Posted in Book Review


In Lunenburg, I picked up George Monbiot’s book Feral.bookCover_feral It has taken me several weeks to read this well-researched work. There are excellent chapters on his travels in the Amazon, South Africa and Indonesia. His adventures off the Welsh coast in a sea kayak. At the time of writing, Monbiot was living in Central Wales. A major concern was the impact of sheep farming on landscape ecology.

‘The National Ecosystem Assessment states that agricultural land occupied some 1.64 m hectares or 79% of Wales in 2008 and that crops now account for only 3% of the agricultural land area’ p.159.

‘According to Kevin Cahill, the author of Who Owns Britain, 69% of the land here is owned by 0.6% of the population’ p.181.

Monbiot includes chapters on Rewilding the Sea, and the potential for Marine Protected Areas.

From a Nova Scotia perspective, it is interesting to speculate on the potential for Rewilding of the land and sea in Southwest Nova Scotia. Would this change our treatment of the landscape?

Feral was written in 2013. To obtain an update, I went online. Monbiot has written two new books. In 2017, How did we get in this mess? And 2018, Out of the Wreckage.

On the web site he makes some suggested reading, plus: Jeremy Lent The Patterning Instinct and Martin Adams, Land: a new paradigm for a thriving world.banner_fiveBooks


Today, at Endless Shores Books in Bridgetown, I found Joan Francuz, Press Enter to Continue. From the back cover, ‘Like Cicero, she believes that if you have a garden and a library, you have everything that you need’.

I look forward to the day when I can check out some of these books through the services of inter-library loan. Meanwhile, the garden is enjoying the latest rain showers.


George Monbiot, 2013. Feral: rewilding the land, the sea and human life. University of Chicago Press.
From Monbiot recommends:
Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Thomas Piketty, Capital
Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine
Paul Verhaeghe, What about me?
Kate Raworth, Doughnut Economics

Joan Francuz, 2018. Press Enter to Continue: Scribes from Babylon to Silicon. 1920 House Press.

Posted in biographical sketch, Book Review, Video Review

Heading to the South Shore

banner_nosyCrowFriday, we took a quick trip to the South Shore. In Mahone Bay, we stopped for coffee and a cinnamon bun at the LaHave Bakery. We discovered that it is now The Nosy Crow Bites and Brews. Many of the stores were either for rent or sale; presumably, the impact of COVID-19 on a small community dependent on the Summer tourist trade.

banner_lunenburgBoundBookstoreIn Lunenburg, we stopped at Lunenburg Bound bookstore. I picked up the last copy of George Monbiot’s book Feral, published by Penguin Canada in 2013. Heather found Zach Loeks’ book The Permaculture Market Garden with a Foreword by Joel Salatin, published by New Society in 2017.

‘Most market garden books start with plants, production techniques, marketing protocols and the like. This one dares to address the most basic climatic, topographical even community nuances into the process.’ p.vii.

The Introduction in George Monbiot’s book, Feral, admonishes the environmental plight of Canada.

‘The positive environmentalism I developed in Feral is intended to create a vision of a better place, which we can keep in mind even as we seek to prevent our government from engineering a worse one.

‘I will be happy if this book helps to stimulate new thinking about our place on the living planet and the ways in which we might engage with it. Nowhere, I believe, is in greater need of that than Canada’ p.xix.

That was written seven years ago.

Later, on Friday evening, somewhat inspired by Monbiot, I turned to watch the Netflix Movie ‘Into the Wild’, the film based on Jon Krakauer`s 1996 book of the same name. It tells the story of Christopher McCandless who hiked across North America into the Alaskan Wilderness, in the early 1990s.

This weekend, I continue with my reading of Feral.


Heather and Siqsiq were my companions on the trip to the South Shore. Edward, later, added the graphics.


George Monbiot, 2013. Feral: rewilding the land, the sea and human life. University of Chicago Press.
Zach Loeks, 2017. The Permaculture Market Garden: a visual guide to a profitable whole-systems farm business. New Society Publishers. Foreword by Joel Salatin.
Netflix movie, 2007. Into the Wild. Produced and Directed by Sean Penn.

