Raising Sheep in Port Royal, Nova Scotia

Can you imagine being suddenly thrust into the role of parenting 80 newborn babies dependent upon you for their livelihood. Could you cope?

This spring Julia Springob and Lou Barta of Port Royal were faced with this surprise when their ewes presented them with this number of very hungry baby lambs, far more than they ever anticipated. The norm for a ewe is to birth one or maybe two lambs so imagine their surprise when many of them birthed three and even four babies. Since motherhood was new to many of their mothers, they simply couldn’t cope with so many offspring at one time. This is where Julia and Lou had to step in, resulting in bottle feedings every two hours. They were literally on call both night and day for those first weeks. Thankfully they were down to three feedings a day when I visited their farm.

I must backtrack here to explain how I got the idea to do an article on the subject of sheep farming here on my “special road”. If I leave my house to go anywhere further than walking distance, I must get into my car to travel to our nearest town of Annapolis Royal or any other place in Nova Scotia. This amounts to at least several times a week. If you take a look at my post entitled My Road Well Travelled, (click here) you can find more information on what makes this road so special, not just to me, but many others who live and visit here. Each time I travel this road I pass Julia and Lou’s sheep farm, and every time I can’t resist taking a peek at those little lambs…plus several goats… to see just how quickly they are growing. It’s a heart-warming sight.

I became so intrigued with the idea of finding out more about the owners and their sheep that I made an appointment to interview them, resulting in a piece I had published in the Valley Harvester, our local community newspaper. This is what I found out about raising sheep in Nova Scotia.

After taking me on a tour of their farm to meet the baby lambs, witness their bottle feeding, as well as to meet the goats and the sheep dogs, I quickly realized that this idyllic farm is being built with an abundance of hard work and dedication.

Just feed me.

At last. Thanks papa Lou.

Sheep farming in Nova Scotia is a challenging business requiring lots of know-how and cash. A lover of lamb meat, I have always wondered why it isn’t so readily available in our grocery stores and is more expensive than beef or pork. Well, now I think I understand why.

Julia and Lou have been at this for a year now having moved here from British Columbia where they farmed on a part-time basis for 16 years. They decided to immigrate to Canada in 2000 from Germany. Julia’s native country is Germany and Lou hails from what was once Czechoslovakia. Their B.C. farm was located in the northern, interior part of B.C. in the Bulkley Valley halfway between Prince Rupert and Prince George. There, Lou drove a logging truck while Julia stayed home to raise chickens, turkeys, some beef cows. She also maintained a large vegetable garden providing food for themselves  and their neighbours. Lou’s yearning to be his own boss and their growing desire to go into full-time farming compelled them to take the plunge and begin their search for more land. With land prices in B.C. escalating, they turned their eyes eastward and with the help of the Internet settled on a picturesque farm in Port Royal.

In their first year, they have increased their flock of sheep from 45 to 60, not counting the newborn babies. In addition, they have seven goats, three guard dogs, and one herd dog, still just a kid being diligently trained to take on his adult duties in the near future. I think it’s a miracle they all survived their trip east and their first winter. Now in their middle years, Lou proudly announced, “We haven’t lost a single animal to any disease, climate or predators. We have an electric fence and our guard dogs to thank for this.” I would add that he needs to give credit to himself and Julia.

When asked what their greatest challenge has been so far, they both agreed it was the task of transporting the animals in two large trailers driven by Lou and a friend followed by a back trailer driven by Julia from B.C. to N.S. in just seven days

“It was the most arduous task we have ever had to take on” said Julia. “The weather was heating up in June, making it difficult to keep the animals cool. We were worried about finding places where we could stop for the night and not be an annoyance to the folks around us. Our animals would always make too much noise around feeding time.”

However it turned out that most people, when they heard what they doing, were more than happy to lend a hand in providing a place to park their vehicles with enough water for the hot, thirsty animals.

As Julia pointed out, there was one other high point during their trip which presented itself once they got here… the birth of a baby lamb in November!

As for how they feel after their first year in Nova Scotia and whether they are optimistic about their future here as sheep farmers, their reply was passionate in their quest to raise healthy and affordable food for local eating. Eventually they hope to provide their products to the community as they did in B.C. by starting small and relying on word of mouth. They see a future in this province for the small farmer who wants to join the ever-growing need to become more sustainable in food production. However, Lou did seem concerned about the government and parents not doing enough to encourage young people to climb aboard to take up small farming.

When asked what joy they get from their new venture, without hesitation they said:

  • You can be your own boss.
  • You know where your food is coming from and what’s in it. I must add that they are living proof of this as both who are in their 50’s and look the picture of health.
  • You never can be bored with your work. Every day is different.
  • The challenges you meet present new learning through personal experience.
  • You can be outside as much as you want and have access to clean water and air.

For now they want to continue expanding their flock of sheep to the point where they can support themselves as well as their community. They also want to meet the standards as set by the province for producing healthy food products, which will mean obtaining all the necessary licences. Julia loves to make goat cheese, and she’s even thinking of the possibility of lamb pies and sausages.

However, in order to accomplish that she knows she will have to upgrade her huge kitchen to meet those food production regulations. Right now they are taking it all one day at a time, concentrating on increasing their flock to a sustainable level, and ensuring their lambs and goats are kept safe and healthy.

Julia, Lou, and herd dog.

Look What’s Happening to Halifax

Look What’s Happening to Halifax

There are times I wonder if there is anything these days escaping the pursuit of constant change. Don’t get me wrong in thinking I am against change because I definitely am not. Change is good, but I do feel that we need to pursue it with some caution.

