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.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

lobster season opening day

The lobster boats went back and forth all day yesterday, carrying out their first load of traps, setting them, and returning to the wharf for the second load. Most of the boats that travel this shallower side of the harbour are not large enough to take all their traps in one load.

Today they began to haul lobsters. From now through next May we will notice the low bass sound of each diesel motor as it thrums along in the channel, going out to sea in the early morning darkness and coming home in the afternoon. The lobster boats have a peaceable sound about them, and in the island's silence we hear their going out and their coming in.

Monday, November 29, 2010

lobster season setting day Nova Scotia 2010

This is more of an audio than a video, since everything was so dark ...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

a delightful spot

Here's a notice published in The Shelburne Budget on September 1, 1904.
People who lived on the island, and their friends and relatives, would have their own ways of getting across the harbour back then just as they do now. So this notice was directed at potential tourists -- guests -- who would stay at the island's hotel. It's intriguing to wonder who would have visited back then, and why they came. I imagine they came to see the lighthouse, or just for the adventure of visiting an offshore island. At any rate, the McNutt's Island Hotel & Excursion Company could promise them a few days in a delightful spot.

And even in the olden days, before cell phones, there were clever ways to communicate.

Thanks to Kim Robertson Walker, Archivist at the Shelburne County Archives & Genealogical Society, for sharing this notice.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

happiness all around you

Here's an interesting statistical study that confirms what we see around us here in Nova Scotia. It turns out that in Canada satisfaction with life is more related to community than to how much money you've got. As Americans we are, as they say, gobsmacked.

92 per cent of Canadians satisfied with their lives

The Canadian Press

Date: Tuesday Nov. 23, 2010 4:00 PM ET

OTTAWA — A new study of life satisfaction in Canada finds that among the provinces, Prince Edward Island takes the happiness crown.

The study released Tuesday by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards found that on a scale of one to five, the average level of happiness among Canadians aged 20 and over was 4.26 in 2007-08.

At the provincial level, life satisfaction was highest in P.E.I. at 4.33 and lowest in Ontario at 4.23.

In 2009, 92.1 per cent of the population aged 12 and over were either satisfied or very satisfied with their lives, up slightly from 91.4 per cent in 2008.

The study also looked at factors influencing the happiness or life satisfaction of Canadians, and found that it's not all about money.

In fact, household income was found to carry less economic significance for happiness than other variables like mental health.

A sense of belonging to the local community was a key determinant of individual life satisfaction, while high stress levels were linked to lower life satisfaction.

Being out of work also had a negative impact on people's happiness.

The study found relative to household income, moving from unemployment to employment has the same impact on happiness as a 151 per cent increase in income for the average person.

The study was based on data gathered from Statistics Canada's Community Health Survey.

To read about The Centre for the Study of Living Standards and this report, go here. Note to Americans: it's not one of those fake politicized think tanks. Believe it or not, they don't really seem to have those here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

getting ready for lobster season

At Fort Point Fisheries in Gunning Cove, everybody has been getting ready for the lobster season for weeks. Now they are putting the finishing touches on their work. Next Monday is dumping day, also called setting day. That's the beginning of the lobster season for Lobster Fishing Area 33, which is this one.
The traps are either already loaded onto the boats, or about to be. A lobster license entitles the holder to set 250 traps. All those traps will be set next Monday, beginning at 7:00 a.m., if the weather is okay. The word from Environment Canada is that it will be windy.
Randy Van Buskirk is helping load his brother Cody's boat. I suppose Cody will return the favour later on.
Here's Cody Van Buskirk on his boat, Au Cobra.
The traps are very big and they are very heavy. Each one has a concrete weight inside that keeps it from moving around too much when it is sitting out there on the ocean floor.
It is a big project to slide the traps off the stern and into the water. They go off the stern one after the other, mostly in strings of several tied together. The boat is moving over the place where the traps will be set, and the traps are sliding off the back. This is all happening far out in the North Atlantic, at the beginning of December.
The day the lobster boats go out with their traps is a dangerous day. So much is going on and there's so much weight and mass to deal with. There's a lot of skill involved, and even then things can go wrong.A view of Skipper's new boat, H. Sinclair, which is named for his dad, Harry Van Buskirk. Randy's new blue traps are stacked on the dock to the left, ready to be loaded onto Sea Arrow.
Locomotion, the red boat on the left, is already loaded. That's Cody and Randy's dad Roger's boat.
Another view of Au Cobra taken from Chopper I as we sailed away toward home.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Anne Barclay Priest

Mary Morse and Leroy d"Entremont emailed us last night to let us know that Anne Barclay Priest had died. Anne was a good friend to many people, including Elizabeth Hyde, who owned this house before us, and her daughter Joanna, and Mary and Leroy, who took care of her Blue Island sheep when she was back in New York, and later bought the flock from her. We were fortunate that she reached out to us newcomers as well, soon after we moved here, and so began a brief and lively friendship of email exchanges in the winter and a visit each summer. We learned right away what so many other people know better than we: that anything having to do with Anne was lively, to say the least.