Posted in biographical sketch, Book Review

Shelf Life Books

Tuesday, we had to go to town in Kentville. It was time for a car service at Kings County Honda. While waiting, I stopped at Shelf Life Used Books and picked up two items.

bookCover_bikingToBlissvilleFirst, Kent Thompson, Biking to Blissville: A cycling guide to the Maritimes and the Magdalen Islands. Written in 1993, before his book, Getting out of Town by book and bike. It includes two rides of interest to me in Nova Scotia. One was around Great Village, with a nod to Elizabeth Bishop, and a second, around Bridgetown, with a nod to Ernest Buckler and Ken Tolmie.

The second book, A Natural History of Kings County published by The Blomidon Naturalists Society in 1992.

“It would also be appropriate to dedicate the volume to Kings County itself, for it has had an inordinate capacity to nurture naturalists. A geographic area often becomes famous historically because of the endeavours of its people. We often overlook the obvious lesson that it is the terrain that manipulated people and elicits specific capabilities, and not the other way around.”

The book has sections on Geography, History, Habitats and appendices on field trips and naturalists of Kings County.

It makes me wonder about ‘A Natural History of Annapolis County’.

Through email, I have received three interesting notices. From Gregory Heming, I received the link to One Resilient Earth, ‘crafting new narratives for resilient communities in Atlantic Canada.banner_oneResilientEarth

‘A collaboration between the Centre for Local Prosperity and One Resilient Earth to design and facilitate a series of virtual workshops on transformative climate resilience and green recovery’.

‘Following the virtual Thinkers Retreat, the Centre for Local Prosperity will produce a publication compiling the final vision, insights and resources gathered through open dialogue’.

banner_UGuelphTheAtriumFrom Danielle Robinson, a copy of her PhD thesis defended at the University of Guelph Cultural Sustainability and rural Food Tourism in two Canadian Wine Regions. Danielle visited the Annapolis Valley in 2019 (before COVID 19). At four hundred pages, it will take me a while to digest the research results.

Link to film trailer HERE

Finally, from Jane Borecky about the Hyland cinema, pay-for-view, NFB presentation Sovereign Soil about farming in the Canadian sub-Arctic.

Happy Birthday to my sister, Maureen. She is 72 years young today (24th).


Anne Crossman for remembering the name, Shelf Life. Gregory Heming, Danielle Robinson and Jane Borecky for forwarding the links. Heather for an enjoyable day in town, away from our parched garden. Edward for his Graphics contribution.

Kent Thompson, 1993. Biking to Blissville: A cycling guide to the Maritimes and the Magdalen Islands. Goose Lane.
Kent Thompson, 2001. Getting out of town by book and bike. Gaspereau Press.
The Blomidon Naturalist Society, 1992. A Natural History of Kings County. Acadia University.

Posted in Book Review, Opinion

From Here to There

A few years ago, I was Chairperson of the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve Association (SNBRA). I have kept in touch with the Bras D’Or Lake Biosphere Reserve Association. banner_braDorLakeBiosphereResearveThis Saturday, I received their quarterly newsletter. I was struck by three contributions.

1) Nature’s Calendar by Annamarie Hatcher
2) The Old Woollen Mill by Corrine Cash
3) Cape Breton Weather Mesonet by Jonathan Buffett

Annamarie Hatcher links the changes in Nature to the Mi’kmaq calendar. Corrine Cash describes the long history of the mills at Irish Cove. Jonathan Buffett is the founder of Cape Breton Mesonet, a network of community-owned Weather stations in Cape Breton and the eastern mainland.

Their solstice newsletter under the slogan ‘Msit No’Kmaq — People and Nature; Better Together — offers a model for SNBRA.

David Colville and Southshore weather network

In Southwest Nova, David Colville at COGS has maintained a weather network for over a decade. In this time of climate change, perhaps it is time to consider a ‘community-owned weather station network for Southwest Nova?


As in Cape Breton, we should embrace the slogan: Msit No’Kmaq.

Can we take community ideas from there to here?

bookCover_fromHereToThere_2This week, Michael Bond’s book From Here to There arrived at the Inside Story. Bond has been Senior Editor at the New Scientist in England.

