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Thursday 31 October 2019

Autumn along the Confederation Trail

A walk along the Confederation Trail not far from home last week was a pleasant surprise. Some of the colour remains on the trees there, unlike many areas we’ve visited recently. It was a colourful trek with a favourite sight through the trees.

This trail was the railbed when trains ran across the Prince Edward Island. Now the trail is frequented by bikers, runners and walkers. It passes through the countryside, past fields, over rivers and streams, through towns and villages and the two cities on the island. It is flat and straight in many areas as it is in the area we visited. One can see for kilometres into the distance. 

The first portion of the trial has power lines on the south side. There are more leaves on that side because the trees have been trimmed due to the power lines. Trimmed trees sprout multiple branches and the leaves become thick over time and are somewhat protected from the wind, providing an autumn spectacle.

The fields on either side of the trail grew hay or straw this year.

Some of my favourite autumn scenes include bales of hay and trees frame the scenes along this part of the trail.

The shape of the bales, circular against the backdrop of trees, sea or sky are a contrast to other natural elements. 

The forest floor is covered with leaves which crunch underfoot.

Consequently the rich red soil is under another layer of leaves which will be broken down by microorganisms providing more humus to the soil. The cycle of life continues.

Tuesday 29 October 2019


It’s harvest time. The potato trucks head to fields or warehouses. Tractors cause Prince Edward Island’s version of traffic jams. Tractors work with diggers

and harvesters in the fields and in tandem with trucks which carry off the starchy tubers.

Field by field, ingathering is underway. The island grows 25% of the potatoes consumed in Canada every year.

Trucks take the product to the warehouses where crews remove any remaining soil and rock from among the vegetables.

Potatoes are stored until they are shipped for processing or to market.

On the fields, feathered friends enjoy the remains of the summer’s efforts. Canada geese enjoy their time in the fields after the harvest but for grasses not potatoes.

Gulls enjoy the newly harvested fields as well for the juicy insects unearthed when the fields are dug.

The last photo shows a field of pumpkins in the distance. There are less pumpkins there than a few weeks ago.

Happy Hallowe’en.

Sunday 27 October 2019

Yes b’y

We celebrated my birthday recently with our daughter and the kids. My husband and I had great fun with them. I do some crafts and games for the kids and we all participate. Their favourite is a scavenger hunt with the rhyming clues. The youngest is old enough now to participate in everything and the girls love to include him. 

Food and presents are nice but my favourite part of our parties is always the dancing. My husband doesn’t dance but the golden grand-dog does. When the dancing starts, we only have to ask, “Do you want to dance, Georgie?” The dog will jump up to place her front paws on your shoulders and move around on her hind legs. She’s danced with us since she was a pup.

The kids like to dance to Newfoundland music and one favourite is I’se da b’y.  You can hear it here.

We always play a version by Great Big Sea. We do a lot of swing your partner and step dancing which the girls are familiar with. I can manage a few steps.

Imagine the five of us and the dog, in the living room dancing to such music. I tire out before the young ones but there is always the promise of another time.

In the words of my brother, “Yes, b’y.”

It was a great birthday.

Thursday 24 October 2019

Along the Dunk

The Dunk River flows through the centre of Prince Edward Island. The Breadalbane Trail runs along by the Dunk and we hadn’t been there for a few years. Georgie, the golden grand-dog accompanied us on the trail on a mild sunny day recently. While peak autumn colours have passed already, there was some colour left 

and the river and streams in the area were full, perfect for a water loving dog.

This is a difficult trail though, not because of its challenges of length or the height to which it climbs. Rather, much of the trail has roots of trees across its width requiring one’s full attention. 

The leaves covering the trail now make it doubly difficult. Initially, we were slow, getting accustomed to the perilous path. However after six months of hiking, we soon acclimatized and achieved our usual pace, though carefully.

