Joseph Betts chose well when he pioneered Northumberland’s shore;
From brackish marsh and tidal flats
Bountiful in fish, clams, ducks and geese,
His clearing yielded fertile fields up to South Shore’s red dirt road
Which hugged pine-clad cliffs to Rocky Point
And ferry to market at Charlotte Town.
His land rose back to higher pastures and woodlands for the winter fires
And timber to build his farmhouse, barns and byres.
The farmhouse sheltered generations, withstanding
Winter gales and creep of damp and louse;
Until replaced beneath the crest,
With a two-story dormer, trimmed,
Her wood-shingled sides in beige-rust, two- tone.
A century passed with sale and land consolidation,
Manicured emerald green replacing crops and pasture,
Sea- breezed flags now beckon the properly attired to seek a hole- in-one,
Carts align to make the fairway run across the Cumberland Road,
At what cost in natural diversity to fill an economic chest?
The farmhouse stood alone upon its rail-fenced acre patch to face the bulldozer,
Yet another parking lot for Joni!
But this could not be for Steve and Snow despite the risks and challenges unknown!
Lifted and foundationed, gutted, foamed, rewindowed to a façade of proportion,
Tan painted, white trimmed, resplendent with pink door!
Her life renewed, she keeps her perpetual watch over the glories of sunrise and set,
The moon’s wax and wane over shimmering evening waters.
Her watch extends from Hillsborough Channel into Charlotte’s Harbour
Across the Bay past the light of Prim and the slumber of St Peter’s Island,
To Nine Mile Creek from where mussel tenders ply to pluck the harvest of the Bay,
Further beyond the tidal bar towards the Argyll Shore
And the distant Windsor salt mines of Nova Scotia.
The vision and the landscape of old Joseph Betts may be gone,
Still lowing of the cattle and barnyard pungence waft upon the breeze,
Salt hangs in the mist and seaweed tangs the air with the tide,
The gulls align the fairway where once they mobbed the plough,
The fox still crosses Cumberland Road beside the creek,
And Harris House stands proud and grand,
A testament to history and love for this peaceful land.
Bryan Douglas Cook 26 August 2011
Context for PEI Farmhouse
Snow Harris works at Robin’s Nest Antiques at New Haven, PEI. We have been customers and friends for two years and in August of 2011 she invited us to join her and her husband Steve at friends for a social night of music and recital. I wrote this poem for that night to celebrate their successful and loving reconstruction of a century old PEI farmhouse close to where we stay near Nine Mile Creek for our holidays.