Friday, May 27, 2016

Shake Your Tail Feathers

I finally made it to Shubenacadie Wildlife Park.
I know. An abomination! I've lived an hour away from the park for over nine years and this is the first time I've visited.
First of all, I can't believe admission is only five bucks.
Second of all, being greeted by this handsome fella -- who actually shook his tail feathers at us -- was worth the price of admission. I could have spent an hour just watching him and the long-suffering peahen who, I swear, did an eye roll when he took to shakin' all over.
Thirdly, while it's not a petting zoo, we did get to pet some deer. As long as we get to pet something (Jane is still waiting to be allowed in with the big cats), we're happy. 

Dwayne's father had peacocks down at the farm, and I remember them hanging out in the trees at Scone Palace during our Scotland trip in 2010. I would LOOOOOVE to have peacocks but having spent a morning listening to them scream at the top of the peacocky lungs all over the park (there's at least half a dozen of them strutting around), I know our neighbours across the road would not be pleased. Those gorgeous feathers certainly belie a loud holler.

(For fun, stand back and watch the people sitting on the benches at the entrance to the park - they jump a foot when the peacock lets out a yell!)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Feathered Serendipity

It must have been serendipity that our trip to buy flowers ended with chickens coming home with us as well. Due to death, as happens, our flock is reduced to nine hens so we've been wanting to add some more egg layers to the coop. It's not easy finding people with chicks or pullets available; then it's not easy finding someone who isn't going on vacation for two weeks!
So when I spied a pen full of pullets in the yard of the local nursery, I hightailed it across the lawn.
"Are you selling any of the barred Rocks?" my husband asked immediately.
Done deal: home we came with seven barred Rocks and one whose breed I don't know; can't find any that match the name I thought he gave us. But it's pretty and I like to keep things mixed up and apparently, it lays a white egg, something we haven't seen in our nest boxes since we had those nasty bantam Leghorns many years ago -- talk about high-strung and neurotic. We don't want those qualities in our life, let alone in our flock.
We've put them in the holding cage, amongst the dandelions, until they are big enough to join the big birds in the coop. I don't know what our old and crippled rooster is going to do when he gets a load of the new girls. I hope he doesn't have a heart attack. Perhaps they'll be faster than his gnarled toes can move.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sunshine In My Eyes

There is a recipe in my Field Notes book (available September 30) for dandelion jelly so I thought I should make some. It's not, as some have thought, that I have to make sure the recipe works; the recipe is a Nova Scotia version of the one Jane Purdy uses for her jelly. Jane's story is one of the essays in the book; the jelly recipe provides a nice wraparound for her personal story of carrying on after loss.
So, if I'm going to have a door prize at the book launch, that basket of goodies needs to include dandelion jelly.
And happily, batch numero uno turned out.
Here's a tip: you need a lot of dandelions to get two cups of petals! Me and bees, out in the dandelions.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Expanding Local Borders With Food

Field Notes column for Wednesday, May 18, 2016, by Sara Jewell.

Alia Kamareddine prepares the marinade for chicken that will become kebabs.

The Oxford Resettlement Project committee, working to bring a Syrian refugee family to town in less than a year, is holding its first major fundraising event next week.
The Lebanese Dinner on Wednesday, May 25 seeks to bring old timers and newcomers together over a meal to enjoy delicious food and interesting conversation.
Councillor Dawn Thompson, who first floated the idea of resettling a Syrian refugee family in Oxford, hopes the dinner will dispel the misconceptions some people hold about Middle Eastern people and their food.
“This is just another event in the community to bring us together and to help bring another family to our community,” Dawn said. “We have heard that we are ninth on the list to receive a family, in roughly eight months.”

The idea for a Lebanese dinner came from Alia Kamareddine, a local businesswoman who came to Canada as a refugee twenty-five years ago during Lebanon’s civil war.
She was inspired by a fundraising event in Wallace.
“My kids went to the dinner in Wallace and they served Syrian food which is like Lebanese food,” she told me. “I thought we could do a dinner in Oxford because I like to help people if I can, and the Syrians are desperate.”

