Posted in New thinking

Smart Rural ?

There is considerable discussion about ‘smart cities’, but what is the impact of these technologies on a rural lifestyle?

Could one apply this smart city social map to rural areas?

What needs should be addressed? One need is transportation, another is health care. At what point does technology-access, designed for an urban lifestyle, detract or destroy rural values? In Annapolis Royal, at the Library, we see the reality of an Innovation Lab, as part of a Community Hub. It gives everyone access to a range of modern communication technologies.

2bucklerBooksThis week, courtesy of the Internet, I received George Monbiot article on ‘dark money”. In return, this had me thinking about the money behind the Gordonstoun project. Is the Annapolis Valley ready for this type of colonization?

After our meeting at Burnbrae Farm (Morse Estate), I challenged myself to re-read Buckler’s The Cruelest Month. I think it answered my question. The setting is not likely the Morse Estate in Paradise, but rather Milford House on Highway #8 towards Kejimkujik National Park. What I had forgotten, was the quality of Buckler’s language and style. Now, I am charged to pull Ox Bells and Fireflies off the bookshelf.

banner_flyingApronThe other recent challenge was the French cooking at the Flying  Apron (not really a challenge).

For the record, the menu included Salmon Rillette, Gougers, Coq Au Vin, and Creme Brûlée. All prepared by Chef Chris Velden. Each couple received a handout with the list of ingredients (and measures) and the method for preparation of each dish. Excellent!

Returning home, courtesy of the Internet,  I received a review of Julia Blackburn Time Song: searching for Doggerland. This has prompted a new interlibrary loan request.

bookCover_ruralTraditionIn attempting to understand ‘rural’. I pulled off the bookshelf, The Rural Tradition, written by W J Keith, Professor of English at the University of Toronto.

It is a study of non-fiction prose writers of the English countryside and includes chapters on such notables as Isaac Walton, Gilbert White and William Cobbett.

Keith, in his conclusion, asks the following question:

“Is country writing a thing of the past? In an age that can envisage hermetically sealed monster cities artificially protected from natural phenomena and a polluted atmosphere, that can seriously entertain the possibility that three quarters of the world’s animal species may be extinct by the end of the century, is it feasible to expect the survival of a literature centred upon the countryside and the rural way of life ?” p.258

Keith was writing in 1974.


Thanks to Rosemary Barron for the link to George Monbiot. To Frank Fox for the link to the review of Julia Blackburn’s book, and also for giving me a copy of Keith’s The Rural Tradition. To Heather Stewart for sharing the cooking experience at the Flying Apron. Edward for his graphics skills.


Ernest Buckler. 1963. The Cruelest Month. McClelland and Stewart

Ernest Buckler. 1968.Ox Bells and Fireflies. McClelland and Stewart.

W.J. Keith. 1974. The Rural Tradition. University of Toronto Press.

The Flying Apron website

Burnbrae Farm and Paradise Inn see link



Posted in New thinking

The Curious Mind

bookcover_mannersFrom my previous blog, you will know that David Manners wrote Convenient Season, published by EP Dutton in 1941.

As described on the web site (,

Convenient Season recalls his youth in the community of Centrelea where David’s aunt and uncle, the Chadwicks, had a beautiful Summer home. Convenient Season echoes David’s love of nature and depicts the home and community through the eyes of a young man who has returned to Nova Scotia from the United States hoping for fulfilment.”

I was interested in the origin of the title. So I went online, and typed it in:

Acts 24:25

“And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance and judgement to come, Felix trembled and answered ‘Go your way for this time, when I have a convenient season, I will call thee’ “


“This hour is your convenient season for that which is best worth your attention and doing”

Having read the book, I started online with Wikipedia ‘David Manners’

Banner image from website

“He was born Rauff de Ryther Duan Acklom (April 30,1900 – December 23,1998).

Born in Halifax, moved to New York where his father was a literary advisor at EP Dutton.

Manners studied Forestry at the University of Toronto, where he got into acting and drama. In the late 1930’s he was best remembered for his role in Dracula with Boris Karloff (movie to be shown, by the way, on February 23rd  7 pm at Centrelea Movie night).

