Posted in Book Review, New thinking

Repurposing the rail lines

In response to my last blog, Andrew Ronay in England reminded me that they had repurposed the Battersea Power Station in London.banner_BatterseaPowerStation Over the weekend, I have been reading a draft of Brian Arnott’s book Going to Town: the small town as micropolitan centre in the age of climate change. It should be published in 2020.pictou

One of Brian’s themes is the impact of the automobile on towns and cities.

Reflecting on the future of small towns in Nova Scotia, in an era of climate change, repurposing of the railway network would significantly reduce the impact of cars. Indeed, the railbed already exists.endOfTheLinePub

Of course, we may have to rename The End of the Line Pub in Bridgetown, especially, if there was high-speed rail between Halifax and Yarmouth.

This week, I walked down highway #201 to chat with Dave Whitman. Dave is both an author and a publisher. I was seeking his advice on the best approach to publishing my blogs. I have written over one hundred and sixty in the last two years at My fear was that a technology failure would erase the collection. It looks like I can find a solution, using the expertise of Kyle at Bridgetown Computers, and the folks at Integrity Printing.bookCover_Overstory

In addition to my books from Toronto, Heather purchased The Overstory by Richard Powers. From the back cover, Robert MacFarlane:

‘Dazzlingly written …… Powers is as brilliant on trees and arborescence as he has been in past novels on music, AI, and neuroscience’.

It looks at human lives in North America from the perspective of different tree species. Made me think about the voice of those species that are the remnants of the Acadian forest.


Heather for buying a copy of The Overstory. Andrew for his thoughts on repurposing. Brian for sharing a draft of his forthcoming book. Edward for the graphics. Dave Whitman for his timely advice.


Brian Arnott. Going to Town. The small town as micropolitan centre in the age of climate change. Expect to be published in 2020.
Richard Powers.2018. The Overstory: A Novel. W.W. Norton and Company.
Battersea Power Station. Check website.

Posted in New thinking

Repurposing the Northern Pulp mill

While in Toronto, we visited the Don Valley Brick Works Park.donValleyBrickworksPark

‘From 1889-1989 the Don Valley Brick Works was the location of a thriving brick making and distribution industry in the heart of Toronto. The City of Toronto began restoration in 1995 with the generous support of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation’.

Today, the park includes a garden market, a school, future cities centre, as well as the Weston Family Quarry Garden.

Just before Christmas, Stephen McNeil upheld the government decision on Boat Harbour and hence the impact on the Northern Pulp Mill.bookCover_theMill

Can we use this decision to repurpose the mill facility?

Can we take the opportunity to signal to the world the change in Nova Scotia’s Forest industry?

Initially, the focus will be on the necessary steps to clean up the impact on the terrestrial and marine environment. We could showcase the history of the industry (Baxter 2017) leading up to this momentous decision. Parts of the mill could be refurbished to illustrate the new forestry practices. In the spirit of the Brick Works Park, the site would include a mix of educational and tourist facilities, compatible with the new thinking.

The new vision would emphasize the relationship between Nova Scotians and their marine and terrestrial environment. It would demonstrate the inclusiveness of the different communities in the region. To support the new vision will require input from all sectors of society: the communities, government, private corporations and non-profit organizations. As we make progress on the cleanup, there will be a new story to be told. That story is a new vision and shows a real change in our relationship to the environment.


Heather Stewart, a former resident of New Glasgow, and passionate advocate for our ecosystems. Edward Wedler, a firm believer, in the power of communication technology.


Don Valley Brick Works Park. Web site:
Joan Baxter. 2017. The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest. Pottersfield Press.

