High School Out Trip๐Ÿ›ถ๐Ÿ•

In Grade 12, there was this out trip that we all participated in.  It was a several day canoe and portage adventure trip up in Killarney National Park and it was meant to be a fun, team-building, learning experience.  It was also somewhat of a survival experience and, for me, a challenge to remain positive and friendly no matter what the weather was doing.

The preparatory meetings began.  ‘All grade 12s going on the Out Trip with Mrs Ducky, report to classroom 105 for a planning meeting’.  All of us gathered from the four corners of the school.  We found a seat and glanced around.  The atmosphere in the room was palpable with hormones, comparisons and expectation of fun to come.  Mrs Ducky ensured that each of the forty or so of us made contributions to the planning.  What needs to be packed.  How to pack it (in plastic bags just in case it rains).  What to expect (an arduous journey) and the timings and itinerary for the trip, including car pooling and who would be in each canoe.

When we finally got up to Killarney National Park, we were ready for the adventure ahead.  We piled into our crafts and were told to stick together, lest we get lost.  Mrs Ducky and Mr Watson should remain within site, they told us.  It was huge water surrounded by vast wilderness and craggy rocks and with many inexperienced canoeists, anything could happen.

Poor Sue (the same guy from ‘Fun and Foibles At The Camp‘ went in the drink just off shore.) He was with a couple of classmates who didn’t know how to balance the canoe while trying to switch places.  Over they went. Sue’s sleeping bag remained wet for the whole trip.  Gotta ask yourself, ‘What happened to the plastic bag for it, Sue?’  Years later Sue joined the Army.  He learned a ton about survival and staying dry then.

Anyway, the trip was magical.  We canoed, we raced, we sang, we splashed and we teased each other.  Sue even demonstrated gunnel-bobbing just off shore of one of our sites.  At times it rained horribly and at times the sun peaked out to shine on the motley, rag tag crew that we were.  We had several portages that we would tell each other was, ‘only five football fields long’ – helping mentally to push through it and get ‘er done.

One day, while making lunch for the group, Mrs Ducky squealed at Mike to stop eating the bread rolls.  He looked up with cheeks stuffed full like a chipmunk and pointing a sausage-shaped finger at his chest tried to say, “Who me?”  Those in ear-shot giggled at this even though it would mean we would be short for supper.  The food was strictly rationed and Mike was this lumbering, big guy with fuzzy black hair and so funny.

At another site that lent itself to bathing, a few of us actually went for a swim and washed our hair.  I was one of them, being so used to this kind of thing at the camp all my life.  The water was so pure and clean and felt like silk as I dove in.  The water in the lakes up there in Northern Ontario parks was so pure in those days (1985) that for drinking water, we were all instructed to bring a melmac or metal mug on a carabiner that should be hooked to our waistband.  With it, we would simply scoop water out of the lake and drink it down as we paddled, or at any time on the trip.  No bottled water.  No tanks of water.  No filter, pump or drops. Just lake water.  No one got sick.

A few of my classmates were quite miserable on this trip and I felt badly for them.  They didn’t have the experience in nature that I had been so fortunate to have.  They didn’t want to squat in the woods or to walk barefoot into the water or sleep with camp-fire smoked hair.  It was a foreign place, nature.  They were home-sick.

loon

On the other hand, It was bizarre how much I enjoyed the whole experience and again reveled in the physical outdoor challenge: loving the sights especially the starry sky or a glassy-calm lake; the sounds like the lonesome, haunting call of the loon and smells of nature like of fallen pine needles under foot on a forest trail.  I ate it all up and reveled in the wisdom of the team effort and of observing my classmates who may or may not be in their element.  Did it bring out the best or the worst in them?  Interesting to see and had me recalling that game about picking who you would want in your lifeboat.

Loving this stuff would serve well in my future.  Of course I didn’t have any idea that in 22 months I would be at basic training in Chilliwack, British Columbia on Canada’s West Coast and that I would be struggling beyond belief…

 

(Pictures credit to google images and whomever took them – thanks folks!)

 

My Skin Hurt

Contentment: the state of being mentally or emotionally satisfied with things just as they are; peace of mind

A few years ago now and for decades before that, I had this awful phenomenon that would happen to me.  My skin would hurt if I perceived that I had eaten too much or not exercised enough in a given day.  I would have this feeling overwhelm me, born of guilt at not fulfilling my compulsion to perpetually under-eat (and I LOVE food)  and / or to not exercise every day, sometimes to the point of exhaustion, hunger pains and sore muscles.

I have stopped the madness over the past three years, spawned by the need to take medication which causes weight-gain and, have slowly begun to just be okay with looking like a normal 53-year old menopausal woman.  I have come to the sad realization that it doesn’t matter so much what your Earth Suit looks like, if you don’t let it matter.  It is the ‘not letting it matter’ that is the tricky bit, especially if your brain is wired for approval like mine. ‘Sad realization’ because of all the time, preoccupation and wasted potential due to being ignorant to the reality that how your body ‘looks’ doesn’t matter nearly as much as we think, in this Western world. And, as another friend told me her mom would say, ‘dear, your body size is the least interesting thing about you.’

How about we make these things more important than the shape and size of our body:  enthusiasm, zest for life, helpfulness, kindness, compassion.  How about we stop telling little girls that they are so pretty and focus on how kind they are?

Over the past three years, I have been so much happier, it is profound.  (Okay, I have had moments of uncertainty, but they were fleeting, comparatively).