Besides the post entitled How to Keep Warm you can read a little bit more about Anne in posts here, here and here.

You can read about her memoir, Trafficking in Sheep: From Off-Broadway, New York, to Blue Island, Nova Scotia (The Countryman Press, 2008), here. The beautiful photograph of Anne on the book's cover was taken during a sheep gathering here on McNutt's Island.

Here's how Anne concludes her memoir:

I have asked myself questions about my life in Nova Scotia. What if I had purchased a piece of land in another part of the province? I never would have bought the island, never bought sheep, never heard of Brian Nettleton. It was an immense crossroads, one that never in my wildest dreams I could have foreseen. I don't regret one bit choosing the road I did. It has brought a richness and beauty to my life that I love and embrace, as well as many friends. And so what it the people in Greenville as well as West Green Harbour think I'm off my rocker? They could think worse. And probably have.

Friday, November 19, 2010

outside looking in

I love this picture looking through the kitchen and into the living room. Greg took it one evening.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

smuggler's landing

A letter from Shelburne merchant George Ross to the captain of his schooner, about to return to Shelburne from Philadelphia:

You will endeavour to enter this harbour in the Evening and should you have goods not fit to be brought up to the Town you will put them on shore at our store on McNutt's Island taking care to be gone from thence before daylight.

Anything with high duties attached to it would have been "not fit" to be brought into Shelburne, where customs officers awaited each ship's arrival.

So it may be that, in the dark of night, George Ross's schooner entered Shelburne Harbour's eastern passage, rounded the Horseshoe and silently made for Ross's Landing. Quietly she dropped her anchor in the cove, and quietly a crew member rowed from schooner to land. Asleep in his house close to the shore, Ross's tenant Andrew Lightbody awoke to quiet knocking at his door. It would be a few hours' work to unload the ship's cargo of goods not fit to be brought into town --West Indian rum, perhaps -- and to hide it in the well-made cellar below the store-house. Well before early light the schooner would have resumed its journey, to land innocently at Shelburne Town an hour or so later.

Remember that McNutt's Island -- sitting way off in the outer harbour -- can't be seen from Shelburne. It's an invisible island, really. How handy is that.

Letter Book, G & R Ross, privately owned, quoted in Marian Robertson, King's Bounty: a history of early Shelburne Nova Scotia (Halifax: Nova Scotia Museum, 1983), p. 238. So, I'm hopeful I can track down this Letter Book and see what else it says about the McNutt's Island branch of the Ross business.

Friday, November 12, 2010

boundaries, ghosts, witches

It was a beautiful day. In the afternoon I walked south along the shore of the cove. I wanted to visit the boundary rock again.It marks the boundary of the original Lot 1. I wonder whether there are other boundary rocks on the island.
The boundary rock is in the foreground. North of it is the shore line that was a part of Lot 1. The first grantee, Moses Pitcher, sold this lot to Shelburne merchant George Ross in 1787. Ross owned it for about thirty years. A few days before he died, in 1816, he sold it to Dorcas Thomson, who was the wife of his business partner. There was a landing here called, not surprisingly, Ross's Landing.
I was gawking over the rock when I glimpsed the tiniest movement in the nearby woods. The sheep stand very still like statues and hope you don't see them.
They become ghost sheep.
Then when they think you are not looking they melt away and come out in another place entirely, looking remarkably like the stones along the shore. The magical properties of sheep are not widely recognized.
Since I began by walking along the shore, I took the more civilized path homeward, along the lower road. Still, you never know who you'll meet. I heard some deer warning each other to fly away. A raven sailed through the forest with an urgent message but it wasn't for me.
Witch's Butter. Mmmm. Looks delicious.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

carrots & kelp, et cetera

Carla Allen has a report on her blog about the flooding in southwestern Nova Scotia, which has been severe.

On the island all is soggy but otherwise okay. The island is a swampy boggy wetland anyway. So now it's just more so. The weather was mild and calm this morning. Just right for a little amble.
Looking north I could see Sandy Point Lighthouse in the distance, as well as some houses near it on the mainland. The sun was just shining on them. I love the look of the sky in this picture.
Looking south I saw a lobster boat tied up at Mark and Patsy's camp.
Later, off she went. Probably going on a carrot run. You can never have too many.
The tide was very high.
A lovely little mushroom of some sort, loving this weather .
Rose hips against a skeleton forest.
The skeleton forest in all its glory.
About a dozen sheep were out on the point eating kelp. They love it when a storm pulls kelp from the ocean floor and pours it out along the cobble beach.

