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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.

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!

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.

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!

Tuesday 17 November 2020

The east end

Temperatures went from freezing to 20 C and continued for a few days which allowed my husband and I to continue cycling. We headed to the east side of the Gulf Shore Parkway in the National Park in the centre of Prince Edward Island and rode with the southerly breeze at our backs. We had looked forward to riding in this area and thought we’d have to wait until next year but the weather co-operated.

We parked near Brackley Beach and rode along the first section of the parkway which lies behind the sand dunes. Stairs over the dunes were covered in sand 

and the beach was almost empty but for a small group enjoying the sun. 

A bench by the stairs is a perfect location to sit and watch the riders. 

A surprising number of people were enjoying the warm day on their bikes.

Further along the parkway, the fishing port of Covehead, 

with its small lighthouse, sits quietly this time of year as the fishing season is long over.

Further along the parkway, two ponds on the seaward side were full of ducks such as Mallards, and American Black Ducks which we see often. However, American Wigeons, 

Green-winged Teals 

and a female Northern Pintail were unfamiliar ducks I was thrilled to see.

At the Dalvay end of the parkway, we stopped to look over the beach before we turned around. It felt like an early September day.

On the way back, riding into the wind was more of an effort but the parkway is a beautiful ride and we used peddle assist. 

We stopped at the Covehead lighthouse again 

for another view of the coastline.

A sign near the lighthouse made me smile. 

While we couldn’t see or feel any sand blowing around, when we arrived home, our hair and faces were gritty. Such is this November on the island.

Monday 16 November 2020

For the love of Blue Jays

You know they are present long before you ever see them. Blue Jays speak from among the trees as they watch proceedings along the boardwalk in Summerside. 

They are watchful from their lofty perches and as soon as people produce birdseed or peanuts, they swoop into the area. They don’t miss anything.

We have observed several times when hawks or eagles come into the area, Blue Jays set off an alarm call that all the animals understand and for a time, everyone disappears, the chickadees, nuthatches, squirrels and chipmunks as well as the jays. The only birds which stay audible and visible are the crows and ravens.

The jays insinuate themselves into our encounters with the other birds with ease. They land on the bridge as soon as we offer raw peanuts to the chickadees. They watch closely, waiting for an opportunity to swoop in. Before long they are lined up on the railing, waiting for their chance at some food.

I placed a peanut on my open hand and stood quietly and waited. 

We had never seen jays feed from someone’s hand. Within a minute, 

the birds positioned themselves in the trees closer to me, watching my hand as I stood there. 

It was exciting to have one land on the bridge and take the peanut. 

I tried holding a raw peanut in my fingers 

and sure enough, one took it from me.

When we walked away, the Blue Jays came with us, flying from tree to tree along either side of the path for several hundred meters. On our way back, when we stopped briefly on the bridge again, they appeared in the trees quickly, expecting peanuts again.

These clever birds are colourful creatures with distinctive markings. Any place they inhabit is better for it.