Robyn’s Rubble Birdbath, 2016
Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Sanctuary.
Robyn Bradshaw here. I hope that this post finds you well, or at least knowing that you are in the company of friends while you visit here.
It’s the very early summer here in Nova Scotia, Canada. Traditionally, we don’t plant our gardens until after the first full moon in May, and even then we have to be mindful of frost.
Yummy yummy 2015
Do you have similar folk wisdom where you are, shaping the motions of life to the changing of the seasons? If you do, please tell us about it. After all, the District of Wonders is about stories – and The Sanctuary is about *our* stories.
The Rose & Kettle Tea Room, Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum
In that spirit, I’m going to present here a re-print of a piece I wrote a while ago for the Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum that touches on my own family, community, and history. I’ll pop in some photos and links, some historic pics, and some shots from my garden – my own personal Sanctuary.
A Little Treat from My Garden, 2015
Ever since it became so easy to take photos on a whim, I find that the experience of documenting my favourite spaces, moments, and vignettes has deepened my appreciation of them. If you would like to share a photo essay of your favourite spaces, or your personal Sanctuary, I would love to hear from you!
Whatever you sow, I hope you reap peace and satisfaction. Remember: it takes both sun and rain to make a garden grow.
All the best,
Down on the Old Cross Farm by Robyn Cross Bradshaw
First published: 1 July 2013
I guess you could say that I grew up on the old Cross farm.True, by the time I was born it had been years since the area surrounding Mount Edward Road, back to around Prince Andrew High, had been farm land. The growing city of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia had taken over by the time my father was in his early twenties, and our land had been sold. Now the streets off Mount Edward Road are mature residential communities, dotted with schools and churches and the stuff of urban/suburban life.
And yet, the Cross farm is still there – in the names of the streets, the old farm house on Elwin Crescent (named for my grandfather) just off John Cross Drive (for my great-grandfather), our family grave sites at the historic Woodlawn Cemetary, and in their living descendants – yes, we are still here.
The Cross family farmed the rocky soil of Nova Scotia for a long time, and has left stories behind. In the 1750’s, Conrod Cross came from Switzerland, through Halifax, to settle in Lunenburg along with the group of German and other European settlers collectively known as “the Dutch”. The Cross family then moved out of Halifax and put down roots through Lunenburg and Tancook Island where the living name and some very old gravestones can still be found. I hear that some were none too pleased with Frank Parker Day’s 1928 novel Rockbound which was inspired by the distinctive rural life of Tancook Island – and contained and some all-too-familiar family names from the area. (Personally, I thought the story was delightful, and the wonderfully captured dialect of certain characters reminded me of much-loved elders now passed on. Perhaps almost ninety years ago it was a little too close for comfort…)
You see, Mr. Cross, the family in the novel is called “Kraus”. So, you know… no problem, right?
From Tancook, my great great great grandfather, John Cross, moved on to Conqeurall Bank on the LaHave River outside Lunenburg. His son, my great great grandfather, John “Edmund” Cross and Edmund’s brother Stephen came to Westphal, now a part of Dartmouth. Edmund’s son, John Edmund Cross Jr., continued to farm the Cross land, and in 1910 built the farmhouse that still stands on the street that now bears his name. His sons, including my grandfather, Ernest Elwin “Ernie”Cross, were the last of the Cross farmers to steward that land, which they did until it was sold to the city piece by piece through the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The Cross farm specialized in mixed vegetables, selling at the Halifax Market and to wholesalers. My father reminisces about the season starting with the picking of dandelion greens. Then came “absolutely huge” cauliflower and heads of cabbage, turnips, beets, carrots, radishes, beet greens and swiss chard. There were string beans, iceburg lettuce, and potatoes. We have a photograph of my grandfather from the newspaper – we think he is selling a cabbage to a woman at the Market – you just don’t see cabbage that size these days!
My grandfather, Ernie Cross – the handsome farmer in the fedora at Halifax City Market
I was intrigued to hear that the Chinese population of Halifax particularly liked kohlrabi (which my father pronounces “call-a-rah-bee”), which dad said was “like a turnip that grows on the ground with leaves coming out of the top”, as well as older cauliflower which had “gone to seed and sunburnt” (sic), which was apparently a unique favourite of that clientele.