I was walking with a friend the other night whom I hadn’t seen in ages, and this post was imagined.  Due to my Earth Suit looking a lot plumper these days (which I am totally fine with), she asked, ‘So, are you still doing a lot of yoga, M?’  I chuckled in my head at this.  It is inevitable, this question.  Just like last week at the physio, he goes, ‘so, any thyroid issues these days?’  ha ha!  No, actually.  Just eating like a grown-ass woman, as one of my fave podcasters says: Summer Innanen. Of course, I didn’t say that, I just said, ‘um, nope’.  To my friend I tried to gently express the shite I have been through.  Knowing her to be a dieter and she having already poked fun at her ‘fat’ (of which she has none, oh friggin geez).  I explained that yoga had been a dozen year obsession which was all about ego and not really about zen at all.  It was a compulsion when it should have been a path to peace.  It was the opposite, and it made me skinny and very muscular.  (See for yourself: https://youtu.be/9lSU9I-ZPbk ).  Oh excuse me: lean.  The new word for skinny.  It also made me cra-cra.

I have had a new thing happen for the very positive, of late.  I have had all this energy and yearning to be athletic again (like I was as a girl).  So, I have taken up tennis lessons and just loving the feel of my body as I strive to hit that effing ball.  (It’s amazing how much I just want to hit that effing little ball.)  And, with a tennis court right behind my house, well, I’m set!  Pun intended.

The other day, out of the blue, I had a yearning to go for a bike ride.  I was able to adjust my son’s bike to handle my shortness and off I went.  It was fabulous.  I tried frisbee-throwing, swing dance and archery at the #tryitinwolfville initiative. I just have this energy and wish to move my body and it has nothing to do with being fit.  It’s just about joy this time, folks.  And, on the other end of things, sometimes I’m just tired and I take a nap in the middle of the day.  Lucky as I am to be able to do that.  Yo Universe, thanks againLife just keeps getting better as I strive to be like that little girl in the image above.  Not a care in the world and certainly no thoughts of dieting, restriction or gym time, just free to be me.

Any comments would be welcome, as always and I love to hear from you!

(The picture is of my little brother and I when we were kids at the camp.  Taken by our eldest sis.)

Newfoundland! Yes, Bโ€™y

Highlights: the food! Oh my, such wonderful food.ย  The hikes!ย  Oh my, such gorgeous seaside scenery.ย  The colour!ย  Oh my, such bright and vivid colours every which way we turned.ย  The accented lovely way of speaking!ย  Oh my, so sweet: how ya be, me ducky?

We were on the escalator heading down to street level at the St John’s airport in early June.ย  Excited to start our eight days in Newfoundland’s east.ย  We had butterflies of excitement and I think we may have been holding hands, my love and I.ย  Dean, hailing from there, was all smiles to be ‘down home’ again to the salt air and the fog, the twang and the good-naturedness of Newfoundlanders. (Pronouced: newfundLANDers)

I was casually scanning the crowd on street level.ย  My glance fell on a dark-haired man sitting in profile to us on a bench against the wall.ย  He was smiling, looking around wide-eyed and boyishly swinging his legs back and forth.ย  Could it be?ย  I was almost sure it was him but what luck would that be?!ย  Michael Crummey, I said quietly.ย  I nudged Dean beside me.ย  Michael Crummey, I indicated with my chin.ย  We both said aloud for him then: Michael Crummey!ย  And he looked at us and smiled with recognition as we arrived at his level.ย  He and Dean had attended Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) back in the eighties and played a bit of soccer together.ย  We had attended Michael’s readings on his books and listened, rapt, while he read from his latest book the last time: Sweetland when he visited Wolfville’s Acadia University in the recent past.ย  We had pints and shared stories and jokes at Paddy’s Pub.ย  We were nearly best buds, the three of us.ย  Well, not really, but it was certainly wonderful to see his smiling face.ย  He was awaiting his mother and then she joined us and we were introduced.ย  A moment later we were offered a ride to our hotel and off we went in his car while Michael told us of places not to be missed and I jotted notes on a scrap of paper in the back seat…this was sure to be a great trip and it was that for sure.

Highlights: the food! Oh my, such wonderful food.ย  The hikes!ย  Oh my, such gorgeous seaside scenery.ย  The colour!ย  Oh my, such bright and vivid colours every which way we turned.ย  The accented lovely way of speaking!ย  Oh my, so sweet: how ya be, me ducky?

We checked into Hotel Newfoundland and were offered all manner of treats from the lady going by with a cart from the exec lounge.ย  Don’t want to throw it all away, she said.ย  We loaded up, then stepped out to look at Signal Hill via the crooked little neighbourhood of Quidi Vidi. Boardwalk clutching shear cliffs and spray of salt water with a backdrop of the huge deep St John’s harbour and small icebergs off in the big blue.IMG_0580 (3)

Colourful ancient houses clung impossibly on the hillside of rock and steps galore! as we made our way for the next two hours. Exclaiming at the beauty all the while and sweating while climbing the flights of stairs up the rock face.ย  I would not have wanted to be the builders of that staircase.ย  Newfoundlander builders wouldn’t have thought twice about it, likely.ย  I recalled my barrel-chested, cheerful brother-in-law in his good black leather jacket, hat less, stepping out into the driving, sideways freak icy rain one Christmas in Corner Brook.ย It’s not FIT!ย he turned, smiled and shrugged at us watching from the damp doorway or Dean’s eldest brother.

Next, a meal which had us enjoying the lightest, sweetest fish and chips ever and a pint of the local brew at The Duke.ย  Simply awesome.

