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Thursday, 22 July 2021

At the beach house

The beach house is on an inlet near the mouth of the Hillsborough River, with the capital city, Charlottetown, visible in the distance. A salt marsh and beach separate the house from the brackish water of the estuary.

Our daughter’s family rented the house recently and my husband and I visited. It is a lovely house in a beautiful setting and we spent much of the time with the family on the beach. 

The path to the beach goes through a meadow with wildflowers 

and Queen Anne had her lace spread about with abandon.

It was low tide 

and the Northumberland Strait having already receded, began to rise as we walked with the children and explored the beach. Plenty of shelled animals live below the high tide mark here. 

The kids enjoyed playing at the water’s edge and soon discovered they could cover themselves and each other in muddy sand. 

Why pay for a mud treatment when you can have this much fun for free?

Nearby a farm extends to the shoreline, reminding us of the connection of land and sea on our island home.

We had a wonderful day with the family and although it was overcast, it didn’t rain. We were lucky to have such a day in a week of miserable weather. If only we could share the rain this summer with western Canada!

Monday, 19 July 2021

Reaching for the sun

They reach for the sun along the pathways and trails, in the meadows, around rivers and ponds and along the seashore, anywhere they can get a root hold. A variety of colours, they give their best to creation, from seeds to plants, blooms, pollen and eggs. They colour our paths and brighten our days.

Wildflowers don’t need human prompting, they manage on their own just fine. Seeds, carried on the wind, by birds or other animals, sprout and reach into the soil. Before long, voilĂ ! The leaves and showy blooms are reaching for the sun again.

Sometimes they stick with their own kind. 

What looks like one bloom per plant, such as bunchberry, 

or numerous clone-like blooms like yarrow are worth a look.

Various colours catch the eye, such as the yellow of St. John’s wort with the tiny stripes on its buds which look to be painted there.

The pink and white of bindweed is always a nice surprise as it climbs its way up and around shrubs. This may please onlookers but not the plant it climbs. 

One notices a white plant among the bushes but the details of this male Tall Meadow rue with the lemon anthers and white stamens are beautiful on closer look.

Blue Flag iris is always a nice addition to the banks of a wetland.

Even seed heads, such as this one of Yellow Goat’s beard, which resembles dandelion seeds, makes us stop for a look.

Pinks and white of Dame’s rockets fill the ditches and pathways. The natural beauty of the wild roses, rockets and clover along this section of trail by the sea is a seasonal treat.

And the most spectacular of all is the riot of colour when a variety of wildflowers share a space such as here

or here,

or here.

Mother Nature is an excellent gardener.

Friday, 16 July 2021

From the harbour to the cove

It was a great find. My husband discovered some old slides, long forgotten and misplaced over the years. From the 1980s, they were part of an assignment he did for cultural geography. Photos of my mother’s hometown of Maddox Cove and my grandmother’s hometown of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland worked well with the subject for the presentation. They were easy to digitize last week.

There are many old photos of Petty Harbour, a well protected fishing town tucked in an harbour in Motion Bay, just south of the capital, St. John’s. This area, a fishing station for the English in the 1600s was captured by the French in 1696, as the two countries fought over the fish from the waters and the land as a way station between the Old and New Worlds. The English eventually won.

Petty Harbour, like many areas of Newfoundland is rock, with a thin layer of soil in places. 

Houses are stacked over one another on the mountainside, the exposed rock visible all around. This is not a place with gardens and vegetable patches as every millimetre of soil is hard-won.

My grandmother’s family, Hearn, lived on the other side of the harbour, 

up the road and around the turn, tucked in under the mountain. Her father was a fisherman. 

A kilometre or so from Petty Harbour is Maddox Cove, down a road which is carved out of the side of the cliffs.

Here my great grandfather Edward O’Brien, an immigrant from Ireland, settled with his wife, Bridget Kieley and raised a family. The youngest son, Gus, was my mother’s father. He was a fisherman out of Petty Harbour and worked the farm in Maddox Cove.

There was more soil in the Cove and vegetable gardens were common, though my mother’s family worked hard to amend the soil with seaweed and manure. They raised chickens, sheep, cows and had horses to work the land.  