Georgie was off lead for a time during which she did her usual antics, running ahead and back between my husband and me. Her favourite adventure, however, involved every drop of water around, 

achieving her preferred status of muddy and wet. She enjoyed the hike immensely.

There were sections of the trail with trees, living and dead, covered in reindeer moss.

Lots of mushrooms of various types were hanging in for the last warm days of autumn.

This organism, with the unfortunate name of slime mould, 

was a rich colour over one side of a tree trunk. 

This bridge was an unusual size, just the width of one person, but a perfect size for the small river it traverses.

We didn’t have a picnic at Breadalbane that day although it wasn’t cold or windy. Next time.

Wednesday 23 October 2019


My maternal grandparents were born at the start of the twentieth century in rural Newfoundland. Granda left school early to go fishing. Nan however, completed school which was not common in those days. She wanted to be a teacher and had an offer to teach school in outport Newfoundland. However, her parents were not satisfied for her to leave home to go teaching. It just wasn’t done in the world they knew. Nan stayed home. At some point she started courting my grandfather. However, she had a wonderful relationship with both of her parents to the end of their lives.

Meanwhile, Nan and Granda married, raised three children and worked hard fishing and farming. They provided well for the family throughout the Depression when many others could not.

A lifetime later, during my first year teaching in rural Newfoundland, I received a letter from my grandmother. She wrote about her delight that I was able to do what she could not. She was happy for me. I was living her dream.

I’ve since wondered if my grandmother felt unfulfilled in her life. Did she feel trapped? Did she settle for a life with my grandfather and all it entailed? Did she wonder what her life could have been if only... Did she even have time or the inclination to think of those things? Her letter makes me think she had some of these thoughts at least since she wrote that letter at the end of her life.

My mother spoke about how her parents did not encourage or help her continue her education. They wanted her to stay at home and work with them. Mom was the last young person to leave her community to go to work in St. John’s. Her parents were disappointed and saddened when she did.

Nan hadn’t learned from past experience to encourage and support her own daughter. Was it the times or bitterness on Nan’s part which kept her from supporting her daughter in fulfilling her dreams? Mom felt unable to pursue further education on her own because of the time in which she lived. I imagine it was even more so for my grandmother. As a good daughter, she obeyed her parents. 

Mom did learn from her experience however and she and Dad encouraged me to go to university. They wanted something better for me and did everything they could to help me achieve my goals. My husband and I did the same with our daughter.

My mother loved her parents and had a great relationship with them nevertheless. I adored both of my grandparents and spent a great deal of time with them during the summers of my childhood. Relationships in the family were not fractured. The love prevailed.   

I am a product of these women, their genetics but also their stories. Knowing the stories helps me understand what was and is important in my life and influenced the decisions I have made. I am grateful to these women.

Sunday 20 October 2019

Autumn in French River

It was time to change the header for my blog again which necessitated a visit to French River. On the way there, we saw a number of homes with boats stored nearby for the winter in anticipation of the freeze up around Prince Edward Island this year. Surprisingly, there were a few boats left at the wharf at French River. 

There wasn’t much colour among the hills that day.

Though some fields are still green, the most autumn colour was among the fields.

Along by the water, the grasses and plants have attained autumn colour too.

Since early summer, a house has been built at the top of the hill above the wharf.

Not far from the wharf, the muscle beds have sea gulls enjoying the opportunity to be out of the water, sat atop the buoys. 

Across New London Bay, the potato harvest is underway on the far side of the golf course where nobody will play golf until next spring.

The next change will probably include some white.

Thursday 17 October 2019


Nothing fancy here, just pieces of wood held together by hidden strips. Hinges, some newer than others, help open and close while the lock, or lack of it, won’t keep anyone out. These are the doors of the fishing shacks at Milligan’s Wharf and they have as much character as the area itself.

Shacks line the wharf and owners tie up their boats in front of them. 

Some shacks have the names of the boats on the doors. 

Another has a tuna tail fin, a unique curiosity. 