Day two, we walked all over the pretty and old, twisty knotted downtown and then up around the University Campus after an incredible brunch at The Rooms Museum Cafe overlooking the harbour.The Rooms Cafe

We met Bill, Dean’s friend from University, at his house and then dropped everything to go take a look at Petty Harbour.ย  The sun just happened to come out while we were there.ย  Afterwards, we ate a wonderful steak supper with Bill, then walked back to the hotel still in the day light.ย  Gotta love the long days of summer.ย  We then fit in a pint with Michael Crummey and told the tales of our lives, three glasses clinked, then three heads together as we caught up on all the news at the Ship Pub.ย  We laughed at the memories of Codco who used to hang out at The Ship Inn which was sold and so imaginatively renamed.

Pint with Michael Crummey

Day three, we picked up our rental car after a scrumptious meal at Chinched and off we went to tour the Irish Loop with a stop to hike La Manche trail, part of the East Coast Trail system and see the suspension bridge out in the ghost-town wilderness.ย  Later that evening, we found a nice B&B and just got in the door when the rain began to pour down.ย  The owner was a small lively man with a few good stories for us.ย  Then we enjoyed some rest.

Day four, we ventured into Tickle Cove and did the little trail around the pond IMG_0550 then had a dessert and tea at Maudie’s Cafe, which was sweet.ย  Later, we found a small hotel room on Bay Roberts and walked for a ways to see the old churches, enjoying a pint overlooking the bay on the route back.

The next morning we were nearly ordered by the hotel manager to do the Shoreline Walk, which we are so glad to have done.ย  Simply beautiful, with its old stacked rock

IMG_0457foundations and stone cellars from before the town was moved further into the crook of the bay.ย  At the end of the two hour hike, we came across a diner and enjoyed touton (pronounced TOUT-on) BLTs and fish cakes, the server so talkative she forgot to take our order for several minutes.ย  It was scrumptious.ย  There, we overheard an exchange that we are still chuckling about. The server asked a guest how he wanted his eggs.ย  The Newfoundlander answered: I don’t want to be any trouble but, I’ll have one scrambled and one poached. but I don’t want to be any trouble.ย  Pause.ย  The server stood with a look on her face, searching his for a glimmer of fun, then all erupted in laughter.

IMG_0643Day five, we pulled into Trinity and booked a room for two nights in a large house with many rooms all with ensuite bathrooms.ย  It was like a hostel for adults, said Dean.ย  We enjoyed swapping stories with some of our house mates and then had food and drink and a stroll around town, marveling again at the use of colour.ย  Why so much colour we wondered?ย  It was so that the seafarers could find their way home in the fog, b’y.

mv with sea stacksDay six, we did the Skerwink Hike with its sea stacks and rugged coast, ending the trail beside a pond with a resident otter who made himself known.ย  This is my pond,ย he indicated with his snout held high and in our general direction.ย  Later that evening, we found our way out to the CBC TV Miniseries site of Random PassageIMG_0606 and were tickled to be the only folks there.ย  I had read these books and LOVED them, a quarter of a century ago living in Corner Brook and being new to the culture.ย  They shed a ton of light for me.

IMG_0649 (2)Day seven, we were back to St John’s were we met up with one of Dean’s nieces and had tea while catching up on all her news.ย  We had walked around Quidi Vidi pond to get to her at a little cafe, but first we had met Dean’s friend Bill at The Mallard Cottage for a pint and an incredibly delicious lunch.

Day eight, we were packing up to catch our plane back to Nova Scotia.ย  Our little tour of Newfoundand’s East coast had been amazing.ย  Colourful, sweet, homey, rugged and beautiful.ย  We shall return.

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All photos by Martha Valiquette

Iโ€™m So Glad We Had This Time Together…

‘I’m so glad we had this time together, just to have a laugh or sing a song. Seems we just get started and before you know it, comes the time we have to say, So Long’
~Carol Burnett

Just to have a laugh or sing a song…. the poignant words of the ditty by the eighty-something Carol Burnett whom Paul adored. He said they both had a slight palsy in the side of their faces making their smiles a little crooked. He connected with her and so, once a week, we would sprawl on the Aikins’ wall-to-wall cream-coloured broadloom in front of their floor-model, mahogany encased TV in their living-room (the Aikins had cable!) enraptured by Carol Burnett And Friends. Jinx, their moody Siamese cat would sleep on top of the TV for its warmth, tail flicking even in her sleep.

Well folks, something horrible has happened.  We have lost this amazing person.  He is gone.  Never to return except to live on in our memories.

Paul was five years old when we met, and I, four.  We moved into the red brick bungalow next door.  They lived in the brick mansion next to us.  There were eleven kids in the Aikins family.  We were seven kids.  The sheer numbers of kids (and the lack of hand held devices and video games, ie: none) made for hilarious adventures and play times between the two homes.

We each had at least one member of the Aikins family to play with who was our age.  We walked to school together.  We played outdoors and in for hours together.  It’s hard to believe that none of us ended up married to each other.  I always believed Paul and I would be wed. Not to be.

Paul was one of those friends who was just simply THERE for me. I cannot recall a single argument with him. We discussed all manner of topics.  I confided in him regarding my tough relationship with my dad. Consequently Paul would never address dad as Mister the way dad would have liked him to. This would irk dad every time. We would snicker about it later.

We competed in Miss Cuthbert’s typing class together at St Joe’s, typing as fast as we could in rhythm to Martha and the Muffins’ Echo Beach.  Paul won.  We did gymnastics

paul 3
Paul Aikins age 16 and Martha Valiquette age 15, St Joeโ€™s talent night

and music recitals together. Projects and fund-raisers.  We decorated for dances and chaired meetings.  I’ll never forget the amazingly fun times we managed to have with very little money but very large imaginations and unstop-ability.  We would lip-synch to our fave tunes, throwing ourselves whole-heartedly into it and making each other double in two with laughter.  Little did we know then that Paul would become this incredibly beloved teacher at Etobicoke School for the Arts.

