Until recently, our old farmhouse ran on a 60-amp service. It was likely the original wiring, because this road wasn’t connected to the grid until 1949. Funny to think that Elvis was already plinking away on a guitar, Miles Davis was blowing his horn in Paris, but farms around here had no electricity. By that time a young lawyer named Pierre Trudeau had taken a job in Ottawa working for Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent. It was the nuclear age, yet the people on this road relied on kerosene lighting.Read More
So many superlatives come to mind when thinking about Martin Rudy Haase who died August 22 in a modest hospice on the edge of the village of Chester, N.S. Where to begin? He was 95. His heart gave out. “I’m quite prepared to go,” he said in a phone conversation from Massachusetts back in June. He was only very unhappy that the diagnosis of an incurable condition came only after thousands of dollars had been spent in the U.S. where he was wrapping up what he called his “odyssey;” a trip to New Zealand where he and his family had lived for a time many years before.Read More
Mother would be in jail
I am sitting at my computer waiting for someone to Facebook me and tell me what to do next.
Or maybe someone I never heard tell of will email me to ask that I add them to my LinkedIn “family,” which does not exist. That is because after signing up to join the exalted ranks of the LinkedIn I decided I live on the wrong side of the tracks and have managed to hide the fact thus far in life and why screw things up now? What they don’t know can’t hurt me.
I arrived in Canada and Nova Scotia in 1969 with the equivalent of a key to the country and province. Kind of like the reception dignitaries arriving in some great metropolis receive, the welcoming hand was out.
“Here you go,” says the mayor in the typical scenario. “Welcome to our fair city. This here golden key will open every door.” Wow.
Wow indeed. I wasn’t then nor ever was or aspired to be looked on as a dignitary. Luckily the welcome was no grand ceremony. What it was and why it was could only be grasped over time.
It was all in a name, a Dutch name.
Isn’t spring wonderful when it finally arrives? A friend in New Hampshire writes to say, “Winter was great. More snow then normal, but no serious below-zero cold. The wood stove burned all of January and February. A 3 a.m. feeding is a small price to pay for not having a cold house in the morning. It carries the whole place. Easter morning the loon came back, landing on a narrow strip of open water. That afternoon, the entire basin opened and was free of ice. Ice-out occurred on the average date. Good rains and the lake is full. Hope your crocus and daffodils are blooming.”
Yup, the crocuses poked through the snow here several weeks ago and now daffodils are having their day, soon to bow out, leaving the stage to forsythia, and so on. A first planting of Sugarsnap peas is up, as are garlic and rhubarb. Many started plants from windowsill and greenhouse await their turn for transplanting into the garden – should we get three dry days in a row.
Finn Poschmann, of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, published a column in the first week of April about the importance of innovation, a central theme in the most recent federal budget. The word cropped up frequently in the budget, Poschmann pointed out, along with “a related concept – the cluster.”
“Now, economists have known for ages that incomes and output per person are higher and tend to grow faster where people and businesses bunch together in cities,” Poschmann continued. “In many cases . . . the gains come not only from having a lot of people and business around, but from specializing, from being in a related industry.”
After more discussion about clusters and close relatives in economic jargon, he stated, “The million-dollar question for the past generation has been whether governments can do anything about creating successful clusters. The jury is still out.”
The fat lady is singing her heart out…
And it’s (still) not over yet!
Guess what. After 40-plus years, DvL is no longer owner-publisher of the company that grew out of the need to find some way to pay dental bills. It was April 1976. I had published Papeek, a children’s story, with JB Lippincott seven years prior. That must have sold a dozen copies. Following that, the fiction well was plumbed to greater depths and found dry. There were odd jobs. I turned to non-fiction and The Family Cow was born. This went over far better than Papeek and is still on the market with Storey Publishing these decades later. Then what to do? A book about raising pigs came to mind. That sounded like fun.Read More
Characterizing our dairy supply management program as “a scheme” without a strategy beyond protectionism, Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, of Dalhousie University, has suggested in a widely published commentary (including in Canadian Grocer and the Chronicle Herald) that President Trump might be in a position to trigger a necessary “complete overhaul.”
Charlebois came from Guelph, appointed last year in what was described by Dal president Richard Florizone, in a press release at the time, as “a cross-appointment as professor with tenure in the Faculty of Management and the Faculty of Agriculture.”
