It’s Time to Respect our Forests

For awhile now, my mind has been filled with concern for what is happening to our forests, not only here in Nova Scotia, but all around our world.

This new found concern was temporarily relieved while packing up my books for a recent move.  My eye was drawn to a small, soft covered book simply entitled ” Love of Nature”…. a book given to me by my cousin, Joan Starr Murray, now deceased.

For many years, Joan and her husband spent her summers at their cottage in the Kawarthas’ in Ontario. By combining her deep love for the nature that surrounded her and using her keen eye for photography, she created an inspiring collection of poems and sayings by some of our most famous writers and philosophers. After reading her book from cover to cover, I chose those that clearly spoke to me and inspired me to write this post:

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” – John Muir (1838-1911)

The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life activity; it affords protection to all beings, offering shade even to the axeman who destroys it.” – Gautama Buddha c.563- c 483 BC

And finally these much loved words written by William Wordsworth I learned in school:

“One impulse from a vernal wood may teach you more of man, of moral evil and of good, than all the sages can.” 

A September walk in the woods in Kejimakujik.

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Tackling Climate Change in Nova Scotia

In my last post I wrote about how many of us are finally waking up to the challenges climate change is posing for us right now and in the future. This spring we have seen its effects all across Canada. In the west, Northern Alberta and British Columbia have been hit with wild fires which are devastating their forests and forcing inhabitants to leave their homes. Here in Nova Scotia we can’t believe how far behind we are in our planting. Temperatures below normal, too much moisture, and lack of sun have farmers wringing their hands trying to get their crops to grow and get them to their buyers on time.

I also wrote about the amazing young Greta Thumberg from Sweden and the Extinction Rebellion XR movement born in the UK and am excited and proud to see concerned Nova Scotians adopting their philosophy and tactics as a way to not only educate all of us but to also get our local politicians on board.

After my experience in dealing with the pollution in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I decided to attend some of XR’s  meetings in the nearby town of Bridgetown to find out more about their objectives and how they plan to carry them out.

What I like about this movement is that it’s very much a grassroots organization. Like – minded people wanting to personally do something to ward off the devastating effects of climate change come together to discuss ways to get their message out to everyone in a way that will educate and encourage people to get involved in a peaceful manner. Their aim is to be visible, creative, and persistent, but never violent.

For example, a group of XR followers turned out for the annual Apple Blossom Parade in Kentville dressed in bee costumes with fact sheets in hand to educate those in attendance on how important the bees are in our lives and what we can to do to protect them. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend this event, but all reports from those I talked to was that our message got out loud and clear. They handed out over 2,000 fact sheets, and it seems that in talking to the parade attendees our bees heard repeatedly how important it is that we do as much as we can to protect them. This is how the XR  organization works. With a little bit of creativity and dedication to the cause, they know we can make a difference by bringing awareness to people in a peaceful manner.

This past Sunday, I made an effort to attend another one of XR’s peaceful protests at an old growth area called the Corbitt-Dalhousie Lake Forest to the west of Bridgetown. This 22 hectare piece of virgin land is wedged in between Lakes Corbitt and Dalhousie surrounded with  crown land that has been clear cut. It’s one of the last bastions of old growth forest in Nova Scotia. We have only 1% of this kind of forest left. It is a nesting place for a reported ten types of song birds. The nearly extinct chimney swift is also living there and generated much excitement as a flock of them flew over us.

We had some passionate and knowledgeable people  who have been watching the situation closely at Corbitt-Dalhousie who took the time to fill us in on what has happened so far.

We learned that XR has been informed by the Department of Natural Resources that their plans are to harvest red spruce and balsam fir trees, only. They are aiming for “service selection”. They have contracted Westfor as the company to carry out the task of cutting down those trees. However, XR has noticed that their huge machines are already mowing down everything in their path as they make roads into the interior of the forest.  It appears they aren’t practising “service selection” at all but clear cutting!

Westfor was scheduled to start harvesting this week but the latest report is now for mid-summer. Our plan was to have a couple of members there on an ongoing basis to erect our banners to prevent their machines from entering. Should we believe this and wait until then or be on guard from now on? Can we trust them to do as they say, or not? These are the questions.

