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Friday 28 September 2018

Simple pleasures

You know those moments; times when you are present in the circumstances of your life and think...this is perfect.

I had one of those moments recently while my husband and I had our picnic lunch at Bonshaw Hills Park before another trail walk. It was our second visit in three days. This time the northerly wind was cold and it was a mere 10 degrees Celsius. Sat at the end of the picnic table, 

where the sun could shine on us, we were comfortable in the fresh air and the green of early fall.

It was quiet. 

The last time we were here, a group of young school children played and had lunch as we watched and reminisced about our days teaching. On this day, the quiet filled the space, as the wind stirred the trees and the sun kept us warm.

Georgie, the golden grand-dog was with us again.

She loves these excursions too, though she covers twice as much territory as we do. When off lead, she runs ahead and back to us. She also enjoys a treat while we have lunch. Georgie is a faithful old dog who brightens our days when she comes for a visit.

We spoke of plans for the remainder of the week and family news as we ate the delicious but simple fare, chicken sandwiches and black tea. Olives, cheese and garden tomatoes rounded out the meal. With a second cup of tea, we sat in the sun and absorbed the warmth. 

Who knows what tomorrow may bring. But the sun, the setting, the food, the company and the moment were all perfect! It doesn’t get any better than this.

Wednesday 26 September 2018

Preserve time

It’s that time of year again when this woman’s thoughts turn to preserves. The seeds of those thoughts are genetic, from a long line of women food preservers from the coast of Newfoundland. In the late summer, when berries and other food items were at their prime, genes nudged the women into picking and preserving.

I remember the bottles of preserves my family and friends had stored for the winter when fresh fruit was impossible to buy due to lack of availability and money. There is a part of my genetic core which delights in these stacks of preserves. The gene makes it possible to enjoy the process and look forward to it every year.

This year, I made the supply of pickles, twenty-five bottles, for the coming year. I love them, while my husband is a food purist and eats few condiments, especially pickles. These zucchini mustard pickles go well with anything. 

After our annual trip to the apple orchard, I made apple sauce for the kids. They enjoy Nan’s apple sauce and can devour a bottle at one sitting. Now a third apple sauce monster means I made extra this year. Fifteen bottles will last them a few weeks.

The orchard also sells plums and they make delicious jam. In the recipe I use, plums are boiled at least four times over two days and make especially good jam. My husband and I are not particularly fond of jam but the kids love it, so they benefit again.

It appears the gene has been passed along to the next generations too. Our daughter made plum jam with the help of the girls. They too loved the process and enjoy a spoonful stirred into porridge or on toast. Owen looked on in wonder, enjoying the occasional piece of plum which came his way. The future looks bright for preserving in this family.

My job here is done!

Monday 24 September 2018

Three maples

With maples this time of year, it’s usually all about the leaves. Not this time. The leaves are slow to change colour this year but the trunks of three maple trees on the Bonshaw Hills Trails were worth a look.

Before we started the hike, my husband and I had lunch at the picnic area. 

It was the last full day of summer but the feel of autumn was in the air although it was sunny and warm. We felt at home there since a school group was having lunch before they did a nature walk. It’s been a while since we’ve been around so many children. Georgie, the golden grand-dog was with us and watched every child with interest.

We decided to walk to the center of the main trail, to an area we had yet to explore. It took about an hour to arrive in the area, having stopped on occasion to take photos. 

The first huge maple had steps to facilitate climbing into what looked like a bowl base. A face in the trunk stared back.

Kids love this tree which can easily accommodate a family among the branches.

The second maple had its own swing which was inviting to all who happened by.

The old wood had what looked like a face with pursed lips below the first junction of branches.

We met the school children again by this last maple swing in a sheltered area where the canopy gave the scene a green glow.

These old maples have many stories to tell of life in the area over the years. Soon the falling leaves 

will conclude this year’s chapter as the trees settle in for another long sleep.

