Friday, June 29, 2012

Get In Touch!

There is an email account for Field Notes, Cumberland County, now so click on the "Contact Me" button on the left under my profile and send me your comments and ideas.
Looking forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Another Spot for Local Art Lovers

The Tidnish Bridge Art Gallery is located at 3654 Route 366 and features painters, sculptors, printmakers, potters, writers and photographers. It's lovely gallery, full of beautiful works of art, large and small. Worth the scenic drive and be sure to stop in on your way to or from the Island.
At an open house on Saturday, June 23, several of the 2012 exhibitors were on hand to meet patrons of the arts.
From left, Melanie Landau (potter), Diana "Vertis" MacIsaac (painter), Joan Gregory (painter), Bob Morouney (potter/painter/printmaker), Catherine Thurston (painter), and Margaret Wiles (painter).

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Like Father, Like Son

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, June 13 by Sara (Jewell) Mattinson.

I was 21 years old when my father taught me how to stack wood so that the pile would not fall over. It’s a good skill to possess although I’ve only used once since that October afternoon in 1991. The pile was by the back door of our house in Ontario and we had the split wood delivered to our driveway. 

In contrast, by the time my husband was 21, he’d been stacking wood since he was a young boy but really, that was just the final stage of the work he did. He’d been felling and chunking trees in the woods then delivering that split wood to other people’s driveways every winter for most of his life. 
“It went a lot faster once I got my own power saw when I was 15,” Dwayne says of those cold winter days working in the family’s 300 acre woodlot in Rockley in the 1960s and 70s.
The greatest skill his father taught him? “How to fell a tree. If you’re working in the woods, you have to know the right way to fell a tree.”  
Whenever we go biking through that woodlot, Dwayne tells stories about working there with his father. Hearing the affection in his voice, and the longing, I ask him why those memories mean so much to him.
 “The time spent with my father,” he always answers.

He calls it both hard work and good exercise; he misses the fresh air and the camp jays that showed up every day once Donn signalled the start of dinnertime with a fire. But for Dwayne, those days of frozen sandwiches and the tea Mother put in a thermos are inexorably tied to the opportunity to bond with his dad.
“I felt that way then,” he says, “but more so now. I learned off him but as I got older, he wouldn’t admit this, but he learned off me, too.” 
This is what I learn from Dwayne about this uniquely rural work: There were no wood splitters so the work was done by hand with power saws and a tractor, and the work was available for twenty years because they culled the woodlot, cutting only the largest trees. In the woods behind our house, men with heavy machinery spent one winter clear-cutting several hectares, leaving behind a mess and no meaningful memories. 

The work my husband and father-in-law did together ensured the same experience for the next generation. About cutting wood years later for their personal use, Dwayne says, “I was proud and happy to have my son in the family woodlot. Likely that’s how Dad felt about me.”
Even my brief moment of working with my father taught me something about physical labour and diligence and doing it right the first time, the hallmarks of a self-made man. So I asked Dwayne what he considers his own father’s greatest strength.
“To provide for his family,” he answers. “He worked steadily. He had a gravel truck and the farm. He was selling hardwood and pulpwood. He’d come home from haying or putting in grain or trucking, have a bite to eat then go out and turn on the tractor so he could work in the headlights. He’d sharpen fence posts till 10 or 11.” 

It’s not the dinnertime conversations that stay with us but the example shown: Do as I do. It’s not the skills that we learn from our fathers that matter but the point in doing what the skills allow us to do.  
“My father used to say, ‘Hard work and honesty pay off’,” my husband tells me. “And he’s right. He proved it and so did I.”