In 1940 he officially changed his name to David Joseph Manners (his mother’s maiden name). He later purchased a ranch in the desert at Victorville, California, where he lived with his partner, Bill Mercer.

bookCover_underRunningLaughterHe wrote a second novel, Under Running Laughter in 1943. In his later life, he published several non-fiction works, The Soundless Voice, The Wonder within you, and Look through: an evidence of self-discovery.

This week, I contacted Jaki at the Lawrencetown library and have requested these books through inter-library loan.

The curiosity for myself is to imagine Manners (and Towne see below)  describing the local landscape and lifestyle eighty, or a hundred years ago. How would we try to describe our landscape and lifestyle today? Fortunately, we are surrounded by talented, creative artists and writers. And we have access to the wonderful resources in our libraries, and online.


As part of the Winter 2019 Speaker Series at the new Annapolis Royal Library on February 10th 2-3:30 pm. It began in a Library talk by Joan Francuz author of Press Enter to Continue. Scribes from Babylon to Silicon.  A History of Technical Writing.


To Anne Crossman who first send me down this path. Edward Wedler for his continued technical support.


Check out the web site for more detail on his movies, books and a full life.

David J. Manners 1941 Convenient Season. EP Dutton

David J. Manners. 1943. Under Running Laughter. EP Dutton.

Charles Hanson Towne. 1923. Ambling through Acadia. Crowell Publishing Company


Posted in New thinking

My blog is my Memory

This title is a quotation from Wendy Mitchell. She has been diagnosed with Early Onset Dementia. This came to my attention through the CBC Radio program Out in the Open presented by Piya Chattopadhyay. The January 4th edition is called If Memory Serves.cbcradiopodcast

If you check out the podcast, you will also find Wendy’s blog describing her interview with Piya. It is very inspirational.

Indeed my blog is fed by both my day to day experiences, as well as a lifetime studying the geographic sciences.


After listening to the podcast, my first reaction was to go to the bookshelf and pull out Matthew Crawford, The World beyond your head. On becoming an individual in an age of distraction.

Last week, I had a meeting with Ed Symons, instructor in Community Planning at COGS. We discussed the need for asset mapping as a pre-requisite for evidence-based decisions at the municipal and provincial level. The context was a concept we have called PENCIL.

It has two elements: PEN and CIL. PEN refers to Place-based Educational Networks and CIL refers to Collaborative Ideation Laboratory. Together, they stress the need for learning networks that focus on ‘a sense of place’ and the necessity for a laboratory where groups can share ideas, technology and different approaches to problem-solving.

This concept fits well with community planning and the engagement of citizens in the day to day management of our natural and human resources.

Later this week, there will be a meeting of the Ernest Buckler Literary Event Society (EBLES). We will discuss the possibility of a new event in 2019. Stay tuned.


This afternoon, we went for a cross country ski down to the Annapolis River, through the old provincial forest nursery. We ended up at Lunn’s Mill. Every second Sunday, they have an Irish Jam session from 1-4 pm. Afterwards, we skied home. Imagine, in rural Nova Scotia, in January.


I want to acknowledge my conversations with Ed Symons, Edward Wedler and Heather Stewart.


CBC Radio. January 4th, 2019. Out in the Open. Hosted by Piya Chattopadhyay.

Recording an Interview for Canadian Radio. November 8,2018 Wendy’s blog

Matthew Crawford. 2016.The World beyond your Head. On becoming an individual in an age of distraction. Penguin Books.

Matthew Crawford. 2009. Shop Class as Soulcraft. An Inquiry into the Value of Work. Penguin Books.

Posted in New thinking

The Open College

NSopencollegeFifty years ago in the United Kingdom, they created The Open University.

” With more than 174,000 students enrolled, it is the largest academic institution in the United Kingdom. Since it was founded more than 2 million students have studied the courses.”  [Wikipedia].

Imagine, as we start 2019, if Nova Scotia created The Open College.

What would be the impact on the Nova Scotia Community College? What would be the effect on its relationship to the Gordonstoun Nova Scotia and Kings Edgehill schools?How would this influence the statement by the Principal of the Annapolis Valley campus on the creation of a Centre of Rural Aging and Health at the Middleton site?