We were also informed that the County of Annapolis had submitted a formal request to the Ministry that the entire 88 hectares of land between Corbitt and Dalhousie Lakes be managed by the county as a climate forest. Unfortunately, I heard that the county’s request was just rejected. Such bad news will mean that we will have to change any tentative plans we had for voicing our concerns. We will need all the help we can get so if there are any good lawyers out there who are committed to preserving our forest, we need you.

Clear cutting has been a contentious issue for some time in this province. Many of us are well aware that our changing climate is putting our forests and the wildlife that live there under great duress. Nova Scotia has been blessed with an abundance of coniferous and hard wood trees which have provided a lucrative living for many over the years. Next to the fishing industry, forestry has been a mainstay for our economy. Unfortunately, our forests have been poorly managed by successive governments who know little about how to manage them. They are good at publishing impressive, scientific papers espousing their plans on what they will do to preserve them but obviously haven’t been practising what they have preached. Clear cutting is their mantra.

Many Nova Scotians are waking up to the fact that we can no longer dismiss what our government is actually doing. We are fed up with accepting their promised actions and failure to deliver them. We are facing a crisis and we want Premier McNeil and Ian Rankin, the minister for Natural Resources, to listen to us and get on board.  We will no longer take  ‘no’ for an answer and will make our presense known until we see the changes needed to save our forests.

Waking Up to the Effects of Climate Change

My final two weeks in Chaing Mai this April were horrible…one of the worst experiences of my life. This may come as a shock to you from a returning visitor for the past ten years who has never hesitated to put this beautiful historic city at the top of her list as the most desirable city in SE Asia to visit and possibly live year round. I can only blame this change of mind on climate change. This year Chiang Mai broke all their previous records for high pollution indices and even gained the dubious title of being the most polluted city in the world beating New Delhi and Shanghai, the usual winners. The PM2.5 ( fixed particulate matter) was hovering between 140 to 200+ the whole time I was there. I can’t imagine what effect that had on my all ready compromised lungs where some bronchitis had set in while in Bali.

Bangkok gets smoggy, too

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Living a Sustainable Life in Nova Scotia

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word sustainable as –  a state of holding up, maintaining, enduring, or suffering a defeat or injury.

Thanks to the effects we are experiencing from our changing climate these days, the subject of how we can become more sustainable is taking over our conversations and news headlines…especially here in Nova Scotia. Just what does living a sustainable life mean to most people who are stretched to the limit with the demands of our modern-day society? Most of us have been taught by parents, teachers and society in general to follow the customs handed down to us by the generations before us. We were put here on this earth to get a good education… if we were lucky enough… find a good job, marry, have children, go to church, and be kind to our neighbours. If the word, sustainable ever entered our minds or our vocabularies, it was probably used to explain how to keep things steady like holding on to a job to pay off the mortgage or have a bigger car. It might also have meant meeting an endurance test where we faced the reality of keeping a job which we hated, to maintain all the things we thought we needed.

One of his baby lambs waiting to be fed

One of his baby lambs waiting to be fed

Today the word sustainability or to be sustainable is used more and more. Using the word in a broader sense has given it a whole new meaning for us. Now we are being asked to look at how being sustainable is an action that needs to encompass our whole way of living. It means we must learn and understand how the choices we make can be carried out with consideration on how they will affect the world we live in. Continue reading

Summer of 2018 – Heat Wave in Victoria Beach

As I sit here at my computer in this summer of 2018, I am filled with gratitude for living in the beautiful province of Nova Scotia in the small village of Victoria Beach. VB overlooks the Digby Gut, and in case you don’t know, the Digby Gut is a narrow passage of water separating the mainland of NS from an isthmus which juts out into the Bay of Fundy, which in turn leads to the Atlantic Ocean.