Posted in biographical sketch

Country Mouse / City Mouse

This year for the festive season we visited family in Ontario. After flying into Billy Bishop City airport we ended up taking the GO train to Oshawa, and eventually north of Peterborough to the cottage country of the Kawartha Lakes. It was time to find our previous family homes from the 1990s in Peterborough and to remember canoe trips, North of the city.

bookCover_palacesForThePeopleThe second week, we came back down to Scarborough and Toronto. This meant purchasing a Presto card and negotiating the links between the streetcars and the subway system. It is over fifty years since I had been immersed in this urban geography: walking down Yonge Street, visiting the Eaton Centre, window shopping at the Hudson Bay company, staying at the Chelsea Hotel.

On Sunday, we walked around the Don Valley Brick Works Park and visited the Future Cities Centre. Found a couple of interesting books on urban living. Eric Klinenberg, Palaces for the People. How social infrastructure can help fight inequality, polarization and the decline of city life. I liked this quotation.

“Social infrastructure provides the setting and context for social participation, and the library is among the most critical form of social infrastructure that we have”. p.32

bookCover_walkableCitySecond, Jeff Speck‘s book Walkable City. How downtown can save America, one step at a time. He has ten steps from ‘putting cars in their place’ to ‘plant trees’. Later in the week, we dropped into BMV, a second-hand bookstore and I found Zipp and Storring (Ed) Vital Little Plans: The Short Works of Jane Jacobs.

Within Greater Toronto, there are several YMCAs. This gave me a chance to address an old knee injury. So we went to an AquaFit class with my brother. Now, on my return to the Annapolis Valley, I must see what is available at the Fundy YMCA in Cornwallis Park.

For our last night in Toronto, we stayed at the Strathcona Hotel, which is near Billy Bishop airport.bookCover_ageingInEverydayLife There, I found a collection of essays, edited by Stephen Katz. He was Professor, Sociology at the Trent Centre for Aging and Society. The book is Ageing in Everyday Life: Materialities and Embodiments.

“The authors of this book have backgrounds in social gerontology, geography, feminism, the humanities, social work, sociology, health and dementia studies which gives this diverse and interdisciplinary group critical access to the immediate world in which we live, the bodies we know and touch, and both the real and fantastic realms of existence with which we engage.” P.10

The country mouse has returned to the country. There is a significant stack of books to read, while the snow blows across the fields. The dogs will need to be walked. The orchard pruned. Visits to the nearest swimming pool. New technology to be mastered – common in the city, less so in the country.


Thanks to our extended family and friends for helping with our transition to city living. Patrick, Emily and family in Peterborough. Peter, my brother for the AquaFit experience. Carole, Jason and family, Julia and family for their generous hospitality in Toronto. Heather for her company and support. Edward for his contribution.


Eric Klinenberg.2018. Palaces for the People. Broadway Books.
Jeff Speck.2012. Walkable City. North Point Press.
Samuel Zipp and Nathan Storring. (Ed) 2016. Vital Little Plans: The Short Works of Jane Jacobs. Random House.
Stephen Katz (Ed) 2018. Ageing in Everyday Life. Policy Press.


There are some take-home messages. The city mouse walks much more than the country mouse. There is much greater access to diverse facilities in the city: YMCA, theatres, libraries, universities, shopping centres, restored industrial space.

Posted in Opinion

Little Libraries

Little libraries have popped up across the country. On Haida Gwaii, there is one along the roadside between Queen Charlotte and the ferry terminal. In the Annapolis Valley, they can often be found in banks and post offices.

bookCover_voluntarySimplicityToday, I picked up Duane Elgin’s Voluntary Simplicity at the Bridgetown post office. Seems like a good message for 2020!

“Voluntary Simplicity. Towards a way of life that is outwardly simple, inwardly rich”.

Merry Christmas and a Happy, (Simple) New Year.


Thank you to the followers of my blog. Edward for his feedback. Heather for her patience and support.


Duane Elgin. 1993. Voluntary Simplicity. Revised Edition.Quill, William Morrow, New York.