Interestingly enough, my dad and grandfather always thought kohlrabi was “just for the Chinese”, but it is actually common in German-speaking countries – like where my family originally came from! My suspicion is that racism and segregation of the Chinese popultion likely overwrote my family’s oral history of this crop. I have no evidence to support this theory, but it is an interesting clue to an all-but-forgotten past. I was interested to hear this fragment of a story, and would love to know more.
Also, kohlrabi is delicious! Naturally, after hearing so much about it, I now grow kohlrabi every year. I always seem to eat it raw right there in the backyard as soon as I pick it (yum!), but if anyone has any recipe ideas please send them along!
Been there, grew that, got the t-shirt.
There were also some livestock at the Cross farm for personal use. They had horses, cows and chickens. They kept these for milk, butter, cream, and eggs, and for doing work. Dad doesn’t remember keeping ducks, but he certainly remembers collecting their eggs – he thinks perhaps they were living wild around the pond and brook. Every so often, they would raise a cow for beef. They made preserves and jams and jellies, pickles, smoked bacon and ham, sauerkraut and Lunenburg sausage. Many of our family recipes remain, and my parents still make some of them at home. Lucky me!
If you’re a foodie, you may enjoy checking out some recipes out of Nova Scotia’s German heritage here, and maybe take a look at our many other food traditions (Acadian, Mi’kmaq etc.) starting here.
Basically, this is the Bible.
Going to junior high school in Cherrybrook myself, I was humbled learn that the Cross farm was known as a good employer for people from Cherrybrook and Preston, which are significant black communities with historic roots as rich and deep as my own. There were many farmhands hired to work on my family’s farm, including people from these communities, and some of the family ties from those days are still remembered. I am told my grandfather and his siblings were raised in significant part by a housekeeper from the Preston area by the name of Cora Crawley, who my great grandfather hired after his wife suffered a significant physical ailment and was unable to actively participate in raising their children. Cora is remembered as being the significant source of motherly love and influence in my grandfather’s life. I would love to hear more stories of the positive bonds between our communities that stem from our farming days – I suspect there are many that are worth remembering.
I grew up with the stories and the legacy of the Cross farm. My grandparents, Ernie and Greta Cross, would take all of us grandchildren down the road to see the brook where the cows drank and my dad learned to fish, and to the Woodlawn cemetery where generations of the family now rest. We could look across their backyard to see my great-grandfather’s old farmhouse where a new family now lives. My father, Robert “Bob” Cross raised us tending a vegetable garden – a relatively huge one on the suburban scale – and he taught us the skills and stories of hunting and fishing and family projects that informed his upbringing.
To this day, my brother Derrick, my sister Shella and I still live within walking distance of the old farm house, and we are raising our children with its stories and traditions.
Oh my sister is gonna kill me for posting this…
And if that doesn’t do it, this will.
Maybe she’ll forgive me if I post one of her eldest, carrying on the family tradition with style!
The descendants of Ernie and Greta Cross include:
Their children: Robert “Bob” Cross (Carolyn Cross) – my parents, Sharon Muise (Kevin Muise).
Grandchildren: Robyn Cross Bradshaw (David Bradshaw), Ellen Day, Derrick Cross (Fiona Buchanan), Shella Cross, Angela Day
Great grandchildren: Jacob O’Hearn (not pictured below), Aiden Bradshaw, Brianna Smith, Hope Smith, Moira Cross, Barbara Cross
Just try getting all 5 of these critters in one shot!
This article is based on my recollections and interpretations of family stories, and the help of my dad. That said, any errors are all my own.
SPECIAL UPDATE FOR SANCTUARY VISITORS:
This year, I am growing strawberries, sugar snap peas, carrots, scarlet runner beans, cauliflower, broccoli, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, cucumber, radishes, lettuce, spinach, and assorted herbs and flowers. And, of course, kohlrabi.
I’m also attempting to attract songbirds and hummingbirds to my feeders and new DIY birdbath, and hoping my crops won’t be carried away by local raccoons, deer, insects, or hurricanes.
Whatever you are growing in your life, in any sense, I wish you a productive season.
All the best,