As we get older it’s always interesting to reflect back and think about all the things that have impacted out lives both positive and negative. Ultimately the experiences we have along with the people and other influences around us, shape who we are.
One of the influences in our lives we sometimes overlook is real estate. Most of us will remember our neighbourhood, our school(s) and our friends but it’s not often we think about or recall our homes, our bedroom, the kitchen or the basement family/rec room until something jogs our memory to do so. Every house has a story and I will talk about that in a future post.
For me, there is one piece of real estate that I vividly remember to this day as providing me with some of life’s greatest pleasures and learning experiences. My mother was born on Manitoulin Island and left there in the 1940’s for Toronto to pursue a career in nursing. There where, she met and married my father who like his father and older brother was a dentist. My grandparents came from opposite ends of the spectrum and yet both have impacted my life in very profound ways. My father’s parent’s were born and raised in Toronto, my grandfather was an orthodontist. To the best of my knowledge my grandmother (Crouch) never worked and focused her time raising three kids. My grandfather was very successful and they owned a cottage in the 1930’s on Lake Simcoe. Most people probably didn’t know what a cottage was back in the 30’s never mind did they own one and my father frequently talked about his summers there as it clearly impacted his childhood.
On the other side of the family, my mother’s parents on Manitoulin Island were farmers, they had three separate parcels of land for a total of 300 acres. My great grandfather William Leeson, purchased one of the 100 acre parcels he ended up owning in 1901 for the tidy sum of fifty dollars. That’s right 100 acres for fifty dollars. This parcel of land is where the house, barn and other outbuildings were located and where my mother was raised. To this day I still have the deed from the government framed as a keepsake. Somewhere it lay folded up for years and a mouse chewed one corner.
Farming was not an easy task especially on Manitoulin Island. The soil is shallow, it’s rocky and there was lots of bush that needed to be cleared to farm it. The land is best used for growing hay and crops to feed livestock and for pasture. My grandparents made their living raising Hereford beef cattle but also kept some pigs, chickens and a handful of sheep.
Growing up I spent a lot of summers on the farm. I loved Manitoulin and today, I own two waterfront properties up there. Growing up in Toronto the farm offered a totally different lifestyle from what I was used to. While I learned a lot from both my father’s and mother’s parents, my grandparents on Manitoulin and the time spent on their farm by far taught me the most not the least of which was the importance of a strong work ethic. Farming was for the most part, a seven day a week job but we did take time to relax on Sundays at a small cottage my grandfather build nearby on the water. By the time I was nine or ten I was driving a tractor, moving bales of hay, gathering eggs and doing any manner of farm labour to help out. All of my mechanical skills came from helping my grandfather fix and maintain equipment and those skills plus others have served me well throughout life. My grandparents farmed up until around 1970 before retiring. Needless-to-say it was not an easy life but they never complained other than my grandfather harping about bad weather. His name was Ross (Leeson), my middle name is Ross as is my son’s and my grandmother was Ruby.
Back in early March before the COVID-19 state of emergency was declared, I was up to Manitoulin for a few days at my cottage. I drove to the farm one day and took these drone photos. The current owners renovated the house a few years ago, a couple of the small outbuildings like the “pig pen” and “hen house” are gone and the barn which was always red needs painting but otherwise it looks the same and brought back a lot of memories.
A row of spruce trees went down the lane way to the road and on the front of the barn was signage that read “Ross Leeson and Sons, Spruce Grove Farms.” A few years ago I stopped in one day and introduced myself to the current owners and they were very hospitable and allowed me to walk around the property. It brought back a lot of great memories.
If the property was to ever go for sale I would certainly be tempted to buy it, restore the barn with fresh paint and add a new sign with the original name Spruce Grove Farms. Growing up in Toronto my parents provided me with a great upbringing but it pales in comparison to what I experienced and learned on the farm. Life’s best memories are often the one’s that entailed the hardest work but for me, time spent on my grandparent’s farm didn’t seem like work at all.
Every property and home has a story. Focusing on and sharing that story is an important aspect of effective real estate marketing and I try to incorporate that into my daily business as a REALTOR®.