For several years of our friendship, Paul would come by greyhound bus up to the camp on Lake Cecebe to hang with me there for a week or two.  We would canoe, trampoline, clean cottages, paint docks and picnic tables together.  It didn’t really matter what we were doing, we would just make it fun.  My little brother emailed lately to remind me of this time that Paul and I were playing piano together in the office and he was imitating someone.  Ricky rolled on the floor over that one, he recalls. Ricky also reminded me that Paul could imitate dad perfectly, especially the corny face Dad would put on when he was ushering mass at St Mary’s.

I remember the first time I felt that I had lost Paul.  It was when they moved from next door to a few streets away on Eugenia Street.  The second time I lost Paul was when I moved away for a year when my parents were in the midst of a horrible divorce.  I missed him so badly that year.  My buddy was too far away for my liking.  It was a tough year because of this.  He came to London by bus to visit once and we had a blast.

paul year book2 (2)

I remember one time he was hired to feed the cats at the convent on the corner of Berczy and Eugenia St in Barrie and I went with him to the massive, empty, dark gothic-style mysterious house with crucifixes affixed on nearly every wall.  Well, of course we proceeded to hide behind doors and jump out at each other and to scare each other with a well placed ‘boo!’ several times so that we were frazzled nerves by the time we finished the chore.

Paul was a ball of positive and artistic fun and a fantastic old friend of mine. I will miss him dearly and am so sorry for the loss of this incredible person. I am sorry for his Mother and five brothers and four sisters and his adoring nieces and nephews. I am sorry for Fred, his partner of twenty plus years and how he must be reeling at the sudden and unexpected loss of Paul. I am sorry for his students and for all those whom he will not get the chance to teach. There are simply no words. I know though, that his inspiration will live on in the memories of all those who loved him.

Paul Aikins was an incredible light that shone for 54 years.  I will miss him dearly.  Rest in Peace dear Paul.  Your work is done here but your legacy will live on powerfully and forever, for you have made a difference.

 

Highest Tides ~ Fastest Bird ~ Only in the Valley (part 3)

Today, we were in double digits with blue skies and ebbing tides….off to one of our many beaches to enjoy it.ย  Not knowing a) that this beach belonged to a pair of nesting Peregrines and b) that this would be a truly remarkable day…

We were scurrying quickly away from the possible dive-bombing Peregrine Falcons and their surely sharp talons on a local beach near Avonport, Nova Scotia.  (Peregrines are not to be trifled with, being the fastest creature on planet Earth, who can reach 320 km / hr with sharp talons and beak).  My hubby of 26 years, Dean and I had been strolling on the pebbly, blue-tinged shale beach marveling at the warm day in late May and kicking around ideas for future world travel, a topic we come back to again and again it seems.

Yes, the warm day…we have had an awfully cold spring which would have me donning a toque up until, oh, yesterday.  But today, we were in double digits with blue skies and ebbing tides….off to one of our many beaches to enjoy it.  Not knowing a) that this beach belonged to a pair of nesting Peregrines and b) that this would be a truly remarkable day.

About thirty minutes down the beach, the shreeeeeeeeek of the Peregrine.  (I have known this shreek and had heard it recently and curiously near our house in Wolfville.  That mystery was about to be clarified.)  It seems we were a little too close to their nest which was lodged up on a ledge in the sand-stone cliffs which towered over the beach.

A senior couple was coming down the beach in hats and rubber boots. Large camera had she, binoculars had he.  Pauline and her special friend Bernard Forsythe and was it truly our fortune to meet them!  Firstly warning them about the mad! mad! mad! falcons but they didn’t seem to want to turn around.  They nodded knowingly about the speedy upset pair and so, with one eye-ball peeled, we stood and talked on the pretty beach for the better part of an hour.

Bernie and Pauline

Turns out, Bernard has been a serious naturalist and birder since the 70s featured here on CBC Television.  Both he and Pauline had lost their respective mates in the last few years and had found friendship in each other through the Blomidon Naturalists Society.  Bernard told us that he is 77 and still climbing trees.  He has tagged more than 800 barred owls and routinely mounts owl boxes all over, to aid the owls in the nesting needs, now that old growth forests are not as prevalent as they once were.  Bernard kept us highly interested in the various and many conservation activities he takes part in, mainly he says, for fun!  He told us that Peregrines would have been in Wolfville due to it being on their flight path returning from the south.  That’s why I would hear them sometimes.  Mystery solved.  I made a mental note to let my friend Daisy know this.  She had wondered the same thing.

We asked Bernard if he happened to know our niece who had attended Acadia University and is now completing her masters in ornithology at York, Taylor Brown.  He said…. Yes, we met one day by chance at the eye doctor.  We were both bored and got to talking and then realized how much we have in common with regard to birding.

Dean and I were afraid to go back down the beach toward the nesting site but Pauline and Bernard assured us that we would be fine.  If we formed a group, they said, the falcons were unlikely to attack us.  I picked up a flat rock and used it as a helmet, to be extra sure.  Once near to but far beneath the nest, we were able to clearly see a proud, puffed-up Momma on the nest and a serene protective Dadda on a tree just a bit further on, standing guard.  Stoic.  Soon, Pauline exclaimed that she could see a fuzzy chick’s head moving just above the rim of the nest.  Time to leave them be, said Bernard.  They need to hunt and take care of necessary falcon parenting business and shouldn’t be interrupted too much.

