Monday, June 29, 2009

Rain

When I first came to the Harbour back in 1975, I think I arrived here in June sometime. Over the summer I built a small house and after five weeks of work was able to move out of my tent and into the house. It was by no means finished, but it was more liveable than the tent at that point.

I remember that I moved into the house in early September, which means that the five weeks spent building the house were all of August and a small part of July. If I moved up here in June with the intention of building a house, why did I not start until over halfway through July?

That's a question I have been thinking about lately. My memory for such details is not great and I did not write anything down then. I do remember going through a period of illness, I think a series of colds or bronchitis or some such thing. So I know that I was sick enough to not be able to work on the house for a fairly long period of time, and that may be the whole explanation.

The last couple of weeks here have been thoroughly wet. It rains almost every day, sometimes just showers, sometimes periods of heavy rain. The trail into my house is turning into a swamp; I can still get my bike through it but only just. Really, in this part of the world, you can't count June as part of summer, the weather in June is just too unpredictable and almost certainly involves a lot of rain. People say that a Nova Scotian summer only consists of a couple of weeks in July, the rest is just a tease.

But the worst of it is the mosquitoes, they are proliferating like crazy in all this wetness and they make trying to do anything other walk fast---very fast---almost impossible. Anything that will cause you to sweat (it's very muggy now) will attract the mosquitoes and simultaneously wash off any repellent you foolishly applied. Bug jackets I guess work, but so far I haven't invested in one. They block your view, they don't stop the high-pitched mosquito drone, and I suspect they make you even hotter and sweatier.

I have one or two projects in mind for this summer but so far I have not started on them and am increasingly more frustrated at the passage of time and lack of progress. So I've been thinking about that summer of 1975, how frustrated I had to have been watching June and half of July go by without anything accomplished at all. Living in a small tent with a two-year-old and a four-year-old, very conscious of the shortness of summer and the longness and coldness of winter. I remember working like a demon when I finally did get started; I went to bed exhausted every night and woke up every morning in so much pain I could hardly move.

But move I did, pretty much non-stop for five weeks.

I guess a month or more of sitting around being sick in the rain and mosquitoes will do that to you.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lost

A few days ago I went for a walk in the woods and got lost.

It was late afternoon on a cloudy day, I thought I would just go for a walk to work up an appetite for supper. I chose to follow a trail that I hadn't been on in a while, I thought I would follow it back to the vault and then follow the edge of the vault back to the house.

The vault is a narrow valley cut into the basalt bedrock of the North Mountain. It has steep rock sides, anywhere from 20 to 50 feet high. The valley itself is only about 100 feet wide, it's kind of like a miniature rift valley. In a few places you can make your way down to the bottom, but for the most part the sides are steep cliffs only a rock climber might consider descending.

The land that my house is situated on is over 100 acres, mostly forest. The vault forms the eastern boundary of the property. What I didn't realize is that the trail I was following did not go to the vault but ran parallel to it. After awhile, not finding the vault, I thought I would head back. Somewhere along the way I took a wrong turn. I remember that there was a barbed wire fence which I thought was the southern boundary of the property (it wasn't) and at a certain point I found myself on the "wrong" side of that fence so I crossed back over. I think that is where I made my wrong turn.

At any rate, I walked a very long way, following various trails. I thought, I've never seen this trail before, I didn't know it was here. Then later I thought, boy, 100 acres sure is big! Then, I wondered if I was walking in circles, it seemed to me I was seeing the same places over again. And I still couldn't find the vault, or anything else familiar.

The odd thing is, I still thought I knew where I was, I did not think I was lost.

Then I saw a house.

I know all the buildings on the property, both occupied and abandoned, and this was not one of them. That scared me. All of a sudden I knew I was not where I thought I was.

It's a weird feeling, being lost. All of a sudden all bets are off. Nothing is as it should be, the familiar has suddenly become strange. And no amount of logical thinking will fix it. It's as if you've been transported from the known world to an unknown world by magic, and only magic is going to get you back. Or that's how it feels.

The house was on the edge of a field, there was a stack of fairly new firewood at one end of the field, and the field was partially mowed. The house was abandoned. But I was pretty sure this was a property on the road (how else would that field get mowed or that firewood stacked?) and that I could get to the road simply by crossing the field.

OK, this is the really weird part. After over an hour of wandering around in the woods and clearly getting totally turned around in the process, I thought, I don't want to cross someone else's property to get to the road. So I turned around and walked back into the woods!

I cannot believe I did that. What kind of twisted thinking is that?!?

I remembered that barbed wire fence and thought that if I could just get back to it, I could find my way home from there. Problem was, I had made several turns on different trails since then and it might be a bit difficult remembering where I had turned.

At any rate, after another half hour of wandering around in the woods and this time really walking in circles, I realized I had no chance at all of finding my way back where I came from and that I darn well better head back to that house before I got even more turned around. Fortunately I still was able to do that.

So, two hours after setting out, I emerged on the road and immediately knew where I was, a couple of kilometers down the road from the property where my house is. My shoes were so wet inside that they squished with every step.

