Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Out Of Office Reply

We are still alive!
We survived the big birthday celebration but between planning that and being away to the Island overnight then falling right back into the fast currents that seems to be this new version of my life in the country, there hasn't really been a moment to sit and write. This isn't even a moment (coffee mug in one hand, spoonful of yogurt and granola in another, trying to type with my toes...) because we're off on an a-mazing adventure today -- while missing a great adventure at home -- but this all means there is lots to write about later this week.
I give you this peaceful, pastoral photo of our Selkirk squirrel enjoying a rosehip. You've never heard of a Selkirk squirrel before? That's another story waiting to be told.
And we've never seen a squirrel eating rosehips, either.
Ta ta for now.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Fifty to Sixty in Ten Years Flat

Happy 60th Birthday to my Nova Scotia Country Boy! 

We met just as you turned 50 and what an adventure the past ten years have been. 
Can't wait to see how exciting your sixties are!
Thank you for letting me write about you and in the coming decade,
I promise not to shoot you or drive your tractor in the ditch or bring home a pair of goats
-- although I think my fingers are crossed on that last one. 
"Never trust a man who don't like to fish,
ain't ever got mud on the tires,
can't shoot a gun,
or won't shake your Daddy's hand."

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

These Little Piggies Went Floating

Just me
in the sea
with the dogs
on the shore
keeping watch
while I
wander through the water
like a captured cloud
like a tossed tennis ball
neither flotsam
nor jetsam
just floating parts
and jiggly bits
spending an hour
buoyed by
the ripply sea. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Long Live the King

We picked up our new rooster on Saturday afternoon. He's a barred Rock, same as Brewster, and likely going to be just as good-natured. I named him Andre.
"Why does our rooster have a French name?" asked the country boy who suggested we name our new rooster "Brew Too".
My friend Gail crowed when I told her about our new rooster.
"Andre Poulet!" she laughed. And so he is.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

It Takes A Village To Make A Home

As published in the Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, August 17, 2016, by Sara Jewell.

Sisters Freddi Very & Sharon Very Chamberlain feel right at home in Pugwash.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to renovate a landmark.
In the summer of 2000, two American women with family ties to Cumberland County bought the former Tide’s Inn/grocery store/laundromat at the junction of Durham and Water Streets in Pugwash. Sisters Freddi Very of Vermont and Sharon Very Chamberlain of Louisiana (both formerly of Massachusetts) bought it on a whim, lured to the area by the fact their maternal great-grandparents were born in Five Islands and enticed by the ridiculously low Canadian dollar that doubled the money with which they planned to buy a cottage.
“It was the last day of our vacation when we came to the village,” Sharon says. “We were having lunch when my son, Sean, pointed up the street and said, ‘There’s a house for sale’. We looked at it and that was it.”
Not put off by the rickety ladder they had to climb in order to get inside, they fell in love with the potential they saw in the huge three-storey building and signed the papers as they headed back to the States.

Sixteen summers later, the sisters invite their visitor to sit in the comfortable, refurbished parlour at the front of the house overlooking Durham Street and the post office. All the work to restore “the old Tide’s Inn”, as they call it, including new wiring and new plumbing and the restoration of as much of the original woodwork as possible, is finally completed.
“This is the first year I’ve come without a trailer,” says Freddi, a recently retired teacher.
Freddi and Sharon (a former travel agent turned accountant) had no choice but to spend their precious summer vacations working; after all, they’d bought a highly-visible, dilapidated building with a stunning view of the inner harbour hidden behind five-foot tall weeds. Along with the dedicated tradespeople they hired, what kept them from giving up on the gruelling renovation was the village.
Freddi says people would come in to say thanks for taking the house on, even though it looked pretty awful outside for a couple of years.
“A guy once pulled up when I was hanging out a window and he hollered, ‘They’re going to name a street after you guys’,” she remembers. “The community has been really embracing.”
Apparently, “We’d really like to see inside” is the most common phrase the sisters have heard in the last fifteen years.
“Everyone who comes in has a story,” Freddi says. “People are really invested in this house.”

What has touched them most are the kindnesses extended to them over the years, like receiving a sympathy card from the women who work at the post office when their mother died in 2006 or being handed tickets to the Legion’s lobster dinner as an enticement to put down their tools.
Even living next door to the salt mine’s harbour terminal has made them feel like part of the village, Freddi says.
“The guys next door will come over and say, ‘Welcome home. How long you home for?’ and that’s so nice. Even though I have a home in Vermont and Sharon has a home in Louisiana, this is home, too.”