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Musically Inclined

Both my husband and I love music, and we harbour deep envy of those who play instruments and sing. Thus, it's deliberate torture to attend the weekly kitchen party at the Pugwash cafe but it's fun. We are drawn to people who are singers -- and for me, who are also songwriters -- and cherish them when they become our friends.
New friends and new neighbours are Dale Murray and Christina Martin. They live, love, write, and perform together. Christina's new album is available on July 10 but Dale's new album, Dream Mountain Dream, was released in March. We saw him perform at the cafe in Pugwash on Thursday night, backed by Christina, who plays at the cafe on July 14.
Check out the latest video for one of the songs on his album. It was filmed around their house on Carrington Road and in the woods across the road. Doesn't get more locally-produced than that!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Great Gift for the Writer in Your LIfe

My friend Kim gave me a great piece of writing advice, so good it helped me publish (as Sara Jewell) in an anthology being released on Monday. Here's the official word from the Writers' Federation newsletter:
A longtime project of Halifax writers Lorri Neilsen Glenn and Carsten Knox will come to fruition Monday night with the launch of Salt Lines, a book containing writerly advice and anecdotes from 55 of Nova Scotia’s best and brightest scribes. Have a look at these contributors:

Catherine Banks! Janet Barkhouse! Brian Bartlett! John Bell! Chris Benjamin! Binnie Brennan! Douglas Arthur Brown! Jeff Bursey!, Scott Campbell! Silver Donald Cameron! Mary Jane Copps! Kev Corbett! Nate Crawford! Gwen Davies! Tanya Davis! Stephanie Domet! Alyda Farber! Jane Finlay-Young! Shelly Goodwin! Sue Goyette! Jenn Grant! Shauntay Grant! Sylvia D. Hamilton! Sara Jewell!  Heddy Johannesen! Stephen Kimber! Adrienne King! Carsten Knox! Holly Kritsch!  Tonja Gunvaldsen Klaasen! Carole Langille! Nadine LaPierre!, Lezlie Lowe! Kathy Mac!Eva Madden-Hagen! Stephens Gerard Malone! Elaine McCluskey! Michael Melski! Sarah Mian! Carmel Mikol! Shandi Michell! Philip Moscovitch! Lorri Neilsen Glenn! Sharon Gibson Palermo! Sandra Phinney! Anna Quon! Darcy Rhyno! Syr Ruus! Marjorie Simmins! Anne Simpson! Jon Tattrie! Julie Vandervoort! Rose Vaughan! Steve Vernon! and *phew*! Budge Wilson!

This anthology is sold in support of the Elizabeth Venart Emergency Fund for writers, a fund administered by the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia. All sales go to the fund. (The writers don't even get a complimentary copy.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Not So Disney: Part 1 & 2

Unless, like me, you were totally traumatized by the movie "Bambi" when you were a child. Then this is typically Disney.
A black bear appeared in the field behind the house late yesterday afternoon.
"I've lived here since 1979," my husband said as he watched the bear, "and I've only shot one bear. He was too close to the house."
This bear will likely suffer the same fate. Dwayne may have to shoot it to protect us, to protect our dogs, to protect the chickens. If it wants a feed of poultry, it just has to rip the screen off the coop and it will be able to climb in and annihilate our flock of 12.
But there was worse news, and this makes it less difficult to see the bear killed.
"He's searching for that fawn," Dwayne said. "Bears will eat fawns, you know, at this time of the year."
We've been watching the doe feeding in our field, sometimes with the fawn, barely visible, trailing behind her. It's makes us so happy (a little Pollyanna, I suppose, since the deer have never attacked our gardens). Now it's terrible to think they are being stalked, and worse... But I know, I know. This is nature. If we hadn't seen the doe with the fawn last Thursday, we wouldn't even know she'd had it.
The bear took off when it heard a door slam then we headed out to a concert. Our last sight of the bear, it was heading across the top of the field, away from the plantation where the deer are. When we returned, my mother announced that, from her second floor vantage point, had watched the bear wander through the field all evening, that it had come down as close as the wood pile.
"It must have found the fawn," Dwayne stated. "That's why it was prowling."
It's such a sad ending to the pleasure of watching the doe and fawn.Too much reality in my back yard. It's one thing for the fox to nab one pet chicken then be killed; it just seems much worse for a tiny fawn to be killed. There's something so vulnerable looking about deer.
This morning, I glanced out the kitchen window some time after 9 am and saw the doe running through the field, away from the plantation. She leaped over the ditch, crossed the road and jumped into another field and kept on running.