On our way back up the beach, we were fully captivated by the many fascinating stories that Bernie told us about his adventures in ornithology, owl banding and nesting box mounting.  He would be called upon by Acadia University to take various students ‘under his wing’.  One such student was studying the murder of crows who would roost on Boot Island.  They would go to the island to study them together and so that Bernie could instruct the student in banding and other bird ways.

Bernard is also a wild-orchid enthusiast and counter.  We would have been at the Orchid Show at the Acadia University KC Irving centre in February when my sisters were visiting.  He pointed out that he studies and counts the wild ones though which he said involves a lot of hiking through the woods of Nova Scotia.

lady slippers
These were found on a hike with ‘The Bee Man’ Henry Hicks on his property in Halls Harbour

He then found us a highly interesting fossil of a fern and was bent over pointing at it as if he was in a teenager’s body.  This incredibly youthful senior man has done and still does many hikes and out-trips on his various conservation missions.  Now though most times with his friend Pauline by his side except when he is climbing trees.  At those times, she waits on the ground.  Both of them have a quick smile and a glint in their eye.  They are wise, vital, active, witty and incredibly interesting.  At one point, Pauline told me she wasn’t worried about the falcons dive-bombing because she was wearing blue and they don’t like blue.  Aren’t you lucky I said.  Why don’t they like blue? I asked. Only kidding she said.  She had me going and it was funny, we belted out a good laugh about that one!

Again, I felt completely privileged and indebted to these lovely folks of the Annapolis Valley where we now call our home.  They took a lovely day and made it even better, and… just by chance.

Only in The Valley.

Click here to read Part 1 (Reid’s Meats) and Part 2 (Dabro Farms).

 

(Peregrine picture was found on google images ~ thank you~ The other two are mine.)

Here’s another view of the area at low tide:

Just over the hill at Dabro Farms

We are big fans of really good, local, fresh food.ย  We aren’t fanatics about it, we just really appreciate it when it is offered and when we can get our hands on it fairly easily at a decent price.

Similar to the story about Reid’s Meats, Dabro Farm is just west a bit and is a family run farm, over the hill from our home with an honour-system market in a small barn.ย  It is surrounded by grazing cattle, sheep, chickens, the odd goat, geese and a couple of horses and donkeys, and the ever present Gaspereau River flowing lazily on by just across the paddock.

This one day, a few months ago, needing eggs, I rolled on over to the hill to Dabro after a sweet stroll in the sun along the canal with my then old furry girl-friend Lady Jane.

dabroArriving at the barn, set beside the country road, I parked and walked in.ย  The egg fridge was usually my first order of business as one grown son of mine is a true egg fan, eating two or three when he is over for breakfast.

Opening the fridge, I was shocked to find nary an egg when normally there were several dozen awaiting purchase.ย  Now, I didn’t let it bother me too much as I had the proprietor in my contacts on my cell.ย  We had taught his two sons how to drive years ago.ย  My trusty cell still held his phone number.ย  I quickly texted Shawn Davidson letting him know my predicament.ย  Somehow I knew that Shawn would be able to help.

I’ll be right there, he texted back lickety split.

Arriving in his pick-up truck from the other barn down the road, he dismounted and said, give me a sec.

He walked into the hen house and came out about two minutes later with a warm dozen of large brown eggs in a carton held open for me to inspect.ย  He had left his work at the other end of his farm and come to my aid instantaneously, to hand-pick just laid eggs out from under the feathered ladies in the hen house.ย  In my mind I was shaking my noggin gently thinking only in the valley.ย ย  Shawn began to apologize for not washing the eggs.ย  I told him to stop it as I gently pulled a warm brown egg into my palm.ย  It filled my palm completely.ย  A double-yoker for sure.ย  At breakfast it was confirmed.ย  Twin yokes.

Small farms are wonderful sustainable systems which employ families and provide good food to local folks with the circle of life working in a balancing act together.ย  A little bit of this and a little bit of that.ย  The manure from the livestock fertilizing the crops.ย  It reminds me of that scene in the Disney film Lion King when Mufasta explains to his son, Simba, that when he dies, his body becomes the grass.ย  The antelope eat the grass and later, become food for the lions.ย  Circle of life.ย  A delicate balance.ย  Done with respect.

dabro inside

So, to describe it further:ย  this particular farm market down in Gaspereau, has a few large fridges and freezers with various butcher-paper wrapped meats, poultry and pork, steaks, chops, bacon, ham and sausage as well as eggs.

There are also various other scrumptious offerings like home-made jams, jellies, relishes and pickles.ย  Not to mention baked goods, coffee by the cup, knitted socks, toques, mitts, candles, honey, garlic, ice-cream sandwiches which really hit the spot in the warm summer months, and a little library of novels.ย  All of these items are sold by honour-system.ย  There are no staff monitoring the market so, choose the goods, write them down in the little book. Insert cash into the cash box or send an etransfer.ย  Walk out the door and be careful of the roaming, foraging happy-go-lucky chickens.

Time for breakfast!

Thank you Shawn Davidson and family of Dabro Farms.ย  You will have noted a large contented smile on my face each time I have been in your market.ย  Only in the Valley.

 

(all pictures found on google images of Dabro Farms)

 

Amy Goes West in 1974

Amy waited all day in Gas Town for the money transfer to come through, seeing sights that made her head spin.ย  Men dressed as women.ย Gay lovers. Protests of every sort. The needle and the damage done.

When my sister Amy was almost 19, her friend convinced her to secretly hitch-hike out to Vancouver from southern Ontario, a trip of over 4000 kms one way.

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The young ladies stitched ‘VAN’ patches to their back packs and with straightened hair and bell bottoms, off they went: flower children off to find themselves.  (The prior year, my brother Matt had gone west with a buddy, hopping on and off rail cars.  It was a trendy thing to do then, to head West and to always ‘hit the ground running!’)