The old Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Bible Hill must be shuddering in its bricks at the idea of public criticism of supply management coming from within the ranks. Prior to becoming part of Dalhousie, the AC was conjoined with the N.S. Department of Agriculture. Faculty had civil service protection, which is pretty solid, but not like tenure. Charlebois can stir the pot without fear.
Welcome two thousand seventeen!
Growing up, as much as I accomplished in that department, we always anticipated what was known as “the January thaw,” a few days of spring-like weather such as we’ve just experienced – and that the weatherperson says will come to a sudden end this evening. Mother would say “winter’s letting go for a new hold.” We will soon have our shoulders pinned to an icy mat and be begging for mercy from beneath drifts of snow.
Which reminds me of the story mentioned before in these pages of Vermeulen Farms in Canning, Nova Scotia, where two springs back workers from Mexico were handed snowshoes to strap on so’s to climb over mountains of snow to repair and re-assemble high tunnels in time for the coming growing season.
The death of couth
Sandy Bay, November 7: Picked the last three zucchini squashes and planted garlic for next year. The wheel of life keeps turning despite upheavals south of the border.
In the long run – should there be a long run – what will this U.S. presidency mean or do for Canada or democracy? No good, for regardless what he does from here on, Mr. Trump got the top job by bullying everyone who got in his way. It says to young people everywhere that it is okay to humiliate and belittle the other guy, or gal, to get your way. It tells me I need never again feel guilty for stepping out of line. Couth is dead. Long live nastiness.
The couple of Matthews I know are such gentle souls it is obvious the storm that blew through Cape Breton and Newfoundland in early October was not named after them. Here in southwestern Nova Scotia, Matthew huffed and puffed some, blew away a lot of colourful leaves, but was really no big deal. In fact, we benefitted from a welcome 70 to 80 mm of rain. Someone said that was more than we had received since June of this year. Still, our drought was nothing like what Californians continue to endure. For all the lashing Atlantic Canada took from Matthew, we were way more fortunate than Haitians, or those in the Carolinas faced with flooding rivers in the aftermath of the storm.Read More
A new heifer calf born among the ferns last evening is a joy to behold. While there is a guarantee of good food in the smallest-scale farming and gardening the likes of which we practice here, there’s no money in it. There are profits, though, like coming on a new calf, the arrival of a box of chicks, and time to smell a rose or two.
There was none of that for the dairy farmer asked if there were any cats on his farm. I know I have mentioned this before. His reply is etched in a wee fold somewhere deep in my grey matter. “Nope. We’re in the milk business.”
At the other end of the farm business spectrum, tucked in the same fold, I recall the comment of a large fruit and vegetable grower in New Brunswick, as a family of mallards waddled across his yard: “They’re my entertainment.”
Crunchy lawns and wizened berries
When the lawn crunches underfoot and your blueberries dry on the bush and second-cut forage does not materialize, it’s dry times in the Maritimes. When the jet stream shifts to break this drought, break out the boots and sump pumps. As noted before in this column (by a little-known yet brilliant amateur meteorologist), climate change is curdling the weather. Northeastern North America is no longer blessed by a climate that delivers a little of this and a little of that, just about the right amount and every kind of weather spread over time. Instead come violent extremes of storms and droughts and drownings and so on.
This latest drought is the worst many can remember. As evidence, nine wildfires at the same time consuming forests across Nova Scotia.
Dry times in the merrytimes
For the second year in a row a rabbit is helping itself to my vegetable garden. Like Elmer Fudd, I find myself outsmarted by the long-eared imp who, in fact, is not a rabbit but a Snowshoe hare and one that can find the tiniest hole in chickenwire enclosing the garden.
There is little vegetation to spare right now after three weeks without rain – super weather for making hay, for those not thwarted by the odd thunder shower. We crossed our fingers in the hope rain forecast this past week would break the dry spell. But no. What many of us got for precip amounted to little more than “a pfft” here and there. That’s how Dave Lindsay described the meager excuse for a shower visited on his family’s acreage.
It has not been great weather for unirrigated crops or pastures. My herd of two Belted Galloways looks forward to a daily serving of freshly-mowed Gout weed as supplement to old fields going to seed. Nice to find a use for this incurable invasive. I would grow a sizeable patch – with a deep moat around to prevent its spread – as training ground for anyone interested in learning how to mow with a scythe. Its soft stems are an easy, rewarding clip.