Lately there has been much talk about all the changes taking place in my birth city…Halifax… the capital of Nova Scotia. Human nature dictates that changes will result in two opposing sides: those who look to the past wanting to keep things as they are and those looking to the future willing to support any kind of change. Halifax is presently facing this problem, but from what I can tell they might be following another human reaction to change…. that of moving from one extreme to the other. “Let’s join the race to become a world-class city at all costs” seems to be the mantra. This is good, but let’s slow down a bit and try to do it with taste.

Historically, the city has shown an inclination to get stuck in the past right up until the early 1970’s when the urge to move forward began with the beautification of its waterfront. When I was growing up in Halifax, Water Street, down by the harbour, was a place to avoid. I always hated that fishy smell. The street was a series of dilapidated grey warehouses, the naval dockyard, seedy taverns, with some notorious ‘red light’ houses thrown into the mix. Then in the 70’s it all went through a huge metamorphosis resulting in the Historic Properties. Our waterfront suddenly had changed into not only a major tourist attraction, but also became accessible to all Haligonians. It had managed to preserve some of the old fish houses and wharves to produce a nice mix of the old and the new.

Other changes took place at that time and well into the 80’s. Some were good others not so. Spring Garden Road became a major shopping area to the detriment of Barrington Street which always had been. The old Capitol Theatre, which my grandfather helped engineer, was demolished resulting in much hue and cry to be replaced by the Maritime Centre, a large modern complex at the bottom of Spring Garden Road. Many of us kids, and adults too, were upset at how the ‘powers that be’ could have torn down such a unique theatre as the Capitol which resembled the inside of a grand old castle.

Perhaps this flurry of changes was too much for conservative old Halifax because for the next few decades, primarily under the mayoralty of Peter Kelly, the city showed little forward movement. Under his leadership any wise planning and growth had come to a screeching halt. Barrington Street became more derelict as retailers moved out to swanky suburban malls, affordable housing became a scarcity as evidenced by the increasing numbers of homeless on the sidewalks of Spring Garden Rd., and few construction sites and cranes were to be seen anywhere.

However for the past several years, the construction tap has been turned on full blast under the leadership of Mike Savage, Halifax’s present mayor. This began with the regional council’s decision to go ahead with the construction of a new convention centre, after many years of wrangling on whether the city should or shouldn’t take the risk of pumping millions of dollars into a new one when they already had one… albeit a small one. Located in the heart of downtown, the Nova Centre has caused traffic chaos and scores of disgruntled restaurant and store owners. Whole streets have been closed for a year or more as the structure endures one delay after another. To satisfy my curiosity, I just had to go see for myself what all the fuss has been about and have to admit I was blown away by what I saw. It’s stunning and should put Halifax up there on the list of world-class cities. It’s definitely had a ripple effect as nearby buildings in the downtown core are either being spiffied up or torn down to be replaced by more modern buildings. I couldn’t help wondering if this really was the staid old city I was so eager to leave 40 years ago?

On a whim, I decided to wander further down to the south end of Barrington Street where my father lived for most of his adult life, and where I spent my first three. I wanted to see if #315, a stately old house where he had his apartment, was still standing. It was… but barely! A huge sign was posted next to the main door indicating that this house and the one next to it is slated for demolition. But hold on… this decree was issued in 2015 and the house is still there because there was another smaller sign stating that these premises have been declared ‘heritage’ houses. It’s not just for personal reasons I want to see these houses saved, but also because they represent an old style of architecture from Halifax’s past which is too rapidly disappearing. I hope the city councillors will consider this and support the Heritage Society rather than another greedy developer.

As I continued to search out other changes in the city, harkening back to my early years, I decided to pay a quick visit to where once my old high school was located. Queen Elizabeth High (QEH) was demolished ten years ago and been replaced with an unusual project called the Common Roots Urban Farm which supports community and marketing gardening for the purpose of promoting health and wellness in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM). This is the acronym used for the city of Halifax and the outer regions including Dartmouth…another change which has occurred since I left. Nevertheless, here is a wonderful example of how a prime piece of land in the midst of one of the busiest parts of the city can be used to introduce some rural living into that of the urban.

In case you are wondering what happened to QEH, well the good news is that a gleaming new high school uniting protestant and catholic students under the same roof now stands nearby. When I was a high school student, St. Patrick’s and Queen Elizabeth were rivals just a few blocks away from each other. St. Pat’s has also faced the wrecking ball, leaving a piece of prime land vacant until a decision is made on what its fate will be. Let’s hope it will be a wise choice that will bring more country into the city and be of benefit to all people.

These days my visits to Halifax invariably end up in a quick stop at the new Central Library. This building has garnered accolades and awards for its architecture from all parts of the world. It’s an environmentally sustainable building which can boast of a rooftop terrace growing native plants, and toilets that are flushed with rain water.  An abundance of windows strategically placed on all levels allows the sun to pour in to control the indoor temperature and help reduce electrical costs. All the materials used in its construction are natural. You can really notice the difference when you spend time in this building. For this reason alone, I could spend days there instead of just a hasty stop for a cup of delicious coffee and a home-baked pastry at the Pavia Cafe on the roof top overlooking the harbour.  This library is truly accessible to all citizens providing cultural activities and small rooms which are rented out for other varied purposes. The acoustics are fantastic because no matter how many people pass through its doors or what is taking place inside, the place still feels and sounds like a library…quiet and peaceful. Halifax can be proud of this building.

