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Monday, 29 February 2016

Woodland Mystery

One of the curious things we've seen along the boardwalk is this old tree trunk, 

disappearing before our eyes as an animal chews it to pieces. 

From Ginnie's comments on the "Squirrel" piece I posted last week, I suspect squirrels are the ones chewing the wood. Any creature who can get into an attic and chew everything in sight...

This poses the question, why? Red squirrels do not eat insects and it is too cold for insects now anyway. Is it just because they are idle and chew during the hours people are not around to feed and entertain them? What is the attraction? Or, is it some other creature chewing at this stump?

According to the Macphail Woods Ecological Project, these are the mammals on Prince Edward Island:

little brown bat
eastern coyote
red fox
snowshoe hare
American mink
striped skunk
eastern chipmunk
flying squirrel
red squirrel
deer mice
jumping mice
house mice

This photo shows the top of the stump where woodpecker holes and lichen may be clues as well.

There is a wealth of knowledge and experience out there in blogger-land. Are the red squirrels responsible? What is your theory?

Friday, 26 February 2016


Do you remember the scene from the movie Christmas Vacation where the squirrel jumps out of the tree and chaos ensues? It is one of my favourite comedic scenes, especially when the grandfather shouts, "Squirrel." I still laugh at that scene and find these creatures fascinating.

Earlier this week, as Rick and I walked the boardwalk by the bay, we had an interesting conversation with a red squirrel. We noticed her immediately, sat by the bridge eating a seed left by adoring islanders. She ignored us but before we had crossed the bridge, she out-ran us up the trail.

When we arrived at the feeder and stopped for a look, she circled each of us and chatted as she did. The squirrels in this area are accustomed to admirers feeding them and now expect that every passer-by has the same intention. This one focussed on Rick and stood in front of him, looking up and saying something in her squirrel speak. Rick showed her his empty gloved hands, saying,"I don't have any peanuts for you today. Next time."  

The squirrel turned her back on Rick, now making that squirrel noise, like a prolonged clicking sound you hear sometimes in the distance as you walk through their habitat. That day, it sounded like she was scolding Rick.

There are so many interesting stories about squirrels. One friend told a story about cookies she made and put in a plastic container inside a box for overnight. She left the box on the balcony. The next morning, ready to leave the house, she went to the balcony to discover the cookies, intended for a party, all over the balcony. Soil from flower pots covered the balcony and pieces of cookie were buried in the pots. Squirrels had opened the box and the plastic container. That day, she realized that squirrels were now climbing up the corner of her building all the way to the seventh floor.

On another occasion, on a particularly warm late autumn day, my friend left her apartment with just the screen door closing off the balcony. She had decorated for Christmas, putting a Dickens village on display. She used cotton wool as snow, and had piped green icing on inverted ice cream cones for trees. It looked so pretty.

When she returned home, a squirrel had come through the lower part of the screen, eaten the "trees" and taken all the cotton wool back through the hole in the screen. Telltale bits of wool now stuck to the screen.

The final story is one from our time in Howley, Newfoundland when we vacationed there over a few summers when our daughter was young. We had a travel trailer that we parked on a piece of land on Grand Lake and Rick's parents did the same. We loved our time there, sat around campfires, fishing, picking berries, paddle-boating on the lake, riding the All Terrain Vehicle on the old dirt road.

One of our favourite meals was pea soup, cooked on the propane stove. We always made dumplings or as Newfoundlanders call them, dough b'ys, putting the floury lumps to cook in the pot when the soup was almost done. Sometimes, they were perfect, light and fluffly. Other times, they were dunch, which is soggy or doughy. Dunch dough b'ys always made it to the fire pit where we burned the evidence that night.

One day, we watched in amusement as a squirrel grabbed one of these doughy balls and struggled down the road with it. He stopped for a breather often and eventually disappeared into the woods. He didn't come back for the rest of them and didn't tell his friends either. One was all he could stomach. Even squirrels have a discriminating palate when it comes to dough b'ys. 

