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Way of Life
The early Acadian settlers were mostly farmers. Farms were located along the banks of rivers that flowed into the Baie Française (Bay of Fundy). Grand-Pré was the great agricultural area of the colony.
Work on the Farm
Rather than clear the uplands, the Acadians drained the marshes along bays and rivers by building dykes (large, tall mounds of earth covered with grass) and aboiteaux (drainage systems with trap doors that let water out but not back in) to keep sea water out. Then they would wait two years for the sea salt to be wasted out by snow and rain, After this, they could plant their crops on this new, rich farmland.
In the spring, the men repaired the old dykes and built new ones to gain more land. They planted their crops. They tended and sheared their herds of sheep. In late summer and early fall they harvested their crops. Once the harvest was in, they killed some of their cattle, hogs and sheep. They salted meat for the winter and traded what they didn't need with the New Englanders who came by ship to trade. From the New Englanders, the Acadians would get household items, sugar, molasses, machinery and other things they needed. Over the winter, the men and older boys cut firewood and timber in the woods, built new homes, hunted and trapped. Men made the household's furniture. Using the wood at hand, they made simple tables, chairs, beds, cradles and sideboards. They also made the family's footwear, either wooden shoes as they wore in France or Aboriginal moccasins for the winter.
The women did household chores, cooked, preserved food, did the laundry, made the family's clothes, milked the cows, fed the chickens and tended the vegetable gardens. Sheep were kept for their wool. The women would card, spin and weave the wool for clothes and blankets. They knit socks and stockings. They also grew hemp and flax, which they wove into linen for clothes.