Before my mother took the dogs with her to Tatamagouche to buy pansies this afternoon, I walked the dogs up the lane hoping that whoever had just farted in her car would poop. Up past the wood pile, the pup's nose went straight in the air and she was trying to break through the densely bushed ditch. I called her back and made note.
After my husband arrived home from work, I insisted we hop on the bike to see if the bear had left a carcass. Better to know for sure, better to not have one of the dogs find it. As we drove up the field, apprehensive, Dwayne said, "Actually, hon, if the bear had left a carcass behind, the crows would be at it."
Imagine how my heart leapt at the possibility.
It wasn't hard to track the bear's travels through the tall grass. We figured out what last night's prowling must have been about: he'd ripped the tops off half a dozen ant hills. We did find a bone but not the ones we feared to find. Abby must have run into the field with a knucklebone because we could see where the bear had laid down for a good chew on it. It's still good so we brought it home.
No crows, no carcass. But have the deer fled with their fawns? 
No sightings of the bear today. DNR told Dwayne to kill it. They are inundated with nuisance bears.

So this is Part 2:

Last night, as my mother and I headed out to the kitchen party at the cafe in Pugwash, we left Dwayne watching 2 bears, the big one from Thursday and this smaller one:

Seriously? This is the small bear?
I snapped this photo from the laundry deck by shouting, "Hey, bear!"
Just call me the bear whisperer.
Because that's where we're at now. Since we discovered that the bears are eating ants, not fawns, well, it's all good. Now it's cool to have bears wandering through our back field.
We're a bloody nature sanctuary now.
"As long as they don't eat each other, I don't care how many animals we have back there," my nature-loving husband -- the former hunter -- declared. He became positively giddy, thinking of being able to watch bear and deer in his own back yard.
I married a mad man. One minute we're hauling out the gun to shoot the bear, next we're grinning ear to ear because there is two. Bear hugs all around, everyone!
This morning, when my mother went upstairs to get dressed, she hollered back down, "I don't see any giraffe or rhinoceros out back." But I wouldn't be surprised if one day we did.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Art Pops Up In A New Space

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, June 13 by Sara Mattinson.

Pugwash - If nature abhors a vacuum then art abhors an empty space. 
And so does artist Norene Smiley.
The co-owner of the  Chatterbox Cafe in Pugwash was faced with a huge hole when the gift shop moved out of the retail space she and her husband own next door.  
A painter herself, it didn’t take long for her to come up with a way to make the space more palatable. 
Up popped the Pop-Up Art Space.
“The space was available and we wanted to clean it up,” Smiley said. “An art space is where my mind would go so while this is available, we thought we’d highlight some local artists.”
For the month of June, three artists are occupying the Pop-Up Art Space. Shannon  Bell is a painter from New Glasgow, Diane Burnham of Pugwash  is displaying her metal sculptures while 20-year-old Isaac Fresia of Beckwith has several sculptures and a large sketch in the show. 
Fresia, who graduated from Oxford Regional Education Centre, has completed two years of a four-year program at the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design in Halifax. 
“It’s an incredible program,” he said. “You do a lot of different things and when I took sculpture, I really enjoyed it so now I’m still drawing but I’m also doing sculpture, product design and jewelry.”
It’s hard to avoid his biggest work of art at this show since it’s a large, visually striking metal sculpture stretching across the middle of the floor.  Obviously representing a human figure, Fresia titled it ‘Pull’.  
“A lot of it was just wanting to work with scraps to see how they evolved in the metal shop and also capturing motion with it,” he said.
This is his first major show outside of school. 
The plan is to change the artists showcased every month except for the weekend of HarbourFest. Smiley is bringing in several New Brunswick artists just for that three-day event. 
“It’s a little ad hoc,” Smiley laughed, “but that’s the fun of it. 
Future displays will include painters and potters. 

Isaac Fresia, Shannon Bell, Diane Burnham and Norene Smiley. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

In Conversation With...Harry Thurston

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, June 6 by Sara Mattinson.