They were lucky to get rides in transport trucks with very attentive and caring knights of the highway who fed them and took them the extra mile to their destination.  They also took them on little side trips to Banff Springs Hotel and to the Okanagan Valley.  The gentlemen put the girls up in a hotel room of their own for two nights…sheer luxury and after four days they were dropped off in Vancouver at a hostel which the men paid for, for a night.  So generous!

The next day, the young women went to see Donna’s uncle in Port Alberni.  He gave them money to stay in a hostel for a further week so they could visit Wreck beach, Gas town and Stanley Park.

The friends walked all over the city seeing various vendors, musicians with tambourines and hippies everywhere as well as trans folks. Amy and Donna didn’t have a clue as to what they were seeing sometimes.

At Stanley Park in Vancouver, the sight there was not the best. The park was strewn with tons of garbage and many youth were strung out and laying around on the grass.  Some folks were meditating or in some sort of drug-induced trance. Everyone was friendly but, it wasn’t anything like what Amy and Donna expected.

At the hostel which was nice and clean and more wholesome, there was a kitchen with folks baking bread.  The meals there were mostly stews and bread.  Sitting in a circle at the hostel, everyone would share stories about where they came from.  There were many minstrel musicians and artists there with a general attitude of living on love, not working and being cool.

Walking through Vancouver one morning, seventeen-year old Donna saw a dance studio with a dancer in the window.  This dancer became her husband and they are still together today, going on to open a water-bed franchise and doing well on the water-bed trend of the eighties.  Remember that?  (Amy reminded me that she had two water beds in her apartment in the eighties where I lived while waiting to get into the army.  My husband Dean installed a waterbed in his residence room at university!)

In Gas town there were many people sitting on the sidewalk and shooting up and doing all manner of weirdness, almost like a mini Woodstock.  They seemed to be doing anything they wanted without a thought for the law.  Long hair, headbands, bare-chest, jeans, cut-off shorts, macrame belts with beaded tail a hanging down the thigh.

Georgie‘ girls would walk by in peasant blouses, long, flowing skirts and hair, floppy hat, beads, bracelets and anklets and Jesus sandals, patched and needle-pointed bell-bottom jeans and no makeup.  No bra.  Some wore moccasins and everyone had a backpack which identified them with sewn-on patches of their home town and of different places they had been. No cell phones. No email. No video games. No social media and no effing selfies. Just patches, music and spoken word. Imagine.

At the white-sand, nude Wreck Beach Amy recognized John from home who was sunbathing nude, stretched out on the fine, warm sand. Amy told him to throw a towel on if he wanted them to speak to him.

Soon the money ran out and Amy needed to get home.  From the ‘free’ phone at the Trans Union office, she called Mom and Dad and begged for airfare, mentioning that she didn’t even have money for food.  Back then, a student could fly across country for under a hundred dollars.

‘Our blond daughter is coming back from finding herself!  Wailed Dad to Mom.

Amy waited all day in Gas Town for the money transfer to come through, seeing sights that made her head spin.  Men dressed as women. Gay lovers. Protests of every sort. The needle and the damage done.

Back home to reality and work at A&W.  Dad and Mom had let Amy, Matt and Mark have the house that summer while they were at the lake for the summer.  Bad move as there were parties galore and the house was getting more and more weathered due to them.  In the seventies when the baby boomers were teens, there were just so many of them about that they took over every aspect of life.  They walked around in packs.  It’s hard to believe now in 2019, that they were ever that young.  The baby boomers are now aging and their vast numbers are taking over the assisted-living homes, seniors resorts and most of Florida. Stores are stocking more and more seniors’ needs: reading glasses, purple shampoo, compression hose, knee-braces, Epsom salts, sore muscle balm, soup and the like.

Anyhoo,  at home, Amy kept an eye-ball peeled for Donna’s dad who was the police chief. She thought she would be killed if he saw her as he was sure to blame Amy for the loss of his daughter to Vancouver…man.

Daisy

(Eva Player – daisy pic – and Google images..thanks again )

To My Furry Girl-friend

When you see my Lady, with the twinkle in her eyes, tell it to her softly and hold her if she cries. Tell her that I love her and I will till the day I die. Tell it to her gently when you tell her that I won’t be coming home again
~ Burton Cummings

How I shall miss you my best furry girl-friend of the last decade.

Every time I pulled my coat from the cupboard to turn around and you’d be there.ย  Tail wagging.ย  Wet nose smelling.ย  Long tongue lolling.ย  Eyes asking, me too, Mom?ย  If I told you not this time, you would turn and lay down.ย  Disappointed but disciplined. Stoic.

Every time, without fail, the cheese came out of the fridge.ย  From the far reaches of the house you came a trotting.

Running clothes on, Dad?ย  Let’s go, your body said.ย  I’m ready.

lady
Photo by Taylor Marie Brown, good friend of Lady Jane

Danger in our yard?ย  You would inform us with an important chuff or alarm bark, and make us feel safe, especially from the most feared: a cat!ย  You were ON it! But should a friend come by, there was nary a woof.ย  Not even if years had passed.

I see your water bowl, food bowl, your leash and collar, your tie-out rope, your bed of old blankets.ย  All are sad reminders of your doggy-ness.ย  Your unconditional love of us. Your pack whom you would protect, without question.

This morning I awoke and waited for your bedside greeting.ย  Every day for ten years your nose was there nudging my hand.ย  Your tail wagging us into a new day.ย  Walking to my office where you would take up your spot under my desk.ย  I would warm my feet under your furry belly.ย  Time to go home?ย  Up, shake, let’s go.

