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Our Children in Old Scotland and Nova Scotia
Part II - Chapter XIII - Our Mill and Workshops


IN my last chapter, in giving an account of preparations to build the barn, I mentioned I had found it better to buy instead of hiring a saw-mill, and to continue sawing on my own account. This proved a most successful venture. After sawing the lumber (Anglicé timbers and boards) for the buildings, we had plenty of work to do for our neighbours at a fairly remunerative price, and as I added a grist mill, which could be worked by the engine by simply adjusting a different belt, we were never a day idle, as the harvest begins almost directly after the season for sawing lumber is over. Grist is brought in the whole winter, so that the toll, or portion left as payment, goes a long way towards feeding our cattle. It makes the Hillfoot Farm a busy place, for there is always some order on hand at the mill, and in winter it is a curious sight to see, as soon as snow comes, the great logs being "hauled" along the road to the mill on ox-sleds. Sometimes horses are used, and the men, generally with long beards, in their (to Scotch eyes) strange winter costume—fur caps which cover their ears, long coats with leather band round the waist, high boots or larrigans, which are moccasins of undressed leather, big enough to hold several pairs of stockings, and mittens. Altogether, they look more like pictures one has seen of Cossacks than anything else. For the last few years we have had comparatively little snow, and when it comes, every man and boy, horse and ox, is busy getting cord wood (fuel) out of the woods and swamps, and hauling logs to the mills, so that the roads are alive with sleds of every description, taking advantage of the smooth snow making transit easy. At the old mill we saw most of them pass near the house. I say the old mill, for, alas! last year our beautiful mill and convenient building over it, including the joiner’s shop, was burnt to the ground, in the middle of a summer’s night, in a most mysterious way. We could not account for it, and there seemed reason to fear some unfair play, but we do not know, and so cannot say anything about it; but the loss has been very great, about $3,000 (£600 sterling). I felt that it would be better to re-build it in another situation, as the wonder was how the other buildings had escaped the slightest damage. But this time it is placed beyond all risk to them, and now the mill is thoroughly insured. I was advised to replace it, as it is a very profitable adjunct, and we had established quite a small lumber trade. Will any friends help me to pay for what is an excellent method of training and providing employment for a number of boys, as this and the carpenter’s shop always must be? Besides sawing lumber and grinding grist, we have a shingle mill, the proceeds of which are in constant demand, and pay well. Shingles are a sort of wooden slate used to cover roofs and walls. The engine also cuts all the firewood used in the houses, which is all excellent training for the boys. Everything connected with the management of wood is valuable to them in Nova Scotia.

This summer (1892) we must build a house for the sawyer close to the mill. Of course, having the wood and machinery of our own enables us to do this at less cost, but I do hope friends who have any money to spare will help those who help themselves as really we and our children do.

The joiner’s shop is never idle. In it we make all sorts of things, from ox-yokes and Dutch racks (a kind of rough farm waggon) to strawberry boxes, which the very little boys make on winter afternoons, and which sell well in the berry season. Besides these articles we make nice furniture for the houses as required—tables, benches, cupboards, varnished and otherwise, washing-stands, clothes screens, etc., etc., and do all the jobbing carpenter work required in most country houses. This is an item to consider, as we are now quite a small village. Friends who wish to save and train destitute boys and lads of good character, from ten to fifteen or sixteen years, could not, I believe, have a better opening and school for them than our farm and workshops. This, I think, is borne out by their success when they leave us.


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