“What came first, the poem or the egg?” I ask, eliciting a laugh from Harry Thurston. I’m sitting in his home in Tidnish Bridge, leafing through his latest book of poetry, entitled Ova Aves, which is Latin for bird eggs. Some of the poems in this new magazine-sized book are nominated for a National Magazine Award in poetry; the winners will be announced tomorrow in Toronto.  
(I hope Harry’s poems win. His poetry is lovely, very accessible and understandable, not obscure or trying too hard. I’ve heard him read his poems out loud and they are meant to be shared.)
You might be surprised, then, to learn that Harry is also an award-winning journalist. His latest book, The Atlantic Coast, recently won an Atlantic Book Award for non-fiction. Inspired by where he lives, he is first and foremost a Maritime writer. His first non-fiction book was about the Bay of Fundy while another award-winning book, A Place Between the Tides: A Naturalist’s Reflections on the Salt Marsh, came out of the journal he kept about the salt marsh in front of his house. 
“I’ve been writing since university,” Harry explains. “I started to write my first poems when I was 19 and started to publish in my early 20’s. At the same time, I also started to work as a freelance journalist, doing magazine work, and that eventually developed into books.” 
His first book, a collection of poems, was published in 1980 when Harry was 30.  Now in his fifties, he’s published a total of 23 books, seven of which are poetry while the rest are non-fiction. The common theme running through all of his books is a deep interest in the environment. 
So Harry is a poet and a journalist but he trained as a biologist with the intention of going to medical school. What happened to that road not taken? 
“It was partly the times,” Harry says. “The whole environmental movement was just getting started, this was the late sixties, so most young people were getting sensitized to the environmental challenges we faced. And as I started working as a magazine writer, I was writing for magazines whose focus was on the environment. That basic training in biology has been very helpful to me. Then I’ve followed my own personal interest. Giving up medicine was a difficult decision. I had been accepted at medical school but I decided my life’s journey was going to take a different direction.” 
That direction took him from his childhood in Yarmouth County, growing up along a tidal river called the Chebogue, to Acadia University, then to Cumberland County (by way of Westville) 22 years ago. A couple of reasons brought him and his wife Cathy to this art-filled home along the Tidnish River. 
“We loved the location, here on the river across from the salt marsh. I eventually wrote a book about the marsh. The other reason was the fact that we had good friends living across the way. Two couples with children the age of our daughter so it was the ideal situation.”
Although he has covered environmental issues for thirty years, Harry has one particular project that has occupied his non-writing time. 
“I’ve been involved with a group of citizens called Cumberland Wilderness and we’ve been working for the last seven years to save the Chignecto Game Sanctuary.”
The group formed to respond to a decision by the previous provincial government to eliminate game sanctuaries but the group decided not to save the game sanctuary; instead, they are creating a larger wilderness area under the protected areas legislation of the province.
“There’s been controversy, there’s been resistance,” says Harry, “because it’s an area people have used recreationally. In fact, they’re going to be able to continue to use it recreationally because it’s not going to be cut down and turned into pulp. In the long-run, it’s going to be a real asset to the county. There are fewer and fewer places that provide that kind of solitude.” 
Harry says an announcement is imminent about the new wilderness area, which covers more than 61,000 acres (25,000 hectares) including a 36 kilometre swath of the Fundy coastline currently not protected. Although a quiet, soft-spoken man who has travelled to Egypt for a story, Harry is most passionate about the environment in which he lives. 
“As a writer, I do my work about those kinds of issues but this [wilderness area] has been an effort as a citizen What makes Cumberland County so exceptional are the large unpopulated areas. Plus we have two coastlines, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Bay of Fundy. That’s pretty cool if you think about it.”
Living in the Maritimes, in rural Nova Scotia has not hindered Harry’s career at all. 
“What I discovered as a freelance writer was that it was an advantage to be here,” he says. “National magazines needed someone in the region who had local connections, who had some insight and overview of what the region was about. You’d think being stuck at the end of the road wouldn’t be a good thing but it turned out for me that it was.”

