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So, what’s in Your Dooryard?

I just finished writing my book, “Up Before Five – the Family Farm”, which should be out sometime later this summer or early fall. My editor had some initial concerns about a few of the terms I had used which required a bit of explaining. For example, on the farm, one did not go down the lane or even up the lane – we went “back the lane”. That was rural vernacular – farm speak.

Today’s  blog is about a few of the things that didn’t get in the book, things that I simply forgot to include. For example, we often spoke about “boughten” things and that we were feeling “fair to middlin”. Point Anne was “overcross” the bay and my neighbour once told me I had better get on home as “my father was on the war path” because it was getting “nigh-on eight o’clock”.

We often went back the lane to the “side hill” to get a “jag” of hay. In fact, the hill field was so steep it was “pritineer” impossible to keep the load of hay from sliding off the wagon. If it was red clover hay that had become a little old and dusty, it was necessary for my mother to do a “warshin”, and Dad always asked if I had “warshed” my hands good before sitting down to eat.

Farmers always had these cute colloquialisms to describe people or events. “Why, he’s lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut”. Others I had heard were “uglier than the south end of a north bound mule” or he was “as useless as…….”. Well, you get the idea. My father’s favourite expression for someone who didn’t like to part with his money was “he’s tighter than a bull’s ass in fly season.” That one and the mental image always cracks (pardon the pun) me up! My mother had one which I not dare include here but will e-mail privately to anyone who wants to know.

Fortunately we didn’t use the term “chimley” which always made me quiver whenever I heard it. However, my father used to say, “He’s jumping around like a fart in a mitten.”

That brings us to County speak – those special words or phrases we seldom hear anywhere else.  One term that our family always used was “dooryard”.  Apparently it is common only to some who have lived here awhile, as newcomers certainly don’t seem to have a clue what is meant by that term. Yet, in the County, we do have Dooryard Gardens Landscaping in Milford. According to a website, Carleton County Colloquialisms (New Brunswick) a dooryard is that piece of property directly in front of, well – your front door, complemented by the backyard behind the house, and the farmyard, if you happen to own one. I don’t see the problem, but foreheads furrow whenever I use the term. Even a few residents who have lived in Prince Edward County for a number of years have never used the term, yet, others do.

So, I will ask again – what’s in your dooryard?

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About the Author: Terry Sprague became interested in nature at an early age. "Growing up on the family farm at Big Island, 12 miles north of Picton, on the shore of the beautiful Bay of Quinte, I was always interested in the natural world around me. During my elementary school days at the small one-room school I attended on Big Island, I received considerable encouragement from the late Marie Foster, my teacher in Grades 6 through 8. Her home was a short distance from where I lived and through the years she was responsible for developing my interest in birds. The late Phil Dodds, a former editor with the Picton Gazette, also a great nature enthusiast, suggested I undertake a nature column - a column I have submitted weekly since 1965. The column has since expanded to the Napanee Beaver and the Tweed News. Life has been good, and through the years I have enjoyed working with such nature related agencies as Glenora Fisheries Research as a resource technician, Sandbanks Provincial Park as a park interpreter and Quinte Conservation as a naturalist and outdoor events coordinator. As a nature interpreter, currently working from my home office, I now create and lead numerous interpretive events in the area and offer indoor audio/visual presentations to interested groups. Could one who is interested in nature have enjoyed a more exhilarating period in the work force?" Terry's website is

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  1. Lori Smith says:

    Terry, to answer your question “What’s in your dooryard?”: I have a large red maple tree!

  2. Thanks Doris for your comments. I agree with your take on “crick”. I find that how we refer to where we are going depends on where you are. For instance, on Big Island, we always went up to Demorestville (there was a hill!), but to return, we always went over to Big Island. We also went over to Picton, up to Bloomfield and Wellington and down to Milford. We drove up to Belleville, but back to Tweed and up to Madoc. Once at Madoc, we went back to Bancroft. My wife, who is from Coe Hill, still makes reference to going “down to Peterborough”. I keep reminding her that she is now on Big Island, and that we now go “up to Peterborough”.

  3. Doris Lane says:

    I love the dooryard one because when I left the County to live in Oshawa–the city that motovates Canada–as they said up there, I used to say dooryard and I probably still do–it is the yard in the front of the front doorr which is opposite to the yard behind the back door–I guess it should be the front yard. One that I could never stand was the word crick –the pupils in my school at Elmbrook all those years ago insisted on calling it Black Crick–well they always got it wrong on the spelling tests. Another one that bothered some people was referring to back to Tweed. I guess it is up to Tweed. WEll Terry I have heard most of the ones you mentioned. I guess they are Countyissm–is there is such a word.

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