Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thinking About the Cold

I started this post back in November, and only just got back to it today.  It is not terribly cold in London, Ontario today, only -3C, but they are expecting 10-15cm of snow over the next 48 hours.  Enjoy.

Winter has started to roll in.  This year is a bit later than most, but it is inching in.
My post from last summer about the heat got me to thinking about its opposite, the cold.  Both are dangerous, though in different ways.  Personally, my vote is that cold is more dangerous then heat.
My Canadian ancestors would have come from dealing with English "winter" to dealing with the winters of southern Ontario.  Frankly there is very little comparison.  Canadian winters are significantly colder, snowier, and longer.

For Thomas and his brothers, arriving in Canada would have been a race against time.  Even if they had left England in March, it would have taken at least a month, and possibly two, just to cross the Atlantic.  Then they would have had to get from where they landed to what is now Toronto.  Where would they have landed?  One of them appears to have come through New York.  That trip would have involved another boat trip along the rivers and canals of New York state to Lake Ontario, and then across the lake to Toronto.  Following the trip to Toronto comes the voyage on foot on the very poor roads to get to London.  The fastest any of the Halls family could have gotten to London, after leaving England at the beginning of March is the beginning of May.  More likely they would not have left until the end of March, and not arrived in the London area until the beginning of July.

Still they would be racing the cold.  They would want at least some food, which would mean clearing and planting at least a small area to grow root crops like turnip, carrot, or potato that would resist at least a light frost, and then they would need to build some shelter, most likely a log cabin with some sort of loft.  If they had sufficient money and had some horses, ox, or cows, they would also have had to build some sort of shelter for the animals.  Most likely the holes between the logs would have been chinked with moss, and then clay or mud depending on the land.

Once they had finished all the building and clearing, it would almost certainly have been the tail end of fall, with winter just around the corner.  Any additional time they might have had before the snow would have been spent clearing more land for pasture and crops for the following spring, or perhaps harvesting such root vegetable as they had been able to plant.  The women would have been busy too.  I suspect that they would have been the ones planting and tending the gardens after the men had cleared the land, not too mention harvesting the crops.  All while taking care of the children, cooking, cleaning, and dealing with all the other household chores that a pioneer wife would have needed to do.

As fall wound down the one major advantage that my Halls ancestors would have had was that the men were all skilled masons, and literate, so they could have found some work building houses, barns, stores, etc. during the winter, as well as that old Canadian winter standby, logging.  Whether or not they did, I do not know, but at least they would have had the choice to be able to earn cash over the winter to support themselves.

And then it would be winter.

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