Alia and I are friends, and as someone born and raised in Ontario, I can attest to the fact that Alia is as Maritime as the next Maritimer when it comes to food.
I show up at her house for coffee and leave stuffed. She can’t help but serve food, not only because she loves to cook but also because hospitality is very important to her (sound familiar, Nova Scotians?). I love her homemade yogurt because it isn’t sour. 
For the May 25 meal the Lions Den in Oxford, Alia is serving chicken kebabs, stuffed grape leaves, rice, hummus (chick pea dip), and tabbouleh (parsley, tomato and onion salad), and offering for dessert baklava and mamoul (shortbread pastries filled with dates and nuts).
The most common flavourings used in Lebanese food are mint, pepper, garlic, olive oil and lemon.
For those of you who think Lebanese food is “foreign” or “weird”, think of how much you enjoy egg rolls, chicken balls and chow mein. Think of stuffed grape leaves as a cabbage roll, although Alia is offering a vegetarian version with chickpeas.
Only 100 tickets are being sold for this fundraising dinner; they are $20 each and available at the Scotiabank in Oxford, which is matching the ticket sales. 

Syrian families who have already arrived in Cumberland County are invited to attend the dinner in Oxford. 

Although the meal is being offered as take out, why not eat in since the Lions Den will be decorated in the colours of Lebanon and Syria, and Lebanese music will be playing in the background? You can treat yourself to a trip to another country without having to leave Oxford.
And when you are pleasantly surprised by how much you enjoy the food, you can thank Alia in her native tongue, Arabic, by saying shukraan, “shook-ron”.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Can I Get A Hallelujah?


You know how I feel about trees. 
You know how I feel about clear cutting trees.
So imagine how I feel about the replanting underway in the 65 acres 
so ruthlessly levelled during the winter of 2014. 
Can I get an amen?
And a Whoo hoo! for good measure.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The View Across the Water

There really isn't a lovelier space in the Pugwash area than the Thinkers' Lodge overlooking Pugwash Harbour. It's available for workshops, receptions, and other events like, ahem, book launches.
I spent the day there for a writing workshop with the wonderful memoirist and essayist, Marjorie Simmins, author of 2014's "Coastal Lives" and the forthcoming "Year of the Horse" (among other publications).
As soon as I walked into this room, my eyes went to this window and the view beyond for that wedge of land at the mouth of the harbour where it meets the Northumberland Strait is Pugwash Point.
I could see our old summer house. It sits on a hill so it's always easy to spot, even in the grey, misty air.
It became emotional for me being there, looking over the water and seeing the house. The longer I was there, the harder I felt the tugs on my heart, the tugs of regret that we sold it, the tugs of longing as I thought of the rooms and the memories my family created there.
I felt this pull to remember, to regret, since the illustrations for the Field Notes book arrived in my email inbox this week and the sketch of our house on the hill is lovely, absolutely lovely. As well, the house plays a huge role, could be a character all its own, in the book I'll be writing as a result of today's workshop.
Between the memories of my father and the memories of that house, I was a hot mess by the time I arrived home at five o'clock.
"How was the workshop, honey?" my husband asked after I'd walked in the door.
I burst into tears.
"It was wonderful."

Thursday, May 12, 2016

And That's What I Think About That

It's a gorgeous day outside and my gardens are desperate for attention: 
they're calling me to rake and prune and transplant.
...Sara, Sara...come to us, come into the sunshine...
Yet I'm stuck inside till bedtime on a final push 
to get the book edits done by deadline.
Worth it, but still:

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Happy Birthday, Chickie!

Here's the absolutely FABULOUS birthday gift from my niece, Mimi.
Who else would you give a handmade chicken hat to???
My only regret is that my head is too big to wear this wondrous creation.
Also, it has to hide in the linen closet because the cats will tear it apart. 
Every so often, I bring it out and admire its egg-cellence.

