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Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Mary Ann

The name caught my eye. 

Mary Ann

It was at the top of the old headstone in raised letters. I looked down the stone and saw that she was 23 when she died in 1852, the wife of David Campbell.

Beneath her name was that of a young child, William, of the same man. Was he her child too? What was his cause of death? How did she die at such an early age? Something as simple as a toothache could have been the cause of death. Infections were deadly as were many of the diseases which antibiotics and vaccinations control today. Of course childbirth was a common cause of death for young women.

Did she leave any children giving her descendants who know of or search for her today? I wonder if, like my Mary Ann, she has a great granddaughter who wonders about her?

Mary Ann Pretty died in 1908 of tuberculosis, which had taken her husband and two children previously. Over the next several years, four more would succumb to the deadly disease. Only three children survived, one of whom was my grandfather.

It is interesting to see the name of David Campbell so prominently displayed on this headstone though he is not buried in that spot. Maybe he married again and is interred with another wife. Mary Ann Campbell’s family has interesting items to research.

Can you tell I am knee deep in genealogy these days?

Sunday, 16 February 2020


They dot the countryside, these old buildings, once places of congregation where people prayed and sang hymns of praise for all the big occasions in life and the times between. Now they are decommissioned and up for sale, some bought and repurposed, others left to disintegrate. This is possibly the fate of the old church on a country road west of our city.

It is slowly falling apart, peeling paint and rotting boards, 

without a time of service posted or even a name. There is nothing welcoming about this building. Former congregants, having passed to their eternal rest, fill the yard, the old headstones doing the best they can to stand vigil. 

Someone has placed the fallen ones to lean against the walls. On this cold day in February, as I walk around the building and through the cemetery, the silence and cold envelop me like a shroud.

This was a Presbyterian Church, the second here in Birch Hill, the congregation having outgrown the first built in 1800. This building was started in 1858. In 1925, when the United Church of Canada formed from four Protestant religions, including Presbyterian, the congregation of this church split, some joining the United Church. They built a new church in 1928, across the road from the Presbyterian building. The United Church is still in use and in good repair. 

Meanwhile the older building is crumbling.

Behind the church, among more headstones, three white birds which looked like Willow ptarmigan, flew off as I approached. We surprised each other. 

However it was not surprising but somehow fitting to see such beautiful white creatures here among the ruins.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

The homestead

One day recently, in spite of the weather, my husband and I took the cameras and headed out, this time west of Summerside. It had been November when we last took a photo excursion. It was long overdue.

This old homestead fascinated me. It looked like some of the old trees lining the property had succumbed to the winds of Dorian like so many more of the island’s trees.

Here however, there wasn’t anyone to trim the trees and claim the firewood. 

The barn has a metal roof which has rusted and begun to rip from the beams. 

The clapboard and shingled exterior are the well worn grey that only time can impart. Some windows are missing. Looking at it from the right, one sees it is open to the elements. 

How much longer can it remain upright?

Right of the barn, what may be the original house still stands behind its larger descendent.

The old house is adjacent to a barn of the same size. It was common for animals to be kept close to, or even in the houses at one time.

The newer house was painted white and had a third floor to include rooms in the attic. A family had more space in this house, the front facade hiding the extension at the back of the building. Time has not been kind to this old place.

Where are the owners of this property? Did they die without descendants or is everyone gone from the island now? Did they try to sell this place without success and now it is left to ruin? The old place once was filled with the laughter of children, clothes on the line, supper cooking, friends and relatives, the smell and sounds of animals and hay. Now the elements have their way.

Any time I see an old homestead left to ruin, the song Where the alders grow by Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers comes to mind. You can give it a listen here.

It brings the old place to life.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

The wharf in winter

The boats are long gone from this place. What remains is rooted here, standing against the elements, totally unprotected. It is silent, except for the wind which whistles around the old fishing shacks.

I pull up my hood as I look around, thinking if I stayed a minute too long I’d become an icy statue permanently affixed to the wharf.