Most colours are faded but remnants of red, grey and blue are visible.

What lies behind those doors? Nets, rope, lobster traps, buoys, tools and a myriad of other untold necessities and treasures of a life around the sea.

Battered by the elements for years, the barriers, like the shacks they stand with are uneven, askew to the world. They have earned the look of the well used from years of ins and outs with fishy hands as owners return from sea or prepare to go. 

These doors provide passage to enclaves where tales have been told, stories of good years when catch was plentiful or a season’s fishing didn’t provide enough to cover expenses. Here, stories are told of old times, of fathers and grandfathers who didn’t have the modern boats and equipment to help locate the fish, of close calls and rescues at sea when life and limb were in jeopardy or tragically lost. Jokes told at the expense of oneself were the mainstay of comedy and old sayings, only understood by the like minded, were part of the vernacular. These shacks have heard it all.

So today as they hang out in this place, they expect the coming freeze up will mean, as in the past, that boats will come ashore for months and activity around them will cease. Then the warm sun of April will bring the boats back and these doors will open again to life by the sea.

Wednesday 16 October 2019

A weekend of thanks

It was a wonderful long Thanksgiving weekend. My husband and I spent Saturday with our daughter and the kids. We had the traditional Thanksgiving dinner and expressed our gratitude for so much in our lives. We always do art and play games with the girls and their brother enjoyed camping with pillows and blankets.

Sunday was a quiet day as we walked the boardwalk then spent time with our grandson when our daughter and the girls took in a movie. Every chance we have to spend time alone with our two year old grandson is a joy as he explores the world and increases his vocabulary every week.

On Monday, my husband and I took the golden grand-dog, Georgie, with us for a walk. She has recovered from the limp she had last week. The Millman Road is a Heritage Road on Prince Edward Island and I have featured it on this blog a number of times. 

By this past weekend, it was past peak colour for the trees this year. Many leaves didn’t survive the wind storm of Dorian from early September anyway. 

The road was a pretty setting nevertheless, with shades of yellow framing the red dirt road stretched out before us as we walked its length. 

Many birds have left the island already this year but the voices of the Black capped chickadees were obvious in the trees around us.

The squirrels entertained us too with their chatter from the trees and the occasional dash across the road which always interested Georgie.

The highlight of the day was our picnic lunch under the trees. It was 12 degrees Celsius, without a breath of wind. As we ate our turkey sandwiches with hot tea, the leaves gently dropped from the maple and birch trees around us. In front of us, the yellow, green and red leaves formed a watercolour. 

I could feel myself relax and breathe deeply as I observed the painting and chatted with my husband. And though it will sound cloyingly sentimental, as we soaked up the ambience, a single maple leaf fell on the table. 

Thankful isn’t an adequate description!


Sunday 13 October 2019

The old house at Milligan’s Wharf

The old house at Milligan’s Wharf is full of whispers now, as the echos of the past reverberate through its rooms.

The small dwelling has seen better days when the man went fishing and the woman kept house and made a home for the children. They worked hard and raised a big family in this place. Now it looks forlorn, battered by the wind and rain as the roof has begun to give way to the elements.

It sits behind the fishing shacks by the wharf, mere meters from the sea.

The disappearing red trim speaks of its weathered history from years of life in such an exposed location.

Chances are there is salt in its crevices. 

The house looks out to the wharf and to its left, the Conway Narrows are bordered by the Sandhills, 

a 50 kilometre sand bar which protects the northwest shore of the island from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It is a beautiful setting but it can be harsh too. 

How long will the old place stand against the elements before its structure is compromised? The whisperers are wondering too.

Friday 11 October 2019

Bits and bobs 5

Voting in the advance polls for the federal election begins today. Election Day is October 21 but the four days of advance polls allow us to vote when the voting stations aren’t as busy.  This is a great opportunity for voters. It will be interesting to see the result of the voting. Canada may elect a minority government which could mean another election in the near future. For me, this 40 day campaign after four years is plenty. However, we are fortunate to live in a democratic country with the right to vote so another trip to the polls would be a privilege many in the world do not have. 