Posted in Book Review, Event Review

Arts Space

glennPatschaTrioMusique Royale brought the Glenn Patscha Trio to the Dawn Oman Art Gallery in Bridgetown on Friday, December 13th. The trio included Glenn Patscha on piano, Tom Roach on drums and Larry Bjornson on bass. It was a unique setting surrounded by the rich colours of Dawn Oman’s art. To complement the experience, I picked up a book. Have Yourself a Silly Little Christmas, self-published by Bob Bent, with illustrations by Andrea Wood. So far, I have only read ‘The North Pole is Melting’; a story of four children visiting Santa Klaus at the North Pole, including David Suzuki. Today, it speaks well to the ‘climate crisis’.

Friday, 13th. Black Friday. Following the election of Boris Johnson, Conservative in the UK. The resignation of Andrew Scheer, Conservative Leader in Canada. From The Reader, on this date, Emily Carr was born in 1871 in Victoria, BC.

bookCover_haveYourselfSillyLittleXmasBob Bent’s book put these events into their proper perspective. It was only the day before (12th.) we had Kevin from Stanton installing the racks for solar panels on the south-facing roof. Ernie was at the house, removing a large ash tree, which threatened the roof. Now, it has added to our winter wood supply. Down below, on Andrew’s property, Alex Cole, Silas and Rick were unpacking charcoal and tidying up coppiced wood. Eventually, we may be able to produce Biochar to enhance our garden fertility.

It is truly remarkable that on a dark evening, we can head to Bridgetown and enjoy an arts space, far removed from the political agenda.

snowFlakesWith Bob Bent’s book in our suitcase, we can enjoy a Silly Little Christmas with grandchildren in Ontario. Best wishes for the Christmas season. I look forward to 2020 with its music, art and books.


To Rick Ketcheson for reminding us about Musique Royale. To the Reader, for memories of Haida Gwaii (Emily Carr). Bob Bent and Andrea Wood for a children’s perspective on Christmas. Edward Wedler for his steadfast support.
Roger Mosher for his valued conversations at the End of the Line pub on Friday evenings.


Bob Bent and Andrea Wood. 2013. Have Yourself a Silly Little Christmas. Self- published.

Meanwhile, from up North, this gorgeous-day, “dog team selfie” came in from my son, Andrew Maher.


Posted in biographical sketch

An English Weekend

We went to New Glasgow for the weekend. After a beautiful drive through the Rawdon Hills we arrived in time for supper at the East Side Family Restaurant; followed by a movie at the Cineplex. We watched The Good Liar starring Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen.

It was fun to go to the cinema. In Paradise, the nearest movie theatre is a one hour drive to New Minas.

bookCover_thisMessSaturday morning we walked across town to the Farmers Market. Afterwards, we stopped at the New Glasgow Library. It has a much larger selection of books than in Lawrencetown, and I was able to sign out George Monbiot’s collection of short essays: How did we get into this mess? These essays, written over the last ten years, provide a detailed criticism of neoliberalism in British society. Given the library network in Nova Scotia, I can return it to my local library.

Later in the day, I received the link to a review of England’s Last Roar. On nationalism and the Election by Pankaj Mistra. It concludes with the following passage:

“England’s post-imperial reckoning feels harsher, largely because it has been postponed for so long, and the memories of power and glory are so ineradicable. In the meantime, the most important elections of our lifetime approach, and, as Orwell warned, ”a generation of the unteachable is hanging upon us like a necklace of corpses.”

banner_GemCBCOn Sunday evening, it was a relief to return home to the Valley. To put one’s feet up, and watch on GEM, a recent Canadian documentary on Margaret Atwood, A Word After a Word After a Word is Power. The documentary is dedicated to her late husband, Graeme Gibson.


To Frank Fox for the link to the review by Pankaj Mistra. Another ex-Pat, trying to fathom the forthcoming election in the UK. Heather for her company on our travels. To Edward Wedler for online graphics.