Friday 21 September 2018

Farm day

There is an effort on Prince Edward Island to make children aware of where their food comes from. One of the ways to accomplish this is through Open Farm Days. This year, 28 farms opened their properties to the public for a few hours, to allow people an opportunity to see how their food is produced. We visited Hope River and Kool Breeze farms with our daughter and the grandkids. 

Hope River is a mixed animal farm. It was fun for the kids to see the sheep, 

pigs, ducks,


and rabbits. As usual, the pigs were their favourites.

The farm sells it products on site with reasonable rates for pasture raised animals.

Kool Breeze farm and garden center is familiar to the children from their pre-school and family visits there. The farm does a great job every fall decorating and providing a farm-themed playground for kids.

Round and square hay bales make trains, tractors,

stands for slides, and mazes the kids climb through, on and over. Lots of bale characters

line the field as a local musician provides entertainment and a farm tractor pulls visitors around on a tour of the farm. Food, including ice cream, is available.

Farms are an important part of the economy of this island but no matter where you live, your food begins with a farmer. 

Thank you to these hard working people.

Wednesday 19 September 2018

The picnic in the glow

The green glow under a canopy of leaves on a sunny day will be gone soon.  That glow is good for the mind, body and spirit and it is sad as the end nears for another year. Now, withered leaves are falling from a few trees but the colourful display has not yet begun.

We had a picnic with our daughter and the kids last weekend at Cavendish Grove. It was hot but the trees provided needed relief from the blistering sun. Our time under the green glow was special.

There are several apple trees in the Grove. We shook limbs on the trees and apples fell to the ground. We kept them for snacks.

Everyone enjoyed the apple squishing with the ample fruit already under the trees. There is something almost therapeutic about the feel and sound of squishing apples under foot.

Owen picked up and dropped the same apple numerous times. His mastery of the task thrilled him.

The girls hung off branches, with assistance of course, 

and stayed suspended for seconds to their great delight. 

Meanwhile, blue jays flew among the trees all around us and called out to each other as we had lunch. They gave us permission to visit their home for a few hours.

Our picnic in the Grove was fun family time in the last of the green glow for this year.

Note:  I have been unable to comment on some of my favourite blogs. For some reason, the comments I make don’t publish. I have sent feedback to Blogger but have yet to hear from them. 

Monday 17 September 2018

Beach day

It’s been hot and humid this summer and as the last few days of the season approach, my husband and I decided on another beach day. Prince Edward Island has so many beaches, we decided on one which is new to us, but popular with islanders from the city of Charlottetown.

We parked and headed for the beach. A minute into the walk, my husband had to return to the car for something. I continued on in the 30+ Celsius temperature, hot for us even in mid July. The wind, which had been a cooling effect earlier in the day had completely disappeared. 

There had been a bus in the parking lot, a blue one, unlike the traditional yellow school bus but the same shape. Tourists we decided, though they usually ride coaches rather than school buses.

As I walked along, I spotted a large group coming from the path through the sand dunes. They approached and I noticed their youth, not teenagers though, young adults. While they walked along, a slightly older guide stopped at a stream and pointed out various items to them. Some took notes, all listened.

University students, I thought. Environmental studies, perhaps?

That thought took me back. At sixteen I started a science degree at university in Newfoundland and one of the first courses I took was Geology. I loved it. We had classes and a three hour lab every week where we studied mineral and rock samples or did field trips. Two field trips stand out in my mind.

The first was a miserable wet day in late September of 1970 when we piled on a school bus and drove to Signal Hill, a rock which borders one side of the harbour of St. John’s. Today there are stairs and well established paths around the hill and an interpretative GeoCenter. Not so almost fifty years ago as we trekked over the hill. It was misery in the pouring rain.

Another trip on a more pleasant fall day brought us to the Manuels River, a site with fossils, such a trilobites. It was an exciting day as some of the group found the extinct spider relatives imprinted between the layers of rock. Today there is an Interpretation Center at the site.

As I watched this September group pass by, I wondered what the world has in store for each of those young people. Also, what are their dreams and aspirations?

