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.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reading locally: Flandrum Hill

Amy-Lynn Bell is the creator of the blog Flandrum Hill. Her neck of the Nova Scotia woods is the region called Cow Bay, along the Atlantic coast, just east of Halifax and Dartmouth. It is salt marsh and sea and sky, and so much more. Flandrum Hill focuses on the natural world experienced at the scale of your own backyard. Since this backyard's in Nova Scotia, it can be pretty spectacular.
Looking out my front door

Amy-Lynn discovers the wonder of the tiniest thing and shares it with her readers. She is a wonderful writer. She is a well-informed naturalist. Her photography is breath-taking. She has the eye of an artist, which she also is. She has a deep sense of the spiritual dimension that informs all living things. And she's funny.

I always learn something new from Flandrum Hill. This is a blog that helps me see the world more clearly, by looking closely at a small corner of it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Early season lobstering

Shelley Van Buskirk Spears is one of our island neighbours. Shelley's grandfather was one of the last lightkeepers on the island, and she is part of a big extended web of family and friends whose McNutt Island connections go back many decades. When lobster season arrives members of this extended network jump in to provide extra help during the crucial first days, when there is so much work to do.
Shelley went on Lyndon Crowell's boat, Maybe Tomorrow, as a bander. Her job was to put rubber bands on the lobsters' claws so they couldn't damage each other after they had been caught. She and her crew-mate Josh took these photos, and she graciously let me use them here.

Josh is emptying a trap. He'll put fresh bait (seen in the foreground) into the trap before he slides it back into the sea.

A banded lobster.
Lyndon Crowell, captain of Maybe Tomorrow. Lyndon grew up on McNutt's Island as the son of one of the last lightkeepers.
Shelley's uncle Cliff's boat, Bar Tender.
One of her dad's boats, Ocean Motion.
Her brother's boat, Au Cobra.
Her uncle Mark's boat, Butt Buster.
A fashion statement. The crews have fun and work hard. On freezing mornings we shiver in our cozy house when we hear them steam by in the darkness, long before dawn. It is dangerous and difficult work.
Lyndon says he loves it and looks forward to every new season.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"Behold, I bring you good tidings"

Here's a grapevine crown trimmed with some of the island's blessings: the hanging lichen called old man's beard that festoons dead trees, eel grass from the shore, sheep's rovings caught in branches, dried grasses, rosehips, spruce cones, and crab shells dropped by sea gulls after they had sucked out their insides. The heavenly host -- that flock of angels Luke talks about --used to wear crowns made out of things like this before the Renaissance artists took over the visuals department. These treasures remind me of Thomas More's Utopia, where money was thought to be worthless and beautiful shells were highly valued. Whether we bother to notice or not, we are always encircled with the most precious and unexpected sorts of blessing, wherever we go. And you never know when an angel will bring you good tidings in curious ways.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lightkeeper's house at Cape Roseway

200500613....1973-56 vol. 1 / 101
This undated Department of Transportation photograph shows a lightkeeper's house at Cape Roseway at some time between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. You can see more wonderful photographs like this at NSARM's Virtual Exhibit on Lighthouses of Nova Scotia.

Image courtesy of NSARM.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Reading locally: Life With Yourgogirl

How amazing it is, really, that anybody with access to a computer and the internet can now write for the world. It's easy to forget that it hasn't always been this way. And how easily we seem to adapt, so that what is still quite astonishing we now treat as ordinary. The world of print continues to shrink and fold as the era of Gutenberg sputters to a close. But don't be sad. Online the world of news and information expands and unfolds like one of those magic flowers dropped into a glass of water, revealing unimaginably crinkly surface areas filled with curious nooks and quirks and crannies that never would have made it into print, back in the old days.

Now dedicated authors can write for a loyal audience of a couple of hundred or so. Not everybody in the world will ever care about the remote places of Nova Scotia, for instance. But what extravagant riches are strewn at the feet of those who do!

I'm certain I haven't discovered every terrific Nova Scotia blog that's reporting out from the watery wind-blown crevices, the cloud-swept skies, the placid marshes and inlets of the province. But I have come across a few. So let's begin a tour of them.
My Photo
Life With Yourgogirl is Carla Allen's Yarmouth-and-south-west-Nova-Scotia-based blog. Carla is a reporter for The Yarmouth Vanguard and she writes a syndicated gardening column, too. But Carla is so much more than the sum of her professional writing. She truly will do anything, I believe, for the adventure of it. At the beginning of lobster season, that meant working as the bander on her cousin's lobster boat The Scalded Witch. Last summer it meant a visit to Seal Island, a hard-to-get-to place. Then there are the unexpected detours down never-traveled roads, and who knows what you will find along the way? She has her reporter's instinct for what makes a good story. Plus she's a terrific writer. Hitch a ride with Carla's blog and you will discover life in Nova Scotia that's really real.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A visit from the sheep