Monday, May 09, 2016


This is the first time we've had to help a robin recuperate. This one had a hard landing after hitting the side of the house on the weekend. When I went outside to check on it, another robin was bobbing nearby. As if they were together? Do robins bond like that?
We placed it in our now-empty bird feeder attached to the deck railing then determined there were no injuries. It took the bird the longest time to come around; if birds get concussions, I'd diagnose that injury. Eventually, Dwayne went out to see how it was doing and when it flew a short distance from the deck, its friend -- or mate -- was right there. As if watching for it.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Gone In 15 Minutes

Don't forget me, Mama
In mid-July 2006, the dogs and I were heading to Nova Scotia for a short vacation (my father was in the nursing home and my mother was recuperating from surgery so we weren’t spending that summer at our place in Pugwash). We arrived in Edmunston well after supper, and it was dark and raining. In fact, we arrived in the middle of a thunderstorm.
The motel we stayed at sits on top of a hill in Edmunston and I remember wondering if it could possibly be hit by lightning. Before crawling into bed, I decided to put the dogs’ leashes, my overnight bag, with everything in it, my purse and my shoes right next to the door so that if the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night, I could scoop everything up in one minute and be out the door with the dogs to safety.

I don’t share this because I think the residents of Fort McMurray did anything wrong; I share this because I’ve been thinking about them and what it would be like to be evacuated on moments' notice – and to have more than a purse, a bag and a couple of dogs to think about.

I’ve been thinking about that announcement (or call, or knock on the door): "We are evacuating you because of the wildfire. You have 15 minutes to pack your things and get out."
If you're lucky, you get 15 minutes; one family friend says their daughter and husband, who were at work, couldn't even get back to their house. Their two children (aged 18 and 8) were at home and a neighbour brought them to their parents. They had their cars and their cell phones, they had their kids and each other. They had the clothes they were wearing. And that's all.

In five minutes -- "Get out now, the woods next to your home are on fire" -- you can grab a purse, a wallet, a coat, and car keys, maybe your passports if they're handy, but nothing. Certainly not the cat who sleeps in that cubby hole in the far corner of the basement.
If you're lucky, you get 15 minutes inside your home to grab what you can. I've been thinking about this and it's nerve-wracking enough without the life-and-death pressure.
First of all, suitcases; there’s no time to fetch them from the spare room upstairs or the basement.
Next, whose stuff do you pack first – kids or adults? I can’t imagine being told to evacuate when you have an infant and/or a toddler. We all know how long it takes the average mother to get out of the house on a normal day.
There's stuff from the bathroom; what do you need? Nothing is in one spot. The makeup kit is the easiest thing to grab but the least essential.
You rush into bedroom and everything you wear in a day whirls around in your brain. Underwear and bras. Socks. Jeans, shirts, pajamas. Shoes. What do you grab, what do you forget?
For those who aren't panicking (likely my brain would freeze and not work at all), you know there are the most important things to gather up -- medicines, photos albums, cats and dogs, passports -- and you know there are things to sacrifice. Likely clothes are the last things you grab, if there's time.
But there is no time to remember cell phone and laptop chargers, food and water for humans and pets. No time to pack, no time to think, no time no time notime. Not even time to wonder if you'll ever see your things again.
Only time to get out.

I'm sitting at my desk typing this. The 25 minutes to compose it, and think about it, has made my heart race. And I’m only imagining it. I don’t hear the shouting, I don’t smell the smoke, I don’t hear myself crying. I’m only imagining what it would be like to have 15 minutes to pack up a life and get to safety. And I haven’t even imagined what it’s like to leave everything – including pets – behind. 
Bon courage.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Our Great Canadian Motto

I've been watching the news coverage on the Fort McMurray wildfires steadily for the past three days. An hour in the morning to get caught up on what happened overnight, and two hours in the evening because that's when the personal stories are shared.
In one day, the size went from 10,000 hectares in the morning to 85,000 in the evening. (And as of this evening, more than 100,000 hectares burning, a "self-perpetuating firestorm" that only heavy rain will stop.)
Time will tell if my memories of editing my Field Notes book are tied to my memories of watching the wildfire footage on the television.
I have nothing new to add to the story, no perspective that is worth sharing -- the videos and photos and personal stories say it all -- but I will write about what I think is our true Canadian motto: "Bon courage." Be brave. Don't give up. That quote was spoken in a CBC news report this morning, advice to the residents of Fort McMurray from a man in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, who lost three family members and an employee in the train explosion there three years ago.
When I think of the pilots of the water bombers and helicopters flying into the smoke and the flames, I wish them bon courage.
When I look at the firefighters and police officers working ground level in the fire zone, I wish them bon courage.
When I look at the families carrying nothing but their children as they head to evacuation centres, I wish them bon courage.
When I think of those 88,000 people who know their home -- both house and city -- is decimated, whether literally or metaphorically, that before the years of rebuilding begin, there are weeks and months of uncertainty and displacement, I wish them bon courage.
When I see the response of every other Canadian (and non-Canadians like Syrian refugees who "know what it's like"), I believe strongly in our collective, national BON COURAGE.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

When It Comes to Gardening, Start Young

As published in the Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, May 4, 2016, by Sara Jewell.