Do you have any squirrel stories to share?

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Yankee Gale

Having always lived on eastern Canadian islands, I know some stories of shipwrecks and disasters at sea, but I had never heard of the Yankee Gale until this past week. This story goes back to the 1850s when there was a fleet of hundreds of American schooners, fishing off the northern coast of Prince Edward Island. These vessels were seiners, fishing for mackerel, using large nets to surround and scoop up the fish. They sailed out of Boston and Gloucester, Massachusetts. 

By the 1850s, Gloucester was the largest fishing port in the United States. At that time, there were as many as fifty fishing companies based in the port city, sending two-masted, wooden vessels, designed for rough seas, far off shore, as far as the Gulf of St. Lawrence. They fished for mackerel which they packed in salt in the holds of the schooners.

In October of 1851, there was a huge storm that lasted for three days. It is known as the Yankee Gale because there were so many American vessels and lives lost in that storm. There are conflicting reports of the size of the loss but one report contends that 120 vessels sank and 250 people perished. There may be many more people unaccounted for as well. Bodies washed ashore for weeks and most could not be identified. They were buried in graveyards along the northern coast of Queen's county.

With our telecommunication today, such news would be around the world in an instant, forensics would identify bodies, sunken vessels would be searched and families would bring their loved ones home for burial. Imagine what it was like in 1851. 

Eventually, the surviving schooners started to arrive back in their home ports. Wives and children waited as each vessel sailed into port, initially not knowing about the tragedy, then hoping against hope that their loved one was on that next vessel on the horizon. The last schooner to return must have brought joy to a few and complete devastation to many.

Those who make their living on the sea take huge risks every time they venture out, even with the equipment and vessels we have now. Today, I remember the brave people who gave their lives in pursuit of a livelihood on the sea, especially the victims of the Yankee Gale, and the families they left behind. All long gone, but not forgotten!

Note: my interest in the Yankee Gale began with the book These Roots Run Deep by Marion L. Reid.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Iceberg Alley

The icebergs are in the North Atlantic again moving along the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland, floating south into warmer water. This area is known as Iceberg Alley. 

                                    You can see a number of icebergs in Iceberg Alley.

Over the coming months, many icebergs will be visible from shore, some running aground, carried toward shore by the tides. Icebergs are early this year, and while not unusual, in the past, it was often spring before they appeared.

                                                                                             Picture taken from shore

One area of the province known for icebergs is the area around Twillingate, Newfoundland, making it the iceberg capital of the world. It is on the northeast coast of the island.

The display of icebergs offshore has been spectacular the last decade but I remember them from my youth as well. However, global warming has sped up the ice melting and breaking away from Greenland glaciers; Iceberg Alley is their brief, watery home. 

There are numerous boat tours along the coast of Newfoundland which take adventurers near the majestic giants as they make their way south with the Labrador Current. Icebergs make the tour and fishing boats look miniature in comparison. 

We took these pictures in 2009. It was a lovely day in June on Twillingate Island and the boat tour was a highlight, though the area has some significance for our family as well. My husband's paternal grandmother was from Durrell, on Twillingate Island.

                                                         We sampled the 10,000 year old ice from this small iceberg or bergy bit.

 There are two videos with this link. One shows an iceberg breaking up or calving. It is rare to see this type of footage. The other video is a tourist video showing spectacular icebergs.

Note:  The Titanic was off the south coast of Newfoundland when she sank in 1912.



Sunday, 21 February 2016

The Difference

Last year at this time we had had a storm that lasted for three days. That storm was a mere blip on the storm radar that year because we had epic storms and snowfall beginning in the last week of January. It was a miserable winter. Pictures of our back yard at that time will give you an idea of the snow we had.

                                              The red markers indicate my garden plot.

This year, every time we have snow, we have rain to take it away. This is the same area today, one year later.