Yes, the attitude and the look of my home city has certainly changed for the better. Where once it was conservative and rather dowdy, it’s now bright with a positive vibe prevailing. It is fast becoming a ‘world-class’ city and a more desirable one to live in as far as I can see. My one hope is that it doesn’t become too obsessed with trying to outdo other cities. Having lived in Toronto for many years, I certainly don’t want it to make the same mistake that city did by erecting tall office towers and condos, as well as a hideous express way that not only obscures the view of the lake but also cuts it off from the rest of the city. This has left the best part of the city mainly for the enjoyment of the well-heeled and the tourists when a waterfront needs to be accessible to everyone. Halifax, if you truly want to be a world-class city then learn from the mistakes of others by being a leader for what can be better.

To make a slideshow of these pictures, left click on the first one and follow the arrows.

Thanksgiving in Nova Scotia

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

I heard this greeting many times over our Thanksgiving weekend … something I had never consciously heard before. Then again, maybe some people have used this greeting in the past, much like we say Merry Christmas in December, but this year for whatever reasons I took notice, and I’m glad I did.

After a half-dozen or more “Happy Thanksgivings”, I was becoming slightly annoyed. However, upon reflection I can honestly say it began to take on more meaning for me, and I suspect many other Canadians. Why? Because as we sat down to enjoy our turkey dinners, many of us must have realised just how much we have to be thankful for.

Sometimes it’s difficult to find a silver lining in what to be thankful for in this crazy world after tuning in to our local, national, and world news. Often our media leaves us with the impression there are few places left on this planet of ours which aren’t in some state of turmoil…except for where we live, of course!

However, I must not be smug about this for ironically our beautiful Cape Breton was unexpectedly hit with the remnants of hurricane Matthew just as many CBer’s were preparing to sit down for their Thanksgiving feasts. Extensive flooding, fallen trees, and no power for two days have run up a tab of millions of dollars. However, the good rising from this devastation was that no lives were lost, thanks to the resilience of the people.

There is nothing like a disaster such as this to pull people together to help those in need. Last weekend was not just Thanksgiving in Cape Breton, but also the beginning of their International Celtic Colours Festival, an annual event drawing a huge influx of visitors from all over the western world. True to form the people in the community of Eskasoni rallied together ensuring that the concert goers in their town would not be disappointed. Not only were they well fed and feted, but somehow had the power restored so they could see the show. But the people of this enterprising community didn’t stop there: they even managed to build a detour road to get the bus loads of visitors back to their hotels so they wouldn’t  have to spend the night in the community hall. What tremendous organization and teamwork this must have taken!

Fortunately here in Victoria Beach, we were relatively unscathed by Matthew’s final hurrah save for leaves and broken branches littering our yards. We were thankful for the rain which was so desperately needed after a summer of drought reported to be the worst on record in some parts of our province.

A small waterfall created by the rain.

A small waterfall created by the rain.

Further reflection upon this past week’s events have left me feeling unusually thankful for my life right now. I am thankful that Hubby and I got to enjoy Thanksgiving with not one but two delicious turkey dinners, none of which I had to cook! Although we were unable to sit down with family members due to the choices of where we all live, we were delighted to share our dinners with friends. Furthermore, I am especially thankful for where I live which has got to be one of the most awesome places in the world. I can still say this despite all the beautiful places I have witnessed in my world travels. Not to bore you with too many more ‘thankfuls’, I will mention only one more….

Found a grand pumpkin right here on our road.

Autumn of 2016 will definitely go down as one huge surprise. Many of us wondered if we would be rewarded with any significant colour this year because of the drought. By mid September our trees were looking old and tired with many of them shedding their withered leaves far too early. But, lo and behold, about two weeks ago those that still had leaves presented us with a glorious range of reds, oranges, and yellows. This transformation seemed to happen overnight. Somehow sensing this might not last forever, I realised I needed to grab my camera to capture the panorama which would in turn spur me on to completing another post for this blog.

However, when Matthew’s unexpected winds came last weekend, I despaired there would be any autumn colours left to capture. Shortly after the storm had passed as I drove into town, I noticed there was still a decent palette of colour miraculously left behind…just enough to provide me with those much-needed pictures.

Where did all this colour come from, I wondered? There were so many leaves stripped from their branches littering our road and yards, and yet those vivid colours were still evident. As I looked more closely, I realised much of the colour was produced by the abundance of foliage that lines our road, and not from the trees. Shrubs and other plants were climbing up the trunks of the bare trees and the telephone poles. My guess is that it’s climate change at work. Mother Nature is playing havoc with our maples and birches which we have always relied on for our autumn colours, but perhaps now we must look at the smaller plants and climbing vines as our colour source.

In spite of the changes occurring in our world right now… which for some can be down right scary… there are still rays of sunshine peeking through those grey clouds. Let’s hope that as some things wither and die away there will be other things to replace them.

A good example which has nothing to do with our autumn but is appropo for how change is being handled by folks in Nova Scotia is our main provincial newspaper, The Chronicle Herald.  This paper has been in the midst of a strike between the owners and the workers for almost a year with neither side about to give in. Changes in staffing and working conditions have meant many jobs lost and hurt feelings, but the newspaper carries on despite them. To my mind, those who are left are actually improving the paper. Although much smaller, its content has improved. The viewpoint of the owners is more positive than it ever was before the strike so we are seeing more hope and less gloom and doom. Every day I can count on reading an article or two reflecting the positive changes occurring in our province. I am thrilled to see this new direction of The Herald and am truly hopeful that Nova Scotians will be able to handle any future changes which are bound to come.

Shelburne and Lockeport – Two Undiscovered Gems

Shelburne and Lockeport – Two Undiscovered Gems

In the minds of most Nova Scotians one of the worst things about summer is the end of summer. Where does the time go and why is it always the shortest season? Summer is by far the best season for us in Nova Scotia although some might disagree and say fall is better.

