Knowing By Heart

A Tribute To A Kennebecasis Valley Homestead Farm

Lee Whitney

Illustrations by Alice Whitney & Stefan Westner

“Country life, like the tree, draws its nourishment from the soil and the sky.” – Jacob Erdman

Shortly after Lee Whitney and his family settled on their homestead farm in the Kennebecasis Valley of New Brunswick, he began writing for the Kings County Record under the pen name, Jacob Erdman. His weekly column was titled “A Letter from Home.” His essays continued to be published in the paper for over thirty years, much to the delight of his devoted readers. Knowing By Heart presents a selection of these essays, along with additional observations and reflections by the author.

Lee Whitney writes with feeling and humour about dealing with the farm’s various domestic residents, including cows, pigs, ducks, chickens, dogs and cats. He ponders the habits and rights of the wildlife that also claim the house, barn, and farm grounds as their home place.

He writes with rapt attention, and sometimes caution, about the weather. His reflections on the seasons carefully note both their distinct beauty and their unavoidable vicissitudes. He speaks with gratitude about the ceremonies of our common life. He is especially responsive to the farm’s favourable location for observing the dark night sky and frequently reports on gazing in wonder at the presence of the moon, planets, stars, and constellations as they move with the seasons through the cosmos above his hillside farm.

Taken together, the stories, observations, and reflections gathered in this book confirm that “knowing by heart” is the result of devoted participation in the life of a homestead farm.

About the Author

Lee Whitney (1935-2022) was an English major at Cornell University, graduating in 1957. The Whitney family moved to Toronto in 1962 where Lee began his licentiate at the Pontificate Institute of Medieval Studies. He completed his PhD at the University of Toronto and taught at Trinity College until 1977 when the family moved to their farm in New Brunswick. Lee was ordained an Anglican priest in 1988 and served rural parishes near Sussex. He subsequently taught religious studies at Mount Allison University in Sackville and a course in Chaucer at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. In addition to operating their homestead farm, Lee and his wife, Alice, were also active in teaching English to newcomers.

Ducks and Room by Stefan Westner

About the Artists

The pastel painting on the front cover is by Alice Whitney. Alice also created the maps, and the flourishes used throughout the book.

Alice is a graduate of Cornell University with a degree in Fine Arts and has been a life-long practicing artist. She taught art at the high school in Sussex, New Brunswick for fourteen years and was a Charter Member of the Sussex Artist’s Co-op (now called AX). Alice is the author and illustrator of Henrietta’s Nightlight, which was shortlisted for the 2018 New Brunswick Book Award in the children’s picture book category.

Lee and Alice Whitney’s grandson, Stefan Westner created the prints for Knowing By Heart, adapting them from Alice’s pastel paintings done during their years of living at the farm.

Stefan is a musician and visual artist. He is the organizer of the NB art collective ShiftWork; and co-founder of FLOURISH, a four-day music and art festival held annually in April in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Now working as a self-taught printmaker, Stefan’s artistic journey started very early, at his grandmother’s kitchen table.

Paperback • 234 pages • $25(CAD), $20(USD) • ISBN 978-1-988299-27-3 • Published 2019/11/26