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Monday, 30 May 2016

For Spring Planting

Here in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, city council notifies the community when a container ship is unloading at the waterfront. At that time, truck traffic increases in the area. One day recently, the Atlantic Huron was unloading and trucks were loading at the dock.


The Atlantic Huron, a lake boat of the Canadian Steamship Line, unloaded what looked like fertilizer or pesticides for the potato fields. The fields are sprayed with chemicals several times during the growing season, so the process has begun again as the fields are planted for the year.


The ship unloads quickly as the trucks line up to receive their powdery cargo. Referred to as a self unloading vessel, the Atlantic Huron is part of a fleet of self unloaders which sail the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway to the east coast of Canada. This is not a vessel which plies the high seas.

The link shows how these vessels unload, with an operator and a few people to oversee the process. Imagine the number of jobs this technology has replaced dock-side alone!

From the fields to the dock, everything about the potato industry is industrialized. Long gone are the days of the horse, plow and the people who helped with the planting and harvesting. Now the fertilizers are chemical not organic, such as seaweed or manure. 


However, this past year, some Amish families from Ontario have moved to Prince Edward Island, buying up farms in the eastern county. Communities there are making accommodations for horses by installing hitching posts. It may mean organically grown crops will be more readily available.

Less chemicals on the land would be a good thing!

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Spring Colour

The leaves are on the trees now and there is a bit of spring colour in the garden.

Some flowers are showy.

Some are inconspicuous.

Some flowers like to grow by the millions in a bunch.

Some are a bunch of stars.

Some flowers like to get a head start and bloom early.

Some are reminiscent of the old country. 

Some flowers are tiny!

Some will even bleed for you.

 Some flowers blend with the leaves.

All are welcome!

Friday, 27 May 2016

Lucy Maud

This beautiful island is known for its potatoes, grown and harvested from the rich red soil. 


It is also know for its seafood, such as oysters, mussels, clams, shrimp, lobster, and varieties of fish. 


However, this harvest of land and sea is in addition to the bounty from the intellect of author Lucy Maud Montgomery.


Every year, thousands of people visit this island, many in pursuit of the haunts of the writer and the places she wrote for her heroine, Anne of Green Gables. Many first heard of Prince Edward Island through the Anne stories. Anyone can pretend to be Anne now as straw hats with red wool hair are available.

                                                                     My mother as Anne

On a recent outing on a gorgeous day, we stopped in New London at the house where Lucy Maud was born.


It is a tiny house, where she lived for a short time after her birth in 1874. 


From the back yard you can see the New London Harbour nearby.


This time of year, our population increases as thousands of people visit the Lucy Maud sites and attend Anne programming. There are always Japanese tourists among these visitors and some were touring the little house that day.


For the next several months, we will share the island with our guests. Welcome everyone!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Gray to Glorious

Last Tuesday it was cold and overcast, a gray day requiring a hat and mitts for the girls. We packed a snack, lunch as Newfoundlanders call it and headed out to the park with the girls for the first time this year. Any time we provide day care for the girls and weather permits, we like to take them to the park to have some exercise.


The park has been cleaned up since my last visit earlier this spring. Our city does a great job maintaining the parks but there still weren't any leaves on the trees.


It was past the middle of May and not a leaf was in sight, not even the hint of green. Leaves were but a promise.

                                                          This is not a black and white photo.

Last year, they appeared during the first week of June. Such may be the case again this year. The only colour on this day came from the slide equipment and the girls, their coats and enthusiasm. We had a great visit.


Update:  a week later and the leaves have started to appear, a few days early this year.


The green of new growth makes this one of my favourite times of year.  


The promise, long awaited, is fulfilled. 


Monday, 23 May 2016

Sunday with the Girls

Last Sunday, we took our granddaughters, ages five and three, to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, to see Raffi in concert. Raffi is an Egyptian-born Canadian singer/songwriter who is celebrating his 40th year entertaining children. His music was common around our house when our daughter was young. We wanted Sylvie and Caitlin to experience the music and fun of a live performance of Raffi's artistry.

We were prepared. Snacks are a big part of the concert going experience with the girls and we had planned ahead. Rick had the tote bag filled with bottled water, juice, cookies, and even candy which they rarely see. Extra clothes were a must, too. Sixty years of teaching between us made, "Be prepared," an understatement.


The girls were excited as we strapped them into the car seats, the bane of existence for any grandparent. When we were finally underway, jokes, singing and I Spy filled the fifty minute drive. Silly Knock Knock jokes are Sylvie's latest love. Caitlin laughs at everything!


Traveling with young children makes toileting a big part of the excursion and sinks are too high for children. I have a tough time lifting Caitln and helping her to wash her hands but the girls enjoy the washroom experience so much. If Caitlin gets bored, she wants to go multiple times!

The theatre was full of children accompanied by either parents or grandparents. It was noisy and fun, as action songs filled the time and space around each child. Adults participated too, some like us, knowing the music from four decades ago. The room felt electric and voices, young and old, sang along. The girls joined in too, doing the actions and singing their hearts out.