I have Hubby to thank for bringing to my attention that the end of our summer was fast approaching, and we had not gone anywhere. We needed to do something about this so came up with the idea to head out to the South Shore. We chose Shelburne which we haven’t visited for several years. Since we only had a day and a night, we had to narrow down our choices on what to see and do. I suggested that if we were going all the way over to Shelburne (about a three-hour drive from Victoria Beach) then we had to visit Lockeport, too. Upon reflection, we both agreed that our choices were good ones. Here are some reasons for saying this.

Historical Significance

An overpowering sense of history is evident in Shelburne, once a thriving shipbuilding town. Walking along its historic waterfront on Dock Street, I found myself being transported back in time to 1783 when the town was established by Loyalists who supported the British. Today it still looks very much like it probably did back then, with its natural environment composed of forest, water and old, grey- wooded blockhouses. There are no power poles and wires to mar this natural landscape. They were all removed in 1994 when the “The Scarlet Letter” was filmed there. Since then, it has been a magnet for other films, such as “Moby Dick” and the TV series adapted from the “The Book of Negros”.

Walk along Dock St.

Walk along Dock St.

Historic buildings from the mid 1700's.

Historic buildings from the mid 1700’s.

Shelburne, originally called Port Roseway, was considered to be an ideal location for the capital of Nova Scotia. In those days it had the largest population of any other Nova Scotian town because of the huge influx of White and Black Loyalists who were fleeing from the American Revolution. Its harbour is the third deepest in the world which isn’t going unnoticed by the cruise ships now docking there. Of course, this is helping the tourist business and beginning to have the residents think about making it one more designation point for the province.

Looking toward the harbour where ships dock.

Looking toward the harbour where ships dock.

Lockeport – the Beaches

Our first stop after a rather unexciting drive along Highway 8 and the 103 was Lockeport. Our stomachs reminded us it was near lunch time so we decided to give the Seagull Family Restaurant a try. We weren’t disappointed after enjoying a delicious seafood chowder and blueberry buckle. I expect the restaurant got its name from the numerous seagulls who entertained us as we ate. They could have been a nuisance but weren’t because a sign leading to the outdoor patio clearly stated not to feed them.

Lunch on the patio of the Seagull Restaurant.

Lunch on the patio of the Seagull Restaurant.

To work off our lunch, we decided to walk the 1.5 kilometre Crescent Beach which was just up the street from the restaurant. With its fine white – sand beach, and the brilliant, sunshiny day such as we had, I thought it has to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Nova Scotia, if not the world. The people here like to tell you that at one time it was featured on the back of our Canadian fifty dollar bill.

Crescent Beach

Crescent Beach

Lockeport, often referred to as “An Island to the Sea”, and at one time called the Ragged Islands, was and still is primarily noted for its fishing industry. The town is actually located on one of the islands as well as the mainland and can easily be accessed by a road which follows a narrow spit of land connecting the two. Or you can take the walking bridge.  There is not only gorgeous Crescent Beach but four other beaches nearby. How fortunate for those who not only live there, but also for the visitors who take the time to go there. I have to tell you we felt like we had the whole of Crescent Beach to ourselves the day we were there. I wonder if there were people on the other beaches – something I must explore another time.

Birchtown – A Black Loyalist Centre

Unfortunately, it is Birchtown’s sad history which has made it a destination that no visitor to this area should overlook. If you have read Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes”, then you will understand why I say this. Lest we should forget this moving story, a wonderful new Heritage Centre has been built…thanks to Emira and our two levels of government…. where we can learn about the hardships and injustices of all those who managed to land there. Did you know that at the time of their arrival in Shelburne they represented the largest free Black settlement outside of Africa? It is definitely worth the visit.

The new Black Loyalist Centre.

The new Black Loyalist Centre.

The museum and gallery inside the Centre.

The museum and gallery inside the Centre.

Dining at the Charlotte Lane Cafe

I have heard many good things about this restaurant in Shelburne so have always wanted to eat there. My wish came true, thanks to Hubby, who insisted that we should try it. A winner of many awards, our eating experience did not disappoint. The setting, the expertly prepared food, and the service were superb. Kudos are deserved by not only the co-owner and chef, Roland Glauser, but also the lovely old house with an upscale gift shop. The place was packed so make a reservation. Although eating here can be quite expensive… but no more than any other restaurant of this class…the portions are substantial. I had one of their delicious pasta dishes which I could not finish. Without hesitation, our waitress packed up what was left resulting in another meal the following day which somehow tasted even better.IMG_1748

Accommodations

We stayed at MacKenzie’s Motel and Cabins right on the edge of town on Water St. The best thing about this choice was the breakfast which was included in the price. Although continental and serve yourself, there was plenty of delicious food with seemingly no limit to the amount we could eat. All the baked goodies were home-made… even the brown bread that accompanied the baked beans. Although a tad dated, the premises were well maintained and there was a lovely pool to cool down in after a long day of sight-seeing. This place is definitely good choice for an overnight.

A day and one night were not nearly enough time to see and do all these two towns have to offer. I wish we could have stayed longer to thoroughly experience the history, to walk some of the many trails and beaches, or to take a tour of the harbour. We must definitely keep Shelburne and Lockeport in mind for a future visit.