Urban Coyote CoverOver the Christmas break, I came across two connections to the Centre for Local Prosperity (CLP). Gregory Heming (Senior Advisor) forwarded to me a copy of his essay, entitled ‘Letter to Wendell Berry’, as well as ‘Conjectures of a Northern Journeyman’, published in Urban Coyote.

From the first essay, Heming notes the following quotation.

” Thomas Merton once remarked that having lost our ability to see life as a whole, to evaluate conduct as a whole, we no longer have any relevant context into which our actions are to be fitted, and therefore all our actions become erratic, arbitrary and insignificant. My work (Heming) intends to promote the importance of community as a discipline of hope, which elevates us to a conduct of wholeness.”

yearRoundVegetableGardenerThe second connection was to discover a reference to the work of Robert Cervelli in the book by Niki Jabbour Year-round Vegetable Gardener. Cervelli (besides his role as Executive Director, CLP) grows vegetables in his cold frame and unheated greenhouse.

Looking forward to 2019, there are two scheduled events at the end of January.

  1. Sensors High and Low: measuring the reality of our world. Workshop at NSCC Centre of Geographic Sciences. January 23-24, 2019
  2. MashUp Weekend: Rural Business Activated. Annapolis Royal Library. January 26, 2019. Supported by AIRO , PeopleWorx and Common Good Solutions.

If we want to establish a Centre for Rural Aging and Health at the NSCC in Middleton, one of the first steps is for the community to define healthy aging for the diverse population of Annapolis County, and beyond. This could be achieved within the larger context of The  Open College.

In conclusion, from the 2019 Annapolis Seeds Growing Calendar (by Owen Bridge, Nictaux) the December entry reads:

“Our region has seen generations of clearcutting, largely exported for pulp, and now for biomass energy. Drive anywhere, and you see forests of crowded conifers, lacking most of the biodiversity they once had. Luckily our bioregion is a very resilient one, and biodiversity can return with more selective and community focused forestry. If policymakers start getting their act together, our great grandchildren might still live amongst a healthy Acadian Forest.”

From my old school friend, Andrew Ronay in England, I have now heard about the University of the Third Age (U3A). Another possible model for Nova Scotia.


To my family and friends. Thank you Edward for the graphics from Florida. And to quote, John DeMont (Chronicle Herald, December 24, 2018).

Home: the place that, more than any other, makes you who you are. That you can never forget.


Niki Jabbour. 2011. Year-round Vegetable Gardener. Storey Publishing.

Gregory Heming. Letter to Wendell Berry. (electronic copy from the author)

Gregory Heming. 2003. Conjectures of a Northern Journeyman. Urban Coyote p.153-162.

John DeMont. Home. Chronicle Herald, December 24,2018

Lawrence Powell. Healthy Aging – NSCC Middleton hopes to make campus Centre of Rural Aging and Health. Annapolis Spectator, December 19, 2018.


Posted in New thinking

A Heritage River ?

In response to my last blog, Jane Nicholson mentioned that the region was unable to meet the criteria of Heritage River status because of the tidal power pilot project in Annapolis Royal. This caused me to reflect on the issue.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I recall from the 1980’s the efforts of Diane Legard and Stephen Hawboldt to seek this designation. Indeed, I believe that the Clean Annapolis River Project (CARP) was established as a non-government organization (NGO) to address questions related to water quality and pollution. This included the volunteer River Guardian network.

Since that time, we have seen new infrastructure on the river. The latest evidence is the boat ramp by the Lawrencetown bridge.

To achieve heritage river status for the Annapolis River, the community would have to agree on the following actions:

a) removal of the tidal power pilot and dam. This would allow fish species to migrate up and down the Annapolis River, without human impediment.

b) collaboration throughout the watershed to guarantee water quality. This means municipal governments working together e.g. Annapolis County and Kings County.

CARPThe concept of CARP was as a ‘project’. Reaching the goal of heritage river, would allow us to take it off the project, ‘to do ‘ list. Of course, the quality of the water depends on the activities in the Annapolis watershed. This means the removal of forest cover would need to managed, with these criteria in mind.

In the spirit of harmonious active living within the landscape, travelling up the Annapolis River by canoe/kayak would offer a quality experience. This could be complemented by hiking, biking or ATV along the Harvest Moon trail on the repurposed rail line. Although, we still need B & B and other accommodation for those travelling from Grand Pre to Annapolis Royal.

