In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

McNutt's Geography: Forest Map, 1912

This 1912 map, Forest Distribution in Nova Scotia, is from the Commission of Conservation Canada. We inherited it with the house. According to the map's legend, McNutt's Island is categorized as Not examined. That's why you see it here as a blank white space of outlined island. 
If it had been examined it would probably be pink (for farms) along the western edges and in the northern part, golden (for barrens) along the southern cape, and dotted green (for culled coniferous forest) everywhere else.  But, instead, no forestry expert got in a boat and came over here to look.  

This question of forest types is vexing, but only because I wish for some neat category in which to place the island. I have read that Nova Scotia's forests as a whole are considered part of the Acadian Forest. But the description of the Boreal Forest seems to fit McNutt's better: where black spruce and hackmatack (tamarack) dominate, growing on saturated, acidic soils.  Or perhaps it is mostly Forested Sphagnum Bog.

I wonder how island conditions -- the fog and the rain and the wind and the waves -- affect this particular forest.  Trees along the shore have toppled because the waves have washed away the bank where they sat. The few spruce near the lighthouse, which is so wind-swept, are small and twisted like those of an old Japanese print. The wind blows off the sea and across the island in mighty gusts and gales that have the power to uproot enormous spruce and flatten entire forest patches. The same wind has carved the big yellow birch tree into the old wrinkled creature you see today.   

The forest is not all spruce and hackmatack. It has paper birch, alder, quaking aspen and maple. Various small hardwoods I do not yet know.  Near the government wharf the road travels through a forest of paper birches. It is ghostly until the summer, when it becomes enchanted. In spring the pink and white blossoms of serviceberry and wild cherry and rhodora emerge briefly, then disappear. When the blossoms have finished the trees subside into vague anonymity, nothing special anymore. There are wild hollies, with red berries.  And apple trees, planted by old settlers or by birds or by wind.     

This Forest Map tells me nothing about what kind of forest is here. It just sends me outside, to look around and see for myself. What kind of a map is that, I wonder.       

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