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.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Weather report

Yesterday and the day before were cold, with burly winds coming from the southwest, out of the North Atlantic, crossing the harbour and banging up against the house. Today the wind has swirled around and is coming at the house from the northeast. The wind is hurling rain against the old wavy panes of glass in the east windows, and the wood stove keeps us cozy indoors. These winds will get stronger as the fall veers toward winter. Right now they are only a reminder of last winter and a foretaste of the season to come.

I had delayed putting on the storm windows, hoping for a few more days of golden mildness. I was being a bit of a grasshopper, never having really learned that particular lesson. So I waited too long, and putting them up this week has been more of a chore than it needed to be. I doubt that I've internalized this particular moral, and will probably find myself in the same situation again next fall.

While I should have been putting up storm windows I fiddled around in the wildflower garden instead. I moved in some ox-eye daisies and lupines and lilies, and moved some of the forget-me-nots -- an amazing little plant that continues to blossom until frost, as long as you keep cutting it back, I've discovered. The tiny wildflower garden looks good now, all ready for its winter sleep. It is not at all useful though, only beautiful in a homely sort of way.

But there is much around here that is useful, or potentially so. And toward that much we are like ants -- or squirrels -- these days. I'm hulling the walnuts from our two trees, which leaves the actual squirrels bereft except for the nuts way up in the tops of the trees that we can't dislodge. The best way to get the walnuts is to stand underneath a branch with your gaff, hook the gaff over the branch, and shake. Just don't look up at the same time, and do remember to cover your head, or duck or something. We collected a huge plastic laundry basket of walnuts in their bright green hulls, while the red squirrels chattered at us from neighbouring spruce trees, and flung furious looks our way.

After you've collected the walnuts, the next step is to get the hulls off. To do that you need to wear those latex gloves, or else your hands will be stained with tannin for a few weeks. The hulls come off easily, mostly. Then the walnuts in their shells need to air-dry for several weeks. I put them on an old screen window laid between two chairs. After that comes the shelling. The whole process is time-consuming, but it's as good a way to spend time as most others I can think of. And in the end you have walnuts. Last year we got three pounds. I expect this year it will be about the same, from the looks of it.

Meanwhile, Greg is freezing herbs from the garden, saving the coriander seeds from the cilantro, making pesto from the parsley and marjoram, baking zucchini pie and zucchini brownies for the freezer, and stewing the last of the tomatoes.

We are not the only ones, of course. All up and down the southwest coast of Nova Scotia people are doing variations on the same thing. It's that time of year, when resourceful people get themselves ready for winter.

Down in the Acadian heartland of the Pubnico villages, Mary d'Entremont has been making sausage from the mutton of the ewes they culled a few weeks ago from their island flocks, including this one. Mutton is a wonderful meat, but it's also sometimes a little challenging for the cook. Mary's sausage is the perfect use of mutton. It's delicious. If you live close enough to pick some up, you could email her at They have free-range chickens for sale, too, if they have any left. And of course the lamb, when it's ready.

Along the roads into town you can see freshly painted lobster buoys piled in front yards, a sign that the lobstermen are getting ready for Opening Day, at the end of November. There's a public quality to how well a household functions around here. Your laundry flaps on the line for all to see, the size and condition of your woodpile is known to the most casual passer-by, and everybody recognizes if you have gotten your lobster buoys repainted yet, or not.

The second image is the cover of a booklet entitled The Family Food Supply, published in 1934 and distributed by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, Canadian Head Office, Ottawa. We found this booklet in the house when we moved in. It was probably consulted by Bertha Goulden, who was in charge of the family food supply in those days.

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