The old Tide's Inn returned to its former glory.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The King Is Dead

That title may seem dramatic for a chicken but this was no ordinary chicken. Our Brewster died yesterday and we have lost a very fine rooster. After eight years -- which my husband believes is longevity for a rooster -- we woke up this morning without hearing his early morning crowing and we let the hens out of their coop without our big fella leading the charge through the pedway.
When I got home from church yesterday, Dwayne said, "I have to tell you something. Brewster isn't doing well. He didn't leave the coop yesterday, he was down on the floor, so I moved him out into the hospital."
The hospital is the outer coop where our injured chicken, Sasha, now lives.
"I didn't tell you because I didn't want to upset you."
My lessons in life-and-death in the country have yet to overcome my country boy's instinct to protect me. And he did upset me anyway because I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to Brewie. By the time I made my way out to the coop, thinking Brew was just sitting around because his arthritic legs finally gave out on him, he was dead. At least his death was swift and he did not suffer; he also spared Dwayne the agony of having to shoot a friend. I can be glad he lived to see another summer after struggling through the winter with his stiff and twisted toes.
I would have liked to have said goodbye to Brewster, the only rooster I've known in this wonderful country adventure. I would like to have told him he was a good rooster because he really was. 

He was good in three ways:
1) He was handsome and well-built and he had a beautiful voice. I think he used to thank me when I brought treats out to the pen. He was good-natured with everyone.
2) He took good care of his hens. When I fed them bread, he'd make noise to tell them where the pieces were and if I handed him a piece of his own, he'd often drop it for the ladies instead of eating it himself.
3) He was friendly and gentle. We could hand feed him. We could walk into the coop and the pen without fear he'd attack us. We could actually have a conversation with Brewie; we'd talk to him and he'd make quiet rooster sounds in response (different than hen clucking).
Oh, I'm going to miss hearing his voice.
Brewster was the perfect rooster, and  he's left some very large spurs to fill. I'm afraid he may have set the bar too high for our new rooster. There has to be a rooster, a flock of hens needs their becombed and bewattled leader, but how can anyone new compete with a rooster who could hold his own in conversation? Who was once the male model for a painting class? Who was a literary critic who recommended books?

So I am upset both by losing Brewster and by not getting the chance to talk with him before he died. He's been our friend for eight years, having arrived as a pullet the summer we built our chicken coop. He was very much a part of making my dream of chickens and a coop in the country come true so he's been as much a part of this rural life since the beginning as my husband! And just like my husband, I've written columns about him.
Which makes me sadder yet: Brewster didn't live long enough to recommend the Field Notes book.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Sigh of Relief

I think it's safe to say now that the two hatchlings of 2016 are flying that we survived the summer of 2016!
As far as we can tell, the parents were vigilant this summer, never leaving the nest and the babies unsupervised until they could fly; the eagle invaded our airspace -- barely -- several times only to be driven off by the parents.
This could be evidence that birds learn; that this is the pair who nested her last year and that they remembered the massacre and adjusted their own behaviour accordingly the following season.
Learning from the past -- if birds can do it, why can't humans? Ah, but as harsh as it is, this is the reason why we prefer nature.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

New Wildlife Worry

There's a new kid on the block -- or two new kids.
About a month ago, my husband spied this doe with two newborn fawns but he didn't see them again until the other day. The doe is very skittish so I almost missed getting the photo.
Dwayne is a bit concerned that these babies were born so late and are so young and small heading into fall and winter. I'm going to try not to worry about that but I suspect there will be apples dumped in the field by October.
And more "No Hunting" signs this season.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Field Notes: The Almost Book

T-shirts I made for my niece and nephews for their Summer of 2010 visit.

Listen, I have in my hot little hands this weekend -- my hot and humid, sweaty little hands! -- the PDF proof of my book.
How long have I waited to say those words and mean an actual book, not a pile of papers making up a manuscript? As my editor said when she sent the file, "It must seem real now."
Almost. A friend asked me yesterday, "Are you excited? Why aren't you excited?" I guess until the book is in my hands, I won't believe it's real. And I suppose I'm one of those people who is excited inside her circle of trusted people, but less so out in the world where excitement is one step away from being boastful.
I like to call it "enthusiasm" in keeping with my lifelong mantra of "More enthusiasm than skill."
It was Mrs. Hines, my Grade Two teacher, who first wrote those words on a report card and I think it's safe to say, ma'am, that I've finally matched my skill to my enthusiasm.
So once I get the spare room cleaned up (a monumental job considering it became the catch-all room after the renovation in 2011) in anticipation of my Aunt Gail's arrival on Tuesday, I will spend the next three days reading over my almost-book to find any last minute tweaks. It's getting so close, I can almost feel the actual paper book.

