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Thursday, 17 December 2020

Decorated for Christmas

Our recent drive to Mt. Royal in the western part of the Prince Edward Island took us through Coleman. On the main highway in Coleman, there is a house with a deciduous tree in the front yard which is decorated with various buoys year round. We always stop there to see the tree and its lovely ornaments but we have never seen the tree this time of year. Until this week.

The tree is decked out in its bevy of buoy baubles. Some have several buoys hanging on rope. Single buoys hang there too, some on long, others on short ropes. The colours of the buoys are varied, some two toned, others, solid shades in rainbow colours plus an occasional black.

An old pair of snowshoes, similar to those my husband and I had years ago, hangs on the side of the house.

On the lower part of the tree trunk, a tire, painted green, is encircled with lights and has a bow, making a lovely wreath. That’s how to recycle!

In front of the house, a bird feeder has a string of jingle bells hung down and an angel on its post. I wonder if the bells keep the birds away?

The evergreen shrubs closer to the house are hung with large bulbs which give a whole other meaning to the term bulbous bushes.

These decorations make me smile.


I hope everyone has a peaceful, safe and healthy Christmas. For those who don’t celebrate Christmas, I wish you peaceful, safe and healthy days. I’ll see you in the New Year. Take care everyone!

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Notes from the isle

Yay! My husband and I rode our bicycles one more time. It was only 3 C but without a breath of wind, it was pleasant enough to take out the bikes. We drove around our area mid-morning so the traffic was light and we could stay close to home in case it was too cold. It was great to be back on the bike again.

Meanwhile we purchased a new recumbent bike so we can continue cycling on some level. Changing the tension on the bike really provides a good workout too.

People were curious about the thistle on the steeple of the Free Church of Scotland in my previous post. I am including a photo of the finial from the

If we ever wondered why Jeff Bezos was the richest person in the world, the pandemic has resolved it. There are nine houses at the top of our street. With the Covid restrictions keeping us at home, my husband and I see the various delivery trucks stopping in our area. Purolator, FedEx and UPS stop at some of these houses every day, including weekends this time of year. You can almost set your clock by the various deliveries. If nine houses generate this number of deliveries and even if a fraction are from Amazon, no wonder the man has so much money.

One of these days, someone will invent a mask which doesn’t cause your glasses to steam up, especially if you are having a hot flash! Just wishing!

The Atlantic bubble burst after cases of Corona virus occurred which weren’t travel related. It means travel between the four Atlantic provinces requires two weeks isolation again. The outbreak on Prince Edward Island involved young people. The Chief Public Health Officer asked 20-29 year olds to be tested and brought in more restrictions until December 21st, such as take-out only from restaurants. The good news is we have been six days without any new cases and the response from the young people at the testing centres was overwhelming. The latest news is the restrictions may be lifted earlier than the 21st. Thank you to our young men and women for their response!  We live in a wonderful place!

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Sunny and zero

Mt. Royal is a small farming community in the centre of western Prince Edward Island. We visited the area to see the grave of a local World War 2 veteran I have been researching recently. The cemetery borders a road through farmland, a fitting place for an Islander to rest. 

It was a cold but sunny day with the temperature hovering around zero. The freezing air meant the light covering of snow hugged the grass.

To get to Mt. Royal you drive through Coleman where this little church keeps a silent vigil. 

It doesn’t look like the church is in use now but a search on-line reveals it was the Free Church of Scotland, built around 1900.

The spire looked unique but I didn’t get a clear photo. In this area settled by Scottish immigrants generations ago, 

it is not surprising to learn the spire consists of a thistle. The church was in use at least until 2012.

While the population of the island has increased, mainly due to immigration, rural parts of Prince Edward Island are seeing an increase in the number of empty properties. Seniors are moving to larger centres and fewer people are left to support the local churches.

Leard’s Pond in Coleman has a picnic area where my husband and I hope to picnic in the spring. The pond looks cold this day as the slight breeze ripples the surface of the water.  

The yellowed grasses around the pond, moved ever so slightly by the breeze,

whispered as I stood and took in the scene. An occasional vehicle happened by but the peacefulness of the setting with the sound of the breeze in the grass made the cares of the world disappear. 

Sunny and zero made a perfect combination for a December drive in the country.

Thursday, 10 December 2020

At the feeder

We dug out the old bird feeder from last year and hung it from a pole attached to the patio. My husband put peanuts in shells in the centre of the feeder and a suet block down the side cage facing the patio door so we could watch the activity around the feeder.

As I hung the feeder from the pole, two of the neighbourhood crows were flying overhead. They saw me and by the time I was back in the house with my camera in hand, crows were on the patio rail.