We rounded out the day with supper at our house after which they played with the toy farm, a perennial favourite. Now it doubles as a space ship and the characters and animals have jet packs as they fly through the house. Imagination was rampant and co-operation evident. They didn't want to go home.

One of our favourite Raffi songs is Apples and Bananas which is a short song which features the vowels.  You can check it out below and experience your inner child.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Cleaning Windows

I've been doing spring cleaning for a while now and windows are part of the process. The song When I'm Cleaning Windows  has been rumbling through my head since I started them. It's an interesting old song by George Formby and is worth a listen. 

My window cleaning exploits weren't nearly as interesting as his.

On second thought, today he'd probably be considered a peeping tom who could escalate to committing sexual assaults.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Family Tree

Coming out of the municipal building this week, I was taken with the beauty of this tree against the spring sky. Still without leaves this year, the tree is inspiring as it is, a raw, stark, silhouette against the blue sky, so perfect I had to take a picture. Its intricacies are mesmerizing!


As I see it, this is a family tree, the branches representing parents, siblings, grandparents and all those who have gone before. It is a physical representation of how rooted I feel, nourished by the warmth of friends and family, past and present. These people, plus life experiences on two islands, have brought me to this point in my life. Like with the tree, there have been droughts, lighning strikes, tough times. But, also like the tree, I stand ready for what is to come.

I am lucky not to live or work near this tree. I would spend far too much time gazing at it.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Questions, Questions

Angela, of Rural North at  nominated me for an award. While I do not participate in awards, I thought I'd answer the questions Angela posed and invite readers to pick one of the questions to answer on a blog or in reply.

What is your favorite color? I am partial to cool colours, shades of blue, especially the darker shades.

Where would you like to go for a vacation? I dream of a vacation in Iceland now, though I live in a land which sees lots of ice. The geology and culture of Iceland has always fascinated me however. Then again, I'd like to visit southeast Asia and China. Truth is, I like to go anywhere!

Crochet or knitting? I am not good at crafts, lacking the patience for long projects and manual dexterity. Besides, while I have the desire, I cannot sustain either of these crafts due to issues with my back.

Favorite food? Roast turkey or chicken would top my list of favourite foods, simple food, cooked beautifully. I enjoy any meal with friends or family. I am not a fussy eater.

Favorite author? Right now I am reading Canadian authors, especially any which are nominated for awards. I enjoy reading about the Canadian experience which is so varied due to our multi-cultural nature. Indigenous writers are of particular interest, in an effort to understand their issues and culture. In my opinion, we have treated the Indigenous people of this land terribly.

Favorite movie? One of my favourites is Christmas Vacation because it is funny and a family must-see over the holidays. Watching it together has always been fun. However, I am a movie lover thanks to my dad and enjoy many genres.

Favorite city? New York is on the list of favourites, but all cities intrigue me. Madrid, London, Amsterdam, Dublin, Marrakesh are all beautiful, each in its own way. I have never been as wild about Paris as others are, though I see its beauty.  Any city has its wonders and I always look forward to the next city adventure.

Which season do you like best? When I was teaching, I would have responded summer. Since I retired, it is spring and autumn too. I have never been a lover of winter though we live in a northern county.

Coffee or tea? Both have their merits and place in my life.

Prefer the ocean or mountains? I love both oceans and mountains though I was born and grew up by the sea. The tides have been a part of my being from the beginning.


Would you answer one of these questions in the comments, or focus on one or all of them for a future blog post?

Thank you for nominating me, Angela.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Girl of the Outport

This poem is for my granddaughters, Sylvie and Caitlin. The girls will never know life in Newfoundland like their maternal grandparents and the other ancestors on their mother's side of the family. Although the history and stories of the men abound, there is little written about the women in Newfoundland. While the poem is about their great great grandmother Bessie Earle Smith of Durrell, Twillingate Island, Newfoundland, it is about any of our foremothers who grew up in outport Newfoundland. 


Women worked hard from an early age, learning how to survive in the harsh environment of coastal Newfoundland.


Their lives revolved around a fishery which was seasonal and unpredictable,


in support of the men who braved the rough seas of the North Atlantic, 


meanwhile doing everything on the home-front. 


We are so proud of them.


Girl of the Outport

There was a wee girl
Named Bessie Earle,
Who lived in a place
Where the ocean did swirl.

She could play on the beach
And watch fishing boats,
See whales and sea gulls,
Horses and goats.

Icebergs were plenty
Waves they were lapping.
Gardens were tended
And feet they were tapping.


People worked hard
And times they were tough.
Families struggled
To just get enough.

When Bessie did grow up 
And then met her bow,
She took along with her
The life she did know.

Now in my history
I have a great gran
Who was a proud daughter
Of outport Newfoundland.


These are family photos taken on and around Twillingate.


Friday, 13 May 2016

Salmon Fishing

Every year this time, our thoughts turn to fishing, not for trout or codfish, but salmon. Before long, the season will open and anglers will head to their favourite salmon rivers in pursuit of the illusive Atlantic salmon here in eastern Canada. However, salmon fishing does not conjure up pleasant memories for my husband, Rick or his mother, Sylvia.