A third option, which would allow us to monitor the watershed, would be to create a hiking trail that follows the height of land along North and South Mountain.

Between these three types of travel, residents and visitors would develop an intimate understanding of both ‘the Mountain and the Valley’. There would be the opportunity to share common values: community, landscape and heritage integrity and respect. The CARP project would meet its goal, and we, collectively, would leave a legacy for the future inhabitants. Perhaps, sightings of sturgeon and other marine species would become commonplace in Bridgetown and higher up the river.


Jane Nicholson for her comment. Heather Stewart as CARP Board member for our conversations, and Edward Wedler for adding graphics and links from Florida.

Canadian Heritage Rivers System

CARP, Clean Annapolis River project video

Posted in New thinking

Task-oriented thinking in a timeless world

retirementIn our working world, we become used to responding to a variety of tasks and deadlines. What happens in our retirement? We are still geared to tasks and specific timelines. Imagine a situation where two individuals who have structured their lives according to tasks, and deadlines. Suddenly, in retirement, we need to change our behaviour and recognize that living in a rural society, the timelines are driven more by natural cycles.  The green beans and the gooseberries need to be picked. The beans have to be blanched, before freezing. The gooseberries turned into jam.

One of the artefacts of task-oriented employment is impatience. There are always additional tasks that arise. We are in a perpetual cycle of motion or uncertainty.

Within the institutional world, we develop an understanding of timelines; the pattern of activity over the year.daedlines In the teaching environment, we understand semesters, final examinations, Summer vacation. In the research environment, there is fieldwork, analysis, writing reports and going to conferences. There is also the structure of the research grant: proposals, the research and the deliverables.

Step forward into the future. Imagine, this structure no longer exists. The structure now relates to lives: births, marriages, separations and deaths.

timLeducAlong with retirement comes the role of ‘elder’. What have we learned from our career? Can we mentor the next generation to address environmental issues? Or the relationship between ‘Man and Nature’? What processes exist so that this knowledge can be applied to current issues in society? How can we change our educational institutions? How can we change our governing institutions?

So often, we hear negative comments about the provincial demographics. Too many retirement-age people. Too many Nova Scotians living a lifestyle of residence in Nova Scotia but working elsewhere in Canada. What will happen when these task-oriented Nova Scotians return home to retire?

Can we envisage a different model? Where those returning to Nova Scotia bring back skills, expertise and understanding that can be applied to future issues in the province?

For example, in my own field ‘Geographic Sciences’ what is the value of knowledge of other geographies? Can we compare and contrast approaches to rural economic development, both within the province, but also across Canada, and at a global level?

The transition from task-oriented thinking (in a working world) to a timeless world (retirement) is universal. Is Nova Scotia, better or less prepared than other jurisdictions? – provinces, countries. Can we position ourselves, ahead of the curve?

Thanks for Edward Wedler for the graphics and Heather Stewart for the inspiration.

Posted in New thinking

Do landscapes have memories ?

After visiting Roxbury a couple of weeks ago, it was time to re-read some of the local authors on the history of our forested landscape (e.g. Whitman, Parker). Reading their accounts of the importance of the forest industry to the economy, makes me realize: what we have lost, and yet, what we are holding onto. The same observations can be made about other resource sectors: agriculture, fishing, mining.

memoriesIt seems that these (human) memories of the landscape, and its utilization, get passed down from generation to generation.

If this is true, then my questions are:
1) by exploiting these ‘resources’, is there any attempt to put back into the land or sea, to reduce the level of degradation?

2) with these landscape changes, do we have a good idea of the rate of change? Are we conducting land use surveys? Do we fully understand the effects of extraction on the hydrology and water quality? Or on climate change?

How easy would it be to monitor these changes?

Today, there is considerable debate about the need for broadband in rural Nova Scotia. There seems to be little discussion on the type of information that can be shared on the network. Would a ‘community geographic information utility’ give us answers to the above questions? Could a broader context allow us to view the Annapolis Valley as a coherent physiographic region? Rather than as a collection of disconnected political fiefdoms.

