Pot Luck April 2016

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.
    Easter Beef Show’s judge was Gordon Fraser, long-time Shorthorn breeder, better and more widely known for the battle many fought on his behalf in 2014 after the Nova Scotia Turkey Marketing Board in heavy-handed fashion forced him to stop processing turkeys for his neighbors.
    Are my cattle (champion and reserve in all of Sandy Bay) bred to calve this summer? Have to lure Veterinarian Rob Wentzell who inseminated the two by AI in December down here to check. It would be super to have a couple of calves romping about the place when the Harrison Lewis Centre gets busy with students and partakers of various workshops. 

    Already we are getting calls and sign-ups, and are wishing there were more weekends between May and the first of fall so that we could add programs to the already varied mix that runs a gamut from learning to know birds by their songs to turning logs into lumber with our portable bandsaw mill. We’ve also got a rebuilt antique shingle mill that has yet to be put to work. With these and the blacksmith shop with two stations, an excellent kitchen for instruction, plus wonderful instructors ready to step up and teach small farm, homestead, and heritage skills, we have all the makings of a Folk School, minus the couple to run it. What potential – just what those teachers said about me going back to first grade. “The boy has great potential.” Yup, it’s just finding it that takes time.

    These Atlantic provinces have great potential, too. And similarly, finding it is taking time. Perhaps more accurately finding it again, for there was a time when manufacturing goods from raw materials was a larger slice of the enterprise pie than it is today. We can’t seem to cut, catch, dig up, and export raw materials fast enough these days to satisfy the needs of a few while too many seek work elsewhere. 
    In the wake of the collapse of the oil market Ontario is said to be doing better than other provinces through manufacturing. Meanwhile, are we teaching our youth how to build stuff? Hardly. Nova Scotia, for example, is gearing up to teach computer coding at the elementary school level. The kids will graduate not being able to spell, add without a calculator, write legibly (as if they all were destined to become family doctors), or drive a nail with a hammer. But by jeeze they’ll be able to write code. 
    One example of our seeming refusal to realize our full potential has been the quarrying of gypsum sent to the U.S. where they slap paper front and back, call it drywall, and sell it back to us for the big bucks. It’s our gypsum and we were in the paper manufacturing business for nigh on to a hundred years, maybe more. Perhaps there were trade barriers, but if NAFTA was worth a grain of salt it is hard to understand that someone did not put two and two together and see drywall as a new possibility. 
    Instead, here we are with mills shut down and in their stead the notion that a town’s future may lie in breaking up out-moded warships. Hope they do it clean. 
    Some people are swimming against the current turning trees into schooners (rather than wasteful biofuel), heritage apples like Northern Spys into cider (drank my first bottle of Bulwark cider from New Ross, N.S., the other day and was very pleasantly surprised), and blueberries into juice rich in antioxidants, and, yes, there are many other examples scattered across the countryside although it would appear these local trend-buckers “don’t get no respect.”  You have to be hiring hundreds, or saying you will, and sticking it to the taxpayers for salary rebates, before notice is taken.

    Scattered across the countryside so spread out and increasingly short of neighbors, they’re the new pioneers – Jeff Jacob’s term coined back in the late ‘90s. Although he was referring to back-to-the-landers, as rural North America thins out all remaining face the trials of pioneers on their own to cope, period.
     A couple of weeks ago I got a bit lost in a maze of streets on the immediate outskirts of Halifax running through canyons rimmed by apartment houses and condos built and under construction. Where are all these people coming from? Yup. Urbanization marches on.    
    Hang in there, pioneers. Help is on the way. Cape Breton may even sink under a mountain of new immigrants if the reality TV character running for president down South wins the day.   DvL