Posted in Book Review

My Bookcase

kilnQuick Note

Last week, I was asked to list my top ten books on the Geography of Canada. The results appear in a blog for GoGeomatics. You can link to this site from here. (see entry for November 13 on the right-hand side).

Meanwhile, I am expecting Alex Cole, Little Foot Yurts here tomorrow.
He has been coppicing the red maple for yurt poles, and he plans to reignite his charcoal kiln over the next two days.


Jon Murphy for his continued interest in things ‘geographic’. Alex Cole for his pursuit of traditional woodland skills. Instagram: @littlefootyurts
Edward inserted the image for me.

Posted in Event Review

The Climate Action Summit

The Municipality of Annapolis hosted a Climate Action Summit at Cornwallis Park on Saturday. There were over one hundred and fifty citizens in attendance. Overnight snow greeted us, as we drove down Highway #101 to Deep Brook.banner_ClimateChangeWorkshopThe day was structured into three parts:

a) keynote presentations from the Municipality and COGS;
b) community presentations;
c) specific breakout groups after lunch.

The keynotes were Timothy Habinski, Gregory Heming and Ed Symonds. Timothy emphasizes the need for action rather than talk ‘Be brave and be kind’.
Gregory reviewed a number of past actions by the county, including the municipal climate change action plan, the forestry review and economic development 2050. Themes included local agriculture, local energy, housing, education and training, clean air, water and soil. The move towards the third Industrial revolution: the restorative economy and right livelihood. Ed described his work at COGS and in particular the role of community mapping.

Community presentations were made by Medway Community Forest Cooperative, Acadian Seaplants, Bruce Family Farm, Nikian Farm, CARP, SNBRA, Centrelea Community Centre, the Red Cross and citizens concerned about plastics.

After an excellent buffet lunch, the afternoon was the opportunity to go into more depth. The discussion groups included energy resilience, displaced persons, crisis response, natural climate solutions, food independence. Given the inaction of the McNeil government on forestry, my interest was to understand and receive an update from Extinction Rebellion  (XR) (Nina Newington) and the Healthy Forest Coalition (Donna Crossland).

By 4 pm, the enormity of the agenda and the cool temperatures in the Conference Centre forced an early retreat to the warmth of the woodstove back in Paradise.

There were a number of takeaways from the day.

1) there is an impressive number of engaged citizens in Annapolis County.
2) from the discussion on climate forestry, there is a need for private woodlots owners to think more about the economic dimensions of land trusts.
3) from a creative ‘humour ‘ perspective, I loved the concept from XR,
‘where is Stephen ?’ campaign. Right now, he is in China!
4) there is potential for a network of solar-powered community centres to mitigate climate risk

bookCover_rootedInTheLandThinking about the complexity of the climate change agenda, and our inability to comprehend the interaction between the discussion topics in the afternoon; on returning home, looking for solace, I pulled down off the bookshelf Rooted in the Land edited by William Vitek and Wes Jackson. Essays on community and place. Published in 1996. Almost twenty-five years ago.

I would recommend the essay by David Orr, ‘Re-Ruralizing Education’. He starts with this quotation from Will Rogers:

“It ain’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble.
It’s what we know that ain’t right.”

Another essay, in the same book, which struck a chord, by Eric Zencey, ‘The Rootless Professors’.

At the follow-up Summit in 2020, I look forward to seeing positive action and further celebration of rural Nova Scotia.


Thanks to Roger Mosher, Bill Crossman and Heather Stewart for their company.
To the Municipality for organizing the Summit. And all the engaged citizens.
Edward for his graphics contribution. Larry Powell for his encouragement with the blog.


William Vitek and Wes Jackson(Ed). 1996. Rooted in the Land. Essays on Community and Place. Yale University Press.

Posted in Book Review, Event Review

Tantramar Marshes

This week, Heather and her Dad had an appointment at the Cumberland County Genealogy Centre in Amherst. They wanted to research the history of the Stewart and Ross families in the region. It gave me a wonderful opportunity to check out the bookstores in Sackville and Amherst.

bookCover_cultureAndAgricultureAt the Tidewater Books and Browsery, I found a small book by Graeme Wynn. Graeme is Professor, Geography at UBC. The book, Culture and Agriculture on the Tantramar Marshes is based on his M.A thesis at the University of Toronto. It describes the utilization of the Chignecto Marshlands between 1750-1800, the Acadian settlement, the Planters and the Yorkshire and Loyalist influxes.

Wynn is also the co-editor, with Colin Coates, of The Nature of Canada. This is a recent publication, which I picked up on my travels to BC this Summer.