Sunday, June 17, 2012

More Baby News

We've seen two heads in the osprey nest. Last year, there were three babies and it took another week before we could see the youngest but for sure, our birds have hatched out two chicks.
Dwayne saw two other ospreys flying around the nest this morning - making that four adult ospreys in the immediate area - and I'm quite sure it's last year's kids coming to check out their new siblings.
Could be...
So Dwayne is getting the new wheel prepped to put on top of another pole that will go up in his lot along the river. Obviously, our ospreys are an uncharacteristically close-knit family and perhaps they'd like to live in the same neighbourhood.
It's so easy to tell I grew up watching Disney movies...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Who Wouldn't Want To Live Here?

It rained all day Thursday, a good day for writing and a good day for growing (if you are a garden). It was, apparently, also a good day for giving birth.
My mother's second-floor room has four large windows in it so she has a 300 degree view of our property (she can't see the south part) with a sweeping vista of the fields. She hollered to me where I was working down the hall in an old bedroom converted into an office that a deer was trotting up and down the lane.
"That's nice," I replied.
A while later, she hollered that the deer was lying down so I got up to look this time. By the time I trained the binoculars on her, she got up and jumped over the fence, disappearing into the woods. I thought that was the last of it until another while later, my mother hollered again (hollering is our intercom system) that she now had a fawn with her.
Now I abandoned my work in order to watch as the doe tried to get her new, tiny baby through the ditch and into the field so they could head to our pine plantation where they would be safe and sheltered. The fawn wouldn't or more likely couldn't get through the tangles of alder bushes and wild rose bushes and weeds that have grown up in the deep ditch. My mother and I like to believe that sending the message, "Go to the driveway on the other side of the wood pile," as we stood watching through the window actually got through to the doe.
Note in the third photo that in the middle of all this, another doe appeared at the top of the lane. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight

Every Friday night, the Chatterbox Cafe in downtown Pugwash hosts a kitchen party beginning at 7:30 pm. It's an open invitation for local musicians to perform in front of an enthusiastic and supportive audience. In fact, the audience wins twice: admission is free and the food is fabulous (the cafe is licensed but Nova Scotia's repressive liquor laws means you have to buy a meal in order to enjoy a glass of wine or beer - worth the hassle). Every week, we're guaranteed a lively, good-humoured mix of jazz, blues, country, classic and original music presented by talented teachers, jewelry designers, high school students, landscape artists, retirees.
Really, there is nothing more exciting than a budding musician announcing, "I wrote this song and am performing it for the first time for you." Last week, Mark Stevens, middle, knocked everyone's sandals off with his debut song. Accompanying him on the banjo is Danny Patriquin along with Ben Smith on bass.

The evening is anchored by a trio: John Caraberis on guitar, Louise Cloutier on vocals and Ben, the original kitchen party host when this all began eight years ago at his instigation (dontcha love that kind of instigator?), on bass. The trio performs jazz standards. Last week, we were treated to classics such as "All Of Me" and "Paper Moon" while they closed out the show -- with audience participation -- with "I Can See Clearly Now". Sent us out into the twilight still singing.

A great time is always had by all. Cafe owners Greg and Norene Smiley deserve major kudos for their constant support of local artists and musicians, as well as organizations such as Communities in Bloom and the public library. They brought a new energy to the village when they bought the cafe in 2004.
See you at the kitchen party tonight!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What's Up, Doc?

First published in the May 30 issue of The Oxford Journal by Sara Mattinson.