Just before getting to the road, I briefly wondered which road it would be. I had my hopes pinned on the Harbour Road, but I thought that given how long I had been walking and how turned around I was, it could very well be the Black Hole Road (!) and I sincerely hoped it wasn't because that was going to be a really really long walk home. Black Hole is gravel, the Harbour Road is paved. I was never so glad to see pavement.

Today I told Ruth about my adventure and she pulled out an aerial photo of the area to try to trace my route. We were both amazed. She said it was a good thing I didn't get scared or panicky, she has had the experience of getting lost and panicky. I guess it took so long for me to figure out that I was lost, and when I finally did I just thought that being in an area bounded on four sides by roads, that eventually I had to hit a road. And I still had a couple of hours before dark.

Many years ago I got lost in the mountains near Vancouver in winter, at night, but I was with a couple of people so it didn't seem that scary. I remember when I realized we were lost that I started looking around to see where was a good place to build a snow house, there was several feet of snow on the ground and I thought we would make it through the night if we could just shelter under the snow. As it turned out that was not necessary, but I was more pissed off than scared.

The other thing was, there were lots of mosquitoes so I kept moving at a fair pace to stay ahead of them. It is really hard to think logically when you are feeling obliged to keep moving. I would have liked to stop and think about the situation, try to figure out a way to determine direction. However I am not sure I would have been able to do that without a compass.

But if I had been able to stop and think about it, I'm pretty sure I would not have turned back into the woods once I knew where the road was.

What a dumb move!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Back in the woods

This morning I met Nancy, Emily and Sheila for a walk in the woods with the dogs. I was greeted with, "Did you hear about Michael Jackson?!?"

Gee whiz, I know I live back in the woods, but not that far back in the woods!

After discussing that topic for a few minutes the conversation turned to local gossip. I am so naive! For a few minutes I misunderstood, I thought they were talking about some lurid TV soap opera.

My, my! Maybe I do live that far back in the woods...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My bird neighbours

I should just say a little something about the birdfeeders. I've got the hummingbird feeder by the back porch door and a regular seed feeder in a tree I can see from the kitchen windows.

The hummingbird feeder has four little holes for the hummers and it is very busy, all the time. They seem quite aggressive, they don't tolerate another hummer at the feeder while they are using it so I guess the feeder is not well designed for them. They chase each other with those needle-sharp beaks, and they also chase the blue jay who uses the other feeder. I've not seen any adult males though, it's strange. Either they are all females or a mix of females and juveniles who have not yet developed the adult ruby throat plumage. It just seems odd to me.

At first I only got a blue jay and a chickadee at the other feeder, then a couple of nights in a row I found that feeder upended on the ground. First I thought it was an accident, then I thought it was the jay who comes on to the feeder quite hard, then I wondered about ground squirrels. But Mike said it was probably flying squirrels, who only come out at night. In any case I started taking the feeder down at night and replacing it in the morning. Almost immediately I got a change in clientele, now I have goldfinches and purple finches of both sexes using the feeder. The blue jay still comes around, but less often. The chickadees come but seem intimidated by the finches. And juncoes are now cleaning up the seeds on the ground.

The place is quite lively with birds now. I particularly enjoy the purple finches because they like to sit there and look around. They watch me through the windows, cocking and twisting their heads for better views. The occasional robin comes through, but this is not particularly good terrain for them to hunt in. And the other day I surprised a crow checking out my small garden. I don't think there is anything there now to hold his interest. Warblers don't come to the feeders but I hear them in the woods, lovely songs particularly in the early evening. When they sing in the vault there's a haunting echo to their songs, quite beautiful.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More music, and stories

I went to yet another musical event, a fundraiser for the Deep Roots Festival that happens in the fall. It was upstairs at the Paddy's Pub in Kentville (there's two Paddys, one in Wolfville and one in Kentville). Carolyn would be performing at 4pm as part of Women of Wolfville, and Mike at 5pm with Rise Up Shannon. We thought we would go for those two performances---the whole fundraiser started at 2pm and went to closing time---and supper. So Rise Up Shannon and a small part of Women of Wolfville and hangers-on (me, Ruth, Midge,...) crowded around a table in the corner for supper. I had the fish cakes, which were really good, and a Paddy's Gaspereau Pilsener. Their pilsener is not exactly what they are famous for, but I like it a lot.

While we ate Caleb Miles and a pick-up band played. I had heard Caleb at the Port Bistro a couple of weeks ago, he played classic and country rock on an acoustic guitar there and was quite good, but tonight he played and sang blues on an electric guitar and he was fabulous.

At one point he mentioned that he lived on the South Mountain, which he called "Bug Mountain". Everyone laughed at that. Bug Mountain is exactly right. We over on the North Mountain avoid the South Mountain as best we can for that reason alone. They've got many great little lakes and rivers, something that unfortunately the North Mountain lacks, but those lakes and rivers come at a huge price, your sanity.

Anyway, Caleb and friends only played for an hour, and we were pretty much finished our dinner by that time and left soon after. Apparently he plays a lot around here so I hope to hear more of him.