Returning to Amherst, I stopped at Dayle’s Grand Market.bookCover_seasVoice I had noticed on a previous visit that they had a good selection of books by Harry Thurston, who lives at Tidnish Bridge. This time, I purchased Animals of my own kind: new and selected poems and The Sea’s Voice: An Anthology of Atlantic Canadian Nature Writing. Two poems caught my eye. Chimney Swifts and Geography: on first discovering Elizabeth Bishop in a used bookstore in Manhattan. Heather had been part of the CARP chimney swift monitoring program in Bridgetown this Summer.
The Geography poem is dedicated to Sandra Barry, friend and writer living in Middleton.

The anthology includes excerpts from Joshua Slocum, Harold Horwood, Peter Sanger, David Adams Richards and Harry Thurston.

On our way home, we stopped for a late lunch at the Masstown Market. What an amazing example of entrepreneurship!

bookCover_artOfLoadingBrushOne last literary reference. Last Summer in Langley, BC I was reading Wendell Berry’s The Art of Loading Brush. It was a library book and I did not get to finish it. Last week, it arrived in Lawrencetown through inter-Library loan. As we were travelling to Amherst and New Glasgow, I was able to read Berry’s new agrarian writings. It is a combination of essays, stories and poetry. In the ‘stories’ section, I read ‘The Order of Loving Care’. It starts as follows.

“By now many of Andy Catlett’s mentors and old schoolmates among the writers, in Kentucky and elsewhere, have left the visible world to take their places only in the convocation of his mind. With that company of friends, while it lasted, he carried on a many-branched conversation that he had grown into and so had grown up in his trade.” p.179.

Check out the story: page 179-216.


Heather and John Stewart for their company on the road trip. The independent bookseller, Tidewater Books (see their bookmark below).

‘We employ local independent thinkers, artists, writers, musicians all with their unique point of view. Money spent at our store goes to support these important members of our community’.

Edward for his graphics contribution. Edward and Anne Wedler were previously owners of the independent bookstore, The Inside Story in Greenwood.


Graeme Wynn. 2012. Culture and Agriculture on the Tantramar Marshes. Tantramar Heritage Trust.
Colin Coates and Graeme Wynn (Ed) 2019.The Nature Of Canada. OnPoint Press.
Harry Thurston. 2009. Animals of my own kind. Signal Edition.
Harry Thurston (Ed) 2005. The Sea’s Voice: An Anthology of Atlantic Canadian Nature Writing. Nimbus Press.
Wendell Berry. 2017. The Art of Loading Brush: New Agrarian Writings. Counterpoint Press.

Posted in Opinion

Communities of Interest

We all possess a ‘community of place’. In my case, it is civic address #6326 on Highway #201, just beyond the Lawrencetown village boundary. In essence, it could be called East Paradise. The nearest community is Lawrencetown.map_lawrencetownNS_6325Hwt201

We also belong to ‘communities of interest’. These start with the land. As operators of a certified organic orchard, we have an interest in organic farming. Last week, we attended a meeting of the Organic Council of Nova Scotia. This is a group of producers and processors who have been certified according to organic farming standards. To gain recognition as an interest group, we need to work with the Department of Agriculture to ensure that this perspective is represented in the province.

A second ‘community of interest’ is the small private woodlots owners. Again, we need to work with the Department of Lands and Forestry to ensure that this voice is heard.

With access to communications technology, it is easier for these ‘communities of interest’ to share their views and values with the wider society. Government agencies can support input from these communities through website development, membership lists and maps showing the availability of their products.

The challenge lies in the identification of these ‘communities of interest’, at a time when our ‘communities of place’ are at risk. There are, however encouraging signs. In Lawrencetown, we see significant leadership with the new health centre, as well as the expansion of CRIA business activities in the village. This weekend in Annapolis Royal, CARP hosted an educational event with Solar Nova Scotia. Next weekend, the Municipality is hosting a Climate Change Summit at Cornwallis Park.

To address the challenges ahead, we need to change the mechanisms whereby different levels of government work with communities of interest. We need to be more effective in the application of new technology for better public education, as well as more informed political decision making.


Rachel Brighton for her comments on ‘communities of interest’. Organics Nova Scotia for their interesting meeting. Solar Nova Scotia for their excellent educational forum.


Solar Nova Scotia website
Climate Action Summit website.

Posted in Opinion

Old Ways

This Thursday, we walked with Rocky and Debby Hebb from our house down to the Annapolis River,

Oct 24 2019 (9)

through to the old Lawrencetown Tree Nursery, and up to Lunn’s Mill for lunch. The old roads run through the mixed oak/maple/pine woods along the Annapolis River. On the nursery land, you can still see evidence of different tree-planting experiments.

