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Thursday, 25 February 2021

Winter visit

Every winter we like to visit some of the wharfs in Prince Edward Island in the quiet of winter. Recently we visited French River which is the subject of the header of this blog. 

The area is quiet this time of year. The inlet is frozen finally due to the colder temperatures in the last few weeks.

I take the photos of the wharf from the lookout above the area.

Beginning in April every year, boats are tied up at the wharf. Now some are high and dry behind the fishing shacks.

The slipway is frozen and the lift is tied in place, each waiting for the time when the fishers return with their boats for another season.

The fishing shacks are larger than many we see around the coast here. 

Despite the large shacks, stacks of lobster pots line the wharf.

In another month or so, the wharf will be a hub of activity again as the fishers prepare their gear and return their boats to the water when the ice is gone. 

It can’t happen soon enough.

Monday, 22 February 2021

Artistry of the sea

During our recent visit to the north shore of Prince Edward Island, we noticed a marked difference in the shape of the sea arch at Mackenzies Brook over the last three months. The shoreline in the area, fortified with rock armour revetments last summer due to the amount of erosion in the area, hasn’t any nullifying effect on the erosion by the arch. 

                                                                      Sea arch October 2020

Consequently, the open water in January, due to the lack of ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, had widened the arch forming nearby.

                                                             Sea arch in January 2021

The sea is a sculptor of the earth. The arches and sea stacks which temporarily line the shore last for years and are testament to the artist’s ability to carve the sandstone with her enveloping hands. The softness of the medium and the continuous work of the sculptor create an evolving work of art, unequaled by human hands. What was called the Elephant Rock at North Cape 

in the 1990s has evolved to the piece we see today.

Meanwhile, we walk in this gallery every year to take in the strong picturesque beauty,

the blocky and earthy design,

and the commonplace turned monumental, such as this naturalistic tea cup.

This sculptor works along the coastline all over the earth. She is such a prolific artist and is increasing production at an astonishing rate. While I appreciate the aesthetics, as time goes on, I fear it too.


Thursday, 18 February 2021


It was quiet when we arrived. Not a breath of wind on a -6 C sunny winter day meant perfect conditions for snowshoeing. We were alone in the area on Islander Day, a winter holiday. We had scouted this old Heritage Road the previous day, wanting a place to snowshoe without the noise and traffic of snow machines. Luckily, snowmobilers don’t ride on the Millman Road. 

My husband and I put on our snowshoes quickly and headed out. 

Most noticeable was the absence of bird sounds and sightings. Our usual trails on the island have many species and numbers of birds, some year round. The Millman Road, which we frequent during the other seasons has always had the same. Not today. The woods were silent, accentuating the stark beauty around us.

The only sound was the crunch of snow with every step. The loose snow sparkled which I was unable to capture with the camera. Periodically we stopped to listen for the silence again, such an unusual experience. The sound of one’s breathing filled the air, a strange sensation indeed in this space. 

We weren’t alone however. Impressions in the snow left by other creatures gave us pause.

What could have made such a track? We speculated with each mysterious set. Hares, mice, skunks, foxes? Where are they now? The thought made the surrounding woodland feel alive in spite of the quiet.

Forty-five minutes later we stopped, having enjoyed every minute. We didn’t over extend ourselves since we wanted to be able to move the next day. The poles added extra effort, more than our usual walking. We will go further the next time we venture out on snowshoes.

A thermos of tea waited back at the car. The tea couldn’t have been better as we sat in our camp chairs in the silence. We absorbed it all, the tea which warmed us to the core and the stark beauty of this winter day.

                                                               View across a nearby field

Monday, 15 February 2021

After the storm

The heavy snowfall last week, propelled by high winds, filled patios and walkways, driveways and roads. The city ploughs and salt trucks, dispersed when the worst of the onslaught had passed, did a good job of cleaning up. The city does a great job clearing the boardwalk and other trails as well. It does take a day or so for all to be cleared however. 

The day after the storm, sunny though it was, we stayed home. Fortunately the next day was sunny too, a real bonus. It’s been unusual to string together two sunny days this winter.

After the storm, the temperatures dipped, unusual for this year as well. Temperatures lower than average both day and night have followed. By the time we saw the harbour again, it was frozen from the shoreline and as far as the eye could see into the Northumberland Strait.