These are the neighbourhood crows I have to fend off when it comes to the grapes I grow around the patio support poles. While the trees in our backyard are not mature, several doors up, mature trees are full of crows on occasion. The murder misses nothing that goes on in the neighbourhood. They also spread the word. Before long four crows were lined up on the railing, waiting for a turn at the feeder.

There are crows which live along the boardwalk where we walk regularly. We have never seen them show interest in the peanuts people leave for the squirrels and birds. However, the neighbourhood crows were interested in the peanuts in our feeder. The only problem was the swaying of the feeder from the slight breeze or their touch. When the feeder moved towards them, the birds flew off or moved away.

Over a few hours, the crows learned to resist their fear and grab the peanuts, not just one either. 

They often took as many as four and flew off with them. It looked like they swallowed some, shells and all, and took two in their beaks. We couldn’t tell the birds apart so as to know how long it took an individual to eat or store the peanuts and return.

The suet, which they love is another story. The location of the suet basket made it hard for the crows to eat. It dangles over the deck. Meanwhile, Blue Jays, which also happened by, had no trouble landing on the swinging feeder.

The larger crows couldn’t manage at all. However, they didn’t want the jays around either. The jays obliged.

We watched as a crow landed on either side of the railing, tipping its head to the side, as if sizing up how to get the suet. One crow tried to land on the side of the feeder, tipping it almost horizontally. The bird flew off. 

Another time, a crow landed on the suet basket but couldn’t manage to eat the suet as its large body covered it and the feeder was tipped. When it flew to the railing, it ate the suet off its claws which it picked up during the attempt.

Crows are smart so I look forward to seeing how they solve this dilemma. Meanwhile I feel bad for the jays who didn’t get much of anything from the feeder thus far. 

We also had the neighbourhood flock of starlings visit the backyard and ten or more came onto the railing. Their frenetic demeanour is almost overwhelming to watch. They only stayed seconds.

And the story continues...

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Snow squalls

We’ve had a lot of rain the last week or so. It hasn’t been warm but not cold enough for snow other than a few sprinkles overnight. That snow hasn’t stayed around. My husband and I waited for a break in the weather to go for a walk along the boardwalk.

The deciduous trees are bare and everything was wet and dreary.

However, the sun was trying to find an opening through the heavy overcast and periodically gave us hope of clearing skies.

A ship was on its way out of the harbour

and another waited off-shore for a place at the wharf. While we watched, the scene changed dramatically as snow squalls moved through. 

The vessel, the Mandarin, wasn’t more than a blur for several minutes but the squall didn’t last long.

Even on a dreary day, there is always something beautiful to see.

These rose hips with the drops of water hanging from them were in their seasonal glory.

And as always, the little animals never disappoint. 

Monday, 7 December 2020

Cookie day

The kids were excited. They always enjoyed baking with their mother or me and when we all came together at our house to do some baking, it was extra special. They were wound as tight as springs. 

The kids and their mother remain part of our Covid bubble but it looks like that may change soon. Covid has reared its ugly spike-filled head in full force on the island. We were determined to enjoy cookie day but the gloom of social isolation appears to be on the horizon.

Baking Christmas cookies has been a Christmas tradition for a number of years and this year, the youngest, a boy of three, was old enough to enjoy the experience as well. 

I had a head start on the day. I was up early and had two lots of cookies ready to be completed by the kids. It gave us lots of time to do the other four batches of cookies with them that morning. They rolled the first cookie mixture into balls which gave the adults time to gather supplies for the next batches.

One of the recipes we tried was called Moose Farts, from an old Newfoundland recipe. These were really popular with the kids as you can imagine, as much for the name as the ingredients. They couldn’t wait to try the farts which were a big hit.

                                                                      Covid bear

We sampled cookies for dessert that night after a baked ham supper at our daughter’s house. If this is the only time we can get together this Christmas season, it is enough. We are grateful!

Thursday, 3 December 2020

The vegetable patch

The last of the tomatoes from the backyard vegetable patch made their way off the counter this week. I had covered the plants numerous times due to frost warnings in September. However, eventually I picked the green tomatoes, thinking the September sun lacked the energy they needed to ripen. The tomatoes ripened slowly in brown paper bags on the counter and over time I shared the grape, beefsteak and plum tomatoes with friends and family. Finally, the last of the tomatoes needed dispatching.

In August I processed some tomatoes for this winter so as not to have to buy can tomatoes. I just can’t bring myself to eat them any more. We also used lots of fresh tomatoes in soup and casseroles. Fresh tomato soup was on the menu a few weeks ago.

Not only tomatoes but the whole vegetable patch grew well this year. I grew green onions, peppers, cucumbers, yellow beans, salad greens, kale, herbs, cabbage and a variety of tomatoes. As always, I put too much in the patch but everything manages to carve out a space and grow well. I always vow to plant less next year but that never happens. 