One of the Women of Wolfville is a transplanted Newfie, she got up and told a story about curing warts. She said it was a true story, with a little artistic licence. She told the story in Newfie and there were parts of it that you could hardly understand but it was hilarious. At the end she offered to cure anyone there of warts for free if they approached her privately after the show. She was such an excellent storyteller, I loved it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My father

The other day I was working outside listening to the wind in the trees. It was a wonderful sunny day with a bit of a breeze, the weather and the forest conspired to give me a wonderful sense of well-being and belonging in the universe. It reminded me of sitting on my parents' deck at Balsam Lake.

In their retirement my parents lived in what used to be their summer cottage on Balsam Lake in Ontario. A beautiful spot on a beautiful lake. During the seven years that I lived in Ottawa I visited them there as regularly as I could, which unfortunately wasn't that regular. But the high point of any summer visit there for me was sitting on the deck around noon, having opened the first beers of the day. I remember the utter sense of peace, and enjoyment of the world just as it was. These were times when my Dad was as philosophic as he got in those days, sitting there with a beer in hand facing the lake in the sun. It just didn't get any better.

Even towards the end when he suffered from dementia, still those afternoons staring out over the lake with Dad, not talking much, long silences while our minds drifted who knows where, were wonderful times.

When I was a young teenager in high school, Mum and Dad used to spend their evenings standing by the fireplace in the livingroom, drinks in hand, discussing the world as they saw it. I was allowed to sit and listen. Often I just sat on the floor, staring into the fire, while they talked. I felt privileged to be there.

Yet life as a teenager with my Dad was anything but peaceful. We had huge arguments about everything. It being the sixties, we argued about racism, the war in Vietnam, who my friends were, where I was going and when I got home, all the usual stuff and then some.

I remember when "All in the Family" first started airing on TV, thinking how could they make a TV show about my Dad and have it be a comedy?!? I didn't think it was funny at all.

As soon as I was able I moved out, but that didn't stop the arguments. Everything he said made me seethe. When I had kids of my own the final irony was hearing his voice coming out of my mouth. I hated him for that.

One time, I left the kids with Mum and Dad at the cottage while I attended a weekend workshop in Toronto. When I returned on Sunday night I discovered that my Dad had locked the kids out of the house, they had to stay in a trailer parked beside the house. I made him let them in the house but all week the pissed-offness was thick enough to slice with a knife.

The second weekend I had to return to Toronto and I didn't know what would happen to the kids. Should I take them with me and try to find someone in Toronto to look after them? On Friday we finally had a knock-down-drag-'em-out confrontation about it, the two of us yelling at each other while Mum tried to make nice.

Quite suddenly and out of nowhere, I had a flash of insight about what was going on between us. I saw him as he really was, trying to relate to his eldest daughter. It literally left me speechless, the fight in me just collapsed.

Through clenched teeth, his face almost purple with frustration, he said, Don't leave!

Mum said, That's the best you're going to get from him.

And I got it, I really got it. That was our last big fight, I stopped hating him. I could sit and drink beer with him on the deck in the sun and truly feel at peace with the world.

So on a sunny day listening to the wind in the trees, I remember my Dad and I miss him a lot.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Luthier and body woman

The other evening Mike and I modified my banjo. We had already taken the resonator off the back of it, but there was still the resonator ring and that was uncomfortable because it cut into my thighs when holding the banjo in my lap. To remove the ring all the nuts on the banjo head brackets have to be removed, then the ring pulled off and the nuts replaced. I think there are around twenty of them. The big trick was to find a tool to remove the nuts, since I did not have a banjo wrench. Mike had a broken adjustable wrench and pliers, we used those to remove the nuts. It was a tedious process, but at the end when we had finally removed the ring and replaced the nuts, Mike said, There, now we are luthiers!

Well today I can say, There, now I am a body man! Body woman? At any rate, today I fixed the hole in my truck.

I was going to do it yesterday, but not being enthusiastic about the task I managed to find lots of other jobs to fill the day. At 4.30 in the afternoon I finally went out to the truck and poked at the hole with a bit of sandpaper. Sure enough, not an easy job and even more complicated than I thought it was going to be. I tried to formulate a plan of attack, ran over it with Mike after supper, he made some suggestions, and I went home mulling it all over. Definitely not an easy task.

The problem is that the hole is behind a wheel well, into a cavity that was full of mud when I first looked at it. I managed to spoon out most of the mud and could see another hole in behind the first hole, no doubt the entry point of all that mud. Upon closer inspection I realized it wasn't really a hole but rather a gap between two pieces of the truck body. On the other side of the truck this gap is much tinier and filled with a gasket, but on this side of the truck the gap is almost a half inch wide (and three or four inches long) and the gasket comes nowhere near to filling it.

I was thinking that if I filled the hole on the outside, mud would continue to get into that cavity via the gap behind and cause it to rust out. I thought I should somehow block off that gap. My idea was to use a piece of fibreglass cloth leftover from the kayak building last summer and a whole whack of body filler.

