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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was surprised to see that canola which has yellow blooms starts with bright blue seeds.
Flax seed which I thought should be blue is similar to the colour of barley seed, but up close the two look very different.
We seeded the field on June 5. On June 11, only six days later, the rows were starting to show.
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.