Monday, August 31, 2015

It's Cumberland County Exhibition Week

The week-long celebration of agriculture -- and where our food comes from -- has begun in Oxford. I think farmers deserve to be celebrated, don't you?

Friday, August 28, 2015

How Do You Like Them Apples!

Saturday at the Pugwash Farmers' Market is your last opportunity to buy raffle tickets on a basket full of goodies from market vendors.
This is SO the basket you want to win!
Money raised will be matched by the Scotiabank in Pugwash and all the money is going towards the planned improvements to the market, including permanent vendor kiosks with retractable awnings.
Already, new improvements are making a different to the market. Gravel pathways are making it feel more like a market and making it easier to access all vendors. Nothing like good traffic flow to improve sales!

A second, long-term fundraiser are these wooden apples. Here, market president Danielle VanDalen and market manager Nancy Burgess-Graham model the red and green versions that will be nailed to the membership tree painted on the side of the market shed.

The apples cost between $25 and $100 dollars. A bird's nest is $250. All in support of the How Does Your Market Grow campaign.
The market opens at 8:30 am and runs until 1 pm. Don't forget to buy your raffle tickets!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Rainy Day At the Beach

The cure for anything is salt water --
sweat, tears, or the sea.
~ Isak Dinesen

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Round Bales As Far As The Eye Can See

I don't know why but I love the sight of round bales in the fields. I think it's because to me, they are the most visual representation of the hard work of farmers. Cows and grain and pastures and barns are obvious, sure, but somehow these bales -- the hay mowed, raked and baled under the hot sun of August -- seem to me the most visible sign to passersby that farmers work hard.
Haying is just one part of the work but it is a vital part -- this is what beds and feeds the livestock. And it is hot and heavy work.
Every August, my husband and his father start reminiscing about their farming days, when hay was done in square bales, and invariably my husband comments, "On a day like today, up at the peak of the hay mow, it would be 250 degrees."
He loved farming, he misses farming but he almost shudders when he recalls the dust and heat of a hay mow.
Farming is hard work, filled with long days, long nights, failures and successes, sorrows and rewards, rain and sun, snow and heat. When I see these round bales lounging in the fields in August, I think of the farmers -- young and old -- who do this work year-round, and wish we considered farmers "heroes" instead of race car drivers and baseball players.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ditch the GPS for a Good Night's Sleep

As published in The Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, August 19, 2015 by Sara Jewell.

           Driving to Truro at the end of July, the final story of the six o’clock news on the radio caught my attention. It was about the launch of the new Windows 10 operating system, a system Microsoft has created to work across all platforms: desktop, phone and tablet.
            My reaction to this story was to think, How far behind am I getting when it comes to being plugged in?
I don’t have a smart phone. I carry a flip phone in my purse that is rarely turned on; my tablet is used only for the Skype program, and I’m typing this column on a desktop computer.
I’ve never sent a text.
            Given all the other stuff that’s going on in our world, this may seem like a silly thing to worry about but is the day coming when I won’t have a clue how to work anything?
            There is no denying that soon, every aspect of our lives will be run by a device attached in some way to our bodies. Beyond remotes and timers and cars parking themselves, I’m talking about a time when everything we do, right down to breathing, is controlled by a tiny computer on, or perhaps implanted in, our wrist.
            But wait, that time is already upon us. We already wear devices that count steps and heart beats and calories, cars that run without a key and on voice command, and eye glasses that project information and analyze a situation on the inside of the lens.
            I’m worried I will wake up one day and not have a clue what anyone is talking about. Or how they are talking about it. Or how to make myself a cup of coffee or flush my toilet. There won’t even be an app for that because someone will have come up with a new concept I won’t even know about.
Admittedly, my resistance to keeping up with new technology has been deliberate. Part of me is not interested in gadgets but a bigger part of me has a stubborn streak that mutters, “You can’t tell me what to do.”
That stubborn streak grows stronger every time a car pulls into our country road and drives past the “No Exit” sign despite the fact they are now driving on a dirt lane. But the GPS says this is the way to Linden so they’ll keep driving until it becomes obvious to their own eyes that this is the wrong way.
            That moment gives me hope: Somewhere in their googled brain, they still possess the ability to think for themselves, to solve a problem based on the evidence in front of them, and make a decision. Without checking an electronic device.
            The funny thing is that those misdirected drivers are actually going in the right direction. For a moment, however brief, they have tuned into the world around them and used their senses to live their life. If they kept driving into the woods, they’d be doing themselves a real favour.
In 2013, researchers at the University of Colorado discovered that one week of camping, without electronics, resets our biological body clock and synchronizes our system with sunrise and sunset. The result is a good night’s sleep.  
Electronics disrupt our natural circadian rhythms. We stay up too late, we spend too much time staring at a lighted screen, we don’t give our brains a chance to rest. The result is a chronic sleep deprivation and really, what is the most common lament of the 21st century working person?
“I’d give anything for a good night’s sleep.”
It’s time to consider ditching the GPS and turning off the smarter-than-you phone, and following your senses down a long dirt lane to spend seven nights lying out beneath the stars noticing that the universe is a whole lot bigger, and brighter, than a screen.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Lovely, Old Pet Goat