If Stephen McNeil was serious about forestry practices in Nova Scotia, one strategy would be to reinvent the network of tree nurseries across the province. We will need more trees in the future.

banner_SteveSkafteEarlier in the week, we attended a talk, hosted by the Middleton Historical Society at the MacDonald Museum. Steve Skafte talked about the ‘lost roads of Nova Scotia’. He combined his interest in poetry and photography. Steve has self-published a number of books and maintains a tumbler site on the Internet.

Here are a couple of diary entries, to give a flavour of his work.

“October 21, 2019, South Williamson.

“Jerusalem Road.
The definition of a backwoods adventure is always the same to me. A tree-lined lane, narrowly crowded by branches meeting overhead. A natural arbor, bordered in by some geography. Hillsides, stream and hollow are what I’m after, difficulties to keep loggers at bay.”

“October 16, 2019, Arlington West

The time has passed for hippies and draft dodgers, forest farmers, deep daydream ‘North Mountain hippies’ as Spider Robinson called them. In the woods they left well-lived, crumbling remnants, and some unfinished projects like this one.”

Check his tumbler site for more inspiration.

For a darker perspective on lost roads, try Christy Ann Conlin’s short story ‘Full Bleed’ in her recent book collection Watermark.

Debby Hebb for her photographs. Steve Skafte for his diary entries.
Edward Wedler added the graphics. Heather, Rocky and Debby were my walking companions.


Steve Skafte. Go to steveskafte.tumblr.com1

Posted in Art, Event Review, New thinking

AI in Plein Air Art

My goal at the recent Art Impact AI workshop held in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, was to see how AI (Artificial Intelligence) might play a role in plein air art. The workshop was headed by Valentine Goddard and Jerrold McGrath.

The participant numbers were of a convenient size that we could delve into the subject matter at some depth. What struck me first was the diversity of backgrounds in attendance — from wood sculptor to theatre-savvy software developer, from cellular biologist to explorers of biologic/geologic forms, from filmmaker to former art director. But we all had the creative artistic mind and AI interest in common.

I learned all sorts of AI concepts such as Neural Networks, Machine Learning, CV, and Deep Learning, and dominant AI values such as transparency, fairness, accountability, and more. We were shown a book entitled Neural Networks for Babies by Fernie and Kaiser. We played games to immerse ourselves in the mechanism of AI thinking. “Finding the Criminal” game taught us about the significance of algorithm development, application, confidence, bias, and use/abuse. That type of game, upon later discussions with filmmaker Kimberly Smith from Canning, could have implications in his Movie Games project.

So, how does AI apply to my plein air art world? In the short term, I do not see AI having immediate impact. I do see where AI has the potential for the visual artist; playing a role in my art, down the road, as mentor, coach, teacher and critic. I do not see AI in art as something to be feared. I see AI as something to augment the creative learning process and development of the human artist — where AI and human collaborate.

In plein air art that AI augmentation also includes the process of seeing and interpreting the geography that surrounds us as an artist.

Participants in the Art Impact AI Dartmouth workshop, for their lively and insightful discussions.
Valentine Goddard and Jerrold McGrath for heading the Art Impact AI workshop.


Neural Networks for Babies, by Chris Ferrie and Dr Sarah Kaiser,  Sourcebooks, March 2019
Movie Games, by Kimberly Smith

Posted in New thinking

It is Time

This week, we received an invitation to the Annapolis County Climate Action Summit, scheduled for Cornwallis Park on November 9th.banner_ClimateChangeWorkshop I also received email from Brian Arnott that Robert MacFarlane will be on CBC Sunday Morning with Michael Enright. (see the previous blog)

The questions from County are:

1) what climate changes are you most concerned about in Annapolis County?
2) have you identified any solutions?
3) what local action (both individual and collective) and resources are needed to achieve these solutions?
4) are you willing to be a climate action ambassador for your neighbourhood?

Last night, the Federal Riding of West Nova elected Conservative Chris d’Entremont to represent us in Ottawa.

All of these questions suggest that it is time. Time to recognize the abilities of all citizens in the region. To hear their voices. It is time for the educational and research institutions to step up and contribute to our understanding of the issues (see, for example, a AGRG-developed Emergency Coastal Flooding Decision Support System, test result below).

Floodtide prediction and coastal inundation query 6:00am 23Oct2019 at Wolfville, Nova Scotia

In the 1980’s we renamed the Land Survey Institute to the College of Geographic Sciences. We recognized that there were many new technologies available to manage our geography. If we are going to have three levels of government deciding on the future of the landscape and its use/abuse. Let us work from a common shared digital representation of that landscape and its climate.