Time Out for Mavillette Beach

One of the joys of retirement from full-time work is to have the freedom of simply taking off for the day to go wherever my heart tells me. I say ‘heart’ because it’s so easy to keep listening to what the ‘head’ has to say which might be something like this: ” You need to clean the house, do the wash, and weed the garden.” Fortunately, my heart took over and  spoke out one beautiful, sunny day last week. It simply said, “You need to get away from the house and Victoria Beach and do something different. You need to go to Mavillette Beach!” Hubby had also been working very hard at his part-time job in Annapolis and needed a break, too, so I tentatively broached my idea to him sensing that he already had lined up a myriad of things to do on his day off. At first he was reticent to deviate from his pre-planned day; however, he quite quickly began to see the benefits of taking some time out of his schedule to accompany me. We quickly accomplished some of our ‘must dos’ and were ready to start out on our journey by noon.

To give you some idea of just where we were headed, I’ll attempt to draw you a verbal map. Mavillette Beach is in the Municipality of Clare on the southwestern coast of Nova Scotia along the Bay of Fundy between Digby and Yarmouth. It is approximately a two hour drive from Victoria Beach where we live. To get there we took Rte. 1 which follows the Fundy coast passing through the typically Acadian villages of St.Bernard, Belleveau Cove, Grosses Coques, Church Point, Comeauville, Saulnierville, Meteghan River, Meteghan, St. Alphonse, and finally, Mavillette.

When driving through this area so rich in the Acadian culture (which is really not so different from the French culture in Quebec) you might be tempted to stop at some of the villages to not only admire the beautiful Catholic churches, but to also absorb its vibrant culture. Here you can hear a mix of English, French, and Acadian being spoken with perhaps the opportunity to hear some rousing Acadian music. I had heard about a little chapel commemorating the arrival of the first Acadians at Grosses Coques in the mid 1700’s so wanted to make a stop along the way since we weren’t in any great hurry.

The site of this tiny chapel has a long history going back to the Mi’kmaqs who buried their dead here. At that time it was an island. In the fall of 1755, an Acadian by the name of Pierre Belleveau and about one hundred others were the first to arrive here by boat after escaping Port Royal and the British. Most of them never survived what was noted as one of the worst winters ever. Today the modest graveyard is marked with simple white crosses and the tiny chapel which is a memorial to these hardy souls who are presumed to be buried here. Belleveau and his group were the forerunners of many more expelled Acadians to settle there. They helped establish what has today become a thriving shipbuilding and fishing area.

Whenever we find ourselves down in Clare, we always stop at the Comeau Farm Market in Meteghan for some fresh produce, their baked goodies, and homemade jams. It’s also a great place to grab a quick lunch in case you haven’t had time to bring a picnic. Here you can treat yourself to that famous rappie pie which is the king of Acadian cuisine.

We arrived at Mavillette about 3 o’clock to find the beach almost deserted. I counted about a dozen people there on this 1.5 km. of hard-packed sand. However, we weren’t too surprised as it’s always this way – at least whenever we have been there. It’s one of the reasons we go because where else in this crowded world can you find an almost deserted beach with flat sand, dunes, and a boardwalk! We parked our beach chairs right at the steps leading down to the beach with our nearest neighbours at least 100 feet away.

The attraction of this beach for me is not to swim because the water is never warm. This is the Bay of Fundy and it’s cold! For me Mavillette is simply the perfect beach for walking, so with my camera at the ready, I started out. I walked the entire beach snapping pictures of everything in sight since I knew this would be the beginnings of my next post. I could feel the stresses of life melting away as I became totally immersed in what I was seeing and doing. The healing quality of the sea, the wind, and the sun (in other words Nature) was beginning to take its effect. How could I have spent the whole summer neglecting her, I wondered?

After walking the entire beach, I headed for the road leading into this Provincial Park drinking in the rich, fall- like colours of the wild rose bushes with their rose hips the size of crab apples, and the dunes covered in marram grass which holds the sand in place. Once more, except for the odd car, I had the whole road to myself. Far off in the distance, I could hear and see a large machine busily placing rocks at the end of a spit. Before leaving, we drove out to Cape St. Mary’s to see find out what was happening. It looked as though another wharf was being built. I hoped this was another sign of the prosperity of the fishing industry in this area. At the present wharf, the many fishing vessels tied up there created a charming picture in the twilight of the setting sun.

Before our journey back to Victoria Beach, we decided we would have dinner somewhere along the way. Our first choice was to check out La Cuisine Robichaud in Saulnierville on the off-chance that we might get a table without having a reservation. This is probably the most popular restaurant in all of Clare so we knew our chances were slim. The minute we walked in the door we came face to face with a  group of musicians offering up what is commonly called an Acadian Kitchen Party. Unfortunately, we were stopping by on a Thursday evening when a musical gathering like this draws people from all over, so it was packed! The friendly waitress suggested we wait for a table, but an hour or more was just too much for our empty stomachs so we continued on eventually stopping at a small grill near St. Bernard for a fish  chowder and  fillets. The meal was good but not nearly so good as what we might have had at Robichaud’s.

As we drove home, we both agreed that taking time out to visit Mavillette Beach was a wise decision. In fact, every time I visit this part of our province, I always vow to come back more often. Not only is there this wonderful beach, but also a culture which is over 300 years old and still thriving. Yes, I will have to try harder to keep my promise.

A Whirlwind Trip to Ontario and Quebec

Why would anyone want to do such a trip in the middle of summer when temperatures are at their highest is probably the first question to come to your mind? It’s perfectly normal to want to see some of our great country when the weather is at it’s best but in the heat in just eight days? Well I admit this wasn’t my idea but Hubby’s.

It all had to do with his birthday in July which would have him turning 80! When he casually informed me back in early June of his grand scheme to celebrate with a trip up to Quebec and Ontario, my initial reaction was “Why not?” If that’s what he wanted then he deserved to celebrate this milestone with his family and close friends from his past. While he was away doing that I could get caught up on my writing and reading and try to keep my garden alive in the midst of our mini drought. Furthermore, I had the Saturday morning market to consider. I couldn’t just leave all my merchandise, and if I did who could I solicit to tend my table and sell my wares?