His book explores ‘the art and science of finding and losing our way’. He reviews the work of Claudio Aporta, Dalhousie University, on Inuit geographic knowledge in the Canadian Arctic. Bond describes the importance of exploration, spatial awareness and self-directed learning. He investigates the latest research from psychologists, neuroscientists.

“ The hippocampus and it’s neighbouring regions seem to have evolved specifically to help us build mental representations of the outside world that we can use to get around and orientate ourselves.” p.71.

In Chapter 8 Bond tells the story of Gerry Largay who is lost and dies on the Appalachian Trail. It includes the Search and Rescue process.

In the final Chapter (10) he looks at Alzheimer’s disease.

The discovery that Alzheimer’s disease disrupts the brain’s spatial system long before the disease takes hold has raised the prospect of using spatial tests to diagnose it.  p.203.


Reading the book by Michael Bond made me pull from the bookshelf, the writing of Rebecca Solnit, in particular, A Field Guide to Getting Lost.

Never to get lost is not to live, not to know how to get lost brings you to destruction, and somewhere in the terra incognita in between lies a life of discovery.  p.14.

Edward added the graphics. Heather provided useful feedback.


Michael Bond, 2020. From Here to There: the art and science of finding and losing our way: . Belknap Harvard.
Rebecca Solnit, 2005. A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Penguin Books.

Posted in Book Review

A Sense of Humus (Part 2)

As promised, I have read Bertha Damon’s book, shared by Jane Nicholson.

Our Mermaid in the Mulch

At the beginning of Chapter 9.bookCover_senseOfHumus

“The importance of humus in human economy seldom receives sufficient emphasis. Suffice it to say that it probably represents the most important source of human wealth on this planet” p.95.

Damon published the book in 1943 during the Second World War. It is a collection of twenty-two chapters. Besides Humus, other topics include Spring Doings, Plowing and Planting, In Defence of Weeds, Apples Old Style.

“To have a sense of humus is to have an appreciation of the past, to realize that to discard the achievements and virtues slowly built up through long periods of human society and to attempt to live solely in the present is like throwing away humus and trying to exist in more or less inorganic hardpan.”

“One who works much with humus sees it to be a symbol of democracy, in which many work for the good of one, and one works for the good of many.” p.101.

From Apples Old Style, Chapter 21.

“I have found that at least twenty two different varieties, well enough known to get into books, originated in New Hampshire.” p.230.

maher_apple_1This compares with the four varieties in our small orchard: NovaMac, NovaSpy, Liberty, MacFree.

After my earlier blog post, Brian Arnott made the comment.

“Is the mind a kind of compost pit? Do we break down ideas to create more potent matter? Yes, probably.”

On Friday afternoon, I had the opportunity to meet with both Roger Mosher and John Wightman. John kindly lent me two books by Thomas Raddall, “The Dreamers” and “Halifax: Warden of the North” as well as Will Bird’s, “Off-Trail in Nova Scotia”.
In these COVID times, books serve as a medium for sharing ideas, to add to the ‘compost pit’.


Having a sense of humus, reminds me of the important role of elders in our society, without them, we are left with the inorganic hardpan. I also think of the work by Maria Popova and her web site, Brain Pickings. Check it out.

bookCover_wisdomOfTheEldersThis led to the following exchange with Edward Wedler.

”If society sees elders as simply ‘old people’ then we are missing out on the opportunity to harvest/apply this mental humus.”

Edward replied “There exist many cultures that value elders (Japanese and Canadian indigenous communities come to mind). David Suzuki once co-authored a book ‘Wisdom of the Elders’ where he explored this question.”


Brian Arnott, Roger Mosher and John Wightman for their contributions. Jane Nicholson for sowing the seed. Heather for her help in the garden. Edward for his feedback.


Bertha Damon, 1943. A Sense of Humus. Simon and Schuster.
Thomas H. Raddall, 1986. The Dreamers. Pottersfield Press.
Thomas H. Raddall, 2007. Halifax, Warden of the North. Nimbus Publishing.
Will R. Bird, 1956. Off-Trail in Nova Scotia. McGraw-Hill Ryerson.
David Suzuki and Peter Knudtson, 1993. Wisdom of the Elders. PenguinRandomHouse.

