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, June 30, 2010

a surprise for the sheep

This morning began warm and muggy. The rams -- except for The Major -- settled down in their preferred shady spot, the log palace.
They planned on having a nice quiet day. That's what they plan for most days, I think.
It never crossed their minds that today would be the day the shepherds were coming to gather and shear the flock.

Of course the rams would be happy to be relieved of their heavy wool coats. But only if there was no effort required of them.
The shepherds took a break at our place after first checking out the sheep pen and dealing with a wasp nest they found beneath the shearing platform. Not the kind of surprise you want for either sheep or shearers.I drove them to the lighthouse in Dylan's SUV. From there, they would gather the flock and bring them around the southwestern shore along the cobble beach back to the pen. The walk takes about three hours.
Tomorrow I'll introduce you to the shepherds and shearers, and you'll see them in action.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

a day in the life of a bee

Those foxgloves that blew in on the wind last year and planted themselves in the little garden next to the house?Yesterday they swayed back and forth like the masts of a ship in a storm at sea.
A bee flew round and round, trying to decide which flower he liked the best.
He just couldn't make up his mind. They all seemed so -- beckoning.
I imagine the range of choices and all that swaying was making him a bit woozy.
But he kept going, true to his beeness no matter how great the challenge.

Monday, June 28, 2010

foggy Monday

A cool, foggy day with a bit of rain. Just right for the garden.I still feel as if I don't have the garden rhythm down, yet. Maybe that will take a few years.
The peas and the mustard and lettuces and chard and potatoes are all coming along, though.
Maybe next year I'll only grow peas and mustard and lettuces and chard and potatoes.
Something is stealing away the strawberries just at the moment of their ripening. I wonder what it could be. I hung some of the herring net over the berry bed, thinking the incursion was the work of my usual suspects, the birds. But I must have been wrong. The strawberry thief --whoever it is --slips right through the net, no doubt with a superior sort of smile on its little face. Perhaps it has magical powers. Certainly it possesses an excellent sense of timing.I'm trying to grow tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and cucumber in old five-gallon plastic pails in the greenhouse. I'm curious to see how that will go.
I've got some oregano and basil in there, too.
While I was in the garden some ewes and lambs came into the back orchard. I become invisible to them when I'm behind the garden fence, so it's easy to spy on them from there.
They were feeling peaceful, anyway, with their mother nearby, and didn't mind my watching them.
In fact, they were curious enough to stop what they were doing -- eating -- and watch me watching them.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

summer rockweed harvesting

This morning the rockweed harvesters are going along the cove shoreline to gather this valuable sea plant into their deep-bottomed boats.They fill their boats almost to the rim, then head back --slowly -- to the wharf on the mainland. They appreciate calm waters.
This is Kurtis Ross. He says his boat will take a bit more rockweed onboard before he heads in.
Later in the morning we were headed to the mainland when we met up with Kurtis and his friend, going into Gunning Cove Wharf.
We tried to stay out of their way.

Friday, June 25, 2010

the fog horn collector

When we were away last January, we got an email from Randy Van Buskirk. He collects fog horns, he wrote us. He had bought one from a gentleman in South Carolina much earlier, but he hadn't been able to figure out how to get it to Carleton Village. And he had just heard we were in Florida! Could we possibly pick it up for him on our way home? And he hoped it was okay that it weighed three hundred and fifty pounds.

We were glad to have a chance to do something for our good neighbour Randy. The patient fog horn seller was Tom, who very kindly drove two hours from the South Carolina coast to meet us at the Interstate for a hand-off. We met him at a truck stop in the early morning dark. The fog horn did weigh three hundred and fifty pounds. But Tom and Greg managed to wrestle it from Tom's car into our truck. In this picture, Tom's looking mighty happy to be sending it on to its new home.

And we were happy to have its weight in the bed of the truck as we drove slip-sliding through a tough winter storm into Carleton Village. Randy had gone out and shoveled off our boat that morning so we wouldn't have to contend with two feet of fresh snow. We handed over the fog horn and sailed away to the island. It seems like it was a long time ago.
Now that lobster season is finished, Randy has had time to tune the fog horn and install it on his boat, Sea Arrow. He has a couple of other big horns on Sea Arrow, and he can really manage a floating concert when he's inspired. It's amazing how much he can do with three notes.