After some internal debate, I decided I would accompany him on his slightly hair-brained quest. I had found someone to water the garden and to tend my table at the market. Quite frankly I was a little worried about all that driving on his own, and besides my yen for travel was again beginning to surface. This trip held some other benefits for me, too. My daughter and her family could meet up with us in Montreal, and I could also see some old friends in Ontario. Hey, this “hair-brained” scheme was beginning to look better all the time.

We set out on August 6th, a Thursday, on one of those perfect summer days where the sky was a brilliant blue with puffs of fluffy white clouds on the horizon.

At the border of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

At the border of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Fort Beausejour in Aulac, NB.

Fort Beausejour in Aulac, NB.

The temperature was in the low to mid 20’s. We decided to take the Canadian route up through New Brunswick and into Quebec choosing our first stop for a bed in the capital city of Fredericton. Here we found a great bargain at the Aiken House on the campus of UNB (University of New Brunswick). For our own private room and a delicious breakfast we paid $62.00. Everything was clean and comfortable for half the price of a hotel for this time of the year.

Stately Aiken House on the campus of UNB.

Stately Aiken House on the campus of UNB.

On our second day, we continued north on the Trans Canada stopping in Edmunston for lunch and then at the picture perfect town of Kamouraska on the St. Lawrence River. Here one finds the true flavour of a French Canadian village with its distinctive architecture and rolling farmland bordering on the mighty St.Lawrence. Whenever we drive up to Quebec, we have always stopped here for one of those truly delicious croissants or some other kind of mouth-watering pastry to take to our hosts where we are staying for the night.

Approaching Kamarouska, Quebec.

Approaching Kamarouska, Quebec.

A typical French Canadian home.

A typical French Canadian home.

So that night found us in Quebec City where we were treated to the wonderful hospitality of some of Hubby’s old friends. Even though they had eight family members already descending upon them, they insisted that we stay. They even had a birthday cake for us (I had celebrated my 70th just days ago)! Wine and stimulating conversation dominated that night and into the morning primarily from their children who all seem to have landed themselves super exciting jobs as a radio producer at CBC, a city planner for Vancouver, and a marketing aficionado for a windmill company. Hubby and I couldn’t help but marvel at how so many children and grandchildren could come together and have such fun together.

Quebec City with the Chateau Frontenac dominating.

Quebec City with the Chateau Frontenac dominating.

Birthday cake #1.

Birthday cake #1.

The next day of more sun and delightful temperatures put us on the road to Montreal and the home of Hubby’s daughter and family where we also managed to meet up with my daughter and her family. That night we celebrated his 80th once again with his son and partner, one granddaughter, and two of his friends from his days of involvement with the Quebec Film Society. This was a night to remember for him as everyone was asked to give one word that would best sum up this colourful man. There were two words that kept popping up: ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘positive’. I couldn’t agree more. Even though at times his approach to life can be too rosy for my liking, in the end it’s better than having to live with one whose attitude is the opposite. Moreover, it’s what keeps him young if not in body but in spirit.

Birthday cake #2.

Birthday cake #2.

We spent one more day in Montreal just enjoying the coming together of our families who seemed to blend in with each other so well. They had all taken the time from their busy schedules to be with us to celebrate our milestone birthdays. A church service in a nearby Baptist church where Hubby had somehow managed to end up singing a solo, a lunch at Nick’s Place, a walk in a lovely Westmount park, and a delicious Japanese dinner rustled up by Hubby’s son-in-law were the highlights of this Sunday.

Singing his heart out!

Singing his heart out!

My grandson having fun at the Westmount park.

My grandson having fun at the Westmount park.

Son-in-law showing his sushi creations.

Son-in-law showing off his culinary creations.

From Montreal we began our trip next day to the province of Ontario and the city of Burlington to visit Hubby’s sister. Having lived in this province for over 20 years, we were both dreading the drive along the 401 especially once we neared Toronto. We started off with another sunny day and delighted in the familiar scenery of the Thousand Island highway which we decided to take along the way to relieve ourselves of the boredom of the 401.

One of the Thousand Islands.

One of the Thousand Islands.

As we were approaching Toronto, the sky turned an ominous grey a prelude to the torrential downpour we would soon come face to face with once we got on to the 407. This was the first and only bad weather we experienced on our whole trip! By the time we reached Burlington, it had all cleared up. That night we celebrated Hubby’s birthday for the third time with his sister, brother-in-law, and their daughter and her family.

Celebrating this time with balloons.

Celebrating this time with balloons.

With sister who also has the 'Young Age' gene.

With sister who also has the ‘Young Age’ gene.

The following day – another stunner with a clear blue sky and a comfortable temperature – took me to Georgetown to visit two dear friends from my past life in Ontario. We gathered in Cynthia’s beautiful garden for lunch accompanied by their two spouses and Cynthia’s grandson. Hubby wasn’t able to come since he had planned to meet up with an old friend and a cousin in Toronto. We all agreed it was just like times past and marvelled that we could still come together so easily to catch up with our fast-moving lives and share a few laughs.

Farm scene near Georgetown.

Farm scene near Georgetown.

The three old friends.

The three ‘old’ friends.