Conway Narrows on the northwest shore of Prince Edward Island is frozen and Milligan’s Wharf, a protected area for recreational and commercial boats, is encased in ice. 

Looking out to sea, the sand bar which parallels the shore is barely visible, itself entombed in ice and snow.

Nearby, the buoys which mark the channel for the safe passage of boats are piled together, attached to their concrete anchors. They add a splash of colour to the white and grey as they wait for the return of the boats and warmer weather.

Walking around the fishing shacks I notice that winter blue, the colour of the overcast sky so common this time of year. The muted light creates a mid morning twilight. 

Tire marks in the snow proceed onto the ice. Someone chanced a vehicle breaking into the icy depths. 

While this cold has probably thickened the ice enough to support a vehicle, I wouldn’t take a chance. How about you?

Saturday, 8 February 2020

A walk in the park

The golden grand-dog, Georgie was visiting for a few days so we went to Heather Moyse Park in the centre of the city for a walk. This park is in an older residential area and is frequented by many area residents, especially dog owners. 

The park has various winding trails beside an open field and bridges over streams. 

The city high school is visible in the distance. It is a great area to walk a dog and if you repeated the circuit, you’d have a good walk there.

Georgie loves this place. The scent of other dogs and the ones we met whilst there provided a feast for her dog senses. She pranced her way around the trails.

Black capped chickadees were in abundance there. These birds aren’t fed by visitors as are the birds along the boardwalk. Two landed in an needle-free tamarack and feasted on the seeds from the cones. I had never seen chickadees feed like this before but it was tough to take a good photo.

Further along the trail, a rabbit had crossed back and forth probably during the previous night. I took a photo of the tracks before Georgie sniffed around them.

We walked the trails for a half hour before we headed home from canine paradise.

Thursday, 6 February 2020


The park sits in the centre of the older part of the city. It is named after Heather Moyse, a young woman from Summerside who is a two time Olympic gold medalist in two-woman bobsled. Heather is an all round athlete having competed internationally in rugby and cycling as well. 

The park is a gathering place for activities throughout the year and is well groomed and maintained year round. It features labelled native island trees and the trails wind over bridges across streams. The irises alone in summer are enough to brighten one’s day.

What always causes me pause in this park is the memorial for the victims of the Dec 6th massacre at École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989. Fourteen young women were murdered when a man, citing his anti-feminist stance, walked into an engineering class, separated the men from the women and opened fire.

The women’s names are engraved in stone here and flowers left from the December 6 ceremony are encased in the ice and snow. The names are frozen in time, their spirits forever young and strong. 

December 6th in Canada has become a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. We remember the fourteen but focus on the struggle women face in our world and how we can help. Many of us have friends or loved ones who experience violence or experience it ourselves.

This park celebrates a strong, capable woman who is living her best life. But we pause in this beautiful place every time we’re here to remember these other women who were cut down in their prime, who didn’t have that opportunity. Their names represent the millions of others who suffer behind closed doors, in silence and fear. Walking here in winter the silence and fear are manifested in the biting cold.

We pause and walk on, in hope of better days.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020


The beauty of the scenes this time of year adds another dimension as the trees and shrubs stand against the worst nature has to offer. They hold their place while we mere mortals run for cover. These are some of the gems I see around the harbour.

It is hard to stand alone along the shoreline. The salt sea spray for the majority of the year assaults the trees. This solitaire is not big enough to be toppled by the wind which batters vegetation along the shoreline since it bends rather than breaks. 

The perch is all that’s left of this tree which has succumbed to the elements where the stream empties into the harbour. Crows love this spot this time of year and in the summer, kingfishers avail of the location as they watch the stream for fish.

The top of this spruce tree above the reach of the salt spray is all that’s left of its coniferous needles. I suspect a gale will topple it soon. The two young trees at its base give us hope for the future.