But the last months something was wrong.ย  A growth grew.ย  An infection.ย  Blood.ย  A smell that was full of not good.ย  Piddly pee.ย  Howling at the vet’s office – singing the song of your people, the Vet said.ย  Wagging tail stopped wagging and now clamped under to hold the foreign growth on your haunch.ย  You would sandwich yourself between my legs and the cupboard when I was chopping.ย  You would pant and pace.ย  You were not yourself.ย  Oh dear.ย  We would have to face it.ย  You were not feeling well, dear Lady, searching our faces with those pretty brown eyes.

Those hard days are over.ย  We have let you go.ย  We will not forget your sweet furriness and your wonderful doggy-ness.ย  You were love itself.

Lady Jane, 2 years old
Lady Jane, 2 years old

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(First and last photos by Martha Valiquette)

Bucket List in REVERSE, Baby! (and NOBODY puts Baby in a corner, remember?!) โณ๐Ÿ“œ๐Ÿ’ญ

We’re here for a good time
Not a long time
So have a good time
The sun can’t shine every day…
~Trooper

This is a concept I just heard on CBC radio.  The Reverse Bucket List is a list of times in your life that you would love to return to or that you are happy about or proud of or that taught a great lesson that you carry forward through your life.  So, looking back on your life for the best, most profound or impactful moments instead of always projecting that those moments need to happen in your future.  It is a method of making yourself happy for the accomplishments of your life thus far.  I realized, while writing my list below, that that is mostly what I am doing by writing this blog. I’m writing my reverse bucket list!

Here’s my list (with links to the stories that correspond).  No particular order except the first two are the top for a reason.

  1. Eloped to marry my best-friend and we are celebrated 26 years this year (2019);
  2. Had a son and stayed home to raise him for his first five years;
  3. Trekked for a month in Nepal in the Himalayas;
  4. Traveled by VW Van all over Canada, including the North West Territories and Yukon and into Alaska, visiting one national park in each province, territory and in Alaska;
  5. Hiked the 3-day Chilkoot Trail from Bennett, B.C. to Skagway, Alaska;
  6. Traveled and worked on a farm in Australia;
  7. Visited the Taj Mahal; and witnessed pilgrims bathing in the Ganges in India at dawn;
  8. Backpacked with our 4-year old throughout Mexico’s West Coast and most of Central America;
  9. Moved to a small Nova Scotian town without jobs and made our lives from scratch with our four-year old because we wanted him to be able to walk to school safely;
  10. Founded and incorporated a small education-services business that is now 13 years old and employs three others besides myself;
  11. Posted a listing on AirBnb and have hosted folks from all over the world;
  12. Started a school garden with a friend and made a blog about it and taught children how to sow, germinate, water, grow, harvest and save seeds from it;
  13. Had an eating disorder in my teens that gives me great compassion for that type of suffering today and a hope and am open to help others get over it;
  14. Lived and worked in Germany for three years and visiting most countries near there;
  15. Lived in Virginia, USA for two years then packed a large U-Haul and drove home to Canada and we were glad to be home (sorry American friends, no offence);
  16. Took a gondola ride in Venice and then got somewhat lost in its ancient twisty turny laneways;
  17. Drove from Germany into Czechoslovakia just after the 1989 removal of the Berlin wall and witnessed a country coming alive;
  18. Had three big dogs (not all at once) and a cat who were cherished as part of our family;
  19. Visited the Great Barrier Reef in Australia;
  20. Completed the PADI dive licence which was very difficult for me due to my claustrophobic tendencies.  (I no longer dive but I love to snorkel);
  21. Rappelled down a cliff on basic training in 1986 in Chilliwack, B.C. (9 PLATOON DOGS OF WAR!)Rappelling was terrifying to me due to a fear of height;
  22. Rappelled out of a helicopter on a special training day;
  23. Joined a group seven-day biking trip through France and gained a very sore bottom;
  24. Marched in the International Nijemgen Marches in Holland in 1989.  160 km over four days;
  25. Skied in the Swiss and the Austrian Alps;
  26. Own a house out-right with my husband;
  27. While living in the Arctic hand-built several high-fired, clay pots and still have some of them over 25 years later;
  28. Taught my son to speak American sign-language before he could speak;
  29. Was sporty and a scholar at school, for the most part;
  30. Completed Advanced Yoga Teacher Training at an ashram in the Bahamas;
  31. Taught yoga for several months then gave it up because it just didn’t suit me and it took a lot of courage to admit that;
  32. Joined a book club and read daily;
  33. Took several horse-archery ground training lessons and loved it;
  34. Mastered a hand-stand with no wall;
  35. Made yogurt from raw farm-fresh milk for years;
  36. Joined the Army and stayed in for 6 years, leaving honourably as a Captain;
  37. Completed Recruit Term at Military College in Sooke, B.C. and it was tough;
  38. Completed Off-Road driver training in the Army;
  39. Shot a fire-arm with fairly good accuracy, and cleaned it, stripped it and reassembled it blindfolded;
  40. Completed the Officer Challenge twice (only woman): 75 km trek over 24 hours with 18 mini-competitions, in combat gear;
  41. Was awarded the Sword of achievement for Junior Officer of the Year while in the army;
  42. Besides my first language of English, I can communicate somewhat in French, German, Spanish and American Sign-language;
  43. Studied dance for several years as a girl and still love to dance;
  44. Was a gymnast in elementary school and won a silver medal in a competition for the county;
  45. Have traveled by jet, helicopter, ferry, ship, sail boat, canoe, kayak, car, truck and train, including a train across most of Canada for days and into the heart of Australia on the Gahn;
  46. Hitch-hiked successfully in Canada and Australia;
  47. Witnessed flying foxes by the thousands in Australia;
  48. Have driven back and forth across Canada (several times) including solo enroute to Logistics training in the Army in 1988;
  49. Have been to all Provinces of Canada and two of the territories;
  50. Have lived and worked north of the 66th parallel, two hours North of the Arctic Circle;
  51. Was ‘Screeched In’ in Newfoundland where my husband is from;
  52. Hiked Gros Morne Mountain in Newfoundland and met curious Elk while on top of its tablelands;
  53. Sewed some clothing and curtains with a sewing machine, self-taught then decided I wouldn’t be doing that again;
  54. Learned how to cut a basic haircut from my sister;
  55. Met a harem of Bison in a National Park in Alberta;
  56. Miscarried my second son, late, which was heart-breaking but which helps me to cherish given life;
  57.  Learned how to read music and play piano and the flute;
  58. Met, hugged and kissed Deepak Chopra before he was very famous; and
  59. Love nature and simple times and love to laugh and be silly