By the middle of that first September, I had already met the young man I would marry six years later. I could never have imagined I’d be a teacher because I wanted a career in Science. A family and all it entails were not on the radar. I was focussed on the here and now. I could not see past all the work that first semester.

These faces were young and full of promise. I stopped and watched as they walked away, some talking, most walking silently as the newness of the group kept them quiet. They are just beginning.

I saw him turn out from the parking lot and walk past the group as he headed towards me. I waited for him as the bus pulled away. We exchanged smiles and walked on.

Friday 14 September 2018

The scythe

It’s curious how an object can take you back in life. The scythe was hung in the shed at Doucet House in Rustico, Prince Edward Island. It is in rough shape now, not having been used or maintained in years. 

My grandfather owned and used a scythe to mow the hay for the animals. This time of the year, he worked hard to provide for the coming year. Granda died in 1972, a few hours after having mowed hay. Working to his last day, he died as he would have wanted.

The days of the scythe are long gone as machinery has taken over the family farm and industrialized farming has taken its place. The horse and cart my grandfather used to transport the hay are part of the history books, part of the fond memories from my youth. The smell of the hay, clothes and hair covered in the dried grass, are etched in my sense memory.

It may be part of the reason that at every opportunity, I pause to look at and photograph bales of hay and straw on fields today on Prince Edward Island. Beginning every summer and continuing into the fall, bales sit on the fields ready for collection.

The view near French River, shows signs of the fishery in the foreground, a golf green and bales on a field. 

At the National Park at Cavendish, bales sit in cottage country.

Near the park at Brackley Beach, the back and forth rows made by the harvesting machinery make what looks likes tracks for the bales.

On a friend’s field one evening at dusk, I had the chance to see the straw bales at field level

and up close.

From the Confederation Trail, the fields are bordered with trees and wildflowers.

The trees on the Trail provide a frame for a lone bale.

Last fall, the colours of autumn added another dimension to the common scene near Bonshaw Park.

Finally, the Confederation Bridge is the backdrop for the bales, a scene which changes every year with the crops on the field.

These views from our island home are some of my favourite farm scenes.

Wednesday 12 September 2018

Nature Park

We have visited the Westmoreland River Nature Park several times since it opened in August of last year. A group of volunteers has worked to restore the Westmoreland Watershed and the park on Stordy’s Pond is part of their plan. 

Around the pond, there are two docks for fishing 

and bird boxes for tree swallows. 

There is also a Monarch Waystation, with milkweed plants and shelter for the butterflies. 

A ladder helps fish swim to the pond rather than navigate the river.

This year, the group built stands overlooking the ladder and the river. 

During our lastest visit, there were many butterflies, mainly sulphurs and whites, in the vegetation along the path around the head of the pond. I also saw this Viceroy, which I mistook for a Monarch.

Vegetation planted along the waterways and the pond provide rest areas for the fish. The Spotted jewelweed on both sides of the ladder was a great addition.

We met a fly fisherman who caught huge rainbow trout in the pond last spring. He enjoys the park and marvels at the work of the watershed group.

Last year, I took a photo of other fishers of this pond, the Double-crested cormorants.

This year, cormorants swam and dived in the water. They like the changes to the area as well.

Thank you volunteers! 

Monday 10 September 2018

A different sort of fish

Looking out the window of Doucet House in Rustico, the oldest house on Prince Edward Island, the land and sea stretch before you. Farming was a big part of the lives of the Acadians but so was fishing. The same is true today for this gentle island.

The bay shows signs of three fisheries, oyster, mussel and eel, among the many on the island. 

The latter is unfamiliar to me and caught my interest. 

There is an active eel fishery in Prince Edward Island and in Rustico you can see where the traps are in the water. Traps are the shape of a windsock, with an opening on the larger end. The season runs from  August to October, with a size limit on the fish which can be kept.

The serpentine like fish are not commonly eaten in Canada but there is a market overseas so the product is exported. For example, marinated eel is an antipasto in Italy.

This is a recipe for whole roasted eel. The description of its preparation is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

Roasted eel

I have never eaten eel nor seen it to buy. I am curious about it and would probably try it. How about you?