My kind of people are those who know that an old, lame goat who requires extra care is worthy of the time and consideration. Instead of putting a bullet in her head, they feed her and do the necessary work to her feet, they put her in with the lambs for company and they call her by name.
Which I don't remember but when I walked by this pen and heard the lambs inside baa-ing. A sheep call and a goat call are very similar so I replied with a goat call (learned through YouTube!) and this lovely head popped up over the barricade.
I must have spoken her name!
My kind of people are those who have children who help us remember that life isn't always about work and money, about getting something out of someone all the time. Kids, in the way they tend with devotion to any animal regardless of age or health yet particularly for those who need the extra care, remind us that being old doesn't mean being a waste of time or food or space or energy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Happy Donkey

This is Sarah Jenny.
She lives on a farm in Wallace Bay.
She's lovely, gentle and sweet. Her colouring, so light, brings the mark of the cross out clearly on her back.
That's what I love most about donkeys, their spiritual lives. Sure, they play a minor role in some of the major stories of the Christian faith but sometimes those minor roles -- the quiet ones, the watchful ones, the ones putting their heads down and getting on with it -- are the most significant.
Donkeys are the symbol for carrying burdens, it is the cross they bear.
My days are busy, full of words and songs and pages, deadlines and schedules and dates. These are the days of putting my head down and getting on with it because the work needs to be done, and it is my work to do, my burden to carry. A joy, for sure, to work this hard, but I cherish the cool nights for rest.
Right now, I wish I was SJ because the most important task in her life right now is finding shade during the day. And coming to the fence for pats. And waiting for the girls to brush her in the evenings. The rewards of carrying our burdens.

Friday, August 14, 2015

She Was A Funny Cat

Fern, April 2010 - August 2015

Fern staggered into the house on Sunday evening, soaking wet and not looking well at all. She hasn't been well for awhile, some problem with one of her kidneys that would slowly kill her but as long as she was doing what she was happy doing, we weren't going to worry about her. She was still joining us for supper, eating pieces of our meat -- "We don't feed the cat at the table," my husband would say as he put a piece of scallop in front of her -- and sitting by the shelf in the front hall where her treat jar sits.
The one sign that her health was failing was the change in her fur; her silky-soft black coat was changing into coarser brown fur. She also was getting skinnier, just bones when we patted her.
Fern was fine until she wasn't. She missed supper for a few evenings then she came in Sunday evening soaking wet and barely able to hold her head up. The dog's reaction to her confirmed to me that Fern was dying. I dried her off, carried up upstairs to my mother, then tucked her into her afghan on the chair in our bedroom and cried a bit.
A stray who joined our household in December 2010, Fern was always a funny cat; cuddly on rare occasions, easily upset by the new puppy, by the new kitten. If my husband was up early, sitting on the front deck in the pre-dawn dark, she would appear and crawl into his lap. She loved being outside, loved roaming the woods. She would join my mother when she went for a walk up the lane. She killed birds and mice and squirrels. If she slept inside, it was usually in a closet or on the spare room bed. Fern was never really our cat; we provided a safe, warm place to find good food and a comfortable place to sleep.
At three o'clock Monday morning, I heard the tapping of her toenails on the floor. She was sitting by the sliding door in the bedroom so I opened it. She staggered out into the dark and that is the last time I saw her. I'm sorry she wouldn't die inside where it was dry and safe, so we could bury her body, but I guess her instinct to be outside, perhaps even to die in the woods, was stronger than her attachment to us.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


In the same hour this morning, our spirits were lifted high!
I have work for the fall -- a three-month contract with a local church as a lay worship leader -- and five ospreys suddenly showed up in the sky above our property today. One flew off to sit in a tree and chirp, one brought a fish to the nest but didn't stay long and two tossed each other around while one cruised the currents.
Or something like that. We are just so relieved, so grateful to see the ospreys again. I couldn't help but raise my arms up in thanks.
"We see you!" goes both ways.
I'm sure the parents are as discombobulated as we are by the loss of the three chicks. Just as we anticipated another month of bird watching, they, too, expected their parental duties -- feeding and teaching to fly and fish -- to last another month or so.
Both these calls -- to serve, to see -- are appreciated.
My heart unclenched.  