When Rick was young, family vacations were spent in various locations along salmon rivers on the west coast of Newfoundland. The lure of the Atlantic salmon was a passion of my father-in-law, Melvin, much to the chagrin of his wife and son. Every year, Sylvia and Rick spent the hottest days of the summer in a small travel trailer, while Melvin spent blissful hours pursuing salmon.


Big Falls on the west coast of Newfoundland was his favourite fishing hole. It is a beautiful spot with fast flowing, pristine water, in the wilderness of Sir Richard Squires Park. This place was the Smith's home during their summer vacation each year. Melvin stood for hours, casting that rod in the early morning and evening, when the salmon were feeding in their resting pools on the river.


Melvin often said, "I'm going for a few flicks now," as he gathered his gear to head to the river where he'd succumb to the enchantment yet again.

His wife and son never really understood the attraction. They were confined to the trailer because the flies were so bad; sand flies got through screens which were covered with cheese cloth. The heat was oppressive too. Sylvia and Rick felt captive in the tiny trailer.

Melvin didn't notice the heat and somehow the flies didn't bother him either. It was as if the salmon had him mesmerized, making him immune to the aggravation of the flies and heat. He also enjoyed the company of the other anglers, fellow victims of the enchantment.

There was a time when Melvin tried to interest Rick in fishing. However, Rick was immune to the mystic charm of the noble fish. He completely hated it. Many times in our married life, Rick spoke of his feelings about fishing. I knew which words or phrases would set him off and what he'd say when he got started.

Eventually we did a fishing intervention. Rick's parents brought a fresh whole salmon to Big Falls and we poached it with potato and onion, our favourite way to cook the tasty treat. While the salmon cooked, we burned a paper salmon shape in effigy. Then Rick and Sylvia expressed all their salmon fishing frustrations as Melvin listened. We laughed a lot that day and in the years since then the salmon fishing stories aren't as frequent or negative.


Now the only time the memories re-surface is at this time of year, when people gear-up for the salmon fishing season. We have never been tempted to join them!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016


If you had the opportunity to speak with a loved one who has died, what would you say? Considering this question, I realized some truths that I had not considered.


Questions come to mind immediately. I would ask my mother about those last moments of her life. Was she aware her granddaughter and I held her during that time?

Was Dad aware his family did not arrive at the hospital in time before he died;  a family friend held his hand in the end.

My grandfather O'Brien I would question about his Irish immigrant father and Nan about her desire to teach. Pop Pretty would speak of his parents, Dad's mother about her family. The list goes on...

Then I realized, all I wanted was to be in their presence. Words would be unnecessary though they would come, words of love.

Nothing was left unsaid before, nothing would need to be said then. No regrets...but longing...for physical presence which is the real loss. Now each person is carried in my heart and mind, everywhere, every day, walking through life with me, a part of who I have become.

This relationship with them is hard sometimes but an important one, giving me part of my sense of purpose and identity; the desire to write comes from it too.

Five little words would be necessary after all, "Thank you for my life."

Monday, 9 May 2016

Robbin' Robins

We have drama in our back yard under the patio. A pair of robins is stealing pieces of the ivy vine which is wrapped around parts of our patio. They are seeking bits and pieces for their nest and we can see them through our basement windows as they take off with parts of the long plant. 

Their efforts are even more intriguing because when the blinds are up, the birds hit the windows, trying to fly through them. We keep the blinds closed all of the time now so our feathered friends can see the windows.


Over the last week, the robins have hit the windows numerous times. It took us some time to realize what the noise was. They sounded like huge June bugs which, attracted to light in a window at night, bounce off the window. However, any time I try to get a picture of the birds through the glass, they disappear into the grass. 


I will wait to clean the windows until the robins are finished nest construction. Meanwhile, they are such resourceful creatures, harvesting the ivy as they do, although we fear they are causing brain damage every time they bounce off the windows. I wonder if anyone has studied the effects of repeated concussions on birds? It gives a whole new meaning to the term 'bird brain.'


Sunday, 8 May 2016

Happy Mother's Day

With Mother's Day in North America today, some of the traditions around the celebration of our Moms come to mind. In Corner Brook, Newfoundland years ago, the day was commemorated on a community level. The children made flowers by twisting crepe paper into the shape of roses, often leaving their hands full of dye. The color of the rose was significant, red for a living mother, 


white for the deceased. 


Men wore the appropriate rose in their lapels and they dressed in suits and ties, attending Church on Sunday afternoon. 

Many families attended the Salvation Army Church in the afternoon where the Sunday school children did a pageant for the mothers. At the end of the pageant children pinned the flowers on their mothers. People came together at that church to celebrate the occasion regardless of religious affiliation.

In our family, for the last number of years, we celebrate with a meal of lobsters, the first of the season. This tradition started in Newfoundland, before we moved to Prince Edward Island. This year the lobster season started on time compared to the delay last year because of ice conditions around our island home. Even the girls, three and five, each eat a regular size lobster now.


Happy Mother's Day to all mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers! Whether the roses are red or white, you are always in our minds and hearts.