Not much is known about this land’s pre-history; some things may be guessed by the record of earth and rock. We live on the shores of the ancient Lake Agassiz - one can see the undulating coastline on soil survey maps. Our land lies in a section of loamy soil, with native saskatoons, cranberries, hazelnuts, and chokecherries mixed within stands of tall poplar and Manitoba maple. The orchard is part of a slight rise of land, with lower willow and scrub land around it.
The indigenous groups may have occasionally passed through but never lingered, with no rivers or streams in the immediate vicinity. When the waves of settlers arrived in the 1800’s they cleared large portions of Southern Manitoba and transformed it into rich farmland, but my small portion of wilderness remained since it was too rocky to be very suitable for cereal crops, and just a tad too far off the beaten path to be convenient.
My wife’s grandpa, Cornelius Esau, who grew up about a mile away, remembered hiking through this forest with his friends, looking for crow’s nests and picking berries. It was home to a multitude of forest animals; fruit bats and flying squirrels, coyotes and coneys and coons. Songbirds serenaded these leafy acres for generations, untouched by ax or plough.
My father’s cousin John Kornelson left the deep soils of the Red River Valley and bought this quarter-section of land. When he moved his friends and family laughed, saying he was giving up paradise to live in a rocky swamp on ‘yantsied’ (the other side of the River). In his autumn years he subdivided the land into small acreages, and this is where I enter the story.