Thank you, El NiƱo.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

After the Storm

The day after a recent storm, my husband and I headed to the boardwalk by the bay. We are fortunate that our council clears and de-ices the boardwalk quickly after any snowfall or icy weather. It was a beautiful day, with evidence of the heavy snowfall everywhere. 

Let's have a look.

The boardwalk was busy as usual.

There were places where the snow looked blue.

Indian Head Lighthouse looked battered from years of storms.

The blue sky accentuated the trees, clouds, ice and snow.

In more protected areas, the snow still clung to the branches.

In contrast, a network of branches were outlined against the sky.

This furry friend had hiccups.

In the shade, the "blue" snow was beautiful.

The end of the trail...

The trail looks different every time we are there.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Our Libraries

We have a great library system in Prince Edward Island. There are twenty-three busy libraries around the island, each offering a variety of services to clientele, such as craft classes, book clubs, baby story time, to name a few. Libraries offer computer accessibility to the community; audiobooks and dvds are available and e-books can be  downloaded. In Summerside alone, almost 80% of the population holds library cards.

Our community is also fortunate that the Rotary Club sponsors the library and is building a new Community Learning Center which will house a new library as well. The new facility will be more than twice the size of the present library which is housed in the old train station in Summerside. 

Book club kits are provided as a library service across the province. Each kit contains ten copies of a book and a study guide. One person, on behalf of the club, checks out the kit for the group. Each group has six weeks to read the book and meet for discussion. There are numerous book clubs around the island, with youth to seniors participating, some belonging to several clubs. 

I became involved with book club through Seniors College the first month I arrived on Prince Edward Island. Taking courses was a great way to meet people and learn about the island from my classmates, so I joined the book club associated with the college. There is a thirty year age range among the seniors in the book club, bringing a wealth of life experience and knowledge to the group.

Always an avid reader, over the years I had reduced my reading to mystery novels, which suited my busy work life. Book club introduced me to a variety of genres I would not have read otherwise. Discussions were invigorating, each person bringing her own unique perspective to every book. Friendships formed around the pages.

Our group always takes a circuitous route through each book, sharing life experiences. current events and insights. However, we always come to an understanding of the book and help each other with difficult texts. 

One great discovery via book club has been Canadian literature. Not having read much of it before, I've discovered enjoyment in the familiar settings and the Canadian multi-cultural experience, especially the writings of our indigenous people.

In book club this month, we are reading Station Eleven, a dystopian novel by Canadian author, Emily St. John Mandel. This book is not one I would have read before joining the book club. However, I hated for it to end!

Another great service provided by the library is the One Book One Island program. Every year, the organizers bring an author to the island to visit the main libraries in the three counties. We've had a graphic novelist, a short story writer and a mystery novelist, among others. Interacting with the authors is helpful to all readers and one's own writing process.

There are places in the world where libraries are closing due to lack of funding and/or usage. Such is not the case in Prince Edward Island. In fact, our libraries have a firm foothold in the twenty-first century. It will be interesting to see how they evolve in the years to come.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Digital Pen Pals

People of a certain age will remember having a pen pal or know of someone who had one. Growing up in Newfoundland, I had several pen pals when I was in school, teenagers in Alberta, Borneo and Taiwan. They opened the world to me at that time. We exchanged letters once a month, shared details of our lives and culture in words and photos via the postal service. We lost contact over the years but I have thought of them and wondered what they did in their lives.

In those days, I received a box of stationery for Christmas, matching paper and envelopes used to carry my teenage thoughts around the world. Today, I still like to have a nice box of stationery, though it is not used near as much these days. Today, an IPad and an app are all I need.

Now, blogging and following some other blogs, is like having modern day, digital pen pals. These new "pals" are all over the world, and blog on any variety of issues or topics, humourous, inspirational, political, arts/craft, genealogical, photographical, historical, cultural, and travel, to name a few. The only limit is one's imagination.