Saturday, August 08, 2015

All Is Quiet Now

The feathers from two of the baby ospreys are now in my office, remembrances of our dear little friends.

I hear a voice,
the cry of a wounded animal;
someone shoots an arrow at the moon;
a small bird has fallen from the nest.
People must be awakened,
witness must be given,
so that life can be guarded.

~ W.S. Rendra

Friday, August 07, 2015

Nature Sucks

When you live next door to ospreys, when you spend April until September watching them and listening to them, you know them like you know your own family members.
You learn the difference between a food chirp and a location call. You know when you'll see the heads of the year's hatchlings for the first time and you know that each bird is born a week a part so that means there always will be one youngest who is the last to fly, who is the last to leave the nest. You get as excited as they do whenever a fish comes in; if you're my husband, you can identify the fish clutched in their talons and sometimes you are envious of the nice trout the bird has caught.
You know when there is no longer a baby in the nest.
This intimacy means that when something happens, something devastating, you are heartbroken. I've thought the worst thing that could happen would be the nest blowing down in a storm but now we know that is not the worst.
When I passed by the nest at the start of my walk this morning, I wasn't surprised that I could see nothing in the nest; in the mornings, when the parents are fishing, the baby has been hiding. But on my way home, I knew something was wrong. By that time, I should have been seeing two -- the baby and a parent -- standing on the edge of the nest.
At home, my mother and my husband were sitting on the back deck.
"I've been watching a long time and I haven't seen any movement, not a head or wing flap," Dwayne said.
My stomach hollowed out.
After letting the chickens out of the coop, I saw an osprey sitting on top of the tree at the end of the house, watching the nest. This is not normal; it's either in the nest or fishing for food. And this was not the baby; it wasn't ready for that kind of flight. This meant something.
As the other adult flew to the nest with a fish, the osprey in the tree flew over and then we know for sure: There was no baby in the nest. The osprey from the tree stayed in the nest, chirping, chirping, chirping. I finally had to go inside because the sound was breaking my heart.
I feel like I've written that before.
Half an hour later, I decided to walk over to the nest, to talk to the osprey, to ask it, "Why did you leave it alone? Is the instinct to go fishing at daybreak stronger than the instinct to protect your remaining baby?" We can walk right under the nest and the birds will look down at us, will talk to us as we talk to them.
And that's when I saw the feathers on the path.
The eagle did indeed return to take the last osprey chick.

We don't know when, none of us heard anything early this morning, but we do know -- by the crime scene -- that an osprey parent must have returned to the nest while the eagle was plucking the feathers off the baby in the grass right below the nest. Given the light trail of small feathers along the path that runs through the field, and the carcass, there was a battle for the (already dead) baby and the osprey won. They must not make any noise when fighting -- I find that hard to believe given the bellowing that came out of me without thinking -- but we heard nothing. There was nothing we could have done anyway.
But I'm glad there was someone there to attack the eagle again. 
There is no way the eagle would have left its food behind unless it was being attacked and simply couldn't get away with it.
We decided not to bury it but instead to take the carcass away from our property and return it to nature, either through decomposing or scavengers. As Dwayne and I were walking back towards the house with the carcass, the eagle screeched at us.
It was that close.
Waiting to come back for its meal.
This explains why the osprey was in the tree; it was guarding the body of its chick. It was ready to attack the eagle when it came back for it. 
I was carrying the shovel and if I could have seen where the eagle was, I would have gone after it. You know I would. If I could have beaten it to death with the shovel, I would have. Imagine screeching at us as we took its food away. Bastard.
"The eagles will take over the nest now," Dwayne predicted. I know what he means: Once the babies are out of the nest, and until this year that meant flying on their own, the adults don't return to the nest much. What reason do they have now to come back to the nest before flying south next month? Surely they don't want to look at the feathers of their chicks strewn over the field.
But I'll be damned if the eagles will take over the nest. If I have to climb up that pole with my plastic chair and my shovel and sit in that nest until April 2016, I will keep those eagles from claiming this nest.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