When I was young I spent summers with my grandparents in the Cove, in the days when there were only twelve houses there. Large families meant I had lots of playmates although Mary, Bernard and Margie were my best buddies. We had wonderful summer days, playing in the pool we dammed in the river, on the beach, in the woods, playing house and school and games with the other children after supper, in the old schoolhouse yard. Days weren’t long enough to do everything we planned. 

My grandparents were loving people who worked hard their entire lives. They would have been around my age now when I spent those summer days with them. I can understand their interest in my life and spending time with me. It is how I feel about my grandchildren.

These photos were wonderful reminders of family and friends in a place which helped shape my life.

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Inland waters

Our quest to cycle the Confederation Trail from east to west on Prince Edward Island took us to what may be the most remote section of the trail last week. On our return ride from Selkirk to New Harmony, we only met one person, which is unusual. In addition, a section of this trail has not been groomed yet this year which made it look untamed. It is where I fell with my bike. However, the ponds and wetlands in this area are worth a visit.

Larkin’s Pond near Selkirk is known for fly fishing although on the two weeks we’ve been past there we haven’t seen anyone fishing. 

We saw ducks on both occasions but they were too far away to photograph. The wind in the bulrushes is almost musical. 

Numerous Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies flitted over the trail in this area and one posed for a photo.

Further along, in a peaceful wetland area, 

reflections of the occasional cloud overhead adds to the scene on the water.

We crossed the road to New Zealand, PEI, 

a tiny farming community whose name first appeared officially in 1925. There isn’t much written about this community but several families left the area in the 1800s to settle in New Zealand. The name of the community on PEI reflects the connection of its people to that island so far away. 

McVarnish’s Pond is a Conservation Area with a fish ladder which allows smaller fish, 

such as smelts and gaspereau easier access to inland waters where they return every year to spawn.

The area is pristine and quiet, the run of small fish over for another year.

Near New Harmony spring water flows, rising from the earth below, at a constant temperature of 7 degrees Celsius year round.

This section of trail has pristine water features and is more isolated than many areas of the trail. It will be safer for bicycles when it is groomed for this year.

Monday, 12 July 2021

Notes from the island

Community spread of Covid in Atlantic Canada is controlled again and Prince Edward Island has opened to other Atlantic Canadians. On July 18th, we open to all Canadians. Everyone must apply for a Prince Edward Island pass prior to coming here or returning home from a visit off-island. Proof of vaccination means one doesn’t have to self-isolate on arrival.

The most controversial move recently by the province has been the removal of the mask mandate indoors for fully vaccinated people. This move has caused mixed reaction from islanders. I am one week post second vaccination but I’m not sure if this time next week I will be ready to ditch the mask at stores and other indoor locations.

Islanders have been compliant with the masking directive throughout the pandemic but there have been reports of people harassing those who continue to wear masks indoors. I don’t understand such behaviour. If I wear a mask it doesn’t affect your freedom to do as you wish. The pandemic continues with an end within grasp…maybe.

I fell into a ditch on my bike this past week. We were cycling a remote section of trail with few users as evidenced by the overgrowth on the trail. That section had not been groomed yet this year. Over the thirty plus kilometres we only met one person. The thought that I would cycle off the narrow strip was in my head up to the time I did just that.

The bike is 27 kilograms or 60 pounds and isn’t easy to lift off oneself from among the bushes when hurt. However, riding wasn’t a problem after my husband helped me up although I did injure my ankle. It is sore and bruised still but not painful like it was the first day. It could have been much worse.

The garden grows despite the cold temperatures we’ve had recently. I planted seeds and plants June 7th and over a month in, tomatoes are forming as is cauliflower. The beans are staked and growing well as are the cucumber plants. Again this year the peppers don’t like my vegetable patch. Those plants aren’t thriving as are the others.

The potato fields around the island, supplying 25% of Canada’s need, are growing well too. The early potatoes look ready to blossom. Corn, mainly grown for silage, has grown well with the rain this past few weeks.

Tourists are returning to the island this summer. It is good to see businesses open again but some have succumbed to the pandemic leaving empty store fronts and closed motels and cottages. It will take a long time to recover from this pandemic.