On the Wednesday of the 12th we had to head back home which was all too soon. By choosing the quickest and easiest route that would get us to the ferry in St. John on Friday for the 2:30 p.m. crossing, we opted for one of the routes plotted out by CAA taking us through the US. This route took us through New York state, into Massachusetts, part of New Hampshire, and finally into Maine. Although it might have been a tad quicker than the Canadian route we took to go up to Ontario, it was by no means the cheapest. With the sinking value of our dollar and the fact that we were travelling through the US on one of their busiest tourist weeks which drove up the price of accommodations and food, we spent far more than we had anticipated. Most of our journey found us on the toll roads which are exceptionally well-marked and maintained compared to our Nova Scotian roads. However, once the monotony of yet another service centre with tasteless fast food (the only good thing was the cappuccinos I was able to buy at MacDonald’s), we found ourselves seeking out a couple of small towns off the beaten track. Our first one was the town of Stockbridge in southern Mass, the home town of Norman Rockwell, which exemplifies the typical New England town.

Main street in Stockbridge, Mass.

Main street in Stockbridge, Mass.

Wishing we could have stayed here.

Wishing we could have stayed here.

I wish we could have bunked down for the night in Stockbridge, but instead we decided to stay in Worster not too far away where surely we could find something under $100 and within our budget. Unfortunately, Hubby and I came way off the same page when it came to what and where we wanted to stay. After many wrong turns and screams from him who was starting to panic while we looked for the Econo- Lodge which appeared to be within the budget, we found ourselves back at the Quality Inn where we had begun. I think the nice chap on reception took pity on us for when we returned after failing to find the Econo- Lodge, he lowered our room price to a comfortable $80 with taxes and exchange.

After a night of too little sleep and a very unhealthy breakfast in my estimation, we got off to an early start making the decision to get off the toll road since we had made our reservation for the next night in Bangor at another Quality Inn for well above our budget at $190! I knew I could find something less on a back road somewhere, but to keep the peace of mind that Hubby insisted upon, I kept quiet. We made our first stop at Old Orchard Beach and the nearby village of Ocean Park Beach which is supposedly a bit more upscale, according to Hubby. Every summer he and his family would spend time at this beach so it was for ‘old time’s sake’ that we ventured in to walk the beach and have a good lunch. I had enough of the service centre food with their ridiculous prices.

Ocean Park Beach in Maine.

Ocean Park Beach in Maine.

We also made a stop at Belfast and so pleased we did as it is one of the more quaint towns along the Maine coast. After wandering around the harbour taking a peek at all the huge yachts and poking into some of the cute boutiques, we settled on Darby’s Pub for a delicious dinner.

The harbour at Belfast.

The harbour at Belfast.

Sunset outside Belfast.

Sunset outside Belfast.

Our last night on the road was fairly uneventful. The breakfast the next morning was slightly better than the night before with the addition of waffles that we made for ourselves. However, for good coffee, I had to hold off until we crossed the border back into Canada when we made a quick stop at St. George, NB. There we found their General Store where people were lined up at the door for their home-made sandwiches, baked goodies, and Java coffee which is roasted and sold in St. John. What a surprise for me because they do delicious flavoured coffees so I treated myself to their ” J’maka me crazy” flavour.

We made it to St. John in good time for the 2:30 crossing to Digby. We had to wait for more than an hour to drive on but once there we were in for a pleasant surprise. The new Fundy Rose had just been running for little more than a week so naturally we were anxious to see it, and we weren’t disappointed. I can honestly say it’s beautiful with tastefully decorated restaurants and sitting areas, an upper deck with a bar where passengers can sit outside and be close to the water. We had another beautiful day so it was very comfortable to sit there. If the weather is bad, then there is lots to do inside with two areas for up to date movies, a play area for the kiddies, and usually some kind of information session or entertainment. The day we crossed had a young lady performing some Celtic music. On a final note, the food prices are so much more reasonable than those we encountered in the US. There is no comparison to a $4.95 sandwich on the ferry and a $6.95 US one at a service centre on a toll road.

The Fundy Rose coming into St.John.

The Fundy Rose coming into St.John.

On the upper deck of the Fundy Rose.

On the upper deck of the Fundy Rose.

As I look back on our 8-day whirlwind trip, I realise how good fortune once again reigned over us. We were blessed with good weather, no accidents or car break downs, wonderful families, and faithful friends. Not only was this the highlight of our summer, but also a time for reflection on the passage of time as we enter our later years. May we both be forever young if not in body but in spirit.

My Road Well Travelled

 

Old Anglican church in Karsdale.

Old Anglican church in Karsdale.

Victoria Beach where I live in Nova Scotia is 25 km. away from the nearest town of Annapolis Royal.  Averaging three or four trips a week over the eight years I have lived here (not counting the months I am away travelling) translates into roughly 1,500 trips on the same road.  There is only one way those of us who live in Victoria Beach can get to Annapolis Royal and that is via Granville Road, the road which connects us. You might think that making this jaunt would be getting a bit boring by now, but strangely it hasn’t for the following reasons.

Fish sheds at the wharf in Victoria Beach.

Fish sheds at the wharf in Victoria Beach.

Since coming here, I have heard many people refer to my road as being “magical”. I have to agree that the scenery is ‘out of this world’ beautiful no matter the time of day, month, or year. My greatest thrill is driving my road just as the sun is rising to herald in a new day, something I get to do in the summer as I drive to the Saturday market. Fog and rain, of which we usually get plenty of, might spoil this trip, but as far as I am concerned there is always a silver lining to everything so even in bad weather there is a certain kind of beauty to how the fog seems to hover over the mountains or roll in lazily over the water. Unfortunately, I haven’t succeeded in finding anything positive about driving through a raging snow storm in winter which is one of the reasons I escape to Thailand.

Fog creeping in over the water at Digby Gut in Victoria Beach.

Fog creeping in over the water at Digby Gut in Victoria Beach.