The kale is abundant and hardy as it always is. My husband eats it reluctantly and I am tired of it. We continue to cut from the plants in the garden which have survived the white frost mornings and the bitter cold nights. I am convinced that Russian kale plants would survive a nuclear blast.

Meanwhile, I oven-dried the last of the tomatoes and placed them in a good olive oil. We will use them over the next month. We love them on homemade pizza with fresh mozzarella and mushrooms.

It was a great season in the garden.

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

The wild ones

Muskrats have been in residence in the saltwater marsh, now pond, along the boardwalk for a number of years. Over that time, we have seen young and old enjoying life in the area. The latest two are small compared to some of the adults we’ve seen there.

The American Black Ducks which live in the area have a curious relationship with the muskrats. They co-exist, keeping their distance usually but sometimes it looks like they chase each other, as if they are playing. They don’t mind being in the same area together but the muskrats scare the ducks when they suddenly dip underwater.

Recently, a diving muskrat scared a duck which took off and flew downstream.

November was a windy month, but on a few calm days, Cedar Waxwings visited the boardwalk. There were high in the trees and it was impossible to get good photos. They are such pretty birds and aren’t commonly seen along the boardwalk though we have seen them occasionally.

We often see Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers there, spring and winter most commonly. This little one was drilling away on a tree recently. We will see more of them over the next few months I expect.

The other animals I always enjoy are the gulls. This young one was on his own on the beach recently. The markings on the young birds are so different from the adults. 

On an extremely windy day, when we were the only people on the boardwalk, we watched this lone gull playing on the currents of air along the shoreline. 

In the hour we walked there, that same gull continued to float on the air currents over a stretch of shoreline. Pure enjoyment looked to be the only motivation.

Humankind underestimates the creatures we share this planet with.

Monday, 30 November 2020

November skies

We walk along the boardwalk in Summerside often but I never find it boring. There is always something different to see, from the animals, to the activity in the harbour, the vegetation, the changing season or the people. In addition, I always notice the trees against the background of sea and sky, an ever changing palette to a constant vigil.

This juniper tree is weathered by the harsh conditions along the coastline, with only a few needles left on the leeward side to turn colour in autumn. The tree has a great view of the Indian Head Lighthouse and the boat traffic in the harbour. The sky makes a huge difference to the look of this tree.

On a sunny day with intermittent cloud, a hint of autumn colour on land contrasts to the diamond sparkles on the water. 

This mainly grey background provides a silhouette of all the vegetation.

With storm clouds in the sky, the sun breaks through in the distance. As in the Leonard Cohen song, Anthem, “That’s how the light gets in.”

On a grey sky day, at low tide and in rough seas, every twig of the tree is visible.

Taken from another angle, the beauty of the misshapen juniper doesn’t stand out as much amid the other trees. 

I wonder what is new along the boardwalk today?

Friday, 27 November 2020


The Red Squirrels along the boardwalk are familiar with humans and expect to be fed. They are not shy in approaching people and if you stop where they are, they will climb your leg, expecting you to give them food such as a peanut.

My husband and I spent time feeding the birds recently and the squirrels were quite indignant. We ignored them initially and the furry rodents made a high pitched sound with open mouths, as if to scold us. We gave them peanuts before we left however.

Near the end of the boardwalk, where a new bird feeder is enjoyed by the chickadees and nuthatches, the squirrels appeared to be stymied. They couldn’t enjoy the black seeds like the birds were doing. I previously posted this photo of a squirrel eating the leftover seeds at the base of the feeder, flicked out by the birds.

More recently, one squirrel figured out how to climb the feeder. 

We thought he didn’t make any further progress. Notice how far the cages are from the post.

Last week, one squirrel sat on a branch behind and above the feeder, figuring out a way to secure the last of the seeds at the bottom of the cages or waiting for the cages to be filled again.

This week we learned not to underestimate squirrels. We couldn’t believe our eyes as we approached the feeder and there was a squirrel in the centre of the cage in one of them. 

While we watched, he jumped from the outer part of the cage to the pole and slid down to the ground. We waited to see him move into the feeder again but weren’t lucky enough to see the reverse move.

These are clever rodents and we enjoy life with them along the boardwalk. There must be thousands of peanuts in storage along that boardwalk, ready for winter this year. You have to admire the instinctive forethought and determination of the furry creatures. We can learn much from them.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Caught over

It had been below zero overnight and was not much warmer when we arrived at the boardwalk. My husband and I always head to the gazebo first to look out on the harbour and the lighthouse. We look over the saltwater marsh as well, now flooded to a pond by a recent high tide. 

The water below the gazebo was frozen or caught over as Newfoundlanders say.

There were two American Black Ducks swimming in a small area of open water, but you could hear them break the ice as they swam along.

