Upon arriving in their new land the Acadians moved quickly to farm the land. Dikes
were built along the outer marsh areas. The construction of the dikes demanded enormous amount of work. Sometimes these dikes were built by driving five or six rows of
logs into the ground, laying other logs one on top of the other between
these rows, filling all the spaces between the logs with well packed clay
and then covering everything over with sods cut from the marsh itself. Sometimes
dikes were built by simply laying marsh sods over mounds of earth.
The Acadians devised a system of drainage ditches combined with an ingenious
one-way water gate called an aboiteau. The aboiteau was a hinged
valve in the dike which allowed fresh water to run off the marshes at low
tide but which prevented salt water from flowing onto the farmland
as the tide rose. These efforts were not in vain since the lands, surrounded
by the dikes and drained by wooden clapper valves, were completely desalinated
and extremely fertile. The immediate result was that the Acadian standard
of living, while very rigorous, was greatly enhanced and this very rapidly.
After letting snow and rain wash away the salt from the marshes for between
two and four years the Acadians were left with fertile soil which yielded
The system of dikes and valves demanded that Acadians learn to cooperate
at a high level amongst themselves. The dikes surrounded the lands of several
families and thus demanded that everyone be vigilant and ready at all times
to repair breaches that could be caused by climatic conditions or simply
to soil erosion. This system was so complex that after the deportation
the English had to release some of the Acadians from prison in Halifax to
keep the dikes working.