The joys of rural work – A letter from New Brunswick’s future #10

Written by Teri McMackin on August 9, 2019

Train bridge in Petitcodiac. Photo by Catherine Hamilton Photography.

August 9, 2030 (Petitcodiac, NB)

Dear Friends,

The late summer morning is unseasonably cool and damp, and as I wait for the coffee to finish steeping, I slip on rubber boots and wander out to the garden to look at the peas. The dew shimmers as the sun rises. Boots were a good choice.

The dog runs up to me, having just chased another deer away from the plot. He’s proud of himself, though he has nothing to show for his accomplishment other than a sloppy goofy grin.

He is getting on, but if you didn’t know him, you wouldn’t see it. With what I imagine is a puppy’s joy, he greets our four laying hens—the most we’re allowed within the village limits.

The hens don’t lay much anymore and have been promoted to pest control. The kids cannot fathom eating them, “They have names you know.”

Back to the house, I pour the coffee black and read the local News & Views paper. An advertisement promotes the village’s fourteenth arts and cultural festival on the front page.

It reminds me, I must bug council to send out a notice to local businesses that Main St. will be closed early that day to give vendors time to set up.

The festivities have come a long way since our modest Kay Street Party ten years ago.

People come from all over, the Bed and Breakfasts fill up, and the campground, which opened five years ago near the community garden, catches the overflow. The festival is a popular space, even more so since the local solar co-op opened in the neighbouring field a couple years back. One of the first of its kind. Just about everyone taps into the solar panels, which have become a model in local cooperative energy.

I drink my coffee and read a few articles about upcoming community events before going to hang wet laundry on the clothes line before everyone wakes up.

The village had an initiative a couple years ago to get more people to use their clothes lines. The village bought them in bulk, and the works department offered free installation for anyone who wanted one. Uptake was great. Almost eighty percent of people in Petitcodiac regularly use their clothes line instead of their dryers, especially in the Summer months. Every little bit to reduce our electricity usage, they say.

Ethan, my son, is the first one up. He has just finished Grade Ten. The school received an upgrade a few years ago: it added a shop for welding, mechanics, and renewable energy. The trades were always popular with the kids in the village, but what with the new solar farm, the school has added a program focusing on training for renewable energy systems and technology. Ethan is excited to be in the first cohort of students to enter the program.

Ethan is tall and lanky, like his father. He sits down at the table as I place a plate of blueberry pancakes in front of him. If it weren’t for the garden, him and his brother Logan would have to work part time just to buy the food they eat. Thankfully, our freezer is still stocked from blueberries last year.

Logan stumbles into the kitchen, half asleep. My husband is close behind. Logan will be entering high school in the fall, and the three are hungry and grateful that I am a morning person and that the pancakes are already coming off the griddle.

Once everyone eats up and then cleans up, the two boys are out the door.

Believe it or not, my boys still kiss me goodbye. They are off, with an “I love you, Mom.”

Their friends are waiting on bikes at the end of the driveway.

The boys have a tight knit group of friends. I was a proud mother when Logan came home last week with a friend who is new to the school. It is never easy being the “new kid,” and Logan loves reaching out to meet people. The kid just moved here with his family from Ontario because it is simpler and far more affordable in our small village.

About seven years ago, the village saw an influx of families, when the subdivision of co-operative housing went in just off the Old Post Road.

With the kids gone on their bikes, my husband and I head to our office just above the kitchen.

We both work remotely.

The Internet was already pretty good when we first moved here sixteen years ago, but not everyone was so lucky. Many people outside the village had limited access. But since then, community upgrades have ensured quality, dependable connections. Everyone who wants to can get online, and fast.

My husband turns on his computer and goes to put his headset on. I tell him not to bother, as I pack my laptop bag.

I will work from the Main Street Café for the morning.

The café is located in one of the oldest buildings in the village, one of a few surviving original buildings. It needed a lot of work, but a young couple who moved here from away took great pride in restoring it. The café is charming and a hot spot for local remote workers like me.

Over the last five years, a dozen new businesses have opened in the village. They employ almost a hundred people. Some have taken up space on Main Street, which is now so full that one local developer purchased some land near our new Medical Center to construct a LEED certified building for another two businesses. People used to have to travel to Moncton or Sussex to look for work, but now there is not so much need to leave our small village. All the businesses sell locally, but they also use the Internet to reach wide markets

We have everything we need right here.

Many “meetings” are held here in our little café, I like to joke. Here in Petitcodiac’s Main Street Café, is where so much magic happens. It is our commons.

So, I grab my bag, kiss my husband, and jump on my bike to head down to Main Street. I put the bike in one of the designated bike spaces, enter the café, sit in my favourite corner with an outlet, and order a tea, so as not to drink too much coffee, with a scone.

The woman who makes the scones sells them not only at the market on Saturdays but also to the café. I don’t need to wait until Market Day for a fix. The young man working as a barista has my order ready a few minutes after I walk through the door.

The perks of being a regular.

I pick away at work, as people come and go. I welcome the odd interruption. Sipping tea, eating scone, I type, I think, and the white noise of the Café is a soundtrack for a joyful and productive summer’s day in rural New Brunswick.

Sincerely,

Teri McMackin

Teri McMackin is a municipal councilor in the village of Petitcodiac, an Executive Assistant with the Co-operative Enterprise Council of New Brunswick and a career-volunteer.

In the optimistic spirit of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Message from the Future, this letter is a speculative and fictional look back from the future to imagine what New Brunswick could be like if we could meet our climate change obligations. It is fiction, but it need not stay fiction. Each letter offers a vision of what New Brunswick could be like in the future if the province is able to fight climate change and to achieve the IPCC climate goals.

Read the other Letters from New Brunswick’s Future here.

This series is sponsored by RAVEN, and edited by Daniel Tubb and Abram Lutes. Daniel is an environmental anthropologist at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton and a co-investigator with RAVEN. Abram Lutes is an environmental action reporter with the RAVEN project Summer Institute and a member of the NB Media Co-op Board of Directors. If you would like to contribute your own letter, read the Call for Letters from New Brunswick’s Future and send a short outline of your idea to Daniel Tubb at dtubb@unb.ca and Abram Lutes at abram.lutes@gmail.com

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