OAK HILL – If you take a drive out to Oak Hill, just past St. Stephen on the way to Fredericton, you will find the home of Lorie and Jim Davey, and you will be able to visit the beautiful labyrinth they have created on their front lawn. Lorie Davey said she had previously done a few labyrinths when she lived in Ontario, including an outdoor labyrinth. Upon moving to Oak Hill, she decided she would like to create one on her farm. With the help of the community, they were able to create a beautiful labyrinth filled with flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and more. Now, the labyrinth has been designated as a bee and butterfly garden, and they are waiting for a plaque from the Canadian Wildlife Federation that will be placed in front of the labyrinth.
“I thought, ‘you know, that would be a really good idea here’,” said Davey. “We’ve got lots of property. I presented it to St. James Parish, which is Oak Hill church and Scotch Ridge church. I presented it there, and next thing you know, they thought that was a great idea and we started putting it to fruition.
“So, two people down the road, Betty and Tony Gatta, were up here, along with my husband, ripping up sod and trying to figure out how to do the pathways and all that kind of stuff. I put it out to the church and to the community about looking for plants. Within the first two weeks, every time I came home there were more plants. The first two weeks I had 380 plants and I was going like a bat out of hell trying to get them into the ground.”
Davey said they decided this needed to be a labyrinth the whole community and beyond could enjoy, and anyone is welcome to visit their property and walk through it. It is also a lovely place to just sit and relax, and there is a bench in the centre for just that reason. This bench was given to Davey by her staff in Ontario following the death of her father, and she felt it would be a great addition to the labyrinth.
Davey said the community has contributed a lot, and it has been interesting to see the variety of people who have come to check it out. The first visitors were two flag girls who were working on the road resurfacing in the area, who came while on their lunch break.
“Anybody can come. You don’t need to phone. We’re back here most of the time, so if people come through we’re not even going to know they’re there. They won’t disturb us at all.”
Since those first two ladies visited, Davey said they have had several others check it out. A couple of weeks ago, they had a group from the Women’s Institute come through, and they stayed to enjoy the labyrinth for several hours. Davey said the labyrinth is a great place for anyone who loves nature and plants, and everybody gets something they need out of it.
“I’ve had individual people come through, I think on their personal journey or just finding themselves again and just being. Whatever they need, they get out of it. It’s been really neat.”
Because many of the plants in the labyrinth have been dropped off while Davey wasn’t at home, she doesn’t know what a lot of them are. She is trying to create barriers for the paths, and plant a variety so the labyrinth is in bloom throughout the entire season. She has planted more than 400 tulips and daffodils, and they were in bloom just as the perennials were starting to come up. The tiger lilies, or ditch lilies as Davey called them, are just about done for the season, but the black-eyed Susan flowers are just starting to bloom. There are even medicinal plants, including goldenrod, which Davie said is a “wonderful plant for bladder infections”.
“Anything that’s out here, there’s a reason for it.”
Davey and her husband moved to Oak Hill three years ago after she retired from her work as a traditional Chinese medical practitioner. She had a full-time practice in Ontario until she was diagnosed with what doctors believed at the time to be a brain tumor. Davey was told she only had a year to live, so she sold her practice to a student who had just completed her provincial exam, and started “preparing for what was going to happen”. Then, Davey decided to ask her doctor to perform a biopsy, and they tested for “bacterium and viruses and cancer”. It was discovered she didn’t have a brain tumor after all. It is an inflammatory issue, and as long as it doesn’t grow, Davey will be perfectly healthy and be able to enjoy a long life.
But, having already given up her practice, she told her husband they were moving to somewhere more affordable. They were watching a television program about Newfoundland, and thought that would be interesting. So, they started looking for houses there, and properties in New Brunswick kept popping-up. Then, because her husband is originally from Nova Scotia, they began looking for properties there. Again, New Brunswick properties popped-up.
The Davey’s have a son who lives just outside of Ottawa, and they even looked there for property to purchase, but once again, a New Brunswick property appeared in their search. That property just happened to be the Oak Hill farm, which they purchased. She asked friends to care for her animals for the weekend, and said they were going to New Brunswick to buy a farm; they did just that, and never looked back
“All roads lead to New Brunswick,” said Davey. “My husband said it’s like walking back through time. Everybody helps each other. True community spirit for such a small little place.”
So, once the couple moved to the Oak Hill farm, they began creating the labyrinth. Then, they decided to have it become a certified bee and butterfly garden, so an application was sent to the Canadian Wildlife Federation. Davey said there were many criteria to be met in order to receive this certification. The federation wanted to know about the garden and other things on the property that may attract wildlife. She described the labyrinth and sent in photos, and told them which plants are bee and butterfly-friendly, including three batches of milkweed that will attract monarch butterflies.
“You had to describe which things are out there, and describe what’s on the property,” said Davey. “We have a bat house. We have several eastern bluebird houses, and the eastern bluebird is an endangered species. We have a nesting. In the barn, we have barn swallows. Believe it or not, barn swallows are on the endangered species list. We have seven nests this year, and three of the nests are on their third clutch. The barn is very noisy.”
Davey said they have seen many different forms of wildlife on their property. They have a resident bald eagle, and they even caught a bobcat on their trail cam. They have had a mother bear and her two cubs having a snack near the apple trees, and of course, plenty of moose and deer. They even have about 60 wild turkeys that they feed, and a resident bunny they have named, “Hope”.
“We had to describe everything. We have a bat house. We have bird feeders. The hummingbird feeders, we have three of them, and I fill them twice a week. That’s how much they go through. We had to send all of those pictures in. It’s amazing what we’ve seen in this area.”
Davey said there is a mail carrier who lives in the area who makes honey from her own hives. Davey said there are so many bees in the area that she would like to see one of the honeys be renamed as “labyrinth honey”.
The garden has been growing for two years, and Davey said she will be splitting it this fall and giving many of the splits to other perennial gardeners in the area.
“You never kill them. You create more gardens.”