Rugosa bushes are tended along the boardwalk by the city staff. During the winter, they are interesting in their shape and spots of colour against the white plain. I have never seen birds eating the rose hips however.

It looks like this bush has been trimmed and the branches have erupted in response, a circle shape which defies the injury. Its shape is highlighted by the frozen sea.

Beauty defies the elements.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

The village

When the harbour ice freezes smoothly every year, they appear overnight. Avid fishers take their smelt shacks from backyards and garages down to the frozen harbour. Those who enjoy the outdoors in an indoor way, spend their time fishing for smelt.

The shacks provide wind breaks from the elements. 

Some are equipped with stoves which take the smelt fishing experience to another level. 

However all you really need is a hole in the ice and a chair. 

The video shows one such shack and a fisher in a 45 second clip.

When I photographed the cargo vessel, Trinityborg and zoomed in on the vessel, it was interesting to see the smelt shack village on the opposite side of the harbour.

We tried the white flesh fish for the first time last year.

They were delicious. We will visit the fishmonger this week for another meal of the little fish.

                                   Two smelt villages as seen from a  nearby bridge

Friday, 31 January 2020

Winter trail

It was -13C and sunny without a breath of wind. We’d heard the Rotary Trail had been groomed so we headed out with Georgie, the golden grand-dog who was visiting for a few days. The weather had kept us in recently and we missed the fresh air and the time in nature. It did not disappoint.

The coniferous trees were laden with snow as we entered the trail system. 

The trail was well groomed and the walking was easy in the cold temperatures. The sunny sky made the shadowed areas look blue. Solitary trees, laden with the fluffy white looked frozen in time.

The song of a Downy woodpecker was unusual. The only sound we normally here from the tiny birds is the tap tap along the tree trunks. 

The snow piles up on the remnants of tree trunks and on the windward side of the trunks. 

It can be harsh here when the wind blows.

Further along a Red squirrel demanded attention.

Georgie was particularly interested in the squirrel.

She enjoyed the trail and we allowed her off lead to run between us. Georgie stayed on the groomed trail where she stopped periodically to nip the ice from between her toes. 

She groomed herself in the snow.

Before long we had walked to the Confederation Trail which is used by snowmobilers this time of year. 

Some snow machine enthusiasts were on the fields which are parallel to the trails.

We walked back the way we came, savouring each minute in nature this time of year.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Weather and status report

Winter has a firm grip on eastern Canada. We’ve come through weeks of snow every day, to sunny days, to milder temperatures and rain. The weather continues to surprise us. However nothing compares to what happened recently in the province of our birth, Newfoundland.

Hurricane force winds combined with a heavy snowfall, dumped 93 centimetres, 36 inches, on the community where I grew up. You can imagine the height of the snowbanks after the drifting. They already had lots of snow prior to the blizzard. The result was a State of Emergency in effect for 8 days as the capital city cleaned up the snow from the narrow streets of St. John’s. Prince Edward Island has had an easy winter by comparison.

I prefer to stay inside rather than fight the elements this time of year. Reading, writing and genealogy fill my days. Walking outside is preferable to the treadmill but those excursions are limited by the elements. I have no desire to venture forth on a sunny day when the temperature feels like it is in the -20s C. While I am warm enough when I’m walking, it can take the remainder of the day to alleviate the chill that seeps into my bones when the temperatures are so low.

My husband and I attempt to embrace winter but usually it embraces us.

Questions and answers:

Hootin’ Anni at  asked if it was saltwater in my last blog post From the shore.

It was frozen saltwater in the photos. The cargo vessel and the icebreaker were in Summerside Harbour in Prince Edward Island. The port is in the Northumberland Strait between the island and mainland Canada. The sea around the island freezes every winter.

Joanne at asked about the same post:

Was that a regular route for Trinityborg and Cornwallis on regular duty seeing her through? 

