This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Are there any readers of the Gardener's Monthly who would like to know how life goes on up here under the fir trees? There is plenty to do as any one will believe who will make an estimate of the labor of disposing of a growth of timber standing thickly on the ground, and much of it two hundred feet and even more in height, with a heavy growth of underbrush. Few trees are chopped down. They are "fired" at the base by boring holes and inserting fire, and when they fall, are separated into lengths for logging in the same way.
A little patch is cleared here and there at first where circumstances favor, and grass sown between fallen logs, and in all open places, to furnish pasturage.
There are mills, but not enough to supply all with building material, and many claims are taken where there are no roads, and houses are built without a foot of sawed material in them. A tree of straight grain is selected, and every part of the house is split out, with more or less care, according to the taste and skill of the builder. Ours was more carefully built than most, the sides being covered with shingles exactly like the roof.
But can any one imagine the isolation of winter's life on a homestead in these ends of the earth? In summer the climate is agreeable sometimes rather too dry for vegetation, but never excessively hot. Then we are occupied with the usual cares of life on a farm, and if we have leisure, do not mind a walk of even two or three miles to visit a congenial "neighbor." There is Sabbath-school and occasional preaching at the little school-houses here and there, and people meet together with hearty kindness and genuine sociability. In short our social life is at its best at that season.
But the country is rough and sparsely settled.
The roads are bad at any season, and when the winter rains fall almost constantly, week after week, the mud becomes as Mrs. Stowe phrases it, "of unfathomarble and sublime depths." The man who has horses and a wagon is a " bloated aristocrat." Oxen are the usual teams, and wooden sleds the usual vehicles at all seasons. Of course in this state of things there is not much "driving" for pleasure, and we women are practically almost prisoners. Now and then we set rain and mud and distance at defiance, but sometimes I look day after day at the leaden sky, and the dreary wall of dead fir trees, until I no longer wonder at the numbers of petrifactions that strew the ground, but only that anything animate or inanimate, escapes the same influence.
What would we not give for some of the privileges that are so much a part of life in the Eastern States? For the well-filled book-shelves we have left behind ; for some of the magazines you read and toss aside, the lectures and sermons and concerts you listen to so critically ?
But there are here, (as where are there not?) some compensations. First, health comes to almost every one in this pure air, and who cannot be content when strength takes the place of weakness, and health of disease? There is an exhileration, a fullness of life and energy in the air that I have never known elsewhere.
And although the primeval forest shuts us in to what seems the peculiar and chosen haunt of loneliness and isolation, only eight miles away flows the mighty Columbia, bearing on its broad bosom the ships of all nations. In favoring conditions of air and wind I can hear the hoarse whistles of these ocean steamers, and I love to fancy what scenes they have witnessed, what perils escaped, and what freight they bear, and there is fascination in the thought of this busy and varied life so near at hand and in such contrast with the quiet scenes around me. And then,.
"To him who in the love of nature, Holds communion with her visible forms," she is never silent. She speaks from the ever-present firs whether pensively smiling in the sunshine, or wrapped in the somber gloom of the cloudy and dark day, or bending with majestic grace before the wind; from the rocky hills and deep ravines and swift rushing streams; from the luxuriant ferns and delicate flowers, almost all of them white and frail, as if paled by the shadow of rock and hill. But above all, she speaks from the grand snow-peaks, standing in lonely grandeur, calm and unapproachable, yet ever beckoning upward to a higher, purer realm.