The white horizon is familiar and strangely welcome after this mild winter.

Footprints in the snow were intriguing and we wondered about them. Could a raccoon have created these prints? Are they the remnants of a boot print?

The birds were active, Blue Jays especially. If a walker stops for a few minutes, jays begin to congregate, expecting food. 

Chickadees waited for seeds too, watching every walker for the possibility of food. 

Squirrels were busy as usual. One, settled into a batch of seeds, was particularly noisy and cute. You can almost hear his, “Yummm...mmm,” as he eats the seeds left by the walkers. His nine seconds of cuteness are worth a look. He doesn’t mind an audience. Turn up the volume to hear his enthusiastic munching.


The trail shows the depth of the snowfall and draws us on to the roundabout at the end of the way.

A silent witness takes in the beauty of the scene despite the temperatures. Cold helps solidify peace of mind.

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Notes from the isle

Not much goes to waste on Prince Edward Island. In January, Christmas trees disappear from curb side as the city collects and chips them for compost. They are also used to fortify sand dunes along the beaches of the National Park and watershed conservation groups use them to fortify river banks.

Islanders have an option to donate their trees to goat farmers around the island. Who knew goats love to eat trees? Every year we see photos of tree-eating goats enjoying the remains of the festive trees dropped off by island residents. If we cut trees, I am glad we use them as we do. 

It’s leftover day. My husband and I have a pattern of life like most seniors. He makes breakfast since he is up early. We have our main meal at lunch time, which I usually make, though he assists often. Supper is simple, toast, cereal, soup, whatever is around. We each get our own. We rarely eat a big meal in the evening and feel best on an empty stomach overnight. Leftover day means no morning meal prep or rush to exercise. Yay!

The Rad bikes we bought last year wait patiently in the garage for spring. These days, our recumbent bike keeps our legs moving and we plan a yoga regime to help with balance. We want to be ready for the bikes at the first opportunity. 

To improve our biking experience we bought bike racks last year from Rad.  We plan to load our backpacks on the bikes for picnics on the trail.  Neither of us is able to carry the packs on our backs. When the racks arrived, they didn’t fit the bikes. My husband broke one trying to make it fit. Of course he contacted Rad and the company, aware of the problem by then, refunded our money. They also promised to replace them, free of charge, when they received the new ones. 

Recently, the new racks arrived and though it took two of us to attach them to the bikes, we managed. Now more than ever, we want to ride, take our lunch and complete the Tip to Tip and Return ride of the Confederation Trail on Prince Edward Island within a year of having our bikes. Even if Covid continues, as long as our health is good, we should be able to complete it. We can’t wait.

Our nine year old granddaughter came from school talking about the poem, “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman. Her teacher played for the class Amanda’s reading of her poem from the U. S. presidential inauguration ceremony. She had the students react to what they heard. The class loved Amanda’s delivery and the message behind the poem. She is a great role model for young people throughout the world. Our nine year old certainly thought so.

And finally, things you never wanted to know about kale...I read about people leaving kale in the garden over winter to freeze and pick and decided to try it. I was doubtful! However the kale survives in the back yard vegetable path despite the freezing and all variety of weather. There are times it is covered with piles of snow. Strangely enough, I like the kale better than the summer harvest because it’s not as tough. That Russian kale would be one of the last living things left on a desolate planet! 

Monday, 8 February 2021

Along the way 7

We haven’t been out and about much this last month. We have had a few outings which we’ve enjoyed and the camera is always ready. My husband and I go on days without the wind since it makes the minus temperatures feel so much colder. 

Along the north shore, at North Rustico,

a fisherman statue in the harbour was frozen in. 

Just outside the harbour, there is open water this year.

The fisherman looked a bit different as part of this scene with a crow and some shrubs.

At Orby Head, west of North Rustico, black objects floating on the water were interesting and required a look. When I focussed on the closest one, it was this female Common Eider duck. 

I had never seen one before so this was a thrill, though not a great photo due to the distance involved.

The final photo comes from the Mill River Resort where we went snowshoeing recently with our family. The Prince Edward Island sign was partially buried in the snow at that time.

I’d like to see that sign after the snowstorm which started last night and continues today.


It is interesting to see the difference in natural light on these separate occasions. I didn’t change settings on the camera, I rarely do or do anything in post. We’ve had many grey days as in the first four photos. The blue light was a welcome change.