Posted in Book Review

A Sense of Humus

bookCover_senseOfHumusThis week, I picked up the book ‘A Sense of Humus’ from the post office in Bridgetown (Lawrencetown is closed). It had been sent to me by Jane Nicholson. She thought that I would enjoy it. Written in 1943 by Bertha Damon.

“It describes the pleasures of living in the country, the vicissitudes of gardening, the small lovable satisfactions of working on one’s own land.”

“If the reader’s own personal soul is winter-chilled, war-torn, tax-parched or just plain tired, ‘A Sense of Humus’ will do it considerable good.”

The book is set in New Hampshire. Written during the Second World War, there are parallels to COVID-19. I will offer a proper review, once I have finished it.

bookCover_landscapesAndMemoriesMeanwhile, Saturday, we went for a drive to Annapolis Royal and Victoria Beach. At Great Expectations Books and Cafe, I was able to pick up John Prebble’s Book, “Landscapes and Memories: an intermittent autobiography“. I am familiar with Prebble because of Heather’s Scottish heritage. Prebble wrote The Highland Clearances, Glencoe and Culloden.

It was wonderful to discover that the town is reopening. We stopped at Lola’s cafe and were able to purchase Cornish pasties and a roast lamb dinner for Sunday night.

The drive gave us a well-deserved break from the garden. With the black flies, the best time for planting is 6 am in the morning. After the heavy rain, we were able to transplant the tomatoes from the greenhouse and sow seeds: beans, carrots, beets, spinach and lettuce.

After the rain, the apple trees in the orchard were in full, white splendour accompanied by the sound of the bees.pic_orchard01Jun2020

Congratulations to Jane and Adele on the fourth anniversary of AIRO!

Sad news, writer Silver Donald Cameron died on Sunday night. He will be remembered for his Green Interviews.


Jane Nicholson for sending along the book. To Great Expectations for opening up the bookstore and cafe. To Lola for delicious food. Heather shared the road trip. Edward for his artistic talent.


Bertha Damon, 1943. A Sense of Humus. Simon and Schuster.
John Prebble, 1993. Landscapes and Memories. Harper Collins

Posted in Book Review

Turtle Talk

Turtle Talk is a slim collection of ‘voices for a sustainable future’, published by New Society Publishers.bookCover_turtleTalk It includes interviews by Christopher and Judith Plant with Gary Snyder, Peter Berg, Murray Bookchin and others. First published in 1990, with a Foreword by Kirkpatrick Sale. I found it hiding between Simple in Means: Rich in Ends and The Ecology of Wisdom (see the references, below). Deep Ecology is a large topic and won’t be discussed in this blog.

Sale tells the Lakota Sioux story of the creation of ‘Turtle Island’. Discussing the contributors:

“ What makes them special is that they are people not merely thinking but doing, despite the weight of the forces ranged against them – people who, it could be said, are sticking their necks out on behalf of all endangered species, including the human, including the living Earth itself. And it is the great lesson of the turtle, of course, that you can get ahead only when you stick your neck out.”

From Gary Snyder,

“The bioregional undertaking is to learn our region; to stay here and be at home in it, and to take responsibility for it, and treat it right.” p.14.

“ …you have people who say, “I’m not going to move” That’s where it gets new. People say “I’m going to stay here, and you can count on me being here in 20 years from now”. What that immediately does is make a politically-empowered community possible.” p.17.

From Peter Berg,

“The greatest shared value for the necessary upcoming ecological era is wilderness. Because wilderness already embodies systems, designs, purposes that are workable, are demonstratively eco-energetic – efficiënt in terms of energy and resources.” p.25.

“I think our working together to discover our own wildness, the wild Homo sapiens being within us, is very liberating, very exciting. It is the future from my point of view, and it’s pivotal in terms of human civilization.” p.29.

Finally, from Murray Bookchin:

“There’s a long tradition in New England and other parts of the United States, in which the town or the village is merely the nucleus of a much larger area, bringing the country and the town together.” p.130.