And over on my Facebook page, I'll continue posting a quote and a photo for each essay up until publication day in late September.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Notes, Roots and Red Dirt

The door knocker at Inn the Elms in Pugwash.
In less than two months, the Field Notes book (a collection of essays) will be published by Nimbus. To use the Cumberland County vernacular I learned in the 1980's, I'm some excited! 
Over on my Facebook page (JewellofaWriter), I'm counting down to Pub Day by posting a quote and a photo from each essay every day, except weekends.
So the first day with the introductory essay, I had a dilemma: I couldn't decide which quote to use!
Then I realized that there is a line in the following quote that relates to my Field Notes column published yesterday. Both MP Scott Brison, in the radio interview, and Gail Simmons, the subject of my column, talked about having families that date back in Nova Scotia to the 1770's. Since I actually mention that date in my introduction -- an essay I wrote the first draft of in 2014 -- I solved my dilemma by deciding to post that quote and the corresponding photo here.

By asking, “Where is she from?” the person will be hoping to receive some kind of information to help place me in the giant family tree that is Nova Scotia. The answer will prove unhelpful: “She’s from Ontario.” I am a mystery woman without a past, without a local family, and without roots everyone has been tripping over for at least five generations. But here is a lineage here for my family. We may not be able to claim multiple generations on the same land or a homestead dating back to the 1700s, but we did put down roots. They run close to the surface but they are there, eagerly grasping for a hold in this red soil.

I know. I’ve been cleaning that dirt off the bottom of my father’s car since I was nine years old.

From "One Hundred Thousand Welcomes", the introductory essay in "Field Notes: A City Girl's Search for Heart & Home in Rural Nova Scotia," to be published September 30. 

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Come From Away Is Neither Here Nor There

As published in the Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, August 3, 2016, by Sara Jewell.

A store sign in Pugwash, NS.

A friend introduced me to a woman selling beautiful handmade mittens at the Pugwash Farmers Market because she thought I’d be interested in this woman’s work with animals.
When Gail Simmons and I sat down for a conversation the following afternoon in the sunroom of her Gulf Shore cottage, my first question evolved from the Ontario address on her business card: “So, what brought you to Nova Scotia?”
“I’m not from away, I’m from Amherst,” Gail told me. “My family has been in the Maritimes since the 1700s.”
In fact, her family connections are found in all four Atlantic provinces but it is her aunt and uncle, Jeanne Simmons and Randolph Lusby, who provide the connection to the Gulf Shore.
“This property belonged to them and when they passed with no children, they left it to my cousin, Beth, who offered me some of it,” explained Gail, a retired high school English teacher. She and her husband James built their cottage in 1995 and now spend several months on the shore. Besides her table at the weekly market, Gail also rides her horse daily in Linden.

Gail Simmons with her beloved horse, Earl, at Galloway Stables.
“My father was in the Air Force and we moved every two years. Nova Scotia was the only constant in my growing up years, Christmases and summers. Maritimers go away but they come home again and again. There’s some draw about this magical place.”

At this point, our conversation took a detour turn from the original topic. Gail mentioned a radio interview she’d heard recently with Nova Scotia MP Scott Brison who is calling on Maritimers to stop using the phrase “come from away”, which refers to someone who wasn’t born here.
“This politician was trying to say ‘come from away’ is insulting and horrible for immigrants. And I thought, ‘You couldn’t have more welcoming people than people in Nova Scotia. What are you talking about?’ The ‘come from away’ expression is part of our culture.”
What angered Gail is that the phrase is being turned into a political issue about immigration.
“It’s two different things,” she said. “Immigration is separate from the ‘from away’ expression; he’s using it out of context. Don’t hinge the conversation about immigration on something that is part of the colloquial fibre of this region.”
Gail considers ‘come from away’ a unique cultural parlance, like ‘How’s she goin’?’ or ‘Where’s she at?’
“No one in my family has ever used ‘come from away’ with any derogatory intention,” she said. “It’s used as an invitation to exchange information. It’s the Maritime way of asking someone where they are from and it’s an invitation for the person to tell their story.”

She laughed because she has the same experience in Ontario. She and her family have lived in the same house in Seeley’s Bay for over thirty years but people still refer to it as the Leadbeater house.
“I don’t take offense to that. I’m not from there and I’ll never be from there; I’m from here,” she said. “Everybody belongs somewhere and everyone is from away depending on where they’re standing.”

Monday, August 01, 2016

First Flight 2016

Sunday morning about 7:15 a.m., one of the osprey babies became a fledgling by flying off the nest! It was hard to tear myself away from the view and head to church. I actually considered calling the small congregation in Port Howe and inviting them to worship on our back deck!
The Church of the Soaring Ospreys.

You can always tell the first few flights of a new osprey. There is an awkwardness to its swoops and turns, and most definitely to its landing. Usually for the first couple of flights, it takes the new flyer a couple of tries to make the nest.
This photo was taken this morning and I'd say this fledgling has the hang of it. He, or she, is doing wide circles around the nest and over the trees but not yet beyond what it must consider its "yard".  Now we wait for baby number two to flap and hop itself off the side of the nest and into the great blue sky.
August is a big month for the young ospreys. In less than six weeks, they must master flying beyond the yard and over the river AND catching their own food because by mid-September, the ospreys head south.