RD April 2014 letters

Big trees, butt

RD: I was visiting some old friends in Jolicure, N.B., and found a copy of RD. I was struck by the great articles about fracking and egg production (Jan.-Feb. RD). I was also prompted to measure my apple trees when I got home after reading the letters describing large old apple trees.

    Well, there must be something in the water in Lunenburg County! I have five trees probably 150 years old and all would measure over nine feet around at grass height. My favorite is a Ribston Pippin (nine feet four and one-half inches), which stands about seven feet high before it begins to branch – very large plentiful mid-season apples, good for cooking, eating, and pressing cider. In addition I have a Northern Spy, and grafted trees – Gravenstein-Seek no further, Northern Spy-Bishop Pippin, and Northern Spy-Seek no further. I encourage anyone to get scions for grafting, especially from the beautiful rather rare Ribston Pippin. 

Frank FawsonDayspring, N.S.

(Frank, thank you for your suggestions for grafting. As for measuring the girth of trees, we probably should have asked that all trees be measured at breast height, about four and a half feet. The butt flare of trees at ground level varies greatly making measurements of circumference there unreliable for comparisons. DvL)


Old Macs and cats

RD: Concerning big (and old) apple trees (Jan.-Feb. Letters to RD): years ago, when we were new to the Maritimes, we would take a little tour each summer. One year, in the ‘80s, we visited Rexton, New Brunswick, and the home of Bonar Law, the only Canadian ever to become Prime Minister of Great Britain. On the property was an old apple tree, said to be directly descended from the original McIntosh in Ontario. It was still living and producing in the early ‘80s, which would make it close to 150 years old at that time. Not quite as old as Mr. Carmichael’s trees, but still old!

    And on the issue of CA-R-MA, the cat rescue people: we have two CA-R-MA cats, rescued from a bad owner situation. More often, they rescue and socialize feral cats, of which there are probably thousands in the Maritimes. They work towards adoption by members of the public, having given the cats all the inoculations necessary and having them spayed or neutered. Many of these volunteers have several rescued cats in their homes at any one time, and all they ask for is a donation when you adopt.

    The fact that these cats are no longer feral and producing kittens by the multitudes saves many birds from predation. As to cats in general hunting birds: have you ever watched cats preying on birds? How often are they successful? I will wager that over the couple of decades we have had cats, they have caught 10 times more mice than birds, and no country person can object to that. Maybe we should have a “Save the Mice” movement!

Michael Hutton
Knowlesville, N.B.


Sign me up

RD: It was a real treat to receive my copy of Rural Delivery, compliments of Hope Seeds. I’ve already passed my thanks to Andrea Berry, and now thanks to Rural Delivery for your cooperative mailing with the local seed supplier.

    I am a delinquent subscriber forgetting how much I enjoy your publication. So sign me up again.

Terry Roscoe
Annapolis Royal, N.S.


A tall tail?

RD: Jack MacAndrew’s article about fracking (“A fracking mess,” Jan.-Feb. RD), and cows’ tails falling off? You don’t have to like it, but surely you have heard of docking. I’m not getting any younger either, but does that mean we are getting vacuous? Straighten up.

John Pleunis
Harvey, N.B.


(John, it should have been pointed out that these were the tails of beef and not dairy cattle, and attributed to one of several sources including a story in The Nation magazine, Nov. 28, 2012, “Fracking Our Food Supply,” by Elizabeth Royte. DvL)


Cracked teeth

RD: Old man winter has cracked his teeth several times it seems, we have had some cold weather this winter. Guess we had been spoiled. So glad to see that Les Corkum wrote a nice reply to “What’s that?” (Jan.-Feb. RD). He is one lovely man with an excellent mind.

Elizabeth Curry and Stewart Lyon
Falmouth, N.S.