Book club has begun again and I so enjoy the time spent with this group of women. We have been together for a number of years, each bringing her unique experience to the shared book. We have had some wonderful conversations over the years. I really look forward to the first Tuesday of every month. This month we are reading A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. 

Georgie, the golden grand-dog has not walked with us this week. She developed a limp after a walk with our daughter earlier in the week so she is recuperating now. Anti-inflammatories are helping. She may be back on the trail with us soon. We miss her!

This coming Monday is Thanksgiving in Canada. We will celebrate with our daughter and the grandchildren on Saturday. Because our daughter is a nurse whose shift work crosses all holidays, we celebrate occasions whenever we can around a holiday. We have much to be thankful for this year and every year.

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!

Wednesday 9 October 2019

A few apples

There’s been a flurry of baking and preserving here in recent days. One  fine day last week, my husband and I visited an orchard and picked 150 apples and I’ve been busy since then. Apple crisp, galette, baked apples and apple sauce have all passed our lips and onto our hips.

Applesauce is a favourite of the grandkids and I make some for them every year with a squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of cinnamon and a tablespoon of sugar. I was late making it this year and needed a reminder from the kids. They reminded our daughter via Alexa to stop by Nanny’s house and get more applesauce a day after I delivered two bottles to their home. The girls left a timed message for her before they left for school.

The orchard we visit lost about 200 trees when Dorian blew through last month and the effect will be felt for many years. The owner had reported prior to the storm the crop was the best ever. Despite the loss of trees though, apples stayed on the trees that remained. The trees we picked from were loaded with luscious ripe fruit. We picked Cortland apples that day. 

Walking through the rows of trees among the delicious fruit is one of my favourite autumn experiences.

I know how Eve felt.

Sunday 6 October 2019

How the light breaks through

A walk through the Bonshaw Hills this time of year is a colourful treat. High above in the canopy, growing layers of colour have developed, whilst on the ground, new colours are taking over. The face of nature is changing.

Shafts of light pass through the canopy in various locations and highlight different elements of nature. 

Spots of light on a path can dance around as the leaves overhead move in the breeze, changing the light’s path. 

The most fascinating aspect  however, is how it illumines various areas and objects, as if a spotlight is focussed on the area.

These cause me to pause and look. 

This play of light reminds me of the Leonard Cohen’s Anthem. If you aren’t familiar with Cohen’s work, his voice can be off putting. However if you stick with it, you may come to feel as I do, his voice is a perfect conduit for the poetry of his soul. 

The song is here.

It speaks to me of optimism which in the face of the climate conditions, I find difficult to hang onto. I’ve been drawn back to this song at this time when I need it most. These words

There is a crack, a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.

give me hope and with it the realization sometimes the light is brought by a sixteen year old Swedish girl.

Thursday 3 October 2019

Old friends

We haven’t seen Canada geese for some time. Following hatching of the goslings and the moulting of the older birds, they were missing from our area for the last two months. Then, on Open Farm Day, a huge flock flew over the last farm we visited. It was good to see our old friends.

The youngsters haven’t perfected the V formation from the look of the flock that day. Young ones need practice so as not to fly into or too close to other birds.

The photos show how close some of the birds came to each other.

The geese usually leave Prince Edward Island in late December. Over the next three months the young ones will perfect the art of flight in formation. As the shadows lengthen, the flock will visit fields, ponds and harbour bulking up for their marathon of flight.

Through open windows and doors, we will hear them as they pass overhead between locations. We’ll watch them on the harbour as we walk the boardwalk, their honking, one of the sounds of the shortening autumn days. 

Welcome back old friends, for a few months anyway.

Update: just over two weeks since the first sighting of geese, smaller flocks are flying in perfect v formation to and from the harbour. The young ones are fast learners.