Over looking the Digby Gut and ferry from Victoria Beach

Like many people today, I try to be grateful for little things in my life. Today I am grateful for having chosen to live in Victoria Beach over ten years ago. After more than seventy years of living, I have discovered that practising the art of being grateful has huge benefits: for example, it keeps me focused on the positives rather than the negatives in my life. Goodness knows we all need to do this these days when we hear what is going on in our world. Practising gratefulness isn’t a waste of our time considering how it is human nature to want to complain. This is especially true of many Nova Scotians who do it more out of habit than actually feeling ungrateful. Complaining is a bit like talking about the weather around here. It is often used as an opener for making conversation which is an attempt to be friendly. However, could we not lessen our complaining by being more grateful for the things we have rather than for what we lack? Continue reading

Halifax – A City on the Rise

Recently I found a message from Trip Advisor in my mail box alerting travellers to their choice for the top ten “cities on the rise” in the world which we should consider putting on our ‘bucket lists’. My curiosity tweaked, I took the time to check this out and to my surprise and delight Halifax, Nova Scotia placed fourth on their list! What on earth does my city of birth offer that would put them in the world’s lime light, I wondered? According to Trip Advisor (TA) this honour is based on the following three things:

  1. Military history
  2. Culinary delights
  3. Entertainment

Changes taking place in Halifax

Ironically, before my daughter embarked on her short visit to Halifax last week, she wondered what sights and activities I would recommend for the two days that she, my son-in-law and grandson were going to be there. Not having much time to come up with some place she had never seen, I sent her Trip Advisor’s recommendations along with the above article. When I met up with them, she asked me if I knew where York Redoubt was located. I was temporarily stymied! I had heard of it but knew little about it or just where it was located. However, thanks to Google Maps and the GPS, we found this National Historic Park site in Purcell’s Cove about 14 miles outside of Halifax.

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Celebrating Tea and Queen Victoria

Only in Canada do we look forward to that third weekend in May when we are gifted with a long weekend. Why is that, you might wonder? Is it because after a harsh Canadian winter, we can look forward to summer which is just around the corner, knowing we can finally get outside to clean up winter’s aftermath making room for our transplants, or to open up the cottage? This might be true for most of us these days, but for some it’s an opportunity to celebrate the birth of Queen Victoria who had the distinction of being Britain’s longest reigning monarch… a title she can no longer proclaim since Elizabeth 11 took it over in 2015.

When Victoria died in 1901, our then government decided to make the third Monday in May a statutory holiday to commemorate her birth on May 24, 1819, causing many a raised eyebrow in Britain as well as our neighbour to the south that we should be setting aside this day to celebrate a Queen who was to all extent and purposes a temperamental and dour, old woman who always wore black. However, as we have found out, appearances can be deceiving.

Thanks to her talent and love for writing, we have discovered that Victoria was the exact opposite of that stern image implanted in our brains by our history books and our great grandparents. Present day historians claim that her daily dairies were enough to fill over 700 books beginning with her childhood until her death in 1901. Through them, we have learned that she was a passionate and strong woman who refused to bow to the strict social norms of her time. She not only had a firm grip on who she was as a person, but also on the country she ruled as well as the country she most loved…Germany.

After all, her beloved husband, Albert, was a German and strong personality in his own right who came into her life at the tender age of 19 when she was about to take over the daunting task of Queen. He fulfilled not only the role of her lover, but also provided a strong father figure for her. He was the pillar of strength she needed as she gave birth to their nine children while struggling to keep control of the world’s largest Empire.

Our interest in Victoria has increased over recent years as her descendants have gradually released some of what she wrote. We are learning that this woman had another side which went totally against the acceptable customs of her day especially when it came to her subsequent relationships with men after Albert’s early death. Yes, she suffered from depression which explained her long period of mourning. She never discarded the black dresses, but she refused to stop having fun and being herself when she met a man who understood her, such as her servant John Brown, a rough and ready  Scot who adored her. The same was true for Disraeli one of her Prime Ministers.

Even in her final years after receiving the title of Empress of India, she refused to travel there insisting that India come to her. As a result, a young servant with a wife and mother-in-law arrived to carry out the task of teaching Victoria every thing there was to know about his country Thus, began another close relationship for this woman with an old body at 84 who still had a young heart.

Victoria’s personal life was certainly not a boring one. However, it was a source of concern for her family and many of those who worked with and under here as she fought to lead her Empire through the vagaries of the world at that time. As a head of state and ruler of the vast British Empire, we know she survived numerous attempts to assassinate her. We also know that she really came into her own after Albert’s death becoming extremely popular with her public towards the end of her reign. During her 63 years on the throne, Britain experienced tremendous growth in technology, industry and communication. Underground rail systems, bridges, and roads were built everywhere in attempts to unite the country. Judging by the crowds who came out to see her in her later years, it appears she had indeed matured and finally won her battle to take control without Albert’s influence.