Thursday, 4 February 2021

Victims of erosion

Prince Edward Island is made of red sandstone which erodes easily. The changing climate has greatly affected the island over the last number of years and will continue to do so. In some areas, meters of shoreline are lost every year as storms pound the coastline, washing away the sand dunes and eroding the soft stone. One of the benefits of the freezing around our shores every winter is the decrease in erosion from the sea’s confinement by the ice. However that is changing. 

The chart from Environment Canada shows the amount of freezing around Prince Edward Island this year. A little in the bays and harbours accounts for what there is. The Northumberland Strait and the Gulf of St. Lawrence are ice free around us.

The photo shows a view to the Northumberland Strait this week from the Summerside Harbour. Normally the sea is white this time of year.

We saw the open water when we visited the north coast of the island recently. 

The only ice is in a band along the shoreline which breaks the waves before they reach shore. This is some help but not enough to prevent real damage to the coastline during high seas or a storm. 

The erosion at sea level undermines the soil above the sandstone, causing banks to collapse. Our little island is going back into the ocean at increasing speeds.

The habitat for bank swallows is in peril as the nests collapse over the winter.

The birds, returning to the island in the spring from their winter migration, must rebuild their colonies again. Tired, many birds do not survive. 

The Island Nature Trust of PEI is studying the Bank Swallow colonies to determine what action can be taken to help the birds. Last summer they surveyed the island and found forty colonies of such swallows which need help. This winter will be a hard one on their habitat for sure.

In 2017, I took these photos of a colony of Bank Swallows at Red Point Provincial Park on the east coast of Prince Edward Island. My husband and I were enjoying lunch in the park and the familiar sounds of the frenetic little birds were all around us. 

At the beach we saw the holes in the banks. We were lucky it was low tide, so we could be far from the birds as they hunted insects and visited their young in the bank-side nests. The results were some of my favourite photos I have ever taken.

I hope it is not too late to save these wonderful little birds.

Monday, 1 February 2021

Enjoying winter

While the title could be an oxymoron on occasion, it wasn’t this past weekend. Yesterday, my husband and I finally used the snowshoes we received for Christmas. We accompanied our daughter and the kids to a Prince Edward Island resort where cross country skiing, snowshoeing, tubing and skating are offered, with equipment rental possible. 

There were few people there and brief visits inside used Covid precautions but outside was safe and without masks.

Our daughter and the children rented snowshoes but my husband and I tried ours. Snowshoes have come a long way since the old wooden ones we used years ago. Our new ones are light weight aluminum and came with poles as well, a great bonus for two seniors. However poles go with snowshoes these days unlike years ago. 

These new snowshoes have metal spikes on the bottom, making it easy to walk over icy surfaces. It was common to find oneself sliding down an incline with the old wooden ones.

The children enjoyed snowshoeing. The girls had tried them at school, where class sets are used by the various classes in turn. The youngest, a boy of three, tried them for the first time and enjoyed the experience. He took great pleasure in arriving back at the starting point before Nanny and Poppy, who were taking up the rear.

Next came skating. Neither my husband nor I are skaters but our daughter and the girls are. Their brother had a pair of pink skates handed down from his sisters. Remember the days when the colour of clothes and such for boys never would have been pink? Thankfully those days are gone, at least until he starts school.

Learning to skate now is facilitated by a skate aid made of PVC which the child holds and pushes forward, supporting himself as he takes the first tentative strides. Our grandson loved the experience, helped by his mother and me at different times. He laughed with every fall and giggled his way over the ice.

The girls were tentative initially with this first skate of the season. By the time we left, they were reacquainted the the thin blades and glided over the ice with confidence. There are a number of outdoor rinks around Summerside which are maintained by the city this winter. The children will take advantage of them.

We brought a snack of granola bars, hot chocolate and marshmallows for the kids and a thermos of tea for the adults. Everyone enjoyed the warm beverage during an afternoon outdoors.

On our way to the resort, we passed an area where people were scraping the snow off a pond, preparing for a family skate. We recently saw a man and two children at Rollings Pond near North Rustico. A number of others were preparing to join them.

We had a great time with our family. While it was -8 C, it wasn’t windy and we dressed warmly. It was good to be out in nature, enjoying some physical activity. There is more snowshoeing in our future.