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Springtime

Early life in the rural community was greatly influenced by the changing seasons. Spring on the “Ridge” and elsewhere in the country brought muddy roads, often axle deep, and the annual freshet along the Saint John River and other streams. As the warm spring sun melted the snow covering the fields and forests in the headwaters of the Saint John, Macnaquac and Keswick the water level raised and the ice crashing and grinding its way broke loose. During high water, damage to the occasional old shed or barn on the low Keswick Islands was offset by the fertilization of the island fields by a thin layer silt left behind as the water receded promising a rich crop of hay to sustain hungry cattle through the following winter.

After the water receded expeditions were organized to pick the flavourful succulent fiddlehead greens which pushed their way up through the silt covered leaves and grasses of the islands and banks of the Saint John and Keswick rivers.

With the spring the gasperau and salmon return to the river. They were caught with nets placed across the mouth of the Macnaquac. Later trout and perch were caught in the streams by young anglers.

The warm sunny days slid frosty nights of early spring started the sap flowing in the maple trees. Syrup and maple sugar were produced on the Ridge farms. Those who did not have a sugar camp of their own often made a pilgrimage to some camp each spring. The hospitable maker of maple sugar often fed his visitors maple candy - made by pouring boiling hot thickened syrup on the clean snow where it hardened into a chewy mouthful.

While the land was drying other preparations for the summer were underway. Sheep were being sheared of their thick winter coats.

The farm women washed and combed the wool to remove straw and other foreign material. It was dried by spreading it out on the grass under the warm sun. At first the wool was carded and made into rolls to be spun at home. Later it was bundled into packs and taken to the carding mill operated by the Jewett family at Jewett’s Mills. There, at Harve Jewett’s mill it was made into rolls of soft fibres about an inch in diameter. The rolls were again wrapped in burlap squares and pinned with thorns. Every home had a spinning wheel and loom. These were constantly busy throughout the year spinning the rolls of wool into thread and weaving it into cloth.