alan skeoch
Nov. 2020

Our farm is not a good  farm.   My grandparents managed to make a sketchy
living on the 25 acre farm.   They had no car…no horse and buggy…no way  to 
get to town except with their sun, Uncle Frank who owned a  neighbouring farm.
Both farms are glacial dumps.  Rubble from the Canadian Shield  pushed down
by ice two kilometres high.  Ice that scoured the bedrock making indentations in
the flat surface wherever possible.  

Those indentations filled with water when the ice sheet melted  10,000 years ago.
Ponds.  Lots  of ponds were scattered across the rock surface of ancient Ontario.
Plants eventually got a grip on the rocky soil.  The ponds became hubs for 

And eventually over the 10,000 years a great number of those ponds became
swamps…thick with spongy mosses and other watery plants.  In some cases
the pond  water totally disappeared and was replaced  by wetlands.

A third of my grandparents farm was  wetland that drained in two directions.
Some of the swamps drained into the Credit River drainage basins.  The rest,
the larger, drained into the the Grand River basin.  Lots of water.


About 20 years ago Marjorie and  I decided to hire JIM Sanderson’s family to 
bring their big excavator to open up one of the large swamps.  This was  no small
task.   Jim had to remove the plant life that had taken 10,000 years to
pile up…living plants succoured by their dead  predecessors.

The excalator got caught in quicksand  and  slowly sank into  the swamp.
So deeply that Jim’s son had to abandon the cab as the huge machine
slipped deeper and deeper into the pond.   Much excavation had  been done
successfully and the swamp was  now a pond as it had been long ago.
A  pond with a huge iron, steel and rubber dinosaur slowly sinking deeper
and deeper into what had once been a sandy beech.

“How will you get it out, Jim?”
“We’ll have to float the machine out?”
“Need to bring in truckload or two of giant timbers to encircle
the excavator then use another excavator to lift it up…a giant raft, if you will.”

The project took a long time. Days and days.  The fifth line in front of our farm
was lined with machines and  truckloads of timbers.   Eventually the excavator
was recovered.   I offered to help with the costs  but Jim would not accept help.

“We got it into this  mess, so we will get it out.”

The new pond was a bit of an embarrassment so we sort of forgot about it.
The pond was surrounded by large ancient white pines and a line of immense
spruce trees  planted by my grandfather.  The pond was invisible.

Wild animals knew that.  One summer a  bank beaver moved in and chomped down
a grove of small poplars.  It was an old beaver.  Almost tame.  But it was really dying
so we left it alone in its small watery world.  Other creatures  came and  went. A pair
of muskrats burrowed  into one bank  and have been raising  a whole bunch  of young muskrats
that we hardly ever saw.  A family of mud hens had lived in the former swamp and
now lived in the pond.  Deep dear tracks were incised  into the mud now and then.
Sadly one summer we saw a doe with a crippled fawn emerging from the piece of wetland.
 Shrubs thrived forming a veil of low life that made the pond
more and more invisible.

Just one giant spruce…felled by a windstorm…was  enough to reveal the pond  that we had forgotten.   

Then, last spring, a big windstorm brought about a major change.  The pond suddenly
become visible.  The tree carcass was down flat…we could now see the pond
clearly.   Work with the Bobcat and a  brush cutter revealed  a wondrous patch
of open water surrounded by all kinds of  plant life the had been formerly shielded
from view by  the giant spruce tree.

A wetland that we had forgotten for years was  now visible.

The muskrats were rearing a family of four in the pond.  They did not
like the improvements one bit.

alan skeoch
Nov. 2020

P.S.  Milkweed plants seem to like the pond margin.  If they have their will they will take over a wide swath and maybe…just maybe…we will get our Monarch butterflies back again.
Farmers hated  mllkweed.  Poisoned cattle.  So the plant was  condemned for years.  But now, in 2020, there are only a few cattle grazing on the Fifth Line and the milk weed
has returned.   Not as  much as in the past though.  Why?  Because corporate agriculture has  “improved” Ontario farmland  by removed so many fencerows where wild plants
and  song birds once thrived.  The same is  happening to wetlands.  They are being drained.  Not on our property though.  We are doing the reverse.

alan skeoch
Nov. 2020

P>S.  The Excavator looked like this…and  it finally rested
about deep in the pond.  How would you get it out?

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