I was out in the field behind the house snatching up sharp green shoots of new spring grass for the rabbits when I realized it had become awfully dark. The dog barked; she was standing at the door wanting in, not realizing I wasn’t in the house, all cozy warm and dry, but standing outside in the pouring rain. All to give the bunnies, tucked inside all winter, a taste of spring.
Whenever I give a tour of our property I get asked, “Rabbits! You have rabbits? Why?” 
My usual answer is, “My husband wanted them. He had them when his kids were little.” 
(Then when people see how big our rabbits are, they want to know if we plan to eat them. The answer is no.)
 But now I have my own reason for keeping  rabbits: I am keeping rabbits for the endless supply of poop. It’s nice to a greater purpose for that endless supply: it makes great fertilizer so I keep a scoop and a large bucket next to the pen in order to save the poop that gets cleaned up every day. Don’t laugh: There are now two full buckets waiting to be mixed into soil and spread over my gardens. 
I came across this gem of information about rabbit poop in a book about urban farming by Novella Carpenter. Apparently, chicken poop, which I also have in great abundance, is high in nitrogen and needs to be composted before it can be applied to gardens. Rabbit poop, on the other hand, is perfect, coming as it does out of the butts of herbivores. 
Here is something else the book told me about rabbits that my husband didn’t know: Rabbits like baguettes. Stale baguettes, to be precise, the hard, crunchy kind leftover from a Saturday night dinner party when bruschetta was the appetizer.  It is good for the rabbits’ teeth. Considering that Novella Carpenter is farming in San Francisco, days-old baguettes are a reasonable substitution for poplar limbs. 
So now when I go to the grocery store, I pick up a whole wheat baguette and leave it on the counter for three days. 
“Why aren’t we eating that?” my husband asks. 
“It’s for the rabbits,” I tell him and ignore his snort of disgust. 
Does that make our rabbits spoiled?
Of course they are. In the farming book, all the rabbits get eaten. 

Rosie and Daisy in their "cottage". 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Breaking News

The Application brought before the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board sponsored by Bob O’Connell, Eldon Mundle and Kevin Polley to dissolve the Village of Pugwash has been dismissed.
The first application was to reduce the size of the Village and then in 2010 to dissolve it entirely.  Both these applications have been unsuccessful. 
“I believe these petitions and applications to the UARB to have been a monumental waste of taxpayer’s money,” the Pugwash Village Commission Chair, Rod Benjamin, said. “The first application cost Village tax payers $48,000 in legal fees and the second cost another $32,000. Both applications were dismissed and it is now time for the community to heal and get along with the business of being this unique, beautiful place."
Benjamin went on to say that projects and plans have been on hold for years due to this business with the UARB. 
“With these applications behind us, the Village Commission looks forward to working with all members of the community to build upon the services and amenities provided in the Village.  Pugwash is a beautiful place to live where business can develop and thrive. Encouraging economic development and increased settlement are priorities for the Village,” said Benjamin.  

Coffee and Art: A Perfect Combination

Just writing that title makes me crave a visit to a certain cafe in a certain village on the Northumberland Strait.
In tomorrow's issue of The Oxford Journal, watch for an article on a new art gallery that's opened in downtown Pugwash. Another brilliant idea from Norene Smiley, who co-owns the delightful Chatterbox Cafe with her (equally delightful) husband Greg.
The Pop-Up Art Space is filling a space adjacent to the cafe that was recently vacated by a gift store. Instead of leaving the large room empty until it is rented, Norene, who is a painter, figured out a great way to make use of the store and highlight artists at the same time.
Diane Burnham and Isaac Fresia are two local artists who are featured for the month of June at the art gallery on Durham Street in Pugwash.

Friday, June 08, 2012

New Baby Days

We've been through this before, my husband and I, the feedings, the sharing duties, the fishing.
Yes, we are thrilled to announce the osprey that live next door are definitely feeding young. How many we won't know for another few weeks; usually the big reveal comes around July 5 but spring was early this year and the osprey returned together, instead of days apart, so perhaps their breeding and incubating was early, too.

 Looking forward to the moment when we see those little heads popping up over the side of the nest, checking out that vast world around them.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

What's So Hard About Composting?

First published in the May 23, 2012 issue of The Oxford Journal by Sara Mattinson.

