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Survival in a Northern Wilderness: A Mother's Story-- Part XXVI

Violet’s boys took jobs guiding tourists during the summer, however, the girls were not allowed to participate in any work outside the home, their dad would not allow it, but that didn’t mean they didn’t work. With the girls help, Violet put up quarts and quarts of jams, jellies and preserves,an they processed jars and jars of pumpkin to make pies with in the winter. The boys dug a cellar and put up shelves so Violet could store their jars of canned meats, vegetables and fruits. Orrah Jr. seemed the most interested of the children in helping with the garden. He helped Violet plant potatoes and a large bed of ever-bearing strawberries, he helped her dig drainage ditches all around the garden, and he even made boardwalks so that there would not be any dirt or sand brought into the house. All the children took part in hauling in dirt and rotten leaves to enhance the soil. Violet’s boys continued to cut down trees and uprooted the stumps to enlarge the garden and Violet could have a bounty even when it was so dry others couldn’t, because Orrah Jr. rigged up a pump so that one of his sisters could handle a hose and spray the garden while the other girls would hand pump the water. The boys set up empty gasoline barrels in each corner of the garden so the Violet and the girls could use sprinkling cans to water the new seedlings. There were occasions when great swarms of caterpillars, known as army worms, would invade, devouring every green leaf in sight, but Violet’s garden was fantastic. Violet notated that the army worms ate all the leaves from the trees all up and down the Canadian and American sides of the lake, but not her garden as the boys sprayed kerosene all around the edges, she further opined that “wow, but they were terrible”. Violet had an entire hillside planted in flowers that the army worms longed for but it was given the kerosene treatment and they stayed away. Her flower bed was just above a plateau on the banks of the Falls River and was about fifty yards long. Violet took pleasure when American tourists came around the bend of the River and in her words “they couldn't believe their eyes." They marveled at the tall corn, tomatoes, squash, pumpkins and Violet opined “you name it, we had it.” Naturally, when the tourists came to fish in front of their house, Orrah would invite them all to come and dine with them. They never left hungry and were always commenting on the unexpected superb bounty.

The girls began to take over more and more of the chores around home which allowed Violet to keep up with the mending and sewing. Orrah began to harp at Violet to go out on the trap line with him. Outside of going to Fort Frances once in the winter, she stayed home with her children. By this time the boys had built a log cabin over her root cellar and they had it all fixed up, complete with twelve inch wide White Pine flooring boards, that they had planed using a gasoline powered planer; she enjoyed the comfort and warmth it provided. Orrah Jr. hewed the logs flat with a broadaxe so that they could put up a frameworks on the walls to be covered with hardboard and then papered. All the kids were living in the new log cabin, with the girls having their own bedroom right off the kitchen. The kitchen had a large camp cook stove that a commercial fisherman from down the lake had given them. Wes rebuilt the firebox with brick and it had a huge oven, Violet loved it. The stove could take wood from four to six inches in diameter and it held heat for hours, it had a large griddle big enough to make a dozen large pancakes and that is what she needed because in Violet’s words “the boys could put it away”, “venison steaks and Elnora’s sourdough hotcakes melted in your mouth.”

Orrah again began harping at Violet more and more to go out hunting and trapping with him. He pointed out that the girls could take care of things, like finishing up canning and painting the house. Even though she still had to cut and haul firewood out of the woods, the girls agreed.

Next up, Violet agrees to go out with Orrah for a month at which time they would come back after Fall freeze-up. Orrah nearly perishes.

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