The Good Liar. 2019. The movie starring Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen.
George Monbiot. 2017. How did we get in this mess? Politics, Equality, Nature.
Pankaj Mistra. Guardian Books. December 7,2019. Englands Last Roar: On Nationalism and the Election.
Margaret Atwood. GEM Documentary. A Word After a Word After a Word is Power.

Posted in Opinion

Rural Delivery

In Kentville, I picked up the December issue of Rural Delivery; a publication started by Dirk van Loon in Liverpool, Nova Scotia.bookCover_ruralDelivery It contained two articles of particular interest to me: an interview with Owen Bridge, Annapolis Seeds, Nictaux (p.10-11) and second, a review of the historical research by Josh MacFadyen at UPEI (p.38-41).

‘Annapolis Seeds is one of just a handful of 100% regional seed companies. His goal is to help maintain and further cultivate the largest possible diversity of seeds for the Maritime bio-region’.

‘All the seed he offers are grown in Nova Scotia. Because they are grown here, they are going to be well adapted for here’.

Zack Metcalfe describes the research of Josh MacFadyen at UPEI. Josh holds a Research Chair dedicated to the study of ‘geospatial humanities’. This involves historical maps of the land use. He has mapped the land use of PEI under the Back50 Project, using aerial photographs since 1969.banner_geoReachUPEI

‘It is pretty important to understand, at a bare minimum, a 50-year history of how land use has changed. I think a better view of the past will help us plan more resilient agriculture and communities in PEI and other parts of Atlantic Canada’. p.41.

cover_empireOfTheboxMeanwhile, in the Guardian Weekly (Nov 29, 2019) Samanth Subramanian provides a long article on ‘The Empire of the Box’ or ‘what does getting everything delivered to our homes mean for how we live’. This is the world of online retail.

‘The great trick of online retail has been to get us to do more shopping while thinking less about it – thinking less, in particular, about how our purchase reach our homes’.

‘While we buy our purchases with mere movement of our thumbs, they are busy rearranging the physical world’.

At the local level in rural Nova Scotia, have you noticed the increase in courier trucks on Highway 101 or 201? This is the new definition of ‘rural delivery’.


To Dirk van Loon for his commitment to the magazine, Rural Delivery. To Edward Wedler for his online graphic skills.


Rural Delivery. December 2019. Volume 44 #6
What’s the deal with heirloom varieties by Emily Leeson p.10-11.
Where we are, where we’ve been. UPEI researcher provides a historical perspective on land use. by Zack Metcalfe p.38-41.
The Guardian Weekly November 29,2019. Vol 201 #25.
The Empire of the Box. What does getting everything delivered to our homes mean for how we live? by Samanth Subramanian

Posted in Book Review, Opinion

Blue Water and Gold Brandy

After we returned home from the West Coast in late Summer, we noticed that the water in our bathtub had a blue tinge to it. Upon further investigation, we learned that the water treatment system for arsenic and uranium had the side effect of creating water with a low ph (ie. acidic). The combination of acidic water with copper piping resulted in copper sulphate deposition. Fortunately, we have never used our well water for drinking or cooking.map_arsenicNS

This combination of events triggered memories of Health Geomatics Research with Dr Judy Guernsey at Dalhousie University. At that time (early 2000’s) we recommended the mapping of incidents of different cancer that could be potentially attributed to water quality. Then, it proved impossible to obtain statistics.

Moving to 2020, with the shortage of doctors, particularly in rural areas, it may be time to re-visit the question of human health and especially its relationship to water quality in arsenic/ uranium prone bedrock parts of the province.

This week, I have been trying to catch up with re-reading the Heather Menzies book.bookCover_reclaimingTheCommons After attending the Climate Action Summit, my recommendation would be for both citizen groups and politicians to do some reading.

“The commons model offers a hopeful third choice: re-enfranchising people as responsible co-participants in the governance of the larger habitats that sustain them, including their individual lives.” p.184.

“ It’s about placemaking as I said, quoting Nicholas Blomley earlier: claiming our place as part of the picture from the local to the global. p.184.

