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.

Posted in New thinking

Rural Curriculum

“We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect”. Aldo Leopold. A Sand County Almanac. 1949.

Yurt construction, taken from

These last two days we have been supporting Alex Cole and his team: Silas, Chris, Rick and Gord produce charcoal from the leftovers of the coppicing of red maple. The coppicing produces poles for yurt construction.


This community collaboration reminded me of David Orr’s essay on Re-Ruralizing Education. It emphasizes practical woodland skills for managing the land. The products provide materials for nomadic shelters. In some way, not dissimilar to the Mi’kmaq dwellings used for their movement through the landscape. The charcoal can form the basis of biochar that adds fertility to our gardens, at home and in the forest.

At the Climate Summit last weekend, Danny Bruce, an organic farmer from Centrelea stated:

“There are lots of skills that we could relearn and use to forward us. I think maybe we can do it a little simpler than our grandmothers did, but it’s all possible.”

bookCover_rootedInTheLandAnother concept, from Rooted in the Land essay by Susan Witt and Robert Swann is the Community Land Trust (CLT) concept developed by the Schumacher Society.

“A community land trust is a not-for-profit organization with membership open to any resident of the geographical region or bioregion where it is located. Its purpose is to create a democratic institution to hold land and to retain the use-value of the land for the benefit of the community.”

It appears that we are seeing a new ‘back to the land’ movement. Or as Heather Stewart, astutely observes ‘back to the land with green $$$’ (money). The Annapolis Valley is well situated to be part of this creative rural economy, at a time of climate crisis.

Talking last night, we speculated whether the proposed Gordonstoun Nova Scotia school would adopt this type of rural curriculum.

Lawrencetown inter-library loan service has delivered Wilding by Isabella Tree. First glance shows the fascinating history of land use and farming at Knepp in West Sussex. ‘The Knepp ‘wilding’ project is a vitally important experiment for working out what we can do to let nature back into our farmed landscapes’.


To Alex Cole and his work crew of Silas and Chris, supplemented by the expertise of Rick and Gord for the charcoal making event. Heather for her insights and enthusiasms. John Wightman for his thoughts on the Gordonstoun school. Edward Wedler for graphics contribution.


From Rooted in the Land edited by William Vitek and Wes Jackson,
David Orr. Re-ruralizing Education. p.226-234.
Susan Witt and Robert Swann. Land: challenge and opportunity. p.244-252.
Handbook on establishing a Community Land Trust can be obtained from the Schumacher Center for New Economics.

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