As I write this, I sit in the kitchen of the farm, where my brother David and sister in law Mary, nephew Elijah and niece Lilly live. It is a 100 acre farm near Mitchell, Ontario, and a place where my family has deep roots.
My grandmother, Jean Johnston, and grandfather, Stafford Johnston, were both writers. My grandfather was a journalist with the Stratford Beacon Herald, and then later the Kitchener Waterloo Record. My grandmother wrote several books, including one about the history of women in Canada called Wilderness Women.
My grandfather served in the second world war, and a few years after the war ended they moved to the farm. My grandparents wanted to plant trees. The land was originally too wet to farm, and would not support crops; they also were early environmentalists, and believed that trees were important.
Over the next fifty years or so, they did just that. Every spring, my grandparents, mother and two uncles planted trees. They developed a trail system so folks could come to the property and walk. The property was initially, simply, referred to as Johnston’s bush, and then later was named Armtree, connecting the tree planting with county Armagh, where one branch of my family originates.
In the 1980s, my grandparents hired their nine grandchildren to help maintain the property. This program, called the “JOG” program, or Job Opportunity for Grandchildren, served to deepen the connections between cousins as we worked to maintain and improve the property.
My relationship to the land has changed, in part because of the Live Net Zero contest. I have a deeper understanding of the home envelope and how we can heat and cool our homes, and am becoming more confident about sharing my knowledge with other people. After dinner yesterday, we had a rich discussion about many issues related to climate, including energuide audits, travel, and gift giving at Christmas.
Every year, the boys and I come here for Thanksgiving. It is a beautiful time of year, and I feel a strong connection to this property.
I have been thinking alot about time, and always felt that this property, the farm near Mitchell, is one on which I have deep roots. However, I acknowledge that this land is the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. I took a look at the land through this very helpful interactive map called Native-Land.ca, which I discovered through this Canadian Geographic article from 2018. As I walk the property today, I am going to reflect on the history of this property, and how there were people here far before my family arrived, and that the movement towards a net zero life needs to be done in a way that respects indigenous people and their history.