How neat is your woodpile?

Over the last two days we have ridden 220km from Quebec to Riviere du Loup following the No. 1 La Route Verte (refer to blog from 11th July), heading down the south side of the St Lawrence River. After today our total km count is 6,450km. Tomorrow (15th July) we will head inland and cross the border into New Brunswick.

It has been a very enjoyable trip down the St Lawrence, with the exception of a strong head wind for today’s 97km. We passed through quite a few little villages and it is quite apparent the inhabitants are very house proud, many of them working outside in the garden or doing odd jobs on the house. Finding a place for morning tea wasn’t that easy, and at one place we tried we had made ourselves at home in what we though was the backyard of a cafe only to be hunted out (in the nicest possible way) by the landlady…we eventually worked out the place was a Bed and Breakfast and she was only serving her guests so onto the next village we rode to try our luck there.

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Woodpiles might be an odd topic of discussion but if you could the dedication and time the villagers spend on them you could see where I am coming from. There was always at least one village woodpile that stood out from the rest. Each piece of wood graded and stacked with the least amount of air space. I guess it is all part of the preparation for the winter months so I shouldn’t be too hard in thinking they might have too much time on their hands but I couldn’t help thinking there was some sort of unofficial competition running between the villages or within the village itself.

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The dominant building in each village is the catholic church, very similar to the one shown below. The Church was involved in setting up the schools and therefore they are usually situated close to the church. The other feature of just about every town is the Caisses du Populaire. This is a cooperative, member owned financial institution that fulfills traditional banking roles as well as diverse activities such as lending, insurance, investment dealing. Caisses are essentially the francophone equivalent of a credit union. I suspect they are the dominant finance institution in rural Quebec as we didn’t come across any other banks.

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Much of the farming land along the banks of the St Lawrence is devoted to dairy. As you can see by the harvest store silos the fodder is brought to the cows housed in sheds. We only saw one herd of cows out grazing. It was also interesting to note more canola was been grown as we moved further down the St Lawrence.

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You may notice from some of the photos how the farms are laid out in “strips” known as seigneuries which was a system introduced to “New France” in 1627, and is found along the banks of the St. Lawrence River.

I found this quite interesting so to help me with more detail I used Wikipedia for the following comments. Each piece of land belonged to the king of France and was maintained by the landlord, or seigneur. The seigneurial system was introduced because the St. Lawrence River was something like the “Highway of New France”. The river provided water and a means of transportation, which enabled settlers with land along the St. Lawrence to be successful. Land along the river, therefore, was much in demand.

The seigneur divided the land further among his tenants, known as censitaires or habitants, who cleared the land, built houses and other buildings, and farmed the land. The habitants paid taxes to the seigneur called cens et rentes and another inheritance tax called lods and ventes, and were usually required to work for their seigneur for three days per year, often building roads. The habitants would also divide their land for their children once they had families of their own.

Unlike the French feudalism from which it was derived, the lord of the manor was not granted the “haut” or “bas” jurisdiction to impose fines and penalties as in Europe; those powers were given to the Intendant of New France, a commissioner sent by the King.
Seigneuries were often divided into a number of areas. There was a common area on the shore of the St. Lawrence river, behind which was the best land and the seigneur’s estate itself. There were also one or more sets of farmland, not adjacent to the river, immediately behind the first set.

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To finish on a light note, I’m starting to wonder about John…is he really trying to talk into the banana?

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6 thoughts on “How neat is your woodpile?

  1. Hi,
    My name is Peter Dehne. I am Professor at a small University of Applied Sciences in Germany, dealing with rural and critical regions with less economic power. At the moment me and my wife are on a 4-month road trip through Canada from the Eastcoast to the Westcoast speaking with people about their quality of life and how one can develop remote areas. I’ve got your addresses from Bill Reimer. He told me about your plan to cycle across Canada from West to Eastlast autumn in a pub in St. John’s. It seems we are on the same way in opposite directions and with different vehicles. May I ask where you are and if we still could meet somewhere on NF or NS? We are taking the ferry to NF next Tuesday and be back again in NF at the beginning of August.

    You can see more about me under http://www.ruralcanadablog.de or http://www.ruralcanada.de . Please apologize that most of the website is still in German. I’ll try to translate it the next days.

    Greetings from Cape Breton

    Peter

  2. Quebec is a special wonder of the world. Start with Thomas Costain’s The White and the Gold. Lots of pb versions should be around. Coyotes are one thing, don’t forget those ‘ours noirs’ around the Gaspe Peninsula. Keep safe, love the pics. Frank Hicks

    • Quebec is an interesting province indeed Frank. As we cycled down the St Lawrence we were travelling back to settlements from the 1640s when Champlain sailed up this mighty river to claim it for France. The nature of small towns with very large churches changes along the downstream route. The history of the battles with the English then the Americans over the next few hundred years for access to the vast resources of north America is fascinating. Rivers and then railways were major strategic assets. Transport is still a major issue, but now with the invasion of RVs and Harleys Alistair and I see on the road each day. The cold winters means they have a constant battle to keep their roads to a standard such that the RVs don’t rattle apart and the dolly on the back of the Harley gets a smooth ride! Regards John
      John

  3. Love Love Love the woodpiles!! Awesome photos Alistair…keep up the good work. safe travels. regards Kirsty Birch

    • Thanks Kirsty, will keep on keeping on. Plenty more to come. In some beautiful country now. The capital of New Brunswick, Fredericton only has a population of 80,000 and has such a great feel to it. Just went to a jazz concert in the park which the city puts on throughout the summer.

      Regards Alistair

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