Anyway, this morning I realized that my abortive effort to tackle the job yesterday was part of a pattern with me. When I have a big job to do and I don't really know how to do it but suspect that it is going to be much harder and more complicated than the instructions seem to suggest, then my first step is to avoid it. I can put it off for days, weeks, finding other more important things to do. I need a new compost pile, I need to clean up the garbage in front of the house, I need to plant some more seeds, I need to pull up some more bracken. Anything but the task at hand.

My second step is to read the instructions and try to do it, usually under the most unpromising of conditions, such as at the very end of the day. This is the critical step. This is where I finally come to grips with how hard it really is, how big and complicated a job it really is. Now I get it. The instructions lied, this is not easy.

The third step of course is to come up with a more realistic plan of action. Now I know I have to start earlier in the day (doh!), and I know what tools I'll need and have some idea how to start.

So today I started at noon instead of 4.30pm. I used a wood rasp and a file to remove the worst of the rust and paint, and I also decided to take on another spot on the truck that was not yet a hole but soon would be. In fact I managed to create a new hole with the file. I removed the plastic rims around the two wheel wells adjacent to the old hole and the new hole. Under one of the rims was a yet more rusty metal, so I filed that down too.

After a couple of hours of filing and sanding I finally had it down to a point where I thought I could start filling the holes. My new hole was easy, it was small and there was no cavity behind it to worry about.

The plan I had for dealing with the gap behind the original hole turned out to be worthless, the combination of fibreglass and body filler was just a mess. I ended up just glopping body filler into the cavity and attempting to smear it over one end of the gap, leaving the other end open, on the theory that since I could not make the cavity waterproof then I should leave some of it open so that any water or mud that did get in there could still potentially drain out.

After several rounds of glopping in body filler and letting it harden, the gap may or may not have been partially filled and the outer hole was finally closed. Of course now I had almost a quarter inch of body filler sticking out of the hole and smeared around it, so when it was dry I now had to file or sand it all off. So more filing and sanding, filing and sanding. And I had to add yet more filler because there were pinholes in the glopped filler when I sanded it down.

Finally it was sanded down to a point where I thought I could start painting it. Certainly not perfect, still a bit of a raised patch, but good enough. This is after all, an eighteen-year-old truck with over 300,000 km on it, hardly a perfect specimen. The next step was to tape and paper around the areas to be painted, leaving only the parts I wanted to paint exposed. By this time it was close to 5.00pm, but in June on a nice sunny day I had several hours left in the day to work. And, once I got the primer on, it would be OK to leave it to the next day to finish, since the weather report is for several clear sunny days ahead.

The primer went on easily. You had to leave ten minutes between coats, I put several coats on and it all looked fine. I cleaned up and went home for supper.

After supper I went back and looked at the truck, and I thought I could probably go ahead and put the final coat of red paint on, there was still lots of time left in the evening. So I sprayed the red paint on over the primer. The instructions for this paint say I only need to wait 3-4 minutes between coats and I should probably do two or three coats. By this time the mosquitoes were thick, it was getting tricky to work. The first coat I sprayed exactly over the primer, on the next coat I moved all the tape and paper back a bit to spread the paint beyond the primer. Everything was going well and there was quite a bit of the red paint left, so I thought that the quarter panel with the hole in it could do with a bit of brightening, it is the most faded part of the truck. So I moved all the paper and tape back to include the entire panel and sprayed it all. Several times.

Gee, this went much easier than I expected! Of course the light now is not the best so maybe it looks so good because I can't see the imperfections. Tomorrow it may look horrible, but that quarter panel already looked horrible, it can't be any worse!

I cleaned up and went home, but I had to go back out to admire it again. Hard to leave it alone. I went over to Mike's to tell him about it, he in turn told me a perfectly depressing story about Nazi atrocities during World War II. So I had to go back to admire the truck again before it got really dark.

The instructions say I am supposed to wait a few days to buff it, I have no idea what buffing means. I may or may not pursue it. In any case, I think I can get my safety sticker now. Yippee!

Monday, June 15, 2009

John's legacy

John Kavanagh died a few days before I arrived in Nova Scotia. I did not know him well, he arrived here after I left in the '80s, but I was aware of his presence here. He worked part time in the bookstore and was very active in the local music scene. He died as a result of an unfortunate accident, snorkelling with his wife. They were avid snorkellers, which you'd have to be if you regularly snorkel in the North Atlantic.

John was a musician's musician, a teacher, a sidesman, a master of many instruments, a composer, the inspirer of many musical talents. As one star musician said, He made me love music even more. His passion was the ukelele, he also played guitar, viola, cello, bass, just about anything with strings. His repertoire included all forms of music from classical to jazz, folk, roots and pop.

On Saturday a memorial concert for John was held at Ross Creek Centre for the Arts. An absolutely lovely setting for such an event, and after three days of drizzle and heavy rain, blue skies reappeared spectacularly as a stunning backdrop. You couldn't ask for a more perfect day.

I went to the memorial with Ruth, our intention was to stay only a couple of hours but we stayed for the entire event, only leaving at sunset. The music was uniformly great, it is hard to pick out highlights.

There was a standing ovation for a pair who made a special appearance, they were en route from performances in Toronto to Oregon but made a side trip here especially for John. They played ukelele and cello, and I have gained a whole new respect for the ukelele listening to them. Of course, John was a master of both instruments.


Another ukelele player came up from Halifax, resplendent in white shirt and red bow tie, the perfect outfit for playing uke!













John's wife Mary and his son Alex played with many of the musicians, and there was a performance by two of John's nephews.






























Heather Kelday and friends delivered a great performance of a song about tubing on the Gaspereau that had the whole audience singing along; tubing the Gaspereau is a fundamental initiation rite of living in the Valley.




The finale had just about every musician present up on stage singing and playing a great song about wide open heart.









There was potluck dinner during a brief break. Mike showed Ruth and I his latest project at the Centre, the conversion of an old boat into a stage for an upcoming play.

I'm afraid I hit a blood sugar low just before dinner time, one person attempted to engage me in conversation while I was in the dinner line-up and I rather curtly interrupted him to get some food onto my plate. I feel bad about that, but at the time I felt like I had no choice, I really really had to eat!

I spoke briefly to one of John's best friends Jack in the dinner line-up. By this time I had had a couple of mouthfuls of food so was a little less rude. Jack greeted me and said how nice it was to see me again, then said that it was a good thing that he knew me from back in the '80s because if he had met me in the last five years he would never be able to remember my name. But since I was an old friend, he remembered me! And my name! We commiserated on the failings of memory.

I was touched by the story John's wife Mary told about Jack, how in the hospital when John was in the final coma, Jack came to play mandolin at his bedside for over an hour.

I haven't done this, but I am told that if you Google "Kavanagh ukelele" you can find out much more about John.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rainy day in paradise

Yesterday I took my truck in to get it safetied. Or rather, find out what I needed to do to get it safetied. I go to a little place in Port Williams. Ed looked the truck over, speculated on whether a ball joint needed work, had his co-worker look at it and they decided that it was loose but not critical, then Ed gave me a list of three things I must attend to in order to get my sticker: the cracked windshield, the hole in the tailpipe and another small hole in one of the quarter panels. He also gave me the phone numbers of the shops to get the tailpipe and windshield work done, and I think he expects me to patch the quarter panel hole myself. Or get a friend to do it. He said he's backed up a couple of weeks so he can't do the work himself.

Carolyn and I went out for dinner and then to her house to watch a video, Outsourced. It's about an American in Seattle who finds out his entire department is being laid off and the work outsourced to a call centre in Mumbai; he has to go there to train them. So off he goes and the rest of the film is set in Mumbai, with lots of Indian music and a bit of romance and dancing. A learning experience on both sides about cultural differences, but particularly for the American. No big names, just an enjoyable film especially if you like "Bollywood"-style, which I do.

While we were having dinner we talked about the NDP win on Tuesday. Carolyn noted that before her daughter Erica was born, the NDP were a ragtag bunch of folks way out on the fringes of political life, with no hope of even getting a candidate elected to the Assembly, let alone a majority. Erica, who is twenty-seven now, was amazed. She had listened to her parents talk about the NDP and change all her life, never really thinking it could happen.

You know, you get used to being on the fringe of things, on the outside looking in, you think that is all there is. But people who believed in it worked for it and after twenty-seven years the provincial NDP became a fixture, a significant part of political life, and finally a real alternative. You start working for something that no one believes could ever happen, and you make it happen. It takes time but it happens.

The last few days there have been occasional rain showers, but today it was raining hard all day. I actually got bored! Sitting in the house gazing out at the wet wet woods, not in the mood to read or knit or anything else indoors and not willing to go out and get drenched. So I finally started phoning some of those repair people and got an appointment to get the tailpipe fixed this afternoon in New Minas. I got lost trying to find the shop but eventually got there. They also did an oil change for me.

Peter, if you're reading this, the muffler man commented on how clean my truck engine was. I said, Yeah, that's my brother, he did that. You should see his engine!

The windshield guy will come to the Harbour on Monday to fix my truck, he only takes cash so I went to the bank machine for that. I'll check with Mike this weekend about how to fix the other hole. Then all I have to do is drop by Ed's shop to get my safety sticker.

They say the rain will stop sometime around midnight...

~ ~ ~

Saturday morning: The rain has indeed stopped and we are supposed to see the sun later today. All Nova Scotia is ecstatic over the Pittsburgh Penguins' win last night. Against the odds, they took the Cup!

And a quick note to suggest you check out The Baxter's Harbour Blog, Sheila's been working hard on that! One of my favourites is an all-too-short video clip of Dennis and Jennifer playing their fiddles at the concert last week.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dooryard news

On our daily dogwalk yesterday there were four adults---Nancy, Sherry, Sheila and myself---Sherry's two kids, and four dogs. At one point Sherry was wondering about writing a Harbour newsletter, in particular how one could report the local news and gossip without actually mentioning names. In a small place like this there's no way you'd get away with that! Then Sherry said she'd like to write a novel about the place, and would we mind being in it if she changed our names. We discussed possible name changes for her novel.

Nancy first said she'd be Glenda but that was quickly voted down, so she proposed Destiny, which we accepted. I said I'd be Lizzie, and Sheila picked Fawn. We pressed Sherry for her nom de plume and she suggested Prudence, but we thought she wasn't old enough for that, so she is as yet nameless.