The opportunity exists to better understand our landscape: today, in the past, and into the future. The technology is readily available. Expertise exists in various post-secondary institutions. If we know where we came from, we should be able to plan where we want to go and take action which offers the best transition for both land and sea.

We notice the changes in our forest cover. We notice the changes in our agricultural land. Is it perhaps time to a conduct a land use survey of the Annapolis Valley?

Creative Commons image of Annapolis Valley by Halifaxman with former Panoramio

I remember back in the ’60’s in England, Geography was defined by the work of Dudley Stamp and Alice Coleman. If you go online, you will see that Stamp conducted the first land use survey of Britain, started in 1933 and completed in 1948, after the Second World War. This was repeated later in 1960 by Alice Coleman. Would it not be amazing to conduct a 2020 land use survey of the Valley? In reviewing the groundbreaking work by Stamp in the UK, we see that he marshalled teams of teachers, schoolchildren to conduct the fieldwork.

9780773528161As a footnote, and an example of the type of individual research that can be undertaken to better understand our rich landscape, check out the book by Sherman Bleakney, Sods, soils and spades. The Acadians at Grand Pre and their dykeland legacy.


This week, I have had useful conversations on this broad topic with both Rachel Brighton and Ed Symons. Edward Wedler added the graphics. The above represents my own personal opinion.


J. Sherman Bleakney. 2004. Sods, Soils and Spades. McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Mike Parker. 2010. Buried in the Woods. Sawmill Ghost Towns of Nova Scotia. Potters field Press. East Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia

Dave Whitman. 2005. Lost in the Woods. The Lure and History of Roxbury. Bailey Chase Books. Paradise, Nova Scotia.




Posted in New thinking

Is there a new Cartography ?

Given the forthcoming CCA conference, it is a good time to ask whether there is a ‘new Cartography’. When I posed the question to Michael Goodchild, one of the keynote speakers, he emailed back with the following response.

“I think there are several answers – technical (Web, Animation, 3D etc), data (new data sources, Big Data), theme (things that have never been mapped before, a critical focus)”

terrorismmexicanEarthquakeswindSpeedIf we look at the presentation schedule, there is much supportive evidence: 3D, LiDAR, Community Mapping, Indigenous Mapping, an artistic approach to place-making.

Within the social media world today, are there new expectations for Cartography? Can we envisage easier access to cartographic products? Quick maps, which combine the output from drones or other positional technologies, can be overlaid on accessible imagery.

If we think of the world of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, does that influence our Cartography?

There seems to be a demand for online digital atlases representing different views of the landscape in Nova Scotia — e.g. Acadien, Mi’kma’ki or the UN Biosphere Reserve.

I have been trying to understand the value or purpose of a blog. Where does it fit, in terms of traditional forms of writing? Is there a graphic (cartographic) equivalent?

This takes us back to Goodchild’s talk ‘Place, Space, Geographic Science (and technology).

Regardless of the technology, the data or the theme, there is likely a consensus on the need for good cartographic design.

Looks like an interesting few days next week. Edward Wedler contributed the graphic.

M.F.Goodchild. Email dated May 23, 2018.



Posted in Event Review, New thinking

Glimpse of a new economy

Saturday night, we were treated to Nature Night at Sugar Moon Farm. sugarMoonNights
Supper was pancakes, sausage, beans, blueberries and maple syrup. Sugar Moon Farm is an excellent example of value-added forestry products. For dessert, we had four talks related to private woodlot management. The audience was about forty persons. The introduction was provided by Matt Miller, followed by his father, Tom, President, The Friends of Redtail Society; Dale Prest from Community Forests International and then Greg Watson, North Nova Forest Owners Co-op.

The Friends of Redtail Society offered the following philosophical position ‘ The Land: from Commodity to Community’,  based on the Aldo Leopold quotation:

“We abuse 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”

Dale Prest described the concept of climate forests as a new paradigm for rural economies, where the forest is managed to capture and store additional carbon. Outside Sussex, New Brunswick, Community Forests International manages 705 acres. It provides a model for the purchase of carbon offsets. They have a two-pronged approach: privately-owned climate forests and community-owned climate forests. Recently, they have established a for-profit Climate Forest company.

Greg Watson explained the history of North Nova Forest Owners Co-op. Today they have 286 members and manage 69,600 acres. Greg used GIS to illustrate the distribution of these clients over time across Northern Nova Scotia. He also showed the application of new GPS and GIS technology by the contractors who are undertaking ecosystem-based management. The co-op manages the relationship between the local contractors and the woodlot owners.

It was a very positive evening. It showed how the next generation of forest managers are working with woodlot owners in the Maritimes. This offered a stark contrast to the current litany of media reports on clearcutting of crown lands in Nova Scotia.

Last Thursday afternoon, we visited Dick Groot’s photographic exhibition at the Cedar Centre in Windsor. it is entitled Closure: a photographer’s eye on an old economyclosureDickGrootThe four closures were Windsor Wear, Fundy Gypsum Company, Britex and Minas Basin Paperboard Mill. The last closure is also described in a separate book, We wanted it to last forever. It includes both photographs and interviews with former employees at the mill.weWantedItToLastForever

In the Closure Epilogue, Dick is optimistic about the new economy.

” Here in Nova Scotia, we have seen significant growth in the wine producing industry where supporting research is being introduced in several universities and colleges. We also have the College of Geographic Science in Middleton, a truly world-class institution that can support a vast range of environmental and infrastructural enterprises and governments”.

( Indeed, the College of Geographic Sciences, now the Centre of Geographic Sciences, is in Lawrencetown. Middleton is the site of the Applied Geomatics Research Group and the Environmental and Agricultural Technologies Lab)

“Therefore I am optimistic for re-building the economy in a more sustainable, diversified manner than we have done in the past, based on a merging of existing competencies with a new digital world.”

My interpretation of these two events is as follows. There is an optimistic vision, following Friends of Redtail Society, based on community rather than a commodity. It can be applied to the land and the sea. It respects the changing climate. There are ways to combine ‘boots on the ground’ with ‘eyes in the sky’ to convert ‘problems’ into ‘opportunities’. This was well-illustrated by the talks from a single sector, Forestry, at Nature Night in Earltown. We also know that small-scale manufacturing in rural communities will not last forever, especially if they are dependent on external investments and the fluctuations in the global economy.


I am concerned about the concept of ‘carbon offsets’. This seems to be yet another reductionistic idea. Reducing the complex forested landscape to carbon; carbon then becomes the commodity. This warrants more thought and a deeper understanding.


Sugar Moon Farm.

Friends of Redtail Society (Tom Miller)

Community Forests International (Dale Prest)

North Nova Forest Owners Co-op Ltd. (Greg Watson)

Dick Groot. 2018. Closure. A photographer’s Eye on an Old Economy. Gaspereau Press.

Dick Groot. 2015. We wanted it to last forever. South of the River Publishing.

Posted in New thinking, Opinion

A Community Geographic Information Utility Strategy

From the responses to my previous CIU blog, I offer some clarification and a strategic direction.

pickCGIUlayerThe concept of a ‘community information utility’ (CIU) is very generic and subject to various interpretations. I suggest we add the descriptor ‘GEOGRAPHIC’ to avoid confusion with other utilities — like electricity, water, etc. — thus, CGIU.

The key is to provide our community access to the best available information about our geography — our land, people and social infrastructure.

To go forward, I propose three steps.

Re-visit the implementation and status of what has happened over the last ten years with CIU in Sault Ste. Marie, and investigate other examples elsewhere (or similar concepts).

Explore non-profits and other delivery options for a CGIU in our region including, for example, Annapolis Valley Regional Library, NS Community College, and the Valley Regional Enterprise Network. What is important is strong citizen involvement.

Re-visit the CLICK Project (this was a geographic information project funded under the SMART communities fund) to elicit lessons learned.

In summary, what is happening elsewhere, what potential organizations exist locally that could handle CGIU, and how can we avoid previous mistakes in the region?
It is apparent to me that the same CGIU ingredients exist as they did  ten years ago, but fundamental technologies have advanced:  access to high-speed Internet; better GIS tools for the public; a ubiquitous social network; and, a recognition of the need to empower citizens in rural areas with high-quality geographic information for more informed, decision making.

I look forward to your comments and improvements.