It is time to remind the educational institutions that educators when they retire they do not stop contributing to the thinking in their chosen discipline. In other cultures, there is recognition of these educators/elders.

20190927_114423It is time to realize that the movement of individuals from elsewhere in Canada, or other countries, to Annapolis County is positive. It is time to stop thinking that more citizens who have reached retirement (arbitrarily, say 65 years) is negative. It is positive.

Living in rural Nova Scotia, where it is possible to grow your own food, is positive.

So let’s answer the county’s questions.

1) What climate changes are you most concerned about in Annapolis County?
No specific change. Rather our ability to be well-informed, able to make the necessary adaptation, and have emergency preparedness action plans.

2) Have you identified any solutions?
Yes. Full engagement of educational institutions. Access to shared community information on our environment, land use, ocean use, demographics.

3) What local action and resources are needed?
Resources to maintain the existing climate network and a community information utility.

4) Are you willing to be a climate action ambassador?
Yes. If this includes education and research of our representatives, citizens and educational institutions.

It is time for citizens to demand more from our representatives, institutions and ourselves.


To many friends and colleagues in the county, Nova Scotia, Canada and elsewhere.Edward added the excellent graphics and is pleasure to collaborate on this blog.
AGRG, Emergency Coastal Flooding Decision Support System.
Climate Change in Nova Scotia.


Annapolis County Climate Action Summit. November 9,2019 at Cornwallis Park.

Posted in Article Review, New thinking

The Language of Place

I have enjoyed the writing of Robert MacFarlane for several years.


This week, I received notice of a new web site: Emergence Magazine. It includes a podcast interview with the author: Speaking the Anthropocene.

RM. “Language and landscape are the two braids that have twined and untwined in my life, and in my writing to this point. I teach in a literature department but really, I think I’m a bit more of a geographer these days.”

EM. “In Landmarks, is the idea that the words assembled in your book are a possibility of how we can re-wild our contemporary language for landscape. You described that as being the hope, so to speak.”

In Landmarks, MacFarlane provides a series of glossaries for different landscapes: flatlands, uplands, waterlands, coastlands, underlands, northlands, edgelands, earthlands, woodlands.

bookCover_SodsSoilSpadesThis discussion of the Language of Place took me back to my bookshelf. For Nova Scotia, I retrieved Sherman Bleakney’s book Sods, Soils and Spades: The Acadians at Grand Pre and their dykeland legacy. The word that triggered this search was aboiteau and its role in dykeland construction.

A second Nova Scotian author was Peter Sanger. In particular, I had enjoyed Spar: words in place ( check my blog Place in Words, October 31, 2018).

From time spent on Haida Gwaii, I found a back copy of Haida Laas, the newsletter of the Haida nation. (December 2015).BookCover_HaidaLassDec2015

Thinking in Haida. With a slip of the tongue describes a Haida language class. The class is studying Massett Songs, a collection of songs and stories recorded by anthropologist John R. Swanson and translated by John Enrico.

“Xaad Kil is highly directional, the language is constantly creating a picture of motion and place. Xaad Kil prioritized things like wind direction, water currents and one’s own relative location to the ocean.

“ Lost in translation.
Xaad Kil (Haida) Sahgwii ltl
Literal English
Upstream- Direction I’m going.
Colloquial English
I’m going up town


To get downtown from Gaaw, you must travel upstream along Gaaw Kaahli (Massett Inlet). That’s why we say uptown and not downtown like city people. Explained by Rev. Lily Bell.”

Here is my thesis: the language of Place is shaped by the specific geography, e.g. Nova Scotia or British Columbia. It is also shaped by the rules of the language, in this case, either Haida or English.

Regardless of the language, we need to understand the underlying processes, i.e. landscape ecology. In Nova Scotia, we are influenced by our position on the North American continent; the different air masses and ocean currents. These influences are changing within the context of the climate crisis.

I would love to believe that changing our language would help. In practice, we have to deepen our understanding of the landscape, it’s history, ecology and the associated processes.


Edward Wedler and Heather Stewart for their thoughtful conversations.


Emergence Magazine.
J.Sherman Bleakney. 2004. Sods, soil and spades. McGill Queens Press.
Haida Laas.Newsletter of the Council of the Haida Nation. December 2015. p.8
Peter Sanger. 2002. Spar: words in place. Gaspereau Press
Robert Maher. ernestblairexperiment blog. October 31, 2018. Place in words.