Forty years and counting
The tomatoes are well started and peas are in the ground, the cows are bred and pastures are greening up nicely. The Harrison Lewis Centre on the hill above the house is coming alive with the arrival of two summer assistants, university students Leah Strople and Abbie Hudson. Yesterday they were joined by David Boehm and Richard and Phyllis McBride, chipping in as volunteers cleaning and generally readying cabins and main building for upcoming workshops. (See pg. 48.)
Readers will recognize David Boehm’s name. He has written a lot for Rural Delivery over the years and this year was an Atlantic Journalism Awards silver medalist for “Enterprise Reporting, Print,” in recognition of his story in the Oct. 2015 issue titled “Lobster on a roll.”
Life is good. We feel for the dry bones West contending with drought and fierce wild fires and in Fort McMurray especially for hundreds of homeowners who lost everything.
Whopper schools for Hub City
May 7 we’re heading down to Halifax for dinner with writer David Boehm at the Atlantic Journalism Awards dinner and gala. David has been nominated for best “Enterprise Reporting, Print” for his “Lobster on a roll” feature in the Oct. 2015 issue of Rural Delivery. Congratulations to David who has written a number of outstanding stories for RD over the years, including a fisheries-related follow-up titled “Keeping independent fishermen afloat” (Jan-Feb 2016).
Another good story close to home is about Bertie and Bill Nickerson, Canada’s longest-married couple, 80 years this past December, whose grandson Stephen Nickerson is our longstanding production and graphic design person, one of their closest relatives by blood, and their closest by geography. When Stephen, whose parents died several years ago, is not laying out a magazine or creating an ad, you may well find him across town shopping for his grampies or checking in to see how they’re getting on. Bertie and Bill, age 98 and 101 respectively, are still in their own home, fixing their own breakfast, and getting on with life. Stephen’s devotion to his grandparents’ well-being is inspiring.
April - no foolin’
Planting season’s on its way
While I have crocuses blooming in a sheltered corner of the house and Barred owls hooting at night in the tree outside my window, all signs of spring, Prince Edward Islanders have another way of heralding the change of seasons: the annual Easter Beef Show and Sale that brings out scores of Islanders ready for a good time. That is especially what the sale is all about, as friends, neighbors, and the business community enter into friendly competition to see who can out-bid the other for the the winningest cattle.
Four generations of the Sanderson family on Prince Edward Island have been raising cattle and showing the cream of their herd at the show and sale that this year took place March 3 and 4 in Charlottetown. And so it was fitting that Randy Sanderson’s Spud Island Farms’ steer was judged grand champion (and went on to sell for $5.75 a pound to a couple of P.E.I. businessmen). Trevor MacDonald’s story about the show and sale can be found on Atlantic Beef & Sheep’s webpage at www.RuralLife.ca.
Barn swallows and the Zika virus
The same week our provincial daily published a story about Brazil stepping up measures to control the Zika virus carried by a species of mosquito and suspected of causing a birth defect resulting in babies with small heads (microcephaly), it carried another about the disappearance of Barn swallows.
Swallows and other birds that sweep insects (including lots of mosquitoes) from the air while in flight are in serious decline. We are encouraged to do what we can to provide Barn swallows nesting sites, and many do. But is the population of swallows dwindling because there are not as many old barns around as once was the case – as some believe – or is it mosquito abatement programs in Latin America where our birds spend their winters? Already, in the panic over a suspected link between Zika and microcephaly, pressure builds to release more genetically modified male mosquitoes in more countries to breed with Zika-bearing females and cause them to lay eggs that die, and there are calls to unleash DDT.
“Year in Review:” It’s free!
Happy New Year! In celebration, a first issue of DvL Publishing Inc.’s “Year in Review” has been included as a bonus with your subscription to Rural Delivery. This first-ever review is a collection of stories, photos, commentary, and other gleanings from 2015, intended to provide a taste of all four of our rural life magazines. The idea for the review came from Chassity, our general manager, who marshalled the help of everyone else in the organization to put it together. Our thanks to advertisers who made it possible to publish and distribute the “Year in Review” at no cost to readers.
Lingering doubts about global warming have been dashed once again on this shore. A foot of snow, we hear, struck Riviere-du-Loup last week, but here cattle are still on pasture and, but for a couple of mornings, there has been no need to break out the windshield ice scraper. Hot dog.
Ducked into the garden last evening to harvest late carrots, leeks for dinner, and to dig up a clump of parsley to move to the greenhouse where we might have a fresh sprig or two longer into the season. The greenhouse is not heated and before long most of the vegetables growing there will take a frigid bow and exit the stage. New lettuce may survive beneath row covers.