From the time I leave home until I reach my destination in Annapolis Royal, Granville Road will have taken me through six communities. Victoria Beach is the last village at the end of my road followed by Port Wade, then Karsdale, Port Royal, Granville Beach, and  Granville Ferry. There is something unique about the history and environment of each one of them, but all share the water of the Annapolis Basin leading into the Bay of Fundy on the one side and the North mountain on the other.

What makes this road so special is that it fulfills me on all levels – the physical, mental and the spiritual. On a physical level, I am conscious of the combination of mountain and water all around me as very seldom does my road take me away from either. If it does, I am still shrouded by the different hues of colour from the trees and other foilage along the road. Moreover, I adore the various types of architecture exhibited by many of the older homes. A few of them date back to the early 1730’s but most were built by fairly wealthy sea captains who resided here during Nova Scotia’s ‘Age of Sail’ in the mid 1800’s. The houses which were lucky enough to fall into caring hands have been tastefully renovated, but sadly others have been deserted and are now falling into disrepair. One of the road’s oldest houses is a Connecticut Salt Box, built circa 1730. It’s located in Granville Beach and was restored to its original state in the 1960’s by a Mr. Robert Patterson, an avid antique dealer from Toronto. It opens in the summer as a museum displaying his many  Georgian treasures including a beautiful collection of  Chippendale furniture.

Nova Scotian saltbox home circa 1730, now the North Hills Museum in Granville Ferry.

Nova Scotian saltbox home circa 1730, now the North Hills Museum in Granville Ferry.

On a more intellectual level, this road offers me a past rich in history dating back to the very earliest settlers who came to this land in the early 1600’s. The area known as Port Royal, which extended from what is today the town of Annapolis Royal to the present day community of Port Royal just 10 km. away, was  first sited by Samuel de Champlain in 1604. The following year he and Sieur de Mons built a settlement called the Habitation as a centre for the Acadians, making it the oldest settlement in North America beating out Jamestown, Virginia by two years and Quebec by three. These two French explorers along with the help of the gifted poet, Marc Lescarbot, who wrote and produced ” The Theatre of Neptune” the first drama ever written and produced in North America, were the reason for the settlement’s success. Thus, was born the Order of Good Cheer, a social club which not only kept the spirits of the men who accompanied them alive but still exists today. A nearly exact replica of the original is located here and is one of the road’s main tourist attractions.

A replica of the Habitation in Port Royal.

A replica of the Habitation in Port Royal.

Entrance to the Habitation.

Entrance to the Habitation.

Inside the Habitation with  Mr. Melanson, an Acadian guide, dressed in period costume.

Inside the Habitation with Mr. Melanson, an Acadian guide, dressed in period costume.

Second to Port Royal in historical significance would be Port Wade which was at one time a thriving port where some of the province’s most venerable sailing ships were built. For a short while it was noted for exporting iron ore to other parts of the world. Today it is home to one of the province’s many fish farms.

Home built by Captain Snow, a well known ship building in Port Wade.

Home built by Captain Snow, a well known ship builder, in Port Wade.

The little community of Karsdale, next door to Port Wade, has its fair share of lovely old homes which have attracted many people from other parts of the country and continent who enjoy renovating as a retirement project. You can usually find a few of them up for sale or perhaps a few ‘fixer uppers’ if you are so inclined to try your hand at renovating. Karsdale can boast of a beautiful old Anglican church and graveyard going back to the mid 1800’s. This community was named after William Kars, a war hero in the Crimean War, who made his home in Annapolis Royal.

Another old house dating back to 1700's. This one is for sale.

Another old house dating back to 1700’s. This one is for sale.

Christ Church in Karsdale.

Christ Church in Karsdale.

As my road wends its way through Granville Beach, a dairy farm and a peach farm are in evidence. If I happen to be traveling my road around 5 p.m. a herd of cows just might bring me to a complete stop as their owner herds them back to their barn. Lovely baskets of peaches and nectarines are always available in the late summer at a nearby road stand. Those who are still farming here today have the early Acadians to thank for the fertility of the land. The dykes they built not only keep back the high tides but also the salt from the waters of the Annapolis Basin. These dykes are still in evidence today.

Acadian dyke land on the Annapolis Basin - Granville Beach.

Acadian dyke land on the Annapolis Basin – Granville Beach.

Lots of hay farming on the dyke land,

Lots of hay farming on the dyke land,

Granville Ferry, the last port of call on my road and right at the causeway which leads into Annapolis Royal, is a fair sized village with a lovely mix of stately homes and old block houses built very close to the road. “The Ferry”, as it is commonly referred to by its residents, was the undisputed centre of the ship building trade that flourished during the great ‘Age of Sail’ in Nova Scotia.

One of many stately homes in Granville Ferry.

One of many stately homes in Granville Ferry.

More Granville Ferry homes near the road.

More Granville Ferry homes near the road.

My road travels well beyond the physical and mental levels to that of the spiritual or more esoteric as some like to call it. Of course, there are churches (mostly Baptist) in all the communities which provided a form of spirituality for the majority of the people living here at one time. Today some of these churches are closed, and those that aren’t are facing a dwindling congregation and just barely hanging on. However, another kind of spiritual teaching reached the area in the 1970’s when a branch of Buddhism known as Shambala found a special energy radiating a feeling of peace all along the road which they claim aptly reflects the teachings of the Buddha. Perhaps this is why some refer to it as a “magical” road. Is it any wonder that my road has become a special friend who never fails to inspire me each time I drive on it?

Taken from 'my road' one evening while traveling to  Annapolis Royal.

Taken from ‘my road’ one evening while traveling to Annapolis Royal.