P.E.I. farmer rebuilding his community — in his basement

A P.E.I. farmer has built a miniature replica of his old dairy farm in his basement. Peter Bulger's models include everything from 65 cows, two silos and even a manure spreader.

Peter Bulger's models include everything from 65 cows, two silos and even a manure spreader

Retired dairy farmer Peter Bulger has spent 250 hours building a replica of his rural community in Foxley River, P.E.I., including the family farm he had to sell after he became injured. (Pat Martel/CBC)

Peter Bulger leads me down the basement stairs to show the detailed replica of his rural neighbourhood in Foxley River, P.E.I.

There are farms, fields and a river. Trucks, tractors and animals.

It's all set on a tabletop, and covers half the basement.

The "farm" is busy today, Bulger says.

The old family farm was the first piece Bulger built for the display. (Pat Martel/CBC)

"You can see they're chopping silage in the field behind the barn. And there's a guy going out there with a load of manure."

No, not real manure.

"It's chocolate chips, actually," Bulger says. "It's much more pleasant to work with than real manure."

But the masterpiece of the entire display is the replica of his dairy farm that had been in the family for generations.

When Bulger took over the farm in the 1980s, he added more heifers, barns and two silos. 

'A lot of memories' 

"I was there full time from when I was a child until I was almost 60," he says. "So there's a lot of memories there and most of them are good." 

But in 2014, following an injury, Bulger was forced to sell the farm. 

"I had no children and nobody else in the family was showing any interest so we sold it," he says.

Bulger didn't move far. He built a new home just a kilometre away from the old property where he had spent a lifetime.

Bulger shows a picture of the actual farm where he lived most of his life. (Pat Martel/CBC)

The idea to build a replica of his rural community came to Bulger in a roundabout way. 

"My partner gave me a model railroad and I considered setting that up," he says. "But as of now it's still in the box because I decided I wanted a farm worse than I wanted a railroad." 

Winter project

Bulger concedes that some people might think he has a lot of time on his hands. 

"I guess that's true, but I guess it's kind of a harmless hobby and not real expensive," he says. "It's a great winter project. A lot of days I worked on this, and hardly went outside at all."

Hundreds of pieces make up the display — from the plywood barns to the hay balers. All are 1/64th scale to match the dinky toys. 

Bulger's display is so detailed it even includes a tractor with a load of 'manure.' (Pat Martel/CBC)

Bulger figures he has put in more than 250 hours building his miniatures. His partner often pitches in.

"One of the things that was fun to build was the fences," Bulger says. "These are actually better fences than we had on the farm."

Bulger is quick to update his display to coincide with what's happening in the real-world community. When there's a highway crew working outside his home, there's a miniature crew labouring away in his basement display.

"The culvert was getting to be in rough shape so they're fixing it today," he says.

Part of the display shows other activity in the community, including the oyster fishery. (Pat Martel/CBC)

The display is almost finished. Bulger still has to bring electricity to his tiny community. "We've got no light poles, no wires."

And there's a few other details Bulger isn't in a hurry to add — including mailboxes. "I could either build mailboxes or wait until Canada Post closes out our rural delivery," he says with a smile.

Bulger likes to keep his display current. The same day a real highway construction crew was digging outside his home, a mini crew had set up on the basement display. (Pat Martel/CBC)

Bulger says in some ways, working on his model farm is even better than the real thing. 

"It's a scale of farming that I can afford to do. You can make hay in any kind of weather. And it never gets cold, so there are no cold fingers involved."


Pat Martel has worked with CBC P.E.I. for three decades, mostly with Island Morning where he was a writer-broadcaster and producer. He joined the web team recently to share his passion for great video. Pat also runs an adult coed soccer league in Stratford. He retired in Oct. 2019.