The Arts On The Hill Festival In Springhill

Kudos to small communities who come up with new events to promote not only their community but to support the people who live and work there year round. Pugwash came up with HarbourFest, Oxford added the Strawberry Festival and now Springhill is launching its first festival inspired by its famous Liars' Bench and focused on storytelling of all kinds (music, spoken word, arts & crafts).
The first event is this evening, with more events starting at noon on Friday at the Anne Murray Centre and eleven a.m. Saturday.
For more information, and to see the list of events more easily (!), go to the Facebook page, TheArtsOnTheHill.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Going Above & Beyond For Dogs In Need

As published in The Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, August 5, 2015, by Sara Jewell.

"Auntie Jane" Jorgensen with an armful of adorable puppies.

           The Mushkadoodles flown in from Labrador. The Preston puppies rescued by an RCMP officer. The Garbage Bag Puppies saved in Cape Breton. Five beagle pups and their parents taken from a home.
            What do all these dogs have in common besides neglect and/or abuse?
            They’ve all landed in the loving care of “Auntie Jane”.
            “I almost always have rescue dogs here,” says Jane Jorgensen at her Wallace Bay farm where she runs a boarding kennel and grooming salon.
            Since January alone, Jane has fostered more than 30 dogs and puppies. The beagle puppies currently running around the fenced enclosure came from a home where their mother was kept in a shed and their father was tied up.
            “She looks like she’s been nursing her whole life,” Jane says of the beagle mom being bred multiple times so her puppies could be sold. “And they thought the male was aggressive. I was going to turn him down but they already had him on the truck.”
            For Jane’s safety, he arrived wearing a collar with a leash attached and when she took him into the fenced enclosure to see what he would do, Duke showed no signs of aggression.
             “The whole family is adorable,” says Jane.
            She’s already fostering a German Shepherd whose owner died. The wife and son couldn’t deal with the dog so he was shut in a crate for two weeks, not even let out to be fed or to relieve himself.
            Another dog Jane recently helped came in so emaciated, she couldn’t nurse her puppies; her owner had gone to jail and his sister didn’t want to spend money on dog food.
            When asked how she reacts to the horror stories, Jane replies, “We’re asked to forgive but sometimes it’s really hard.”
            According to Shelley Cunningham, the founder and president of the dog rescue organization Litters’N’Critters, Jane has taken in over 200 dogs since she began fostering with the rescue four years ago.
“I’ll call her and say, ‘Mudder, we have a problem. We’ve got this dog that has lost a paw or has been lit on fire, and she says, ‘Bring him ‘up’,” Cunningham said in a phone interview. “Jane has never said no.”
Since it doesn’t have a shelter, Litters’N’Critters relies on foster homes to take the dogs that come in. The fact that Jane has a kennel means she can accommodate more dogs.
“Her kennel is a godsend,” Cunningham said. “And we’ve had dogs come in that have never been groomed and Jane has taken those dogs with their mats and tangles, with toenails grown right into their paws, and she’s clipped and trimmed and turned them back into dogs.”
            Cunningham said not all dogs come to Litters’N’Critters because of neglect or abuse; people surrender their dog because of a diagnosis of a terminal illness, a death in the family, because they are moving or have just had a baby.
Jane has little sympathy for people who treat their pets badly.
“I really feel strongly that we have a responsibility to the animals that we look after,” she states. “Some of the things I’ve seen that people do to the dogs, they should be shot. Some of it is that people don’t understand. Some of it is impulse buy; they want the cute little puppy. Everyone will want one of those cute Beagle puppies but not everybody has the ability to take care of that kind of dog.”
The Beagle parents, Duke and Sasha, need new homes as well. 
            While struggling with the death of her husband, Gordon, last September, Jane has continued to accept rescues even though she says it is hard work and a lot of responsibility, on top of caring for her own dogs and cats, as well the chickens, sheep, llamas, alpacas and horses that populate her farm.
But when that call for help comes, Jane won’t say no.
“Words can’t describe how much we appreciate Jane,” Cunningham said. “She has her wings and her halo and I’m sure she has a cape around somewhere.”

Beagle mama, Sasha, who along with dad Duke, need loving family homes.