“We can decentralize our cities, we can use our land intelligently, ecologically, we can have people create new kinds of communities”. p.131.

It is a sobering thought to find this thin book, hidden away on the shelf. Also to realize that these interviews were recorded over thirty years ago.

What has changed? What is their relevance to today’s global predicament? Is there a sustainable future?bookCover_ecologyOfWisdom

Many of those voices are no longer with us.

PS. Given that the libraries are closed. Please contact me, if you want to borrow any of these books.


Heather for her turtle talk, whether Blandings or Wood turtle.
Edward who has chosen Turtle Island (North America) as his home too. Plus his graphics contribution.


Christopher and Judith Plant, 1990. Turtle Talk: Voices for a Sustainable Future.
The New Catalyst Bioregional Series.

Bill Duvall, 1988. Simple in Means, Rich in Ends: Practicing Deep Ecology. Gibbs and Smith.
Alan Drengson and Bill Devall (Ed.), 2008. The Ecology of Wisdom: Writings of Arne Naess. Counterpoint Press.

Posted in Book Review, Opinion

Books and Memory

In the early ‘70s, I remember driving through Nova Scotia on my way back to Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) in St Johns. I stopped in Heatherton (near Antigonish) to meet with Allen van Newkirk, and his wife, Susan. Allen was a poet from Detroit who had set up the Institute for Bioregionalism Research.map_bioregionsNAmerica I was teaching Biogeography and Computer Mapping in the Department of Geography at MUN.

Fast forward, almost fifty years, I have pulled off the bookshelf my collection of books on Bioregionalism. They include:

Reinhabiting a Separate Country. A Bioregionalism Anthology of Northern California, Edited by Peter Berg.
Bioregionalism, Edited by Michael McGinnis.
Bioregionalism and Civil Society, by Mike Carr.

bookCover_bioregionalismMcInnisIn the McGinnis book, there is an excellent chapter by Doug Aberley.

“The term Bioregionalism was first conceived by Allen Van Newkirk who had been active in eastern US radical politics and who met Berg in San Francisco in 1969 and again in Nova Scotia in 1971.”

As conceived by Van Newkirk:

“ Bioregionalism is presented as a technical process of identifying biogeographically interpreted culture areas ….called bioregions. Within these territories, resident human populations would ‘restore plant and animal biodiversity’, ‘aid in the conservation and restoration of wild ecosystems’ and ‘observe regional models of new and relatively non-arbitrary scales of human activities in relation to the biological realities of the natural landscape.”

This led me to further research the writing and life of Peter Berg (see reference).

Meanwhile, from Chelsea Green Publishing:

‘Books provide a window into places we’ve never been and help us nurture imagination and explore new ideas from our own home‘.

This includes Rob Hopkins From What Is To What If: Unleashing the Power of the Imagination to Create the Future We Want.

From Edward Wedler, he forwarded a link to the bookstore in Parrsboro, Nonesuch.banner_nonesuchBookstore They are offering a surprise package of five books on any topic you are interested in for $60 includes delivery. I should send my $60, my topic would be ‘Bioregionalism’.

Finally, Saturday, we took a quick day trip to New Glasgow to check on Heather’s Dad. It was a pure pleasure to drive through a different landscape, in this case, the Rawdon Hills from Windsor to Truro.


Edward for the link to the Parrsboro bookstore. Heather, for sharing the drive to New Glasgow and back.


Michael McGinnis (Ed.) 1999. Bioregionalism. Routledge.
Peter Berg (Ed.) 1978. Reinhabiting a Separate Country: A Bioregionalism Anthology of Northern California. Planet Drum books
Mike Carr.2004. Bioregionalism and Civil Society: Democratic Challenges to Corporate Globalism. UBC Press.
Cheryll Glotfelty and Eve Quesnel (Ed.) 2014. The Biosphere and the Bioregion: Essential Writings of Peter Berg. Routledge Environmental Humanities Series.

Posted in Book Review


Over the weekend, I had the time to read Sanctuary: the biography of Mary Majka, written by Deborah Carr.bookCover_sanctuary Mary was born in Poland in 1923. She was sixteen when Hitler invaded Poland at the start of the Second World War. Eventually, she arrived at Pier21 with her husband, Mike, in 1951. They moved to New Brunswick in 1961.