Learning about Victoria as a person has made Victoria Day for me just a little more interesting. What started as a day to have a parade and some fireworks, morphing into a time to clean up the yard and plant some flowers to welcome summer has now  brought us time to reflect on the personal journey of a woman with two very distinct sides to her personality during a time of change in matters of morality and economic growth throughout her vast Empire.

For my Victoria Day Weekend this year, I had the opportunity to do something different: I was asked to be a greeter for the guests who attended a Victorian Tea and Talk at the Lower Granville Hall. Under the capable leadership of Medea and Alan Holtz, new comers to the community of Port Royal, and some hard-working ladies with much experience in holding dinners and teas to raise funds for their hall, this successful tea did a great job of commemorating the Queen’s birthday. What better way to raise some much-needed money for our hall and the Annapolis Heritage Society who will be using our donation to help fix and paint the exteriors of two light houses: the one in Port Royal and the other in Victoria Beach.

Medea and Alan Holtz

Every effort was made to treat all those who attended this fundraiser an authentic Victorian Tea. Not only did the servers don Victorian dresses, headgear, and gloves, but had to walk carefully to avoid tripping on their long skirts. These little touches along with soft parlour music lent an atmosphere of calm and gentility much appreciated by the guests causing some to linger longer than planned.

Susan MacGregor

Me, the Greeter

The beautiful table settings, the tea served in silver pots, and the dainty sandwiches and sweets were the main attraction. However, the star of the show had to be the peaches! Why peaches? Well apparently Victoria, when introduced to them on a visit to Italy, fell madly in love with them and every year after that insisted that some be shipped to her in England. Unfortunately, peaches aren’t in season on Victoria Day in Nova Scotia. Instead of serving imports the gals made their own life-like peaches from a secret recipe using ordinary cookie dough.

To keep our guests amused a trivia quiz about Victoria’s life as well as the Royals today…especially since this was the day of Harry and Megan’s wedding…was on each table to provide fun and learning for all. What a great way to pull people together.

Our special guest speaker, Barry Moody, a noted local historian, gave an insightful talk on how tea became the favourite drink of the British, and the influence that had on the country’s social norms and economy. Did you know that the first tea was offered in 1658 at a London coffee-house? From there it became the beverage of choice at the Royal Court. It then quickly became an important social occasion giving birth to our famous ‘afternoon teas’. You may have heard of the term ‘high tea’ which was customarily tea served with a meal. With the advent of such social customs came opportunities for the East India Company to import more tea from China. It also provided opportunities for business minded entrepreneurs to start manufacturing such tea essentials as porcelain tea cups and saucers, teapots and even mustache mugs. Barry went on to say that artifacts related to tea drinking have shown up at Melanson’s Settlement, a Historical Site in Granville Beach. He admitted not much else is known about how the ritual of drinking tea influenced the Port Royal area, but noted that it was the French who have given us proof that it existed here in some form. I suspect it was also a popular past time with the Scottish and English Loyalists who settled here. In my own experience, my maternal grandmother was a big fan of ‘afternoon teas’. After my grandfather died, she moved from Halifax to a small farm in Seabright, where she hosted teas every Sunday afternoon for all her friends. Petit fours, shortbreads, Scottish scones made on a griddle, oatcakes with homemade jam were the lure making “Georgie’s” teas very popular.

Like most things today, our rituals and customs are being challenged by the changes occurring in our lifestyles. Tea drinking is losing some of its allure to the rise in our coffee culture. There are still those who prefer their tea because it has less caffeine or none at all if you consider sipping herbal teas possibly for medicinal purposes. Or, it might just be a matter of personal taste. Whatever the reason, our guests and those who organized this event were left with an experience that left us satisfied and wiser about the influence of tea on the British Empire and the Queen who reigned. I am happy to have been involved in this ‘tea’ event which was a hit with all those who attended. Without a doubt, this will become a yearly event on Victoria Day. The Port Royal gals are already looking ahead to next year and planning for it to be held on Monday instead of Saturday.

Kamille and Jeff Langstroff