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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Back to nature

A forest is one place where reduce, reuse and recycle are all done in an exemplary manner. Plants, or parts of plants, having lived their span of days or years, decompose into the earth or become a substrate for other organisms to speed up decomposition. All goes back to nature.

Leaves of the deciduous trees never go to waste in a forest. Neither do needles of mature coniferous trees like pine, all of which add to the humus or organic material in the forest floor.


Fallen trees or parts of them become homes for moss, which, over time, breaks down the tree, returning it to the earth.


Bark mushrooms take their place on trunks of dead or dying trees, breaking them down further as well. 


The curious jelly-like slime mold also does its part on old branches and tree trunks. One such mold is called Witch's butter and according to Eastern European legend, if it appeared on one's door or gate, it meant one was targeted by a witch's spell.


Animals take advantage of the environment too, as insects invade trees and woodpeckers dig holes in search of them.


Then there is Usnea, or Old Man's Beard, which hangs from branches and trunks of old trees. It is a non-plant, consisting of algae and fungi in a mutually beneficial relationship. Its presence in a forest indicates the air is clean since Usnea absorbs pollutants and will die in extreme cases of pollution. Our ancestors used it for its antibiotic and anti-fungal properties and, even today, it is used in emergencies in the forest. 


In my youth, I studied biology in university. Over my teaching career, I left teaching science and biology for administration and counselling. This past year, I have come to realize how much I enjoyed biology and missed it. I, too, am back to nature.

Monday, 28 November 2016


Tamarack or larch trees are known as juniper trees on Prince Edward Island. Juniper is present throughout the island in mixed forests like the one we visited recently in Breadalbane. Juniper is a deciduous cone bearing tree or conifer, losing its needles in the autumn after they turn a golden colour. 


As we walked under some juniper trees, the needles fell on and around us. The ground in those areas was covered in yellow needles.


Juniper is the hardest and strongest of the softwoods. It is also resistant to decay and as such is a popular wood for poles, posts and railway ties. There was a time when shipbuilding was big business on the island and juniper was a preferred wood for use in the industry.


Another interesting feature of the juniper tree is its intolerance to shade. The trees can grow up to sixty feet in height and in a mixed forest, they must be in the over story or they die. In keeping with their intolerance to shade, junipers prune themselves.


One half to two-thirds of the trunks of the tall trees will have empty branches with the needles only on the top portions. 

It is a unique tree and a versatile wood which gives a mixed forest a glorious crown this time of year.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Friday, 25 November 2016

Beauty of the beach

Our recent visit to Seven Mile Bay, Prince Edward Island, was filled with views of the beach, geese, seaweed and The Confederation Bridge. It was a gray day and the cloud cover gave the feeling of the edge of twilight, my favourite time of day. Occasionally the sun brightened a section of sky.

Initially, there was a breeze off the water but it ceased as we walked. A section of the beach is lined with cottages, 


and some enterprising owners have fortified their shoreline with rocks to help prevent erosion. In another spot, someone had discarded some mustard plants over the bank earlier in the year and they flourished 

and looked cheerful along the shoreline. A night shade plant had gone to seed as well; its brilliant red berries caught the eye.


Several streams interrupted the shoreline and babbled their way down the beach. 


The sound blended with the ocean's melody to create a peaceful symphony. 


Sitting by a stream was music for the soul.


Nearby some ducks broke the reverie as they quacked and swam around their pond, mere feet from the high tide mark. They fit into the soundtrack, providing another note.


It was a place of natural wonder.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

The dining room

The room is massive, 


the floor carpeted 


and the walls are wood. 


Overhead, the ceiling is high and blue at first, then cloud white. The decor is natural materials and the air conditioning is on, but it is comfortable.

Homemade bread is on the menu, made into sub rolls and filled with slices of fresh chicken breast cooked this morning. Switchel, fresh brewed black, unsweetened tea, is served รก la thermos. It is self service and we sit comfortably in our camp chairs at the portable table brought from home.

As we feast, spruce trees, at least fifty feet tall, sway in the breeze on slender trunks. Deciduous trees, having shed their clothing, stand majestically in their gray-black beauty. An unseen hand touched a dimmer switch making the trees as silhouettes against the sky, wallpaper for the room.


We eat slowly, consuming the natural wonder of the place, the sound of the breeze and the occasional creaking tree. Conversation is easy after forty plus years, but silence in this place feels natural too. Soon the cold and snow will keep us indoors more than we'd like, but today, this room is perfect.

Monday, 21 November 2016


The patio furniture is put away now; anticipation of the winter to come necessitates preparation. However, this day there is no wind and the temperature is pleasant.


We sit in our camp chairs, taking advantage of every minute we can in the fresh air. It is quiet during the day in the neighbourhood. All the young neighbours are at work, caught in the rush of life when children are young and full of needs and wants; mortgages demand attention. 

This day is different for me, a year older and reflective, I sit with a glass of wine waiting for dinner to cook. In the not too distant past, my husband and I were like those families, raising our daughter, caught in the rush of work and family life, balancing both, sometimes successfully. Like everyone else, we did our best.