Mary Majka has done more to preserve the natural and cultural legacy of the Bay of Fundy than anyone in our time.” Harry Thurston.

“Through the example of her life, she has shown that by simply following our true nature, the nugget of passion that resides in each heart, we change our world. It doesn’t have to be large or grandiose; it just needs to be true”
Carr p.227.

On Sunday, Heather shared with me a Zoom talk given by Bob Howard to the Annapolis Royal Shambhala Group on biodynamic French intensive horticulture and the work of Alan Chadwick. This led to some preliminary online research. I found two books of Chadwick’s talks plus a memoir by Paul Lee on Chadwick and the organic movement in California. The memoir excerpts look very promising. I contacted Bob and he suggested that I check the YouTube video, Garden Song.

bookCover_bioregionalismMeanwhile, Heather continues to organize our book collection. This brought to my attention, Mike Carr, Bioregionalism and Civil Society: Democratic Challenges to Corporate Globalism. It looks relevant today and should sustain me this week.


Happenstance Books and Yarns is an independent bookstore in Lakefield, Ontario. They also sell knitting supplies.


Bob Howard for the reference to Alan Chadwick and the link, Garden Song. Heather for her attempts to put order into the book collection. Edward for his graphics contribution.


Deborah Carr, 2010. Sanctuary: The Story of Naturalist Mary Majka. Goose Lane.
Mike Carr, 2004. Bioregionalism and Civil Society: Democratic Challenges to Corporate Globalism. UBC Press.
Paul Lee, 2013. There is a Garden in the Mind: A Memoir of Alan Chadwick and the Organic Movement in California. North Atlantic Books,
Alan Chadwick, 2008. Performance in the Garden: a collection of talks on biodynamic French intensive horticulture. Logosophia
Alan Chadwick, 2013. Reverence, obedience and the Invisible in the Garden. Talks on the biodynamic French Intensive system. Logosophia


Posted in Book Review

Community Matters

Even before the events in Portapique last weekend, the church in Middleton had displayed the sign, in relation to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Things that matter are hard.

For several days, the thought of writing a blog seemed impossible.

Cleaning out the brush along the east side of the orchard.

bookCover_sanctuaryEventually, I turned to the bookcase, and rediscovered the biography of Mary Majka. She was a naturalist, living on the shores of the Bay of the Fundy in New Brunswick. She was the driving force behind Mary’s Point Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve.

Harry Thurston makes the following comment on Sanctuary by Deborah Carr.

“Sanctuary is an engaging and clear-eyed portrait of her indomitable spirit – a celebration of a courageous life – and an important book”

This led me to pull down my collection of Harry Thurston books. Thurston lives in Tidnish Beach.

I recalled meeting Thurston at the annual meeting, last Spring, of the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia in Great Village. He attended, along with Sandra Barry And hence, I searched out her books too.

I hope you find enjoyment in these books.


To those writers who choose to describe life in small communities.
Heather for encouraging me to spend more time outdoors this week.
Edward for his helpful support. Sandra Barry for her encouragement.

Deborah Carr, 2010. Sanctuary: The Story of Naturalist Mary Majka.Goose Lane.
Harry Thurston, 2004. A Place Between the Tides. Greystone Books
Harry Thurston, 2005. The Sea’s Voice. An Anthology of Atlantic Canadian Nature Writing. Nimbus Press.
Harry Thurston, 2009. Animals of my own kind: New and Selected Poems. Vehicule Press.
Allan Cooper and Harry Thurston, 2013. The Deer Yard. Gaspereau Press.
Harry Thurston, 2015. Keeping Watch at the End of the World. Gaspereau Press.
Barry S., Davies P., Sanger G. (Ed.), 2001. Divisions of the Heart: Elizabeth Bishop and the Art of Memory and Place. Gaspereau Press.
Sandra Barry, 2011. Elizabeth Bishop: Nova Scotia’s “Home-made” Poet. Nimbus Press.
Sandra Barry and Laurie Gunn (Ed.), 2013. Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop. Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia.