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Monday, 19 February 2018

Busy, busy

Our eldest granddaughter, Sylvie, 

had a day without school and her grandfather and I spent it with her. It was a busy day with a variety of activity, including a drawing class at the local library. Shopping for a gift for her sister’s birthday preceded lunch. 

The kids’ choices of restaurants always fascinates their grandfather and me. We never know where we will be eating since the kids usually pick a different place every time. This day it was the golden arches, not my favourite but their grandfather doesn’t mind.

Then we took some food to the local food bank, shopped for her new sneakers and seeds for the animals along the boardwalk. After a short time home at art work, we headed to the boardwalk.

We needn’t have worried about the animals. Others have been feeding the muskrats, birds and squirrels. Instead, we watched them go about their lives and chatted about the various critters. 

The mourning doves were perched in the trees around a common feeding area. The puffiness of one, trapping air under its feathers to stay warm, resulted in our favourite photo.

Its neighbour across the path wasn’t as cold.

This area of the boardwalk has deciduous trees which are at least 20 meters high. We heard the tapping long before we saw the woodpecker. Sylvie didn’t recognize the sound but she will in the future. Passers-by helped us locate the bird high in the tree. The red patches on the male fascinated her when she saw the photo.

We finished our day with her tap dance class which Sylvie thoroughly enjoys.  As I drove her home, we talked about our plans for our next alone day, her time without her sister and brother. No time for board games today. Next time! But, we don’t need plans, just time together.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Growing oysters

Raw oysters on the half shell may appear to be a long way from this place. 

However, this is where many oysters begin their journey to the oyster bars, tables in finer restaurants and our own tables. 

On this beautiful winter day, a drive along the north shore took us past the PEI Oyster Company. The facilities, located on one side of a bridge, were deserted. On the opposite side, four men worked on 

and under the ice. Burr...

At the worksite on the frozen bay, the men had cut out blocks of ice to allow access to the diver. Beneath them are the oysters which are at various stages of development. The growing time is from five to seven years to achieve market size. The process, at various stages, involves mesh bags, racks 

and cages. 

The frozen bay is no deterrent to these fishers.

I always admired fishers because of my knowledge of my grandfather’s work as a fisherman in Newfoundland. However, this glimpse of the oyster fishery today added another dimension to my appreciation of this work.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Wintering ducks

Prince Edward Island is surrounded by ice this time of year so where do ducks find open water? My husband and I have pondered this question for the last two months. On our recent excursion to the north shore of the island, at Stanley Bridge, there was open water with a flock of ducks in attendance. It was great to see them after months without a duck sighting.

At the Bridge, a flock of Common Mergansers floated in New London Bay, which isn’t frozen near the bridge. 

The birds had their heads tucked under their wings when they weren’t feeding. 

The water looked like it was boiling near the flock. 

Could this be smelts which people seek in winter too? Smelt shacks are on the ice throughout the province now. 

The ducks may have found the best location for smelt fishing.

We were a long distance away but the ducks were aware of us nonetheless. As we walked the length of the marina, they moved further away. 

They tested the limits of my camera. 

The females with their gray bodies are distinguishable from the black and white bodied males. The back of the female’s head has a shaggy crest of feathers as well. It was impossible to see the true colour of their heads from this distance.

It felt good to be outside again, bird watching, one of my favourite hobbies.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Out of water

A beautiful sunny day drew us out of the house last week. We drove to Stanley Bridge on the north shore where a number of objects which are usually in the sea were prominent on shore. 

The marina at the Bridge has many floating docks where the boats tie up during the warmer seasons of the year. 

This day it was different.

Many of the floating docks were high and dry, stacked on top of each other in the parking lot. 

It is unusual to see what lies beneath a dock, but seaweed and mussels were visible on the pontoons.

On the opposite side of the parking lot, closer to the water, buoys of different sizes were ashore as well. They were brightly coloured and the largest ones dwarf the small shed nearby.

Next to the largest buoys, others of various sizes were piled together. All had mussels and seaweed below their water marks.

There isn’t much room for boat storage in this area but one boat was tucked in below the road. 

And as is often the case, lobster traps, some of the tools of the trade, were stored beside a shack. 

There was activity, as a few people worked in the fishing shacks. An open door gave a glimpse into the domain of the island fishers who are out of water too. However, spring is on the horizon!

Friday, 9 February 2018

Farm equipment

The plows and salt trucks have been busy the last few months and they are not finished yet. This is not the type of equipment we like to see. My husband and I look forward to the first of the farm equipment on the roads and in the fields for another season. 

That time is months away.

Going through some photos last week, I found pictures of old tractors which were on display in a yard in St. Chrysostome, Prince Edward Island last summer. 

The tractors are part of a history which illustrates an economic and some would say political problem.

Two companies which made tractors, Oliver and Minneapolis-Moline in the United States were each formed from a combination of smaller companies in rural parts of the country. A third company, Cockshutt Plow was a family owned Canadian business.

Beginning in 1960, the White Motor Company of Ohio bought the Oliver Farm Equipment Company, expanding its business to agriculture as well. Later, in that decade, White purchased Minneapolis-Moline and Cockshutt. Small manufacturers disappeared as larger companies gobbled them up. Jobs disappeared from rural areas to larger centers.

Over time, the same occurred across manufacturing and has become part of the problem we see today in the western world. Middle class jobs have disappeared from rural areas and job training for a new economy has not kept up. Now, as computers and automation take over, the problems will multiply. Before long for example, automated trucks will work at mining sites and eliminate the need for truckers there. The problem is further complicated by companies sending jobs overseas where costs are lower.

In St. Chrysostome, the display includes the Cockshutt 20, a row-crop tractor, built in Brantford, Ontario. There were only 4,000 of them built and in 1953, they cost $2300 U. S. 

An Oliver 1655 by White, in production from 1969-75, is also displayed. In 1975, it cost $10,000 U. S.

Also on display was the Farmall 300, built by Farmall, a branch of International Harvester of Illinois, from 1954-56. In 1956, the cost was $2900 U. S. 

Today International Harvester, itself formed from a two company merger,  is known as Navistar International Corporation, a holding company based in Illinois. The company is also in the defense business and has developed hybrid and electric vehicles as well, far beyond the agriculture business where it began. It has facilities on six continents and dealers in ninety countries, globalization at work.

This Zetor tractor is made in the Czech Republic. It found its way to rural Prince Edward Island, evidence of such globalization.

We saw a farmer on a tractor at the harvest display at Kool Breeze Farm in Summerside. He looked a bit tipsy.

Is it any wonder?