Cargo vessels, such as Trinityborg, make regular visits to the port at Summerside during the other three seasons. There was such a vessel in port over Christmas and while the harbour had loose ice, the vessel could get out of port when the wind took the ice out to sea. Trinityborg came into port before the harbour froze which was later this year than it has been for a number of years.

The home port for Cornwallis is Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. She comes to the aid of any vessel which needs her assistance. 

This time of year, icebreakers on the east coast of Canada spend much of their time in the Gulf of St. Lawrence between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. They provide a path through the icy Gulf for the ferries to and from Newfoundland. The bridge to the mainland from Prince Edward Island means sea traffic is nil here when ice encases the island.

The following article has satellite photos of the ice around PEI in February and April 2015. 

The photos are here.

Monday, 27 January 2020

From the shore

Frozen. The vast white plain stretches as far as the eye can see except this one undulates with the tide. Now the only blue is overhead on a clear day. Boat traffic has long since ceased, until today. The cargo vessel, Trinityborg is trapped in place at the wharf in Summerside and the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, the Edward Cornwallis is in port to release her from the icy grip.

My husband and I watched the progress of the vessels as we walked the boardwalk. The icebreaker led the way with the cargo vessel following.

When the Cornwallis cleared the harbour, she stopped and waited for the larger vessel. 

When the Trinityborg cleared the harbour, she blew the horn.

Then the Cornwallis proceeded into the Northumberland Strait followed by the larger ship. They became part of that vast white plain.

The Trinityborg has a website where one can follow her progress. She was headed to Belledune in northern New Brunswick, through the icy Strait. I imagine the Cornwallis saw her safely there.

It was an interesting diversion to watch the two vessels as we walked the boardwalk.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Reminder of spring

It snows most days now. The tight grip of winter is exhausting. The layers of clothes required for every outing, the biting wind requiring face coverage, ice under foot and the need for ice grips are always a consideration now if my husband and I attempt a walk. We have resorted to time on the treadmill, a poor and disliked alternative.

Around the house, the snow piles up and along the driveway where banks of snow have begun their annual visit. We are fortunate to have a plow do most of the work but walkways and patio must be cleared too. Meanwhile inside, the fireplace is for more than ambience these days.

But there it sits on the window ledge above the kitchen sink. 

A splash of colour and its spaghetti roots swaying in the water when I move it to close the blind for the night. The vase my friend, Lucy, gave me a few years ago holds a hyacinth bulb she gave me for Christmas. Just add water to kiss the bottom of the bulb and roots sprout and grow. Eventually a touch of spring arrives on the window ledge, a scent of hyacinth and a splash of colour to distract from what is happening outside. 


Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Lunch with friends

My friend Lucy invited me to lunch at her home in the central part of Prince Edward Island. The rural setting amid rolling hills is one of the rare areas on the island which isn’t flat. 

The snow-covered fields insulate the rich red soil from winter’s grip and brighten the landscape.

Lucy’s home has huge windows on the main floor which give a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside. Outside her windows Lucy has several bird feeders, so we sat and enjoyed her delicious sour dough bread and seafood chowder as the birds enjoyed their lunch too.

There were blue jays, chickadees, mourning doves 

and goldfinch flitting around the feeders. I wasn’t quick enough to get photos of the first two but the goldfinch in particular were co-operative. The markings formed when the feathers furl are a natural beauty.

I don’t see any goldfinch along the boardwalk this time of year. It was a real treat to experience them at all and from the comfort of Lucy’s home was a double treat.

Her feeders attract many birds and work well for the little birds.

I will replace the one we have with some of these feeders which are more friendly to the smaller species. Our feeder attracts the neighbourhood crows now. I know crows have to eat too but they keep away the smaller birds. 


A few weeks later I dropped Lucy home and as we drove up the driveway, a bald eagle flew overhead. Juncos were feeding from the seeds at the base of the feeders that day. 

The goldfinch 

were around of course as were the bluejays and chickadees. I fear I’d never get anything done if I lived at Lucy’s house.