The sheep don't come by as often now. I guess our offerings -- frozen wisps of dried grass -- are not very appealing.
Yesterday they came to visit and maybe to wish us well on our trip, although by the time they arrived they had forgotten that part of it.
They seemed to find something worth eating in the back orchard and along the rock walls. A few of them clambered up on the tops of the outer rock walls that run along the edge of the forest. From that height they reached for the tender tips of the spruce trees that hang over the walls.
In the next week or so Leroy will drop off the rams, and the flock will begin its next cycle of breeding -- new life beginning in the midst of winter.
The effects of the newly-introduced Scottish Blackface genes can be seen in the lambs that were born this past spring: they are hardier in general, and their longer coats are better suited for this tough environment.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Greens from the greenhouse

I didn't think we could grow anything in our unheated greenhouse this winter. But just to see what would happen, I planted a few seeds in late September: some chard, and mustard, and mesclun. I kept them watered when I remembered.
Now, it's nothing to brag about if some seeds you planted turn into teeny tiny greens after nearly three months. But, anyway, they did. Even though lately we have have very cold days and nights, with lots of icy wind -- the kind that cuts through anything. So my conclusion is that this little greenhouse will stand up to a lot more bad weather than I had thought.
Beginning tomorrow we will be away for a while. So I went ahead and harvested our baby greens. A whole small bowlful for our supper tonight.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

West wind

A few times each winter low temperatures and westerly winds converge upon this house. Then we remember that for all its bright paint and fresh shingles the house is a leaky old thing, and that there are gaps around the doors and odd corners where a cold imp lurks, and huffs and puffs at our ankles as we walk past. We wear eccentric get-ups, including clothes more likely to be worn outdoors. I have discovered the charming wool cap an old friend knitted for our daughter twenty five years ago: it covers my ears and ties beneath my chin and I have taken to wearing it night and day.

But Greg got us a pile of good books at the library last week, just in time for this. Best of all was Sarah Water's fantastically creepy The Little Stranger (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2009). I pulled my chair close to the wood stove and covered myself with a quilt and read about down-on-their-fortunes English gentry huddled around a fireplace in their ancient dilapidated mansion.

It is the west wind that makes the difference for us between comfort and discomfort. No matter how cold it is outside, the wood stove keeps the living room perfectly warm unless that particular wind is blowing. But the west wind also sets the turbine spinning, so that adage about an ill wind that blows nobody any good comes to life. Anyway, today the wind has finally stopped, and we will go on about our business, both indoors and out.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Winter garden

We were lucky to have a few extra weeks of nice weather in November and early December to finish up work in the vegetable garden. Greg attached the orange flounder net over the teal herring net all the way around the garden. So now we have two layers of resistance -- the ultimate deer fence.
Greg made raised beds for the whole garden, too. I brought up seaweed from the shoreline and put about three inches of it into each raised bed.
Some beds have mostly eelgrass, others mostly rockweed.
So now the garden is ready for its winter sleep.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Homeward bound

Sea Arrow makes her way down the western channel toward Fort Point. She is coming home from her workday -- filled, we hope, with lots of lobster. In this first week of the season the price for lobster has been quite low. Demand is down in a bad economy. Many lobstermen will hold their catch in lobster pounds until the price rises, instead of selling it right away. This gives them a bit more flexibility in dealing with the ups and downs of the market. But it extends their risk as well.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

End of wildness

It was a wild day around here, with lots of wind and rain. The few lobster boats that went out in the early morning came home again before too long. But then at the end of the day, the gift of this sky.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lobster, apple orchard, sheep

A lobster boat was checking its pots for lobster this morning.Most boats go a bit further out than this at the beginning of the season.
But a few set their traps along the island's shore. I watched this boat through the branches of the lower orchard.
The sheep are watching, too, while they graze kelp out on the point. We're all quite interested. This really, truly, is how lobster is harvested.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

McNutt's geography: Lobster Fishing Areas map

This map from the Department of Fisheries gives you the scope of Lobster Fishing Areas 33 and 34. The seasons are different for various LFAs. Some are in the summer. Some LFAs are only open for a month or so. LFAs 33 and 34 have the toughest season since it begins now and runs through May. The boats don't go out, though, when the weather is too rough. This business of catching lobsters is dangerous enough even on calm days.

By sighting the boundary between LFA 34 and LFA 33, then looking to the right a tad to the longest inlet, you will have located Shelburne Harbour. McNutt's Island sits on the outermost edge of it.

For more information you can go to the DFO web site.