The remnants of hurricane Elsa passed over the island this past weekend without much damage. High winds with the trees full of leaves can be devastating. We are happy not to have lost any old friends!


Friday, 9 July 2021

The reflection

A Great Blue Heron hangs out around the harbour in Summerside this summer. While there have always been herons stopping by the harbour, this one is a constant presence. Sometimes another heron is with it. Maybe there’s a nest nearby.

This past week, the weather has been cold and wet and we’ve stayed close to home, bringing umbrellas with us when it’s not too windy, walking the boardwalk rather than going further afield. One morning, I stood at the gazebo looking out to sea when a heron silently stepped from amongst the reeds below.

I watched as it walked stealthily in the water one careful foot after the other, barely rippling the water. 

It stopped and watched, waiting for movement below. Numerous photos ensued since I was either ignored by the bird or undetected. 

It was a windy day, however, the water in this part of the pond was calm, a perfect mirror, so perfect, the reflection shows the yellow blossoms on the plants and the details of the bird.

                                                                          The reflection

By the time I decided to take some video, within a few minutes, the heron turned away and took to wing. The six second video is here.

I took two photos from the video, not the best quality but the wingspan of the bird is obvious

and impressive.

Being in the presence of such a beautiful creature for a precious few moments is one of the great joys of nature.

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Cavendish revisited

Just off-shore, two fishers work to flush oysters. The tasty molluscs grow in brackish water which is often sandy. Sandy oysters wouldn’t be marketable so fishers immerse them in clear sea water for a time to flush out the sand before the morsels are sent to market. 

We could see the cages with the oysters. This area is in New London Bay, tucked behind the sandspit at the western end of Cavendish Beach.

My husband and I had loaded our bikes and headed for the national park at Cavendish in Prince Edward Island. It is one of our favourite places to cycle and we visit often. There is always something different and interesting to see as we ride. This oyster cleansing was a first for us.

On the way to the Homestead Trail, we pass a patch of giant Cow Parsnip, 

which is at least waist height now. It resembles Queen Anne’s Lace which we haven’t seen yet this year.

Overhead, the contrails are back. 

Skies above Prince Edward Island are usually full of air traffic from across the Atlantic and the rest of North America. This past year, the contrails have been missing. Seeing them this day is a hopeful sign about returning to pre-Covid life.

The Homestead Trail is bumpier than we remember but it adds a new element to the journey. The canopy covers the trail in places and the bumpy downhill ride through light and dancing shadows makes us laugh when we compare experiences at the bottom of the hill.

Wildflowers abound, 

a succession of colour and variety, so we stop often. Beautiful floral faces reach for the sun. Rose bushes line a picnic area. 

Was a homestead here at one time?

Wild Madder is everywhere along the trail. 

Also known as Smooth Bedstraw, early settlers used it for mattress stuffing. It is also a source of dye and today pharmaceutical companies research its bioactive ingredients. Of course, it was used in traditional medicine.

Later, beside the Lake of Shining Waters, lupins reach for the sky too, with the dunes of Cavendish in the background.

Meanwhile, we notice the sea arch at MacNeills Brook is widening. How long until a sea stack is formed? 

Geological succession is fascinating too. 

Monday, 5 July 2021


They call it a chuckwagon. 

A campground in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island has wagons for rent which provide a wonderful camping experience. Recently our daughter and grandchildren spent a few days in a chuckwagon and my husband and I visited them.

The children thought they were going tenting and were so excited when they saw this wagon. They had no idea what it was nor the history of similar wagons in North America. Teachable moments followed.

This wagon is 7.5 metres or 25 feet long. Wagons which rode west were traditionally 3 metres or 10 feet long. This modern day wagon is stationary, has a toilet and shower, and beds for a family. 

Cooking is over an open fire and dining at an outside table.

The huge campground has giant bouncy pillows, 

a petting zoo,


and a water park. 

There is a lot for kids to enjoy so by bedtime, they are physically tired and sleep well. 

My husband and I accompanied them to all the activities and brought lunch to share, our first family picnic this summer. It was a wonderful summer day with the family.

Besides, it’s always great to make new friends.