Before long one flew up-stream, leaving the other as the lone ice breaker.

A Red Squirrel, with two rose hips in its mouth, greeted us as we left the gazebo. 

It looks like squirrels in addition to birds eat the red morsels. There are lots of rose hips along the boardwalk from the wild roses which bloom there most of the summer.

The Black-capped Chickadees have fed from people’s hands for years here. 

Still it is exciting when one of the little creatures lands on your hand, like a whisper of a touch from a tiny wild animal.

We crack the peanuts for the chickadees while the Blue Jays like the whole peanut as do the squirrels. One chickadee followed me after I had fed it raw peanuts but flew off when it realized I only had a whole one.

It made for a good photo.

A Red-breasted Nuthatch was interested in the seeds we’d brought too. They are comfortable with people hand feeding them as well. 

This was a first for us and such a thrill.

The Summerside boardwalk and the animals who live there are a treasure. 

Monday, 23 November 2020

Notes from the isle

The weather has been unusual these last few weeks. Just when we thought the colder than normal freezing temperatures were here to stay...surprise! It warmed up to double digits. My husband and I have been on our bikes again, though not as often. We’ve enjoyed the bonus days of cycling though it looks like our days of riding the trails are over now as the temperatures approach zero again.

Atlantic Canada has had a bubble over the four eastern Canadian provinces for the last number of months with restricted travel from the rest of Canada, requiring two weeks isolation on entry. Now, Covid cases are on the rise in the other three provinces in this bubble, while Prince Edward Island continues to be free of community spread. With the shopping season in full swing, Christmas on the horizon and university and college students headed home soon, that bubble around us is looking fragile. 

We continue to practise Covid protocols and hope that other islanders continue the measures which have kept us safe for the previous months. We trust our Chief Public Health Officer to keep us informed and our government to impose further restrictions if necessary. We live in dangerous and scary times.

One day recently, as my husband and I walked the boardwalk, we noticed something unusual in the Summerside Harbour. Fishing season is over in our waters for this year but we occasionally see a fishing vessel off-shore.

This fishing boat was in the Northumberland Strait cruising around as we thought. Then the vessel cruised into our area, opposite the Indian Head Lighthouse. It looked like people were fishing. I zoomed in with my camera and though blurred, could see what looked like crab pots being handled on the boat.

As we walked on, we noticed a small Coast Guard craft headed out from shore further in the harbour. When we looked back at the other boat, it was headed out into the Northumberland Strait again. At this point the Coast Guard boat returned to port.

Crab season is long over on the island. Someone must have reported the illegal activity which was visible from shore. This was the first time we have seen such a scene play out.

Soup season is upon us now and we are enjoying bowls of hot homemade soup with crusty bread or biscuits when we return from our walks and rides. Often the soup is vegetarian, such a squash, mushroom, tomato or potato. Prior to leaving the house, I cut up the vegetables, add them to the stock and let the pot come to a rolling boil. Then I turn off the burner but leave the pot in position on the stove. When we come home, the vegetables are cooked in the residual heat and still hot.

I made turkey soup over two days, the stock on the first, then cooked the vegetables the same way the second day. I added the cooked turkey the last minute. 

It is so good to have hot soup ready within minutes of arriving home! It keeps us from eating crackers and other junk while we wait for lunch. Leftovers are consumed the next day or except for potato soup, frozen. By the end of winter, we will be tired of soups but for now, they are a delicious way of life.

And finally, I follow several journalists from the island on Twitter. One posted recently about a bull which had broken out of a farmer’s field and may have been on the roads in the eastern county. We smiled when we heard this news. Compared to some of the news in this world, we’ll take a bull on the loose any day. Such is life on the island!

Thursday, 19 November 2020

November morning light

The golden grand-dog, Georgie, was visiting and a walk was more essential than usual. The sunny, warmer than normal day was perfect for a walk among the trails of the Rotary Friendship Park.

In a few areas, branches continue to hold on to leaves, not yet ready to release the last of their coloured garment to the earth. These two birches near the beginning of the trail catch one’s eye from the parking lot.

Closer to the earth, the exposed forest floor and a small tree catch the mid-morning light through the long shadows, surrounded by the grey stems.

The last of the maple leaves catches the light and shade perfectly.

Surprisingly some green leaves remain and add a element of mystery. How can these leaves not have changed and fallen yet?

What I enjoy most however is the light on the trail itself. When the leaves are not the focus, the play of shadow and light takes centre stage. 

It urges me onward, trail after trail, to see the next scene and what lies exposed now that the trees are ready for winter.

Mid autumn, with its gorgeous colours, garners most of the attention. Not to be missed however, are the bare trees and the light.

Don’t get me started on the dance of light on a windy day!