So if I use those names here, you'll know who I am talking about!

This is a picture of the tip of Cape Split in the Bay of Fundy from the Harbour road. That faint white line extending leftward from the tip of the Cape is the Cape Split Rips. You might want to click on the photo to see a larger version.

There are incredible currents around the Cape, especially as the tide comes in or out. The Rips are a standing wave, one aspect of those tidal currents. The fact that you can see it from several kilometers away is an indicator of its awesome strength. There's a pilot tidal power project in place out there to take advantage of that strength, a great turbine under the water driven by the movement of the tides.

I am hoping I'll get a chance to hike the Split sometime this summer, it's a long but very rewarding hike. I've done it a couple of times but a very long time ago. According to Miq'mah legend, the Split is Glooscap's stone canoe, left there awaiting his return to his people here. Interestingly, it is now privately owned by a logging company but deliberately left unlogged and open to the public.

I got my hummingbird feeder up finally, I had a little difficulty getting it aligned properly and the hummers were buzzing my head impatiently. They knew exactly what I was up to! I have as yet not managed to photograph them, I am often working directly underneath the feeder and I hear them buzzing (humming?) in, but by the time I look up they're gone. So far I've seen at least two females and one male. Ruby Throated of course.

My regular feeder is obviously attracting visitors but I have only seen a blue jay and one small bird that flew away too quickly for me to identify.

The other evening I went out to pee (no indoor plumbing) and saw two owls sitting in trees watching me. One flew silently back into the woods, the other continued to watch for several minutes before flying away also. Unfortunately I did not look them up in my bird book right away, and by the time I did I had forgotten details of their appearance, so I'm not sure but think they might be Great Horned or Barred Owls. Their silent flight is downright eerie. And the way they tip themselves forward as they spread their wings to take off. They don't fly over the forest but through it, easily navigating between the close-packed trees. Scary birds, glad they aren't big enough to hunt humans.

And that's Lizzie's Dooryard News for today!

Bluenose politics (and hockey)

The NDP won in Nova Scotia by a landslide last night. Quite the upset! I went over to Mike and Ruth's after supper and we watched a bit of the coverage on TV. Unfortunately the local MLA lost his seat. He was Conservative but well liked and respected in this riding and in the Harbour in particular. He did well by his constituents here. But the NDP win is a sea-change, it shows the older generation phasing out of politics and the younger generation in, and it also shows the NDP moving closer to centre in its politics from its radical left roots. I am not sure if that is a good thing.

But this is the first time ever for an NDP win east of Ontario. The numbers are 31 NDP, 11 Liberal and 10 Conservative. All three party leaders kept their seats.

One thing I was impressed by was the Leaders' Debate a few days ago. Knowing very little about any of them or their histories, I was impressed by the civility and intelligence of the debate. Ruth said, That's how politics are here, it's a Nova Scotian tradition. Hmmm, OK, I haven't been around long enough to argue that.

When I first came here in 1973, I remember a provincial election in which I lived in a very small farm community, East Margaretsville, and there was an old man living in a shack next door to me. He didn't go out to vote. He waited all day for someone to arrive with a bottle of whiskey to buy his vote, and no one came so he was a tad annoyed and never voted. I was amazed at that, but was told later that the truly amazing thing was that this was the first election that he never got his bottle. I don't know if that's a statement about political reform or the rising cost of booze.

The election results competed with the hockey game for news coverage, last night was a pivotal game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Redwings. All of Nova Scotia is following this series because of their native son Sidney Crosby (of Cole Harbour) on the Penguins team. The Penguins won, ensuring a final battle between them and the Redwings in the very near future. Apparently Crosby used to practice by hitting pucks up against his Mom's dryer; so last night in Cole Harbour kids were given the opportunity to smack a dryer with a puck in honour of Sidney.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Little white (and yellow) flowers

My fascination with little white flowers in the woods:

Bunchberry (Cornus):

Starflower (Trientalis):

Mayflower (Maianthemum):

Sarsaparilla (Aralia):

And one yellow flower, Clintonia:

Queen Matilda

Riley, one of the local kids, has a new puppy. It's a St. Bernard/Bull Mastiff cross, but it is tiny.

Here she is, Queen Matilda:

Doesn't that sound like a song? Riley and Matilda?

Here's Queen Matilda riding in style with Little Joe:

Monday, June 8, 2009

First kayak trip of the year

Sunday started out cloudy and looking like rain, but by mid-morning it had cleared and Ruth, Nancy and Sophie and I were preparing to go kayaking out of Kingsport. We had to time our trip with the tide, ideally we wanted to be in the water a couple of hours before high tide and then back out again a couple of hours after high tide. In reality we made it onto the water about half an hour before high tide.

There was a lot of running back and forth as we each remembered what we needed to bring with us, this being the first kayak trip of the year for all but Ruth. We each had our own kayak except Sophie, who borrowed Mike's. Three wooden and one plastic kayak.

