigor. Large numbers of horses were sent to the United States for use in the Civil War and the Canadian was the preferred horse on many U.S. stage coach lines. Many of these horses were entered into the stud books of the Morgan, Standardbred, American Saddlebred and Tennessee Walkers. The Canadian Horse also served in the Boer War and was shipped to the West Indies to work on the sugar plantations. These drains on the population, along with the importation of other breeds meant that by the second half of the 1800’s, the Canadian Horse was in danger of disappearing.

    A few admirers of the “little iron horse” realized the importance of saving the breed and undertook a campaign to do just that. In 1886, they opened the first stud book for the Canadian Horse. In 1895, the Canadian Horse Breeders Association officially came into being. In 1913 a breeding center was opened on the Federal Experimental Farm at Cap Rouge in Quebec, and later moved to St. Joachim. When the federal government, occupied with the war, closed down the operation in 1940, the Quebec provincial Department of Agriculture reestablished the stud at Deschambault, Quebec. When this operation closed in 1979, the Canadian was once again threatened with extinction.

    Thanks to the efforts of a handful of committed breeders, the breed has recovered from a low of 400 registered animals in the 1960’s and 1970’s to a population today of about 6000. Once again the Canadian Horses’ strength and versatility has made it popular in both the show ring and back yard.

    In the spring of 2002, the combined efforts of Senator Lowell Murray, MPs Murray Calder and Don Boudria along with many Canadian Horse breeders and enthusiasts resulted in the Parliament of Canada passing a bill naming the Canadian Horse as Canada’s National Horse, recognizing the breeds contribution to the building of this nation.

  • The blue seeds are probably coated with something, perhaps a fungicide. Canola seed isn’t naturally blue.

    • siteandinsight

      I’m sure you are right, Kathy. Nothing is that blue naturally!

  • annewareham

    Strangely I once tried a garden of barley – historically it was grown in the locality for ale. I hope you do better than I did: total failure despite historical precedent. I suspect it’s easier to do on your rather grander scale with machinery. Though on reflection, my primitive method of trying it was also historic, nay, prehistoric! Can’t quite remember what went wrong now…. Xxx

    • siteandinsight

      Barley should do well. I’m more concerned about the flax and whether it will be totally destroyed by deer. The canola will attract honeybees so maybe the bees will deter the deer? (As if.)

      • annewareham

        Hope so!

  • Lisa Wagner

    I love the planting design. I’m not sure that the canola will cooperate, being a very early season planting crop, but perhaps the others will sync. It should be beautiful!

    • siteandinsight

      This is a real experiment. We had to wait much later than we wanted to in order to plow and harrow the field — it was simply too wet before early June. Still, I’m hoping that by July 20 on the Open Garden Day the field will look interesting. Next year we can make adjustments.

  • Would love to see this just as the grain starts to ripen. Should be beautiful.

    • siteandinsight

      I hope so. The canola is just beginning to grow so it’s possible that we will have blue, then yellow, then blue again.

  • What a great design! I’m looking forward to seeing photos of this when the grains have fully come up. (Maybe your friend with the drone will oblige again?)

    • siteandinsight

      Watching the field grow is fascinating. And yes, I think my friend with the drone will visit again!