RD Pot Luck September 2016

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. 

    As of last week we have purchased the farm business tabloid newspaper Farm Focus and its web presence from TC Media, a division of TC Transcontinental. This is the Quebec-based media group that owns several newspapers in the region including dailies in Truro, Charlottetown, and Sydney.
    Agriculture has not been a focus of immediate past owners of Farm Focus, as it is ours. We believe this makes a difference in the newspaper and magazine publishing world, and look forward to proving the point. We are excited at this chance to see what we can do through FF to help make the business of growing food as significant an economic player throughout Atlantic Canada as it already is in Prince Edward Island, the “Garden of the Gulf.” 
    Taking on publication of the region’s leading farm paper carries a level of responsibility that our small company has not borne in its first 40 years. Always in the past we could tell in Rural Delivery the farm and country-related stories that interested us most. The rest, all that dry stuff of policy, new regulations, statistics, and the like, we could leave with Farm Focus. In that way we have been blissfully self-indulgent.
    Okay, beginning with the September issue of this farm business tabloid it’s time to take up the traces and perform as the “paper of record” for agriculture in Atlantic Canada. That is a huge responsibility. It can be done, but not overnight and not without the help of people we are fortunate to have on staff, and freelance and government and NGO contributors we have relied upon in the past. 
    The trick will be figuring out how to be thorough, informative, and interesting. “Don’t bore the reader,” the golden rule in Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style,” is as important in a trade journal as in any general interest publication. 
    At the same time, readers of Rural Delivery can depend on editor David Lindsay and friends to continue serving up this magazine in keeping with its tradition of combining in-depth features with stories about farm and country people, their triumphs and trials, and about country life and rural enterprise in general. 
    One final word: I wish Neville Gilfoy, publisher of Progress Magazine, were around to share this story, for over the years he was one of a very small number of individuals in the publishing world to whom I would turn for advice. Apparently he helped a lot of people that way, which only became apparent – to me at least – after Neville died last month, quite suddenly after being diagnosed with cancer. The kudos rolled in. Neville revelled in “the business of business,” and that had to have played a large part in his success with Progress and every other business-related endeavor. There were many, as well as ventures of a benevolent nature. Little wonder St. Mary’s U. chose to bestow an honorary Doctorate in Civil Law degree on the Dartmouth native in 2010.
    And darn it, I owe Neville a feed of coleslaw over at John’s Lunch the other side of Dartmouth General. Obligations like that can seem petty until it is too late to honor them. 

    There is much talk about feral cats and the havoc they raise killing birds and other wildlife. Norway rats they can have. On a farm where I worked in Vermont there was a tradition, when cats became too numerous, of joining in common cause to catch and castrate toms. This was not delicately done. Neither did it cost near as much as when the local vet does it today.
    While it won’t cut down on the cat population, there could be a less expensive answer to cats killing birds: develop a breed of domestic felines that don’t hunt. I am sure it can be done, because at an earlier time in my working life I assisted in a laboratory where electrodes were placed in the amygdalae of cats to trigger a rage response when the tiniest bit of electricity was introduced. Candidates for this brain-mapping work had to be cats that, without stimulation, would ignore a rat. So there are cats that are not natural killers. All we have to do is find ‘em and breed ‘em. At some point we can select for some color pattern or other, allowing us to identify them right off. “That black cat with a white tail? Take that one home. Definitely can let it run in the back yard and it won’t deposit feathered gifts on the back stoop.”

    The Harrison Lewis Centre on the hill above home has been a hive of much activity this summer and will continue abustle well past Labour Day, with a lichen blitz, a poetry workshop with writer Harry Thurston, and to wrap things up for the season an Authentic Leader’s Retreat being organized and run by Kent Williams. 
    We have been blessed with excellent help. Two students, Leah Strople (Dalhousie, honors marine biology) and Abbie Hudson (environmental science, University of Ottawa), pitched in on every side. They cheerfully tackled any aspect of running the place, from cleaning up before and after workshops to leading Wild Wednesday natural history walks at nearby Thomas Raddall Park.
    With guidance from N.S. Environment ecologist Rob Cameron and Acadia U. grads Sarah Adams and Adele Bunbury-Blanchette, they took on a botanical survey of a nearby 90-acre Nature Reserve, and monitored Sandy Bay beach for Piping plovers and jellyfish. There was a low-tide survey of the seaweeds off the end of the point with StFX marine biology Prof. David Garbary, and Abbie is in the process of writing an introduction and guide to a large compilation of data from a myriad of investigations going back years about plants, animals, and natural habitats within easy striking distance of the HLC. 
    Great summer. Now how about a little rain?  

Best to all, 


PS: For more about the Centre, and Leah and Abbie’s adventures, check out www.harrisonlewiscentre.org where the two have blogs and photos and links to Instagram and Facebook.