On Friday evening we heard the sound of a gigantic tanker steaming directly toward the shore: this time the sound was a bit intimidating, really. When we looked out, we saw Sea Arrow approaching our dock.
Here's Randy, in post-lobster season mode. The fog horn we brought back from South Carolina is the one closest to him. He built a wooden box for its housing. He fabricated the other two horns -- which are really beautiful -- himself, because, he said, somebody told him it couldn't be done.
It turns out that this old fog horn has an amazing history. It was salvaged from USS Neosho A23, a fuel tanker built in 1939. She delivered fuel at Pearl Harbor the day before the Japanese attack there. She escaped during the attack, and continued to serve in this crucial capacity in the Pacific until 1942, when she was severely damaged in the Battle of the Coral Sea.
We love hearing Sea Arrow as she travels the harbour. Thanks to the fog horn collector, she reminds us how much the world is connected in all sorts of odd ways we never could have imagined.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Island Year at Yarmouth County Museum June 26th

Greg will be reading from Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia on Saturday June 26th at the Yarmouth County Museum on Collins Street in downtown Yarmouth. He'll sign copies at 2:00; then at 2:30 he'll talk about writing, read from the book, and take questions. I have reason to believe it will be a most enjoyable way to spend part of a Saturday afternoon.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

visit from the sheep breeders association

The island shepherds, Mary Morse and Leroy d'Entremont, hosted the Sheep Breeders Association of Nova Scotia on the island last Sunday. About forty people came over on Leroy's boat. He has a big boat, since when he isn't being a shepherd he's being a lobsterman.

It was a challenge to carry so many people around the island. Greg begged and borrowed every means of currently functional transport he could from our island neighbours, then hitched them together.

First the group walked over to the sheep pen at the end of the cove, where the flock is sheared every summer. Then after coffee, tea and muffins at our place, they all went down to the light to see the sheep.
They walked along the shore until they came close to the flock. Leroy demonstrated gathering sheep on the island, with the forest on one side and the sea on the other.
You don't want them running into the trees, where they will hide from you, or the water, where they will drown.
Something in between is best.
It always amazes me how calm the sheep actually are, once they have been gathered.
They're alert and attentive to the dogs. But they don't seem to be afraid. Leroy says that's the effect of having well-trained dogs. His and Mary's dogs can probably just move sheep around by raising an eyebrow.
It was a foggy day at the light. Well, it so often is.
Afterward the group visited the old guns at Fort McNutt, then came back to our place for moussaka made with ground mutton, along with salad, homemade bread, and chocolate cake. The members of the Sheep Breeders Association come from all over Nova Scotia and into New Brunswick. Their annual meeting was on Saturday, so I think they enjoyed Sunday on McNutt's for just spending time together.

Thanks to Margie Rogers for letting me use her terrific pictures from the day!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

foggy island, on the air

I was pleased to be interviewed yesterday afternoon by Stephanie Domet on her Mainstreet Nova Scotia show on CBC radio. Actually I was terrified ahead of time that I would sound like a complete idiot, and relieved afterwards that maybe I didn't, so much. Anyway, it turned out to be fun, since she's such a good interviewer. Mainstreet is beginning a series of interviews with Nova Scotia bloggers, called "Blogging in the Fog."

Monday, June 21, 2010

a narrow escape on mid-summer's day

We celebrated mid-summer's day with a visit to a secret bog we found in the spring. I wanted to see whether orchids grew there, too.They do. We found dragon's mouth aplenty,
and also another one: grass pink. They are small shy orchids and you have to look carefully to find them hidden in boggy shaded places, among the bayberry and holly. Come further in! they whispered shyly to us, and so, spell-bound, we did.
Many enchanting sights appeared as we walked deeper and deeper into the bog. The flower of the northern pitcher plant was just emerging.
Blue iris, winking like jewels.
The magical northern pitcher plant. Here you can see its charmingly sinister basal cups filled with water, where poor unsuspecting creatures are lured in and drowned, while the bog fairies hover nearby and laugh. ( Nobody ever said bog fairies were nice. )
After wandering around the bog and almost getting sucked down into the netherworld, we went a different way out. Then we got so lost. Because ferns had overgrown the trail we found last spring; more trees had fallen; everything had been turned around and rearranged and obscured, the better to lure poor unsuspecting creatures like us. Though, really, we ought to know better by now.
Luckily for us the mosquito repellent Greg had bought at the Dollar Store has an actual compass embedded in its top (also a whistle, though who would have heard us? And it was a very soft whistle. But still: good thought.)
Without the mosquito repellent compass we might still be wandering around in circles in the forest. We saw this osprey nest from several different angles, that's all I'm saying.
Eventually we came to the eastern passage. Really, I can't imagine how we got here.
Then more slogging through deceptively smooth-looking fern covered fields and broken deadfall where I'm sure I heard the sounds of elvish snickering
until at last we crossed the path that leads to the main road, and -- just like that -- we found ourselves transported from the realm of mid-summer magic back to reality.