Backwoods “Christmas”

RD: Aaron Hiltz’s problems with egg marketing (“The other egg man,” Jan.-Feb. RD) reminds me of what happened to us about 25 years ago, when we had around 200 laying birds and, apart from a few private customers, were supplying clean, beautiful, fresh eggs to a health food store in Williams Lake. Then, one day, the owner of the store called and told us that he could not take any more of our eggs, as a health inspector threatened to close him down because our eggs weren’t “inspected.” Whatever was that supposed to mean? Our fresh eggs from free running, healthy birds were a health hazard, but the months, or year-old eggs from egg factories, where the birds are locked up in cages, unable to stand up and turn around, were perfectly alright, because they had stamps on them?

    We managed to give away a few birds and still had some private customers, but I had to chop about 150 beautiful, healthy, young birds and dump them in the backwoods for the coyotes and wolves, who must have thought Christmas came early that year.

Ed Deak
Big Lake Ranch, B.C.


Bad day at Green Cove 

RD: I read your editorial in the January-February issue of Rural Delivery concerning the changing of the natural landscape due to construction of wind generators, transmission towers, etc. I hope that your concern also extends to the construction of huge war memorials in national parks, and that you will support us in our opposition to the construction project at Green Cove. I hope that you and others would agree that such a project should especially not be undertaken in a national park.

Sandra Barr
Professor, geology, Acadia University
Wolfville, N.S. 


(Sandra’s message was accompanied by a copy of a note to Cape Breton MP Mark Eyking, signed by staff and faculty of Acadia’s Department of Earth and Environmental Science that can be found, in part, in this month’s “Pot Luck” column. DvL)


Squirrel proof feeder

RD: This may help Reeves-Horton (see Jan.-Feb. “Neighborly News”). The cost is reasonable and it works 100 percent. The post is six feet of four-inch rigid well pipe with two feet buried in ground. The scrap pipe came from a well driller. I used a car-cooling fan with an electric motor attached, with the motor set in the top of the pipe. The fan and motor came from a junk yard.

    A small hole drilled in the top of the pipe holds the fan securely in place with lock wire. Attach a wooden feeder platform, whatever you like, on top of the blades. Secure the feeder to the blade with a screw or light wire. The blades spin freely in the wind and the seed stays fairly dry. 

Robert Thomas
Berwick, N.S.


Ever heard of Pumpkin Sweets?

RD: While reading a copy of your Jan.-Feb. RD I found a very interesting discussion (“Letters to RD”) on different types of apple trees. When I was growing up on the Mersey River, there was an elderly gentleman by the name of Angus Manthorne, who had a half dozen apple trees of different types. 

    One tree in particular stands out in my mind as being one of the sweetest and best tasting apples I had ever eaten. He called it Pumpkin Sweet. I am wondering if anyone has heard tell of Pumpkin Sweet apples and if (the variety) is still available. I would be interested in purchasing one. Enjoy the Rural Delivery very much.

Brian Purdy
ilton, N.S.


Sees trouble

RD: Always used to look forward to reading the Rural Delivery whenever it arrives in our mail box. I am however very disturbed to say the least by your article on so-called medical marijuana (“A very green thumb,” Jan.-Feb. issue).

    I say that if it is to be a painkiller or other medical treatment it should be treated

just like other prescription drugs that are used for treatment from our family doctors and purchased the same as all the others through the local pharmacy.

    Do folks use the excuse that it’s needed as a medicine so they can get high? This is just plain wrong and to seek permission to grow and sell, all for the sake of feeling high. Kids, especially at young susceptible ages when they are so delicate, can get hooked on enough problems. Why on earth would you ever give more fuel to an already growing problem?

    Your article even goes so far as to discuss retail value of this very controversial cash crop. For shame to all those involved with marijuana and for shame to see it in your magazine. There are still some of us who see it as trouble.

Rex Veinot
Maplewood, N.S.

(Rex, thank you for taking the trouble to write expressing your concerns. I appreciated “A very green thumb” for telling me and readers what it is like growing, harvesting, and processing legally-grown marijuana: a sticky, stinky job. While light-hearted in its approach, I did not think it promoted the use of cannabis merely to get high. I share your belief that more needs to be known about the effects of cannabinoids on developing brains and would apply the precautionary principle: If there is a suspected risk (to health in this case) it is up to those who say there is no risk to prove their case. DvL)


Big Bethel

RD: We also have a seven foot two inch apple tree. It is a Bethel apple (winter apple) – good eating, but not a cooking apple. The tree would be at least 200 years old.

