There’s an endearing little community on the shores of Lake Erie, hidden by miles of farm fields and far from the beaten track of the Queen Elizabeth Highway. In fact, there are hundreds communities like this one dotting the shoreline of Southern Ontario. They spring to life when the lake ice melts and thrive with summer rain and years of cultivation.
This particular community was built up around an old sand mine and neighboring ice house. The ice house now looks like a sweet cottage that, for many years, had a front door painted to match the color of an orange daylily. (I’m still disappointed it was repainted forest green.) It’s hard to believe the tiny cottage was once insulated with sawdust and packed with huge blocks of ice harvested from the lake, serving families bricks of ice until the following winter.
For decades this neighborhood has been a summer community with a handful of diehard full timers — a unique group of people who can bear and even relish in bleak, cold winters. My guess is that the richness of spring, summer and fall make it easy to be drawn in and not want to leave.
It’s easy to see that this place speaks volumes about the people who call it home. Gardens are planted with durable, time-tested perennials and window boxes are filled with annuals. Every 5 or so residents has a raised bed filled with tomatoes, basil, cucumbers and squash and some have a few sunflowers thrown into the mix.
No garden is too large, all are just big enough to relish in summer flowers and kitchen essentials, leaving plenty of time for play.
Old Mr. Root’s garden is growing strong. When he died, the new owner took up where he left off, tending his rhubarb and replanting veggies. The kids love finding the overflow from the garden waiting in the basket on the stone wall. Of course I still miss seeing Mr. Root moving compost and tools in his wheelbarrow, trekking back and forth between his garage and the lake’s edge where his garden still grows.
Groundhogs are common, so short, make-shift wire fences wrap around raised veggie beds, keeping the foragers at bay. White flies are common too, they especially love the basil.
As a visitor from a drought ridden region also known as California, this place is always a breath of fresh air. It’s filled with a shade of green and a texture rarely found in the west.
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