My nephew Vinny's garden.

I was 37 years old before I dug a potato out of the ground. I was 38 when I held a warm, freshly laid egg in my hand. Even though my father was raised in the country, for most of my childhood, we lived above a funeral home in a small city so we had no back yard in which to plant a garden.
That’s terrible hole in my upbringing. What’s worse, I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when children had far greater freedom to play and explore outside than they have now.

As spring blooms again, the land is calling out to all of us in a language fewer of us are able to understand.
It’s the language of dirt and worms, of water and roots, of plants and produce. How many children are growing up speaking that language? How many children know what it’s like to pull a carrot out of the ground or pick beans off a vine?

On a website devoted to women who farm, Susan R. Johnson, a pediatrician in San Francisco, posted an article in which she wondered what happens to children’s growth and learning potential when they spend hours inside watching videos and playing computer games?
Through her practice, she sees many children who have difficulty paying attention, focusing on their work, and performing basic tasks with their hands
“It wasn’t until the birth of my own child, however, that I came face to face with the real impact of television,” she writes. “It wasn’t just the content, for I had carefully screened the programs my child watched. It was the change in my child’s behaviour (his mood, his motor movements, his play) before, during, and after watching TV that truly frightened me.”
Dr. Johnson’s solution? Nature.
“Nature is the greatest teacher of patience, delayed gratification, reverence, awe, and observation,” she says in her article. “All the senses are stimulated. We only truly learn when all our senses are involved, and when the information is presented to us in such a way that our higher brain can absorb it.”

Gardening is the easiest way to get children into nature. We don’t need a lot of space or freedom to get kids digging in dirt and growing food and taking responsibility for the regular chores of watering and weeding. It’s as simple as a container on a deck or a section in a community garden.
My eight-year-old nephew Vinny grows his favourite vegetables, including broccoli, brussel sprouts and strawberries, in a six by two foot patch of sun in his family’s tree-shaded back yard in Atlanta, Georgia.
When I asked him why he has a garden, he told me, “I love to eat fresh vegetables. I like pulling stuff up. I like getting it and eating it.”
“It’s city gardening in a shady yard, that’s the biggest challenge,” my sister explained after Vinny had passed the phone over to her. “But planting stuff, and watching it sprout and picking it – he gets very excited by that.”

Children make great gardeners because of their natural curiosity and willingness to explore, and there’s no better way to activate their brains and their bodies than through the excitement of digging up potatoes they planted themselves.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Who Let the Hens Out?

The way I see it, if the hens are going to lie around in my flower gardens out front, they can help me fix up other flower gardens. I dug up a growing patch of Pugwash Point grass that came with the now-smothered evening primrose I transplanted from the old house we once owned there. I am sorry to see the primrose go because it originally came from the garden of Jean Nelson, the great old lady who lived on Pugwash Point and who, along with her black lab, was a fixture on the road -- and a wonderful women with whom to visit.

So the country boy and I spent yesterday afternoon outside in our yard, working on our various projects. Well, I worked on various projects while he created a fabulous space for our new fire pit, one we can use no matter what direction the wind is blowing (our current fire pit is located off the south end of the house).
As I was sitting on my butt trying to pull a great hunk of sod free, my husband walked by on his way to the garage and said, "Make sure you don't hurt your right hand!" How sweet. He doesn't want me to damage my writing hand -- he's hoping it turns out to be the money maker.

Speaking of, I'm in the middle of editing the Field Notes manuscript these days. The edits are due back to my editor by the 13th so look for me sitting on my butt trying to pull great hunks of words free. And that's all the flogging of that metaphor I'm going to do! But like the chickens getting into the freshly-turned dirt of a garden, I too am spending these early May days scratching up the best bugs to feed my future readers.