It is not only the day that is different however; it is the time of life. We are not young, though not elder seniors either. Our friends, about fifteen years older, are selling their home and moving into an apartment now in another province, downsizing their lives of material and activity as they look to the future. Their practical approach and the excitement with which they are looking forward to this next stage of their lives are encouraging to witness. They are ready and embracing each other and the future, such great examples of how to approach the great uncertainty of life.


Best wishes, Hiltrud and Carlo, on your next exciting adventure.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Noon in the middle

Mid November. My husband and I walk one of the Heritage roads on Prince Edward Island. The Warburton Road is in the middle of the island, just a short drive from home. 


On an island which one can drive across in three hours, nothing is far away.

This red dirt road is in an area of hills, which in itself is unusual since the island is flat; its highest elevation is less than 500 feet. The road is lined with trees, some of which are bare at this time of year. 


The fields are the major feature of this road, cascading over the contour of the land; some look newly harvested.


The road is cut deep into the soil 


and animals appear to have burrowed into the banks. 


A line of trees, perfectly spaced and positioned, leads one to believe their growth here was by design.


Some of the fields are reseeded with grass already, to prevent erosion during the coming months. Every aspect of field care is thought through and planned. 

It is noon as we walk along and the sun, in its November position,

still warms the body and lifts the spirit, though I miss it overhead. Before long, the shadows at noon will be longer, the air colder, and snow will fill these fields. 


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Island News

Residents of Prince Edward Island are reminded periodically of their good fortune in living on this peaceful little island. During this last week, while fear, apprehension, disaster and conflict fill the news, island news offered such a reminder. A story about a cow was a local headline, though not the type of cow we see throughout the countryside.

This cow is usually at the airport but now Bessie is gone for regular maintenance. 


Bessie is a bovine statue which represents a brand of ice cream made here. She stands in the arrival area of the airport and children enjoy seeing her every time they visit there.


Sadly, she will be missing for a week, having some body work done at a local auto body repair shop.

Life on Prince Edward Island is peaceful, slow paced and a-moo-zing.

Monday, 14 November 2016


Breadalbane, pronounced Bred AL ban, is a small community in central Prince Edward Island. It is a pastoral setting, with crop fields, now harvested. Several cattle farms line the road as well. 


On a glorious November day, my husband and I headed to the hiking trail in Breadalbane and brought lunch with us. We always take time for a picnic.

There are two entrances to the trail which parallels the Dunk River. We crossed Hal's Brook before we reached the main part of the trail along the Dunk. In various places along the river, the sound of the rushing water fills the air.


We followed the trail through the mixed forest which had some mature coniferous and deciduous trees. The trail wound its way through areas of thick undergrowth of fern 


and other places where little light reaches the forest floor. 


Overhead, there are snags throughout the forest, 


those old tress that have died but are still standing. One curious tree in its day had developed branches only on one side. Lateral roots of some trees crossed the trail in a few areas, 


which meant we had to be careful walking. A few trees appeared to be blown over, exposing a relatively shallow root system. 


The ground in different areas was covered with maple or birch leaves, 


pine needles from the lower branches of the pine trees 


or tamarack needles. Everywhere there was something new to see.


We stopped often to observe our surroundings as the trail followed a slight incline to an opening of a farmer's field. 


Then we crossed the Dunk River 


and onto The Confederation Trail which led to another opening of the hiking trail. Several of the trees in this area had burrs,


rounded growths on the trunks of the trees. Burrs, filled with knots, are formed when trees are stressed. They reminded us of the arthritic knobs on our fingers, but that's our age talking.

Before long we were back at the entrance to the trail. We had lunch across the road in a field, under a clear blue sky. Hiking through a forest on Prince Edward Island is not a common occurrence for us but we will do more of it.
Eleven degrees Celcius or fifty-two degrees Fahrenheit in early November was memorable in itself. The hike was a bonus feast for the senses.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Natural sculpture

Nature provides its own sculpture in a spacious gallery! This piece is on a hiking trail in Breadalbane, Prince Edward Island. I call it The Rift.


Friday, 11 November 2016

Remembrance 2016

A few months ago, my husband's uncle, Richard Mercer, died. Dick was a Canadian Army veteran. 


In 1950, at the age of twenty, he left his home in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and joined the Canadian military.


Two years later, he was fighting in the Korean War, for a time dug into the side of a mountain during the year he was there. This young man made the military his career and served in a variety of locations, including Cyprus, as a peacekeeper.


That soldier remembered and every year, he participated in the ceremonies of Remembrance on November 11th. While many of us pause to recall the sacrifice of so many, he had specific memories of some who paid the supreme sacrifice. Besides the ultimate cost to some, this man knew the cost of survival as well and what military personnel continue to sacrifice for this country.

                                       Uncle Dick and great grand niece Sylvie

Richard (Dick) Mercer, though you are gone, we remember you and are thankful for your service to Canada.

We will remember them.