Shirley and Gordon Chaplin
Middle Stewiacke, N.S.


Enjoys handmowing event

RD: I’ve been meaning to send you a note since last year. Just wanted to thank you for putting together the handmowing weekend. My brother Chris and I had an enjoyable time. The Ross Farm is a great place to visit, and we had wanted to come to this event before, but we were always hosting our church corn boil the same weekend!

    Our scythe is mostly used for cutting crops like buckwheat in the garden patch, and dry cornstalks for the cattle.     

    Anyway, thanks for the handmowing event and also for Rural Delivery magazine; always a good read.

Ruth Forrester
Montague, P.E.I.


(Ruth, here comes spring and soon it will be time to tune up our scythes. We’ve not yet set a date and location for the 11th annual Maritime Handmowing Championships but when we have we will spread the word. Thanks for the photo of your raccoon-proof chicken run that we have published on page 36 along with other information in this issue about raising poultry. DvL)


Keeping us safe

    Speaking of handmowing, after reading about our Maritime Handmowing Championships last summer, Bud Heinrich, a friend from childhood living in New Hampshire wrote:

    “I really envy the freedom you guys have up there. Being able to go out in the field and use a tool that has evolved over the years to be the best tool for the job.

    “Down here, our govt. helps us be safe. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) wants the end of any scythe or sickle ground to a round end with at least a three-quarter inch radius.  They have put a limit on the length of a scythe blade, to be under 16 inches. Health and Human services mandate a full-length chain mail cut-proof garment for anyone scything.

    “The Dept. of Labor requires a workmanship compensation insurance policy costing  $33 per $100 of wage. The Department of Agriculture prohibits walking or stepping on mown hay. Homeland Security has a bill before congress to confiscate all sickles and scythes as weapons of terror, while the Department of Transportation forbids transit of crops mowed by scythe out of a concern about broken blades and truck tires. Lastly, the Department of Revenue requires an entertainment tax be paid on any farm scythe display.

    “April fool. The above is not true, but we are headed there, based on the Washington belief that no one has any common sense any more.”


Country’s greatest need

RD: Firstly, thank you for such a great magazine. The articles are great, always engaging. I also very much appreciate how you take a political stance on some very serious environmental issues (fracking and fish farming). It astounds me how the government is allowing and funding such unethical practices. It’s got to stop. 

    Secondly, with regards to your question from the Jan.-Feb. reader survey, if you live in the country, a rural area, what do you see as the greatest need? It’s about being part of the solution, not continuing to be part of the problem. I am just an organic gardener. I’m not attempting to feed myself full-time, let alone others as farmers do. Yet, I know there are alternatives – many excellent, environmental, and profitable alternatives – to the spray-ridden monocultures here in the Annapolis Valley. 

    I’m not interested in shaming anyone. What I’m trying to say is farmers need to get together and figure out new ways, better and healthier ways, of bringing food to our tables. The old ways have got to change. This planet, the earth, the soil, can no longer sustain such practices. 

    I dream of a day when all farms are organic (and) when every farmer is able to make a decent living, and love what they do. True stewards of the Valley. Maybe more articles about such farms (are needed). It’s truly inspiring hearing about the likes of Tap Root Farm (Port Williams, N.S.) for example, and many others like it for that matter.

    Personally, I can’t understand why permaculture, a self-sustaining system yielding crops, etc., isn’t being looked at as a more popular system of agriculture. Maybe you could sneak in an article or two, hoping not to alienate too many readers. Some Asian countries have permaculture systems that have been in production for many, many years, before the word permaculture even existed.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents’ worth. A city kid living in rural Nova Scotia. Thank you again for such a great publication.

Brianne Whiteside
Canning, N.S.