“It involves people taking up the power of agency that is latent in every situation requiring change and becoming implicated participants in changing the status quo”. p.184.

Nicholas Blomley is Professor, Geography at Simon Fraser University.

hunterBrandyYesterday, we went over to Lunenburg and picked up six bottles from the first shipment of Hunter Brandy by Ironworks Distillery. If you go online to their website, you can read a brief backstory to the product. It has been three years in the making.


Steve at R & S Clear Water Specialists, Kentville for the blue water diagnosis. Pierre and Lynne at Ironworks Distillery, Lunenburg. Edward for his graphics contribution.


Heather Menzies. 2014. Reclaiming the Commons for the Common Good. New Society Publishers.
Nicholas Blomley. 1994. Law, Space and the Geographies of Power. Guilford Press.

Posted in biographical sketch


Yesterday, my daughter, Laurel, was looking for a children’s book that she remembered from years ago to read to her boys. Heather checked the attic and found it. Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters.bookCover_jollyPostman It is a wonderful example of imagination. It includes envelopes and letters to fairy-tale characters: the three bears, the wicked witch, the giant, Cinderella and Goldilocks. The letters are addressed and include stamps. It was published in 1986.

Later, I went online to see what other books they had written and illustrated since that date. And found The Jolly Christmas Postman.

Today, I pick up my mail from the post office box in Lawrencetown. It contains, bank statements, bills, advertising fliers and the weekly Guardian.

bookCovers_wendellBerryMeanwhile, through e-mail, I received two essays by Wendell Berry. From Emergence magazine, Berry’s 1989 essay The Pleasures of Eating and from Brain Pickings by Maria Popova, The Hidden Wound.

bookCover_reclaimingTheCommonsMy final literary offering, that I pulled off the bookshelf is Heather Menzies’ Reclaiming the Commons for the Common Good. A book that I picked up in 2015. Her memoir and manifesto could be seen as a response to the George Monbiot video (previous blog). The same is true of my emphasis on imagination.

If you have grandchildren or are simply interested in creative writing, check out the books by the Ahlbergs, go online, or visit Woozles bookstore in Halifax.


To Laurel for remembering a book from thirty years ago. To Heather, for keeping the family treasures. Edward for making the digital connections.


Janet and Allan Ahlberg. 1986. The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters. Little, Brown and Co.
Heather Menzies. 2014. Reclaiming the Commons for the Common Good. New Society Publishers.
Brain Pickings by Maria Popova. November 24, 2019: Kahil Gibran on silence, solitude and the courage to know yourself; Wendell Berry on delight as a force of resistance to consumerism and hardship.
Emergence Magazine. Issue #6 Food. The pleasures of Eating and Cooking.

Posted in Video Review

A BRIT fix

This week coincided with the release of Netflix’ third season of ‘The Crown’. There are ten episodes. We paced ourself with two episodes per night. I was impressed with the human back story and the quality of the BBC production. It brought back memories of England in the late ‘60s, the political drama within the context of the lives of the Royal Family.

More relevant to life in rural Nova Scotia was the opportunity to watch the YouTube video of George Monbiot ‘A new politics for an age of crisis’.

Monbiot is a journalist, who writes for the Guardian. This particular video is of a talk, he delivered in London earlier this year, based on his book, of the same title, Out of the Wreckage: a new politics for an age of crisis.

Some of his messages resonated with life in the Annapolis Valley.

1) create a politics of ‘belonging’ and the reality of community;
2) he identifies four steps:
a) rich participatory culture within a geographic region;
b) participatory democracy;
c) economic democracy;
d) the commons and community land trust.

As Monbiot states at the beginning of his talk, we have a failure of imagination to transform politics. We need a new narrative or story.

Fortunately, our local Lawrencetown library can deliver Monbiot’s latest book, through its interlibrary loan service.


Heather has shared the BRIT fix moment with me. Edward has added the necessary video link.