We paddled from the beach at Kingsport westward up the Habitant River. We stopped at a beach for lunch, paddled a bit further and then headed back to Kingsport. We had the wind at our back both ways, and went up the river on the incoming tide and back down on the outgoing tide. The wind at the end was gusting very strongly so we hugged the shore to avoid getting swept right out into the Minas Basin by the wind and currents.

It is extremely beautiful, surrounded as we were by that pastoral part of Nova Scotia. In a distant field we could see several horses, one of them, all white, was racing from one end of the field to the other again and again. He seemed to fly like the wind, in the distance looking like some great white bird. It was so wonderful to be out on the water!

When we got back to Kingsport we loaded the four kayaks onto the roofs of the two cars. Nancy and I loaded my kayak on her car roof first and then made the mistake of letting go of it before we had tied it down; a strong wind gust came up and blew it right off the roof! Kind of scary seeing my kayak slide off the car and onto the road, but it was only slightly scratched by the mishap. After that we held on tight until we had both kayaks tied down firmly. Then we went for ice cream cones at the little fish and chips shack at the wharf.

Nancy dropped me and my kayak off in the woods around 4.30pm, tired, salty and very content with the day.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Harbour supper and concert

Saturday is the Chili And Fish Chowder Community Supper and Concert in the Harbour. I made a mixed greens salad for the supper, Ruth made chili, Nancy made a rhubarb meringue cake, and various other people made chilis, fish chowder, salad, pie, and apple crumble. There was also apple cider and coffee and tea to drink. Personally, I stuffed myself. I had to try everything!


The community hall is small and packed, I'm sure there were at least 50 people in a couple of shifts having dinner there. As folks finished there meals they moved out onto the deck to enjoy the warm spring evening.


Mike was responsible for organizing the music for the concert, which commenced after dinner in the church across the road.


The church is quite lovely inside, very simple but great acoustics. A few of the pews had cushions, there was a bit of a rush to get a seat with a cushion.

I think there were eight musicians altogether, they were roughly organized into several bands, with lots of overlap in membership. Peter consented to MC the evening (and did a fine job of it!)...


The music was a mix of Celtic, Old Time, Jazz and Rock, including Leonard Cohen and the Eurythmics.

Paddy's Pub Session Band is made up of two Mikes, Aaron, Ariana, and Denise...


Rise Up Shannon is Mike, Aaron and Denise...


Trip A Lady (triple-A, D) is Aaron, Ariana, Andy and Denise...


Mike Milne played by himself and with friends (Andy and Aaron)...



Andy is quite the clown...


T@b is Ariana and Andy...


I remember Ariana as a little girl in the same Grade Two class as my son Sam...


And finally there was Dennis and Friends, Jennifer and Mike...


Dennis and Jennifer fiddling together is an amazing sight! Dennis is good friends with Jennifer's parents, he has known Jennifer since she was born and has had not a little to do with her musical education. They play together very well!


Earlier in the evening I got to listen briefly to them practicing at Mike and Ruth's place...


It was a wonderful concert, everyone had a great time I am sure. I got to meet a few people I hadn't seen in a while. At the end, as we were chatting on the lawn out front before leaving to our separate homes, we could see the full moon rising in the east, an impressive sight. Only minutes before the sun had set over the Bay of Fundy. This is such a beautiful place.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Salt grass and German beer

On Thursday I talked to Lin and on Friday I went into town to visit her. I did a bit of shopping and then went over to the Gaspereau Valley, just the other side of the Gaspereau Ridge from Wolfville in the Annapolis-Cornwallis Valley. We spent a couple of hours in the afternoon putting transplants into pots on her patio and catching up on life since the last time we saw each other, a year ago.

Then we drove with her husband Peter over to West Grand Pre Beach to gather salt grass for their vegetable garden. The one that would have been planted last weekend had Peter not "shot" Lin in the leg. [Lin is doing very well, getting around without even a cane now. She showed me her wound, a very small scratch-like scab.] The salt grass is half-rotted and mixed with bits of seaweed, it looks like fine straw just lying around on the new salt grass and beach. Lin says it works very well as mulch and has greatly added to the quality of the soil in her garden, even though it is so salty. We gathered eight or ten garbage bags full of the stuff, this was the fourth trip they had made to the beach for salt grass.

After dropping off the salt grass by the garden it was time for supper, we decided to try the Port Bistro in Port Williams. Normally on a Friday it would be crowded, so our Plan B was Paddy's Pub, but we were lucky and got a table right away at the Port.Port Williams is near the mouth of the Cornwallis River, the tide there is very high, maybe 20-25 feet. It used to be a port for sea-going freighters that took Annapolis Valley apples to Great Britain. The Port Bistro is right on the river, with a nice view across the river and dykes to Wolfville on the edge of the South Mountain. Lin and Peter shared a pizza, I had a Pulled Pork Pile Up and fries. They are a micro-brewery as well, so I had a nice German-style Lager to go with. Very good!

Friday, June 5, 2009

GM vs healthcare

I heard on the news a few days ago that the US government is now a 60% owner of General Motors, and the Canadian government owns 12%. I don't know what percentage of which banks the US government now owns, but I rather suspect that many Americans would far prefer to own medical insurance than a bankrupt car company or fallen-on-hard-times bank. Strange priorities!