Monday, November 8, 2010

owl, cruising and perusing

It's a soggy but sunny afternoon. We can hear the hollow sound of waves crashing along the island's southern shore, the storm's aftermath. We've been seeing an owl lately, out in broad daylight, cruising the bog -- a barred owl, I think.
It comes up close to the house, closer than you might expect it to.
It spent the afternoon swooping back and forth.
Then it rested and gazed all about with its owlish eyes. Lyndon thinks it's scoping out the hens.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

rainy days

The past day or two has been filled with rain and house-rattling wind.
Rain 2
Now the wind has died away and it's just rain.
We keep the wood stove going and turn to our rainy day activities.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

island of surprises

Except for the usual suspects, I really don't expect to see anybody around here. So I was surprised when two strangers turned up yesterday: Paul Wolfe and Scott Cunningham, who had kayaked over from Carleton Village and were planning to paddle around the island.Scott (right) is the author of Sea Kayaking in Nova Scotia: a guide to paddling routes along the coast of Nova Scotia (Halifax: Nimbus, 2000). He also runs Coastal Adventures, which offers all sorts of guided trips around the province.
Paul was his partner in adventure today.
Scott is updating his information for a new edition. So this was a working visit for them both.

After Paul and Scott took off on their circle tour, I checked out the copy of Scott's book he gave us. It's probably safe to say that I will never kayak around McNutt's Island, though if I did I'd certainly consult this book first. It tells you all about the winds and the currents here, and what to watch out for.

But I was curious to see what Scott had written about the island itself. He was remarkably accurate in a few succinct paragraphs. Of course the main road is in better shape now than it was ten years ago. Then Scott described it as a narrow trail fighting a losing battle with alders and white spruce. He could not have known of the glorious McNutt's Island road crew, which will never, no never, ever surrender to the forces of spruce, appearances sometimes to the contrary.

But some things don't change. The sheep still have the run of the place, the ruins of Fort McNutt and those weird hieroglyphics still have the power to fascinate, and McNutt's Island is still at the end of a road -- or sea -- less traveled.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

season of good cheer

There's a quality of good cheer about deer hunting season on the island. The "hunters" are the same people as our neighbours, only for a couple of weeks they dress differently. As far as I can tell they have customary hunting rights over the whole island, which means that whoever I see riding by on an ATV belongs with one of our neighbours. It's usually one of their fishing mates and some younger relatives who are gradually learning the ways of hunting under more experienced eyes. So, since it's pretty much the same people year after year, they take a great deal of interest in how the deer population is doing. I would say they know more about the habits of the island's deer than anyone else. They are, really, students of the deer.

I'm glad to see them every fall because it's my chance to ask questions and learn something about the mysterious ways of deer. I try not to ask too much. I don't want to seem like I'm prying. So I limit myself to a question or two per year. This year I learned that the bucks usually stay deep in the woods while the does and fawns wander about more. That's why we see does and fawns around the house and sometimes on the road, but hardly ever do we see bucks. Just because we don't see them doesn't mean they aren't there.

The bucks become less cautious, though, as rutting season strikes them. I learned from the hunters this week that it's the onset of cold weather that triggers the bucks' desire to mate and lures them out of their hiding places. Deer season began officially last Friday, but it only started to get cold a couple of days ago. They said something about the phases of the moon too, but I didn't understand that part. I'll wait until next year to find out more about that.

I like the sound of their ATVs going up and down the road, heading toward their blinds deep in the woods or to another camp, then back again. Each year in late October they clear out their old ATV paths into the interior. Their paths do us good, since we can walk along them at other times of the year and explore an otherwise impenetrable landscape of forest and bog.

For some reason I don't see hunting season as a tragedy for the deer. Most of the deer who gather around the piles of imported carrots and apples to help themselves are does and fawns and under-sized bucks who can't be shot. Maybe the carrots and apples they are eating now will add to the reserves they need to get through the winter. And if the hunters decide the herd seems too small and the bucks too few, they will just agree among themselves not to shoot any. Since they have been hunting here for years, they take the long view. Sometimes I think they are more interested in watching the deer than anything else. But they are truly happy when somebody bags one.

They enjoy being out here for a few days anyway. The young fellas are learning the ways of the woods. The old fellas are getting away from the mainland and enjoying a break between the end of fishing and the start of the lobster season in a few weeks, when they'll be hunting beneath the deep, cold North Atlantic waters.