The dogs were barking like crazy as a man walked over to our property dragging two wheeled green bins behind him and for a split second, I considered letting them out to chase him away. What do we need with two green carts, after all? 
The county is handing them out to each civic number so even the empty lots like the one next to us gets a cart so I fetched the carts from the curb and parked them next to our two half-full composters. 
The first thing I did when I moved here six springs ago was set up a composter. Languishing as I was in a large town in Ontario, I’d actually developed a twitch that struck every time I put a banana peel or egg shell in the garbage can. I had waited years to have a composter because it is simply the best value-added way to deal with household organics – less into the garbage can and a by-product that makes more food grow. Yet here was the county passing out large, wheeled green bins for household organics so they could take them away. I’d never see my egg shells and banana peels again.  
So another Myth of Country Living is crushed by the reality of modern life: very few people are raising their own food these days. Not everyone who lives on a rural route has a garden and not everyone composts for the sake of having that wonderful black soil that comes out the hatch in the bottom (yes, that’s what that is for).
To confirm the demise of my long-held belief, I called a couple of neighbours to see how they felt about the handy-dandy green carts and discovered that there are three types of people out there: Those who compost to use the by-product, those who throw their organics out behind the barn or out in a field, and those who use a garburator.
“I don’t have a composter and I won’t use a green cart because of the bears who walk through our yard,” said one garburating woman.
Another man is already using his to store his garbage bags in until garbage day while my husband figures we can use them to store chicken and rabbit feed. My 86-year-old father-in-law doesn’t know how he’s supposed to drag the cart up his mile-long driveway every two weeks. 
For some reason, I am shocked by all of this: by the lack of composting, by using drinking water to flush food waste into our already-besieged water systems, by our ever-growing distance from the earth and the fact that our food actually grows in dirt (not at the grocery store). As someone born and raised in town who broke her back making gardens as soon as she moved to rural Nova Scotia, I can’t believe compostable materials get no respect.   
Then I walked into my friend Angela’s kitchen and there on her kitchen counter was the little bin from inside the green cart, and it was already half-full.
“I quite like it,” my friend says of the new composting system. “Everything that is wet waste goes into the green bin, including bones. Now that we are limited to one privacy bag, we have to save those for cat litter and bathroom garbage.”
Angela says they’ve always composted but, without gardens, never had any use for it. 
“I’m known for throwing out it in the yard then mowing over it,” she laughs. “This is a better way to deal with our waste.”
A fascinating split in opinions but it seems I’m alone in my enthusiasm for creating compost. It’s the enthusiasm of the converted city girl for being connected to the land, for growing my own food, and for smelling that crumbly, pungent soil that makes my roses robust, my tomatoes tasty, and my lilies lively.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Our First Local Strawberries of the Season

Very exciting. I refuse to buy those long-suffering, woody strawberries that come from California, preferring instead of wait until June for the ripe, sweet taste of our real, local, handpicked fruit. These babies came from a farm near Great Village.
Worth the wait. Worth the drive. And in a few months, our Oxford strawberry farmer will be selling his fruit. Don't miss out. Only once a year...

Friday, June 01, 2012

The Inner Workings of Writers

I posted here about Cumberland County resident Harry Thurston winning the Dartmouth Non-Fiction Book Award for his book about the north Atlantic. Well, right as we speak (I'm easily interrupted), I'm listening to the tape of our recent conversation and making up notes to be this week's profile. This is the indulgence of my "In Conversation With..." column: I get to interview writers and artists. Why not take advantage of this man's good nature -- I knew it because I'd had dinner with him a few years ago before a fundraiser for the Pugwash library -- and get to know this eco-journalist better?
Harry is a lovely man, more so because he gifted me with his latest collection of poetry, Ova Aves, about wild bird eggs. My favourite part of the interview was learning how he could be a poet and a journalist at the same time. I wasn't surprised to learn that his poems are written by hand in small black notebooks.
Besides The Atlantic Coast, Harry has another award-winning book, A Place Between the Tides, about living along the salt marsh. Harry lives in Tidnish Bridge, outside of Amherst. 
Watch for our conversation in next week's issue, June 6.

Here's a quote from Harry I've come across halfway through our interview, about writing and what to write. He's says he discovered this along the way. 
"The things that you care about the most are the things you write best about."

And now that I've flipped the calendar to the new months, I realize my next Field Notes column is June 13. I suppose I must write something on the topic of fathers since that day falls on the 17th. Now that I've dropped that intention into the percolating part of my creative brain, I wonder what will drip out?
I've been trying to create an outline for a personal essay on trees and my father and my husband, and how they are all connected. Perhaps I could create the first 500 words of that essay in my column.
Okay, trees, inspire me.