Leave a comment with your top 5 or 10 Reverse Bucket List items…Come On….Go ahead.  I know you want to!!!

 

(picture of view from top of Gros Morne Mountain is from google images…thank you)

Only in The Valley ๐Ÿท Episode Reid’s Meats

One of those moments that I have come to cherish in this big valley we now call home…

Part 1. Reid’s Meats ๐Ÿ”ช

I walked into Reid’s Meats one afternoon on a mission to buy some ribs to cook up a feed, a feed we have only a couple of times per year.  Just every now and then I get that craving for fall-off-the-bone ribs.

I was the only soul in the place, other than the two brothers Conor, whom I always think of as the young guy with the dimples, and the older brother Michael, who is a more serious looking guy and all business (although I just called him and did get a chuckle out of him when attempting to get his email address, a long one).

Before I get further into the story, I need to give a description of the location of this meat shop.  It is set in a tiny crossroads called Melanson at the base of the rolling hills of Melanson Mountain with the Gaspereau River flowing past it, about ten minutes outside of Wolfville, Nova Scotia.  This shop is constantly busy cutting wild meats in a separate room all night and domestic meats all day.  When we first moved here, someone told us it was the best place for fresh cuts of meat.  Always on ‘the hunt’ for the best quality food, I found myself patronizing Reid’s Meats.  And, you’re about to read a good example of that.

Anyhoo,

Michael Reid asks me if he can help me.  I tell him I’d like some ribs.  He shoots back, ‘pork or beef?’

K, I didn’t even know beef ribs were an option.  I decided to stick with pork and told him so.

‘How much do you want?’

‘How ’bout six racks about this big,’ as I held up my hands measuring about half a foot between them, thinking of my large roasting pan and how much I could cram in there, knowing the left-overs would be scrumptious the next day.

‘Just a sec’ he says to me and then to Dimples, he says, ‘sharpen my knife.’

Receiving his orders from his older brother, Conor quickly and deftly started on sharpening the knife while Micheal walked into the back fridge.

A few seconds later…

a whole pig carcass, lead by Michael, came whizzing out of the fridge on a huge hook which was attached to a track in the ceiling.  Michael carefully guided the carcass into place.

‘Only in the Valley,’ I’m thinking as I blinked my eyes to ensure this wasn’t a figment of my imagination.  It wasn’t.  Geez, I wish I had the guts to start recording this.  I had been told this was fresh meat.  Got that right.

What happened next is that Michael butchered that pig right in front of me while it hung on the hook.  He had this food-grade chain saw and a couple of different frightfully sharp knives, thanks to little brother, that he used to expertly and efficiently carve that meat, not wasting an ounce.

In a few minutes, while I watched with my jaw hitting the floor, he was smacking those fresh ribs down on the reddish-brown paper positioned on the stainless steel counter in front of me, his eyes meeting mine seeking approval to go ahead and wrap them up. Not on a styrofoam tray with plastic wrap and absorbent pad.  No, in the old-fashioned reddish butcher paper and beige tape that he moistened using a small, wheeled ceramic device with water in its tiny reservoir.

My mind reeled, for a moment, back to the endless summer days at the camp and of ‘Jake’s General Store‘ in Maggie River before the god-awful fire that burnt it to the ground.  Back when we would ride to town in the back of a pickup or walk there, barefoot, with a shiny quarter in sweaty little hands.  The butcher at Jake’s was as impressive and the cuts of meat were beautiful.  The ground beef was ground there in front of you from beef that you chose.  Then, the butcher would reach up and grab the string which was in a creaking pulley system attached to the ancient ceiling.  The package of meat would be wound with this string and his black oil pencil would scratch out the price on it while my large eyes watched in fascination, my fingers gripping the edge of the glass display case, my chin not yet clearing its edge. I could almost taste the burgers that we would have for supper, cooked by Mom outside the office on the grill, perched in the very rocks which formed the foundation of the cabin.  Cooked over charcoal, started with ‘strike anywheres‘ and yes, always with a wee hint of lighter fluid, lending an added ‘je-ne-sais-quois’ to the burger.

More than a few decades later and back to Reid’s Meats…

I just basically nodded profusely at the pile of freshly butchered pork ribs with a big wide smile.  I was feeling so thankful to be a part of such a great community where food is so wonderfully fresh and plentiful and the skill to handle it is still so present and of such a human scale.

Thank you, Reid’s Meats for carrying on a tradition and a family-run business providing this kind of quality for four decades.  This Upper Canadian come-from-away is one satisfied customer.

PIG

Coming soon: Part 2, Dabro Farms honour-system farm market

(Pictures found on google images…thank you.)