Now, leaving comments on other blogs, writing and responding to comments on my blog, let me communicate with people around the world. Blogging has helped me continue the writing begun in childhood, at a point in my life when I have time and more to say. These digital pen pals open the world to me today just as the traditional ones did years ago. The wonder of modern technology has made these "pals" easier to access than traditional mail ever made their predecessors. 

This era of mass communication enables us to have the world in our homes in an instant. However, there is nothing like communication with people yourself to give you the essence of their culture and who they are. Something old is improved for the times.

The Blogger Challenge

Another blogger nominated me for the Beautiful Blogger award. It comes with a challenge:

1. Link to the blogger who nominated you.
2. List seven random facts about you.
3. Nominate seven creative, beautiful bloggers, and let them know about the nomination.

I was nominated by Ginnie of
Ginnie has been a blogger since 2006 and she writes about events from her life with humour and wisdom. Her blog can bring a laugh, a smile or a tear and I often learn something interesting from her.

Thank you for the nomination, Ginnie.

2.  Seven facts about me:

1.  I am a Canadian, and have always lived on islands off the east coast of Canada.

2.   Travel is one of my great pleasures in life.

3.   I love to read and I am a member of a book club. 

4.   Giving back to the community is important to me so I do volunteer work with two organizations.

5.   Gardening is one of my favourite things, especially growing vegetables in my little garden plot.

6.   My favourite exercise is walking, which I have done a lot of over the years, walking as much as 16 kilometers a day.

7.   I have one daughter and two granddaughters who fill my life with joy.

3.  I nominate the following Beautiful Bloggers:

Friday, 12 February 2016

Winter Sunset

That time of day, when the sun sinks lower in the sky, reaching for the horizon so as to shine on another part of the earth, is my favourite. A sunny day is necessary to observe the best effect of course.

So it was that one day last week, a walk planned for early morning was replaced with one approaching sunset. It had been overcast earlier in the day and by mid afternoon, the sky cleared and conditions were perfect. Off we went, also curious to see if our furry and feathery friends were still about. No wind that afternoon made for a pleasant experience.

Chickadees and crows were busy as usual but there was no sign of the squirrels around the feeders. 

We could hear them chatter in the trees though, letting us know they were still active.

Then we saw one, making her way over the snow by the boardwalk, unperturbed by the humans walking nearby. 

She was a big squirrel too, out and about on a sunset adventure. 

Evidence of an animal's work on a nearby trunk looked unusual in the way the bark was removed from the trunk. Woodpecker activity was evident at the top. We wondered if any of the squirrels lived in those holes.

The sunset became the focus as the last rays reflected off the ice on the bay,

making the city golden. 

The bare branches against the painted sky were glorious, creating interest with design. We had time to stop and soak in the scene. 

When the sun was almost gone, the Confederation Bridge, our link to the rest of Canada, looked like a line on the horizon supported by repetitive arches of ice.

 In the twilight, we headed home, amazed with another unique walk by the bay.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Bye Bye Baby

Our youngest granddaughter, Caitlin,

is finished with her booster seat for the table at our house. As she says, "I am a big girl now." She will be three next month.

We are sad to see the last of this seat. It is one of the last vestiges of our sweet baby, 

as she casts off early childhood and moves into that pre-schooler age.  

Caitlin is a more reserved and quiet child than her older sister, Sylvie. 

She absorbs everything, then says something profound. If you didn't hear it, tough luck because, unlike her sister, Caitlin does not have a repeat button.

She is funny and loves to tease. Her, "Don't tickle me," means to do just that. 

Caitlin loves to cuddle and give hugs, is loving and cute. She can play alone or with her sister and has a great attention span. Caitlin also loves to dress like a princess, sing and do ballet moves. 

She is full of life and, like all children, has such potential.

We lament the passage of this stage of Caitlin's life but we celebrate the Caitlin who is now and who will be.

This following song captures how we feel about our baby growing up.

In the song, Stanfield is the name of the airport at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Superstore is a Canadian grocery chain.