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.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

a hand-made life

Here's a wonderful picture of Otis Orchard, the lighthouse keeper. Myrtle Goulden Demings took it when she lived at the lighthouse as a young woman, with her first husband, George Gribble, who was the assistant lighthouse keeper in the early 1950s.
Because they lived so remotely, and because their government salaries were insufficient, the lighthouse keepers had to homestead as well as care for the light. They kept vegetable gardens and their sheep roamed the island; and they would have kept a cow and ox as well. Otis would have cut this hay with a scythe, and now he's carrying it up to the barn. All these old buildings (except the foghorn building) were destroyed after the original lighthouse burned in 1959 and a new complex of lighthouse and buildings replaced the old.

In 1860, as he approached retirement, Alexander Hood Cocken described his nearly fifty years as lightkeeper and homesteader on the island. Otis Orchard's life would not have been very different from Alexander Hood Cocken's when this picture was taken nearly a century later.

Thanks to Myrtle Goulden (Gribble) Demings for sharing this picture. To understand the picture's context, I strongly recommend Evelyn Richardson's We Keep a Light (Ryerson Press, 1945) -- the classic description of a Nova Scotia lightkeeper's life in the first half of the twentieth century. And yes, it is very good to be home again, about which more soon.


Bonnie said...

So glad you are home to your island and your blog. Missed you.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back!

Sus said...

Would you believe I just pulled "We Keep a Light"(which I received as a gift at Christmas from my hubby) off my bookshelf about an hour ago and started to read the intro...I love it when things like that happen.

Sus said...

At about 5:30 I pulled this very book off the shelf and started to read it ... then I open your blog and there it is ... guess I'm where I'm supposed to be in the universe.

Anne Yarbrough said...

Here's a note from my neighbour across the eastern channel in Sandy Point, Wally Buchanan. It adds so much to the photograph that I asked him if I could include it, and he said yes:

I can remember as a boy having to carry hay the same way to grand mothers' barn. After it had dried in wind rows in the fields it would be raked and piled in stacks small enough for two people to carry. Two straight poles would be slid under the stack with a person on each end, they would be lifted and carried to the the barn. Notice that there are two people in this picture and the wide double doors in the barn to allow the stack to pass through. The person in the rear had to know the path well as he could not see where he was walking or he relied on the person in front to follow the path. Once in the barn one pole would be dropped by both men and the other lifted dumping it over to one side where someone would use a long handled fork to place it in the loft. Notice also that the loft door is open. This would allow the "dust" from the forked hay to escape and also to keep the building somewhat cool while "haying".

People fortunate enough to have a horse would use a hay wagon to do the same job, much quicker and less labour. The hay would be forked directly out of the wagon into the loft, much easier than having to fork it off the floor and lift it totally over their head.

Cape Cod Kitty said...

Welcome back. I really missed your blog, and I love the new photo.
Wishing for Spring here on Cape Cod!