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.