Posted in Article Review, Book Review

Somewhere/ Anywhere

This weekend, we spent Thanksgiving in New Glasgow. While there, I had the chance to browse a book by Tim Marshall, The Age of Walls.brexitWalls This is his third book in the Politics of Place series. It includes chapters on walls in China, the United States, Israel and Palestine, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Africa, Europe and the United Kingdom. Of particular interest was the chapter on the UK and its relationship to the Brexit vote. Looking at the map of voters who want to stay in the European Union and those who want to leave. Scotland, Northern Ireland, some of the cities in England want to stay whereas ‘rural’ England want to leave the EU.

bookCover_roadToSomewhereMarshall quotes from the book by David Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere. According to Goodhart, there are ‘people who see the world from anywhere’ and ‘ people who see the world from somewhere’. It seems that it is that part of the population who see the world from somewhere who want to leave the EU.

Another Marshall quotation is taken from George Orwell’s essay The Lion and the Unicorn, written in the early ’40s.

“England is perhaps the only great country where the intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality”.

Given the absence of Conservative and Liberal candidates at our local climate change debate last week, it was fortuitous that the Saturday, Chronicle Herald had a full page on the candidates from West Nova: Chris d’Entremont (Conservative), Jason Deveau (Liberal), Matthew Dubois (NDP) and Judy Green (Green).

For West Nova, the ‘somewhere’ in this case, the bottom line expressed by the candidates.
Conservative: resource industries and rural jobs
Liberal: health care, international trade in lobster
NDP: climate change
Green: poverty

Note. Gloria Cook, Veterans Coalition did not provide a profile.

Let me try to ‘join the dots’. If in Marshall’s words, we are ‘prisoners of Geography’. What can we say about West Nova in terms of the impact of place? Do we agree with our federal candidates? In Nova Scotia rural communities what is the balance between somewhere and anywhere? Are we talking about nested scales of geographic viewpoint?


John Stewart for access to his library book The Age of Walls.John DeMont for his column ‘NDPer running without much hope’ in Chronicle Herald, Saturday, October 12th. p. A13. Edward for adding the graphics.


Tim Marshall. 2018. The Age of Walls: How barriers between nations are changing the world. Scribner.
Chronicle Herald. Saturday, October 12, 2019. page A13.

Posted in Event Review, Opinion

Wearing the Land

bookCover_uncommonCommonArt2019In Wolfville earlier this week, I picked up the brochure for Uncommon Common Art. The theme for 2019 is ‘Wearing the Land’. From the curatorial statement by Bonnie Baker:

‘We wear the Land with the marks of our occupation. Habits of movement and occupation wear paths across terrain. In shaping the land, the land also shapes us. How we occupy and move through the landscape impresses itself on our imagination, our minds, our identities as well as our bodies. We build relationships to the land through traditional knowledge, beliefs, memories, kinship and use’

bookCover_islandWithinAt the Blue Griffin used bookstore in Middleton, I found Richard Nelson’s book The Island Within. Nelson is a cultural anthropologist. From the Preface:

“As time went by, I also realized that the particular place I’d chosen was less important than the fact I’d chosen a place and focussed my life around it.” p xii.

Yesterday, Brian Arnott visited us from Lunenburg. The topic for discussion was ‘small communities in rural Canada’ (see 100 Ways of being a Small Community). Brian has read Joseph Weiss’ book on Shaping the Future on Haida Gwaii and was interested in hearing more about the role that the Haida played in community development. Both Heather and I had enjoyed a year on the island.

As part of the visit, I offered a field trip to Lawrencetown. We looked at a number of recent developments: Shakes on Main restaurant run by the Carleton Road Industries Association (CRIA), the WineMakers Tavern and the new health clinic, being built near the Library. Finally, a look at the new residence at COGS, we then retreated to Lunn’s Mill for a beer, lunch and stories of Haida Gwaii.

Last night, the Extinction Rebellion organized a climate change panel for local candidates in the upcoming federal election at the Bridgetown Legion. After an introductory overview by Haig Vaughan, we have questions for the NDP, the Veterans Coalition party and the Green Party. But the most telling discovery of the evening was that neither the Liberal nor the Conservative candidate showed up for the debate.

In response to Brian’s question about rural communities, I return to Richard Nelson.

“Since coming to the island, I have sought perspective from some very old ideas, ideas that have guided the relationship between people and their natural surroundings through most of human history, ideas that have been recounted in many places, many traditions, and over many centuries.”p.xii.


Brian Arnott for his inquiry into rural communities. Heather Stewart for creating the Haida Gwaii experience. Edward for his sharing his graphic skills.


Uncommon Common Art web site
Richard Nelson. 1991. The Island Within. Vintage Books.
Joseph Weiss. 2018. Shaping the Future on Haida Gwaii: Life beyond settler colonialism. UBC Press.