I recently heard a criticism of the Canadian healthcare system, how inefficient it was, both from the perspective of users facing waitlists for needed medical procedures and the perspective of accountants toting up the costs of providing services. This critic recommended that the American government look to the Japanese style of healthcare rather than the Canadian style.

I don't know anything at all about the Japanese system, but I am willing to accept the critic's opinion that it is far better and more efficient than the Canadian system, knowing as I do first hand that our system is far from perfect. However, the American system seems so unfair, unjust and expensive that almost anything would be better, they need not go with the best system to experience a vast improvement. Sometimes the best is the enemy of the good; striving for the best delays action and can prevent a "good enough" system being implemented in a timely fashion.

Note to self: what is the Japanese system anyway? I'd love to know what the "best" healthcare system in the world looks like.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Firewood and photos

Mike wants his wagon back. Last fall Fritz and Carolyn ordered a cord of wood, cut and split, for the house. It was delivered to the foot of their driveway. Mike hauled a wagonload of that wood right up to the house, in hopes of encouraging Fritz to spend time there during the winter. Fritz did come up but not often, so most of the wood was not used and is still in the wagon in front of the house. Mike mentioned that he'd like the wagon back because it needs repairs, so I needed to unload the firewood and stack it somewhere.

I decided to stack it along the northwest wall of the house. I was going to go into town today but it was such a lovely day that I ended up spending most of it emptying the wagon and stacking firewood. I also got four wheelbarrow loads of wood from the pile still out at the foot of the driveway. It felt like an accomplishment.

My phone and internet issues are all resolved, the installer came out twice to install and then troubleshoot the phone line, and I downloaded a driver for the onboard modem in my laptop and that fixed my internet access problem.

Sheila and I have been working on the new blog (The Baxter's Harbour Blog). We are rounding up old photos to post there. Yesterday I brought my scanner to Sheila's house and showed her how to use it. We started with some old brown-and-white photos Sheila had of the Harbour.

In the evening I got some more photos from Mike, and today Sheila has been working on scanning them into the computer. They are really interesting photos, all from the early 1900s before The Great War. There are schooners and the old saw mill and the Baxter's Harbour beach covered in logs. There's one schooner that has a portal in the bow that opens up so they can load logs from the water right into the hold of the ship. There's some kids in a dory showing off the 50-lb fish they caught. There are men shoveling gravel, apparently a common occupation in those days.

There are also group photos of Baxter's Harbour residents, some of whom we knew, though they are dead now. There was Harold McCulley and Wilfred Schofield as kids, And Wilfred's uncle Sam Schofield (I named my youngest son after him) as a young man. I only knew Sam as an older man, he used to come back into the woods on his tractor to visit Mike. While I was moving firewood, Sheila scanned a bunch of these photos so we can put them on the blog. She thinks she can get more photos from other residents.

I phoned an old friend, Lin. We haven't talked since I was here last summer. Last weekend she had an accident, her husband was doing some work that caused a piece of metal to go shooting into her leg. It hit an artery and she was spurting blood in the garden. They had her down on the ground trying to press the wound to stop the bleeding and calling 911 to get an ambulance. Very quickly they had her at the hospital. It all ended well, she's home and OK now but having to use a cane to walk. They were going to operate to remove the metal but the surgeon decided to leave it be for now and see how she does. So far so good.

Yesterday morning a bird hit one of my windows. I went out with my camera and found the poor fellow on the ground under the window, kind of stunned. I got down on the ground to photograph him and watch him. He kept closing his eyes. I'd say, Don't go to sleep, bad idea, stay awake little bird! He'd open his eyes. After about twenty minutes I tried to pick him up and he flew a couple of feet away. Good sign. I tried again and he flew away altogether. I looked him up in my bird book, he is a Tennessee Warbler.

Last year I had a Magnolia Warbler hit my window, this year it's a Tennessee Warbler.

My birdfeeder is being hogged by a blue jay right now, it has eaten up about a third of all the seeds there so far.

I also saw a new bird at Sheila's birdfeeder, I thought it was a blackbird but it was a Common Grackle. That's two new birds on my life list. Sheila says the grackles have a nest on the roof of her husband's tractor. She asked him to build a birdhouse for them but he never got around to it, so the grackles made their nest on his tractor! Guess he won't forget to do it now.

The beach

I went down to the beach on my bike a couple of days ago, first time I've been down this year. I love being in the forest, I forget how nice the beach is too. It was very soothing to walk along the edge of the water with the waves pounding the rocks. The roar is like the wind in the trees, but more steady. The wind in the trees sings, changing tempo and tone, but the waves on the rocks keep a steady rhythm.

Here are some more photos from the last few days.

The pair of ducks that hang out at the neighbour's pond:


They usually sit on the grass right by the water, and when you walk by on the road they ignore you. They don't even mind the dogs, unless they step off the road. The second you step off the road onto the grass, they stand up and slip into the water. I made the mistake of stepping off the road to take this photo, so by the time I clicked the shutter, they were in the water.

Sheila's corgi Max:


And her chocolate lab Moose: